A few weeks ago I went to a dinner party.
Now, before I continue with my story, let me just tell you that I do not do well at dinner parties.
Or birthday parties.
Or team parties, baby showers, get-togethers, or pretty much any event where social interaction is expected.
Seriously. I don’t know how to handle myself.
I’m just a dork.
So what I have decided is that the thing that works best is when I take on the role of The Good Listener.
I stumble through the introductions, and then quickly ask questions that will get the other person talking, while I just listen and nod.
Have you ever seen the episode of Friends where Ross over-bleaches his teeth and spends the whole time on a date hardly speaking just so he doesn’t open his mouth?
Yeah. That’s me.
Except without the weird teeth-bleaching thing.
So back to my story.
I was at this dinner party, and I was Listening.
But rather than listening to small talk or inconsequential details, I was listening to someone share her heart. She was brave, and honest, and allowed me to hear her story.
And as she was sharing, she said something that struck me to the core. In fact, she vocalized thoughts and feelings that I had been wrestling with for years.
As she was talking, I’m not sure what I did, but something in my expression changed. She looked at me, and nodded.
“You too?” she asked.
“Me too,” I answered.
And in that moment a friendship was forged. She knew that it wasn’t just her. And I knew that it wasn’t just me.
And that knowledge is awesome.
Rather than just listen, I also shared. We encouraged one another, and continue to encourage and challenge one another.
About a year ago my dear friend and fellow author, Craig Bowler, talked to me about an idea that he had for a book. He was going to take a bunch of his friends and ask them to respond to one simple sentence:
I am the one Jesus loves.
I was intrigued. Immediately. Because as I thought about that sentence, I had a wide range of reactions.
I still do.
After compiling his friends’ stories and weaving them together, Craig sent me the draft and asked if I would be willing to endorse the book. I went and set up a workspace at my local Starbucks, and began to read.
Before long, tears were streaming down my face. Because as I read the stories of these courageous people, all I could think of was, “It’s not just me.”
And I can guarantee you this: It’s not just you.
Here is the endorsement I wrote for the book, and a link to where you can get it.
You won’t regret it.
“When we are really honest with ourselves, we realize that deep down at the core of our being, in the places we don’t like to acknowledge or share with others, is the longing to be chosen. We want to be important. We want to matter. We want to be loved. Craig Bowler tackles this desire head on in his latest book, I am the One Jesus Loves. With his signature style of bold truth and refreshing honesty, Craig weaves together the stories of 24 different people as they wrestle with the reality of one simple sentence: I am the one Jesus loves. The stories are real, raw, and at times brutal. Some are encouraging and uplifting, while others will break your heart. However, as you join Craig and his friends on their journeys, you start to see the delightfully messy hope that comes with realizing that you, yes you, are the one Jesus loves. No matter what.”
See you soon.
Right now the news is full of stories about sexual abuse/assault/harassment in Hollywood.
It’s everywhere. Actors, actresses, politicians, and anyone who has ever been anywhere near Hollywood are all being called out – some by name – and asked to comment on this.
And they are. Or they aren’t. And it feeds the news cycle. Story after story, headline after headline, on and on it goes.
And as more people speak out, an all too familiar pattern has emerged:
- Sure the guy was wrong, but why didn’t she say something sooner?
- What’s the big deal? He asked ten times, and she said no ten times, and so he listened. Finally.
- What is she looking for with this? She’s probably in it for money.
- She’s rich and famous, why should she complain?
- That’s just the way is there in Hollywood.
- This happened 20 years ago, they just need to get over it.
- She’s known to sleep around, so it’s not that big of a deal.
- And on, and on, and on.
And it makes me sick. Absolutely sick.
And what I want to say to anyone who has ever been a victim of abuse is that I am so sorry, and I hear you.
I know. I know that you see these famous actresses, beautiful and seemingly flawless, and you hear people doubting them, belittling them, and ignoring their claims. And I know that it makes you think that if no one listens to them, then who would listen to you.
And I’m so sorry. And I hear you.
I know that when you hear the audio of someone in power trying to coerce someone, you are flooded with terrible memories.
And I’m so sorry. And I hear you.
I know that when you hear victims talking about feeling ashamed, guilty, and even complicit in their abuse, you hang your head a bit, having struggled – or still struggling – with the very same things.
And I’m so sorry. And I hear you.
Friends, the issues in Hollywood are real. The pain is real. The victims are real. And I pray for everyone who has been hurt, that they can find the help that they need in order to heal.
I pray that eyes are opened and that a system that is so deeply flawed and damaging can be completely overhauled.
But now I need to look around me, on a more local scale. And I ask you to do the same. Find ways to help victims of abuse. Learn to look for warning signs.
Learn to listen.
Watch your responses to public victims of abuse, because you never know who around you may also be a victim. The statistics are staggering, and sickening.
We can’t do nothing. We have to do something.
Every single one of us.
And repeat after me: I am so sorry, and I hear you.
See you soon.
Almost two years ago we visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. It has been firmly established that we are a Baseball Family, so obviously this was an incredible experience for all of us. And it wasn’t our last – we went there again this past summer, and I have a feeling we will get there as often as we can. There is so much to see and learn and appreciate.
I knew that I would love it, but something happened there that really shocked me. As I was walking through the Plaque Room and looking at the stories of the men and women who have achieved greatness in the sport, I came across the plaque for Lou Gehrig, and I immediately began to cry. I know that is not the normal reaction that people have at the Hall of Fame, but as I read his story and thought about his life – and death – I was overwhelmed with thoughts of my Papa. See, almost nine years ago my Papa died from ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease. So reading about a man who suffered the same way as my Papa impacted me in a way that no one around me truly understood.
But even though they didn’t understand it, my pain was real. My heart was broken again. And I was hurting. My husband noticed, and gently rubbed my back. My oldest son looked over and said, “Thinking about PaPaPa?” I just nodded, and so did he.
He gets it.
A year and a half ago we were at my favorite place in the world: Ocean Beach, California. We were having a Best Day Ever, which is where we have breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the beach, capped off with a bonfire and s’mores.
In the afternoon, I walked down to get some coffee. It was a walk that I was dreading, but a walk that I knew I needed to take. It was a coffee shop that I didn’t want to go into, but I knew that I had to visit. Because the day after that particular Best Day Ever, I was going to attend a memorial service for a friend who had lost his life in a surfing accident. And that coffee shop that I visited? That was where he and I had life-changing conversations. I had to go there again, to remember him. To thank God for placing him in my life. And to pray for his precious wife and children.
So there I stood, surrounded by surfers and children and families. I ordered the coffee with a trembling voice and tears in my eyes. Again, not a normal reaction to the location. But intensely real, intensely personal, and pretty understandable when you know the full story.
Three weeks ago my daughter found a new type of candy at the store that she had never tried before. She brought it home, and everyone tasted it. Some liked it, some didn’t. I didn’t.
Not because of the candy. Objectively, the candy is pretty tasty, and I actually really like a very similar variety.
But this was not the first time I had ever tried that candy. The sight, sound, smell, and taste of it brought back the memories of when I used to eat that particular treat, which was during a dark time in my life. A very dark time. One I do not wish to go back to, and one I do not wish to share the details of.
So we don’t buy the candy anymore.
Some may think it is strange to avoid a silly thing like a box of candy, but that’s what I need to do. It’s what keeps me healthy and keeps me looking forward.
And if you knew the full story, you’d probably understand.
We live in a world where social media has allowed people to share their hearts and minds in a public forum. We can share what makes us happy, what makes us sad, what angers us, and what we find funny.
A lot of times, this is a very good thing. People celebrate together, comfort one another, encourage each other, and laugh together. I can support my friends across the country and around the world, and I know that they will support me. I have seen tragedies averted and families reunited through the power of social media.
But then there’s the ugly side.
The fact that we can share our thoughts and feelings in such a public manner means that we are open to judgment, ridicule, and scorn.
It comes with the territory, I guess. But that doesn’t mean that it’s right.
And that doesn’t mean that I need to participate.
It’s easy to see someone post about being offended and roll my eyes at how ridiculous it is that they’re upset over something I find so trivial.
But is that right? Is that what I should do? Is that what I want people to do to me?
Is that what Jesus would do?
No. No. No.
I don’t know. I don’t know their story. I don’t know their background. I don’t know the things they have seen or the pain they have experienced. I don’t know why they hurt, or what will help.
So I am left with three choices: I can mock them, ignore them, or reach out to them and try to find a way to make their lives a little bit better.
Too many times I mock. And I need to stop. Because that’s just not okay.
Too many times I ignore. Sure, I might not be able to actually do anything, but that doesn’t mean I should pretend they aren’t hurting. I should not ignore pain. I can at least stop and pray for that person, pray for relief.
And too few times I actually reach out and try to find a way to help. But I will keep trying.
Because I have been there. I have been the one having an intense reaction to a seemingly minor situation. I have been the one driven to tears by a song, sickened by a photo, and hurt by insensitive words.
I have been mocked when I was broken and taunted when I was in pain.
And you know what? It sucked.
So I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’ve hurt instead of helped, and ridiculed instead of relieved.
I will try to do better.
Will you join me?
Do to others as you would have them do to you. – Luke 6:31
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Matthew 22:37-39
See you soon.
The past 9 days of our journey have been incredibly busy, full of history and learning and experiences and tons of fun.
They have also been full of extremes.
We saw buggies in Amish country, and rode the subway in New York.
We ate lobster on a beach in Maine, and pretzels off of a food cart in Central Park.
We saw Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.
We looked at Babe Ruth’s bat and paintings by Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso.
We drove through the woods of Pennsylvania and across the Brooklyn Bridge.
We visited Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts and Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue.
And we took in the stunning views of Vermont and the lights of Times Square.
Through it all we walked and talked and saw friends and family.
And we truly enjoyed being together.
One of the highlights of the trip for me occurred at about 1:00 AM after our final day in New York City.
We had just come back from a taxi ride that none of us will ever forget. (I will spare you the details, but heed this warning: If your kids are prone to getting carsick, DO NOT take them in a taxi. Trust me.)
We had finally gotten back to our tent, everyone was gathered around our bed, and the kids began to talk. They shared their favorite things they saw, asked questions, and laughed at funny memories.
As I listened to them, I realized that those are my favorite moments of this trip. When I get to see my kids learning and growing, right in front of me. I see their minds working, see them processing things, and see them teaching and learning from each other.
And it is truly incredible.
In just a little over two weeks our trip will be over. Davey will start teaching, and we will get to know our new community. The kids will start school and sports, and we will settle into our new routine.
Until then, though, we will continue to enjoy our journey. We will be seeing more friends and family, visiting historic sites, and eventually ending up in my favorite place in the entire world: Ocean Beach, California.
The best part, though, is that I know the kidlets will continue to talk, and laugh, and learn, and grow.
And I also know that it won’t stop once we’re done traveling.
And I love that.
See you soon!
When I was growing up there was a staple that we had at every fancy meal: Pink Stuff Salad. It was a combination of cottage cheese, cool whip, pineapple, and Jello powder. Sometimes it was strawberry flavor, sometimes raspberry. Sometimes we got adventurous and used lime flavor, which, of course, changed everything and made it Green Stuff Salad.
The only problem with this salad was that no one liked it.
I mean, sure, we all took tiny helpings to be polite, and we choked it down as quickly as we could. But it was not tasty.
Finally at one Thanksgiving we had The Talk with my mom.
“No one likes the Pink (or Green) Stuff Salad.”
She took the news quite well, and never again have we had that stuff on our table.
Well, a few days ago I wondered if this Journey was the kidlets’ Pink Stuff Salad. Was this something that Davey and I love, but they just don’t enjoy? Were they going to look back on this summer as something annoying that they had to endure, or do they love it too?
I got my answer in three very unique places: Just outside of Winnemucca, NV, just outside of Lincoln, NE, and just inside the Pennsylvania state line.
In Nevada the kidlets were talking about whether or not they wanted a teleporter to just get to where we were going. The answer was a resounding no.
“Then we’d miss The Journey,” The Girl said. “The Journey is a big part of the fun.”
In Nebraska, Davey and I were trying to decide whether or not to stop at a hotel or drive through the night. The kidlets just listened to our conversation, not saying anything. We finally realized that in order to get where we wanted to get, we needed to just press through. Once the kidlets heard our decision, they all responded in the exact same way.
“Yes! We love driving through the night!”
Finally, we crossed into Pennsylvania just as it was getting dark outside. I looked and saw a firefly, and I got so excited.
I love fireflies.
I pointed it out to the kidlets, who were watching a movie at the time. They decided to turn off the movie so they could watch the bugs outside.
For the next hour they stared out their windows, excitedly pointing out every time they saw a flash of light.
So I am so happy to know that they love this just as much as we do.
No Pink Stuff Salad here.
Speaking of this…
Since my last post we have travelled an additional 2900 miles, bringing our total 6700. We have also spent 60 more hours in the car, bringing that total to 125.
We saw more great friends, camped in ridiculous wind, and visited our nation’s Capitol.
We walked along the Vietnam Memorial, slowly looking over the seemingly endless list of names.
“That’s so sad,” Jar said.
“So many people,” The Girl added.
We stood on the spot where Martin Luther King delivered a speech about his dream. We looked out over the same sights he did, and wondered about what he’d say today.
We read the Gettysburg address, etched on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial. We talked about division. And turmoil. And hope.
We read the signs of the protestors outside of the White House and Supreme Court, and we talked about freedom. Freedom to speak out, and freedom to stay silent.
We walked the steps of the Supreme Court, and we talked about decisions that impact the lives of people everywhere.
And today we rest.
Once again we are settled in a campground, and as I write the kids are reading, journaling, and playing with the little trinkets they’ve picked up along the way.
Tomorrow we head out again. We will make a few stops along the way, but our destination is Cooperstown, New York.
We will spend two whole days exploring a town that is devoted to baseball.
Those will be great days.
Until then, we will continue to rest.
Oh, and eat soft shell crab and Philly cheesesteaks, because what’s a Journey without food?
See you soon!
I am going to jump around in the Proverbs passage today because I absolutely had to write about these three lovely ladies in one post. You see, when we were in college, I had the privilege of being their RA, and we had a lot of fun.
A whole lot of fun.
All three of them were in my wedding, and I have always considered it an honor to be their friend.
The verse that makes me think of Kathy and Melissa is Proverbs 31:18:
She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
Kathy and Melissa are both wives and mothers, and they both work as nurses.
I am a huge fan of nurses. Through my four C-sections, my dad’s many surgeries, and my mom’s heart surgery, I have seen firsthand just how important nurses are, and how much they truly impact recovery.
I have also seen that their job is unbelievably difficult, requiring so much strength, patience, grace, and wisdom.
They work ridiculously long shifts, many times through the night, serving people who most times can give absolutely nothing in return.
This is the career that Kathy and Melissa have chosen.
And I am not surprised.
As long as I have known both of those ladies – Kathy since college and Melissa much longer – I have known them to be kind, caring, loving, and gracious.
I have also known them to work through the night, doing whatever needs to be done.
I admire these two more than they will ever know.
The verse that makes me think of Gina is Proverbs 31:22:
She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Now, on the surface this makes sense, considering the fact that Gina is an incredible interior designer, and she also has an absolutely adorable personal fashion sense.
But the reasons this verse makes me think of Gina are far deeper than that.
Gina brings color to her world. Whether through her humor or her adventurous spirit, she brightens up life, not only for her husband and kids, but for everyone who knows her.
She also passionately fights for those who are cast out and scorned. She rallies people together to love and serve the least of these, demonstrating with her life the importance of being a voice for the voiceless.
Gina shows her children how to love without prejudice or discrimination.
She makes this world better, in both the temporal and eternal things, and I can’t believe I get to call her my friend.
Kathy, Melissa, and Gina are women of noble character. They inspired me so many years ago, and they still inspire me today.
In one sense I feel proud of all that they have accomplished, like I have watched “my girls” grow up. But in another way I look up to them, and strive to be the type of person that they are.
Either way, I am so thankful that we were put on a hall together, all those years ago.
See you soon!
Darlene lived cross the hall from me our freshman year in college. From the very beginning, she and I were very different from one another.
She is tall, I am not.
She had curly hair, I did not.
She was in a sorority, I was not.
Her room was beautifully decorated with coordinated floral prints, mine was not.
And Darlene was usually very graceful, proper, and dignified.
And I was… not.
Despite our differences, though, we became fast friends. We would study together, eat together, and when I wanted to break curfew and go to the beach at midnight, DarDar was my accomplice.
One thing we had in common, though, is that we were both night owls. Some of my fondest memories of that time in college are the early, early mornings, sitting in the hall with Darlene, talking.
We would talk in detail about what we wanted our lives to look like when we got older, and in even greater detail about what we didn’t want our lives to look like.
We were passionate and idealistic.
And had no idea what reality would bring.
You see, in all of our conversations of what we wanted for our lives, never once did Darlene say that she wanted to eventually be a single mother to two boys with autism.
Yet here she is.
The verse that makes me think about Darlene is Proverbs 31:17:
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
I will never forget the way that Darlene let the general public know about her divorce. She posted a Facebook status about completing a small home-improvement task, stating that she had reached a major milestone for a single mom.
And that was it.
A strong, bold statement that although she had not chosen this for her life, it is what her life became, and she would handle it with her usual grace, dignity, and courage.
She vigorously works for her family, and her arms – and will – are strong for her tasks.
She is there for her children – loving them, serving them, helping them, and fighting for them. Tirelessly, fiercely, and without recognition.
She is keenly aware of educational policy and advocates on behalf of those who cannot advocate for themselves.
She volunteers her time to help the outcast and overlooked, and she is a devoted mother, daughter, sister, and friend.
Oh, and on top of all of that, she is also a classroom teacher, faithfully serving the students in her care.
Darlene is truly a woman of noble character, and I have nothing but respect and admiration for all that she is.
She inspires me to learn more, to serve more, and to love more.
I am so honored to call her my friend.
See you soon.
A couple of summers ago I felt like my family was falling apart. The kids were bickering much more than usual, my husband and I were constantly on edge, and the general concepts of teamwork and service – which are usually major components of our family life – were just… gone.
One day, after breaking up the fifth argument of the afternoon, I decided that I needed to do something drastic.
“That’s it!” I said. “We’re going to a campground.”
Now, before you start picturing a fun family camping event, re-read what I said. You’ll notice that I did not say we were going camping.
No. That’s an entirely different thing.
I said we were going to a campground.
And that’s what we did.
We stopped by the house and grabbed blankets and pillows and a box of matches. We stopped by the store and picked up a package of hotdogs, a package of marshmallows, and two jugs of water.
And then we went to the campground.
At first the kids were confused.
“Where’s the tent?”
“We aren’t using a tent.”
“Uh… where are the chairs?”
“We aren’t using chairs.”
“Okay… where will we sleep?”
“In the van.”
“Where will we sit?”
“On the seats that we will take out of the van.”
“Are you serious?”
With that one word, AWESOME, I got my family back. The kids all jumped into set-up camp mode. They took the seats out of the van and placed them around the fire pit, made up beds, and then went out to forage for firewood and roasting sticks.
That evening we sat around the fire, eating our gourmet meal of hot dogs and marshmallows, and talked. We talked about some of our favorite memories, we told funny stories, and we planned the adventures we wanted to take.
Then we went around the circle and everyone shared what he or she appreciated about everyone else in the family.
It was… Awesome.
The next morning as we got ready to leave, my youngest son went and climbed into the bear box.
“What are you doing?”
“I want to stay here. I want to stay camping.”
“But if we take the van, where will you sleep?”
“I’ll sleep in the bear box.”
The rest of the kidlets didn’t think that was too shabby of an idea.
And so we stayed.
We didn’t sleep in the bear box. Or in the van.
My husband went home and got our camping gear, and we spent the next two days hanging out and having fun.
Although we have never again gone as simple as the hotdog and marshmallow episode, we still love to camp. In fact, last summer we spent an entire month at a campground. Most of our friends and extended family questioned our sanity, but we knew that the campground was probably the only thing keeping us sane.
It was home.
Recently I have done the technological equivalent of putting everything aside and heading to a campground.
Well, you know, as much as I can. I still have to work, and 99.92% of my work is done online. And I am staying in touch with my closest friends and family, and 99.92% of them communicate via text only.
But I have kept it as simple as possible. No social media. No visiting countless news and gossip sites.
And no taking online quizzes.
The results have been incredible.
I am reading more. Like actually reading books. Lots and lots of books.
I am writing more. I am working on both personal projects and professional projects, and I am so excited to write every day.
My house is cleaner.
I am exercising more.
I no longer feel rushed or distracted, and I feel a sense of calm that has been gone for so long.
But the best part?
My connection with my family is stronger.
Gone from my home is the constant echo of, “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom…”
See, I thought that was just part of being a mother to four children. I thought that it was normal.
What I have learned, though, is that it’s not normal. Not for my home, at least.
Once the kids realized that they no longer had to compete with my phone, they relaxed. They saw that saying my name once was enough.
They know that I am here – both in body and in mind.
Spending less of my free time online means that I spend more of my free time just being present.
It’s amazing how six people can all sit in a room together, reading quietly, yet still feel like they are connected.
It’s not like that when we are online.
When we are online we are connected with everything other than what’s right around us.
And that can cause issues.
I absolutely love what my time offline has brought my family, and I don’t really want to give it back.
So I am going to stay offline as much as I can.
I do miss interacting with my Facebook friends, though. But right now, I just can’t. My family needs me. And I need them.
So I’ll sleep in the bear box.
I am going to continue writing and blogging, and I may share some of those posts on social media, but I may not. If you want to get email updates when I post something, you can subscribe to my blog. Or if you follow me on Twitter or follow the Jane Rodda Books Facebook profile, those will also automatically update whenever I post.
Until then, pass the marshmallows.
See you soon!
Right now my husband and I are on almost completely opposite schedules. He leaves the house at 6:00 every morning to commute into work, spends his day trying to help a bunch of eighth graders understand the Pythagorean Theorem – while deftly avoiding questions about why they need to know it and if they’ll ever use it in real life – and then comes home to hang with the family, help shuttle kidlets to sports and church stuff, and also fit in time to work at his online tutoring job.
Oh, and he’s working on getting his Master’s degree, too.
So by the time 10:00 PM rolls around, he’s exhausted. Exhausted to the point of falling asleep mid-sentence.
I, on the other hand, have a much different schedule.
I work 100% from home – meaning no early alarms and no commute. I homeschool our kids, take care of the house, and write. I do work hard – and he knows and appreciates this – but at the end of the day I do not have the sheer exhaustion that he has. So when 10:00 comes around, and he falls asleep, I do my own thing.
Sometimes I work and sometimes I read.
But lately I have been using that time in the most valuable way possible: watching teen dramas on Netflix or Hulu.
Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls – they all pop up on my list of recently watched items. The other night my husband heard the intro to 90210, woke up and said, “Yep, there it is.”
He promptly rolled over and went back to sleep.
There is something that I have noticed that all of these shows have in common (aside from the obvious). In every series there is a storyline that revolves around the girl catching the attention and heart of the “bad” boy. Whether it’s Kelly and Dylan, Joey and Pacey, or Rory and Jess, all of the relationships involve the boy that somehow learns to love. The girl has been able to reach his heart in a way that no one else ever really has.
There is something so captivating, so compelling, so delightful in her that he is willing to change his ways and open his heart.
And it leads to true love. Or a boat called True Love…
And it’s not just the dramas that do it. Even on Friends we saw Rachel capable of making Joey have feelings. Joey, who does not share food. Joey, who climbed into a cabinet. Joey, who had an endless parade of women coming in and out of his bedroom. That Joey fell in love.
And, actually, it isn’t even always romantic love that we see played out. Isn’t one of the most compelling things about the Blacklist the fact that a vile criminal, with seemingly no regard for human life, can do incredible and selfless things, all for the love of his daughter? (Or his not-daughter? It’s not exactly clear, but that’s beside the point.)
Whether we want to admit it or not, those story lines get right to the heart of what we desire: We want to be loved. We want to see love.
We want to be capable of inspiring others to love.
I have worked with teenagers for nearly 20 years now, and in that time I have seen a lot of things change, and I have also seen very little change.
The technology and methods of communicating with each other is obviously vastly different than it used to be, but the things that are being communicated have not changed.
Attraction, desire, insecurity.
Love, admiration, fear.
Those have not changed.
Sure, the terms have changed. Going steady, going out, dating, seeing each other, hooking up, in a relationship… the words are different but the scenarios are the same.
People looking for love. Affection.
People wanting to be wanted.
People wanting to know that they are accepted and that they belong.
I hear the arguments that teenagers are so much worse than they used to be and the moral compass of our nation is gone.
I don’t know.
But what I do know, though, is that teenagers want to know they are loved.
Just like adults do.
They want to know that they matter. They want to know that someone thinks that they are worth it.
Just like adults do.
So here is my challenge to you: find a way to let the teens in your world know that they matter. Find a way to let them know they are loved.
Find a way to let them know that they are worth it.
Because they are.
And they deserve to know it.
Just like adults do.
See you soon.
When I was 18 years old I spent eight weeks overseas.
Eight weeks of serving and exploring and learning and growing.
Eight weeks that – although this is cliché –changed my life. From the minute I returned from those eight weeks, I began to make decisions that would completely alter my life course.
The last night of my time there, though, was one of the most frightening nights of my entire life.
My cousin was on the trip with me and we had learned how to get by without being noticed. We didn’t make much eye contact with strangers, were neither too friendly nor too rude, and tried not to draw attention to ourselves.
We did everything we were taught and the summer went by without many incidents.
Until that last night.
There was a group of men who would sit outside of our apartment every day, and they would watch us leave in the morning and come back in the evening.
They would say things when we would pass, but we never felt threatened. We simply went about our business, pretending they were not there.
Until that last night.
On that last night one of the men stood up and stepped in front of us as we tried to pass.
“Americans, yes?” he said.
We kept our eyes down and tried to pass him, and he blocked us again.
“American girls, yes?”
We didn’t respond, but quickly stepped around him and hurried into our apartment, hearing his taunting laugh as we shut and locked the door.
For the next two hours we heard shouts and calls about the Americans.
After that, he started pounding on the window of our room, shouting that he wanted some love from the Americans.
At one point he actually broke into the apartment, ranting about getting to the Americans. Our host family pushed him out and called the police, and told us to stay locked in the room.
An hour or so later the shouting and pounding on the window resumed, and continued until three or four in the morning.
During the entire night my cousin and I were barricaded in our room. We sat huddled together, praying and singing, completely terrified.
It was one of those experiences that you never, ever forget.
Here in the United States, I don’t know what it’s like to be a minority.
I am a white, Christian woman. I am very much in the middle of the road when it comes to politics – you know, liberal enough to annoy my conservative friends, and conservative enough to annoy my liberal friends. I am straight, and happily married.
So I don’t know what it’s like to feel like I don’t fit in here.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a person of color in this country, because I am not a person of color.
I don’t know what it’s like to not be a member of the dominant religion, because I am a member of the dominant religion.
I don’t know what it’s like to be gay, because I am not gay.
And I am not going to pretend that I do know what it’s like.
But what I do know is that I remember that night when I was 18 years old. I remember how it felt.
So when I see my Muslim neighbor, I try to smile and nod hello. Because I remember what it felt like when I was threatened.
When I drive by a group of men, desperately searching for work so they can provide a better life for their families, I try to feel compassion. Because I remember what it felt like to be mocked.
When I see people feeling hurt and angry, wondering if their sexual identity makes them less of a person, I try to listen and reassure. Because I remember what it felt like when I was seen as nothing but a sexual object.
I know that things are a mess right now. I see the news. I read the stories.
I scroll through the Facebook posts.
And do you know what I see? I see anger and fear. I see hate and hysteria.
I see mistrust, misrepresentation, and misinformation.
I see each “side” firmly convinced that they are right.
I see people feeling threatened.
I see people mocked for feeling threatened.
I see people longing for safety.
I see people mocked for longing for safety.
And it makes me sad.
So very, very sad.
And I want to do something. I want to fix it.
But I can’t. I can’t control what other people do – or do not do.
I can’t control what other people say – or do not say.
But I can control me.
And I will keep trying to smile, listen, and reassure. I will keep trying to feel compassion.
I will try to escape the fear, avoid the hate, and see through the lies.
It’s not easy, and I often fail.
So many times I react without thinking and respond without reason.
But I will not stop trying.
Because I can’t forget that night.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
See you soon.