Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dress Alterations and "All Those Republicans..."

I did not sleep well at all last night. It was cool outside but warm in the house, and the window unit in our room doesn't think it should cool our room in that situation.  I was hot and achy and tossed around all night long. I'm telling you this, because what follows might just be a result of my sleep deprived crankiness today. I don't know. I'm asking for forgiveness ahead of time for any rash words.

(Also, I'll be outing myself politically, though I'm sure it will be no surprise to most. I've revealed my leanings on my blog before, but try and stay away from talking about them in church and on Facebook, etc.  I truly want people to hear about Christ first and foremost, and I know that politics, especially conservative politics, is often something that keeps folks from truly understanding Him. Robert, too. We agree on politics, but we also agree that they should not be tied to sharing the Gospel in any way.)

Today was Kayla's first day of Classical Conversations.  She's a junior this year and in the Challenge III level with one of my sweetest friends as her tutor - Aimee or Mrs. Gould. (I am not tutoring this year, and though I love CC, it's so nice to have a break.) I knew I would be dropping Kayla off this morning at 8:15am, so a week ago I made an appointment to have the bridesmaid dress for my sister's wedding altered just after getting Kayla settled in for her first day of class. My appointment was at 9am, so I read my Bible at Starbucks for a few minutes over hot tea before heading over to the appointment.
Ours is the strapless one on the left. With pockets!

I was greeted by a lovely petite woman with white hair in her late fifties, I'm guessing. Really, she was just so pleasant, and I could even tell from her website that she was a gentle and kind person. It's part of why I chose her shop. We took a look at the dress, and then she left me alone to change.

When she came back in, she began pinning and chatting some more. A few years ahead of me in having a crown of white hair, she asked me if I was highlighting mine.  When I said no, she went on and on about my hair - it's color (or non-color), it's cut, it's length.  It was so sweet, and I love it when people are so free with their genuine and complimentary thoughts. (Though hard to receive!) It's something I'm trying to get better at myself.

Then the conversation turned to the wedding.  She mentioned hardly ever seeing wedding party dresses with floral prints, but when I explained the outdoor Texas venue, she thought it would be a perfect match. And after telling me about her niece who recently moved to Dallas, she said something about Amherst being so liberal.  At first I couldn't tell if she thought that was good or bad, but then it became all too clear...

Me: Well, yes, Amherst is very liberal, but I think what pushes it to the far left of left are the colleges and the university.

Seamstress: Yes, because young people finally leave home and get educated.

(I could have been mistaken, but she seemed to be glad that the education led to the liberalness.)

Seamstress: I don't know if I could live in Texas with all those Republicans.  So many Republicans there.  It's so diverse here.

Me: You know, I am originally from Texas, and I find Amherst to be much less diverse than where I'm from, ethnically, ideologically, and politically, but I also lived in San Antonio and Austin for many years.

Seamstress: Oh, you're from Texas? Well, I mean we have so many nationalities here because of the colleges.  I guess if you lived in a city in Texas, you had some diversity. Dallas seems to be all white Republicans though, or at least the area my niece lives in.

Me: Well, my husband and I both grew up in very small towns in Texas.  He was one of the few white kids on his football team.  Many of my closest friends were Mexican, my head cheerleader, Rhonda, was black, as was the cheerleader, Bernie, from whom I inherited all of my cheerleading uniforms.  My computer science partner, Takeru, was Asian. So was our valedictorian.

(Or something like the above comments, but I've tightened them up here for effect.)

Seamstress: Really? Well, I guess it just depends.  There must be a few pockets of diversity there.

Me: Yes, and there are Democrats, too, but I don't find quite the same diversity of ideals and politics in this area. Everyone here seems to vote the same way.

And then we got to talking about our kids, and being in-laws, and grandparents.  When she heard my oldest was 21, she said not to worry, that kids these days get married really late - even after they've bought a house together and settled in, which is nice, because then they often pay for the wedding themselves.

As lovely as this woman was, I couldn't help but think that this type of presumption and narrow-mindedness is part of what has gotten us into the current political and cultural situation we are in. (By the way, I will be heartbroken if my kids buy houses with their girlfriends or boyfriends and then get married years later. I wonder if she knows how high the divorce rate is for those folks.) And I can't tell you how many times I've been in a similar situation since moving here. Don't get me wrong. I know it happens in Texas, too - or wherever there is a majority of one ideology or ethnicity. But no one is exempt! Liberal New Englanders don't get to look down their noses at Conservative Texans and create a narrative about their obvious idiocy and lack of relationships with people of other colors. (We moved here during the 2000 Bush election, so being from the same state as the president meant you must be an idiot. A downtown restaurant changed it's menu to mock the administration at that time. Diverse? Tolerant? No, not at all.)

So, yes, I am a registered Republican from Texas. I think the government is too big and controlling. I think taxes and spending are out of control. I don't want babies aborted or laws that encourage it. I desire traditional marriage to be upheld, because I believe it's by original design and what's best for kids, and the culture. I want freedom of speech and religion. I think people are better off when they are given a hand up rather than a hand out. For all you political scientists and junkies, I'm sure it all sounds rather simplistic.  (And I'm sure it is maddening to some, too.)

However, I have not voted for the Republican nominee (or the Democratic one) in the last two elections, nor do I plan to vote for the current nominee. (Or his democratic opponent, to be clear.) I have indeed voted in every previous election, but in my opinion, the major party candidates have not been true conservatives, and I've felt pretty discouraged and disillusioned by it all. Voting has been no fun at all. (And my vote doesn't count for much in this state anyway.)

I've never prayed for this country like I have in the past several months.  Prayers of confession mostly - in the same vein of Daniel on behalf of the rebellious nation of Israel. We are truly a mess. It grieves me and causes me to hope for heaven more than ever before - which is our only real hope anyway. So many Christians forget that - including me.

I have been watching and reading up on the election and candidates as much as I can, depressing as it is.

(I honestly thought the Democratic National Convention was very well done - as if that counts for anything. Michelle was the wise woman, wife, and mother she usually is, and Bill was as eloquent as ever. He left a few glaring issues out of his speech, but Slick Willy has never been so convincing.)

I have to thank my friend Josh Torrey for keeping me abreast of great articles on the topic via Facebook. (Thanks, Josh!) Here are a few I've read that cause me to think that it's okay to keep voting in a non-traditional way. If we say we want change, then I think this is what it's going to take. (And yes, I know you can find articles that say the exact opposite.  I've read many of those, too.)

How Not To Waste Your Vote: A Mathematical Analysis

Conservatives Don't Owe Trump Their Ballot

Four Issues To Consider Before You Support Trump - What Is Really At Stake

Al Mohler and Russell Moore Explain Why They Can't Support Trump

Though I don't know if I've ever been overly presumptuous (mostly because I've never been overly comfortable with religious and political conversations, so be gentle if you choose to comment), my 17 years in New England have helped teach me that presumptions (which are really judgments, and discriminations in disguise) are not helpful.  In fact, they are hurtful. Even my sweet seamstress has fallen prey to the narrow-mindedness she accuses the other side of having, but I really don't think she'll take it out on my dress. She did like my hair after all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wild Summer. Good Father.

Just returned from this gorgeous scene on Friday night. I don't know if any U.S. coastline compares to this particular stretch. Maine is just beautiful, and I have to pinch myself when I'm there. Truly the stuff of dreams, I can't believe this is how we've spent about one week of every year for the last 17 years. Between skiing in Vermont every winter and hanging out in Ogunquit, Maine every summer I try and emphasize to my kids that some people only fantasize of this life, but I think it's lost on my New England-raised-kids. This Texas girl, however, continues to be in awe of my surroundings and grateful to God for all of it.

 Prior to our arrival home on Friday,  I had been in my own home and bed only about 72 hours between July 6 and August 12. Summer is always kind of wild and crazy, but this one may top the list.

I spoke at a Classical Conversations Practicum for 3 days in June. It was wonderful.  Not my speaking, but my worshipping over the things I was learning as I prepared to speak on a Christ-centered, Classical curriculum.  Wow. More on that later...hopefully.

Our oldest turned 21 a week later.  That seemed crazy enough, but then we decided on a Monday to go and surprise him on Friday of the same week. He only has Saturdays off, and so it seemed perfect.  We'd fly in on a Friday evening and spend all of Saturday and even Sunday morning with him.  Turns out it was the worst weekend we could have chosen. It was a staff change weekend.  First half staff was leaving and second half staff was arriving.  As a senior counselor, Kory was required to work all day on Saturday re-training staff on the ropes course and more.  We got to participate in the closing ceremony for that week of campers on Saturday morning and go to the staff meeting afterward, but then we had to say goodbye until around 8:30pm.  We grilled steaks for a late dinner and had a pancake breakfast together the next morning and did a lot of laundry, and our 18 hours together flew by too quickly.  No regrets though!  It was SO good to see this kid in his natural summer habitat!


I could go on and on about the excellence of Pine Cove and the high level training in leadership
and ministry that Kory has received here.  So grateful!
 Then we went to camp again!  Crosswalk Camp at Gordon College.  I think this was year 15 or something.  I know I was pregnant with Kayla the first time Robert was on staff and we skipped a year here and there.  We took our largest group of campers ever this year and had a blast.
 The camp pastor (a.k.a. my gifted husband) did an incredible job of teaching through the Sermon on the Mount...
 ...and I had such a great time with all of the female chaperones working through the Sermon on the Mount by using the inductive Bible study method.  Here they are discussing and making posters of their "observations, interpretations, and applications."
 We got home on a Saturday evening from youth camp and left the next Tuesday morning for this:
 When we got the invitation to Chris and Katie's Colorado wedding, I knew we needed to go. So, months ago, we decided to make a week's vacation out of it, and we are so glad we did. It doubled as a 24th anniversary celebration for us, since I would be in yet another state for the actual day. The trip was made even more do-able because of a generous gift given to us by members of our church!
Chris, the groom, has been a student at our church for the last four years.  An Amherst College football player from Texas, he and Katie have been dating since 8th grade. She graduated from UT Austin this May, and their wedding was in Crested Butte, CO - a favorite family vacation spot for her. It would take several paragraphs to describe this incredible wedding weekend, and so I'll spare you all of the amazing details (I'm still basking in the beauty of it all!), but this is where the "Good Father" portion of my post comes in.
This crew.  Football players.  Groomsmen. Great friends.
And powerful witnesses for Christ on the Amherst College campus.
The handsome pastor on the right enjoys spending every Tuesday afternoon with them in the dining hall on campus.
The above photo was taken at the rehearsal dinner. A literal mountaintop experience. The cocktail hour had a 360 degree view of the surrounding peaks, and the dinner itself  - a white tablecloth affair under a nearby tent -  lingered with the most heartfelt toasts to the bride and groom that I have ever experienced. Both fathers spoke at length about the bride and the groom, but it was each father's toast of the bride that had me close to sobbing.

Both her own father and her soon to be father-in-law spoke of her beauty, her kindness, her faith.  They each treasured her femininity, her intelligence, her character. They gave specific examples of those things.  They expressed joy in knowing her. They thanked God for her. They sincerely celebrated her. They acknowledged her great worth and delighted in the gift she is to both families.

I could not hold back the tears. (I wasn't the only one!)
I stole this photo from Facebook. Katie looked like a princess.
The ceremony was at a private river valley resort. Absolutely beautiful.
I went to bed that night still rejoicing over the beauty of that dinner, those toasts, the humility of each father, their great affection for their kids. But there was this underlying sorrow still with me the next morning.

To be treasured like that.
To be built up and honored.
To have your femininity called beautiful and celebrated.
To have your faith and acts of service noticed with gratitude.
To be thought well of.
To be loved and cherished by the older men in your life.

Those are things I have not known from any earthly man but my husband. I'm sure it will sound a bit dramatic to some, but I was grieving the absence of those fatherly sentiments in my own life. (To be fair, those men who could and should be giving it, never received it themselves, and so I understand, but it doesn't remove the desire.) Just a few days later, a forty-something acquaintance posted on Facebook about a call she got from her dad telling her how proud he was of her, of the family she is raising, and the new business she just started. She mentioned that no matter how old she gets, she never outgrows the craving for fatherly love and approval. Upon reading her post, I felt less silly about my own emotions. The longing is real and deep. And when it is satisfied, there is true rest and security and freedom. When it is absent there is striving and insecurity and bondage.

With a still-heavy heart, that next morning I opened my Bible to what just "happened" to be the next chapter in my reading plan.  It was Psalm 36, and God the Father spoke to me so clearly and specifically:

Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
Your judgments are like a great deep.
Lord, You preserve man and beast.
How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house;
And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.
For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light.

And there I was in Crested Butte, Colorado, literally surrounded by His mighty mountains - unmoving, lifting eyes to the heavens - visible images of His ability and willingness to faithfully and righteously love and protect me. As I was taking in the abundance of His creation, He was also saying so clearly and so personally, that HIS house is like that: abundant in love, a strong, affectionate refuge, and full of delights.

Whatever I grieve as a loss or scarcity on earth, He makes up for in abundance. The fatherly approval I long for He gives extravagantly.  The fact that He had me read that Psalm on that specific morning is only further evidence of His intimate love and affection. I was in tears again.

And when we climbed the highest of those surrounding mountains the next day, it was difficult not to think of His goodness, faithfulness, and unwavering love for me. 

Truly beautiful. 

A gift.
Our flight home was canceled due to severe weather in Houston, so we had to spend another day in Colorado.  Rough life, I know.

But what that meant was that instead of being home for two days before leaving again, I would only be home one day, and that day happened to be Kayla's 16th birthday.  Not at all the way I wanted it to happen, but we had a fun day celebrating with the time we had.

A nice new camera was what she was hoping for, and we loved surprising her with it. (Well, sort of.  The box was delivered and sitting in our mudroom while we were away in Colorado, and there was no question what was inside, due to the markings on the box.  Oh well...)
We went to the Montague Book Mill for lunch (a great place for picture taking!) and the Esselon Cafe for cupcakes and coffee on the way home. For dinner we drove to West Hartford and her favorite restaurant - P.F. Chang's. (Passing the airport that I would be back at only about 6 hours later.) I'm so thankful we had at least one day together, because...Sweet Sixteen!  Wow, can hardly believe it.
In total, I was home all of about 27 hours, as my plane to Texas left the next morning at 5:45am. I am always shocked to find hundreds of other people at the airport at 4am, and I barely made my flight because of the crowd. I arrived on a Friday night and was able to attend a bridal shower on Saturday for my youngest sister, Melinda.

I also got to meet the groom's parents and spend lots of time with them over the weekend ~ such kind-hearted people. The following week, I spent at my dad's house and helped my sister with a few wedding things - namely going along for the food tasting at the wedding's resort venue. Not only did I get to eat a lot of delicious food, but then Melinda and I received a complimentary afternoon pool pass. A waiter brought us cold drinks and chips and guac while we sunbathed or floated in the lazy river. Such a rough  life, I know.

The following Saturday Bachelorette Party Weekend happened! It was the culmination of over 100 back and forth emails between 6 bridesmaids to coordinate the activities and venues for Melinda's last hurrah as a single lady.

First there was a pontoon cruise on Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin...
Then there was hanging out in the singles' bar pool at the Hilton...
Had I been by myself or just with my other forty-something sister, we would have taken one look at that scene and headed straight back to the room.  Seriously.  But not only did we squeeze into the only two lounge chairs left on the deck, we also GOT IN THAT POOL and stood there in a circle with the other gals, chatting and acting like it was totally normal. Like we do this all the time. I really don't think I was fooling anyone in my as-much-coverage-as-a-bathing-suit-can-offer swim attire, and I would be willing to bet that I was the only homeschooling pastor's wife there. And why the massive, expensive downtown Hilton only offers this one tiny swimming pool is beyond me.  Oh, except for that whole singles' bar vibe.  Now I get it.

And then there was a lingerie shower in the hotel.  Is this not the cutest, prettiest bride you've ever seen?
Then, we were off to dinner at a downtown Austin hot spot ~ Second Bar + Kitchen. So good.

I had to come back and edit this post to include what we did after dinner: Karoake at the Highball.  Our reservation was for 11:15pm.  We had our own private karaoke room (complete with pews, stained glass, and pentagrams.  I just prayed) and I cracked up at the group of 30year old former cheerleaders singing "I like big butts and I can not lie."  Somehow I missed the 90's rap era, but I'm telling you, it was alive and well until about 2am that night. Ha!
Sunday morning found us at a popular brunch spot ~ Moonshine. Amazing all-you-can-eat buffet. I even managed to go for a morning run along the lake with all the other Austinites - mostly because I no longer have the ability to sleep past 7am.  It was hot, and I thought I might die.  I prayed for Robert and Cooper while I was running, because they were also running ~ the Rockport, MA Half Marathon.  It was the same temperature in Rockport, MA as it was in Austin, TX, and I don't know how they did it.  I can only run half-marathons in absolutely perfect weather conditions i.e. crisp, cool air with a steady breeze.

Here they are after the race - which was also the morning after Robert did our friend Pedro's wedding in Worcester, MA. Impressive, huh?
They stayed at an Airbnb rental in Marblehead that night so they could pick me up in Boston the next morning. My flight from Austin to Boston was even earlier than the flight to Texas - 5:20am. I stayed in a hotel by the airport that afternoon (they let me check in at 1pm after brunch!) and overnight. It was a glorious 9 hours to myself. I read, walked to Starbucks, bought a salad at 7-11 for dinner (which was surprisingly good and fresh), had the pool all to myself for a couple of hours. I watched a bit of Texas Game Warden (quite interesting) before I caught up on two episodes of Blue Bloods since my family betrayed me by watching FOUR episodes while I was away - including the episode in which Erin is shot in the courtroom and the secret family code is revealed when Danny begs the shooter "Please don't hurt my family." Oh my goodness. More tears.

From Boston, we headed to Maine and our annual stay in Ogunquit. The cabin we typically stay in was only available two nights, and the kids wanted more time in Maine than that (they have come to love that time away), so Robert found a great place downtown and we stayed two more nights.
We had two great beach days and one rainy shopping day up in Freeport. 
The afternoon we arrived home, Robert had to go straight to a wedding rehearsal and dinner for these two. He was home earlier than expected, because the poor bride fainted (it was very hot and steamy) just before the rehearsal and ended up in the Emergency Room. There ended up being no rehearsal and no dinner, but you wouldn't have known it by the beautiful ceremony the next day.

We had so much fun experiencing a Russian style dinner and dancing, and we are thrilled that these two will be staying around for a while.
Oh, there are so many other things to report on.  It was a wonderful whirlwind of a summer.  And of course I'm only telling you the glowing parts.  There was drama, there was strife, there were doctor visits, there was anger and disappointment, and there were LOTS of texts and phone calls with dear (and much too young) friends facing serious, life-threatening illnesses.  Climbing mountains and running marathons are also metaphors for the difficulty of this life and the stamina required. I thank the Good Father for providing both the glorious gifts and the grace to endure the not so glamorous parts.

Tomorrow is Cooper's last day at home before leaving for college. There will be a cookout tomorrow night ~ hamburgers as requested, and then we'll head to Gordon College on Friday morning. My van is currently loaded down with everything Target has to offer for dorm living. Pray for his transition if you think of it!

Kory begins his senior year at Baylor on Monday, which is just crazy.  And Kayla will be a junior ~ doing Challenge III at Classical Conversations this year.  I won't be teaching at CC this year, but my 6th seminary class begins tomorrow - Christian Philosophy.  I am looking forward to it, and two of my textbooks are books I've already read for CC! (Sort of.  One is an almost identical title and premise.)

Robert is gearing up for year 18 of our church and the return of students to the area.  We are excited about being a part of what the Lord has planned for this year.

Thanks for reading, friends.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Speaking of Heartbreak...and Our Only Hope

 Last week I wrote about being heartbroken over good men losing jobs over situations seemingly out of their control. I remain heavy hearted about that to be sure, but yesterday brought on a different sort of heartbreak. I didn't cry or lose sleep over godly men having to make tough sacrifices last week, but I did shed tears over the loss of 50 lives in Florida yesterday, and I woke up this morning having tossed and dreamt about it and related issues all night long. How does life go on here when lives have been shattered not far away? And more lives in one shooting than ever before in history?


Sunday morning was a typical one. Robert and I are up early, and while he gets ready, I make a big breakfast before he and Kayla leave for early service preparation. (He leads and prays with the troops and Kayla fills communion cups) As they were about to walk out the door, I checked Facebook on my phone and saw a couple of the first reports of the shooting in Orlando. I mentioned to Robert that 20 had been killed. We turned on the news for a few minutes while waiting for our almost-16-year-old to make her way downstairs. It was breaking news, and it was bad. 2am. A nightclub. 20 dead and 40 injured. Negotiations. SWAT team.

It felt like I was watching an episode of Blue Bloods (our current indulgence), but these were not actors. They were the real life Jamie, Danny, and Frank Reagans. Local law enforcement having to deal with horror and tragedy, only this one didn't get nicely tied up in the end.

Cooper and I went to church in time for the first service and enjoyed the guest preacher, as our preacher still doesn't have his voice back 100%. We came home with Kayla, had lunch together, and I waited for Robert to arrive home after service number two. As soon as he got home, we left for the first of two back-to-back graduation parties. It was at the first party that I learned the new death toll.

"Did you guys hear about the shooting?" my friend Betsy asked.
"Yes, so terrible. 20 dead and so many more injured," I replied.
Our mutual friend Stacey corrected me, "It's actually 50 now. 50 people dead and almost that many injured."

Heartbreak. In the midst of the joyful milestone celebration of a graduate you've known his whole life. How do you reconcile these things?

On the way to party number two, I told Robert the news, "Honey, the shooter killed 50 people, not just 20."

Is 50 a shocking number? I wasn't even putting it together that it's almost double the amount of lives lost at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut. As if the numbers matter. Even one life is too many, but 26? 32 in Virginia? And now 50?

It wasn't until we got home after 5pm that the news stated it loud and clear:

Deadliest mass shooting in U.S. History.

I had to drive Kayla to meet Cooper for youth group at a sister church soon after we got home. On the way, I explained it to her: "Deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, honey."

In the ten minutes we had together, we talked about our relief that it was not someone claiming to be a Christian (this time), and about how we are called to love our neighbor regardless of religious and worldview and lifestyle differences. That these were human beings. They were creations of a good and loving Father in our view, and therefore their lives are precious.

But we also talked about shootings in general and the disturbing status quo nature of other widespread violence and hatred and persecution and intolerance - of which Christians are increasingly a target in the U.S. but even more so globally.

A text I received from my brother yesterday in the midst of all of this illustrates a trend:

"The elders of our church asked our pastor to resign this week due to his change in belief regarding marriage being between one man and one woman."

I applaud those elders for their devotion to God's Word, but there are few others joining in that applause. The cultural pressure for Christians to abandon God's Word and reject His will for marriage and sexuality is great, and I worry about the increasing pressure on my kids as they become adults. Holding to faith can be difficult enough.  Holding to what many consider to be a "hateful" stance feels almost impossible for anyone with a heart or ounce of compassion.

So, Kayla and I talked about love. Loving people without conditions. Having appropriate expectations of those who don't believe God the same way we do. Being a good neighbor to all who are created in His image no matter what.

And we also talked about our only Hope.

If you can get shot in your elementary school, or your local movie theater, or your dorm, or shopping mall, you can also get killed in your worship service, at your church picnic, or on your mission trip. It could happen at random, or it could be due to your faith and belief. Really, it can happen anywhere to anyone. This is the world we live in, and it could get much, much worse. And I don't believe in a rapture out of tribulation. And Jesus warns us of times like these. And no, I'm not forecasting the end of all things here, but still...is there any way to be prepared? What do I teach my kids?

Just this, I think:

"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master,' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me." John 15: 18-25

Trial and persecution will come.
Suffering is a given.
You might be hated and accused of hatred.
Know that Christ can be trusted.
Walk with Him. Learn Him. Cling to Him.
Cast your fears on Him.
Surrender to His good and perfect will.
Know He is sovereign over all.

Death is not final for those who trust in Christ.
We value our life, but we are also ready to lay it down.

He is our healing in heartbreak.
He is our hope in death.

These are the things I want my kids to know, to hold fast to. (And realities I forget daily, and need to be reminded of, too.)

It was on the way home from dropping her off and having this conversations that the emotions of the day caught up with me and the tears came suddenly.

May tragedies like this serve to shore up the faith of my children. May they be strengthened to stand for Christ with both grace and truth. (Which is so much more difficult than adopting the cultural changes and trends and world views.)

May the many in Florida and beyond find hope in Christ in spite of the current horror and devastation. May He provide abundant grace for those who are grieving and left behind.  And may Christians be the first to stand up and call the tragedy exactly what it is, offering help and hope. These were our neighbors. These are our neighbors.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Will Chip Gaines be Next? (or Leadership is Lonely)

Robert and I had lunch together at our picnic table one day this week. Poor guy has been sick for over a week and has had laryngitis for six days now, so it was good to sit in the sunshine for a while, eating and chatting, which was a bit one sided, since he literally can't speak. Well, he can whisper, but even that is labored.

I was feeling so heavy hearted, because right before we walked outside I had read that Baylor's president resigned. This was only a couple of days after I read that Baylor's athletic director resigned. Two good men. Two men of integrity. One of whom I have known personally for about 15 years.  The other I have met in person and had a very special and meaningful conversation with.

"Chip Gaines will be next," I said, and the man without a voice choked out a laugh.


"No, I'm serious. I mean, as long as we're creating an atmosphere where upstanding men who love their university, and their town, and their jobs, and their God and have accomplished SO MUCH GOOD feel that they must resign, then surely Chip will be the next to go down. It only makes sense. And then at my funeral, you can tell everyone that I died of a broken heart, because that will be the final straw."

It may sound dramatic, but my true sentiments have not been far off. My heart is truly broken.

I think Robert whispered something about Jesus being worthy of life and worship beyond the Baylor scandal, and that He is sovereign over this whole thing anyway, but it honestly wasn't helping in that particular moment.

Apologies if you have no idea who I'm talking about, but I can't get this thing off my mind, and writing somehow helps remedy that. I would tell you to Google it, but I can tell you for certain that THAT will not give you an accurate account. I've even put off writing for a few days, because I know that "A tranquil heart gives life to the body, but passion is rottenness to the bones" (Proverbs 14:30) Believe me when I tell you that this passionate ISTJ has to use that verse often to pray and talk herself down.

Back in March this happened:


What I didn't mention in that Facebook post was that after the Vice President asked Kory what the Baylor administration could do better going forward and how students could be best reached with important information about protecting themselves and reporting incidents of sexual assault safely, Kory didn't answer right away.

Because he too has experienced the sting of criticism in the face of faithful leadership, Kory felt compelled to thank the man for his leadership on Baylor's campus. He told him how much he loves his school and how much the atmosphere on campus has caused him to grow as a student, a leader, a man, and above all, a Christian. He credited much of that to this man and to Baylor's president, Judge Ken Starr.

Can you guess what happened next? 

Those of you who have been in a similar situation might know exactly what happened next. Those of you who have been blamed for things you weren't directly involved in with no recourse. Those who've had your sincere efforts to lead people to growth and betterment rejected or mocked. Those who have had to make difficult decisions that outsiders would simply never understand, but which you could not defend or explain in order to protect others. Those of you who don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Those of you who serve faithfully, unnoticed and unappreciated because you love your Lord.

The man wept.

That's right. Tears streaming down his face. 

Probably tears of a release from stress for at least a few moments. Tears of gratitude. Tears of relief that at least one student acknowledged the difficulty of the job and appreciated it.

Do I believe some terrible things happened to young women at Baylor? Yes. Do I think justice should be done? Yes. Do I think similar and worse things have happened on other campuses? Oh, I KNOW they have. I've talked to the women myself. Do I think that many women put themselves at risk in romantic relationships? Absolutely. MUCH of the time in fact. (Again, I've spoken with them and heard the stories. They initiated things. They went to guys' apartments/dorm rooms/homes and took their clothes off, at times even when the guys could take them or leave them.) Am I blaming the women? Yes. Am I blaming the men? Yes. Do I think that even until the last possible moment the woman should be able to have her "no" honored? Yes. Have I watched the "Tea Consent" video? Yes. (I love it!) Do I think it's stupid for women to go alone, at night, to a guy's apartment, have a few drinks, and take her clothes off? Yes. Do I think the guy is still responsible if she does? Yes. Do I think some women lie? Yes. Do I think some men are violent, abusive, and narcissistic? Yes. Do I think leaders, coaches, bosses are sometimes at a loss and make mistakes that further harm the victims? Yes.

Would I enjoy trying to sort through all of these things as an administrator on the campus of a Christian University who happens to be winning a lot of football games and has a president who vigorously investigated a former president for sexual misconduct? No.

(Do I know that some of you reading this despise him and think him "one of the monumental sleazeballs of our era"? Yes. But I happen to like him. I wrote about meeting him here.)

Do I think Baylor is the perfect target for a scandal and media smear campaign? Yes.




Once, way back in our Texas youth ministry days, we took teenagers on a retreat which included a ropes course component. It was a faith-building and team building exercise, but one kid refused to participate.  Way too cool to climb up a telephone pole or walk a tightrope or jump for a trapeze or zip line to the next element, he sat on the ground and watched his peers try and do scary and seemingly impossible things.

But he didn't only sit and observe. He mocked. He laughed. He ridiculed the other teens when they expressed fear, slipped and fell, dangled from their harnesses, etc.

The youth pastor (a.k.a. Robert) said something like this: "Must be a nice view from the cheap seats."


But I get it. The captain goes down with the ship. It happened on their watch. Having authority implies accountability.

Kory interviewed Ian McCaw for a Leadership Night at Baylor. If anyone has modeled humble
 leadership and encouraged Kory's love for leadership aside from Robert, it's Ian.

I just think we ought to have a little more respect for those risking responsibility and stop scoffing at things we really don't know a whole lot about. Can we humble ourselves for a few moments and consider what it is like to be in those shoes?

I just hope none of the thousands of Magnolia employees ever do anything wrong in their own homes or interpersonal relationships and that Chip misses the email about it, because he's busy trying to lead a business and family. But you know what? That might happen. And the headlines might fly. And the columnists might rake him and his sweet family over the coals. And no one will really get down to brass tack truth, because we'd rather believe the lies. And the good and funny and beneficial things he's done might be forgotten in the blink of an eye. And then, if I survive this week, I really might die of a broken heart.

Monday, May 30, 2016

He Asked For Her Number: Part Five

It was probably about ten or eleven years ago that a kind, well-meaning older woman asked Kayla, who was about five or six years old at the time, what her favorite Christmas Carol was.

"Baby, It's Cold Outside," was her cute, but unfortunate reply.


By definition, a Christmas carol is a "song whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas," and so Dean Martin's catchy version does not exactly qualify, but Kayla's choice was really my own fault.

A few years prior to the Christmas Carol question, I had read a book called A Return to Modesty. It was on the sidewalk clearance table of a downtown bookstore. Intrigued, I bought it, and soon found out why it made its way to the discard pile so quickly. The author challenges feminist notions regarding the unqualified equalization of men and women, and among other intriguing topics, suggests that there is a correlation between the rise in feminist teaching and the rise in the abuse, assault and rape of women. And though her argument is quite well-documented and compelling, this is not a town that tolerates that type of conservative logic (though embracing "tolerance and diversity" is its self-deemed claim to fame), and so the book had a big red clearance sticker on it just months after its publication. They may have given it to me for free now that I think of it.


A Return to Modesty is where I first heard of the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside." The Jewish author, Wendy Shalit, uses it to illustrate a shift in the culture of dating and the protective devices which a woman used to have at her disposal. It's a bit of a long quote, but here's the excerpt in which this is explained:

"To appreciate the peculiar bind of a nineties girl who wants to say no to sex, first consider the 1948 song, "Baby, It's Cold Outside," by Frank Loesser. In this fuguelike tune, a woman, "the mouse," begins each phrase, and her suitor, "the wolf," chimes in relentlessly, but sweetly, behind her. The man has a hundred reasons why his date should not "hold out" - including, but not limited to, the fact that it is very cold outside. If his poor date were to leave, argues our Wolf, she would freeze, catch pneumonia and die. That, of course, would cause him "lifelong sorrow." If she allowed him to "move in closer," on the other hand, then they would both be nice and warm.  Our Mouse has her own reasons for begging off, which she scatters between his invitations:

My mother will start to worry...and Father will be pacing the floor...the neighbors might think...my sister will be suspicious...my brother will be there at the door...my maiden aunt's mind is vicious...there's bound to be talk tomorrow...at least there will be plenty implied.

Now this song is very stereotypical because certainly not all men are hungry wolves and not all women are reticent mice. Indeed, I've known quite a few hungry women and mousey men. However, the simple fact remains that a young woman in 1948 had a hundred and one reasons to say no to sex, if she wanted to say no, and those reasons were credible. The story we are told today is that all these reasons, such as a father waiting up for you, were oppressive to women. And yet in their absence we can appreciate how an earlier generation of girls was made powerful by them. A father waiting up for his daughter gave her room to stand on." 
(Chapter 3: The Fallout)

After reading this, I wanted to hear the song. It happened to be Christmastime, and I was shopping at our local mall which happened to have a music store - records, CD's, and stereos - oh my! This was well before iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify. I even had to ask an employee if they had heard of the song and help me find a CD that included it. "Christmas With The Rat Pack" is the one he found, and it became a new family favorite.  Kayla and I still love to listen to the Dean Martin Pandora station while baking Christmas cookies each December. And while it does include traditional Christmas carols or hymns (you know, about the God made flesh, etc), "Baby, It's Cold Outside" was the one which stuck in my little five year old's mind. Sigh...

Kayla's response may have been a bit embarrassing for me at the time, but maybe it's not all that disappointing. Maybe it's helpful to have those lyrics in mind which reflect a time not so long ago in which there was accountability, responsibility, family unity, and an involved (even nosy) local community. Maybe it's good and right that a father waits up for his daughter, meeting the eyes and shaking the hand of the man who brought her home. Maybe it's good for the young man to know there is someone who is dedicated to protecting both the body and the heart of the young woman he takes out on a date. Maybe he should even have that father's permission to do so.

You might think it's sexist and patriarchal to send the boy to Dad rather than Mom, but just check the research on father-daughter relationships. Mom could be the most perfectly loving and supportive woman a girl (or boy) could ever hope to have in her (or his)  life, but if Dad isn't all those same things, it really doesn't matter as much how loving and supportive Mom is.

So, the fifth thing I want Kayla to know is that, for the young men who want to spend time with her...

5. Permission should be requested.

I'm not sure why this seems like such a crazy thing to require these days, but it IS crazy I'm told.  I'm not sure when we gave teens so much authority and autonomy or when we decided they have the maturity to always make wise decisions about dating. Can we not remember our own need for direction and protection? I love and trust the teens in my house very much, but the truth is they still make really foolish decisions and have extremely faulty logic. As much as they may hate it, it's our responsibility to guide them and place protective boundaries in their lives while they are in our home and even beyond, if they will allow it.

So, I want my daughter to give the boy her dad's number instead of hers. That's right. It's not a fool-proof sifting method for worthy men, of course, but it's a good start at protecting her from unnecessary heartbreak and harm.

We made our boys do this. Want to take a girl to prom? Okay, great!  First you'll need to call her dad and ask him if you can. Want to pursue a dating relationship with a young woman? That's fine. But, you'll need to ask her parents' permission.

One young husband in our church loves to tell how grateful he is that his wife's father took such and interest in him and really ended up discipling him in Christ and modeling how to be a godly husband.

(Here's a great article on that very topic.)

We want our boys to know they are a steward of someone else's treasure. We want them aware that they are accountable for how they care for not only the daughter of a human father, but even more importantly, the daughter of a Heavenly Father. She will not be his for selfish and destructive purposes. She first belongs to someone else and may not ultimately belong to him as a wife. In fact it's likely that she will be someone else's wife someday. We hope they will be sober about that reality, and that it will encourage them to greatly value and care for the woman they are interested in spending time with.

And we want any young man interested in our precious daughter to know the same.

It's what God requires of husbands. Would the requirements for boyfriends be any less?

 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself: for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.
Ephesians 2: 25-30

The End.


(Except that I have about a million more thoughts on each of these things.)

(And I highly recommend A Return To Modesty as well as, Authentic Beauty, Emotional Purity, Sex and the Soul of a Woman, The Mark of a Man, and Let Me Be A Woman.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

He Asked For Her Number: Part Four

"Guys in my world seemed to value only girls who initiated relationships, flirting, and sex - girls who had absolutely no boundaries around their hearts or bodies.  At age fifteen, I found myself being molded into the kind of girl the world expected me to be.

The next season of my life was the most hellish I have ever experienced.  My desperate search for a prince who would cherish me forever had become my demise. I had listened to the voice of the culture and become the young woman it convinced me to be, hoping that the result would be the discovery of a happily-ever-after tale. Instead, my heart was mercilessly trampled time and time again." 
Leslie Ludy,  Authentic Beauty

Eight years old was really too young to be going to see the movie Grease, but it was 1978, and the movie had just come out in theaters. My mom's collection of vinyl records had already trained me to idolize Olivia Newton John's voice and beauty, and so going to the movie was never in question. In my young heart and mind, it was a nice reprieve from all the Star Wars hoopla from the year before. (Though I enjoyed that one as well. Just not as much. Call me shallow and unsophisticated, it's fine.) But even at eight years old, Olivia disappointed me when she tossed out her poodle skirt for black leather in order to please John Travolta. Something was just so wrong with that in my girlish mind.


I just thought of this but, Maybe Sandy and Danny are the reason I have such a difficult time getting on Team Jess in Rory Gilmore's life!? They set me up to be skeptical and disdainful of rebellious tough guys dressed in leather. I mean, Danny was so sweet and gentlemanly over the summer and at the beach, and he was even turning from his macho ways by showing up at the carnival in a letterman's sweater.  If Sandy had just stuck by her convictions, Danny may have been inspired to so much more. And I can't even talk about Rory's compromises for and because of Logan. It's just depressing.


Anyway, my eight year old ideals did not change much over the years. I continued to believe that women should remain true to themselves fueled by God's image in them and His faithfulness to them. I didn't fully realize it at the time, but one reason for all of this was probably that I had become a Christian right before Grease hit theaters. Now that I think of it, God's timing was so perfect. Had He not sovereignly orchestrated my salvation then, I probably would have been greatly influenced in another direction by Olivia's black leather transformation. And not only that, but by the many opportunities to rebel with peers all around me and conform to the culture.

Oh, I had my moments, but most of them were fairly mild in comparison to the risks others were taking. For example, I did wear a two piece bathing suit once in high school under pressure from my boyfriend's family to "show a little skin." And I may have had a margarita or two while sitting with his parents by the lake. See what I mean? Not exactly what would be considered a walk on the wild side in most circles.

(This is just my story. I believe that all conversions are sovereignly orchestrated and timed, and that all are in equal need of forgiveness from sin. My seemingly goody-two-shoes life was still laden with sin and in need of forgiveness.)

One thing that those early experiences left me with was a deep sadness now when I watch girls compromise their convictions and ideals, their value and worth, their image-bearing status, and their God-given personalities. It brings me to the fourth thing I hope my daughter will cling to as she navigates the dating world.

4. Personality Permanence is Important

This is really just an awkward way of using the letter "P" alliteratively to say Stay true to who you are in Christ, your gifts, your hopes, your dreams, your desires. Resist the urge to try and change yourself to meet the expectations - stated or assumed - of a man or of anyone, really.


Because Kayla,

God put much thought into forming you from the inside out. He wove you together inside my womb. You were fearfully and wonderfully made, and every one of God's works is good. They are purposeful and unique and individual. You were skillfully designed by the ultimate of Creators, and He has a lifetime of days planned for you to, according to your gifts and calling, bring Him glory. (from Psalm 139)


And you are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus ~ and again, created for good works that He prepared for you even before you were born. You were made to walk in those good and God-glorifying works. (from Ephesians 2:10)

You have also been bought with a price, a very expensive one. The brutal, unjust death of Christ Himself. Because of this, you are not your own, but are united to, indwelt by, and belong to Him. (from I Corinthians 6) What a privilege. Who can even fathom it? Our bodies, temples of the Holy Spirit?  Wow.


So, present your body to Him sacrificially in all situations - at home, on the track, on the stage, at church, with friends.  When you do that, you are worshiping Him. In fact, every act of obedience is an act of worship. (My favorite quote from Stepping Heavenward) And don't let the culture, or men, or friends, conform you to their image or ideas, but do let the Lord transform you continually to His image and will. (From Romans 12)


Like Leslie told us in Authentic Beauty, listening to the voice of the culture will not bring you any happily-ever-afters. In fact, it may bring devastation. So, listen to the voice of the Lord. Be true to the person He created you to be, and to His calling, and to the gifts He's given you. That's where protection and life and joy and freedom are found. I can promise you that, because He promises that.

One thing that gives me hope that you will remain true to who you are in Christ is this:



Any guy who can't appreciate the Pegacorn ought to be crossed off the list immediately.

But more importantly, any guy who can't handle Jesus in you should be dropped entirely. You are worth so much more than that.

Monday, May 23, 2016

He Asked For Her Number: Part Three

"The sexual harassment isn’t what irritates me. For me, this isn’t frightening or even that uncomfortable. This is every single day. I leave the house. Men talk to me. I hold my breath and I am polite and I am unshakable and then I get home. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat."

That's a quote from an article I read a couple of months ago entitled Why Women Smile at Men Who Sexualy Harass Us: On Being Nice in the Pursuit of Getting Home Safe.  My friend Erica posted it on Facebook (Thanks, Erica!) and I was intrigued, so I "saved" it.  Did you know you could do that on Facebook? Well, you can, and consequently I have about a hundred articles in my "saved" folder. When I finally got around to reading this one, I knew it was something I needed to talk with my daughter about. I do recommend reading it, but you should be warned that there is some language, and it is not from a Christian perspective. It's written from one woman's perspective on a fairly universal phenomenon, and it's one I could relate to to some extent.

It's why I chose this third item in the list of things I want my daughter to know and practice:

3. Protection May Lie in Politeness

The man who told me he loved my hair as I signed his political petition in front of Whole Foods? I really didn't mind at all. It was broad daylight, and there were lots of people around listening. I smiled, thanked him, and tucked it away as evidence to whip out the next time my dad tells me I really need to start covering up all that gray.

The man who told me I was beautiful as I ran into a Connecticut grocery store early one morning to grab some goodies for my homeschoolers in Hamden? He was clean cut, dressed professionally, and just kept walking on by. So, while it was a bit startling, I didn't feel any real fear.

The man on the bike trail who ran by and commented on my "nice form"? Well, I had to check that one with Robert. Amherst is a strange place, and I wouldn't have put it past the 50-something townie to truly be giving me feedback on my running posture and gait. Really. My husband did not think that was the case, however.

The man in the Stop N Shop on Cape Cod last October, who, as soon as Robert and I parted ways to conquer the grocery list, leaned over my shoulder and whispered in my ear "you are so beautiful"?  Well, that was creepy. And Scary. I was shaken by his boldness. (Me, sweaty after a six mile run, no makeup, and rag tag running clothes. Ugh.)

The man in WalMart, though? The one, late one night, who mysteriously showed up on every aisle I was on, every single time? Even when I tried going to the opposite corner of the store? And then when I went to check out in a hurry, got in line behind right me? Truly frightening. 

I thought about telling the cashier, but didn't want it to ignite the situation. So, I checked out and walked a few steps away from the register. I waited for him to check out and leave the store. It was so late that we may have been the only two left in the store. I tried to watch through the front doors and make sure he got in a car and drove away.  When I was fairly certain that he did I went quickly to mine, locked the doors and drove home crying and shaking all the way. I could hardly get the story out to Robert when I got home. I don't know if I've ever felt so threatened.

Now, if those things are happening to a middle-aged, married, mother of three, they are most certainly going to happen to my youthful, beautiful daughter. My 20-something friend Shannon told me just yesterday that in her experience, the cat-calling started when she and her friends were as young as 12. Ask any woman about her experience with this. I promise you'll get stories. The writer of the article suggests it happens to almost every woman at some point, and that she has learned that ignoring it, or worse, coming back with an attitude, only feeds the fire. 

"When men are quick to remind us that not all men harass women, I’m quicker to remind them that all women (really, all) have experienced this at least once, but more likely, they have experienced it many, many more times than that."

So, I want Kayla to know that politeness, even in the instance of inappropriate gestures and remarks, can diffuse a situation. If ignoring the person is not working, then smile, say thank you and move on as quickly as possible. Sexual harassment is not the time for sassy eye-rolling and tit for tat. In a broken world where fallen masculinity often plays out in dominance, abuse, and twisted sexuality, wisdom is key. Knowing that coming back with an attitude (no matter how justified you feel) will likely only escalate things and then choosing a different response is wise. In fact, it could quite literally save your life.

And by all means, when you come across a gentleman, delight in that discovery, and let him demonstrate his respect for you and other women. There are many men out there who highly value women and womanhood. Let them listen to your ideas. Let them encourage your dreams. Let them open your doors and help you with your coat or your chair. Let them walk you to your car or home and allow them to carry your groceries. Let them fend off the sick and broken men who are just out for a cheap thrill if they will. That's the time for real encouragement and true politeness. That's the way to inspire change in those men who will be inspired.