When Imperfection Looks More Like Love: A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest Runner-Up by Dominique Dobson

Apr 4 2014


A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest
Honorable Mention

When Imperfection Looks More Like Love
by Dominique Dobson

I feel like I’m in rehab. I have spent the last 16 years convincing everyone, myself included, that my husband and I lived a near-flawless life. Oh, we struggled with the standard first world problems… “Frontier can’t get out fast enough to repair our Fios,” “Dance and soccer have practice at the same time,” “I don’t want to do Thanksgiving with your mom – she always burns the turkey.” But as far as those around us knew (and as far as I did, for many years), our relationship was idyllic. It never occurred to me that the bumps in our road were any bigger or different than those of any couple around us – those bumps were just something you don’t share with friends and family. You keep them hidden away in the dark and put on a shining face for those around you.

And then came the day. The day my husband called my son a fucking idiot. He’d been under strain, so when he’d previously referred to our son as a moron, or a loser like his dad (yes, my husband is my son’s father), I took it as a sign that he was struggling with himself. But when he said our son was a fucking idiot, I told him to get help…and, long story short, the help wasn’t sought and we eventually moved out. And the perfect life I thought we’d been leading was left shattered on the side of the road.

My life with my kids now is far from perfect – we’re broke after a $50,000 divorce; we live in a much smaller “fixer-upper,” a house built in 1988 by a woman who was apparently color blind or madly in love with Dusty Rose (and who wasn’t in ’88?). The house, which was previously supposed to be kept tidy at all times, is consistently in disarray while I paint, remodel, and change out light fixtures. We’ve added two hamsters and a dog to our family (or to our zoo, as I now like to think of it…) Our whole life has changed in ways I never saw coming.

But as I tell the kids on a regular basis…our life is now perfectly imperfect. Whereas before I was “white trash” if I left things in disarray, now those messes are a sign to me that my priorities are in the right place. Each little pile signifies time I spent with my children instead of on menial tasks. And every time I hear one of my kids talk about things they can’t do right – things that might, for example, make my son “a loser like his father,” it’s another chance to talk about how those imperfections are what makes him the whole human being that I absolutely adore.

At one point, I believed I held perfection in my hand. We had perfect jobs, the perfect home, perfect finances, and the perfect relationship (from the outside). And yet, every month, I had to endure a spouse who gave me the silent treatment, who adored one child and seemed to despise the other; one with whom we walked on eggshells for fear of setting off the hair trigger. The perfect shell was cracked and flawed where no one could see. Now, with our (rather messy) divorce behind us and our mistakes and flaws out where everyone can see, I find I’m happier now. I’m no longer trying to keep up that “Facebook image” of the perfect family; no longer trying to convince everyone that we were perfectly compatible at all times (we never fought, but that didn’t make us perfectly compatible).

Coloring Outside the linesMost importantly, though, through this process, I have taught my children that it’s okay to be imperfect…to color outside the lines, to swear sometimes, to be noisy when you play, to defend, loudly and vehemently, those things you most value – like your child’s self-esteem – and to stand up for yourself when someone demands a false perfection of you. If nothing else, I hope that when they have children, they can see in them the value of being “perfectly imperfect,” and teach their own children the value in being yourself…flaws and all.

My daughter asked today if we divorced because of that time that Daddy said the mean things to big brother. I told her no – there were a lot of things that contributed, but they were NOT to blame. She said, “you know…if anyone else ever talks to E like that, I’ll kick their butts. He might drive me nuts, but he’s MY family.” I’m glad to know she’s learned the importance of loving your not-so-perfect family.

Perfectly imperfect

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Dominique Dobson is a writer, brand manager, and most importantly, a mom, in Portland, Oregon. She loves pressure-cooking, good coffee, and the idea of packing up and moving to France with her kids…although she’s not sure how well her sarcasm would translate. Dominique blogs at Entertaining Morsels.

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OldWoodPencil

I asked each of our Writing Contest judges to share her thoughts on the honorable mention entries.
Here’s what they had to say about Dominique’s story:

Korie.Chocolate

Korie: “What a courageous person you are. Your story is inspiring; thank you for writing.” 

Korie Buerkle is the mother of two imaginative young children, and the wife of the talented graphic designer and amazing stay-at-home dad, Brandon Buerkle. She is a Children’s Librarian and loves creating storytimes and book clubs when she is not doing other administrative things that are not as much fun.

MeghanRogersCzarnecki2Meghan: “The vulnerability and bravery here is inspiring and touching. I feel like this is so many people – living a life meant to look perfect and terrified to have that fall apart. Bravo for telling it like it is, and loving where life has brought you.” 

Meghan Rogers-Czarnecki works at her family’s independent bookstore, Chapters Books and Coffee where she loves chatting with customers about good books as well as their personal stories, which are often just as compelling. She spends way too much time reading, negotiating with her three children, and cooking to have any left over for cleaning her house, so imperfection is near and dear to her heart. 

AjSchwanzAj: ““At one point, I believed I held perfection in my hand.”” 

Aj Schwanz is the Chief Manager of Consumption for her tribe at their humble abode in Dundee, Oregon. She writes single-sentence bios for herself and then gives Beth Woolsey permission to write the rest. :D Beth and Aj share a deep love of well-written words which they usually find in YA fantasy novels and occasionally on a completely inappropriate Canadian television series about the fae underworld, about which they text regularly. Whereas Beth just Makes Up Crap on her blog, Aj worked Real Jobs in the Writing World as a Young Adult librarian and as an editor for Barclay Press. 

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And we would love to hear your thoughts, too!
One of the hardest parts of writing is wondering how our soul-baring will be received.
Your feedback and encouragement are enormous gifts.

Old Wood Pencil image credit gubgib via freedigitalimages.net

A Call to the Edge

Apr 3 2014

I used to be afraid of the edges of life.

The questions about faith.

The death and resurrection that is parenthood.

The heartbreak and heartmake of marriage.

They were just so … edgy, you know?

Different and uncomfortable.

HIGH.

And scary.

And peppered with warning signs telling me to stay well away.

“DANGER: EDGE APPROACHING,” the experts said. “There’s a slippery slope there. Beware! Just listen to us. Follow our lead. And ssshhhhhh… don’t worry your pretty little head about a thing.” 

So I listened.

And I stayed away.

And I followed the rules.

And I stayed inside the carefully crafted boundaries.

And I was fine.

Fine.

Fine.

But the edge beckoned.

Wild and free.

And pregnant with possibilities. To fall. To fly.

To fail. To soar.

To crash. To collapse. To careen. To collide.

To glide.

And I knew at the edge there was life and death, raw and hungry, unbridled.

But I was dying anyway, a soul in captivity, away from the edge, and so, full of fear and doubt, I crawled away, leaving behind the rules, the cage, the guarantees, and searching, instead, for bounty. For grace. For beauty. For my place.

I crawled and I walked and I stumbled.

I was bold. And I was afraid.

I was courageous. And I was fragile.

I was in motion. And I was unleashed.

And I was free. 

These days, I find myself sitting at the edge, with the experts in their pens behind me, living my life listening to the call of the wild, with my legs dangling, kicking at the cliff to watch the debris fall, and strangely at peace.

Who knew there was peace at the edge?

Peace in coming to the end of myself and to the beginning of the risky life.

Peace in knowing I will fall or fly. Or fall and fly. And fly and fall, up and down on the wind with just the boundaries of earth and space to hem me in.

“You can die out there,” the experts say.

“But, oh,” I reply, “you can also live.”

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I Dreamed Dreams. HELP ME.

Apr 1 2014

I dreamed the other night that Greg grew very tall – perhaps 6’4″ or 6’6″ or something – which, obviously, enraged me. 

It was one in a series of vivid dreams I’ve been having lately. Because… I don’t know why. Perimenopause? My chemical imbalance? Blue Moon beer? A change in barometric pressure? Bad theology? The proliferation of British television programmes? Sleep, finding a new way to mock me besides the usual withholding of quality time together? What causes these things, anyway? And, more importantly, what do they mean?

‘Cause geez. These dreams are weird. And I wake up feeling feelings. Which makes it difficult to, you know, continue to function like person capable of maintaining the illusion she’s not crazy.

“You seem mad, Beth. Are you mad? Why are you mad? Are you mad at me?”

“Yes, Greg. I’m mad. At you. Because you were tall, you jackass.” 

I dreamt the other night that I made sandwiches with Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman.

They were beautiful, color-rich sandwiches with precisely stacked layers of veggies and thin, accordion piles of deli meat. They were assembled according to blueprints provided by Ree, but with a whimsy that made them look casual, hospitable and endearingly haphazard. 

We had to make 74 sandwiches, but, to get to the barn where the sandwich assembly was taking place, we had to trek a mile through the pasture, and my boots kept getting lodged in deep mud, suctioned such that every attempt to dislodge them made enthusiastic farting sounds. 

And then I cut the sandwiches wrong, so we had to start over.

I thought we were supposed to cut the sandwiches like this.

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Obviously, that’s a napkin and not a sandwich. Who has time to make real sandwiches?? Not me. 

But then Ree explained we needed 2/3 sandwiches. As in, we had to cut out a triangle approximately 1/3 the size of the sandwich, leaving 2/3 in tact. This was, she assured me gently, the correct way to cut a sandwich.

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And even though she was nice about it, I was embarrassed. I mean, I’m a 40 year old mother of 5, and I don’t know how to cut a sandwich. I woke up sad.

I dreamed two friends moved to Arizona, so we had to move, too, but I didn’t know how to blend Northwest dark woods with Southwest patterns. I kept sobbing and saying that, if Ellen DeGeneres can make modern art and a love of nature work in her office, surely I could find a way to bring the western regions together. I woke up panicked and sweaty.

And the night after I posted that piece about being a Christian and an LGBTQ ally, I dreamt I wore a neon green hulu skirt, my grandmother’s pearls, and a waist-length Ariel the Mermaid wig to a speaking engagement, at which I discovered I had a pitcher of margaritas and a debilitating case of laryngitis.

Someone help me.

I need an interpreter.

What do these dreams MEAN?

If you tell me, I will send you a sandwich. Like, not a real sandwich, but definitely a napkin cut like a sandwich. Or a postcard with dotted “cut here” lines so you can practice sandwich cutting. SERIOUSLY. I’m on a Need to Know here, folks. 

Help me.

Enough: A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest Runner-Up by Michelle Frindell

Mar 31 2014


A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest
Honorable Mention

Enough
by Michelle Frindell

He comes by when I am vulnerable and anxious and out of control.  Hormones fling wide the door.  Sleeplessness and hunger flash beacons to him.

You are not good enough.  Not smart enough.  Not selfless enough.  Not competent enough.

Sometimes he shouts, but mostly he whispers, insidious as a serpent.  You’re wrong.  You’re foolish.  You’re unworthy.  You’re not enough.

This voice has plagued me from my earliest memories, beyond the reach of reason.

The one who reduced me to the fetal position on my bed one day in November as my three babies ate and slept and cried downstairs.  You can’t do this.  You are not strong enough; there is not enough of you to go around.

The one who hisses at me every time I lose my patience with my kids, whenever I raise my voice or toss a sarcastic remark at them as I walk away from their tears because my gentleness has maxed out.

The one who tells me it’s your fault; you should be able to fix this when one of my kids’ anxiety about making mistakes is so strong that this kid now refuses anything but a sponge bath, refuses to have a diaper off at all, and is making limited progress sitting on a potty.

The one who laughs in knowing mockery when one of my kids is still learning to handle Big Feelings.  This kid throws things or hits or runs, say, toward parking lots because the two-year-old psyche gets so overwhelmed by anger, frustration, sadness, powerlessness, that it goes Caveman.  And I know those impulses.  And I feel powerless to help.  They inherited your temper. You still lose it too, don’t you?  What kind of model are you?

I have come to realize that this voice is part of me.  I can’t outrun him.  I can’t stick my fingers in my ears and pretend he doesn’t exist.  I can’t evict him from myself.

But I don’t have to listen to him.

I say:  Enough.

I say:  Parenting is hard.  Raising triplets is hard.  I’m doing the best I can.  And that is enough.

It has taken becoming a parent to make me face exactly how imperfect I am:  how broken, how vulnerable, how human.  It has taken becoming a parent to show me that not despite my flaws, but because of them, I am enough. 

I am enough not because my counters are always spotless or my floor clear of clutter or birthday cards are mailed on time.  Not because I never yell or I shove shoes on the screaming, rigid kid because we-just-need-to-get-out-the-door-now or I need some grown-up time.

I am enough in the way I cheer for my kids when they do something well:  show kindness, try something scary, help without being asked.

I am enough for my daughter when she cries out for Mama after bedtime and, when I stand by her crib, leans against me, needing nothing more than a hug and the reassurance that I’m still there.  Night after night.  Call after call.  I always come.

I am enough because as I told my husband through gritted teeth how frustrating the potty training journey is, my son looked up from his dinner and said, “Don’t be frustrated, Mama,” then reached out his arms and called across the room, “Long-distance hug!”

I am enough for my daughter as she cares for her dolls and animals with the same compassion and often the same words that she sees me express.

I am striving to do better, always.  Reading and researching and praying and reflecting, but at my core, enough for my husband and my kids and my family and community.

If there is one thing I want my children to know, really understand with their souls of light, it is that they are enough.  Simply by being who they are, learning and becoming and growing, they are enough.

There is no lesson plan, no parenting expert, no researched strategies available that teach this. No matter which parent label I am failing at the moment–am I attached enough?  do I set enough boundaries?  do I let my kids fail enough?  do I praise them too much?–one thing I do is see my kids as they are.  Their beautiful smiles, their successes, their frustrations.  I know their favorite dinosaur is the Neovenator.  I know what songs help each one calm down.  I know their temperaments, their sleeping positions, the sound of each one’s voice over the monitor.  I know their hearts.

So they need to see me as I am.  A soul of light who makes mistakes and grows and changes and makes mistakes again, and makes amends. Enough.

0031_familyMichelle Frindell is a full-time mom to triplet toddlers, part-time high school English teacher, 3/4-time cook, half-time writer.  Her favorite place in both grandmothers’ houses was the kitchen table, where cookies were eaten, Boggle and Trouble games won and lost (not graciously), and Nana and Grandma stories were absorbed.  Her own kitchen table is likely covered in toast crumbs or play food or Duplos or all of the above, but you are welcome to pull up a chair, grab a chipped tea mug, and hang.  She is always appreciative of kindred spirits.  You can find her writing at Maple Leaf Kitchen.

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OldWoodPencil

I asked each of our Writing Contest judges to share her thoughts on the honorable mention entries.
Here’s what they had to say about Michelle’s story:

Korie.Chocolate

Korie: “What simple, true and powerful words; thank you for telling your story.” 

Korie Buerkle is the mother of two imaginative young children, and the wife of the talented graphic designer and amazing stay-at-home dad, Brandon Buerkle. She is a Children’s Librarian and loves creating storytimes and book clubs when she is not doing other administrative things that are not as much fun.

MeghanRogersCzarnecki2Meghan: “I loved this! Beautifully written, poetic, something I want to save and read in those moments when I need it.” 

Meghan Rogers-Czarnecki works at her family’s independent bookstore, Chapters Books and Coffee where she loves chatting with customers about good books as well as their personal stories, which are often just as compelling. She spends way too much time reading, negotiating with her three children, and cooking to have any left over for cleaning her house, so imperfection is near and dear to her heart. 

AjSchwanzAj: ““So they need to see me as I am.” Hiding imperfection in public in one things; hiding imperfection from those you live with is another.” 

Aj Schwanz is the Chief Manager of Consumption for her tribe at their humble abode in Dundee, Oregon. She writes single-sentence bios for herself and then gives Beth Woolsey permission to write the rest. :D Beth and Aj share a deep love of well-written words which they usually find in YA fantasy novels and occasionally on a completely inappropriate Canadian television series about the fae underworld, about which they text regularly. Whereas Beth just Makes Up Crap on her blog, Aj worked Real Jobs in the Writing World as a Young Adult librarian and as an editor for Barclay Press. 

…..

And we would love to hear your thoughts, too!
One of the hardest parts of writing is wondering how our soul-baring will be received.
Your feedback and encouragement are enormous gifts.

Old Wood Pencil image credit gubgib via freedigitalimages.net

On Doing It All, Not on My Own: A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest Winning Entry by Mandy Smith

Mar 30 2014


A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest
Winning Entry

On Doing It All, Not on My Own
by Mandy Smith

I’m pretty sure that when you walk into the OB’s office and tell everyone you meet as you check in, “Oh yeah, this is definitely the LAST one, because four kids under five is my limit,” you’re guaranteed to have twins. Because you didn’t already feel like you were drowning in diapers and laundry and making sure everyone got fed. 

Having twins is wonderful, and exciting and so much fun and I wouldn’t trade it for anything… but those early days were hard. Waking up several times a night to nurse two babies, one of whom wasn’t gaining enough weight, and having an inability to nurse them simultaneously, hard stuff.  Mastitis – enough said. Having four, yes four – my children potty train late – kids in diapers and two in preschool (one in for speech therapy) and an almost two-year-old who liked to jump off of anything at any height, it was crazy. My “big” kids were lucky if they only ate frozen waffles for two meals in those early days.

I felt stretched so thin, but each day I held onto the whispered encouragement from my dear friend Amanda. She gathered me up in a huge hug that first week when my eyes were filling with tears and she told me to take it one day at a time.

Simple, really, but pretty much the best advice ever and exactly what I needed to hear in those days when I felt like I was falling short at every turn and there was no end in sight. When the dishes would pile in the sink and my temper was short and I begged the kids to watch one more episode of anything.  But, like I said, I wouldn’t trade it, and as the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months it got easier.

When we were closing in on the one year mark, I started to finally feel like I could handle my life again. We were down to only three in diapers, no more nursing, and I could wrangle everyone into the minivan to run errands or go to play dates. We were settling into the sweet spot.

I’m also pretty sure that when you start feeling like you’ve settled into the sweet spot you get hit by your own car. Maybe that doesn’t happen to everyone, but it did happen to me.

Four days before my twins turned one, I backed my van out of the garage, thought I put it in Park to run back into the house for one more thing, walked back out into the garage, and saw the van barreling towards me.

Because, at this point, I was convinced I was super mom – being in the sweet spot and all – I tried to stop it from hitting the house.

I was only successful in slowing it down a bit by getting pinned to the wall. 

Luckily my Mom was babysitting and was able to save me and call the cavalry and considering that I had just been hit by a car the fact that I “walked away” (pun intended) with only a broken leg was a pretty huge miracle.

In case you were wondering I broke my femur (my thigh bone) which, I am told, is the strongest bone in your body and the hardest to break. Pretty impressed with myself right there. Since I had to wait 8 hours for the surgery that fixed my bone with a rod and screws, I acquired blood clots in my lungs. I figured go big or go home, right?  Really, though, I would have rather gone home.

I have always been pregnant at the first birthday party of each of my kids. This was the first party that I wasn’t. It was supposed to be the beginning of a new chapter of our lives. The kid chapter, opposed to the baby chapter. A moving on, of sorts. I wasn’t supposed to be in the hospital on my babies’ first birthday, hooked up to oxygen and injected with blood thinners, but I was. I wasn’t supposed to be hosting their first party from a walker, but I did. 

We set our guest bed up in our living room because I couldn’t walk up the stairs to my room.

For a solid month I couldn’t tuck my children into bed at night, I couldn’t make them dinner, I couldn’t pick them up by myself. 

I should have been teaching my babies to walk, but instead they were teaching themselves on my walker. 

If ever I had felt like I was failing as a mom it was then. If my children wanted to cuddle they had to stay on my left side and be super still; and I don’t have still children. I had to rely on the help of others to take care of my children, to cook for us, to help me get dressed.

My sister, Steph, and I at our girls night in at the hospitalIt was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But I can’t begin to tell you how many people helped fill the gaps and take care of my people when I couldn’t. Friends from church and MOPS signed up to bring us meals for TWO MONTHS. They took turns coming over and playing with my kids. They leant me crutches and walkers and shower chairs. My parents kept my children when I was in the hospital and when I was home so I could rest. My sister came to the hospital to keep our “girl’s night out” even when it had to be a “girl’s night in.” The encouragement and cards from friends and family was nothing short of amazing.

And, oh, how my children loved it. How they soaked in every visit from a friend and how excited they got when they could give a little thank you gift to each person who brought a meal. What I thought would be a deficit for them, ended up being a string of people pouring into their lives and making them feel more loved. 

As moms I think we all struggle with not being able to do it all, to do enough, for our kids. But I think the real struggle comes from thinking we’re supposed to be able to do it all on our own. I don’t think it was ever intended to be that way; I think we were made for community and when we rely on each other, that’s when we do our best.

When we feel encouraged, we can encourage our children. When we feel loved and supported we can love and support them. And when they see how much others care about them, they learn to care for others. And that’s what we really want in the end, isn’t it?

The Smith Family

Mandy Smith HeadshotMandy Smith is a wife, a daughter, a sister and a mom.  Her husband, Brandon, is a wonderful fellow who has put up with the craziness of being married to her for ten years now.  They have five kids, James (5-years-old), Katie (4-years-old), Shawn (2-years-old), Maggie (15-months-old) and Sarah (15-months-old).  Writing about the hilarious antics in her household has been a sanity saver for years.  She also loves reading a good book while eating cookie dough ice cream. Mandy blogs at Smith Silliness.

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OldWoodPencil

I asked each of our Writing Contest judges to share her thoughts on the winning entries.
Here’s what they had to say about Mandy’s story:

Korie.Chocolate

Korie: “I loved what you had to say about the real struggle being us thinking we have to do it all on our own. Thank you for writing.” 

Korie Buerkle is the mother of two imaginative young children, and the wife of the talented graphic designer and amazing stay-at-home dad, Brandon Buerkle. She is a Children’s Librarian and loves creating storytimes and book clubs when she is not doing other administrative things that are not as much fun.

MeghanRogersCzarnecki2Meghan: “That’s an incredible story and a great message! I loved the image I got of a mama being supported by those around her during the hard times.” 

Meghan Rogers-Czarnecki works at her family’s independent bookstore, Chapters Books and Coffee where she loves chatting with customers about good books as well as their personal stories, which are often just as compelling. She spends way too much time reading, negotiating with her three children, and cooking to have any left over for cleaning her house, so imperfection is near and dear to her heart. 

AjSchwanzAj: “When we rely on each other, that’s when we do our best.” 

Aj Schwanz is the Chief Manager of Consumption for her tribe at their humble abode in Dundee, Oregon. She writes single-sentence bios for herself and then gives Beth Woolsey permission to write the rest. :D Beth and Aj share a deep love of well-written words which they usually find in YA fantasy novels and occasionally on a completely inappropriate Canadian television series about the fae underworld, about which they text regularly. Whereas Beth just Makes Up Crap on her blog, Aj worked Real Jobs in the Writing World as a Young Adult librarian and as an editor for Barclay Press. 

…..

And we would love to hear your thoughts, too!
One of the hardest parts of writing is wondering how our soul-baring will be received.
Your feedback and encouragement are enormous gifts.

Old Wood Pencil image credit gubgib via freedigitalimages.net

This Mama in the Morning

Mar 29 2014

Here’s a quick Saturday morning story for you. Because it’s morning! Hooray!

Ready? Here we go.

Once upon a time,
my daughter took a picture of my eyes.

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So she could make me a pretty picture.

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And then she texted it to me.

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With commentary.

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To which I responded.

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Because she is RIGHT.

In conclusion, HAPPY SATURDAY MORNING, momrades!

Let’s eat some children for breakfast.

…….

P.S. You can make pretty pictures for your family, too. Abby made this one using the Zoo Eyes app. God bless her. I shall add it to Mommy’s Wall of Terror with alacrity.

On Coming Out as a Christian Who’s an LGBTQ Ally

Mar 27 2014

I was going to write a post about all the things Candy Crush and the Church have in common.

It was pithy.

It was funny.

It was full of references to the importance of friends and an engaged community.

It was lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek and gently poked fun at the ways the Church and Candy Crush like to point out that we’ve failed.

The sad, disappointed look when you’ve ruined everything. Again.

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The multiple messages that make your failure very, very clear.

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“You failed!”

and

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“Level failed! You did not reach the goal!”

CC3And I was going to make sure we all noticed the undeniable fact that the guy who’s disguised as a cherubic owl with a serious anxiety problem is really THE DEVIL; he pretends to cheer for you and to want what’s best for you, but HE LIVES ON THE DARK SIDE and HE WANTS TO RUIN YOUR LIFE. –>

But none of it feels very funny anymore after watching the Church spank World Vision this week.

Now because this blog welcomes a wide array of people from all backgrounds – faith, culture, ethnicity, etc. – some of you have no idea what I’m talking about, and, man, I wish I was you right this minute, because those of us who are American Christians or evangelical Christians or fundamental Christians or who’ve come from that background are tired right now. Weary to our bones. Disappointed. Hunched in on ourselves. Feeling misunderstood and trying rather desperately to drag our wounded to safety. All of us. From all the sides. This has been an easy week for no one.

Every once in a while, I speak here as a Christian about Christiany things and invite the rest of you to participate because you’re always welcome here and always encouraged to pull up a chair to this table. This is one of those times, so I’ll recap, briefly, the most recent circumstances so you’re not walking into this Family Brouhaha blind.

This week, one of the world’s largest and most well-respected Christian humanitarian aid organizations, World Vision, announced a policy change which would allow Christians in same-sex marriages to be eligible for employment. Two days later, under intense pressure from Christian detractors of that position, World Vision reversed their decision.

It’s no secret that the question of how to love our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) neighbors – Christian and otherwise – is dividing the Church, and this week was a powder-keg example.

KAPOW! 

There’s Christian shrapnel all over the internet right now, tangled remnants of an ugly war, and even those of us who were bystanders are reeling from the concussion.

As I looked around the battlefield – so many wounded – I felt helpless. Alone. Dismayed. And then I realized how much more alone my LGBTQ friends, especially those who identify as Christian and who want to participate in the life-changing work of organizations like World Vision, must feel. To be so often ostracized by their faith community. To want so desperately to belong and to worship with their family. To finally be invited, publicly, in the door and welcomed to the table. And then, in an abrupt turn of events, to be booted back out. To be told the invitation was a mistake and ill-advised. To have the welcome retracted.

Oh, dear God. This is not – this is not – the Way of Love. It’s just… not.

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We have failed. Not World Vision specifically, although they did fail by even their own account, but, more significantly, the Church as a whole. All of us. We have failed. And we are to blame.

We did not reach the goal which is always – always – to Love God and to Love Our Neighbors.

But what can I do about it, bystander that I am? I mean, really. I’m a straight, Christian woman. How in the world can I mitigate any of the pain? 

And then I realized there’s one thing I can do, even though it’s a little thing – a tiny thing, given my one life and my one voice – and that is to tell the wild truth, as best as I understand it in this moment, about Who Is Welcome at Love’s Table. Which is everyone. All the people. Welcome at Love’s Table. Despite everything, welcome. Despite the war, welcome. Despite the hurt, welcome. Although I don’t blame you if you can’t bring yourself to come or to trust that Love even has a table.

Those of us who slowly move our perspective from our fundamental roots to become Christian allies of the LGBTQ community are, overall, a quiet bunch. For every Christian person who’s out as an LGBTQ ally, I know 20 more who are in the closet. Not because we don’t care about the plight of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Not because we don’t think things should change. Not because we’re apathetic about the truth or love as far as we understand them. But because we want to be peacemakers. We know and very deeply love our friends and family members who remain committed to a different interpretation of the Bible, and we understand many will see our affirmation of LGBTQ relationships as capitulation to culture at best, a deliberate misinterpretation with the intention of leading people astray at worst, and a betrayal either way.

We’re quiet because, well, we don’t want to rock a boat that’s already in very choppy seas.

But while we’re quiet, there are LGBTQ people who are receiving the message from the Church, loud and clear, that they must choose between Who God Created Them to Be versus Faith in God. 

Each person must decide when her silence is helpful and healthy and makes peace and creates unity, and when it has morphed into a silence that perpetuates pain and loneliness and despair and isolation. I’ve reached the point where my silence must end.

It’s time to tell you that I’m a Christian who’s also an LGBTQ ally. 

It’s time for me to stand publicly with the people who are marginalized and those who’ve been asked to leave the table. I cannot, as a follower of Jesus, whom I believe is Love Incarnate, do otherwise. This is, for me, a matter of conscience, a matter of obedience, a matter of justice, a matter of mercy, a matter of resurrection, a matter of truth, and a matter of grace.

It’s time for me to tell my fellow Christians who are quiet LGBTQ allies that I know what it’s like to come out slowly as an ally. To come out quietly. To hover over the Facebook “like” button on a positive article about my LGBTQ friends and try to decide whether to click it. To be afraid to let others see me like it. To be anxious about letting others see me go far, far past tolerating people; far, far past loving the sinner; and run, instead, headlong into support, affirmation, approval and the belief that the love of another person, regardless of gender, can be good, strong, healthy, life-giving and within God’s plan. I know it’s hard. I know. I swear I do. And it’s OK to be where you are in the process until your heart tells you it’s time to take the next step. But when it’s time, take it. Do.

And, finally, it’s time for me to apologize to and ask forgiveness from my LGBTQ friends who frequent this space. Although my friends, my family and my church – some of whom agree with my position and some of whom don’t - are well aware I’m both a committed Christian and an LGBTQ ally, I’ve skirted the issue here, making subtly supportive statements while deliberately avoiding the issue. As though you, my friends, are an issue to be avoided and not mentioned. In that way, I’ve allowed you to suffer while I benefited from my silence, and for that I’m deeply sorry.

You need to know, especially those of you who’ve been invited in and then asked to leave – welcomed and then rejected – that there’s room at Love’s table and friends who long for you to sit and eat with us. We’re still a small table, but we’re growing ever larger all the time, and there is, emphatically, a place for you here.

 …….

For those of you who want it, here’s
More Information:

1. On My Theology

Frankly, the last thing any of us need is yet another Biblical exegesis on homosexuality, and I would be wasting my time and yours if I attempted to outline the 20 year process that’s taken me from my fundamental roots to the conviction that God blesses LGBTQ relationships.

Jen Hatmaker spoke the truth this week when she wrote, “The Christian community is not going to reach consensus on gay marriage. Every article, regardless of its position for or against, is the same. The support arguments; same. The rebuttals; same. The circular thinking; same. The responses are fully predictable, the language identical, the interpretations immovable, and after all the energy expended, we discover we are at the same impasse. This is a fact: Thousands of churches and millions of Christ-followers faithfully read the Scriptures and with thoughtful and academic work come to different conclusions on homosexuality (and countless others). Godly, respectable leaders have exegeted the Bible and there is absolutely not unanimity on its interpretation. There never has been.” 

Nevertheless, for those of you who are curious how I can love the Bible and love Jesus and not simply tolerate but, instead, affirm, encourage and support my LGBTQ friends who are in relationships, I’ll direct you to Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate by Justin Lee and to the Gathering Now video sermon series on The Birds, The Bees & The Bible

Some will say I’m misguided. Or deceived. Or that I’m willfully and nefariously misreading Scripture. To which I say, maturely, Nuh Uh and Am Not, times Infinity.

2. On the Very Best Resource, Bar None, for Christians (regardless of your stance on homosexuality) Who Want to Love Your LGBTQ Neighbors

The Gay Christian NetworkFounded in 2001, the Gay Christian Network (GCN) is a nonprofit Christian ministry dedicated to building bridges and offering support for those caught in the crossfire of one of today’s most divisive culture wars. Our membership includes both those on Side A (supporting same-sex marriage and relationships) and on Side B (promoting celibacy for Christians with same-sex attractions). What began as an organization to provide support to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) Christians has grown into a worldwide movement for compassion with many straight members as well.

3. Other Things I’ve Written About Faith, Doubt and the Church

Here’s my story of Faith and Doubt.
Here’s What I Wish the Church Would Be.
Here’s the Real Reason I Still Go to Church.
Here’s why “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” should be abolished.
Here’s my Confession About Faith.

4. On How This Benefits Me

It doesn’t. I benefit by my silence. By not coming quite all the way out of closet as an LGBTQ ally. By having quiet conversations in private and not rocking the public boat. Churches and parachurch organizations allow me to come speak if I am silent about this issue; one of which told me so very clearly. I will miss having those opportunities, but my minor losses don’t compare to the losses endured every day by my LGBTQ friends, and I am grateful for the opportunity to stand with them.

5. On What I Think About My Friends and Family - both online and in person - Who Believe to Their Bones I’m Totally Wrong About This

I love them very much. 

I believe wholeheartedly that Jesus exhorted us to expand our definition of Neighbor. To extend the title of friend to those on the other side of our cultural fence. To hold Love God and Love One Another as our highest goal. To choose to reject the concept of sides. And so, as my heart has shifted from my conservative roots to a more wild and free and boundless Gospel of Grace, I am convicted that it’s my job to love my conservative neighbors as fully as I love my progressive, liberal and LGBTQ neighbors. To extend to them the same benefit of the doubt I hope they will extend to me: that we are each doing everything we can to reach the goal of Love, devil be damned.

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