It’s not him, it’s us.

Breathe…take another breath.

There are no words to describe the amount of heartache, nausea, and shattering pain that I feel in my heart. My “allegiance” is to God, but it is identity-shattering to absorb the full impact as we recognize just what this country is…and what the Christian church in the U.S. has become. I have never felt so ashamed to be an American, though I have carried and wrestled with the realities of it for decades. To realize that the same hatred and greed that drove colonization and slavery is still alive and breathing in the hearts of both men and women in this country. How can it be?! I scream out in terror as it has become so explicit. This isn’t about Trump. This is about what he illuminated in a majority of people in this country. What he brought back up to the surface and then fueled. This is about you. And about me. About us.

This is certainly NOT just about politics. I am so tired of hearing that this is somehow about two parties, about different “opinions” of political issues. This is so beyond that; in fact, somewhere outside of it because it fully encompasses human existence. I can talk to you about our politics all day long. I can and have had rich conversations, fruitful ones, about important issues. Life is messy and I can go there. I can talk about the complexity of political topics. But this is about what has been festering in the hearts of both men and women. This is about the hunger for power, dominance, and wealth that drove colonization and slavery. About ignorance and divisiveness. And it is so dehumanizing when people will not acknowledge that these biases are a significant part of the truth. The destructive beliefs and feelings–they still exist at the same level for many people in this country that we claim is somehow free and just? You’re proud of that?? To be a country that was built on the backs and with the lives of the people we killed then and reject and kill now? The very people that are judged, ignored, oppressed, abused, and excluded…the people that are deemed less than, in your heart of hearts, and you’re going to sit here and tell me this is simply about politics? Lies!!! Do not lie to me, to yourself, and to others who are legitimately vulnerable. That devalues the worth of every single human being.

Now, you may claim that you are not those things. Racism, sexism, prejudices–those are not the reasons that you voted the way you did. Many who voted for Trump say they are sick of the status quo, that they feel vulnerable or threatened, that their values would have been threatened with Hillary Clinton. But, I tell you, that is not good enough to vote for him. Look, I earned a Ph.D in empathy. I can understand that you are against abortion and big government, for example. I know that you care deeply about your loved ones and that you feel fear, too. I know that you hold values and traditions of your own and that you felt pretty stuck in this election. I, too, do not want women to abort their babies. I want healthy, loving families. Ones who have options that do not leave them haunted and ashamed. But, that is a limited view if it ends there. Do you know how many minority women do not have the same privileges, education, access to birth control, free will in relationships, etc. that you have?? You must know that men still refuse to use condoms, right? That women may not have power in relationships…you at least recognize that, please tell me? That sex education is sparse and superficial and completely absent in nearly all Christian circles. And do you know how much drug use, rape, and poverty overwhelms the lives of so many people because of the greed of others? Because not everyone has their own boots, damn it. Not everyone was born white (thank God, truly), or into a two-parent home, or into this country, or free. Do you know the sex trafficking industry breeds on 10-15-year-old girls? Do you know who pays for the porn industry?? White men and Christian men, too. The sexual abuse and manipulation of women crosses all demographics. So many people talk about abortion being a convenient choice for women who have what they need. And yes, those are some of the cases. But, not all of them, not even a majority of them. C’mon. You have to be ready to admit the complex truth of these situations. This is just the beginning of the complexity of the abortion issue, but do not be ignorant about a topic that is going to determine who you vote for on election day.

Please also do not pretend or claim that you did not have options. If you really detested Hillary or felt so against who she might appoint, or had deep conflict with her political policies, you had others to vote for. And that should have sparked the realization that Trump does not hold your values, either. He is a liar. He would encourage women to get an abortion and is in fact, pro-choice. Thus, that particular reason to reject Hillary is garbage. And I could talk about so many others with that same important questions. But, this is not about him. You had a choice. There were third-party candidates. And there was time and good reason to ask yourself why you were truly rejecting her if it means selling your soul (aka, morality, integrity) over policies. What your vote condones or allows others to do is just as important as whether your chosen candidate “believes” the same way you do about business, immigration, and abortion. And this is what you need to admit and wrestle with openly, as you dismiss the heartbreak and fear of vulnerable groups: Any vote for self-protection is selfish if it results in the abuse and neglect of others. 

What about lives? What about human beings? I thought you said you were pro-life?!

And to my Christian brothers and sisters, we have a higher calling. Are we really being salt and light right now? You cannot read the Bible and tell me that Jesus cared more about rules than about people. That he is somehow going to excuse us because well, we “followed the commandments.” No, you read the book we hold sacred and you see a God who loves the oppressed, who dies for them. He threw politics out the window. You see Jesus walking with those that you won’t even have a conversation with. Human relationships always trumped (ironic) the letter of the law. You see a God who loves and asks us to be the body of Jesus. To give until it hurts, and that means sharing your wealth. To give up your coat. To sacrifice so that others might share in what you have. You see a God who is going to rightfully call out the truth in us, and for us.

And the truth of the matter is that, as proud as you want to be of this country, we should be so ashamed of a number of things. We HAVE TO OWN the whole story. This country is not a white, Christian nation. We used, abused, tortured, and killed so many people groups and need to take full responsibility for that. Do you know who built our railroads?  Have you really strived to understand the enslavement of people because of their skin color? And the ways that still exists?? Do you have any idea what that looked like for human beings that deserve the same rights and freedoms that you have the privilege to carry because you happened to be born with white skin? Do you have any idea how many Native Americans we killed??? YOU SHOULD. This was not our land, and this is still not our land. This is God’s great earth and we are to tend it. We are to use it as a place of generosity, hospitality, and unity. We are not to strive for dominance and wealth, which is everything Trump values. Now, there are values that I am proud of in this country. And I do hold a profound amount of gratitude for what so many of died for. Our freedom, right? But to be proud to be an American can only happen if that freedom is actively being advocated and offered and available to all. My citizen African American brothers and sisters should not have to die for our comfort. For our freedom. For our power.

This is so much bigger than this one election. This is a huge reality check and some of us are completely traumatized by it. And I ache for those with far less security than me. I cannot imagine their valid anger, fear, and outcry. You should respect and honor that. It is sad that I even need to say that. It should be so clear. The pain that fills my eyes and the anger that is driving me to scream out to the Lord has to be a small portion of what Jesus felt when he overturned tables. And I am so flawed. I am guilty as well. But, I think it matters whether we are trying to do something about it or not. And in His great mercy and unfathomable love, Jesus, bleeding for us, somehow looked down at the people and asked God for forgiveness for them, for us, because we do not know what we have done.

Now, the scenarios running through my head of what could happen in this country may be a bit dramatic, but not unreasonable. Yet, I pray they are indeed blown way out of proportion in my imagination. And yet, the greatest pain comes when I really let the reality and fear sink in and realize that, if divided as it seems we are, I’ll be fighting on the opposite side of so many I love. And I won’t really be fighting, but praying. Advocating. Hiding perhaps. But to know that my heart and yours are in such different places is devastating to me. And can I share with you, that as a woman, I am so deeply hurt. It isn’t just the election, but the reality of the results sure dug the knife in deeper and then, twisted it. Women, half of the world, are still seen as less than; how can you handle that? Is that God? Is that what Christians stand for? That somehow women are still devalued, to the point where you would rather vote for a filthy man than to vote for a woman who has worked her butt off. Explain that to me. Tell me that you don’t have sexism ingrained in you as well. Ladies, it flows through us. We have been oppressed and have largely bought into this. I am guilty, and I fight it. It is killing me to sit here now, thinking of my daughter, and knowing that women were saying they would give up their hard-earned right to vote, if that meant Trump could win. Nauseating. Heartbreaking. That people are going to play the bologna email card against Hillary when your supposedly only alternative is a man who will do whatever he wants to, because he is a white male with money. He represents everything that I’m trying not to be or to allow. He is the rapist. He is the abuser. He believes his power gives him the right to determine whose lives matter. And that’s who you voted for? That’s who you want making decisions for your family, your friends, your neighbors? Because you agree with his politics? (that do not exist by the way…he makes them up as he goes, to get your vote). You are willing to check the box by his name because you believe that, even though he is flawed, he might somehow save America? From what exactly will he save it from?

As a way to close, I’m going to talk about those I love. So many faces fill my mind. Stories, memories, human lives. The people and things I’d be willing to lay down my life for. I’m going to share some of my beliefs and my positions, because I believe that I matter as a human being, as a woman. For starters, I am honored by the diverse friends in my life and the way they embody the beauty of humanity. I love my African American, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Mexican, Brazilian, Chilean, Taiwanese, Guatemalan, Ugandan, Ethiopian, and Cuban brothers and sisters, who have taught me so much about what it even means to love. To be human. I will fight with and for you. I care deeply for those who are rejected and ignored or ridiculed. Sexual minorities, those in poverty, with mental illness, those who are outcasted. Not heard and completely devalued so often by ignorant people. And that includes our rural farmers and those who have lost their jobs, their livelihood. That does matter. I’m sad if you somehow heard or perceived that it didn’t. That you didn’t. I also respect those with various religious beliefs, different from my own. I believe in a God of the universe who loves all people, Trump included. Even those we deem our enemies. Those who are destroying others. Somehow God, who when we were/are at our worst, in all of our sin, sent his only child to be brutally beaten and killed. I know that He died completely, and that His death was the victory. The moment you can love your enemy that way, you have already defeated hate, greed, and sin. And then, you have truly loved.

Thus, I have so much work to do over my lifetime. I will continue to strive to balance standing up for justice and loving graciously. Forgiveness–that is my goal. And because He loved me, I will strive to truly love others. To reach out to the sick, poor, needy, widowed, orphaned, oppressed. I will strive to be salt and light, even when that means confronting those I love with their choices as I expect them to do with mine. I will pray for those who have injured me and who have injured others. I will also, however, take a stand and advocate for those who have been put into a position where they do not have a voice that will be heard. I will fight for love and justice. I want to love our country, but I do not believe any country should be dominant. And with great power, comes enormous responsibility. So, if we are striving for true greatness, we will only achieve that by laying down what we think are our achievements. By giving up our power and comfort and our naiveté.

I love my children. My beautiful, strong daughter. I will tear apart any person that seeks to devalue her. I will continue to speak up about the longstanding and persistent gender issues that still embody our church. (So much more to say on that, but another time). I will teach her that she is not valuable because she is or is not beautiful, as subjectively defined by human standards. I will teach her, by example and word, that she is valuable because she is valuable. Because she is. She exists, she is human, and God gave her value. And the same for my young man. My son, who desperately needs role models, I will find those that can speak to him about humility, gentleness, and what true strength means. I will teach him that he does not need power, or wealth, or success, to be worthy of love and acceptance. That his greatest strength comes from his ability and choice to love others.  I’m not sure how I could kiss my children goodnight, quite honestly, if I had voted for someone who cares very little about human beings. That looks at my daughter and son and sees objects. I know many of you who voted for Trump do indeed love your children, and I am not trying to shame you. You made a choice and are probably uncomfortable with it. It’s just that I cannot reconcile the two right now.

I am so angry. But even more so, deeply crushed. Bleeding in pain. Writing has helped move some of the anger so that I can see even more clearly the person I want to be. But, I will not feel guilty for calling out the hatred that exists. I will not feel less Christian for feeling anger and for speaking up about it. Or for creating boundaries around just what I let you say to my children. You will have to answer to them when they ask the questions about who you voted for and why. My daughter woke up saying that she didn’t want to talk to anyone at school today. That she didn’t even want to converse. She, in her gentle and accepting spirit, has no words. I know she hurts so deeply and is trying to hold very complicated and heavy questions. My son stated that he was concerned about WWIII, and expressed that he feared he might die young. Can you hold that with me for a moment? And this is not because we go around bashing Trump or promoting apocalyptic thinking in our house. We have not talked about a war at all. This is because they truly get it. There is a lot at stake here. The country is fighting, divided, and many seem unwilling to offer empathy, to try to understand, and to grow in awareness. And I’m proud of my children for knowing that. For caring about it. For truly grieving and expressing themselves.

It is time for us to ask ourselves who we are. To search our hearts and minds and really be honest with ourselves and one another. I will pray for the church to mourn, to reflect, to come together somehow, and then to rise as the body of Christ, and to answer back with a love that will shake the ground we all walk on.

Good Fruit: Part 1

I became a Type I Diabetic at the age of 7. My mother was basically a single mom at that time, with a lineage of men who had chosen other priorities other than staying faithful to their families. As such, she worked full-time and was an excellent example of hard work, perseverance, and care and love for her children. We were never starving nor did we go without nurturance and what we needed, but medical expenses were difficult with my chronic illness and finances were never something that came easy. Child support was not paid by my father, so my mom was left to carry the full responsibility for me and my brother. She often kept the struggle to herself, but I had an idea and I know now just how much she was juggling stress and worry about my health, and about how she was going to pay for the care that I needed.

Working part-time was never an option. As a young mother, she didn’t have the privilege of going to college, so though she found good jobs, she was never paid what she truly should have been making. Through her employment, though, my mother always made sure we had health insurance. And as you well know, some insurance companies provide good coverage, yet some do not and many have high premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. The cost of a single bottle of insulin, usually lasting me about 4-5 weeks, was several hundred dollars without insurance. And then there was the cost of all of the other supplies, plus the medical visits to ensure I stayed healthy. We often drove 3.5 hours to see my endocrinologist, because my small town did not have the medical resources that a young diabetic needs.

My mom had worked for our local airport, and was laid off due to downsizing. Thus, we were without insurance for a time and it was tough to make ends meet. Paying for my diabetic supplies was difficult and my mom had my younger brother to care for as well. There were also some insurance companies who would not cover me as I had a “pre-existing condition.” Enter a huge gift from the government: CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). I still remember the relief we felt as one of my doctors shared with my mom that there was a health insurance program for children that I would likely qualify for, and that it had very small co-pays, even for high-cost items like insulin and test strips. I did qualify, and this was a huge blessing to our family and gave me options I hadn’t had before.

Enter my teenage years. With puberty, changing hormones, and my divided attention and somewhat rebellious spirit, diabetes became more difficult to control. One of my dear friends (also a Type I Diabetic) and I decided that candy bars were a perfectly acceptable afternoon snack as we TA’d for our middle-school teacher. Don’t judge–we were sick of the carrot sticks and nasty sugar-free candy. Now, diabetes is a very difficult disease to endure and control for anyone. But, at this point, I was desperately trying to get my blood sugar levels to a desired range. The best way to do that is an insulin pump, yet those ran upwards of $3,000, with the needed supplies several hundred dollars more per month. The second best way was the method I was using, which involved taking one injection in the morning and then a shot every time I consumed any amount of carbohydrates. You can imagine how that goes when you are a teenager with five minutes between classes and a deep desire to socialize. Not only did I often run high blood sugar levels, which are responsible for devastating complications such as blindness and kidney failure, but I had severe low blood sugars as well, which are more serious in the acute sense. My mother was scared to death because these sometimes resulted in me passing out and falling.

Two low blood sugar reactions stand out the most. Primarily because my mother has recounted the stories multiple times, each time describing how terrifying they were for her.

The first was a scenario in which my mother walked into our kitchen in the early morning to find me standing at the counter eating brownies straight out of the pan. She recalls smiling and asking me “Brownies for breakfast?” At that point, I turned and looked at her with a slight smile, and then passed out and fell straight back on the kitchen floor. Thankfully, the brownies kicked in and raised my blood sugar enough that I came to before she needed to call for an ambulance. Yet, I was nauseated and had a headache for the entire day, as was always the case after a severe low reaction.

The second incident was more serious. My mother came downstairs to my bedroom to make sure I was up and getting ready for school. She walked into my room to see me sitting on the carpet, staring at the blood on my hands, with a large pool of blood on my head. I had fallen again, but this time hit the corner of my dresser. I woke up at the hospital with the doctor stitching up my gash. That day, the doctor had a long and detailed conversation with us about our options for trying to get my diabetes under better control. When he found out we had CHIP, his mood immediately improved. He gave us the wonderful news that this insurance would actually cover an insulin pump for me, and would also cover 90-100% of the supplies I needed to be able to use the pump.

A few weeks later, we drove that 3.5 hours again, but this time came home with a very expensive device that has likely saved my life. Not only did my diabetes get under better control during my teenage years, but I still wear the pump to this day and though control is still somewhat elusive at times, my long-term prognosis is significantly better with this medical technology.

And here’s what is important to recognize and acknowledge. The hard work, intelligence, understanding, and compassion of Hillary Clinton played an enormous role in my story. She and her husband were not the only ones involved in getting CHIP going, but she was a critical player and fought hard for it. And she worked with both Republicans and Democrats to ensure that the states were adopting the program, and that it was successful and effective at increasing health care for children.

Not only that, but many people claim that Democrats are too liberal in their promotion of welfare for U.S. citizens. You have undoubtedly heard of people who are receiving welfare (of any sort) mocked and judged for their laziness or desire to live off of the government. To not do their fair share. And to drain the pockets of the “real” hardworking Americans.

I am here to say that my mother is the exact opposite of those things, and so am I. She was doing all she could as a single mother and she represents the people and situations that many politicians are advocating for and trying to help. A country that takes care of its women and children is a loving and successful country indeed. May my story just be a reminder to all of us that there is huge variability in the stories of human beings, and that we are better people when we are supporting one another. Though there may be some who are inappropriately utilizing the welfare systems in our country, there are many who do not have a lot of options or who are relying on it for a time.

I am now 36 years old and have had two healthy children of my own. I’ve carried my own health insurance throughout my adult life and my husband and I pay a ridiculous amount of money for my diabetic supplies. However, I am happy to say that my diabetes is under relatively good control and I have no complications as of yet. I am so incredibly grateful to Hillary Clinton and to all of the others who were involved in the huge success of CHIP. Thank you, Hillary, for caring enough about families to make sure this didn’t slip through the cracks. For negotiating, brainstorming, and advocating for me. It was so needed by my family at a critical time in my life.

To the rest of us, please bite your tongue when you are tempted to make blanket generalizations about welfare and who is on it. You might say that my case is a rare exception, but that is simply not true. Single parents, those born into poverty, those who are injured or suffer a major medical illness, veterans, those with severe mental illness, etc., etc, do not have the same luxuries and privileges that you might. They cannot simply “pick themselves up by their bootstraps” because they don’t have boots. Nor do they have a way to get boots. They would have great difficulty even finding a pair. They need us. And what greater love can we show than to offer our boots to them? Some people need the help of others. They need the village. In fact, ALL people need help at different points in their life, financial or otherwise. My story is but one in a million and there are so many people that I have worked with who are rightfully dependent upon their community for a huge variety of reasons. Here is an encouragement to all of us, and to our politicians, to keep working for adequate, available, and affordable health insurance for everyone. And a call for all of us to enjoy the giving process, to reap the fruits of a generous spirit.

 

Clear the Fog, He’s still here.

I woke up to see thick fog.

It was smothering the trees and crowding the clearing just outside our backyard. It was gazing in at me, greeting me with a serious and poignant “hello.” It has been a while since I’ve seen it. Little glimpses here and there throughout this Autumn season, but it’s been noticeably absent this year, which is atypical for the Pacific Northwest.

It was one of those captivating fogs, arriving on a morning in which I woke to realize that I had nothing planned. Plenty on the to-do list, but nothing pressing, not urgent. Nothing that I cared enough about to peel myself out of bed for. Fog, chilly air from the open window, and my warm golden nestled next to me and into my pillow. I felt like I was being spoken to, as I gazed out of the window. There was a vitality to the fog and to the morning, something I haven’t felt in quite some time. I wasn’t energetic, though, just fully awake and alert. No desire to do anything, but just sit and think and listen.

Truth be told, it’s been a very difficult season for me. Depression has been with me in ways that I haven’t encountered before. That might be one way to describe it. Throughout my life, I can recall a pervasive sadness that I’ve carried. Psychologists often call this dysthymia, which can mean a consistent depressed mood, not always as severe as major depressive episodes. Periods of grief, irritability, often criticalness. Those are unfortunately my familiar companions. However, this is different. It’s a deep grief, one that seizes you at your very core. One that feels like thick mud. I’ve been more irritable, more angry, full of more despair, than ever before. My family has noticed it, but otherwise, I’ve largely kept this one to myself. Unwise I know, but it felt protective and necessary all the same.

In some ways, it makes sense or at least isn’t shocking. I recently finished a very long and arduous journey through graduate school. It was trying and I am likely still exhausted from that process. It can also be heartbreaking at times to reflect on things. Both the goods and the bads. To feel it all. Nostalgia, longing, gratitude, regret, wishes, hope, guilt. I might be trying to adjust to this new phase, to figure out who I am now that I’m not a student. Plus, I’m in a weird limbo state, where my future steps or career choices are unknown. Tomorrow is unknown. Things are still new and somewhat foreign here in Portland as well. Roots are fragile. I miss my friends. I miss the sun. It would make sense, then, that I might be feeling sadness, anxiety, grief.

But, the despair. That’s the thing. That is the formidable foe that, up until this point, I have easily kept at bay. And then, the realization. That perhaps I have been working so hard so that there is no time for feelings of hopelessness or despair. It feels deep, whatever it is. Everything on the outside is well enough. It’s a beautiful Autumn season. My children are healthy and doing well in school. Everyone is starting to make friends. There’s enough on the schedule, but not too much. I am able to clean my house and bake and exercise. Things I’ve missed doing over the past seven years. In some ways, I feel a happiness that I haven’t felt in a while. A breath of fresh air and a chance to exhale it. But then, there’s me.

Something’s shaken up inside. An identity crisis perhaps? Or maybe a real awareness of who I am and who I want to be, and the seemingly cemented gap between the two.

And the world, the country, the election. What a mess. Heartbreaking, disappointing, discouraging. It doesn’t seem coincidental that all of that is happening as I’m feeling the weight of what sometimes feels like human depravity. Yet, those are not the primary cause of despair for me. They illuminate a lot of what I question and feel, but the despair stems from the stuff that’s embedded internally. Or has been. It is the questions I have for God and for all of us. For my close friends and my husband. For my children. For myself. Who am I, and who are you?

Fog.

Maybe it is clearing, and what I gaze upon is hard to bear.

I prayed this morning for the first time in months. Sure, I’ve said the quick prayers here and there for family and friends. I’ve bowed my head at church and tried to offer words to God, I’ve prayed at the dinner table. But, this morning, I prayed. I’m not sure how to describe the difference, other than it was one of those times where I made myself present. It was the intention perhaps, or the willingness to really show up and then to communicate with God in a way that involved me in my vulnerability. Similar to when you have a conversation with your friend or therapist, and you aren’t fully there. You aren’t really sharing you and who you are in that moment. Do you know those times? When you are speaking and being as authentic as you can, but the real you is hidden or present somewhere else.  It was a quiet prayer, with few words. I sought to listen and found myself not really needing to speak. But just to sit with God, silently. To begin to show him my face and my heart in ways that I haven’t wanted to in a while.

I only closed my eyes for a minute, maybe two. And I opened them to see sun brilliantly shining on the tree tops. The fog was almost completely gone. Incredible. I have never seen fog clear so fast. I had to squint and move to different angles to try and see. There were only whispers of it in the distant trees. This morning, I had woken up after the sunrise, so it was as if the sun had been waiting being the curtain. She was the second act, just after the fog did its work.

It brings tears to my eyes as I write about it. And that gives me a healing sense of hope. Because something was exchanged there. It was real and a step in the right direction. There were no promises made, no apologies, no steps planned. Just a meeting. A meeting with the God of the universe, who I have struggled with over the past year. A God who I have distanced myself from, because I have big questions. Who are you and who am I? I have anger to express and a lot of guilt and shame to lay down. But, it must come in good time. A relationship, a reconciliation, that’s hard work. It’s just beginning, but I was so sweetly broken by just the slightest beginning this morning that I knew I wanted to share it.