You Matter

What is your value?
What is your purpose?
What sets you apart?

These questions enter the minds of most people during their lives and cause them to introspect and take stock of their goals in life. Everyone will answer the questions differently because no one has the same life experience, the same advantages, or the same ambition.

The same questions are asked by political junkies, but it’s less introspection and more general critique of one another. I’ve seen this especially in the conservative political set; we all seem to be measuring one another’s effectiveness by different standards.

There is the activist that believes true effectiveness is “boots on the ground”: knocking on doors, making calls, writing letters. The blogger believes in the advancement of ideas through media; making the case to support a cause or policy with thoughtful, well-researched articles. There is the pontificator that thinks gaining ground happens in the real-time free flow of ideas online and in person, the media maven who believes videos will reach more people in our entertainment-loving society, and the quiet soul that wishes only to stand in solidarity with his conservative brother and strengthen one another’s convictions and arguments so that they can better defend their positions.

So who is most valuable? Which one of those subgroups have more impact or purpose in the conservative movement?

According to many, I’m pretty useless as a political tool in the conservative shed. I haven’t worked on a campaign staff, I don’t knock on doors or make calls, and I rarely even blog. What value do I have? I don’t question my own value, but I know many people do. They may not know they’re talking about me because they’re usually speaking in very broad terms about another group of people that they feel aren’t doing as much as they themselves are, at least according to their own standards of effectiveness.

I don’t have to wonder if I’m making a difference because I know that I am. My life has pretty well been dedicated to my kids. I gave up many of my own ambitions to focus on being a mother. I have been blessed to explain current events and politics to my children in a way that they can understand and engage their minds in a topic that, quite frankly, not many adults can comprehend. I know that I have a duty to inform them so that when they are able to vote they can do so with some measure of understanding, giving serious thought to the gravity of their choices. I also want them to be able to make a compelling argument to their peers and be able to defend their positions to their teachers. We often talk about the heavily biased education our kids receive from public schools and universities, so I’m actively preparing my children to go out into a world that is not friendly to their ideas and to engage that world and hopefully change it.

Does that have no value?

I have changed minds about gun control and abortion through simple conversation. I’ve encouraged other conservatives by being bold enough to shout down the bullies. I’ve strengthened my friends’ arguments just as they’ve strengthened mine through discussion of ideas and the sharing of information. I know this because people have told me that I’ve made a difference in their lives.

Does my chatter have no purpose?

I don’t have to wonder if my small efforts within the arena of politics have value. I know they do. They may not be big, or public, or acknowledged, but they have gained us ground and have strengthened us as a group. Do I think I’m better than any other blogger or activist? No. We’re all working for a common goal here, or should be, so I’m happy to let you do what you do best while I make small improvements in the world around me. Your efforts help me, just as my efforts help you. If I can change a person’s mind, that’s another reader for you. That’s possibly another person knocking on doors. That’s another person to have your back when you’re under attack for defending the Constitution.

So don’t lose heart when you wonder if you’re making a difference. If you are making a case for conservatism, in whatever form it takes, then you are making a difference. You are helping others find their voice, you are encouraging your conservative brothers, and you are getting the message out one small voice at a time. A multitude of small voices is more resounding than a single person yelling into the void.

You matter. You have value. No go be awesome.

We’re Just Getting Started

Dear Haters,

I realize you’re all celebrating this morning because you think you’ve defeated us. It’s obvious by your eloquent statements such as this:

that you are either adopting some new and mysterious language or you think that now is a time for celebrating. The truth is, we would be celebrating, too, if our candidate had won, so enjoy it while you can.

Ours would have been a short-lived victory party. You see, haters, our work wasn’t done with one election. You think you beat us, but this was never the end game for us. I don’t mean to scare you, but we’re just getting started. 

We’re going to continue to attack Obama’s failed policies. We’re going to continue to point out his hypocrisy. We’re going to continue to talk about the debt, healthcare, Israel, and Benghazi. We’ve only scratched the surface so far.

I know you probably don’t care about any of that because for you this is still about race.

It’s cute how you think black people aren’t going to suffer under Obama’s socialist policies. We’ll continue to fight for the freedom of all Americans while you strut and crow about having a black president, mmkay? Meanwhile perhaps you can ponder what it means to judge a person by the content of their character.

You enjoy your moment of unfettered celebration, because we are not defeated. We will come back better, stronger, and more resilient… just like Rocky Balboa. Then we’re going to beat you like a white Russian.

Oh, you didn’t think I was going to say Apollo, did you? No, they became friends. Apollo and Rocky are like Libertarians and Republicans, but that’s a post for another day.

Of Shells And Hidden Strengths

Well, fellow bloggers, it’s come to the end of my week at the beach. It’s a beautiful, sunny day, the waves are perfect for body-boarding, the sand is white and the breeze is blowing off the Gulf. It’s going to be hard to leave. Again. It’s always hard to leave.

One of my favorite past-times in all my years of visiting these shores is shell collecting. I love to get up early when the beach is quiet and walk along the shoreline searching for gulf treasures. I quietly pass other shell enthusiasts. We smile, nod, and lower our heads, eyes searching the sand. Occasionally I stop and look out at the waves as they crash in and gently wash over my feet. There aren’t even many shells here, and most of the pickings are quite small. Certainly you cannot find any large shells, and most of what washes up is broken. I suppose it’s the rarity of finding an unbroken shell that sends us out in the early morning to inspect the results of the tide.

Most people search for the perfect, the whole, the unblemished. Not me. I’ve collected a little bit of everything over the years. As a child, I’d keep my shells and pretty rocks in a small duffel bag I had. Sometimes I’d take them out and just admire them. Many of my favorites were broken. The thing about a perfect shell, especially a really interesting, twisty one, is that I always wondered how it was formed. For me to find broken pieces of these saltwater lovelies was a bit like finding clues to the mysteries of the ocean. I loved to see the inside of them, to see the spiraling support for the beauty of the unbroken. My uncle used to tell me not to pick up the broken pieces, to look for the whole ones. I never understood that. I always looked for the interesting, the colorful, the textured. I liked to find things that told a story. My imagination could fill in where my knowledge failed. For a kid with more imagination than knowledge, bits and pieces of colorful, broken shells were indeed treasures.

I’ve discovered over the years that we often treat people the way many people treat shells. Society likes the beautiful and unblemished. They tend to discard the broken, but often it is the broken that have the most interesting stories. Just as the inner spiraling of the shell showed the structure and support of the outer shell, a person exhibits their greatest strength in their times of brokenness. When life sends waves crashing down on us, we find out what we’re made of, and if our inner strength is solid enough, we’ll still be held together even if the outer facade is broken. Then, for anyone who is looking, the beauty in our brokenness will be revealed.

So don’t write off a person simply because they have been knocked around by life. If you learn from them, you may just be able to keep it together when the waves come crashing in on you. It’s the hidden strength that determines what’s left once the storm has passed.

Reckless

It’s been a while since my last post, and for that I apologize.

I can’t say it’s been for any great purpose calling me away, mostly I just can’t corral my scattered thoughts enough to present a suitably appealing read. I feel like I have to write something insightful about issues that touch most people in their lives or give some well-researched perspective on politics and current events, and that failing that I’ve somehow failed you. In my defense, I’ve started many writing projects, only to have my kids accidentally erase them. I would feel more indignant about that if I had written more than a couple of paragraphs on any one topic, or felt that the subject matter was worthy of getting righteously indignant over its loss.

So today I come to you empty-handed, or empty-headed, take your pick. I have a list of topics sitting in an open window just waiting for a stroke of genius to break through the fog long enough to make a good post of it. On my list currently: heroism (covering humans and animals), funny numbers in statistics, “rights” vs rights, how epa regs have affected mpgs and production (spent my youth visiting my uncle’s garage and fancied myself capable of pulling that one off – jury’s out), and some cryptic note about how elephants never forget…. should have left myself a post-script on that one apparently. Then there was that other list, you know, the one my kids deleted. I think I had even started writing a parody of elections in Middle Earth. Eclectic, possibly interesting, and yet I’ve been completely incapable of taking one, just one, topic and making enough sense of it to feel as if I’ve accomplished something.

Which brings me back to my current predicament: playing Evanessence too loudly while I try to pound out something that resembles a thoughtful post, feeling slightly sick from the decadent chocolate cake and ice cream my mom brought by earlier. That woman is determined that I shall never, ever, lose that 20 lbs that’s been haunting me since baby #3. I’d tell her to stop feeding us, but 3 kids eat a lot and I’m not ashamed to say I like having a little help now and then. Plus her tomato gravy is to die for.

But I digress, which, to be honest is what I’ve been doing for about a month as I leave my blog sitting idly in cyberspace. I can’t help but think that I might be more inclined toward valuable postings if I were beefing up my reader’s appetite with more substance. That’s not to say I read children’s books and the backs of shampoo bottles. No, what I’m talking about is worse. I’ve read news articles voraciously. I’ve read books written by some of the greatest political minds of our time. What I haven’t done is read my Bible, except while at church or when it occurs to me to look up a particular verse. Without the sustenance of God’s word I’ve become more reckless in my life. I’ve been sleeping less, worrying more, drinking more, praying less. All in all I’ve been feeling less like myself. Perhaps I value my writing less because I simply feel less valuable. So I suppose I should see to shoring up my mind with the Good Book and watch how that spills over into everything else. It all feels a bit sandy up there right now, when what I need is something rock solid to build on.

That’s a Bible reference, for those of you who may be wondering. My mind isn’t a total sieve yet.

Goodness Gracious

I’m new to the experience of blogging, so yesterday I asked a friend for a topic. Their answer was “Your earliest memory”. I wasn’t sure how helpful that was, as my earliest memory is from about the age of 1 and I can’t expound upon it to any great extent. I was simply a young tot hiding from my mother. I had probably done something which everyone of an age to walk in my family knows is a “no-no”: namely, messed with the pretties in her curio cabinet. All I remember is that I was quite deliberately hiding underneath the dining table and I was aware that mommy was mad at me and I was safer there, because there were chair legs all around me. I had created a prison for myself to escape what was likely a justifiable wrath for my own wrong-doing.

You may think by now that my mom was some sort of monster, coming after a sweet little infant like me. First off, I was not known generally for being very sweet. My nickname was “D”, short for disposition, more specifically a bad one. Stubborn was one of the kinder descriptions given me. I refer to myself simply as “strongly self-willed”. Secondly, I recall clearly my thoughts during this episode. I knew I had done something wrong, and I was running from the consequences. The consequence for all toddlers through the generations who mess with my mom’s curios is a pop on the hand. We’ve all been popped, even my own precious little angels. We all survived the experience. We all know do not touch those trinkets, upon pain of death (or hand-popping)! Finally, I had a lovely and enchanted childhood. My parents are good and loving people. They taught us about right, wrong, and the never-ending love of Jesus. I often think I could have turned out a much different person without their guidance, as by nature I’m a bit contrary and in possession of what might be called a formidable temper. Thank God for hand popping parents! Can you even imagine the life of crime awaiting me had I not learned about consequences early?

As you can see, helpful as my friend’s advice was I had nothing to write about. “Where can I take this? What about a toddler hiding could possibly inspire a blog post?” I thought. So I let my mind wander through some other memories.

My dad was a carpenter. That’s putting it mildly- he built houses. He could pretty much do everything but connect the power and pour the foundation. I remember playing in the wood shavings under his table saw. What fun! Not as soft as sand, but it smelled SO GOOD, and we had sand that was left over from mixing brick mortar so I could play in that, too. My terrible, mean mother put an end to my fun in the wood shavings- she didn’t think it was safe. How dare she infringe upon my right to play next to power tools, right? So mean. Good thing she didn’t know I’d hide in the shed and nail bits of board together with old nails. I was creating.. something. I never figured out what it was supposed to be.

In this manner my thoughts wandered for all of 5 minutes, and I still had no idea what to blog about. There’s just no substance, and the people want substance! Then my thoughts wandered right into a topic that was perfect for my purposes. I think the detour into carpentry did the trick, but suddenly I was thinking about Jesus, and everything seemed to fit.

Today is Good Friday, and on this day we remember a Saviour who died to pay the price for our sins. I know, you’re thinking “How does a hiding toddler and your dad’s work relate to this?”. Allow me to explain; when I was hiding, I was hiding from the expected and justifiable consequences of my actions. I went to a place to escape those consequences that was effectively a prison to me and still did not protect me from my mother. My sins had found me out. I was stuck. I had to pay up. This pattern continues throughout our lives. Our own nature gets us into predicaments that require consequences. Why? Would you rather there were no consequences and we all went about breaking valuables willy-nilly? Of course not. Along comes a Carpenter. He says, “You have sinned, but I’m here to pay the price for you”. You see, we ran up an account that we weren’t able to pay. Over our lifetimes we broke things, lied to people, hurt people, broke hearts, cheated, and generally sullied the living soul we had been blessed with by our Creator. The bill came due. How can we right all the wrongs? We can’t. He can. He wore our sins like a tattered garment and carried them to the Cross. His Blood fell on us and washed our dirtied souls clean.

This Good Friday, remember that you don’t have to hide anymore. There may still be consequences for the things we’ve done, but our absolution is in Him, that perfect Lamb who became our sacrifice and saved us from death. He is Good, and He is very, very, Gracious. God bless.