Friday, July 25, 2014

Don't Say You Don't See Color

Perhaps in a response to counter the racist remarks of our ancestors, it’s not unusual to hear an individual state that they love everyone equally, as they simply “don’t see color.”

Now on one hand I can understand this. I look at my adopted nieces and I don’t think of them any differently as I do my biological nieces and nephews. I see two little girls full of life, smiles, love, and energy. I don’t hold them out as my “black” niece and my “biracial” niece. 

On the other hand, I could never say that I “don’t see color” because that would be denying a part of them. Their skin color is part of their identity, their cultural history, and will influence the trials they face and the women they become. 

Furthermore, can anyone actually not see color? I remember when the girls were little and I took them over to a friends house to play. The friends daughter (who was probably around 3/4 at the time) looked quizzically at Lexi and asked me - “how come she’s so much darker than me?” From an early age we notice differences. In a culture that claims to “embrace differences” why is there a desire to erase racial differences?

My guess would be that it would make people more comfortable if everyone looked the same. Racial differences and historic discrimination mean that many spend their time interacting in racially diverse environments concerned about balancing political correctness and making stereotypical judgments.

But what if, instead of wishing away color we started wishing away discrimination?

I see color - and I embrace it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Is There a Benefit to Natural Consequences?

I’m not the type of person to get involved with politics on social media. I’d be happy to talk one on one and am not afraid to share my beliefs and opinions, but when it comes to facebook I think a lot can be lost in translation.

That said, last week I jumped on board with a few discussions following the Hobby Lobby decision (I did go to law school after all, and one thing I can’t stand is when people will spout statements as if they are facts when they are actually completely misinformed).

Regardless of my position on the matter, the topic got me thinking and spurred a multi-day conversation with Brandon’s sister and brother-in-law when we visited them over the 4th.

Are we creating a world that allows humans to avoid natural consequences?

Is this a good thing?

Lets think about this in the context of birth control. While there is always some chance (however small it might be), we have essentially reached a place of medical advancement where a women can choose when she wants to conceive.

Many would argue this is a monumentally freeing position. Women can now choose to prevent themselves from getting pregnant while they are single, pursuing an education or career, are in a financially unstable position, or simply don’t desire to become a mother - all without giving up sexual intimacy.

Honestly, I can understand the progress that seems to have been made with the advancements in birth control. A few months ago I was speaking with a social worker friend who commented that the number of adoption placements her agency had made in the last 6 months was drastically lower than that of prior years. When I asked her whether she thought more mothers were making the decision to parent she said she didn’t think so - instead she speculated that the decrease was due to an increase in the availability of birth-control and the morning after pill.

That’s a good thing right? Less “unplanned” pregnancies = progress, right?

Or does it instead play a role in breeding a culture of irresponsibility? Today a woman can seemingly be intimate anytime, anywhere without worrying about the “consequence” of getting pregnant. This is especially worrisome to me with young women and teenagers. Not only has teaching abstinence become faux pas, but we are stripping away any natural obligations of commitment that once accompanied intimacy. When birth control takes away the “risks” of sexual intimacy, what’s to stop casual sex to become as normal and acceptable as kissing? (assuming it hasn’t already)

Let’s try a different example.

Have you seen the cartoon that pictures a classroom from the 1950s and a classroom from today? In the picture from the past the teacher is sitting behind her desk holding up a paper marked with a “D” for the sorrowful student across the desk to see. The student’s parents are standing behind the teacher in support. In the picture of the present the teacher sits behind her desk looking sorrowful while the parents stand with their indignant looking child holding up the “D” paper - seemingly demanding an explanation from the teacher as to how she would dare give their extraordinary child such a poor mark.

While I’m not a teacher, I have heard stories of very similar situations played out by many of my teacher friends. I’ve also heard quite a few parents rant about such “injustice.”

How is this teaching our children to learn and to become hard-working, responsible adults? If parents choose to fight their children’s battles from the beginning, how will they ever learn how to work for something rather than simply expect it because they deserve it just for being them?

Unfortunately I’ve seen this phenomena play out with some of my peers. Upon entering the “real world” they believed they deserved the lifestyle their parents had always provided for them and the praise and commendation at work that they had always received. Instead they found themselves saddled with unnecessary debt from all their “must-haves” and struggling to accept negative feedback in the workplace.

As a child I remember hearing the fable about a world without rules. At first it seems like a wonderful place to be, but then you quickly realize all the pain and suffering that your parents rules protect you from. Could the same concept apply to natural consequences? If we begin to remove natural consequences from our lives or create a culture in which they can easily be avoided are we really improving our society or are we just degrading it?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Our Happily Ever After

Today Brandon and I are celebrating our 6 month anniversary! (yes we are newlyweds and still count the months :) ) In commemoration of this monumentous event, I thought I would document some of the things we’ve accomplished in our first 6 months of marriage.

In the last 6 months we’ve...

- traveled to Minnesota, Illinois, Maryland, Indiana, northern Michigan, Washington D.C., and the Dominican Republic (and driven through a few more states)

- lost 2 loved ones who attended our wedding

- written hundreds of thank-you notes

- celebrated Brandon’s 33rd birthday (he says this is especially monumentous becuase he is now the age Jesus’ was when his ministry really began)

- paid off 2 cars and my undergraduate student loans

- survived the worst Michigan winter in both our lifetimes

- I ran my first 10k and Brandon trained with me and cheered me on

- made our first friends as a “couple” 

- became an aunt and uncle for the 6th time

- started and gave up on a 1,000 piece puzzle

- broke 1 complete set of our wedding dishes

- took dozens of walks around our cute little town
- learned to like green beans (Brandon)

- attended our first wedding together as a married couple

- acquired a new middle and last name (Julianne)

- laughed often

- cried together

- fell more deeply in love than ever before

We are both optimistic that this is only the beginning of something truly great!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Walking Away from "Screen Time"

When Brandon and I got married we decided that to help cut costs we were going to cut out cable. The decision was really two-fold, however, because we'd also read a lot about the benefits of eliminating/reducing your T.V. time during your early years of marriage. 

I'm not going to lie - I was a little nervous. Not that I watched a plethora of T.V. before, but I definitely had a few shows I followed religiously and was convinced I would miss horribly. But I had a bad habit of zoning out in front of the T.V. after work so I figured it was a good idea. Plus, we had a Netflix account so I knew I would still have some outlet! :)

The truth - after 6 months without cable I don't miss it at all. 

Brandon and I don't have any shows we follow and we are doing just fine. Our nights and weekends are filled with building relationships, cooking and baking (me), working (Brandon), reading, doing chores and running errands, exercising, crafting (me again), and enjoying music. We do watch around 45 minutes around 9:30/10 p.m. of either a documentary, Ken Burns "The War" (Brandon's favorite), or an old T.V. series we've borrowed from the library (or Sherlock/Downton Abbey if it's on!). Brandon still thinks this is too much so we are working on cutting back further. Occasionally on the weekends we will watch a movie that we get from the library or Netflix.

Along with realizing that I don't really miss T.V., I've also been really confronted by the amount of JUNK I was watching. Not necessarily anything inappropriate (although I think was can all agree on the overwhelming amount of popular shows on right now that are...) but more so time wasters. Now this is where BRandon and I would differ. He tends to lean more in the direction of feeling like almost all time spent watching T.V. is wasteful, whereas I don't think there is any problem watching a limited amount in relaxation. Sometimes I just don't want to read, cook, talk, etc. I just need to veg.

Recently I listened to a discussion on the radio between two men. One man was telling the other how he had just finished "binge watching" a show on Netflix (something like 3 seasons in 4 days). The man he was talking to lamented that it was too bad he "got on board" so late - he'd missed all the good water cooler conversations that'd gone on as the show aired. 

Do you see anything wrong here? The first man (who has a wife, 3 young kids, and a full time career) was choosing to spend his free time watching hours upon hours of a show promoting drug use, disrespect, and promiscuity, while the second man was only disappointed that the first had really missed on "bonding" with others over the show.

If pop-culture bonding is now defined as hours of screen time and mindless discussion of fictitious characters, I think I'll stick to the old fashioned way and spend my weekends taking walks with my husband and building friendships by caring about what goes on in my friends real lives.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Confessions of a Transformed Heart

I love to read, and I read a lot. But this past spring I read a book that shook my heart and brought me to my knees in tears....that doesn't happen to me very often.

The book was Confessions of a Transformed Heart by Nancy Sheppard. Nancy and her husband traveled to Liberia in the 1980s to work as missionaries. The book follows their missionary journey through war, hardship, celebration, and grief. Her words are simple, but her message and humility is profound.

While I could write an essay about my thoughts on this book, I'll leave you with the 3 areas this book most specifically challenged me in:

1. My Relationship with God

From the first chapter I was struck by Nancy's passion for our Savior, but even more so I was struck by her obedience and quest for improvement. Several times Nancy wrote about God calling her out on ____ or her need to improve on ____, and her subsequent journey in obeying God's call. I am not so good in this area. First, I often feel as though I act and then seek God's direction. Secondly, if I do feel God speaking to me, I often shy away from requests that make me uncomfortable.

While reading a certain portion of this book I felt immensely convicted about my actions and attitude towards 2 individuals. As awkward and uncomfortable as it was, I apologized. While I was immensely touched by the grace and forgiveness of these two ladies, I was even more overwhelmed by the pure joy I felt from obedience.

Nancy's continuous strive for improvement in her walk with Christ and life as a Christian was also inspiration. Not only would she seek out character traits to work on, but she went about such work with vigor and diligence. Far too often I find myself falling into a place of complacency - not examining where I need to improve or ignoring what I know needs to be changed.

2. My Relationship with my Husband

I've only been married for 5.5 months, but Brandon and I are already on the cusp of making some pretty significant decisions about our future - particularly where we will be living come this fall. There is a pretty profound point in the book where Nancy is dreading returning to the mission field. Due to civil war, her life in Africa and work on the mission field has become extremely uncomfortable and emotionally and physically draining - and she is ready not to return. At this point her husband tells her that if it is that she cannot return, they won't, but if it is that she simply does not want to return, they will head back to Africa.

It would have been easy for Nancy to say she couldn't. But she didn't, and the joy she talks about afterwards that came from following God's will and submitting to her husband's leadership is so powerful (and beautiful!).

At this point in my reading, the tears were flowing. I love my husband, but while my mouth was saying that I would follow him to the ends of the Earth, my attitude was screaming that I wanted to stay put! God has blessed me with an amazing husband, and he used this book to open my eyes towards and area where I was not respecting him or trusting his decisions. The conversations B and I have had over the last 2 months have been amazing.

3. My Relationship with the Things I Value

Nancy herself sums up my favorite final takeaway in an interview she gave with SharperIron. When asked what she hopes readers take away from her book she states:

"One by one God took away the many "idols" I was worshiping - security, friendship, affirmation, ministry, comfort, control, etc. etc. etc. All I had left was Christ. I believe he did so for a grand purpose. He wanted me to know-and tell others-that He is enough. If you lose everything, God is enough."

Have a summer reading list? Even if you don't, you should start one - with Confessions of a Transformed Heart at the top.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Confessions of a Former Exercise Addict

This weekend I ran my first 10k. It was a pretty big deal for me - not just because I’ve never run that far before (yes I know it’s only 6 miles, but it was still double the furthest I’d ever run before), but because it was another step in recognizing that I really have recovered from the tangles of anorexia.

When I was first diagnosed with having an eating disorder (spring 2004) the doctors labeled me as having “exercise-induced anorexia.” It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, I had become obsessive about exercising and was expending more calories than I was taking in. Over the past several years its been very difficult for me to get back into having a consistent, healthy exercise routine. I either end up falling back into my obsessive tendencies, or I rapidly lose weight.

Actually, I don’t think my compulsion is that out of the ordinary. Negating the eating disorder aspect, I know several women who I would argue have an unhealthy relationship with working out.

“Addict” is defined -
1. (noun) a person who is addicted to an activity, habit, or substance
2. (verb) to habituate or abandon (oneself) to something compulsively or obsessively

After a lot of thought and prayer, I dove into training with some goals and guidelines that ended up making a huge difference in my approach to exercise.

Physical Goals:

1. Don’t lose weight. I know, this sounds completely ridiculous considering weight loss is probably the primary incentive for the majority of people who exercise, but I knew from the beginning that I had to make a strict rule for myself - if I lost weight, I had to stop running until I gained it back. Amazingly, I never had to stop and actually ended up gaining weight in the process (and being okay with that!).

2. Make the distance. This is the more obvious goal of training for a race. I really hate running, but I love LOVE the feeling you have when you finish a run. The more miles I was able to run, the more accomplished I felt.

Mental Goals:

1. Don’t Obsess. Easy to say, harder to do. Here are a couple of things I did to make sure my mind was in the right place when dealing with exercise:
  • Mix up my training routine - Meaning I occasionally deviated from my original schedule of when I would run and how long I would run. This helped me avoid the “but I have to exercise today” mantra.
  • Focus on being healthy - not weight. Shouldn't this be the ultimate goal for everyone? Being healthy is comprised a lot more then a number on the scale. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years, one of the most important being a better understanding of the nutrients and calories my body needs. Remember this and realizing I was building muscle helped me a lot when my weight started to go up.
  • Have an accountability partner. My dear husband was always around to keep me in check - asking me how I was doing, pushing me to reach my next mile goal, and filling me up with pasta :) He is pretty darn amazing.
  • Focus on something other than yourself. Yes, exercise is a personal activity, but I get distracted by thinking about just how many calories I’ve burned, how many candy bars I can eat now. Something that really helped with this race was finding something to distract myself with. My running time became a really special part of my day - my prayer time.
We have become a country that obsesses about weight and weight-loss. Don't allow the world's obsession to become your own.

Refueling on crepes post race

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies."
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Baby Love

It's been a baby-lovin kindof weekend.

1. Henry - On Friday Brandon and I headed to Maryland to spend Memorial Day weekend with family and friends. Our first stop was the ever important Wachter household, where we were welcomed with hugs and excitement. Actually, I don't think Brandon even made it inside the house before the boys were taking him to see the chickens, their homemade boats, and running an obstacle course around the back yard. Which was fine by me because it gave me lots of time to catch up with the incredible ladies of the household and cuddle this sweet, amazing little man!

2. Reagan Grace - My SIL has been due any day with her 2nd child. Of course the baby didn't come before we headed out of town (as I oh-so-nicely requested) or wait for us to return. Instead Reagan made her arrival at about 11 p.m. on Friday night! Brandon and I gushed over photos and did some midnight facetiming - but we were finally able to meet our newest niece Tuesday night. I know I'm biased, but she really is the cutest thing! 

3. Mikey - One of our reasons for heading to Maryland this past weekend was that our nephew (and Brandon's godson) was turning 1! My in-laws ending up flying in from Minnesota for the party as well so we had a mini family reunion. Mikey was not so interested in eating his cake as he was into smashing it, and big sister Gianna made sure Michael knew the proper way to open presents.

And just to round things out, another friend welcomed her daughter Saturday morning and 2 friends announced little ones on the way this winter! I guess we've officially reached that stage of life :)