Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Overwhelming Beauty

Do you ever find yourself feeling totally overwhelmed by the beauty in the world?

Just sitting in my living room, I can find myself in awe of the darkening of the sky as a storm rolls in and how it seems to make the green leaves on the tree outside my window so much brighter. I watch someone walk by, picking up their pace to get the dog home before the rain starts. I think about that person and their dog and wonder what their life is like, what good is happening for them, what pain they may be experiencing. I scroll through social media and see videos of kids in a talent show, being brave and sharing their voices. I see posts about how people fell in love or how people seek to see beauty in themselves.

And I will suddenly find tears in my eyes. Because as much as I can be overwhelmed by the darkness in the world - I can also be overwhelmed by the beauty.

By the light.
The love.
The bravery.
The courage.
The connections.
The growth.
The supporting and lifting and saving.

And I need to remember these moments. Because the dark days can feel so heavy. So much in the world that I do not understand, that I work hard to keep myself and my loved ones protected from - people who seek to cause harm, people who don't know the harm they cause, people who don't care if they cause harm.

My faith keeps me tethered to hope. Keeps showing me light. Whispers in my ear to focus on the pinpoint of love and stay focused on it until the darkness is pushed aside, even if just for a moment.

Until next time,

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

How I Experience Anxiety

It starts in my chest. It's a slight squeeze or pressure feeling, but also kind of tingling or buzzing. Then my brain goes into hyper aware mode and is hyper analyzing, hyper listening. Sometimes, I feel it in my fingers next. Kind of that tingling sensation. 

I generally feel both ready to jump out of my skin and ready for my space to implode.

My brain starts to speed up. It focuses on all the things that I need to do. Every single work task and unanswered email. Every report I need to run. Every problem I need to solve. I start to feel paranoid about friendships, relationships, and what people really think of me. I question every wording choice. When I listen to my brain, my chest gets tighter and I feel like I can't really breathe.

Which also means I need to breathe. Deeply. Purposefully.

I also need to move my arms because I tend to clamp my upper arms to my sides when this hits. Because I want to contract everything inward. I also can't keep my foot from shaking or my legging from twitching. I want to contain everything but also have to send some energy out somehow.

In, 2, 3, 4.
Out, 2, 3, 4.

I close my eyes and imagine my breath flowing into my lungs and spilling warm relaxation throughout my body.

I open my eyes and go back to answering an email.

Soon, it hits again. Because something doesn't work. Or an email comes from someone who is upset. Or I make the mistake of looking at social media and get overwhelmed by all the bad things happening in the world, in government, in people's lives.

Overwhelmed. It seems to all boil down to what I can't do on my own. Or what I perceive I can't do all at once, anyway.

So I make a list of the things at work that I need to get done. I prioritize to make sure I'm focusing on the right things.

I stay off social media. Partially so I don't continue to pile on with the overwhelmed feelings but also so I don't say things I don't really mean.

I take 10 minutes to walk outside. Fresh air and sunshine often help.

I breathe and count. I use some mantras or do some yoga poses to focus on just the present moment.

I will either be able to help this anxiety pass or I will need to use medication to prevent it from continuing or getting worse.

Here is what I know does not help - ignoring it, drinking alcohol, distraction. I can't just numb it or mute it. I have to work through it or medicate it. 95% of the time, I am able to work through it.

in... 2... 3... 4...
out... 2... 3... 4....

Until next time,

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Dear School Board

I live in Fishers, IN. My kids attend Hamilton Southeastern Schools. We've made national news in the past few weeks as a fight that has been ongoing for years boiled over.

Our school district didn't have a non-discrimination policy. There was a loose statement implemented 19 years ago but not actual policy. In the past year, a school board member has been bringing up the need for this policy as part of the work being done in our district towards equity and inclusion. In November, election season, things heated up when a school board member made derogatory comments on social media about transgender people and then also had inappropriate and harmful conversation with parents of trans kids. Finally, in April, a reading of a proposed policy occurred. The outcome wasn't good.

We became famous for having a school board member say things like - being trans is a mental illness and being gay is a trend and it's almost unpopular to be straight now.

If you want all the details, you can Google it.

Last night, the final school board meeting took place for the school year. When things had been left back in April, the wording was as soft and unhelpful as Indiana's new hate crimes bill. On Monday, 2 days prior to the meeting, new verbiage was posted that would be reviewed at the meeting. It listed protected classes but still had some language issues (like saying "gender nonconforming" instead of "gender identity"). Finally, hours before the meeting, language was posted that was most acceptable and least problematic for those fighting for an inclusive, specific policy.

The school board meeting started at 7:00 and this was the 2nd agenda item. It was close to 2 hours of statements and conversation. I didn't keep track of how many people spoke - but students, parents, community leaders, president of the teachers' union, faith leaders, doctors and social workers stood and shared why they supported a strong non-discrimination policy. A few spoke up to dissent. And there was an attempt at adding a conscience clause (meaning you can use personal values or religion as a reason to discriminate). In the end, the non-discrimination policy passed in a 5-2 vote.

That's the top view of what happened. But let's talk about the really important moments. The people moments. The hearts that opened. The eyes that shed tears. The nervous hands that shook at the podium.

Students who stood and spoke of school being their safe place because home isn't once they came out. A business leader who spoke on the importance of teaching kids how to thrive in a diverse workplace. A faith leader who said we are all created in God's image and should be loved and protected as we are. A 5th grader who spoke of her 2 dads. A dad who spoke of his trans nephew. A poli sci teacher who spoke of government and law and his own trans child. A straight ally student. A previous student of color who called out the racism she experienced, starting as young as 3rd grade.

That was just last night.

In the last 2 weeks, groups have formed on Facebook and met in coffee shops and living rooms. One on one conversations have started. Questions are being asked. People are standing up and saying - we see this problem and it isn't ok.

Conversation this morning is celebratory but also aware that we aren't done. That we have to stick together and continue to be involved.

I also have thought - if I had signed up to speak at the meeting, what would I have said?

I am a straight, cisgender, white female. I live the typical suburban life. I've been married to my straight, cisgender, white male husband for almost 16 years. We have 2 kids - both seem to be straight, cisgender and are clearly white. We own a home here in Fishers. We both work full time. We attend a Christian church every Sunday and are heavily involved there. We love superhero movies and Disney. We are incredibly typical and pretty basic.

My family doesn't need a non-discrimination policy. I could stay home and not even know that this issue was happening and it would have no impact on me or my kids. That's privilege. I could easily follow the line of some board members by saying we should just all be kind and respectful to everyone and leave it at that.

But the way I see it, a non-discrimination policy is a way of acknowledging that some groups of people are automatically put below the minimum standard of treatment. It's a way of saying - we see you and want to make things equitable. We want to create a school system that sees the inequities and wants to help lift you to the same playing field as everyone else.

This doesn't take away from those of us who fit the majority. This doesn't reduce protection of the majority. See, my white skin protects me. My being a female who looks female and feels female protects me. My attraction to the opposite sex protects me. While I am female and can face discrimination based solely on my sex, for the most part, I am part of the majority and don't need to be protected.

Finally, I'd just like to say that when we learn to embrace diversity, when we learn to listen and believe those who have different experiences from our own, when we want to embrace the ideals of diversity, safety, justice, excellence - it ends up benefiting everyone. I wasn't taught to be the person I am today in the church of my childhood or by my parents. I found my way here through my faith and my relationships and my life experience, I have come to see and be fully part of a world full of beautiful and diverse people.

I'd like to close with the words of Maya Angelou - Do the  best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

If we have listened and believed to all that has been shared, it's time to do better.

Until next time,

Monday, May 6, 2019

Through a Filter of Love

There are days when all I can see is the darkness and brokenness in the world. And the world wants me to see it that way, I think. There is such an overwhelming amount of bad and terrible stuff out there. Just in the last few days, I've been overwhelmed by bombings of Gaza, the US preparing some sort of military thing near Iran, multiple shootings near home and elsewhere, news coverage of men getting no punishment for raping/abusing/harming girls, overt racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia... And the more personal darkness and shadows that are also always present - grief, anger, shame, doubt, pain, stress, anxiety.

But there is this amazing gift that my faith gives me.


Sometimes, it's hard to recognize it. Hard to feel it. But it's always somewhere if I'm willing to make the effort to look for it.

I find love in meeting a stranger who has a story that inspires. I find love in supporting the efforts of those who seek to change the world. I find love in authentically connecting with a loved one or with a stranger. I find love in witnessing an adult trying to make someone's baby smile from across a restaurant. I find love when someone who is hurting deeply finds the strength to ask to be loved through a small gesture or a big one. I find love in hugs and high fives and smiles.

The struggle is remembering to look for it, to recognize it when I see it. To embrace it and cherish it so that it stays with me.

I want to be able to see all things in the world through a love filter. Like, Instagram has filters I can apply to my pics, right? I want to do the same with how I approach the world. Because I want to see where love is flowing out of grief and pain. I want to see where love is shining in the midst of darkness. I want to see love lifting those who fight for justice.

There are days when the world almost breaks me. When the heaviness feels impossible. And I try to find the filter so I can remember and see and feel the love.

Until next time,

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Our Voices Must Continue On

Today is a sad day. In fact, I was surprised by how sad.

I'm just a typical woman in Indiana. I am not famous or well known. I've never published a book. I don't have huge followings on social media.

But somehow, years ago, I found Rachel Held Evans. I don't recall exactly how I came to follow her on Twitter. I believe it was through Michael Gungor and The Liturgists. But she was a voice that spoke of the God I loved in a way that I hadn't heard before. She spoke the words of my heart - saying things that were often contradicting traditional Christian teaching and preaching.

She died today.

And the online world has imploded in grief. And I imagine that the real life world of her husband, children, family, friends, and communities are awash in grief. Her death was very unexpected and leaves a profound hole in their world.

And in the online world, too.

I have been reading tweets and articles and posts all day since the news broke. This woman touched so many lives. This woman changed so many lives. This woman loved fiercely, advocated with courage, and spoke of a God of love and a Jesus of justice. She spoke words of true love and grace and inclusion. She bridged divides. She admitted when she made mistakes and then sought to do better. 

People are afraid of what might change without her voice.

I think it's up to us.

I haven't been using this writing space much lately. I have a long list of reasons. Writer's block. Lack of time. Not feeling the same holy connection I used to feel to writing.

I need to use my voice. My message could matter to someone else. I could change a life. If Rachel Held Evans can't be here to continue using her voice, I guess I just feel like I don't really have a good excuse.

I fight for equity and equality and inclusion. I believe in the beauty and wonder of all humans. I also see the darkness of humanity that creates racism, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, xenophobia and more.

I believe in love and grace and mercy and forgiveness. I believe in nature and science and mystery. I believe in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I believe that God is LOVE. Indescribable, undefinable, beyond recognition LOVE. I believe Jesus showed up to disrupt the systems that were getting in the way of love. And I believe that the Spirit moves through us and nature and mystery.

I believe in the value and worth of all people. I believe that being gay isn't a sin. I believe that being transgender isn't a mental illness. I believe that black lives matter. I believe in caring for the poor. I believe in opening arms to immigrants. I believe that religions are supposed to be as diverse as the people who believe in them. I believe in disrupting the systems that perpetuate racism and poverty and injustice. I believe in doing what I can to take better care of the earth. I believe in the equality of women, the abilities of the differently abled, the need to dismantle white privilege.

And all of those beliefs are based on my faith in God. It all goes hand in hand.

Rachel's voice will live on in her written words. Rachel's impact on the world will continue to be felt through the lives she changed.

And the rest of us must continue the work. We must amplify our voices. Even if we only have a whisper in the universe - it's a whisper that is needed and necessary. It will take all of us. And if we all come together and we all share our whispers, we will become a shout that cannot be ignored.

Until next time,