I Respectfully Disagree

One of the challenges of parenting that I find simultaneously most draining, most hopeful, and most constant is finding the balance of teaching respect and allowing our daughters to feel and express their emotions. And believe me, there are so many emotions to feel!

img_3228From learning to share to a project not going a certain way to simply being too tired or too hungry, a day doesn’t go by without tears from someone. (And I’m including myself in that equation.) Most of the time, I want both Bea and Elle to know that they are safe and welcome to feel those feelings. I want them to know that they will always have a safe place here to process and vent and figure out their own views on life.

But we also practice socially acceptable behaviors. We practice rephrasing feelings respectfully and how to ask in a way that helps people understand our needs. We talk a lot about how we may not agree with a choice or a decision but that we have to respect the outcome. But I also want them to know that just because I’m their parent doesn’t mean my choice is always final or right or unchangeable. It’s intensive work, creating human beings and citizens of this world.

Since November, I’ve seen many admonitions for disappointed people to respect the President. That, once the election was decided, we should put away our disappointments and anxiety, forgive the divisive comments and attitude, and throw our support fully and completely behind the president-elect.

On Inauguration Day, I saw it again – Just give him a chance; We are called to respect the office of President; God calls us to pray for our leaders. These are all statements I absolutely agree with. I do hope that our nation is guided to a place of justice and reconciliation; I do respect the office of President and am so grateful we live in a nation that practices the peaceful transfer of power; I have and will continue to pray for wisdom for our elected leaders.

But respect and disagreement aren’t exclusive. I can respect the office of President and vehemently disagree with the tone and words he uses to describe those who don’t support him. I can respect the office of President and be dismayed at the fact that he would choose to threaten arts funding (which makes up .02% of the federal budget) while likely boosting military spending to $1 trillion. I can respect the office of President and give the President a chance while remaining a bit skeptical. The cabinet nominees alone have given me little reason to celebrate unity and reconciliation.

I can respect the office of President and still believe that America has always been great; that we can move forward rather than looking backwards. I can respect the office of President and speak out against discrimination and hate.

In fact, speaking out may be the best way to show my respect. I respect this office so much that to blindly follow; to support without thinking; to not give voice to the voiceless would be the greatest disrespect I could show.

We grow and we learn from each other. We are stronger when we truly take the time to listen and understand each other’s stories.

I have a feelings these upcoming years will be a lesson in learning to find the balance I’m trying to teach my girls. To learn to feel my feelings; to respect others; and to use my voice to protect and help those who will be deeply impacted by this quest for greatness.

Hopefully, through discussion and disagreement; through debate and conversation, we’ll work together to continue making this a great country.

How do you engage with others of differing opinions? Does debate energize you or drain you?

Review: Reclaiming Hope by Michael Wear + Giveaway

As a child of the eighties, I have never known a time without the Religious Right. Politics and religion have always been intertwined. If you believe certain things then people assume you most likely vote a certain way. This is starting to change, as people in my generation are redefining faith and redefining political allegiance. And, like many in my demographic, I find myself wondering more and more often, How did we get here? What made this divide between ideologies so wide?

fb4In Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America, Michael Wear sets out to provide insights to those questions. A self-described conservative Democrat, Wear worked on President Obama’s initial campaign in 2008 before working within the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. His inside view into our most recent President’s faith, values, and attempts at partnering faith and politics is eye-opening.

Not only are there plenty of stories about working in the White House and the challenges of defining the nearly-impossible topic of an individual’s faith to a public policy, but Wear gives insights into the millennial view of faith and politics. We live in an era where politics is part of our everyday life. There is no separation of church and state; there is no way of separating our political values from our spiritual life.

Wear accepts this new way of interacting with politics and offers guidance and optimism to a weary population. People are tired of the divide, no matter which side of the aisle they fall on, and Wear gives hope. Not to battle each other but to recognize the significant importance of our differences and how they can honor God and offer hope to our nation.

Wear doesn’t provide the magical answer to solve all of our political problems, but he does shed light on ways we can shift our own perspectives. He introduces a new way of doing politics – not one of either/or, church/government but of a both/and approach of partnerships with the church and government. This new way forward is a big shift in thinking but one that, if we’re willing to take the journey, may be more world changing than we realize.

How does your faith reflect your politics? Are you able to separate to two? How do you support your values and your voting habits?

GIVEAWAY! I am giving away a copy of Reclaiming Hope. Leave a comment about your journey in faith and politics and I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, January 20, 2017. (United States addresses only.)

As part of the Reclaiming Hope launch team, I received a complimentary copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

In the Middle of the Tired Thirties

The Tired Thirties. This phrase, first coined by Sloan Wilson in Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, was used to describe that period for businessmen when they tried to balance family life with the long hours and demands of working their way up the corporate ladder. It has since been taken over by young mothers after Madeleine L’Engle used the term to describe her own experience in raising small children.

img_3103We’re certainly right in the middle of the tired thirties. The girls are at a demanding stage. Even if they can play independently, that only goes so far. And the routine itself can get monotonous: breakfast, get ready, school/playdate/errands/activity, lunch, naptime/quiet rest, late afternoon destruction of house, dinnertime, bedtime, repeat.

And yet, I can’t bring myself to use the tired thirties as an excuse. I am tired but when I take a look at what is most life-giving in this phase, it is the very thing that makes me most tired.

I suppose that’s the way it goes. What makes us most happy, what gives us the most joy, is what we give our time and energy to. Whether it’s children, a job, a calling, these things energize and fill. And they also can be consuming and draining.

There’s the balance – that happy medium. In many ways, it’s harder to draw the same boundaries around my children than I can about volunteering or work. I can’t just be done with mothering.

So I’m getting more creative in ways I can be less tired. Sometimes this means spending more time with the girls, since they do thrive on that routine. Sometimes it means taking time for myself. Mostly it means constantly changing my expectations and what works because what works yesterday most likely won’t work tomorrow.

And I’m learning that the reason these tired thirties are so tiring is probably the best reason to be tired.

How do you balance the tiring with the life-giving? Are they easy to separate or are they intertwined?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is Middle.

Holding Onto My Story

A friend and I met the other day to see Jackie. After the credits rolled, we curled up in the reclining chairs and chatted until the theater started filling up again for the next show. This friend is someone I wish I could see more regularly, but when our schedules align and we’re able to connect, I leave feeling full, refreshed, and heard.

img_0578We talked a lot about identity. We’re both in our mid-thirties, both raising young kids, both still grappling with that elusive balance of being strong influences for our kids and holding this season with open hands and remembering that it is fleeting.

One part of our discussion really stuck with me. We wondered how, as moms, we hold on to parts of our story and identity that aren’t as significant anymore. How do we honor that part of our journey while recognizing that it may not play a big part in how we live our daily lives?

When I first moved to Denver after living in Paris and spending months in Kathmandu, I struggled a lot with how to describe moving back home. I was home, yes, but I had done so much more! Years passed and I struggled even more – college didn’t matter as much; people don’t really care which school I attended, and yet it felt leaving those years out of my story put me in a category of never leaving home. (Which isn’t a bad thing – it’s just not my story.)

When Bea was born and I settled into the role of stay-at-home mom, I was happy with that identity. But then, when a job opportunity arose a year later, I excitedly joined a team that perfectly encompassed my passions of innovative education practices with getting people into museums and experiencing the history of art. The other perk of that job is that when people asked if I “just stayed home” with the girls, I could say that I also had a really amazing part-time job.

I don’t think this search for identity is unique to stay-at-home moms. We were talking with friends about their parents’ recent retirement and how there has been a bit of a search for what that means. What do you say at dinner parties? What are the expectations of living a full retired life?

My years in Paris don’t really come up anymore. And, beyond a few ways that we choose to expose the girls do different things, I don’t think it really plays an active role in my life at the moment. But, as my friend said, it is a significant part of my story. It developed my world view and my views on faith. It made me the mom I am.

In this year of Capacity, I think part of it is becoming confident in my identity. How can I own what I do? Be proud of both the amazing parts of my journey and the mundane? How can I model for my girls that our identity is multi-faceted and that each part is worthy?

What part of your story is significant to you but is something your current community may not know about? How do you blend your journeys and lessons?

One Word: Capacity

Last weekend, some plans changed and Frank and I found ourselves already dressed and packed for snowshoeing with a babysitter booked for the day. After the smallest of seconds of wondering if we should cancel, we decided to continue on. Instead of the planned hike, we decided to revisit the trail where we first met, nine years ago.

capacityThe weather was perfect: Snow enough to need snowshoes, cobalt blue sky that makes Colorado famous, sunshine to keep us warm, and a trail that isn’t too popular so we had plenty of time as the only two on the path.

We talked about goals and hopes and dreams and wishes. We wondered what this next year would bring. It will be one of big changes for our family. Hopefully, we’ll see the end of a long business plan come to fruition; Bea will start kindergarten; Elle is becoming more active and articulate; I am still seeking a way to blend mothering and teaching and writing and volunteering.

Last year, my One Word was Enough. I centered my choices and decisions on the fact that I am the right woman for the roles I’ve been given. I am enough of a mom for these two particular girls; I am enough of a wife and partner for Frank; I am enough of a blogger (though I would love to figure out a way to write more often!); I am enough of a teacher (though I’m learning to draw clear boundaries around my work and life); I am enough of a reader (even though I missed my goal last year).

This year, the word that kept coming to mind as I thought of an extension of enough was Capacity. We are finding our groove as a family of four. I’ve been working and volunteering long enough that I feel I have a fairly good understanding of the time commitment both expected and that I’m willing to commit.

I know there are some commitments and dreams I have that I have the capacity to spend more time cultivating. I know that other enjoyable, life-giving areas already have my maximum time and energy. My hope is that I make space to discern which areas really could have more of my time and which areas are realistic, or even could use less.

Knowing the way this whole “one word” challenge goes, I wonder how capacity will show up unexpectedly. I have goals and ideas, but I’ve learned that this word often takes on a life of its own; that I am surprised at the ways in which it helps me grow and learn throughout the year.

What is your One Word for 2017? How do you maximize your time and energy?

Check out OneWord365 for word ideas and to find others with your same word.

Favorite Books of 2016

My original reading goal for 2016 was to read only 2 books: The Bible and War and Peace. I’m in “October” of my Bible in a Year plan (which I actually started in 2015…) and have made some progress in War and Peace but still have a ways to go. It’s just too hard to say no to so many other books! So, I’ll keep going with those two, but this year was filled with others.

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-12-35-24-pmI didn’t meet my goal of 52 (just 4 shy!) but looking at our very active phase with the girls, I can see why it didn’t happen. Maybe next year.

Another goal was to read more fiction, and I did accomplish this, especially when I look at my list of 5-star books. Five out of the twelve books were fiction, so I’m pleased with that. It’s hard to narrow the 12 books down to just 5, but some I’ve already mentioned on the blog so I may repeat here. You can check out all of my books over at Goodreads.

Assimilate or Go Home by D.L. Mayfield
While D.L. Mayfield’s experience as a missionary is far from my own “calling,” I appreciated her vulnerability and honesty as she shared her journey. I had read Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution when it came out and this book is a wonderful real-life follow up to what living in an Upside Down Kingdom really looks like.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman
I think Neil Gaiman may be my new favorite author. His writing draws me in and his use of magical realism is superb. I read Stardust while on my retreat and I’m glad I had two whole days to do nothing else – it drew me in, sparked my imagination, and was hard to put down.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
While we are still eating animals, this is one of the best books I’ve read on factory farming, its environmental impact, and our duty as global citizens to reflect on how much meat we are consuming. Foer is brutally honest and writes this book as a longtime vegetarian. He doesn’t seem to be trying to convert carnivores, but is writing to those on the fence, who need a nudge to get started on the vegetarian path.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
This collection of letters to Dear Sugar is one of the most empathetic books I’ve ever read. Not only are Sugar’s answers beautiful, but she reminded me how to connect my own story to others; that even the most unlikely experiences can be seen as a connection.

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende
This fictional tale of slavery and plantation owners in the Saint-Domingue and New Orleans was eye-opening for me. I haven’t read many books about slavery in the Caribbean and this was certainly thought-provoking. I’m on the (very long) holds list for Homegoing and The Underground Railroad at the library and I’m glad I read this one to get me thinking about other aspects of the slave trade.

What were your favorite books this year? Do you wait in long hold lines at the library or do you buy your books?

Don’t Let the Light Go Out

The presents are opened. Visitors have gone home. Frank is back at work. Toys and metallic glitter markers and new books are still piled on surfaces, waiting to find a home. (Or, as much of a home as a constantly used playroom allows…)

img_2942On Christmas Day, we burned our Advent candles down to small stubs. This year, I bought a giant pillar candle for the Jesus candle. It doesn’t go with the rest of our Advent wreath, but I needed a giant reminder that this candle continues to light our way.

In some ways, I’ve been looking more forward to Epiphany than I did to Advent. This idea of the light guiding the wisemen to the baby. (Or toddler? I don’t really know the exact timeline.) We’re not a liturgical family – we put up our tree and decorations after Thanksgiving; we celebrated St. Nicholas Day on December 6; Christmas was our culmination.

And yet, even though we’ll slowly take down decorations this week and put the tree outside after New Year’s, we’ll keep the outdoor lights up through January 6. We’ll order a King’s Cake from the French bakery by Frank’s office. And we’ll keep the Jesus candle going.

I have friends who light candles to pray – a symbol that a small flame can make such a different. Maybe there’s something greater to the Catholic tradition of lighting candles as prayers than a mere habit. I’ll keep the Jesus candle lit through Epiphany but maybe I need to keep it going longer. Maybe we need to enter Lent with lights going rather than in darkness. Maybe we need to keep this candle lit as a symbol that our world is still groaning and waiting for a miracle.

Maybe this candle will be a reminder not only to pray but to do. I have a feeling that this year will need a lot of us doing more – living our faith louder and more clearer. Being better neighbors, kinder humans.

We lit the Shabbat candles with our neighbors a few weeks ago. As we covered our eyes and followed the ancient prayers, we were told that the candles aren’t extinguished; they’re left through the meal and into the evening to burn down. A reminder to not let the light go out.

As this year comes to a close and we begin 2017 with a fresh perspective, I’ll keep the candle going. Because Advent brought hope and I’m not ready to forget that.

Do you observe Epiphany? How do you remember Christmas throughout the year?