I made it up.

When I was in 5th grade a new family moved into the rental house next door. Out of the four children who lived there, two were the exact age as my brother and I.

We were delighted.

Well, I was delighted because I was a born extrovert who loved making new friends. I’m probably projecting those feelings onto my brother. Nonetheless, we played together during the last summer before ‘playing together’ became ‘hanging out’ in 6th grade.

In their backyard, we were invited into an old, dilapidated greenhouse. The wooden structure was rotting from disuse and weeds grew up between the stepping stones. Some of the heavy windows were leaning in on themselves or littered on the ground.

The potential was enormous.

The next day we brought our offerings together. Leftover paint, discarded dishes, pillows and a few books all piled together to improve the livability of our new digs. We repainted the wood – complete with our own handprints – and the loose windows were pressed back into place. We even hung up some sheets like curtains.

Once we were done, we rested comfortably in the space we created from the best of what we could find to share with each other.

This weekend I hosted the first orientation and advocacy training workshop for volunteers of The Firecracker Foundation. We announced it’s existence about a month ago and the response surprised me. Out of 25 spots available, 21 people registered and 17 were able to participate.

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That’s a lot more people than I expected.

They were each required to obtain a DHS Clearance as well as proof that they were not listed on either state or federal sex offender registries. They had to register for the training and give up 4 hours of their day on a Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend. The commitment was big.

They jumped through all of the hoops with a smile on their face and joy in their hearts. Again. I may be projecting.

Come Saturday morning, they were there and ready.

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I was there and nervous.

I don’t know if you are aware but I have never done any of this before. I’m basically making this up as I go along. However, let me also reassure you that I am not flying by the seat of my pants. I’m humbly asking questions, seeking advice and asking for a lot of help.

There’s a little flight too. I dream and plan and hope for what this foundation can be in spare moments, notes, emails and phone calls to friends. I have high hopes.

I am then taking all of the best I can gather, piling it up and making it an offering to the community. I am not alone in my efforts.

Together we are learning how to protect children, how to serve their families and how to take care of ourselves through the process. As a team we are gathering the best of what we have to offer and laying it at the feet of a community of children who have been injured. We are helping them renovate and rehang the windows.

In my mind, that greenhouse is being fervently repaired and tiny buds are starting to sprout.

As most things do, it will flourish with love.image

Spring is certain.

Tashmica

 

 

Not Equipped

A couple of days ago, I was whisked away for a lunch date with a good friend.

Over sandwiches and soup, the topic of having kids came up and she said, “I just don’t think I am equipped to parent.”

I said, “You’re not.”

She seemed a bit surprised by my honest answer and so luckily she let me explain.  I probably sounded like a jerk.

I don’t think anyone is especially “equipped” to parent.  We all decide to have children thinking that we are somehow going to be able to manage.  We had loads of siblings.  We babysat a lot.  We have already judged every parent within a quarter-mile.  We know our stuff.

We have an arsenal of “If my child did this, I would…”  We know what classes they will take, what college they will attend and what religion they will choose.  The course is mapped.

Then a baby is coming.  Parenting books are purchased.  More parenting books are purchased.  We realize this parenting game is not as simple as we originally thought but still manageable.

I am speaking for myself here but at about 8 months of pregnancy, I realized the baby was going to have to come out.  Pain was involved and it was too late to go back.  Shoot.

The day comes.  The baby is born and is laid on your chest warm.

Now you know.

Now you know without a doubt that you are not equipped to handle parenting.

You have had the delusion of control for 9 months.  Jr. was connected to your every move, breath and calories.  All of the sudden, you cannot protect, feed them properly or understand what the hell they want.

You are not equipped.

Add to that two more children that are as individual as the first and completely different from each other and yourself.

Parenting is … hard.  It is no joke and if you decide to become a parent it should not be because you are equipped.

If you decide to become a parent by birth, adoption or otherwise you need to know that it is daily on the job training.  Every day you learn, listen and love.  Your ability to be open to those lessons is what will build your repertoire.  It is what will whisper to your children without words that you are not quitting.  You are not equipped but you are so deeply in love that you could never leave, even if you wanted to.

*breathe*

She must have seen the crazed, battle weary look in my eyes.  I hope she also saw my love.

Fair Warning

To be completely honest, I feel in topics related to faith, I need to give a long, small print disclaimer.

I have been reading Job.  I have been relating to Job in many ways.  Of course, the one way that I do not relate to Job is his willingness to accept whatever God handed him.

It has left me questioning, angry and even a little astonished at God for giving permission for Job’s suffering.

Did he also give permission for my suffering?  Of course he did.

Yeah.  Feel that.  Let that rush up and down your body for a second.

Feels awesome doesn’t it. <~~~enter sarcasm font

So I don’t want to write too much because I am sure someone will be offended that I view God in a not so pretty, rose colored, stained glass kind-of a light right now.

I feel acidic.  I feel like there is no excuse for that.  There is no letting God off the hook – especially when he quasi brags about doing it to us in the Bible.  After which celebrating our willingness to trust him and find him blameless…even when he sort of allowed it.

Wait.  Not sort of.  Totally allowed it.

I am still reading One Thousand Gifts.  I feel like the book of Job somehow weaves itself into a kinship with the ideas in that book.

This is me just warming you.  I am letting you know that I’m pretty mad.  I have loads of questions.  I am putting them out there.  It may offend you.  Here is your fair warning.

Bells on the Ground

It’s like a clenching of your jaw in the cold.  The inspection of wounds long ago wrapped in gauze and covered with duct tape to stop the bleeding is cause to apply new pressure. 


I have felt the discomfort of those watching me in the gurney.  Those who love me that cannot stand to watch me suffer.  It makes it difficult to explain the need to walk through the valley.


I have heard their encouragements to leave the past in the past and move on.  Do not dwell.  Do not inspect. 


I suppose they don’t understand that I have leprosy.  I was infected with an illness that deadens the neurons.  I sometimes cannot tell when my hand is in the fire or freezing on ice. 


A child abused is a child who learns at a very early age that pain can not be felt.  It is chosen, like breathing.


I know that you may think that breathing happens because of an auto response.  That is only part of the truth.  A child in a temper tantrum can hold his breath until consciousness is lost.  Once mind gone, breath is snatched at by the body.


Avoiding pain is that way.  You can shut off your senses.  You can learn to not feel discomfort. 


Until.


The wound is inspected and your body remembers.  Like an amputated limb that is still felt, you wonder at the oddness of feeling a sensation long gone. 


This is Act 2 of my struggle for peace.  It does not come easily for more reasons than my wackadoodle personality.  I do not find peace because choosing peace means not avoiding pain.  It means facing my present, my past and my future with an open hand.


Children who are abused do not walk through the world with their palms face up towards the sky.  We know, in a terrible way, what it means to not be able to choose what is placed in your hand.


Open your hand and close your eyes. A game.  A taunting. 


Open your hand and close your eyes.  How stupid would we be to do that again?


Open your eyes and close your hands.  That sounds reasonable.


So this is where my peace is challenged.  This is where I remember and I spin into action.  This is the part where I busy my hands or I close my eyes because they are weighted for the exhaustion of it all.  This is the part where the slightest brush across my skin makes my heart feel violated. 


Choose peace. 


The challenge now feels like I cannot choose peace like a daisy from a bouquet of roses.  The challenge has now become to tear it from the hands of a would be thief. 


It is this wrestling that makes me feel so quiet.  It makes me feel dirty and ashamed.  It makes me feel like a jaw clenched shut to push out the cold.  It makes me feel alone. 


Like a leper with her bell singing out unclean.


Stifled by all of those lies. 


This girl, a member of the walking wounded and lover of the world.  This girl, mother of many and friend of at least one girl’s heart.  The wife of a man who knows her ache well enough to build her a room to help her find her peace.  I am an amazing woman who raises money for refugees, skates on a roller derby team and holds the power to kill the meanest anonymous bank teller lady with kindness.


I am the girl curing leprosy.  I am placing my bells on the ground and wandering into the crowd.  I am starting to get feeling in my extremities and while working off the atrophy is painful, it is worth walking amongst the living.  There are others among the crowd with me and they know why I lay on the gurney willingly.


Broken bones that heal incorrectly have to be reset. 

Jesus Style Peace

Lent has finally arrived. *sigh*
It has been here for four days actually, but this post was pushed aside the moment we started experiencing an epidemic of vomit in our home.
I love the Lenten season.  I feel peace floating just above my head.  I can reach up and pull it down around myself for 40 days of every year.  Sometimes I can even hold fast to it for a few weeks after Easter Sunday.
I have also been known to fill my cup with Mimosa
I am not a reflector.  I do not spend time considering the pros and cons or weighing the outcomes.  I go with my gut.  I do not sit in silence.  I fiddle with my phone.  I turn up the radio and drive past my own home distractedly singing lyrics at the top of my lungs.  I do not sit still.  I find something to fill every inch of my cup.  I will take peace but I am often more than happy to fill it with clamor, noise and distraction.
I saw someone share their snarky comment on Facebook about how we don’t need a man made religious holiday to tell us to repent, reflect and give alms.  I do though. I need God to remind me that silence is okay. I need Him to remind me that my peace to nonsense filler ratio is a bit off.  Lord knows (pun intended) I won’t do it for myself.
I won’t be giving anything in particular up for the entire 40 days.  Not that I would tell you anyway.  Isn’t that a sort of side note.  Don’t boast on your sacrificing.  
I am a huge complainer.  My sacrifice is usually less tenuous as it is keeping my mouth shut about it.
I will be entering into an open dialogue with the Prince of Peace in hopes that I can build some habits that will last longer than 40 days this time.  
If you were to interview any of my best girlfriends, my mother, shoot…anyone who can read my facebook posts, you would know that I am a mover and a shaker.  For 40 days, I want to practice being a sitter and a stayer.  I am skeptical.  I am not going to list out my ten steps to a more peaceful life. 
Like I would know them anyway?!  
I am delighted that I know Someone who does happen to know the Way. He is the Way….and the Light.
Just know that if you hear less from me in the next 36 days, know that I am seeking Jesus style peace.
Peace & Grace,
Tashmica

Give Generously

I love money.  I do.  I love the shoes it buys me, the school it affords for my children and the comfortable feeling of a paycheck coming in every month. I am not rich but I am certainly not poor.  I am a spender.  Paul is a saver.  We are both givers  in our own ways.
Paul gives with his hands.  He is the craftsman.  He is the snow shoveler for our elderly neighbors.  He is the man drawing back the curtain during my children’s Winter Concert.  He believes and serves as if he is God’s hands.
I give money (ours, so technically he gives money too) and advocate with my words.  That’s how I roll.  When I see someone doing something good, I can’t help but talk about it.
I started this year with the goal of becoming a sacrificial giver.  Someone who gives until it hurts and then gives some more.  I have already donated more money than I have year to date, than last year but it didn’t hurt.  Less than 5% of my earnings go to charity.  The rest I spend on bills, coffee in coffee shops, shoes (oh, glorious shoes) and school tuition.  That is not a complete list or a rating system of my priorities.
I should mention that right before Christmas, Noel (Pastor at Riverview Church) gave a sermon on giving.  The hows, whys and what nots.  I was moved.  So much so that I emailed him a virtual high five.  I never do that.  Ever!
I want to give like that.  Why.  Because Jesus said so.  Because the example of how he loved makes me aspire to be like him.
After the service everyone who attended was given the gift of a book called Money – God or Gift by Jamie Munsonhttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=m0bdd-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B00481JN6Y&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr. He is one of the Pastors at a little church called Mars Hill that rocks the microphone…via podcast for me.
I approached the book haughtily.  I give.  I work for a non profit.  I donate things unused.  What could they teach me?
I am silly.
The first chapter of this $5 book has me wanting more sacrifice and less entitlement.  A sin I am so very guilty of.  See bad childhood which excuses me from ever having to sacrifice or generally suffer for the rest of my life.  Yeah, we all know that is not how life works.
I have not determined what that will look like for me.  I italicized and bolded so that you would know that I am talking about me.  It is personal and not a line in the sand.  I will be praying about this….let’s see what happens.
By the way, I am in no way unaware of my lessons in gratitude from One Thousand Gifts falling in perfect steps with this book.
Questions from chapter 1:
Which column (gratitude or greed) most accurately describes your life?  Where in your life are you prone to grumbling? What is your gut-level response to the call to giving?
Thoughts?

Gratefulness

I don’t fully comprehend the next point in One Thousand Giftshttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=m0bdd-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0310321913&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr.  I can see it on the page like the word gravity.
I know what it means, that it exists, that it’s true but I can’t touch it. 
Charis. Eucharisteo. Chara.
Grace. Thanksgiving. Joy.
Another step towards a fuller life in Christ is ironed out, nailed down as gratitude for salvation, for life, for breathe, for everything.
And then the tearing.
Everything?  I am not grateful for everything.  I want to be.  I want my hand to be open to God but I don’t understand.  Even as I write this I am not sure how to explain the struggle. My dilemma is not a new one but it is one I think many face in a crisis of faith.
The plot thickens and the cast is set.  Tiny girl, perfectly and wonderfully made, abandoned in a lion’s den.  A God who created the world, stopped time for a man in the Bible but could not see his way clear to preventing a cataclysmic, dark pattern of abuse from continuing.  The same God gives tiny girl, now grown woman, salvation, shelter through good, faithful women and pretty much every good and perfect thing.
Which part am I supposed to be grateful for?  Is my gratitude for the salvation after the fact?  If that is true, do I ignore the horrible pains of the past?  Is the God who is accountable for all of the good not indeed on the hook for allowing the bad?  Or is he granted pardon because we chose the fruit?  Should I be grateful that he respected my father’s free will or that he respects my own free will as I struggle through these questions?
This is my book of lamentations.
This is the in between that Voskamp describes;
It’s the life in between, the days of walking lifeless, the years calloused and simply going through the hollow motions, the self-protecting by self distracting, the body never waking, that’s lost all capacity to fully feel – this is the life in between that makes us the wild walking dead.
Is she living in my closet?
I am not blind.  All of these questions revolve around a common theme.  I have not died to myself and it is a painful admission.  I want to know why.  I demand from the creator of the world an explanation as to why He thought if fit for a tiny girl to live in a lion’s den?  You have some splainin’ to do.
Is that true?  Or am I selfish to think, that living in a world where man chose the consequences of sin, that I deserved special treatment?  If I deserved special treatment, then what of the tiny lion’s den dwelling girls living in the Red Light District of India or the brothels in Cambodia or the prostitution rings in the United States.  Where is their special treatment while I am demanding my hall pass.  Why don’t they also get to check the opt out box?
If I could stop time for them I would.
I cannot ignore the graces but for every grace there is a pain to match it.  For every pain there is a grace to match it. 
Do you see my conundrum?  Do you see the heavenly perspective and the human perspective clashing like cymbals over my head.
All those years thinking I was saved and had said my yes to God,  but was really living the no.
No.  But if I say no, I say no to it all.  I say no to his grace, to his peace, to his healing, to his faithfulness.
I say yes, to the tiny bird cave in my heart, created by a God who intended for me to survive.  I say yes, to the women who, throughout time and challenge, have been standing at my crossroads with the hand that says this way to the light.  I say yes, to living the life he intended me to, fully and completely alive.
Yes. But if I say yes, I say yes to it all.
That terrifies me.  
You can purchase your own copy of One Thousand Gifts in my store, Fine Things...