Consider it an invitation…

I love Jesus.

I am pretty ok with that, and I hope that you are too. If you aren’t, just know I am ok with that too. My loving Jesus isn’t about you at all, it is about me. It’s about my heart, my life, my choices, my journey, and a lot of other large and small things which add up to equal my faith.

I cautiously consider myself a Christian. I say cautiously because, honestly, at least in America (and some perceptions of American Christianity) the name has gained a bit of a rough reputation.

My pastor spent Sunday morning talking about Detroit. This looked a little like a history lesson. It involved political bits, heart bits, hard truths and a bunch of other uncomfortable and completely relevant things which together equalled a pretty amazing talk. He challenged us to be honest with ourselves about the walls we build. Initially the topic came up because Detroit was once known to have a dividing wall. I guess pieces of this wall still exist. This wall was raised to literally divide the African-Americans and the Whites. Though the wall isn’t technically much of a thing anymore, Detroit is still ranked as the most segregated city in America. I live in the metro part of this amazing city and I have to say this announcement shocked me. Our church alone, (granted, it’s a pretty huge church) likely has multiple people from most nations, in attendance. Our neighborhood actually has a dozen flag poles sporting flags from 12 different nations because we are such a diverse little community. Then again, this is the metro area, and not Detroit itself.

He illustrated his point by having several people from different countries approach the front of the church. They looked at each other, chatted some, laughed a little and then affirmed “there are no more walls between us.” I’ll admit it- it was emotional and I totally teared up. After this, he had fans of rivaling college teams do the same thing. It was funny and laughs were had, but when he sobered and asked us what walls we put up, I was challenged. I am pretty accepting. I don’t shy away from anyone really. I love meeting people and things that are different don’t scare me. Since that service, I’ve thought a lot about this. There are off-putting things, about me, which likely cause others to put up a wall between us. Despite losing 130 lbs, I am still overweight. I have a lazy eye. I was separated from my husband for 6 months (an issue that many fellow Christians we know can’t seem to get past.) in fact, here is a list of things which have caused people I’ve known to distance themselves from me…

I voted for Hillary.

I have a diverse taste of music.

I don’t support people who discriminate against ANYONE and using their religion as an excuse.

I worked as a film critic for years.

I drink.

As a photographer I have done many boudoir sessions.

I am an adoptive parent.

I struggled with infertility.

I am pro-choice and hate abortion.

I was sexually abused.

I hate porn and believe it decomposes a person’s ability to have healthy self image/relationships/etc.

I am a feminist.

I believe in marriage.

I support equality.

I do not believe men and women are equal. I am different from my husband and my brother. I am not better, but different. I don’t want to be like them.

I do believe men and women should have equal rights, DO HAVE equal worth and value.

I love Jesus.

I will never “shove Jesus down your throat” or preach at you.

I am a person and so each of these things make up a piece of my story… Each of these things has a story and reason for it’s position in my life.

I will not bother/hurt/offend me if your stories are different and your beliefs do not match mine.

 

If you know me, you know that I am a party planner. Best of all are dinner parties. LOVE THEM. Upon moving back to Michigan in 2013, my party opportunities are limited, and this makes me a little sad. After that sermon though, I got to imagining a dinner party. What if we had a lovely homosexual couple over for dinner. What if, in addition to them, we had an African-American couple, a middle eastern couple and a few other diverse additions? Other than the likely fact that we would have some really interesting and unpredictable conversation, what would we have?

A dinner party.

That is literally it. It would not be an experiment. It would not be a meeting. It would not be anything other than a group of people getting together to share a meal and converse. Obviously we would all have SOMETHING in common, or the dinner party wouldn’t exist in the first place. (hence the interesting and unpredictable conversation)

I really wish this dinner party were happening. Do you know why? Because I am seriously lonely and want to host a lovely little dinner party. (That’s the only reason actually. Maybe you should come for dinner…)

When it comes to a different race, or a different class, or a different religion, I am unruffled. None of these things will hinder me from approaching someone, or befriending them, or responding to them if they approach me. The one thing that may honestly hinder me is the fact that I am a total introvert and often have much better intentions than follow through, and I get a little insecure. While I want to approach someone, those things I first mentioned (overweight, lazy eye, etc.) become the wall I throw up to save my ass from someone else’s rejection.

Recently I had the opportunity to get to know a small group of women. One of the women I shallowly pegged immediately as a little stuck up and clearly she had it all together. She was thin and honestly, gorgeous. As time progressed though, it became surprisingly obvious that this beautiful woman and I had far more in common that anyone else in the group. Ironically the fat girl with the lazy eye and the drop dead gorgeous and in shape woman became friends. Is that how she saw me? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I threw up a wall with my initial assessment, and what I assumed would be hers… Thankfully that wall became a gate and now it is gone completely. My point is, when pastor Bob challenged us to find our walls and why we build them, this friend instantly popped in my head. I could have missed out on so much because I jumped to conclusions. I don’t do that as a habit, but I don’t want to do it ever. I want to be better, with others and with myself.

I want to have dinner party after dinner party where my table is filled with people who contribute to great conversation, people who enjoy food and maybe an occasional game or glass of wine. Beyond that, while I don’t want to be blind to their differences, I do want to understand and appreciate them for the unique people they are. (whoever they will be)

 

 

This is the view of my imagination, this Monday morning, which isn’t a terrible thing.

Yesterday was my beautiful little sisters birthday, and this made me homesick. I had a lovely talk with her on the phone, and concluded that quiet Sunday afternoons are made better by long distance phone calls and iced tea. (Regarding this iced tea, I guess this is mostly applicable when it is pretty summer-hot, which is has been.) I packed a teeny-tiny amount after our phone call. Knightley is still not feeling himself and so I opted our of an afternoon out with Chw & Gen. Instead I comforted my sweet heartbreaker of a puppy, (iow: Prayed, pet, used essential oils, cried, etc.) and finished up season 5 of Orange.

Perhaps I should admit that Sunday held a bit of a heartbreaking element to it. Between my story’s emotional scenes and my poor Mr. Knightley, I was a mess of tears and sadness. (My grandma always called All My Children her story. It was so comically cute but I love it and now that I am forty-one, and a grandmother, I am thinking of adopting the saying.)

Monday morning has approached me in a much better place than last Monday found me. Hallelujah! Our apartment is well on its way to being packed, I’ve had good doses of Vitamin D this weekend and today is my double star day at Starbucks! All in all, things are feeling a bit chipper. My to-do list for last week was mostly accomplished, (I.E: I rocked it and am a total badass) and this week’s list is already moving closer to being a succession of crossed out and checked off items. Do I wish I was sitting on that beach imaged above? Sure I do. If I play my cards right I can at least spend a few hours, this week, writing from my favorite coffee shop. Not today though. Today is for errands, a double dose of packing and a wee bit of a craft project with Gen. Oh yeah, and waxing… Today we are waxing our beautiful faces.

hoping that, as the day progresses, some normal bits of my sweet Knightley begin to emerge. It’s only been a week since he’s been down with this strange little illness, but I’m really missing the fella.

Also, I totally have a novel I need to finish reading, so my summer reading won’t be a complete bust.

That beach would be absolutely perfect for that too…

Red Nose Actually…

There are times when I get so overwhelmed because the state of the world, and the needs of so many people are so huge, that it feels like it is impossible to make a difference, and to help at all. Then I am reminded that our world is made up of people doing what they can, when they can, and differences are made. The reminder of Red Nose Day does that for me. It is a fun, easy and amazing relevant way to make a difference and join with others for a larger impact. Recently quite a few celebrities went out to spread both education and the word, here is a touching video with Julia Roberts, that I’d like to share with you. (Here’s another with Ludacris.) You guys, these are American cities… And it isn’t just Phoenix or Atlanta. I am currently in the Detroit Metro area and this is reality just miles from my home, as well.

As we near the start of summer and think about vacations and time off with families there are others who are not nearly as fortunate to enjoy those luxuries. On May 25th NBC television will air Red Nose Day, a live telecast aimed at ending child poverty. Join me Thursday, along with so many others, in watching the Red Nose Day telecast. Post your selfies and give however you can, whatever you can. If one million people each pledged $1, that would be a million dollars. Well more than a million people will tune in, proving that NO GIFT IS TOO SMALL… (extra incentive, one of my FAVORITE movies, Love Actually, has a mini-reunion sequel airing that night!)

Red Nose Day is unique in that multiple charitable organizations will benefit from the three-hour live program that night. The event is all about coming together, to have fun, and make a difference for kids in need.  The goal is to end child poverty, here in the U.S. and around the world — one nose at a time.

The fundraiser began in 1988 by U.K. director, Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral) and recently started in the U.S. Red Nose Day raised over $36 million in 2016, and over $23 million the previous year, totaling over $60 million in its first two years in the US.

The two charities among many others that will benefit from Red Nose Day are Covenant House and charity: water.  These are just one of many organizations that everyday work tirelessly to make a difference here at home in the U.S. and around the world. What’s staggering with the statistics is that this is happening right here in the U.S.

 

We’ve learned from Red Nose Day charities that:

 

  • 1 out of 5 young people live in poverty.

 

  • Every Year, More Than 2 Million Kids in America Will Face a Period of Homelessness.
  • 57% of homeless kids spend at least one day every month without food.

It’s heartbreaking with regards to the homeless kids and youth as it puts them in such danger of human traffickers – something I know so many of our churches and organizations fight against.  We have an opportunity to make a difference and keep some of these kids away from the streets.

We hope you will consider taking the time to help those in need and checking out both ministries and finding a way however big or small to support them. We’re called to help those in need and we often forget that although we are fortunate to live in a country that provides us with a lot – there are many children right in front of us who struggle to even get a meal a day. We hope you’ll think about ways you can help our youth and even join in on the fun and put on a Red Nose and post to your social channels with the hashtag: #rednoseday

 

Red Noses are available at all Walgreen locations.  For those wanting to do something fun and get involved, stop by Walgreens and buy a red nose.
We do believe that if we can all raise awareness about this issue – we can all end child poverty one nose at a time!

In the moments…

I had a conversation, earlier this week, about routines.

I used to be the queen of routine. My mornings went just so. My evenings and bed times went as they should have. I fell asleep to the same thing, every night. I had a prep day, every monday, where I diced and chopped, whipped and baked. My family ate well and all of the delectable and home-made things were at their disposal. I dabbled in sewing creatively. I wrote just under 30 hours a week. I took photos, thousands of them. I preserved engagement and family photos for clients and seldom felt overwhelmed or stressed.

I am not going to lie, there was a sense of security within those predictables. I knew what was coming and when, often how. Was I happy? Sure. How could an anal, organization freak not find happiness within the confines of such a life? That life, and those impressive time management skills feel about a dozen lifetimes ago.

When we moved back to Michigan, in 2013, my routines went out the window. I tried to reestablish them, but this was a lost cause. As a wife and mother, my world was known to gravitate around the lives of my husband and kids. With my son and older daughter so far away, with my approaching high school youngest being unpredictable and struggling, and a husband whose schedule (and geographical location) changed from day-to-day, I flailed…

Prep days, for example,  quickly became moldy bread (thanks, midwest humidity) and stale cookies, (thanks, crazy schedule.),diced vegetables became uneaten bags of smelly mush. Loneliness moved in. I missed my friends, I missed my sister. I missed my nieces and nephews, but more than that, I missed my life. My marriage, my family and the way we all functioned so well within the confines of those routines. My husband often refers to the big change (which became a big change in all of us, in negative ways) with regret for taking me away from my life. What he fails to see, no matter what explain, is that it wasn’t the place that made the life, but us and our intentions.

Four years later, I am in an entirely different frame of mind and approaching an all new stage of life. (Empty nest!) There has been a lot of storms and turmoil to navigate over these four years. It has been hard. No, that’s not true, hard doesn’t crack the surface.

I am different.

I am more free than that queen of routine. Chained and shackled, then, within the perimeters of a false sense of structure and security. Anyone familiar with routine is forced to come face to face, at some point, with how easy it is to hide (and often times, disappear completely) within them.

I lack routine now, and though I love my freedom, this is a struggle I am really avoiding confronting, and it is time to change this. Now I throw together the occasional minimal prep day, simply for my ease of mind as our rental kitchen is about the size of a shoebox. We no longer eat bread or cookies, so that saves the future science project scene. I do have a fairly consistent skin care routine, so at least all hope is not lost. The personal, quiet time, though… And the writing… and the adventures in life through the lens of a camera… and the reading, even the picking up of a book… These are the areas I struggle. The solace in a cup of tea is something I’ve gravitated towards, recently. Piece by piece I am emerging from a four-year cocoon into the sunlight of a life that has possibility.

Now I simply need to learn to design the routine around where I am, who I am and what I need- and not anyone else. I ache for a life of beautiful, hand crafted moments. Today’s new routine attempt is to remember that I am the one in charge of creating those.

 

what makes a hero?

Recently I entered into a facebook dialogue about fathers. Specifically the sort of father who isn’t much of an active father at all, rejecting and abandoning their children. What made me truly sad, within the context of this discussion, was the number of people who share that very story. I know that this idea is not exclusive to fathers, but it does seem pretty common all the same.

Some time ago I read a letter my daughter meant for another. Within it she talked a lot of negative untruth about me, but the part that really pushed my emotion over the edge was her writing about her dad, my husband. She spoke about her dad abandoning her and how she had all of these daddy issues because her dad had neglected and rejected her throughout her life. The reasons she was going into such fictitious detail, in page after page was actually to deflect her own responsibilities from decisions she’d made, but that isn’t the point. The point is that this child has grown up being tucked in and prayed with, by her dad, every night that he was not away on business. She has lived through hundreds, if not thousands of movie nights snuggled into her dad’s embrace. She has maintained the second part of inside jokes and daddy/daughter dates, coloring, puzzles, projects, games, shopping, road trips, piggy back rides, video games, bedtime stories, amusement parks, etc. He has never not been present for a birthday, and Thanksgiving or a Christmas. Her dad is 100% all in…

When we think of heroes, we imagine brave individuals, swooping in to save lives, villages or entire planets. These are the things which books and movies are made of. This has, perhaps distorted our view of heroism. Men who stay home and own their responsibility- is this not courageous? My hero is my dad. My dad met me when I was twelve and placed in the house which he and his wife were foster parents. He was not my father (whom I had never met) nor the first person I called dad. I did not like or trust men (thanks, first person I called dad) and so it was an awkward and tough process. Dad can be a title, but it is intended to be so much more. Over the following decades of my life, this man would teach me so much about myself, accepting others, empathy,  and unconditional love. He would meet and embrace my boyfriend/eventual husband in the very way a father should. He would give me a pet name, be at my wedding, repair things in my life that needed fixed, lead Thanksgiving dinner grace in my marriage home, be the only person by my side during an emergency hysterectomy and be such a rock for me as I navigated adulthood through various difficult stages. This man is not my hero because he became my dad, but because I was not alone here. This man has a large number of children who knew him as dad, whose lives he helped shape. Whose lives (in my case, and a few others I know, anyway) he saved in various ways of meaning. When I think of a brave man, I think of him. Some of the kids he sheltered had dads, but many didn’t, and this man bravely stepped in to do what others either could not, or did not. I look at him and I know, without a doubt, this world is a far better place because of him and how he’s chosen to live his life.

The question I was challenged to write about was someone heroic that I admire, who embodied sacrifice and courage. I know a hundred soldiers, all of whom I admire immensely (my son tops the list) and I did not want to deflect from their sacrifice and heroism. On my heart though, were the dads. The men, like my husband and my dad, who love beyond themselves and open up their hearts to parent the unparented and abandoned as if they were their own, signing on for the whole of their lives… I was asked to choose someone I would stand up for. Regarding these two men- (and, my son. :) ) in a heartbeat, time and time again…

Partnering with the release of the up and coming film The Promise, starring Christian Bale, (you can watch the trailer here) I would like to offer a small giveaway. The promise is a story of sacrifice and love. It is about two heroes, one who stands up for truth and injustice and the other who is willing to pay the ultimate cost for what is right.  I would like to give a $25 Fandango gift card to one winner. To enter for a chance to win, please leave a comment on here, or our facebook page, talking about your own hero- and why. (if you share this on twitter, please leave a link in the comments for an extra chance to win.)