When the Crows and the Locusts Came

I woke up this morning, this last day of 2013 with a cold or allergies, a scratchy throat and achy ears.  It’s a fitting end to this year that started with my laptop crashing and taking with it 2 years of my life (including all the pictures of my students from my two years of teaching) and middled with me leaving the ministry I’d planned to work at for the rest of my life.  The musician Brooke Fraser has a song called Crows + Locusts, with a chorus that partially reads:

It was the year
The crows and the locusts came
The fields drained dry the rain
The fields are bleeding

It was the age, the foxes came for the fields
We were bleeding as we bowed to kneel
And prayed for mercy, prayed for mercy

For me, 2013 was the year the crows and the locusts came. Nearly everything I had ever planned or hoped or wanted for my future is no longer. In the place of those lost plans, though, other dreams grow instead.  I spent September through November of 2013, running around southern Mexico, learning Spanish, making new friends, loving my new Mexican family, finding a metaphorical second home, reviving my broken spirit, and discovering new ways to live my life.  Everything isn’t magically perfect, but life is better.

This year has been heart-wrenching, soul-wearying, and life-changing.  In less than  a week, I go back to Mexico for three more months of Spanish school and practice and other new opportunities.  2014 has to be better.

Brooke Fraser’s Crows + Locusts ends with the following lines, lines that describe how I want to approach this new year.

She limps on up to the top of a mount
Looks at the faltered harvest
Feels her sweat in the ground
And the burn in her nose

And the knowing in her guts
Something’s still gonna grow
She ain’t leaving ’til it does

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood

Losing

My laptop crashed yesterday. Most of what’s on it is replaceable or redownloadable or unimportant. It’s just stuff. That’s what I’ve been telling myself anyway. Except there are the pictures of my students for the last two years, the only two years I might have teaching, gone. And every other picture I’ve taken in the last two years, gone. And other random things that I keep remembering that I won’t get back.
I’m angry that I wasn’t prepared and didn’t have backups of those pictures. I know better, but I didn’t do it because figuring the best way seemed so difficult. Now that I know how it feels for them to be gone, it would have been worth the hassle.
I feel ridiculous being so upset over some pictures, a laptop. So many worse things have happened and are happening to people I care about. It’s just a computer, it’s just pictures. But it hurts. A lot.
Thank goodness for Facebook, and our generations need to share things online. Thanks to that need, I do have a lot of picture. Two years of my life won’t go undocumented after all.
Normally I’m very good at forcing myself to feel a certain way, to get over sadness, to find the silver lining. But I can’t/don’t want to right now. Sometimes it’s ok to be sad over lost things. I’m thankful that it’s just a computer, it’s just pictures–but I’m still sad I don’t have them.
I went to sleep last night hoping I would wake up to it all being a nightmare, because that’s what discovering my computer blinking a ? at me felt like. It wasn’t a nightmare, it’s just life. In the meantime, in the midst of being sad about losing, I am blessed by amazing parents who come home early from work because I’m sobbing into the phone over a computer and who will let me just be sad. I work at an amazing place filled with ladies who prayed over my computer and hoped for the best for me and who will be there for me even through the best didn’t happen. I have an amazing best friend who went with me to the apple store for moral support, so I wouldn’t cry all over the apple genius. Although we did decide that we want name tags that call us geniuses. And I have as God who is there for me, even when I am sad and lost, even when I feel bad for feeling sad, even when I’m angry at myself and everything.
Also, I’m going to Mexico in a week. It will be warm there, and my sister will be there. Win/win. Even when I’m lost, I am blessed.

New Year

My senior year of college, I found a list of questions for end of year/beginning of year contemplation. This list includes questions like, What would you like to be different about your life in a year? What would you like to have accomplished in that time? Where would you like to travel? What purchases would you like to make? What do you want to stop doing? What are your favorite things?

In lieu of resolutions, I answer these questions as a way of plotting major goals and plans for the year. I like being able to see what I hoped for and if I accomplished it. I underestimate my past self sometimes–for some dreams and goals, I don’t always remember how long I really wanted it.

It’s easy for me to remember, though, some of the things that don’t happen. How long I’ve waited on plans that never seem to come around the way I want.  Some of the things I hope to be different seem to never change. I’ve had the same hope on my list every year since December 2009/January 2010, and it still isn’t real. It may not seem that long, but it feels like an eternity, because my life has changed so much since then and because it’s a wish held longer than that. It’s a stupid wish, because I can’t control it and I hate things I can’t control. But I refuse to take it off, because I’m not ready to believe it will never happen.

Not everything is bleak, of course. When I answered my questions last year, I focused on researching and creating a new position for myself at the Little Light House. At the time, I was really just being ridiculous. I wanted to create a job were I could improve the LLH’s social media presence, launch a LLH blog, and other internetly things. But it was a long-term dream. I had quiet hopes that it might happen in 2012, but I thought any possibility of a job would be 8 hours on a Friday, and probably 2-3 years before being in charge of social media, etc, would be a full-time job. Yet God worked a lot of pieces together to make a full-time happen THIS YEAR for me and for the LLH. I had forgotten that I had dreamed about the possibility of a new position a year ago, making me thankful to my past self for answering those questions. While there are still dreams that feel like they’re just getting buried deeper and deeper, this dream fulfilled is a promise that not all lofty dreams are buried forever.

Last year I wrote to myself:

“I would like to remember that my life changes so much in one year, even when it feels like nothing has changed.” High-five past self. You were right.  May my life look different again this time in 2013.

Voting

I have a lot of feelings about voting. I love it. A lot. Voting is the activity that consistently inspires me to write, no matter what else is going on, no matter if I worked 16 hours yesterday, no matter that I’m trying to create content for other venues. I write about voting because it’s important.

This post may be similar to every other post I’ve written in the last two years about voting. I’m not going back to compare, but don’t be shocked if my feelings and reasons are the same as I’ve written in the past.

This is the first presidential election for which I’ve voted in person. Last time I sent my ballot in the mail. Satisfactory, but there’s no sticker that comes with an absentee ballot.  I got to wear my sticker all day today, which was exciting.

I vote for many reasons. One, I like it and it’s fun. Two, I like wearing an I voted sticker. Three, I like people watching at the polls.  Four, I enjoy doing my civic duty. Those are good reasons, but they’re really not the most important.

I vote because barely 92 years ago, I couldn’t have. It hasn’t even been 100 years that women in America have been allowed to vote. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad I don’t live in an America where I couldn’t vote just because I am a woman.

I vote because I’ve been in the driveway where Medgar Evers was shot in Mississippi, where he was murdered because of his work in the civil rights movement and voter registration. We all know that soldiers have fought around the world to preserve our freedoms, and I am so thankful. But I want us to remember those, like Medgar Evers, that died here, in the name of voting and civil rights. Stories like Medgar’s, moments like standing in that driveway, must mean something. I stubbornly vote because I don’t want to forget these stories.

I vote because I believe it matters.

I love voting.

Captain

I have been given many mixed messages on being a woman. To be clear from the start, these messages aren’t from my parents. From them I received nothing but affirmation, along with no prescription that I must get married to be important. The mixed messages arrived from some of the people in the Christian subculture where I spent a lot of my time. It’s a strange world I inhabited.

I was often surrounded by people who spoke of feminism like it was a filthy dirty swear word, who believed that women were naturally second best, who gave women important tasks but always with a man in authority. But simultaneously I was always encouraged to be the best that I could be, that I could be anyone I wanted, that I was intelligent and beautiful, that I was a woman of God. I could change the world, follow my dreams, and do great things for the glory of God. Except, when it really came down to it, I really should be married to do those things. I needed a man to guide me. Except, once I was married, I really just needed to have children and then I had to stay at home and homeschool and keep a perfect home. All of those dreams? A career? Any use of a college education beyond teaching my children? I can’t actually have any of those things because I am a woman. And women who love God and follow Jesus has to follow these steps. Or you aren’t living biblically.

Needless to say, these conflicting messages have been confusing. Why do you tell me how much I can achieve, then teach me that I can’t actually do any of it? What do you mean I need a man in order to have a fulfilled life? I’m really just supposed to quit the dreams God has called me to fit into your ideal of who a “Christian woman” is supposed to be? My only dream is supposed to be being a wife and mother? In the words of Liz Lemon: blergh.

I would like to say I’ve wrestled with this dilemma, but let’s be honest. I haven’t wrestled with it. I just realized I was being forced into a false dichotomy, so I chose to throw aside the crazy. Someday, part of my life may include finding a travel buddy [read: a husband] and having children. And I would like to stay home with those children and perhaps homsechool them. BUT I DON’T HAVE TO BASED ON SOMEONE ELSE’S IDEAL FOR MY LIFE JUST BECAUSE I AM A WOMAN.

I can do great things without a man–and with one. I can make great decisions on my own–and with others. I can have dreams–and God can change or keep them. I am the captain of this ship, with God drawing up the maps as I go along.

Even though choosing to throw out some of the crazy imposed upon me wasn’t difficult, the old messages pop up with surprising frequency. When everyone is getting married and having babies, it feels weird to be one of the few that isn’t. Is there something wrong with me? Am I not living the way I should? Why am I not getting asked on dates preparing for marriage (or whatever the conservative Christian kids are calling it these days)?

If I still believed what I was told for so many years, these and other questions would lead me to think that I was out of God’s will. I would think that my life isn’t good enough because I’m not married. Worst of all, I would think that someone else is responsible for my happiness and completeness as a child of God. That sobers me up pretty good, because those are lies.

I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’m who I’m supposed to be. I’m working in the job at the ministry where I belong. For this season, since I am not otherwise attached, I can devote myself to my job without reservations. I can take extra responsibilities, learn new tasks, and do things for others that I couldn’t do if I had a man and children at home. I love my life.

I am not lesser in God’s eyes because I am a woman. I am following his dreams for me. I am making a difference. And no amount of other people’s crazy will change that.

I am the captain of this ship, with God drawing up the maps as I go along.

MLKJR

If I were a better user of wordpress/the internet, I would find some way to fancy up the presentation of the links below. Alas, I am not, so I’m really not going to try this time. The links below are a few audio documentaries related to the Civil Rights movement, as well as a link to speeches by prominent leaders in the Civil Rights movie.  One of those speeches found under link number 5 is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last speech.

This year and last year are the first times in my life that I have had the opportunity to actually observe MLKJR day. In elementary/middle/high school,  my private school didn’t observe the day, saying it was just too close to the beginning of the year, when really it was just their way of disrespecting this man, this movement, freedom. Unfortunately, in showing their disdain for this holiday (again, with the vague excuse of inconvenience and a not-veiled hatred of government holidays because they thought the government infringes on our rights by making us take days off….) they displayed their disregard for the great things this man and this movement accomplished.  Whether they were so passive-aggressively hateful from ignorance or intention, I’ll never know. I don’t really want to know.

In college, school was not called off, but they day was honored with special chapels with topics relating to MLKJR and civil rights. Better, but still not quite good enough.

Take the day, observe it, celebrate it. I didn’t do anything particularly special, except write this, and think about life in America. I’m overwhelmed sometimes by how bad things were and how bad things still are in regards to civil rights and racial reconciliation. When I think back to what I’ve learned about the Civil Rights Movement, particularly Freedom Summer and MLKJR’s assassination, I wonder on whose side I would have been.

I want to be the kind of person who was marching, who was registering people to vote, who was involved. I don’t ever want to be on the sidelines. Ever.  I don’t know who I would have been, I just know who I want to be. That’s why I take my job working with children with disabilities so seriously and so personally. It’s a different fight than the one about ending institutional discrimination based on the color of skin, but it’s still important. Again, while I can’t go back in time and know where I would have stood in 1964, I can say I’m in the thick of it for the mostly silent battle for respect, honor, and dignity for those with disabilities. I refuse to stay on the passive sidelines, letting other people do the work.

I’ve stood where MLKJR spent his last moments, where he died. I’ve stood where his assassin fired. It was a moving, sobering experience.  That museum, that whole week in Jackson and Memphis still stands as an important marker in my life.  It’s partially because of that journey that I take a day like today so seriously.

It matters.

Audio-documentaries

  1. http://transportationnation.org/backofthebus/
  2. http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/blackspeech/index.html
  3. http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/mississippi/
  4. http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/oh_freedom/index.html
  5. http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/blackspeech/

Power

What a world we live in.  People in my circle of the universe like to point to things like earthquakes, immodest dress, cohabitation, lax morals, etc, as harbingers of the end of the world.

I’m more worried about cheering a presidential candidate accused of sexual harassment.  Instead of asking real questions about whether the women speaking out are telling the truth, many of his supporters are choosing to turn a blind eye.  Even if the allegations are true, some in that linked article believe he’s still the best candidate.

I’m more worried about a university where many students are booing the firing of a man who didn’t report an alleged child rapist to the police. Some of them are rioting over it.  They’re more concerned over one man’s legacy than the unimaginable pain of abused children.

I’m more worried when people seem to care more about the feelings of those in power than they do over the powerless. Those in power have enough of it–they don’t need our affirmation and praise on top of their power. Jesus came for the weak, the powerless, the oppressed. His people just have to remember that.

Power isn’t everything.