Where My Fathers Died

I’ve been digging.

It’s healthy, I think, to want to know where we come from, who our ancestors are, what our heritage is. I have always been interested in family history, but it has been especially weighing on my heart since my grandmother’s death last summer. My grandparents are all gone now. I knew them so little.

So I am digging. There is so much history to unearth, not just regarding my grandparents, but the entire history of my family. It amazes me to learn where these men and women came from, what they accomplished with their lives. And it further amazes me to realize that all of their challenges, convictions, and determination have led to their descendant (me) writing a blog post about her connection to them. It reminds me how small I am in this great world.

But it humbles me, too. It forces me to step back and look at the various threads woven together to create this tapestry. These were men and women who were willing to sacrifice everything for freedom. And it humiliates me, because I have to ask myself what I’ve been willing to sacrifice for freedom.

It’s easy to believe that freedom is honored by our government, by our fellow man. It’s easy to take for granted that blessed liberty that others have spilled their very life’s blood to secure. It is easy to presume that these liberties will always be protected by our government.

Those of us whose families have lived in North America for generations need to remember. We need to dispel the complacency we’ve adopted, as if our freedoms have always existed and always will.

It isn’t just the founding fathers who sacrificed–though they certainly did. It was not only their sacrifices that ensured our freedoms. It was the men and women who fought, who died–who still fight and die.

I always thought it was a declaration, but today I am convinced it need be our prayer:

Land where my fathers died

Land of the pilgrims’ pride

From every mountainside

Let freedom ring

Glenn Beck & Yoda

I mean no disrespect to Beck…or to Yoda…but I just have to say it.

Whenever I watch Beck and he says something like, “America, if you don’t get it yet…you will,” it reminds me of the scene in Yoda’s cave when Luke says, “I’m not afraid!” Yoda says, “You will be!…You will be!”  Hehehehe. Sorry. I don’t know why.  Just thought I’d share.

Star Wars Day

I can think of no better way to celebrate Star Wars Day than to share with you the greatest video of all time.

Bonus SemBlog Points, today only. 1,500 bonus points if you say it (“may the fourth be with you”), and 1,500 bonus points for sharing your favorite Star Wars quote.

Happy Star Wars Day! Erm, I mean…May the Fourth be with you!



Entitlement & Fundraising

This morning, a young man knocked on my door asking for pop cans and bottles to raise money for his youth group trip. We don’t have any cans or bottles right now, but I asked about his youth group and his trip anyway. I would have been happy to invest in a youth group that wanted to go and minister in spirit and in aid to the Port au Prince victims of January’s devastating earthquake.

But when the words “Cedar Point” came out of his mouth, I think my disbelieving expression scared him because I hadn’t even gotten the words, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any empties” out of my mouth and he was off the porch and running.

Am I the only one who thinks Christian teenagers shouldn’t just be given money to take a fun trip? If he hadn’t disappeared so quickly, I probably would have invited him to do some yard work in exchange for the money. That would have been more than fair, in my opinion. But to just give money to a kid I don’t know so he can go on a vacation? Nah. I don’t think so. What entitles him to my money? If I wanted to gift it to him, that would be another matter entirely.

What entitles a kid to my money?

I’m not opposed to asking for money. Don’t mistake me on this. Again, I’d have rejoiced to help them buy a goat for a third world family. But Cedar Point? No, you have to earn that.

I struggle with feeling that way, to be honest. My inner voice is debating me even now. She says:

  • When you were a kid, Sar (and even as an adult), others have helped you to do fun things that you wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. (This, of course, is true! However, the people who have been generous to me have always been church, family, or friends. I never went to someone’s door asking for money for a fun trip. I did raise missions money by empties, but again–not the same.)
  • A youth group needs to do fun things together for the sake of building relationships. (Absolutely! But allow their church members to invest in their relationships. They know, far better, the needs of their own teenagers. Don’t they? And also, they would know whether this youth group has pursued fun trip after fun trip, or whether they’ve just returned from Haiti and now want to have fun. They may very well be deserving of a free trip; but I wouldn’t know them enough to decide, would I?)
  • You’re such a tightwad. (That’s right. I am. I’m allowed to be. Have you seen the economy? Don’t mistake an unwillingness to send someone on vacation for a lack of generosity. If it’s that important to him to make this trip, he’ll find a way to earn the money. )

Cripe. I’m sorry. I just really don’t agree with this. It ranks right up there with television ministries asking for donations.

The organizations and ministries I have given to have almost always been those that haven’t asked for money for their own benefit. Compassion, for example, or Blood: Water Mission.

What do you guys think? Would you have given the kid some money? I may have…if I’d known him. But even now, I’m looking at a photo of my Compassion boy, who just turned eight years old, and I’m wondering when the last time he took a fun trip was?

Sigh. Sometimes I really wish I had lived during some other period in history.

Affirmation

It happens seldom but it must be acknowledged. I will be speaking with someone, and I will be consumed with the feeling that she is waiting for me to affirm her value and purpose.  Maybe it is provoked by something she says; maybe it is the look in her eyes; maybe it is totally imagined on my part.

Today, as she spoke of her children and averted her eyes from my gaze, I had this incredible desire to embrace her and tell her how strong and beautiful she was, and how proud of her I was. And that’s crazy, right? Why would she care if I was proud of her? We haven’t spoken in fifteen years.

But I think it’s just part of who I am. I have always had moments like this–though, never when I would suspect them! When I read The Five Love Languages and learned that I was a “Words of Affirmation” gal, I suddenly understood myself, my needs, my frustrations, my relationships. I often forget, though, that I don’t just receive love through affirmation; I also show love through affirmation. So it makes sense that I would be filled with the desire to affirm others.

I think, though, there are two separate things here. It is one thing for me to desire to affirm another person; it is quite another thing to feel as if that person is looking to me for affirmation. As evidenced by this blog, I am still learning to differentiate between the two. And I am still learning how to be a “Words of Affirmation” gal without being a complete dork. Usually, I feel too awkward to say what I’m thinking or feeling, so I opt for writing it in a note or card.

So why am I sharing all of this? Because I want to say three things to all of you…

  1. If you are looking at me, sending out a “say something to affirm or validate my worth” vibe, and I miss it…consider saying, “hey–batman, you missed the signal.” It might help me to recognize it, in which case–I might be better prepared to respond in the future.
  2. If you receive a letter or a card from me, accept it for what it is: my love for you.
  3. Feel free to reciprocate as you feel led.

That is all, friends. Goodnight (yes…I’m just now going to bed…sometime after 4am…don’t judge me; I’m an insomniac.)

Pax Domini!
Semmie

Why Toilet Paper?

Jennifer asks the question on her blog.

This is a story.

She was thirteen years old, struggling as all girls do to make sense of her life and her own self. Her world was crumbling. Her grandfather–the only father figure she had ever known–had died; her siblings were growing up and moving out; her mother had moved them to a new city; her new school was as warm and welcoming as communism; and her new church was hokey. H-O-K-E-Y. Depression settled first upon her with the silence and wonder of October’s first snow, then buried her with the fury and drift of February.

She felt utterly alone, utterly isolated, utterly forgotten.

Her journal was her only solace. Day after day, she inked her frozen prayers on the pages, determined to cling to her faith rather than abandon it. She asked God to show her why He had brought her to this place. She asked Him why she existed at all. She asked Him where her father was and why he didn’t love her. She asked Him if there was anything beautiful or worthy of love in this life He had given her.

One Saturday evening, the girl sat in her bathroom shaving her legs–more for the privacy than for the need to shave. She wasn’t paying attention, really. Her thoughts were on Michelle, a girl at school who seemed to loathe her with incredible determination. The girl didn’t blame her. She pretty much loathed herself the same.

The girl hardly felt the razor slice through her skin, leaving a small pool of blood on her leg. She reached for the toilet paper, pulling several sheets from the roll and pressing it to her leg. As the crimson soaked through the toilet paper, the girl saw the design for the first time. How bizarre, she thought, to create toilet paper with such a design that nobody would ever take notice of or appreciate. And why would they? It was toilet paper, after all. The most common, crass invention, purposed only for disgusting things.

The girl was perplexed by it. She stole a spare roll of the Quilted Northern from below the sink and returned to her bedroom. Pulling out her secret stash of colored pens, she began to color in the design. Little circle by little circle, flower by flower, the toilet paper flourished out of its roll and into hands that would cherish it and ink its beauty.

As she did, she spoke to the toilet paper. “Even you are beautiful to one who will love you and give color to your design.” It was in her own voice that she heard God’s answer to her own feelings of commonness and unusefulness. Perhaps all she had ever needed was to know that there was a plan–that she, being who and where and what she was, was exactly as God desired her to be. Perhaps all she needed now was to allow Him to bring the color back into her life.

And He did.

The toilet paper has stayed with me for these many years. It will follow me to my grave, I’m sure. What began with colored pens and a search for purpose, grew into letters, poetry, songs, essays, bookmarks. It takes time and care. Have you ever tried writing on or coloring toilet paper? I dare you  not to rip it. I dare you not to let your ink bleed through it.

Take your time. Do and say the things that need doing and saying. Be careful, be intentional, and love your toilet paper.

What’s In A Name?

There was a time when this title would have spurred an intense theological discussion. Not today! Today I ask you…where have all the good names gone?

I’ve been walking at the cemetery. I love walking among the grave markers, wondering what stories, what secrets, what sins were buried there. I love the stillness and gravity of death, the reminder that we are mortal and our days are fleeting. If ever you need motivation to do something “more” with your life, take a walk in a cemetery. I said the other night (and it is true!) that one of my friends captures the stories in a cemetery with photography far better than I could, using words. Take a moment and peruse her work.

But today, my heart is enamored with names. One of the things I love about walking in the cemetery is the inspiration of seeing unusual or outdated names. This is a great resource for writers, by the way. Yesterday, I saw the following names:

  • Augusta
  • Wilburn
  • Ivey
  • Tolbert
  • Quincy
  • Clive
  • Henrietta

It blew my mind! These are great names. My name, by comparison, seems boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love my name! But these are awesome names. I cannot begin to tell you how dreadfully I want to begin a letter, “My dear friend, Tolbert.”

How about you? What do you love about the cemetery? And what are some of your favorite, outdated or unusual names? And don’t forget to check out Gayle’s photography…now I’ve told you twice. Trust me. Clicky.

Pax Domini!

Semmie.