Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dear President Obama

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Dear President Obama,

I am 32 years old and don't think I've ever penned a letter to a political figure. Santa Claus, sure, but the President? Mayor? State senator? Never. 

To be honest, it is not that I haven't cared. It's just that I haven't felt enough passion in contrasting boldness to what the actions or rumors of my politicians have shown. And maybe I never believed my letter would make a difference. I learned in Mrs Castleberry's eighth grade debate class that words are a powerful thing. And that convincing a mind change in someone you consider to be an opposite thinker is even greater a task. 

And as such, you probably won't read this anyway. 

But I'm writing it. Because I want my kids to know how I feel about you--the man who lead our country through the most formative of my young adult years. And I want to prove to myself that I was wrong. 

You see, Mr President. I didn't vote for you. If I'm honest with the world, I think I forgot to vote in that last 2012 election. I was elbow-deep in delivering babies & working 70+ hours per week suturing & studying & not-sleeping. The year you won the last election was the year that my Hospitals' management changed. It was the year that made me a mother. The year my marriage was sprayed by the unexpected poison of depression. The year my husband said goodbye to half a decade of service in the Army & hung up his maroon beret forever. Two-thousand-twelve was the year he had knee surgery, I had my first cavity filled, & the year America welcomed you back for another 4 years. 

I must say, Mr President, that I wasn't sure about the country's choice. You seemed to have proven yourself despite the media feeding us doubt, apprehension, & disbelieving statements about where you came from, who you were, &all the things you would (or wouldn't) manage to do in office. The crop of bumper stickers about "keeping the change" from 2008 that had been stuck on metal and glass and minds were faded and peeling. The country was finally rebounding from the market crash where we, as a young 20-something couple, lost almost half of our meager investments. You and the First Lady had appeared on SNL, Facebook, & even the occasional talk show. You had handled the protestors, the rally's, & the beginning bloom of racial throttle with what appeared to be well-intentioned action. Mrs Obama's toned arms continued to be the subject of focus in the tabloids & popular news magazines. And although I'm not sure on the timeline, I do remember that you had successfully quit smoking. Things--life In the United States of America--finally felt stable again. 

Stable, that is, for me. 

I've asked hundreds of patients who our President is in the process of testing mental acuity & orientation. And I've gotten a variety of colorful (& hilarious) answers. Jesus. Nixon. Reagan. Princess Diana. Bart Simpson. And you, Sir, "Obama". But I must admit that me talking about my patients & my work week & my marriage all point to who I am, where I know I stand in the complex web of race & gender & privilege in not only this Country, but also in this World. 

I am a Doctorate-educated white, married, middle class woman living in a semi-rural town in one of the most privileged countries in the world. I have not skipped dinner involuntarily this month. I have never been without health insurance, $100 in my bank account, mostly white teeth, or shoes on my feet. And I am well aware that even the fact that I can use words like "investments" or "work" or "cavity" makes me one of the wealthiest people in the World's greater populace & assumes that I have the pennies to stow away, the employment to help support my family, & preventative healthcare. I am immensely lucky. 

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Months ago I told myself I was not going to talk about the most recent election. I am not writing about repealing the vote, recounting the absentee ballots, or rescinding the position of the upcoming President of the United States. I am not writing to disagree with policy or nitpick your vacation time or comment on the great debates that are fired up all over the country in streets & homes & hearts. 

I am writing, Mr President, to thank you. 

My skepticism of your leadership was wrong. My judgement of your character biased, influenced by the easy media sources around me, by my inaccurate funneling of politics through my religious beliefs, and by my preconceived notions of what I thought our country needed. 

And I was wrong about you.

I come from a personal conviction that demands that my heart be free of guilt. So for my ungrounded judgement, bias with lack of full knowledge, & even for my own pride, I am asking for forgiveness.

I'm not even sure I could pinpoint all my inaccuracies. Nor would I expect the same from you. In my daily job, when I make mistakes, lives are on the line--the breath & body & being of people are what I handle. And this, we have in common. The magnitude of your decision, the weight of your work, however, is incomprehensibly larger, more public, more dissected than I ever hope mine to be. 

And you've handled the job with suave, grace, & poise. 

You haven't micromanaged my life--which if I'm honest with you, my young 24 year old brain expected of a new president in 2008. Finally outside the roof of my parents & the guise of college as "real life", I had convinced myself that your role was altruistic, telling me who I could love, pinpointing both child rearing theories & the content of school lunches. From what laundry detergent to buy to how much to spend on my next car, I made your role bigger than it was meant to be. And possibly like many others across the country, falsely believed that your power forcibly extended beyond policy about housing & healthcare and somehow had the uncanny ability to make unwelcome changes in my home & in my heart  . "News" is a big category & a quick swim in the great Internet Ocean left me weighted by all sorts of opinions about you, your opinions, & your then-to-do list. 

And that "Change" you promised? Some of it has come alive--my own citizen mind completely unaware of the hours & days & piles of paperwork it took to instate things like the ACA, the healthcare exchange, or the closure of Afghani occupation. I have an opinion about most of the changes that have happened--both initiated from your desk & from the hand that time has dealt. We still don't agree on a lot of things, Mr President. And some of my reasons for not voting for you originally still stand--big debate topics for which this is not the time nor the platform. The beauty of this country is that I can still hold my opinion, and that despite your leadership & title & privilege, we have the right to disagree. 

For all the things, Sir, that we don't agree on, I must tell you--THANK YOU--reminding myself & my fellow citizens that there are some things that should know no political party nor be ignored in any role of leadership. Some things are worth banding together for. Things like love, equality, children, balance, health, access to vaccinations & bandaids & preventative examinations. Things like peace, justice, food, the right to Worship, & attention to the underprivileged. Though the details of your fight and my fight have been & will continue to look different for each of these cornerstones, the contrast in our beliefs makes me grateful that you've stood for them at all. 

Two weeks ago on the Eve of Halloween, I saw photos of the White House Halloween Party. I stayed up late browsing Facebook, munching on candy I stole from the loot of Thor & a Butterfly Princess that were, by then, sound asleep upstairs. And I was grateful for you & for your family. 

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And this past Tuesday, when it seems the hearts & hopes of half the country broke or shattered, I am still grateful for you for your family. 

From one gender to another, from a white to a black, from a mother to father, a small town girl to a big city man, thank you. Thank you for reaching out to your citizens, for bridging the gap in Elitist leadership, for inviting the world changers & policy makers & trick-or-treaters & unfortunate grievers on to the lawn of the White House. Thank you for hugging. And for hosting. And for proving me wrong in character & in compassion. 

You will be missed Mr President. 

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And if you ever find yourself in Central Washington, know that there will be a lawn who welcomes you & your family. And there will be two adults & three Dinosaur-loving kids eager to welcome you inside--without regard for religious differences or political party or personal beliefs. Not only because you served as our President, Sir, but because you are human. For as much as our human nature resists a change from the comfortable, change is exactly what you've brought. And sometimes we all need a bit of the unexpected. 

Friday, August 05, 2016

The Table.

The world has felt extra heavy this week. Stories have poured into my screen, my ears, my heart about infidelity, brokenness, miscarriage, cancer, addiction, death, & raging hearts. I can’t quite get a hold of it, much less myself. Maybe it is that I’m thinking of the jealousy that stirs up emotion--the jealousy of stable relationships, picture-perfect families, easy fertility, healthy cells; the jealousy of living life together & experiencing the mist & rain & sunshine when others hide from joy or die early or never get the chance at all.

Life is so confusingly fragile.

But at the crux of a brain break, a heart break, a soul Earthquake, i have to make a choice; we have to make a choice: choose God or choose the World. Choose the God who made that mist & rain & sunshine, choose the God who crafted those cells & telomeres & heartbeats, choose the God who knows my days & the hairs on my head & the seeds in my heart. ChOOSE GOD. Or choose the World. Choose the World full of broken people, mortal souls, sinful pride, & hearts with holes. Choose the World with smoggy blue skies & rain on wedding days & rejection & failure & disappointment without cause.

I can come to the Table. I can take the bread & drink the Wine. I can come whole & polished & perfect. I can lay down my color-coded planner & my lifelong plans, I can kneel on starched pants & clean floors. I can recognize a Jesus & know him, but my heart can keep its distance.

Or I can approach the Table. I can feel that broken bread, a body broken--cells lysed, telomeres shortened, breath stolen. And i can feel that maybe the cancer & the miscarriage & the impending emptiness was felt by the one who Emptied Himself; maybe it comes from the one who Fills. I can take in that scarlet wine & cut open the wounds & the sack-fulls of hurt & heartache, letting them spill & sweep & succumb to the Hope hidden in the brokenness. And I can stay at the table, basking in the candlelight, relishing in the dirt that I bring, sinking into the World’s grime, waiting for Hope to wash the scarlet clean. (Psalm 51:2)

And maybe that is what it is about anyways: Brokenness. Messiness. Dirt & grime & ugly-tears. And choices: choosing a side, choosing a Hope, choosing a God. Resting in that Blessed Assurance that Jesus is the One who came. For me, the miscarriage, the mismanaged, the messed up. Looking henceforth with HOPE that the heaviness I feel has a destination in the One who will bear all burdens alongside me, heal all hopelessness within me, & meet me at the Table.

May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for
justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer
from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may
reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that
you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able,
with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour,
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you
and remain with you, this day and forevermore.


a four-fold benedictine blessing - sr. ruth marlene fox, osb - 1985

Monday, July 11, 2016

just show up.

I see you enter, frazzled and under slept, primped & tucked & ironed just-so. I see you with tired eyes and Kylie’d-lips and horrible-beautiful scarred, flawless skin. I see you in moments of weakness when the little shoes won’t come off fast enough or the shirts wont fit over growing heads well enough or the words of reprimand make you feel like you are not enough. I see you.

I see you sit in that seat, on that bench, on that exam table. Nervous. Confident. Excited. Exhausted. Afflicted. I see you flinch. And fiddle. And worry. And wonder. I see your hands wring, your hair curl, your eyes squint in anxious anticipation of what that little person will become; what you will become. I see you cherish those words in one moment and want to hide away with the dust bunnies in the next. That little human you have and hold. That little human you long for. That little human you delivered, adopted, embraced; that little human you LOVE. The one who has grown and is gone from the short reach of your fingertips. I see you.

I see you grow, too. From the young woman with mismatched shoe-laces to the independent young professional with wrinkled pants; mom doesn’t iron those anymore. The path you walk in life takes you for a visit to Anxiety Lake and brushes along the Shores of Love. And soon enough, I get to see you grow up. And those mismatched shoe laces become mis-matched socks on your own little human. Or mis-matched expectations between what your heart is wanting & what life is delivering. I see you.

The truth is that you and I, we get to walk together. And when we split ways—you driving to your home & me driving to mine—your story doesn’t leave me. As I tuck my kids in bed and kiss their soft foreheads and melt into their sweaty palms and heavy breath, I know you are trying your best to do the same. I’ll think about you when I climb the stairs to find crackers spilled out and laundry unfolded and crayons on the wall; my life looks like this too, you know. So when you tell me that you are tired or exhausted or overwhelmed or hurting or longing or breaking, I get it. I hear you.

I’m not sure we’d be friends in real life. You seem to like comics & Harry Potter & furry four-legged creatures. I shy away from all those things & prefer a pet-less life full of all things non-science-fiction (except The Martian, I’ll read that one again). But I still hear you. And my internal non-professional dialogue is nodding yes and hi-fiving and side-hugging and coffee-drinking  and five-o’clock-cheering with you on the days that are hard and good and trying and devastating.

Last week you told me your husband was unfaithful. And you cried because you miscarried your fourth baby. And your favorite childhood dog was put down. Last week you weighed more than you ever had. And ate too many cupcakes. And last week you lost 15 pounds. You got a sunburn…again. Last week you drank enough water every day and took your medications like you were supposed to and stopped taking your medications altogether. You gave your baby formula because you couldn’t keep up; you breastfed your two-year-old for the very last time.

I want you to know, mama, that when you come in my office to sit on the chair and the bench and the exam table, that I see you. And that when you bare it all and spill your heart and let the emotion bleed out, that I hear you. And on the days that you are frazzled or discouraged or celebrating or sinking, I want you to remember that you showed up.

And that is really worth something.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Goals 2016: Entertainment

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A dear friend of mine moved to Manhattan with her sweet family over a year ago. It was a surprise move for onlookers. A few months ago she wrote a blog post about new places & embracing the challenge of change that comes with a move.

In case you were wondering, we didn’t move to Manhattan. Just a small, dusty town where three rivers meet in Washington. We are surrounded by farm land. The thai restaurant boasts the same aged d├ęcor that it did in 1992. The thrift stores are second-rate. The school buses are first class. But whether Manhattan or our small corner of the world, people are people.

I’m slowly realizing that although we don’t have tour books written about our new hometown & that most Saturday’s I’m scratching my head (or pulling my hair out) trying to entertain my kids, this is home. This is life for us, dust bunnies & tumbleweeds & painted sunsets. I will have to put on my big-girl pants and accept invitations to coffee dates even when I’d rather stay home in my pajamas. We will have to walk the fine line of establishing family boundaries to stay within & purposely swerve outside our paint lines to meet new people. We will have to let our kids stay up past their bedtime, feed them Mac & Cheese for the third time in one month (it’s a real treat around here), & let them wear grass-stained pants to bed because time with community is more important than a ridged bedtime schedule. I will have to say YES more often than it feels comfortable. Not only in this next year or two while we settle, but forever. Yes to new friends. Yes to scary life changes. Yes to new experiences. Yes to my husband when I’d rather spend my time locked in a closet with only myself as company. Yes to my kids when I don’t feel like the energy is there. Yes to LIFE.

Guard your spare moments. They are live uncut diamonds. Discard them & their value will never be known. Improve them & they will become the brightest gems in a useful life. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

New home. New town. New jobs. We are surrounded by uncut diamonds. And it doesn’t seem to be the how I spend the moments that matters, but how I treat the moments that I remember.

Entertainment is a funny word. I’m not even sure why slapped that title on this category. The truth is that we, in this illustrious modernized iphone-ized world have “entertainment” in the common sense of the word, at our fingertips all the time. We don’t line up at the theater dressed in Sunday-best to see new hits. We (in our family) don’t often turn over large portions of our budget to local concerts or venues. Maybe it is because we feel entertained enough by what we surround ourselves with.

But am I treating those moments with reverence? Am I making memories from them? What am I telling myself when I spend an hour pre-REM scrolling my Instagram feed?  Am I feeding my eyes or feeding my soul? And maybe most important of all, am I spending my soul well?

For as much as my brain needs a shut-off switch at night, my soul needs an equally desperate fire.

The average human gets around twenty five thousand days on this Earth, and most of us in the USA will get a few more. That’s it. This life is a breath. Heaven is coming fast, and we live in the thin space where fairht and obedience have relevance. We have this one life to offer; there is no second chance, no Plan B for the good news. We get one shot at living to expand the Kingdom, fighting for fustice. We’ll stand before Jesus once, and none of our luxuries will accompany us. We’ll have one moment to say, “This is how I lived”. (Jen Hatmaker, “7”)

(Real life update: I've totally failed in this department. Alone is my comfort zone & safety net. And although I've made satisfying progress at home in spending my moments well (most days--I'm still a real person), I am still idling in the service & love & outreach & friendship categories. The good news is that we are only halfway through the year. I know myself too well.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Goals 2016: Travel

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Our 3 year old refused the Captain Wings. He’d been on a plane before. It was no big thing to him. Both he & his sister sat satisfactorily, munching on the strategically packed snacks that would both keep them occupied & help relive the pressure in their ears from take-off. They traveled beautifully, aside from the brief meltdown over a dropped toy or a dead battery. (Also, thank God for iPad’s).

I was a lucky enough to get my Captain’s Wings when I was little. And I got them over & over & over again. My family traveled. A LOT. Belgium. Mexico. England. Paris. Victoria. New York. Alaska. Minnesota. San Francisco. Austin. Maui. I knew I was lucky; my grades held up despite my missing school & my parents viewed my absences for travel as the school of Cultural Reality (we also had an awesomely supportive School District). I think they were right on so many levels. So far I’ve had a new passport for every decade of life.

But what we didn’t do enough of was exploration. We chose to travel far instead of getting to know our own home. We live in Washington State—climate & topography are possibly more variable here than any other state. We even have a rainforest. But for all the miles I’ve banked on the plane or train or car, I haven’t banked nearly enough at the campsite or the National Park or the Bed & Breakfast.

Our kids, right now, don’t know the difference. The elephant at the zoo is just as exciting as an elephant on an African safari. The new friend made at the park two blocks away is equally awesome as the nontraditional nature schooled kid in Maine. Captain Wings are no different than a sticker from the dentist office.

Their cultural inquiries are at an all-time high & the concern about their differences are at a life-time low.

I want them to learn. I want them to know that we are privileged, not because God reached down & blessed their little lives with a fairy wand, but because we happen to work hard & live with a certain zip code at a specific latitude. I want them to realize that the fact that they can recognize letters & sign a few words is more than half the population in this world. And I want them to know, we want them to know, that they are fiercely loved by a God who has bigger, dirtier, bolder plans for them than airbrushed family photos & Pinterest-worthy homes with picket-fences.

And more than telling them about the privilege of their latitude & warm bath at night, we want to show them. We want to show them the National Parks to incite an excitement for soil microbes & sunsets. We want them to see the Wonders of the World so they’ll know, without a doubt, that the Nightly News cannot tell stories big enough to deny this wonder-full world. We want them to feel the tears of the mom who cannot feed her baby (& guide them in supporting her), the splinters in the broken floor boards of the orphanage, & the pulse of a beating heart that  holds so much different & yet so much of the same. We want them to travel because the World exists, an oyster whose beauty is waiting to be seen.

Even if they don’t want the Captain’s Wings.

·      As much as our budget allows, show our kids the World. Because it exists to be seen. And cultures exists to learn from. And to be raised in a bubble of the Nightly News about Brangelina & Kanye, with streak free windows & proverbial heated tile floors is to miss out on the humanity that Jesus came to save.
·      Travel near. Travel far. To the firestation, the salmon hatchery; to San Francisco & San Paulo. This won’t happen in 2016. But foster the curiosity, the culture, the ceaseless learning that their curious minds are waiting for.
·      Learn. Be open to culture, to new. Be respectful of culture, of old.
·      Respect our internal rhythm, our personal preferences; if we find that our kids love their own beds or our zero-based budget doesn’t allow for travel, swallow it & take a trip through books instead.
·      Realize that travel doesn’t always mean away—in all its forms there are so many facets we fail to explore: travel through time with history, through creation with trips to the Pet Store or the River shore, through exploration at the Children’s Museum or Farmers Market. Realize that for as much as travel is a physical act, it should also be one that sparks an intellectual one: learning.

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