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The proposal #shesbringinghomethebaker

The Proposal: Baker and Addison

“How would it be if I proposed tomorrow night?”

The question of how and when to propose was one my son, Baker, and I had discussed a number of times over the previous three months. The logistics were the problem. While Baker and his girlfriend, Addison, are from the same hometown, they go to universities in two different cities. Also, Baker wanted his sisters home for the proposal, but one works full-time and lives in DC and the other is away at college. Plus, Baker needed to talk with Addison’s parents; but he rarely comes home and never without Addison. Talking with them without her knowledge would be quite a feat.

At the time of his question—Thursday night around 10 pm—Baker and Addison had been home for only about five or six hours. Neither of his sisters were in town and he still hadn’t talked to Addison’s parents.

#shesbringinghomethebakerBaker did already have the ring*, though; in fact, he’d had it pretty much since Summer 2015. Back then, my mother had offered him her mother’s diamond ring. She told Baker just to let her know when he was ready to propose and the ring would be his to redesign in whatever way he chose. So, Christmas 2016, he asked her for the ring; the two of us went to Jewels that Dance in January.

“Addison had specific ideas about what she wanted in an engagement ring,” Baker told us the next night after the deed had been done.

“We made it a game!” Addison explained. “I would show him a ring and tell him what I liked about it. Then I would ask him to guess what I didn’t like about that particular ring. It was really fun!”

“We played it a lot.”

“Because it was fun!”

“It was more fun for her than for me.”

So, using the diamonds from my grandmother’s ring, Baker (in collaboration with the jeweler) designed the ring with the round cut solitaire in the center and six of the diamond accents on the band. Between the accent diamonds, he had the jeweler fashion a palm branch.

“I’d seen people put symbols on their rings that represent their relationship,” Baker explained to the group gathered in our family room post-proposal. “And of course I could have put a music symbol because that is certainly something that is characteristic of our relationship.”

They’d met in the high school marching band. Addison became drum major her senior year, and Baker earned the role the next year when he was in 12th grade. Baker went on to major in music and Addison continues to participate in the music programs at her university and church.

“But really, I wanted something that represented our faith, because as important as music is to us, our faith is certainly more central to who we are as individuals and as a couple,” Baker explained. “The palm branch was an early Christian symbol. That’s why you’ll see it as an architectural motif at First Baptist of Asheville.”

Baker and Addison are both members and active participants of FBCA. Last summer, they were interns there—Addison with the children’s programs and Baker with the music ministry. The church has had a major impact on their lives and their relationship. The palm branch represents both their faith and their home church: a perfect addition!

But back to that Thursday night. Baker got busy making calls and forming a plan. Fortunately, everything worked in his favor. Addison slept late Friday morning—something she rarely does. Her parents’ schedules were flexible enough that he was able to talk with them before she awakened. We already had plans to go out to eat—the two of them and both sets of parents—to celebrate Baker’s 21st birthday (a week late). From that, he pulled together as many of their traditions as he could fit in one day.

Homecoming Dance 2011

Awkward first photo, before they actually started dating. Homecoming Dance 2011.

You should know that they started dating when he was 15 going on 16 and she was 16 going on 17. (They are now 21 and almost 22.) On their first date, they went to Brixx; for their first Valentine’s Day, Baker gave her a bear (dressed—naturally—in a baker’s outfit) from Build-a-Bear. Every year on their anniversary, they go to Brixx; to date, Addison has six Valentine’s Day Build-a-Bears. And not so much tradition as habit—they often have reason to stop by First Baptist.

Hold up. Let’s just pause for a minute and picture 15-year-old Baker going into Build-a-Bear, choosing a teddy bear, going through the whole process of stuffing it, then picking out an outfit for it and dressing it. If that weren’t enough, then he had to walk back through the mall carrying the signature Build-a-Bear box. Yep. He did that.

Anyway, after talking with Addison’s parents Friday morning, Baker went over to Build-a-Bear. He left with an adorable bear—filled to just the right level of fluffiness (he’s an expert by now)—dressed in a bridal gown, complete with veil and sparkly shoes. My job was to order desert pizza from Brixx to have at home for the post-proposal celebration. (We were optimistic about a positive result!) Baker then called FBCA to make sure he could access their Sacred Garden that evening. A dear friend served as Baker’s accomplice; while we were at dinner, she would go to the Sacred Garden to set everything in place. The night before, Baker had contacted several close friends and his younger sister. They would be at our house by 10 pm to celebrate with the newly engaged couple. (Shout out to the world’s best millennials for making the four-hour drive with less than 24 hours’ notice!)

When we finished dinner, we parents said we would wait for the bill, asking Baker if he and Addison would go on home to let our dog out. He agreed, but just needed to run by the church and “pick up organ music he had left there” (wink, wink). Once there, rather than go in where they usually did, Baker suggested they just cut through the Sacred Garden and enter through the door on the other side.

The proposal #shesbringinghomethebaker“What’s that?” Addison asked when she saw something unusual set up in the Garden.

“I don’t know. Let’s go check.”

“It looks like a shrine to a teddy bear!” (The wind had blown Teddy’s veil up, giving it a shadowy and slightly eerie appearance. Not exactly the effect Baker had in mind!)

They approached, Baker went down on one knee, Addison squealed (repeatedly), Baker proposed, and Addison said yes.

“So,” I asked her as I looked at the ring sparkling on her left hand. “How did Baker do?”

“It’s prettier than anything I could have imagined!” she said.

“Yes!” Baker said, clinching his fist in victory.

(Wedding date yet to be determined, but it will be sometime after Addison gets her next Valentine’s Day bear.)

#shesbringinghomethebaker

*Want to know the beautiful back story on the ring? Click here for the rest of the story!

Depression and medication

Depression: Taking Antidepressant Medication

Though I was in my early 30’s when I was diagnosed with chronic depression, I had gone to counselors from time to time since my teens. And listen, I’m a big believer in therapy. Frankly, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t go to see a counselor.* I mean if you can afford it, for heaven’s sakes get into therapy. Actually, even if you can’t afford it, check into some options for inexpensive or even free services. Really.

Anyway, counseling was familiar and comfortable and not at all scary. Antidepressant pharmaceuticals? Pills that chemically alter my brain? Yikes!

Plus, at the time of my diagnosis, I was nursing my youngest child; I was wary of anything that might affect her nourishment. So, I did my research, using a new resource called the world wide web, and asked my medical doctor and counselor lots of questions.

(An aside: I learned how to do efficient and thorough research thanks to my undergrad degree in history from Campbell University. History majors—and other liberal arts grads—learn how to collect and process information, and to draw conclusions from that data: helpful skills in any career. Hire a liberal arts major. We are good deciders.)

After weighing the benefits and risks, I decided to give Prosac a try. The initial dose was ineffective, so the doctor increased my prescription to the next level.

Now remember, pre-antidepressants, I cried a lot. Everything made me sad. I had to be careful watching movies or reading books, listening to the news, whatever. Crying was the norm. It was as if I put my whole self into the story—true or fiction—and experienced the same reality as those in the story.

  • Flooding in the Midwest? Like everyone else, I would think of the loss of loved ones and pets, and the pain of losing things like heirlooms and family photographs. Yet, not only did I grieve with these strangers, I could almost feel the despair of sorting through soggy belongings, hoping to find any tangible shred of family memories.
  • Character kidnapped in the novel? What must the family of the missing one be experiencing? And how did the kidnapper become this way in the first place? Was this person a victim of child abuse or neglect? What makes someone do this to another human? I truly ached for the real people the characters represented. Agony.
  • And the TV show Roots, based on Alex Haley’s biographical novel of the same name? I may never recover from that one.

I upped the dose of Prosac. Soon, I realized I wasn’t constantly on the verge of tears. In fact, I felt almost nothing at all. It was glorious (in the beginning). Freeing. I flat did not care! My mantra may actually have been the original “sorry, not sorry.” Then came the night when I was watching 60 Minutes or 20/20 (one of those human interest/news shows). The story that night told of a man and his wife, their beautiful love story that began in grade school and continued into their golden years, and her agonizingly pointless battle with pancreatic cancer. Her dear husband cared for her tenderly until she passed away; now, according to the show, he grieved so profoundly that he struggled each day to achieve basic function. It was a gut-wrenching TRUE tale of love and loss, pain and death.

And yet, as I watched the weeping widower on the screen, I thought, “Dude. People die. Get over it. What? You didn’t think she was going to die? We’re all dying. You, me, all of us. Geez, get a grip.”

I talked to the doctor the next day about considering another medication.

Eventually I tried Effexor and did really well with few side effects. I did so well, in fact, that after just a few months (never mind I’d struggled with depression for the better part of three decades) I decided I probably didn’t need medication at all (raise your hand if you’ve been there). I contacted a local psychiatrist and scheduled the next available appointment; my visit with him lasted an hour. It started with me telling him I thought I could come off the medication, continued with me giving him a detailed history of my depression, and ended with him giving me a prescription for double the dose. True story.

There’s been a time or two over the years that I’ve tried something new on the market, wanting to see if I had fewer breakthrough episodes and if the newer med suited me better. Not a good idea for me: I've just never done a great job of transitioning off one and onto the other. I always ended up under my covers, curled in the fetal position, overwhelmed by such things as poverty, oppression, and world hunger (which I think we can all agree are, in fact, overwhelming in nature).

So now it has been about 20 years since I started taking antidepressant medication and I no longer try to rationalize myself off of it. Here’s why:

  1. The medication does not conceal my true self. Instead, it removes the barriers that block me from feeling like me.
  2. Chronic conditions of many types require medication for relief. Diabetes. High blood pressure. Migraines. Think about it. No one says, “Don’t you think that insulin is covering up your true self? Being in a diabetic coma is just part of who you are.” They also don’t say things like, “You know, if you had prayed more, you’d never have gotten high blood pressure.” Instead, they say such things as, “Wow! You must have gotten your migraines under control! You seem like your old self again!” Depression is like these other chronic medical conditions: when you treat it, you feel better.
  3. The medication is one part of a three-part treatment plan I follow. I exercise regularly and attempt to consume healthful foods. Additionally, I take an antidepressant. When the three of these are in place, I can manage the depression. Without one of those parts, I don’t feel my best. Simple as that.

Bottom line? If you’re on the fence about taking antidepressants, keep researching, keep talking to your doctor, and keep considering your options. But remember that taking a medication is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of wisdom. And it is okay.

What about you? What are your thoughts on antidepressants?

 

 

*One thing about counseling: it’s hard; exhausting at least, grueling at worst, but in any case, seriously hard. And it often takes a while to find the right counselor. I have the world’s best therapist now, but it took many attempts. If you need a break from the effort, I get it. But don’t give up. Finding the right counselor is like finding true love: totally worth kissing a bunch of toads to get there.

college choice

Choosing a College: 4 TRUTHS, 4 MYTHS

Choosing a collegeIt's that time of year: admissions decisions are being finalized, scholarship applications are due, and students are trying to decide where they’ll attend college in the fall. They get lots of advice: sound counsel that really does help and trivial platitudes that don’t do anyone any good.

Here are a few of the most common statements I've heard.

  1. Truth: Waiting until the last possible minute might be good. As other students turn down scholarships, money is made available to holdouts. In the last week of April 2014, my son’s scholarship awards went up daily. DAILY! So take your time. It might just pay off.
  2. Truth: Visiting campuses also pays off. Sometimes, when you are on the actual campus, you just get a feeling. Trust that feeling. You want to be in a place where you feel comfortable, at home. I’d argue that the feeling is more important than the quality of the major. (Students change majors all the time. The feeling is a lot more reliable.)
  3. Truth: You might not get that feeling right away. It might have to grow on you; trust yourself. Some people fall in love more slowly and more systematically. It’s the same with choosing a college.
  4. Truth: Talking to other people helps. Talk to teachers, mentors, and adults who care about you. Talk to friends, current students, and alumni. You’ll gain new information and insight that will make it easier to make your choice.

Unfortunately, students also hear things that are more myth than truth and are neither exceptionally helpful nor entirely true. Here are just a few of those.

1. HOPEFULLY FALSE: “This will be the best four years of your life.”

Really? It wasn’t the best four years of my life and I had a great collegiate experience. But best years of my life? Not even close. Frankly, there’s not much that compares to my childhood summers: homemade ice cream under the carport; watermelon seed spitting contests; roller skating, bike riding, playing in my playhouse. Those were some great years. But then, the last four years have been good too. And the four before that. Life is full of great years, so at the very least, you’re overstating.

But there’s a bigger problem with this statement. Expectation. Expectation can just flat slaughter reality. See, no matter how good college is for you, I promise you it won’t be perfect. You’ll have some life-changing experiences, but some of those you would just as soon have lived without. College can be wonderful. It can be difficult. It can be wonderfully difficult and difficultly wonderful. But don’t set students up to approach the next four years as the highlight of life. That’s just not true. And if it is, that’s sad.

2. SOMEWHAT FALSE: “You’ll meet the best friends of your life while you’re in college.”

For me, this is somewhat true, but I’ve also developed friends since graduating college who are more like family than friends to me. Before Facebook, I’d kept in touch with three or four of my closest friends from college. Now I’ve reconnected with many I’d lost contact with and I’m grateful for that. But I’m also in touch with childhood friends and friends I’ve made since the late 80’s. You can make friends whenever and wherever you are. My brother-in-law’s closest friends are high school buddies. My sister’s besties are co-teachers. So yes, hopefully college students will meet and keep new friends. But I for one am grateful that I didn’t stop making friends when I left college.

3. POSSIBLY FALSE: "You’ll be fine."

This may be one of the most dangerous things we say to students. Here’s the deal: way too many college students are anything but fine. Depression and anxiety spike during these stressful years. Suicide on the college campus is consistently on the rise. If students go into college thinking everyone else is fine and they are the only one struggling, they can feel isolated and resist mental health resources because of the fear of being different from the masses. A lot of college students find these years difficult and confusing and lonely. So adults, instead of “You’ll be fine,” how about we say, “I’ll always be here for you,” and mean it. And students: it’s okay if you aren’t okay. I promise you are not the only one. Reach out to people you trust and look into collegiate mental health services. Sometimes, we all need a little help to be "fine."

4. FALSE: “It doesn’t matter where you go.”

First of all, this is flippant and dismissive. If you are trying to make a decision that affects your future, it is not helpful for someone to say the equivalent of “Stop whining and get on with it! Your concerns are invalid.”

Secondly, it does matter, but perhaps not for the reasons you think. It’s not because of the college's reputation or status; the quality of the school and its majors are important, but the truth is you can find quality at just about in college or university. There are exceptions, but mostly academic experience is shaped by personal investment.

But it does matter where you go to college. It matters because of the connections you will make both personally and professionally. How many people do you know who are married to someone they met in college? A lot, right? And that best friend thing—most college graduates have made dear friends along the way, friends who have shaped their lives in profound ways.

That’s not all though. During the next four years and beyond, your professors and advisors will share more than academic knowledge with you. They will also pass along information about job openings and career opportunities; they will be your references for graduate school or employment. It matters that you choose a college where the faculty appeals to you.

Indeed, it doesn’t necessarily matter where you go in terms of national ranking; but it totally matters that you choose a college that feels right to you.

So good luck students! And no matter what other advice you get, remember this:

Choosing a college matters; YOU matter more.

You > College Admissions Results

College Admissions ResultsWhen it comes to college admissions, the question has never been “Will Tracie* be admitted to the college of her choice?” It was only, “Who will pay her the most to go to their school?”

After all, Tracie is less than 200 points shy of a perfect 2400 on her SAT; she’s made the highest possible score on all five AP Exams she’s taken; she has a solid GPA; she has studied abroad; and she’s even started her own small business. No one thought Tracie would be denied admission anywhere.

Yet, she’s heard from all four schools to which she applied. She was admitted to one: her last choice, her safety school. She’s wait-listed at one and denied—flat-out rejected—by the other two. Crazy.

Caveat: All along, I’ve thought Tracie should choose the state school closer to her home. It is an excellent university and I think she will thrive there.  And anyway, I never have cared for those exclusive schools with the skinny little admission rates.

Still, I cannot believe she did not get into the schools she dreamt of attending. It makes no sense. But then, the fact is the admissions process is not fair. It’s just not. You can do everything nearly perfectly, as Tracie did, and still not make the cut. (You can also do very little right and get admitted, but that’s another blog post.) At many schools, when it comes to the final decision, it is almost random selection.

So students (and parents) dealing with college admissions disappointments, listen up. I have something to say (I do go on). You may feel free to read these aloud. Preferably while looking in a mirror.

  1. You are more than the sum of your rejection letters.
  2. There was nothing else you could have done to increase your chances of admittance. Rejection happens for so many reasons unrelated to you. Stop obsessing about what you should have or could have or might have. You gave it your best. You have no reason to be ashamed or regretful.
  3. Maybe you could have done something to get into your dream school. Maybe if you had played a sport or practiced your music more or started a nonprofit to benefit poor orphans in a third world country . . . maybe then . . . . But you know what? Perfection is a lie. It doesn’t exist. So, seriously, make like Elsa and “Let it Go.”
  4. It isn’t fair. Lots of things aren’t though. It’s not fair that some kids have loving parents and some don’t. It’s not fair that health care is available to some and not to others. Lots of things aren’t fair and this is most definitely one of them. It is totally not fair. It stinks.
  5. It’s okay to be disappointed and even sad. You’ve lost something of value. Grief is the natural reaction, so allow yourself to feel the depth of it. Once you touch the bottom, though, push off of it and start swimming for the surface. Just look for the light and keep reaching up.
  6. Do not let this one experience limit who you believe yourself to be. You see, as good as your application was, it didn’t begin to say how awesome you are. Did your application show how easily you laugh? How deeply you appreciate quality music? How enthralled you are by really great writing? Do those admissions officers understand that the way you love your sibling defies all modern logic? That your heart has a greater capacity than most? That you never give up on your friends and that you intentionally form friendships that cross the boundaries of race, religion, and politics? No. They don’t know any of those things. You are beautiful and imperfect, whole and broken, complete and unfinished. You are a multifaceted marvel.
  7. Now allow yourself to hope again. Great things grow out of deep loss. Believe it. Expect it. Your future really is waiting. And you really are enough.

*Name changed for privacy.

first world problems

Freezing Temps Create First World Problems *

Have you heard about the record low temperatures we’ve had in North Carolina recently? Well, let me tell you: this weather has caused me some serious first world problems.

For one thing, I couldn’t just go out and get in my Honda Civic and leave. Oh no! I’d have to plan ahead, go out early, and start my car so that it could be defrosting; even then, I still had to scrape off the ice. Also, I don’t have seat warmers in my car. Nope. Sure don’t.

So, on those days when the temperature was in the single digits, I actually had to wear a coat. Seriously: even my warmest wool sweaters weren’t enough! I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand wearing coats. They’re so bulky and inconvenient. You have to find a place to hang them or carry them around all day. Who’s got time for that nonsense? Not me.

But it wasn’t just cold; it was also icy. This meant the roads weren’t safe for large vehicles like the city sanitation trucks. For two weeks I had trash that did not get collected. Two weeks! By the time they finally arrived, I had three bags of recycling in my garage to take to the road. If I’d had to wait much longer, it would’ve taken me two trips. Well, it would have taken my husband two trips. (I wasn’t about to go out in that cold if I could help it!)

What’s that you say? These aren’t real problems? Okay fine. But how many of us complained about stuff like this over the last few weeks? I was certainly a bit more focused on the ways my life was disrupted, than I was on my many privileges.

For example, I never once worried that I would lose my job if I couldn’t safely travel to work. (It never even occurred to me.) I took it for granted that my home would be warm, that my car would start, that the city would come to collect my garbage, and that when I needed hot water, it would be available.

Privilege. It’s something we often fail to notice. It’s like oxygen. We only notice when it’s absent.

But we can do better, can’t we? I know it’s hard, but we really can be more aware, more grateful, don’t you think?

Author Anne Lamott seems to think so. In her book Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, she says this:

“I pray not to be such a whiny, self-obsessed baby, and give thanks that I am not quite as bad as I used to be (talk about miracles). Then something comes up, and I overreact and blame and sulk, and it feels like I haven't made any progress at all. But it turns out I'm less of a brat than before, and I hit the reset button much sooner, shake it off, and get my sense of humor back.”

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

*This piece was first published on March 9, 2015, by Baptist News Global (formerly Associated Baptist Press). I’m delighted to be associated with this great organization and am honored to be among the gifted writers and thinkers featured there. Watch for my BNG column, appearing monthly at baptistnews.com.

race in america

Race in America Series: A Quest for Hope

I’m deeply troubled by the great racial divide in our country. This is not a black thing or a white thing. This is a people thing and we really have to do better.

If I were to trace the problem of race in America, I would go back through Jim Crow laws and legalized discrimination. I would go back before Ruby Bridges and Dred Scott. I’d go back to the end of the Civil War when slaves were set free, homeless and penniless, to live in a world that refused to hire them and rushed to oppress them.

But I would not stop there.

I’d go back to 19th century Charleston, SC where shackled men, women, and children shuffle across the auction block as white landowners place a price on humanity. I’d hear the clanging of chains, the crack of bull whips slashing across tattered flesh, the cries of beloved torn from beloved.

But I’d keep going.

I’d go all the way to the coasts of Africa where 18th century opportunists snatched up human beings and stacked them like cheap cargo on ships bound for American shores. I’d want to look away, knowing as I do that so many of them will die on that trip, their bodies discarded with the galley garbage.

Instead though, I’ll look in the face of this imbecilic, barbarian behavior and say, “Here it is! Right here. This sin will fall from father to son, mother to daughter, through generations. This treating people—people created by God Almighty—as objects in your sick game of immediate self-satisfaction is the very essence of evil.”

Think about it. That wrong, that undeniable injustice, has created a culture of oppression and corresponding mistrust that has characterized race relations in America for millennia.

So what do we do about it?

I don’t know. I really don’t. But I believe we absolutely must do something. In my next few blog posts, I’ll be reflecting upon this issue. Will you join me? I’d love to hear your thoughts as we muddle through the mess we’ve made to find solutions for a more just world.

calling its about the kingdom

Calling: It's about the Kingdom

In my last semester of seminary, I wrote a short essay on my call to the ministry. I spoke of the 20 year struggle I had in responding to God. My summation of the journey follows.

"I know this is God’s call on my life, though. I know because when I am doing the work of the church—preaching, leading a funeral, teaching scripture, ministering to the needy—I feel most completely alive. And I think that is what God calls all God’s children to: a life lived wholly and intentionally within the body of Christ."

This month in Cooperative Baptist Fellowship churches, we celebrate Baptist Women in Ministry by naming February the Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching. I wrote a piece for Associated Baptist Press entitled, "Called Anyway: On Being A Baptist Woman Minister." I hope you'll take a minute to read it . And while you're there, look around. There's lots of other great articles there on topics that are current and compelling.

Okay, that's enough about that whole women in ministry debate. Let's get back to building the Kingdom, okay?

Whatever . . .

Recently, I've been working on some Bible study lessons that focus on messages in the Didache. I wrote this story (identifying details changed) to illustrate the transformation that can occur when we pray for our enemies (or for those who just flat irritate the living daylights out of us).
whatever philipians text

Image ©Aileen Lawrimore 2014

I had this co-worker once—I’ll call her Buffy—who absolutely drove me crazy.

Tiny and petite, Buffy had been a competitive gymnast through high school, was a contender for national titles, and even went to college on a cheerleading scholarship. (I know this because she told me and everyone else who worked in our branch.) Also, though most of us had followed the same career path she had, she took every chance to remind us of her accomplishments and to mention the awards and recognitions she had received along the way.

And the condescending way she talked to our clientele and coworkers? I couldn’t stand it. Such arrogance! Buffy’s whole demeanor screamed, “I’m privileged. I’m beautiful. I’m superior.”

At dinner every night, I complained to my husband about Buffy: her pretentious attitude, her behavior, her biting comments. I fussed so much about Buffy that it was if she was right there at the table with us. I knew something had to change (and by “something,” I meant me).

Now, there was one thing about Buffy I did appreciate: she really loved her twin boys. I saw a lot of parents in my work for whom career, not family, took top priority. So the one thing I liked about Buffy was that she put her boys’ needs first. I decided to focus on that, and to praise God for her commitment to her children. Whenever I became frustrated by her, I tried to remember to stop and praise God for Buffy’s devotion to the twins. It wasn’t easy, but with practice, it became automatic.

You know what though? Buffy did NOT change. The entitlement air, the disproportionate focus on physical beauty, the apparent disrespect of others: all of it continued. And yeah, it still irked me; but not nearly as much. In fact, I didn’t notice those things like I had, because while Buffy remained the same, I changed.

I believe God granted me divine vision. Through God’s eyes, I began to see that Buffy looked a lot like me. We both fell short of God’s glory. We both failed to be all that God called us to be. And yet, God Almighty loved us both with an everlasting and all-consuming love.

Seeing her like that, I no longer saw her as the bane of my workday. I saw her as a child of God, a sister sojourner, a friend.

And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy. Didache 1:3

 

150 Years Ago: Gettysburg Address

Like many crises, the whole thing came down to a good pair of shoes. You see, the Confederacy was running out of everything, shoes included. Remember, theirs was an agrarian society. Industry and manufacturing were situated primarily in the North, so shoes were pretty hard to come by down South.

It was on account of this shoe shortage that the Confederate soldiers ventured into Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. While there, Johnny Reb bumped into Billy Yank; the ensuing scuffle led to a fight that led to a battle that would go on for three days.

The fighting was relentless. By the evening of July 3, casualties exceeded 45,000. The next day, both sides rested; on July 5th, Confederate General Robert E. Lee retreated with weary, disheartened troops who still lacked shoes with intact soles.

Over the next few months, plans were made to establish an official military graveyard on the Gettysburg battlefield. On November 19, 1863, citizens gathered for a ceremony to dedicate that cemetery. The main speaker spoke for two hours (his name was Edward Everett; history has forgotten his words) and then President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most memorable speeches in our nation’s history.

I can only imagine how exhausted Lincoln was. Sure, the war had turned and victory seemed within reach. But the country was still divided, while countless soldiers—many of them younger than his sons—gave their lives for the sake of the Union.

The Gettysburg Address was less than 300 words and took only a few minutes to deliver. Its message, though is timeless, and much deeper than it is long.

Today is the 150th anniversary of the last day of the battle. You can read the Gettysburg Address in a post I wrote a few years ago on Lincoln's birthday. Take the time. You'll be glad you did.

(Click the link above, or paste http://wp.me/p3ddtz-o in your browser.)

Resources Used
"Battle of Gettysburg." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 02 July 2013. <http://www.history.com/topics/battle-of-gettysburg>.
Garraty, John A., and Robert A. McCaughey. The American Nation: A History of the United States. New York: Harper & Row, 1987. Print.
"Lincoln Delivers Gettysburg Address." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 02 July 2013. <http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/lincoln-delivers-gettysburg-address>.

Knowing Even More: The Paula Deen Controversy Continues

After reading a couple of essays and completing further research, I'd like to add to my comments about Paula Deen.  I tend to be an optimist and one of my (many) mantras is, “Maybe there is something I don't know.” I applied this to Deen’s comments and opted for grace over criticism. I still default to grace, but editorials written independently by Michael Twitty and Daryl K. Washington have caused me to consider the whole thing in more depth.

Michael W. TwittyIn his "Open Letter to Paula Deen." Culinary Historian Michael W. Twitty “speak[s] to [Paula Deen] as a fellow Southerner, a cousin if you will, not as a combatant.” Also a Southern chef of considerable acclaim, Twitty is more frustrated by systemic racism than by Deen’s infamous remarks. He describes at length the incessant bias written into culinary history. It’s fascinating; it’s also unsettling and provocative, making me wonder how many of our language patterns are rooted in racism. For that reason alone, you should read it. But it’s this comment Twitty makes to Paula Deen that redirected my thoughts:

Some have said you are not a racist.  Sorry, I don't believe that…I am more of the Avenue Q type—everybody’s—you guessed it—a little bit racist.  This is nothing to be proud of no more than we are proud of our other sins and foibles.  It’s something we should work against.

Now understand, part of my very identity, right up there with being Baptist, is my intolerance of ethnic prejudice. So I chafe at the idea that we are all racist, even me. But Twitty gave me pause for thought, and I have to agree that I have definite biases—not in regard to ethnicity, but still . . . . Twitty says, I “should work against” the intolerances I hold, not defend them. I think he’s right. Paula Deen should do the same.

Daryl K. WashingtonDallas attorney Daryl K. Washington expressed his concerns in an editorial on blacklegalissues.com. In his opening, Washington says this: “For one, many people have been making this incident about the ‘N’ word only, but it's much more than that.” He doesn't defend her use of this slur (and please note neither do I), but he simply states that there is more at issue here than bigoted expressions. The case brought against Deen is less about speech and more about practice. Read Washington’s summary to understand more about the accusations. (Oh, and while it really should not matter, the plaintiff--accuser--is a white woman from Georgia, just like Paula Deen.)

Washington explains what caused him to review the Deen case in depth: “When I learned about the major companies dropping Paula Deen without being demanded to do so, I knew it was deep.” See that’s something I had not considered. (Here again, there was something I didn't know. So often that's the case.) Washington studied the court documents and found appalling claims. In my opinion, if she’s guilty of even half of them, she should not be allowed to run a business without strict accountability. These allegations—made by a woman who, demographically, could be mistaken for Deen—are absolutely abhorrent. Read more about them here.

Aileen MItchell LawrimoreSo here’s what I think:

  1. When we are in relationship with people, we say things that may sound offensive to outsiders.
  2. No one should ever say the N-word. It’s vulgar. (An issue, by the way, that Twitty and Washington view differently. Twitty says you can use racist slurs within your race, Washington, not so much.)
  3. Name-calling is mean.
  4. When you employ people, you are bound by anti-discrimination laws. When you break those laws, you pay the consequences.
  5. Paula Deen should make restitution for her wrongs.
  6. My parents, white folk raised in South Georgia, are in their seventies and they don’t use the n-word. Just sayin’.
  7. It’s easier to point at the mistakes of others than to examine my own. I'd rather make blanket statements about the sins of others. It’s much less convicting. It’s also wrong.
  8. Worship Paula Deen if you want. I'll stick with Jesus.

 Resources used:

Michael Twitty, “An Open Letter to Paula Deen,” http://afroculinaria.com/2013/06/25/an-open-letter-to-paula-deen/

Daryl K. Washington, “The Paula Deen Incident; You should know all that’s being alleged before defending her,” http://www.blacklegalissues.com/Article_Details.aspx?artclid=7dfdbe0461.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination Questions and Answers,” http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/qanda.html

Additional resources:

Sadiq Green, “Paula Deen case is not solely about how she used the N-word,” http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/353435

Fran Jeffries and Wayne Washington, “Paula Deen Scandal Continues As Employees Tell Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Of Alleged Discrimination,” http://tinyurl.com/nx6lw3b.

 

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