How to Love When Thy Neighbor is Thy Enemy

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Love Thy Neighbor…” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by Orignaux Moose

The holiday season is upon us, and for many, it has been a rough transition amid the post election day air. Tensions are high and yet the season is calling to us that “it is better to give than to receive” and “to love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  How do we navigate season’s greetings when so many are still dressing the wounds of trauma and fear? Lately “love thy neighbor” seems synonymous with “love thy enemy”. It seems simple enough to love your neighbor, but your enemy? Not only to love them in a passive I’m-a-Christian-so-love-is-kinda-my-thing-way, but to love them the way that we are supposed to love ourselves, the way Christ loves us. That’s radical.

I don’t have any easy answers, but something happened to me recently that caused my heart to feel “strangely warmed”, to quote John Wesley. On Saturday I was met at my front door with some volunteers from the local Southern Baptist Church. They showed up to bring me some food for Thanksgiving. Mind you,  I didn’t sign up to receive it, they merely coordinated with my child’s school to donate food to their neighbors because “they can”. Out of their abundance they wanted to bless their neighbors. No strings attached. No one asked how much our household income was or if we were worthy of what they were offering. I wasn’t expecting much. I thought maybe a few canned goods, maybe a plate of classic Thanksgiving staples, enough for our family of three.

Nope.

I was overwhelmed. They brought us not three plates, but three large boxes of food including the 13 pound turkey that we prepared today for our family. I kept thinking we really don’t even need this. Surely there are families out there that are more in need of this than we are. Why us? I was just so undone by this unexpected, but appreciated blessing. Here I was in the hallway of my apartment, holding hands in prayer with these Southern Baptists, who statistically probably did vote opposite us and all I could feel was the love of Christ radiate from them. This was the closest thing to a comforting word that I had received since the election. Even if they were unaware of how it was being received, even if they wouldn’t have wanted to send that message, I grabbed the moment and I held on tight. 

I wasn’t physically in need of these groceries, but my spirit was desperate for an act of love from the Evangelical church. In the wake of the election results, my family felt like our world was turned upside down. We felt betrayed in a sense by some of our friends and family, not because they didn’t vote for our candidate, but because of the overwhelming apathy in response to the trauma and anxiety we have been facing since.

Radio Silence.

Moving forward, we must resist injustice on all fronts, stand for what is right, not waver on speaking the truth, shine light in dark places, and peacefully protest, but we need not withhold love while doing all of the above. I never thought that days before Thanksgiving I would be holding hands with a couple of Baptists that just decided that they wanted to spread some holiday cheer. Honestly, I don’t really know how to love when your neighbor turns out to be your enemy, but I think it looks something like this.

♥ MM

 


Sylvia Plath’s Post Election Day Advice

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Powells – The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath” (CC BY 2.0) by Photos by Mavis

 

On November 9th about half of the country woke up absolutely heartbroken about the results of the 2016 presidential election. I stayed up and watched in disbelief as I saw state after state get called in favor of Donald Trump. The outcome of this election crushed me and made many people like myself feel less safe. I cycled between sobbing and rage until I felt cold and empty. Then I turned to Twitter. And the first thing I saw was this tweet that totally resonated with me.

Oh Twitter.
Oh Sylvia.

For a moment I felt like I could breathe and let myself just be in silence for a bit. I started thinking about what other musings, advice, or lament that my dear Sylvia might have for me. As I lay ugly crying in my bed, I remembered this gem.

“There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: “I’ll go take a hot bath.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

I took her up on it.
I washed the snot from my face.
I was still a wreck, but I at least had a moment of repose.

“Let’s face it: I’m scared, scared and frozen. First, I guess I’m afraid for myself… the old primitive urge for survival. It’s getting so I live every moment with terrible intensity. It all flowed over me with a screaming ache of pain… remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted. When you feel that this may be good-bye, the last time, it hits you harder.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

The responses that I have seen from the right towards people on the left that minimize the trauma and grief felt by so many families that may be saying goodbye and parting ways upon Trump’s first days in office jarred me. Can’t we reason together? If you want to justify your vote for Trump, is there room enough to also justify the safety of your neighbor? How about some understanding?

“Can you understand? Someone, somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my despair, for all my ideals, for all that – I love life. But it is hard, and I have so much – so very much to learn.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Journals of Sylvia Plath

I don’t want you to tell me that my future will be ok, while endorsing a man who promises that it won’t.

“I also hate people to ask cheerfully how you are when they know you’re feeling like hell and expect you to say “fine”.
-Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Let me yell.
Let me vent.
Let me cry.
Let me seethe.

Build a wall? Will you be my wall, neighbor? A soundboard that I can bounce my pain off of, in hopes of having a shred of solace bounce back to me? Just a little understanding, is all.

“I want to taste and glory in each day, and never be afraid to experience pain; and never shut myself up in a numb core of non-feeling, or stop questioning and criticizing life and take the easy way out. To learn and think: to think and live; to live and learn: this always, with new insight, new understanding, and new love.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

In all of this, please do not confuse my passion for hatred. I love you neighbor, but I will not censor myself to show my love. Understand that it’s not that I am hopeless, it’s just that now I hope less. I do not wish for doom. I don’t want to “let it burn”. I know you want to make America great “again”, but I think that people like you and people like me and people that don’t look or talk or think or pray like either of us are what make us great. And more than anything…

Please, I want so badly for the good things to happen.”
– Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

♥ MM


16 Songs to Get You Through Election Day

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A few weeks ago I was driving to the grocery store and listening to Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory album in the car. “With You” came on and I started cracking up because a line from the song reminded me of something Hillary Clinton had said early on in her campaign and has repeated since. Can you imagine Hillary Clinton getting inspiration for her campaign by jamming out to Linkin Park? Hilarious. So I started thinking about other songs that remind me of various moments in this unbelievable election season.

Well, it’s almost over folks. The anger. The passion. The name calling. The awkward family gatherings. The Fear. Let’s hope we can put most of these to bed by tomorrow night. For now I leave you with 16 songs – dedications if you will –  to the 2016 presidential candidates.  I hope, even if for a moment, you can laugh instead of cry on Election Day.

Hillary Clinton

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Bernie Sanders

25196039674_66387db7f4_o.jpgBernie Sanders” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump

29496467614_705445fafb_o       “Donald Trump” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

Brilliant list of songs to Trump here.

Ted Cruz

8571613486_2192245db0_o.jpgTed Cruz” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore


Ben Carson

16398673351_6018d2cd64_o-1Ben Carson” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

Marco Rubio

24612452556_acfffb202f_o.jpgMarco Rubio” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

John Kasich

23990066154_35515b0a00_o.jpgJohn Kasich” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

Jill Stein

25619634422_5c366af3d8_o.jpgJill Stein” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

Gary Johnson

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Gary Johnson” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

What songs would you add to the list? Comment below!

♥ MM


Why I Can’t Afford to be a One Issue Voter

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To say that this election season has been ungraceful would be a gross understatement. It’s been a doozy. For me it’s been a mirror of sorts, and a mortifying one at that. Those who have known me for a long time would look at the comparison of me 5 years ago and now they would say, “What happened?” I can identify with this explanation.

You see, I too used to be a evangelical one issue voter, that one issue being abortion (although the “sanctity of marriage” is a close second). So I can identify with the reactionary righteous indignation at any platform or candidate that hints otherwise from my conservative friends. I see you. I was you. I have spent more then half of my life aligning myself with and participating in pro-life activism on the evangelical front.

I could afford to be a one issue voter. I was young, white, and privileged. I had barely started living my adult life and I was sheltered from how cruel life can be. Never did I contemplate to what detriment such tunnel vision could have for those outside my particular demographic. After all, what greater cause is there than life? What more vulnerable life than an unborn baby? It just made sense. I was able to read between the lines of “vote your conscience” and “choose life” to understand that the Christian churches and school I attended believed that republican = good and democrat = bad.

I didn’t make a 180 turn around in my political leanings in an instant. It was a gradual “How could I have been so very selfish? How could I not see?” However, it didn’t come without shame. I am ashamed to say that I didn’t even vote in the 2012 election because I was so nervous about what the outcome of voting blue would mean in my various professional and social circles at the time. It has been a sobering journey to come to grips that I no longer fit the mold of that conservative evangelical  ideal.

The unique thing about the 2016 election is that with our candidates, this isn’t even a question of who the moral candidate is, because frankly there isn’t one. What we do have is one candidate who is qualified to be president and one who is not.

Could it be that this tunnel vision on abortion is actually contributing to more abortions and not less? When confronted with facts, would the far right rather have a “pro-life” candidate that is tough on legislation while having higher abortion rates or a candidate that believes in a woman’s right to choose with lower abortion rates? The evidence seems to suggest that the numbers of abortions go down under democratic leadership. In fact, the abortion rate has dropped by 13% under the Obama administration.

It is easy to jump in wholeheartedly to one issue politics when many of the other issues don’t directly affect you. As a young conservative I never would have thought twice about social programs, race relations, disabled rights, or immigration (just to name a few). I regret to say that I was so absorbed in my evangelical circle of being in the world and not of the world that I didn’t see how considering a narrow focus to be a virtue could hurt my fellow human beings nationally and around the world.

I took some punches from the real world that shook up my political foundation. All of a sudden, I could no longer minimize the challenges that single mothers face to a simple point of rhetoric. I was living it. Gaining friendships with undocumented people and eventually marrying one forced me to take a hard look at how cold the stance on the right is on immigration. I could no longer feign detachment even if I wanted to, in respect to the real issues  undocumented people face. I held my breath when my husband (then boyfriend) was detained by border patrol merely on racial profiling. There was no cause to hold him and he was in the final stages of obtaining his DACA  certification.

When my son was diagnosed with Autism, the stigmatizing cure culture rhetoric of the GOP could no longer do for us. When the Clinton campaign recently put this ad out it was a painful reminder that it took me having a disabled child to start truly giving a damn about this issue with my vote.

In fact, if you look at Donald Trump’s website there is not one single mention of any type of plan to benefit disabled people. If you can find one, I would gladly edit this post.

This mirror, this 2016 election season has been a tough one for me to look through. Maybe I was more self-centered than most one issue voters, but it is clear to me that the danger of such tunnel vision is not worth the risk of continuing in this vein. When I was a one issue voter, I clung so tightly to my ideals, even to the point of cutting people out of my life that would dare take a counter stance to what I thought a good Conservative Christian girl should believe. Ironically I am finally empathizing with the frustration that my liberal friends must have had at my inability to see how I was so completely missing the point even though my intentions were pure.

In the midst of the chaos I see a lot of discussion cautioning that we should be careful not to lose friends over politics. Generally I would agree with that. It is absolutely possible to see the worth, value, and potential of people who don’t agree with me politically, but when clinging to the narrow scope of one issue politics means that you are okay with racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism, one must ask themselves, “Is this a healthy friendship to have?”

Even today I am restoring relationships that I destroyed because of my close-mindedness. I am humbled that they would be interested after what damage my intolerance had wrought. As for this election, I am a different kind of one issue voter entirely.

♥ MM


My Year of Eating Crow

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It’s funny how a year has its way of sneaking up on you. About a year ago I announced that I had made the decision to quit my job to become a stay at home parent. I was a ball of nerves this time last year about what our future would look like without me working. Now, a year later I just have to laugh at some of my idiotic notions.

I have to be honest. One of the reasons I was apprehensive about becoming a SAHM was because I used to silently resent my friends who stayed home with their children. Especially now, after coming out as egalitarian a part of me just felt like this was going to be the beginning of an avalanche of condemnation from my complementarian friends.

*Spoiler* alert: It wasn’t.

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Oh yeah.

You see, before I remarried, I used to do it all. Not only was I a single parent, but I also had a full time job and was a full time college student (including an internship). I worked my tail off to ensure that my little one and I were well taken care of. When I would hear the woes of the “day in the life” of my SAHM friends, my typical inward response would be an eye roll followed by “it must be nice”.  Obviously, I now see what a load of bull that is.

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The image we have created of mothers who stay at home lounging carefree in luxury is simply not the reality for most families with one income. Sacrifices are made. You realize very quickly that you can, in fact live your life with less. No way did I think that me staying at home would be an option. At the time I was making about 60% of our income and feeling pretty great about pushing back against the wage gap and defying stereotypical gender roles. However, I knew that in the season we were in as a family, this was the best choice for everyone. My Jesus Feminist self was not being oppressed just because I decided to take on a role that is more traditional.

We have to erase this mentality of superiority in how we choose to parent. It embarrasses me that I ever had that bitter mindset towards my other mommy friends. We don’t need to be pitted against each other.  *Stay at home moms, work at home moms, and working moms, hear me. We have to come together and be for each other.  My friend Jory Micah wrote a beautiful article about how as Christian Feminists we need to include all mothers into the fold. Being a SAHM doesn’t make one less egalitarian than a woman who is a CEO of a company. Just like I had to throw out my cookie cutter mentality in regards to my SAHM friends, we need to stop viewing our feminism as coming from one predictable, angry mold. Egalitarian means that we get to keep our autonomy in tact along with our equality.

This year has been a wild ride. I have seen breakthroughs with my child. I have experienced lows like you wouldn’t believe. I have lost friendships. I have gained community. My marriage is in a better place than it has ever been. I have a new fire in my bones to be an ally for the marginalized, and for the first time in a long time I no longer feel the need to justify why that’s ok. I found my voice that I have kept quiet for so long.  I have walked through some dark places, but I have come out with my feet firmly planted on the ground.

I’m exactly where I am supposed to be.

♥ MM

*Disclaimer: I do realize that there are also dads who stay home/work at home while their wives go to work, but I am just using the language and example of SAHM as it best relates to my situation. 

 


3 Picture Books That Promote Autism Acceptance

I read a lot of children’s books. A LOT. In fact, so far this year 84 out of the 95 books I have read  are children’s books. 80 of those 84 are picture books. However, it never occurred to me until recently to start searching for books about autism inclusion/acceptance (at least not children’s books). It turns out there are quite a few out there!

I will admit that I am more critical of anything written on the subject of Autism/Neurodiversity because as a neurotypical, even though my child is autistic,  I don’t see the full picture. Therefore,  I try my best to align myself with the ideals of actual autistics. Their voices are the most important for our world to embrace full inclusion and acceptance. I wanted to write a little bit about my top 3 favorites  that I have read this year.

1. Different Like Me by Jennifer Elder

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This book is geared towards ages 8-10 because there is a lot of text on the page. It is narrated by an autistic boy named Quinn. In the book you will learn about some famous people who he can identify with because they are “Different Like [Him]”. It’s not possible to know if every person that he talks about in this book had a black and white diagnosis on the spectrum due to time period that some of these people lived, but the significance of the book is how Quinn is able to see a part of himself in the lives of these inspiring people. Some of the “autism heroes” in this book include, but are not limited to: Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Anderson, Andy Warhol, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Temple Grandin, and others.

2. I Love Being My Own Autistic Self by Landon Bryce

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I love, love, loved this book! I wish I could place this book in the hands of anyone who interacts with autistic adults or children on a regular basis and have difficulties understanding their challenges. The presentation of this book is geared more towards children, but I think that there are many adults that need to read these truths. What I love about this book is the honesty that there are differences in the autism spectrum both good and bad, and that’s a part of what makes us all human.

There is a common misconception that people who are pro neurodiversity and who push back against the grain of cure culture think that autistic people are superior to neurotypicals and allistics. This is simply not true. Above all the emphasis on inclusion of autistics especially when it comes to neurotypicals trying to further their understanding of autism is such a great component to this book.

3. Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap: NT is OK! by Clay & Gail Morton

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I got this book as a gift for my son’s 5th birthday. It is usually difficult for me to find books that capture his attention, but this one did. So many times in books or in the media when it comes to minorities or the disabled, all energy and focus is geared toward the neurotypical (NT) person. I saw this a lot in some of the picture books that emphasize the relationship between siblings where one is NT and one is autistic.

This book makes you want to throw the word “normal” out the window because NT’s can seem just as unusual to someone on the spectrum even though it’s usually presented the other way around. When I first heard about this book, I thought it was a spoof of some sort. However, having read it, this book will seem a little humorous to NT’s but it actually is informative to kiddo’s on the spectrum. Not every person on the spectrum is going to fit exactly into the mold of the characteristics described in this book (for example my son is autistic but he loves to play with other kids). Overall I think that this is a great picture book to show autistic children that we are all different and that’s ok. We just need to accept each other.

♥ MM

*Disclaimer* While I loved Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap, I do not recommend following the book’s fb page because I did find some of the content ableist in nature and offensive.

What are your favorite picture books about acceptance and inclusion? Comment below!

 


When Emily Dickinson Puts You In Your Place

On Monday I had the pleasure of attending a talk hosted by the Forest Hills branch of the San Antonio Library with guest Dr. Glenn Hughes — newly appointed 1st Chair in Catholic Philosophy at St. Mary’s — on the topic of “Emily Dickinson and Spirituality”.

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I really enjoyed the discussion at this event. I vaguely remembered her poems from high school and some college but I had been recently re-reading some of her work in honor of National Poetry Month. What struck me about Dickinson was her capacity to be authentic. She was true to herself, even when that self was so very conflicted. She is so transparent in her writing because it was hers and hers alone. I’m not sure what she would think about the fact that the whole world is reading some of her most private thoughts that she never intended to see published. Nonetheless,  I’m glad we have them for our sake.

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I feel like I can relate to some of her motivations in writing and even some of her lifestyle choices. Dickinson is traditionally typed as an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). As a fellow INFJ,  I can see the appeal of living what appears to be the life of a recluse even though the 1800 plus poems that she crafted in her space hardly speaks of the pigeon holed “spinster” that we have made her out to be. She was doing her life’s work in that room. She was someone that lived in her head and that is evident in much of her writing that wrestles with the idea of eternity.

What I love about her work is the humanity of it all. She is so effortlessly genuine, albeit messy at times. She seeks to appease no one. She is on a mission for understanding and she needs to write it out in order to come to find her resolve. It is no wonder that scholars have compared her writings to Job of the bible as he wrestled with God.

Dickinson was no stranger to what St. John of the cross refers to as the “dark night of the soul”.

I’m banished – now – you know it
How foreign that can be –
You’ll know – Sir – when the Savior’s face
Turns so – away from you –

Even in her doubt, she did not hide her contempt for those who utterly disregarded the divine.

How much the present moment means
To those who’ve nothing more —
The Fop — the Carp — the Atheist —
[…]
While their commuted Feet
The Torrents of Eternity
Do all but inundate —

Throughout the ebb and flow of this inner turmoil of questioning and seeking, she can’t seem to abandon her notion of the divine, as mysterious as it is to her.

I know that He exists.
Somewhere – in silence –
He has hid his rare life
From our gross eyes.

One of the themes that was discussed was Dickinson’s bravery in how she expressed herself. Even today in 2016 we see people at the opposite ends of two extremes when it comes to faith. You can either ignore the nagging questions, add more activity and “take it by faith” or you can throw your faith away, become jaded and rely solely on science, logic, and reason. But why not both? The bravery that we see in Dickinson is that she doesn’t give up the struggle for an easy “I’ll hang my hat on that” ending. She doesn’t care about being contradictory in her writing. She cares about finding the truth.

I dwell in Possibility

As a Christian, I try to err on the side of hope. I do have moments when I can feel jaded and skeptical, and that’s ok. Emily puts us in our place. Her writing seems to cry out, “never stop searching and don’t be afraid”. Let’s get messy! Let’s not be afraid to have a “taboo” conversation that may or *gasp* may not have a resolution! Don’t be afraid of your questions or doubts. Let them provoke you! I wish I knew what Emily’s last conclusions were when she died. All anyone can know for sure is that she never stopped having the conversation. She never stopped seeking. I think that is the greatest lesson she can teach us — greater than any eloquence or masterpiece her arrangement of words to the page may prove to be.

Life, theology, and faith are not always precise, color coded and by the book.

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond –
Invisible, as Music –
But positive, as Sound –
 .
It beckons, and it baffles –
Philosophy, don’t know –
And through a Riddle, at the last –
Sagacity, must go –
 .
To guess it, puzzles scholars –
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown –
.
Faith slips – and laughs, and rallies –
Blushes, if any see –
Plucks at a twig of Evidence –
And asks a Vane, the way –
.
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit –
Strong Hallelujahs roll –
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul –

Sometimes you can’t be a Paul. Sometimes you need to be a  Job.

♥ MM