When Thoughts are Jumbled and Words Aren’t Enough

 

 

I woke up this morning thinking about how the day was going to go, getting my ducks in a row and thinking about the to-do list I keep in my head.

Then I opened the news (something I do every morning), and was stunned. Last night, while many of us slept, tragedy unfolded on the west coast. I’m sure you’ve seen the details, and I’m sure you sat in shock as you read or watched first hand accounts from those who’s lives were interrupted by complete and utter chaos and terror.

My hearts go out to those who saw the unimaginable, those who lost loved ones and those who must begin the long journey to recovery. Like most of us, I just can’t wrap my head around this and other acts that seem to dominate the news cycle in recent years.

This year we’ve seen tragedy at home and abroad, we’ve watched natural disasters unfold in real time, we’ve searched for ways to reach out, to connect with those we’ve lost touch with and to provide tangible assistance where it’s needed most.

I’d encourage everyone to continue in these efforts. Small acts of kindness, prayers, “reaching out,”…they all make a difference.

We won’t have answers, we won’t be able to understand the “why,” and that’s hard, especially when we value control. But, if you’re looking for something extra, something to hold on to as you start your day, as you try to find ways to help and as you think about the world your kids are venturing into, I wanted to share scripture that I am holding onto, that I found during devotions this morning.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” 1 John 14:27.

As I read this, I realized it really is the whole picture. It’s easy to resort to fear, maybe to anger, when it feels hard to find something to ground ourselves to. But, we’re called to find peace, peace that can only come from one place. We aren’t to live lives of fear.

I think all of us could use a little of this, especially on days like today, how about you? Look for ways to be a light, to reach those who need it most, and move forward in real peace that’s promised. This world? It will be filled with trouble, with tragedy and with hurt – we see it every day, but peace is promised.

Praying for those in Las Vegas. Praying for peace.

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Love Erases Lines

My thoughts are scattered this morning; I think a lot of people can relate to this. I share this not for sympathy, but to ask you to bear with me as I try to share what I believe I need to share. It might not be succinct, it might not flow just the way I’d like it to, but I think right now the message matters a little more than the delivery.

First, I need to start by saying that I don’t know who you are. I don’t know where you come from. I don’t know your background or the experiences that have shaped you into who you are today. I don’t know your beliefs. I don’t know what you care about, what you’re passionate about or what drives you.

But, you’re loved. You matter. You’re more than a definition. More than a descriptive phrase or word. More than a statistic. You are a human that was created for a purpose, and that means so much.

Right now, it feels like that basic fact has been forgotten by so many. We’ve begun to identify by those phrases. To measure our value and the value of others by categories, by lines, by division. We’ve lost sight of the fact that these lines and dividing factors have been created by others, by humans, by thoughts, by errors, by bad judgments and by weakness. That they are words that shouldn’t matter.

Today, however, they do.

They’ve driven our country to take sides. Scary sides. Sides that have lead to real action and devastating consequences. To hatred of the “other,” and real hurt and fear. We’ve seen it in action over the past week.

I’ve heard it all. I’ve heard some share that they needed to turn off the television because of the bombardment of stories. I’ve heard others share that they’re heading out to protest, to take action. And, I’ve heard far too many say nothing.

As Christians – it’s hard. I get it. It’s hard to take a side and to be counted. It’s hard to put love into action when we aren’t sure what that action should be. I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that it’s easy to feel compelled to act, then to fail out of fear or a general lack of understanding of what that action should be.

I don’t think it needs to be that hard.

Here’s the thing. We are called to love. To love unequivocally. To love in a way that is clear, obvious and felt by those who need it most.

I think we know that. But, I think what comes next is where the challenge begins.

I’ve seen a lot of churches speaking out, saying it’s time to take a stand…and I agree. I not only agree but I applaud them for breaking the silence that needs to be broken. Bigotry, hatred, racism; these are real words with real-life consequences that change and hurt real lives. They have no place in the church. Change starts with acknowledging the need for it.

It’s time to start erasing those words with love. To put it into action. So many times, we say we love and we mean it.

Then the “but” comes in. We become unsure of how to act while still reflecting Christ. We start to mix up the word “love” and the words “fully support and agree with.” We believe that showing love, the love that we’re called to show means we need to fully jump on board and support something we don’t believe in, so we fall short. I’m just as guilty of this as others.

I think love is meant to be more simple than that. It’s meant to be a reaching across the aisle when no one else will. It means standing when no one else will. Calling someone who’s feeling rightfully angry or scared and saying “I’m here.” Praying for those who are oppressed.  Listening. Lamenting. Crying out for those who need it most and standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.

You can love someone you don’t understand. You can love someone you disagree with (hello; we still love our spouses when they wrong us, don’t we?). Love doesn’t need to mean agreeing 100% of the time or jumping on board something we cannot accept. Sin is still real and must be dealt with, but so is God. Love is so much deeper than that.

We not only “can” love; we are called to do so.

John 13:34 says: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

There’s no “but…” there’s no “except…” there’s nothing but a very specific command.

When love is put into action, it changes hearts. It breaks stereotypes. It becomes a foundation for a relationship that can become so much more, a relationship that can lead to change and sharing, but only when it’s genuine.

Most importantly, it erases lines. When we drop our preconceived notions and reach out in love, we start to break down the barriers that are so prevalent in our country today on both sides. We start to eliminate the frustration this world feels towards Christians who claim to love as Christ did – without prejudice or preconceived notions – but fail to act differently from the rest of the world. We start to make a difference, one life at a time.

The world needs this type of love, today, right now, right this second.

What would happen if you reached out? If you took the status you shared or the article you “liked” and changed the way you acted in an intentional, real way?

If we could all commit to living out the command that we are called to live, to love without restraint, I think the change would send shock waves across this country that would be tangibly felt and noticed on a wide scale.

Right now, a lot of people and groups of people need that kind of love. They need a refuge, a place without barriers, without lines, without division. The church can be that place without compromising principles, without double standards and without changing values. But, only when love is at the foundation.

It starts with us. It starts with acknowledging that there is a problem and committing to act accordingly.

Let’s shine a light during this dark, dark time. Let’s start to erase the lines that have become so prevalent in our world. Let’s love in tangible ways that will lead to softened hearts, changed minds and unity in a time of crisis.

 

 

 

The Problem with Prosperity

It feels like we’re bombarded with messaging from all sides some days…right? Sometimes it’s hard to sort it out, to make sense of it and to decide what sits with us for the long run.

One of the messages I’ve been seeing crop up a lot, and discussed even more, is the “prosperity” gospel. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, you are not unfamiliar with the concept. In this view, those who trust Christ and live according to his standards are automatically blessed beyond measure. Those who give the most receive the most. Those who live their best lives are blessed accordingly.

Before I go further, just from reading that, I think it’s obvious why there are some skeptics when it comes to Christianity. When these promises fall short, who’s left to blame?

The Problem with Prosperity

Here’s the thing. This life is hard. We’re promised it will be. We will be handed more than we can handle on our own, forced to rely on a God that’s so much greater than us. We will be tested the way a silversmith tests silver until we are refined.

When we focus on prosperity alone, we focus on a half (at best) truth.

I tell my kids regularly that God is not a genie. “Why?” you might ask? Let me walk you through it.

The other day, my kids were with me in a store. I saw my middle one bow his head as we walked to the check out. “Lucas…what did you just pray about bud?” I asked, thrilled that he felt the need in the middle of his day to resort to prayer.

“I prayed that God would make you say yes when I asked for Pokemon cards,” he replied. Cute? Yes. Limited view of how this whole thing works? For sure.

Another day, my oldest was playing a game with his brother. He prayed out loud that his brother would lose, giving him the opportunity to pick the next game.

We have thus had to have some serious conversations about the fact that while God can intervene in all aspects of our day, he’s not to be treated like a genie who grants wishes and all of our hearts desires on a whim. That prayer is so much more than asking and receiving. While this is a Biblical promise, there’s much more to it than this.

When we focus only on prosperity and on the expectation that we will be blessed, we miss out on a few important things.

First, we set ourselves up for disappointment, not only in this life, but in our relationship with Christ. When we expect blessings because we’re following the rules, we fail to prepare for what might feel like very real heartaches and failures. We forget that the Bible also promises that in this world we will face heartaches, challenges and temptations that feel much greater than ourselves.

Second, we develop a limited view of God that looks a whole lot like the view that my children naturally have. We fall into the rut that tells us that we have to behave a certain way to get rewarded, instead of following biblical guidelines because of our love for Christ, for a deeper relationship and all that it entails.

Third, we forget that blessings don’t always come in the shape and form that we expect. We have these ideas about what feels best, what we truly want and desire. We forget, once again, that our view of blessings is limited. We lose sight of the idea that sometimes blessings come from situations that hurt, situations that make no sense to us…and might never make sense on this side of heaven. When this happens, we fail to appreciate the real blessings in life because we fail to recognize them.

The Flip Side of the Coin 

If you’re reading this and thinking “wow…what’s the point?” or feeling as though this is more of a discouragement than anything else, I want to share a little encouragement. What I feel is a more accurate view of real life with God.

Recently I’ve gotten to share really great times with really great friends…people that I know God has put in my life for a reason. Friends who show up for a minute to drop off baked goods. Friends that come over for game nights. Friends that set up picnics, who we can laugh with when we forget utensils and improvise. Friends that we’ve walked through real-world heartache with on more than one occasion. Friends that we’ve hit the ground praying with when that’s the only – and best – course of action we have.

During some of these occasions and during some serious reflection (I feel like the front porch is a great place for this), we’ve gotten to talk about how God really does bless us with things we desire. Perhaps it’s because he puts those desires on our hearts – I think this is absolutely true – but, I also think it’s because he really does want to, just because. I feel like we just get so busy, so bogged down that sometimes we miss out on them.

I thought back to the house we live in right now. It was the neighborhood we wanted to live in when we found out we’d be moving back…but building here would cost more than building the exact same home in a neighborhood down the street. Using logic, we reserved a lot in the other neighborhood and designed the basic layout of the home we’d build. During the relocation, it fell through; we wouldn’t be able to build the home we wanted and take advantage of the benefits the company offered. We were heartbroken.

We were told about a home in the neighborhood we wanted in the first place…a model home that was perfect and could be modified a bit to meet both our needs and budget. We jumped at the opportunity and are still in the process of settling into this new home. While it would have been easy to focus on the heartache of losing the home we thought we’d be building, God had something even better in the works. Looking back, it’s amazing to see how that plan worked out. This home can be a refuge for people who are hurting. It can be a place to build memories with our family. It can be a place that our friends can come for a break and where we can share many laughs (and already have!).

It seems like a simple example, but sharing it with friends, we’ve heard similar stories of blessings in disguise…even blessings that have come after loss and true heartache – life changing heartache that hurts so much it manifests itself in a physical way.

God blesses us – but not because we expect it. Not because it’s guaranteed. And, not in the way we think it should look (although sometimes it does!).

When someone promises an easy life filled with blessings – financial or otherwise, think critically about that promise, and instead, look for truth and balance. The problem with prosperity (aside from almost blatant falsehood) is the limited view of something SO much bigger, that it creates.

What are the blessings in disguise that you’ve seen in your life? Where can you look back with thankfulness, even if it felt impossible at the time?

 

 

The World Needs Real Christianity…Today.

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The past week – or rather, the past year culminating in the past week – has felt like a whirlwind…sometimes more like a downward spiral where it feels harder and harder to catch my breath.

I’ve been watching the news, reading updates, taking in what my friends and those close to me have to say and trying to absorb it all…trying  to take it in and to figure out what exactly I should do with everything I’m taking in. I’ve tried to hold off on getting “too” political, or upsetting the wrong group and have honestly just struggled with keeping my head on straight.

I’m guessing this sounds pretty familiar to you. In fact, I’m guessing you’re feeling the same way.

I’ve seen hurtful things on both sides of the political spectrum. I’ve read mistruths coming from all sides concerning the “others.” I’ve seen insults hailed and lines firmly drawn in the sand.

I’ve watched Christians be accused – sometimes, unfortunately more often than not –  of being hypocrites. Of showing love only when it’s convenient for them. I’ve seen friends who grew up in the church do 180’s and turn away because of it. I’ve had friends told me they can’t pray anymore because what they’re seeing in action doesn’t match what they feel the church is supposed to be. I’ve seen people outside of Christianity share that it’s those of us who claim to be Christ-followers that are doing the most damage.

I’ve seen hurt. I’ve seen pain. I’ve seen terror…and it doesn’t really feel like there’s an end in sight right now.

I’ve also taken things personally. I’ve cried. I’ve held my family a little closer than normal and I’ve prayed for direction. I’ve prayed for a way to be a healer, someone who can listen to those who are hurting…those who are scared…those who feel lost or abandoned, and to be someone who makes a difference.

To stop the spinning…I’ve spent a lot of time in scripture and in prayer, begging for discernment and a path to move forward.

Then it started coming together.

It’s not an answer. It doesn’t replace the need for reaching out to politicians and making our voices heard. It doesn’t fix the very real pain and fear those around us are feeling. But…it’s a start.

Here’s the thing. The world back in Roman times was a pretty tumultuous place to live in. Laws changed daily, Christians were given power and respected then persecuted and nailed to crosses. No one knew who to trust, where to turn. It was easy to let fear being a controlling factor.

But…the church grew even during the worst times of persecution. Right now, it feels like the outrage, the fear is just as real…but so many are turning away.

What’s the difference?

The difference is authenticity. I’m not here to accuse anyone of being “fake,” but, I think it’s time that we all work together to try to right our path before it’s too late. It’s time we go back to New Testament-style Christianity.

It’s time to pull off the labels that turn people away, to stop using our words altogether…because right now, they’re just causing more hurt.

It’s time to stop saying we should “love” everyone while batting people away and keeping those who are “different” at arms length.

It’s time to practice being “pro-all-life,” not just “pro-birth.” To come alongside those who feel like they’re out of options, or who have made decisions they very well might be hurting from. To think before we slew hurt and to pray before we act.

It’s time to open our homes, our arms and our hearts. To listen to those who seem to be on the other side of whatever political spectrum we can claim to fall on. To support those who are afraid, who don’t know what their future looks like because of the craze that has seemed to overtake our country and our world.

It’s time to show our support. To show in real-life-ways that we believe in helping the less fortunate, the refugees, those who can’t stand for themselves.

It’s time to reach out to our lawmakers, to show our support and be a loud and booming voice. To donate to causes that HELP others. To become a political force that leads to action.

It’s time to pray for those in power instead of fixating on the helpless feeling we might have at the pit of our stomachs.

I’m not here to lecture you on the time you spend in prayer, the choices you’ve made in life or what path you may be walking. I am here to say it’s time to turn around…to stop speaking words without action. To stop being the reason that those who need Christ’s love the most are turned off and ready to jump on our words (sometimes because they deserve being jumped on).

If you are a Christian…you have to believe the whole story. You can’t pick and choose the applications that seem easiest for you, or easiest to swallow. I believe authentic Christianity is black and white…right now too many are falling into “gray” areas that do nothing but turn people off.

Guys…we are called to love. We are called to share that love with others. Our words…they’re not going to be what brings others together or changes hearts and lives. Our actions…the way we reflect the love that we have been given without deserving it in the least…that’s where it’s got to start.

Who can you reach out to today? How can you use the gifts you’ve been given to make a difference? How can you help someone today?

The early church exploded because God’s love was so real. It wasn’t something the apostles and early believers spoke of then trampled on with the actions. It was real…it was authentic…it brought people together. Can we bring it back?

Take the time to examine your own heart, your own bias’s, your own motivations. I’ve been doing it a lot this week…and the things that have shown up haven’t always been pleasant. But, until we get on our knees and ask for a true soul-searching and revealing…then get up off our knees and take what we find to the world, we aren’t going to make the difference the world needs.

We can’t cower in corners, we can’t spend our time debating in forums that lead to hurt, not change. We have to start from square one…to act.

We’re called to love, to support those who are oppressed and to live according to REAL biblical standards. How are you measuring up? Let’s commit to being real, to taking the stereotypes that are out there and breaking through them, breaking through fear and negativity in the process.

It all starts now…it starts with us.

 

Ready to Settle

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For those of you who have been following along with our adventure…whether it’s been for the past few months, or the past few years…THANK YOU. Your support has meant the world!

We have some excited changes coming! We are excited to announce that our house has gone under contract. We received an offer on Thanksgiving Day and have been pushing forward since then! We’ll also be settling on our new home next month.

It all sounds SO exciting..and it IS. But, I want to share a little more about why it’s so exciting…and that starts back awhile ago.

John and I got married young. We went through a few bumps and figured things out, fell short more than we didn’t but eventually found a good life pace. I’ll have more to share about this time period in the future! But, then, in June of 2014, John received an offer for a great job in Asheville, NC with his company. It was an amazing opportunity.

We were terrified to leave, but felt like it was right for us. We knew the move wouldn’t be permanent…to move up within the company he’d have to come back to Harrisburg. If you’ve read the posts, you know our time spent in Asheville was amazing. We grew our family by two, we learned to make it on our own and we developed a new love for an amazing active, outdoor lifestyle. We also developed deep friendships, quickly!

Fast forward a bit…starting back in June of this year, we learned we’d be coming back. We didn’t know exactly how it would look, but the process got underway. Once again, the process had many ups and downs and big decisions, but it was right. We listed our house and hoped for the best! After listing, the election, a gas crisis, wildfires and a number of other events all took place that changed how we thought it would go. I like to think the wait is what led buyers who will make the most of our home to us!

We moved back to PA knowing where we’d end up…but without a way to  make it happen until we had a better feel for our home sale. We moved our 4 kids into a hotel (a great hotel! but, a hotel none the less!). And we waited! We are still waiting, but an end is in sight!

That’s obviously a Cliff Notes version of everything…but, the past few years have felt like a whirlwind…but it has been filled with a lot of waiting as well. Waiting to decide what was right for our family. Waiting for kids. Waiting to feel at home. Waiting to move to new locations. Waiting.

It’s also been filled with lots of movement. Of literal moving between homes (this purchase will be home #3, in addition to the hotel and an apartment back in the beginning of our relationship). Of growing our family. Of running after those new family members. Of trying to stay in touch with everyone back home.

It’s been quite an experience…we’ve grown. We’ve learned. We’ve figured out what really matters. We’ve developed a level of gratitude and living in trust that we never could have imagined in the past!

But now, I’m excited for a change. Obviously, this life isn’t based on our own plans; that is one of our big lessons of the past few years! But, for the foreseeable future, it looks like we’re moving into a period of settling. Of moving into a home that we hope is our forever home. Of moving into the molding our children stage of life instead of starting over. Of getting closer to friends and family here. And, of finding a new routine.

I don’t think we’re meant to feel comfortable in this world…to feel completely settled; so please don’t read this as a “we’re going to sit back and do nothing,” message. We will be starting up Friday night dinners again soon! We will be following where we feel led!

All of that to say…thanks for sticking with us, for supporting us, for listening, for praying and for being available on so many levels! We are very ready to settle!

A Time for Tenderness

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I have to admit. I went to bed early last night. The tension was too high, no one knew what exactly was going on and the pressure from both sides felt immense. I’d never felt so much division in my life, or seen so many people struggle wholeheartedly in how to vote during an election period. It was intense.

What I woke up to was worse.

First, I signed onto the news…I needed to know where everything stood, how the night ended and if we had a candidate that was chosen. We had – you all know the outcome there.

But, then, I signed onto Facebook.

I saw so much.

I saw hate.

I saw fear.

I saw uncertainty.

I saw victory speeches.

I saw celebrations.

When I put it all together…I saw division. Division without thought for others. When division and speech happen without the thought for the people involved in the equation, it comes out as hate. Pure, spewing hatred.

I cried.

I didn’t cry over the new president. That course was chosen months ago when the final candidates were chosen. I cried over the conversations and talk coming from both sides, from people I dearly love. I saw gross over-generalizations and assumptions. I saw talk without thought.

Right now, hearts are tender.

People we love are fearful. They’re afraid for their rights. They’re afraid for the direction of our country. They’re afraid at how their families and lives will be affected on a very real, personal level.

Over the past few months, division has grown like never before. It’s been helped along by social media sites, by the ability to speak openly without the fear of recourse. Friendships have been lost. Uncertainty and mistrust have festered…and the trend is always growing.

Here are a few things we must remember.

Hearts that are tender call for tenderness. Angry reactions, social media fights and generalizations won’t help anything. Stop. Think of who’s reading. Think of who will be forever impacted by your words. Think.

Listen. No matter who you voted for, listen to those around you. Instead of jumping to conclusions and public thoughts that 10 years ago would have been private, just listen. Take the time to try to understand those who are fearful, those who are feeling true hurt and mistrust today and in the coming weeks. Cross your party line and listen. Be there. Be available.

It doesn’t matter what side of the party line you reside on – if you can pick one after this cycle at all. Now is the time to pick each other up. Because, here’s the thing…the hatred that’s flying isn’t coming from the government right now, it’s coming from the ground level – from us. That means it can be fixed by us. We can’t take back the words of others – we can only account for ourselves. But, one small act of kindness, of truth, of letting others be heard could be more valuable with more of an affect than 10 others that are full of hate, pride or other negatives.

Lead by example. Our kids are listening. People new to our country are watching. They feel our emotions, they watch for our cues.

We cannot make a sweeping change to what’s done. It’s in the past. But, we can teach. We can show kindness to those around us. We can show our kids what loving our neighbors really means. We can show that being a good member of society, being good to those around us, that it trumps being a member of a political party every, single, time.

Reach out. You know those that are hurting today. Whether they’ve made it clear publicly or not, you know those who are concerned. Send a message – it takes 10 seconds. Let them know you’re there, that you’re ready to listen and that you’d be happy to grab a coffee or drink. Be there. Be genuine. Be willing to listen.

What’s done is done. It’s over. But, before you celebrate it or mourn it through mass generalizations, before you even try to understand what might seem incomprehensible…just be open. Pay attention, be a light, be a real example of love in a dark and uncertain time.

If you can make a difference in the life of one person today, it will be worth it.

Hearts that are tender call for tenderness – who can you be there for today? How can you make a difference?

When Locker Room Talk Creates Locker Room Culture

I’ve locker-roomtried to hold off for awhile now. But, after much thought, I can’t anymore. I have to add my voice, or at least a small story to the discussion that’s been taking over our nation.

I’m not going to say who should vote for who, who would be the best candidate, or what the solution is, because honestly, I have no idea. I just know that we can do better.

The time to do better was probably a long time ago. Now we are left with what we have. I get it. I’m just as displeased as the rest of the country. So, I’m not here to admonish anyone, or to place blame. As a country, we’ve become what we’ve become.

I’ve experienced my share of shock about the things that have been said; but, I’ve been most shocked by the way people I know, people I love, have reacted to some of those things. I’ve seen hate brewing between friends that otherwise respected each other. I’ve watched cracks in our society grow into full blown fault lines ripping at the seams.

But what has shocked me most, is the way good people have brushed Donald Trump’s “Locker Room” talk aside. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard it excused as “how men talk,” or “something that was so long ago…if you pulled up what I said that long ago you’d probably be shocked too.”

I won’t go too far into that last one, but I can promise you that the men I respect in my life have never talked about taking advantage or assaulting women in a way that’s “funny,” or “just talk.” It’s not what they do.

The worst part is that it’s “okay” because it’s “just talk.” Yes, it’s talk. Yes, it happens. But people, think about it…talk leads to action. Maybe that action isn’t from the person doing the talking, but when that person is an influencer, it leads to action by others, others that think it’s okay because someone that’s in a place of authority has said it is.

I’ve experienced it. It’s not a life altering story; it’s not something I share frequently, but it happened and it did affect me!

Little background: I started 9th grade a few weeks late, in a wheel chair (trampolines…avoid them at all cost!). But, it wasn’t the most exciting way to start high school! It made me stand out and feel uncomfortable! But, it was fine, I made friends and life went on.

Some of those friends rode the bus with me, many of them were a year older. But, we had fun and we got along fine. Often times, I felt the need to impress them since they were older, so it felt like I was walking a line.

One day, after school, I sat in the back where I always did. One of the sophomores – I’ll keep him nameless – hopped on the bus like he always did. Then, while laughing, and with other students on the bus right there as it happened, he held me down, reached under my shirt and felt around.

I was shocked and embarrassed and he could see that. He told me to lighten up, that it wasn’t a big deal and that he could do it when he felt like it because we were friends. He let me know that it would be a thing that was just “okay.” His friends – including some of the girls on our bus – laughed about it and told me to calm down.

So I did. But, it didn’t sit right.

After a few days, as harassment from his friends continued, I confided in my youth pastor’s wife (I remain thankful to her to this day, because the behavior would have continued if she did not encourage action!). She let me know it was NOT okay, that I was RIGHT to feel like the behavior was wrong and that I needed to make it stop.

I told my parents and a police officer from our church, who let us know the next steps. Before we knew it, I was in the principal’s office with my parents and a police officer. The sophomore fessed up, and he faced charges. We chose an option that let him go through a program that kept his record clean.

In the meantime, his friends became aggressive. They threatened me, they told me I needed to tell everyone that I was lying. I had to get off the bus at one of the first stops, at a friend’s house, because I was scared to ride with them. To this day, I still get uncomfortable when I am forced to interact with this individual, who works at a local place I frequent.

Life moved on, outside of our group, the story stayed fairly quiet. He was able to continue in his life, where I hope he learned a little bit from what happened.

I got to remain cautious. To second guess even well-meaning men. To find myself in situations where I even still excused certain behaviors because I didn’t want the fuss that happened the first time. It was small, many women have experienced SO much worse, but it changed a lot.

You see, he was young; his actions were the result of a culture that lets men know that certain things are “okay,” because they joke about them in locker rooms. My hesitancy to react to them was because of that same culture, that informs women that this behavior is excusable because that’s our place.

I’m far from a feminist. In fact, most would call me the complete opposite. I believe in the biblical norms that were established thousands of years ago and do believe that women have a place in our society.

However, I believe that place is one of respect (just as men receive!). I believe that we are to be valued and I believe that we are to be taught from a young age that we have WORTH.

That message should be supported by men, by their words, by their actions, especially when they are in a place of authority, not laughed about, not brushed aside, not excused. Not in this case, not ever. However, until society as a whole starts believing this, and holding men who talk and act this way accountable, the cycle will continue.

I’m  not going to tell you how to vote. I’m not going to declare what’s right, what’s wrong or anything else.

But, I am going to ask a serious question. In what world is that talk “okay?” In what world should it be brushed aside as “just talk?” Does it sit right with you to excuse it, regardless of when it happened? I know it doesn’t for me. I know it doesn’t for those I respect in my life.

I want a world where my daughter doesn’t have to fear the men that surround her. Until the talk changes, until good people stand up against it, that world won’t exist.