Choosing to See Miracles: Faith in the Face of Uncertainty

I'm not sure that I believe in the traditional idea of God. It's tough for me to imagine a God in the sky, willing to send his precious children to hell when they fail to accept His gift of grace. I'm not exactly sure what I believe these days. It's hard to put into words and ever-evolving. There are principles and teachings from many faiths that ring true to me, and many traditions that I am "unlearning", but there is one thing that keeps me coming back to the traditional Christian understanding of God and that's the sense that almost everything is a miracle. We rarely take the time to slow down and recognize this truth, but it's one that speaks deeply to me.

The first and most basic miracle that trips me out every time I think about it is the fact that I am alive. Do you know how many things have to go right for a baby to be born? There are so many systems that have to be working just right for an egg to even be fertilized. And then to carry a baby to term is a miracle all it's own. At least 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and that's probably a gross underestimate because many pregnancies end long before a woman even knows she's pregnant. And then there's the birth process. What a mess and how many things can go wrong in those harrowing hours of bringing a child into the world. And now as a mom myself, I think of all the potential accidents that can happen throughout a childhood. I've managed to stay alive for thirty years. The systems in my body keep doing their job every day. I've somehow avoided a fatal accident. So many things have had to go right for me to wake up this morning...things far beyond what I can explain. 

The other miracle I think about often is the miracle of my marriage. Literally generations of people had to make certain precise decisions for Dustin and I to end up together. Who they married, where they moved, jobs they took, children they had...it all led to me finding him. We don't often think about how the seemingly small decisions we make today will impact the generations following us, but they do. My parents each individually decided to enlist in the Marine Corps and the universe aligned for them to be stationed in the same place, in the same platoon. They decided to fall in love and get married. They decided to raise me in Louisiana near my dad's family. They chose to raise me in a certain faith tradition and church and Dustin's parents decided to move to our church in a pivotal moment in their children's lives. And all of those decisions, and thousands of others before that, had to happen for us to ever cross paths. What if they had made different choices? On that spring break when I came home from Boston, Dustin decided to come hang out at my house with mutual friends. What if I had decided to go somewhere else for spring break? What if he had decided to stay home that night? What if I had never decided to move back to Louisiana? I just can't explain how all these things aligned for us to end up together, but they did and there's no doubt in my mind that we were meant to be. It is bigger than a choice we made, it was destined. 

And the list really goes on and on. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying "There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle" and I find that there are miracles happening all around me every single day- some big and many impossibly small. My life is not perfect, but all around me there is magic that I can't explain, that science can't explain, that I have a hard time believing is just random chance. So I choose to see miracles and that gives me hope that there is a God working in mysterious ways, a God worth praising and seeking, a God worth coming back to over and over again despite my doubts, questions, and disbelief. 

 

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A Liturgy for the Sacred Mundane

For the morning sun that peeks through the window, 
And the smell of freshly ground coffee. 
For the sleepy faces of children as we wake them and for partners who tell us that we are loved, 
For the mornings without alarms, 
but also for the mornings we are rushing to ensure that everyone gets out the door fully clothed,
For all these sacred mundane things, we give thanks. 

For the smell of fresh cut grass and the colors of spring, 
But also for the restorative rains and the cool breeze of autumn. 
For the feeling of a knowing look, 
For friends who intuit just how to take care of us when life is hard,
But also for that brief moment at the end of a hard season where you feel like you can really breathe again, 
For all these sacred mundane things, we give thanks. 

For the sound of a loved one’s keys in the front door after time apart, 
For the smell of cookies baking in the oven, 
And chips and salsa on a patio. 
For the way dogs greet us as if this moment is the best thing that’s ever happened to them, 
But also for still, quiet, purring cats.
For all these sacred mundane things, we give thanks.

For toilet paper and air conditioning and for the bounty after a grocery run, 
For dark chocolate and hot baths, 
For fresh sheets and the smell of lavender, 
For evenings by the fire with a good glass of wine, 
But also for evenings with cheap beer and belly laughs,
For all these sacred mundane things, we give thanks. 

For the sting of the cold night air, 
And the immensity of the universe, 
For our brief moments of being, 
And for the simple beauty we stand witness to every single day, 
For all these sacred mundane things, we give thanks. 

 

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Becoming the Advocate You Were Born to Be

I believe we are all born as really great advocates. Despite mobility & language limitations, babies are the best advocates. There is no doubt in anyone's mind when a baby needs or wants something. Typical babies in loving happy homes scream and cry until their need gets met. If they don't like how you respond, they let you know with more screaming until you get it right. But something happens along our journey and we lose these advocacy skills. Adults told us to sit down, be quiet, stop asking for things. People said "that's just the way it is". Those who have all the power and resources showed us over and over again how small we are and how little we can influence the world. And after being worn down for years in so many ways, we just stopped trying. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it)  eventually life presents all of us with a situation that forces us to become advocates again. A loved one becomes disabled, we get caught in a toxic job or relationship, we are awakened to some injustice in the world. When that time comes for you, how will you reclaim these lost skills? Whether you are self-advocating, advocating for a loved one, or advocating for systemic change...here are a few things you can do to get started or be more effective:

  1. Gather information & learn the rules of the game. It doesn't take long for babies to learn that when they cry, somebody comes to attend to them. How many toddlers work the "fake cry" in an effort to get some attention? Whatever you are advocating for, learn how the systems already work. Read books, talk to people who are involved, try to find out what's working, what isn't, and what has been tried before. In order to be a super effective advocate, you have to know where you are starting before you can ever get a sense of where you should go. 
  2. Make a game plan. Truly effective advocacy work is strategic. It isn't haphazard or always coming from a defensive place, it's proactive and deliberate. Plan for the short term and the long term. As an advocate for my son my "big goal" is to see him live a fulfilling and happy life in adulthood, but that won't just magically happen. It means we have stuff to work on now, even at six years old, to ensure that happens. A couple of additional notes about your game plan: 
    1. Have a clear & simple message/goal. Don't over complicate what you are trying to do. You (and anyone along for the ride with you) will get bogged down in the chaos if you overcomplicate it. It needs to be hella clear what you are trying to accomplish. My goal in advocating for J in the school system is to help create the most effective learning environment for him. That's it. It's a big goal with a lot of moving parts, but it's a really clear and simple idea I can cling to and communicate to others. Every issue I tackle in the school environment comes back to that one goal. 
    2. Focus more on what is possible than what is impossible. People are drawn towards things. People want to hope for something, believe in something. It can be terribly immobilizing to hone in on the things that are not possible or the things that are beyond your control. Your plan should focus on all the possibilities in the areas that you can control or influence. 
  3. Start where you are with what you have. You may not have a million dollars or a huge audience or even be the most knowledgable about a topic. That's okay. Take what you have, what you know, and what you can do and run with it. You don't have to be an expert or have a huge platform to effect change in the world. Making a difference in one life, in one classroom, in one doctor's office...whatever...that matters. 
  4. Partner with others. There is power in numbers. Not only does the message seem a lot louder when more than one person is saying it, you can accomplish more when there are multiple people with a variety of skill sets and experiences working on an issue. You can also lean on each other when things get hard. Advocacy work can be so life giving, but it can also feel very draining and overwhelming. Having people who can help carry the torch when you're drained or feel lost is so important. Those partnerships might be other people or they might be other agencies depending on the work you are doing. You don't have to be the one stop shop tackling all the issues and you don't have to go it alone. Find people with common passions and experiences and go together. 
  5. Get some quick wins and build some momentum. If you are just getting started with advocacy work, get some quick wins under your belt. Find some "low hanging fruit" and grab it. Effecting change, even if it is seemingly small and insignificant can feel super empowering, can boost your confidence, and can help get the ball rolling. After accomplishing something, you will likely feel empowered to tackle bigger and harder issues. 
  6. Play for the long game. Advocacy work is rarely "finished" and it rarely happens quickly. Don't get so bogged down in more minor issues that you lose sight of the bigger picture. When you experience set backs, because you absolutely 100% will, remember your why. Why did you get started in this work? Why is it important to keep going? What are you working towards? Cling to that why for dear life and remember that change takes time and tomorrow is a new day. 

Remember, you were born an advocate. All you need to do is reclaim the advocate that is already in your bones. Over the next many weeks and months, I plan to share some more practical tips that you can apply to your every day work...so stay tuned! Here's to becoming the advocate you were born to be!

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