Fashion fades, only style remains the same. - Coco Chanel

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

God's Answer

One of my favorite things about our bedtime routine, is that it creates the opportunity for me to talk to God, while I am lulling Charlie to sleep. Before Charlie, I would pray at random times and places. I would be riding the subway, thinking to myself, and I would feel fear or joy or gratitude, and I would begin a silent conversation with God. That is my simple definition of praying, conversing with God.

Since having our precious girl, praying has become a more regular part of my life. On nights when I am on bedtime duty, after reading a story, I dim the lights, and I whisper out loud some variation of this standard greeting:

"God, Charlize and I come to you tonight to thank you for another day of life, we ask you keep Your Love in our hearts and to keep our family bonded closely always."

After that my prayers vary based on what is happening that day, some times I pray for a particular person/people who are in my heart that night, A LOT of times I ask God for increased patience and kindness (work in progress).

In the days following the inauguration, I felt (and still feel) tense, angry, hopeless, and so my prayers began to include a recurring tone:

"God, guide me in what is right, show me what I can do right now to fight off despair and to keep Your Love in my heart. Show me the right way, show me what to do to make this world a better place for Charlize to grow up in."

I also spoke to other spiritual people about my feelings, and mostly they responded sincerely and confidently "God is in control"- and while I agree that is true, it wasn't quite a soothing as intended.

Then the following Sunday we attended mass and our pastor said: "When Jesus came to Andrew and Peter, at the Sea of Galilee they stopped what they were doing, they walked and they followed him. This is important to remember, the disciples were not passive, they moved, they walked. God's people don't sit in darkness, they get up and walk to the light."

It was a light bulb moment! Yes God is in control, of course God is in control, but that doesn't mean we get to sit leisurely and wait for the light to come to us. We have to get up and walk. The sermon reaffirmed my instinct that I should be doing something to fight off darkness, but what? What could be my daily practice or action to stay sane, loving and helpful in these troubling times?

As is normally the case for me, I found the answer in a book. On a different Sunday afternoon, browsing the book store, I spotted a cover that instantly caught my eye. The title was Love Warrior, and the cover art featured an abstract heart, with the distinct form of a woman on fire. I picked it up to examine the art up close, then I saw Oprah's Book Club sticker, and purchased it on a whim.

This post is not about Love Warrior, which was an engrossing, some times difficult, mostly uplifting read about love, marriage, infidelity, and redemption. But Love Warrior turned out to be God's answer to my prayers, not because the book spoke directly to what I was praying for, but because it introduced me to Glennon Doyle Melton.

My experience is that God doesn't lay the answers out at your feet, you have to be paying close attention.

As I was reading the early pages of Love Warrior, and realized that Glennon was a self-proclaimed "Jesus Freak", I worried that I just spent my money on some hidden conservative Christian agenda. I am paranoid about this, when I encounter people who identify as Christians, I worry if they are far-right conservative, I worry that they are people who use Christianity to act as judge and jury of everyone around them. I hate that I have this prejudice, and I love that Glennon turned out to be the exact opposite of those things. The best way for me to describe Glennon is that she is the kind of perfectly, imperfect Christian I strive to be.

Through picking up Love Warrior, and learning more about Glennon, I have connected to a community of people who Love God by LOVING EACH OTHER. Glennon has a wonderful online community called Momastery (not just for moms or women or Christians). There are posts about current political issues, ways to help and support each other through difficult personal issues, there are funny posts about family life, and posts about serious injustices in the world. But the most wonderful thing about Momastery is that it provides the opportunity to help others in need and various options to help including answering a letter request or a prayer request, making a small donation, sponsoring a family's holiday wish, or joining a particular group/cause. Small but meaningful actions.

Since finding Momastery I spend a few hours each day going through the archives and everyday I read things that speak to my soul. I read about people who are walking to the light, people who are fighting darkness with love. Momastery and Together Rising has helped volunteers serving Syrian refugees, people who work to end human trafficking, people providing maternity care in Haiti, people going through person struggles. Its a gathering place for people who stood up against wrong by doing one small right thing.

God's answer to my prayer: Become a Love Warrior Olivia- Love Me, by Loving the people all around you. All you have to do is the next right thing.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Reading Partners- February Book Drive

In an effort to go beyond angry ranting (see previous post), I have decided to channel my energy into something that will be both positive and impactful. I spent a few days trying to figure out how I could be of most help, and quickly decided to start a local project and to do something that would help children from underserved communities.
Not to be all Whitney, but they really are our future. There are tons of ways to help children, but I kept coming back to books. When I was a child books were my constant companions and my ticket to travel to lands near and far, to live different lives, and to explore my imagination.
Beyond the joy of reading for personal pleasure, reading proficiency has a major impact on performance in all subjects starting as early as the fourth grade. Many states have considered mandatory retention legislation that would require third grade students to repeat third grade if they do not pass the reading portion of state standardized tests. Reading below grade level can create long-lasting barriers to academic achievement.
Reading Partners seeks to assist children that are reading behind grade level by providing one-on-one tutoring through their volunteer training and matching program. You can see more about their mission and strategic plan by clicking the link.
The book drive I am hosting in partnership with Reading Partners will be to benefit students of P.S. 158 in East New York, Brooklyn. This is P.S. 158's first year working with Reading Partners and they have a high need for tutors, and reading material for students to build their home libraries. Our goal is to collect 100 gently used (or new) donated books by February 28.
I will be setting up various donation bins and I can also be contacted directly if you need me to meet you where you are (in the NYC area) and pick up your donations.

Friday, January 20, 2017

What Next?

No one in my small family slept well last night, we all went to bed early, but I tossed and turned. When I woke around two in the morning, my throat dry as Death Valley, S popped right up and got me a glass of ice water. He couldn't get into a deep sleep either. The pending inauguration seemed to hand over all over us, even Charlie who woke an hour earlier than normal.

My gut response to a Trump presidency is to bury my head in the sand and ignore all political news for the next four years, because I there is enough to get done each day between the office, child rearing, and maintaining a marriage without adding the burden of constantly worrying about the stat of our nation. But I can't truly do that, what happens in the next four years can potentially have far reaching and lasting impact on our country. Like so many in my generation, I have news constantly at my fingertips, and even with filtered settings the headlines still find their way onto my feed. Most importantly, you can't fight what you can't see, so for my daughter, for her future, I must keep my eyes and ears open.

On my ride into the city this morning I did my usual perusal of Facebook and Instagram, and I got riled up by posts that basically read "Trump sucks, but we really need to stand behind him"

I am very confused by this.

Would you willingly and happily board a plane if you knew the pilot was not truly qualified to operate an aircraft?

Would you be treated by a doctor who has repeatedly been sued for malpractice?

Why on earth should I stand behind someone that means me harm? As a woman, as a Latinx, as a human being with decency this man has time and again proven he doesn't mean me well. Standing behind him is not the only thing we can do.

We can resist every single day for the next four years.

We can make sure he only gets one term.

We can show him the same disrespect and resistance that Republicans showed President Obama for the last 8 years.

We can strategize and road block.

We can love each other. We can embrace our Muslim, Mexican, Black, LGBTQI, and disabled Brothers and Sisters.

We can grit our teeth, clench our fists, plant our feet and fight the good fight. But we cannot passively stand behind him.