life

How can my heart not be filled with hope?

Christina was the only black girl in my elementary school.

I didn’t notice that she was the only black girl, I only noticed that she was a nice girl.

So we ran around together at recess – swinging on swings, playing four square and tetherball.

I had no inkling that being friends with her was any different than being friends with anyone else.

Until a holiday gathering at my aunt’s house.

I didn’t hear what my grandma said, but I heard my mom reply, “Julie has a friend who is black.”

As if it were unusual.

As if my small, ordinary friendship with Christina was part of a large debate.

As if it were something for which to be proud?

That overheard, twenty-second interaction between my mom and her mom sowed a seed.

A subtle notion that befriending a black person was a charitable thing to do.

I’m listening to the talks from the MLK50 Conference in Memphis held earlier this month, which marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The one I listened to this morning is excellent:

“How could my heart not be filled with hope?”

I thought about the subtle insidiousness of open-hearted seeds sown benignly that are not benign at all.  

I thought about how impossible it would be to root out every pretty weed that springs from them.

Every pretty weed that looks like it could be a flower.

Impossible if not for Christ.

A friend from my distant past – so distant that he didn’t know I am a Christian and it’s been over 35 years – recently sent me a message.  In it he wrote, “…white Christians are done on this planet…they can flail against the wind all they want…no avail regardless or your politics.”

God’s aim is to restore everything back to the way He created it to be. Acts 3

He’s been setting mankind straight ever since He sent Jesus to show us what He’s really like, what He really cares about.

He’s setting us all straight and He’s started with His own house.

For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 1 Peter 4:17

Christians – no matter our color – are not done on this planet, but we are undergoing a transformation.  So I guess it would be accurate to say white Christianity as it currently thinks and acts is done on this planet. And I hope so.

But Christians aren’t done.

And thank God, because if we were, what hope would there be for my message writing old friend?

#bestow

 

 

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life, Michigan

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

“I know great minds discuss ideas and small minds discuss people,” she said over her margherita flatbread and my fish tacos, “but I find people FASCINATING.”

Her eyes and her voice grew big.

Perhaps it was her fascination with people that caused her to notice what I completely missed earlier in the evening, or perhaps it was the fact that I was looking for a parking space.

I took my daughter out to celebrate the 17th anniversary of my wedding.

Shouldn’t your husband have taken you out to celebrate your anniversary?, you might be thinking.

Yes, that is what one would expect, but this year, this April 6th, he took me out to breakfast and then promptly headed up north to go fly fishing for the weekend.

Seventeen years ago he turned down an invitation to The Masters to marry me on April 6, big golfer that he was, his love for me was even bigger.

But now, seventeen years later….  No really, I’m okay with it.  Our brother-in-law invited him and I said, “Of course, go ahead.”

So I took my daughter out to dinner.

And though it might certainly be a memorable anniversary dinner, there was nothing romantic or magical about it.

We thought we’d take a chance on the Roadside B & G, even though they don’t take reservations.

45 – 60 minute wait.  Nope.

We headed south while we racked our brains for plan B.

“What about Mex?,” my daughter offered.  It was five miles straight down the road.  

I was hungry and it was close, so Mex it was going to be.

We hit a traffic jam two miles down. In the distance we saw the flashing lights of multiple emergency vehicles, just in time to bail and take the long way around.

Upon arriving at Mex, I circled around the back of the restaurant looking for a parking space.

My peripheral vision noticed two men talking near the “employee only” back door and assumed they were on a break.

We parked, walked around to the front door and were greeted by a friendly host and hostess.  The hostess picked up two menus, things looked promising.

For a second.

Just as she picked up the menus there was a LARGE, jolting bang.

My first thought was a gunshot.  In this day and age it’s probably everyone’s first thought.

And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the spray of shattered glass, a stool tipped and crashed to the floor.  Oh no! Was someone sitting in it?

Looking up from the stool, draped only with a coat, I saw the mangled fender of a car ten feet from where my daughter and I were standing.

A woman came running from the back of the restaurant yelling, “Call an ambulance!,” as she ran out the front door.

She ran back in to make sure everyone inside the restaurant was okay.

No one seemed to be injured, not even the diners whose table was displaced by the car, not the diners at several tables near the window upon whose meals shattered glass rained.

The quick responding woman, perhaps she as the front of the house manager, ran back outside, by then several other employees were out there, too.

“We better leave,” I said to my daughter.

We headed out the chaotic front door just as the woman was yelling for someone to get towels.

We looked to our right.  The driver of the car was sitting against the wall of the restaurant with blood pouring out of both nostrils, agonized look on his face.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen, this wasn’t supposed to happen,” he kept repeating as attenders tried to calm him.

We sat in my car for a minute processing what we just saw.

“The driver was that young man who was arguing with the manager by the back door.”

“What, they were arguing?”

“Yes,” my daughter said, “I was watching them intently and I could see by their body language that they were arguing.  And then the young man walked away looking dissatisfied.”

“We better hurry and go before the emergency vehicles get here and block the driveways.”

As it was I had to wait to pull out of the parking lot while 4 firetrucks and 6 police cars pulled in.

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My daughter snapped a picture as we drove past. You can’t see anything but a couple of police cars, but this story needs a picture or two.

“Now where?,” I asked.

“Just head into Birmingham,” she said.

There are a lot of restaurants in Birmingham, and lots of long waits since B’ham is a popular date night destination. But what the heck.

Foiled again.

The hip restaurant we thought we might try is on Old Woodward, upon which I was going to turn left.  But the road was gone. Completely torn up in both directions.

“This is turning out to be the anniversary dinner from h-e-double-hockey sticks,” I sighed.

A little out of town is an upscale grocery store which has an upstairs bistro.  

“Do you have a reservation?,” the young, pleasant hostess asked.

“Do I need one?,” I asked in return.

“No, but it will be about a 15 minute wait, you can browse in the store and I’ll text you when a table is available.”

As we browsed the bakery section we spotted a wonderful selection of individual trifles.

“Let’s get a couple of those after we eat and take them home for dessert,” I said.

My daughter nodded enthusiastically.

After 30 minutes of browsing and still no text, I had my daughter climb the stairs to check our status.

“We’re next,” she reported back.

It was another 15 minutes before we were seated at a table next to a window with drafty plexiglass seams.  I wrapped my winter coat around my shoulders.

A long and hungry forty-five minutes later we were finally sharing her flatbread and my tacos.

The only truly enjoyable part of the evening was the conversation during our hungry forty-five minute wait.  She told me about her day, careful to guard the privacy of her patients, as she sipped a glass of wine and I sipped a cup of hot tea.

Dissociative identity disorder. Fascinating.

I looked out the window, it was blizzarding.

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“Snow is coming in,” I said.”  My daughter looked at me in disbelief.  “Feel” I said.

She hovered her hand over the seam. Sure enough.

“It’s better than a car coming in,” she quipped, putting my misery in perspective.

“I’m still thinking about that young man,” I said. “He probably didn’t make a lot of money working there, and his car didn’t look that nice, I doubt he can afford to get it fixed.”

“He was wearing street clothes,” she said, a detail I completely missed, “so he probably wasn’t working that day.”

“Maybe he was there to pick up his check,” I guessed, “and got fired…”

My daughter wondered whether he had driven into the restaurant intentionally.

I didn’t think so, since he kept saying, “This wasn’t supposed to happen…”  I thought maybe he was upset and distracted and wasn’t paying attention.  Or perhaps he meant to angrily squeal his tires in front of the restaurant and lost control.  Or perhaps he was looking in the window as he drove past and his steering followed his gaze.

All we knew for sure was that his bad day got really bad.  And we hoped he’s going to be okay.

I asked for the check as soon as our plates were cleared.  We had been there two hours and I was ready to go home.

As we descended the stairs to the store I said, “Let’s go get those trifles before we go…”

There was a large, thick black curtain blocking the entrance to the store.

“Oh shoot, are they closed?”

“It’s 9:10,” my daughter said, “they probably closed at 9.”

Missed our desserts by ten minutes, of course we did.

“It’s just as well, I want to get home” I said, as I pulled onto the main road, “I’ve had to pee since we arrived two hours ago.”

“This really isn’t your night,” my daughter chuckled.

“I hope Maxy* hasn’t pooped on the floor.”

This morning I received a text from the hub:

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Happy Spring!!??!! from Pere Marquette Rod and Gun Club, 12” in spots

Guessing his will be a memorable, but not magical, fishing trip.

*Maxy is our fifteen-year-old, incontinent hound dog

 

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life, Light

My Heart Melts Like Butter

“Nobody’s ideals form them like their loves form them.” – Ann Voskamp

I paused on page 117 of The Broken Way, the morning sun streaming through my bedroom window and across my bed, putting a spotlight on my slumbering, gently snoring beagle.

I thought of an old friend, who turned down open-hearted friendship in favor of fellowship with close-minded ideals.

I felt something stir.

Hope.

Longing.

Love.

Maybe Love would one day draw him.

Maybe, in the end, Love would form.

I read on to a new chapter.  Mean girls and devouring women.

Unexpected tears rolled.

Not sobs, not even a cry, just a few stray tears churned up by a benign sorrow.

p. 189: “I’ve made wide berths around women for years and skirted the communion of community because who knew when smiles could turn into fangs if you turned your back?”

You and me both, Ann.

I closed the book and put in a load of laundry. Socks and underwear.

I love any piece of writing that churns a memory, an emotion, a “me, too.” I love writing that keeps me pondering long after I’ve put it down.

I’ve had far more male friends than female friends in my life.

I thought about my friendships in general, about how I was able to keep my heart wide open, how I was able to turn the other cheek and expect good things as a non-Christian child, yet watched my heart increasingly close as a Christian adult.

We Christians often think that our children’s hearts are in danger of being corrupted, wooed, enticed away from God by the world, but I think it’s much more likely that they will be pushed, shoved away from Him by members of His church.

Waiting for the dryer to dry I jot down that thought.

I love writing that inspires a thought, even a post.

It’s what God called “worthwhile, not worthless words.”

It’s what I hope to someday write.

Good job, Ann.

#churn

 

 

 

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life

Rejoice with those who wear jeans.

“I hope I’m not dressed too casually,” I remarked, as I pulled my black, three-tiered Minnetonkas up over my black skinny jeans.

I was heading to my daughter’s alma mater to speak.

“It is Friday, though,” I reasoned, “and the students probably have a jeans day today, what with basketball and all.”

“What with basketball and all” = the boys bball team won the state semi-final game last night and they’ll be back at the Breslin Center in East Lansing in the morning for the final.

So the kids would most likely have a jeans day.

“Yeah,” my daughter said, “they probably do have a jeans day.”

Nowadays the students at that school wear uniforms, but my daughter was a student there before uniforms, back when they had to follow a very strict dress code.

Back then jeans days were granted on select Fridays and they were a huge, happy deal.

“I remember earning a special jeans day once,” she mused. “I think I got to wear them on a Wednesday.

It was a glorious morning, as all jeans day mornings were, dressing without the pressure of the code and looking cute for a change.

So I went to school in my jeans and a t-shirt while everyone else didn’t.

And that’s the moment I discovered that happiness is only real when it’s shared.

“That’s such a touching little story,” I said, as I clasped my necklace, “I think I’ll jot it down.”

I love my girl’s heart.  I love that she couldn’t enjoy the privilege of jeans while her friends suffered in khakis and collared shirts.

Not everyone is like that.

Go Eagles!

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life

Compassion is as compassion does.

Back in 2005 the hub loaded his table saw, planer and a bunch of other heavy woodworking equipment into a small u-haul.  We were headed to Vero Beach, Florida with a group from the church we attended to help repair a church that had been damaged by a hurricane.  Since the hub had major carpentry skills – and major equipment – he was in charge of that aspect of the trip.

I was in charge of activities for the church’s children.

While we were there we hosted nightly cookouts at a park near the Vero Beach church and invited its members to come, relax, eat and share their hurricane stories.

Because I thought sharing their stories might help.

Turns out it did.  Turns out listening to their stories, hearing what they had been through was the best, most restorative thing we did all week.

It helps to know someone cares.

It was hallowed ground in a Lansing courtroom when Larry Nassar faced his victims.  God bless Judge Aquilina for patiently giving each one of them the opportunity to tell their stories.  God bless her for giving us the opportunity to listen compassionately.

It helps to be heard.

The White House recently invited community members and victims from Parkland, Florida as well as victims from the Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings to a listening session.

God bless our President for giving them a chance to speak and for giving us a chance to hear their hearts.

There are those who hate our President no matter what, who would refuse to give him a nod of credit for an act of compassion, who would refuse him the opportunity to speak and the opportunity to be heard with compassionate ears.

In their minds he is morally “less than” they and therefore he isn’t worthy of their compassion.  They just want to see him destroyed.

Actions speak louder than words.

If we want our country to heal, and it’s looking like the collective “we” don’t, we’ll have to put down our self-righteous hate and pick up an olive branch.  Or at least a hearing aid.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

#branch

 

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life

Hoard Your Pills

I’ve learned over the years that there are two types of physical therapists – those who gently stretch you back into shape over the course of many sessions and those who break adhesions in a brutal few.

The first time I needed PT – for a frozen shoulder – I was cranked on by the latter.

“Take a pain pill before you come next time,” he instructed.

“I’m afraid I’ll get addicted to them,” I replied.

“You won’t,” he said, completely sure of himself, “you don’t have an addictive personality.”

Maybe he’d seen enough people on them to know.

So I proactively took one before I came to the next few appointments.

And then one morning I arrived to do my exercises – brutal cranking on my shoulder no longer necessary – and was surprised to find that everything everyone said was REALLY funny.

I did my exercises alone for awhile, smiling and chuckling, when the PT came over and said, “You don’t need the pain pills anymore.”

So I stopped taking them.

I had quite a few left.

“You can get about $20/pill on the street,” he said.

“I can’t,” I said, “I don’t have a criminal personality.”

I’ve been prescribed narcotic painkillers several times in my life and each time I took one or two and had a bunch left over.

When they were prescribed last year, I refused them altogether, told the urgent care doc I’d call for the script if the pain became unbearable.

Now I wish I had taken it, filled it and hoarded the pills.

‘Cuz things have changed.

I fell taking Dixie for a walk last Saturday evening and knocked the wind out of myself.  I returned home barely able to breathe or talk.

Don’t ask me what happened ‘cuz I don’t know.  One minute I was walking, the next minute I was face down on the asphalt.

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Dixie and our friend Leo on a recent walk, but not the fateful walk.

“Sounds like you bruised your ribs,” said the hub as I described the pain, “I did that once playing racquetball.”

Sunday morning I woke up and couldn’t move. Literally. At all.

“Can someone help me?” I cried out in a raspy voice.

The hub was downstairs in the family room.

My daughter came rushing in.

“I can’t move. Put your hands behind my back and try to pull me forward into a sitting position.”

Horrendous pain.

“Okay now put your arms around me and try to lift me to my feet.

Horrendously horrendous pain.

The hub drove me to urgent care to make sure I hadn’t broken anything.

I braced myself for every excruciating bump in the road, every right turn and left turn, every acceleration.

The physician assistant questioned me: “On a scale of one to ten, where ten is the worst pain you can imagine, where would you rank your pain.”

“I took 4 Advil before I came, so I’d put it at a 9 now, but before the Advil it was a twelve.” Because it was worse than I ever imagined pain could be.

While we waited for a radiologist to read the x-rays, I sighed to the hub, “They’re probably not going to want to prescribe anything due to the opioid crackdown.”  But even as I said it, I expected they would. Given the amount of pain I was in.

The hub got up and read a poster on the exam room wall.  It was all about their new controlled-substance prescribing policy and how they would check a registry to see how often they had been prescribed for a patient.

The nurse came in and gave me a shot of toradol.

The PA came back in: “I’m going to send you home with 2 prescriptions, one for Motrin 800 and one for Tylenol 650. You can alternate taking them.”

My face surely said, “Really? Motrin 800? When I just told you that 4 Advil only brought the pain down to a 9?”

I think she heard my face because she said, annoyingly cheerfully, “Just imagine how much pain the people who break their ribs are in.”

“You’re an idiot,” I thought, but not loud enough for her to hear me.

When she left the room I turned to the hub, “I’ve broken bones and I’ve bruised bones and I know from experience that bruised bones hurt more.”

“AND they take longer to heal.”

I should have told her what my PT said about me not having an addictive personality.

I should have told her to check my record and see that I refused Norco last time I was there.

I should have told her about all the unused Vicodin and oxycontin and hydrocodone I’ve turned in at various community toxic waste disposal events over the years.

I wished I hadn’t turned them in.

But instead of saying anything I just mustered a smile and left with the two lame scripts.

The Tylenol 650 is worthless – didn’t even come close to touching the pain.

“Tylenol never does,” my daughter said.

After four days of taking Motrin 800 around the clock my feet and ankles swelled.

They haven’t swelled since I was pregnant 28 years ago.

I called the urgent care clinic, “My feet and ankles are swollen and they never swell, should I quit taking the Motrin?”

“I don’t think so,” the voice on the other end said.

“Are you a medical person?”

“I’m a medical assistant.”

“Well I googled it and learned that some medications – NSAIDS among them – can cause swelling.”

She didn’t know that.

“You guys prescribe drugs without knowing the possible side effects?”

This is why I hate the medical profession the way some people hate lawyers.

So I quit taking the Motrin and I’m toughing it out with tart cherry juice.

Because I remember Dr. Oz saying something about it a long time ago.

And I’m wondering why the pendulum has to always swing to the extremes.

Why not start addressing the opioid epidemic by actually checking the database and refusing opioids to those who have been flagged?

Why not prescribe 2 or 3 days worth of a narcotic to a newly injured patient just to get her through the worst of it and then switch her to Motrin?

I suppose I should have insisted on stronger pain meds but insisting would have likely put a red flag in my file.

“Oh yeah, she was here looking for drugs,” I can imagine her saying to a head-shaking staff when I left.

It’s been a painful, miserable week.

When my mom fractured her spine last Spring, her doc prescribed 100 hydrocodone.

“Why did he prescribe me 100?,” she asked when I came to spend the night, “I don’t need 100!”

“I don’t know, kickbacks?,” I thought then.

“To share,” is what I’m thinking now.

#justanothermesswe’vemade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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life

Guns & Young Brains

I’m proud of President Trump for taking steps to address the growing epidemic of teen and young adult violence in our country. I’m proud of him for gathering a variety of law enforcement, mental health and education experts to give input.

Hertz, National and Enterprise might have something to say about it, too.

When I talk to kids, I tell them that the human brain is not fully developed until around age 25. The last portion to develop is the frontal cortex, which is associated with planning, reasoning, problem solving and thinking-before-acting.

That’s why they need the guidance of their parents, teachers, pastors, etc.

The frontal cortex also affects the amygdala, which regulates emotions.

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, a teen’s “actions are guided more by the emotional and reactive amygdala and less by the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex. Research has also shown that exposure to drugs and alcohol during the teen years can change or delay these developments.

Based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to:

  • act on impulse
  • misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions
  • get into accidents of all kinds
  • get involved in fights
  • engage in dangerous or risky behavior

Adolescents are less likely to:

  • think before they act
  • pause to consider the consequences of their actions
  • change their dangerous or inappropriate behaviors

These brain differences don’t mean that young people can’t make good decisions or tell the difference between right and wrong. It also doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions. However, an awareness of these differences can help parents, teachers, advocates, and policy makers understand, anticipate, and manage the behavior of adolescents.”

Adolescence, according to research in brain development, does not end until 25.

Most car rental agencies have been requiring a minimum age of 25 even before research and MRI studies showed that renting to a pre-twenty-five year old is risky.  They knew based on experience.

Perhaps the problem is not solely mental illness, perhaps the problem is mental illness and/or an immature brain.

Perhaps we should set a minimum age of 25 to purchase a gun.

As a general rule.

If a 23 year old woman has left an abusive relationship and is in fear of her life, she can seek an exception from the courts.

If an 18 year old wants to go hunting with his dad, his dad can purchase the gun in his name, and be held responsible as he would if he were co-signing a loan.

Given the research, can you think of a single good reason to put a semi-automatic weapon into the hands of an impulsive, not-yet-fully-developed, more-emotional-than-logical brain? Can you think of a good reason to put any gun into those hands?

I can think of at least 17 good reasons why we shouldn’t.

As I said in my last post, I am not for guns and I’m not against guns but I am for a bit of gun control.

Given the research.

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Click here for the text of an interesting May 10, 2004 Time Magazine article on Giedd’s research.

Giedd, J. N. (1999). “Development of the human corpus callosum during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study.” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology
& Biological Psychiatry 23: 571-588.

Giedd, J. N. (2004). “Structural magnetic resonance imaging of the adolescent brain.”

Adolescent Brain Development: Vulnerabilities and Opportunities: 77 – 85. Giedd, J. N., J. Blumenthal, et al. (1999). “Brain development during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study.” Nature Neuroscience 2(10): 861-863.

 

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