My mom is a Fireworker

The other day, I allowed my two youngest to take our dog Lucy around the block for a little walk. Armed with the required walkie-talkies, I watched them meander down the street together. They turned the corner and I turned up my walkie-talkie.

I sat on the porch with my laptop and opened my email. *sigh* Peace and quiet.

“MOM, CAN OUR FRIEND COME OVER TO PLAY?”

Isaac always yells into the walkie-talkie. It’s like he’s not sure he can trust the thing to carry his voice.

“Sure, honey.” I said.

In about 2 minutes they came galloping my way with a little boy I’d never seen before. According to my boys (and confirmed later by my guy), they’d met him before during other walks. They arrived happy and ready to play with their new buddy. Levi reached for the door and I stopped him.

“Baby, we’re gonna play on the porch. I don’t know your friend’s parents yet. It’s for safety.”

He complained a little but I offered up Legos on the porch. Challenge accepted!

image

The boys began to talk and build. They negotiated for pieces and created storylines. They came over to show me their new creations and to tattle. Eventually, things got personal and Levi told his new friend,

” My mom’s name is Tasha and she’s a Fireworker.”

I giggled a little inside wondering what that translated into in the mind of my little one and his friend. I thought about Firemen and Fire eaters. I thought about jugglers with torches burning bright and welders. And then I thought about my work with The Firecracker Foundation.

A fireworker?

Our first vacation of the summer was spent near Charlevoix at Fisherman’s Island State Park. Some families have Disney, some go to concerts. We go to Fisherman’s Island. While I was there making memories with my boys, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar sat down with Megyn Kelly for an interview.

I read about it and gathered three main points:

  • Consent is not required if your victim doesn’t really remember what happened.
  • The Duggars’ were okay with giving Josh time to get right with God while sacrificing the safety of their daughters and a family friend. Favoritism much?
  • And it’s all fine because forgiveness, you guys. Be cool.

I took a few deep breaths and then set about writing a response to 7 main points in this article. By the time I was finished unleashing the fury, I had nearly 3,000 words. Many edits later and I was ready to offer up 1,000 words to xoJane.

It was published on June 15, 2015 at 5 p.m.

I was really excited to be published on such a wonderful site. But I was over the moon to be able to offer some insights on the appropriate ways to respond to child sexual abuse – especially to communities of faith.

My perpetrator and father was a Christian and even served as a youth pastor for a short time. My faith has been complicated, lost, challenged, found and restored through the process of healing. As I delved deeper into the world of advocacy for child survivors, I witnessed the victim-blaming, slut-shaming and outright protection of perpetrators carried out my so-called houses of faith.

It makes my blood boil.

I don’t expect to agree with ever tenet of the many diverse religions that make up our beautiful world. I do expect that we can agree that no one ever deserves to be assaulted, it is never the victim’s fault and perpetrators should have legal and social consequences for their actions.

I will not lower my expectations. I expect the Godly to raise theirs.

My favorite Bible verse has remained with me throughout my life. It’s actually kind of a violent passage all about the Lord’s vengeance against the wicked. Psalms 10:17-18 declares that the God of the Hebrews ‘defends the fatherless and the oppressed.

As a fatherless child and one experienced in oppression, it feels good to know that the Judeo-Christian God, the God of the Duggars, is a self-described, violent defender of the abandoned and marginalized.

Don’t mistake me as someone who believes that violence is the answer. I don’t but like most, I enjoy the idea of a God willing to kick a few asses for the children. Similar to how I love Iron Man for being both a hero and a narcissist.

I feel like this section is going to give us both problems so I’m going to move on.

When I told my family about this new milestone for my writing, they decided it would be appropriate to set some things on fire in my honor. Fireworks. They wanted to set off some fireworks.

Lucky for them, I purchased a red lantern while we were on vacation but we never used it. My husband and I walked down to the park holding hands. Lucy came with while the boys biked ahead. It was windier than we expected so we settled the bottom of the lantern into the hollowed out section of a stump and lit it up.

We struggled to hold it down until the heat could fill the inside but the wind kept blowing the sides in. We were afraid it would catch fire before it could get over the trees around us. I realized the problem was our grip. We had to let it go. We had to stop struggling against its need to soar.

My story has resided in the gentle hands of a loving family and then a supportive hometown community. I have always been a little worried awaiting the trolls. Maybe that’s why I’ve never submitted anything before. If I never cross the bridge, the trolls won’t be compelled to attack me.

I’ve been protecting the brave little girl in me from the strangers.

My story, who I am and what I do is important. It’s important and it’s growing faster than I can handle or control. It leaves me breathless and overwhelmingly grateful. It leaves me shaken and filled with sorrow. It leaves me exhilarated and exhausted.

It leaves me like a little red lantern, blazing and ready to soar.

I suppose Levi has given me the most appropriate title of all.

Yours,

The Fireworker

Hopeful Days

It is finished.

Well, actually, it has all just begun. However, my blog break is over.

School. Derby. Work. Family. Friends.

Life is in full swing and not in that order.

It is not swinging on a gentle breeze. It is surviving gale force winds and wrapping itself around the poles that are struggling to stay cemented in the ground. This mad rush follows a difficult research period that has left me trying to find words for the things I experienced.

It is not that I don’t have the words. I do not have polite words. They are angry words complimented with a rich abundance of curses. I am sorting those feelings out and deciding where they belong.

I gave myself the gift of January to settle into a very challenging season professionally, personally and in the world of roller derby.

It was a wise decision.

My goals are big for this year and can easily be rattled off.

  • Be more present with my family.
  • Love my body
  • Pass my classes with flying colors
  • Raise more money for Nyaka than last year
  • Train to skate like an athlete
  • Start speaking publicly
  • Do enough research to justify a research trip for my book
  • Oh! And write a book.

Of course, this list is nothing more than the cliff notes version of the minutes, hours and days structured towards so many coveted accomplishments.

So far, I have a list of things that have developed in response to my goals for 2013.

  • I have almost cried on my way to roller derby practice out of exhaustion. (I will admit that I was about to start my period.)
  • I have stayed up far too late studying because I won’t allow myself to fail.
  • I will be speaking at She Laughs VII tomorrow night to benefit the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing and decided the topic in a Microsoft shower moment this morning.
  • I have chosen to eat and drink with health and fitness in mind.
  • I am saying a big, fat, NO to opportunities that are not in the best interest of my family and our quality time.

I am uncomfortable. I am challenged. I am exhausted.

I can tell I am doing it right.

When have positive changes come with a big, cushy spot of comfort and ease?

Never.

It comes with hunger pains over those donuts someone brought into the office. It comes with the muscle aches of an injury slowly healing. Change comes with the awkward stagger in shoes that need to be broken in.

I am changing. We all are. Up and down, positive and negative we make changes.

It is what we are in the world. We are transient souls.

In the past, I didn’t make goals. I used to shrug them off as bench marks to an unavoidable failure.

I think everytime you look at yourself and decide that you need a change or a transformation you have to have faith in your ability to change before you can take that first step.

I believe that my list is not full of resolutions.

My list is a reflection of just how much faith I have learned to have in myself.

It is based on all the hopes I have for my future and a guidepost on my journey toward loving myself regardless of what value my past tried to dictate.

This is a new perspective for me but it fits.

Everything else is new. Why shouldn’t my perspective be too?

All of my faith, hope and love is invested in that little abreviated list of hope-filled minutes, hours and days.

I wish you enough faith in yourself to do the same.

Sincerely,

Tashmica

Deliver Us From Evil

I have had a grief headache since Friday afternoon. The kind you get when you are not sure when would be the appropriate time to grieve children that are not your own so you don’t. You choke tears back in your office, while playing with your own children, in the shower and at church.

It’s like sorrow is stuck in my throat. I can’t quite release it. I am in shock at the tremendous terror of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

This weekend, when I expressed my feelings to my husband he reminded me of a quote.

When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize, she was asked, “What can we do to promote world peace?” She answered “Go home and love your family.”

I took Mother Teresa’s advice. I loved my family in pyramids, scavenger hunts, candy deliveries to friends and story times. I stayed as far away from social media, news and radio as I could. The anger, sadness and arguments overwhelmed me and made my headaches worse.

I have struggled with commenting on the tragedy. The bereaved mommies and daddies, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas are being hoped for in my heart.

Their incredible suffering shuts me down. It makes me quiet in mourning as if they were friends of mine. Where words fail you in troubled times, hand holding in silence still means comfort.

But I am not their friend. I am a mother hundreds of miles away watching the world try to deal with something that drenched us all in fear.

Unfortunately, many did not get quiet in mourning. They became loudspeakers of opinions. They angrily jabbed at every open wound available in an effort to be right about something. Some opinions I agreed with, others I understood and some I just thought were kind of dangerous.

Then I saw this image and I nearly screamed.

I only share it so that you can see what drove me from my quiet into a hot rage. You know the kind. The madness that makes your ears hot and all you can think about is the words you would use to tell someone off if they ever dared to share that image again.

Why did it bother me so?

Because the people sharing that image are talking about my God. The one I worship, blame, pray to, yell at, argue with, confess to, question, beseech and joke with. They are talking about my faith; the faith that encourages me to love deeply, to give generously and protect the orphans and the widows.

It bothers me because undoubtedly, the people sharing that horrid image are the same people who I might share a pew with on Sunday morning or see at family reunions and that makes me want to wretch. Are these strong words? You betcha.

When you post an image touting such a horrid message you are saying three things about your faith and the world around you.

If you are not a Christian, much of this will not mean anything to you. You’re welcome to read on or see your way clear. Your call. :)

Your Salvation Story is a Farce

Do you remember how Jesus died on the cross for our sins? Do you remember how you have been telling the world that through grace you have been set free from all of your sins: past, present and future?

Well, you lied.

Apparently, our God is still looking for sacrificial lambs. He is still calling Abraham to the top of the mountain to sacrifice Isaac. Worse yet, he called 20 children to be the sacrifice in His protest against the separation of church and state?

Your God decided to kill children and their protectors because he disagreed with our man-made laws. Can you worship a God like that? If so, we have bigger problems here and you may need to consult a medical professional.

I am being serious. Call them now.

God is Not Omnipresent

Apparently, a simple law created by man can keep your ever powerful God from entering a building. The same God you believe masterminds miracles, the universe and daily creation has been reduced to a pedestrian unable to cross where there is not a cross walk. What happened to your God-is-bigger-than-any-problem-talk? Do you believe that he will never leave us or not?

I ask Him to be with my children daily and I believe He remains with them everywhere they go. I pray daily that no matter where they go or what happens to them, that they know they are loved unconditionally.

The world may take them to some dark places and I want them to always know that above all, they are loved. It is what I needed to know when I was suffering. I put a survival of the fittest tool belt around their waist and send them out into the world.

Blame the Victims

The age-old default reaction to all things horrendously tragic is being used here again by people of my own faith.
What you are really saying – and many don’t realize this – is that victims are somehow at fault. They should have fought harder for the laws that would have allowed God into their schools. Those parents should have been sending their children to a Christian school.

You have reinforced to children like me, children who have survived abuse, violence and trauma, that they are somehow to blame and deserve to be sacrificed. It is the words creeping in-between the lines and we can read them.

I understand we all want to find reason in times of uncertainty. We all want to know why things like this occur.

I do know this. The God I serve would never abandon and sacrifice children to show his disapproval of a law. That is the behavior of men and women. If I believed for one second that the God I served approved mass murders of children, I would be an atheist immediately.

I would be an atheist so fast, it would make your head spin. Trust me.

Christians, we have to do better. I fear that we are becoming the evil that the world needs to be delivered from.

Sincerely,

Tashmica

Hunting Season

Dear God,

Hunting Season has begun.

I am not a hunter but I have been contemplating a search for some time.

I am looking for a new church. I have been through a lot in the past two years and it has changed me quite a bit. The grooves in my map have shifted off of the main roads and have meandered down barely marked paths. My spirit feels much like the plates of the earth; moving and shifting to accommodate growth, pressure and sinking.

My faith in You remains but my idea of who You are and what You want has changed. I have attended church accepting that I would not always agree with what was being taught but I would at minimum agree with the main point. Today, after all I feel I know now, that doesn’t seem to be enough.

I want more than the main point. I want to pray in agreement.

This may sound like an illusion and maybe it is. Maybe I will be like an old friend that declared that he belonged to all churches that shared our faith and decided to move through many communities.

I do things all or nothing. I buy in. Everything I do is with fervor and faith.

Why would I expect that you created me to treat my faith community any differently?

I think You know what I need and I am going to trust that You will help me find it. Even if this hunting trip starts and ends without a prize. I have learned not to fear the journey, the seeking and the remembering. I just ask that You help my boys find what they need to. No mother worships alone.

At least I don’t have to wear orange or sit in the cold to take this trip.

If I do this right,I suspect that I will enjoy more color and more warmth than ever.

Yours,

Tashmica

PS – I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have ever searched for a new house of worship or if you’d like to recommend a place for me to try. Leave a comment below!

PPS – I’d like to reiterate that this change is a reflection of my spirit and not a reflection on the churches I have attended in the past couple of years. Just in case someone out there is having hurt feelings.

 

Happy Birthday, Isaiah!

Dear Isaiah,

The day you were born,

I held you in my arms like a secret the world didn’t know yet.

Even in your mystery, I felt like I had always known you.

You existed in me long before the moment you were placed warm on my chest.

Even now, I cannot imagine the space where you begin and I end.

Happy Birthday, Isaiah.

With all of my faith, hope and love,

Mommy

Tainted Reflection

There is a mirror in our foyer that is probably a hundred years old. It is starting to darken in one corner and there are dark imperfections and scratches throughout. I love it as much as the other old things in this house that we live in and every week I wash off the tiny finger prints. It cleans up but not very well. All of the vinegar in the world could not wash away the damage made over time.

This week I came across a video posted on Facebook of Steve Harvey introducing Jesus Christ as if he were about to appear in his show. In the end, Steve, if I may call him by his first name, is visibly emotional as he states that God has been so good. It moved me and just like everyone else on Facebook moved by something I felt the need to re post. I hesitated because I knew not all of my “friends” on Facebook share my faith. What the hell? Personal integrity, here we go!

In response, a friend asked me why it is assumed that God is a man. I responded that you would have to ask Steve Harvey.

I try not to assume anything anymore. I used to believe that after meeting someone new that I could tell within minutes whether we would be friends or not. I used to believe that my heart was safe in the hands of Christians. I used to believe that a Christian president would lead our country in the right directions. Wrong on all accounts.

I have spent the past year developing friendships that I never expected. I have learned that people are so multifaceted that you could never know enough about them in a couple of minutes to determine who they are and the value they could potentially bring to your life. Although, I have Christian friends and family who have guarded and protected me my entire life, I have also had Christian friends and family who have literally tried to destroy me. I won’t even comment on my last example. I still hope that it’s a little true.

I believe that there is a loving God that created us all and I live my life attempting to be a reflection of his grace. The catch is I am flawed. His reflection is distorted in me. My concept of God is probably not even close to what is true. I can’t seem to find the truth because there is a stack of suitcases piled on top of it. Not Louis Vuitton either. The luggage with broken zippers, duct tape and all the dirty laundry left over from a month long safari.

I have never considered replacing the mirror in our foyer. This home belonged to my husbands’ grandparents. His grandmother checked to see if her slip was showing in it and his grandfather straightened his tie on the way to Mass. That mirror, no matter how wrecked it is today, has seen our past and looks into our future.

I do hope that God still enjoys seeing himself in me.