Appropriate things

I’ve returned to the world of blogging. Finally. That first draft took a little longer than I anticipated, but 3 months and 15 days after I wrote the opening page, I’ve reached the end of the story. Now I’ve got to let that too-hot-to-handle first draft cool before I slice it up and realize what an inedible and unpalatable mess it is. On the bright side, I get to catch up on blog-writing (mine) and blog reading (yours). Let me know if any Totally Important Event has happened in your life in the last three months that I may have missed in my sporadic blog-reading.

My grandfather fought in WWII as a "Sea Bee". All his brothers fought in the war as well.
My grandfather fought in WWII as a “Sea Bee”. All his brothers fought in the war as well.

It’s really fitting that I finished the draft this past week. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, this novel deals with the problematic relationship between a teen girl and her beloved but racist grandfather. Though I didn’t know it until the next day, I began work on the story the day  he died. I finished the draft a few days before we held his memorial service this past Sunday. (Because of how scattered our family is, we couldn’t hold it until then.) So in a sense, this draft is bookended by significant events in his life and mine. Appropriate.

And here’s another odd thing. The family gathered at my house for lunch before heading off to the cemetery, and in the bustle, my aunt handed me a copy of my grandmother’s family history: names, dates, places, that sort of thing. But under the pages was another page. It was my grandmother’s testimony of how she became a Christian. I’d heard the story before; someone (my mom, I think) read it at her funeral several years ago. But I hadn’t caught one significant detail. Here’s what Mimi wrote.

 It was 1950, but I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. I heard the sirens come down our street and stop at our building. Then I heard the sound of men with heavy boots rushing to the apartment of my sister-in-law downstairs. I ran down to find the little baby from the basement apartment on her dining room table and the firemen frantically trying to revive her. Someone whispered “SID”: Sudden Infant Death. I knew what I was supposed to do and offered up a prayer to a God I really didn’t know. . . . I felt my prayer go higher than the ceiling.

I quietly left and looked in on my two-year-old son who was peacefully napping. “What if that had been him or the baby girl I was carrying in my womb!” I had heard about God who sent His only son to be the sacrificial Lamb for our sins. I had even gone forward as a teenager and made a profession of faith, but had no sense of my own sinfulness. I had gone on to live my life and make my own bad choices without thought of Jesus. Now a great cloud of despair covered me.

My husband, Ray, was evidently affected by all this too. Providentially, at that time he was doing construction work on a Christian and Missionary church in Chicago that had experienced a fire. He testified that on that Friday when he went to the office to sign out, his tool box became so heavy that he had to drop it. Pastor Ben Jennings led him to the Lord that very night. He came home and announced that we were going to church on Sunday. And we did. I couldn’t tell you anything the pastor said in her sermon. I just know that when the invitation was given I ran to the altar. It was September 17, 1950.

Here’s what stood out: that little pronoun her. Her sermon. The pastor who preached that Sunday was a woman. Standing in my library this past Sunday, sixty-five years after my grandmother’s conversion, I read and reread that sentence. Could it have been a typo? But how could Mimi type “her” for “his”? The other typos in the document are missing or transposed letters. Never in my life would I have imagined that my grandparents (my grandfather in particular!) had sat through a sermon by a female minister.

Given how significant the issue of gender roles in church has been in the past few months for me, this, too, seemed appropriate. All the issues that have surfaced in the past year have shown up in my work-in-progress: race/racism, gender and the Christian subculture’s traditional view of “female” roles, mental illness, everything. On the one hand, that’s not surprising; it’s to be expected that a novel will reflect the author’s current thoughts. But on the other hand, it’s a little eerie how deeply the themes run in the characters, their relationships, and their story. Any other writers have this happen to them?

Anyway, I’m back and hopefully I’ll return to my Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. I’m looking for a good name for my blog, so if anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

The Punishment of Injustice

Laura Droege:

A powerful post by Tim Fall. I appreciate how his high school story ties in with pursuit of God’s justice and with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Much food for thought!

Originally posted on Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another:

[From the archives. This first appeared as a guest post on Natasha Robinson’s blog.]

***

“I hear you don’t like Mexicans.” He looked Hispanic and he looked angry.

“What?” I stood at my high school locker late that afternoon, the halls empty but for me and my accuser.

“I heard you said you don’t like Mexicans.”

He leaned in, taller, stronger, threatening. It didn’t take much to be taller and stronger than me. I was a shrimpy freshman. It didn’t take much to threaten me either. I was also a wimpy freshman.

“I didn’t say that.” All I wanted was to convince this guy not to hit me. It looked like he was going to anyway. “If I said something wrong, I’m sorry.”

He still looked ready to punch me. I didn’t like getting punched. It invariably hurt and I invariably cried. Crying in high school in the 70s was not a way to…

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#blacklivesmatter

Place: treadmill at the gym

Time: 4:30 a.m.

What: When I heard about the mass shooting in a historically black church in Charleston, S.C.

Why: That is my question. Why does anyone come to a prayer meeting with a group of people, sit with them for a time, and then pull a gun and kill them? How can anyone hear another person praying–praying!–and kill that person? But really, I know the answer. Hate.

My second question: How will the community respond? Will this spark violence? Or will this community join together and support the church? Will we see everyone, regardless of race, say, “This should NEVER happen! Black lives matter. We won’t tolerate injustice, racial oppression, anything that stands in the way of true equality. We will not allow this to destroy our community. We will not allow this act of hatred to bring more hatred into the world. We will stand together!” Will we see that? That’s what I wondered.

As I walked on the treadmill, I prayed for this church, these victims, these survivors, their families, everyone touched by their lives. I was in tears as I saw the initial response. Tears, yes, but also people holding hands, responding with the most powerful weapon a human has: prayer.

I want to say this to these courageous, grieving, praying people:

You inspire me. So often, I feel my prayers are bouncing off a ceiling, like God isn’t paying attention.

You have reminded me that God is listening. That he does feel our pain. That he does grieve over injustice, like we do. That he does feel outrage and holy anger over racism and oppression and injustice. That he uses us, faulty and flawed as we are, to bring about justice and reconciliation. That to him, lives matter: not just mine, not just white people’s lives, but your life, in ways we can’t even comprehend because they’re so vast and deep. When I watched you praying, I sensed that you know your lives–your black lives–matter to God. Keep praying.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by these deaths.

Interruptions

So much for blogging once a week while writing my first draft. I’ve neglected this blog in recent weeks—I hate to think how many—but I’m getting close to the end of the first draft (but not the book). Anyway, I thought I’d share something that happened at church a few weeks ago.

My husband and I were in Sunday school, and a bit of discussion had stirred among us. (I don’t remember the topic; it’s not relevant.) Several men had comments, then a young woman sitting in front of me started to speak. The teacher interrupted and talked over her, almost as if he hadn’t heard her voice.

Even though she was in the front row.

Even though she was less than two feet from him.

Even though her voice is not particularly soft, and she isn’t shy about speaking publicly.

He simply acted as if he hadn’t heard her and it was time for him to begin teaching again.

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt: maybe he truly didn’t hear her. Maybe he was unaware of the message this sent. Maybe he just had a mental blip and opened his mouth and started teaching. Who knows? There’s no point in attributing hostile motivations to everyone who does something I don’t like.

But still.

I fumed. I know that feeling of being interrupted, and it’s not pleasant. I didn’t know if she felt the same way, but in a way, her feelings (and mine) were irrelevant. The act of interrupting was important. No matter where or when or how it happens, this act sends a message to everyone,  whether they’re conscious of it or not.

 My words need to be heard more than yours.

It creates an imbalance of power, where the interrupter has power and the interrupted does not.

Parents teach children not to interrupt adults while they’re talking. Why? Because it’s rude and disrespectful. (The exception to the no-interrupting rule is an emergency: blood, fire, broken bones, alien invasions, and the like.)

So I fumed.

Long ago, I read an article about how to respond to men interrupting women, whether that’s in the workplace, in the classroom, or other situations. One nugget of advice stuck in my head: If you, male or female, hear a man interrupt a woman, stand up for her.

It doesn’t have to be confrontational, abrasive, disrespectful, or rude. (Those attitudes are counterproductive, in my opinion, and ignore the underlying need for respect in human relationships.)  It can be pointed or subtle. But do it.

I waited for the teacher to pause for breath, then leaned forward. “So, what were you going to say? You were going to add something earlier, weren’t you?”

“Oh,” she responded, “I was going to say . . .” And her comment was as perceptive and pertinent to the discussion as any of the comments from the previous male speakers.

The discussion went on. My husband squeezed my knee. Good work, he was saying. Good work.

We’ve discussed this incident since then, my husband and I, and he asked me an interesting question. “Would you have been equally as bothered if a woman had interrupted a man? Would you have noticed?”

I considered that. I would have noticed; it would’ve been out of the ordinary (in our church, certainly!) and I would’ve noticed.

I would have been bothered. Would I have been equally bothered?

If I consider it only from a sociological, big-picture point of view, probably not; it doesn’t reinforce the male dominance that’s been entrenched in our culture for too long.

But if I consider the interruption from a personal perspective, I am equally disturbed. Disrespect is wrong, no matter who is doing the disrespecting or who is being disrespected.

And it might be personally devastating for certain men, particularly those who are otherwise unvalued by society; those who have been silenced by life circumstances and shamed by others in power; those who are simply shy people, afraid of speaking in public. I know men like this. An interruption of their words has the potential to be devastating to their minds and hearts.

Women need to be careful not to crush a man’s words, just like men need to be careful not to crush a woman’s words.

And if you say, “Oh, but men have been dominant for so long that now it’s OUR turn!” I have to wonder if you want equality or dominance. Replacing one form of oppression with another isn’t right, and it’s not a healthy attitude.

True equality means taking the bad with the good: taking responsibility for mistakes or wrong doings (and not blaming someone else); listening when others speak (even if you hate what they’re saying); and respecting other people (even when you’d rather flatten them with a steamroller).  It’s called treating others as you’d like to be treated. It’s one reason I didn’t interrupt the teacher to point out his previous interruption. There might be a time for doing that, but this wasn’t it.

All that to say: if you hear someone—female or male—interrupted, please stand up for that person. Everyone is valuable. Let’s be willing to listen to the words of both genders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Day in the Life of a Proverbs 31 Husband

Laura Droege:

Funny!

Originally posted on Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another:

Hey Pal!

I know I’ve owed you an email for a while. Sorry about not staying in touch, but life here has been crazy. Just as a for instance, here’s what yesterday was like for me.

9:00 – Got out of bed. I woke up earlier but my wife told me to sleep in because she had everything covered. I have so much confidence in her I just had to roll over and go back to sleep.

9:05 – She brought me breakfast all the way from the kitchen on the other side of the house. And this house is HUGE. I mean, I don’t mean to boast but with the money she brings home from her flax and wool factory she insisted I should enjoy the lifestyle she can afford to give me.

10:00 – I headed to the city park to brag about my wife. Seriously, those other…

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What You Don’t Know About Immigration (by Bronwyn Lea)

For those of us who are natural-born American citizens, we may not think about immigration or immigrants very much. If we do, it’s often in the context of illegal immigration or the political rhetoric argued on news shows. Even for the immigrants who are documented, we don’t stop to consider their precarious legal position. It’s very easy to think, Get a green card, people! without ever considering how difficult it is to obtain one. It’s easy to think, Why aren’t they citizens by now? without considering how difficult that process is, too. After all, we’ve never had to do it. Not here, at least.

So meet Bronwyn Lea: Christian, wife, mom, speaker, writer, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of other things! She hails from South Africa, and she’s got a unique view on immigration because she is an immigrant. Please read her words. They are powerful.   

In the ten years I have lived in the United States, people have often been shocked when I tell them that not only do I not have a green card, but that I couldn’t get one even if I tried.

I would love to be the holder of a green card—that elusive piece of paper which would grant me the right to remain in the US indefinitely—but as it is, I don’t and can’t qualify. There is not a single category under which I can legally apply for permanent residence.

(Click here to read the rest.)

Considerably Rumpled in Spirit

Laura Droege:

I really appreciate Stephanie’s thoughts here on the impact that Gilbert Blythe (and Jonathan Crombie’s portrayal of him) had on her life. Gilbert didn’t ask Anne to change for him; he loved her unconditionally; he was willing to let her go, even though it hurt him, if she did not return his feelings.

Sometimes I think that it’s easy to devalue what actors do as trivial or not relevant to our daily lives. (Christians can be bad about this, I’ve learned.) But J. Crombie’s portrayal of Gilbert inspired young girls and told them that, yes, there are men who will love you and treat you well and respect your dreams and work. It spoke truth to them, a truth that many, many young women need to hear. That is valuable.

Originally posted on Garden Variety Neurosis Redux:

Rest in peace. You will always be Gilbert Blythe in my heart. Rest in peace. You will always be Gilbert Blythe in my heart.

The sun is setting, and the apartment is quiet. My son has been sleeping awhile now, and I am taking this evening to watch Anne of Green Gables. It seems the only proper way to say goodbye to Jonathan Crombie, who passed away on April 15.  The world is only learning of his death today, and to say that some of us have felt heartache over this loss is an understatement. Anne of Green Gables marathons are happening in homes everywhere tonight.

Gilbert Blythe was my first literary crush, and no one since has been able to compare with him. Why is Gilbert Blythe so endearing? What was it about Gilbert Blythe that fed the dreams of girls of my generation, and generations since?

gilbert-blythe-580x835

He was tall and handsome. He had a great sense of humor. He was…

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