Tuesday, May 27, 2014

No Camo Pants

I'm not entirely sure what brought this up in my mind recently, but I was thinking about some of the rules and boundaries I had growing up.  As a young kid, it seemed like we had a lot of things that were off-limits, but as I was thinking about pre-teen and teen years, there weren't actually a whole lot of things that were clearly defined limits.  Now, a lot of that is likely related to the fact that I was a pretty hyper-self-monitoring, goody-two-shoes kind of a kid.  I can distinctly remember coming to my parents various times, proposing stricter rules/expectations for myself than they had laid out, much to the horror of my younger brother who usually then inherited those!

There were several things I can remember that had been set that were going to be rules that never really came into play.  I was not going to be allowed to get my ears pierced until 16, I think.  I never asked to get them pierced.  (Now, that one, to be fair, was an issue of vanity because I hated my ears and not some act of piety in any way!)  I was not supposed to be allowed to wear makeup until I was 13 (or 16, can't remember).  Pretty sure when my dad saw my attempts before that limit, he figured I was safer going out looking like that and figured it would likely be boy repellent!  I never had a curfew, and I can very distinctly coming home "too late" one time.  I knew it as I was heading home.  There wasn't a defined time, but it just seemed like I was out later than I "should have" been.  I think the fact that I was super stressed over breaking a non-existent boundary kept me from having one imposed, and I don't remember ever pushing that limit again.

There is one sort of random thing, though, that came to my mind where a line was drawn in the sand, so to speak, and given the overall context, it might seem a little strange.  I very distinctly remember having a conversation with my Dad and it being very clear that I would NOT be wearing camo pants around my grandparents (his parents).  I'm not sure if I even would have or if I was even asking to, but I remember thinking it was something that was off-limits.  Obviously, that bears some explanation.  I grew up in a conservative Mennonite family, and one of the values of that upbringing was pacifism.  My grandparents and parents were all registered C.O. status (conscientious objectors), which meant that they would not be part of a military draft, due to these beliefs.  My grandfather served in voluntary service instead of drafted military service during the war, and it was a core part of their identity and beliefs.

The funny thing is that I am pretty sure I still was a pacifist myself, though I have gone through several phases of internal conflict over the issue...and still do.  I would probably call myself a "conflicted pacifist" or something these days.  There was a phase that I would still have basically held the ideals of pacifism but was strangely drawn to revolutionary idealists that seemed so radical (albeit misguided), such as Che Guevara and the likes!  Thus, the camo pants, I guess.  I don't even remember if I actually owned any.

Anyway, the line...somehow I knew at the time that is wasn't a battle over control of what I was allowed to wear.  It wasn't even about expecting that pacifism to be held as a core value.  What came to my mind as I was thinking about it recently, that I think I understood at the time even, was that it was about honoring my grandparents.  It was important to them and was a decision of respect for who they were, and there was a very clear expectation that we would honor them.  I'm quite sure it would never have been spoken in disapproval (few things ever were) from them, but it wasn't even about whether they would approve or not.  It was a decision to honor.  And, I realized that I sincerely hope that is a value we will pass on to our boys.  We are not as strict with the way the boys address people or what they wear or some other things as the norm in the community where I grew up.  But, I hope that my boys will respect and honor those who have gone before them.  Whether they follow or adhere to all of the things their parents or grandparents or aunts and uncles or whatever other elders are a part of their lives or not, I hope that they will be boys and eventually men who respect and honor those who have poured themselves out for them in more ways than they will likely ever know.  I am not a fan of arbitrary, outdated rules just because it is what has been done.  But, I hope that we will help them to see ways to communicate honor, even in things that may seem small.  Not sure what our "camo pants" are, but I hope we'll find them and draw those lines for our boys.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Childlike Heart

This morning as I was waiting for a skype call, I was scrolling through my facebook feed, and the boys noticed a picture a friend had shared as a link to bring awareness about and advocacy to the tragic kidnapping of the girls in Nigeria.  Isaiah asked me who it was and why she was crying.  I proceeded to try to give a simplified version of the events.  Isaiah, in particular, is quite sensitive to things that might seem scary, so I am cautious with the details and stories we share with him, but I also want my boys to know that there are terrible injustices in this world, and I want them to care about those things from a young age.  So, I tried to keep it pretty basic but being honest that there were over 200 girls that had been stolen and were being sold or used for bad things or forced to do things they don't want to do.
The reaction from my boys was both encouraging and convicting.  Isaiah right away jumped to, "That's terrible.  We have to get them back," to which Ezekiel chimed in that we "will go on a big airplane and go to Africa and get the girls."

Isaiah was not fearful, as I thought he might be but his little mind started spinning with plans to get the girls back.  At one point he got a bit concerned, asking me if the bad guys have guns.  When I told him that it seems that they do, he was a little worried.  "Then how will we be able to stop them?"  John and I tried to talk with the boys to make it clear that we weren't going to be going ourselves and that we don't have the skills to stop this directly but that we need to pray and try to let people and governments know that this is a big deal and put pressure on them to help.  Frequently, the thoughts kept coming back to making plans on how this can be stopped.  John tried to tell Isaiah that some people are not able to be talked to and reasoned with, and Isaiah immediately jumped over to our new house guidelines poster we had put up yesterday and said, "Well, maybe we need to tell them things like this...like 'Love God,' 'Love each other,' and other things like about God."
At one point, he did envision a plan that was that, if the Teen Titans were real, they would be able to defeat the bad guys and get the girls back. :)

The first thing he told his friend when we saw him at lunch was about the girls and needing to get them back.

There is obvious wisdom lacking in the plans that form in my little guys' minds, and I know that situations like this are very complex in many ways.  Yet, I wonder how the world would look different if more of us had a reaction like theirs.  My adult, "sensible" reactions are to think how terrible it is and to feel sad at such a tragedy and to share links on facebook to bring awareness.  But, what if, instead of my action amounting to clicking a button on a computer...not that it doesn't have value, but just what if...my heart jumped "all in" at the news of injustice and was ready to hop on a plane to go and get those girls back?!  What if I somehow was captured by how I, how we, were going to stop this...now?!  May God keep the hearts of my boys just a bit less "sensible" and keep them ready to fight for these girls and against the many other injustices that they will encounter.  And may He make me a little bit more like my big-hearted, courageous boys!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Where is my autopilot switch?

It is coming up on the two-year mark since we moved overseas.  It isn't really news to anyone that adjusting to a new place and a new culture comes with some challenges, and there are many aspects of life here that make life a little harder.

Last week we hit a day where we were out of power for 24 hours due to a storm, and it had only been on an hour before that from our regularly scheduled power outages (which are at 12 hours per day off right now).  When the power came back on, my oldest son made a comment something to the effect, "What if the power was on ALL the time?"  Well, son, that would be what you call "normal" life for most Westerners. 

The thing is that I have come to the place where I feel quite comfortable here and on most days am not really conscious of it feeling hard anymore.  I am truly happy here and surrounded by so many amazing things and people that we would not have in our life if we didn't live here.  We can see the Himalayan Mountains from our roof for a good portion of the year, for goodness sake!  We have a wonderful home and are surrounded by incredible people, many of whom help us tremendously with any challenges that do arise with life here.  And, there are many things about life in America that would be really hard for me if we went back--the materialism and frenzied pace of life, for example.  

But, as I've been thinking and talking about with some friends recently, there is one dynamic that does take a toll, and I've found it hard to describe, but basically, it is just never being on "autopilot."  You know that mode where you just stroll down the street or drive your regular route in your car or go about the routines of your day without really thinking about them?  There is certainly something to be said for being more "tuned in" a lot of the time as we can sometimes miss much of life in the moment if we're just going through the motions.  But, I'm talking about just having the ease of rolling through some things in the day without everything requiring heightened attention and energy.  

I was comparing it to when I used to do parent conferences in Spanish as a teacher.  I got to the point where I was pretty decent with my Spanish, but having focused conversations for a couple of hours in a language that I had to constantly be thinking about and not just naturally rolling with was exhausting, and I would usually go home feeling like I had just run a mental marathon.

Maybe that "auto pilot" mode will develop over enough time of being here, but for now, I'll just accept a little extra energy drain that it takes to be "on" constantly and keep searching for that magic little switch.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Stuck in My Own Head

Being an internal processor presents some challenges for blogging.  I love writing, and I find myself thinking through floods of posts and constructing them in my mind.  One challenge, though, is that once I don't think while I write; I think and then I write, which makes it feel like an extra step that I often don't take the time and energy to do.  Along with that comes my tendency to over-edit.  If I can't quite think of the exact way I want to express something, I'll avoid ever writing the post.  And, if I do write the post, I tend to read and analyze and edit a bunch, making it an even longer process.
So...you can see why I experience some gaps at times in keeping up with blogging, even though I do enjoy it.
Sometimes I go through stretches of overcoming these challenges better than others.  I convince myself to let go of some of the editing, just write, and hit publish before I can over-analyze it.  Sometimes, I get a little stuck in my own head.
Well, here is to another effort to get out of my head and enjoy the writing!  Jumping back in...