My independent thinking rabble-rouser

Last night, I picked up three of my kids from the youth meeting at a local church.  The teachings are conservative, with recent discussions on women under leadership of men and election/predestination.  My 12 yo, a self-published author, jumps in the car and says “Mom, I’ve got another idea for a new book.”

“Another book idea ??!!?” I ask jokingly.  She has been working on a book sequel, a rebuttal essay on why women can TOO preach, and she writes collaboratively with her sister, Rachel, almost daily.

“Yeah, and I’ve got a title for it,” she continues.  “It will be called ‘Liberal Thoughts of a Lady.'”

A Litter of Kids on the Couch

After years of “getting by” with a broken couch, it finally occurred to me, “None of us hang out in the living room because nobody enjoys lounging on the broken couch.”  We were separating and spreading out into different parts of the house, spending less and less time together.  

Since I wanted my teens to hang out with me and each other more often during the day, we bought the VIMLE couch from IKEA.  Now, this is the scene I often come upon . . .

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Yep, THREE teenagers and a dog all sleeping on the couch at the same time!

But they aren’t always asleep.

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Then they fully awaken and the wrestling and squeals begin again.  The couch was so worth it, just for this.

To My privileged Son from his very Privileged Mama

The man said, “If I had that much power, the kind that would let me grab any woman I chose and still be President, power without consequences, I too would grab her and her and her.  Because that is my true human nature and fear of consequences is all that stops me.”

Son, I’m still trying to decide whether I’m glad you heard him say that.  You’ve always respected him, and while there may be something to admire in his brutal honesty, I hope you will never decide that his truth is your truth, that his weakness will be your weakness.  I hope you see that he is wrong about no consequences in the here and now.

Words crowded my mouth, desperate to counterbalance his words.  I think you already know though, don’t you?  I think you understand the consequences of your moral conscience, living with knowing that you abused or preyed on another.

Son, you are white and you are male. That makes you privileged in ways that may be hard to completely grasp since you have never lived outside your whiteness or maleness.  But if you were born privileged, you were also born to a responsiblity — to use what you have to protect those who don’t have.  The harsh truth is that the greatest danger to those around you will sometimes be YOU —  protecting others from your own ego, your own desires, your own selfishness may be the only and most important protection you can offer.

This is true for all humanity, of course, but it is truer for you.  Because of your privilege, a privilege that makes it so easy to blindly trod on others without meaning to.

I think you already know these things, but anxiety gnawed —-  What if you know now, but lose your way later on?  As years go by, what if other people you admire share their own warped versions of the truth (and they will) and cause you to doubt yourself?  What if I’m wrong, and you don’t have the wisdom I think you do?  What if you wrongly interpret his words?  Can I change things, make you wiser, strengthen you?

Son, I didn’t know where to even begin this conversation and worried that I was going to miss the chance to do it “right.”  Then I remembered what I do know — the heart of you and that “one who is faithful in a little is also faithful in much . . .”

I remembered your kindness to your younger sisters, when you immediately apologize for a brusque word, when you make yourself answer kindly a demand made in a less-than-kind tone, when you sacrifice your time to help with her project.  In your daily interactions with those two younger siblings, you continually humble yourself, wield your power of the older brother for their good.

I see you practicing acts of love and mercy now, even when you don’t feel like it, as surely as you practice pulling your bow across cello strings.  Right now, daily you are practicing to be a better husband, a better father, a better man, a Protector and an Encourager.  Every time you wield your power of choice by laying it down in favor of another, you gain power over the Worst that is inside you with the Good that is also inside you.  True Strength is not wielded against another.  It is laid down for another again and again.

You have experience in this my dear Son.  I have witnessed your faithfulness in a little leading to faithfulness in much.

Still, the anxiety caused by the man’s words made me want to grab you by the shoulders, spear you with my eye and say “One day, you may be in a position of power, the kind where you can make a wrong choice without suffering consequences.  And it will be your choice — to do right or to do wrong.  Don’t blame your human nature overpowering you or some kind of Satan tricking you. It will be all you, making your choice.”

But I didn’t do that.  I sensed it was not the right way with you.  Struggling, I let trust in you guide me.  I chose to simply ask and hear you speak.

“Son, what did you think about ———– words?  Do you think it is true that only legal and social consequences chain you to right choices?”

“Well,” you said, “I think his view assumes that I, myself, am okay with the wrong choices.”

I exhaled, anxiety dissolved.  humbleness moved in.  You did not need me to show you the way.  All I needed to do? — Be still, know, and LISTEN, trusting that which is Good in you.

 

 

A regular occurrence

The house, unusually quiet as I sit reading.

Then pounding feet on stairs, basement door banging open, and my eldest son of 19 runs into the kitchen, around the island and turns, poised, looking back the way he came, face bright and expectant.

I abandon my book and watch Sidney, wondering . . .

His younger sister, 14, slowly walks into the kitchen, popping her knuckles.  Rachel moves around the island.  Sidney moves in the opposite direction.  She stretches her neck and shakes out her arms.  He laughs, makes a run for the dining room table, putting more distance between them.  She slowly paces him, menaces him with a glaring eye, a smile trembles her lips.

This has been a familiar scene since Sidney and I returned from Memphis 15 months ago.  Rachel loves locking her arms around her older brother, his arms imprisoned at his side, while he tries to wrestle free.  He twists and turns, dragging her from kitchen to dining room to living room.  She hangs on for dear life.  They fall to the couch, roll on the floor, twist their way back to their feet, lurch off walls and furniture.

Twenty minutes, thirty minutes — Rachel has a good, strong grip.  I hope they don’t break anything, including themselves, but it is a vague thought.  I am glad they play together.  In those early days of our return home, Sidney needed exercise, needed to rebuild wasted muscle.  During his tiredest days, escaping her grip was a fun distraction, a necessary workout.

I wonder if Sidney knows that Rachel needed those wrestling matches too.  Still needs them.

His reticent and undemonstrative sister needs to wrap her arms tightly around a brother she loves and never let him go.

Girl, we were THERE

at the ACT to End Racism Rally.

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I am fairly sure our presence there did not benefit anyone but ourselves.

But maybe that is the place to start?  With ourselves?  Making the world a better place by continually remaking kinder and more merciful versions of ourselves.  God’s Kingdom come, baby — it has to come through us, our words, our actions, because that is how God works.  To our eyes, slowly, painfully, inefficiently perhaps but that is Love for you.  Love draws people in and includes them when it is a thousand times easier to not do so.

Getting on a bus with a bunch of strangers to travel all night and stand in our capital city with other people of faith who also traveled from afar to say we care about justice and equity was important.  To say that when one of our brothers and sisters suffers, we all suffer.

Girl, I know people can be discouraging.  It is tough when those we love and respect make choices that are not loving or respectful to others.  I too have struggled with anger and frustration, but it has not overcome my hope, a hope that grows every time I pay attention to you, your sister and your brothers.  You will change the world darling.  You have the the moral conscience, the steely, stubborn backbone and the rebellious heart to do it.

Rebellion is often viewed negatively, particularly in churchspeak.  But I, your mama, say to you, “Rebel, Girl, rebel.”  Turn over those tables in the temple.  Rebel against any authority, especially church authority, that tries to tell you right is wrong and wrong is right.  Who support immoral leaders who prey on the weak.

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So what now?  What comes after this rally for us?

I’m not sure, but we’ll keep looking for opportunity to make good in this world.  Looking for the light in dark places.  Hint:  the light is often found in other people.   So is the dark.

You and me – we are full of light and dark, same as other people.  Our job is to look for that light in ourselves and shine it on our dark places.  Sometimes we need others to do it for us, and sometimes we must do that for others.  That part will be particularly unfun, but it is right.

And our faith requires it.

 

All Clear

My wee little chicks, not so little anymore — Lincoln informed me that he is now 6 feet 3/4 inch.  My baby, Prairie,  weighs 103 pounds.  Just a few details the kids learned about themselves at St. Jude this last week.

All tests on all kids look good.  Lincoln, Rachel and Prairie will not need to go back until next year.  Sidney will go back in April for his 3 months scans.

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In between lumbar punctures, MRIs, scans and blood draws, the kids had plenty of time to think of ways to taunt their waiting mother back home.  They posed for pictures and texted them to me . . .

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“So THIS is a poptart!  They don’t taste nasty like you always told me Mom.  In fact, they are especially yummy with this rainbow cereal.”

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“Cherry!  Cherries are healthy, right Mom?”

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Tired kiddoes at the airport late Thursday night, bellies full of hotel breakfasts and cafeteria food — I think  they look forward to coming home to their Mama’s Spaghetti Squash noodles and Cauliflower “alfredo” sauce.

Scapegoat

They are everywhere.

They won’t go back in.

All this squish and wiggle…

I grab one, and three escape.

They cannot be swept, and now I must hide this ruined broom.

 

I would let it all go,

except for the others who will blame me.

They will frown upon me.

Even in my confidence, they will hold their scorn,

but roll their eyes to each other when I look away.

They will complain about the mess, the slime,

the sound of stickiness.

 

I did something very natural;

the blame should not be at my feet, glistening as they are, with shiny trails.

The fault is his who came before me.

 

Who in their right mind would put worms in a can?