Saturday, November 30, 2013

Like A Sojourner

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,  Hebrews 1:3

The morning after our nine month old barely escaped stitches from a fall on my watch, I clung to the covers gripped between guilt and fear. It was all I could do to stay in bed and replay my worries like a bad vacation slide on repeat. Guilt, because like I said, he was under my care when he fell. A million doubts and comparisons filled my mind. Do I give my kids too much freedom? Would this have happened to So&So who is much more cautious than me? Fear, because I taught myself to memorize the creeping doom of the realization that what seemed like nothing, was actually something serious. When our firstborn, Lyric, was three weeks old he had unexpected surgery to correct a condition called Pyloric Stenosis. A surgery that he probably needed earlier than he got, all because I kept insisting that he wasn't spitting up as much as it seemed like. I was so determined not to be the mom who freaks out, so determined to keep my composure. Granted, he still got the treatment he needed and he was totally fine. But any time one of my kids is sick or hurt, I’ve never escaped that little voice in the back of my mind that whispers "But remember that one time?" 

Under the sheets that morning I begged like a sojourner at a stranger’s door. I pleaded for Him to shelter me and protect me from my fear. Like a blizzard blowing in cold and quick, it was chasing me and closing in on me. I begged that He would let me in to warm myself by the glow of His radiance. I was nurtured by the very moment the door began to crack open. Overwhelmed by the senses of Home, the sounds of laughter and life, the taste of hot biscuits and honey, I knew I would weather the storm. I was affectionately taken in and had forgotten about the threats of the cold lies that blew violently against the windows.  The panes could rattle and shake all they wanted, but I was safe now. I was out of harm's way and could take off my mittens and all my layers, and sit, welcomed by a fire that had a place for me.

The wasteland of guilt and fear will always be ready for me. It will always be beckoning me to come out and dwell there; to let my comparisons and my doubts run wild. I’d never be alone in the wasteland, because some of you are there. Some of you got lost in the storm and it took everything from your heart. It took the joy of motherhood and replaced it with a measuring stick. It took the affection of a home filled with love and replaced it with rigidity and routine. It took the thrill of life and traded it with safety and comfort. I’ll miss you, but I won’t join you there. Come join me here, take a blanket and cover yourself with grace. There’s a spot here at the fire for you too.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Word That Hurts

So here’s the thing. As a blanket statement, I would have told you that I vowed never to write one of those blog posts that is an “open letter,” or “here’s what you need to know about [fill in the blank], or generally angry posts. As a generality I get the vibe that some of those authors just need to go have a real conversation with a few real people and not air their junk for the world. I thought about that exact thing as I felt compelled to write this particular post. And when I questioned myself about who I needed to have this particular conversation with I was able to come up with a short list….of people who I knew I did not have to have this conversation with. Which shows me that this is really a wide ranged cultural issue, not the personal offense of a few in my own personal  life.

I don’t even know how to start this. My instinct on this subject is to go guns blazing. I’ll start by explaining what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the r-word. Using the word retard or retarded to refer to something or someone as “less than.” And while we are at, throw in all jokes about special needs, short buses, and special olympics.

So now you know what on earth I’m speaking about. Let’s jump in.

Using the r-word to convey that you think something is stupid or dumb is the worst possible choice. What is the most upsetting is that it’s socially acceptable. I’ve heard the kindest people, the closest friends, the smartest people, and people who say they love the people Jesus loves…all use this word. I’ve seen people use this word so much and so often, and that it is so engrained in their vocabulary, that they will even say it in front of a person with special needs. If you don’t see the problem, then let me ask you this…Have you EVER heard that term used in reference to a compliment? Picture the times you have said it or heard it said. What was the context?

Now here is where we will take a little time out. A little pause for clarification. There are two groups/contexts that this word is commonly being used.

Context #1: Using the word retard to describe a person who has some type of disability or apparent difference

Context #2: Using the word retard or retarded as a synonym for “stupid, dumb, or ridiculous”

To the people of context #1: Please change your language. You may be honestly naïve, in that case I would encourage you to educate yourself. This website is a great place to start.

To the people of context #2: You should feel ashamed of yourself and your actions.

I know that seems harsh, and it is. But using cheap and derogatory language to target a person or group is far more harsh. Using hurtful language about a group of people who (as a group) are not capable to defend much less retaliate…is shameful. For most of us, there are two prevalent reasons for avoiding minority slurs. The first and hopefully foremost reason for not using slurs is because it is hurtful and wrong. The second reason is that we know that in most cases, we won’t get away with it (and shouldn’t) because that group or individuals from that group will make sure that our bad behavior is corrected. But who is coming after those who degrade citizens with special needs? Who makes sure that when you make a joke about a short bus, you regret it? No one is afraid that people with special needs will lash out with the full force of their time, people, and resources…Why? Because some people in this group are dependent on caretakers and some people in this group aren’t capable of taking on that fight on their own. It kind of dissolves that “fear of retaliation” thing. So it’s time for us to get offended. It’s time for those of us who stand beside those who live with special needs to get offended.  My biggest regret is that I never said the words “That’s wrong,” and “you can’t spend time in my home if that word will be a part of your vocabulary,” and “that word is hurtful,” and “I don’t care if you meant it like that.” I wish I had let the offense sink in more than the awkwardness of confrontation. So from now on, I’m just gonna get awkward and do the right thing.

I wanted to write a blog that was so smart, that had the strongest reasoning and debate. I wanted you to see past my personal motives and hear the call to live rightly. I wanted this to circulate and raise awareness. But the truth is, this word has hurt my family and me and it’s insulted my sister and so many others. If you need some big in depth explanation for why the r-word isn’t “PC,” then you should really think about what that says about you as person. If the simple fact that this word hurts others isn’t enough for you…then I’m not even mad. I pity you. I’m disappointed over your lack of care for your fellow man. And I’m sad in the life you miss out on by not caring for others outside yourself.

So let's change our language. Let's love all our fellow men and women. Let's call ourselves and our friends to a higher standard.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Stories: My Life Altering Wings Run

One of the most important moments of my life happened in a car.

I was starting my sophomore year of college and it was kickoff week. I'd been asked to go get wings with a group that I didn't typically run with. I knew David, but that was pretty much it. Austin volunteered to drive me, and since I had made it my life's work to be the one girl who wasn't impressed by him, I reluctantly agreed and rode with him. I had a point to prove. (I know this move totally has an Anne of Green Gables and Gilbert Blith vibe all over it.) But because I'm inwardly a dork and I'm not one of those "yea I mainly hang out with guys, girls just don't like me" types, I grabbed my roommate and asked her to come (what I did not know until about ten minutes later, was that she clearly had a crush on him). Just to give you an accurate picture of just how powerful the events of this car ride were I'll give you a little insight to the way I viewed Austin. Upon entering his Volkswagen GT I thought he was arrogant, self absorbed, a little shady, a lot sketchy, and very cute.  On the way there, even though he asked me to ride with him, I got booted to the backseat by my enthusiastic *ahem* roomie. They started talking about who knows what, most likely it was music because she was so cool and legit with music stuff. Then I got a mass text from an acquaintance with a joke about special needs people. I basically erupted in the back seat. I don't remember exactly what I said but it was something along the lines of "Oh my gosh. I can't believe this." But with very high volume and personal outrage and completely interrupting their music chat. I completely expected this guy, who I thought was probably like an inch deep, to tell me I was making a big deal out of nothing. At the least I expected him to do what everyone does and use the good ole “They didn’t really mean it like that,” or at least the half hearted “Well I’m sure she didn’t know you had a special needs sister.” (You should FULLY anticipate a blog post unleashing my full personal outrage and call to action on this subject.)

Do you know what this guy said? This guy who was popular and cute and had no reason to go against the norm and believe/do/care what was right? He said, “I can’t believe some people. That’s so wrong.”

Crrrrreeeekkkk. That was the sound of my heart door cracking open. This guy, this cute and popular guy, he was different. And his difference, made all the difference.