Red Cups and Red Faces; Where is the Christmas Cheer?

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Every November I see it. Retail clerks say “Happy holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”. Starbucks has solid red cups this year, rather than being adorned with anything reminiscent of traditional Christmas imagery. Christians are outraged. They want to boycott. How dare they remove CHRIST from CHRISTmas!! People post their encounters on Facebook and other social media outlets- how they ‘set that retail clerk straight’, refuse to purchase from stores that don’t acknowledge Christmas as a Christian holiday. Articles and memes are posted expressing the outrage of those who believe we should all be celebrating the birth of Christ. Because that’s how you show the love of Jesus, right?! I don’t think so. There are countless ways to celebrate the holiday season, and many varying religious practices that accompany those celebrations. Disagree, I don’t mind- but I believe that we should be embracing life, spreading joy, offering a warm and sincere smile- EVEN when someone says, *gasp* “Happy holidays (or Kwanzaa, or Chanukah…)!”

I am a Christian. I believe that God came to Earth in human form and was unjustly executed by his own people. I believe he rose from the dead. I am fully aware that it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make much sense to believe that all this complexity and order came from nothing, either. Wrapping our mind around eternal matters is difficult. I am not embarrassed about what I believe- but I am embarrassed by the regrettable moments in history of those who called themselves followers of Christ, and the attitudes of the modern day Christians who shake their fists of false piety, shaming others who don’t trumpet Western Christian beliefs. I believe Christianity should be marked by love. Jesus preached forgiveness, he healed, he included, he LOVED. I respect the guy. I want to be like him. Sadly, many people would not identify a Christian as being loving, but as being judgmental. Rude. Stand-offish. Why? What are we doing wrong?

Too many Christians at Christmas turn into big fat jerks (I turn into a big fat jerk at some point daily- I am in no way suggesting that perfection has been achieved). What I am suggesting is that NOBODY owns the holiday season. Treat everyone with dignity, respect, and love. This is the world. The world will act like the world, and fussy Christians surely won’t draw people into the love of Jesus when they wag their condescending finger and tell people how to ‘properly’ celebrate the season.

If you believe that Jesus is the ‘reason for the season’, then act like him- THAT is how you keep Christ in Christmas.

*Drawing by Ezra J. Engle

Bullying: A Change in Focus

Josiah, 4 years oldThe word “bully” has a lot of buzz currently (so much that the word is even misused- see here to read more on that). There are a lot of websites, programs, and campaigns dedicated to addressing this serious issue. The ramifications of bullying can be devastating, even deadly. The anti bullying campaign has raised a great deal of awareness, and undoubtedly saved lives. People have been provided with resources to reach out for help, and a very important topic has also been lightly touched on- self worth. In my opinion, this is the topic that needs further attention and deeper exploration.

So much of our current culture aims to fix things that are outside our realm of influence. I believe that we could see a positive shift in our society if we stopped beating down other peoples’ choices, and started deeply dissecting our own. In addition to dealing with the aftermath of a dire situation, what if we looked into the root?

I believe humans are wired for connection. Some need more than others; we have varying personalities, needs, and wants. But people need people. There’s something about that need that has the power to build us up, or break us down. When our need for connection is met with hurt, abuse, or neglect, damage can occur.

I don’t have any academic or medical accolades to boast. My observations come from personal experiences, and many years volunteering with teens. From what I have seen, there are generally three types of responses to being hurt:

  1. Isolation. We shut down. We fear. We hide. This response cuts us off from connection.
  2. Anger. We want to retaliate. We want justice. We might seek some form of revenge. This response can lead to unhealthy connection.
  3. Communication. We seek help. We know who we are, and our value, despite the hurt. This response leads to deeper connection.

I cannot control bullying. I CAN control MY response.

In situations of harassment, bullying, or an altercation, we may have multiple responses, with varying degrees of each. Is it okay to feel angry? Is it okay to be alone for a time? Certainly. It can be healthy and beneficial to allow ourselves to feel, to hurt. What we do next can be the difference between a life of joy, or a life of despair. If we isolate, and choose to stay isolated, we are cutting off an essential human need. We may become depressed, alone, hopeless. If we choose to direct our anger to retaliation, we feed the beast. We become what angered us. Our connections become hostile. If we communicate, we don’t lose sight of our value. We don’t get lost in the abuse. We confirm that our identity is NOT determined by others.

I believe that connection is something that starts from birth. When a baby cries, another human responds- but how will that person respond? Those early responses to our cries begin to shape us. Will our needs be met, or will we be neglected? From our first breath on this Earth, we are taught to trust or to fear. To feel loved, or to feel alone. To see our value, or to lack purpose. As people sharing this experience and space on Earth, we are all called to respond. Hurt has no age, gender, racial, or religious boundaries, and neither does healing.

So, what about the bully? We talk so much about what we are against, and so little about what we are for. Herein lies my passion. Each person has a purpose. Each person has the capacity to make a unique and valuable contribution to society. When we aren’t connected, we lose sight of that value. WHY do people bully? So much energy is being poured into being against this behavior, we don’t acknowledge that it is most often fueled by hurt, pain, anger, abuse, neglect, or misguidance. Someone who is bullying is SOMEONE. A PERSON. That person, that unique individual, is wired for connection. What happened? Is the behavior acceptable? No. Is there an excuse? No. But an explanation? I believe so, and I believe it should be addressed. The victim of bullying isn’t the only one who needs help.

Each person should feel equipped to respond to hurt with communication. If that wasn’t instilled from a young age, it can take time to learn how to find and build healthy connections. You cannot control other people. You can control you. My feelings might get hurt. Someone may harm me. I might experience harassment or bullying. But there are no people, no words, no actions, no LIE that can shake the truth that has been instilled in the depths of my being. I am valuable. YOU are valuable. Our value is worth guarding and affirming. If you need help, seek it. Get counseling. Speak up. COMMUNICATE.

So what do we DO? Actively seek what you are for.  What are you passionate about? I am PRO-LOVE. I am PRO-STRENGTH. I am PRO-EMPOWERMENT. Knowing what is important to you can help identify how you can build others up. When you find your purpose, your passion, you find confidence- and it is contagious. Don’t underestimate the power you have to change someone’s life. Be there for someone. Listen. Love. Reach out. Speak life-giving words into the hearts of your peers. Your parents. Your children. Your neighbors. The lady in line at the grocery store. Don’t be silent. Compliment. ENCOURAGE.

I believe there is an antidote for bullying, and the negative aftermath. Let us shift our attention from what others are doing wrong. Don’t just be against something, stand FOR something. #PROCONFIDENCE

 

Nature vs. Nurture

I have always been a tom-boy. I love to climb, rough house and get dirty. You won’t find much dirt under my nails- I don’t have nails. I am not very sensitive, sentimental or romantic. I’d rather take a trip to Home Depot than get flowers any day.

I studied child development and psychology (and business) for the brief time I spent in college. Many people believe that girls are socialized to play ‘house’, dress and care for dolls, and whatever other ‘girlie’ stuff you can imagine. Boys, on the other hand, are socialized to be brutes, play with cars, and be ‘men’ from a young age. I didn’t agree with this concept completely. Sure, there is some level of ‘socialization’ that occurs, but what, or where does it stem from? Everything, and everybody, has roots.

Our first child was Josiah. A boy. So, I am into experimentation on some level. His toys, from the beginning, consisted of a nice array of colors (pink not excluded), and purposes (dolls not excluded). Once Josiah showed preferences, we catered to those likes. He enjoys music and banging to rhythms, he has a drum set. From 7 months old he could throw a ball with amazing accuracy and speed. He is naturally inclined to help others and meet needs. There was a stage where he wanted to carry around a purse. This did not concern me, afterall, it was a great way to transport Spiderman. Josiah is afraid of spiders, and always follows the ‘rules’. His favorite color is red, favorite thing to do- climb. When he holds a doll, he will cuddle it for a short time before removing it’s head and throwing it aside (don’t freak out, he reassembles them later).

Our second child- Noah (yay, another boy!). Noah is very different than his brother. His favorite color is currently pink. He loves to walk around with his favorite stuffed animal (or baby), and isn’t into climbing. Noah only has one volume, loud. If you are in his way, he will move you. You want to rough house, he will take you down. He has enough testosterone to be secure in his love for pink and babies. You touch that baby, he’ll either take you out with his mind numbing decibels or brute strength. Choose carefully.

By the time I became pregnant with our third child, I had a change of heart. My house, despite equal opportunity toy accommodations, was infiltrated with ‘boy’ stuff. I was ready for some estrogen. I begged God to give me a girl. Along came Zion, my heart’s desire. Zion is currently one year old. She started walking at 10 months. She even has about 10 words under her belt. This is in large contrast to the boys, who didn’t walk until after one (Josiah at 17 months!) and didn’t talk until nearly 3. I have seen Zion grab one of my sandals and put her arm through the heal strap like a purse, carrying it through the house. When she holds a stuffed animal, the head is always up and she pats it’s back. When she is done, she gently places it on the floor, unlike the boys who chuck over their shoulders. If one of the boys is in the bathroom getting a stern talk, Zion stands at the door and cries on their behalf. She is a climber and displays the potential to be a tom-boy like her mom, but not at the negligence of her femininity.

My children have taught me a lot. Despite my fore-mentioned personality, I am very sensitive to my kids’ needs, likes, strengths and weaknesses. I know how to nurture their talents with womanly precision. I dare say that a lot more is due to nature than credited. I believe we were intelligently designed with the intent for our species to not only survive, but thrive.

A Few Braincells Short Of A Complete Thought


It’s no secret, I don’t get enough sleep. Maybe in the neighborhood of 3-6 broken hours a night. Yet, I find myself here typing a meaningless blog at 1:06am. My first blog on this site, at that. I wish I could offer some profound, deep insight on life to spare you from feeling like I have just wasted your time- but I can’t.
Rather than getting the sleep I so desperately need, I am choosing to spend this peaceful, quiet moment awake. In just a few short hours my dear children will arise and fill my home and head with their lovely voices, or, in Noah’s case, battle cries.
So for now, I am enjoying the silence.