51 and Done

Good morning! I’m 51 and done.

More accurately, I’m done with some things and expanding to others. There are things I am doing now that are different and things I’m declaring as true for me.

I am done being an employee, at least for now. I’m a consultant, only consulting currently for my former and much, much beloved recent employer. I’m doing this part time for a season as I settle into a new life. “New” has been the buzz word of my life this year. New home, new to city living, newish to empty nesting. But other things are new now as well.

I’m done being a sibling of only a few. Indeed, news break, I have a new sibling, just discovered in the past year, which is all at once amazing, exciting, sad and real (this is probably true of most family sagas in some way or another). My current count is ELEVEN siblings. All are half, and all are loved, those I’ve known my whole life, those I’ve met recently, even those I don’t yet know. I’ve talked with an author who wrote about the emotions of learning new parentage and gaining new siblings, and you feel real kinship with others who have weathered this storm, but this author’s experience emanates from the sperm donor context (where some people learn they have hundreds of half siblings). My story is not one of fertility clinics but relationships. It has a different tenor in that regard–love or like or lust, and infidelity and heartbreak and oh-so-many repercussions and complications. It’s sadness in so many ways, real life in so many others, with blessings seeping from the cracks of despair (most especially having my real dad–the one who loved me like his own because he always viewed me that way–still in my life).

I’m done being Latina. I’ve grown in my understanding of race and ethnicity and who gets to claim what. It was exciting to announce I am Latina and Indiginous American, but it wasn’t real in one sense. My DNA may say one thing, but my life and privilege and circumstances tell another, truer truth. I’m white. Really white, as my kids would tell you. My identity is southern American, and all of the messiness that entails for me.

I’m done being a Catholic who thinks she has to be in lockstep with the Church. Yes, I’m still a Catholic, though at times that feels really tenuous, but I’m not a fully orthodox one. I question the Church’s teaching on a few, major matters after prayer, thought and study (one might call that a “well-formed conscience”–see, my Catholic is showing). Indeed, I disagree the Church is right on these matters (and yes, these are matters of “faith and morals” and therefore I am questioning my beloved Church’s infallability. WHAAAT….This is where devout Catholics close the browser). I wonder what a local church should be often and am not fully content with what I see in many places. I very much agree with most if not all of its social teachings. But as a chronic malcontent, I disagree on some matters of faith and morals, and it goes without saying I am appalled and furious at the hierarchy (including hierarchy at the parish level which is or has been complicit and lay people who choose to have their heads in the sand), and the vast, deep and horrid sins that continue to surface.

I’m done hiding behind just a few labels. Yes, I’m still an attorney and a swimmer, a wife, a mom, a sister, an aunt and a best friend. But I’m something else. I’m a writer now. Actually, I’ve always been a writer, but never called myself one. I love to write. It’s theraputic, clarifying and edifying all at the same time. I may not be a great one, and I may never be a published one other than in some niche areas, but it is who I am. I’m an auditory learner but it is in the creation of written work that I find solace and hope, and where I am most often crafting my future plans.

I’m 51 and done.

It’s in the Genes

Everyone knows when they are emotionally low. You have your own barometer within you. It comes on gradually like nausea. You are hoping it’s not the shrimp you ate. Are you hungry or did you eat too much? Maybe it will pass. It’s a “maybe I’m sick but I will will myself better, uh oh, it’s not working” situation. And then you know. You are sick.

I’m low right now. This is how I know: because I feel fat and ugly and unaccomplished. I know others think the same thing sometimes, and I know it will pass. But I have evidence others view me the same way I view myself right now. I tried to go into a coffee house this morning and the door wouldn’t open. But there were people inside eating and drinking. I chalked it up to their abhorrence towards me. I tried the door for only about three seconds but was convinced it is due to my complete lack of worth. Also, it could have been the wrong door.

The nausea, for me, takes a rather (initially) pleasant form. I become fixated on something. Obsessed. Once it was the space program. I watched hours and hours of documentaries and read a great deal about the Apollo missions. Another time—this lasted a long time—it was North Korea. I still indulge myself periodically and induce lowness in order to watch a documentary on Our Dear Leader. It’s escapism, and I often fuel it via the written word or film. I don’t work at NASA in the 1960s. I’m not in the foreign politics game. It’s a safe fixation. But then it’s not. The most ironic part is I always manage to fixate on something that, in the end, will cause me to remain feeling just as unaccomplished, maybe more so. I’m too stupid to work at NASA! I would have pissed off world leaders so fast if I had been in the foreign service because I am a colossal pain in the ass!

I am nothing if not consistent.

Currently, my fixation is a dead man. I’m in love with a dead man. He would be 106 if he was alive today. I watch him Singing in the Rain and as an American in Paris. I’m dazzled by his good looks, his amazing, masculine dancing, his good-enough and sometimes excellent voice, and his witty personality. Always a tap dance fan, I have over the years occasionally fallen into the YouTube black hole with him. It’s a good ride while it lasts, but then I realize the truth. If he had met me, he would have hated me. I’m too ugly, too fat, can’t dance, can’t sing. I was an athlete, and he liked athletes and considered himself one. But then I realize, as a swimmer, that wouldn’t have cut it. He did one film with Esther Williams and reportedly they didn’t get along. I’m doomed.

Doomed. That’s the way it feels, like doom.

Doom.

And then I stop. At some point, I stop, and I say, “Hold up. You are sad because a dead man you never met wouldn’t have liked you.” Stop to think how incredibly neurotic that is. There are so many things wrong with this exercise in self-torture. So many things. One of the many is that in this neurotic nightmare world, we would have met when he would have been in his prime (1950s) and I would be . . . well, now, it would be now, 2019, and I would be reflecting my current state, which is the aforementioned fat/ugly/unaccomplished, and, of course, 51 years old. I’m pretty sure I’d be wearing my yoga pants with paint stains on them.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I manage to draw myself out of the low. I laugh at it. I mean, it’s funny. Feelings of depression aren’t funny, whether you are clinically depressed or not. But if you don’t laugh at how you manage your low points when you can, it’s a far sadder state.

So today I took a good, brisk walk. A fun walk through the city, my new home town. I did not grab a lamp post and twirl about it, but I did have a nice couple of hours in the library picking out a few books (a variety of fiction, not books to fuel a fixation). The sun’s in my heart (and I’m ready for love . . .)

And so, I s l o w l y feel the fog lift.

The fog will come again. It will for us all. I imagine I will engage in similar behavior.

Try to laugh at it. Things that you laugh at can’t fully control you.

This is a heavy post. I’ll leave you with one more heavy, quite controversial thought.

If you haven’t seen my man dance at age 68 with Olivia Newton John in Xanadu (yes, a crappy movie, but just YouTube the clip), then, I don’t even want to know you.

 

 

City Mouse

It’s been awhile, blogosphere. I’ve been, well, trying to survive, frankly.

I’ve never been a City Mouse. I’ve never been a true Country Mouse. I’ve always been a Suburban Mouse. There is a reason that’s not a phrase. Because, boring.

In December, I became a City Mouse. This follows a harrowing year of 1) new siblings, 2) sobering work conundra, 3) massive faith challenges, and 4) general life chaos. This post will not be about 1-4. It will be about becoming a City Mouse.

I moved from my 50+ year life as a suburbanite to a city dweller. I left Lutherville and changed over to Charm City. Completely unprepared.

I can’t tell you how many people, in answer to my statement that I was moving to downtown Baltimore, asked, “Why?”

I bit my tongue. I had to. Because God hates certain words. I’m told.

Seriously, though, my friends will no doubt gaffaw. I’m as likely as not to be lost on a suburban street as a city one. Historically, I’ve been found navigating left turns on Timonium Road, not Charles Street. Just a month ago, walking to the store or a restaurant was not even feasible for me. And don’t get me started on the bus.

THE BUS. Something I haven’t riden since school. A mode of transportation for day trips to New York. A device for transporting me from a parking lot to a sporting event. Something city travelers can use but suburbanites cannot.

I’ve not felt so accomplished in recent memory as I have by riding the bus a full .8 miles to work.

Yes, that’s me. The lady with a back pack and cheater glasses trying to figure out which bus takes me to the actual downtown area (answer: THEY ALL DO). The commuter who thinks she has to stick her Charm Card into a slot that does not exist upon entering the bus, and thereby clogging up the on-ramp, much to the dismay of the more seasoned travelers. The lady who stands at the bus stop for 30 full minutes, refusing to walk the less-than-a-mile distance, only to be advised that Charles Street is closed for the Washington Monument Lighting.  I’m “that girl.”

I’m a City Mouse. Not a very good one, yet. But a City Mouse.

And I love it.

More to come on this topic. There are some city lessons I’ve learned already, like parking tickets are no joke and shorter commutes are worth their weight in gold. Dogs are everywhere and nice people are also, despite the City’s image.

Here’s to 2019. Here’s to less drama, more justice, fewer political standoffs and greater bus saavy.

Pray for me. And the guy behind me in the bus queue.

 

 

 

Are You “Spiritually Homeless?”

It’s a rhetorical question.

But not really.

It has been a week. From hell.

A bit of background for those who don’t know me (that could be most of you–I’m not famous). I’m a theological Catholic more comfortable among my Protestant cohort at work and in volunteer activities. I’ve been that way for a few years now. It’s time to admit that.

I work with some of the best people I’ve ever known, committed to Christ in a way few workplaces could ever evidence (and my guess is, few actually do, despite what their mission statements may claim). I wish I could serve them better than I am right now, during palpable chaos in a major area of our work, refugee and immigration services. We integrate word and deed unlike any other method does or theology teaches, and I’m immensely proud to even sweep the floors for these people. I also serve with a fine faith-based organization that works hard everyday to eradicate HIV, other health disparities and associated stigma that afflict Baltimore, the city I love, with amazing stories of life change.

Believe me, friends at these organizations, who are largely protestant and more specifically evangelical, have weathered their own storms, and still do. The funding is tighter, and who the heck knows what “evangelical” even means anymore outside of the most pejorative dressing it has worn these past few years.

As always, my family, atheist to mainline, probably wonder why I can’t pick a winning team.

And they aren’t wrong to wonder it. I have never witnessed poorer Witness to Christ than I have in these past two years.

Catholic leadership abdicates responsibility for its youth and in turn the future of the Church, the one Catholics claim Peter himself founded at the behest of Jesus. How dare they.

Evangelical leadership has in no small part adopted a civil religion that excludes people from its reach and tramples Scripture mandating that we welcome the stranger. How dare they.

So, I find myself wondering: What to do? Where to go? For a Catholic, there are rules that haunt–skipping Mass, for instance. The fury inside of me says “I don’t give a #!*!.” And the Catholic inside of me says, “Be angry the other 23 hours on Sunday.” As silly and legalistic as that seems to my evangelical friends, it does haunt.

I’ve spent a large part of the last week absolutely in my zone–the Anger Zone. I’m quite good in that zone. I can research and write and attack and demand. But it is not sustainable. And, unchecked, it is not holy. So this weekend I rest. I hope.

A wise person once told me that you have to give people answers–don’t end a sermon or a soapbox moment without an action item. Sorry, my friend. I have no choice. I have no answer. Not today, at least.

I’m in Boston this weekend. What will Sunday bring for me?

I don’t know.

There is no “stay strong” at the end of this blog. There is no action item. I simply mourn and sit in the presence of the One who mourns more than I ever could over the state of his Catholic and Evangelical people.

Jesus weeps.

Send Me

il_570xN.995601850_n270I’m 50. That’s not old these days, but it’s not young either and, as I constantly remind my husband Eric, he’s two years old than me.

We have two children, both of whom are now legally adults. One is 100% emancipated; she even pays for her car insurance and cell phone, the final apron strings according to modern child-rearing. The younger is a sophomore in college. We still have to keep her in clothes and food and shampoo for some more years. She’s many states (or countries) away for most of the year now, however.

We’ve felt a tug to do something different in this, our 6th decade of existence. And we don’t know what that is.

Where are we supposed to be? And what are we supposed to be doing there?

For eighteen years, we’ve been suburbanites in North Baltimore. We have never been city people. But we both work in Baltimore City and see its charm, its challenges and its call.

In Baltimore, you don’t need to go far to go far. This greater longing to be intentional about where (and who) we are has led us to start a discernment process about our next move. We expect this will be a multi-year journey, but that’s only a guess.

We have far more questions than answers. Where should we live? How would we be a good neighbor in a different community? Where, and who, are we supposed to be?

 This all started as an exercise in trying to get out of lawn care—I’m not kidding. We are super lazy when it comes to maintenance of things like lawns. We update a fixture when it breaks or a wall color when the furniture bumps on the wall are too much to bear, and only then. But as this idea has germinated, it feels more God-ordained than sloth-driven.

I believe we are supposed to determine where (and consequently who) we will be in, God willing, the second half of this, our time on Earth. I’ve loved North Baltimore. We’ve been a part of many facets of its community life. But when God prompts you on, you listen.

Here I am, Lord. Send me. Is 6:8.

***

PS: Get cool city maps on Etsy here. The artwork above is from this site.

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping the Spirit

IMG_0118Today is the first day of Advent in Christian liturgical calendars. It is also the “new year” for Catholics, following the Feast of Christ the King.

I’m home this morning. We attended church last night and my buddy during Sunday morning Mass is sick. So I’m enjoying a Sunday morning at home, with my Christmas decorations illuminated, The Year Without a Santa Claus playing on my computer, and the first Advent candle burning nearby. Yes, I’m a mess.

I love Advent. The music can be hauntingly beautiful and I love the many artistic takes on Luke 1. It is also a time for contrition and repentance, something Christians can forget in the mad rush towards December 25. I’m no different; my own home setting is a mishmash of liturgical seasons. But I like the contrast–both the visual ones in my home and the theological ones presented to us in Luke 1 and Luke 2. (Luke is my favorite Gospel for literary reasons; I love the beauty of the language).

Yesterday, after some Advent prayer and reflection, I geeked out, making a Spotify Advent playlist and reconstructing the Scriptural and theological bases for the Ave Maria prayer. I have a PowerPoint slide, in case you are interested (PS – I know you are not; I often create PowerPoints just for me. It’s sad).

Every year around this time, I seem to be writing about how hard this Advent and Christmas season may be for many of us. This year is no different, sadly. I think I first wrote about this when my mom died right before Thanksgiving, five years ago. Since then, every year, I am aware of the many reasons people may struggle this time of year–loss, discord in society, scandal, and acrimony among friends and family.

What to do?

  • For praying people, pray. Sounds obvious, but every year we are always somehow surprised that we get drunk on seasonal craziness. All of the sudden, we can find ourselves far grumpier and meaner than we were a mere two weeks before.
  • For non-praying people, maybe give it a try. Leave what I like to call a blithering voice mail for God. Are you mad at things, or at Him “if he even exists?” Ok–let Him know. He can take it. God can deal with our anger at Him. He’d rather hear from you in your anger than not at all.
  • Lay off the social media fighting. Really, that should be true all year, but let’s face it, we’ve all fallen victim to it (or we’re the creator of the discord–yes, I’m talking to you, and me). Just. Stop. Social media has an amazing feature — hide or unfollow your grumpy, complaining friends, at least for a season. That doesn’t mean you don’t engage with them off social media, but do it on appropriate terms. Fighting over politics on social media is not the kind of engagement that fosters peace and goodwill towards men. Even if you are right. Are you making a point, or are you making a difference? Stop making a point, at least briefly, for the benefit of your own soul and for those who come in contact with you.
  • Watch something silly (right now Heat Miser is singing). Hallmark movie? Charlie Brown Christmas? Yes, please! It will lighten your heart and your load. Sing Christmas songs. Yes, even you, liturgically-obsessed Catholics. Mix the seasons. Don’t be annoying.

And if you see me being grumpy on social media, well, send me this blog post.

 

 

50

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Fifty.

The number of states.

A failing grade.

The rarely circulated cent piece I used often in my youth to pay the Ice Cream Man.

The percentage of effort when you are doing something half-assed. (Apparently 100 is assed).

Fifty is an interesting number. It can mean good things. It can mean bad things. It seems huge when you are talking about voice mails, but tiny when you are talking about credit scores.

It seems small when you are 80 years old, I presume. But it seems big when you are 49.

Today, my best friend is 50.

***

On September 4, 1967, an obstetrician in Portsmouth, Virginia headed to a local hospital to deliver a baby, whose was named Paige Lynette Hall.

Though we lived in the same town, we did not formally meet until 10th grade typing class. Her seat was next to mine and I never had any typing paper. Thus, a great friendship began.

We traversed the halls of Western Branch High School like most of our peers, with some drama and some dating nightmares and some huge laughs. Lots of huge laughs. She made nice with my high school boyfriend, (tried to) teach me to play tennis, and stuck by me even though I was seldom around on weekends due to my swimming habit. Even now, when we see a mutual high school friend and they discuss some fun/crazy/bizarre episode from those days, and I ask her why I don’t recall any of it, she says, “You were swimming.”

She was there when I had quite a rough patch after my freshman year in college, and we introduced our intendeds to each other with greater forethought that when we introduced them to our parents.

We’ve celebrated two marriages (one each–still married!), four children, and numerous vacation experiences. She’s survived cancer (all clear!) and we’ve both survived other events that remain unwritten here. She was beside me this year when I navigated the shocking revelation that my biological father was someone other than I thought. We have been there for each other, she more than I, I’d say, but then that’s how you always describe your best friend—in better terms than you would yourself.

Malcolm Gladwell, journalist, speaker and author of amazing books like The Tipping Point and Outliers, covered a fascinating friendship, in a recent episode of his podcast Revisionist History, between Winston Churchill and Frederick Lindemann. Weaved in his storytelling, Gladwell discusses the phenomenon of transactive memory. It turns out, we actually store data in the minds of people we love, not just in our own minds. When people are in a close relationship, they subconsciously learn over time which person is capable of storing which types of data. Gladwell gives an example from a spousal relationship: “I don’t need to remember my daughter’s emotional attachment to a teacher, because my wife remembers it.” As Gladwell says, “Little bits of ourselves reside in other people’s minds.”

In the case of Churchill and Lindemann, Churchill was a big-picture guy who was inconsistent and lacked the ability to bring order to his life. Lindemann was balanced, steadfast and disciplined, and served as the gatekeeper to Churchill’s mind. So very different in some ways, both men thought most highly of the other; each stated that the other was one of the two smartest men in the world (Einstein being one). Each presumed the other was appropriate company for Einstein, but not himself.

I do not believe Paige and I are comparable to these men. In the words of Jane Austen, we deserve neither such praise nor such censure: we surely aren’t as intelligent, storied or influential as they were; nor do our joint efforts, I hope, cause as much turmoil (listen to the podcast to hear how their very unique friendship wrought tragedy).  However, Churchill and Lindemann were puzzle pieces that naturally and uniquely fit together. They complemented each other in personality. If that complementarian relationship is wisely leveraged, it is a beautiful thing.

I don’t need to recall the details of high school events and relationships, because Paige will.

I don’t need to keep track of the meals we prepare every year on vacation, because Paige will (indeed, she will send me a menu and practically a shopping list).

I don’t need to learn what paint color should go on my walls, because Paige will.

I don’t need to remember to bring paper to typing class, because Paige will.

***

Great friendship is a great gift. C.S. Lewis lamented the lost art of friendship. He wrote extensively in The Four Loves about the different kinds of love, and asserted that philia, or friendship, was gravely underappreciated. It is the least organic kind of love. There is no overriding social pressure to love a friend, unlike a spouse or a child; it is possible to end a friendship more easily than a romantic or family relationship. Friendship can be easily broken without cultural norms pointing out your wrongdoing. It is freely chosen and freely maintained over time. In that respect, it is uniquely powerful; you must really want it in order to maintain it.

And so, on this 50th anniversary of Paige’s birth, I give her the gift, for once, of publicly sharing her birthday with mine.

I do not like to publicize my birthday. Why? In short, I’m grumpy. I don’t want to respond to “Happy Birthday!” over and over again. I’d prefer it not be recognized, much in the same way I dislike Mothers’ Day. But today, I make an exception.

Fifty years ago, I was born on September 4, 1967, a few hours before my best friend in the same town. For her part, she graciously does not wish me a happy birthday on social media every year because she knows I hate responding to it. So each year, I wish her happy birthday on Facebook, and laugh knowing that I get the present of not responding in kind to well-wishers. I even attended her 40th birthday party without ever having to reveal it was my birthday too. What a great gift. I now return it. You don’t have to weather this birthday alone.

I am eternally grateful to my biological father, whose identity I learned about a year ago, for bringing my best friend into this world. Fifty years ago today, Dr. Jose Vidarte delivered Paige at Portsmouth General Hospital a few hours after I was born at Maryview Hospital.

I do not think 50 years is such a big number now. In writing this, I realize there are so many more years that I want to spend with her.

How about it, Paige–another 50?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Tired. Cry, Even. Then Carry on.

20841938_10213679808205028_2531010127649119146_nToday I cried in church. It’s been a long time since that’s happened.

It’s been a terribly difficult time in our country, in our city, in our pews, and in our organizations. Divisions are everywhere.

And I’m tired.

I am tired of political divisions. I am tired of ugly speech that now is a part of our daily lives–fighting, in person, on TV, on the radio, on social media.

I’m sure everyone’s tired, and certainly many more so than me. I sit in an office at World Relief [the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals], offering advice, suggestions, and support, but I’m not in the trenches anymore. I don’t speak to people directly who have been berated on the street or online, or who have had their property destroyed. Or worse.

There are a few smaller, less intense things that I am tired of, though.

I’m tired of keeping plastic gloves in my desk so I reduce contamination of evidence when I handle hate mail.

I’m tired of trying, often unsuccessfully, to contact the FBI about these events, which I can only imagine is rather overwhelmed with an explosion of hate crimes that are cropping up like weeds.

I’m tired of giving less than fully adequate advice when I hear from those colleagues in the field who have questions and concerns about how to keep staff and clients safe.

I’m tired when I learn, yet again, that my more public-facing colleagues receive social media lashings (to put it mildly) because they have the gall to “love one another” day in, day out, in their jobs and in their personal lives.

I’m tired when I witness congregations, ever-growing more racially and culturally diverse across our country, which are un-served and un-led, who hear nothing from the pulpit about the violence and hate directed towards them as a group, and increasingly, personally as well.

We do one of two things, we American Christians, on the whole. We lash out or we walk on eggshells. And both are time-honored, cowardly responses.

Lashing out needs little introduction, and frankly what I am most tired of. It might be tolerable if there was real, useful, Christlike action behind it. But almost never is that the case. Just open your Facebook page and take a look. You don’t need an explainer on that one.

But walking on eggshells is increasingly more problematic, as I see it. We as a Church don’t engage on topics that seem scary, or divisive, or (perhaps most of all) costly. It might cost us our reputation or our image (both of which have little actual import here on Earth, and zero import beyond).  It may cost us dollars in giving to our organizations or churches–which are important but not the be-all, end-all. In fact, they are merely a means to an end, an end we will never fully arrive at if we fail to engage with and support one another when those among us are hurting, having been injured by hate.

And so I say, shame on us. Shame on me, for when I have been a part of egg-shell-walking. Shame on our Church when it does the same.

Today I find myself heartbroken.

But not defeated.

For tomorrow, I will rise. I will continue my work, as mundane as it is–lawyer work, operational work, behind the scenes work. Because I serve true servants of God. My colleagues at World Relief are the finest there are, and I am honored to serve them, and serve with them, every day. These folks don’t go into Christian development work for the big fat paycheck (😂). They do it because they have a purpose, a calling. They empower the Church to serve the most vulnerable, and they do it with great devotion and excellence.

They do it because they take the Great Command very seriously, and they will not be deterred.

And therefore, neither will I.

 

 

 

I Hate Mothers’ Day

article-1276906-09849BAB000005DC-341_233x263There. I said it.

I’m sure this is an offensive statement to many. But it’s true. I don’t like this day.

I could say I hate it because it’s commercialized, which is true, or because it excludes a huge group of women who aren’t moms in a rather painful way, which is absolutely true.

But that’s not it. What is it?

I love my kids and I love being a mom. It’s the one job I want to have until I die. And yet, to me, that doesn’t mean that we need to make such a grand production out of one day to the exclusion of all others.

Mothers are so important, and I loved mine. Grandmothers are so important, and I loved mine. But a day that forces us (once a year, as if that is enough) to recognize this role out loud is manipulative. And hypocritical. And forced.

Do not buy me flowers. Do not visit me because it is “the day.” You can take me out to eat, but, please, not on “the day!”

I know, I know, I’m insane, negative and obviously flawed! All the more reason not to recognize me for mere existence as a mother. I must be a terrible one anyway, right?!

Seriously, I know this reveals my inner dysfunction, one that is not new. I’ve always disliked this day.

Truth is, I hate certain kinds of recognition. I don’t reveal my birthday for the same reason. Because I don’t want you to know how old I am? Nope. I’m 49 and I don’t color my hair, so everyone knows I’m not passing for 32. I simply don’t want to have people recognize me all day for existing. There is something possibly unchristian about that stance, I fear; because I exist, I am loved as a child of God. And yet, it doesn’t feel right or good to me to make a production out of this day, or to demand that others do so.

And in Christian-land, it’s even more intense. You will be wished “Happy Mothers’ Day” at least 250 times on Sunday morning at church. You might get a flower or a candy or some other token of no one’s affection. Indeed, Mothers’ Day holds churches hostage in a special kind of way. Pastors, do not fail to highlight mothers (at least) as much as Jesus on Mothers’ Day. If you fail to do this, arrive at work a few hours early on Monday to triage your email and develop a crisis management plan.

I’m not kidding. It’s a day of Christian hostage-holding.

To be fair, when kids are little, Mothers’ Day is bearable because of the awesome gifts. One year, my daughter Katy gave me a rock. From the front porch. She wrote “paperweight” on it. I still have it. My youngest Devon always made spectacular cards, mostly to show up her sister, who never traveled further than the front porch to shop. But with time, this day (let’s admit it, folks) feels so obligatory–especially perhaps for those moms who have moms. It’s a crazy, American trap of guilt, overpriced food, uncomfortable church attire, and stress.

Love your mom everyday, not just on a particular Sunday in May. Go to church with her, but not just on a particular Sunday in May.

Even as I write this, I’m not convinced. It feels wrong to dislike this day so much. In that sense, perhaps it has a special place in my own growth; perhaps I have to learn to be OK with this day.

But please, this Sunday, just wave to me.

Women of Valor

FullSizeRender-1Today is International Women’s Day. I learned that while this is not a big deal in the U.S. at this time, it is a huge deal elsewhere in the world. People bake cakes for women and celebrate them. Perhaps like our Mother’s Day, without the overpriced brunch and flowers.

This is a fractious time. For many, it hardly seems celebratory. But stopping to recognize that women are made imago dei is important, perhaps supremely so, in times such as these.

World Relief created an unbelievably moving piece, a modern-day look at Proverbs 31. No, it’s not all flowers, pink and pastel (bleech). It’s a real look at real women in the real world, today. It’s about you. It’s about me.

Few things make me cry. This did. It’s such a beautiful piece of work, so moving, and so needed today. Share it with the women in your life. It will impact them so. I wish my grandmother could see it; she is physically with us but not much more than that.

I offer to this to my dear sisters, some of whom I know and some, I do not.

Remember, you are worth far more than rubies.

Please take a look. I’m so thankful for and proud of my gifted and hardworking colleagues whose talents so far exceed mine. I am blessed.