We’ll pay for failing our kids.

When I was fifteen, I was at an awkward stage, particularly in terms of my looks. Braces, glasses, acne, hair that was still sometimes a mystery… But I was pretty well-adjusted, especially considering how difficult it is to navigate a fledgling teenage identity.

My daily routine throughout the week when school was in was the same. Either I woke up with the aid of my alarm clock or my Dad did. Breakfast was usually a bowl of cereal or occasionally waffles and sausage. I got dressed, brushed my teeth, washed my face. Made sure my backpack was packed with everything I might need for the day… Homework, books, binders, pencils and pens, scrunchies, sports stuff it was basketball or softball season. Even though I hated getting up in the morning, I thawed out quickly as I headed to the bus stop where I rode the same bus as one of my close friends.

A lot of people grumble about high school, but I enjoyed it. Despite stupid fallings-out with people that were typically instigated by third parties, I’ve never had problems getting along with people. And I have always enjoyed learning. I loved socializing with my friends and for the most part I enjoyed my studies. Except math. Bleccch.

Think if you will back to when you were 14, 15, 16. For those of you who are around my age-36-remember how the world hadn’t corrupted you yet. At no point in time did we ever have to go to school and worry about school shooting drills, arming educators, or wearing bulletproof backpacks. We were able to go to school and do as kids should do… Learn, have fun, and grow into ourselves.

And now we have turned around and robbed our kids of that security.

We all ought to be outraged. When are we going to decide that they deserve better?

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Reject AND CORRECT Christian propaganda

When we hear the word “propaganda” we often think of political information.  We probably also think of the word in a negative light, as we know that opposing political factions produce and promote propaganda to advance their own causes and beliefs at the expense of others. We also know that propaganda tends to contain exaggerations, omissions and outright falsehoods. It is obvious that there is a significant number of Americans who cannot tell the difference between political propaganda and actual facts. Whose responsibility is it to make the truth known? Those of us who can think critically enough to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. The same goes for Christians.

In previous posts I have railed against the very notion and conduct of “evangelicals”. However, they are not the only ones who are responsible for the Christian propaganda floating around and accepted as actual doctrine today. Those of us who are Christians who don’t take an active role in refuting Christian propaganda are equally as guilty.

I’m not referring to what may just be misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the Scriptures. I mean willfully twisting basic Bible doctrine. I have found that an alarming number of people truly believe that drinking, gambling, committing sexual sins (and I don’t know if the evangelicals understand that premarital sex is considered a sin, and I’m sure most of them do it), doing drugs or the like immediately destroys a person’s chances of going to heaven. They are presented with this image of a wrathful God who is sitting up on a cloud just waiting on people to sin so he can send down his judgment. What is not widely circulated is that Jesus Christ is available to everyone no matter what they have done; that we are never expected to be perfect while we are on earth; and the gift of salvation is available to everyone DESPITE drinking, gambling, sexual sins, etc.  How often have you told someone that the only truly unforgivable sin that gets one a one-way ticket to Hell is denying Christ?

In my humble opinion, Christianity was never supposed to be divisive. It was always supposed to unite us around the Cross, but Christian propagandists looking to elevate themselves at the expense of others have damaged the potential unity. Christians are never supposed to be so quick to point fingers and condemn. Whenever I befriend someone, I am focusing on the good, and thinking of how God could use that. If that person is a saved person, it is left up to God to deal with that person however he sees fit, not me. Why would I focus on someone else’s sins when I have my own to contend with?

When people are confronted with the idea that they have to be perfect, of course they’re not going to be interested, because perfection is impossible. No one wants to deal with that type of pressure and ultimate defeat. We have to do better. Yes, God has rules on how we are to live, and he has them for a reason… Obviously he wants us to refrain from drinking and drugs for health reasons, for example. But is he going to send down a lightning bolt as soon as you have a sip of wine? No. Stop telling people that. Tell them what thus says the Lord, yes, but not in an attempt to condemn them. Make sure to repent of your own sins and flipping PRAY for people. I can’t believe how many hateful Christians I have the displeasure of coming into contact with. Every day I am given a visual aid as to why the world doesn’t like us. SMH.

christian hypocrisy meme 3

Times like these, I miss the “olden” days

I got my first job in the mid-90s. Back then, it was super easy to get a job. You either heard a job was hiring or you saw an ad in the newspaper, which was delivered every day, went to the place, filled out a paper application and, if you were particularly savvy, asked to speak to a manager right after you completed the application. Each time I was able to fill out an application on-site and speak to a manager right away, I got the job. Why? Because in addition to seeing my credentials on paper, they were able to see ME in person.

Sometimes that stupid paper doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about a potential applicant. Those managers who saw me right upon completion of the application could tell by the fact that I asked to speak to them right away that I was eager. They could see that I took the process seriously by the fact that I was professionally dressed, meaning I hadn’t just stumbled upon the job opportunity and came into the place right off the street–I had done some research and prepared myself for that important first presentation. When they saw ME, they were able to see a great smile, a warm attitude, and give me a mini-interview right then and there. I repeat: Each time I was able to do that, I got the job.

Not until everything got computerized did I start getting turned down for jobs I for which I have MORE than the minimum qualifications. And for the life of me, I wish I knew what some of these employers were looking for. Since I am stuck at home without a license, thanks to the state of Michigan thinking that suspending a person’s license for being unable to pay Driver Responsibility Fees will somehow help the person who can no longer drive to a job pay for said fees, I have been looking for remote positions that will allow me to make a little money to pay down some of my debts (including the stupid license fees, which they conveniently jack up despite any minimal payment I try to send them). Mind you, I have worked for Target for several years, wearing many hats: I was a cashier, worked the guest services desk, was a team trainer and overnight stocker, and sometimes worked the sales floor; I worked as a Flow Team manager at Wal-Mart supervising a crew of six pretty rowdy men; I have worked in health care facilities in a receptionist/patient services assistant capacity, which included working in a call center, sitting on my butt for hours at a time glued to a phone, scheduling appointments, using computers, etc. In the course of those experiences and the fact that I completed an entire grad program online, I figured I had enough experience to take a $9-an-hour remote reservations specialist position with Hilton.

I did my research, as usual. I looked up reviews from current and past employees. I already knew in my mind why I wanted Hilton: The work from home aspect was ideal since I don’t drive; I want to work for a company that I know has staying power so I have confidence that my job won’t just disappear; and it would be nice to have a discount at a hotel chain, as much as me and my family like to travel. I was very confident that I did well on my virtual interview and I was quite surprised when they turned me down.

Old Stephanie bristled at the notion that me with my dang near twenty years of experience dealing with customers; adapting to new work processes and technologies; securing positions of leadership in each job; AND having a Master’s degree wasn’t good enough to answer phones for the flipping Hilton and help people with reservations, and I was highly tempted to email them back and tell them F YOU. I seriously had to remove myself from the computer before I did just that–I got that angry.

I am tired of the rat-race of finding a job, and I reminded myself of a promise I made myself awhile ago–to not go and beg ANYBODY for a job for this very reason alone. But I need some way to dig myself out of the hole I’m currently in, and that is why I’m willing to downgrade MYSELF. I would much rather get my real estate license and sell homes, but can’t do that WITHOUT A LICENSE to get to the homes. I’m trying to get ahead, but it seems like no one will let me, and for that I am extraordinarily angry. I don’t want anyone to give me anything, but then no one wants to let me earn it. In the past five years I’ve been turned down for hundreds of jobs. I’m sure there are people more qualified than me, but good God how am I supposed to get ahead when I can’t even get a START?

I’ve noticed a lot of articles that made me even angrier about this whole job search thing. At one point in time, it was considered courteous to send thank-you notes after an interview. That’s what I was taught to do. Now I read that HR professionals view them as desperate and tacky. Interviewers also judge you based on whether or not your handshake is firm–what if with my health problems I can’t firmly grip your hand? Does that mean I’m automatically disqualified from a job??? I also saw that some interviewers don’t like for a candidate to display too much confidence… but that confuses me as well. If I am trying to sell myself, shouldn’t I do so with confidence??? What the heck do these people really want?

I wonder if my honesty gets me in trouble. One of the Hilton questions asked if I’d had a job where I was required to meet certain metrics and if I did so. I answered honestly using an example from my most recent job as a medical receptionist. Our goal as receptionists was to answer each call before it rang three times at least 80% of the time. I did not always meet that goal. But should I have also said that I was supposed to get that phone in addition to checking patients in and out, scheduling appointments, and helping coworkers? I pride myself on being truthful in interviews, on my resume and applications. And I kind of think that’s where I’m going wrong.

In order to quench my anger, I had to go to God. Again I’m trying to figure out what it is that He is trying to teach me or prepare me for. Why is it that He is allowing me to go through these financial troubles when He sees me trying to find ways to dig myself out? Honestly I’m not sure what His answer is at that point. Part of me wants to believe that the lesson here is that I should stop limiting myself to jobs that are–yes, HILTON–a DOWNGRADE on my experience, skills and education. Maybe I shouldn’t have reneged on my promise to find a way to make my own job, a promise I made myself at the receptionist job when my so-called manager LIED on my performance review and denied me a raise. So now I am even more focused on getting this book finished and submitted, and perfecting these cheesecake recipes.

I will admit that I am still angry. More than that, my feelings are hurt by people continuing to use a piece of paper and few barebones questions to decide I am not good enough for their organization as hard as I have worked to make myself marketable.  I’ll pray some more and just try to remind myself of a few facts: I have always been confident in my own abilities whereas my confidence has to be rooted in God, so maybe this is a humbling experience; when something doesn’t go my way, there’s always a reason, and per my past experience it is because God has something better in store; and in the meantime I need to make use of this valuable time (I would love to do more volunteer work if I could DRIVE) and be patient.

Only problem: Patience is not now and never has been my strong suit. 🙂

job frustration

Stop calling the U.S. a Christian nation.

We do not deserve to wear such an esteemed title.

Not when poor patients are dumped out of hospitals in cold conditions wearing only nightgowns, such as what happened recently in Baltimore.

Not when we determine whether or not another human being is worthy of being able to afford health care based on a socioeconomic status that may be out of his control.

Not when we are silent when the healthcare funding for millions of low-income children has expired and no one is in a rush to fix it.

Not when we are too busy squabbling over whether kids going to schools with no heat was caused by the failings of a Democrat or a Republican as opposed to fixing it.

Not when the majority benefits from an unfairly applied justice system and is no hurry to change it.

Not when young people with big dreams and even bigger aspirations find themselves forever indebted to predatory student loan companies because they dared to take steps to become productive American citizens.

Not when the very people we elect through supposedly democratic means to represent our best interests instead use their positions to line their pockets and feed us propaganda to keep us divided.

And definitely not when we turn our backs on the very concept of what has made America what it is–the diversity–when we have a so-called “president” who is so cold-blooded as to refer to countries that house brown people (who he despises, no one can tell me otherwise) as “s—holes”, completely disregarding the fact that a lot of the times countries are unstable the United States has played a role in their destabilization, and disregarding the fact that despite the standing of those countries (and the continent of Africa. I don’t think he knows Africa is a continent), there are hard-working, innocent people there, people worthy of our help, people who can, as have immigrants from many nations throughout the years, come to America and contribute to the betterment of our nation.

I am ashamed to call this man our president, and ashamed that so-called Christians continue to stand behind him. Regardless of whether or not you view his comments about Haiti and African countries as the racist dogwhistles they were, the fact that these utterings came from the lips of a world leader is reprehensible and so are the people defending it. I am sick of this mess.

statue of liberty inscription

Is your church…and home…and heart…A judgment-free zone?

A few years back I joined Planet Fitness. It was conveniently located a few minutes away from my job and I would use my lunch break to fit in a short workout. I absolutely loved it. I always left feeling better than when I’d first come in, which is why I’m looking forward to continuing to make use of my Anytime Fitness membership, pregnant or not, for the time being.

Planet Fitness advertises itself as being a “judgment free zone”. The creators of this motto undoubtedly understood that a lot of people are not at their physical ideal best and need to be made to feel comfortable. Now, someone like me couldn’t care less if people eyeballed me while I was there, because under zero circumstances is a stranger’s opinion of me relevant, especially if I know I am trying. But some people are sensitive to being eyeballed or talked about. One judgmental glance or negative musing might drive them out of the gym and hinder their goals to get healthy.

Similarly, our churches are supposed to be a judgment-free zone, as should the homes and hearts of anyone that wants to claim to be a disciple of Jesus. But we all know what happens. Let a shabbily-dressed person walk into your church during the middle of service, right down the middle aisle. Now would you think in your mind that perhaps that person fell on hard times, came to the church for help and possibly had no foreknowledge of church protocol? Or would you turn your nose up at them? Does it occur to you that sometimes people might be in the throes of mental illness? What do you do when a person of another race enters your church, since we know that churches are typically very segregated? Are they made to feel as welcome as any other visitor/potential member?

Is your home a place of peace, comfort and hospitality, or do people feel unwanted when they come over…if they do? I’ll tell you one thing… My house might not always be the tidiest, but if you come by I fully expect for you to feel comfortable as you get comfortable!

Just like a judgmental attitude can run people out of a gym or away from someone’s home, or even force people to distance themselves from the person bringing the negativity, it can and unfortunately does run people out of the church. It’s no surprise to me that the numbers of Muslims are increasing while the numbers of Christians are decreasing. Because some of the nasty, gossipy, low-down, pathetic and childish behavior of other Christians inside the church is downright reprehensible.

You will be held accountable if your judgmental attitude runs someone away. You might be the one to turn away a person who is not even saved. You think God is cool with that?

It reminds me of when I went back to church after becoming pregnant with Jayden, as I was not married when I had my first two kids. An older lady asked me very snobbily, “Do you really think you ought to be coming here in that condition?”

I was different then and immediately clapped back with this:

“Unless you were a virgin when you got married you’re no better than me.”

Shut her up right away.

The thing is, my faith and resolve were strong enough to realize that woman was wrong and I was exactly where I needed to be. My smart mouth and stubbornness won’t allow for anybody to run me up out of anywhere. 

But everyone is not that way. Remember that the next time you decide to judge and gossip.  Think of the things YOU have done. Just because your sin might not be visible to others don’t make them invisible to God.

Taking Christianity back from Christianists

In my humble opinion, 2017 wasn’t a particularly fruitful year in terms of evangelism.

Evangelism refers to the charge every Christian undertakes once we make the decision to live for and represent Jesus. By definition evangelism is public preaching and personal testimony of the Gospel message. Unfortunately, the term has been hijacked by a group of individuals who are antithetical to the very essence of Jesus.

Depending on your bravery, I encourage you to go out in a variety of different settings and ask random people to give you their first thought when you say the word “Evangelical”. Chances are they will laugh, frown, throw up or run away screaming. Either way it goes, you are not likely to get many positive responses. And considering the fact that every Christian IS indeed an evangelist, commissioned to go and spread the Gospel in word and deed, that is pretty disconcerting.

The Evangelicals seem content to hold to and push the wrathful God who is just waiting for one to sin to strike him or her down without mercy. Evangelicals have made a hierarchy of sins that does not appear in the Bible, with homosexuality right at the top. When I think of an Evangelical, being a Christian myself, I almost forget that we are not expected to be perfect, that Jesus is our mediator and advocate, and that all sin is created equal. I often wonder if using the words of the Bible as a means to oppress others is a loose example of what is referred to in Revelation 22:18-19.

I find it difficult to believe Evangelicals have read, absorbed and truly “eaten” the Word. It is impossible to go from cover to cover and NOT understand the importance of LOVE as opposed to the rigid enforcement of religion. Evangelicals remind me more of Christianists, people who studied or cherry-picked Scriptures to fit their biases and beliefs in order to judge and oppress other people, whereas actual Christians read the Bible for personal edification and a deeper connection to the Lord.

Every day we have to remember that the way we live and the way we treat people, particularly those who don’t fit into our neat little box of ideas on how people are supposed to be, is a direct reflection of our level of connectivity to Christ. I just don’t understand how people think they can force a faith on people that they are not living out themselves.

Evangelicals… Get the beams out your eye. You’re doing a terrible job representing Jesus.

The Myth of the “Family” Vacation

First of all… Happy Blessed New Year!

May 2018 bring you anything you lacked in 2017.

With that being said, here is a disclaimer, because while that sentiment sounds nice, we all know it doesn’t work like that. So…

May 2018 bring you anything you lacked according to God’s will, and may you work toward reaching your goals as you pray for God to help you.

We all know God is not a genie and does not simply grant wishes in His infinite wisdom. He listens to each of our earnest requests and makes a decision to either approve, deny or give us an even better alternative to our request.

Hopefully you spent your time leading up to the New Year meaningfully. Mine was spent in service, and no, I don’t mean service to the Lord directly. 

In the wee hours of December 26th, me and my family hit the road and made the 11-hour trip to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to spend some time with my husband’s dad and his family. We were all excited to get to some better weather–Alabama cold is not like Michigan cold–and see Matt’s extended family. Despite our meticulous preparations, there was one thing we weren’t expecting…

The daggone stomach flu. 

No one invited the stomach flu on our vacation, but it showed up and showed out anyway!!!

Unfortunately it struck the baby first, causing her to throw up multiple times and have several bouts of diarrhea. Matt rushed to the nearest store and bought her a bottle of Pedialyte which seemed to bring immediate relief for the vomiting. Then, that night, Matt puked almost 10 times and in the morning, as I was still trying to take care of him and Jayla, I threw up. 

Being pregnant with a stomach bug is no fun, but you know what was worse? Seeing my children sick with something that I can’t help. As you know, stomach bugs must simply run their course.

And yes, I said children, because out of nowhere in the middle of playing, the very morning we were initially preparing to leave, Layla got sick. It has now been almost 12 hours since her last round of vomiting, so we are hoping with baited breath that this thing has left her body, that our son hasn’t caught it, and that we can head home. In the meantime, my last couple of days of “vacation” have been spent cleaning up puke, washing puke-stained clothing, disinfecting, throwing up myself, fetching ginger ale, and oh yeah… Cleaning up puke.

As far as this particular vacation went, I don’t fault my girls for getting sick. I wished that I could have taken their misery upon myself, although in my pregnant state the stomach flu isn’t exactly comfortable. It upset me each time they threw up.

But when I thought about how much work I still had to do on what was supposed to be a mini-vacation, I had to chuckle. Even if the kids are well, there is ALWAYS work for Mama to do even on a vacation. Because for me, a vacation not only means a trip to a destination away from home, it also means a trip away from all of the work I do at home. When I go on a vacation, I don’t expect to do any cooking or cleaning. Like the cruise we went on… The most work I did was ironing my clothes. It was perfection.

We rolled out of bed when we got good and ready and leisurely prepared for our day, no rush at all. When my husband and I were served our meals, we were able to just EAT… No cutting up meat, mopping up spills, or getting up from the table in the middle of the meal to take a little one to the bathroom. At night, we took showers as long as we wanted with no interruption and lay down in a huge bed with no one crawling over our heads or asking to turn the channel from our movie of choice to SpongeBob.

It was truly a vacation.

And you know what?

I missed those little monsters every step of the way.

Family vacations are still work, indeed. But while I was on my true vacation I couldn’t help but imagine how my kids’ eyes would have lit up as they looked out from the cruise ship into the sea, especially at night when no land could be seen, nothing but stars.

As for this particular trip, aside from the illness, it was good to see my kids playing with their little cousins, uncles and grandfather. So at the end of the day, as usual, no matter how tedious… Mama’s work was worth it.