Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mysterious Myrna

My Great Aunt Myrna Elva [Mason] Winters was single as long as I knew her. Of course, I knew that she was once married, because her last name wasn't Mason anymore. But I was only 7 years old when she died... so "widow" and "single" meant the same thing to me. What was mysterious about Myrna, though, was that after her death we found out she had been married before. In her jewelry box, my aunt Melinda found letters and a wedding announcement. She was married to Raymond Harvey Derrick sometime in the 1920's (the announcement didn't have a date).

Back in 2009, I took Melinda's Myrna notebook home. It contains pictures, letters and newspaper clippings. It seems that R. H. Derrick maintained his communication with Myrna's parents for years after they must have divorced. I haven't found any record of a divorce (those records are not available online).

I would just like to know about that marriage. What happened? Why didn't anyone talk about it? Why didn't my dad and his sisters know about it? If it was such a secret, why did R. H. Derrick continue writing letters and sending photos of his family years (decades even) after their marriage? He worked oil fields and oil pipelines (as evidenced by some of the photos he sent and letters he wrote). Maybe she just couldn't bear with him as he followed the work wherever it led. I know they were no longer married by 1934, when he wrote a letter to her indicating his greatest mistake was letting her go.

So that's what I've been working on this weekend.

PS - There was a photo of a man named Earl R. Sykes which was labeled as "My boyfriend at Ft. Worth College." Does anyone know what college that was? I haven't found a record of a Ft. Worth College open in the 20's.

PPS - My Aunt Melinda says her mother (my grandmother Jessie) always said she thought maybe Myrna had gotten pregnant at one time and went away to have the baby and put it up for adoption... maybe through the Lena Pope Home. I have found no evidence to support this. Lena Pope didn't even open until 1930 (from what I can tell). I guess it's possible that Myrna was divorced by that time... still searching for that info.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The End of Life As We Know It

NOTE: When I was writing my Torn blog, I realized that I had written, but never posted this one. so I went ahead and posted it, even though the election is over. It still applies...



The thing that bugs me more than anything else about political campaigns has very little to do with the candidates. What irks me is how people overreact to everything. I know that choosing leadership is important. But I wish people would put it in perspective. It's important, but it's not the end of the world. I believe in a God who can make good out of any situation. I also believe we live in a country that is stronger and more resilient than a lot of people give us credit for. For example, I recently received an e-mail that contained this picture:


Really? If the America you live in is so weak that the presence of one man in the White House is going to destroy it, then maybe it's not worth saving. Apparently the people of Stagecoach Enterprises (not to mention many other people I know) have very little faith in America. Luckily, the America I live in is full of resourceful people who go to work every day, support their families and support their country. They help each other and believe in one another and are really, really smart. So I really don't think one man is going to take them down. 

More than faith in America, though, I think the belittling of others and the extremist predictions reveal a very real lack of faith in God... A fear that God can't make good out of any circumstances. I know who I'm voting for, and I know who many of you are voting for. But I don't have fear over the outcome. I know that regardless of what happens, we're going to be okay. There may be legislation that we disagree with. There may be laws passed that make our blood boil. We may get angry or scared or inconvenienced. But ultimately it's not the end of the world. 


So I'm wondering... seriously, what is the very worst thing that could happen come election day? The very worst thing that could happen is that your chosen person loses. Compared to people who are fighting cancer, fighting wars, being abused, living in poverty, going to bed hungry, dying of curable illnesses, dying of incurable illnesses... compared to all that, the worst thing that could happen is not so bad.

Here's what I think. I think America can come and go. I think politicians can come and go. I think disease and poverty and issues can come and go. What is constant is people. Whether we are Americans or Kenyans or Italians or Russians or Mexicans... we're all people. And so far, people have survived through a lot of crap. Romney or Obama... it's not the end of us.

Torn

Until a few years ago, I didn't know anyone who was gay. Or at least I thought I didn't. When one of my best friends from college "came out" I had a dilemma on my hands. I had always heard that homosexuality was a sin. We were Christians and were supposed to avoid sinning, or at least not do it intentionally. So I didn't know how to handle the presence of a gay person in my life. Should I tell him that he shouldn't be doing that? Or keep my mouth shut and risk him "going to hell"? (seriously, that's what I thought)

It was around this time that I first heard the phrase "love the sinner, hate the sin." For a while, that seemed like a good idea to me. I could latch on to that mantra, not question the beliefs I'd been taught, and rest easy at night knowing that I'd solved the problem. After all, I had plenty of other people in my life who were sinning in different ways... and I still loved them. And I didn't "call them out" on their chosen sin. (Nor would I want them calling me out on mine.) 

But there was something nagging at me... something that didn't seem quite right. Hating the sin felt an awful lot like hating the sinner. And I wasn't entirely sure that being gay was a sin. I felt like it wasn't. But I'd been taught that it was. 

I know a lot of Christians who find it easy to take feelings out of theology, but I have always felt - yes felt - a connection to God that could only be achieved by paying close attention to my feelings and intuitions. Some might argue that I'm just listening to my own wishes or desires, but I don't think I'm alone in knowing that some things feel right and some things feel wrong. Although I knew in my head that it was "wrong" to be gay, I felt in my heart that... well... people are people... love is love... and God would not create a person in such a way that would condemn them just because they existed. I didn't feel like it was right to condemn a person for something they had no choice about. 

So began my struggle with "Gay vs. Christian."  I went through a period of questioning whether a person could choose to be gay. I have no doubt that a person can choose to pretend to be gay, but I quickly dismissed the thought that my friends would choose to be gay. Why? Because I knew it was tortuous for them to admit to something that - in our little corner of the world - is an unforgivable sin. Why would they put themselves through that? If you're not really gay, you wouldn't put yourself through the judgment that would surely come your way for admitting it. People have been disowned, abandoned by their family, friends, etc. Who would do that by choice?

Over the years, I quietly changed my mind about the rightness or wrongness of being gay. By quietly, I mean I never talked about it. My belief was that being gay was not a sin. I went through a time of thinking that a person can be gay, just not act on it. At some point, though, I realized that I was passing judgment about something that I had no idea about. Although I have spent my life as a celibate single woman, I knew that many people have a deep desire for a life-long romantic relationship. How could I say that a person shouldn't have that because they are gay? As my friend from college began to settle into a home with his partner and children, I realized that this attitude, too, had changed in me. 

You might be asking yourself: why does it matter what Melissia thinks about being gay? She's not gay, so it doesn't matter what she thinks. Have you ever heard the phrase, "If you're not with me, you're against me"? I felt like I needed to choose. One choice would pit me against one of my favorite people in the world - someone I knew and loved; the other would pit me against the Christian establishment that was such a huge part of my life. To me, it mattered.

Fast-forward to today. Today, I finished reading a book called Torn. It was written by Justin Lee, who grew up in a Southern Baptist world where being gay was wrong. The problem was... Justin was a faithful follower of Christ, and he was gay. The book shares his personal experience of discovering his own sexuality, coming out in a world filled with people who thought he (as a gay person) shouldn't exist. The message he kept getting was: "Don't be gay." Yeah. Like it's that easy. I connected with Justin's experience, except that instead of being the gay person struggling with the situation, I was the friend watching from the outside. 

Justin gave words to what I've been experiencing for years... the process of questioning and evolving. He addresses audiences on all sides of this debate with compassion. He calls for understanding and dialogue apart from condemnation. One of the most rewarding parts of the book for me was the point in his story where Justin began dissecting scripture to determine exactly what it says about homosexuality. This is something I'd been pondering for years. Quite frankly, I'd gotten to the point where I would rather not believe in the Bible if that required believing in the sort of hatred toward gays that I'd seen from people in the church. 

But what Justin found in his studies was this (and this is my paraphrase): the only thing wrong with gay sexuality is the same thing that's wrong with hetero-sexuality (if there is such a word).... that is, abuse. In scripture, the only examples of condemnation toward homosexual acts are directed at people who were abusing others (and, by the way, turned out to be abusing everyone regardless of their gender). The few mentions of homosexuality in the Bible had been taken out of context and used to support condemning people.

Many Christians would like to reduce belief to the letter of the law - take the laws in scripture (the ones they like) and make them our laws. It would be easier if we had a list of rights and wrongs, black and white... we could just follow the rules and everything would be okay. Unfortunately, that's not the faith we claim. What we claim is a faith whose greatest commandment is to love God and love others. Love. It's a feeling. It's a way you treat people. Love is the fulfillment of the law. If you love people, you don't need rules to tell you what's right and wrong. Love dictates.

Justin encourages people to share their stories, and so I've shared mine here... but Justin explains his experience much better than I do, so I recommend this book to anyone who is remotely interested in this subject (whether you are gay or straight, Christian or not). In fact, I think the conclusions that Justin draws about showing grace, educating people and participating in dialogues would be helpful to most of us when dealing with any type of disagreement - religious or otherwise.

I know now that I have many friends who are gay. Some are in committed relationships, others are not. Some have continued to embrace their faith, others have been discouraged and fallen away. Now take those sentences and remove the word "gay." I have many friends. Some are in committed relationships, others are not, etc. My take-away from this book and from my experiences with people is this: we create the things that divide us. We choose to make insurmountable barriers between ourselves and others. Whatever the issue, we choose how we respond to it. Is it with grace and love? Or condemnation and judgment? It's our choice. 

We have allowed people to become issues. We have removed the humanity from relationships and turned instead to a list of do's and don'ts. We have taken our opinions and made them into debates used to divide and polarize. What I would love to see is a day when we can see people as they are... dearly loved and treasured creations... regardless of how we personally feel about who God created them to be. What right have we to judge God's perfect creation?

I could go on about this... but just read the book. Or if you don't read the book, just love people. That's a great start.

PS  Through all of this, I have learned that we are much more willing to see the person behind an issue if we at least know someone who is affected. Whatever the issue, if you are vocal about it and feel strongly about it... I encourage you to get to know someone who is personally affected by your position. Take any issue - whether it's political or religious or whatever. If it's important enough to debate, it's important enough to take a personal interest in someone who is affected by the outcome. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Movie Library



I haven't watched many movies lately. It's a cold, overcast day outside... and I saw Billy Crystal talking about the 25th anniversary of The Princess Bride last night... so I decided to pull out The Princess Bride and watch it at least once today. To my horror, when I opened up my movie cabinet, everything was out of order! Not sure how that happened... but now that I've rectified the situation, I'm wondering... what does your movie library say about you? Me? I think mine says I like happy endings. Most of the time. Here's my library... what movie(s) should I add?

A Mighty Wind
Alex & Emma
The Day After Tomorrow
Down With Love
Elf
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Failure to Launch
Fern Gully
Fifty First Dates
Glee (Season 1)
Hairspray
He Said, She Said
Hitch
The Holiday
Just Like Heaven
IQ
The Lake House
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Love Actually
Lucky Seven
Matchmaker
Mona Lisa Smile
Moulin Rouge
Much Ado About Nothing
Must Love Dogs
My Best Friend's Wedding
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Only You
Pay It Forward
The Princess Bride
Rainman
Raising Helen
Ratatouille
Return to Me
Runaway Bride
Sahara
Seinfeld (seasons 1-9)
Shrek (all of them, twice)
Spanglish
Sweet Home Alabama
The Truth About Cats and Dogs
Twenty-Seven Dresses
Two Weeks Notice
Under the Tuscan Sun
The Wedding Planner
The Wedding Singer
What Happens in Vegas
What Women Want
While You Were Sleeping
Without a Paddle
The Wizard of Oz

Okay maybe that also says I'm silly, I like to laugh, and I like a little bit of adventure every once in a while (but let's not get crazy). I also have a bunch of VHS tapes (yes, still)... and I know for sure The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady are among them. So, yes, I like musicals too. And I do have required-watching for all puppy dogs everywhere: Puppy Bowl and Meerkat Manor.

There's enough happy in this list to keep me going for a while... even if I just think about these movies and don't even watch them! What movie(s) make you happy just thinking about them?

PS - I put Love Actually on this list because it's my favorite movie and I know I have it... somewhere. Have I loaned it to someone? If you have my copy of Love Actually, holler!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Genealogy Shop

If I won the lottery I'd open a genealogy shop. Sometimes I just want something that represents my interest in family research, but when I try to shop for fun things online there's no really cool central place to get these things. You can go to etsy or zazzle and find things that individuals have made... and then you can find some really dated looking things on other random websites. But wouldn't it be great to have a shop (both online and in real life... maybe Downtown Grapevine?) that carries all things genealogy? Books, scrapbooking, software, t-shirts, jewelry, etc.? And even a research room where people could come to get started? And a meeting room where the genealogical society can meet? This would be the greatest thing!! Wonder how much that would cost to get started? I don't figure it would be profitable, but if I won the lottery I wouldn't need the money... right? *sigh* If only...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rant

I think it's highly inconsiderate to post a picture on Find-A-Grave when someone else has already claimed it and not tell them that you did.

So today I go out in the rain to get a picture of a headstone that was requested in Bear Creek Cemetery. I claimed it the day the request was posted. Today is three days later. You are asked to take pictures within two weeks of the day you claim them.

When I get to the cemetery (which, by the way, was NOT on my way to anywhere today), I pull up the Find-A-Grave site on my phone to verify the name and vital stats of the person I'm looking for. And what to my wondering eyes did appear... but two photos of said person's grave! Thanks, Todd Peters (contributor #47844210). If you had taken a moment to just shoot me a message saying you'd already taken care of it, I could have saved myself a rainy trip! OR even post the pictures through the "fulfill" link on the request.

Common courtesy: a thing of the past.

Rant over.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Right to Be Fat

Obesity. This particular issue is something that hits close to home for me. Not only have I been overweight all my life, but many of my family members and friends are as well. As I look back on my life, I can point to several instances in which I was insulted for my weight. I have often been told that I would be happier and healthier if I was thin. And there's no shortage of messages that tell me (and everyone else in the world) that fat is bad and thin is good. But in reality, fat is just a description, not an indictment. I'm brunette, with blueish eyes, and lots of fat.

Recently, I have become aware of a group of people called "Fat Activists" who are working hard to convince the world that fat is okay... That fat people are people too... That "declaring war" on obesity is declaring war on actual people. It's the new [old] discrimination. In fact, it's one of the few ways in which the general population thinks it's okay to discriminate.

Something that troubles me greatly is that our First Lady Michelle Obama is spear-heading the attack on a group of people of which I'm a member. I wonder if she realizes that her "war" is hurting people.

One of the fat activists I follow is Ragen Chastain. She has opened my eyes about this issue and helped me to understand that hating yourself because you're fat is counter-productive. I have read many of here posts, her book, as well as the book Health at Every Size by Dr. Linda Bacon.

Now, of course, this is not really a political issue at its heart. But because the First Lady is anti-fat-people, it has become a political issue for me. It's also a healthcare issue. I pay 150% health insurance premiums because of my body-mass index (BMI). My blood pressure is picture-perfect, as are my blood sugar, cholesterol, and all other provable indicators of good health. I am the first to tell you I could be healthier because I don't exercise enough to have great flexibility, stamina, etc. But I'm still healthy, even though my BMI is very high. But I still pay extra premiums (and have for 7 years) because of my weight.

I don't want to reinvent the wheel, so I'm just going to post some links to key articles on Ragen's blog that may be enlightening to my readers. I know they were for me.
  • BMI was never intended to be a measure of good health. "Belgian polymath Adolphe Quetelet devised the BMI equation in 1832.  He created the formula to be used as a statistical tool across large populations, he never intended for the number to be used as a measure of individual health.  When people say that BMI is a poor measure of health, that’s not accurate.  The truth is that BMI is not a measure of health at all." read more...
  • "You may be healthy now, but eventually it will catch up with you." People say this a lot. The truth is, everyone dies. But regardless of what kills me, someone is going to say it was because of my weight. I can live to age 103, have perfect stats, perfect blood work, etc. but as long as I'm fat, my fat will be blamed for my death. read more... 
  • "Are we doing enough about obesity?" You've done plenty. Quit already. read more...
  • Fat shaming sucks. Do you realize how many anti-fat messages there are all around us? You may not think about it (especially if you're not fat). But I would encourage you - if you're my friend, if you love me - each time you hear or see one, think of it as an "anti-Melissia" message. read more...
  • Pay attention to what you think is funny.  I am guilty. I have laughed at those "People of Walmart" pictures. I have said "oh my!" to a picture of a particularly fat person (even though I am one). I've been convicted, and I'm trying to repent. read more...
  • Fat people cost more. That's just silly talk. There have been some studies that have suggested that. But if you take a close look at the studies (as Ragen Chastain has), they are silly in and of themselves. read more... and here... 
  • Diets work. No they don't. read more...
  • War? On me? What did I do? Nothing, but there's a war on me anyway. read more...
  • Reasons to stop focusing on weight are HERE.
Well, I could go on... but that's quite enough reading. I've already read them all, and don't have any idea whether anyone else will care to. So I'm stopping there. 


Note: This is the sixth in a series of posts about my thoughts on social, political and moral issues of the day. Read others: #1 - "The Quest for Clarity" | #2 - "Choice? Life" | #3 - Money Money Money | #4 - Exceptionalism or Superiority? | #5 Wuv, Twue Wuv

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wuv.... Twue Wuv...

"Mawage. Mawage is what bwings us togevah today...."

Okay so maybe no one else finds a Princess Bride quote appropriate. But... marriage is what has brought me to this blog today. I'm going to try to make this one short and sweet.

Republicans: "We believe that... marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard."

Democrats:  "We support the full inclusion of all families, including same-sex couples, in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections."

There's no question where the political parties stand on gay marriage.  There is some question as to where Christians stand. I know a lot of Christians who support gay rights. And I know even more who don't. This one... I don't really even have to think about because I already know what I think (and you probably do too).

Here's why I support gay marriage:

  • Christian marriage is supposed to be about one person loving the other. God is love. Wherever there is love, there is God. Heterosexuals don't have the monopoly on love. (Clearly, love is not a pre-requisite for being married... There are a lot of people who hate each other and still stay married to each other. But presuming that it's about love.... gay people can and do love each other.)
  • Legal marriage is about rights. If marriage were about religious beliefs, then the government should have nothing to do with it. But the state of being married grants someone a number of legal rights. According to the Human Rights Campaign, there are 1,138 rights that are denied to gay couples. Unless you are willing to deny those rights to everyone, they should be granted to every couple who wants to enter into the contract of marriage.
  • Gay people are people. I probably wouldn't have thought twice about saying "no" to gay marriage a few years ago... because I really didn't know any gay people. So it didn't matter to me. I think everyone who holds a certain stance should get to know someone who it affects. Then tell me those couples don't have a "real" family, or can't raise their kids properly, etc. 
I really don't know what the problem is. Discrimination is anti-American.


Note: This is the fifth in a series of posts about my thoughts on social, political and moral issues of the day. Read others: #1 - "The Quest for Clarity" | #2 - "Choice? Life" | #3 - Money Money Money | #4 - Exceptionalism or Superiority?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Exceptionalism or Superiority?

One of the tenets of the RNC platform is an embrace of American Exceptionalism. American exceptionalism is the belief that the United States is different from other countries in that it has a specific world mission to spread liberty and democracy. There is quite a lot in the RNC platform statement on this point... it covers everything from fighting wars to supporting veterans to being involved in human rights issues around the globe.

When I first heard that American Exceptionalism was a tenet of the RNC platform, I balked. Why? Because I think many people in the United States think they are better than everyone else in the world... and this belief is rooted in exceptionalism. (Read more about the concept...) We are better because we are the experts on democracy and liberty and everyone should just do everything our way. It is this belief that drives us to invade other countries for the presumed purpose of freeing them from evil dictators... whether they want to be freed or not. It is this ideology that makes it okay for us to go into third world countries and boss people around, telling them that our way is the best way and their way is just stupid.

As you can see, it doesn't take much to move from "exceptionalism" to "superiority."

BUT... if the ideology of American Exceptionalism gives rise to the end of human rights abuses... gives aid to the hurting... frees people who are slaves to their circumstances... then, well I kind of like that idea!

The RNC platform states:
Americans are the most generous people in the world. Apart from the taxpayer dollars our government donates abroad, our foundations, educational institutions, faith-based groups, and committed men and women of charity devote billions of dollars and volunteer hours every year to help the poor and needy around the world. 
I agree. But I think we should be very careful that our patriotism doesn't become bragging... that our beliefs and ideologies don't become the proverbial Bible that we bash people over the head with.

World Vision worker Joy Bennett wrote last week about the needy in America vs. the needy in other countries (in this case, Sri Lanka). (read her blog post)  Some of her words reminded me of the superiority complex that is the danger of exceptionalism. Like this excerpt:
If you do think that somehow Americans are better or more valuable or more important, have you ever considered how that attitude leads to things like anti-Semitism, white supremacy, male chauvinism, and ethnic cleansing? Do these comparisons disgust you? Do they offend you? Good. They should. The root of those ideologies is the hyper-valuing of one’s own people (race, ethnicity, gender) and the devaluing of others. These horrible attitudes are the logical conclusion of such ideas. Let me be clear. I am not saying that if you have pride in your country of origin, that makes you a bigot. But if your national pride leads to seeing others as somehow less, you should stop and think it through a little further. (emphasis mine)
Maybe it's all semantics, but I would rather use the word "unique" than "exceptional" when describing America. We do have a unique ability to help others. That doesn't make us exceptional (i.e. better than everyone except us), what it makes us is responsible... responsible for helping other people that are not as fortunate. Maybe we should call this ideology "American Responsibility." But if we did that, lots of people wouldn't buy into the idea anymore. That sounds too much like selflessness. (Oh! Did I just get sarcastic? Sorry.) The Democratic platform calls it "American Leadership." That has a nice ring to it.

Another quote from Joy Bennett that I really liked was this: "I’m not saying that we in America have it all. We have our own special kind of poverty: a poverty of generosity, of compassion, of connection and community. These are things Sri Lankans are rich with." Ouch. I'm totally guilty of that. I'd rather sit in my house and play on the computer than get out and volunteer my time and actually have to interact with other people. Guilty, guilty, guilty.


I think what I'd really like to say about this is... every country, every people group, every ethnicity has something to teach others. Americans have a lot of financial resources and a unique perspective on freedom. Other countries have a unique perspective on building community. Others have the resource of intelligence or ingenuity or historical context or beautiful scenery or natural resources or surviving with little/nothing. Every country has something to offer. We can all learn from each other.

Americans have a reputation for going into other countries [as tourists] with their ego on full display, expecting everyone to cater to them. If we can be just a little bit more humble, ask questions and try to learn from others, then we as a people will be known as exceptional without having to try to prove it or persuade people that we are. Regardless of what our government is doing... next time you go to another country, try doing things their way without complaining about it.


Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts about my thoughts on social, political and moral issues of the day. Read others: #1 - "The Quest for Clarity" | #2 - "Choice? Life" | #3 - Money Money Money


Monday, September 3, 2012

Money Money Money

There is a lot of talk about taxes.... tax breaks for the poor, the middle class, for the wealthy, for corporations. I couldn't even begin to decipher the tax code, the economics of national debt, the pros and cons of the Democratic or Republican economic theories. (I could give it more effort than I have, but numbers bore me and it's not a priority to me, as I'll explain further in a moment). But I would hazard a guess that both parties have a hefty percentage of factual information laced with an equally hefty percentage of spin. I don't believe that either party has the solution to all of our economic and financial "woes" or that either is going to have the magic formula that will make everyone else happy.

The thing that struck me while I was listening to the speakers at the RNC was how much of the rhetoric was about money, economics, wealth, prosperity. I wouldn't say that these are exclusively American values, but they are distinctly American. Somehow the American dream of being free has been transformed into a dream of being wealthy. We want our money. We earned it. It's ours. Mine. I earned it on my own. By myself. Through my own hard work, sweat, labor. NO ONE ELSE CAN HAVE MY MONEY!!!!

I understand the sentiment. I know that I, for one, would love to be financially stable. Although it's not my top priority, I worry about money. Like most Americans, if I lost my job I'd have trouble if I couldn't replace it immediately. I have a long way to go before I'm out of debt. I have a long way to go before I can just go out to the store and buy whatever my heart desires. It will be a long time before I really have a "rainy day" fund.

But up to this point wealth hasn't been a priority in my life. If it were, I wouldn't be working for a church. (Don't get me wrong... I'm not complaining. I'm just saying I would be more financially stable if I worked a corporate job.) I consider myself an intelligent person, but the accumulation of wealth has not been important to me.

I also know that focusing on my own money, my own problems, my own right to be wealthy (is that a right?) does nothing to make me happy. If anything, it makes me stressed out. I have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What I don't have is lots of extra money. But I AM WEALTHY. I woke up this morning in a comfortable bed, in a three-bedroom house that is mine (and the bank's), with two dogs who eat better than probably 95% of the world's population. I have flowers to take pictures of and Diet Cokes in my fridge and a computer to write blog posts on (not to mention the Kindle(s) and cell phone and TV). I have running water. Electricity. About 30 pairs of shoes. Clean clothes (or at least a washer/dryer in which to make them clean). I have stuff. And I am wealthy.

The government takes about 10-15% of my income each year. They use it for an unknown number of government programs, some of which are run efficiently and frugally (I'm sure there are some) and others of which are wasteful. I have paved roads to drive on. I feel safe, and when I don't there's a number for me to call to get help. I have an education that was provided (for the first 12 years anyway) by other people's tax dollars. There are people down the road from me that get their food from the government. I don't, but I pay for them to. There is so much infrastructure that goes into making a viable society... and all of those things cost money. I am happy to pay my part, because I don't think it's feasible for me to do it all by myself. I don't have the resources to do it alone - most of us don't - but together we can pool our money and support our demanding society. Money comes out of my paycheck each month, and much of it goes to help people that are less fortunate than me. I'm okay with that. I know it's not perfect, but nothing is.

What bothers me about the Christian "right" is the focus on the distinctly American value of accumulating wealth rather than the distinctly Christian value of sacrificing one's own right to "MINE, MINE, MINE" for the common good. When Jesus asked his disciples to feed the hungry, their first reaction was to say, "This is our money. OURS. We should keep it for ourselves and send these people to buy their own food." But in the end, they followed his instructions and the masses were fed. You would never have heard Jesus say, "I earned this money. It's mine. You can't have it." Never. He would have said something more like, "Do you need this money? Here, take it... and take my food and my shoes and my shirt too." I admit, that would be far easier to do in Jesus' day, when you could almost guarantee that there would be someone in your neighborhood that would invite you in for dinner and give you a new shirt (since you just gave yours away). But we don't really have that confidence today, do we? We know that if we don't take care of ourselves, no one else will. And so we hoard money. Understandable, I assure you.

We hoard money because there is no good answer to the question, "How much is enough?"

I don't see an easy answer to the haves/have-nots dilemma. There will always be people who don't do their fair share, who take advantage of the system, who take advantage of the generosity of others. And there will always be people who are in need, just like there will always be people who have more than enough. I want there to be wealthy people in this country... because those are the people who will have extra money to buy the products everyone else is selling... to give generously to their local food pantries and churches. But I also know that if we relied totally on the charity of the wealthy (i.e. if the government did not step in to help the poor), then many of the poor would be left to fend for themselves. I'm not okay with that.

You may be thinking, "If they would just work harder and not be lazy, then they wouldn't be poor." I understand the thinking, but unfortunately that's just not true. There are a lot of people who work really hard and are still poor. Many work several jobs. Some people aren't as smart as you, and therefore (through no fault of their own) really can't manage a job that nets them six figures. Some people have health problems, or mental problems, or addictions or *&!- happens and they end up unemployed, in debt, on the street, etc. If we lived in a utopia, maybe everyone could pull themselves up by their own boot straps and become Donald Trump. But we don't. As I said yesterday, we're dealing with reality here... and the reality is, some people are poor and need help.

So what to do, what to do?  For one thing, I think we can start by being humbly thankful for what we each have. If you live in America, you are better off than many in the world.  Secondly, I think we can try to face some of the fear that makes us want to hoard money. We can say, "Okay, God... I'm going to set my fear aside. I trust that everything is going to be okay... so I'm going to take this $20 that's in my pocket and give it to someone who is homeless or hungry or sick." What's the worst thing that could happen? You could be broke, then homeless, then die of a curable illness because you can't get healthcare. Really, that's the worst thing. But that's probably not going to happen to anyone who is wealthy enough to be reading this blog.

I'm not a big fan of taking a scripture reference out of its historical and social context and using it to support my theories, but on this point I don't think context changes the meaning and intent. Here are some scriptures you could read that would point you to a few instances in which people were prioritized over wealth:
  • The story of the loaves and fishes, which I alluded to above, can be found in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15.
  • Jesus tells a rich man to sell everything he owns to follow him in Mark 10:17-27.
  • 1 John 3:17 tells us that a person who has material possessions but does not help their neighbor in need "has not love."
  • Proverbs, the book of wisdom, tells us that, "Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God." Proverbs 14:31
  • Other Proverbs that speak to prioritizing the needs of the poor: Prov. 21:13, 22:9, 28:27
  • 1 Timothy 6 speaks in spades about trusting God, not wealth... about being generous and helping others, etc.
Obviously there are many, many more... but I'll leave it at that. 

I'm not suggesting that you sacrifice your own well-being or that of your family, sell everything you own and live on the streets. Then you would be a part of the problem, not part of the solution. What I am asking is that you... 1) love the people around you more than you love money and 2) consider whether your political leanings are grounded in faith or in fear. Have you placed the desire for wealth above your desire to love your neighbor? Are you making the needs of the poor a priority in your life, your wallet, your vote? 


Note: This is the third in a series of posts about my thoughts on social, political and moral issues of the day. Read others: #1 - "The Quest for Clarity" | #2 - "Choice? Life"

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Choice? Life?

Abortion has been at the forefront of social debates for as long as I can remember... my entire lifetime, for sure. Most people separate this debate into two sides: Pro-Choice and Pro-Life. But what is one to do if they are both pro-choice and pro-life? In fact, my faith tells me that God is both pro-choice and pro-life. I would venture to say God is pro-choice because he* - to a fault - always lets us choose. But he also created life, and therefore I would imagine is pro-life.

And so the debate goes 'round and 'round. Every life has value. Every woman has the freedom to choose what to do with her body.

Let's look at the politics. The Republican party stance is:
"The unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed." Republicans oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or to fund organizations that perform or advocate abortions. It says the party will not fund or subsidize health care that includes abortion coverage. They state that they "stand firmly against it" [i.e. abortion]. The Republican 2012 platform uses the word "abortion" 19 times. The platform never clearly states that they would ban all abortions. However, they state in various ways that they would extend the definition of life, health coverage, etc. to fetuses in the womb and legislate various measures that would, in effect, make it next to impossible to legally obtain an abortion. (i.e. 14th amendment coverage, remove funding, limiting access to information, instituting waiting periods, requiring parental consents, etc.) "We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage." So, basically... yes they would make every effort to ban abortions.
As for the Democrats, their official (i.e. full searchable pdf) platform for 2012 is not yet online, but I imagine nothing has changed since the 2008 edition, which reads:
"The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. The Democratic Party also strongly supports access  to comprehensive affordable family planning services and age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs."
One of the articles that got me started thinking about this issue in earnest was Wayne Self's post on his blog Owldolatrous"Akin, RNC Comments and Policies Remind Us: Abortion is a Gay Issue." It's an interesting read and even points to a couple of scriptures of relevance to the Pro-Choice stance:
In the Bible, even the idea of an immortal, individuated soul is confused, at best, since the ancient Hebrews had no such concept. Instead, they had ruah, the “breath” of God, which gave life to flesh. This concept would suggest that life might enter the body at the moment of first breath, not conception.
In fact, it was the presence of ruah in the newborn that explained the Hebrew’s valuation of newborn over unborn. In Exodus, the penalty for killing a baby was death, but the penalty for killing the unborn was this:
“When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine.” – Exodus 21:22
The concept we have of the soul today–immortal, imbued with a sense of self, and separate from the body–came from the Greeks, not from the Old Testament. This may explain why the Greek-influenced Jews who wrote the New Testament gave us a diversified and perhaps confused view of the soul, and why there are many Christian traditions today that deny the existence of the immortal, individuated soul.
Even where the immortal soul was mentioned, the concept invited an indifference to the body (or zygote), not a special effort to preserve it:
“Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
As for my opinion... I have never been asked to accompany a friend to have an abortion, but I do have friends who have opted for an abortion. I don't like the idea of abortion - there are so many people who would love to welcome your child into their home as their own - but I believe 100% in a woman's right to choose it.

Your first question might be: "How can a Christian not believe abortion is wrong?" I didn't say that abortion is the correct choice. I said I believe in a woman's right to choose it. I also didn't say that abortion is the wrong choice. I believe there are circumstances that call for it.

I don't presume to know the point at which the soul enters the body, or the exact moment that life becomes life. I'm not God. But I do know that there are many, many circumstances in which an abortion is the best choice for the well-being of the woman. Whether the need is because of the source of the pregnancy (rape, poor choices, abuse) or health problems with the mother or fetus... there is no way to allow for all of the possible contingencies within the law. I believe that there is no fair and compassionate way of banning abortions.

In an ideal world, people would choose life in every situation. But our world is not ideal, and we must deal in realities. The reality is: if abortions were banned there would be great detriment to the women who are desperate enough to choose that option. By granting protections to a fetus, you effectively dehumanize the woman and remove her most basic right of controlling her own body, her own life, her own self. She becomes less-than-a-person... a slave to the will of society and laws and legislation. In order for her to regain her basic human rights, she is now compelled to make a decision which will risk her life and liberty... either by forcing her through the pregnancy or forcing her to break the law.

In Rachel Held Evans' article about learning how to follow Jesus, her first mantra was, "Love the person in front of me." In this case, the person in front of me would be a living, breathing person... a woman who has the unthinkable choice of doing away with a part of her. It's no easy choice. She'll labor over it and cry over it and eventually come to some resolution about what to do. And if she chooses abortion, our job is to love her through it and help her - in some small way - to find peace.


* Note: Some readers may take issue with referring to God as "he" because of a held belief (which I share) that God is neither male nor female. I use male pronouns in reference to God for convenience, not because I'm saying God is male. I would feel odd using the gender-neutral "it" in reference to God, and "she" would be saying I think God is a woman. I know, I know... can of worms.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Quest for Clarity


This is how my morning started... I posted the following as my status update on Facebook:
I tried really hard to sleep in late this morning... but my thoughts kept drifting back to that man who's living in his truck while waiting for his first paycheck from a new job (that probably pays minimum wage). My privileged mind just couldn't keep laying in my queen-sized bed, in my air-conditioned house, with my better-off-than-most-people dogs. Issues are weighing heavily on me after the the past week of blog-reading, listening/reading about political platforms, and sitting in my office trying to imagine how that homeless man is living with such a positive attitude. I feel some blogs coming on. Not that writing will change anything, but it will help me get my thoughts out of my head. Time to get started.
A few things happened this week that have me pensive. Here's the list:

  • In staff meeting we heard about a book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. We also heard about Ephesians 4:32: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
  • I read this news report of the recently-released Republican party platform.
  • I read this article in Salon by Paul Campos: "Anti-obesity: The new homophobia?"
  • I listened to some key speeches during the Republican National Convention. I can't think of another time in my life when I've done that, but I'm really trying to hear both sides of the story.
  • A man came in to the church office with this story: He is living in his truck. He has a job at the school (which just started, so his job just started). He doesn't get his first full paycheck until the middle of September. While he was changing clothes in the Wal-Mart restroom, someone stole the rest of his clothes and personal items out of his truck. 
  • I read this blog post by Ragen Chastain: "People of Walmart"
  • I ate lunch with a friend and found myself talking about worrying about money. While eating at Olive Garden. Really, Melissia? You have sooo much to be thankful for. Why do you dwell on little insignificant things?
  • I read this blog post by Wayne Self: "Akin, RNC Comments and Policies Remind Us: Abortion is a Gay Issue"
  • I was reminded by blogger Dan Pearce of a quote that I keep in my "About Me" section of Facebook, but too often forget: "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~ Aristotle
There are probably other things, but that's what I can think of just off of the top of my head. And each of those things have reminded me of something I read last week by Rachel Held Evans... "How to follow Jesus…without being Shane Claiborne"

You may be thinking, "Melissia, you should really stop reading stuff." But... I guess I just can't do that. The problem is... the more I read, the more problems I see. The more I think about problems, the more overwhelmed I become. And being overwhelmed can be a slippery slope into hopelessness. Instead of being overwhelmed by the issues of our day, though, I decided this morning to get out of my comfy bed and start writing. So... if you frequent my blog looking for genealogy posts, you're going to be disappointed for a little while. I'm going to spend a little time exploring my thoughts and the thoughts of others about key moral and social issues in our society. This is a good time for reflection, since elections are coming up soon.

If you'd like to follow along, a good place to start would be by reading the linked items above.

* Just so you know, I don't claim any political party affiliation and in general don't like to talk about politics. But since politics seems to be the realm in which many of our society's issues are debated, here I go...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Working Theory

There are so many what-ifs and maybes in this Stone family line. I can theorize based on the history of the area(s) in which this family lived. I can make assumptions based on circumstantial evidence. None of that is particularly sound genealogical research. But I need to get my thoughts down on "paper" to help me think it through. So here's my working theory of the life of Matthew R. Stone.

  • My hypothesis is that Matthew R. Stone was one and the same as Robert Stone, son of Thomas Stone (b. abt. 1811 Virginia) and Rhodicine Kelly (b. abt. 1815 Virginia). 
  • The family lived first in Tennessee, then in Missouri.
  • Robert's siblings were James N. Stone, Benjamin D. Stone, and Rhoda T. Stone. 
  • By the 1850 census, Benjamin and Rhoda were living with their maternal grandparents, James and Nancy Kelly, in Moreau Township, Morgan County, Missouri.
  • Family history found online about the life of Benjamin Stone indicates that his parents died in 1849. There is no evidence of an exact date, location or circumstance surrounding their untimely deaths. 
  • I have not yet found James N., Robert or Matthew Stone in the 1850 census. Stone family history indicates that Matthew was freighting the Santa Fe Trail when he was young. Could he have been on the trail when the census was taken, at the tender age of 14?
  • Land records circa 1856-1857 show land in the name of Matthew R. Stone, the first time we see the name Matthew in official documents. One document lists Matthew R. Stone and James N. Stone on the same record. There are also land records in the name of Robert Stone during this time period, and the 1860 census shows a Robert Stone living in Morgan County. The land records for Robert are in the northwest corner of the county, whereas Matthew's are in the central area close to the city of Versailles.
  • Robert Stone married Elizabeth Fisher on March 2, 1857 in Morgan County, Missouri. The family Bible shows that Matthew R. Stone married Louiza Fisher on March 5, 1857. The proximity of the dates and closeness of the names is the first circumstantial evidence that Matthew is Robert and Louiza is Elizabeth. 
  • The 1860 census shows Rhoda Stone living with a W. R. and Louisa Stone in Versailles, Morgan County, Missouri. Could this be yet another name for M. R./Robert/Matthew? This person reports his birth place as Alabama. How does that fit? The name Louisa fits with the family Bible record of his first marriage. 
  • The family Bible records the marriage date of Rhoda T. Stone to Peter Cane (local historical records suggest the correct spelling was Cain) - indicating that Rhoda Stone is somehow closely related to the M. R. Stone family. No relationship is given in the Bible.
  • The 1870 census shows Matthew R. Stone and his wife listed "Laura" living in Bee Branch, Chariton County, Missouri. Also living with them is Truston L. Fisher who was born in 1864. Could this be Elizabeth/Louiza/Louisa/Laura's brother? Orphaned? 
  • The family Bible records the marriage of Truston Lee Fisher. His place in the family is not clearly defined in the Bible, but the 1880 census shows T. L. Fisher listed as the adopted son of M. R. Stone. Both living in Grayson County, Texas. There was  a population boom in Grayson County at this time due to the railroad coming through.
  • We follow Peter and Rhoda Cane to Grayson County in the 1880 census as well. They named their children: William J., Matthew A., James A., Louisa, and Benjamin A. Cane.
  • The family Bible indicates that Louiza Fisher Stone died in 1880. Verbal family history passes down a story about the covered wagon overturning in the Red River on the way to Texas from Missouri. Could Louiza have died in this accident? She was not listed in the 1880 census record, which was taken shortly after her death and showed them living in Texas. The story goes that the family stayed near the Red River for some time, diving to recover the belongings (including the family Bible) which fell into the river.
  • The family Bible indicates that Matthew R. Stone married Cansas Elizabeth Gault in 1881. This is where the family history follows Matthew through his "new" life - where the lineage leads to Colby. This life included moves from Texas to New Mexico to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and back to Texas.
  • Of note is the 1900 census, which shows Rhoda T. Cain living with son Alfred Cain in Indian Territory. She reports her father's birthplace as Alabama. Is this an entirely different person? Or was W. R./M. R. like a father to her so she reported his birthplace instead of her birth fathers? And was he really born in Alabama or Tennessee? Or even Missouri as the written family history suggests? Many, many questions on this point.
So it's the first part of the narrative that is shaky. The Bible has helped a lot in getting us on the right track though! Here are just a few of the images from the Bible. 

Colby has also started a Facebook group to hopefully attract some other descendants to the cause. It is located at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MatthewRStone/





Sunday, August 5, 2012

Leave No Stone Unturned

The search for the Stones continues. I've had a lot of luck in the past 24 hours. I've found land records, possible siblings or cousins, and lots of Thomases, Rhodas, Benjamins, etc. Alas, no conclusive evidence of Matthew Robertson Stone's parents. If my working theory is correct, he was the son of Thomas Stone and Rhodicine Kelly. But there are no other family trees that support that. If he wasn't a son, he was closely related... a nephew perhaps. It appears that their daughter, Rhoda, lived with Matthew and his first wife Louisa for a time.

What I can tell you without a doubt about this particular line of Stones... they were quite adventurous. Maybe they didn't think so - they probably thought it was just self-preservation. But any family whose widows would go live in Indian Territory... well, I think that's pretty brave. I cannot imagine living during this time period. Crossing rivers in covered wagons, losing all your belongings, losing your loved ones, setting out  again across the entire state of Texas to get to New Mexico... just really an amazing saga of life on the frontier. Matthew R. Stone was indeed adventurous!

IF he was the son of Thomas and Rhodicine, that still leaves me stuck. They died before the 1850 census, which means if I actually find them in the 1840 in Tennessee... I wouldn't be able to prove that it was the same one (because it was just head counts, not names... and there were several Thomas Stones in Tennessee in the 1840 census). What I'm hoping is that eventually I'll get far enough back to meet up with some other family tree that's been well-researched coming forward. Here's hoping!

I'm adventurous too. Only in a sit-in-front-of-your-computer-and-stalk-people kind of way.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

What About the Gault Children?

Now I know I'm supposed to be researching the Stones, but the Gaults are tied to the Stones through marriage... so I'm in the vicinity of doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

The family history states:
After the [Civil] War, her (Kansas Elizabeth Gault Stone) mother (Great-Grandmother Gault) loaded her few possessions and three children (Cansas Eliz., Aunt Belle and Uncle John Gault) into an ox cart and came to Texas and settled near Honey Grove in Grayson County and that is where your Grandfather William Thomas [Stone] was born in September of 1884.
Okay, so the census records show that Martha/Milinda Gault had the following children: John, Mary Jane, Kansas E., Belle, William and Ellen T. All of them were born in Tennessee. And all of them were living in Fannin County, Texas as of the 1870 census (the first census taken after the Civil War). So why does the family history only mention three children: K/Cansas, Belle and John?

PS - Also of note is that Honey Grove is not in Grayson County, but in Fannin County.


Retreat!

I am not a debater. I don't like conflict. It makes me uncomfortable, and I'm a lover of comfort. The last couple of days have turned in to debate, where I feared the consternation of others in response to my opinions. I realized that I really didn't want people to read my blog. I was afraid to post links to it. Scared of being judged. So today I'm retreating. I'm coming back to myself and the purpose of my blog. I'm finding comfort in genealogy and reading and music. I'm researching dead people who can't judge me. I'm reading humor that also enlightens. And I'm ignoring everything else. Just for a little while.

Friday, July 27, 2012

On Second Thought

I can't shake the feeling that my last post about Chick-Fil-A was naive and largely missing the point. I feel guilty for eating at CFA, and it's not because of the calorie count in their food (I don't count calories anymore and I couldn't be happier about it). It's because my conscience is telling me that social justice trumps happy tastebuds. Ugh. I just hate that little cricket in my ear that tries to be my guide.

This morning I was reading my blog feed. Alise of Alise Write wrote a compelling item about why she does not patronize CFA. It didn't have anything to do with the beliefs of the CEO, but rather with the monetary support that the company has given to an organization that participates in anti-gay hate speech. Read the post here.

I have no first-hand knowledge of the causes CFA supports, nor do I know what most of the companies I frequent support. But IF it is true that CFA supports hate speech, I don't see how I can - in good conscience - continue to eat there.

A few years ago a video was released that exposed the animal cruelty that takes place at the places where Kentucky Fried Chicken gets their chicken. I haven't eaten there since. It made me physically nauseous. I loved KFC, but I couldn't stomach their cruelty. Can I seriously say that it's easier for me to stomach cruelty to HUMANS than it is for me to stomach cruelty to CHICKENS? I joke about liking animals more than people (it's true, really), but when it comes right down to it... I really do like people.

Maybe I am the one who is not taking the CFA issue seriously enough. Maybe I have to find it within myself to allow the humanity in me to outweigh my desire for this yummy food (which I really really love). Maybe today is the last day that I'll eat CFA for lunch. Maybe the recipes I've found online will closely compare to the real thing and I'll be able to get my "fix" anyway. Maybe.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Confessions: I Support Gay Marriage. I Eat at Chick-Fil-A.

I've been reading a lot of rants lately about boycotting Chick-Fil-A because their CEO upholds a belief in "traditional marriage" and thinks that gay marriage is likely to be the beginning of the end of America. Or about supporting Chick-Fil-A because their CEO was "brave" enough to tell everyone.

I have to disagree with everyone. Don't ban Chick-Fil-A. Don't ban gay marriage. Eat chicken. Love people.

I don't think Chick-Fil-A should be banned in any city. Not if their only vice is having owners who are vocal conservative Christians. They have the right to be what they want and tell others about it. Now, if they were refusing service to gay people that would be a different story altogether. But they're not. So... let them do business with whoever wants to do business with them. If Boston and Chicago and whoever else really don't want them there, the stores will fail. Problem solved. They should be allowed to fail. Or succeed.

I don't think gay people should be marginalized and told they can't marry. That's just how I feel. And if they disagree with the principles of a particular company, they have the right not to do business with them. But I don't know what good that will do. Not getting my chicken fix isn't going to make Chick-Fil-A all of a sudden supportive of gay rights. It's just going to mean I don't get to eat that yummy chicken.

Sometimes I think we make too much out of things. It's not like we didn't all know already that Chick-Fil-A is a Christian company (after all, we've all had a craving on Sunday that we couldn't satisfy). So shocker... the family that owns it is conservative. So are lots of people. Do you interview your baker, barber, dry cleaner, guy in the Taco Bell window and see if they're going to gay-bash you? No. You just do your business and go on with your life.

Let's just step back a little bit and get some perspective. If you (like I) love Chick-Fil-A chicken, that doesn't mean you hate gay people. It means you like that special blend of spices. If you (like I) support gay marriage, it doesn't mean you hate God. It means you love people (which, last I checked, so does God).

I do have to take issue with one other thing... just as a side note. In reading one of these many articles, I read this quote from CEO Cathy: "I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about." I would like to counter this statement with this: "I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to define what God is all about." Yes, I think you are arrogant and prideful and audacious if you try to suggest that you have the knowledge of where God's love begins and ends.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assert that God loves BOTH Chick-Fil-A people and gay people. And the mayors of Chicago and Boston. And the people on Fox TV. And the people on CNN and MSN and Logo. And definitely the people on Comedy Central. The people in Afghanistan and Iraq and Russia and Turkey and India and America and Canada and Britain and Finland and South Africa and Rwanda and... well clearly I can't name all the people that God loves. Nor should we try to. Just assume He loves them all. And wouldn't deny tasty chicken to any of them. And also wouldn't deny them the right to commit to and love each other.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Guilt

I don't feel guilt about a lot of things, but one thing I can't ever seem to shake is guilt for not going to church on Sunday morning. I'm secure in my relationship with God, but any time I contemplate not going to worship on Sunday morning, I feel like I should have some verifiable excuse for not going. Like a doctor's note.

This morning I woke up with a terrible pain in my shoulder. I've iced it, took Advil, stretched, massaged and slathered it with Icy Hot. It still hurts, and the pain is creeping into my neck. So my immediate thought is, "I should go to church. I could go to church, even though my shoulder hurts. But I don't want to. So... does my shoulder hurt bad enough that it warrants skipping church?" Well, I guess the answer is no... but all the same, I'm skipping church. And feeling guilty.

Maybe it's because I work at a church and depend on people (like myself) to support the church. It's my livelihood. If people abandon church, I need to find a new job. But I'm not really abandoning church. I'm just staying home a day.

So why the guilt? Because it's been ingrained since childhood? Because I think someone will think less of me? Because the church can't function without my presence (clearly that'snot true)? I do believe it all boils down to the expectations of others. When I'm thinking about missing church, I never - notonce - think about God judging me for that decision. I think about my parents and my friends and my co-workers and the pastors at my church... about how they all show up regardless of how they "feel" or what mood they're in.

I don't know if I'll ever stop feeling guilty for skipping worship. But today - just for today - I'm going to try to release the guilt into this blog post. And try to not think about it again. Until the next time I skip church.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Loving Yourself

I don't think I've met anyone who would readily admit that they love themselves. Everyone I know has something about themselves that they wish were different. I suppose we all do. But I discovered some time back that I really do love myself. At the time, I thought I could love myself except for how I look. I assumed there was something inherently wrong with being overweight. I should feel bad. Unhealthy. Ugly.

But deep down inside, I didn't. I felt healthy (except for my allergies and a once-a-month hormone imbalance). I couldn't run a marathon or hike to the top of a mountain (and have zero interest in doing those things), but I could do the things I love... play in the flower beds, lop limbs off trees and bushes, walk quickly in and out of the grocery store, wander cemeteries for hours. I like my smile, my eyes, my hair. I like being a little bit messy. I like that dogs love me and I love them. I like being able to create things and research things and learn things.

And honestly I like my body. I can't imagine being skinny. I like that I tower over all of the other ladies at work. I like that I feel substantial, like I'm always "present." I like plus-size clothes. I like wearing big colorful shirts and jeans with a little bit of stretch in them.

The problem was... I wasn't supposed to like these things. Society, my family, my friends, the media... everyone was telling me that I should want to be small. And for all my life, I believed them. I looked in the mirror and said, "I hate you."

Then a couple of things happened. The first was that I met a guy online and went out on a couple of dates with him. He was like a male version of me, and I liked that. All the things that I liked about him were the things that were exactly like me. I had a glimmer of realization... that if I was attracted to all these things about him, then that probably meant that I loved these things about myself! The glimmer lasted for only a little while. It ended when he sent me an e-mail explaining why he couldn't have a relationship with me. The gist of it was: all the things about him that were just like me were the things he hated about himself. Ouch.

I went back to thinking I was supposed to hate myself. But secretly, I didn't hate myself. Not at all.

The second thing that happened was a true revelation and a turning point. I was reading a blog post about a single guy who was upset because he went on a date with a girl he met online... and she was fatter than her pictures had led him to believe. He never went out with her again. He said it was because she'd lied about her appearance, but those who commented on his post called him out on it. Everyone asserted that it wasn't about the lying. It was because she was fat. (There's probably some truth to both.) I followed the comments and privately agreed or disagreed with various ones.

Ragen Chastain -  danceswithfat.wordpress.com 
But one of the posts caught my eye. It was written by a woman named Ragen, and her profile picture made me do a double-take. She was clearly overweight, and also clearly doing a very difficult move that resembled gymnastics or dancing or pilates... I wasn't sure which. I did what I do... stalked her. I found out that she was a competitive dancer and, get this... a fat activist. What the heck?! I'd never heard of such a thing. But I visited her blog and started reading. I can't remember the first blog post I read, but as I browsed her site, I read many articles that explained that being fat was okay. That fit and fat were not the opposite of each other. That all of those articles that say fat people cost more money, get more diseases, die younger, etc. were heavily spun by the media and the 60 billion dollar a year diet industry. That the actual results of this research shows that being overweight doesn't make you unhealthy. What?!!! Are you telling me that everything I ever thought about size, weight, and MYSELF were cleverly spun marketing ploys?! O.M.G.

It didn't take long... a day? a week?... for me to embrace this information and boldly declare to my mirror, "I LOVE YOU!" I had been waiting 38 years for someone to validate the way I feel about myself on the inside... regardless of what others think I should feel. Relief! Realization! More relief! [Why did I need validation? Well... I guess that's another story for another day... don't know if I know the answer.]

I spend a lot of time with myself. I'm single. I don't have someone to hug me daily and tell me I'm fabulous. I spend a lot of time researching my family and reading about all the wonderful things they did or said or wrote. Some would say I'm highly ego-centric. Maybe. But I really love me. I love who I am and where I came from. I love how my mind thinks. I love my life. And I'm perfectly comfortable in this skin of mine. Finally.

PS - There's still something I really kinda hate about myself... when I'm pissy or bitchy or complainy or lose my temper. I always feel terrible after I've spoken meanly to someone.



Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blog Reading

I follow several blogs. It took me a while to get into the world of reading others' instead of just writing my own and leaving them out there with no audience. I still have no audience, but I'm doing better at becoming a part of someone else's. I've just come across a new blogger to follow... Stacy Bias. One of her recent posts relates indirectly to my last post on Keeping Quiet. It's entitled "Insecurity: Imperfect & Unforgiven." Well-written and oh-so-how-I-feel sometimes.

Insecurity: Imperfect & Unforgiven

I want to talk about insecurity. Actually, I want to openly claim insecurity. I want to wear it like a badge instead of an anchor. I want to acknowledge that it has made me paranoid at times. At others, self-absorbed. I want to erase the shame in it. keep reading...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Keeping Quiet

There have been many times lately that I have found myself keeping my mouth shut, my opinion to myself. I have a particular set of beliefs and opinions, just as we all do. But I am surrounded by people who don't agree - or at least my perception is that they don't. I have begun to wonder... do I do a dis-service by keeping quiet? Or is it okay to just maintain peace and not disagree with anyone? Does it matter if people know my opinion? Is it okay to just let them assume that I agree with them, when I don't?

Case in point: I had lunch with someone the other day who was upset about their pastor's sermon that morning. I asked what it was about and she said, "Helping the poor." And went on to assert that this is further proof that her pastor "is a Democrat." In my head, I thought, "And that's bad because.... why?" Why is it bad to talk about helping the poor? Jesus did it all the time, and last time I checked this person claimed they are a follower of Jesus. And so what if your pastor is a Democrat? There are lots of people in both parties that claim religious affiliation. Christian does not equal Republican. Nor does Christian equal American. But did I say anything? Only, "Hmm."

Another case in point: At our family reunion we were playing "Apples to Apples" - where you match an adjective with a fitting noun. This game really underscored the difference in my opinion and the opinions of my family members. I kept getting nouns like "talk radio" and "right-wing" - which I would have readily put with adjectives like "annoying" or "tedious." However, I knew that my family disagreed with me. So I spent the game trying to match words safely so as not to instigate a debate over "who in the world would think THAT?"

One final case: The other day, someone in the office was praising one of our pastors for all the weight he has lost and told him to "keep it up." Although I'm glad he's been successful so far, my recent reading has shifted my perspective on the benefits of weight loss. I worry that he is doing himself more harm than good, and will only gain that weight back and then some. Statistics indicate that this is true. And then I worry that he will feel terrible about himself all over again... just like every fat person in America is taught they should. I wanted to say, "You look good, but you looked fine before too... because being fat is okay." But I didn't... because, really, I didn't want people to look at me and say, "You're insane."

I'm not insane. I just have my own opinions. And for the sake of peace, I keep them to myself.

But, for the record, I think it's okay to help poor people... more than okay, it's the mark of having a heart. It's basic human kindness. I also think it's okay to be a Democrat. Or a Republican. Or no party at all. I think talk radio people are annoying. And I wasn't a fan of George W. Bush as a President, but I'm sure he's probably a good man (although I don't have personal experience, I've heard stories). I think it's a good idea for gay people to be able to marry each other. They are real people with real feelings, real love, real families, and real needs for benefits and rights. I think it's okay for people to be fat. I think fat people have the right to be loved and respected and not persecuted... just like everyone else has those rights. And I think bodies are beautiful, no matter what they look like. Bodies are amazing feats of engineering, design, creation. And my fat legs are a marvel, because they bear the weight of my body with strength.


You may disagree with me. In fact most of the people I know would disagree with at least one of those statements. But that's okay. You have your opinion, and I have mine. But I probably won't share my opinion unless you ask me directly... because, quite frankly, I don't want to argue about it. I'm not a fan of debate. I'm a fan of the underpants rule. You mind yours and I'll mind mine. 

And, yes, I'm still a Christian. No, I'm not a left-wing radical (although I'm more liberal than I used to be). I'm absolutely not a right-wing conservative. I'm not an anything-wing anything... I just think we could love each other more... be more compassionate and more understanding than we currently are. We could value one another more than we value money. We could question all the "right" and "wrong" things we are certain about, and consider the possibility that our certainties are hurting people.

"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."