Jamie The Very Worst Missionary

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Inappropriate remarks, embarrassing antics, and generally lame observations from a Christian missionary.
Updated: 18 min 34 sec ago

700 words.

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 04:57

The first time I wrote about human-trafficking, someone told me he would never read my blog again.
He didn't think I'd done a good job telling the whole story, and, to be fair, he was kind of right. I wrote truthfully about little girls in aftercare facilities and young women dancing on my table, but only vaguely alluded to the war, greed, and politics that propel the victimization and impoverishment of many in South East Asia. I avoided those complexities in favor of telling the stories I felt like I'd had a small part in. I shared my tiny, two week glimpse into the world of trafficking and slavery from the only perspective I knew, and then, for a month after my trip, I labored over finding the right words, agonizing over every sentence and syllable, aching to tell the story well.
But still, he was right.
I failed to explore the intricate layers of cause and effect which come together to create and sustain the mistreatment of our fellow man. And honestly? Maybe I did that on purpose. Because I do not know what I'm talking about. I'm not educated, equipped, or experienced enough to have an intelligent discussion about the political violence, cultural oppression, subjugation of women, overt xenophobia, and abject poverty that collectively form an environment where a child can be bought and sold like a fish at market, a man can be consigned to a brick factory for the rest of his life, a woman can be purchased for sex against her will, and a government will do nothing to stop it.
I seriously don't know anything about any of that stuff.
You know what I know? I know how to tell stories in 700 words. That's what I know. They are true stories, to be sure, but they're usually touchy-feely, soul-squishy, heart-stringy stories. Basically, I have no idea how to talk about tough stuff like politics and corruption and war. That junk is scary and serious, and I didn't even take an Econ class in high school. ….So, like, what am I gonna say?
I don't know.
The truth is, when I wrote about my first trip to SE Asia and my first encounters with trafficking and the plight of underage sex workers, there are parts that I left out. In retrospect, it may have been to the detriment of the whole story. Maybe there are parts I should have told because, even in the context of my limited personal experience, they could have shed light on the bigger picture...
Like. Maybe I should have told you how, before I ever stepped foot in a brothel, I walked the blood soaked Earth of the Cambodian killing fields.
I stood where the bones of the dead are slowly making their way back into the sun and air. They rise from the ground to return to dust under the feet of gawking tourists, like me, and blow away on the whispered prayers of the Faithful who have come to pay their respects. There is a dirt path, dotted with dry bones and scraps of clothing, uncovered by the elements. Too many bones to unbury, this is what's left of the educated, the urban, and the intellectuals. I stepped on their remnants, the ribs and femurs of thinkers, innovators, engineers, and philosophers, the men and women who threatened the dream of a tyrant. And now they are all gone. I took off my shoes and passed through wisps of burning incense to stand beneath a tower of skulls. A gilded, five story shrine. An inventory of the dead. It is a place to stand face to face with the empty, un-accusing eye sockets of eight thousand people, just a small portion of the millions who were brutally murdered by Pol Pot's regime, less than 40 years ago. 
...Less than 40 years ago.
Staring into a pit where the babies were tossed, I realized I was born the year the Khmer Rouge began its mass extermination – those babies would be my age if they had been allowed to live. I thought about my earliest memory, from when I was barely three and my big brother flicked a bee at me and it stung me right in the belly button. If I had been born in Cambodia, and if I had been lucky enough to survive the Khmer Rouge, my earliest memories would be of... genocide.
I stayed there for a while, sweating and crying in the middle of the killing fields, wondering what kind of person I would be if my first memories were of death. What kind of parent would I have become? What kind of citizen would I be if I'd seen a government murder my family? Would I value human life more or less, if the ground I walked every day was littered with the bones of my neighbors? What would my country look like if all of the educated were eradicated a mere 40 years ago? And what would I be willing to do to survive?
I'm not pretending to have answers to those questions (Because, really? I can't even imagine. My early childhood trauma was a bee sting on my belly button, so I think it's safe to say that I have no idea what I'm even talking about right now.), but they do help paint a stunning picture of what could happen in the aftermath of desolation and destruction - not just the destruction of life, but of culture and history and family. The fallout would know no borders.
So, yeah, that guy was right.
Human-trafficking and slavery are symptoms of a much, much bigger disease, and those of us who feel compelled to seek Justice for the modern day slave must at least tryto understand the intricate dance between history and religion, wealth and poverty, warmongers and politicians. We'll have to get uncomfortably familiar with the intersection of cheap Eastern labor and the relentless Western demand for even cheaper goods. And then there's the nuanced difference between the exploited and the truly enslaved, and the confusing circle of abuse that continues when the trafficked becomes the trafficker, which is often the case.
Gah! It's so complicated, it makes my brain want to shrivel up and die.
I guess I've been thinking about this a lot, lately, because I'm headed back to South East Asia (though, not Cambodia). 8 weeks from today, I will board a plane for a miserably long flight to visit my favorite badass mofo undercover investigators from The Exodus Road.
And this time I'm taking friends!
No, seriously. I actually convinced three whole people to go visit South East Asian strip clubs with me. ...I am not even kidding. I think I have magic... Anyway. On June 16th, I'm taking my sarcasm twin, Kristen Howerton (Rage Against the Minivan), my favorite Guatemalan-rave-twerker, Roo Ciambriello (Neon Fresh), and the one and only Heather Armstrong (Ok, fine. There are probably other Heather Armstrongs - but Dooce, you guys. DOOCE.) to the other side of the world for an unforgettable tour of bars, brothels, and pedophile hot spots. For. Real.
It's gonna be like the most awesome week long squeally girls getaway ever! (Except, like, the exact opposite. Because slavery, butt-sweat, warm light beer, and trolling for underage prostitutes in a blacked out rental car are not my idea of an awesome girls getaway. I dunno, maybe that's just me.)
Not gonna lie. I'm pretty freaked about trying to write about this stuff again. It is impossible to tell the whole story of human-trafficking and the SE Asian sex-trade in 700 words. Impossible. But I am going to try to, at least, tell a wholer story, a story that acknowledges the depth and complexity of the issues at hand. I'm excited to show you the steps The Exodus Road is taking in response to the big picture of child slavery. I want to tell you about how these cycles of abuse and enslavement are being broken. I want you to hear that corrupt governments can clean themselves up, educating villages can prevent at-risk children from falling victim to traffickers, and prosecution of perpetrators is a viable deterrent to would-be abusers.
That guy really was right, the whole story matters. There is far more to it than the “sensational” stories of little girls scooped out of brothels to be nurtured and cared for, healed of deep emotional wounds, and, if at all possible, reunited with their parents. And, yes, it goes way beyond the flashy red light districts we've come to expect when we pull up sex-trafficking documentaries on Netflix.

The story of one arrest, the story of one rescue – they do lose some of their significance when you can't see the great odds that must be overcome to get there. The story of one national worker who chooses a low paying job on an anti-trafficking task force over a big paycheck upon college graduation - because he believes in the value of a human life - is far more impressive in the context of the whole big mess. But there is still a place for their 700 word stories. We get to mourn individual losses and celebrate small victories, and fall in love with the people they belong to.
We get to say what we know, even if all we know is what we learned when our bare feet brushed the bleached bones of the dead; Every story matters.  

I can't explain how or why, but in some places my life has come to intersect with some of the world's 27,000,000 slaves. So I think I'm just gonna keep telling these stories, theirs and mine,
700 perfectly inadequate words at a time. 
....     .....     ....
It took me 1500 words to say that... *sigh*

I worry for the Mommy Bloggers.

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 18:06
I really do.
Their posts roll down my Facebook feed and they pop up all over Pinterest. So many sweet pictures of backlit kids running down the beach, or they're wearing tiny aprons and stirring cookie dough in bright mixing bowls, sometimes they're flying above the playground at the apex of the swing with a sunny instagram halo behind their organic, unvaccinated heads. School lunches have become brilliant little works of art and nutrition, filled with sandwiches that look like sushi, fruit kabobs, and cheese cubes cut into three dimensional letters of the alphabet. Life is good. And some of these Mamas are working overtime to make it look even better.
Cute. But really?!I don't know how they do it. It honestly looks exhausting. 

There are braid tutorials so complicated they make me stand up and praise God for the XY chromosome that prevailed time after time in my womb. When I was a kid there were two kinds of braids; regular or French. If you really wanted to go crazy, you could roll up a regular braid on each side of your head, like two hairy cinnamon rolls, and all the other girls would be like whoa. Now there are 8 thousand braids. And there are a gazillion “tips”. Y'know, tips? Like “10 tips for getting your toddler to eat hummus.” “5 tips for teaching your kindergartner to write a Haiku.”. “25 ways to help your baby do things it will probably learn to do on its own no matter what.”
Tips are great. When my kids were small, I could have used tips on how to get them to quit pooping in the bathwater and stop eating their boogers, and I'd have loved some tips on how to keep them in bed at night without considering psych ward restraints. Tutorials would have also been helpful: How to break promises, How to find the library book you lost over a year ago, How to get goo off stuff. ...I once called my mother-in-law to ask how to remove chewing gum from a 2 year old's penis, but she was as stumped as I was. Ice? Peanut butter? If only I'd had the internet to tell me.
Mom and Pop bloggers have changed the culture of child-rearing and opened up a world of resources for other parents. I honestly believe that today's parents are more informed, more educated, and hopefully more encouraged than we were, back in the day, when I began the journey of parenthood. That was 20 years ago, when it seemed like all mainstream Moms had to choose between was working or staying home. Now parents are wrestling with more questions – home birth vs hospital, to vaccinate or not, local vegan fare vs Quacker Oats and SpaghettiOs, home school vs somebody get these kids away from me. There's a lot of junk to think about, and Mommy Bloggers are leading the way in these good (sometimes hard) discussions.
I love that.
But still, I worry.
I worry because every last one of these darling, finger-painting, nap-loving, veggie eating babies are growing up fast. Soon they'll be awkward middle school dwellers, then they'll be high school haters. They will drive cars and get jobs. These kids are going to turn 18 and there is not damn thing their Mama can do about it. She knows it's coming, but it's still going to bite her on the ass so hard.
Trust me.
Today, they're writing a funny anecdote about how little Chevy Legend and his sister Trixie Tulip poured a whole box of cereal in the toilet and tried to eat it with a spoon. But tomorrow (Seriously, it will feel like tomorrow!), Mommy Blogger will run into Chevy buying cigarettes at Target and she'll find a condom wrapper in Trixie's waste basket. And while she'll be super happy that they're healthy eaters with good cholesterol and a low BMI and that they never died of Polio, she'll still wonder if she's parenting them well... if she's saying the right things... or not saying things at the right time... she'll speculate as to whether or not her kids will still be speaking to her in 10 years. She'll search the internet for natural remedies for acne (both for herself and her teen) and she'll find herself googling the effects of energy drinks on adolescent brains. She will have a deep internal battle over how much control to exercise over her teenager's internet usage and gnash her teeth wondering if and when and where they've looked at porn. She'll pray a hedge of protection around her kid's genitals, “Protect their junk, Lord, from pregnancy and STDs!”, because while she's hopeful that certain integral family values will reign supreme in her kids lives, it is now up to them to decide how to live. And UGH!, that is the worst.She'll anguish over their broken hearts and dashed dreams and stupid decisions.
There's a reason there aren't very many blogs from Moms of teens. It's because as they grow, they become like a magnifying glass to all your fatal flaws and the myriad ways you screwed them up as children. Who wants to read about that?! It's depressing.
Fly, baby! ...But not too far. When they're young, you've got it made, so I long for the days of the Mommy Blogger. How I would love to go back in time to when my kids were small and the crap they said was cute and hilarious. There are moments when I would give anything to trade arguments over poor grades and bad attitude for battles over how many bites to eat and how many books to read before bed and why the Roly Polies have to sleep outside. Some days I think it would be fun to go back to before they learned to pump their legs and jump off the swing like brave little warriors, to when they still needed their Mama to push them higher. On hard days, I wish I'd been a Mommy blogger, so I could look back at the stuff I thought was important but turned out not to be, and the stuff I ignored that was pretty crucial. 
Mommy Blogger, you are precious. You are giving life and hope to other Mamas. Keep doing your thing. I mean that!
But when your kids are big and grown, when they have exchanged their fake tattoos for real ones, and they smoke a pipe in the back yard, and they introduce you to their romantic interests, and you think you might just die because they are so huge and smart and in charge of themselves... Call me.You are going to want to talk. And your kids aren't going to want you to do it on the internet.
I'd say “Ask me how I know.”, but I can't tell you here. 
....       ....       ....

Oh, Parents of Adults, tell me you survived.... Ok. Now tell me how.

You are allowed your process.

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 14:16

We are in the middle of a complete backyard renovation. So that's fun. :|
It sounds like a big deal when you say it like that, “back yard renovation”, but we've hardly got any yard to renovate so it's actually not a big deal at all, except for it being super expensive and incredibly time consuming and really frustrating. But when you have a very small house and very large kids, you have to find creative ways to get away from them. You need a space to retreat. Hiding in a closet full of dirty clothes while you pray to Almighty God for the strength to not murder your offspring doesn't always sooth the nerves the way you'd hope. So, as soon as we moved back to the US, we decided to turn our tiny, boring, suburban patch of dirt into a sexy, utilitarian, sub-urban, chill out lounge... with a bit of rustic charm. And a beer garden.
It's gonna be awesome.
El Chupacabra is busting ass to get it done. He spends his day off with his hands in the ground, reshaping our little landing strip into a courtyard oasis for our family and friends (who also need to escape their children). Evenings find him googling irrigation systems or sketching plans for paths, making informed decisions about Scotch Moss or Walkable Thyme. The guy is a machine. Relentlessly hard working.
But, here's the thing: He doesn't work the same way I work, and that drives me to the brink of madness.
I mean, he's a waaaay harder worker than me, but he doesn't do things the way I would do them.
Goes out to pour cement. Builds a chair.He'll work on, like, 25 projects at once. He'll pour some cement, then he'll go plant a fern, then he'll trim a tree and frame some more cement, then he'll change the oil in the car, and pick up some fertilizer. He'll reach up to install a new light, and four minutes later he's on the ground plumbing some little sprinkler thingies. Then, because there's obviously not enough going on, he builds a chair.
And the whole time I am standing there with my mouth hanging open, dazed and confused, because that is not at all how I would do it. NOT. AT. ALL.
His process is all wrong.
If I was going to redo the backyard, first, I would clean the kitchen. Because duh. Then I would go outside and look around and make plans. A lot of plans. I would make plans for approximately 6 years. When the plans were made, I'd create a to-do list in order, and The Order would be of the utmost importance! If you plant a fern before all the cement is done, you have broken all the laws of sanity and reason. The cement goes first. Then the dirt. Then plants. Then lights. Then furniture. Then, and only then, do you invite your friends over to pass the peace pipe around the fire pit. That is The Order. That's my process. That's how I would do it.
My process looks nothing like his.
Same patch of dirt. Same purpose. Completely different process.
And that is allowed.
In the end, the purpose will be accomplished and the yard will be transformed. Admittedly, his way is far faster than my way, probably decades faster, and my way is more organized than his – but the process is a means to an end, not the end in itself. No amount of eye rolling will make what order the yard is done matter as much as I want it to matter.
I don't know if you've noticed this, but living around other people is, like, really hard.
El Chupacabra and I have been living together for 20 years and we're still learning how to love and respect each other. We're still figuring out how to support one another through our very different processes.
What we've found is that, even 20 years in, our individual history and personal perspectives lead us in different directions quite often. We have differences of opinion (sometimes mistaken as indisputable facts) on just about everything. We have disagreements about parenting style, money management, furniture arrangement, laundry folding, how to drive a car, how to fill a dishwasher, how to make guacamole... even our theology divergesin certain place.
And that is allowed.
We have grown beside each other for decades, into and out of each other, like two tangled trees, both separate and together. It has taken all these years living side by side for us to realize that we can embrace and support each other through our very different processes. Though, sometimes we're still not very good at it.
See. I want him to meet me where I'm at. He wants me to be on the same page. When we don't end up in the same place at the same time, there is tension. When we see things through vastly different lenses, it can be confusing. When the place my process brings me to is in stark contrast to the place his had lead him, it can be unsettling.
All in all, respecting his process can be uncomfortable.
What it cannot be is unloving. What it cannot be is ungracious. What it cannot be is angry and condemning. Those things don't propel, they paralyze -- and one person should not be allowed to stunt another person's growth. Our job is not to drag and pull others into our space, but to love and nurture them exactly where they're at – no matter where they're at - and to accept that God may have them on a different path on a different plane on what seems like a different planet.
And that is allowed. God gets to do His thing.
I get this wrong all the time. Learning to have Grace (and even, like, basic kindness) toward people who don't think or act like I do has been a relentless part of the process for me. Very much a 2 steps forward, 1.9999 steps back kind of thing. But I'm trudging along, gratefully surrounded by people who love me and challenge me, but who also understand that God is at work here. They trust that, trust Him, enough to know when to step back and let the process of my spiritual growth just happen.
Refining faith around a fire with friends is my favorite.I'm learning to stand in silence at the kitchen sink and just watch while my husband buzzes around our backyard project like Bob the Builder on crack cocaine, doing everything out of order. I'm learning to appreciate the creation in his chaos without wanting to hijack it to suit my program. I'm learning to save my input for when it actually matters, or when he actually wants it. This is very, very, very, very, super, exceptionally hard for me. Almost impossible.
But I'm getting there. I'm learning to trust that, just as God is walking with me through this life, He is walking with the people around me... and that their path is different than mine.
I'm learning that that is allowed. You are allowed your process.
God will see us both along the way, and, somehow, with Love and Grace (and, y'know, basic kindness) we will continue to be this tangled, inseparable mess we call the Church.
Same patch of dirt. Same purpose. Different process.
And that is allowed
Now pass the peace pipe.
.....        .....       .....

Are we free to question, challenge, change and grow? Can we let others do the same?

(Un)Follow, (Un)Support, (Un)Sponsor : What does our response to World Vision say about our Faith?

Wed, 03/26/2014 - 15:27

I'm a feeler. I get that. 
I feel my way through life and faith, and every little thing in between. I don't have theories, I don't get ideas, I don't analyze or deduce or conjecture. I make a lot of decisions, even the big scary important kind, based on what I feel. “I feel like eating hummus.” “I feel like painting the kitchen.” “I feel like selling everything and moving to another country.” It's true that my theology is heavily influenced by how things make me feeeeel,and I have oft been reminded by friends who are legitimate for-real Bible scholars that this is a flawed way to approach an ancient text and its teaching. I can see why, but I just... don't care. I feel. That's what I do. I divine my path by intuition and accident, stumbling along with my arms stretched out in front of me, half reaching for the unseen Encourager who coaxes me along. This is how I follow Jesus; eyes up, limbs outstretched, wobbling forward on the balls of my feet...
Feeling my way around has worked out pretty well for me thus far. I mean, yeah, there are a few exceptions, problems do crop up from time to time. For example, when I feel like I'm right and you're wrong, I can get a little stabby. I have been known to make sweeping statements and proclaim bold judgements because I feel a certain way. It's like this: I feel like pooping in the downstairs bathroom is a sin - like a really bad, totally offensive, almost completely unforgivable sin, that makes even Jesus shrug his shoulders and shake his head like “nope, not dying for that”. So when my kids poop downstairs, I lose my mind. It's terrible. I am aware that arguments can be made for both sides of the 1st floor poop debate, but I AM RIGHT. and I will not stand by while my boys stink up the entire downstairs with their crap.
I speak my feelings with a sense of power and authority because, as far as I'm concerned, all of my feels are facts.
But, at a core level, I understand this can't actually be true and that I am... *ahem*... notalways right. The beauty in knowing this (and really owning it) is that itallows me to live with a certain level of flexibility, even around issues that I feel very, very strongly about. Truly. If a guest in my home takes a dump downstairs, I'm cool with that. I'm not going to shove a box of matches under the door and spray air-freshener through the key hole. No way. That would not be kind or loving or gracious, and it would make my friend feel awful. As for me and my house, we will poop upstairs – but that's where it ends - I am comfortable letting my friends and acquaintances decide where to drop a hot one, and letting God sort out the rest.
Are you starting to wonder where this is going? Because I totally am...
Oh, yes. I remember.
World Vision.
Monday, we learned that Christian humanitarian-aid giant, World Vision, tweaked its hiring policy toallow for the employment of anyone who is legally married; including those who are married to a member of the same sex.
And then the internet was all “WHAT?!” and everybody's brains exploded
It was a mess; there were feelings everywhere! Hurt feelings and happy feelings; some people were angry, others were elated, some were confused, a few were afraid. Arrogant Academics and Ignorant Morons on both sides of the equation weighed in heavily, while others leaned, less sure, one way or the other. These conversations are always hard, but good and necessary. Sadly, much of the rich, challenging dialog that can happen when we share strong feelings about our tightly held beliefs spiraled into the kind of club-house circle-jerk we've become accustomed to on the World Wide Web. That part didn't surprise me because I know how easy it is to come off like a real douche when we treat our feelings like they're facts. (Been there. Done that.)
What did surprise me was how the knee-jerk reaction for many Evangelical Christians in opposition to the policy change was to withdraw their support of World Vision by canceling their Child Sponsorships.
And I just...I mean.......I don't......*sigh*... I guess... Ok, fine. I HAVE FEELINGS ABOUT THIS.

Friends, we may not agree on the big fat gay debate at all – we may have super different feelings about whether or not World Vision made a good choice or a bad choice, a right or wrong choice – but at what point does this (or really any) disagreement absolve us of our God-given responsibility to care for the least of these? Is it ever ok to withdraw our promised, life-giving support from a community in need? We all remember 48 hours ago, when we believed our $35 a month was important, right?!... If you are among those who don't agree with World Vision, I get that – maybe I can even respect that - but your sponsored child did not stop needing the food, water, medicine, and education they needed yesterday. We picked these children, we pray for them, we know their birthdays, we keep pictures of them on our fridges, we talkabout loving these kids and their families – How then can we so easily abandon them to make a point?
What does it say about our Faith when our response to a corporate policy change is to kick a needy child in the teeth?
What kind of hypocrisy is this, which ardently defends ridiculously bad missions practices with self-righteous platitudes about how “God can use anyone to do anything!”, but pulls support from a child in need because it might be administrated by the wrong person?
When did impoverished children become productsto be boycotted and replaced with the click of a mouse?
If our “gifts” to others are actually about us, then this all makes sense; You sponsored a child to make youfeel good, and you'll unsponsor the kid if the global aid org does something that makes you feel icky. Classic. “My service/gift/mission trip isn't about them, it's about teaching/changing/affirming me (or my kid).”
I'm just gonna throw this out there, but perhaps our Christian priorities are a little bit fucked up when we decide that a humanitarian-aid worker's private life is more important than the actual survival of humans they are aiding. I know, I know. There I go again, feeling my way through the Gospel. But it just feels wrongto let a child suffer while we stand on a soapbox.It doesn't feellike a very good expression of the Faith, Hope, and Love we claim to value as followers of Jesus.
Our response to World Vision will tell bold truths about our Faith.
Can we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God? Will we...? 

.....         .....       .....
Don't tell us how you feel about homosexuality (No, seriously. Don't.), instead let's talk about what people who are conflicted should do...
Do you feel like it's ok to drop a sponsored child in response to World Visions hiring amendment?

.....        .....       .....

Apparently, World Vision has reversed the scandalous amendment to their hiring practices and wishes to resume global aid like yesterday never happened under the new monicker; Waffle Vision. I'm not even kidding. *sigh*
So, if you need to switch "Evangelical" for "Progressive" in my blog post, go ahead. The premise is the same. 

A Voice in the Desert.

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 18:30
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a man I didn't know that basically said, “Hey, would you like to come to the desert outside of LA to visit the set of some famous person's movie next week?” Since I knew nothing about the guy, or the movie, or why I'd been invited, or what I was being asked to do, I said yes
Meet you in the desert? ...Ok!Then, when I told El Chupacabra about the invite, because he is obviously cautious and protective and overly concerned for my well-being, he said “DO IT!”
It was an easy decision.
There was no good reason for me to go. It wasn't great timing. We had a lot going on at home. I wasn't getting paid. I'm not really interested in meeting famous people. I never loved the desert. If I went, it wouldn't be to advance my career or provide for my family or rally my cause. And I didn't have anything to wear.
If I went, it would be just for fun. WHAT?! I KNOW!!
So I went for fun. I really did. I hit the road one morning with a full tank of gas, a triple venti skinny caramel latte, the address of a hotel in one of those dusty towns south of LA, and no plan B.
I drove 8 hours alone. I howled along with the radio like a wolf howls at the moon... but, like, a rabid wolf...a tone deaf, rabid wolf...with a head cold... that's what I sound like when I sing... a sick, tone-deaf, rabid animal... Ok. Anyway. I sang. I turned the air conditioning to whatever the hell temperature I wanted. I thought my thoughts. And I peed. I stopped so many times to pee - even if I only had to pee a little, I stopped. You know why? Because.
When I got there, I met the guy (who, it turns out, is not an ax-murderer) and a few others. There was a little posse collecting to head out to the desert and see how Hollywood makes its multi-million dollar magic. And I still wasn't sure why I was there. I mean, usually when I get invited to do cool stuff it's because somebody wants me to talk about it on the internet. But this was not the case. This was like the exact opposite. They actually said,“You can't talk about this on the internet.” (Which I am currently doing while also abiding by the specifics of the NDA. So relax.) But my confusion grew. As I learned who would be joining us, it became clear that a mistake had been made. These people were theologians, PhDs, seminary professors - there was a fancy Priest, like,in a collar - and some media execs. Apparently, we were there because they wanted our faith-based opinions about their film; the story, the script, the audience. I think?
So, basically, it was a bunch of smart people who know what they're talking about. And me.
Um... yeah.Cool people. Fun people. Very nice people. But these folks were out of my league. When they talked about Bible-y things, they said words I've never heard before. Not words I don't know – words I've never heard – it was like they were talking about God in a different language than the language I speak. Except they weren't. They were expounding their theological positions and I was kicking the dirt just outside the circle, muttering, “I dunno... I just... really love Jesus and stuff. ...Don't look at me."

To get us to the set, they put us in a giant, crazy ATV thing that appeared as if Disney designed a ride where you go into the desert and eat sand until you die. We climbed into this monster truck/short bus from a freestanding ladder – I am not kidding. Then we bounced out to the middle of nowhere, with wind whipped hair and watery eyes, making our way up some isolated river bed. And the whole time I was shrinking inside. This is what I do when I feel out of place. I put on a straight face and play along while doubt eats away at my crooked little heart.
When you're in the desert,
it looks like it never ends.“They're all wondering why you're here, too.”
“These people know you're stupid.”
“You have nothing to contribute.”
“I mean really... who do you think you are?”
“Your words don't matter.”
Into the desert, I carried my own. A dry spirit. An empty cup. An impressive expanse of cracked and broken foundation. Unknown and unlovely. The tiniest signs of life, waiting for rain. Waiting for water. Thirsty and wanting.

No one could have known how lost I'd been when we arrived. No one could have known how small I felt. No one knew, as I climbed down the wobbly ladder, that doubt was shaking my soul.
And then a steady hand reached up and took mine.
She was on the ground, guiding each of us to the sand with warm words “Welcome, we're so glad you're here!” I wrapped my hand firmly around hers for those final steps, and as I made my descent I thanked her and told her my name.
And, you guys?
In the middle of the desert, this incredible woman (who does work I admire and lives a life I could envy) grinned and she said, “I love you, Jamie, I read your blog!”
And then she gave me a squeeze. Yes. A squeeze. I believe she's a hugger and a forearm brusher, an affectionate arm grabber, maybe even a waist wrapper arounder. She is a soft squeezer. I do not know this woman, but I know this is her love language - and I felt so very loved when she gave me a squeeze and looked me in the eye - in the middle of effing nowhere -  to say, yes, I know you and I love you...
When we made introductions, she said kind, generous, embarrassing things about my words, and I totally didn't know how to respond because I don't know how to act in public, but I hope she could see that I was grateful. Beyond grateful. I mean, super embarrassed, but really, really grateful.
And just like that, she flooded my desert.
It was so entirely unexpected and so encouraging and so exactly what I needed, what I'd been needing for a long time - a voice in the desert to remind me that sometimes my words matter... 
 The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth feels likesand spilling into your moccasins while Love sets your soul adrift.
I snapped this leaving the desert, that day.
For real. 
On the 400 mile drive home, I ugly cried. A lot. I listened to “Oceans” on repeat and sang along even worse than normal because when you add squeaky cry voice to my normal (sick, foamy-mouthed wolf) voice, it's pretty terrible. But I don't care. I mean, really, I was literallyoverflowing with thanks, I couldn't be bothered with singing pretty or looking non-hysterical or any of that crap. I just drove and sang and thanked God over and over again for the people who meet us in the desert, who take our hands, and who speak gently to us, and remind us of our purpose.
This is how God gives me life in those dry spaces, this is how He whispers, “Well done, Baby Girl. Now, keep going.”
And I will, because maybe I have the words that will walk you out of your desert. And who am I to hold those flood gates closed?...

The Weekend Roundup Roundup

Sun, 03/09/2014 - 21:46
I am lazy. This is a tested fact.

But some people aren't lazy. And some of those non-lazy people take the time to round up the best of their interneting and post it in one spot so that others may benefit from the deep thinks, big feels, and belly lolz they experienced throughout the week.

Very nearly inspired by their hard work, I rounded up the round ups. You're welcome, it was nothing.

Here's A Weekend Roundup Roundup (Surf smart, kids!):

Rachel Held Evans Sunday Superlatives never disappoint. Deep thoughts and challenging challenges abound. (Also? Rachel decries the practice of stealing link round-ups... *ahem*)

Take a break from all that smart people stuff with Tastefully Offensive. (Guarantee you'll find a cat gif or a pig meme that will change your life.)

Buzz over to Sarah Bessey's space for a fat dose of cyber courage. Her links make my heart grow.

Need more lolz in your life? Pleated Jeans.  Just... trust me.

Photo Cred - kleine_moewe flickrOk. Over to Bronwyn Lea for a smattering of stuff for anyone from mommy bloggers to Christian culture connoisseurs.

And if you're still not lost down the rabbit hole, there's more good stuff to be had on On Pop Theology 

One last thing.

I'm showing up a bit late (per my M.O.), but I'm participating in Micha Boyett's Community Lenten Instagram series. I love the idea of paying attention, like actually looking for the moments throughout the day where God finds us. I'll be posting my #foundgrace instagram pics from @jamiethevwm, if you want to follow along, and I'll be looking for your #foundgrace moments, too.

...       ....      ...

Your turn!
What's the best thing you read this week? 
What's the best thing you wrote? 

Don't be shy. TELL US!

Please, Lord, let him be funny.

Mon, 03/03/2014 - 22:27
I dropped my iPhone in the toilet and it did not like that. 
I mean, it was a clean toilet, as far as toilets go - it's not like I dropped my phone in an actual turd or something - but still, my phone gave me the finger. It quit. Just turned its back on me in my hour of need. Or, more specifically, my hour of Oh-crap-I'm-driving-to-LA-tomorrow-and-I-need-a-flippin-phone! (But not a flip phone, because lame.) 
So here's what happened.
I switched my number to some borrowed, old, cheap, dumb android that I haaaated from the moment it came to life and laid its creepy red eyeball on me and shouted "DROID!" I seriously could not get along with that phone, so I used the Force to trick my 16 year old into switching phones with me. "This is the droid you're looking for.", I said, and he was all, "That's the droid I'm looking for."
Done and done. 
We switched and then, when I got back from LA, we switched back (because we love our lives to be as messy and complicated and nonsensical as possible). I walked out of Verizon with my new (old/used) iPhone and handed my son's phone back to him, thanking him profusely for letting me borrow it. And here's where I made the third biggest mistake of my life - I didn't even think about wiping my data off his phone. Yeah. You heard me. I accidentally gave my 16 year old boy an open door to all my stuff... my pictures, my email, my Facebook... all of it.
We went home and I took my sweet stupid time to sync the new phone and we left for church before it was done. So that kid had an all access pass to every corner of my internet world and several hours to mess around with it before I'd even know what was going on.
That's how the hostile takeover happened.

Egged on by 1,000 likes and 45 comments...

... he posted the one thing he knows I hate the most. A teenage bathroom selfie. Yeesh. 

Then the meme's started...

And the hashtags! Can't forget the hashtags. #DontTellJamie 

Drunk on power, emboldened by a steady stream of likes, he got brave. Like, real brave.

*ahem* That is a lie from the devil and I will dispute that statement until my last day on Earth. Thankyouverymuch.

Then there was this.

And before the night was over, he had snapped a picture of me unhinging my jaw like a boa constrictor and terrorizing a green salad. I will never eat in public again. Ever. I had no idea.

Then the kid took a bow and departed like a true pro. 

Facebook wept. 

The people of the World Wide Web feared for Dylan's future. #FreeDylan. But when I found out about his tomfoolery, I was like a picture of grace and love and forgiveness...

It was payback time. Putting a horse head in his bed seemed a tad extreme, so I went with posting a half naked baby pic.

When that wasn't satisfying, like, at all, I did this. Because I'm mean.

This is exactly when the internet turned its collective back on Dylan, and "liked" that amazing pic over 2,500 times in about 5 minutes. (It's a cruel digital world, son. Time you knew.)

Of course it wasn't over. ... Honestly? It might never be over. 

Dylan may pay for his transgressions for the rest of his natural life. But I think he'd say it was #WorthIt.

Maybe not.

The truth is, I'm sort of exploding with pride right about now. I mean, he could have done and/or said anything, ANYTHING, but he was cool and appropriate and at least he wore a shirt in that dumb selfie. But, more importantly, he was funny
I LOVE that he was funny. It's like the answer to a prayer I've long said for each of my boys, holding them in my arms as warm, squishy babies, knowing their futures would be bright and beautiful, but also hard, because life just is. ...Let them smile. Let them find humor. Please, Lord, let them be funny. Amen.
My boy knows from whence his funny comes. 

Dylan wrote that. And he's totally right. #HisMomWins. #TrainUpAChild

***No Dylans were harmed in the making of these shenanigans. Relax.***

Grace waits.

Wed, 02/05/2014 - 20:28
When I was a a child, I imagined my grown up self differently.
I thought I would be a graceful woman, the kind who glides when she walks into a room. I thought I would smile lovingly at small children and pat them on the head. I thought I'd purse my lips and clutch the pearls at my neck during times of distress. My house would be spotless. My nails would be painted. My dress would be pressed. My husband would be the happiest man in the world. And my children? Angels. Perfect angels.
I thought I'd June Cleaver my way through life, but time and reality have painted a different picture.
Today, I am the woman who bursts into the room, late and loud. I don't like the kids I don't love, if you know what I mean, and I don't want them to touch me - pretty please. When the going gets tough, I freak the hell out, then I go to bed for the rest of the day. I don't usually wear pearls with the dirty yoga pants I picked up off the floor and the t-shirt I wore yesterday, and if my lips are pursed, it's because they're pressed against the lid of a Starbucks cup. My house is disastrous. My nails look like I've been clawing my way out of a well. My dress is BAHAHAH! What dress?! I suspect my husband sits in the driveway psyching himself up to walk through the door at night. And my kids? Turds. Giant turds.
And here I stand, the most graceful woman I know.
It's a clumsy kind of Grace, to be sure. But it's there, ever present, relentless, loving, hopeful and redemptive, rolling with the punches, slowly and gently building a better woman in me.
I am filled with the kind of Grace that restores broken things, and being super broken means I'm super filled. Try not to be jealous. Grace is the glue that holds this hot mess together. 
I think it's like this:
I'm always late because I'm a procrastinator and I procrastinate because I'm overwhelmed and I'm overwhelmed because I'm a perfectionist and I'm a perfectionist because I need affirmation and I need affirmation because I feel unworthy and I feel unworthy because somewhere, sometime, something in me cracked and the idea that I am lovable leaked out... I broke. And I'm still broken... And Jesus finds me like that, leaky and late, and He scoops up the pieces and makes me new. I'll probably break again tomorrow, or in like five minutes, but He'll keep scooping, again and again, until the day I finally get it, until the day I learn that I was createdto be loved. And that day, that glorious day, the angels will sing in Heaven and, by God, I. will. be. on. time.
Apply Grace liberally to all areas of my life. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
I would have it no other way. I would choose no other path. I would rather be a graceful screw up, in constant need of rescue, than a gliding debutant playing a part that was never meant for me.
I could only ever be June Cleaver if June Cleaver was a total rascal. I mean, honestly, the woman I imagined I'd be wouldn't have a house filled with grime from life with three boys and two mutts, and a tiny evil cat. She wouldn't hitchhike through Nicaragua in her pajamas *ahem* with her children. She wouldn't hate churchy women's stuff...or churchy women. I don't think she'd step foot in a SE Asian strip club. She would probably bake pies, but she would never bake a pie into a cake. Never. And that is just sad.
I don't want to be that chick. She's not weird enough. She's not awkward enough. She's not brave enough or broken enough to be me. She's not graceful, at least not in the way I want to be. She's not grace-full.
I'd rather embody the shameless kind of Grace that says, “Welcome to my gross house! Please, come in and put your feet up... on the coffee table.” I want the stalwart Grace that helps marriage weather the worst because, even when it's hard (which is kind of a lot), it says "I'm all in, no matter what... so come in from the car, babe." I want a merciful, tender Grace, for when these kids of mine, these brilliant, talented, passionate, hilarious young men, act like turds – as they are wont to do – Grace is there to whisper, “It's ok. We'll get through this. Your Mama's broken, too.”
It's not elegant, or even all that dignified. It's not the kind of grace that holds its head high and pretends nothing is amiss. What I'm talking about is messy and raw, real and gritty, maybe even a little scary. It's so wild and free, it can get uncomfortable. 
This is the Grace that waits for you when you're late and leaky, forgives you and fills you up.
Grace waits.
And waits.
And waits.
And waits...

Say anything.

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 18:53
Remember when the internet was fun? Me, too.
I can remember a time when the internet was kind of like a reflection of real life, but bigger, where people would “meet” (they would stumble upon each other, or run into each other, or a friend would introduce them) and a relationship might begin to form - or it might not - just like in real life. The people who connected naturally would stick together, form bonds, maybe even become (dare I say it?!)...friends.
That was back when we were still figuring out how far we could push the boundaries of cyber-relationship. We were learning how to be who we are, and say what we mean, and sound like we sound. We were finding our voice.
And, oh, how we have discovered it.
What we quickly learned is that a keyboard and computer screen make us brave, maybe braver than we've ever been. And we learned we could say anything - literally anything.
And that changed everything.
That is exactly when The World Wide Web stopped feeling like a huge family room and started feeling like a little court room. Every post is a trial. Every word will be argued, debated, juried and judged. Every photo will be inspected thoroughly for signs of... anything that anyone can find wrong. Every flaw will be pointed out, every comparison will be made, every right will be invoked, every meme will be created, every unicorn will be interrogated. There is no end to it; this great, big, stupid argument we call the internet.
Say anything. Hear nothing. This is the New World Order.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately, as opening my laptop has become less and less appealing.
It seems like there used to be a space, in between the crazy, where stories were shared and communities formed. It was a wide lane of reasonable people having interesting conversations and trading ideas, challenging each other, and loving one another, the way real life friends do - without a finger hovering over the “block” button. It was less ragey, less ranty, there were fewer whacky e-vangelists demanding we REPENT and TURN to their personal brand of living/speaking/breathing. But that relatively healthy space has grown narrow. Considerate discussions have been drowned out by ALL CAPS opinions. Postulation and circular reasoning now stand in the way of thoughtful dialog and forward momentum. In short, this just isn't good anymore.
It's not fun.
It's like, somewhere along the line, we decided that our opinions were more important than the things that brought us to them. In truth, I don't care about your opinion. For real. I do not care.But, your story? Yes, please. Your story sways me, moves me. Your story changes me.
The beauty of the internet is not conversation, it's connection.
Say anything. Yes. ...But say it to my face.
I don't say things online that I wouldn't say to your face. I believe that's why it works.
What you read here is who I am, true, but this is not me “being brave”. I get brave with my friends, late at night, curled up on the couch with both hands around a coffee mug. That's when I tell my secrets and say things I would never say out loud to anyone else. That's when I say anything.
But here, we've lost our social graces. There are no facial cues to tell us how we're being perceived, and so it's easy to believe that our conversation is more important than our connection, it's easy to betray friendship and kindness in favor of making a point. This is why all of the reasonable people are talking of jumping ship, like it's time to quit the internet.
Soon, this once sacred space will be a wasteland of assholes fighting for their opinions from behind computer screens that keep them safely hidden from the world. Anonymous.
Go ahead. Say anything.
But know this; A computer screen may make you brave, but it does not make you smart. And a keyboard may make you free, but it does not make you right.
I want my communities to be family rooms, not court rooms. I want the people I cross paths with on the internet to feel like they're in my home, where they can say anything to me. There's plenty of space here for differences and disagreements, but I will not save room at the table for aggression or harassment. I won't converse with people who don't respect or understand appropriate boundaries. I won't respond to condescension. And I will never ever acknowledge Anonymous.
Say anything. But say it to my face.That's my new rule.
If you wouldn't say it to my face, then don't say it. Go find somewhere else to pretend to be brave. If you just want to argue, you're in luck, this here internet is full of impassioned a-holes just itching for a fight. I am not interested.

I want you to tell me your stories. And I want to tell you mine.
Let's do more of that, shall we?

Ready... Set... Say anything. 

The Rise of New Year.

Wed, 01/01/2014 - 18:58
Christmas fell flat this year. Like, really flat.
We had one final extended family celebration on the 26th and on the 27th, we jumped in the car and took our two youngest to Monterey for the weekend. I told everyone it was a “post Christmas getaway” but it felt more like a “GET AWAY FROM ME, CHRISTMAS!”
The second we got back, I took down the tree and packed everything up because I just wasn't feeling it. I wanted our space back. I wanted to start the new year with a clean house and clear paths. Putting all the Christmas crap away felt like a good start and when I threw the boxes back in the garage with the traditionally unfulfilled promise to “simplify next year”, I felt satisfied. Done and done.
Moving on.
El Chupacabra and I rang in the new year properly with a champagne toast and a midnight smooch in the company of good friends.
I made no resolution, because resolutions require resolve and this seems to be missing from my DNA – there's just not a lot of personal discipline going on in these parts (I'm making a sweeping hand gesture toward my whole body right now... like you can see me... sitting here in my pajamas … at noon). I don't really believe in “fresh starts” and “new beginnings”. And I'm a jerk, so I like to say things to people who are on the verge of new and exciting things, like, “Wherever you go, there you are. You can't just leave your baggage behind.” And that's pretty much exactly how I feel about New Years Eve.
Yay. Let's celebrate another year in which I can continue to not do all the things I should be doing.
But, even though I'm a pessimistic kill-joy with a craggy heart, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of excitement this morning. And even though I know I'm the exact same person I was yesterday, I like knowing that new years bring new things.
I'm ready for some new things.
When I consider all the stuff headed this way in 2014, I get a little fluttery. I feel kind of nervous mixed with happy, joy swirled with fear, pressure and encouragement all wrapped up in each other, and a deep sense of anticipation for good things to come. And hard things. And amazing things. And terrible things. And all the other things that make life... life. It's like the New Year is rising ahead of me, inviting me into something bigger than myself, challenging me to be brave and step forward, to shrink and to grow, to give and to receive, to lift and to bury, to hold tight and let go, and, most of all, to love.
The rise of a new year brings a tidal wave of Hope.
It's hope I woke up with today, Hope that doesn't simply rest in the things that will be good, but in all the things that will be. So while I may not be stepping in to the new year resolute to lose 10 pounds (though I would not hate it if that happened) or get dressed earlier (and perhaps more often), and though I'm not skipping around the house in the euphoria of a “fresh start”, I do actually welcome this new year with a certain degree of enthusiasm.
I Hope it will be... well, I Hope it will just be. And I hope we will be in it, together.

Happy New Year, friends. Let's make 2014 our b... estie.  

....         ....      ....

Are you resolution maker? Or do you poop all over New Years, like me?