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Archive for October, 2008

Perspective

I have a dear friend who cried to me on the phone today saying, “I just wish that there could be one day when everyone else would quit praying long enough that God would have time to answer mine.” It might be easy to condemn that attitude as selfish, but coming from her it’s not at all. She figures that the rest of the world’s prayers must be more pressing and emergent than her own so God has to deal with those first. She is patient and has been waiting for years for the upswing of her life.
It’s impossible to express my anger over her situation. Consider the following:
-Mother at age 16.
-Little high school education. No college.
-Four children now, ages 12-2.
-One meager household income to sustain six people. No health insurance.
-Recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis though suffering the symptoms for three years.
-Hysterectomy this summer. (at age 28)
-Recent death of granddad.
-Uncle suffering with cancer.
-Recently diagnosed with degenerative arthritis in neck and back.
-Suffering constant pain without aid of pain meds.
-Preparing to sell belongings to pay for rent and electricity.
-Her mother diagnosed with breast cancer last month. Received mastectomy this week. Discharged from hospital day after surgery. Who will take care of her?
-She’s 28 and can take her kids trick-or-treating this weekend only with the aid of a walker and will likely be in agony.
She lives in a teeny tiny town with churches around every bend, but God’s grace and abundance are absent. It’s a basically rural town where the cost of living is miniscule, yet she will have to pay medical bills for herself and rent and electricity and heat and (hopefully) food and there will be nothing left. One child needs glasses and Christmas will come dreadfully rather than joyfully.
I am disgusted that in such a wealthy country as the United States some people have to resort to hawking what they have to get enough money so their kids can continue to live in a house. An empty house and possibly a cold one.
Where are the supposed American opportunities for her? Where are the social services? Where is the church when the needy can’t even get there? Where is Jesus when a young woman withered by life’s punishing tide weeps daily for the burdens of her children and her own deficiencies as a mother?
How is faith a plausible option when the prayers degenerate over time from:
“Please Lord, help me be a good mother.” to
“Please Lord, provide for this illness so I can play with my kids.” to
“Please Lord, help my kids know I love them since I can’t do anything with them.” to
“Please Lord, I’d like to give the kids a decent Christmas.” to
“Please Lord, we need groceries this week.” to
“Please Lord, they’re about to turn off the heat.” to
“Please Lord, bring someone to buy my furniture so we can pay the rent.” to
“Please Lord, today? Can you hear me today?” to
“Are you even real?”
She’s not even asking for anything tangible or quantifiable anymore. She’s just asking for a day when everyone else is quiet so God can hear her. An audience with the Lord shouldn’t be so hard to come by.

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I wish the presidential candidates and all the media would come up with another way of referencing those of us watching them and eventually voting for them. I’m getting tired of being “an ordinary everyday average American.” Despite the painful redundancies in that and despite our household income positioning us in middle class -presumably the voter demographic to which they are trying to appeal – the fact is, I’m not ordinary or average.
These are derogatory epithets most of us spend our entire childhood (and some of our adulthood) trying to overcome. Who among us wanted to grow up being just another guy on the team? That’s ridiculous! We wanted to be the best, the fastest, the most catchingest…whatever. Everything I’ve ever done I’ve wanted to be the ‘est of it. Sure some of us grow out of the desire to shine, but you can’t deny all that time in high school spent trying to be the coolest, the prettiest, the smartest, the toughest, the aloofest, the funniest, the cheerleaderest, the band geekiest, the quirkiest, the footballerest: It was a mad dash to get to the ‘est first.
Nobody strives for ordinary or average. Let’s think of the synonyms here: undistinguished, lackluster, indifferent, forgettable, second-rate, humdrum, mundane, pedestrian, bland, hackneyed. Hmm.
On one hand, I understand why the Senators do this. They certainly know that we are not them, regarding social rank, income, or power, and they know that we know this too. It’s all part of their “straight-talk,” talking straight to us about who and what we are, and somehow they are endeared to us as a result. But on the other hand, it’s just another line of segregation – them and us, rich people and struggling folk, above-average and average. And I just don’t like the implication that average is beneath some people, most specifically the people representing me. I feel like I’m being insulted every time one of them says it. And it’s only worse when the media starts parroting that language; I’d guess that aside from the truly highly paid ones, like Katie Couric, most of them fall within middle class as well – because I have to assume that when “ordinary everyday average Americans” are mentioned it pertains mainly to economic standing – and are only validating and propagating the condescension.
When they are talking to and about voters, why can’t we simply be, “the American people”? Why must they qualify and quantify us? Because Senator Obama’s vote, Senator McCain’s vote, and my vote will not be categorized into an average pile and an above average pile.

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Tonight I’ve been reflecting on my life and the direction it’s trying to take. Not many people know this, but I’m literally living my childhood fantasy. I met Casey around age 8 or 9 and from that time, I begged God to let me marry him. All I dreamed about was him and me together living life. And that’s what we’re doing. Nothing is at all like I planned, and plenty is better than expected.
After the removal of some suffocating influences, I’m back to being me – rather than the ghost of me. I no longer have to apologize for my opinions and the things I like because for one arbitrary reason or another they didn’t line up with other people’s opinions of acceptableness. I’m back to reading – anything I like and want, not the unbearably tepid church-sanctioned fodder – and suddenly my brain is teeming with life and ideas.
I am in school and doing quite well. Made Deans List last term and received an invitation to guest lecture in a previous professor’s class this term. I was recommended and entered (on Monday) an essay contest with a paper I wrote about Jane Austen, Feminism, Romanticism, and Realism using Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice.
I’m writing again because I can. With a little distance from a situation, statements like, “God has nothing for you there,” are revealed as truly idiotic and way off base. If I win this essay contest, I will get money. So it seems there could in fact be something there for me. Even if I don’t win, the process of preparing the paper for evaluation by a panel of six judges who are professionals in English and Literature was stimulating and nerve-wracking. But through that process I wrote a great paper on something I love and OTHER PEOPLE WILL READ IT. I’m proud of that.
Also, I am pretty good at drawing and have known this for some time, but in my past life, pursuing personal talents was strongly discouraged unless the success of that pursuit could be appropriated by the small-minded leadership and used for their personal gain. Since clearly no one could make money from my pencil sketches, “God had nothing for me there,” and I had to abandon it. It’s sad because now drawing is something I love and value as a creative outlet, and I can’t help but think about all these abandoned joys languishing in a barren land of wasted time.
So it’s interesting trying to see what’s around the bend, and actually being excited to get there because it’s bound to be worth the bumps along the way. That outlook is a relatively recent development. For several years, the other side of the bend only brought more of the same stagnation. But now, who knows? No one has locked me into a prescribed destiny or destination, and my future is completely open for however I want to fill it. This kind of liberty is like nothing I’ve ever felt before.
And that brings me to why I was thinking about all this in the first place. It can be too easy to complain and wallow and huff about all the annoying, tiresome, and irrelevant daily crap…fill in the blank, I mean, you know what I’m talking about. For example, everyday, I could be like, “Shit my life is hard. I have mountains of school work, three kids along with their school work, a husband and family obligations, household chores, friends and family to keep in touch with, Super-Mom criteria to fulfill; I need to bathe at least often enough that people in the checkout line don’t stand at awkward distances from me; I have a neighborhood reputation to uphold for Awesomest Halloween House Ever; I have stories to write, pictures to draw, millions to earn, and a toddler to potty-train.” And on the really hard days, when other people say to me – because they often do – “How do you do it all?” I shrug my shoulders and quip, “Poorly. I can do it all because I accomplish my life poorly.”
But the truth is that none of that aggravation matters when I remember that I am in charge of my life. (Don’t come back at me with something about God being in charge because that’s a given. I’m talking about in the land of flesh and blood.) I am no longer succumbing to someone else’s misguided prescription for how to live. It’s refreshing and comforting when I honestly evaluate my situation in life and realize I’m living smack in the middle of exactly what I pleaded with God for for so many years.
I like where my life is. I’m married to my favorite person in the world; my kids are healthy and happy with all their activities. Casey and I talk about our dreams and our goals and regularly help each other along the journey of executing them. We’ll get to where we’re going in life, because we’ll go together.

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