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Archive for April 2009

Narrowly Reined Silence

I dread that day. I know I will be required to call upon every grown-up, rational bone in my body to hold back my Mommy protective nature, to be the bigger person, to scrape a life lesson out of one of life’s realities. I dread that day–the day when one of my sweet children comes home crying, hurt by hurtful words spoken about him.

They’re all too young to care right now.  They are blissfully absorbed in their own worlds with their own thoughts and their own stories, unaware of how they are perceived by others around them. I dread the day one of them realizes someone doesn’t like him because of something out of his control–like where he lives or the color of her hair or the style of his blue jeans or the accuracy of his pitch. It makes me sad to even think about that day. I dread them not having the favor of someone, a friend or a teacher or a playmate, whose opinion for however fleeting a moment matters to them.

Perhaps it will be Little Drummer Boy who realizes for the first time someone is laughing AT him and not with him.  It could be Bug who realizes someone is running AWAY from him rather than alongside him. Maybe it will be Baby Girl who, for the first time, hears that her smile isn’t as beautiful as we’ve always told her.  I dread that day. It will be the day my heart breaks. And, it will be the day I must take a narrowly reined vow of silence–the day I rely on God’s Spirit and will-power to hold my tongue, to keep myself from lashing out in anger at someone else’s child or some child’s parent or this world in general. It will be another chapter in a series of many lessons I attempt to teach them about where their true and lasting worth lies, and the bittersweet rewards of being who you are. But, it will break my heart nonetheless. For, on that day, they will have lost (if only for a moment) that carefree indifference to what others think. On that day, they will have lost the innocent belief that all the world values them as we do.

Sadly, that day is a reality. It’s coming. Our penchant for hasty judgements and cruel words is evident all around us, and it’s often revealed in surprising ways at surprisingly young ages by surprising people.  Today, I read of a boy, Carl Walker-Hoover, who took his own life less than two weeks ago because of the daily teasing he received.  The accusation: he “acted gay.” Carl would have turned 12 years old today. His mother said in an interview with Essence magazine that being gay had never presented itself as an issue because Carl had not even experienced puberty yet. He was interested in soccer and basketball and football and school and Pokemon.

Today, April 17, also marked the National Day of Silence, an initiative sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) that encourages students to take some form of a vow of silence to raise awareness about school bullying based on perceived or actual sexual orientation and about the silence many students who’ve chosen a LGBT lifestyle feel they must keep to avoid harrassment. Many conservative groups have denounced the initiative as simply a vehicle for promoting and indoctrinating students in the homosexual “agenda”.

But, I am not writing about the “agenda.” And, being gay or straight wasn’t on Carl Walker-Hoover’s radar. And, whether my little ones are accused of being gay or prudes or rednecks or poor white trash or nerds, it’s the same kind of speech that will require my narrowly reined silence as a protective Mother one day.  So, today, I’m writing. Because I don’t want to be Carl Walker-Hoover’s mother.

The problem I have with the conservative approach to so many social issues (including the gay one) is that so often our so-called righteousness is used as a weapon. Our own speech, the names WE call, reveal our refusal to see a created soul of infinite worth to a Creator God. We see what God calls sin, and we name it such.  Yes, but we are blind to the fact that “sinners” are souls. And this is not the way of the Savior I know. The harshest words Jesus spoke in the New Testament were reserved for the religious leaders of the day. The smallest chunks of time in his schedule were given to those religious leaders. Most of his time was spent with prostitutes and cheaters and working class, the uneducated, the disloyal, the confused. And, the time he had with them, he spent slinging, not insults and accusations, but bread and wine and conversation, and more often than not forgiveness.

In the conservative movement I see, we’re running away from ourselves. We run alarmingly close to creating a culture that promotes the kind of stigma and bigotry and soul-blindness that made an 11-year-old boy’s topic of teasing so unbearable. In that culture, it’s better to be dead than to be called gay. That’s not the Savior I know. It’s not the salvation I know.

East, West and the Space Between

This is not the Easter story I was trying to write.  I wanted to write something befitting the joy and triumph of redemption, something extolling the glory of the work God did through Christ on my behalf that early morning long ago. But, I was interrupted by a sharp look at myself.  And, given my previously unscribed commitment to stay real, this is the Easter story I must write before I write anything else.

In case there are any of you out there who are living under an assumption that Christians do not intentionally do wrong sometimes, stand corrected.  Even those of us who try to navigate the waters of sincerely following Jesus in this world do sin.  And, sometimes we do it knowing full well what we are doing.  It’s an ugly story.

I offended someone last week–actually two people.  I would love to say that it was an accident, that I didn’t mean to do it.  But, it wasn’t, and I knew that my actions probably would offend.  Chalk it up to a difficult week or an incorrect assumption.  Excuse it as not thinking before speaking or using poor judgement.  Whatever my justification flavor of the moment, the fact is that I knew what I was doing.  I even rejected the voice of my better angel telling me not to do it.  At the moment, I just didn’t care. And so, I offended two people.

One forgave me.  One didn’t, and I suppose it may have cost me whatever friendship we had.  And while I was disappointed that our relationship wasn’t worth an act of forgiveness, I can’t begrudge the choice God gave her to make.  I can only wish she had chosen differently.  I wish  I had chosen differently.  Yes, because my actions hurt other people.  But, more than that, because my actions showed who I still am.

When I peek into the reflection, I’m so disappointed.  In myself.  In the blackness I see in my own heart. Deep in the corners and crevices are places ugly and dark with the need for light and redemption and reform.  Those places weigh my head down in sorrow and shame at how little I seem to have learned. Those places drive me to the scarred feet of that Man.  The One who was laid in the tomb, bloodied. They drive me to view the absence of that Man at the resting place of death. They drive me to seek Him elsewhere. To take comfort in a renewed redemption. To once again seek the separation. As far as the East is from the West. To live in that space. Between. And to get up.

This is not the washed Easter story I would have written.  No, only more so. In this story, the gently folded shroud is still bloodied by pain inflicted.  The cloths left in piles are still soiled and stinking with recent sin. The rough-hewn rocky room is still dark with the self-sightedness of poor judgement, still jagged with the blows of carving out redemption.  But, at the end of the day, the story is the same. At the end of the day–the second day–that Man was dead. And, just before daybreak on day three, He got up. Just like the sun, He established His trek westward reserving the space between, the distance from my sin that allows me to get up.  And, that’s my Easter story.

cross

it still sheds rough-hewn splinters
shining with the blood
of human prejudice,
turned and bent,
painted in black
on a red and white banner.

it still heats an angry mob
clad in pure
white hoods
standing in a yard,
set ablaze by the fire
of fear and hate.

it still holds a man stretched,
now in burnished bronze
or polished marble,
hung on our walls
and kept frozen
in dead faith.

yet, it still bears life,
a bloody, skin-shredded back pressed
against dirty beams, His bones
and veins ruptured with rusted spikes
driven by the exchange
of pain for healing, death for life.

cross
“…by His wounds we are healed.” (isaiah 53:5)

Kids Are Baby Goats & Other Boy Musings

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Yesterday morning I watched Squiggle, my 2 1/2 year old, relieve the patio of a significant portion of the ever-present pecan tree blossoms one handful at a time. “Blossoms” implies soft petals, lingering fragrance, and lovely hues. So, realistically, pecan tree “blossoms” might be a stretch.  Think an overwhelming volume of wispy things that dry up, die, and quickly resemble dirt.  Now you know why they so enamored Squiggle.  He spent the better part of our backyard visit methodically collecting them in various pots, buckets and dumptrucks. After apparently gathering a satisfactory amount, he alternated between creating very interesting pecan blossom sculptures atop the smaller garden pots and cooking up some pecan blossom soup. When it was time to go inside, amid the swoon of rare just-Squiggle-and-Mommy time and the joy of watching toddler imagination at work, one thought took root: WHAT is this fascination with dirt and dirt-like substances that permeates the hearts and minds of my kids? And while I have no reason to believe Baby Girl won’t soon follow closely in big brothers’ footsteps, at the moment when it comes to dirt and its fascination, “kids” mean BOYS–two of them.  Make that two little ones and one grown-up one to serve as instigator.

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My MeMa would be scolding me right now.  She doesn’t like to hear children referred to as “kids.”  I suppose it goes a little too far toward slang for her no-nonsense tastes.  “Kids are baby goats,” she would say under her breath while shaking her head.  I don’t know how the term came to refer to baby people, but I’m convinced it began with a mother of boys.

We don’t have many goats here in Starkville (at least I don’t think we do,) but, ironically, my husband lived next door to one for a few years–rather he lived next door to an older man who owned a goat.  It was just after we started dating, and I have vague recollections of the goat standing on top of a huge pile of debris across the fence looking down at Hub’s white german shepherd/blond lab mix.  Yes, it’s a surreal picture–the goat holding court right there on Highway 25 between Skate Odyssey and the Wash Depot.  Hub tells me that the goat was quite rambunctious, bleating to the wind at all hours, putting anything lying around on the ground in its mouth, and hopping or climbing on everything it could find.  Hmmm.  It doesn’t sound that much different than our household.  Come to think of it, the goat scene probably wasn’t that much different than the Hub/college roommates scene next door.  Apparently, neither goats nor boys grow out of their baby goat ways.

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Now–just like yesterday morning–on a weekly, sometimes daily (and yes hourly) basis, I find myself pondering the unusual phenomenon of boys.  And their love affairs with noise and movement and hopping.  And sticks and stones.  And other goat-like behavior.  And lions.  Frankly, it bewilders the adult mommy mind.  And, I am left to interchangeably wring my hands, scratch my head or be struck silent in confusion — not an easy task for a wordy girl such as myself.  Consider…

Bad guys. And all the really cool stuff they get to do and say. Captain Hook’s sword is always so much cooler than Peter Pan’s.  And, he gets to say Aaargh.  My mother still gets a chuckle out of Little Drummer Boy’s reaction to David and Goliath.  We were delighted to teach him the story of God’s little warrior felling the big, bad giant.  Only, LDB always wanted to BE Goliath.  After all, he gets to fall down and die.  Not to rewrite divine inspiration or anything, but the dude with the spear wins out over a few stones. This time.  Which brings me to…

Stickes and stones. And the affinity for all things related to rocks in the traditional sense.  You see, the modern rock vernacular–as in “Look, Daddy brought us milk.  Daddy rocks!”–is lost on boys at this stage of the game.  Little Drummer Boy’s response: “Rocks. I want to see the rocks.”  You see, in kid-land, don’t even bring it, unless you bring it with rocks.  And, boy can my boys bring it.  I recently counted 37 [that was 37, and yes, I counted] rocks left in the washing machine after a load of Squiggle and LDB’s clothes.  Not long after the discovery of pockets, Squiggle asked for my help one morning to get a hand in his.  It turns out the problem was a lovely, smooth and VERY clean stick that had been stored there last week and had subsequently weathered the spin cycle.  When putting jackets away, I’m regularly confronted with pockets full of sticks and stones and dirt.  A reminder of…

Secret hideaways. And the stuff stored there.  It’s not just pockets and rocks.  Squiggle doesn’t sleep in socks anymore because we went through a period when they kept disappearing.  On a rare pull-out-the-bed-on-a-dust-hunt moment, behind Squig’s bed I discovered two pacifiers poppies and twenty pairs of slightly dingy socks. [that was 20, and yes, I counted]. We lost Eyeore for a while–quite a gloomy mystery. I looked in every bag, on every shelf, in every corner, under every bed.  When my mother noticed a slight dip in the circus tent canopy over Squiggle’s bed, I realized that “under the bed” is for Mommy amateurs.  If you want to snuff out the secret hideaway, you have to set your sights higher.  Sure enough, there was Eyeore.  I’m sure his resting place was the inevitable product of some giggle-fueled, toy-slinging battle waged early or late when the lights were out. Ushering in…

Lions. And their roars.  Dueling roars, to be exact.  Little Drummer Boy and Squiggle practice theirs early on Saturday mornings, perfecting the art of just the right volume and ferocity.  It’s a familiar alarm clock which sometimes signals our approach into kid-land at the supper table, in the car, during bathtime, etc.  Last month, LDB’s preschool class put on an “art show” complete with museum signage, visitor guest logs and artist profiles.  I was shocked to read his profile under the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  I think it’s the first time he’s ever been asked that question, and naturally, the answer was “a hunter.”  WHAT? No offense to my tree-pattern clad Southernites out there, but I don’t know if I want my boys to get into the hunting thing.  And, I have the guns-are-yucky speech to prove it.  So, I quizzed LDB with a “what do you want to hunt?”  The answer: Lions. At the zoo. That’s my boy kid!

I can hear you.  You parents of mostly girls laugh in disbelief and mommy mockery, but just you wait.  You see, I’m a girl, married to a man who was once a boy, but has never quite shed the skin of his goat-like qualities. Shower and shave aside, which is actually important so he really invest on it using the best products and a good shaver which he actually got at http://www.manlymatters.net/wahl-professional-magic-clip/ .But still he remains a connoisseur of hopping, only with a louder thud.  He continues his ways of coveting sticks and stones, only in larger quantities to fit in larger hands to share with smaller goats in training.  And, he has quite eloquently expanded his repertoire of lion roars to include all manner of sound effects from bats hitting balls out of the imaginary park, to tiny trucks and trailers catapulting off furniture with metal-crunching crashes, to unsuspecting plastic boats transforming themselves into submarines with a deafening bloosh.  It baffles me.  But, just you wait.  Before you know it, your little girl will bring home one of these grown-up baby goats like mine to muddy up your sugar and spice world.  No mommy is insulated from the universal truth that “kids boys are baby goats.”

A Mommy’s fate is to give in.  And to quickly learn to wield her trusty SuperGlue.

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