Monday, September 20, 2021

Made To Worship


We're going through a small group study on purpose.   Trying to answer that age old question, "what is our purpose"?  "Why are we here"?

To that end, we're going through Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life and looking at it in the micro, trying to find out God's unique design for each of our lives.  This depends on so many factors, like our individual bent in life.  Our passions, our experiences, our circumstances.

But I love the approach the book gives to the macro.  

Why do we as a human species exist?  Why were we creating as just one other group of animals on this planet?  What do we offer that others cannot?  In those terms, our purpose becomes much clearer in the micro.

We as human beings are made for one primary purpose - to worship God.

"The Lord is pleased only with those who worship him and trust his love."
Psalm 147:11

I think we inherently understand this as believers.  We have that hard wired desire to worship something.  We will devote all our attention and effort to something.  That something might be ourselves and our pleasure.  It might be our family.  Our parents and pleasing them.  Our spouse and living for them.  Our children and providing everything for them.  It might be our jobs and our success.  It might be a prized possession, making an idol of our car, our home, our boat.  

Yes, we all worship something.  

When it comes to understanding the worship of God, we may have to adjust our definition of what worship is and what it isn't.  Cause we don't think of it in these terms of devotion.  We think of what we know and experience.

Worship isn't music.  It isn't a particular style of music or a particular period of music.  You don't worship first and then have preaching.  Worship, in fact predates music, as Adam worshipped God and music isn't mention until a couple of chapters later with Jubal in Genesis 4.  

Worship has nothing to do with a particular location.  It has nothing to do with being in the building on Sunday morning. It does not need a pastor. It does not need a worship leader/music minister/song leader/whatever you want to call them. It does not need other people around you.

Worship isn't even about us.  It's not about what we feel or what we get out of it.  It's not about what we learn or what we take away.  It's not about how we feel.

True worship is radically different.

Worship is whatever is pleasing to God.

Worship can include music, but it also includes all parts of a religious service.  It's prayer, it's preaching, it's teaching.  It's serving others.

Worship is everywhere.  It's where two or more are gathered.  It's being struck by the beauty of God's creation.  It's singing along to your favorite song of praise in the car.  It's showing mercy to others at your work.

Worship is for and about God.  It's lifting high and glorifying his name.

In short, worship is a way of life.  It's something you should be doing every day.  Every hour, every second.  It's doing whatever we do as if for the Lord.

It's why Stonepoint always ended with "Have a Great Week of Worship."  It was a recognition that what happened on Sunday morning was only a brief blip in the worship of a believer.

Our danger lies in half-hearted worship.  In going through the motions.  While it is true, we sometimes must rest on ritual and wait for our feelings, our spirit to catch up, we must be careful not to repeatedly offer stale prayers that we don't expect to be answered, empty words, man-made ritual without even thinking of the meaning.  God does not care for any of this.  "I've come for mercy, not sacrifice."  Jesus explicitly said to the most "religious" of his day, the high "worshipers" that he did not care for their sacrifices if their hearts didn't match.

This is also exactly what God complains of in Isaiah 29.  His heart is not touched by the Israelites tradition in worship, but is looking for their passion and commitment.  "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.Oh, that this not apply to the American church today.  I fear it does far too often.  Think of how much chatter there is when the order of worship is changed.

The challenge, then, is to be fully committed to worship.  For our every activity to be done for the praise, glory, and pleasure of God.  To be transformed into our act of worship.  That way, it is so ingrained in our lives that we can't help but worship.  

We know that is what the rest of creation does.  What it was made for.  So, it's our turn to join in that chorus and shout at the top of our voice:

So will I

"All we are
And all we have
Is all a gift from God that we receive
Brought to life
We open up our eyes
To see the majesty and glory of the King

He has filled our hearts with wonder
So that we always remember

You and I were made to worship
You and I are called to love
You and I are forgiven and free
When you and I embrace surrender
When you and I choose to believe
Then you and I will see who we were meant to be
"
Made to Worship, Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash, Stephan Sharp, 2006

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Batman Day 2021


 

Holy celebrations, today is Batman Day!  

This is the seventh annual celebration of Batman Day, now commemorated on the second or third Saturday in September.  The celebration initially started in 2014 to mark the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Batman.  It is now a yearly event, with DC even providing free Batman comics for comic shops to distribute.

This year is DC Comics is celebrating 82 years of Batman.  The character, created in 1939 in Detective Comics #27 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, has proved one of the most durable characters in pop culture.  He's gone from pulp to camp to science fiction to crime and everything in between.  He has been a television, film, and radio star.  He's the star of fiction and comic books.  The number one selling comic character in fact.  A video game icon.  He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next year.

This Batman Day is headlined by two breakthrough releases, Batman: The Audio Adventures and Batman: The World, as DC, Warner Bros. and fans around the globe will celebrate the iconic character’s longevity and impact across comics, film, television, and more!

Until next year, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Jane Powell

 


There are certain movies that are replayed a lot in our house hold.  The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jurassic Park, Jaws.  All for a variety of reasons.  Nightmare for Jude. Jurassic Park for 90's nostaglia.  Jaws once a year for Fourth of July.

There are certain types of movies that get played a lot too.  We watch a lot of musicals.  I'm a sucker for classic Dream Factory musicals when they are on TCM.  Even if the plot is bad, I love discovering the old songs.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is played a lot.  Not as often as Jamie watched it as a teenager, but a lot.  More than once a year. 

The cinematography that demands wide screen and letterbox television.  Michael Kidd's incredible choreography.  

And Jane Powell's best performance.

Powell's Milly is the glue that holds it all together.  Her rich and clear operatic soprano pared so well with Keel's bass-baritone.  Her comic timing was impeccable.  The role remained her signature and best performance, truly marking her transition from child to adult characters.

An MGM staple contract player, she made the Dream Factory shine.  Throughout her career, her youthful appearance allowed her to project the image of the innocent girl next door throughout her career.  

Career highlights include the previously mentioned Seven Brides and Royal Wedding, in which she played Fred Astaire's wise cracking sister, giving her a chance to keep up with Astaire in a six-minute musical number of witty banter, song, and dance.

Jane Powell passed away yesterday of natural causes in her home at the age of 92.   She was one of our last surviving links to that Golden Age of Hollywood.  

She will be missed.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Yom Kippur

Tonight begins the observance of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  The holiest of the High Holy Days.  The one day of the year where the high priest can enter the holiest of holies and make a sacrifice for the people.

It is the day of intercession.

A time of prayer and fasting.  A very focused time to get right with God.

For those of us who believe Jesus is the Messiah, I think we all too often forget we have this kind of access on a continual basis.  Jesus interceded.  His purpose is to be our great high priest.  The great high priest whose name is Love.  He has, is, and is continuing to intercede on our behalf.


"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Hebrews 4:14-16

Should it not follow that we are in a continual atonement?   We should be in a continual process of evaluating our lives, our walks, to ensure alignment with that high priest.  

Would we not also benefit from that level of introspection and evaluation?  From a day of fervent prayer and fasting?

To my Jewish friends:
May you be blessed. May you be happy. May you be at peace. May you be in good health. May you be in good company. May you never lack food, shelter, or safety. Wishing you a wonderful Jewish new year, and an easy fast for Yom Kippur.

G'mar Chatimah Tova

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

National Hispanic Heritage Month


Today marks the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month, running from September 15 to October 15.  The celebration has its roots dating back to 1968, with the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Week.  The week was first proclaimed by President Lyndon Johnson, with the month long celebration being first proclaimed by President George H. W. Bush in 1989.

Today is particularly significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua from Spain.  The month also includes several significant dates in Hispanic heritage.  Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Further, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, falls on October 12, within the month-long celebration.

The month serves as a great encouragement to recognize the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.  In particular, United States Military recognizes the longstanding and remarkable contributions that Hispanics have made in building and defending the nation, dating back to the Civil War.

This month is the perfect time for exploration.  For discovery.  Read Hispanic American authors, watch television and film from Hispanic American artists (which we are doing).  Google "Hispanic and Latinx History you should know" and explore - there are dozens of articles that could provide a great springboard for education.

There's a wealth of information out there to make this month an enriching experience.  All you have to do is be willing to learn.

We know the future of the United States is Hispanic growth.  Citizens of Hispanic heritage account for nearly 20% of the United States currently.  Or 1 in 5 Americans.  That number is growing.  Half of the population growth in the United States has come from the Hispanic population.  

They are America.  And it's time we celebrate their contributions to and place in our shared history.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Praise Team

One thing that I've really enjoyed over the past couple of months is getting opportunities to sing.  As I've written before, the pandemic has been tough on live music.  For months, everything was shut down.  And even as things opened back up, live music has been one of the slower things to come back.  When we first were able to go into our church for worship last August, we were still wearing masks for services and singing through masks.  Most choirs weren't meeting.  

Over the past several months, I've found those new opportunities to sing.  First with the Cummins Diversity choir, as written about before.  And since this August, with the praise team at Connection Pointe.  

I've forgotten how much I missed this.

Especially because the choir and the praise team stretch different muscles.  There are musical differences.  The choir is about matching volume and pitch with others in your range, while balancing with the rest of the choir.  Following the director.  The praise team is about blending with the small group of singers, often with tighter harmony.  About finding the right harmony to bring to the group that is additive.  

There are technical differences.  The choir is accompanied by a piano and generally does not use a microphone.  The praise team has a full band behind it with a click track and handheld microphones.

There's even one more fundamental difference.

The praise team is about throwing yourself unabashedly into worship.  

It's being able to strip away everything else, the rest of the band, the congregation, the lights, everything and just worship.  All of the musicians at Connection Pointe are able to do this very well.  To take pride in rehearsal and in trying to present the best music possible, but at the same time, being able to let that go and just worship.

This cuts across denomination, across the size of the church, and the style of music.  I've sung in church since I was four and have been part of worship teams or choirs since high school.  Sure, some things change.  I know here I have definitely been caught off guard because of the live video feed that is shared on the screens on each side of the worship center.  Nothing like catching a glimpse of yourself when you are not expecting it to make you do a double take.  

But the heart of it consistently remains the same.  

Praise forever to the King of Kings.



Monday, September 13, 2021

The Cube Theory of Food

 


"Is a hot dog a sandwich?

This was the lighthearted question raised as a poll yesterday for the praise team and audio/visual team at church.  It only received two responses, one yes, and one depending on if it had cheese.

My response was no, a hot dog is a taco.  For I subscribe to the cube rule of food. 

Surprisingly, there has been a lot of history and development in this area.  It started with the initial question raised yesterday.  "Is a hot dog a sandwich?"  Apparently, New York state says yes, classifying hot dogs as sandwiches under tax bulletin TB-SB-835.

Then Twitter went a little crazy and decided to declare that Pop Tarts are a sweet form of ravioli.  Pop Tarts corporate denies this, and says that ravioli is just a savory pop tart.

Someone then decided to create a sandwich alignment chart, following the Dungeons and Dragons alignments.  Here based on structure and ingredients as opposed to the lawful/chaotic and good/evil dichotomies.

This is helpful, but still a bit wanting, not quite covering the breadth of food related arguments that could be raised.

Twitter to the rescue again, with the Cube Rule of Food, thanks to user @Phosphatide.  The cube theory of food is a grand unified theory of food categorization based on the number of pieces of bread (or starch) and their location in correlation to other. 

No starch is a salad.

With one piece of starch, the other ingredients are necessarily on top.  This is toast.  Think avocado toast, toast with jelly.  But also under this structure, pizza is toast, nigiri sushi is toast.

Two pieces of starch, parallel to each other makes a sandwich.  This would include the traditional sandwich designed by the Earl himself, as well as quesadillas and stroopwafel.

Three pieces of starch gets us to the hot dog example.  The three pieces would be placed in a u-shape to hold the food.  This makes it a taco.  

Meaning a hot dog is a taco.

Perhaps more controversial for Texas, four pieces of starch (a box with open ends) make sushi.  This means that pigs in a blanket and enchiladas are sushi.

To round out the list, five pieces of starch, creating a bowl shape with an open top, makes a quiche.  This is a correction to the chart above, which has a bread bowl.  This would be an example, but it should be labeled quiche.  This category can also include deep dish pizza and pies.

Finally, six pieces of starch, completely enclosing the ingredients, makes a calzone.  Corn dogs, burritos, chimichangas, dumplings - these are all calzones.  In Texas terms, your klobasniki and kolaches are calzones.

A handy guide to help settle any useless arguments that may be raised.  And a lot of fun silliness to counteract the overbearing muchness of the world right now.  

A hot dog is a taco. 

Why not?


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Jots and Tittles

"What do people pretend is in the Bible but is absolutely not in the Bible?"


That is the twitter prompt that caught my attention recently.  A question with a very long thread on the traditions, sayings, and understandings that we add on top of the Bible.  Things that are not biblical, but we just assume they are because of a multitude of reasons.

There were a few pithy responses, that were nonetheless very profound. America, English, White People, the concept of a Bible.  

America is most definitely not in the Bible.  There is no guarantee we will exist as a country by the time the apocalypses in Isaiah and Revelation come to pass.

English did not exist as a language until five hundred years after the events of the Bible.  The Bible was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.

The people of the Bible were brown and black, having more in common with their Arab counterparts in the Middle East than modern day white Americans.  Even the Greeks and Romans, who would now be considered “white,” did not start being considered as such until the 1920s.  Prior to that “white” was generally reserved for Northern Europeans.  

The writers of the scripture had no idea they would be adding to a “canon” of scripture that would be passed down forever.  To those in the New Testament, the Tanakh, or the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible would have been fixed, but there was no concept of writing a new scripture.  The first New Testament would not have been referenced until 220 AD, and not “canonized” until at best 100 years later. So when we see verses referencing scripture, like the ones below, the they are referencing a specific section, not the entire book.  Besides, what Bible would it refer to?  The 66 books of the general Protestant Bible?  The 80 of the Coptic Bible, the earliest dates sect of Christianity?

A couple of answers were the Shakespeare quotes we assume are biblical. "Neither a lender nor a borrower be."  That would be Hamlet, Act I, Scene III, not scripture.

Some are aphorisms that reveal a misguided theology like "God helps those who help themselves" or "God will never give you more than you can handle.”  These are flat out contradictory to the Bible.  God helps us and often gives us more than we can bear so that we rely on Him.

Some pointed out minor language quibbles like the "s" in Revelation, Jonah meeting a whale, or there being only three wise men.  The title of the book is the Revelation of John, Jonah was swallowed by a big fish, so maybe a whale shark, and we do not know how many magi traveled.  There were only three types of gifts, so we make them three magi. 

There were things that surprised even me, because I would have believed them.  Specifically, pointing out that God did not change Saul's name to Paul.  This will mentioned in sermons, but there is no specific verse that God changed Saul’s name at his conversion. In fact, the name Saul is mentioned several times after his conversion, and the only mention we have is Acts 13:9 which says “But Saul who was also called Paul.”  We conflate Saul’s two names with tales of Abraham, Jacob, and Peter.  Those tales where God indeed did change someone's name for a purpose.  Instead Saul here had two names reflecting his two citizenships, a Jewish name Saul and a Roman name Paul.  Since Paul was the apostle to the Gentile population, his letters used his Roman name, which would be associated with that group.

We even see this in current events and political hot button issues.  Vaccination exemptions.  Mask requirements.  The Bible literally says nothing about these topics and there is no religious basis for a vaccine exemption in the Bible for most denominations (exempting Christian Scientists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, those who believe in no medical care).  You may have a deeply held personal conviction one way or the other that is informed by your religious beliefs.  But this belief is also influenced by your environment, your upbringing, your political affiliation.  Perhaps more so.  That’s why “religious convictions” run both ways on this issue.

All this to say, be careful what you attribute to the Bible.  Be careful what you read into its text and what you present as gospel.  Study and read it, search yourself to see where you are adding a jot or a tittle.

We do it more often than we would like to admit.

"For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."

Matthew 5:18 (KJV)

"Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you."

Deuteronomy 4:2 (NIV)


Saturday, September 11, 2021

9-11: 20 Years Out

September 11, 2001.

A day that will be forever etched in our memories and still affecting us now twenty years out.

I'll remember how that day unfolded forever. I had turned on the television before heading out to classes, so that I could check the weather and more importantly check the traffic.  The screen tuned to a shot of the first tower with smoke billowing out of it.  Unsure of what I was watching, my attention kept turning back to the television as I continued to get ready.

And then it happened.  I saw the plane hit the second tower live as it happened.  Dumbfounded, I just stared at the screen.  Unfortunately, I still needed to head to class, so I got in my car and headed toward the university, radio station tuned to pick up any news I could.  Most classes were canceled, one in the afternoon went ahead.  In between everything, I kept heading back to the dining common space in the McCombs business building to stay tuned to the televisions.  Following the events through the attack on the Pentagon and the grounding of flight 93 in Stonycreek, Pennsylvania.

What I remember most of that day and those immediately following was the eerie quiet.  Austin is a noisy city, but with the planes grounded and the tension that followed, the city was eerily silent.  Everyone absorbed in the fear and paranoia of the day.  Turning inward and remaining inside.  To stay safe.  The busy activities of the city had ground to a halt.

And though we saw the worst of humanity in the actions of the terrorists that day, their anger and hate, their fear of anything different from their lives, we also saw the best of humanity in the days and weeks following.  The shared humanity that we all have.  The shared American spirit that lives in all of us who call this country home.

We saw first responders sacrificing their time and their lives to go back into the chaos, into the rubble, to save whoever that they could.

We discovered that there are still a lot of helpers in the world.

"My mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.'  To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world." Mr. Rogers

We saw people protecting those of a different religion, recognizing that though the attackers may have been Islamic, that their actions and their hate were not shared by the millions of American Muslims who shared our fear and loss, and the millions of Muslims around the world who saw their religion hi-jacked by extremists.

We saw neighbor helping neighbor to rebuild, to grieve, and go forward.

We all became a little bit of a New Yorker in those days, sending aid, thoughts, and prayers for the city to get back on its feed.

And we saw Americans realizing that our divisions do not matter.  That we carry one unifying label, American, and that we love our country and will stand united against its enemies.

I think this last one is very important for us to remember, now twenty years removed.  And while we do not forget the event, I pray that we remember the lessons we learned that day as well.

I pray we remember that though we may all have different backgrounds, different religions, different races, different political leanings, different experiences, for those in this country, we are all Americans.  We love and have an affinity for this country, more than any other in this world and we are all looking for a way to make our lives better and for the lives of those around us to be better.  We may have different ideas about what this country could and should be, we may have different ideas about how to get there, but "different" is just that, not necessarily better or worse.  We should be able to talk about all the different ideas and cultures and experiences that make up this great country and should be able to grow and change together as united citizens of these United States of America.

We should be able to recognize that that person on the opposite end of the political spectrum generally wants what is best for the country, even if it may not seem like it to you.  We have far more common ground than you could imagine, if we could only work together.

I pray we remember this spirit from the post-9-11 world.  And it starts with each of us.  To reach out to those around us and pitch in together.  To not denigrate the other side, or to blame all of our problems on the "Democrats" or "Liberals" or to point fingers at the "Republicans" or "Conservatives," or whatever other label may be applicable. To allow for an open discussion and debate of all sincere ideas on how to improve the country and to improve the lives of its citizens.

For the most important thing we learned is that there is a spirit in America that cannot be quenched.  That cannot be extinguished by any outside force.  We are the only ones who can quell it.  Abraham Lincoln spoke about this in his Lyceum Address.  "How then shall we perform it?  At what point shall we expect the approach of danger?  By what means shall we fortify against it?  Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow?  Never! -- All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.  At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected?  I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us.  It cannot come from abroad.  If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.  As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide."

In our response to 9-11, we saw a nation unified, undeterred by the attacks, stronger than ever.   Here twenty years later, we're splitting at the seams again.  We've listened to those voices that speak only for their own gain to divide us into groups of "us" and "them."  And have you noticed, the group that is the "them" continues to get bigger and bigger and more and more voices tell us who we should be against.  We listen to voices that keep telling us that our list of allies grows shorter and shorter, while the list of enemies continues to grow longer and longer.  

We've politicized health and safety, to the point where we have some in the population who deny a pandemic.  We've bought into big lies regarding the security of our elections, because we don't like the outcome.  We've allowed the "other", the boogey man in our head to do far more damage than the terrorists ever did.

We're forgetting those lessons of unity.

I pray we can turn this around.  That we remember and honor the fallen, we celebrate the first responders and their courage and sacrifice, and that we treat each other with the same grace and charity we did in that new world.

I pray that September 11, 2021 will look more like September 12, 2001 than September 10, 2021.

Friday, September 10, 2021

The Vaccine "Mandate"

Yesterday, Thursday September 9, 2021, President Joe Biden announced a new plan to impose rules through the Department of Labor, which would require all businesses with employees of 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees are vaccinated or tested weekly for Covid-19.  Non-compliance could result in thousands of dollars of fines for the company.  His plan also required vaccinations for all employees of the federal government and all contractors doing business with the federal government, as well as requiring vaccination for all workers in health care settings that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.

Biden's plan is his strongest measure taken so far to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, with an estimated impact of 80 million workers in private businesses, 2.5 million federal employees, and 17 million health care workers.  With our fully vaccinated rate at just above half (54%), this is a great step in closing the gap and helping end this pandemic. 

The push mirrors what several large corporations have already done.  Disney, Tyson Foods, United Airlines, and a host of other companies are requiring vaccines for their workforce.  Even Fox News has required its employees to provide vaccination status in order to obtain a FOX Clearpass (or vaccination passport or what we used to just call an immunization record) to work without social distancing.  The employees of FOX News must either be vaccinated or complete a daily screen.

There are a couple of important points to note - first, this is not an individual vaccination mandate, as some are portraying it.  The government is not requiring that you do anything.  Your large corporate employer may require something of you, but the federal government is not.  If you work for a small business, there is no direct impact to you.  Further, if you do not comply, there will not be a federal penalty that you would incur.  You may risk your job, but there is no government action that would come against you.

Second, there is no actual mandate.  The new rules do not require only vaccination and provide no other alternative.  The rules explicitly say vaccinate or test frequently.  Here testing is spelled out to be weekly.  With both vaccination and testing being free, this is a low burden.  If you choose not to get vaccinated, you can test weekly and still meet the requirements for your company.

Additionally, it is likely there will be companies that do not comply with these rules, and would rather incur the fines.  I wouldn't count on this, but it will happen.  Look already at the number of states where the governors predictably have vowed to oppose these rules.  Surprise, surprise, the governors that have fought against any kind of common sense Covid-19 precautions are the same ones that are opposing these new rules.  There will be companies that do the same, for the same reason - because it is politically expedient to do so.

Now, for why this matters.  We know that vaccinations are our best solution for getting out of this pandemic.  While it would be wonderful to get upwards of 90% of our adult population vaccinated, we know that will never happen.  There are those that cannot get vaccinated because of other health concerns, and there are those that will never get vaccinated because of conspiracy theories, misplaced religious exemptions, and pseudo-science.  

The alternative to vaccination is testing and contact tracing.  It's knowing who has the virus and where it travels.  It's quarantining those with the virus and eliminating contact.  

That's easier said than done.

Look at all the people who say we should just let it run its course, and for us to do the common sense thing of staying at home if we're sick.  That really is common sense, but how many of us really do it?  If we're feeling off for a day, how many of us actually take our temperature every day to know if we are running a fever or not?  How many of us say "it's just allergies," or "it's just my sinuses," or "it's just a little cough," but don't really know for certain?  How many of us are conditioned to go into work regardless of how we feel?  Or do not have an option to take off as sick, because we do not have sick days or substitutes, or the like?  Or how many of us know we are sick and stay home from work, but still run into the store because we have no one else to pickup medicine or supplies for us?

How many people would say, if I stayed home every time I felt a little sick, I would never go into work?

We're terrible germ factories and we're terrible at keeping them contained.

So, if we're not going to get vaccinated to protect ourselves and to lessen our viral load, the least we can do is are the social distancing measures.  Wear a mask, keep six feet apart, test frequently to know whether we have the virus or not, quarantine for the whole duration if we do have it.  Etc. 

You know, all the things half of us fought tooth and nail against since the beginning of the pandemic.

As noted above, we see the fighting on this already starting.  Despite these fights, there is precedent for this type of exercise of power.  Washington required the first mass troop inoculation for smallpoxThe Supreme Court in Jacobson v. Massachusetts affirmed the states authority to enforce compulsory vaccination laws.  While that case was decided in 1905, the Court recently affirmed this decision in 1922 (Zucht v. King), 1944, (Prince v. Massachusetts), and 1995 (Veronia School District 47J v. Acton).  Jacobson has even been relied on by circuit courts in the Covid-19 pandemic, including the Fifth Circuit.  While this is a novel exercise of power, it is expected to be upheld based on this precedent.

Perhaps we'll finally start making some headway.  Maybe we'll finally take this seriously and focus on getting past it.  

One could hope.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Why I Love My Work - Cummins Diversity Choir

I haven't written much about my work, for a variety of reasons.  But similar to how I have had a Why I Love My Church series, I wanted to write about why I love my work.  Reminders of the positive, the blessings we have in life, the things to be truly grateful for.  And there are many, many reasons why I love what I do right now and the company that I work for.  Here I'd like to focus on one benefit of working for such a large company.

Live music has been one of the hardest hit areas in this pandemic.  The rules on social distancing shut down many venues for a long time, choral singing proved to be one of the easiest ways to spread the disease, and opportunities to sing in public became fewer and far between.  Especially as part of any ensemble.

Late last year, I discovered that Cummins has a choir based in Columbus, Indiana.  The choir was pulled together as part of Cummins emphasis on diversity.  It was a way for people from diverse backgrounds to share in a common language and experience - music.  The choir had been performing right up to February 2020, but had stopped rehearsals and performances because of the pandemic.  

I was able to "join" the choir virtually and participate in a handful of Zoom sessions to get to know the choir members over the final months of last year.  Video conferencing is great for face to face communication, but terrible for music as there is not an easy way to counter the overlapping audio feeds.  So, while I was able to join, I was not yet able to sing with them.

Thankfully, with the improvements that were made in June and July, we were able to gather together to rehearse once again. We even were able to plan for a performance.  On August 28, the choir was able to perform at the Chinese Cultural Expo in Columbus.  It felt like everything was really getting back on track.

I can't tell you how good it was to be able to sing chorally again.  My most recent opportunities have been as part of smaller ensembles, like praise teams, or solo.  I love and appreciate these as well, and will be writing about getting to be a part of the praise team at our current church.  

Choral singing uses different muscles, though.  It's listening more closely to the intonation and pitch of those singing the same part as you.  It's balancing your voice with the others in your part.  Listening for the balance of the other vocal parts to make sure the blend of the whole ensemble comes through.  Keeping a close eye out for the conductor to ensure you are in time and don't miss an entrance or hold out a fermata too long.

Coming out of every rehearsal it made me dive into all my Broadway and classical music.  To want to just belt and sing for the rafters.

I forgot how much I missed it.

We are shut down once again, as the Covid cases increase around us and as Cummins' restrictions on indoor activity have once again been implemented.  But I am hopeful that this will be a shorter hiatus.  

I'm hopeful we are turning the corner with this virus.  That those stragglers and most ardent anti-vaxxers are coming around and will receive the vaccine (or will be forced to get the vaccine).  That maybe we can stop politicizing masks and do what we can to care for our neighbors around us.

I'm hopeful.  Maybe naively, but hopeful.

And I'm looking forward to singing again.

 


Monday, September 6, 2021

Labor Day 2021

No day in the calendar is a greater fixture, one which is more truly regarded as a real holiday, or one which is so surely destined to endure for all time, than the first Monday in September of each recurring year, Labor Day. With time, this day of the year is taking a deeper hold in the respect and confidence of the people. It is regarded as the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs might be discussed, placed upon a higher plane of thought and feeling; that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday, but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel stronger for it; meet at their parks, groves and grounds, and by appropriate speech, counsel with, and pledge to, each other that the coming year shall witness greater efforts than the preceding in the grand struggle to make mankind free, true and noble.

Samuel Gompers, “Labor Day. What It Portends.” American Federationist. September, 1898.



Today we honor American labor and the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of this country.  To the blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into the construction of our country, to the infrastructure that makes its backbone, and to the role that labor plays in our society today.

To those who have the day off, enjoy it.  To those that must continue to labor, we thank you.

To all, remember, it's more than just grilling or time off.  It's a recognition of the work it took to get here.  It's for the dream of a better work life in our future and for our posterity.

Happy Labor Day!

Friday, September 3, 2021

The End of Jurisprudence

Or why the new Texas abortion law is terrible news for everyone.


This May, Texas passed Senate Bill 8, banning all abortions performed after a fetal heartbeat can be detected in the state of Texas, effectively banning all abortions after around six weeks of pregnancy.  This is now the strictest abortion law in the land.

The new law passed on May 19 to take effect on September 1, but had its share of legal complications.  The matter was ultimately raised to the Supreme Court, who delayed their decision regarding whether it would hear the case until after the law went into effect.  The Supreme Court officially refused to hear the case on September 2, 2021.

The Supreme Court's delay was purportedly tied to the law's novelty.  The law does not criminalize the abortion procedure; rather, it makes it an issue of civil liability.

And whatever your underlying feelings on abortion, this is why everyone should be afraid of this law.

For the explicitly removes enforcement of the new law from the hands of the executive branch of government (police, district attorneys, etc.), and places it squarely in the hands of the general public.

We've created abortion vigilantism.

And have upended 250 years of jurisprudence.

"Any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity in this state, may
bring a civil action against any person who:

(1) performs or induces an abortion in violation of this subchapter;
(2) knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise, if the abortion is performed or induced in violation of this subchapter, regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed or induced in violation of this subchapter; or
(3) intends to engage in the conduct described by Subdivision (1) or (2).
"

Any citizen of the state of Texas can bring suit against an abortion provider or assister (very loosely defined) to seek civil damages and attorneys' fees.  

Note that the law so far, does not punish the pregnant woman receiving the abortion (unless perhaps she paid for it herself), but punishes anyone aiding in that end.  The abortion provider, the person that drives you to the clinic, the person that helps pay for it, the person that gives you a name or number, etc, etc, etc.  If you even suspect that someone intends to drive a woman to seek an abortion after 6 weeks but hasn't done it yet, you could bring suit against them.

So, we have what should be a criminal statute, that doesn't criminalize the behavior.  

One that turns over enforcement to the people.

A civil suit that does not require that the plaintiff themselves have been injured.  

That award's statutory damages not less than $10,000.  A $10,000 bounty if you will.

We're breaking our rules of law to make this work, and we will all pay for it.

Make no mistake, you will see a rise in frivolous, tenuous lawsuits coming out of this because of the financial incentive.  They will flood our already overloaded court dockets, pushing out court dates for all manner of suits.  And this will likely lead to other attempts to use this type of legislation for other types of social issues.

Imagine if this had been used in the early days of the pandemic to enforce social distancing.  If you could get a $10,000 reward for turning in anyone you saw gathering in groups over 10.  That weren't wearing masks.  If you could sue them if you just heard them talking about a party, intending to gather.

That sounds like a nightmare, right?

This is why we have certain requirements for our laws.  Why we abide by them, even if we are trying to do what we deem is noble.

The ends must justify the means.  And they don't here.  The means are too destructive.

I could write more about this, and probably will.  But for now, I'm just stunned, a little numb.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Happy Birthday Brooke!

A happiest of birthdays to my little sis, my Irish twin, my earliest best friend, and travel partner. Welcome to the club this year. 

We hope you’ve had the best of days and that you’ve had a great time with all your boys. We love you and can’t wait to get to see you - and to continue this celebration. 

I hope you are able to enjoy this day and this weekend and year ahead. Here’s to you and many happy happy returns. 

Love you sis!








Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Mitchuation Update: Back Again


I thought a good way to jump back into this would be to provide another Mitchuation update. It’s hard to believe we are already at September this year. We’re rapidly approaching fall and the weather is starting to actually reflect it. 

I must admit, I hadn’t intended to take a two month hiatus from the blog, but here we are. Summer was a bit frantic and we were, quite literally, all over the place. Looking back, we only spent half the summer in Indiana. The other half, we were in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia. A benefit of this remote work environment - it can literally be done from anywhere. As our return to the office date has been pushed back once again, I must remind myself that there are benefits like this. 

Avalyn has been in school for over a month now, and Jude has also started his part time pre-school. We’re quickly finding a new normal routine again. 

But our hectic schedule only addresses part of the lack of posts.  That is actually harder to describe. 

It’s not from a lack of content. There’s been a lot that has happened to us, around us, and across our country that warrants a post. Some of it will be future blog posts, like the status of our adoption journey*. For a lot of it, the relevance and urgency has passed. 

It’s also not from being overwhelmed by content either, as I’ve written about before

This time it came from a specific form of burnout.  I’m tire that we are still having to address the same issues over and over again. This last year and a half has been draining for everyone, but we’re making it worse by continuing to fight the stupidest battles. We’re still fighting over masks. We’re now fighting about ivermectin, an anti-parasitic often used for animals instead of hydroxychloroquine. To the point where some people would rather overdose themselves with a horse’s dosage instead of them getting vaccinated. We’re raising up in arms about Critical Race Theory, the latest school boogeyman issue without even understanding it.

I’m tired of the keyboard experts, who somehow can jump from constitutional law, to infectious diseases, and now to foreign policy. I’m tired of the systems that prop up this ignorance and over-distrust of any form of expertise.  The over-valuing of anecdotal information. The continued anti-intellectualism on display.  

It’s exhausting. 

It’s recognizing we’re going to keep repeating these same cycles. We’re going to drag this pandemic out until the very last possible case. Until we become numb to the deaths and permanent damage that it is inflicting.

I needed a break from that fight. 

It has been refreshing but it’s time to get back into it. It’s not as if I’ve been off social media in the interim. I’ve just been a consumer, and that has to stop. It’s time to be productive again. 

So, expect more posts in the days to come.  Some catching up from the summer, with trip reports and the like.  Some with just general status updates, like a more in depth status on where we are in the adoption process.  Some hitting on the current events and trying to bring a more fair approach to them.  Many begging you to stay safe and to take every precaution including masking again to stay healthy through the colder months coming.  Maybe I’ll even get to one on why the American Evangelical church’s fetish for “persecution” had exacerbated many of the issues we are facing right now in this country. 

It’s good to be back.  And I’m glad that tomorrow’s post is a really fun and happy celebration.

Until next time…

——————————————————

*The short version is we are finished with all of our paperwork and most everything in our control.  We are now in the waiting, where our profiles are out there and just waiting for a birth mother to pick us.  We’ve been prepared for it to be possibly one to three years, but at this point it could happen at any day.


Monday, July 5, 2021

Happy Birthday Goregous!

Happy Birthday to my favorite person in the world!  We've had such an adventure over the past year and I can't wait to see what the future brings.  I'm looking forward to spending all your many mores with you!

Here's to the fun.  Here's to us.  Here's to you and to many more returns ahead.

Love you!  To the ends of the earth...




Sunday, June 20, 2021

Happy Father's Day 2021!

"The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature."
Atoine Francois-Prevost

I am very grateful for the great example that I have in a father. On this day we set aside to remember, the most important thing I can say is thank you. Love you Dad! And Avalyn and Jude Love their PapaRock! We look forward to seeing you in a few days.


Saturday, June 19, 2021

Juneteenth 2021

 "The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, 'all slaves are free.'"

June 19, 1865



On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued Proclamation 95, an executive order intended to go into effect on January 1, 1863.  The Proclamation would become known as the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing some 3.5 million enslaved African Americans in Confederate states.  

Though the proclamation would be mailed and telegraphed across the country, there would be parts of the Confederacy that would refuse manumission, that is, they would refuse to free their enslaved people despite the order.  Texas was one such state.  The enslaved would not be freed until over two years later, when the Union army reached Galveston.  Union Army General Gordon Granger would announce the proclamation above, informing Texas that all enslaved were free.  

Though all enslaved African Americans would not be freed until the passing of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865, June 19 became a day of celebration in Texas.  Juneteenth.  Emancipation Day.  Jubilee Day.  Celebrations started as early as 1866 and spread across the South.  Though the celebrations became quiet during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era, they experienced a resurgence in the 1970s and in many states the day has become a state holiday.  There is a push now for the day to be a federal holiday.

Though Texans of all stripes probably know about Juneteenth, they may not know why it is celebrated or what it celebrates.  Americans, in general are learning as well.  Congress has made Juneteenth a federal holiday just this year, with President Biden signing the law into effect on June 17, 2021.

If anything, for a large portion of particularly white America, today highlights how badly history has been taught to us.  And we are seeing across several states attempts to keep our ignorance in this area high.

About Emmitt Till.

Or the Tulsa massacre of Black Wall Street, where white rioters tore through the Greenwood district of Tulsa following a misunderstood altercation between a black male shoeshiner and a white female elevator operator.  The riots led to the National Guard being called in.  Estimates of include up to 300 dead, 800 people admitted to hospitals, 6,000 black residents interned at large facilities for several days.  10,000 black people were left homeless and property damage amounted to more than $1.5 million in real estate.  

The Tuskegee Experiments in which African American sharecroppers were used as experiments in order to observe syphilis in African American men.  The program started 1932 and involved 600 participants.  Of the participants, 399 had latent syphilis.  The other 201 were used as a control group.  Those with syphilis were not told they had the disease, only that they were being treated for bad blood.  They were only given placebos, so that the scientists could explore the full range of effects on syphilis on the patients.  The experiments continued until 1972.

About COINTELPRO, the covert and illegal projects conducted by the FBI to discredit political organizations like the Black Power movement, leading to the assassination of Fred Hampton.

About Redlining.

About the Lost Year in Arkansas education, where the governor of Arkansas closed all the white schools following the integration of Little Rock Central High School.   With the view that it would be better for white children to get no education that to share the classroom with a Black child.

The police bombing the MOVE house in a residential neighborhood in Philadelphia in 1985.

And so, so much more.  

Or even learning about more positive points in history.  

Like Madam CJ Walker, the first self-made millionaire in America, an African American woman who ran a successful cosmetic and healthcare company for black women from 1888 to 1919.  

Katherine Johnson, whose orbital mechanics calculations were critical to the success of the United States' crewed spaceflights.  

Robert Smalls, the first Black American in the United States to hold the title of Captain, in 1863.  

Gloria Richardson, who negotiated the Treaty of Cambridge with Attorney General Robert Kennedy.  

Claudette Colvin, who at the age of 15 preceded Rosa Parks in giving up her seat on the bus by a few months.  

Ralph Bunche, the first African American and the first individual of non-European ethnicity or race to be awarded as a Nobel laureate.

This just scratches the surface.  We've segregated history such that we've forgotten that Black history is American history.  And to that end, we've done us all a great disservice.  Much of what we are seeing today is because a large percentage of the population has no idea about the truth of our past.

Further, we are actively engaging in steps to keep the hard parts of our history from being taught.  From teaching about the history of racism in our country.  To ignore the reality of racism in our country today.

Hopefully, today can be the starting point.  Use today to educate yourself on the true, complicated history we have in our past.  And to educate yourself on the problematic systems that we still have in place today.

A good place to start is the Emancipation Proclamation and the history of emancipation.  I've included the full text of the proclamation below and have also linked to an excellent audible version produced by NPR, where their African American correspondents read the proclamation, as mirror to NPR's tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence on July 4.

One part in particular that has always stood out to me in the celebration of Juneteenth, is its recognition as Jubilee Day.  The Jubilee here refers to the Biblical principle of Jubilee, or the Year of Release.  From Leviticus 25:8-12 -

You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years.  Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month.  On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land.  And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.  That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines.  For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field."

The Jubilee is literally a trumpet blast of freedom, a practice in which every 49th year (or 50th year, depending on how you count) slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.  It was a year of forgiveness and emancipation.  It was also very practical, as it prevented the over accumulation of wealth and arable land in the hands of a few.

African Americans after the Civil War and with the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment recognized their jubilee.  

Perhaps its time for another?


"January 1, 1863

A Transcription

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
"

Monday, June 14, 2021

The First Dozen


We’ve been talking a lot about how time is relative and I know that is true because these first dozen years have felt simultaneously like they have occurred over a number less than half that and as if this has been the way things always were and were always meant to be.  This is what my life was meant for. 

Gorgeous, you are the fulfillment and completion of so much in my life. We have grown stronger over these past two years than I would have ever imagined we could be. We’ve been tested and tried and we are better for it. 

I don’t know what the next twelve years and beyond will bring. I don’t know what new challenges we will face. What new joys and new pains we will experience. 

But I do know, there is no one else I would rather have at my side. 

I love you…
Bigger than Godzilla
All the way to the moon
To infinity and beyond
To the ends of the earth!


Friday, June 11, 2021

7

i will tell you, my daughter
of your worth
not your beauty
everyday.  (your beauty is a given, every being is born
beautiful)
knowing your worth
can save your life.
raising you on beauty alone
you will be starved.
you will be raw.
you will be weak.
an easy stomach.
always in need of someone telling you how beautiful you 
are.

nayyirah waheed



To my daughter, my pirate, my basketball champion - Happy Birthday, baby girl!!!

I pray you always know how much you mean to us.  I pray you always know your worth, deep down in your soul.  I pray you also know your beauty, for it is a given.

Stay fierce, stay strong, and stay curious.

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Panic Attack

This is the story I promised I would tell.  It took providing the backstory with Our Adoption Story and The Michigan Trip to provide context as to why this induced a panic attack and why we made that trip more stressful on ourselves than it should have been, even beyond the stress this incident caused.

By way of context, the Michigan trip was something we planned for early April, to be a fun weekend getaway for the four of us.  Our first trip as just a family of four and a fun venture to see another state.  Jamie and Avalyn had gotten to make a quick jaunt into Michigan for a meal on a girls' trip, but this would allow us to see state together.  It was supposed to be a trip to Fort Wayne, where we would further explore our new home state, but our reason for going to Fort Wayne was the zoo.  We of course found out it would be closed when we planned to visit.  With that not an option, we changed our plans to Saugatuck and Holland, Michigan.

It is important to note that this trip came shortly after spring break, where we had spent two weeks in Texas with family.  During that trip, we spent a little more on restaurants and eating out that we had planned to, and thought that since this would be such a short trip, we would pack meals to number one, eat healthier, and number two, use our restaurant fund for fun snacks.  Jamie had that Friday before we left pretty wide open, beyond a bible study that morning, so she was planning to prepare and pack the cooler that day, ready for us to leave when Avalyn got out of school.

At this point in our adoption process, we had completed two of the three required homestudy sessions, still had several hours of education remaining to be completed, and had recently learned there were a few key pieces of paperwork not yet filed.  

So when Jamie got a text from our adoption specialist during her morning bible study that Friday morning, asking her to call her, she thought it was related to one of these areas.

Instead, the adoption specialist let Jamie know that there was a birth mother that was going to give birth in two weeks who was questioning her decision and wanted to look at more profile books.  Our adoption specialist didn't have more completed profile books, but knew of a few families like us who were near completion of the process and wanted to ask us if we wanted to be submitted as a potential family for adoption.  Blitzing through the remaining steps for a meeting and ultimate adoption should we be chosen.

To top it off, they needed an answer as quickly as possible.  At the longest, by the next morning.

When Jamie came upstairs to tell me, that's when the panic attack set in.  I know Jamie tells me that she broke down a few times that day, but it wasn't something I saw.  She broke down in calls she made for prayer over the issue. 

I, on the other hand, starting visibly shaking and couldn't come down for nearly two hours after that point.  I've had anxiety attacks before, but those are slow builds of stress and pressure over several days or weeks that release in pain and discomfort.  This was an instant onset of that.

My mind kept racing because it felt like everything was moving so fast.  I saw the first step as Jamie and I discussing whether or not we would be allowing our name to be submitted.  Jamie, by necessity, was starting to work through setting up the things that would be needed if we proceeded.  Each mention of the next piece being set up sent me further into the attack.

It felt like we were skipping a lot of required development just to get a result.  Skipping a lot of essential education that would be of the utmost importance.  In addition, we had virtually nothing for a baby, and would had a few thousand dollars left to save to have the whole process covered.  That would all be necessary in a couple of weeks.

Needless to say, the rest of that day was filled with discussion, and questioning, and asking for prayer requests which turned into a supply drive. The bible study group Jamie was on that morning knew something was up with the adoption process, so when Jamie filled them in on what happened, they got to work collecting a lot for us already.  

The drive to Michigan was nearly completely all about Jamie and I trying to figure out whether or not we should move forward with this.  We kept getting calls from our adoption specialist, giving us more information on the birth mother and child, but that really had no bearing on our decision.  The question that kept gnawing at us was one of timing.

Was this the right time to move forward, or was there more we needed to complete for it to be right?

I think there is a fallacy in Christian circles to assume when things fall into place like this, it is automatically the work of God.  That every easy path is the answer to the prayers that have led up to this point.  While it can be, that is not always the case.

The problem that Jamie and I found is that neither of us could have any joy about this particular situation.  Just terror.  We know this kind of quick turnaround is completely possible once we go live, and we know our reaction will be completely different from what it was then.  At this particular time and in this particular situation, we felt that we still had much more growing and learning to do to be ready.

We decided we were saying no after waking up in the early, early hours Saturday morning.  We then called our adoption specialist at 9:00 am that morning and told her. 

That weight had been lifted.

This didn't mean we didn't feel the effects of this stress for a while.  I felt the physical effects for several days after that Friday, into the next week.  It felt as if I had undergone heavy physical exertion, in addition to ramping up my reflux for that week.  It took a while just to mentally come down from the stress, so we were definitely on edge for the trip.

And here's how we made it harder on ourselves.  Remember the plan to pack food for meals.  Well given the craziness of Friday, the careful planning and packing of the ice chest went out the window.  We had supplies but they were more thrown together in there.  

Instead of giving ourselves grace and a break, we forged on to continue the plan.  Looking back, we know we should have just forgone the attempt to pack the food and just let ourselves enjoy the break and the opportunity.  Bringing the food made us try to keep Avalyn and Jude to it, and of course they didn't want it, so that added to our stress.  

It's something we can look back on now and laugh a bit.  Lessons learned.  And if nothing else, we saw that God can move in a powerful way.  We know we're in the right location because of the outpouring of support we saw should we decide to go forward.

We know when it is our time, we'll be ready.



Sunday, June 6, 2021

The Travelers' Report 21: Saugatuck and Holland, Michigan




Part 21 in the series of our ongoing travels, both as a family and individually.   This covers our trip to Michigan as a family, the first trip we have had since moving to Indiana and our first trip after the pandemic began.

We chose Michigan because it is the neighboring state that we have not visited and it's just a couple of hours away.  Saugatuck had a cool looking motel that had been converted and upgraded into a neat almost Airbnb alternative (less housekeeping, focus on personal access, etc.).  And it was close enough for us to go into Holland, Michigan to go see the tulips.

We were a couple of weeks too early to see all of the tulips, as not all of them had fully bloomed.  They had started, though, and we still had a wonderful trip.  We realized that this was our first vacation for just the four of us as a family.  Our other trips have been to go visit family or have been a vacation with family, but not just the four of us.  So this will always have a special place.

It was stressful (more on that tomorrow) and we made it a bit more stressful on ourselves, especially given the events of the weekend, but it was a good trip all in all.  We definitely look forward to going back up into Holland in the coming years to really see the tulips in bloom.

Our motel room. A cool funky place. 
Our main attraction - the Holland Windmills. This was a very cool stop and the kids got fun pictures in the tulips that had bloomed. 

Holland also had a neat Wizard of Oz walk at the library, complete with a yellow brick road at the nearby park. 

Our other stop was at the beach for Lake Michigan. Cold, but fun.  And we discovered that Jude has an obsession with sand. 
My selfie with the lighthouse in Holland.
Why we have to go back - the Root Beer Barrel.   Just a block off the main road with a stand serving homemade root beer.  So cool.