Family

September 05 2012
36

I fold one or two loads of laundry on my bed every night. It’s a (somewhat irritating and strangely reassuring) ritual and a way to try to keep up. Progress, not perfection, I tell myself. Somehow I still need reminding that I’m human. Not every stitch of laundry needs to be clean and folded and put away. That’s the thing about striving for perfection, it doesn’t even make any sense. There’s really no reason for all the clothes to be clean.

We only really need a day’s worth at a time.

I’m in recovery and my sponsor says, Don’t be so hard on yourself, Heather. When you’re stressed, you regress. Just wait. Just wait.  Little by little, I kind of keep up, with the laundry and with changing for the better.

On this particular night last week, with laundry on the bed, I was bone weary from progress and the letting go and the holding on, the chapped lips and short temper, the anxiety and change. I was one big backache and heartache.  I was feeling especially human.

I was rolling the day over and over to try to make sense of it while rolling one sock into another. I’ve been trying to be grateful instead of overwhelmed or negative. Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Whatcha wanna do tomorrow? 

This was last week and the TV was on over on the dresser with the volume almost all the way down. The Republican Convention people looked like mimes, especially when they were all fired up. They would excitedly yell and sometimes pound their fists on the podium. They were almost entirely muted and that seemed right to me.

We need to stand for something, I understand, but maybe I’m just too weary. Politics and Religion have a way of getting people to put on some really ugly things. Exclusive things. Judgmental things. Arrogant and self-righteous things. The sort of foot-stomping and podium pounding things that yell, This land is our land! This land is not your land!

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A few days after the convention was on, I was pulling weeds from the dirt along our sidewalk. I was thinking about listening. I want ears that sit on the edge of their seats; that bring me into the story that’s being told by whoever comes my way. I want to sit in the middle of another’s point of view, no matter how we differ, politically or theologically. I want the stories to move from head to heart, reminding me that we’re all the same.

Listening well is one of the best ways to love well. I see it in my children, how it changes them when I stop what I’m doing and really listen.  They are amazing story tellers, my children, captivating and funny. I have to work hard to listen sometimes, but when I do, we are all softer and more open, more vulnerable and pliable for the ways we must, we must change and see one another. We cannot live and love and feel a sense of belonging here in this house day after day if we do not honor each other’s stories. 

This house is your house. This house is my house.

Ours.

You are a story. Every story needs a place to belong. 

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I’ve heard a lot of teachers and preachers talk about my political  responsibility as a Christian. I’ve seen a lot of bumper stickers and signs about God and politics.

I’m a mother on the bed with laundry every night and I listen to the stories my children tell me. We dig in the dirt together and run through the sprinkler. I tell them about God in all things. We talk about what He’s doing as we walk and ride along in a minivan and right before we go to sleep. We say together, Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Whatcha wanna do today? We don’t talk about how other people live unless my kids have questions and they will and they do. Then I handle what I say carefully, because it’s only my job to keep myself in check and even then, I rely fully on grace. Yes, I want to do what’s right, but I believe doing right flows out of feeling wholly loved, not out of condemnation.

What will my children think, I wonder, if I tell them “they” are wrong and we’re right and we need to stand up to all the others? Kids are simple thinkers. I’m right = I’m better. I don’t want their faith grounded in those weeds, so to speak.

My children will not have their faith stripped from them if I tell them we’re all the same. So I dig in the dirt and think about how I want my children to know love and grace by living it out with all people. It’s not a competition and it’s not political, it’s about a God Man of unconditional love, a bridge to grace. We’re all down here in the mud, digging around, finding our way. That’s what I was thinking while getting my clothes muddy for the nightly laundry routine, crawling around on my knees and weeding. I don’t want to bow to We’re Right, so I’ll never tell my children that this is our land and it’s founded on our beliefs and now the other side and the bad people are trying to change it and make it bad. That’s religion talking, not faith. It can be confusing, because it’s a lot like deciphering some weeds from some plants. The leaves look so much alike, but then when you take a good look at the vine, you can tell the difference.

I grabbed hard down close to the dirt and tugged for the roots of one of those big deceiving weeds. We had let it grow and grow because we thought it was supposed to be there, it looked so much like a good thing. At first it wouldn’t budge so I got mad and I grunted and got some leverage and it then it ripped loose, exposing the spiky and spreading root that was trying so hard to stay underneath.

Yes, we vote. We care a lot about the issues of our day. There isn’t a convention or a church that could convince me how to vote though. I hope that’s true for my kids, too. I hope their vote comes from a place rooted in grace and listening, opportunity and education. I hope they are passionate about the stories of all people, honoring each one based on so much more than a one word label. Gay, Immigrant, Christian, Poor, Homeless, Jewish, Buddhist, Liberal, Republican…

struggling, triumphant, weary, angry, giddy, imperfect, beautiful,

loved…we’re all the same.

This land is your land.

36 comments

  1. Ed

    Rooted in grace and listening… Those are good words for reactionary, sound-bite driven times.

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  2. This is beautiful, Heather. I wish more people would think this way. Religion (and faith) should bring us together, not tear us apart.

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  3. Love everything about this, Heather. Your children are lucky to have you modeling this for them.

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  4. You are a good soul, Heather. I love the part about religion talking instead of faith; I think there’s some good truth in that, and something we can all look at more closely.

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  5. I love this. I love hearing about real faith beyond the sound bites and the “shoulds”.

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  6. Vikki

    Simply beautiful.

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  7. Christa

    Thank you, Heather, for placing a stone in this bridge between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ I often feel very much part of the “them” when it comes to mainstream religion in the U.S. Your words inspire wonder and curiosity and maybe a little calm in a polarized world. It is so, so refreshing to get this kind of perspective from a self-proclaimed Christian. It’s set me to wondering. About all the different conceptions of ‘God’ and ‘god’ and ‘goodness’ and ‘glory’ and ‘grace.’ For me, these concepts are joined. But I vear away from capitalization because it feels threatening to me. It feels alienating and seperating and us-and-them-ing. Your skating along a fine edge, here, where few of us dare to tread. That fine line between the opening and closing of doors. It is hard to have God and not close doors, I think. But that’s just me, thinking out loud, and exposing my maybe-misguided worry. I want god. I crave goodness and hope and grace. But I’m afraid of opening a door to what feels angry and exclusive and self-righteous. Are there more people like you, over there, on the God side of goodness?

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  8. Yes.

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  9. I make my living in the mire and muck of politics and you know what?! There’s not convention or church that can tell me how to vote, either. I spent years feeling that way…until exhaustion overtook. I still have my deep seeded beliefs, but find all the rallies and togetherness actually divisive and frankly, dangerous to the uninformed.

    Good for you for understanding this and making intentional decisions with your children when they’re young enough to build their foundation on the things that really matter!

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  10. Shosh M

    While I’m Jewish, I read this site quite often. I am blown away by the beauty and honesty of women’s posts on their faith and relationship with God. In the Hebrew calendar, we are in the midst of Elul, the month that leads up to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and ten days later, Yom Kippur, the day of Repentence. An amazing Rabbi decide that during the month of Elul, each day we should blog about a different concept- justice, wonder, inspiration…Jews (mostly young rabbis) have joined in the movement in order to express how they prepare for the coming year. Today’s word is LOVE. When I read your post, I thought it exemplified LOVE. It is how we should prepare ourselves. Not through judgement or anger but through love for our fellow human beings. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we believe as you said so elequently, we are capable of moving towards grace and love in our own way.

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  11. Jan Grant

    Heather, your thoughts flow to me on the wings of Grace. I long for a time when we all truly understand the true meaning of freedom and tolerance and acceptance and mutual respect. What a wonderful world…

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  12. Exactly that.

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  13. I can’t think of a more perfect place for you, Heather, than right here.

    I’ve also struggled/still struggle: with what makes belief what it is.

    And the love has to win out over everything.

    I bow out when I hear it become a belief of exclusion/more important to be right than to love.

    Happy to see you here, regularly, now subscribing, because it’s a side of you I want to be along for.

    xp

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  14. Oh, how I love your words. I love that you watched the republican convention with the sound off.. wish I had thought of that.

    These political days make me itchy – all the conflict and nay-saying and finger pointing makes me want to put my hands over my ears.

    I love they way you’re teaching your children about faith and God. I’m watching, and learning, so much from you.

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  15. Nicely put.

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  16. Jessica Washburn

    I disagree. While I too would love to keep my head in the clouds and think all things warm and fuzzy, there’s work to be done. If we don’t stand for something we’ll fall for anything. It’s not enough to just love each other and listen to each others story. Yes we should love our neighbors and treat others as we want to be treated for sure, but let’s not pretend things are hunky dory in D.C.. We need a serious change. This country wasn’t built by people who just sat around loving each other, spending other people’s money, doing fist bumps and playing basketball with George Clooney…it takes work, cooperation, self reliance and accountability.

    You are gifted with words though.

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    • Heather

      Jessica,

      The thing is, you can want that change and you can vote for that change. My point is not about that at all. It’s about exactly what you felt compelled to say here. You’re not changing anyone’s mind who doesn’t think like you. I simply want to teach my kids that stomping around spouting a list of all the wrongs that have been done against ME and MY country isn’t beneficial to anyone. It only teaches them to have that same Better Than mentality.

      I didn’t say: Here are my politics-everyone should hug and just sit around eating ice cream, you know? I’m talking about approach. When love is missing (which it is in any slanted rant) we are not treating others as we’d want to be treated. Doesn’t seem possible to me.

      We need a serious change in this country in more ways than those that you’ve mentioned here. But that’s not going to happen because people are wasting time with extreme views, arguing to no one because no one is listening.

      If we’re honest, it’s all hard to navigate. We all see it differently. You can respectfully disagree or you can try to make a point by saying things like “I too would love to keep my head in the clouds”.

      If you knew my story, you’d know that I’m grounded to a fault and that when my head is in the clouds, I’m looking for God, open ears and heart. I fail a lot. We all do, down here in the mud…but I’ll treat you with respect if you can do the same.

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      • your words, grace, and heart are gifts, all. thank you, heather.

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  17. Loved this. Wish more people could see beyond the political “sides” and see the people and the stories behind them. We could all use more love and grace. And we could all give more love and grace also.

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  18. Beautiful, powerful images…praying for Weed-Be-Gone to be at work in my life.

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  19. Jessica

    I don’t see how fact telling during a campaign is a bad thing? The opposing candidate’s job is to state why he’d do ‘better than’ the current president. Bringing attention to the issues and saying it like it is without sugar coating it, is working. Obama’s numbers are declining…people are tired of the direction we’re going. America needs to wake up and hear it like it is.

    I sincerely apologize for the “head in the clouds comment”. Really though I was mostly referring to myself. I’ve chosen to keep my head in the clouds for a long time simply because I don’t like the negative feelings that come from facing the enormous problems we have. My family has razzed me for some time to get informed and stop ignoring the issues just because they are uncomfortable.

    I guess I missed the point you were trying to make because I thought you were clearly drawing the line of which side you’re on and criticizing Romney and the Republican party for their beliefs and delivery methods.

    What it comes down to is we’re all imperfect people who are doing what we feel is the right thing. Hopefully. I have been waiting awhile to use the fist bump and Clooney line though.

    I’m sorry for my harsh tone. I will try to hold back in the future, I’m sure you are a fabulous woman.

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    • Heather

      Jessica,

      Thank you. I agree, fact telling isn’t a bad thing. This post was more about HOW we do that. And the reality is, your “facts” may be different than the next persons’s “facts” and I really doubt that anyone is going to budge. It’s rare for people to change their minds when they’re standing on something they believe is rooted in right belief systems.

      I wasn’t at all referring to Romney. I just mentioned the debate because that was what was on that night and got me thinking about politics in general. About the ways that people behave.

      You don’t have to apologize. I’m not easily offended. I can take it :) I was responding in an effort to communicate more clearly. Emotion gets in the way too often with these conversations. We’re humans so of course we HAVE emotion and that’s good. Our emotions tell us something. So often mine are telling me to simmer down. :)

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  20. Annette

    Nothing wrong with this post my friend.

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  21. Heather, this is so refreshing to read. I love that you’re treading that hard to walk line, trying to hold the door open without letting everything fall out – and how you’re showing your kids one way to live that. Imperfectly, messily, but beautifully and authentically. I hope I’m learning, too, as I get older, how to walk this. I was steeped in “Christianese” for so long it takes awhile to get it out of the system. Thanks for being you.

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  22. Diana

    Oh my, Heather. This is glorious writing. Thank you for thinking it through and then spreading it out here for us to eat. Just wonderful, wonderful.

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  23. I am so grateful to know that there are Christians like you Heather, that truly embody the teachings of Christ. Love one another…all ‘anothers’, not just a selection. At least thats how I hear the Word. Amen, sister!!!

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  24. Just beautiful, Heather. And hear, hear.

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  25. I had a very similar experience a long, long time ago. I remember the day well. We were half-listening to parts of the republican convention on the car radio on our way home from downtown Los Angeles. It sounded like so much of the fist-pounding was hate enshrouded in other terms. We both decided that day to take our names off the registry and enroll ourselves as “undeclared”…declaring, instead, that our beliefs will not be defined by a political party but by the faith and the love and the truth in our hearts.

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  26. Kimberly M

    Heather, You are oh so gifted with words. I don’t like politics for the same reasons you don’t. It’s alot of noise to me. I do believe in standing for things and owning your beliefs. The tough part is finding what is YOUR belief and not what someone else taught you, said to you or told you was right. I don’t like that poltics and certain views are black and white or should I say, blue and red. It’s a label….and we don’t like labels. Unfortunately the world we live in gets things done by being blue or red. I am willing to talk about the tough issues because I have taken time to think about what I believe, not what my party tells me to believe. Most people don’t talk about the issues we face because they are afraid of saying something wrong, being politcally incorrect or just plain offending someone. I think that is disheartening. If loving one another is how we should live then that means across the aisles and listening as you say, because we desperately need to hear one another and still show love to one another, even if we stand for different things. That’s when it seems to get dicey. I hope that people can change their minds about certain beliefs, even though you say its rare. I pray that is not true because history shows us being open minded is a good thing.

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  27. “I have to work hard to listen sometimes, but when I do, we are all softer and more open, more vulnerable and pliable for the ways we must, we must change and see one another. We cannot live and love and feel a sense of belonging here in this house day after day if we do not honor each other’s stories.”

    This mama needed to hear those words. Now I’m wishing I could rewind the day and do better, do more looking them right in the eye. Good thing I get to try again tomorrow, huh?

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  28. Much gratitude to you Heather! Need smart,logical, God-graced souls-telling their honest, non-judging, opinion.
    I’m a proud,loving(I hope) grandmother, and a Minnesotan! Words can inspire us-and you are just that, w/this post!

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  29. Wow. This: “My children will not have their faith stripped from them if I tell them we’re all the same.”

    As usual you took what so many of us are feeling and with perfect poetry said it.

    Thank you for this.

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  30. “We cannot live and love and feel a sense of belonging here in this house day after day if we do not honor each other’s stories.” One of the most beautiful quotes I’ve ever read. Thank you.

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  31. I gotta spend some time with you some day; I love the rhythm and cadence of your prosetry.

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  32. This is a beautiful post with wonderful imagery. The only thing missing is the Gospel. You are absolutely valid in teaching your children grace-based listening. It is a vital element missing in so many parents’ rearing. The truth like you stated is that none of us are better than the other. Some of us just happen to already have the truth (Jesus) in us and so our job as Christians is to share Him in the most gracious way possible with those who don’t have His constant presence in their hearts yet. Unfortunately, our forefathers are still grieving the fact that Church and state are sordidly intertwined. The key to loving well is also speaking elements of the truth that are not easily digestible and incidentally will offend those in need of it.

    That’s the only thing I felt compelled to share in light of your sincere post.

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