Rise Up

Halloween Party's photo.

This wan’t about being a democrat or a republican for me….it just hit me on a day that my heart was hurting.

Yesterday I sat with a 21-year-old mother that has an 8-year-old son though incest. Although this mom is working so hard to beat the system and rise above – she is down on her luck right now. When I got in the car, I wept, I swore, I cried out. My heart was so broken for the 12-year-old girl she was when she got pregnant and I wondered who had ever cried for her. All those years of abuse, did anyone love her enough to shed a tear?

Then I get home and I’m scrolling through Facebook and I read the above cartoon. On any other day I wouldn’t have even thought about it, but yesterday, it made me cry again. All I could think about was this young woman, her struggles, her pain, her dreams, while in contrast there are millions of people with so much to spare who don’t want to “share their candy” and consider her lazy.

Please, this is not a welfare post. Welfare is a broken system. I know that. It needs massive reform. People abuse it. I’m fully educated on all its problems.  About five years ago the house next to me became a rental and a family moved in that had nicer cars then I did, newer clothes, more disposable income.  They remained unmarried, leased cars, and kept all property in the father’s name so the mom could still receive full welfare funding.  Shameful.

Again, this is not a welfare post, but rather this is a post to the church.  To the body of Christ.


Prior to the 20th century, the church was on the front lines, ministering to the poor. Not just economically poor, but the mentally, socially, spiritually poor as well. Then a debate began about the fundamental tenets fo Christianity. Evangelicals did not see a connection between humanitarian efforts and bringing Christ’s kingdom. Steve Corbett in When Helping Hurts writes “As Evangelicals tried to distance themselves from the social gospel movement, they ended up in large-scale retreat from the front lines of poverty alleviation. This shift away from the poor was so dramatic that church historians refer to the 1900- 1930 era as the “Great Reversal” in the evangelical church’s approach to social problems.”

You know what began in the 1930’s? Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Welfare. When the church did what it was called to do, the government didn’t need to step in. We are so far from that church.

I grew up without a lot of money in small town Iowa.  I knew people with food stamps.  My grandma got free government cheese.  It’s not bad.

Again, this is rise up church post. I look at the church in Acts and how no one went without because they all shared and I long for a world like that. Where we as “blessed” Christians live a little less “blessed” in order for the least of these to have more.  I use the term blessed lightly, because people tend to throw that word around as if to imply that wealth is how God blesses.  It’s not.  Being chosen to cross paths with one of God’s children who was abused and then to be the one that cries for her, that is a blessing from God.

Keep in mind, I am a hypocrite.  Completely.  I now live in Tinley Park and I have to make an effort to look for people who live with the daily struggles of buying food.  Sometimes I hate it.  It brings a burden upon my life and my children and I am exhausted by the pain and suffering of other people.  Exhausted.  I want to quit.  Part of me wants to light my fireplace, pour a glass of wine, and think nothing of those outside of my home.  Part of me doesn’t want to give to the point where I have to make a sacrifice.  I want granite counter tops, hardwood floors in the bedrooms, a new van.

But more than wanting those things, I want to live like the bible tells me to live.  Because it’s better.  Jesus says it is.  So life is a about living in the middle.  Battling my wants against God’s calling.  Choosing not to judge anyone, even when my mind is full of prejudices.  Understanding I am a hypocrite and fighting it until I die.

Somedays I don’t see it.  Carrying the weight of another human’s pain doesn’t fee like a blessing.  But it is.  The connection to a human life is the best gift we could ever be given.

Rise up church.

Rise up.

How to Find the Quintessential Moments in Life


So here it is.  The greatest advice on how to find the quintessential moments in life:  Stop Looking.

They can not be created.

I used to think they could.  I planned epic holidays and perfect vacations.  I will never forget the first time we took Emily to Disney World.  She walked around the center fountain and stopped in her tracks.  “It’s right there, mom!  Cinderella’s castle!”  It was outstanding.  I cried.  It was a rare quintessential moment – for me.  She doesn’t even remember it.

About a year ago, Emily turned to Mesfin and asked “Have you ever been to Disney with us?” She couldn’t remember if our trips predated his adoption or not. I think it’s safe to say that if her memories don’t contain a clear focus of her brother, I’m probably not at the epicenter of her memories either.  She recalls rides, princesses, and food, but at any given Disney moment, I was not giving her the lifetime experiences that she needs to remember to live a full life.

Right now we have a foster kid staying with us.  Big D.  He’s 8 years old.  He doesn’t know how to roll dice people.  Or add 4 + 2.  Or pee into my toilet.  Or how to ride an escalator.  These are the things he would know, if there was someone to invest in the every day little tiny things of life.  When Big D arrived he started to wet the bed again.  Big D has no sense of security.  A trip to Disney will never solve that.

Every year at Christmas Will gets a little panicked because we only give them each 3 gifts and he’s concerned his particular needs won’t be met. (He is somewhat high maintenance) I simply respond with “Have you ever been disappointed at Christmas?” I don’t list all the stuff he has, or what we got him last year. I ask him to recall a feeling, a sense of security that we have been able to give him. I do this a lot with my kids. When Emily gets mad and says something like “You never listen to me!” I will later revisit that just to reminder her of what the truth is – I do listen, often.  I don’t tell my children everything that I do for them.  I remind my children of how their life feels.  We are there for them, and they know it.

When I was younger I had grandparents and then I had the other grandparents.  You know, the ones that lived far away and only came to visit once or twice a year.  My kids don’t have a set of “other” grandparents, even though my parents live 4 hours away.  That’s because they show up.  It may only be a weekend or they may come along on vacation with us.  It doesn’t matter the event, just that they do show up AND THEN they roll dice, go up and down escalators, read books, and just plain do life with us.

Those are really the quintessential moments.  The things that take no effort.  All 5 of my parents kids are showing up Nov. 1st for an Iowa football game.  It happened organically, with little planning.  They are beyond excited that everyone is together for the first time in years.  Maybe they’ll take a family picture.  At Christmas they might just have 3 of us.  They are beyond excited that 3 are willing to show up.  Because that’s what parents do.  Instead of waiting for the moment that is perfect for them, they open the door and say “Come as you are.  Bring your baggage,  your issues, your ten thousand children and even your stupid dogs.  I will accommodate you.  Because I want to do life with you.”  They don’t keep track of how many years it’s been since everyone was together or who called first on their anniversary.  (which is good because I don’t remember to call at all on anniversaries)

As a parent, you cannot wait for the perfect moment.  “Oh honey, won’t it be great in 2018 when we take all the kids on a cruise?”  Because that just might not happen.  Instead, tonight while doing 4 hours of homework, I’m going to take a picture.  Then when we sit down to dinner, I’m going to videotape that event, fights and all.  I will save these mementoes so that the next time I’m looking for a quintessential moment, I can remind myself exactly what a quintessential moment really looks like.