Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Cleaning the Ranch House

The header photo for this blog was taken last September at a place about forty five minutes outside of Managua, Nicaragua, called Ruby Ranch. Its a space of 500+ acres that our friends are slowly but surely developing into a camp facility, with the help of numerous teams and hundreds of individuals. The dream and vision is to create a place where kids from within Managua can come and experience God's creation is a tangible way, something I take for granted growing up in Oregon, but something that is almost unreachable for some of them. A place where they can hike, swim, ride horses, climb rock walls, play baseball and witness the majesty of a clear night sky.

Less than a week ago my husband and I returned from leading a team to Managua to serve alongside our friends there. We painted inside and outside at Casa Havilah, and replaced a roof on the back building. We cleared trees to make way for the new rancho at Ruby Ranch. And we cleaned and repaired the old ranch home. It was one of the biggest cleaning projects I'd ever been a part of, and challenged me in more ways than one. But through those dusty hallways, tarantula infested ceilings and grubby windows God taught me something of Himself. Something of His heart for me. For us. For humanity.

When we first entered the house there were comments about how we should just condemn it. It looked to be beyond help, deserted and neglected for too long. "Let's just knock it down and begin again," came one of the comments. And really, the comment wasn't outlandish. Until recently the house had been the only secure structure on the property, and because there isn't a full time tenant at the ranch, anything of value had to be stored within it. This meant all construction equipment, donated sports apparatus, and extra farming supplies were residing within the three bedroom, one bath house. All in all there were six bunk bed sets with mattresses, a dozen soccer balls, three buckets of random yard game supplies, four dozen tennis balls, one giant baseball bag full of gear, a sixty pound bag of sugar, a generator, six five-gallon buckets of old paint, three boxes of farming chemicals, a honey bee smoker, fourteen bicycles, a trampoline net, three rocking chairs, three rock climbing ropes, half a dozen harnesses and grigries, fifty pounds worth of rock wall holds, a suitcase full of yoga mats, three six-person tents, nine baseball bats, a stack of plates, seven stacks of styrofoam cups, thirty field hockey sticks, close to a hundred yards of random wire and rope, and at least a dumpster full of random junk. Our team of twelve people spent four hours just pulling things out of the house and organizing them into categories that made some sort of sense. The bathroom was completely unusable: the toilet didn't flush, the faucet was broken off and the shower had a a pipe that shot water straight out. The refrigerator and oven were ant nests. The kitchen cupboards housed tarantulas, whip tail scorpions and an array of different sized geckos, which would all scurry to the corners anytime the half broken doors were coerced open. Giant black wasps had nested in the rafters of one of the bedrooms, and dive bombed a couple of the guys as they worked at dismantling two of the six bunk beds. The bug life alone challenged our fears and fortitude. We had begun an immense project.

Slowly we began to clean, though. We started by spraying the entire thing out. Then we scrubbed the walls and floors with Ajax and stiff bristled brushes. One of the guys mixed cement in a sand bucket and patched holes in the walls to deter more rodents from taking up residence inside. A few more went to work on the bathroom, replacing parts and making sure each appliance worked properly. Myself and a few other people organized the piles of stuff that had been moved out to the porch. We organized sports equipment, moved construction and farm supplies to the container, and discarded a lot of garbage. And slowly but surely, it began to look like a house again. Pretty soon the floors were clean. Then the ant nests were destroyed and wiped away. The kitchen cabinet doors were repaired and hung straight. The once cloudy window panes were finally letting light back in. By our continued, steady work we were able to witness as the house was transformed from a storage shed, half full of dust and garbage, back to a residence. Back to the original intention for the structure.

As I reflected on all the work we did, and the amazing transformation that took place, the Lord began to remind me of how He did this in my own life not so many years ago. I had committed my house to the Lord long ago, but through the years, it had become cluttered. Chalk full of half used gifts and a bunch of remnants that weren't really of any value anymore, but I hadn't removed them yet. My life was a dingy, grubby mess. On the brink of being 'condemned', He entered. Braving the tarantulas and scorpions of my fears and pain, He began removing everything. The good, the bad, and everything in between. He took it all out in order to restore me. In order to clear out the cobwebs and hidden dust bunnies, everything had to be taken out into the light and examined for its worth and place in my life. It was a long, tedious process. One that took great patience and fortitude to complete. But slowly, ever so slowly, it began to resemble a life again. A joyful, healthy life. Some things were worth bringing back inside. Others I had to leave behind. And still more was simply rubbish, that only needed to be removed in order to be exposed as such. Eventually, the original purpose of my life was returned, and it was restored to something useful and fruitful. Even though the mess had accumulated over years, He still found it good to restore. Out of love, a new life was gifted to me.

As I study and meditate on His word, I find that this is His heart for humanity as well. I am not the exception, but one of many loved ones that He has and will continue to restore. There is no life so full of tarantulas, wasps and dust that He wouldn't enter. That He wouldn't fight to restore. He is good. And so loving. And I am speechless that He found it good to renew my life.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cultivating Bravery

I have a good friend who has two children. One boy and one girl. Her little boy is all energy, playfulness and wit. Her daughter is imaginative, serious and sassy. They are both amazing kids. And like most children their age, they love Disney. Unlike most children, they both LOVE Disney. Everything about it. The amusement parks, the cartoons, the characters. I should mention that their love is only rivaled by their parents’ love for Disney, so they do come by it naturally. 
At a birthday party for the little girl a couple of months ago, I gifted her a bow and arrow play set from the movie, Brave. In the interest of full disclosure, her parents had informed me that she would love the gift, since I’m not that great at picking out gifts for children. As she opened the package her eyes lit up as she recognized the red-headed girl immortalized on the cardboard packaging. She recognized her from one of her favorite movies. Recognized this character she has begun to look up to in a way. As I watched her reaction to the gift, I found myself hoping she would always look to women who are brave. Women who defy social, political and even familial boundaries placed on them because of their gender. I found myself hoping she would always choose to be brave.
Last summer I competed in a sprint triathlon. Its a sporting event comprised of three sections: a 500 meter swim in the lake, a 20k bike ride and a 5k run. I had never attempted anything so diverse in movements, nor so long in duration. I trained half-heartedly, growing weary of the early morning swims and late evening runs about two months before the actual race day. I showed up to pick up my race packet and almost lost my lunch due to butterflies in my stomach who seemed to be high on methamphetamines. I was beside myself with nerves because I was setting out to do something I had never done. Something I felt like was out of reach for me, mainly because of limits I had placed on myself. As we drove into the parking lot, though, I saw familiar faces. One of my mentors from high school, a good family friend and a former basketball teammate were all standing near the registration table chatting. Immediately my fear washed away in a wave of relief that seemed to speak to my hypertensive heart, “See. You can do this. They are going to be there, too. You can do this.” The short of it is that I competed, did better than I thought I could, and it the midst of my inner turmoil realized that something very important was happening in me: I was becoming brave. 

And now this morning. As I write these words a very good friend of mine is somewhere between mile ten and fifteen of the 26.2 it takes to complete a marathon. She is an amazing mother to her daughter, wife to her husband, and friend to me. She began running a couple years ago after becoming frustrated with weight that wouldn’t drop and clothes that wouldn’t fit. She began slowly, running a couple miles at a time at a leisurely pace. She has now completed numerous 10k’s, a couple half marathons, and is completing her first full this morning. She is tough, determined and brave. And she is not the only one. I am constantly amazed by the women in my life who lay aside social norms to do things they’ve never done. Things they have never have seen anyone demonstrate for them. Things they maybe never thought they could do. These women encourage me and spur me to begin again on forgotten dreams. To stand back up where I once fell. And to continue to cultivate in my life a bravery that I hope younger generations will see, and realize they are just as capable of.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Calling it Quits

I was raised in a keep-your-word, work-hard, shut-the-gate-behind-you sort of family. None of this was taught in haste, but over the whole of my childhood, from my parents, grandparents and other significant adults in my life. To this day I am still thankful for those examples. For the people who took the time to slow their lives enough to say, "I know you don't know yet, so let me show you." It is what I hope for all young people I know.

That being said, it is very difficult for me to ever call it quits on something I begin. I pay my bills on time, show up when I say I will, and run that half marathon, even if training didn't go as well as I had hoped. Follow through is ingrained into the fabric of who I am.

I also tend to over-commit.

I am sure if my husband could change one thing about me, this would be it. He often has to be the voice of reason, not usually before I'm laying incapacitated by a migraine brought on by doing too much for too long with too little rest. To his credit, he does try to remind me of limits (which he has learned over the past three years) before I begin a new endeavor. Sometimes I just don't listen.

I should listen more.

Last week I began a nine month certificate program in order to learn how to do MRI. The program is located in Portland, so two nights a week I travel up to class. I also began a weekend night shift, thirty two hours over three days. Also, in conjunction with class time, I began twenty one hours of clinicals at the hospital I work at, in order to get hands on training.

I told myself over and over again that it's 'only nine months,' and completely possible.

I told myself that until Tuesday afternoon when I was in bed with a raging migraine, feeling nauseous and utterly exhausted. And like a ton of bricks I realized what I had to do: I had to quit. I had to call my instructor (a woman I met once and immediately respected) and my supervisors (whom I wanted badly to impress) and tell them that I had to drop my classes. That is was too much. That I am, in fact, human.

Those conversations were difficult, to say the least. Some went well. Laden with grace, mercy and kindness. One was strained, awkward and painful. But they happened. I spoke with each of the four people I had to and admitted my weakness. Admitted that I cannot be at a hospital every day of the week without beginning to die inside. Admitted that I am interested in more in my life than a higher pay scale and a few more letters behind my name. Admitted that I enjoy being a friend and a wife, and the opportunities I get to do both because of not over-working. And that at the end of the day, I may not be cut out for that much 'busy' in my life.

I was greatly humbled by the kindness I received afterwards. Friends, coworkers and family were so  caring and understanding, divulging to me that they had 'been worried' the whole time, but would have supported me as well. It was all very humbling. Not only to admit weakness but also to receive such care after the fact. I feel like I am still reeling from it all.

But I am also myself again.

My headache receded a day after I called it quits. My eye quit twitching that night. I slept this weekend, soundly. And I learned that sometimes the bravest, most courageous thing you can do is to say you can't do it all.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A wedding. And Syria.

I sit here in giddy anticipation of the weekend ahead. One filled with enjoyment of a beautiful places, girlfriends being reunited, and my best friend for the past 14 years promising and sealing her love to the man of her dreams. I have not been more excited about an event since my own wedding three years ago. It promises to be breath taking, inspiring and beautiful. 

And yet...

Half way around the world a country lies in shambles. My own country is preparing to attack it in order to hopefully bring an end to the obscene slaughter of men, women and children. People are needlessly dying, by the hands of their own government, by the truck load. 

Its so heavy and light. It is so conflicting. 

I am on the brink of tears for the joy and the pain, that both hold my heart in a reflective posture. And my soul cries out for a solution. For resolution and peace. 
I struggle to understand it all, and it holds the capacity to overwhelm my feeble mind. How did we get here? How does this happen? Am I even suppose to understand this all?

I can’t. It is that simple. I cannot, for all my trying, understand this. 

So I pray. And ask for help from the best Helper I know. And I hug my husband. I kiss his lips and cheeks, and tell him I love him more than I ever knew humanly possible. I pause in his arms and let Peace trickle down to my heart, as he is the human extension of the Deep Love that satisfies my spirit. 

And my soul longs for the roads of Glory. For peace. And understanding. 

I hope for a little more Grace than I had yesterday. Another helping of Mercy, please. And an open heart that is prepared and open to the moments I’m allowed to help, no matter how small it may seem. 

More Grace, please. And more Mercy, if you don’t mind.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


I believe, like most things, our best intentions can become idols.

Somehow it seems to me that we have come to a place in the American church that once we affix the correct adjectives to an idol we are satisfied to be fooled into believing it is a valid pursuit. But an idol is an idol. Putting the 'right' language around it is just like dressing pigs up in fine silk. It doesn't change what is underneath the polished veneer.

That said, I fear 'community' has become idolized. Questions have surfaced in my heart and mind around the importance of it, the definition of it, and the overall place it does or does not have in my life, as I have heard it defined and referenced in the Evangelical church scene. Community captures the essence of our innate need to interact with other people, not only for our own growth and edification, but also to give something of our lives as an offering to be used and utilized. It is magnificent, and has the ability to create a 'thin space', where as mere humans we see a glimpse into what Heaven must be like. However, I can't help but wonder if it is just one more thing that, while in it's essence is beautiful and pure, has been put on a pedestal, so in prideful pomp we wear it around as a shiny religious medal.

I've been trying to reconcile this, and then yesterday afternoon, I had numerous interactions that might have looked random to the anonymous observer, but after each one there was left a sweetness in my soul. A gentle reassuring whisper seemed to say, "that's what I meant by 'love your neighbor'." 

  • The barista at my favorite coffee shop has become a genuine friend, with whom I get to celebrate the purchase of his first home. He shared with me the landscaping projects he has planned and the fact that he's within a few weeks of moving in.
  • I noticed a new hair cut on an employee of my favorite resale store. As I mentioned it, her face lit up, and she told me all about the experience. Then we stood there laughing about bad hair cuts and swapping advice about what product is best to use on pixie styles. 
  •  One of my neighbors happens to also work at an outdoor store I frequently visit. So instead of just a trip to get a new pair of swimming goggles, I was welcomed with a huge smile and warm hug. And then I learned more about my neighbor and his life growing up in South America and the swim team he was a part of.
  • I only know him in the context of his place of employment, but yesterday I was able to be the anonymous listening ear he needed as a form of 'cheap therapy,' as he called it. All I did was ask how he had been, and I learned his father recently passed away and how hard that has been because they were so close, and how work is helping to keep his mind off of it for right now. 
  • A friend came over to drop off some excess eggs from his son's chickens, but ended up sharing some very exciting news with my husband and I, instead of just the 'drop and run' he said it would be.

The whisper in my soul is helping me to recognize this as my community.  These authentic, organic, every day exchanges of joy, love and compassion. And what if that is what the whole thing is about? The 'worry' might be that these are all surface level interactions, never really challenging or growing me. But what if these conversations did just that? What if these different lifestyles and belief systems (represented in each of these individuals), challenged my prejudices, increased my capacity to love, and prompted me outside of my comfort zone? Wouldn't that be just as beneficial as a structured, predetermined, 'programed' community?

I would argue that it is even better. Even more fulfilling of the call on my life as a follower of Christ, to be light to the world. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gus and Bolt: the shortest lived pets, ever

As soon as we drove away from Wilco, a local farm store, I uttered these words:

"Babe. What did we just do?"

Though the question was rhetorical, the reality was that my husband and I, after nearly three years of marriage, had purchased our first pets. Two very adorable, but very young, ducklings.

Yep. Ducklings. A black one for him and a cute little brown one for me.

Um. What?!

We had been at the farm store looking at rain barrels. In my husband's ever present clever manner he wanted (and still wants) to create a rain catch barrel in order to water our back porch container garden that we will inevitably plant this spring. We had a great garden last year (giant tomato plants, lettuce, and even some cucumbers) but it was annoying to water because our apartment was not fitted with an outdoor hose spigot. So we made six or seven trips back and forth from the kitchen sink with a watering can, twice a day. Instead of that experience repeated, the hubs would like to make a catch basin that will use gravity to ensure proper water pressure through an attached hose, which will then water the veggies. Great. Lets go to Wilco.

Well, who knows what is at farm stores in the spring? Yes, that is right. Chicks, ducklings and poults (baby turkeys). And who knows how adorable these little animals are? Me. I know. They are so stinking cute that I returned to the store three hours after our initial visit and we picked out two, even while knowing that the hubs and I live in a one bedroom apartment with a 5ft by 10ft patio that doesn't even have a hose spigot anywhere near it.

That's how cute these little buggers are. See? I'm not insane. They're adorable.

But what I failed to heed was that part of myself that was logical and looked at my living situation, my current pet situation (which was none) and my lifestyle. If I had stopped and thought logically about those three things alone, I would not have purchased who became Gus and Bolt. But I didn't listen to logic. For one of the few times in my life, I let my childish emotions make a decision for me.

Gus (the brown one) and Bolt (the black runner) out on our patio. It's tiny, and not suitable for ducks of any age.

And it was a mistake. A big one... But also an incredibly raw learning experience. Which is why I am writing about it. Let me explain.

We got the new ducklings home and filled our spare laundry tub up a few inches with the bedding pellets we had purchased at Wilco. We put in the water dispenser, a dish of food, and the ducklings.

"Welcome to your new tub of a home guys! Hope you like it."

They didn't. They chirped and cried and freaked out for what seemed like hours.

Again, these words:
"What did we just do?"

And then guess what we did? The hubs went to watch some UFC fights at a friend's house and I went to an event at the local high school. We left our brand new pets to themselves. (I felt like an awful owner, for this, if you couldn't tell). Sure they were still alive when we returned, but my stress level was already higher than it had been just a few hours before that fateful purchase.

I'm sorry to say the ducklings only lasted 48 hours at our house. After two sleepless nights and an epic tension headache, we realized (and finally admitted to each other) that it was a bad idea. All was not lost, as my brother is a veritable hero when it comes to animals (has pets already, lives in a place suitable for animals, is a vet technician by trade, and is generally a rock star when it comes to all kinds of creatures) and he graciously took Gus and Bolt in. We drove them down to his house, with all their trappings, including a brooding box, and my little brother was glad to have them. I know they will be well taken care of. And I will miss their chirps and waddles, but not the stress.

So here are the bullet points of what this experience taught me in just two short days:

  •  I care a lot about the things I take responsibility for, and do not want to fail. Even if I make myself sick in the process, I will make sure everything is ok.
  •  I live an active, on-the-go lifestyle. And I love it that way.
  •  While still incredibly cute, ducklings take a lot of effort.
  •  My husband is willing to try anything, if he thinks it will make me happy. 
  •  I cannot exploit this amazing attribute of his personality, no matter what.
  •  At some point, I do want to have chickens and ducks, but when we're in a better home to host them.
  •  My husband is a softy, and I tend to worry. A lot. 
  •  I still care a lot about what people think of my life and the way I live it.

This last point is the biggest one Gus and Bolt taught me.

In the grand scheme of things, who cares if I buy two ducklings? What does it matter in the universe if I have a pet? It doesn't matter. And yet, somehow I wanted, and in a way needed, the people I shared this with to approve and support me. Some did. But some did not. And the ones who doubted inevitably made me doubt myself. This is something I do not want to experience again. I believe that my husband is the only human I truly have to stand in agreement with in my life, and yet something inside me still desires the approval of friends, family, coworkers, and even acquaintances.

I could go into how social media has created an unnatural platform for our lives to be on display, or how people should judge other people's lives less. But I won't. All I know is that deep things were revealed through two very unlikely little creatures, and if that was all that this experience was about, that's ok with me.

Plus, nothing quite compares to being snuggled by baby ducklings. They're unexplainably precious.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ranting. (Includes bad words. I'm not sorry, either.)

Every three or so months I do this. I remember I have a blog, I remember I have a place to write, and I promise myself I'll write more on my blog this time around. Starting today. I'm going to do it! I'm going to be consistent. I'm going to.......    Lets be real. Life gets busy and writing is tedious. Some days its a big enough chore to get up and get showered and drink a cup of coffee and pretend to be interested in this wintery time in Eugene. But truthfully, I hate winter in Eugene. It depresses me and makes me jones for warm beaches, more than anything else.

But I'm getting off topic.

Turthfully, I'm not going to write every day. Even if its a good discipline. Even if its healing. (Both of which are true). I'm just not going to because some days I would rather lay in bed until the absolute last second possible than get up and be productive.

Shit. I sound like such a loser.

Oh well.

There's fog in Eugene right now. Like, a lot of f***ing fog. And its f***ing freezing as well. And I hate it. I hate it so much I have to verbally remind myself that life isn't always foggy and frustrating, and it does get better. It just takes time...

Shit. I hate that word.

Time is my least favorite aspect of life. It takes time for relationships to build. It takes time to pay off that last freakin' student loan that is pissing me off more than anything. It takes time to feel better. To heal my guts that have been ravaged by food allergies since I was a kid but didn't realize because I thought that everyone has explosive diarrhea after every meal. It takes time to see results when I work out. It takes time.

I get so damn annoyed of the time it takes to see things happen in life. And trust me, I know all the quotes about things worth while are worth the time it takes to achieve them. I know. And I still loathe it.

On the upswing, in less than a month I'm getting out of the country. I have never been where we're going, and I really don't know what to expect. But we're going. Which is great. And I wish I was getting on the plane tomorrow. And I have a feeling I'm not going to want to come back. Ever. Its just reality...

On that note, I'm going to leave my house now. And go do something that makes me feel a little less like this cold fog is sucking my soul of every last ounce of joy. Something like shopping, or rock climbing, or tanning, or.... hell. I don't care. I just need to do something more fun than sitting in my living room eating red bell pepper slices and thinking about how much I want to be somewhere else.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A calling...

“....they get ruined for anything else.” My friend, Joe, who happens to be the senior pastor at our church, said these words yesterday as he was speaking about people who are called to be missionaries. He was talking about how after they have an overseas experience nothing is ever the same again. 

As I sat and listened, I so deeply identified with his statement that I could have stood up in the middle of class and shouted, 

“YES! Thats me!! That happened to ME and I’m WRECKED over it!!” 

I didn’t shout or yell, though. I just sat there. All folded up and cozy in my chair, emphatically nodding my head to such truthful words.

My first mission experience was my junior year of high school. I was sort of a late add-on. A group of my friends went to a different church than I did and their youth group was going, and somehow I got invited. I had no time to raise the money, but I still sheepishly asked my mom if she thought it was possible. Money was always a rough topic with both my parents since the divorce, so I really was bracing for a straight “No.” Instead she said she would see if her and my step-dad could swing it, and she would also call my dad about it. All I could do was pray, but if I can be honest, I didn’t expect either parent to come up with the money.

I will never forget the morning my dad dropped the check off. I was in my zero period weight class which was located, at the time, in the cinderblock windowless building behind the high school. I heard my dad’s truck and then saw the door open. I walked over to meet him and he simply held out a folded check. “I know your sister had this same opportunity around your age, and I think it would only be fair for you to have the chance, also.” I hugged him, thanked him, and walked back inside. But my stomach was doing somersaults, as sheer elation overwhelmed my being.

The trip took place over Spring Break that year, and we drove to Baja Mexico over the course of two days. The group of students was probably 15 or so, three of them being some of my best girlfriends. We were going to work with a pastor and his family whom the church already had relationship with. I honestly didn’t know much of what to expect beforehand. I knew only a few words in Spanish, and definitely was not even remotely comfortable with trying to conversate in the language, let alone tell people about Jesus. I also wasn’t comfortable in a ‘vacation Bible school’ setting, nor did I play an instrument. I could kick a soccer ball, I could work hard and I could make jewelry out of hemp twine and beads. 

But those three things took me miles.

During that providential week we prayed. We laughed. We mixed cement by hand, with shovels. We dug ditches. We painted the church. We ate authentic food, including raw oysters. We celebrated the pastor’s son’s birthday. We sang, off key, in a language we didn’t know or understand. We ran near the seashore. We played with kids. We simply loved on people who, by the grace of God, through His Son’s blood, are family. 

And it was powerful. In my life, it was supernaturally powerful.

The trip home and the first few days back were a mosaic of emotions. I cried. I laughed with my friends. I had trouble eating because I felt guilty for having so much. I sat on the floor in my room and wept because I had met families of eight who lived in a house the same size.

But God had began a work. In March of 2003, I unknowingly gave my Creator permission and space to redirect the trajectory of my life, and He did so in a mighty way. Since then, no other pursuit in life has satisfied that deep longing. The few times I've been overseas since are the only moments I can look back on and honestly say my soul was finally satiated. 

I became ruined for anything else.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

To the guys:

Can we chat for a minute? 


I had an experience today that made me feel a range of emotions, all the way from furious to sad. Now before you stop reading because this is a woman talking about emotions, just give me a minute.

I was out on a run. Minding my own business. Releasing stress, staying healthy, being athletic. Dressed appropriately. Minding. my. own. business. I ran past a couple of guys who were stepping onto the bike path. As I ran past they proceeded to make some off color comments, ending in the phrase, “Sup, girl?” 

Disclaimer: I understand this is not all of you, nor most of you, but again, please stay in this conversation.

But can we address this? From a male perspective: does that really work? Does that really seem effective?
Maybe women have made it that easy for guys. Maybe the standards for a man have been reduced to mere wolf whistles and cheesy/vulgar pickup lines. Possibly enough women have responded that it seems acceptable, but can I just say right now, it. is. not. 

I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a sister, daughter, cousin, aunt, friend. I have a successful career, volunteer in the community, and can change the oil in my car. I love fly fishing, rock climbing and art. I wear dresses, jeans, t-shirts, shorts, tanks, sweaters, boots. I scream and yell at football games, and I still hoop in a gym full of guys. And I know more than a hundred more women who are the same way.

And all of this makes me a PERSON. A human being. 

Not an object. So please, don’t treat me like one. Be better than that.

Dads, uncles, grandfathers, mentors, teachers, coaches: please value character over performance, every time. Please lead young men to be gentlemen. Demonstrate how they do this. 

And honestly, lets keep my gender accountable as well.

Ladies, be a lady. Learn what that means. Learn how valuable you are, and do not use your beauty or body to exploit anyone. Ever. Value things that matter. Like honesty, integrity, grace, wisdom, patience and compassion. Set standards and don’t bend on them. You’re worth every ounce of respect you expect to be given.

I was enraged by the comments, but also deeply saddened as well. I want better for coming generations. I want better for my brothers. Better for my little sister. For my nephews. Better for every young man and young woman I know. Because if we continue to reduce one another to objects for our own use and abuse, we will destroy each other.

Thanks for staying in the conversation.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Overseas Family

Traveling is an integral and completely vital part of my life. Though I don't get outside the United States as much as I'd like to, I crave it on a daily, almost hourly, basis. In my blood, deep in my bones, there exists a need to hear other languages, walk unfamiliar streets, and eat foreign food. I used to consider it a plague, something to be ignored and gotten past, but I've learned to accept it as part of myself. And fortunately, its a part of a lot of people who are very close to me as well. Even as close as my older sister, my sister-in-law and her family. And I love that they are where they are.

I love it until I come to face to face with the reality of it.

At the end of last week a car bomb was detonated in Beirut, Lebanon, killing at least three people and leaving over 80 people injured.

Bomb. Detonated. In the city my sister lives in. 

About a year ago my husband and I had the opportunity of visiting her in Lebanon, and we really enjoyed the country, people and culture. However, since leaving, a veritable civil war has erupted in Syria, increasing tensions in neighboring Lebanon exponentially. My sister has been great at explaining if we have any reason to worry, and up until this weekend, we didn't. But stuff happens. And people respond violently sometimes. And sometimes, it scares the living shit out of me.

I don't have to write about who my sister is to me. She's my sister. A best friend, mentor, confidant and pillar in my life. Childhood grew us together in ways most people don't experience, and I have turned to her wisdom more times than I can remember. But now I can't get past the fear of where she is. I try to ignore it, but honestly, I'm scared and worried. I don't have a positive spin on it, this time. I have faith that she won't try to act as a vigilante and will board the first plane home if the situation worsens. Selfishly, though, I wish she'd get on a plane now anyway.

But that is only because of my own fear.

A fear that is acting selfishly, one-sided, narrowly-visioned. Its the risk of loving people, and respecting their free-will: it might end up hurting you. It might end up scaring you. But free-will is what makes us human, what makes us individuals. We can't very well attempt to rob one person of it without always expecting it of others, which will rob the world of a lot of incredibly beautiful things. Things that came out of places of danger and fear.

So now I will just pray and hope for her safe return.