Saturday, June 6, 2020

Four reasons I didn't say Black Lives Matter & the one reason I do now

A friend of mine posed an honest question on Facebook. For those who are stuck on "All Lives Matter," why are you still there?

I thought giving an honest answer might help others understand how to get the message across as well. Then, when I went back to paste my answer in, the question was gone. So I decided to turn it into a blog post. 

I, of course, believe Black Lives Matter. Always have. I love people, all people.

However, I only started saying it that way very recently... within the last week or two. It was hard to switch from saying ALL to BLACK... Here's why.

First of all, I felt pressured into the change. I was told I was a racist for not saying it. And because I know I'm not, I wasn't going to be shamed into changing. 

Many people who are passionate about this issue are also hateful to those who don't understand. So hateful, we fear asking questions because we know the answers we will get and labels that will be put on us. For many of us, our first response is to cling tighter to what we believe and ignore those who hurt us.

Second, change and growth often mean admitting you were wrong before. Admitting you might have been wrong is a hard thing for us humans, but so are change and growth... and we know those are desirable. Still, because of the other reasons mentioned here, there was no way I was saying they were right and I was wrong.   

Third, it seemed like it was tied to a political party. I felt saying it meant turning my back on my other political beliefs. I was afraid I was accepting an agenda I knew nothing about and didn't understand from a political party that makes no sense to me.
I wasn't giving up a part of myself that was important to me (the rest of my political beliefs) for a phrase I didn't understand.

Which is the fourth reason... I really didn't understand. All lives matter feels like the most agenda-less of the two phrases. It felt like a phrase nobody could disagree with in a society where everyone fights about everything all the time. "All lives matter" feels safe.

But this last couple weeks everyone has been angry with each other, fighting over every word and action and definition. Quick to accuse and delete and I realized the first thing I needed to do was try to understand.

Asking questions was awful. I don't know why people are so mean to someone who WANTS to understand them. Instead, many would rather make me feel bad for not understanding them already. So I saved questions for when I really needed to hear other people's thoughts. The rest of the time I researched on my own. 

When I first read the burning house analogy, it sort of made sense to me.
I was thinking about that one a little bit. 

But then I saw this post on Facebook about Jesus leaving the 99 to go after the 1. 


That's what made it clear. I was able to see it & understand then. And because nobody was yelling at me or looking down their nose being condescending to me, I also was able to realize it wasn't political tied to an agenda. It's about people who are hurting, asking us to acknowledge their value.

How many times in my life, have I sat at the feet of  Jesus, broken, and said, "Tell me You love me, Lord." Imagine if the message He sent back, however He sent it, came across as, "I love all my children." 

While true, that answer would have crushed me... because I didn't need reassurance about all God's children in that moment. I needed to know that I was loved. Looking back, I've come to realize that God has NEVER ONE TIME let me leave one of those moments without knowing I was loved. 

People stuck on the word "all" need realize this is not about politics or agendas or bowing to pressure. It's not about whether you have been right or wrong.
This is about a group of people crying out in pain saying, "Please tell me I matter to you."
When that happens, we have to put aside our own fear, politics, agendas, and feelings, and tell them, "Yes, you matter to me. Of course you matter to me. I hear your pain and I want you to know, your life matters to me." 

And that's the one reason I say, Black Lives Matter.
 

#BlackLivesMatter



Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Delete me if

Our country is a sad, scary place right now. I could write for hours about all the terrible things happening. But there is something people aren't talking about, and it hurts my heart to see it over and over again in a time when we all need to be coming together. 

You've seen the posts. Maybe you've written the posts...
"Delete me if..." 
"If you believe XYZ, delete me." 
"If you don't agree with XZY, delete yourself... I don't have time for you." 


Time and again I've seen it posted this last several days, and it's heartbreaking.

Does deleting them say more about you or them?
Many people feel they are saying, "This belief is so important, I will sacrifice friends for it." and "Your beliefs aren't worth hearing because they are ridiculous."  But these people forget it's a two way street. You are also saying, "I don't believe I can make a difference in your life."

And maybe you won't. But shouldn't you try, even if trying is just you living your life true to you and they see it and make changes that you never see?

Another problem with this... You are helping propagate selection & confirmation bias for both you and the person you want to delete. Everybody believes something that is based almost entirely on the fact that everyone they know believes the same thing. Or, these days, because they read it on Facebook in one of their heavily biased groups. You might be the only voice of reason some of your friends see on a given topic. 

I've done it myself. I've posted about subjects I thought I knew inside and out, only to learn new facts from friends who believe differently than I did. I can't imagine how much growth within myself would have been stunted if I only surrounded myself with people who believed the same as I do, (or who never said anything if they didn't.)

If you are ever going to make a difference on a personal level, it has to be done with love. Telling someone to "Delete me if..." is the same as saying, "I don't care about you." and that isn't love. Love is patient and kind and slow to anger. 

Another thing that is often slow... change. Even once it happens the person who is changing may not let on. Growth is hard. And admitting you are growing is even harder because you have to admit that you might have been wrong before. In other words, just because you don't see growth, doesn't mean it isn't happening.

Just remember, someone's friendship or impact on your life (or your impact on theirs) is more important than a belief they hold, however strongly either of you feel about it. Imagine if I said, "Delete me if you don't believe Jesus Christ is the son of God and you make fun of people who do." I would lose a lot of amazing people from my life. 

There are some good reasons to delete or block people from your life at times. If they harass you or cause you problems, or if their beliefs are directly impacting more than your social media timelines, then by all means, quietly delete them and let it go.

You don't have to be friends with everyone, and boundaries are good. But when your boundaries are so tight that you can't even turn your head to try to see something from someone else's viewpoint or to see that there is more value to another human being than one belief they hold, then regardless of what it is you don't agree with, there is something wrong with your boundaries.

Even Jesus hung out with imperfect people who sometimes said and/or believed stupid things. He didn't cast them away. He walked in grace and gave them the opportunity to learn.

Even if you don't agree with any of this, I don't want you to delete me. 

I want you to know that I love you and value you and your opinions and beliefs, even if they are different from my own. 

Maybe that should say especially if they are different from my own. Much of the learning and growing that I have done over the years has come through friends who shared their different perspective and knowledge with me... and I wouldn't trade that for a bunch of people who agreed with everything I said, any day of the week. 


A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. 
John 13:34-35

Bless those who persecute you; bless and don't curse them.
Live in harmony with one another. 
Do not be haughty, but associate with the humble. 
Never be wise in your own sight.
~ Romans 12 (Excerpts)

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

What's happening right now...

I love to write. I especially love to write things that are uplifting and helpful to people. But nothing has come for a long time.

Last week I typed this:

It's okay not to be okay sometimes
That's what I keep hearing.
It's a sure sign a lot of us aren't okay,
   when everyone is telling everyone else
     for the sake of reminding themselves.

It was supposed to be the beginning of something encouraging. But I was struggling, feeling irrelevant and useless. I didn't have anything encouraging to say.

Over the last couple weeks those feelings could be temporarily pushed aside for the sake of a Zoom meeting, or coming up with another way to try to keep business going in the current state of things, or in those rare moments when I actually was able to help a customer. I could get past them a little at a time.

There is no doubt I'm an extrovert, a super-shy-often-awkward extrovert, but I love people none-the-less. I need people. Not having people is seriously taking a toll on me.

My God-given gift of creativity often helps me find ways to fix things. It's why I'm an entrepreneur... because thinking outside the box is what I do. 

The problem is I can't fix anything right now. I'm not even sure what is broken. I don't know whether to fight for our freedoms or tell people to stop being stupid and stay home... and I don't want to debate it because I can debate either side and win. 

Last week the announcement that school was cancelled crushed me, and the tears started. Sometimes I could get them to stop. I'd temporarily lose myself in some binge-worthy show or get involved in a project... but every time someone said school or senior or unfair or anything that made me think of how unfair this all is, they would start up again.

It didn’t take me long to realize I wasn’t just crying about what my Senior was missing out on... I am grieving the loss of all those last moments we were going to have before he leaves for college. I am grieving the uncertainty of everything that is coming.

Watching the governor speak every day at 2:30 feels a lot like watching the news reporters in the weeks after 9/11, talking about what is happening today... and knowing our lives won't ever be the same again in a million tiny ways. Someday we'll watch a TV show and something will seem weird to us and we'll say, "Oh, that was recorded before Covid-19. People used to do that back then."  the way we do now when someone meets their love at the airplane gate on an old movie we watch today.

This is a good time to remind everyone, myself included, that what we focus on grows. It's an undisputable fact... so I will continue to try to focus on the good in the hopes that those positives will outshine my fears, and forgive myself when I can't. 

I do still have hope in all of this. Hope that God will use things meant for evil and turn them into something good. I also know that in those moments when my heart is broken over a situation, He's here with me.

It's not a particularly positive post, but it is real... and some day I will want to look back and remember how I really felt. Maybe I'll share it with my grandkids... because as much as I fear change, I do know life will go on and in spite of possible fears and disappointments, there are a lot of joys left for all of us.


You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. ~ Gen 50:20

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit. ~ Psalm 34:18






Sunday, March 29, 2020

Debt Mountain Update Months 3 & 4

There's a lot happening that doesn't make sense right now. While I originally thought making the goal of getting out of debt a priority was going to be a great story about what God can do when we trust Him, it turns out, when one of the people resents being part of it, it makes the journey less fun, regardless of how amazing it is. 

Debt numbers do continue to go down... partially through regular payments, partially through jobs and opportunities that I wasn't expecting, partially through my own previous miscalculations (still waiting to find out for sure about that, actually...but it could be a decent chunk that I thought I owed the IRS that I don't.) God has definitely been in this.

For those wondering: As of the 15th of March,
we are at 67.5% of our original amount of debt! 

Our bills are paid and money goes into Mike's savings. He was given a substantial raise at work and they've put him in for a promotion. We have some work to do, but we're getting by. We are on our way to being comfortable for the first time in my life. 

His resentment doesn't sit well with me. Materially he wants for little. What he does seem to want, is justice: For me to pay for my own stupidity, my crimes, aka: my debt. On my own, without his help... meaning paying half the household bills and utilities at the same time. I already buy most of the groceries, and I feel like he's not taking into account non-monetary ways I'm contributing to the household.

Handing over money doesn't make sense to me. He too has been blessed during this journey. And because he wants for nothing materially, he basically wants me to give him several hundred a month for his savings account or to blow on things we don't need instead of putting money towards the debts that will affect our future. 

I know that we love each other very much... I believe we're trying to see eye to eye on things. So when something is so big we can't agree, I always say a simple prayer. 

"Change his heart, Lord, or change mine." By doing this, I'm asking God show us what we are supposed to do. We both know without God our marriage wouldn't survive. I do believe we are individually open to hear what God might be showing us. So I ask God to show one of us what we're doing that needs to change. 

And as I'm writing this, angry and hurt about the situation, obviously thinking about what it is going to take for God to change Mike's heart when simple logic isn't going to do it...  I'm also listening to the Sunday service online. This is what I heard: 


(Sorry about the quality. Streaming to screen-recording is even worse than normal.)

It didn't take much to get the message, even though it required a complete 180 degree turn around for me. Because by asking God to change Mike's heart or change mine, what I'm doing is giving up my own will, knowing that I might not be "right." I was giving God an opening to show me something I wasn't seeing before.

So, what's the message? I'm married to Mike. I'm committed to Mike. I am FOR Mike. If this is what it takes for him to know I am for him, then that's what I have to do. You know why? Because God is FOR us… and while it makes zero sense to do this on paper, I know that God is bigger than paper. 

Apparently it was my heart that needed to change. This debt journey has been about faith from the beginning, but the argument with Mike wasn't about faith. It was about logic and numbers. What he wants to do makes no sense to me, but what I want to do literally hurts his feelings, which means more to me than money.

Even taking what feels like a financial hit like this, God can do more, right? 

I have to fight the urge to be resentful about this or to let it hurt my feelings. I could make the opposite argument, that he should care more about me and our future together than money. But this doesn't really matter if I want my marriage to work. 

Regardless of what he actually does with the money, I'm doing what God told me to do... and I know that God is for me... not just me, US.  

God is for US, and He's not going to let US down. 


If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all
how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Romans 8:31-32



Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Debt Mountain Update Month 2

Still 17.6% less debt than 2 months ago, but
it doesn't quite feel like a 'win'... 
As you can imagine, this last month was a busy one. I've written several partial posts, but nothing I ended up publishing.

Between Christmas, a graduation, birthdays for 3 of the kids, two mid-week holidays followed by my entire crew calling in the following week for illness or car trouble... this was a rough month for me financially. I stuck to a pretty tight budget for all the kids and family this year, but it was still rough. No big numbers or exclamation points today... just the knowledge that this month was a failure in terms of numbers.

Month 1: Debts owed down 19.64%
Month 2: Debts owed up 2.06%
(% of original amount of debt)

I have been able to take a close look at this last month and learn more about our spending and how we can do this better. Or at least how I would like to do this better.

Part of the problem is that I said I wanted to do this without making Mike suffer the consequences for my debt, but it turns out that if we aren't both working towards the same goal, we aren't going to be able to make any progress.

Marriage is hard and we don't see eye to eye on finances. While it was my bad choices that put me in debt, I'm now the one who cringes every time we spend a dollar that I know we don't need to spend.
Still, his lack mindset and my abundance mindset seem to clash constantly.
In in the interest of not fighting, I often pay for things I shouldn't and don't ask him to pay me back for things I should.

I've also spent way too much time taking care of the household instead of my businesses. It makes him happy to come home to a clean house and to have meals cooked a few nights a week and to be able to play his trumpet with whatever band calls him on any given night. I like making him happy, but I've got to work on the businesses more.

I knew this would be a process when I started it. I knew there would be ups and downs. If I get my taxes done this week, I'll make great progress again next month. I'm having a hard time seeing how it is all going to be possible... but that has happened before and God has come through. 

Because God knew I would need a little encouragement, I found a couple things when going through paperwork last weekend. One was a copy of the $46,000 surgery bill from the time Lauren's insurance lapsed and it took 5 months to restore. It's a long story but it was a huge miracle when they decided to make it retroactive to the date it was cancelled, covering her surgery in full.

Second was a letter from the Illinois IRS telling me that they needed more proof of my income before they would send me my 2016 refund of approximately $700. I never followed through on that when I filed and when I called this week they told me that it was still good. I just have to send in some papers.

I'm looking forward to a better report next month...
and hopefully several more blog posts between now and then. There is a lot going on around here besides the quest to be debt free and I look forward to sharing that with you too.