Twas the Night Before the Election…

I am so thankful that tomorrow is Election Day, and that, come Wednesday, most people will be able to move forward, online and IRL relationships will be (hopefully) restored and normalcy returned.

This election cycle has really taken a toll on me. I don’t know if it’s really been that much more vitriolic, or if I’m just feeling it because I’m seeing things through a different lens this time around (and I’ve been alienated by many who liked me because I once held similar views to them).

The, mostly misguided, anger, the nastiness and the nit-picking (all of which I have been guilty of) have been beyond belief for the last 4 years. I’ve judged people and I’ve been judged. And I’m ready for it to be over.

This morning I read “Election Day Is Not a Vote Between Hades and Paradise” over at Deeper Story. So many excellent points are made, but it was the title that I’ve really chewed around on all day, because I honestly believe that there are people who DO believe that it is a vote for just those things. I’ve heard them proclaim just as much.

This belief is what has been at the core of my discomfort with the direction of this election. As a Christian, I’ve long believed that, while it is my duty to vote, whether my candidate wins or loses, God is in control.

I’ve also been told for a long time to vote according to God’s will.

But this time around I’ve wondered what that meant… Is it providing a safety net to others so that they can get back on their feet after being laid-off? Or is it allowing the super wealthy to keep as much of their self-made wealth as possible, and believe enough will trickle down to the rest of us to allow us to think we can get there with enough hard work?

Rather than making changes in ourselves, we’ve railed, pointed fingers and hated on others, and tried to convince everyone that our candidate is more Godly. When we put all of our hopes in one person, they are going to fall short. We live in fear, of a God who rails and smites, rather than living in the full glory of a God who is full of grace, second chances and longs for us all to see Him in the actions of others:

The actions we take to help the scared unwed pregnant girl after she makes the brave choice to keep her baby.
The actions we take to provide a warm place to sleep and a comforting word to the family who has lost everything.
The actions we take to ensure that everyone can get major medical help without having to declare bankruptcy.

Because I have been each of those people.

I was the unwed pregnant girl, who, out of fear, aborted her baby.
I, along with my ex, lost everything, was briefly homeless and had to get food stamps to support us as we got back on our feet. (We, thankfully, had friends and family who helped us, but not everyone does.)
I was one of those who, after a divorce, could not afford dental or health care for herself or her children and had to rely on medicaid for a season.

I don’t believe that either candidate has all the answers. I don’t believe that God has a party favorite. I don’t believe that He wants us to vote for one candidate over another, because every four years, we are voting for one flawed person against another flawed person. What He wants is for us to change.

For us to be moved enough to fill in the gap that EVERY flawed administration creates. That, is what ultimately matters.

photo credit from flickr

(Just Write)

Faith, Hope and 41

I look smug about this birthday, don’t I?

Last October 7th, when I turned 40, I spent the day tending to my youngest, who was recovering from a, not-so-minor, out-patient procedure he had done that morning. While I would not recommend celebrating your own birthday in that way, I have to admit, it absolutely kept me from focusing on myself, and the fact that I had entered my FORTIES.

I’ve never been afraid of forty. But admittedly, it still stuns me, at times, that I am in this decade of my life.

At that time, I considered writing something about turning 40, but I stopped myself, because, let’s admit it, I was no expert on 40. All I knew was based on hearsay, and emotion, not, necessarily, reality. I was a mere baby in terms of what I knew and felt about it.  I suppose I still am, but I feel a bit more qualified to speak on it now that I’m ‘older and wiser’… *cough*. Or something.

The last several years have all been magical for many reasons, but this year, the year from 40 to 41, has helped me solidify my belief that I am stronger than I ever realized. It’s been a long, hard, winding road getting to this point, but I love going along it. Sometimes, I want to run ahead and know what’s around the next bend, other times, I want to straggle behind and linger in the moment. But I’m always – always – thankful for every moment of it.

Because, I know where I’ve been.

The week I turned 30, my baby girl turned one and we closed on our first home. While there were many cracks already showing, my 30s appeared, from the outside, to be off to a picture-perfect start.

Nearly everything changed from 30 to 40. So much was given and so much was taken away. Sometimes, I feel as though I lived 20 lifetimes in that decade. It was a difficult one, on many levels. I wrote about it a lot on this blog, before the bottom fell out (again), but if you were to go back and look for them, you might not know it. I white-washed much of it. I wanted to find meaning in all of the difficulties, and the suffering. I wanted, desperately, for it to have been for a reason. I needed to find that reason and know it. But, it’s not always easy to see or understand. Sometimes, it just takes faith.

My 30s were built on faith. That was all I had. My 40s are being built on hope.

I am realizing what is meant by older and wiser. I wish it came with a few less wrinkles and sags, but I am trying to embrace those as well.

There are countless variables in life, and I know that anything can happen, at any moment. I see it every day. And that is where the lessons of my 30s, those built on faith, become invaluable. If I didn’t have those, I would be living in fear, because I’ve seen too much happen, and I know what can happen.

But I also know the beauty that can come from those very things; when the wounds become scars.

A wound is messy and always susceptible to being reopened or infected. A scar is where it has healed; a reminder of what was and what is. It does not have to be a shameful reminder.

And that is what gives me hope.

Here’s to my forties.

(linked up with JustWrite)

Pray for Alabama

I was born in Alabama, and although I didn’t grown up here, I spent every Christmas and summer in Decatur and Florence with family. It’s a place I’ve always been connected to and have always felt a connection with.

When Mamaw passed away in December 2009, I was saddened to realize that I would no longer have a reason to be in Alabama. I didn’t know at the time that I’d be living there within 5 months. As I like to say, I’ve made it full circle. Not only am I back where I started, but I’ve made friends and once again, have family here.

It’s home.

And so, that is why yesterday, April 27th was a day that left me exhausted and heart-broken.

We knew it was coming and we knew it was going to be bad. Even before Wednesday, forecasters were speculating that it could be “historic” or “epic”, but there was no doubt it would be damaging.

It was such an odd day. Randy was out of town on business, and so I had several backup alarms set for getting the kids ready for school. Instead, I woke up to sirens and within minutes, I heard that initial crash of thunder – that moment that I visualize the warm and cold air finally collide. There was no rain or wind at that point.

Within minutes of that collision, the initial storm hit with rain and strong winds. I watched as my Twitter stream filled with reports of power outages and down trees and damage.

Schools were closed due to fallen trees and widespread power outages. Only 20 out of 55 schools in our system had power.

The rest of the afternoon was amazingly nice. Sunny and windy. But it was coming:

(screenshot of @Spann warning of the tornado on the ground headed toward Tuscaloosa)

Watching it, I felt helpless. I felt awe at the force of nature. I wanted to cry. Cullman had already been beaten up severely, as had many other towns and areas across the state. Seeing this, and knowing what it was doing to the city below it, shook me to my core.

(screenshot of the tornado passing thru Tuscaloosa)

We got into our safe spot as it headed towards Birmingham. Reports were that it could tag the airport, which is about 10 minutes from our home.

(watching the tornado on the ipad from our safe spot)

As it was bearing towards us, news of the destruction in Tuscaloosa and beyond was pouring in.

In the end, we were untouched, physically. But emotionally, we are hurting for so many. It’s almost unbearable to think about what others woke up to this morning. To imagine what they are facing and coping with. The losses that they have been blown. So much loss of life. The starting over.

(screen captures of Cullman destruction)

I’m fighting with that all-too-common survivors guilt. Vacillating between elation of being ok and anger that others can think about anything else. Worried that the hurts will be forgotten. Like any tragedy, we rally around it and all want to reach out. But within hours, we change the channel and speculate about what the Queen-To-Be will be wearing tomorrow.

(tornado debris: a divorce decree from Tuscaloosa County, nearly 80 miles away from us)

And yet, I’m thankful that so many can do that. That they are ok and momentarily carefree. I think we’d all lose our minds if we couldn’t relax our brains from the images.

But let’s not forget Alabama yet. It needs help. It needs prayer.

It’s going to be a long journey back for too many. They shouldn’t have to do it alone.

Governor Bentley pushed back against questions from reporters on Thursday about whether Alabama residents had failed to heed tornado warnings, thus pushing up the casualty toll. “We were very prepared … but it was just the force of the storms,” Bentley said. “When a [large tornado] hits a largely populated area like Tuscaloosa, you cannot move thousands of people in five minutes. When an F4 or F5 tornado hits, there’s not much you can do to change the outcome of that.”  – Christian Science Monitor (emphasis mine)

Additional Links:

137 Tornadoes Reported in the Deep South on Wednesday *(AL.com)
Alabama Tornadoes: How You Can Help Victims of the April 27, 2011 Deadly Storms (AL.com)
‘We’re Alive’: Survivors Recount Deadly Tornadoes (MSNBC)
April 27, 2011 Alabama Tornado Photo Stream (from ABC 33/40)
Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes (Facebook page set up to help people recover debris found in others yards)
Pray for the Tornado Victims of April 27, 2011 (Facebook page filled with thoughts and resources for helping)
Tornado Season Reaches Peak in “Dixie Alley” (Washington Post)

Videos:

http://youtu.be/kxWRS-aFBW8
http://youtu.be/5ohIVzIZLuQ

Storm Aftermath Video Shows Nothing Left (CNN)

*Updated: links no longer available/online

There is a time to avert your eyes. And a time to take notice.

(*this post was originally posted November 19, 2007)

This past weekend I had several errands to run, so Saturday I loaded up the kids and we headed to the stores.

We first went to lunch, because frankly, it was like Old Mother Hubbard’s house around here. The cupboard’s were bare, short of a bag of leftover Halloween candy. That would have been a viable option for me, except that I had already eaten all of the candy that I like…

After lunch we hit some of the local stores. I knew exactly where I wanted to go and what I needed to get.

When we lived in Wisconsin, this would have been no quick trip. We lived in a very rural town and had to travel 2 hours to the nearest mall and 45 minutes to the nearest Wal-Mart. (but no walking barefoot through the snow uphill both ways…) Any shopping had to be planned or done online.

The lovely part of this was that I learned to be content with what I had. Honestly, there’s not much I can think of buying that a 2 hour trip in a car with kids won’t cure me of. I did most of my clothes shopping online.

When we moved to Maryland, I stayed away from the malls because we didn’t have the money to get by each week, let alone do any extra shopping.

But recently, I’ve had to go into REAL stores, with real items I can touch! and smell! and they are displayed so lovely. And the desire for “things” has had to be stuffed aside repeatedly. I was amazed at the things that I began to think that I “needed”… things that before Saturday, I didn’t even know I could buy. I went into BabiesRUs to use a gift certificate that we received for Declan’s birth. I knew just what I wanted… but walking to the right aisle led me past digital baby scales for making sure your baby is the perfect weight in between doctor’s visits. Sterilization kits. Gadgets for increasing your baby’s IQ in utero. Luxury strollers. I had to keep my eyes averted just to keep from passing out from the panting.

Even our local Wal-Mart is fancy, with its wooden floors and track lighting. Shopping at Wal-Mart is hard enough without having to deal with every thing screaming from the racks for you to take it home.

It is hard to be content.

There is so much that we think we must have.

That we think will make us happy.

That will fill a void.

That we think will make us popular and well-thought of.

If only we had could have it.

Then life would be be complete.

But that’s not how its supposed to be. Not when there are people who have to do without basic necessities each and every day. When people are suffering from diseases that are treatable.

I love beautiful things. And don’t believe there is anything inherently wrong with beautiful things. But there is when we ignore the suffering of others while we bask in “OUR” things.

My prayer for each of us is that we will be content with the things we’ve been blessed with and that we will remember and help take care of those who have been blessed with little.

Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
~ Deuteronomy 15:11

Links, Links everywhere there’s Links

I’m taking a break from my drama to mention several links and finds from my week.They run the gamut of topics – from seriously funny, to seriously serious, to just great information. I hope you will take a look.

One of my favorite new blogs is Megan at FriedOkra (thanks to Jules). I have enjoyed reading the story of her courtship with her husband. But this post, regarding a recent trip to the municipal pool, just about killed me. It is so funny and so gross at the same time. Please, for the sake of your computer, do not drink anything while reading this post.

Jules, at Everyday Mommy, has had many excellent thought-provoking posts this week. First, there is this one, with an excellent discussion on creating Jesus in our image and making Him fit into a nice little package of who we want Him to be. Several weeks ago, she provided a link for this site*. To read the interesting discussion on this site at her site, go here*.

You may have already heard about the bishop in the Netherlands proposing all people call their God “Allah”… The Hutch* has written a succinct post summing up the Truth regarding this* proposal.

Check out these YUMMY recipes for S’mores, at Skip to My Lou. These aren’t your ordinary smores.

I LOVE the MotherLoad! It is full of ideas for organizing your home and sticking to a budget. This post, on Social Obligations on a Budget, is a perfect example. Don’t just read her blog… check out the entire site.

In light of the impending delivery of our fourth child, I have to link to this post over at Blog for Life. Sean and I had talked about this very thing shortly after Seamus turned one. We had to wonder if we were limiting the Lord’s planned blessings for us if we took our “child bearing” into our own hands and out of His. Yes, financially, our lives will be quite different than if we had stopped after 1 or 2 children. But the Lord knew that, and He doesn’t just bless people financially. I look at each of my children and want to cry and praise the Lord for the way He has blessed our home with these precious children.

Our thinking on this topic is certainly not the “norm” — in fact I am appalled at the comments people make to me when they see me with my big, round expectant belly along with my three other children. One man asked me the other day if I was “one of the producers” and then mumbled something about overpopulation…

Finally, I am proud to mention that I was awarded this award by CMommy at Singalullaby.

It is for “those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends & those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also, for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world.”

I give this to each and everyone of you who read my blog and have offered prayers and encouragement. I am constantly amazed at how the Lord uses the internet.

*Updated: Links are no longer available