MUST-READ: Torn, by Justin Lee

by Camille on March 9, 2014

Hello wonderful people! It’s Spring Break, and I’m in Orange Beach with two teenagers, a toddler, and the hubs. Best thing? We won this condo week through a friend’s adoption raffle months ago, so it’s a highly economical get-away. Anyway, with a pool and the ocean to entertain Miss Ellie and blessed MILES and MILES between us and anything on the to-do list, my plans for this week include coffee, sleeping, reading, and spending some time with this much-missed little blog.

On that note….

I just finished this book.

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 Image Source

It’s by this guy, Justin Lee. He’s the founder of the Gay Christian Network, a non-profit organization seeking to improve communication and build bridges between Christians and gays. He also blogs at Crumbs from the Communion Table. 

JustinLee

Image Source

And I cannot encourage you enough to go read it. Right NOW. Especially if you are….

– A straight or gay single person

– A gay person in a committed sexual relationship.

– A gay person practicing celibacy.

– An evangelical Christian who “loves the sinner but hates the sin.”

– A progressive Christian growing seriously weary with the way the Church treats your gay friends and family.

– A Christian who knows a gay person, wants to know a gay person, or might encounter a gay person in the future.

– A person who seeks to understand another viewpoint and better learn how to love gay people.

– A person who does or does not think the Bible condemns gay people and/or gay relationships.

– Just a little bit over the culture wars and wondering what fast food chain or cookie or television show is going to clutter your social media feed tomorrow.

– Incredibly concerned that the gay-vs-Christian debate is damaging relationships, ostracizing an entire generation, and actively pushing gay people away from knowing God.

Okay. I’m assuming you have an Amazon tab open now. No? Okay, HERE ya go. There are much better reviews than I could ever write…you know, from people who wrote them over a year ago when the book was first released. Here is one of my favorites:

From Rachel Held Evans:

“This is the most important book I’ve read in years, and it will be the first I recommend to anyone interested in bridging the divide between the LGBT community and the church. Justin has given us a precious gift with this story. May we receive it with the same courage and faith with which it was delivered.” 

Justin, raised Southern Baptist and known as “God Boy” in his youth, realized around puberty that he was gay. He tried ignoring it as a phase he’d pass through. He dated girls. He explored ex-gay ministries to become straight. He remained celibate.

And for years, he struggled with loneliness, misunderstanding, mental anguish, and depression while trying to reconcile his faith with his sexuality.

Through it all, he never turned from God, and after much soul-searching and study, he found peace through God….and the Bible. Yeah. The same one most Christians use to condemn gay people. Now, he strives to provide a safe place for gay Christians to learn and grow from one another and to foster dialogue within the Christian community on how to better love gay people.

He offers practical tips and well-explained Biblical reasoning for his conclusions, but I think what makes this book most effective is that Justin simply shares his story. Vulnerable and honest, he narrates his journey in such a way that no matter your personal beliefs, you’re forced to put aside labels and come to know him as a person. An imperfect but beautiful child of God.

Christians, studies have shown that a vast majority of both believers and non-believers classify the church as “antihomosexual.” If you are a Christian, this should break your heart. God is not “anti-” people. Because as Justin writes, “Jesus wasn’t known for his disdain for people; he was known for his unconditional love for everyone…”

Again, I urge you to read this book. Especially if just reading this post made you uncomfortable. 😉 Feel free to come back and share your thoughts here.

 

 

 

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Dear eMeals: I Love You

by Camille on February 27, 2014

Okay, so there are a dozen or so “deep” posts I probably should force myself to write about the chaotic kiddos, spiritual warfare, family drama, etc., but I’m feeling light today, so I’m opting to share a quick “check this out!” instead.

Today, I want to talk about …..eMeals.

I would like to pledge my undying, passionate, puppy-snuggle, chocolate-kissed, sunset-laden, Shakespearean-sonnet-ish, Nicholas Sparks-level sappy LOVE to E-meals. We are tasting real food again, and we are finding it GOOD.

For the past few months, we have lived on cereal, pb&j, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Subway, and a plethora of other completely wholesome and healthy dietary choices.

Apparently, I need near-perfect life circumstances to effectively plan, shop for, and prepare actual meals each night. Hah! So obviously, December, with all that holiday insanity, was completely non-negotiable. Kids, you can have presents and a tree or dinner. Not both.

In January, we packed the entire contents of our lives into boxes and moved to a not-yet-finished new house. When boxes labeled “kitchen” end up buried in the back of the attic for weeks, that is a perfectly acceptable excuse not to cook. Also, cardboard obstacle courses really mess up my culinary mojo. As do mice barbecuing themselves on heating vents. Or construction dust so thick it would flavor the food anyway. So yeah….excuses abounded. Not that I really, um, need an excuse. 

However, near the end of January, with my digestive system system plotting revolt and Ellie no longer recognizing most vegetables, I begrudgingly committed to making a change, and taking the recommendation of a friend, I enrolled in eMeals, an on-line meal-planning service that “takes the stress out of dinner.” First, you pick from 13 different plans including:

  • Classic
  • Clean-Eating
  • Paleo
  • Portion Control
  • Low Calorie
  • Low Fat
  • Low Carb
  • Slow-Cooker
  • Gluten-free
  • Natural and Organic
  • Simple Gourmet
  • Mediterranean
  • Vegetarian

I mean, if you can’t find a plan to fit your needs here, you’re probably a vampire. I chose the Classic plan, billed as “meals like Mom used to make – only a bit simpler and more healthy.” I then chose the Family Size (3-6 servings) and picked my grocery store, Kroger. Immediately, I received my first plan, and sparks began to fly.

Here’s a few of the reasons I’m in love:

PLANNING PERFECTION

Turns out, I don’t really hate cooking. I do, however, loathe planning. I mean, you’re supposed to consider food costs, health, preparation and cook time, what’s in season, what’s on sale, what that one kid might actually eat, and for the LOVE, it’s just easier to grab that box of Velveeta Shells and Cheese and go hide under the covers in meal-planning shame. Sister, eMeals can save you from this mental drudgery. They speak organization, one of my primary love languages. A lovely .pdf contains one sheet with seven recipes, including an entree and a side dish.

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The second sheet contains a shopping list organized by section and matched with weekly specials and sales at your particular store. If you only need four recipes for the week or know someone won’t eat a certain thing, no sweat. You just cross off that number from your shopping list.

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 PLEASING PRACTICALITY

Most recipes take 15-20 minutes of preparation, and each week contains slow cooker options. In my experience thus far, each week generally contains a similar grouping of recipes including a Mexican-themed dish, some variation of baked chicken, a pasta, and a pot roast or pork loin. My absolute favorites thus far have included a ham and corn chowder, enchilada casserole, and a spicy spinach and sausage pasta. The recipes all contain familiar ingredients, and I don’t feel the need to consult Julia Childs in interpreting the directions. Furthermore, eMeals seems to pay special attention to coordinating meals with the season, with lots of warm, hearty stews frequenting my January/February menus. And most importantly, the majority of recipes seem to be both kid and husband-approved, with both going back for seconds on several occasions.

PALATABLE PLENTY

The recipes are supposedly designed for 3-6, but I’m finding portions extremely generous. In most cases, especially with the crock pot stews and casseroles, I’ve had enough for 3-4 adults and a toddler to have ample helpings with plenty remaining for at least one more meal. I’m not even cooking the side dishes (I usually just warm a bag of frozen veggies), and really, with cooking only 3-4 recipes a week, I’ve got enough meals.

Once I fully get back into the swing of this regular cooking thing, I might even try a healthier plan. I mean, unless they come up with a “mostly cheese, chocolate, and red wine option that’s magically also the healthiest thing you can eat” plan.

Do you use eMeals or another meal-planning service? What do you like? What changes would you make? 

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More than a month has passed since I’ve last been able to visit this blog, and honestly, on more than one occasion, the title of any post would have been “Dear 2014: You Still Suck.”

But I can’t even say “suck” anymore because my now three-year-old repeats everything, and she’s absconded with some of the most necessary members of my lexicon. Happy euphemisms be … darned? Just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

I’ve longed to write…to pour forth the mess like a jumble of puzzle pieces and start sorting through to find the edges. I ache to move the colors and shapes around into piles until they begin to form something recognizable.

As a blogger, I try not to shy away from the ugly realities of life, but as a foster and adoptive mom, my own reality is often so intertwined with another’s that it’s difficult to tell where my story ends and my child’s begins. Most heartache isn’t fully mine to share.

Over the past few weeks, there has been pain, worry, and jumbled pieces. I can’t yet make out the image. I can’t wrap up our story in some nice little bow with a Hallmark-approved ending.

We’re in the middle of the story, and it’s messy, exhausting, complicated, confusing, and hard. Sometimes, middles just, ahem, you know the word.

But God whispers that He is in the middle with us, and that the story isn’t over yet.

Last weekend, I attended Created for Care, an adoptive moms’ retreat outside of Atlanta, and the speaker Beth Guckenberger, reminded us that our stories don’t require the “happily ever after” before they’re worthy of sharing.  Testimonies “in-process” are just as meaningful as those who have found the Disney ending. God is not finished, and there is beauty in the journey.

In her first words to us, Beth read Matthew 11:28-30 from The Message:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace….”

And all the mamas said amen!

Created for Care reminded me that God is in the business of “extracting the precious from the worthless.” Order from chaos. Light from darkness. Joy does come in the morning.

It comes in reuniting with old friends as we fight off sleep for one more minute of real conversation.

Carrie and Me

It comes in the raw honesty of amazing new friends trusting one another with their own stories.

Riding Buddies2

It comes in healing laughter at the antics of tireless and creative women strapping glow lights to their bodies for the evolution of dance. It comes in some early 90s music encouraging us to “Hold on for one more day…” It comes in blackout curtains allowing sleep until 8:15! It comes in some rockin’ new t-shirts.

Adoption is for Lovers

It comes in the openness of women navigating their own “middles” and their willingness to share lessons learned along the way. It comes in the tears of 450 mothers, parenting more than 1500 children, joined in song, prayer, and worship.

Such joy!

Of course, Sunday night, we all had to return home, and we found ourselves once again firmly planted in the mess. Our happy hearts and encouraged souls were greeted with dripping noses, spilled juice, crushed crackers, unfinished coffee, misplaced shoes, dirty dishes, and a toddler determined to teach the cat to fly by hurling it off the stairs.

Or something like that.

Many moms returned home to kids still in hard places. They returned to minds still traumatized. Bodies still suffering. Hearts still broken.

And because we are their mamas, we must dive into those hard places with them. But we are not alone.

So ladies, my prayer this week is that as we all return to the middle of our messes, we remember that God is there with us. I pray that we make strong connections and find comfort in knowing that hundreds of sisters walk this road with us. I pray that we find strength to be more open and honest with one another in the scary parts of our journeys. And most of all, I pray that we all fervently seek God as we work toward bringing His kingdom, His perfect shalom, to this earth.

 

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Dear 2014: I Want to Punch You in the Face

by Camille on January 11, 2014

So in the first 11 days of the year, I’ve seen the usual Susie Sunshine posts coming across my feed. So much optimism! So much hope! This will be the year that we all finally do the right eating, regular exercising, money managing, better living, universe mastering things.

Or not.

Look, kudos to those of you who are bravely plowing through all life has thrown your way, turning your lemons into extra-sweet lemonade as you offer joy, encouragement, and 10-step lists to the rest of us. This will not be one of those posts. This will be a self-indulgent, whiny, blatantly #firstworldproblems rant about why I pretty much want to punch 2014 in the face. Hard.

You’ve been warned.

1. Moving Mayhem: This year, we built a house. I may blog about this eventually…..after years of therapy. People say it’s one of the most stressful things you can do. Preach it, dear people. Anyway, we’re in the home stretch, and first thing this month, my insane silly husband decided it was time to move. As in….immediately. He believed, by the sheer force of his will, that the approximately 692 little things that were yet to be done in the new house would magically resolve themselves. He gave me about a week’s notice, and so I packed about 90% of our belongings into boxes at light speed and without much planning. (Did I mention we’ve added four people, three animals, and a whole mess of junk since the last time we did this?) Ellie brought great enthusiasm to the process—unpacking as I packed, grabbing my labeling Sharpie to create her own tattoos, snatching my scissors to wave as a banner while running wildly through the house, and using my packing tape to connect various toys, furniture, and the dogs.

But you know those little things? They did not in fact get done quite so quickly, and as it turns out, housing inspectors are rather nit-picky. Thus, we’ve moved our move date three times. But hey, no biggie. It’s like an indoor camping adventure!

2. The Renting Dance: Two days after the above husband set me to the task of packing, he informed me that he put our current house on Craigslist and already had two calls! So, in the middle of packing, could I please make sure the house was clean and orderly enough to show to potential renters by Jan. 5?

Living Room

Sure! Of course. I mean, by this point I only had about 40 boxes stacked in the living room, with laundry, dishes, and other general household duties completely ignored. So, sweet Herdest (bless him) moved all the boxes to the garage, and we stopped packing for an entire day for cleaning, drywall repair, stain removal, yard work, etc.

Garage

One potential renter showed. We have not yet rented our current house.

3. Hell Freezes Over: Okay, I can really only verify temperatures for a large majority of the United States, but I think there’s a pretty good chance.

Weather

Anyway, somewhere in the packing, cleaning madness, two college-educated people completely forgot that freezing temperatures and copper pipes don’t mix and failed to take precautionary measures.

So this happened.

Copper Pipe

Of course, I didn’t know this until Tuesday morning, when Ellie came to me and announced excitedly, “Mama! It’s wainin’ in my woom!” Indeed, it was. A torrential downpour falling from the vent in her ceiling right onto the rocking chair. My favorite chair in the house.

While I hollered for the boys and frantically called Charlie, Ellie splashed gleefully through the foyer and dining room, thrilled with her indoor water park.

We finally got the water turned off, and were left with a pond spanning three rooms. And remember those boxes? Yeah, most of my towels were used to cradle pictures and vases. Thus, I haphazardly threw bath robes, blankets, table clothes, and clothes onto the floor until the neighbor brought a Shop-Vac. But hey, what’s 10 extra loads of laundry?

So, we spent most of a day ripping out insolation and carpet padding, cutting holes in drywall, and rotating space heaters.

At the end of the day, her room looked like this:

Ellie's Room

 Ceiling2

Thus, she’s been sleeping on a cot in our closet all week. Her crib is nestled snuggly in my bathroom while we used the rest of her furniture to create our own little maze in the living room. She’s only averaging 2.5 tantrums daily involving the refrain, “I wan my woom back! I seep in my woom!”

Crib

4. Showers of Doom: When the pipe burst, the hot water heater that feeds our master bathroom apparently felt left out of the festivities and so decided to die. Consequently, Charlie and I were forced to brave the bathroom inhabited by our teenagers. Y’all, I can’t even find words. Okay, two words: shower shoes.

5. Some Like It Hot: Thursday, I took Ellie to Kids Day Out. Her Daddy picked her up and took her to the Children’s Museum, and since our moving date moved, I claimed a few of the quiet hours and gave myself a blessed reprieve from the fray. I stopped for donuts. I drank coffee while reading a book. I watched the Call the Midwife holiday special while folding laundry and cried sappy, warm-fuzzy tears. I breathed, and it felt good. That night, we went to our first session of Empowered to Connect, an intensive parenting class geared toward adoptive families. Encouraged and excited, we picked up Ellie, who chattered happily about playing with her “frens” in their childcare program.

But when I removed Ellie from her car seat half an hour later, she was burning up with a 102 fever.

Seriously?! Ellie has a tendency to develop febrile seizures when her fever gets very high, so I spent the night getting up every few hours to dispense Tylenol, Motrin, and a whole bunch of Mama worry. On Friday, the doctor said she doesn’t have the flu (praise God) but some random adenovirus. We should expect a sore throat and possible digestive tract involvement about the time of our next scheduled move. Awesome. Let’s throw in some diarrhea because moving just isn’t challenging enough.

Thus far, we’ve just been battling the crazy fever, and our lives are controlled by a switch existing at 101.9 degrees. Below this number, and Ellie is a whirlwind of never-ending, cat-chasing, dog-wrestling, paint-smearing, water-splashing, food-demanding destruction. In her Tylenol-infused manic state, she has no tolerance for this staying home thing and wants to know WHY we can’t go to the zoo, museum, park, etc. She asks me about 4,000 times an hour just in case I change my mind.

However, the moment her fever hits 102, she transforms into a pitiful little ball of clingy neediness, crying, “I’m siiiick.” Then, we sit on the couch and watch Glee music videos on YouTube for hours. (Actually, I sort of rock this part. This mama loves an excuse to cuddle.)

Here we are cuddling. :-)

Cuddle

But yeah, with all the wee-hour fever checking and medicine dispensing, there’s not so much of the sleep thing happening here.

6. Show Me the Money! And of course, fixing all this stuff hasn’t been cheap. Sigh.

$369: Broken pipe repair

$80: Hot-water heater repair

$350: Drywall and ceiling replacement/repair

And we haven’t received an estimate on new carpet yet, so there’s that.

 

Okay, I’m done. For now. If you’re still with me, please excuse the excessive complaining. In all seriousness, I know I’m completely blessed in a thousand ways; I just thought y’all could help me find some humor in a crazy couple of weeks. Help me laugh people! (Or you know, invite me over for a glass of wine. That would work too.) 

Here’s hoping your 2014 is going smoothly and is full of joy.

 

 

 

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Thoughts on Ducks and Racism

by Camille on December 22, 2013

I’m rather weary of all the Duck Dynasty stuff, and no doubt, you are too. Please believe me when I say there are about a gazillion other things I’d rather be writing. However, I continue to be disheartened, if not entirely surprised, by the Christians so determined to defend homophobic and racist remarks, and I guess I’d like to put one more voice out there to share the other side.

I have a transracial family. This isn’t a secret. We’re all right there for you to see at the top of this blog. They’re also the banner on my Facebook page. Yet, numerous social media acquaintances had no problem defending Phil’s comments as non-racist on my page, and while I fully support their right to share their ideas, I simply wonder if they would have said the same things if our families had been having dinner together? I wonder if they’d be so eager to explain away the segregated South if sitting across the table from people who wouldn’t even have been allowed at the table during Phil’s “happy” youth.

Defenses included:

Phil was just sharing his experience. He says he never witnessed the mistreatment of blacks, and the ones he knew were happy. Maybe they were. You weren’t there, so how do you know?

* I played with black children side by side with no problems, so I agree with Phil.

* He was just saying he was equal to African-Americans due to his family’s poverty.

Similar comments flooded many of the blog posts I included in yesterday’s link-up. Charlie and I actually enjoyed some good conversations and laughs with a couple of our kids reading all the opinions on what is racist and what’s not. Please forgive me, but when it comes to what is racist, perhaps the opinions of older white people who grew up in the Jim Crow South might not be the most accurate place to start; history can be recalled much differently depending on which side one was on.

For instance, a close friend’s step-father is a black man in his eighties. Born in Georgia and living several years in Alabama, he experienced Jim Crow at its worst. Some of my friend’s first memories of his step-father were the stories he shared about segregation. It wasn’t a happy time. Even to this day, the elderly gentleman warns his son not to date a white girl for fear someone will come take him away.

So let’s consider a few of these arguments.

Okay folks. If Phil never saw the mistreatment of blacks, then I must assume he was either blind or is suffering from extreme amnesia. There were signs of mistreatment literally everywhere.

White

Waiting Room

 

Water Fountain

All images from Wikimedia Commons

This is the same problem with Phil suggesting any equality with black people at the time. It’s insulting to the victims of segregation. As a white man (even a poor one), Phil had dozens of liberties denied to black citizens. Segregation affected water fountains, public transit, movie theaters, schools, etc. It was everywhere. 

Some will argue that since these things were an accepted part of his society, simply “the way things were,” then he can’t be held accountable for the past. But in 2013, his words attempted to recreate an an oppressive and abusive era as “happy” and suggested black people today are entitled and ungodly. Today, there’s no excuse for not knowing better. I wonder, what would our response be if they’d interviewed an older German man, and he’d said, “Oh, well, I never saw any Jewish people being mistreated. They seemed happy to me.” Wouldn’t we call such a person a Holocaust denier? So what do we call a person who seems grossly misinformed about the realities of the Jim Crow South? As Kristen Howerton said in her recent post:

…many people have responded with comments about how Phil was just sharing his own experience. As if Phil grew up with no context of race relations. And I get that for people his age, it’s common to have a revisionist view of American history. It’s awkward and painful, and much easier to paint those times as pleasant for everyone involved. But this kind of denial is also a form of racism. So when people are suggesting that Phil’s comments were racist, I think that is accurate. Denying racism, pretending that black people were happy during segregation, and then suggesting they were actually more pleasant back then? Yeah. Racist.

If you were a white person living in the segregated South, it’s highly unlikely you ever had a truly honest conversation or interaction with a black person. Phil shared that no black person ever complained to him. (Insert massive Duh! here) Incredibly detailed social codes dictated every facet of how a black person could and could not interact with a white person, and one perceived misstep could be extremely dangerous. As in, “drowning” in a Louisiana swamp dangerous. In Howerton’s blog, she includes a clip featuring a white man and a black woman discussing life in Louisiana during segregation. Fast-forward to around 30 minutes to hear some of her “non-happy” memories. Around 33 minutes, the man shares how he was actively instructed to disrespect black people.

I get it. None of us like to recall unpleasantness from the past, but only by being honest with ourselves can we ensure a better future. I’m sure I’ll have a lot of explaining to do to my own kids about the failures of my generation one day. Maybe they’ll ask me why I didn’t work harder to protect the environment. Perhaps they’ll look at our current educational system (and all its failures) with shocked incredulity. Or maybe they’ll look at pictures of the folks at anti-gay protests holding up signs shouting “God Hates….” and wonder how the heck we managed to justify discrimination with scripture. (Oh wait. We rather have a history of being gifted that way, don’t we? Scripture has been used to justify and defend both slavery and segregation, after all.)

Also people, having black friends doesn’t mean you might not be racist. Even having a black spouse or even black kids isn’t some automatic shield against the failures of the human heart. History reflects a seemingly inherent propensity for looking at others as “less than,” and there is always room to search out our own subtle stereotyping, our tiny discriminations….and bring them to the light. Charlie and I are not immune, and I’m so thankful for all that my children teach me each day.

Y’all, I get it. Race is a crazy complicated and difficult topic to discuss. We’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. We’re afraid of being seen the wrong way. But we don’t fight racism by pretending it never existed or turning a blind eye to its current manifestations. We fight racism by being constantly vigilant and by maintaining a willingness to have open, honest conversations. We fight by listening to others.

And when it comes to the “but homosexuality is a sin!” part of this debate, I’d write a bunch of words, but I’d feel like a broken record.  I’m just going to say, did your words show love or judgement? Do you think a gay person read your words and suddenly said, “Oh my gosh! I had no idea!! I’ll immediately go and stop being gay!” Do you think your words helped build trust, relationship, or connection within the kingdom of God?

In attempts to avoid another entire post (no promises),please allow me to refer you to the amazing words of Jen Hatmaker: 

Specifically with issues that have caused such heartache and damage already like gay marriage and racial inequity, we should refuse to contribute to someone’s pain by speaking about them abstractedly, distantly, as if they aren’t real human beings whose lives bear actual repercussions of our casual public conversations. The sterile public sphere outside of the protective confines of relationships is not a safe place for such weighty discussions, and we should not add to the pile of condescending, degrading comments about real human people. These precious, fragile conversations belong among people who love one another, who’ve earned the right to be heard, who can look each other in the eye and listen with grace and humility.
 
We are not judges, because how could we possibly be?? How dare we? What right do we have to cut someone to the quick when we are nothing but sinners saved by grace? Sanctification is Jesus’ territory, and we can safely leave Him to it; He can handle the human heart. Our only sane offering to our fellow man is mercy.

 

So many good words! I encourage you to check out the rest of the post.

Also, please understand that I harbor no hatred for Phil. He too, deserves grace. Contrary to the words and threats hurled toward the true victims of bigotry, I don’t think God hates him. I don’t think he’s going to burn in hell. I wish him good health and joy. I just think he might want to reevaluate what it means to love others as Christ would love.

 

Peace to you all.

 

 

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Okay. So I have watched maybe 10 minutes of Duck Dynasty in my entire life. I’m not into hunting or camo, and every time I see the show, I’m overcome by an obsessive need to pull out a heavy-duty razor. So I was a bit puzzled to find bearded guys all over my Facebook feed Thursday morning.

If you’ve known me in any capacity for long, you likely know my beliefs on the relationship between Christianity and homosexuality. I threw my little thoughts into the Oreo debate and the chicken fight. And honestly, it’s just really depressing to watch so many Christians rush to defend a wealthy reality television star when there are so many more worthy causes for indignation and focused energy.

So, here are a few words from my fellow bloggers that resonated with me today:

This is NOT about the first amendment. Oh, and let’s reexamine our definition of persecution, shall we?

From Think Progress:

Robertson is a free man. He has not been arrested for his beliefs. He could continue to say whatever he’d like and, given the current media frenzy, it would probably be quickly published in many other places. Robertson could even take to his own website and publish whatever he wants to say, and individuals could share it through social media the world over. His freedom of speech has been in no way encumbered.

A&E, as a company, enjoys constitutional protections as well, and is under no obligation to provide a platform for messages it disagrees with.

From  Word of a Woman:

Make no mistake, Phil’s rights as an American were not violated. Just because you are free to say something without government reprisal or imprisonment does not mean what you say is free of consequences.

From Matthew Paul Turner:

Because one of their beloved, Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson, is being persecuted y’all. Yes, PERSECUTED! No, he’s not being held hostage by Bible-haters somewhere in Southeast Asia. It’s worse than that. The eldest member of America’s favorite reality TV family has been suspended indefinitely by A&E! I know, right? This is some serious prayer chain fodder for sure…

…Can we–members of the American Church–all just calm down for a moment and look at ourselves? Because we look ridiculous. We look foolish. And worst of all, some of us sound downright ignorant. Because how we respond to events like this matters—ducking matters!…

…Your support of Phil and Phil’s messages, whether you mean it this way or not, is hurtful toward other people. And that should matter to us. Why? Because we are the ones who proclaim the grace and mercy and love of Christ. And Christ cares about those who are offended by Phil’s speech….

Ummm, Phil also said some really ignorant things about black people. While we don’t always (or never) agree on homosexuality, haven’t Christians pretty much decided that racism = bad? 

From The Atlantic

Contrary to Robertson’s assumption, his single experience in Louisiana—however true it may be—doesn’t tell us anything about the realities of the Jim Crow South…..He may envision a Jim Crow South where blacks were treated well and sang happy spirituals all the day long, but this is not the South many African-Americans knew in this era.

From Rage Against the Minivan

I don’t even know where to start with this one. Comparing black people to white trash is cringey, but suggesting that black people were happier during segregation? That because Phil never heard a black person publicly complain BACK IN THE ERA OF LYNCHING means that they must have been satisfied with the state of things? This is so racially tone-deaf that it reminds me of the time Paula Deen romanticized the slaves as being “like family”. Not to mention, the subtext of his remarks is that black people nowadays are entitled, unGodly, discontented welfare recipients. So when I see people as “standing with Phil” based on their Christian values, I really have to ask . . . how does an apologist for our country’s ugly Jim Crow legacy represent Christian values?

Y’all, I’ve had people suggest that Phil’s comments aren’t racist because they express his reality. And since I wasn’t there to personally ask black people in the segregated South if they were happy and content living under Jim Crow, then how do I know they weren’t all cheerful times? How do I know they likely weren’t sitting around giving thanks for life as second-class citizens? Ummm….because I’ve studied a little history, perhaps? Here’s a little review if you want to understand a bit more about the era Phil recalls so fondly.

Phil said:

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once,” the reality star said of growing up in pre-Civil-Rights-era Louisiana. “Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field … They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word!”

Robertson continued, “Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Oh Phil. Of course a black person wouldn’t have voiced any honest feelings to you. News flash! You are white. And while you may not have personally witnessed any mistreatment doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening. I’ve never personally witnessed murder, meth manufacturing, domestic abuse, or a gang initiation, but that doesn’t mean I’m ignorant about the existence of such things. When white people romanticize racial history, we discount the reality of the atrocities that occurred and attempt to suggest black consensus with racist policies at that time. We can’t put rose-colored glasses on while looking at the past to make ourselves feel better. Phil, I can somewhat understand these viewpoints early in your life, since they were the prevalent beliefs of  your immediate society at the time. But dude, it’s been a few decades. We know better now. Maybe it’s time to get with the times on this one, eh?

There are so many MORE things that deserve our righteous anger and impassioned defense. 

From It’s Almost Naptime:

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Exactly.

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Last Christmas, we included Ian and Herdest on the family Christmas card. (Please excuse this terrible picture of a picture and take my word for it. We were cute, y’all.) 

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Due to crazy work and school schedules, we unfortunately didn’t manage to make it behind the camera lens together, but the idea of sending out a greeting without them felt incomplete. By December of last year, they’d both been living with us for almost a year, and we considered them our family.

Of course, the card apparently came as a surprise to some distant friends and relatives. One of Charlie’s Canadian cousins sent a message asking, “Who are those people on your Christmas card?!”

I’m expecting similar reactions this year.

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Charlie used to complain about my insistence upon sending out Christmas cards. (Okay, he might still complain. Occasionally.) With e-greetings, Facebook, Instagram, e-mail, blogs, and a host of other ways to share family photos, updates, and holiday well-wishes, Christmas cards do seem rather superfluous.

Nevertheless, it remains one of my favorite traditions, and with the expansion of our family over the past three years, I’m even more committed to sending out as many cards as possible because of the following:

1. I LOVE receiving cards, so I send them in hopes you feel the same. For just a moment at the end of the day, I get to feel five-years-old again as I run to the mail-box to see what special greetings await. In December, among the junk mail and bills and doctor’s appointment notices, cheerful red and green envelopes hold cheery reminders that someone thought of my family.

2. Christmas cards help me remember to pray for friends and family. While I may glance at a Facebook photo briefly, I’m probably not coming back to it again. I’ll forget the image approximately two seconds after I click “Like.” But when I display a Christmas card on my refrigerator or stocking-shaped card rack or kitchen cabinets (thanks Pinterest), then I’m going to see that card multiple times a day. Thus, while I’m pouring my coffee or making lunch or doing dishes, I look around and see the faces and well-wishes of those I love, and I remember to give thanks for those lives.

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But most importantly….

3. Other adopted kids get to see families that look like them. As we’ve made connections in the adoption world over the past three years, I’ve added lots of adoptive families to my list. I cherish receiving Christmas cards from them, and I’ve kept each one. Ellie loves looking at the pictures, pointing and naming the family members in each photo, and I think it’s important for her to have that added confirmation that families come in all shapes and sizes. At the moment, most of the families in our immediate circle are biologically related and all look the same. However, we’re always going to be the family that gets confused stares at restaurants and awkward questions on the family beach trip. Every time we receive a card from a more diverse family, it sends a reassuring message to my kids. “Okay. So we’re not the only ones. My family is okay. I’m okay. ” 

And of course….

4. I hope my Christmas card inspires conversations about foster care, adoption, race, and family. (I suggest ample hot cocoa and cookies before embarking on any of these discussions.) When I put my Christmas cards in the mail, I happily imagine them sitting on your mantle or stuck to your refrigerator. I then imagine your kids coming to stare curiously at our family, their little wheels turning. And then, I imagine them asking you a million questions.

“Mama, why aren’t they all same color? Don’t families have to look the same, mom? Mama? Mama!? What’s adopted mean anyway? Why do people do that Mama? What happened to their other parents? Are there a lot of kids that need a family mama?”

Optimistically, I imagine you explaining how families can be formed in many ways, and that one of those ways is adoption. You’ll tell them that sometimes, we choose to love people, and they become our family. You’ll tell them that family members certainly don’t have to look the same and maybe look at some more pictures of transracial families together. Possibly,  you’ll talk about foster care and introduce your children to the idea that there are many kids that don’t have loving families. Maybe your kids will grow quiet with concern and start wondering what can be done about that. Maybe you’ll read James 1:27 or a dozen other passages and discuss God’s calling to care for His children. There are a hundred complicated conversations that could begin with our Christmas card, and I’d be thrilled if you embark on even one.

But if at the end of this conversation, should your child say, “But mooooom! We have love in our hearts! We have room in our family! We want to serve God! We want to help mom! Why aren’t we adopting?”…..don’t blame me.

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Disclaimer: I fully recognize and support that adoption is not for everyone. While I advocate for education and awareness for all there are many OTHER WAYS to help children in need without adopting.

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Memphis Folks: Go Wassail for Water this Christmas!

by Camille on December 12, 2013

Hello dear readers. I have been absent from this little blog for so long, I’m almost embarrassed to creep back here. I’d share some of the craziness life has thrown our way, but who needs more whining, right? Suffice it to say, it is the holidays, and if you’re a mom, that means your normal workload is multiplied exponentially with all the little traditions (read: stuff to make, buy, wrap, deliver, do every single night) that bring FaLaLa joy and cheer, but in reality, contribute to a frenzied marathon that will stretch your sanity to its outermost limits.

Grinchy, I know.

So, as I jump back into this blog, let me slog from my own holiday doldrums to a more outward focus. If you live anywhere close to the Memphis area, I’d like to invite you to attend the Wassailing for Water event hosted by Neighborhood Church. It’s at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21, at the Brass Door, an Irish Pub on Madison. Beer and spiced wine are provided, and the kitchen will be open.

The idea is to marry singing and making merry to a life-changing cause. Donations from the evening will go to Charity Water, a non-profit organization working to provide clean water in developing nations. This year’s project will provide water filters to Cambodia where unsafe drinking water causes diseases killing more people than all forms of violence.

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Source

 

Y’all, I know it’s a busy time of year, but this is a perfect night to get a sitter and go make merry. Charlie and I attended Wassailing for Water for the first time last year, and it was also our first time to get to know most of the Neighborhood Church crowd. By far, it was one of my favorite events of the season. In the basement of a pub, we raised our voices and sang carols with an Irish flair. We celebrated friends, family, life, and love.

We raised money to bring life-giving water to others, and we welcomed the coming Christ child, who brings life to all. Please join us. 

In the middle of the frenzy, wassailing for water provided a much-needed and truly merry opportunity.

Hope to see you there!

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Adoption Interview Project, 2013

by Camille on November 23, 2013

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This is my third year to take part in the Adoption Interview Project, hosted by Heather at Open Adoption Bloggers. The blog welcomes writers from all sides of the adoption triad—parents, adoptive parents, adoptees—and encourages learning, understanding, and growth. Check out interviews from earlier this month HERE and HERE.

This year, I interviewed Shannon from One Inch of Grace. She and her husband live in Detroit and are parents to an 8-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy adopted from foster care at 4 and 20 months. I much enjoyed getting to know Shannon through her blog, and I’d encourage you to go check it out. In the meantime, here are a few words from her:

1. Your blog is called “One Inch of Grace.” What’s the significance of this title? 

The Bible teaches that God gives us abundant grace, but countless times since we’ve become parents, I feel th I have barely enough – or one inch.

2. You’ve been blogging for about three years. Why did you decide to start blogging, and how have you grown as a writer? What function does blogging serve in your life and in your role as an adoptive mother?

I wanted to blog to keep a record of our early life as a family – I hoped (and I still do) that it will help my kids make sense of everything when they’re older.

3. What challenges are the most frustrating in adopting from foster care? What changes would you like to see in the system, if any?

At the time that we were going through the adoption process, I often became frustrated and impatient at the system and “the hoops” that we were required to jump through. Now that I’m on the other side of it, my main thoughts about the system are focused on decreasing the number of adoptions and keeping families together whenever possible.

4. You also write for Shetroit, and in one post, you mention your journey in appreciating racial diversity. What lessons about your city and its people would you like to share with those on the outside?

We’re minorities in Detroit, and it’s largely been a very positive experience. We’ve felt welcomed and our new friends and neighbors are very gracious.

5. While many people come to adoption after infertility, you chose foster care adoption as the first route to building a family. What factors went into this decision, and what kind of reactions did you get from family, friends, etc. ?

My husband and I felt that we were able to provide love and a home to a child (or children) and we wanted to do this for someone who was already here. Many of our friends and family were supportive. A few people weren’t initially, but they came around and grew to love our kids.

6. What resources were the most helpful to you in preparing to be a foster parent? Do you think typical certification classes are adequate preparation?

I think our foster care training class was very helpful. But, I don’t know if there’s anything that can fully prepare someone to parent a child from foster care. The most helpful thing we did was to visit a family therapist.

7. What is the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers?

The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers is an organization that hosts storytelling events once a month in Detroit. I told my story about adoption at one of these events last year. You can watch the video HERE. 

8. People often tell foster/adoptive parents that we’re saints. How do you respond to that?

I wish I were a saint. I’m just another parent working to be the best I can.

10. You frequently discuss Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control by Heather Forbes and Bryan Post. How did you become aware of this parenting style, and what are its basic tenets? How has this approach helped you as an adoptive parent?

We became aware of BCLC through our family therapist. The basic idea is that children with attachment disorders do not respond well to consequences, logic, or control. The books shares alternative strategies for parenting attachment-challenged children. One of the most appealing parts (to me) is that it focuses not on changing your children and their behaviors, but on changing our reactions as parents to their behaviors.

11. Do you maintain contact with any members of your children’s biological families? What are some of the biggest misconceptions about birth families, especially in the foster care system?

Yes, we have a relationship with several people in my kids’ first families. I think a big misconception in general, is that people are defined by their family. Family members can be vastly different from each other and shouldn’t be judged based on the poor choices of another.

12. As a writer, I always struggle with balancing protecting my children’s stories and being open and honest about parenting and adoption. How do you make those decisions?

I don’t use my children’s names or use their photos. I tend to stay away from personal aspects of their past and focus only on telling my story. I hope they’ll develop their own stories when they’re ready.

My group of participants goes live on Nov. 26. Click HERE to read my responses and other interviews. 

 

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Why I’m a Jesus Feminist

by Camille on November 13, 2013

In the past, I never really felt much connection to the word “feminism,” certainly not in relation to my faith.

Our church employed a female minister on staff, and honestly, it just didn’t occur to me for a long time that there were places where women weren’t welcome in a pastoral role.

I’ve completely taken other blessings for granted as well.

From my first breath, both my parents encouraged me to be anything. Do everything. Thinking back, I realize that my mother fulfilled many traditional gender roles (cooking, cleaning, childcare, etc.), but she simultaneously delivered a much more complex message about womanhood. She worked every day alongside my father, managing the business side of their pharmacy. While leading my Girl Scout troop and hand-making Halloween costumes, she also owned and operated a thriving gift shop and chaired numerous committees in which she directed men. She was the one on top of the roof putting up Christmas decorations, the one paying bills, and the one planning vacations. Thus, though I doubt she’d call herself a feminist, my mother taught me that women are capable, strong, and valuable.

Now, I’m in an egalitarian marriage, where we share spiritual leadership and decision-making and have flexible roles based on our abilities and practicality rather than gender. (As it turns out, we’ve ended up with many fairly traditional gender roles, but that’s a choice we’ve both embraced for this time in our lives. Of course, Charlie does iron all the clothes; he’s just gifted that way.)

Thus, I could have continued through life in my happy “Girls Rule!” bubble with little thought for my less-fortunate sisters.

But Ellie was born, and I entered the blogging community where I first encountered the voices of Rachel Held Evans Sarah Bessey, and so many more, and I gained awareness into why I need to care. I started reading about rape culture, purity culture, sexism, social inequality, and brave women silenced by frightened men and backward cultural norms.

And I realized that I’m a feminist.

In her new book, Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey makes the case for why all Christians, men and women, should be called to feminism too.

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With the title alone, Bessey forces a much-needed conversation about the role of women in the Church, but before you picture some angry, man-hating, masculine monster….be warned.

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With her beautifully poetic writing style, you might not realize you’re thinking about big things. From the beginning, Bessey’s tone aims to disarm critics by opening her arms and inviting all to join her in conversation by a fire on the shore.

“I’ll be honest: some of the words I have to say might rub you wrong. You might disagree with particulars, but that’s okay—stay with me. Let’s sit here in hard truth…and let us discover how we can disagree beautifully.”

Now, if you came to this post holding negative connotations for the word “feminism” then let’s clarify exactly what I’m talking about before you get your panties (or Star Wars boxers) in a wad.

Bessey’s grand plan for feminism:

“I want both men and women to flourish in their God-ordained self; I want women around the world to be safe and well educated, to have rights of citizenship, voting, and property, safe arrivals of their babies, the choice of marriage for love, freedom from sexual exploitation.”

If we add equal pay for equal work, then we’re pretty close to my own understanding and desire. Notice, there’s strangely nothing about hating God, men, family, stay-at-home moms, or shaving. There’s not even the requirement that all women believe the same things. I believe at its core, feminism is simply the belief that every woman should be able to be awesome in whatever role, pursuit, career, passion, or way to which she is called.

Okay…now that we’ve gotten over gut reactions to the word, let’s talk about why as Christians, we MUST care about feminist issues.

A few factoids from Jesus Feminist: 

– Women aged fifteen through forty-five are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined. One major study found that between 30 and 60 percent of women had experienced physical or sexual violence by a husband or a boyfriend. More than 300,000 women are raped in the United States each year.

–  Over 135 million girls and women have undergone genital mutilation, and another 2 million are at risk each year.

– Women compose 70 percent of the world’s poorest people and suffer from unequal access to education and employer discrimination. They earn about three-fourths of a man’s pay for the same work in both developed and developing countries.

– More than 75 million school-age children are not in school, and more than half are girls.

So ladies (and guys), even if some of these particular statistics don’t immediately affect our own lives, we should care. These women are our sisters, and we must find effective ways to support their battles against abusive systems. Furthermore, studies have shown that when women assume financial leadership in communities, those areas begin to thrive and find their way out of poverty. As Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn explain in their book, Half the Sky, women are much more likely than men to spend money on nutrition, housing, medicine, and education, leading to healthier and more stable communities.

Thus, Bessey argues that once we’ve experienced the love of God, it naturally follows that we won’t be able to stop our hearts from seeking justice. She writes, “Once we become disciples of Jesus, we live in the Kingdom of God. And we cannot separate our salvation into a private event, divorced from what Darrell Guder calls the ‘advent of God’s healing reign over all the world.’ Ours is a distinct calling—to demonstrate the reality of God’s redemptive power in the world today.”

With so much incredible suffering in the world and so many desperate to know the hope of Jesus, where is the logic in limiting or outright paralyzing so many effective disciples? As Carolyn Custis James writes in Half the Church, “God created his daughters to be kingdom builders—to pay attention to what is happening around us, to take action and contribute.” When we set limits on what a woman should or should not do within the Church, we’re attempting to set limits on the ability of God to speak and work.

Of course, there are those of you who are googling “quiet and submissive” at this very moment so you can hurl some 1 Timothy my way. While she provides sufficient argument for other interpretations of the “quiet and submissive” mandates, Bessey avoids heated hermeneutical debates to focus on self-renewal and love.

To the naysayers who employ scattered (and culture and audience-specific) scripture as justification for keeping women in a restrained space, Bessey points out that Jesus affirms and celebrates women at a time when they were often seen as sub-human in the culture. They were an incredibly present part of Jesus’ teaching and life and an active part of his ministry. She shares of Jesus’ interactions with various women, and how he treated them no differently than men. She writes:

…We weren’t too precious for words, dainty like fine china. We received no free pass or delicate worries about our ability to understand or contribute to work. Women were not too sweet or weak for the conviction of the Holy Spirit, or too manipulative and prone to jealousy, insecurity, and deception to push back the kingdom of darkness. Jesus did not patronize, and he did not condescend. 

Mary, the mother of God; the adulterous woman; Mary of Bethany; the woman at the well; Mary, sister of Lazarus; Mary Magdalene, and many others—Jesus treated women unexpectedly. He affirmed that women are welcome to learn, to teach, and to serve. He clarified that women need redemption through their own direct relationship with Jesus Christ….not some filtered blessing coming through another.

The book addresses many other fabulous points including authentic community, singleness, and discipleship. There’s more than I could ever cover in one review, but I’d highly recommend the book as a resource for anyone thinking about the role of women in the church. It’s an encouraging, empowering, and thought-provoking read. Bessey encourages us to live in love and to say yes to God until resounding affirmations “sweep over the world.” And her beautiful final commission calls women from the shadows of fear and silence to the bold, active faith found in the freedom of God.

“Stop waiting for someone else to say that you count, that you matter, that you have worth, that you have a voice, a place, that you are called. Didn’t you know, darling? The One who knit you together in your mother’s womb is the one singing these words over you; you are chosen.” 

 Why am I a feminist? Because in essence, I think Jesus is a feminist. I believe Jesus loves each of his precious daughters and wants to see each woman honor him with every single talent and strength he’s given her. I think whether God is watching women teach Bible verses to sticky-fingered children or preach his Word from a pulpit, as long as she’s doing it as an act of service and praise, he is filled with love and sending an emphatic “You go girl!” through the heavens.

But don’t worry. I do still shave my legs. Occasionally.

Updated at 4:15 p.m. on 11/13 when I realized I published an early version and left off a few paragraphs. Oops!

 

 

 

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