The Silly Life

Reflections on a life lived by the seat of our pants

We Had a Baby! {about 8 months ago}

I just read my last update, and well, let’s just say life has changed DRAMATICALLY.

In the time since October 1st, 2011 we have had a baby, closed up shop (home shop, not shop shop) in Chartown, and hauled ourselves—baby in tow—to the nation’s capitol (which is now the Nations’ capitol, get it?). We really are gypsies. I feel a little sad for our child and his future comrades.

In light of all the life changes and my complete delinquency in recording them in a timely manner (let’s not discuss the baby book, people), the next few updates will be catching you up on all the cha-cha-cha-changes. My goal is to bring you up to current day, but I’ll be realistic and just start with roughly one week after my last entry…

(Disclaimer: This is our birth story, it gets messy.)

October 8th, 2011 was a cloudy, windy day and Jedidiah James Nations was “supposed” to make his grand entry into the world. I’d had false labor a few times, each time thinking, “We could have a baby tonight” only to wake up with no contractions and no baby. Because of Jedi’s inactivity, Adam decided to go for a mountain bike ride early on Saturday morning. When he got back from the trails we went to grab coffee and brunch at one of our favorite spots. After eating brunch Adam started working on his Bible study. While we were sitting at the restaurant I noticed a sharp twinge in my lower abdomen that accompanied the dull lower backache I’d been feeling for a day or so. I got really antsy and announced, “I NEED to get up and walk somewhere!” Adam and I walked around the shops in the misty weather and I felt the twinge a few more times as my belly hardened like when I had a Braxton-Hicks contraction.

We left and headed home and when we got home we lay down in our bed and watched a few episodes of L.A. Ink (a guilty pleasure). All the while I was having more frequent contractions, by this time around 10-15 minutes apart. Around 6:00 I got up and went to the bathroom and discovered some bloody show. At that point I decided that I was pretty sure I was in labor. Adam suggested eating dinner so that we were following our normal routine. We ate then went to Trader Joe’s to buy brownie mix and some snacks. At the store I had a couple contractions and some of them were intense enough to make me pause and breathe through. After returning from the grocery store we set out for a walk around the neighborhood. During the walk my contractions got more painful and a little more frequent, probably about 7-8 minutes apart.

I bought the brownie mix to make brownies for the nurses at the hospital, a peace offering in hopes of winning their support of our natural labor and delivery. Around 10:30 we returned from our walk and I made the brownies and cleaned the kitchen while Adam packed the rest of the hospital bag (we had it mostly packed weeks in advance, like good students ☺). Just after midnight we turned in thinking, yet again but this time with a little more confidence, that we would have a baby the next day.

I fell asleep a little after Adam and woke up to have contractions. Immediately after each contraction passed I nodded off only to wake up to the tightening pain in my abdomen. I got up to use the bathroom once and felt like my contractions were coming more frequently and were more work. The second time I went to the bathroom I had four contractions before getting back in bed. It was 4:30 a.m. at that point. I forced myself to go back to sleep knowing that my body would let me know when I needed to be up.

Two hours and fifteen minutes later I was roused from my sleep by an intense string of contractions and thought it was time to wake Adam up. At 7:00 a.m. we began timing my contractions and found that they were 3.5 minutes apart lasting 60-80 seconds. When I asked Adam what stage he thought I was in he said, “I think you are in early first stage labor.” I pouted and told him I thought he was wrong and that I was in transition or I was DEFINITELY going to need an epidural.

We lay in bed and timed contractions for about an hour and a half more and then decided to call the midwife. I was ready to go to the hospital at that point. When I called and spoke to the nurse I told her everything I could until I had another contraction and had to pass the phone to Adam. The nurse said she would relay the message to Hallie, my midwife, and have her call me back. About 30 minutes later Hallie called and again I had to hand the phone to Adam. Adam apparently told her that I had been in hard labor since 7:00 a.m. and she told us to stay at home for another hour and a half at least, but to try to make it until noon. There was NO WAY! When we hung up I told Adam that I was really nauseous. We went in the bathroom and I threw up. Adam decided that it was time to go to the hospital. If they checked me and I was less than 6 centimeters we would come home.

Adam loaded all of our bags and pillows into the car and then helped me get dressed. I RAN down the stairs and had a contraction at the bottom while Adam pulled the car up. I was worried that the car ride would be rough because I had just thrown up, but my contractions slowed and I only had about 3 or 4 on the 20-minute trip to the hospital. Of course that made me nervous too. I didn’t want my labor to stop because I was out of my comfort zone.

When we arrived at the hospital about 10:30 a.m. Adam dropped me off at the front and parked the car. The lady that they sent down to bring me to Labor and Delivery asked if I was even in labor. I wanted to punch her, but I just nodded with my eyes closed.

Adam met us at the elevator and we made our way to the 8th floor. They assigned us to a room and told the nurse that we wanted to be checked for progress before we were admitted. She said okay and then said, “Well Sweetie, you’re either really under control or you’re not quite 10 centimeters.” Again I fought the urge to deck her, but I steeled myself in case I heard I was 3 centimeters and we had to head home.

I laid down on my side in the bed and the nurse called Hallie in. Hallie checked me and said, “Wow!” I was worried and asked, “What?!” She said, “You’re 8 centimeters!” Adam and I were ELATED. We could stay! We were going to meet Jedidiah so soon!

The nurse asked Adam for our birth plan and he told her all our belongings were still in the car but he could run and go get them. The nurse said, “You better not leave. You’re going to have a baby soon.” We agreed that she would ask, and we would tell her our wishes before she did anything.

I labored on my side and drifted in and out of sleep for about two hours. Hallie came in twice and she said, “You guys are doing great. I feel like you don’t even need me.” My contractions were double and triple peaking. I thought they were getting shorter, but Adam told me they were lasting about 90 seconds. He was the best coach, telling me, “Here comes a contraction” and “You’re halfway through this contraction” and “This contraction is about to start fading away.” It was amazing to me that he was able to predict all of these things because I wasn’t hooked up to any monitors. He used a cold rag to wipe my forehead and the back of my neck and reminded me to unfurrow my brows, the only part of my body I could not remember to keep relaxed.

The nurse came in periodically and asked if we needed anything, and we told her we were okay. Hallie came back about an hour later and said she wanted to check me. She checked my cervix and told me I was 9 centimeters. She said if I felt the urge to push to call for her and she’d come back. I thought, “How will I know if I need to push?”

I kept sleeping and contracting and I remember thinking to myself, “If I am asleep I may be stalling my progress and not be aware if I need to push. I should wake up.” So I woke up and I looked at Adam after he gave me some ice chips and said, “I need to push RIGHT NOW!” He frantically pushed the nurse button and the nurse came in. She checked me and said I was 9.5 centimeters, and she called Hallie in to check me while I was having a contraction. The nurse checked Jedidiah’s heart rate and said he was doing great. I asked if I could squat to try and dilate fully. She brought in the squatting bar and I squatted on the end of the bed while we waited for Hallie. While we were waiting my body was pushing. I didn’t push along with it, but I sure as HELL was not going to try to stop it. I apologized to Jedidiah in case he fell on the floor because no one was there to catch him.

Hallie came in and checked me and gave me the go ahead to start pushing as soon as she was suited up and everything was ready. She broke my water. There was meconium in the amniotic fluid, so Hallie called in nurses to help Jedi in case he needed it.

When I began to push with my body at 2:30 p.m. I started in the squatting position. Hallie and the nurse used the Doppler to listen to Jedi’s heart. They couldn’t find his heartbeat for a while. When they did his heart rate was in the 50’s, and then Adam said he saw it drop into the 40’s and then the 30’s. They had me move to all fours and try pushing in that position while they searched for Jedi’s heartbeat. They thought it would come back up in that position, but it stayed in the 40’s. They put an oxygen mask on me and had me take deep breaths while I was pushing (tricky). I heard Hallie tell someone to get Dr. Gourley and then say, “We have to get this baby out or she’s gonna end up in the OR.” Hallie told me to push harder and I yelled, “I can’t!” I pushed with all of my might. They had me switch to lying on my back with my left leg up. They checked Jedi’s heart beat and it was not coming back up. In one more contraction I pushed four times and Hallie used a vacuum and Jedidiah James was born at 2:38 p.m.

They immediately cut Jedidiah’s cord (not what I wanted) and took him to be examined by the cardiac and respiratory doctors waiting in the room (again, not what I wanted, but of course necessary for a baby in distress). Adam went with him and told me he was beautiful. Jedi was quiet for what felt like forever (Adam told me later that it was just until they sucked out his nose and mouth) and then finally I heard him cry. It was a beautiful and heartbreaking noise! They told me we had a big baby. Jedi was 7 pounds 15.5 ounces and 20 inches long, a tiny baby compared to his parents ☺ After all of the drama of his birth, the little guy scored a 9 on both his APGAR tests. They bundled Jedidiah up and gave him to Adam who sat next to me while Hallie stitched up my minor tears. Nearly 30 minutes after he was born I finally got to hold my little boy. We cuddled skin to skin and he immediately latched on to feed.

Jedi and Mommy

The last little bit of labor was terrifying and completely traumatizing. I was afraid for Jedi and Adam was afraid for both of us. Adam told me afterwards that he felt helpless during all the wildness, which makes me sad for him. BUT, we all survived.

We called both sets of parents when we checked into the hospital, and they left immediately to drive to Charlotte. My parents (Nina and Pop) came on Sunday night and Adam’s parents (Gigi and Pops) came Monday morning. After sharing our birth story with them they both said that right around 2:30 on Sunday they got the overwhelming urge to pray for our little family. That was when all the drama was happening. The Holy Spirit had prompted our parents to pray protection over our family and our babe’s life in the instant that we needed it most. Praise God!

We chose to have a natural birth and we would do it again in a heartbeat. God is crazy amazing for allowing us to help bring life into the world and then sustain it. We are in love with Jedi and I think he likes us back.

Daddy and Baby

Wishing and Hoping and Thinking and Praying, Planning and Dreaming…

Do you remember that song? I remember it because the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding came out right before I went into 6th grade and some of my friends performed the song in the school Lip Sync. Ohhhh, middle school.

Anyway, I have been doing a lot of wishing for labor to start, hoping for a short labor, thinking about what labor will be like, praying J and I will be safe and healthy during labor (and delivery), planning on laboring naturally and dreaming about the babe that is the proverbial pot o’ gold at the end of the labor rainbow. Probably not an accurate analogy.

In these, my final days as a bun-in-the-oven mama (officially a week left, but let me tell you people: ANY DAY), I have been reading. I’ve sworn off of Kathy Reichs–not because I don’t love her anymore, but because I am getting jumpy/fearful/paranoid in my old age–and embraced some lighterish material.

At the top of my list is anything baby related, obvi, but I also read two stories (I’m calling them stories because one is a novel and the other is a biography-ish) this summer. I TOLD YOU BEFORE: I AM A SLOW READER. I am also tragically unhip when it comes to culture. That’s not to say that, A: I don’t know what’s going on, or B: I don’t love fashion or design or sundries in the realm of pretty things, but when it comes to books, music, or movies I am L.A.M.E. (not to be confused with L.A.M.B.–see I told you I know fashion). I think this stems from being sheltered as a youngin’. I was allowed to watch all the cool PG-13 movies like 5 years later than all my friends…so not cool.

Which, round my elbow and back to my knee, brings me to the books that I loved this summer that the rest of the world loved last summer or the summer before.

Round 1: The Help. I LOVED it. There is something about Southern literature that gives me warm fuzzies. I am also FASCINATED (understatement) by anything that whiffs of race relations. I know that The Help is fiction, but it is based on the author’s experiences and my very own momma says a lot of it {sadly} rings true to her family’s experiences with a black maid…so there. I also appreciate when authors write the way a character talks. I feel like I crawled right inside the character’s head. The spectrum of emotions I felt when reading this book was vast: sadness, shame, delight, pride, hope, dispair. Aye, that’s the sign of a good book, in my ‘pinion. That, and I started thinking about the characters as my friends, as in I talked about them to my husband. God love him for loving me.

Round 2: Same Kind of Different as Me. This one was tricky for me. You see, I may have mentioned before that A and I don’t fit traditional gender roles when it comes to movie preferences. I am most entertained by intense, shoot em up Action-Adventure movies and A enjoys Rom Coms and the like. So, about a year into our marriage we decide to watch P.S. I Love You. Worst.Choice.Ever. We {both} cried from the time the movie started until we turned it off about 30 minutes later. We just love each other so much that it kills us to think about the other one dying. Seriously, it’s pathetic but this is a pattern. We’re saps. Sue us.

Anywho, while I really loved the story of people from opposite sides of the tracks becoming friends, I cried a lot and struggled to get through the pages that I couldn’t see because of my tears. In an effort not to ruin the whole book for the two people in the world who haven’t read it yet, I’ll leave it at that. However, I so love good redemption stories and really love when rich people realize their hearts are the same as poor people’s and white people realize their hearts are the same as black people’s and that we ALL have something to learn from and offer each other. Soooo, read this one!

That’s all.

I made you cookies.

I realized I have been really serious these past few posts, so I went for something a little lighter on the heart this time. No theology/hip-hop lessons, no earth shattering revelations, no making you feel guilty about home/private schooling your kids (although I hope to have achieved that with my last post, I jest?), this is my solemn vow.

You can call me Chef.

Or Baker. Baker is the correct term for one who bakes.

My approach is usually fretfully boring when it comes to baking. I have a hard time deviating from recipes. Cooking is one thing…more of an art, less of a science. However, when baking I have a fear that if I change one thing then the whole cake/batch of cookies/loaf of bread will go to $*%t.

I can take part of a recipe and add part of another recipe and part of another recipe and put them together and voila! if I think the flavor combo might be good. But it’s RARE for me to sub-in ingredients that may alter the structure of a treat. Especially with gluten-free baking. It’s a scary, scary beast. Unless you understand a bit of the science behind the ingredients, which I am learning a tiddle bit about.

Well, I can officially say that I.HAVE.ARRIVED. when it comes to being risky in my baking endeavors. Not really, but I did tweak a tweaked recipe and can say that it is my own adaptation.

If you aren’t familiar with David Leite (who are you and why are we even friends…j/k), check, check, check, a check him out at Leite’s Culinaria (here). His is a beautiful food blog full of wonderfully delicious goodies. He makes some DIVINE chocolate chip cookies that are pretty famous in the food blogosphere (take a peeksee). For those of us who choose our gluten wisely, or avoid the demon altogether, there is an alternative.

Another of my fave food bloggers, Shauna James Ahearn over at Gluten Free Girl, posted about her gluten-free take on Mr. Leite’s delights (here). Shauna has a load of recipes on her blog and in her books that make life for the gluten-free folks a little more dreamy. It was with her as my guardian angel and her writing as my confidence-boosting guide (she was a high school English teacher, so she has a very positive and encouraging writing style) that I made my first forays into gluten-free baking. These first forays involved me following her recipes to a T.

Nowadays though I’m all grown up and bustin out on my own. So here’s the deal. I didn’t have one of the flours called for in Shauna’s recipe, so I swapped it out with one that I did have. No big deal you might say. However, in gf baking all the flours used bring something to the table to make the resulting product recognizable, delectable, and healthful. After realizing that I didn’t have amaranth flour on hand (who does?) I consulted with Mr. Google and found that amaranth is a high-protein flour. Well, I just so happen to know that flours made of beans (gluten free flours are weird, I do confess) are also high in protein. And lo and behold I had a Garbanzo Bean/Fava Bean blend flour in my pantry…WOOHOO!

This is a BREAKTHROUGH for me, people! I subbed in the bean flour, and guess what? It worked.

These cookies were spectacular. I took them to a bunch of boys (and a few girls) who gobbled them up and were none the wiser about their gluten content…until I spilled the beans because I was just so darned proud of myself.

Good golly it's gluten free!

So here’s the recipe:

MY ADAPTATION OF SHAUNA JAMES AHERN’S ADAPTATION OF DAVID LEITE’S CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

1 cup sorghum flour (tangent: one time A and David and I went to a corn maze that was actually in a sorghum field)
1 cup tapioca starch
1 cup potato starch
1 cup garbanzo/fava bean flour

1 tablespoon xanthan gum (careful, this stuff makes a giant slimy mess if you get it wet)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon good ol’ table salt
2 1/2 sticks salted butter, softened
(normally you use unsalted butter when baking, but I like a nice sweet-salty balance in my baked goods, you know depth)
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
16 ounces of good quality baking chocolate
(I like the kind that are disc shaped so you get huge amounts of chocolate in every bite; my awesome mother-in-law brought me these when she toured the Tcho Chocolate factory in San Fran)

Start by sifting all of the flours into a large bowl and then add the rest of the dry ingredients (hopefully I don’t have to explain that the sugars and chocolate don’t go in yet). Stir with a fork or a whisk.

Cream the butter and the sugars in a stand mixer no longer than 2 minutes on medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time beating till all mixing and mingling and then add the vanilla and mix a little more.

Add the dry ingredients to the mixer a little at a time, mixing briefly after each addition. Once all the ingredients are incorporated fold the chocolate pieces in with a rubber spatula (you need your strong arms for this one).

All good cookies benefit from a dough chilling stage, but I am a very impatient girl, so keep the chilling brief.

Preheat the oven to 350 and shape dough into large balls and place 6 to a cookie sheet, lined with parchment of course. Bake them for 18 minutes or longer or shorter depending on how big your balls are (heh, heh).

Let them cool on the cookie sheet long enough that they don’t fall apart when you take them off. Eat them before the chocolate cools with a nice cold glass of your beverage of choice (milk for me, beer for Adam).

Note: I have never posted an adaptation of someone else’s recipe, so I hope I don’t get in trouble for this. I attempted to give credit where credit is due. Please take that into consideration before suing me for plagiarism.

The Lottery

A and I love, nay LOVE, documentaries. We have watched nearly all of the PBS Nature docs on Netflix. Maybe that means we love nature (also true) or that we are the biggest nerds on the planet (likely also true). However, we’ve also watched docs covering everything from MS-13 to baking, proof positive.

Moving on…

When I saw the previews for The Lottery, a doc about parents and children who are a part of the lottery (duh) for enrollment in Harlem’s charter school system, I teared up and marked my calendar for the premier. Well, between helping my hubs start a business, quitting a beloved job, moving to another state, finding out I was pregnant, oh, and regular life I missed out on The Lottery in theaters. Monthsandmonths later and LOW AND BEHOLD, it’s an instant play option on Netflix. Hallelujah!

So here’s the gist:

Harlem has notoriously low performing public schools, not unlike most of our country’s urban areas. The Harlem Children’s Zone and the Harlem Success Academies are community based programs featuring charter schools (along with a slew of other solutions) that take a holistic approach to not only educating young people but aiming to end the cycle of poverty that is perpetuated by under-education in Harlem.

Fine and dandy, right? The prob: lotsandlots of people want into the charter school system because the neighborhood schools are underperforming, to say the least. There are only a certain number of spots for students to enter the program and they are allocated based on a lottery. Every year parents and their children attend this giant announcement ceremony that essentially determines the educational fates of the children.

The film followed four families and their adorable little pre-k kidlets as they prepared for the lottery and talked about why this kind of alternative education is the best option for their children. Then, of course you find out who gets in and who doesn’t. Some are elated, some are disappointed. The contrast of the hope and elation experienced by the “winners” and the hope and subsequent disappointment of the “losers” nearly broke this mama-to-be’s heart. Heart-breaking…like grown-men-crying-heart-breaking.

Here’s MY problem (with the system, not the movie…the movie was great): “Compulsory inequity, perpetuated by state law, too frequently condemns our children to unequal lives.” Jonathan Kozol said that. He’s kinda my hero. A lot of his books are older, but they are not irrelevant because although writers like him have shed light on the plight of ghetto (and bumpkin) kids in America the system has not changed. Read anything he’s written, it will change your life.

So the quote. It basically means that most neighborhood schools in the ghettos (or hinterlands) are inadequate. We know that, the Superintendents know that, the President knows that, and most sadly, the students that attend those schools know that. We make kids attend these schools. In fact, we send their parents to jail if they don’t attend. Because of the sub-par (read: below acceptable; not acceptable but a little below extraordinary) educations forced on these seemingly less valuable students, they are destined for a future that none of us would choose for ourselves or our own children.

This movie made me excited that schools can be successful at educating low-income students and preparing them for the futures they deserve. My beef: charter schools, while successful, serve only a relatively small number of students. They do not provide excellent opportunities for ALL students. They do not fix the broken system that miseducates and damns THE MAJORITY of low-income children to lives characterized by the expectation of failure. To add insult to injury, we then become cynical when these children fulfill the prophecy and become adults who cannot provide for themselves.

I’m ranting. I don’t know what the real solution is, and that frustrates me.

Additionally, I feel extremely uncomfortable about one thing in particular that is reflected in our inability to solve the issues of educational and economic inequality. You have probably heard the statement, “Education is the great equalizer.” To an extent I agree…but that is only true if children with setbacks in life are benefitting from positive educational experiences with high expectations and the necessary support to reach those expectations. Which they’re not. Do you see the evil veiled behind this seemingly covenantal cliche?

SOOOOOOOO, finally getting at my issue: we place all our hope for these kids, and encourage them to follow suit, in a corrupt education system and promise that if they stick it out and get an education everything will be alright. Our hope is misplaced.

When I was working for Communities In Schools of Jacksonvile I felt quite frustrated that I was peddling education as the solution to all of my students’ problems. Sure, graduating from high school and going on to college might make your financial situation a little better, but what about the rest of the brokenness? Will it fix that?

I can only rest in trusting that God is in control of everything. He knows that our systems (educational, economic, social, political…ugh, political) are broken. He knew when he created all of everything that humankind and the rest of creation with them would fall. He is redeeming it all. That’s present active participle, people. He is working now to save it all, BUT it won’t be redeemed, fair, equitable, just, until heaven. That’s where I am placing my hope.

And this may be bad theology (judge me, I dare you), but I am hoping for my babies in the ghetto that God will hear their cries and carry them out of their plight. All of them, because I think God has a heart for the ghetto.

Note: I believe that Communities In Schools, Harlem Children’s Zone, Harlem Success Academies and other organizations like them are doing great work by taking a holistic approach to addressing economic and educational disparities. I do feel like we do a disservice to children when we have them place the totality of their hope in anything of this world, as it will only leave them empty.

Today In the Life…

I think pregnancy has made me slightly schizo–A would prolly argue that ‘slightly’ is an understatement, but he’s too kind to voice that. Seriously, one day I am happy to be where I am doing what I’m doing (arts and crafts, watching documentaries, going for walks, shopping, hanging out, cooking), and literally the next day I am crying over being so far from family, not having a purpose, etc.

Well, today’s a good day–it is all about perspective after all. I spent a little time this morning reflecting on life here in Chaville and the Gospel of Luke over a frozen mocha from Panera…pure delight.

A few weeks ago our pastor talked about the difference between being called and being assigned. He clarified that every Christ follower is called to a relationship with Jesus (that doesn’t change), but our assignments change many times in our lives. As a previously self-professed “purpose-driven” person, I get confused about callings and assignments and such.

I thought Adam and I were called to love the poor and neglected of our society. That’s not the case. We are called to be loved by Jesus and to in turn love him. Our assignment for a while (and surely will be again one day soon) was to spend lots of time in the hood and love on the families there. It hurt my heart that we were seemingly not fulfilling our calling nowadays, when all the while our assignment has just changed for a season.

We are in the middle of the suburban jungle (it’s wild, people) surrounded by white people who apparently don’t need our help or want our attention and even try to run us over with their big ole’ SUV’s (I told you, the jungle’s no joke). Yet, there’s a YET!, God is moving…profoundly.

He is forging relationships betwixt the outsiders (us) and the natives (Charlotteans). We are loving people. We are being loved on by other people (not the ones that try to run us over). A’s learning how to be a bossman and run 2 (almost 3) businesses and build real relationships with his employees, all while dealing with his wildly emotionally unstable wife. I’m learning to be still, AND God is peeling back the layers on my heart that incubated the core, my need for control. He’s telling me, “Give up the need to control your life, abandon your plan, be used by me where you are BECAUSE I have ASSIGNED you THERE for a purpose.”

Hot damn! This is not a detour! This is not a mistake (which, as a good Calvinist, I would have told you a month ago; but A can tell you that it really is my deepest fear) that will be corrected when I find an urban ministry to be involved with or when we move back to Jacksonville. This is where God has us and he wants us to trust him HERE, love and serve people HERE, grow HERE.

Praise God he is patient and diligent because not only am I slightly schizo and wildly emotionally unstable, but I have pregnancy brain and it takes me FOREVER to learn things.

A Very Angry Pacifist, Indeed

So, this might be a rambler. A says that I preface conversations way to much.

Last time we had a little pillow talk I mentioned that I feel like an alien much of the time. This extends into my inner self (where much too much contemplation takes place, in the words of my frand JJ, “Over analysis.”). I can relate to the Apostle Paul when he says in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

Hello?! It’s like having split personalities–wanting to do one thing and then doing the opposite. In my case it has to do with being inconsistent.

For the most part I am a very “moderate” person. I think it has to do with not having the confidence to have a strong opinion about something and be able to defend it (I blame that on slow brain to mouth processing).

I do feel quite strongly about the issue of violence as a means to the end of peace. I.think.it’s.ridiculous. In one of my all-time favorite quotes Derek Webb says, “Peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication.” For those of us who grew up in the True Love Waits culture (or maybe just me), this rings especially true.

I saw that violent efforts were futile as a means of reconciliation when I worked in the hood. Gang members got revenge on opposing gang members in a vicious cycle that ended with (although indefinitely) one of my 8 year old students finding his mother murdered on their kitchen floor. There were threats made by students (and their OLDER family members) to jump other students as a way to “right” the “wrong” of having been jumped themselves.

This is not just a ghetto mentality though. Most American Christians, or Americans in general, probably claim to be Just War Theorists (A included, although he probably would not lump himself in with the “American Christian” label–it’s one of the issues we disagree on, and we’re okay with that). Personally I don’t believe that is the example that Jesus gave when he DISARMED Peter in the garden and healed a Roman guard’s (read, the enemy) ear after Peter sliced it off. Oh yeah, and that was when Peter was DEFENDING Jesus. I believe that when Jesus disarmed Peter he disarmed all believers, whether we have a JUST reason (like, oh, preventing the crucifixion of an innocent friend) or not.

A and I often talk about what would happen if an intruder entered our home in the middle of the night. A has, in his possession, a baseball bat that he would use to “impair” the intruder. This idea is a little frightening to me. He knows this. I cannot imagine seeing my husband destroy a human life in front of me and then return to loving him for the gentle, kind man that he is (thus we pray, knowing full well that God does not promise physical safety for his people, that this situation never arises).

After reading that previous paragraph you might be thinking, “Wow, A & C need to go to marriage counseling to work out their differences.” We’re good, people. I aired my perspective and our resulting disagreement to point out my internal alienness and need for Jesus.

True confessions time: I am an angry person. Really, I get angry a lot and most of the time I try to reconcile in my mind that my reasons are JUST. Important things like when a child is hurting or someone is being oppressed or, you know, when someone doesn’t yield to let the PREGNANT lady cross at the cross walk in a parking lot. My blood pressure is literally elevating just thinking about it. Don’t worry, I know that there is no way to rationalize that last one.

The fact is that the Bible says in 1 John 3:15, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer.” I have a lot of hate in my heart. That verse doesn’t give any disclaimer, “unless the brotha deserves it.” There is no disclaimer because all of us have sinned and none of us is worthy to deem what is deserving of hatred or murder. So, I might as well be a murderer.

Crap.

I just need Jesus. He will reconcile all of creation back to himself. I have to trust that will be the case, or else Jesus’ death on the cross was incompetent. In the end it will all be made right. It’s not my job to make sure that happens.

I’m an Alien: A Theology Lesson With Kanyeezy and Katy Perry…Seriously.

So, referencing my aforementioned love of hip hop music, let’s just say I was moved to tears AGAIN by a Top 40 hit…shameful. I am with child and thus with crazy hormones, give me a break!

I’ve always kind of felt like a freak.

In high school I felt older than my peers (NOT in a judgy, holier-than-thou kind of way; but in a judgy, holier-than-thou kind of way–you see the difference right?). I wasn’t all about the drama and “kissing around” (remember, HOLIER; the idea of sleeping around didn’t even occur to me). I couldn’t wait for my REAL life to start, away from PVB and all its trappings. I now understand how (ironically) alienating and NOT like Christ my perspective was (and still is in many ways).

Then I went to a college that I thought would prepare me for life on the foreign mission field only to find out that (almost) everyone there believed different things about Jesus than I did. Yikes!

So I came home and worked at a church while attending a university where I was a commuter student (read: had no friends because I went to class and went home or to work).

Then I met A and we got hitched at the ripe old average (between the two of us) age of 20 : ) Suffice it to say that we had NO married friends and all of our friends thought we were crazy.

After college I worked in a job that allowed me to be one of the few people representing my “lack of color-ness” most of the time. It was great! If I’m being honest it was hard sometimes, but I learned what it felt like to be an outsider.

Now I’m here in Charville, a preppy, hyper-conservative town…and me, not so much. Oh, and I’m knocked up. Most of my closest friends in this area code are single and most certainly (though not obviously) babyless. Single people are fun, and it’s been a BLAST relating to other women who don’t have hubbies to share their hearts with.

So, I’m a freak. If all of those little tid-bits didn’t make that clear to you, then it’s clear to me that you are dense I am less different than I think I am.

Anyway, I was driving the Fit Car around Charlotte and heard this song (who knows what it’s really about–feel free to interpret the lyrics–double YIKES!) called E.T. and I realized that I have felt like an alien most of my life.

While contemplating this and quite frankly feeling a little sorry for myself, I remembered what the Word of God says about E.T.’s.

God tells me that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection I am NO LONGER an alien, but I am reconciled to Him (Colossians 1:21-22)–with an identity that He gave me and He understands and He loves.

In John 17:16-18, Jesus talks about being “not of the world” and then goes on to say that his followers are not of this world either. He sent his people into the world to love others to Him, and one day we’ll get to go back to Him because our citizenship is in heaven.

In Revelation 21, Luke paints the most BEAUTIFUL picture of what heaven will be like, where we know longer feel estranged from creation, our fellow man, God, ourselves. Lemme tell you people (mom), I.CANNOT.WAIT! Until then I will continue to feel like a freak who doesn’t belong anywhere, knowing full well EXACTLY where I belong.

Revelation 21:1-5

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Amen and amen.

Because I Hate on Chartown Way Too Much…

Here are 10 things I really, no REALLY, like about Charville:

1. We live .8 miles from A’s store.

2. There is a Dean & Deluca…come on people, gourmet grocery/delightful deli all-in-one! AND there is a Trader Joe’s–the world’s coolest grocery store (and where ALL the genuinely nice people in Chartown work, seriously, not anywhere else)

3. Uptown Charville is more vibrant than Jacksonkill’s downtown (uptown? downtown? It’s all the same in The South.)

4. Our first child will be born here. Yay!

5. There is real, live agriculture nearby. It’s not too hot to grow lots of produce in the surrounding area, and there’s lots of land to pasture (free-range) livestock.

6. The Matthews Farmers Market. Saturday mornings, historic downtown Matthews has a cute little farmers market that (gasp!) hosts REAL farmers selling their wares. No wholesalers here. I got fresh rainbow chard, garlic, chives, lettuce, and free-range beef (flank steak) all from with a 20 mile radius of the market! I.cannot.wait.until.tomato/peach/berry.season.

7. The Plaza-Midwood neighborhood and its funky restaurants and adorable, crack-house-proximal homes. P-M reminds us of Riverside in Actionville, alas, we do not live there. If we were to stay in Chartown, I would do my best to convince A that we should be on the fringes of P-M, and he would probably oblige because bad things happen if he doesn’t he’s cool like that.

8. We have GREAT friends. After a few months of loneliness from exile in Waxhaw (a HUGE thank you to the Gillmings, who let us stay with them for a time; but Waxhaw is SO far away from every other part of life) and commuting between Jax and Wax, we have settled and found an AWESOME group of friends. We no longer feel sad or lonely, and could see people every night if we wanted to (I’m kind of a loner, thus I do not allow that to happen).

9. God is growing us in immeasurable ways by bringing us here, and leaving us here. It’s painful at times when we recall that we were only supposed to be in Chartown off-and-on for three months, then realize that (6 months later, and signed into a 10 month lease) we are more than just passing through on our way to cooler places. A and I have more “healthy discussions” (i.e. me having an emotional breakdown and my husband gently reminding me that God IS moving and that we ARE {mainly me, but he would never say that} sinful…he is pretty awesome considering the number of times per week that this happens and that he still loves me) than we did when we were engaged (yikes!).

Jesus is teaching me that there is meaning in all that we do, if we do it for HIS glory. This is a tough one for me, remember? I like to comfort sad children and give poor kids hope and teach the next generation and save the world. While I also enjoy shopping at farmers markets and spending hours reading and praying and baking treats and going on weekend getaways with girlfriends, I feel like my activities are pretty futile. Again, that amazing hubby of mine points me to a grander scheme, one in which God uses ALL of our passions (travel and baking and deal-hunting) and giftings (building relationships and sharing information) to great effect in HIS timing. If I could throw a tantrum right here, I would–believe me when I tell you that I did on Mother’s Day about this very topic.

10. The greenways. Chartown has a system of sidewalks/wooden walkways that snake around the city. There are big plans for connecting them all at some point, but for now I can take a 5 mile walk on paved trails through the woods and the swamp in the middle of South Charville. It’s a wonderful escape from the fancy cars that drive inconsiderately fast on the roads. For the time being though the woods are overrun (flown?) by noisy, giant, red-eyed monster cicadas (apparently they’re different from your average cicada…even better). I am too scared to go on the greenways right now.

So the next time I talk smack about living in Chartown don’t you dare tell me to do everything without complaining or arguing remind me that there are FABULOUS things about this place we currently call home. Let the record show that I do not despise this stage of life; in fact, there is JOY in my heart about our life right now. They will, however, write songs about my martyrdom if you hold a gun to my head and tell me to confess my love for NC : )

Homeless, Less the -less!

Hopefully you figured out my little word game (a tangent: the other day I saw a Beamer with a Euro plate on the front with “FCKDAH8RS” emblazoned on it and I figured out the code–you prolly shouldn’t try, it’s tricky and bad; A told me I was so good at figuring out word things…made me happy and prideful).

Refocusing…we have a HOME now!!! Adam and I finally (after 5.5 months of being in Chartown off and on) rented an apartment! It’s about a half mile from the bid-ness and nice and cushy in fancy South Charville. It makes me a little itchy (what with all the expensive cars and white people and convenient shopping and great schools and golf courses), but it’s not our FOREVER home–we’ll probs never have one of those *sigh*.

We have 2 bedrooms and 2 baths and 2 walk-in closets (fancy S. Chartown people like those) and a HUGE balcony and a dishwasher (OH MY!) and windows that open (with screens!) and central heat and air (gasp!) and indoor washer and dryer hookups (crazy convenient, but I’m torn as to whether or not the convenience outweighs the noise factor) and a nice storage closet OUTSIDE for all our (A’s) bikes (hallelujah!). Amen.

I have no pretty pictures of our place yet, because it’s still not pretty. It needs all my pretty things in it first. So, here is a picture of our first load of laundry in this casa (yes, those are A’s blue floral underwear at the lower right of the washer; don’t tell him you saw them, he’d be shame).

Maiden voyage.

We are so thankful to have space of our own to cook and play and be naked (tmi?) in. It’s pretty wild that this will be our baby’s first home–as in, that’s what the 2nd bedroom is for, not just for storing the empty cardboard moving boxes that haven’t found their way to the dumpster yet : ) Crazy, but so exciting and so sweet to dream about.

Right now our abode is pretty empty because all our stuff is in a PODS pod (Remember that post? You know, the PODS fairy. No? Oh.) in Jacksonkill. We do have a bed, two camping chairs (from A’s Meme), and a wooden folding chair I got for a dolla at a garage sale. On Monday we’ll get our stuff and then stuff it all in our apartment.

So, this Easter A and I will be celebrating the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection and our resulting forgiveness and imputed righteousness AS WELL AS having a place to lay our heads and hang up our boots. Grace is great!

The Show Goes On

JUST A WARNING: there are words in this post that some of you might find offensive. Here’s what I know: over and over in scripture Jesus likes to shake up the people who have an affinity for rule following. Now, my words are not Jesus’ and neither are Lupe Fiasco’s; but maybe try to let yourself be a little disturbed and then rejoice with me that there is HOPE only in Jesus, not in avoiding harsh words. Adam and I feel like most 4 letter words are just that…words. We ascribe them meaning when we use them in certain ways. Four letter words used in a derogatory manner towards another person are not okay in our book (unless that person REALLY deserves it…I jest). HOWEVER, I do not ever like the n-word, but I understand its use here.

Now that that’s out of the way, let the fun (and cursing) begin!

So, some of you may know that A and I both worked in Title 1 elementary schools before he started UBreakiFix and we moved away. That meant we spent a lot of time in the hood, the ghetto, the other side of the tracks. While there, we realized that we both LOVE serving neglected people. In Jacksonville that meant poor, black people. We also realized that we both LOVE hip hop music. I am most certainly NOT going to espouse the virtues of gangsta rap, but I won’t deny that I listen to it and, ahem, enjoy it.

Appreciating rap/hip hop was a way for Adam and I to relate to and bond with our students. It made MY LIFE when a student would get in my car (maybe against the rules, but oh well) and hear my bass and say, “Ms. Nations, I didn’t know you listened to this. I thought you listened to country.” Ha, not all us white people crackas, Son!

I will try to avoid getting on my soap box about why A and I have such a special place in our hearts for black boys in particular, but let it suffice to say that they are–by and large–given up on by everyone around them. It breaks us to the core.

My boy students, the youngest at age 4 and maxing out at age 14, got messages about man-hood from the men that hung around their moms, older kids who had also been misguided, and music. It pained me that the status quo for my boys was gang life, AND that that life of violence and crime was glorified in the music that they listened to with no accurate reflection of the consequences and pain that followed.

All of that brings me to Monday. A and I were riding in the car, and I turned the radio from a Top 40 station with a whiny too-young white girl lamenting her broken relationship (not Tay Swift, I LOVE her) to our local hip hop station. There was a male artist, Lupe Fiasco, rapping about one thing or another. When I began to really listen to what he was saying, I was pretty choked up.

“One in the air for the people ain’t here
Two in the air for the father that’s there
Three in the air for the kids in the ghetto
Four for the kids that don’t wanna be there

None for the niggas tryin’ hold them back
Five in the air for the teachers not scared
To tell those kids that’s livin’ in the ghetto
That the niggas holdin’ back that the world is theirs”

(click here for the full lyrics)

The song talks about how Lupe overcame other people’s doubts to be a big star. He hollas at the dads that are sticking around (a rarity, especially in the hood). He hollas at the kids living in the ghetto (the ones most of us try to pretend don’t exist so that we can feel good about the ‘A’ schools that our kids attend). He hollas at the kids that aren’t content to stay in the ghetto and are willing to work to get out. He ranks on the haters who try to keep the kids from doing any better than them. Then he gives a shout out to the adults in the kids’ lives who are telling them that they CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT.

Yeah, the song praises the idol of self-reliance that results from fame and Lupe goes on to talk about drinking all night; but I say, “SO WHAT?!” If my boys can get into this and hear that they don’t have to carry a gun or be a D-boy (a phrase coined by Lil’ Wayne that means, among other things, a drug dealer), then I am 100% stoked on Lupe Fiasco (bear in mind that I don’t know much of his other music).

Please rejoice with me that there is someone other than a white, female social worker telling ghetto kids that the world is theirs for the taking, that they don’t HAVE to become sad statistics.

Please also pray with A and I for the black boys in our urban areas. They need positive male role models early, because the reality is that the other side starts recruiting young too. They need strong, consistent mommas (and dads, if they’re around). They need patient, high-standard-setting, relentless teachers. They need to believe that they have choices. They need to be able to feel. They need to be able to grieve. They need to be able to celebrate. They need Jesus.