Josh has a love for cooking. I have a love for baking. Josh wants to learn more about baking. I want to learn more about cooking. When our worlds collide, it hasn’t usually gone that well for us in the kitchen. Usually someone is asking the other to back off or step out of the kitchen. We did a fundraiser dinner last spring for Mission Year and my sister-in-law was Josh’s assistant. Even when we’ve worked it out where both of us are cooking, it has usually been bumpy. So we have tended to back off and leave the other person alone when they’re cooking or baking unless asked to help.
The cause of many of our issues within the kitchen isn’t our communication but how we each approach the task at hand. Josh is much more willing to wing it, freely adjust recipes, and experiment. On the other hand, I tend to be much more exact in my cooking and baking, relying heavily and following closely what the recipes says. While I prefer to precisely measure out ingredients, Josh is willing to eye it. Our techniques are different. Both work, but it has been hard to recognize that.
Throughout our marriage, this has been an ongoing trend for us. While sometimes we approach issues the same, most of the time we can approach them very differently. Josh is much more free floating and easy going, wanting to get the most out of every situation and experience. He grapples with hard issues relationally and conceptually. In comparison, I tend to be much more goal oriented, with a strong desire to complete all tasks that are started. I would much rather find a solution for a problem than sit and have long discussions about what is going on.
What we struggle the most with is that our roles in marriage seem reverse from what society deems as the “normal” roles. Due to how I function, multiple times I have been told by both males and females that I make them uncomfortable because of my drive, willingness to confront, and tendency to take initiative. In return, Josh has been told that he makes people uncomfortable with his openness, willingness to show and share emotion, and more compassionate personality.
Last month we read a marriage book, Not Your Parents’ Marriage, which focused on the need for partnership within marriage. The call for oneness. The call to move beyond the expectations of marriage that you hold and to recognize the uniqueness that each of you bring. The call to recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses and use those to build each other up.
What struck us most within the book, wasn’t this call for partnership and oneness (we’d heard this before), it was the recognition that our style of marriage wasn’t wrong because it doesn’t fit with society norms. Actually, the couple that wrote the book dedicated an entire chapter to this topic because they fit into similar roles as us. Rightfully so, the title of the chapter is “Affirming the ‘Odd Couple.’”
Traditionally the church has done a fairly good job at teaching the “traditional” roles of marriage, but when you don’t meet those it can definitely make you feel out of place. We attempted to attend a small group of young married couples and stopped going because of this issue. We were the only couple out of the entire group that didn’t fit the “norm”, so we weren’t included in many of the group’s dynamics.
This book opened us up to the notion that there is a place within the church for us, that there is no norm for marriage roles. God didn’t wire us wrong. Instead he wired us exactly how we’re supposed to be. If we were to change to try and fit the norms of society, we would face a lot of inner conflict. God designed us this way for a reason.
We also recognized that multiple areas of conflict within our marriage were based around the issue of us trying to take on the “traditional” roles of marriage that we don’t fit into. So over the past month, we have been very intentional on how we work together in the kitchen, recognizing and appreciating how the other person works. While some experiences have still been bumpy, others have gone much smoother.
This past Sunday morning I was reminded of the simplicity of community and the unity that can come from it. Within the Episcopal tradition, communion is provided every Sunday. In our church, we leave our pews and line up to receive the bread and the wine, the body and the blood of Christ, at the altar. You stand or kneel, shoulder to shoulder, with your fellow church members in prayer and reflection as you wait to receive communion.
While some Sunday’s it can be easy to go through the motions when getting communion, this past Sunday I could not ignore the amazing love of God present in the chapel.
Out of the quietness of communion, a sole individual began to sing from the altar. The words uttered were from the spiritual “Let us Break Bread Together.” Slowly more and more members began to join in together, singing in unity, these lines:
Let us break bread together on our knees, (on our knees)
Let us break bread together on our knees. (on our knees)
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me.
Let us drink wine together on our knees, (on our knees)
Let us drink wine together on our knees. (on our knees)
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me.
Let us praise God together on our knees, (on our knees)
Let us praise God together on our knees. (on our knees)
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me.
Sitting there in the pew after taking communion, my heart warmed to the knowledge of the presence of God and his love that was emanating throughout the church. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we sat there in unity together, breaking bread together. All I could do was smile, while my mind went to a passage in Acts about the early church:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:42-47
Hand me down dreams
The fate of destiny preplanned
The world sees me
Screams there’s no hope
You can’t succeed
I begin to think why try
Desperate I yearn
Ignored by the educated
Community binds me
Community bids me
Come experience unity
Community says we will fight
The fate of my destiny not pre-scripted
The world I see
Screams you matter
Though I may be hard to find
The callous of society
The disrespect of poverty
Attempts to keep oppression secret
Make claims that change
Cannot exist here
Where I grow up
Community comes along side
Community pushes back
Against bad policy
Against drugs danger and crime
Community chases away fear
Community is mother
Seeking to uplift each other
It has been a while since I wrote my last blog. At first unintentionally and as the time passed over the past month and half, I began to purposefully ignore my blog. I needed some time off. I needed time to figure out life, figure out what I’m thinking, figure out what I am feeling.
Numbness and stagnation are some of the best words I have to describe how I have felt over the past several weeks. Life has been busy. I have found it much easier to go through the motions than to face my internal frustrations. I have found it easier to immerse myself in the constant activities and events going on around me than face these issues. Two weeks ago when I left for a week off, I felt worn out, tired, and broken.
During my week off, I kept telling myself I needed to get back in the game and leave this numbness behind. Maybe if I just got some rest and relaxation it would all be better. But as the week continued, I realized that wasn’t enough, and upon returning to Atlanta I felt more rested but still numb, stagnate, and broken.
But then it all broke through, the question that had been in the back of my mind, fighting to get out. Where was God?
Living in a neighborhood where most people live around the poverty line, addiction is all too prevalent, and various forms of violence occur frequently can be taxing. Constant conversations with a group of girls I’ve gotten to know about the issues of race, which seem to never end on a good note. The frustrations building over a school system where it seems too obvious that certain schools and neighborhoods are easily ignored. Watching people I have worked with in the drop in help center come in again and again because after 6 months they still haven’t followed through with appointments, directions, and tasks. Dealing with the hardships that come with living in community. Where is God?
The feeling of continuous unanswered prayers. And while there have definitely been blessings and doors opened over the past several weeks, they haven’t been the prayers that have been most pressing on my heart. How do you face a God that has continuously blessed you and shown you the way more obvious than anytime in your life when you still feel frustrated? Still feel hurt? Still feel so broken?
But then the other night it hit me. I will ALWAYS be broken.
So I sat there in prayer and reflection realizing that God has carried me this far and he will not let me fail. I felt the comfort that only HE can bring, and I knew amongst all my ongoing feelings of hurt and frustration that he is right there beside me, guiding me, and loving me. So while the question still lingers of, Where is God? I face each day and take each step with the faith that he’s got a hold of me.
There will be a time when reconciliation is achieved
That time is not sometime in the distant future
That time is not just heaven but earth now today
Reconciliation can and does ring true in the hearts of
People who have seen a better approach to living
The fellowship of brotherhood will unite
Compassion peace and neighborliness
Eliminate the path so wide that hate has carved
The saint and sinner
The one who fell down and by grace tried to get back
Approach the throne of grace that overflows
The desire of love seeks to reconcile
By the life example of Christ
Only in sacrifice and love for other above self can this be achieved
The self righteous
As I live each day in hope
That love in my life pours out onto and into the lives of others
“The Throne” by Josh
Never did I think that seeing all the Twilight movies and reading the books would come to my advantage when building relationships with people in our neighborhood. In January a girl in middle school that I have gotten to know had come over to our place, and we sat there playing games silently with a few words shared between the two of us. When it was time for me to walk her home it had become extremely foggy outside, and directly across the street from our place is park that was filled with the rolling in fog. Rickayla looked at me and stated that the park looked like a scene from one of the Twilight movies, and for the rest of the walk we discussed the Twilight Saga.
Up until this point every time we would hang out I was usually asking endless questions getting very few responses back, and Rickayla usually just wanted to play games or just come over and hang around. Since our Twilight conversation our relationship has changed. She has become much more willing to talk and answer my questions, and she has even been willing to bring up topics of conversations with me. Sometimes the conversations are simply about how the week has been going and what is happening at school, but than other times they have been deeper.
Recently Rickayla and her family moved from the house they were living in right down the street from us to an apartment complex several blocks away. Determined to maintain the relationship that I have built her and that Josh and I have built with the family, we make a point to walk to their place every week to hang out, chat, and see how everyone is doing. It took me by surprise the first time we did this and Rickayla and her two siblings were shocked that we would actually be willing to walk to see them. As I talked more with Rickayla it became evident that she was worried that by them moving further away that we wouldn’t see each other.
This past weekend, the conversation of church and God came up. Rickayla stated that she believes in God and all but she doesn’t go to church because she doesn’t have the correct clothing. When I asked her further what she meant, she told me that you should dress up in your Sunday best when you go to church because you need to look and be respectful at church and before God. I didn’t know how to respond. On one side she’s right, and that is a message I’ve heard my entire life. However, on the other side I have come to know that God will accept you exactly how you are. He takes us in all of our brokenness and shows us how much he loves us.
The result of our conversation was me saying that she is always welcome at church no matter what she’s wearing and that she is welcome to come to youth group on Sunday afternoons. But I know that just as it took me walking to see her at her new place it is going to take more than a simple invitation.
On Sunday night our team was sitting around eating dinner, and we began discussing what our schedules looked like for the week. Amidst the normality’s of the week, the discussion of our church’s Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday) and Ash Wednesday events came up. Seamlessly we began talking about what we had all given up, sacrificed, or taken on in past Lents, and the question emerged, “what are we each doing for Lent this year?”
One year ago, I remember sitting at my computer making the decision to stop playing all Facebook games because they were taking up to much of my time. I would find myself sitting on my days off, still in my pajamas until 1 or 2 pm in the afternoon playing these games. Instead I choose to spend that time reading, reflecting, and spending more time with God. I also made the decision to begin blogging daily my thoughts that developed from this time. As I sit here today on Ash Wednesday, my world then seems a far off reality to my life now.
Lent is a time to grow, reflect, and sacrifice in a way that brings you to a realization of your shortcomings and need to draw closer to God. The call to fasting comes from the need to recognize our own brokenness and humble ourselves before God, the one who provides us with the ultimate forgiveness. But God has called us to more than bending a knee and recognizing our own sins, he has called us to a fast that removes us from our comfort zones, pushes us to see the injustice that is abound, and beckons us into a life of love for all.
In Isaiah 58 the people of Israel cry out to God in frustration and in desperation, yearning for him to see and notice their eagerness for his presence. They proclaim,
“Why have we fasted….and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves and you have not noticed?” (verse 3)
Looking upon his people, God simply answers Israel’s cry by stating that these actions have become merely actions. The meaning and purpose behind the call to fast has been lost and it has become purely an obligation that must be met. And what strikes me most is how relevant that is for us today. How many of us choose to fast from something during Lent and treat it more like a New Year’s resolution or do so because our Christian culture says we should.
What we’re missing is God’s call for more. He proceeds to call out to Israel,
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
To loose the chains of injustice
And untie the cords of the yoke,
To set the oppressed free
And break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
And to provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
When you see the naked, to clothe them,
And not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (verse 6,7)
God calls to Israel as he calls out to us, the desire to see us fast in a way the removes anger and bitterness, breaks down oppression, and draws us to a life of love. Only then, when we move past our brokenness and closer to the life he has called us to will we truly know his presence. For,
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.” (verse 9)
So this Lenten season, I challenge you to look deep within and find the walls that you have built that keep you from the unending love of God. To fast from the areas of life that keep you apart from his amazing grace. And to move forward knowing the life God has called you to live.
At the brink of the Civil Rights Movement, pastor and writer Howard Thurman released the book Jesus and the Disinherited. Prevalent then and now, the book provides a foundation of reasoning for the need for non-violent movements to fight the oppressive systems that exist. Thurman’s book focuses primarily on the disinherited state of African-Americans at that time in the United States, where segregation was the norm, Jim Crow laws existed, and people’s rights were being disregarded.
Using Jesus as the ultimate example, Thurman discusses how to overcome, in a peaceful manner, the frustration and pain that can develop from being oppressed. Jesus life provides endless examples of how to react to oppressive and controlling systems. He himself was part of a minority group within the Roman Empire, a large dominant and controlling group, and not only was he part of the Jewish minority, he also came from a poor upbringing. However through his disinherited state, Jesus found ways to peacefully battle the systems that were in place, emphasizing highly on the peace that can come from within.
Through Jesus, Thurman shows how people can move beyond the common feelings of fear, deception, and hate that can develop when oppressed, and most importantly, he focuses on how people can do it peacefully and within non-violent means. Upon overcoming fear through the development of self-worth and dignity, a person can push forward through the oppressive systems and pursue their dreams because they know they are a child of God. This same person can remove the layers of deception that can develop to fit within the “norm” of society, and they can follow after Christ, pursuing a sincere and honest life where they peacefully speak out against injustice. And through all of this they can move past the feelings of hatred and frustration that have grown deep within from being constantly kicked down and told they aren’t good enough.
Upon removing these feelings, a person can then move unto a state of love and forgiveness, where reconciliation is the goal. They can recognize that all people are their neighbor, meaning they are called to love all people. But Thurman challenges that this is not an easy path to take. By recognizing who has become the oppressors, people must work to remove the label of “enemy” and break down the wall that prevents true and authentic relationships from developing. Both sides must be freed and provided with mutual worth and value. Only then can actual reconciliation occur.
My career choices and my current lifestyle are built around the idea of serving others. Rarely do I find myself on the receiving end of these services. Over the past week I have had the humbling experience to be in that spot.
Two weeks ago I found myself with a horrible toothache. Due to the limited coverage of the insurance offered through Mission Year, I found myself last week looking for dental clinics that would take uninsured patients. After calling around to all the clinics I know that take cash payments, most didn’t have appointments until March or April. Finally I got into a clinic last week, which took me 1.5 hours to get to on public transportation. The appointment itself lasted no more than 30 minutes, and I left feeling very frustrated. After taking films, the dentist came into my room for all of maybe 2 minutes, didn’t even look in my mouth, and told me I needed a root canal, which meant coming back in and paying them several hundred dollars for the procedure.
Determined to get a better opinion I started all over again making phone calls to the clinics seeing if there was any way I could get in sooner. Finally I realized that my best choice was a free clinic located in downtown Atlanta called St. Joseph’s Mercy Care. On Tuesday’s and Thursday’s they have a walk in emergency dental clinic, and people start lining up around 6:30 to 7 am to be seen when the clinic opens at 8:30 am. As with many free clinics, you must prove that you are a Georgia resident and that you cannot afford to pay for the services on your own, so I spent Monday night making sure I had all the right documents to take.
I arrived at the clinic at 6:50 am and I was the fourth person in line. At 7 am they let us inside to sign-in and sit and wait until the clinic opened. At 8:30 am they announced that the dentist was running late and wouldn’t be in until 9:30 am. After sitting there for 3 hours, at 10 am they called me to the window and told me that I wouldn’t be seen until 1 pm so if I wanted to I could leave, get some food, and come back. Opting for this choice I left.
Arriving back at the clinic around 12:45 pm, I was called back at 1 pm. The dental assistant and dentist were very friendly and talked with me about what was going on. They took some films; the dentist actually looked in my mouth and talked with me about my options. The cavity looked like it was close to the nerve, but she offered to go and attempt the filling. If it seemed to close to the nerve she would put in temporary filling and I would be referred to another clinic for a root canal. Thankfully the cavity was smaller, and they were able to place a filling. I walked out of the clinic by 2 pm.
While this was a first time experience for me, I realized that this process is exactly what many of the people I work with go through when I write them healthcare referrals to the various clinics around the city. I was humbled and have grown a deeper appreciation for the patience some of these people can have with this entire process. This experience also confirmed why I want to go back to school to be a nurse practitioner and work in similar clinics. There is a strong need for these free clinics and the healthcare professionals to staff them.
Since switching churches to the Emmaus House Chapel I have had the opportunity to help teach Sunday school to the kids. This past Sunday the lesson was based on Mark 1:40-45 where a man with leprosy is healed by Jesus. Even though Jesus tells him not to tell anyone who healed him, the man goes into town so excited and thankful about what has happened that he tells everyone. I had the kids share about stories where they were told secrets and were so excited they accidently told other people. After the discussion, all the kids filled out little pieces of paper stating what they are thankful to God for and want everyone to know, and they taped them up on a poster board.
Unsure of how the kids would respond to the activity I was surprised to see how much thought they put into it. In particular, one boy who I’ve gotten to know put a lot of thought into what he wrote. He quietly got up, taped his paper up, and looked at what everyone else was putting up. Then one of the other kids blurted out, while laughing, “who wrote they were thankful for food stamps!?” This boy looked at the group of kids and simply said, “I did…you know some of us wouldn’t have anything to eat without them.” And he walked off. While some of the kids continued to laugh, there seemed to be a sense of understanding amongst others.
This boy spoke a truth that not only he faces, or his friends may face, but what millions of people across this country face every day. In my neighborhood, Peoplestown, it is an issue I see daily. The Senior’s discussing the need for more money because food is expensive, writing constant referrals to various food banks around the city, Emmaus House’s own food pantry on Friday’s, and the number of kids I know on free or reduced-price meals at school.
In 2010, 14.5 percent of households (17.2 million households, 48.8 million Americans) were considered food insecure. Also, 5.4 percent of households (6.4 million households) experienced very low food security. Food security is defined as access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle. 16.9 percent of households in Georgia experienced low food security from 2008-2010.
Here are some national hunger and poverty statistics:
- 46.2 million Americans (15.1 percent) are now living in poverty according to the latest report released by the US Census Bureau American Communities Survey profile in September 2011 – up by 3.3 million people from the 42.9 million reported in last year’s report. (U.S. Census Bureau American Communities Survey Profile2010. Data released Sept. 2011)
- In 2010, 4.8 percent of all U.S. households (5.6 million households) accessed emergency food from a food pantry one or more times.
- In 2010, 59.2 percent of food-insecure households participated in at least one of the three major Federal food assistance programs –Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamp Program), The National School Lunch Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
Here are some more hunger and poverty statistics for Georgia:
- Nearly 1.7 million Georgians (17.9%) are living in poverty according to the latest US Census Bureau American Community Survey report released in September 2011. This is up from 1.6 million (16.5%) in 2009, and represents an increase of 100,000 people in poverty. (U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Profile. 2010. Data released Sept. 2011)
- An estimated 1.4 million different Georgians receive emergency food from partner agencies of Georgia food banks. (Feeding America “Hunger in America 2010” Study)
- The number of Georgia households receiving food stamps jumped from 581,709 total households in July of 2009 to 716,749 households in July of 2010 – an increase of 23.2% in just one year. (USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Data and Statistics Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Number of Households Participating, released Oct. 2010)
- When the Federal minimum wage rate went from $6.55 to $7.25/hour in July of 2009, Georgia once again did not increase its minimum wage rate. (It remains at $5.15/hour.) Georgia is currently one of only five states with minimum wage rates lower than the Federal minimum wage rate. (U.S. Dept. of Labor, Employment Standards Admin. 2009)
Check out feedingamerica.org to get more information. Also, get involved and learn more about the issues of hunger in your area. Food banks nationwide need donations, both food and monetary.
Statistics were from: