Don’t Judge Me

Photo credit: miss pupik / Foter / CC BY
Photo credit: miss pupik / Foter / CC BY

I read this Ann Voskamp blog the other day on “how women can stop judging each other: a movement of key women“. It was exactly as it sounds, encouraging us to be women that allow others the freedom not to be perfect. It was good. You should check out the link and read the whole thing, because everything sounds better coming from Ann Voskamp…but here’s an excerpt that sums it up, I think:

“There could be Key Women who turn to their sisters and unlock everything with their own anthem coming like a freedom song:

I won’t judge you for dishes in your sink and shoes over your floor and laundry on your couch.

I won’t judge you for choosing not to spend your one life weeding the garden or washing the windows or working on organizing the pantry.

I won’t judge you for the size of your waist, the flatness, bigness, cut or color of your hair, the hipness or the matronliness of your clothes, and I won’t judge whether you work at a stove, a screen, a store, a steering wheel, a sink or a stage.

I won’t judge you for where you are on your road, won’t belittle your offering, your creativity, your battle, your work.

The key to the future of our communities, our culture, the church is whether there are Key People — people who will not imprison with labels and boxes but will unlock with key words, with key acts of freeing.

There could be Key Women who link arms with their sisters and say we will be the few Key Women: Key Women release you by not judging your mothering, your cooking, your cleaning, your clothing, your kids.

It’s a beautiful picture, this ceasing of judgement. I think a lot of us need to hear her words and resolve to be the kind of person she is talking about. Although, I think the solution is twofold. I’m not taking anything away from what she is saying. I’m just continuing the conversation.

It seems to me like we women feel judged by just about everyone concerning everything, and often times, we want to place the blame on them. The judges. Maybe my perception is off, but I’m going to say that I think (we) the offended are equally at fault.

In certain areas I fit the “judgy mom” bill. I had 2 natural births, we don’t vaccinate, we don’t give our kids sweets, we are very particular about the products we use in our home and on our bodies. I have heard moms that don’t do any of those things I just mentioned say a million and one times that they felt judged by someone who does do those things. I know that those people exist, the people that think others are beneath them when they make a different choice, the people who are all self-righteous and think everything they do is what makes them a good mom. But I am here to tell you, I am not one of them. Of course, we use natural sunscreen because we don’t think the chemical filled stuff is good for you. Obviously. But just because we use natural sunscreen doesn’t mean I think those who don’t are crappy people. I’m not assuming that the mom on Instagram doesn’t care about what’s best for her child because she let them eat ice cream for dinner. I’m not.

But all my not being judgmental doesn’t do any good when others assume I’m judging them anyway.

The fact that I am picky about what kind of shampoo we use on our kids does not mean I have a problem with someone else’s anything-goes attitude. The mere mentioning of “my midwife” doesn’t mean I think those who have a doctor are weird (I had one, too). Will any of us ever be able to talk about the choices we make without coming off as judgmental? Can I say that I breastfed my children without someone assuming that means I am elevating myself above those that use formula? Since when did simply talking about things become looking down on everyone, everywhere, for everything?

I’m guilty, too. I know the feeling. Because let me tell you where I don’t fit the judgy mom bill…is in the clean house arena. If you have ever been in my house, you know it looks like crap 99% of the time. I know that some people do actually keep clean houses. For some people it’s easy, or they like cleaning, or messiness drives them crazy or whatever. Apparently, I can live with the mess. I don’t like it…but it’s not the highest thing on my priority list, every day. Some days it is. But my point is that most of the time my house looks like a tornado went through it, and I know plenty of people that can vouch for me here. I have done my share of explaining and apologizing for the dishes in the sink, the crusty pots left on the stove, the crumbs on the floor…I could go on. But I know, when I let someone in my messy house, it is not the look on their horrified face that makes me feel judged. Because there is no look of horror. It is simply me. Me feeling like I should have a clean house, that makes me assume they think less of me because I don’t. I’m sure somewhere along the way there’s been a few people that actually did care. But I’m going to bet that most of them don’t. Because there are probably dishes in their sink, too. They get it. I get it.

In some ways I’m a bit impervious to judgment. Sometimes I honestly don’t care if someone else doesn’t like what I’m doing. But there are those times when a friend shows up and I haven’t showered in days, or my kid is screaming bloody murder in the middle of Target, or the zoo, or the restaurant, or anywhere and everywhere we go, that get me feeling all sheepish and wishing I could disappear.

But I think it’s time that we start accepting some of the responsibility for the judgment we feel. Because it really isn’t about the decisions we make. It’s not about how much TV our kids watch, or whether we work inside or outside the home. At the heart of it, it’s about how others view us in light of those things. It’s the idea that someone else thinks little of us, looks down on us, that we find offensive.

When faced with our shortcomings, the problem is not always the judgement from others. It is the judgement of ourselves. We are the ones holding ourselves captive. We are the ones making ourselves feel like we don’t measure up. It’s not the mom across the playground, it’s us.

What if we found our identity in Christ and who He says we are? What if we allowed the grace of God to change us into women that are satisfied with our own quirks and idiosyncrasies, our own personalities and preferences (when they aren’t sinful, of course)? What if we started to identify the shame we feel over our dirty dishes for what it often is, an internal war with ourselves and who we hope to be? NOT who others hope us to be.

Yes, let’s be key women, but let’s realize we have to start with ourselves. Let’s stop blaming others for the pressure we feel to be perfect, when we haven’t dealt with the pressure we put on ourselves. We have to give ourselves freedom and space to be who we are, unapologetically, if we want to allow others that same freedom.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

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What Being A Christian Is Like

I say all this through the lens of American Christianity. As one who has many, many freedoms to live out my faith. One who has never faced a death threat for claiming Christ. One who faces intellectual persecution in the world I live in, minor compared to what other Christians around the world are dealing with, but persecution nonetheless. At this point, there really is not much we have to give up to be a Christian in America.

Some days walking with Jesus is easy. Some days it takes every ounce of focus and energy I have in my body. Some days I am so satisfied in Him, and I feel and believe the truth that I need nothing else. Some days I succumb to worldliness and get wrapped up in caring about things that don’t matter. Sometimes it is a struggle to choose holiness, sometimes it comes naturally (through the power of the Holy Spirit). Some days there is nothing else. Only Jesus. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by how much I need Him, and filled with thankfulness that He is there. Most days it is unexciting, mundane, blind faith. Most days it is choosing to believe what I cannot see and what I cannot know.

It is not guilt. It is not shame over sins I’ve committed. It is not following rules. It is growing, changing. It is fullness, wholeness. It is disciplining my kids and trusting God to change their hearts. It is reading the Bible and praying that He will make me more like Him. It is walking in His favor, clinging to His promises.

I cannot imagine living in this world without knowing Jesus. I’ve been called a pessimist (I prefer realist, but you know, whatever). I know some people only want to see the good in the world, but the bad is so daunting. So painful and depressing. I am continually grateful for my salvation, for a faith that believes there is life after death, that the best is yet to come. I’ve heard that some people think Christianity is for the weak. That it’s a way of coping with evil, to believe there is some nice place called Heaven where nothing bad happens. However, being a Christian doesn’t allow us to escape the world we live in. We still have to deal with it. We still have to endure suffering, and hope doesn’t make pain hurt less. So, I don’t see how someone having no hope makes them any stronger than me.

One of the beautiful and mysterious things about this faith is that it’s different for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, sin is still sin, and the Bible is still the authority no matter who you are. But my relationship with the Lord is uniquely my own, my journey deeply personal. There are lots of freedoms within the confines of Christianity. I hesitate to even use that word, confines, because I think that understanding of Christianity is why many people reject it. But you should know, it’s a really big room we’re in, with lots of space to work out our own salvation. Once you are in the faith, once you have walked with Jesus for a little while, you realize the walls aren’t limiting us, they are protecting us, they are good for us. The things the world values, you realize those things don’t give life. They are not ultimately satisfying. Choosing those things again and again doesn’t fulfill. God knows that life to the full is really found inside the walls. That is where the best is. And it is worth staying inside. The outside really doesn’t compare, once you’ve experienced what’s inside. In fact, eventually, the outside isn’t even appealing anymore. Eventually, it just looks like searching. Maybe if you’re not a Christian you think that sounds arrogant, but when the emptiness comes, when you get weary, when the boredom comes, I hope you’ll consider what I’m saying. Christ really is enough.

Perhaps the even more beautiful part about it all, is that I get to share my unique, personal journey with other people. I get to walk alongside others in this faith, that are on their own journeys. We are all going to the same place. And there is a destination. That’s why we’re walking, or running, or crawling, or maybe even being carried. There is an eternal home at the end of this whole thing, where we get to forever be with Jesus.

Being a Christian is hard…really hard, but it is fresh mercies each day. Jesus is the best friend, the best everything. He knows the darkest, most ugly parts of me, and He loves me like crazy regardless. Following Christ is confidence that I am loved, accepted, known, that His grace covers my sins. That I’m never alone. He is my comfort. He is my satisfaction.

Following Jesus is worth every single thing that it costs.

 You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

 Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
  If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
  If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
  even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
  If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
  even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

  For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
  My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
  Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
  How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
  Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

  Psalm 139:1-18

Why I Carried My First Child 42 1/2 Weeks

As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t know a whole lot about pregnancy before I entered that stage of life, but if there is one thing that I picked up somewhere along the way, and that you can’t possibly get through pregnancy without a million people telling you, is that you “can’t go past 42 weeks”.

I had a normal, low-risk pregnancy with our first. I was sick and awful tired for the first 16 weeks or so, didn’t gain a whole lot of weight, but I totally made up for it after I started feeling better. There were never any indications that we should be worried about anything. It honestly did not occur to me that I might not go into labor within the “safe” 37-42 week window. Even at 40 weeks, I remember sitting in my midwife’s office and thinking, “The baby will come before I hit 42 weeks. It just will.”

If you’re not aware…it’s not really super popular or common for anyone to go past 41 weeks. So everyone was pretty cool about everything until oh, about…40 weeks and 5 days. Then, friends and family started getting stressed out. I think this happens to everyone who still has a baby inside their body on their due date, but the texts and calls asking if the baby was here yet, or any signs of baby, were constant. When you’re told as long as you can remember that you don’t go past 42 weeks, it starts to get a little stressful as that day approaches. I’m sensitive and if you remember, I didn’t feel like I had a whole lot of support throughout this pregnancy about the decisions we were making. And if you know ANYTHING about pregnancy, it’s that it causes you to be all sorts of hormonal and emo. I could not handle everyone expressing their worry to me about my baby. Didn’t they think I cared more about my baby’s health than they did? Several people actually said things along the lines of “this isn’t good for the baby.” I was hurt by others’ assumptions that I wasn’t caring for my baby, or concerned about the possibilities. At 42 weeks and 1 day, I turned my phone off. I knew I couldn’t handle any more questions or (what felt like) accusations. I was beyond stressed as it was, and I didn’t need anyone else contributing to it. It’s been said that stress can delay or stall labor, and while I have no research to back this up, I really believe the anxiety I was dealing with slowed things down. Which might go right along with why my labor lasted for 3 days. Anyway…

The basis for the decisions we made regarding pregnancy and childbirth were not just about doing things “naturally”, it’s more than that. It’s deeper than the newest trend. Our decisions had everything to do with the Lord’s design and His sovereignty. We chose to trust that He created my body to give birth, and that His design and timing is perfect. My midwives said all the time, “there’s never been a woman who didn’t go into labor!” We really believed that the Lord was in control, and that He was completely capable of bringing a healthy baby into the world outside of the time frame that has been deemed safe by medical organizations. Now I know about The Fall and how sin and brokenness has entered the world. But we believe that the creation and bringing forth of life belongs wholly to the Lord. This was not a process we were okay with interfering with. Induction was never on our radar. I can’t say what we would have done differently if there had been signs that something might be wrong. But there weren’t, and we recognized that if our baby happened to not be perfectly healthy, that it would be within the will of God. Not that God brings about brokenness, but that He does, in His sovereignty, allow it, and that He could allow these things to occur at 39 weeks or at 43 weeks. We have research and a little bit of knowledge, but His ways will always be higher than ours. He is not bound by our knowledge of how things work, or what’s normal.

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:25

It was pretty evident through all this that a lot of people have issues with trusting the Lord…and issues with other people trusting the Lord. It was apparent that A LOT of people put a lot of faith in the medical industry and in the wisdom of man. So much so, that it seemed incomprehensible to them that we wouldn’t do the same. I realize there isn’t much we have to wait for in America. We can easily take matters into our own hands pretty often. But what about when people don’t? Is there really anything wrong with that? Is there anything wrong with waiting on the Lord?

Thankfully, I eventually went into labor when it felt like I never would, a beautiful, healthy baby boy was born, and we named him Jones. We had a couple wonderful, peaceful, uninterrupted hours with him before we announced his arrival to anyone. He is sweet, outgoing, loving, defiant as all get out, and I praise God often that he is happy and healthy all the while praying for his rebellious soul.

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I know my friends and family had the best of intentions, and were genuinely concerned. But here’s to hoping that next time we find ourselves disagreeing with the decisions of those we love, that we can evaluate why it makes us uncomfortable, where we are putting our trust, and if we’re giving them the space to follow the Lord where He leads them.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 2:12

Does Community Have Limits?

I’ll admit it, I haven’t read the entire book “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud, but I know a lot of people who have. I started it…but I’m the worst about not finishing a book. I was talking with a friend several months back about this boundaries phenomenon that Christians everywhere are taking and running with. I’ve seen it a lot over the past few years, and what it looks like to me…is boundary abuse.

Boundaries are a good thing. They are healthy to an extent. We need to be able to say no and yes and take care of ourselves. But the churches whose mantra is “community” have people in it exclaiming, “whoa, boundaries, right?!?” I’ve had people turn down invitations to hang out for no reason other than “I can’t.” Maybe it’s a personal thing, but I don’t really think so judging by conversations I’ve had with other people experiencing the same thing. I’ve seen it a lot in new married couples, and in people with kids. People who need to hang out with their spouse six nights a week, and can’t hang out with their friends because they already had to work one night this week. People whose kids literally NEVER miss a nap, because the inconvenience isn’t worth it. I get that we can’t make a habit out of choosing everyone else over our family all the time. Duh.

But where do community and boundaries meet? When do we forgo doing the dishes in order to get lunch with a friend we haven’t seen in weeks? I think part of the problem is this idea that our community is limited to those we see on a regular basis or those in our small group. You see, for pretty much the entire last 4-5 years, we have been in a constant state of transition. I know some people have their “friend group” or whatever already, and they don’t really want to waste their time with someone they don’t plan on becoming friends with. Which is kind of considerate…but it’s also kind of rude. Unfortunately, not everyone goes through the same life changes at the same time. I didn’t happen upon a group of women who were going through big transitions and looking for friends at the same time I was. It just seems to me that a lot of people want their “community” to be on their own agenda. Maybe I’m guilty, too. If you think so, you can tell me. 😉

So, should we only consider ourselves when we think about how we want our community to look? Or, should we recognize that other people are in need of community, too? Should we invite other people in, just because?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:3-5

I’m afraid that this whole obsession with boundaries has us leaving a lot of people out of our lives for no reason at all. It’s creating a me-centered life with me-centered relationships that work well for my schedule. There is a time and place for everything under the sun, taking time to yourself is one of them. But when we consistently choose ourselves over other people, I think we’re ignoring the call to value others above ourselves.

I know there are people that legitimately have a hard time saying no to others, and have that people-pleasing nature. Most often, I’m not really one of them, so I guess I come from that side of it. I just think it’s possible that our self-centered culture is infiltrating the church, and Christians are suffering because of it. We weren’t meant to do life alone, or even just with our own little families. We need other Believers in our lives, and other Believers need us in their lives. Sometimes that means laying down our boundaries. Maybe it means leaving room for new friendships to form, and old ones to grow.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

There Is Hope

Photo credit: Loving Earth / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: Loving Earth / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

As I sit here, I’m at a loss for words. I feel like I’ve been trying to process all the events/articles/debates of the past few weeks at lightning speed and my brain.just.can’t. I feel confused and…weird, because I can’t sort my mind out. Like some thought needs to rise to the top of it all and I just need to grab THAT. Maybe I just need to give it more time.

I’ve felt so many things over the past couple weeks. Thankfulness that the Lord is so evident and that He is capable of using evil for good. Thankfulness that the people of this state have completely seized the opportunity to add their voice and do what they can to remove a tangible symbol of pain and oppression from our statehouse grounds.

I’ve been saddened by the negativity and lack of understanding of others. The ones asking what the flag has to do with the crime that was committed at Emmanuel AME. The answer is not much. The ones asking how in the world this will fix anything. The answer is it won’t, and the people who want to get rid of it don’t care. It’s not about how the Confederate flag played a role in all this, it’s about loving people. I’ve been saddened by the lack of grace shown to those crying heritage and history. I get that it’s hard to deal with not being able to make people see what you see, but telling them they’re ignorant in some form or another certainly isn’t going to help them come around.

I’ve been confused by people comparing what happened in Charleston to what happened in Ferguson and Baltimore. Dylann Roof was a 21 year old kid. Those riots in MO and MD were about law enforcement officers continually abusing their authority to oppress people of color. I’m not in any way justifying the responses of the people in those cities, but I think denying the difference and claiming that we’re better because we’re above all that rioting nonsense is just dividing us further.  It proves that we have no idea what those people have been dealing with their whole lives, and I don’t know that saying “they’re idiots and we’re not” brings any unity.

I don’t quite know what to make of all the same-sex marriage talk yet. I think I’m supposed to feel something…but really, did anyone not see that one coming? When the Supreme Court announced months ago they were ruling on it once and for all, there was kind of only one possible outcome. I guess I accepted this one a while back…so I don’t have much energy to enter that conversation right now. I actually have 14 articles open on my phone right now that I’ve intended to read, but I just can’t make myself interested in what everyone is saying about this one issue right now.

In light of everything going on with ISIS, the TPP, burning churches, and mandated vaccination in California, I’m stressed. I think that’s the best way to describe what I’ve been feeling for over a week now. Overwhelmed and stressed. A little fearful. I have little to say at the moment regarding all of these things, just that I’m stressed about the implications of it all. But amidst changes in our country, in security and freedoms, I am incredibly grateful for my salvation. I am thankful that the Lord is Lord over all. I am thankful that this world is not my home, that my hope is not in my government, my country, myself, that my hope is in the One who has overcome the world.

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33