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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Speaking Out


I ended a relationship last night.  One I'd ended before and gone back to multiple times.  The relationship was abusive and volatile and unhealthy.  But it was hard to get away.  And yet, I woke up this morning feeling free. Feeling something I have not experienced in a great while: serenity.

The relationship I speak of was with Facebook.  For months, now, I've been allowing a social media website to steal my peace.  To instill fear and confusion.  And anger.  The agitation of late that has been consistently growing has not been of the I'm-spending-too-much-time-looking-at-people's-food/vacations/cat memes-and-therefore-wasting-my-day variety.  I sort of long for those good ol' days in a way.  No, what I'm talking about is the type of angst that has arisen out of the fact that the political climate has changed so drastically and so quickly in our society and that this has become evidenced on my Facebook account.  I can only speak for my experience with my own page.

I have a friend who for as long as I can remember would deactivate her account and then reactivate. She would explain that when she was on, she just felt pulled into debate and then wound up feeling discouraged and disheartened. I couldn't understand this until recently. There is no denying the disunity that is present in our culture today.  We are one year away from an election but the unrest has been swelling for some time now.  People seem to be more divided than ever on all numbers of issues. This, in and of itself, is not a problem.  In fact, as a democracy, we need differing points of views. We need debate.  We need voices to be heard from all angles of any given subject.  But, herein lies the trouble. This isn't happening.  Many are being silenced.  Many are being ridiculed.

I am not sure if I happened to be friends with an inordinate amount of people who believed differently than I, or if those who share my beliefs were simply quieter.  I suspect it may be the latter.  Personally, I will admit to being silent too much of the time.  It seemed easier.  I don't like conflict.  I've come to a point in my life where I don't believe I change either individuals or entities.  I can only change myself.

But over the past several months, there has been an indignation stirring up inside me.  Daily, on my newsfeed, I was reading not just articles, or memes, or viewpoints that stood in stark opposition to my own belief system, but was faced with articles, memes and viewpoints that were insulting, inflammatory, and hateful in their onesidedness.  Everywhere I turned was journalism that was clearly an opinion piece written and presented as fact, 'studies' that shamed the way I choose to raise my children, attacks on the God I believe in, and then of course, Facebook being what it is, I was privy to all sorts of personal disagreements that had nothing to do with me among "friends." And I've observed over the months a pattern.  I've seen time and again, within the comments section of friends' posts, tension arise and it culminates in the same way.  Someone is publicly defriended or silenced.  And noticing this as it happens to others, I've felt increasingly uncomfortable.  I've begun to wonder what happened to the era where we believed firmly in freedom of speech; where we not only accepted it but embraced it.  It's important to note that the tension I referred to was merely discussion.  An opposing viewpoint brought up with respect.  And yet, quickly, the dissenter was dismissed and rejected.

Now, this could very well be exclusively the dynamic on my own page.  Other people's feeds could be full of those who are open-minded and thoughtful in their assertions yet humble and polite.  I don't know.  What I do know is that my own experience played out again and again and I watched and bit my own tongue and read and vented my dissidence to my husband where it was safe rather than in a public format, but finally last night my tongue began to bleed.

A "friend" posted an article which I read and which upon reading had a strong reaction to. The piece was a strong opinion piece and in turn, my opinion reading it was strong.  And I responded with my opinion on the article itself.  And I was careful to speak only of the author's viewpoint and to express what I feel are the problems with that viewpoint.  And within a matter of minutes, the "friend" who had posted the article deleted my comment.  And that would be fine if this was an isolated event.  But it's not.

And now I cannot hold my anger back or bite my tongue.  Because over and over again, I'm seeing it. I am witnessing one "side," if you will, continually silence the other.  And it's working.  There is a "side" who has grown fearful.  Who fears to stir things up, to speak their truth, to call out what they see as wrong, because those who disagree, disagree in a domineering and threatening manner.

The "friend" who deleted my comment, did so with a comment of his own, stating that I needed to post my views on my own page, not his.  And then in his next post, he personally attacked my Christianity. Now, mind you, I had said nothing in my response of my religious beliefs.  Nothing. This is what I feel we're up against. I feel strongly that this epitomizes how many today operate when others don't agree with them.  They have nothing in their vocabulary to defend their own views, so the viciously attack their opposition.  And it works.  To avoid being spat on, we just shut up.  Everything has been spun, so that we appear to be the perpetrators.  And this is how it happens.  This is how an entire faction of society begins to be eliminated.  It's happening on a much bigger scale, of course, than my very small Facebook page.  It's just that this was the first time I felt it so intimately.

I did not deactivate my account because of this interaction.  It's been something I've been inwardly struggling with and this was my final motivation.  Do I believe I need to stand strong and stand my ground and own my own voice and truth? Yes.  But right now, I need to do so while in prayer, unswayed by the noise of the enemy.  I do that here.  I cannot, currently, do it there.

This blog has always been a prayer closet for me.  One that I've visited less and less.  But I return to it now because I still need to hear myself pray aloud as I grapple with God over words while I'm here.  It's how He and I have done things for a while.  And partly, I'm doing it here in order to not be silenced.  I don't care if just one person comes across it and I don't care whether they agree or disagree with it, the important thing is that there has to be an outlet where I do not feel silenced.  Where I do not feel like what I have to say is not valid.



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Listening

I have never been very good at making decisions.  I've been afflicted by self-doubt and fear for more of my life than I'd like to admit.  Remembering daily to turn my will and my life over to the care of God has relieved this in recent years and yet there are still too many moments where I just feel immobilized by anxiety; the "right" answer always seeming elusive.

I should be in Kentucky right now.  Spring residency for my Master's program started last Friday and I was supposed to be there.  For the past month, I had been feeling increasingly uneasy about the upcoming trip.  It would have been my fourth residency and nerves had plagued me prior to each trip before but this apprehension felt different. I couldn't shake it and each time I've been before, excitement had always eventually edged out the worry.  But this time, even though I prayed through the fears, practiced positive thinking, talked my feelings out with others, still the feeling of foreboding persisted.

The week before I was to leave I felt like I was starting to come down with a cold.  I started popping the Vitamin C.  Then my knee started acting up.  I'm scheduled for knee surgery on June 3rd and had hoped everything would be fine.  As the week wore on, my cold grew worse, my knee swelled bigger and by Thursday I couldn't get around without my brace.  "I'll be fine," I kept assuring myself but the inner nagging continued. I reminded myself,  a cold is just a cold.  I have the brace.  I'll push through.

I could have pushed through.  I do it all the time.  I'm a pretty determined person.  Sometimes things work out positively when I do that and sometimes not.  I could have gone and slowly felt better while I was there or I could have gone and developed pneumonia and been unable to walk at all half-way through the week.  Those aren't just silly exaggerated concerns.  With a chronic illness, those would have been possible realities.

So, I started to feel a little like, maybe, God was telling me something.  But then my other voice was saying, "It's only fear."  So, I woke up Friday morning at three to leave for the airport.  My ten year old and eight year old daughters were both awake.  The oldest said she'd prayed that God would wake her up to say another goodbye.  I dressed, had a quick cup of coffee and hugged and kissed them goodbye.  As I hugged my younger daughter, I noted that she felt hot.  Very hot.  So, I took her temperature and it was 102.5.  She had a bulge in the side of her neck, as well.  She'd been complaining of a "stiff neck" all week but we hadn't noticed any bulge and she hadn't had a fever.  My husband said he'd take her to the doctor and go into work late, so we left for the airport.

I knew he had it covered.  That she'd be okay and well taken care of but by now I was seriously starting to doubt my decision to go.  It seemed like signs were coming in all directions that it was not a good idea.  I prayed in the car.  I texted my sponsor and a friend.  I asked my husband to exercise his husbandly leadership and tell me what to do. We parked at the airport and we walked up to ticketing ( I limped) and my sponsor texted back the simple words, "Follow your heart."

So, I did.  I cancelled my trip.  And something's happened in me since then.

We took Verity to the doctor who ruled out strep throat, ear infection, and UTI.  We were sent to a radiologist for an ultrasound and told it might be an abscess and if it was she'd most likely have to be hospitalized.  Thankfully, it wasn't.  It was just two very large lymph nodes reactive to...something. Five days later, we still don't know what they're reacting to.  She's on an antibiotic but each day her fever is higher than the day before and we've now been to the doctor three times.  Currently, we're just waiting for results of the latest tests.  It's been scary and frustrating but I know God's got it.  I don't fear the worst.  And I know I'm here because even though she would have been well watched and well tended while I was away, it would have been horrible to not be with her while she's so sick.

But there's more going on, I think.  The decision to stay, not fully knowing the entire 'why' of it was pretty huge for me.  I like to know things.  I drive myself crazy with the need to know things.  And I can't know all things.  God just doesn't tell me everything whether I like it or not.  And this is why I think I have such a hard time with decisions.  I like to gather facts.  I do not like to be wrong.  I like to be right.  One hundred percent right.  But, this time, I followed my heart.  And I felt peace pretty immediately.  For a couple of hours.  And in those couple of hours I began to make plans: alright, well, postponed graduation, so now, the kids and I are both on summer break and it will be glorious;  quality time and I'll catch up on housework and start cooking again, etc.  And then as the evening wore on doubt started to creep back in.  By Saturday, even though Verity wasn't on the up and up, I was regretting my decision.  It began to sink in what I'd "given up:" a much needed break, time to focus on just me, silence, solitude, creative enlightenment and for what?  To hobble around the house in the mess and the noise and the chaos doing laundry?  Like I do every. single. day? And I started getting a little comfy on my pity pot.  But then, I also got quiet enough to look at what I was feeling.  To identify my feelings without judging them, to sit in them, to move past them.  And I stayed quiet.  In between doctor's visits and keeping vigil with the sick child and entertaining the well children, I've been examining my life a bit.  Recognizing too much to write here, today.

But I'm going to keep looking at the awareness and I'm going to pay attention to what I'm trying to tell myself -- what God is trying to tell me.  Because that's what I'm most taking away from this experience at this point, that I can trust myself.  So rather than draw up an elaborate plan of what I'm going to do with my free time (which, one thing I'm realizing about myself is that I like to be busy and have plans; free time is slightly uncomfortable for me) is just spend more time be-ing.  Being still and quiet, without expectation.  I'm going to listen to what's inside.  And I'm going to make some changes in order to do that.  I'm going to deactivate Facebook as an "experiment."  I can't be inside my own moments if I'm always in someone else's moments.  But I'm going to come here and write.  I could journal and that's great for sort-of vomiting out all the swirl inside my head, but when I'm here, I come closer to God and to what I really need to say.  And there's a bit of freedom knowing that even though I post here, I won't be, after today, linking to Facebook.  So, now I can just write and send my thoughts out to space in a way.

I'm excited because this is overdue.  I've been talking over myself for a long time and I'm going to practice really listening instead because I'm beginning to believe I have something important to say.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

This has become a place I don't come anymore.  A place that when I do come, I talk about how I don't come.  It's a "place" to me because I've spent time here, I've been changed here, it's a place I abandon and return to.  Anymore, I only come when I am finally so burdened I don't know where else to go. 

My life has changed so much since I first began writing here.  Within the change, I somehow lost my purpose for this place.  I suppose I still don't know what the purpose is except that it's here when my heart feels heavy.   
I read Ann Voskamp's second post about Iraq last night. About ISIS selling nine year old girls in slave bazaars.  Then I couldn't sleep.  I kept thinking about my eight and ten year old daughters.  I imagined my ten year old already gone.  My husband and sons, taken and being left with my eight year old and six year old little girls.  I thought about how small my eight year old daughter is.  She's tiny for her age.  Beautiful, frail almost, bird-like.  I kept thinking about Ann saying this:  The United Nations reports this week that at least one young girl’s been “married” over 20 times — and forced at the end of each violation to undergo surgery to “restore” her virginity.
So it could be ripped open and destroyed by the next highest bidder" 
And then I can't help but think of my daughter being ripped open and I can't make my stomach not turn and I can't stop thinking about how wicked this world is. 
How this can even be happening.  How we're not doing anything.  How I'm not doing anything.  How I don’t know what to do. I just know that it doesn't seem or feel right to be living here, in cushy America, making up problems when there are real problems.  And it’s true, “we aren't where we are to just peripherally care about the people on the margins as some superfluous gesture or token nicety.”  There has to be a reason we’re here and not there.  And I can’t believe that it has to do with luck and it certainly doesn’t have to do with any superiority of character.  It can only have to do with responsibility and opportunity.  Because thinking about all this, I can come up with just two scenarios: Either there’s no God and there is evil (because this evil is undeniable) and we just live out this hell on earth and wait to die, some of us with the luxury of turning away from it and ignoring its realities, others enduring the worst of it or... there is a God and there is also evil and if that’s the case…then what?  Are those of us who call ourselves Christians, who believe in God and believe also that there’s spiritual warfare, just supposed to stand on the sidelines? Are we really supposed to be only joining in with and identifying with the petty concerns of the United States or are we supposed to be doing something about the fact that right now for all appearance’s sake it looks like the dark is winning?  We know that evil’s current triumph is an illusion.  We know Who wins.  But right now.  Right now, people are not just hurting but dying horrible deaths at the hand of darkness and we’re what?  What are we doing?  I don’t know, buying stuff, weighing in on the perceived persecutions we have to endure on this safe soil, and just sort-of generally going about our business like this is not our problem. It’s a joke.  If this is not our problem, whose is it?  
I don’t know the solution.  I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing.  I just know that I feel “heavy.”  I can’t shake off the burden of what I’m not doing.  What so many of us are not doing.  I rarely post this stuff but when I do, I get, maybe two “likes.”  True, there’s nothing to like about the news that reports this, there’s nothing to like about the tragedy and the evil but it seems no one’s responding, either.  I know they are, we are.  In small ways.  But sometimes, I feel like we don’t share these articles.  We don’t comment on them, we don’t talk about it.  I can’t help but think, we just don’t want to deal with it.  We feel  helpless, maybe, so we turn away.  I know I do.  I get bogged down with all the self-imposed crises of the day here in America: real, imagined, small and personal, national and on a bigger scale, but, still, it all seems relevant only to the here and now and then I read about what’s happening over there and I’m just broken.  I can’t do anything but either shut it out or weep.  And I turn away sometimes.  But, then, when I don’t, when I make myself pay attention, I wonder why not everyone is paying attention. I wonder why we’re not all weeping.   But, no, I’m not really calling anyone out but myself. I’m not here because I think I can say anything at all about what’s happening any better than those who are already saying it; the few voices calling out in the wilderness.   I’m here because I’m calling myself out.  I’m calling to my own desert places, the places that are barren and I’m sharing because I don’t know what else to do right now except be one more small voice, if only to myself.