Author: accidental devotional

I live and work and love in the city of Atlanta. I am trying hard to follow God as a mother, teacher, wife, speaker and writer. Sometimes, there are moments when I get it right. And when I don't God's grace is sufficient.

Jane’s Scars

She walked into the room with her head shaved. She was breathtaking. Jane already stuck out in the high school she attended. Surrounded by middle-america farm land, Jewish was as exotic as it got. She was set apart in elementary school every year when her teacher asked her to explain to the class the menorah.

But now, now she was coming to school with her head shaved, and a horseshoe shaped scar across the back of her skull. Being a teenager is hard enough without the additional weight of brain surgery. Jane had been mousy and quiet before her two-week hiatus. Until it was her turn to go in my public speaking class, I didn’t always remember she was there.

There was no hiding now. She walked into the class with her shoulders back, no head scarves, no wigs. She was more radiant and powerful than Demi Moore in GI Jane. No veil of thick dark hair to hide behind.

Her classmates were complimenting her as only freshmen girls could. They were sighing and saying things like, “Oh my GOD Jane! I like, hate you so much. I could never be as pretty as you with my head shaved. You had brain surgery and you are STILL prettier than me.”

These ridiculous freshmen girl comments were also totally true. Jane had never looked more stunning.

I am guest posting for the Story Sessions. You can read more about Jane here.

Scarcity Hunter

I said it with a glass of wine in my hand, on a friend’s couch, surrounded by women who were being really honest about art and life and how everything is messier than we want it to be. Some of us were confessing, that once we got over the business of should, we secretly liked it this way. Other people honest makes me brave, and the gesticulating and yelling tends to get more intense. I drop more swears.

“I’m tired of building defenses to protect against her, I am going after that bitch with a stick.”

We were talking about scarcity. About the ways that we act when we are afraid there isn’t enough. Scarcity of love, of dreams, of time, of resources, of ways to mother, of potential spouses. I confessed that I burst into tears when I found out a friend just scored the thing I wanted. I am happy for her, and she deserves it and I want her to have that but…but I want it too. And scarcity rears her ugly head and says, there are only so many of those, this means your chances just got smaller. I guess you can celebrate with her, but really you should be mad that you didn’t get picked. Now maybe you won’t.

I’m so tired of scarcity getting a say in my life. She’s a liar who says mean things about me and I am not hanging out with her anymore.

I’ve been thinking about scarcity for awhile, and have even been re-structuring my thought patterns so that I can keep my space from scarcity. I thought we could have a nice clean break up, and then just leave each other alone. But scarcity is everywhere. How do you just build a defense around something that is so embedded in our culture?

I went to the Festival of Faith and Writing this past weekend. I’ve written a story that is true. One that is so important I get choked up and yell-y every time I try to give my two-minute pitch. There is just so much I want you to understand. I got really scared that no one would like me or my story, that everyone else would get all the things I want and I would be left in the dust, choking on my own jealousy. So, I emailed Esther to talk me down and she responded, as she always does, with the truth.

The only way to fight scarcity is with radical generosity.

In the blog world, sometimes it can feel like we trade social capital like baseball cards. I made it on this list, she retweeted me, he knows people I want to know. In real life too, she has more friends, he has cooler stuff, that person’s life is awesome so mine can’t be. It is exhausting and I don’t want to play that way anymore. It isn’t enough to build a wall and make sure the bad thoughts and feelings don’t get in. You can’t defensively fight scarcity. She is just too sneaky.

I saw Rachel Held Evans speak at the Plenary session at the end of the conference. She spoke about abundance and scarcity and I got mad. I had been thinking about doing something on scarcity but hadn’t had time. My friend texted me from the other side of the auditorium, “hey, that is your thing.” Now everyone is going to think I am a copier and a hack. She said it, so I can’t. I was believing in a scarcity of scarcity fighters. That doesn’t even make sense. I’ve got to get on the offensive.

I am declaring myself a scarcity hunter and want you to come join my pack! We can hunt scarcity down in our lives together. About twice a month,  you will get an email from me talking about how I have seen scarcity show up in my life lately and what truth I am replacing it with. There will probably be ALL CAPS and exclamation points. There will be conversations on Twitter (#scarcityhunter) and there will be radical generosity.

I hope to not just share the scarcity, but also our new projects and ideas, yours and mine. I want the scarcity hunters to use the giant stick of radical generosity to celebrate, encourage, cheer each other on. So, if you have an awesome lesson plan, or a new blog, or a book coming out, I want to celebrate you.  If you have a story about how you are a rock star, let us scream wildly for you. We fight scarcity with radical generosity.

So, let’s go after that bitch with a stick. I need my scarcity hunters. Whose with me?

Be a Scarcity Hunter

 

 

On Winning the Pre-K Lottery

Two Friday’s ago we won the lottery. The Pre-K lottery that is. We walked through the lines and filled out the paper work (twice actually because if you fill it out in purple pen and had to start over again, oops). Juliet will be attending our local elementary school for state funded four year old preschool five days a week next school year.

I’ve written a lot about the public school system and giving it a chance. I have had strangers email me and private message me and ask me to Skype about what to do for Kindergarten. Over and over again I start here, go see what is up at your local elementary school. Don’t depend on the test scores or the rumors you here at your local YMCA. (Hey ladies in the Tuesday Pilates class, kindly shut your mouth about a school you have never set your manicured feet into.) Show up, see what’s up. Make an educated decision about education.

So we did, we are. My small group has had a relationship with the head of the kindergarten team and I really like her. I like the vibe of the projects we have been given. Their library is beautiful, I like their courtyard, we are going to give it a go.

We didn’t move into our neighborhood because we were being purposefully “missional.” When we moved into our house, we didn’t even know that was a word, or a thing that churches did. We just moved into the nicest house we knew we could pay for. I never thought that choosing the free, local elementary school would be some sort of major statement, but it seems to have become that.

In the time between Juliet’s name going into the box, and her name being placed on the “made it” list on the front of the elementary school, I began to question everything. Is this the right school for us? Am I disadvantaging my kid? Will I regret what my daughter may be exposed to next year?

I am not going into this thing blind.

I know that the school we are zoned for has a really high poverty rate. I know that poverty rates mean more than money. I know that kids who live in poverty are exposed to higher rates of abuse and violence. I know that this can come out in the way that children interact with other children. I know I am going to need to be really careful about who Juliet goes home with, but I don’t think I would let my four-year-old go to a home I wasn’t familiar with regardless of the poverty rates at the school. Working at a upper-middle class suburban school has taught me that abuse crosses all boundaries. But statistically speaking, my daughters classmates are at a higher risk.

Then, (deep breath) there is the  issue of race. We live in a predominantly black neighborhood. We were welcomed so warmly I don’t even think about it anymore. But as we stood in line, I realized that we were the only white people in the entire building. All of the teachers, the librarian, the principal, the other parents, all of the kids. I think my sweet girl is likely to be the only white person in the whole place. Am I okay with this?

I know that even asking the question puts me firmly in a place of privilege.

I was 24 and teaching the first time I was ever in a position where I was the minority. Even then, there were other white teachers I could bounce my fears off of. I’ve taught three kids who were the only white kids in the school. Again, I am not doing this thing blind. I’ve seen the impact of a white kid learning how to navigate as the non-majority. Two out of three times, I knew it was for the best. Being in a place where I was the only was one of the most profound experiences I have had. It taught me things books never could. I hope my kids will see it as the same gift.

Both my girls, but my oldest especially is bright and outgoing. She has never met a stranger and is completely socially fearless. She has learned that the ladies will talk to you on MARTA if you open the conversation with either “you are beautiful” or “I like your pretty earrings.” I wonder if she will even notice that she is the only kid who has to put on sunscreen to go out to recess.

And what about me? Am I strong enough to parent my kids as the only white mom around? I know what my students used to say about white parents, that we were too soft, that we let our kids get away with too much. There is a deep internal cringe, that for me, is reserved for when my kid is acting crazy and I am the only white parent around. I know that being able to opt out of this experience says all I need to say about my privilege. I know my neighbors don’t have that choice.

Then there are the social fears. What will I say to the raised eyebrows of the ladies in the pilates class when I walk in wearing a t-shirt sporting the elementary school name? Will the other school moms accept me? I say that the term “failing school” is more often than not a giant lie, do I believe it enough to send my kid there, or is that just something I believe in theory?

Turns out, I do believe in the neighborhood school, in the likelihood that this “failing school” will be a radical success for my daughter. When I got the text that she was on the list I was relieved. I wish I could say something more confident than “we’ll give it a try.” But I suppose every mother has mixed feelings about her baby going to school.

A Blessing to Those who Stay

I attended the church of my youth this Sunday. The same carpet was in the sanctuary, the same banner my mother made for Lent was hanging in the back of the sanctuary. It is still beautiful. I love that church. I love the brown bricks I remember them placing one at a time on all the bits of the church that grew up around me as I grew up in it. I love the blue carpet that hides stains well and the baptismal I hid in while playing sardines at the youth group lock in.

I grew up in that church. Was confirmed, baptised, and married by the same preacher. When he compliments my writing my heart is so deeply touched. I ran into his wife outside of the sanctuary as I was herding my two children into the children’s wing for Sunday school and plastic kitchen play time. The same woman who showed me the Roman Road and who led me in the sinners prayer when I was in the third grade and curious about heaven after the Wednesday Night Alive programming was over.

My family has been called, to a city 653 miles south on 75, and I married an academic, so who knows where we will end up when the job search is all said and done. If you are called, I pray you go. I am so very glad we did. But, I think we romanticize the calling and the going. This Sunday, as I sat in the sanctuary where I learned to hear God’s voice, I was reminded that staying is a Holy work.

May God bless those who stay, the ones who buy presents for the baby shower, the high school graduation, the wedding shower, and the next generation of babies. May they know that the love they lavish on, with the fancy sandwiches and the beautiful bows, is never forgotten, is deeply holy work.

May God bless those who stay, those who remember the gift of the four-year old Sunday school class they were not responsible for leading when they were young mothers, and decide, 25 years later, that it is time to pay that gift forward.

May God bless those who stay, through the preacher changes, and the music adjustments, and the building committees and the constantly changing VBS themes. May they feel seen and heard. May they know that there work is exciting and important. May God continue to make all things new.

May God bless those who stay, those who are born into a church and choose to bore their babies into the same church. May they have the courage to grow and change as they reach for their God. may they feel courageous, as it takes courage to change right where you are.

May God bless those who stay, who take their whole lives and invest into a single community. May their bounty be multiplied, may their joy be overflowing. May they know that staying and investing and noticing those who come and go, and those who also stay, is truly the work of a loving God.

I Will Not Shame Myself for My Story

I read in a poetry show last Thursday. I wrote about the world I teach in and the one I used to. You may or may not know, I’ve written a whole book about it. I’ve worked through a proposal on it, in the hopes of getting this book published. I’ve guest posted about it, and run a series about it, and had countless dinner party conversations where I get angry and completely dominate the talking because I cannot stop talking about the injustice inherent in our education system.

I talk, and write, and THINK about the whole thing so often that I grow tired of the same words coming out of my mouth. I think because I have told the story about being awakened by a spotlight, or the story about not telling, that I have said it all. And maybe I have. But not everyone has heard it, and certainly not the people who can do something about it.

I have been holding back out of fear. Out of fear that there are only so many times I can tell this story, fear that there are only so many times people will listen. I am afraid that people will shake their heads and roll their eyes and say, “there goes Abby, talking about educational injustice again. I really wish she would stop.”

When I opened my mouth at that show last week, that didn’t happen. The words rang loud and angry and the crows grew silent. It turns out that I am not the only one in this world who would actually like to have No Child Left Behind, rather than a law that ensures it.

///

I ran into an old colleague yesterday, one I hadn’t seen in three years. I asked her if she was still at the school I had left. She nodded. I asked her if the things I had been hearing from the county emergency response team were true. She nodded. I asked her if she were thinking about going somewhere else. She nodded. Ten years was enough. She couldn’t do it anymore.

I need you to know some things about this ninth grade teacher looking to get out. I need you to know I observed her class for one day and learned more about teaching than my entire under graduated education. I need you to know she produces some of the highest scores in the state, out of a school that has mediocre test scores at best. I need you to know that she is totally even keeled and not easily shaken. I need you to know that she had every intention of being a career teacher at an inner-city school.

She is tired y’all. She is tired of the news showing up and the guns in the parking lot. She is tired of the way the school isn’t safe and the energy it takes to just make sure no one is seriously injured on your watch. I don’t mean to say that I am not tired too. I am. It is 4 hours to spring break, of course I am tired. And my job is hard. Of course it is. I spend all day getting 15 and 16 year old’s to read and actually think about real life. But when she asked me, when she asked me what it was like, on the other side of the city where the kids are well fed and not in gangs, I remembered the truth: We may have the same title and make the same salary. We may sign the same contract. But the job is not the same.

///

I know, and I forget. I’ve written poetry, and blog posts, and a whole freaking manuscript. I forget the way the air is toxic. I forget the way you wake up and put on your make up and drive to school wondering if you can do this today. I forget what it feels like to find ways to numb yourself because your job is that hard. I landed in a job that is hard but doable and I forgot that the impossible no longer exists, because it no longer exists for me.

I want to remember. I want to remember that there are kids who are not given a real chance in this country because they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time. I want to remember that there are neighborhoods that are the wrong place, and that 2014 is still the wrong time. I want to remember that we use the same words, school, teacher, chances, but that they are not at all the same thing.

I don’t think I care anymore, whether people are rolling their eyes and wishing I would talk about something else. I don’t even care that I tell the same stories. I am telling the stories that need heard. I am telling the stories because people don’t know, and I am telling them often because it is easy to forget. I am telling these stories because I believe that there are solutions and people who care. I am writing these stories because they are true, and because I need to remember that. I will no longer shame myself for my story. I will tell it until it isn’t true anymore. May that day come soon.

But You Seem Fine

Today I am at Leanne Penny’s place. I love how Leanne keeps it real about (among other things) parenting, and she has some really amazing things to say about grief. Most excitingly, I am crashing on her couch next weekend! I cannot wait.

She is running a series on how to help people who are hurting. The older I get the less interested I am in whose who in theological debates, and more interested in who arranges and pitches in on the casserole rotation. We can disagree on a lot of things, and still be united in loving with our whole selves.

It can be particularly difficult to love someone well if their hurting is mysterious.

But you seem fine.

From 1997-2009  my body was not fine. I was tired and achy and just didn’t feel good. For hours, for days, for months at a time. I for sure was not fine.

But you look fine.

But I looked fine. I looked totally normal. I was tallish and thinish and smiled and laughed a lot . I was participating in class discussions and marching the tenor drums in the marching band and trying out for the school plays. I was bringing home trophies from the speech tournaments and dating boys.

Then, I would just up and disappear.

You can read the rest here.

Story Feasts, Photo Shoots and Chattanooga: What I am into March 2014

March came in like a lion and just kept on roaring. As I predicted in February, I didn’t blog as much as usual, but I was working on other writing projects. Also, I had a lot of live exciting opportunities that I took advantage of. Sometimes, I feel as though everyone else is doing all the fun and exciting things and I am just sort of floating by, these monthly roundups have been a great way for me to remember that my life is awesome too. So thank you Leigh, for linking us all up. Go on over and checkout what everyone else is up to.

The Story Feast

I started March with the Story Feast. The awesome online community I am always talking about hosted an in-person meet up where we talked about being women and writing. Specifically, the Atlanta meet up focused on the lies we are told as women that keep us from living the lives we are made to live. The ladies who came wrote and shared some truly incredible writing, and I was reminded of the amazing stories people have if you will just bother to listen to them. The story feast coincided with the

Girls We Once Were link-up

I hosted this anonymous piece, and wrote this one. Both pieces are some of my favorite things I have hosted on this blog of mine. All of the link-ups were astounding and I highly recommend heading over and checking them all out. They really are beautiful. I am amazed that part of the digital age is having access to such incredible work for free. Other than that I did very little blog writing (though the things I did write I think are particularly good), because I was doing

The Story Sessions Boot camp

I started the month with a nine-day writing boot camp hosted by the amazing story sessions. The women who signed up for this opportunity were in it to win it. So much got done in a few short weeks you wouldn’t believe it was possible. I was reminded that I work best when I am cheering on others and they are cheering on me. With the help of Brenna, Mary Beth and Esther, I have a proposal I am really proud of that I will be taking with me to the Festival of Faith and Writers. I also did John Acuff’s Thirty days of hustle, but I found Elora had already taught me everything he was saying in a way that works better for me.  I also got to participate in the

Encyclopedia Show

College speech team was awesome training for both blogging and teaching high school. I am so grateful I did it. competing also gave me the opportunity to meet some really amazing people who do really amazing things, like developing their own spoken word/variety show. Shanney Jean and Robbie Q. Telfer curate a show in Chicago around a theme and then have people write on that theme. This year they had the opportunity to do an Origins of Life show for the Atlanta Science Festival. Robbie even came into my classroom and picked some of my best poets to perform in the show with him. They were awesome and I could not have been prouder. I also had the opportunity to perform a piece. When I sat down one of my students looked at me slack-jawed, “Miss Norman! I didn’t know you could do that!” Look for a video later this week.

I wasn’t the only one doing exciting things this month. Three of my friends

Released Books In March

I got to go to my friend Megan Volpert’s book launch party. Her new book Only Ride is a beautiful collection of poems that I absolutely love. Sit down for ninety minutes and read it cover to cover, than leave it somewhere where you can pick it up and read just one while you are waiting for the water to boil for dinner. You won’t be sorry.

Two ladies I have mad respect for released books this month. Micha Boyett released Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer. I love her take on parenting and every day life. The world needs more thoughtful description of the everyday holy and Micha’s take is sure to be water to our thirsty souls.

Elizabeth Esther released Girl at The End of the World and people are devouring it in a single sitting and then getting on Twitter to make sure everyone else reads it. Elizabeth writes about the experience of being raised in a cult and the continued reach of her disturbing experience. This story is important because it is a story that is happening still.

I haven’t had the chance to read either of these, but spring break is only four days away and I cannot wait to get to them. I have heard nothing but really amazing things and have no doubt that every glowing word is true. While those three ladies were releasing books, some people who are very dear to me did some

Awesome Things on the Internet

Osheta and Esther both started writing for A Deeper Story and both totally killed it. Go read their premier pieces here and here. Diana Trautwein also had a piece at Deeper Story that left me totally breathless. If you are a wife and mother or love a wife or mother, please go read this. I needed to hear it and you probably do to.

Marvia Davidson might be the most awesome thing on the internet. Someone called her an encouragement ninja and I couldn’t agree more, on Twitter she makes me remember who I am, and on her blog she is running an awesome series on Pressing In that will remind you why you need to keep on keeping on even when it is hard.

Back in real life my kids and my husband went to

Prom

I was trying to get out of chaperoning prom and said I couldn’t afford a babysitter (this is true) and was invited to bring the whole family. So, my children got to dress up in fancy clothes and shoes, go to a fancy hotel and dance with the truly gracious dressed up girls that Juliet and Priscilla kept referring to as princesses. It was pretty much the best day of their entire lives (and they have been to Disney World). When we left at 9:30 Priscilla lost her mind. She was ready to dance the night away. If that wasn’t an awesome enough opportunity in March, I also got to do a

Photo Shoot

Jennifer Upton is a dear friend and a truly amazing photographer. She did my headshots, which you can see on my banner, and also did some more personal boudoir photography that I will not be posting here. Y’all, Jennifer has a gift. Her photos are amazing and the whole experience was just perfect. It was such an amazing thing to stand in front of her camera and declare myself beautiful in an affirming environment. Jennifer longs to show, really show women that they are beautiful just as they are, and she nails it. Seriously, book her because she is about to be a big deal, and her prices currently are totally affordable.

While I was having these insane experiences I was also,

Fasting

I followed Jen Hatmaker’s fast in Seven:An experimental mutiny against excess eating Apples, chicken, whole wheat bread, avocados, eggs, spinach, and sweet potatoes for three weeks (mostly, I went off it a couple of times in social situations). I learned a lot about myself and the comfort I was trying to get from food. Turns out, talking through my disappointment with a loving God is way more effective than eating half a cherry pie. You would think with most of the month fasting I would have no food to report on, but

Food

My girls love to ride the MARTA and Decatur Square is only one stop from the nearest train station. We have been riding the train into the square and having dinner. It is the perfect family outing for us. Both Victory Sandwich (that serves perfect little sliders of all different varieties) and Raging Burrito (I had a Thai inspired burrito with peanut sauce on it, AMAZING!) have been big hits and the restaurants are awesome with little ones.

I made one amazing dish that is sure to go into the rotation, Sweet and Sour Shrimp Fried Rice. I took carrots and peppers and zucchini and water chestnuts and baby corn and tiny salad shrimp and fried it up with brown rice and pineapple and soy sauce and plum sauce. It was awesome and made a TON that I will happily be consuming all week. Maybe for lunch and dinner. I may need to buy a wok.

That was what was happening in my mouth. In the mail I got

Another Stitch Fix

I know I keep talking about this service, but I love it a lot. I got a fix near the end of march and am keeping all five things. I was a little disappointed with my last box, so I went into my profile and gave a lot of very specific feedback. They listen, like really listen, and this box of two shirts, a sweater, a dress and a scarf were perfect. With my credits and my buy all five things discount, it was only 120 dollars, which is about what I would pay at Target, but the clothes are much higher quality. You can sign up here.

But even MORE exciting are

New Pillows

I finally broke the cycle of replacing on sale pillows that go flat way too fast with on sale pillows that go flat way too fast by buying these on Amazon. You GUYS! I am sleeping better than I have in a very long time and for whatever reason the angle of the pillow has made my husband’s snoring go away. If I had known that I could stop the snoring for under thirty dollars, I would have done it three years ago.

And the MOST exciting thing I did all month was

Chattanooga

My critique partner and story-sister lives just two hours away. So, the girls and I packed up, picked up the completely charming Elizabeth Kays and had the most beautiful weekend in Tennessee while my husband studied in silence for his comprehensive exams ( happening April 14 and 15 all prayers appreciated). Alissa and family were amazing hosts. Her son was both completely enthralled with and totally overwhelmed by the whirlwind that is Juliet and Priscilla. Chattanooga was totally charming as well. I can’t wait to go again, and have them come visit me.

Looking Forward, I will kick off April with my spring break trip with the

Festival of Faith and Writing

The stars aligned and my spring break fell during this time. Also, my parents live just a few hours away and will be keeping the girls and I will be staying at the lovely Leanne Penny’s house. If you are there, I want to see you! So let me know and we will tweet at each other until we find each other. I’ll be hosting a Story Sessions After Party on Saturday at the Wyndham Garden restaurant at 7 o’clock. The shuttle goes there so there is no excuse! I and some of the other ladies will be reading and there will be prizes!!!!! You should totally come.

Fred Phelps is dead, and I am sad.

Fred Phelps is dead.

The news is running across my Twitter and Facebook pages as I avoid the mound of grading on my desk and my students try to hide the fact that they are watching NCAA bastketball tournamnet on their phones under their desks. (They are terrible at whispering, apparently OSU is currently loosing.

Fred Phelps is dead.

I am surprised at the sadness I am feeling. I am surprised at the idea that I could be sad that a man who has spread so much hate and anger, has finally gone to meet his maker. But I am, I am sad that Fred Phelps is dead.

I hush my students and re-direct them to their grammar quizzes. I wonder about this sadness I am feeling. Am I really sad that the man who came up with picketing funerals is now starring in his own? I am. I am sad.

I am sad because I secretly hoped that one day Fred Phelps would come around. It sounds naieve and stupid I know. But I did. I thought perhaps there would be a major press conference and Fred Phelps would announce that he was wrong, and he was sorry. What can I say, I long for redemption.

I long for redemption. It is hard and it is messy and it is so breathtakingly beautiful. I guess I was secretly hoping for a figure known for spewing hate to become a man who was marked by love. What can I say? I’m a dreamer.

And I am sad because I can’t help but look at the life of Fred Phelps and wonder what could have been, with a man as passionate and charismatic as him could have done if he was willing to hold his beliefs a little looser, and his love a little tighter. When I reflect on the public life of Fred Phelps I see just a tiny bit of myself. I am not saying the man was right, or that I ever believed what he proffessed. But I understand the road he traveled and I have more than once taken a few steps down it because I thought it was the right thing to do. 

 I see the relationships I ruined, or the people I hurt because I was absolutely sure I was right. I see the black and white of my teenage years. I see the picture of Jesus I had in the black and white days. The way I knew and the way I did not need to consult Him very often about that knowing.

I don’t pretend to know what happened after Fred Phelps took his last breath. But I am still longing for healing, for redemption. I hope that one day I will see a man who longs to right what he made wrong. I hope even Fred Phelps is not beyond the reaches of mercy, that he will one day fully embody God’s love.

I suppose I hope that I one day, people say that about me too.

May We Draw Lines On More Than Our Hands

A week ago, maybe a few may Twitter feed and Facebook wall were lit up with red Xs. Red X in permanent marker across the backs of the hands of my friends and acquaintances. The movement leaked into my classroom; many of my students had read lines crossed against the backs of their hands.

This is not an indictment of the End it movement, the organization that encourages people to draw these red Xs. I think the work they are doing is good. I think the organizations they partner with are legitimate. I think they do good work. I even had the opportunity to talk to my students about modern day slavery, what it looks like, how it happens. As an educator, I am aware of how powerful simple awareness can be.

I just hope those red Xs aren’t the only lines we draw.

The red Xs showed up in my classroom in the midst of me teaching a book about foster care. Have we drawn the lines? Have we drawn the lines in our hearts and our heads of the state of the foster care system and the sex slavery happening in our backyards? The state isn’t the only one keep track of the girls aging out of foster care. 18 and with no place to go, more often than not these girls are picked up by a pimp. Sometimes being a sex slave looks like the best choice.

And are we drawing the lines between the girls aging out of the foster care system and our own unwillingness to adopt older children? Are we drawing the lines between the human trafficking going on in our backyard and the fear in our own hearts? Are we drawing those lines too?

As we draw the lines on our hands, are we also drawing the lines in our closets? Are we drawing the lines to the products that we buy on a whim, without thinking about it because we love the color or could kind of use another one of those?

Are we drawing the lines on our hands to the lines in our Easter baskets? As we give up chocolate or coffee or sugar for a day, a week, the full fourty days. As we dream of the first taste of whatever it is we have given up, are we willing to consider that those treats have come to us by the hands of  a slave? Are we willing to sacrifice the thing that we always have for the holiday, or are we saying we should end it, as long as it doesn’t affect me?

Are we drawing the lines, between the education system, the drop out rate and those most at risk of being trafficked? Are we drawing the lines from the human trafficking to the drop out rate, from the drop out rate to the reading ability, from the reading ability to the legislation that keeps adding kids to elementary schools we have long since abandoned as we put our own kids in the new charter system?

I know that it is easier to ignore these problems, to think of slavery as something way out there, that it doesn’t happen in my back yard, that there aren’t things I am putting in my cart at Target that are the products of slave-labor.

It is easier to believe that the only thing we can do is swipe a red X across the back of our hands and cry for those women and children out there somewhere. It is easier to believe that we are an active participant in a culture that perpetuates modern day slavery. But those things aren’t true. We have to start drawing the truth on our hearts as we do with the lines on our hands.

I love the heart of the end it movement. I am grateful they are starting the conversation. I just pray that those lines we draw on our hands are only the catalyst to the lines we draw in our lives, on our hearts. Are we willing to draw the lines that link slavery to the choices we make?

One Day You Will Swim

The hardest thing I ever had to do, was show up at my job for 180 days straight.

I’ve birthed two babies with nothing but water as a pain reliever. I’ve written the first draft of a book at night, on weekends, and during the summer, one eye on my children, the other on the computer. I’ve spoken publicly. I’ve moved across the country with my husband. I lived a relatively normal life with a muscle disorder. I’ve poured my guts out on my blog for 446 posts. I’ve ended unhealthy relationships. I have done hard things.

But the hardest thing I ever had to do, was show up at my job 180 days in a row. Seriously.

It was my first year of teaching. I came in sure that by the end of the year, not only was I going to have changed the life of every single one of my students, but that Oprah would hear about it, ask me to sit on her couch, tell me I was special. It was my first year of teaching and I was totally confident that I was going to to do an amazing job.

That didn’t happen. By Labor day I hadn’t even learned all of the kids names, let alone turned any hearts. Three weeks into the school year and my list of failings was impressive. A stack of ungraded papers that I kept meaning to get to was threatening to take over the back seat of my car. I was too tired at home and too busy at work to actually grade them. I had no control of my classroom. Kids came and went and talked and ate and really did whatever they wanted to do, pretty much whenever they wanted to do it. The girl who had sworn that she would never yell or threaten her students was at the board at least twice a day waving a dry erase marker in her hand and completely losing her mind.

You can find the rest of this at my dear friend Marvia’s place. Marvia is the real deal y’all. She is funny and fiesty and my life is better because I follow her on Twitter. She breathes life and truth and beauty into everything she touches.