WearLove

November 5, 2013 — 2 Comments

Starting something new requires leaning in deep, partially waiting for the world to cave in on you while simultaneously, fully hoping that leaning in is exactly what you are meant to do. It is in the leaning in, in the trusting that we can learn to let go of ourselves and live authentically, progressively into our purpose.

WearLove was a whisper placed on my heart, it sounded a lot like an invitation to participate in creating community.
The idea seemed simple enough.  I wanted women at the local shelter, where I have volunteered for several years, to be seen and feel loved. I wanted them to know that they matter.

Initially that looked like this, a pajama drive. Fantastic and such fun. Friends, Churches, BookClubs and Families responded. .

I became more attentive to needs and in tried to pay attention to the whisper.
Out of the simple wish, – to love and empower women- grew more ideas to create community.

Other projects were created. Some were small, like the time when a box of art supplies was donated to the Living Room, a local day program for disenfranchised women and their children, or the time boxes of books and bibles were given to women and children.  Or the time a local church donated every item for a Thanksgiving feast at the local shelter.

This year, bigger projects were conceptualized and brought to completion. Two breakfasts for marginalized and disenfranchised women were organized by a team of volunteers wanting to make a difference in the life of women.
We felt that creating a safe space for community, loving and showing grace was the purpose of our time together. We were so delighted to see that lives were changed, not to the least ours. You can read about it here http://village.blogs.pressdemocrat.com/11080/the-common-table-a-story-of-giving/

Truthfully, I expected the whispers to stop, I prepared myself for the Spirit to stop. You see I continually write my life on the margins instead of finding my story written into the text.

“And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” (Colossians 3:14 Msg.)

 This verse in Colossians reminds me that to wear love breaks a persons fall, it is to embrace a person in the place where they find themselves written on the margins of life. Love is about breaking our fall.  We find our story written into the text, we are part of something much more expansive than the narrow margins.

The verse reminds me that the Kingdom of God is here in out midst, that everyone is invited, chosen to wear the garment of love.
The women at the shelter have taught me the importance of this garment, they have shown me that restoration is preceded by unconditional love, that grace is an expression of perfect love.
They taught me that without grace we all live our life on the margin.

My life was written on the margins. I live because of grace. I live because even on the margins the hand of grace never lifted, instead grace lifted me.

WearLove is unfolding, it is truly a grass roots ministry. My sincere hope and humble prayer is that as we WearLove, we learn how we can best engage with the expansive goodness of God, inviting everyone to take part.

Please join us here. Over the next few days and weeks we will be announcing exciting WearLove projects and a WearLove event.

 

WearLove

In between the intoxicating scent of sharpened pencils and the thrill of school supplies I also opened the letter from the school board.

I have been doing this every year since my oldest was in third grade. I should have learned my lesson, I should know by now, but fool that I am I always open it in the car, alone without any friends or confidants.

Truth be told I am deeply disappointed.

My daughter has struggled with school from the time she entered into the system.

This child gets up every morning, brushes her teeth and eats her breakfast. She goes to school and sits in class. She pays attention while the teacher moves through information at lightening speed. We cover lots of ground in our schools but we seem to be terrified of depth.

She takes notes as best as she can and she studies as much as she can. We have tutors, and help from teachers. We study, most of the time in peace and sometimes we slam doors. We sometimes cry into our pillows because the deadlines for reports are glooming.
In other words, we do what most parents and children do. We move though the ebb and flow of it. Tripping and falling, and by grace getting up – to try and try again.

She is the hardest working child I know, while she gets frustrated she has not given up. She keeps persevering.
She learned the word in 1st grade, by some miracle, when she was given the “Perseverance Award” for working her a** off. Since then she says:

“I am going to try my best and persevere”

Bless her heart. It breaks my heart. Here is why.

It seems to me that we are stuck in this system, on this master wheel. Teachers who love to teach are forced to teach to the test. Children who cannot keep up will fall under the wheels and eventually get ground up by the viciousness of this system. Nobody cares about how children learn, well they may care but they most certainly cannot do anything about it.
We have an entire generation of children who are taught to test well. In California we call it STAR testing. Really clever acronym, the irony is painful. There are no stars here.

I know children who score brilliantly on the standardized test but are completely under-challenged in the area of their talents, for an entire school year they are like little jackrabbits hopping across the vast prairie while never digging in to find the treasures through learning. They are bored and are flailing.
Kids perhaps never reaching their full potential or exercising their creativity, because just like the child who is struggling, this system is not for them.

I am wondering who it is for? Whom is this serving?
Look, I am all for tests. I went to school in a system where we endured regular, systematic testing. Designed to measure our success and to give the teacher a realistic picture of what his/her students are learning.

I am not comparing school systems and I am not saying that I have a solution. But I am confident that this is not good. And, I know that the goodness lies in the creative approach of those who work in this field of pedagogy —> teachers, professors with the help of parents.
Not ever, not once, not even a little bit does the solution lie in politics or with lobbyist.

This standardized test comes back at the end of summer, at the onset of the next school year. What exactly is being accomplished with this?
Is anybody going to go back to re-teach the material that obviously was missed?
No, because this isn’t about children. It is about money. It is not about the future. It is about the win, it is about this moment, right now.

The most short sighted vision, the most dangerous focus is the one directed solely onto this moment.

We may live in a world where the mantra “NOW is all you have” is our anthem but in raising children this may be the most misunderstood way of life.

Have we lost our dreams, have we lost our way? Indeed, now – as in this moment is all we really have, but every “NOW”, every moment connects to the next moment. We call that — our future.

NOW is all we have….

… to teach

… to challenge

… to redirect

… to inspire

… to instill values

… to probe

… to educate

… to love

… to discipline

… to show

… to develop

… to create

… to …..

so that we have a future in our children.

This standardized test tells me that this system is not interested in education, in the process of giving and receiving systemized instruction. It is not interested in the future, it is only interested in the NOW. The ‘now’ that is associated with the immediate payoff and accolades. Are we entirely blinded to the injustice that we perpetuate with this standardized method?

I am not informed enough to give you statistics about the scores of inner city schools.
Nor will I get deeply into how parents with children who have special learning needs fight to get their children the help that is needed for them to learn. They fight against the system, the dragon that calculates the costs for a child’s education and tells the mother that “We believe your child has reached her potential” — in third grade????

This system is nothing more than a mannequin dressed in a cheap suit, wearing cheap cologne.

Have we lost our sense? Do we forget so easily what we are called to do here?
What gift have we been given in our children? What legacy are we living for and with them?

The responsibility that comes with the gift to love and raise children is far greater than the standardization of a system.
Standards will never raise us up, they are more like a target to aim at.

We are raised up by something far less tangible and entirely more spiritual.

We are raised up by the purpose given to all of humanity. A common thread that holds us all together. Call me romantic, but I believe and feel in my heart that I am connected to you.

We are called to be for one another.
To recognize the good in humanity and inspire one another to move forward, into freedom, into progress, into equality, into salvation, free from the bondage of safety found in standardization. We must empower our children.

I refuse to be cheap. I refuse to accept and perpetuate the banal approach to life.

May we all find the strength to raise our hand and raise our voice for our children.

This is not about making anyone wrong, especially not teachers. It is about standing in solidarity with our children and the hope that they hold.

grace and peace to all.

Nothing makes me happier than the smell of school supplies. While I do not look froward to school starting soon for my girls, I do love the endless possibilities of paper, binders and pencils. I get lost in rows and rows of school supplies.

I fondly remember the first day of school. My leather backpack, which I inherited from my dad, with the notebooks neatly placed within and a zippered pouch which I obsessively opened again and again in order to release that lovely scent of pencils and rubber erasers.

Every year I would get a new jar of ink for my fountain pen and a new tip, they got finer and finer over the first few years of elementary education.
In Romania, the teachers insisted that students learn how to write with a fountain pen, their hope was that it would improve our handwriting.
So, we dipped our fine, silver tipped pens into the dark blue jar of ink.

I loved to feel the smooth tip glide on paper, the ink flowing out seamlessly, and with each motion of my right hand the words would manifest before my eyes.
I am not sure if it was the quality of my fountain pen, a lack of proper technique, perhaps a combination of both that caused ink stains on my fingers.

I remember carefully inspecting my little fingers, with fingernails always trimmed and clean in order to pass each morning’s hand inspection. But with the blue ink stains on my right hand I would no longer pass the bar set for perfection.
The stains were much too intriguing to fit into a perfectly controlled environment, to me they were some sort of a right of passage.

I loved to bear the marks of a writer.

The new notebooks that romped in my backpack were a blank canvas, ready to receive notes and essays. By the end of the year they would serve as reminder and proof of all the learning that occurred. I sincerely wish I still had those silly notebooks.

Today the scent of freshly sharpened pencils still inspires me to do something new.

I think I may me want to clean off my large dining table and cover it with poster paper. It would provide the perfect blank canvas to break in fresh pencils and markers in every color.

Perhaps now as adult women, mothers, friends, busy with life, chores, work, kids and all the back to school business we need an opportunity to come together and fill some blank pages of our own.

This fall I want to invite a group of women, maybe 10 or so, to come around the table and begin to sketch out some of their dreams.

What would we come up with together?
What would we dare to say to one another if we knew that no matter what we’d all support each other?
How close would we draw to the desires of our heart?
Would we be brave enough to speak our truth?
What fears would we overcome together?
What impossibilities would we begin to embrace?

It’s better to dream together.

If you, by chance or by design, feel like you want to be around the table – shoot me a message. Somehow, even if it’s via Skype, we can make it happen.

Dreaming of this expanding this community.

I am so ready for something ‘new’.

Sometimes, unexpectedly we receive a gift.

A word, an insight from a friend. Words build up or tear down.
Either way words are always part of the creative process.

I  am a perpetual thinker and left to my own devices I over think. I know, shocking!!

This life is filled with a constant opportunity to get stuck in the “What If?” of it all.

You know the feeling? I know you do. It starts small, it seems helpful, perhaps part of problem solving…
‘What If?’ is masked as an inquiry into possibility.
But I believe that if ‘What If’ is a retrospective question pointing to mistakes, then it often schlepps and drags with itself the dreaded guilt and stings of shame that paralyze you in your track. In other words it bares no new gifts, it gets us stuck in the spiral of endless ‘could have’, ‘should have’ and leads to more guilt and shame.
In that sense asking ‘what if’ can only dig a deeper hole for your heart’s despair.

Could we not, all of us, have done things differently? Could I not sit and spin the wheels, endlessly running through the “what if scenarios”?

And what to do with the pain of the past or the love?
What to do with the things that are hard for you to live through, or God forbid for others, because of your own frail and feeble choices?

I travel down the spiral and even thought I’d like to pretend that I can stop and recognize the good and the perfect Love in my life — I often don’t.

Yesterday two friends met me on the road of ‘what if’. Listened, heard, played along a bit  - I think to mirror some of the more ridiculous statements flying out of my mouth.

And then, one says with words unwrapped, spoken with a conviction that only love can muster, speaking truth, building up what she knows my ‘what if’s’ has torn down.

“this is grace. where you are, this hard, unfair place is His grace. grace brought you here.” == yeah,hold on to that.

to be made new is me recognizing that grace brought me here.

With that awareness the words of Isaiah, in my devotion, make more sense. We are continually made new, actively participating in creation.

I have a lot more to tell you,
things you never knew existed.
This isn’t a variation on the same old thing.
This is new, brand-new,
something you’d never guess or dream up.
When you hear this
y
ou won’t be able to say,
‘I knew that all along.’

In ways that I have held on to things laden with guilt or shame, new can be me recognizing that grace brought me here. — hold on to that.

May we remember that to live is not to continually revert back to what we know is possible but to accept the invitation and take part in living and creating newness.

‘What if’ can easily be “What else?”
what else is possible here?
– what else is true here?
– WHAT is NEW, brand-NEW?

Grace takes that chance of making things new, in-spite the pain and disappointments.
Guilt cannot hold back what’s been made new through grace.
Shame’s gaping holes are filled with love and acceptance.

“the old has gone, the new is here and now.”

Image

let them fight

August 1, 2013 — Leave a comment

I was working on a different post, when in the background all h*** is breaking loose.

I am listening to one crying while the other one is desperately trying to make herself heard. It all started with — wait for it…… — A BALL!!!

Do you remember your childhood fights erupting over the smallest things?
Unraveling like summer thunderstorms, out of nowhere with a velocity that envelopes everything?  One small thing turns into everything else and eventually ends in a place so frustrating, so overwhelming, with hurt feelings so strong that in your childish mind you resort to a smack, scratch and a good tug on her ponytail — letting her know ‘this, is not over yet!!’

I remember, and now I am here. A mother, a couple of half eaten sandwiches on the counter, dirty dishes in the sink, some spilled milk on the table next to my work files and my computer.

Kids shouting, and playing and oh yes…. FIGHTING.

I don’t know about you, but toward the end of the summer I am here:

Let them fight.

Let them holler.

Let them argue.

Let them throw the ball.

Let them walk off.

Let them accuse.

Let them cry.

Let them slam the door.

Let them come to you, when they are ready.

Let them decide to invade your space
Snot, tears, accusations.

“NO, I DID NOOOOOT!!!!”
“YES, YOU DIIIIIID!!!”

Let them.

Maybe I am too tired of negotiating world peace to no avail, and maybe I am on to something…. Let them figure it out.

I guide them through hearing the truth of the other, not just speaking their own ‘righteousness’.

Conflict is not inherently wrong.

“Conflict is a place of tension where newness can emerge.”

(It’s what my professional brain recites while I watch them work this thing out, all guts no glory)

I hear myself saying:
“I hear what you are saying.”
“I am sorry you feel that way.”
“Please practice kindness.”

I guide them through saying “I hear what you are saying. I am sorry you felt _____ (bossed around) when ______ (I was telling you how to shoot the basketball).”

…more snot, more tears, more shouting….

Then I remember yesterday. Donald Miller shared this video and it made me cry.
And now all I want is for my fighting kids to watch it,
And they do.

“I was wrong, I am sorry & I Love You”

And they say “I was wrong, I am sorry & I Love You”


So let them, let them figure it out….

grace and peace to all you moms.
PS: by the time I wrote this post, they’ve fought again.
So I guess it all starts from the top.

20130801-125511.jpg

When asked to dream….

July 31, 2013 — 1 Comment

Bold Dreaming.

A couple of months ago I was on a group phone call with my writing mentor. My mind was preoccupied with a heartache intend on burrowing canyons the size of the grand canyon in to my heart.

I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, I wanted everyone to know how painful this heartache was, how much I wanted to expose the details, then pack my stuff and leave to start over somewhere else. Leaving it all behind, wide canyon and all.

You cannot escape your heart.

As the call progressed and I listened the best I could through the vail of my pain, my mentor asked us to create a list of goals. The goals were supposed to be birthed from the the list of wants.
Wait, what? My wants?

I was a bit at a loss. As a driven woman with a family, a business, a sprouting ministry I had lots of wants but my goals that informed my daily tasks were not necessarily congruent with my wants or dreams.

I guess that’s perhaps because I was taught, particularly in church, that wanting is selfish.

And although I have yet to meet anyone who isn’t struggling with their ego, we are taught to recognize selfishness in others but never openly admit our own.

The motto is to starve your wants and phlegmatically wait for the “Will of God” to manifest in your life.

But really, I read that we are created beings, purposed, given dreams, God care about desires of our heart, God listens intently to us and works WITH and THROUGH us.

We are meant to participate, actively work out our faith, to feed the hungry and love the poor to reach out to every man and woman. All are welcome and when they come we are meant to include them into the fold of our lives.

What DO I WANT? What do I DREAM ABOUT?
What does inform my weekly goals and daily tasks?

Here are some pieces.

I dream of people coming together to live and share the Good New. For grace to be the thread in the story of our life. People welcoming other people with all of their faults and sins hanging out like loose fringes on a beautifully knitted nordic sweater. Pulled and broken pieces of life brought to a common table, the table of the cup and the broken bread. Community.

I dream that we share life fully and bravely. Confessing our sins, not only the ones that simply make us feel important or righteous, but all acts intended to separate and exclude = all sins. Especially those that have hurt one another. The infractions committed against the One whose life, death and resurrection has called us to unity.

I have been intolerant, belligerent, arrogant, unbelievably unfair and unkind to my brothers and sister.  Yet, the grace of God abides and saves and rescues and changes and transform even me. It cracks down on man made walls and shines through the cracks. The Good News is that “He Himself is our peace, who has made us one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…”

Grace creates the necessary cracks in our pervasive separations. Grace is always looking to create union and inspire the great commandment – “love God and love your neighbor”.

So, I cannot be a follower of The Way and also lay brick and mortar on the wall of hostility.

My dream is to be filled with the Spirit of God and take down walls.
My church community, in love and peace, always with passion in her voice and sometimes with hands raised to the heavens in frustration at the fear ruling my heart into intolerance, she (the church) has directed, guided and made me aware of the holy ground all around me.

So, when Elora Ramirez asks; What are your wants, and do your goals come out of your wants?

I now have something to hold them up against.

The dreams and wants are like a stained glass window that my goals are filtered through.

May our goals and tasks, our daily life break through the colored pieces, may everything we do be life giving to one another.

Image

Honest Monday

July 30, 2013 — 1 Comment

When making lists and planning is an exercise in ‘I am enough”

An Honest Monday post on Tuesday.

If you are a teacher or have children you know the joys of summer break. It’s an interesting time of year. Filled with anticipation and high expectations of having much fun. Splashing at the pool, picnics at favorite local spots with friends, camping by the river, amusement parks and zoo trips, sleeping in and staying up late…

Oh, how I love summer. I love the lack of schedule and the spontaneous days of fun. But, it doesn’t do much for my productivity.
My work projects pile high, the emails linger in my inbox, my books gather dust and my creativity suffers.

RIght about now, with just a couple of weeks to go, I can sense a restlessness rising within me.

I begin to do what I always do,
I compare myself. There’s no particular person I need to measure up against, because I have always been my worst critic, my worst enemy in that way.

Lately I have been the only person who said to myself “You should have tried harder. You should have not wasted your time. You are missing out. Did you really think this was going to work?
You are too _______ (insert accusation)”

I wonder how many women are suffering quietly under the voice of accusation that often adopts their own tone and sounds just like them?

Have you ever found yourself in a quiet place and heard nothing but the sound of your own voice taring you to bits?
Recently I asked a group of executives if they felt that they had done the best job they could on a particular project. The room was about split 50-50 male-female ratio and to my surprise the women had much to say about how they could have done so much better.

It struck me, of course!!! because I DO THE SAME THING.

Have you been taught that you should never be self-satisfied, that to be content means you are lazy? Perhaps this stems from growing up in harsh economic conditions where my family worked day and night, in 3 shifts, and also kept the farm running so that we, myself included, could have a better future.

I can hear my mother’s voice, or is it me and I am finally becoming her? —

“What are you doing with the opportunities given to you???”

I am enjoying this summer. I am reveling in my children, I try to appreciate that my teenager can sleep into the late morning hours and wake up wanting to sit close to me, that my youngest is up early to snuggle and read together. We have camped and played and watched movies and planted tomatoes and done so little while doing so much, and we fought and made up again.

The piles have built and now I can make lists to try and tackle the mountain again.
But if I was asked if I could have done better I would only say:

Yes, I could have not listened to the rolling accusation of ‘not good enough’.

So, for the remainder of the summer — I am going to ENJOY and make lists and work patiently at crossing some things off, as in between summer fun permits.

May you also know that you are enough.

Love,
B.

 

 

20130730-163224.jpg

This is the final part of the interview with Penney.

Over the months Penney and I have become friends. I am so proud of her and I feel humbled by her honesty and strength.

My hope is that you have been able to receive a better picture of some of the adversities that she, as well as many other women face in homelessness.

Yet, if we were to assume that some of these adversities are unique only to homeless women – we would miss the overarching truth;

being marginalized for economic reasons, social status, gender, ethnicity, race, faith and even sexuality is very common to most people in our community. I believe that at some point everyone has felt the stinging pain of marginalization.

We live in a world where we are continually faced with relevant choices. Do we focus on things that separate us, or do we begin to make new decisions, better decisions, more loving choices that point toward the common ground thereby acknowledging the redemptive qualities of the foundation in the Christian faith, and honoring the worth that every human being holds indiscriminate of the judgements by another?

In my faith community, as a follower of The Way, I am called to remember that we are all invited to get caught up in the net of radical grace. The cross is meant to bring us together, not give us opportunity for division.

I ask only one thing of you as you watch this video; let us remember that we are meant to clothe ourselves with love, to wear love as a garment, as the first thing that anyone sees.

Penney shared her life bravely. She opened up and discussed her pain. She is open to your questions – as am I, and I am sure she would also welcome your support.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to Penney’s story.

grace and peace,
Bianca

Recently, I sat with my friend Penny at a local Park.
She shared some of her story with me and allowed me to share it with you.

She inspires those around her to love better, embrace differences and overcome the challenges set before us.

Please leave a comment to let her know how her story touched you.

(part 2 of the interview will be published July 17th)

love,
Bianca

Drink from the cup