Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Letter to My Daughters :: About the –isms



Dear Daughters,

Racism.

Feminism.

Terrorism.

The –isms. Words that have become part of our everyday language. Issues that scream for our attention, our compassion, our consideration. Issues different from one another, but important just the same.

And that’s not to mention so many others we talk about.

Atheism.

Capitalism.

Socialism.

Ageism. (I’m kinda sensitive to this one.)

A quick online search for a “list of isms” will produce over 200 words that have become their own distinct belief systems. But, more than that, they are ways of categorizing people or keeping them apart from one another. Worse yet, they become ways of discriminating against people who aren’t like us.

Today’s –isms have created an “us against them” world, and these ways of defining people confront us every day, pointing out differences, promoting hate.

In just the past two weeks we have seen racial violence of the highest order and a terrorist attack like none other. Not to mention that the country of Turkey (and how many others?) is in upheaval.

It leaves us wondering, “How much more can we take?”

I mean that quite literally. When we are bombarded every single day by news of one terrible occurrence after another, all of which we are told to care deeply about, I think we start to wonder how to do that.

How do we stay emotionally engaged with our world when there is so much violence and destruction calling for our attention? How do we love in a world so divided by -isms? We just want a little peace already!

Girls, I want you to know something in order to both guard against it and to deal with it when it happens to you. Compassion fatigue is a real thing.

Sometimes, in response to all of the tragedy around us, we lose our capacity to care. We act indifferent. We may even shut down.

It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we simply cannot.

So let’s say you have a family—you will probably spend the bulk of your emotional energy caring for the people under your roof. That’s as it should be. And then, say, a family member gets sick or you have some big decisions to make about work. More emotional energy used up.

But that’s not all. You have close friends with needs that you should also rightly care about. And a church family full of hurting people who need your attention. The circle of care widens, stretching its boundaries until you think it may burst.

Maybe your community is affected by racial violence, like many in our country did last week. You hurt some more. And then you look around and see that the world is falling apart and protests occur loud and strong, and you realize that there is just so much to care about until your emotional energy is spent.

Our bodies and our minds weren’t made to handle this much sadness. We may even watch the news and feel despair or fear about the days ahead.

My darling daughters, here’s what I want say: Do not give in to despair. Do not fear. (How many times does Jesus tell us not to fear? A LOT!) And do not give in to compassion fatigue.

God, in his wisdom, has given us just what we need to combat the fears and stresses of the world we live in. That’s the great thing about the Bible—it’s timeless. It always speaks to where we are today.

Just last week I read this verse: “In this world you will have trouble; but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Do you know how comforting that is to me? When I worry about your futures or the futures of the grandchildren I may someday have, when I think about the tragic occurrences of the past two weeks, I can remember that Jesus has it covered. He came to overcome the world and all its trials and tribulations.

He knew there would be terrorism. He knew about racism. He knew that hard days would come, but he’s got it covered already because of his death on the cross.

Here’s what I also want you to know: God does not want us to give up on compassion, but he understands compassion fatigue. Even Jesus had to pull away for a while, to get away from the crowds to pray.

So how should we handle the –isms calling for our attention these days? How do we handle compassion fatigue? I have a few ideas (you knew I would!).

Michah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

1. Pray. We cannot know God’s will for us if we’re not talking to him about it, so pray that God would show you the –isms that he has placed on your heart. We can’t do everything, but we can do something right where we are, so pray for compassion for the issues God has equipped you to care for. And don’t worry about the rest—that’s why there is a huge world with people who care for different things.

2. Continue to seek justice in your everyday life. Again, we cannot solve every problem or fix every person, but we can be people of integrity who watch out for others. This doesn’t mean that you have to stand in on a protest. It simply means that whatever you can do to seek justice, do it. Refuse to overlook injustice when you see it.

3. Be kind. Oh, how our world needs a little more kindness. And it can start with you. Forget cynicism (another –ism!). Forget backstabbing gossip. Forget lying. And just be nice.

4. Walk humbly. Learn from others as you learn from God. Listen well. Love well. Take your eyes off of yourself and make those around you feel like they are the most important people in the room. Pray for humility.

These are the things God requires of us. Nothing more; nothing less.

Girls, as you go out into the world each day, don’t be overwhelmed by the trials. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, seeking God’s will for your life, following his call, and the rest will take care of itself.

He is with you always. Even until the end of the age.

I love you so.


Mom

Thursday, July 14, 2016

But God . . . {A fun, exciting, crazy announcement!}



Sometimes you wait for something for such a long time that you think it may never happen.

Sometimes you hope and dream for so long that you almost decide to give up.

Sometimes you wonder if your dreams are just crazy or that you’re not up to the dream after all or that you’re getting too old to actually accomplish it.

Sometimes you doubt. A lot.

But then God does something so entirely unexpected that you just have to believe He was in it all along, just waiting to gift you with your dream when the timing was just right.

That’s my story these days.

After years of trying, discouragement, rejection, discouragement, hope, and more discouragement, I was ready to quit my dream. I regularly told myself, “I’m not really a writer” or “I’m too old for this” or “Nobody wants to hear what I have to say anyway.”

(Lies! All lies, by the way.)

But God.

He planted the dream many years ago, and he had a crazy plan all along. How he chose to unfold that plan is crazy in itself!

Last spring I went to a writer’s conference—one I had attended several times in the past—where I taught a class on writing prompts. But this year I decided to get a little bit brave and submit my book proposal to editors before I left. There’s a service for this kind of thing at this conference. If an editor sees your proposal and likes it, they can contact you to set up an appointment during the conference.

And that’s what happened. Two editors contacted me and wanted to talk about my idea.

Turns out that they both liked my proposal and wanted to take it further on down the publishing road. Now, what you have to know is that this road is very long and winding and sometimes comes with road blocks and detours, often with no communication at all. You just have to wait until the traffic clears and more people see your proposal and give you a green light.

Or reject you. Which is what happened to me on the Wednesday of our beach vacation back in June.

There I was, sitting on the beach, enjoying some precious time away with my family, when I stupidly checked email to find a rejection letter from one of the publishers I had spoken to back in April. (There’s a lesson here: don’t check email from the beach!)

Tears ran down my face from behind my sunglasses, and I broke the news to my family later that evening.

I was pretty sad. Not necessarily surprised (I have had plenty of rejections in the past), but sad. And questioning whether I should keep writing or just hang it up.

I’m not sure what I did the next day—I think I took a long bike ride or something—but I know I had a heavy heart hangover that morning. I couldn’t face social media, so I just stayed away from my computer until around lunchtime when I quickly checked email.

Remember how I said I had talked to two editors? I hadn’t heard much of anything from the second one, and I had kind of written them off too. I figured I’d get in touch with them after vacation, but again, I didn’t have much hope.

But on Thursday of vacation, the day after my rejection, there was an email from the editor of the second publisher telling me that they were going to be looking at my proposal THAT DAY and he’d be in touch the following day to let me know the outcome. I kind of laughed at the timing, then prayed hard and asked my family to pray as well.

And then we went to the beach.

Later that night I checked email again to find a note from the publisher telling me that they liked my proposal and, get this, THEY WANTED TO PUBLISH MY BOOK!

You guys, that was 24 hours after the rejection. Twenty-four hours!!!

To say my head was spinning would be an utter downplay of how I was feeling. How on earth could I go from such a low point the day before to finding out that I was going to receive a contract? It still feels surreal to me.

But God.

Here’s what I know. There is no way any of this was a coincidence. God knew all along that I was going to get rejected, but He arranged it so that I was on vacation with my family. No better people to get rejected with!

Not only that, but he also arranged for the second publisher to look at my proposal the very next day. How crazy is that?! VERY CRAZY!

And that is how I know that God has said, “OK, Shelly, the timing is just right for you to pursue this dream.”

You see, for so many years the dream of writing a book has been stirring in my heart, but the timing hasn’t been just right. I loved being a mom to my kids (I still do!) and wanted to be here for them while they were here at home. I also loved being a professor and a mentor to students.

But my youngest is off to college soon (!) and my nest will be empty in the fall. I stopped teaching a year ago, so I have time to write now (as long as I can discipline myself to actually do it!).  The timing, for me, is just right.

And the book? I’m excited to tell you that it’s a book about parenting with purpose and intentionality. It’s about asking why we do what we do to instill spiritual and family values into our kids instead of asking how.

Because I firmly believe that if we start by asking why, the how will follow. 

I hope you’ll join me on this journey by praying for me as you think of it. I’m sure I’ll be sharing more as time goes on, but today, I just want you to laugh along with me at the timing and the goodness of God.

*****

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