White Fragility… Courageous Imperfection…and gratitude

The other day in a moment of incredible frustration I posted this on my Facebook page.

I’m just getting really, really sick of old white men calling all of the shots in DC! I love the old white guys in my life and respect their opinions but these guys in DC seem like monsters coming from the black lagoon!! Or a very icky swamp that was supposed to have been drained! Maybe they are the sludge at the bottom that needs cleaned out! What really pisses me off is how many women voted for them!! They can just keep sowing their patriarchy and over reaching authority because with every single thing they do they put another burr under the feminist saddle, the minority saddle, the environmentalist saddle, the Muslim saddle, the immigrant saddle and well…this angry actually LIVID horse is going to run their asses out of town at the very first chance it gets. In the mean time we are going to make this ride miserable for each and every one

Sometimes when posting it is easy forget that anyone else will read what you say because in the moment it’s simply just this great platform to express yourself…and ready for it or not…the pushback comes and  hits you square in the face. So was my experience with this post last week. I was completely surprised when a usually like-minded friend took great offense at my post. Because I singled out the whiteness of the current administration and number of elected officials as well as their age and gender, he determined that my comments were racist. I did my best to explain to him why I was not racist even so far as looking up the definition of the word and sharing that with him. I tried angle after angle to elaborate on why a concentration of old, white males in DC is bothersome to me and that saying so does not indicate that I am racist. He would have none of it. He even went so far to say this…

“Have you ever heard the axiom that the word but is an eraser? It erases everything in front of it.” 
OUCH.
One of the great passions of my life has been racial equality so I took this pushback very seriously. I grew up in a low income and diverse community in the 60’s.  My classmates were white, brown, black and various shades in-between. As my father’s earning potential increased it was as if bleach had been added to the neighborhoods I moved into. It was especially so  when my family arrived in Northeast Nebraska in 1973.  Racism wasn’t a community issue then because there really were few people there of any other skin color.
I became a born again Christian while living there and whiteness became even more exclusive to me. It was even explained to me that in the Bible God had cursed the descendants of Ham and darkened their skin as an answer to why we had black people on the earth. The implication that followed was that Christians are white because God prefers whiteness. Pictures of Jesus were white. It was also a prevailing thought that America was blessed because it was full of God’s chosen white people. Simultaneously, however, we were commanded to share this gospel with every tribe, tongue and nation which would bring us into constant contact with those of other skin colors.
Thankfully it was the emphasis on converting others to the faith that drew me into multiple relationships with nonwhite people and almost continually provided me with an education of my own, but denied white privilege. I began to notice though none of us intended this to be the case, there was an incredible ethnocentricity and American superiority that existed within us. Others noticed too and we often challenged it within ourselves and one another. It was clear that the one key element to challenging our intrinsic ethnocentric worldview was the need to take our level of concern beyond nondiscrimination and become students of how being white very literally made our lives so different from conception to the grave.
Our race’s preference for whiteness may seem like an illusion to most of us in 2017 but the reality is that this preference it is so deeply embedded in our very being that nothing but intense effort and deep personal reflection will allow it to be acknowledged. When our purposed intention to treat others without reference to race, gender or age is confronted with this, it can be extremely painful. I came to a partial understanding of my own white privilege in the world when I realized that one of the reasons my family was able to break out of poverty had to do with my father’s ability to locate investors for his business. My dad had incredible boldness and at one point approached his boss for a loan. As I thought about it through the lens of whiteness, I realized that had he been black, my father very likely wouldn’t have been in a relationship with his white boss to the degree that he would have felt comfortable even asking for a loan, let alone being given one. That one loan made all the difference for my family. That one loan continues to impact my brother and I as well as his grandchildren.
Whiteness and the color of my father’s skin has everything to do with the quality of my life in the present moment and is something I constantly wrestle with. As I wrestle, one thing has become crystal clear to me. Racial injustice will not end by white people being nice to those with a skin color different from our own. It will not end by affirmative action or anti discrimination laws. Though necessary, those laws are barely the tip of the iceberg. Nothing will end until we as white people are the ones most critical of our own race. We must call out concentrations of white preference and the Trump administration is glaringly reflective of that. By calling it out, what I’m calling attention to is that the president, as well as way too many of the American people have chosen a high concentration of older white men because they genuinely want a country led by older, white men. This does not translate to saying that older white men are bad. What it does translate into is that when the concentration of any age group, race or gender is in control, the reality is that the work will reflect a very narrow worldview. In this case, I am very, very tired of being led by the older, white male worldview. It is time for that worldview – way past time for that worldview, to be called on the carpet and transformed into something else.
Until white men seriously challenge this worldview, there will be no comprehension of why blacks form organizations like Black Lives Matter. Until men in general seriously challenge their male privilege there will be no understanding why women want equal pay for equal work. Until men understand that women are not primarily for sex or domestic slavery there will be no deeper understanding that they are highly intelligent in and of themselves. Until the aged among us understand that the voices of those younger than ourselves are significant and belong at our side, there will be great loss the future of our species.
One cannot attempt to eradicate racism or injustice of any kind until one has the courage to confront his/her own kind. Yes, we are vulnerable to taking it too far but that is a vulnerability I am committed to embracing each time I speak about it. A very important read for all of us would be a post from OnBeing’s columnist Courtney E. Martin called Transforming White Fragility Into Courageous Imperfection. I don’t know any white person who has gone after her own whiteness like she has. Her column gave me grace to continue to pursue equality and justice for all in the midst of my own white fragility. I simply cannot be an advocate for others if I cannot have the ability to call out my own people so I will continue to embrace the idea that though imperfect, I am courageous. And, Courtney, if you are reading this, my deepest bows of gratitude to you and your work.

Listening…or not

Thursday morning (2/2/17) on CBS News this morning, Frank Luntz said that he thinks that our country is unraveling, that it’s 1968 all over again.

“Nobody’s listening right now and if you can’t listen, you can’t learn and you can’t lead”  Frank Luntz

The words above spoken in conclusion of Mr. Luntz’s interview, were much more important to me than his assessment that the country is unraveling. Listening…learning and leadership should go hand in hand with each other but the choice to follow also comes as a result of listening. As a teacher I knew that if my students weren’t listening, nothing constructive was going to take place.  In the early days when I was student teaching I remember being so intimidated by a group of 25 fifth graders that I didn’t really connect with them and as a result, they had a hard time listening to me and I had a horrible time getting them to follow my lead. The consequences were embarrassing because my class truly did unravel and no one learned a thing that day. Eventually, I learned the skill of fully engaging with my students and became a more effective teacher.

One of the important skills I learned early in my career and one that continues to guide me in relationships comes from the author Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.   The Fifth Habit, quoted below, is especially meaningful to me right now in the midst of this crazy political climate we find ourselves in.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  Habit 5

This habit has served me very well for about 30 years but in all of that time it has never been as difficult for me to put it into practice as it was during this last election cycle and continues to be now that Donald Trump has been elected president .

As an advocate for multiple causes, what I want more than anything else is to help people understand whatever it is I’m advocating for. I want to create space for a need to be recognized to the point that others are  motivated to  change things.  In other words I want to be understood in order to make the world a better place. Close to home, I genuinely want my very conservative family members on both sides of our family to understand the journey Dean and I have been on and why it took away from the political paradigms we grew up with. I want them to understand that our life isn’t meant to be a criticism of them personally or of the way we were raised. We naively thought our lessons learned would be an opportunity for growth for them like it was for us. Issues concerning mental illness, eating disorders, the battle with insurance companies, our frustrations with doctors and hospitals and all of the friendly fire from church leaders and family when we sought to get our daughter the help she desperately needed.

I also want our families to understand my passion for youth and especially to understand the realities of kids with emotional and behavior disorders. I want them to understand that at the heart of me I am always going to want to make others happy, help to make their loads lighter etc. all with the hope that doing so will empower them to live a better life.  I want our friends and families to understand and believe that our work over the years, though it was not always as lucrative as theirs, was beautiful work and something we both gave our all to do. AND yet…after years of seeking to be understood, I have yet to discover how to communicate in any way that will allow me to know that we are in fact understood. It’s been so frustrating that I’ve just quit trying. In fact it’s had a devastating toll on multiple relationships because the quest to be understood and my inability to communicate effectively at a subsurface level hasn’t materialized yet.

And yet, when I look up I see out on the horizon a reminder of a time in the middle of the storm when words came to me that helped ME understand why this may be so. I wrote about it here. The gist of the experience is that you can have all the insight in the world or the very thing that someone needs to be healed BUT unless they are open to receiving it, it’s better not to waste your breath. At the time I was a very committed Evangelical wrestling with how to accept the healing advice being given to us from the treatment centers because some of it didn’t jive with my worldview. Trust me when I say that nothing tests one’s preconceived ideas about life and how to live it like being on the edge of death and we pretty much lived there for a number of years. As decision after decision is questioned, you find yourself struggling to justify your choice to who genuinely care for you and who you also care most about. In our situation it was as if my entire world was suddenly thrown into a seeking to be understood mode because the pressure was so great.

The problem is…this burrowing into my own understood world and caring primarily about seeking to be understood constantly backfires. I thought it was the compassionate and honorable thing to communicate our experiences through letters, phone calls and in person. In the midst of it I also discovered that when multiple traumas hit you, everything in your life is processed at a very intense level and  your felt need to be understood becomes even greater.  The pill in the ointment is that because these are the ones in your primary support system, those with whom you enjoy mutual trust, you expect that they will gain insight WITH you and that may or may not occur.

In 2003 our daughter’s doctors were telling us we had to get her into treatment or she would die but because it was an eating disorder our health insurance wouldn’t pay for it. Add to that and we were told that mental illnesses are generally not covered by insurance. She was also diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder/Severe in addition to the eating disorder.  Her physical health was severely compromised but the goal of the insurers was to rehydrate her and send her home. We love our daughter to the moon and back so we begged, borrowed and cashed in retirement accounts to get her where she needed to go.

An example of just how hard it is to be understood in the midst of this experience while Dean and I were working full-time,  some thoughtful conservative relatives knowing of our financial situation offered to help me by offering me a job.  They were dismayed that I didn’t take them up on the offer. I sought to be understood by sharing with them why I couldn’t consider it. Our  family was in crisis, our daughter was 2.5 hours away during her inpatient hospital stay and then 16 hours away in residential treatment, we had appointments to keep for family therapy and all the while were trying to hold down full time jobs and continue to live our lives. The $500 a month extra income was a drop in the bucket in light of the surreal nature of our situation. I thanked them and thought that would be it.

Unfortunately, with this person’s ultra conservative capitalist worldview in play, the free gifts that others graciously gave us to help with the very expensive life-saving treatment, were seen as inappropriate. Though never spoken, in multiple ways we got the message that we weren’t living the right way. In order to understand why this was we both reminded ourselves that this relative sincerely believes that NOTHING should EVER be a free gift unless it’s at an appropriate time like Christmas or a birthday.  We’ve let them be content with their world view and done our best to accept THEM in the midst of it. Though never directly spoken to us personally,  we clearly got the message that we were wrong in our understanding. The pushback was constant and increased until it was impossible to even continue in relationship with this family.  It has been a brutal pill to swallow.

In this hard right culture, when you can’t pull off the extra work offered so as to make your own way in the world, it is expected that you will simply suffer the consequences. Everything changes when death is on the line and if it doesn’t the loved one simply dies. That wasn’t going to happen on our watch if we could help it and unfortunately this is what it took for us to open ourselves up to others and seek to understand what they were trying to say to us. We’ve been through so many forms of reproof from those we love that I personally find it absolutely unbelievable. Real honestly, I have reached a point where I don’t even want to listen to understand anyone with such certainty about what is right or wrong. In such a black/white, all/nothing world view it is utterly useless and because it was once my own worldview, it’s not an easy task to continually deal with something you want to be rid of day in and day out.

I’ve written before about our journey away from our faith and our political party so if that interests you, please look through my other posts for that. Right now my resistance to the conservatives in my life isn’t there simply to resist though that is a very real issue for me with this president, is it also not my intent to disrespect anyone else’s view of the world.  I know that I am where I am as the result of listening to the reality of my life!

Maybe, the place where a revival of listening needs to talk place is first and foremost in our own lives. Maybe we each need to take more time to get quiet, to self-reflect on our own rigid thinking, our own judgment and our strong egocentric way of living our lives. The right and the left each could learn a lot from each other if we could discharge our insistence upon absolutes and certainty. I really think that only then will we stop being so polarized and find some common human ground to walk on together.

I know it’s really hard right now with the level of intensity created by Donald Trump’s impulsive, reactive temperament to not want to stay on Facebook, Twitter etc. and I’ve deactivated and reactivated my account multiple times as a result. I think I’ve realized that it simply isn’t the place where we are going to learn to listen to our own selves enough to challenge our own worldview and we certainly aren’t interested in understanding someone else’s very much there either.

I feel like I’m rambling in this post and I’m not sure if it’s making any sense to anyone but me. I know that Frank Luntz’s observation is correct in that we don’t listen, really listen to each other anymore and this is just my account of why that is so very hard to do.

Good night and good luck!

Mockery and Evil – Two sides of the same coin.

Evil, real evil, isn’t easy to understand especially in a day and age where moral lines are continually being redrawn. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on the subject but there are a couple of authors who do and I think what they have to say could prove helpful to some of us trying to wrap our heads around some things that are taking place in our country at the beginning of 2017.

Many people, astonishingly, Christian people, do not seem to understand that when someone is mocked it means that the person has been treated with ridicule or contempt by another person who is out to hurt them. To this very day, Donald Trump claims that he did not mock the disabled reporter even though his actions recorded for all to see prove that he did. What many of us are struggling to comprehend is the silence from his own supporters in holding him accountable for his behavior. These very same supporters who are the same ones up in arms about Meryl Streep’s comments at the Golden Globes. She’s accused of “attacking Donald Trump” during her speech but the word attack by definition doesn’t even remotely describe what she said.

There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.

And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

I seen no intent to harm Donald Trump’s person or even his presidency. What I see is a woman sharing her own emotional response, similar to what many of us had, with her audience. She also spoke out as an advocate for the disabled man. I honestly would have expected the outcry about Trump’s behavior toward this man to have come from pulpits around the country ahead of any actors in Hollywood because in Matthew 25:-39-40 we read:

“When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

It’s not rocket science to think that a disabled person would be among “the least of these” in this modern day.

But there was no outcry from Conservative Republican Christian pastors or their followers on my Facebook page. In fact there was quite the opposite. I continue to respond with dismay at the Tweet storm that this man engages in and how much mockery continues to be a part of his modus operandi. It seems that he lives and breathes to mock others and shame them into oblivion all in the context of, “Making America Great Again”. And day after day after day, Christians are rising up in his defense.  The problem with being a Christ follower in 2017 is that we have forgotten what real evil actually is.

According to Drs. Allender and Longman evil is particularly found in the behavior of a mocker.

THE MOCKER: DEALING WITH EVIL There are people in this world who seem to live and breathe evil. In every generation, masters of evil (Hitler, Stalin, Amin, Pol Pot) seem to serve as caricatures of the demonic. There are others, less known, who are involved in ritualistic abuse-the sadistic physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of children. Few would dispute, even without definition, the accuracy of calling ing these people evil. Indeed, they are evil. There are many people, however, who do not perpetrate societal or individual barbarity to this demonic extent but who are more than simply arrogant, hard, and hurtful. All of us are capable of doing evil things, but evil people are driven by a self-interest that is so heartless, conscious, and cruel that it delights in stealing from others the lifeblood of their soul.

Dan B. Allender;Tremper Longman III. Bold Love (Spiritual Formation Study Guides) (Kindle Locations 2671-2676). Kindle Edition.

Evil Is Cold – Evil is (for the most part) unfeeling. It lacks sorrow when someone one suffers and joy when there is happiness. But an evil person is more than emotionally detached; he simply will not allow himself to enter the heart of his victim as a person. The victim is an object – an entity to be controlled or destroyed – and not a living, breathing being who feels hurt, fear, sorrow, and shame. In that regard, evil sees the other as nothing more than a service to itself. Most of us will use a paper cup and, when finished, discard it without feeling or concern. As long as the cup is useful, it is used, but when its use is finished, there is no reason to keep it or honor it as valuable. Similarly, an evil person feels nothing toward those who are used to satisfy his craving for unlimited power and control.

Dan B. Allender;Tremper Longman III. Bold Love (Spiritual Formation Study Guides) (Kindle Locations 2695-2696). Kindle Edition.

Though this is just one aspect of the evil I sense being unleashed in our country, it is extremely dangerous when perpetrated by anyone with this much power. I don’t think his Evangelical Christian Vice President has a clue as to the assault he is in for this next four years. Interestingly Paul Ryan knew this aspect of Trump almost at “hello” but now that he too has been given great power as a result of the Trump victory, he rarely, if ever calls the man out on this or other aspects of his bizarre behavior. It seems that now that he won, the whole of the GOP is intoxicated with absolute power and doesn’t really care anymore how they got there.

 

 

Thank You, Minnesota

As we prepare to head out today and return to Logan, Utah, where we feel most at home in the world, many things have come to mind that have greatly enriched our lives. Thought I’d just bullet some of them as I depart.

  • Great neighbors – this would take an entire blog to adequately do justice to. You all know who you are and you will be missed! A special shout out to the beautiful kids and young adults who wormed their way into our hearts at “hello”.  The future is bright with you in the world.
  • Scout and Morgan Bookstore!! – Judith Kissner, your store was a refuge on those LONG days each winter.  I loved every visit – Kirby, Elsa and Baxter loved your welcomes too! Amazing author events and very special Christmas Eve treats!
  • City Center Market – This is a whole foods coop that is a grocery store, deli and coffee shop next to the bookstore. I will really miss this place.
  • Common Ground United Methodist Church – A place of progressive Christians committed to social justice where everyone counts and is welcome…and they really mean EVERYONE. Beautiful people and we’re very thankful for what we’ve learned with them.
  • The Andover YMCA – this is a great facility connected to the Andover Community Center. Swimming in the pool regularly has allowed me to get stronger and enjoy my life again.
  • The Twin Cities… the hometown of…OnBeing studios, Garrison Keilor, The Links, The Vikings, The Twins, The Wild and The Timberwolves…author events where I was privileged to experience Terry Tempest and Brooke Williams, the poet Paul Muldoon, Courtney Martin and Cheryl Strayed…the Mall of America, a great place to walk around in the winter and to eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp…The Swedish Institute…The Walker Art Museum…Brits Pub…Keys Cafes…Minneapolis Institute of Art…The Science Museum and the Fitzgerald Theater…Minnehaha Falls…Stillwater…Nicolette Island…sure I missed something. Suffice it to say, this place is amazing!
  • Duluth…we LOVE Duluth. Canal Park and its multiple ships coming into the harbor. The magical night we spent at the Bentleyville Christmas display and watched a ship come with almost no one around (a very rare thing at Canal Park) with fresh fallen snow and it being so quiet we could hear the ship cut through the water. The huge rocks, the big waves and The Scenic Cafe on the North Shore where we enjoyed lots of the most yummy chef prepared food we’ve ever eaten! We do love Duluth.
  • Leech Lake – our off season trip where the staff gave us a suite that faced the water for the price of our individual room reservation. We woke up to the sun coming up over the water and walked the beach alone for a long time. We finally GET going Up Nort!! Those lakes are intoxicating!
  • The Woods…though I can’t handle the dark of the woods 24/7, they were often the most amazing places to be. Black-capped chickadees, cardinals, blue jays, orioles, pileated woodpeckers, finches, bluebirds and the list of birds goes on! White birch trees – year around solace for any nature lover!

So, you can see we have loved life in Minnesota. So why move, Seasonal Affective Disorder. I cannot believe the impact of life on the 45th parallel and the cumulative affect the seasonal depression has had on my overall health and wellbeing. This fall when it hit with hard again, I knew that if I was going to live much longer, I would need to get to a place with a lot more sunshine on a daily basis – or where I can go up to a mountain and soak some up if I need to.

Thank you, Minnesota, even thought I need to go, it’s been brutiful living here among you…beautiful and brutal (Glennon Doyle Melton)

 

2008 Election Changed It All

In 2008 when Barak Obama was elected president, I was so frustrated. Not because he was a black, Democrat at all, but by the dialog I had witnessed throughout the election cycle from my own Republican party. Having dealt spent years dealing with a very unethical insurance company, healthcare reform was HUGE for me. I really wanted the Republicans to take up the fight because I wanted that perspective deeply in the mix when anything was to be done about it. I’d written to multiple Republicans with zero movement or even a decent response in return. The Nebraska senator I wrote to was much more concerned about overturning Nebraska’s helmet law that year than anything else. The ONLY ones validating my story and the need for reform were the liberal (demon) Democrats so I began to go where I could be heard.

I met very interesting and amazing people who were not at all the abortion on demand like a fast food restaurant kind of people, or eager to turn all of our children gay kind of people. For the most part they were just like me. They leaned left because their natural tendencies leaned left. Many of these new friends were as servant oriented and culture sensitive as anyone in my church. I learned so much from them while thinking I was maintaining my Conservative Republican status. The 2008 election changed it all for me.

What I realized that election cycle was that a very important piece of our democracy had been lost to all of us. As a Republican, with issues other than those in the party platform, I was given no voice.  My real life experiences meant absolutely nothing to those I’d elected to represent me in government.That realization led to an even more astonishing one and that was that the Republican Party had been so strongly influenced by the Evangelical Christian worldview that many of its members believed God was white, American and Evangelical and that this was the one and only worldview that would be acceptable in our country. These sincere people simply don’t realize that they have made God into THEIR OWN IMAGE and it reflects something very different from the image of the God one finds in the Old or New Testaments of the Bible.

Check out this list of the names of God found in the Bible. 

God is these things if you believe in a Christian God. God is not a Republican

The beauty of America is that here we are free to be whatever political persuasion we want to be. We are free to be whatever religion we want to be. I am free to be a Christian and a Liberal or a Conservative and  remain in complete connection with God Almighty. And though I do believe there is an all knowing God at the end of the day, it may all be nothing but my imagination. Belief is at its core faith in the unseen and we cannot make anyone have it let alone require it of government officials. When we do that, we get what has happened in this current situation. I say that because…God and Jesus aren’t running for President, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are. They are Americans. We as a nation chose them to run against each other. Consider this.

Jesus wasn’t an American winner.

Jesus wasn’t a capitalist.

Jesus wasn’t a communist.

Jesus wasn’t a socialist.

Jesus certain was NOT a dictator.

Jesus was a servant. He wasn’t head of a government. If the governments rest on his shoulders as the Bible says they do, then he gets to bear the burden of them all the world over. As well as the humans carrying them out and I wouldn’t want to be him for anything.

I think that the only way politics and faith can work together is if we take our faith seriously and allow that faith to lead us in voting for the best person to run the government…not our faith. Anyone who is elected needs to be able to support ALL Americans and allow them the freedom to believe. We are not America if we are only Christian.

 

 

Why Hillary?

As a teacher in an Evangelical Christian school, one of the beautiful things I got to teach my students was American History. The text I used was organized in chapters focused on early American heroes. There were few women in the mix but one of them stood out to me in a way I had never really appreciated before, Clara Barton. Clara was a nurse during the civil war who challenged male authority by going out into the battlefield to take care of soldiers rather than wait for them in the hospital as she had been instructed to do. For Clara the restriction of staying behind when her immediate interventions could save lives out in the middle of it all was ludicrous.  However, the only way she could be free to go was if a man gave her his permission.   Lives were literally lost because she wasn’t free to lead in the way her intellect, heart and profession demanded that she do so.

I’ve never forgotten that experience because from then on I have been a student of women’s rights, something one cannot study without discovering patterns of abuse, neglect, assault and domination at the hands of men. There are many, many Christian men who do not control their wives or do any of these things, and thankfully, I’m married to one. Our idea of a Christian marriage is one where both of us respect each other, both of us love each other and most of all both of us submit to one another as we go through our lives. Dean has never ever pulled rank in our relationship. Thirty three years and counting and though we’ve had lots of battles between us, I simply do not have one memory of such an event.

While keeping my observational mind engaged, I began to observe a interesting dynamic among many Christian women who claimed to believe in the literal mandate to submit to their husbands and male authority in the church. Sincere, devout women with leadership skills, creative minds, and incredible intelligence had developed cunning powers of manipulation and control behind the scenes. One primary way to win over a husbands gift of permission was to offer him the most highly sensual experiences one could muster in the privacy of the bedroom. As women, we all knew that our power rested in pleasing a man’s sexual appetite. We all knew that if we were good enough in the sack, exclusive enough in our looks so as to  please him, he would be willing to do whatever it was that we wanted. We just never said that out loud.

Much of the talk validating this reality took place between women over a cup of coffee or in a Christian counseling session. During one such session where Dean and I were seeking to better our marriage, the (male Christian elder) counselor from our church quoted a scripture telling me that my body actually belonged to Dean and if I could recognize that our marriage issues would be resolved. What this man didn’t know about me was that at 5 I was forced into a shed and molested by a 14 year old male in my “safe” neighborhood. He also didn’t know that an uncle had repeatedly sexually abused me.  I can tell you that it was incredibly devastating to hear the words that my body didn’t belong to me simply because I was married. It was even more disgusting to me that sex was brought up at all because our marriage had multiple facets to its beauty that needed to be addressed. Communication and values for one. Thankfully, both Dean and I were disgusted with that counsel and never went back. He has no desire to own my body.

In 2004 my daughter entered residential treatment for a life-threatening eating disorder. As our family entered counseling we discovered some very painful truth about our daughter’s reality. She was dealing with a very altered brain from a very traumatic birth and medical trauma. That in itself would be enough to devastate us but beyond that we learned that having taught her to obey authority without question, she had no way of communicating her pain to us. No way of communicating her confusion, her intense depression and anxiety over simple daily life experiences. The only way she found relief from the intense emotion was to binge and purge. When one binges chemicals are released in the brain that soothe us. When we throw up the very same chemicals are released. It is in this way that the eating disorder begins to take hold and control ones life. It is as  powerful as drug addiction.

As time went on I began to see learn about countless women dealing with bulimia. In numbers that would astonish anyone, I heard story after story after story of women who  had their bodies stolen from them as a child by an older, stronger male. Women who were bright, intelligent and strong, who were completely afraid of their own selves or unaware of their own selves apart from the thoughts and opinions of others. Not every person with an eating disorder has this as part of their story, but there are WAY too many who do.

Our experiences with H’s recovery brought us to a time when we found ourselves in Washington, D.C. in a room with a very conscientious senator who had altered her schedule to attend a briefing on eating disorders and their impact on our society. That senator was Hillary Rodham Clinton. Dean and I were still devout Republicans at the time and just the mention of her name made us shudder. We felt free to actually give her a hearing because none of our family members or friends from home were anywhere near us and this issue consumed us. Trust me, when someone you love has an eating disorder as severe as our daughter did, you have to rethink everything so for us being in the same room with Hillary made her just one more thing to reconsider.

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Over the last decade I have become a student of this woman. Of course she is a politician and yet she is a woman in a world dominated by men. She’s been called everything imaginable by men – Dr. Dobson the founder of Focus on the Family made a statement recently saying that American has become too feminized and as a result she has to be stopped. What on earth could be so wrong with a country becoming more “feminized” unless one believes that the feminine is less than, evil etc.? So as a result of this, he has even endorsed Donald Trump who represents nothing good about morals or integrity but who has done what they wanted and “accepted Jesus” something that was of course seen as sincere regardless of his own quest for power and for the Evangelical vote.

Hillary is seen as a baby-killer without a heart because that is what Evangelical’s want her to be seen as. In reality she would like to make abortions rare but as women choose to end an unwanted pregnancy – say after a man like Donald Trump as raped them, she also wants them to have a safe procedure. I would never want to abort a baby for any reason but having never been raped and become pregnant, I have to understand that the choice is much more complicated than I would like to admit it to be for lots of women.  The real craziness is that Trump IS a pro-choice Republican! He has said that the abortion laws should remain the same! When it comes to the whole of life, Hillary is much more interested in it that he is by a long shot!

I am voting for Hillary because it’s time that patriarchy in American politics topples. I’m sick and tired of men armed with biblical passages determining the fate of women’s lives. I’m sick and tired of being treated differently because I have female anatomy. I respect the Bible as literature and the testimony of the authors encounters with God and how they chose to lead the church in ancient times. I don’t think God is male or female and I certainly don’t think he is anything like Donald Trump or the Evangelical leaders who have twisted their scriptures to validate their own ends.

I’m with her because she is one amazing woman in a man’s world who is standing tall after all of these years.

I’m with her because the lynch mobs in the House and Senate haven’t found a legal way to hang her.

I’m with her because there is zero hope for our country to be anything but a pawn in Trump’s hands for his own benefit. He doesn’t care about America. He cares about himself, his power, his control and that is really all. He makes it clear every time he opens his mouth.

I am with her.

 

 

Meeting new friends on a Monday…

I am so blown away how God blessed my lunch in the park today. Every Monday I have this ritual of eating a Chick-fa-la grilled chicken sandwich meal. It’s a beautiful fall day here in Minnesota and I thought it would be a good idea to grab my lunch and find a park to eat it in. I ended up at Coon Creek Park in Coon Rapids. I walked on the bridge over the creek and to the picnic tables. As I rounded the corner, I saw three Muslim women  sitting at tables under a canopy while a man cooked carp over the grill.  In what seemed automatic, I approached them and as I did, one of women said, “Do you want to sit?” Yes.I.did.

I sat down and they all smiled and said hello to me. Immediately the woman sitting across from me asked me if I would like to eat with them. Thankfully, for me, I was going to be well into my chicken sandwich long before the carp on the grill was finished cooking. With the exception of rainbow trout, I’m NOT a fish eater. Dean would certainly have taken her up on the offer. As we sat together I started asking questions and in her best broken English she tried to answer them.

Her name was Miriam, her sisters were Fatima and Zimzim. Her brother was Muhammed. They were refugees from Iraq who have been in Coon Rapids for about a year. Her heart is sad because her parents were sent to Turkey. The women do not work, I imagine that their faith doesn’t allow it but I’m not sure. Muhammed works at WalMart and another brother does as well. Somehow they manage to make life work here.

As one born with more empathy for others than is sometimes good for me, all I could think about was making sure that they knew that this American, this white 55 year old of German/English descent, valued their humanity. I wanted the forces of darkness in the world to know too. I wanted everyone who walked by to see us and recognize our shared humanness a bit more with me sitting at their table.

As I finished my lunch and got ready to go, Muhammed was eager to show me how he had cooked his fish and what parts of it they ate. He asked me what my husband did and where he worked and I tried to explain grain handling equipment to him.  He asked where I worked :).  He told me where I could go to buy fish like that if I wanted to and then he asked if I wanted to eat with them.

I started to leave  and say good bye but before I knew it, the three women were hugging me and telling me that they loved me. One even kissed my cheek as she hugged me. I know, lots of touchy feely emotion for us here in Minnesota!! I’m a hugger so it was just fine with me. As I left their presence and started to walk across the bridge and back to my car, I was in tears because I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for what had just happened.

On a Monday when the news is so awful coming from St. Cloud and around the country, I sincerely wanted to push back against the darkness in anyway I could. I had no idea that God would be so eager to honor that desire and make this meeting take place. I am a blessed woman.

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Me…Zumzum, Miriam and Fatima – new friends from Iraq

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Muhammed cooks carp over an open fire

Getting Real…the Mayo Clinic

Ah, the Mayo Clinic…this Tuesday I will return to Rochester for an evaluation. This time it will be of my left thoracic region…aka my left chest and shoulder. I have had multiple visits to the Er in the last year with symptoms no one has been able to attach to a diagnosis and after a difficult PT experience last week, I went on a mission to find someone somewhere who can accurately diagnose what’s going on.

Last August I had a day where I woke up in the morning and couldn’t stand up because I’d slept on my left side and along with my arm being numb, so was my head. As I woke up and tried to move around I began to experience chest pains. My left arm was throbbing and in pain so I got Dean to come home and take me to the ER. It was an uneventful visit and after they ruled out a heart attack, they sent me home. It was late afternoon before I felt somewhat normal but there was no diagnosis beyond, “this is probably related to your thoracotomy so continue with physical therapy and stretching”.

As the summer wore on I figured out how not to sleep on my arm, we bought a bed that elevates each side and I continued doing exercises. After several other weird episodes and visits to doctors, MRI’s and X-rays taken, there was still no resolution. Medicine is so specialized that when one discipline finishes up with you they often just let you go. I know from a lifetime of experience that we are each our own best advocate.  

After working with the GI specialist and rheumatologist at Mayo, some of my symptoms were thought to be coming from Sjogren’s Syndrome. I began to take high powered meds to suppress my immune system. If you’ll recall, taking the third of those meds put me in the hospital fighting for my life. I’ve recovered well from that nightmare and have simply continued to try to do the exercises and work I can to make things better.

Last spring I began to have a sore throat that would not go away. I was tested for strep etc. but nothing showed up  but nothing showed up. Eventually I was sent to a ear, nose and throat doctor. After looking into my throat he discovered that my left vocal chords are paralyzed. No idea if that’s where my pain is coming from but it is likely.

Simultaneously I was seeing an orthopedic doctor to rule out a rotator cuff injury as cause for the pain in my shoulder. He said my shoulder blade was in the wrong place and ordered  yet more PT. I did really well with it and found a lot of relief. I was very optimistic. On the follow up visit, the doctor said my shoulder was in much better shape but the issues of numbness in my arm, pain in my chest and changes in my heart rate have been attributed to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. He ordered more PT and last week during a PT appointment, the therapist began the process of lowering my left rib cage through intense and deep massage. I have a lot of scaring on that side and apparently the left rib is causing a lot of issues.  

The next morning I woke up with excruciating pain in my shoulder, my chest and my neck. It lasted for 3 days.  I realized then that I needed to find someone who specializes in this syndrome so that I actually have a clear diagnosis and plan for treating it.  After doing multiple Google searches, I discovered that the Mayo Clinic assesses it with their team approach, which I’m very familiar with, so I made an appointment there to get an evaluation. When I was making the appointment, the scheduler asked me if I felt symptoms in my face  in order to determine whether I would begin with neurology or cardiology first. I have brought this face pain to the attention of other doctors and it was either minimized or was thought to be coming from a disk injury in my neck. Two MRI’s on my neck proved that it wasn’t coming from that. I found it reassuring to know that this is a symptom of TOS and does have to do with cardiac issues even if the heart itself is in good shape. After that question, I know I’m heading in the right direction. 

I’m scheduled to see the cardiac thoracic specialists on Tuesday and will be back and forth until they figure out what my next steps are.  I sincerely hope there is something that can be done  because the condition continues to greatly alter my life. 

Please send your prayers or positive vibes my way next week. I’d really appreciate it.

33 years and counting….

WeddkingIn college I met this farm boy named Dean Wedekind. Farmers were everywhere in Nebraska so the odds were pretty good I’d end up with one. This one had a spirit of adventure. We were eager to bring love and light to the darkest parts of the world through our Christian faith. We were young, idealists with big dreams.

We finished school the year after we were married and couldn’t wait to become parents. Stephen arrived in March of 85 and Hannah followed in December of 86 (3 months early). Plans to become career missionaries somewhere in the world turned into being responsible parents in our home town. Our lives were full, a bit too full with so much activity that we nearly drowned.

In 1992 my body broke down and I became seriously ill. I went on disability for two years. We leaned into our lives and sought ways to live with my fragility. I recovered. We learned to set boundaries and limits and most of all to create margins of space in our lives for what we valued most. We became more thoughtful in our decisions to put our oars in but when we put them in we continued to navigate the waters of American life to the best of our ability.

Our kids have been our greatest teachers. They have both found their way to adult life with our support in the background. They have flown into their own best lives and we are very grateful for their tenacity to continue, to thrive and most of all for their sensitivity to the world around them.

Moving to Minnesota from Utah in 2010 was an enormous upheaval in our relationship. Back and forth for the first year, an extreme adjustment to climate and culture as well as my minor surgery that turned into a major nightmare in 2011 has taken us through life lived too close to the edge between this world and the next.

We sometimes wonder why we are still together. Is it because we started out as Evangelical Christians and that ensured our longevity as a couple? No.

Is it because we’re Nebraskan’s and as Paul Harvey told us in the 70’s and 80’s, Nebraska marriages last the longest? No.

I think it is because we both came at our relationship from the very beginning with the deeper sense of what we personally wanted in our lives. We had both dated people before we met and each time we’d reach this place where  we knew that if we married that person, our lives would go in a direction that we didn’t really want.

I personally loved Dean because he had a heart for mankind that was rare among the others I’d spent time with. Our first greatest moments come when we’re in the presence of someone not like us and we are seeking to get to know them. We’ve met amazing, amazing people along our marriage pathway and we’re incredibly better because of it. Our second greatest moments come from being out in the natural world together. We each experience it differently but the same.  We both feel the connection to the earth (and for Dean the cosmos 🙂 very strongly.

I am thankful today, 33 years later, that though our relationship doesn’t really look a lot like it did back then…we’ve grown into better individuals because we’re married to each other. We lean into our lives whatever they are at present and for that, I’m so grateful.

Happy 33rd Anniversary, Dean Wedekind. I like being your wife.

Am I Racist?

With all of the talk about racism at present, I have to ask, as should you, “Am I racist?” I don’t think it’s helpful to ask myself if I actually am I racist because being a racist implies that it is what I am in an all encompassing way. I know for sure that I am not of the opinion that being a white caucasian of European dissent translates into my superiority as a human being. That said, being white from birth on I find that whether intended or not, I want to believe that my race is the superior race. It’s not a conscious desire, in fact I am very intentional in my actions and way of life to make sure that anyone different from myself knows that I accept that first and foremost they are human beings of value.

In the 60’s, I grew up as a white child in a low income and very diverse community in the Midwest. I have come to understand that the time I spent living there shaped my worldview in ways that many growing up in predominantly all white European communities honestly don’t understand. The interesting thing is that a large part of the minority group in my life at that time where the Sioux Native Americans – Native…meaning they were the first ones on the ground I walked on everyday. I didn’t know them as natives then, they were just Indians. Indians with lice and alcoholic parents at home where the floors were dirt (literally). And every Saturday morning Bugs Bunny and other cartoons reinforced the prevailing worldview that Indians were once the enemies of Americans (aka white people) and killing them was just part of our Nebraska history. It was what had to be done because they were dangerous with their bows, arrows and tomahawks.  It was an interesting childhood because at school and in my neighborhood Native American children were my peers but in the world at large they were  definitely in a different place though I didn’t really understand that place at all.

This summer several new homes went up in our development on the north edge of the Twin Cities. Three different black families purchased homes among them. Dean and I eagerly went over and met each one. Among them we met some who were born here and some who were not. One of the Cameroon who moved here as a child whose spouse is from Kenya. They met in college in Mankato. Intelligent professionals with a lovely son. Another family moved in from St. Paul. We were just so happy to find diversity moving into our neighborhood. At the same time, on one random day I was driving home and as I drove down our street, a thought came into my mind, saying, “I wonder if our home value will go down now that we have more black people in the neighborhood.” It stopped me cold. “Where the hell did THAT come from?” was my next thought! It really unsettled me for awhile. It’s even difficult now to actually see it on the screen in front of me.

If you know me well, you know that I have been always been a passionate advocate for racial justice. My book shelves in the family room are lined with books full of stories from around the globe of injustice implemented simply because someone’s skin was black. I’m a global citizen and have been since being exposed to foreign missions in college. Then the impetus was to reach the world for Jesus and as I sought to do that, met dozens of people from all over the place. I taught students, the children of visiting missionaries, from several other countries and I specifically taught that just as there is one God, even though expressed in the Trinity for us Christians, there is one thing that makes us God’s children, being human. So, again, in my mortified state, I continued to ask myself “Where the hell did I get the thought that these all black families who moved into my neighborhood could bring our property value down?” It wasn’t long before I had an answer.

I believe this thought came from a place in myself that I was completely unaware of. I now understand it to be a message recorded so firmly into my subconscious that when circumstances aligned the way they did, there it was. In every way I don’t feel that this is actually true, and if it were, then so be it! These dear people are equal to me and deserve to live wherever they want to. I truly believe that.

Today I am so grateful for the lesson that came to me in this weird experience. I always knew roots of white supremacy were imbedded in my genetic history. As a result, I have purposely challenged myself on multiple occasions to seek to understand what it is my darker-skinned fellow humans are saying. Clearly, it is going to be a lifetime pursuit but one that I plan to continue to embrace.