Why a retired Homeschool Mom is the Best Candidate for Your Job: An open letter to the employers who aren’t paying attention to my resume.

Dear Future Employer:

First, every job posting is the same.  There is a description of the requirements and the qualifications of the ideal candidate.  I understand, my resume and cover letter is a little different, or maybe not different enough?

That’s because I can’t say I what I want to say on them.  So here, I will explain what will make me excellent at any professional job.

It is not because I finished my M.Ed. in one year to earn a new credential.

It is not because I know so much more than anyone else about the content of the position.

It is not because I have so much experience in the field that I am the most obvious choice in the universe.

business-people-represents-globalization-corporate-and-businessm

It is because I was a homeschool mom.

I know that the world of work does not recognize motherhood as a qualifier for professional employment.  Homeschooling does not give me recognition as a highly qualified educator according to the state department of education.

Yet, I submit that being a homeschooling mom is a terrific prerequisite for any job.

Before I began homeschooling, I was a professionally trained teacher.  I was very proud of all I knew about child development and learning theory.  But then my son, the beholder of my heart, when to kindergarten and did not learn the same as the other kids in his class.  I have written about this experience here.

Convinced of my ability to get him “back on track,” I quit my teaching job.  The plan was to help him get caught up and send him back to school in second grade.  However, by grade 4, he was still not reading.

The Ed.D. who tested my son looked at me with concern, even reproach, when he explained my son’s learning disabilities.  Finally he concluded with “I don’t know why you just don’t give up. Your son will never learn to read”.

To that I answered, “You’re wrong.  I will teach him to read.”

Being a mom means that whatever I don’t knowhow to do, I will learn.  When I declared that I would teach my son to read, I wasn’t depending on my professional qualifications as an educator.  I didn’t know the first thing about how to teach students with learning disabilities. It was my love for him that determined that I was going to learn what I needed to learn and do whatever I needed to do.

I read everything I could get my hands on and tried every suggestion I was given.  Progress was painfully gradual.  But as I learned, I adjusted. I came up with some of my own ideas.  I kept what worked and threw out what didn’t until finally he began to read.

Being a mom meant that I would be courageous, tenacious, optimistic, and hopeful. Being a mom meant that I was determined to try again after every setback.  Being a mom means getting into the messy and then cleaning it up.  It means that love wins when nothing else can.

Even though I do not know everything about the position I’m applying for, and although I have never done some of the required duties in a professional setting before, I can guarantee you have never met a more determined learner.

And though I do not have years of experience in your specific requirements, I will not quit after a few setbacks.  I will work until the goal is achieved.  You can trust me to care for the thing that matters to you the most. I will not disappoint you.

Because I gave 17 years to homeschooling my kids – and teaching many other people’s kids, too.

Because I sacrificed my career goals to assure my children could have any future they chose.

And I will never regret it.

But my life isn’t over just because my kids have grown up.  I still have a lot to offer and a lot that I still want to accomplish, but first, I need the professional opportunity.

So look no further.  Hire me.  I’m the candidate you’ve been looking for.

Because  it isn’t the credential or the experience that is the most important element in your search for a great employee.  It is that unquantifiable  x-factor that every employer looks for on the resume and tries to clue in on in the cover letter. My courage, my determination, my creativity, my optimism, my tenacity, my never-give-up-until-the-job-is-done strength of character is what makes me the best candidate.

And I became those things
while being a homeschooling mom.

 

I

7 Fool-Proof Steps for Not Quitting New Year’s Resolutions

I look forward to New Years because the wonderfully deluded feeling of hopefulness and expectation I get this time of year.

Beautiful-2013-Happy-New-Year-Image-01

Maybe I get oiled up on too much sleep.  Or maybe I get drunk on Baby Jesus and pine forest candle smoke and high levels of sugar.  You know, all that Peace on Earth and Joy to the World stuff can really clog your sense of reality, especially when you haven’t been to work in a couple weeks.

Every year it’s the same story.  I get all aspiration-crazed and then I go off and make some incredibly lofty, noble, BIG New Year’s Resolution.  And I really, really believe it this year…

Until about January 5…

So, of course, I did it again this year.

For the first few days of my New Year’s Resolution, I bask in the delight of how majestic it will be when I have achieved my goal.

What I will look like when I lose 50 pounds…or

What will I do with all of the money when I’m out of debt…or

How I will feel crossing the finish line of the marathon…

From January 1-4, I do all of that “visualization” stuff and make magazine collages and read a lot of blogs.  I do an Image search of Google for inspirational quotes.  I start a new Pinterest page to store those quotes.  I buy a couple of books off of Amazon.com and then sign up for a couple of online courses.  I get all set to succeed in the coming year.

Then on January 5, the last day before I have to go back to work, it’s time to actually BEGIN.  And that is where I fall apart.

I commence a major melt-down of overwhelming panic.  I think about the enormity of exactly what I have asked myself to accomplish and I…well…I bolt.  I rationalize that my vision wasn’t really attainable anyway.  I begin to make excuses, or distract myself, or become interested in something else.  And then I have another year much the same as I had the year before. I’m afraid that my life will be characterized by this quote…

Quote by Francis Chan

Quote by Francis Chan

So, this year, I am proposing a new strategy.  Let 2015 be known as the Year of Not Deserting My Dreams!!

I have come up with 7 Fool-Proof Steps for Not Quitting My New Year’s Resolutions.

This year, my cra-cra resolution is to get 5,000 subscribers to my blog.  I have 68.  This means I only have 4.932 to go.  No problem.

Pardon me while I hold a paper bag over my mouth and breathe deeply…

Suddenly, my head starts to swim.  I don’t know where to start!  There are a ton of blogs and books with their “10 Gagillion Simple Steps to Getting Blog Traffic,” but with a flood of options, which one is the most important and which one is a scam?

I should’ve chosen bungee jumping as my New Year’s Resolution!    At least with that one, the first step is crystal clear…and just about as likely to happen!  What am I thinking?

Step 1:   Cry

Yes, cry.  This should take about 30 minutes.  Do not allow yourself more than 30 minutes because it then it turns into wallowing and whining…and nobody can help you after you’ve crossed over into the line into despair.  Despair isn’t helpful to anyone.

Crying works wonders because it gets all of the irrational emotions out of the way so your head is clear to THINK!  If you are not a crier, like me, then maybe you need to go to the batting cages or take a walk or talk it out with your best friend or brainstorm in your journal.  Whatever it is, make a place for your bizarre anxieties or the horrific consequences you are imagining.  No matter what you do, though, do NOT stay at step one.  Set a timer if you have to.  Have some peppy music set up on iTunes or have your cry in the car on the way to a Comic-Con.  Those weird costumes should shake anyone out of the blues!

Step 2: Play with the Dog

This step will last in duration and energy depending on the age and breed of the dog, of course.  If you are like me and you have an 11-year-old grumpy Shih Tzu, this step should take you roughly 2 minutes.  Or alternatively, if you also have a deaf and blind 15-year-old Poodle, it will take a little longer because first you will have to get her attention.  Then you will have to go retrieve the ball yourself because the poor little thing will not be able to find it. (However, if you happen to have a 5 month old puppy, this step might involve walking around the block, scooping up poop, and taking a nap…in which case it will take your whole afternoon!)

If you don’t have a dog, then I imagine that a toddler or, possibly even a cat, will do.  (I can’t speak for the cat bit cause I’m not a cat person).  Anyway, be resourceful.

The reason to do this step is to remind yourself to be present in the moment.  THIS moment.  Stop thinking about the obstacles in the way of your dreams, and get back to the present.  Dogs and babies are magical at living in the HERE AND NOW, and we need to learn to emulate them…if only for a few minutes.  Now you are ready for Step 3

Step 3: Go Out for Sushi

You need BRAIN FOOD, and raw fish is an excellent source.  It’s best if you locate a nearby dive that isn’t too crowded, but that serves fresh fare.  Junk food is a definite no-no because it blocks your arteries and makes you lethargic.  Whereby a huge chain or a popular hang-out will just take too long.  This step should take an hour, tops.

Our favorite sushi dive

Our favorite sushi dive

Step 4: Log In

As soon as you get home from the Sushi place, Log In.  I have to Log In to my blog because that is how I engage in the community I am trying to attract and learn from.

When I was panicking about my New Year’s Resolution today, my husband asked, “Have you logged in to your blog today?”  The answer was obvious…”No, I had been too busy panicking!!”

If I want subscribers to my blog, then it follows that I must have something on the blog for subscribers to read!  It doesn’t matter what other step I take for building my blog if there is no content for subscribers to click on!

I think that idea applies to every other area, too.  If you want to accomplish any goal, FIRST, you have to engage.  You must connect with a community of like-minded individuals who want the same thing as you and/or who have the capacity to teach you new skills.  Learning from each other is a beautiful way to grow as an individual as well as grow a business or accomplish a goal. You need to Log In, however…

Step 5: Resist Distractions!!

                Logging in is the first step to fulfilling your dreams…OR a time suck and a total distraction from your goals!!

Distractions come under the facade of social media, or checking emails, or even the 60% off of all Christmas Lay-Away Items that Were Never Claimed Extravaganza of the Century Sale!!

Or the Opportunity of a Lifetime!!

When I logged on today, for example, my first step was to search eBay for vintage RV’s that I might be able to refurbish.  I even went so far as to put one on my “watch” list and get quotes for shipping it from New York State.  I’ve always wanted to refurbish a vintage RV.  NOT!

And how will spending $500 on a partially stripped RV help me reach my blogging goals???  Luckily, someone else bid $601.25 and saved me from myself!!  Or else I’d have had a crazy, fun project in the works rusty vexation sitting in my backyard for next two years!

For the Love of Pete, Lori…Learn to Say NO!!  And move on…

Step 6:Begin                                                                                                

Don’t look at the whole thing.  Don’t analyze the project in order to break it down into bite-size pieces.  Because when you do that…you are looking at the whole thing!  Then you are going to revert back to Step 1: Cry all over again and nobody has time for that!

The goal is just too big!  5,000 subscribers is a huge number!

50 pounds is a lot of weight!

26.2 miles is just over 95 Sear’s Towers!!

But there is one thing you CAN DO TODAY.  You can write your next blog post (as I am doing right now). You can turn on the treadmill and walk.  You can download an app for whatever goal you have in mind and do the first step.

Because, if you think about it…beginning is really the hardest part.  In the physical world, if you want to move an object at rest in any direction, you must first overcome inertia.  It’s the same for me.  I get emotional inertia and resist change…whether big or small.  I don’t like inconvenience.  I don’t like pain.

However, I do find that when I begin, soon the cravings go away.  Soon the runner feels his pleasure.  Soon, the blog gets a few more hits!

And at the end of the day, instead of disparaging yourself for yet another excuse, you can applaud yourself for taking one step toward your dream.

Step 7: Repeat for 364 Days

Okay, you can skip Step 1: Cry and Step 3: Sushi as needed.  You can keep them for emergency situations and weekends.

In 2015, I challenge myself to Not Quit My New Year’s Resolutions on January 5 and to do at least one thing each day that takes me closer to my goal of 5,000 Subscribers to My Blog.

andrew carnegie quote

And I invite you to join me.

I’d love to hear from you.  Please put in the comment section below…

What is your incredibly lofty, noble, BIG New Year’s Resolution?

What small step can you begin TODAY that can make that dream a reality in 2015?

The “Yes, And” Bill Cosby

By Lori Michelle

Bill Cosby’s daughter recently released a statement testifying that the character Bill Cosby created on his iconic TV show in the 90’s was the man she lived with.  Inferring that since he was a great father, he could not be a rapist.

Bill Cosby’s wife stated that he is a devoted and loving husband…leading us to conclude that good husbands cannot also be rapists.

As a society, we have bought into a very dangerous lie.  Everyone knows that abusers are vile, filthy, and beyond redemption…so they definitely cannot be anyone we know!

How can funny man, educator, husband, father Bill Cosby be a rapist?

Bill Cosby as Cliff Huxtable...the husband and father we all wanted to emulate.

Bill Cosby as Cliff Huxtable…the husband and father we all wanted to emulate.

There is a term for it.  It’s called Cognitive Dissonance.

Cognitive Dissonance is the feeling of uncomfortable tension that comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time.

I personally blame Hollywood for this state of mental confusion.

You see, in the movies, the bad guy is always obvious.  He’s the guy with the scar on his face and the black hat lurking in the corner, staring menacingly at his potential victim with a plotting, evil expression.  If only the victim would look around once and notice that creeper standing in the corner…all would be well.

Bad guys are all bad…and even good deeds have an evil twist.  Good guys are all good…and even bad deeds are understandable given the circumstances!

Somehow we all think the real life bad guys and good guys are just as obvious.

Everyone knows Scar is a bad guy...its so obvious!

Everyone knows Scar is a bad guy…its so obvious!

Tina Fey explains in her book, Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat, the first rule of comedy is AGREE.  No matter what your partner suggests, you must say, “Yes, and…” adding to and building upon what the other person just said.

Bill Cosby knew about “Yes, and…”

Yes, he can be a great father AND a sexual predator.

Yes, he was a brilliant educator AND an accused rapist.

Yes, he was an inspiring advocate for children and families AND a supposed womanizer.

Real people are complex beings, not two-dimensional characters in sitcoms.  Real people can have both wonderful gifts and talents AND do horrific acts.  Real people can have charming, charismatic personalities AND use other people as objects for their own gratification.

In fact, the most upsetting thing about abusers, rapists, and sexual predators is that in order to carry out their horrific deeds, first they need ACCESS!  How will they gain access if they are obviously creepy and gross?  They MUST be charming, funny, generous, and kind in order to get close to people.  They MUST blend in.  They MUST be intelligent and sincere.

They seem just like everyone else you know.  You might even know them.  They might even be your friend.  They might be sleeping in your bed.

I’ve been closely associated with three men in my lifetime who were some kind of abuser.  One was a pedophile.  One was a pedophile/rapist.  One was cheater, and, in my opinion, a sex addict.

All were decent fathers.  All were husbands.  All were faithful church attenders.  Two of them were sons of ministers. All had long-time friends.  All had extended family.

One was married to me.

One of my accusers said to me once, “Lori, you had to have known!”

But I didn’t.

Yes, in hindsight there were warning signs.  Yes, maybe I could’ve asked more questions, investigated more, not believed his improbable stories.

But I was married to this man.  He was my children’s father.  He was a church leader.  He was a minister’s son.  He was intelligent, and witty, and good.

And, even though I sometimes had my suspicions, I really didn’t want to know.

I didn’t WANT to be right.  I didn’t want to hear an answer that might change my life.

I wanted to keep on believing that the man I slept in the same bed with for 20 years couldn’t be so vile.  After all, what does that say about me?

I’m disappointed that the real Bill Cosby isn’t the Cliff Huxtable we all laughed with and wanted to emulate.  But I’m not surprised.

I feel tremendous sorrow for his wife and children who will somehow have to put aside their cognitive dissonance and learn the hard truth about their husband and father.

I am glad that the women he hurt are speaking out and making him accountable, at least publicly, if not legally, for his crimes against them.

As a society, we need to lay down our Hollywood-breathed notions of what a bad guy is and learn to recognize the truth.  Even though it is hard to accept, even though it is uncomfortable to think about…abusers of all kinds walk and live among us.  We know them.  They are our friends.  They go to our churches and we talk to them at our children’s schools.  They come from good families.  They live on our streets. They sleep in our beds.

Unless and until we learn to lay down this dichotomy and recognize them among us, detect their patterns and methods of gaining access to us, they will continue to prey on us.

How Four Hideous Christmas Trees Saved Christmas

On December 11, 2007, my lawyer called and told me that my divorce was final.

2007 had been a horrible year.  The most devastating of my life.  Back in April, a singular ATM transaction led me to investigate the man I had been married to for 20 years.  The father of my three beautiful children.  The man who was on the short-list to be the next elder of our church.

No, he wasn’t perfect, but he was good.  No, our marriage wasn’t perfect, in fact we had been going through a rough patch the year of our 20th anniversary, but you didn’t throw away a 20-year commitment because times were tough.

But he had different ideas.  In his mind, heart, and intention, he had already left our family and had moved on to a new life…only I didn’t know about it until April, 2007.

Everything changed that year.  I had been primarily a stay-at-home mom for 17 of our 20 years, but now I had to work 3 part-time jobs to keep the lights on.  Food came from the various food pantries in town.  I sold any valuable item I could find in my house: furniture, jewelry, and collectables.  I even started charging my own children for using the cable and internet!

So as Christmas, 2007 approached, I knew that, along with everything else that had changed that year, the way we would celebrate Christmas would have to change, too.  I felt lower than a slug.  I knew I couldn’t buy my kids expensive presents.  Christmas dinner wouldn’t be the varied spread they were accustomed to. I couldn’t even afford the gas to drive down to North Carolina so we could celebrate with their grandparents!

It was hard for me and my kids to even feel like celebrating Christmas at all!  I was hurt.  I was lonely.  We had all been rejected, abandoned, and forsaken.  It hurt to know that my now ex-husband would soon be remarrying while I would likely end 2008 just as I was ending 2007 – alone.  And a bleary-eyed sadness had implanted itself in my children that I had no power to chase away.  The kids didn’t feel like setting up our Christmas tree with all of our old ornaments…too many memories.  “Let’s just not,” one of them said.

I decided not to wallow…my kids and I needed to MAKE some Christmas cheer!!

I scoured the sales circulars and found that Border’s Books had a 75% off sale of Christmas decorations.  There I found a miniature Christmas tree in every color (I guess all of the green ones had been taken?).  So I bought a pink one, a purple one, a blue one, and a silver one…one for each room in our home!

mini christmas tree

When I brought them home, my daughter, Savanna, cried, “Mom, those are the most hideous trees I’ve ever seen!”

I was undaunted.  I spread out all of our old Christmas ornaments and craft supplies on the dining room table.  With renewed inspiration, I started breaking apart and regluing.  Soon, one of my children joined me, and then another, and then the last one joined in, too. Suddenly, I felt a few twinkles of joy.

Eventually, we had recreated enough new tiny ornaments to decorate each of our new multi-colored trees.  We set about to decorate them, and soon decided on a theme for each one.  The one in the dining room got all of the little Baby Jesus’ while the one in the sunroom would get all of the flowers and bows.

Finally, it was decided that it would be okay, after all, if we set up the big, old artificial tree in the living room and decorated it with all of the ornaments that the children had made throughout their lives (I couldn’t bear to deconstruct them!).

On Christmas morning I wrote in my journal, “I’d say today was bittersweet.  Slow, relaxed, and somewhat enjoyable.  I cooked dinner and we opened our gifts.  The kids seemed happy; well, at least, not sad.”

It wasn’t exactly a Hallmark Christmas movie, but four hideous Christmas trees taught us that maybe, just maybe, expensive presents and a Better Homes and Gardens dinner spread wasn’t what celebrating Christmas was all about after all.

Image courtesy of Free Images

Advent is for Losers…Like Me

By Lori Michelle

Advent seems to bring out the loser in me.

By “loser,” I don’t mean worthless deadbeat.  I mean someone who has suffered loss.  Someone who had been abandoned, forgotten, hurt, or ruined.

Advent Wreath courtesy of www.freeimages.com

Advent Wreath courtesy of www.freeimages.com

Sometimes during the Advent season, I am haunted by the “Ghost of Husband Past” and it makes me despair a little and lose sleep. Then I remember how blessed my new life is, and how Our God is a True Redeemer, and I begin to feel myself come back again.

Advent, which simply means “coming,” also means “waiting”.  Waiting for the Christ Child, yes, but also waiting for the Christ Child to be born again in me.  Waiting for All Things to be made new.  Waiting for the things I hope for to become tangible.

Advent is for those of us who have gone astray, been confused, suffered injustice.

Advent is for dreamers, for the afflicted, for the grieving.

We are all waiting.  Anticipating the time when the waiting is over.  But for now, we are just in limbo together.

Counting down the days…hours…moments.

“Singing in the midst of evil is what it means to be disciples,” Nadia Bolz-Weber tells us, “Like Mary Magdalene, the reason we stand and weep and listen for Jesus is because we are bearers of resurrection, we are made new.”

Yes, not just losers…but bearers of resurrection.

Before you have a resurrection, first you must die.

Before you are restored, first you must be ruined.

Before you have victory, first you must be defeated.

To a virgin woman the birth of the Son of God was announced.  Someone who was practicing the presence of God through the worship of waiting.  Maybe that is why the Babe in the Manger is such a meaningful message…The Blessed Child who we have all been waiting for has finally arrived.

That is how we experience the gratitude and joy at the revelation of His coming.  That is why we celebrate and sing…because we enjoy His appearing all the more after we have been longing for it for so many days.

Mother and Son courtesy of www.freeimages.com

Mother and Son courtesy of www.freeimages.com

For this Advent Season, I want to reflect on some losers.  Squandered, strayed, unfortunate ones who, through God’s abounding mercy and faithfulness, were able to experience the joy of redemption.  I hope you will wait along with me. Even better, I invite you to join the conversation.  Nobody likes waiting alone.

 

 

 

An Open Letter to My Ex-Husband on Thanksgiving

Dear Ex-Husband,

Last Sunday the minister taught a lesson to prepare us for Thanksgiving.  It was about the ten lepers who had been healed by Jesus found in Luke 17: 11 ff.  Ten men cried out to Jesus for healing, but only one came back to show gratitude for the miracle that had been done for them.

The minister emphasized the importance of stepping forward in faith, but to also look back with thankfulness.

I admit that most of the time when I look back on our 20-year marriage, it isn’t gratitude that is filling my mind and heart.

Most of the time…even though it has been nearly eight years…and even though I am now happier in my life than I ever was in our life together…I have to admit, I still look back with bitterness, and regret, and hurt.

"Broken Heart" taken by Alex Bruda courtesy of freeimages.com

“Broken Heart” taken by Alex Bruda courtesy of freeimages.com

I still don’t like you…sometimes I kind of hate you.  Even though I have forgiven much of what you did to me, to our children, to us…I haven’t forgiven everything.  Maybe I never will.

But I still want to take this opportunity to look back and thank you.

First, and foremost, I thank you for our 3 bright, beautiful, and amazing kids.  They have been the joy of my life.  They have taught me more about love and faith and perseverance than I could have ever known.  I never wanted anything in my life more than I wanted to be a mom, a good mom.  I can’t imagine my life without them and I am so incredibly thankful for them.

Secondly, thank you for trying to be a good dad to our children.  You tried to teach them your values and your faith.  You attended every soccer game, every performance, every important event in their lives.  You laughed with them and played with them; you disciplined them and loved them.  Thank you for giving them a childhood with a caring father.

Lastly, thank you for allowing me to be the stay-at-home mom I wanted to be.  When I found it nearly impossible to balance career and homemaking and motherhood, you gave me the chance to be primarily at home.  When our son didn’t learn to read like the other kids, you allowed me to bring him home to school him until he caught up!  How did we know that experiment would turn into our lifestyle?  You gave me the gift of TIME.  Time to be present, time to teach, time to spend with our kids every single day.

One time, maybe just to hurt me, you told me that I had taken everything from you that you had ever wanted.  Remembering that still hurts me.

But you gave me everything I wanted…I wanted a family and I wanted time with my kids…and that is what you provided for me.

It is still so difficult to fathom how you could leave our beautiful family…our remarkable children…how you could just reject and forsake and abandon us like you did.  How you could be the cause of the bleary-eyed sadness that clouded your baby girl’s eyes and hardened her heart.  How dare you do that to the very kids you loved so much!

Maybe I will never be able to understand how you could do what you did, but thanking you might be one more step in forgiving you.

As I step forward into my new goals and dreams and opportunities, I am remembering to look back in gratitude.  And somehow thankfulness softens the edges of my regret and bitterness.  And that is a bit of a miracle in itself.

 

Grappling with Christian Community

friends foreverAt church on Sunday the preacher handed out little slips of paper to everyone with these words…”Christian Community is so important to me because…”

I felt my tongue turn to sandpaper and miniature droplets blurred my vision.  How could I conjure up a succinct, yet complete, response?

You see, I’m “in a relationship” with a new church.  Its official…I even posted it on my Facebook status.

It’s both scary and hopeful for me.

Scary because I’ve been hurt so often and lost so much.  Nearly two years ago I officially withdrew my name from membership from the church I joined when I was 16.  My mom and dad had not raised me in that church…I chose it myself.

30 years later,  I was done with church.  No, I was not done with God…not done with Christianity…just THAT church.  But the question remained…Why, when being a part of a Christian community had ruined my life could I want to be a part of another one…EVER?

Yet hopeful because I know what I WANT Christian community to mean to me.  I believe what it CAN mean.

I certainly don’t expect perfection or platitudes or even for the community to have all of the “answers to life, the Universe and Everything.”  But I do want it to mean connection…authenticity…challenge…growth…purpose.  I want to feel like I am a part of what God is doing…to be God’s hands and feet here on Earth.  I want to use my talents for teaching and writing and compassion and empathy and spiritual discernment for the Kingdom of God.  Here I am, Lord, send me.

But getting close enough to connect and challenge…to be real enough to stop pretending that I’m grappling with so many aspects of life…to be open enough to allow myself to stretch and grow and follow and agonize and love…to be foolish enough to reveal my dreams and wishes and fears and my million, billion flaws and ideas…and my humanness.

To risk being rejected (again), shunned (again), ignored (again), underestimated (again), used (again), and abused (again) seems impossible, actually inscrutable.  Why would I submit to such a thing?  Richelle E. Goodrich says, “Forgive and forget is a divine ideal.  Grappling with hurt while biting you tongue and struggling to refuse justifiable vengeance – that’s closer to human reality.”

That’s closer to my reality.

But I actually like this quote even better…

 “Laugh, even when you feel too sick or too worn out or tired.
Smile, even when you’re trying not to cry and the tears are blurring your vision.
Sing, even when people stare at you and tell you your voice is crappy.
Trust, even when your heart begs you not to.
Twirl, even when your mind makes no sense of what you see.
Frolick, even when you are made fun of. Kiss, even when others are watching. Sleep, even when you’re afraid of what the dreams might bring.
Run, even when it feels like you can’t run any more.
And, always, remember, even when the memories pinch your heart. Because the pain of all your experience is what makes you the person you are now. And without your experience—you are an empty page, a blank notebook, a missing lyric. What makes you brave is your willingness to live through your terrible life and hold your head up high the next day. So don’t live life in fear. Because you are stronger now, after all the crap has happened, than you ever were back before it started.”
Alysha Speer

So THIS is the answer I couldn’t write on my paper last week.  Here are the words it has taken me a week of tears and prayer and reading and meditating to realize:

Christian community is so important to me because…I want to laugh, smile, cry, sing, trust, twirl, frolic, learn, worship, serve, love, and experience God and this life, with God’s people.  And because of the crap that has happened to me, I am a lot better at all of those things than before.  And I now have strength, and insight, and compassion, and knowledge that I can contribute to a community, as we become more and more willing and able and bold enough to allow God to shape and mold us more and more into the likeness of His Son.

To read more about this topic, check out Why Do I Still Go to Church?