Monthly Archives: August 2014

What you can ask when your prayers seem unanswered

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Sometimes, you come home from an epic vacation road tripping 3,200 miles to Disneyland and all hell breaks loose. Or maybe not hell, but hell’s companions come to say hello. The first night we returned, we were having a family dance party on our porch until a neighbor gave us the stank eye. So we moved that action inside, but it was sooooo hot so we left the front door open to bust a move. All of a sudden something flew at my face and I dove into the couch. That thing looked a lil’ something like this:

bat out of hell

Bella and I ran for the bathroom and hid until that pyscho bat quit out on us. Rob and Aidan chased him throughout the entire house laughing and screeching. I might never forget my son calling someone in a panic saying “Siri, how to catch a bat?!” As per the usual, Siri was not helpful, but a buddy came over with a fishing net and his presence did the trick. That man will have many treasures in heaven.

I had a sinus infection with cold sores going up into my nasal cavity and I had this lump that had been bugging me with pain shooting out from it into the right side of my head. I didn’t feel great and started looking into what was going on.

It was soon after the bat left our presence that we found out we got lice. We got lice, all of us! I couldn’t believe it. Turns out, the word on the street is that Disneyland is a great place to pick up the buggers. I kept thinking, I am a 40 year old with lice. Sadly, we didn’t even know we had it which makes us an even grosser family, right? Nooooo, we had to find out at a hair salon. We were those people. So the lice escapade took over our life spending our days at the laundry mat, bagging up everything and putting it in the basement, spraying furniture, changing beds on the daily, vacuuming the carpets, and doing lice checks three times a day per person. I felt like a monkey picking things out of each other’s hair. But I promise, we never ate them like monkeys would have.

We were cleaning like we had an obsessive compulsive disorder. And we cancelled everything. I wouldn’t have wished that on my worst enemy….ok, maybe my worst enemy, but no one else. So, we canceled all our plans so that we wouldn’t be thooooose people that give everyone else lice. No camp, no playdates, no dinner parties, no barbecues, no trips to the beach with friends. Social life over. Kids, we have lice.

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The second day we were still cleaning obsessively and that was when I discovered a colony of maggots. So now I have cold sores, lice, bats and maggots. And I was thinking maybe Disneyland is the happiest place on earth…

bike ride

To make the best of it, the kids and I went on a bike ride. It was a gorgeous day and we went to what was one of our favorite beaches. Bella wanted to go looking for crabs before we biked on to lunch. So we headed out underneath a boardwalk to this area that has these huge rocks you walk upon to get around and you can see crabs and starfish and if you are really lucky, seals.

As I looked at the world around me with the curious eyes my kids do, I got it. I felt a peace wash over me. I felt grateful. I felt so thankful for these beautiful kids and I said to the Lord, “I get it.” Maybe this is slowing me down and getting me to stop. To spend time, quality time with just them and no one else. And I said to Him, “I know I’m not good at this. I get this story you are writing here and I am reading it and I am ok with it. This, here, right now, this is good. This time with my kids is sweet. I will enter your rest.” 

i get it

It was a moment of gratitude in the midst of something I did not want. And seconds after taking this picture of my feet on a rock, I took a step onto another rock to follow my kids and that huge rock went out from underneath me. As it did, I extended my right arm to catch myself so that I wouldn’t fall on my head. The extension of my arm coupled with the weight of the rock coming up at it sent my arm bone out and up and it immediately went haywire and I fell into a bunch of rocks.

I yelled “Call 911! My arm is broken!” I have never broken anything but I knew this action was not right. I was almost afraid that I was in shock and that I would wake out of it in a minute or two and full on lose it. Initially, I hadn’t planned on bringing a phone, but has decided to so I could take pictures. Thank God. Aidan dialed the number and above me looked down shaking the phone and said “It’s not working!” 

Now timeout. We all teach our kids what to do in an emergency, but we really never know what our kids will do in an emergency until we have one. This was going to be interesting.

I asked painfully, “Is it dead?” Aidan said “Oh no! I dialed 611!” I now laugh at that hysterically but at the time it was not funny! We certainly didn’t need to know how many minutes we had used on our data plan in that moment. Aidan must have, in the midst of stress and worry, slipped his finger and touched the 6 instead of the 9. He called again. And he was so good to me. He was worried and he said to the dispatcher “My mom is hurt and we are at Zuanich park!” I yelled “No, we are at Boulevard park!” 

The dispatcher asked if I could walk and I thought I could, but I had to figure out how to get up with no arms. He was hoping that I could at least get to a place where the medics could see me as we were hidden from the visible eye. One arm was maimed on the inside and the other arm had to hold it up. So I wiggled my way up and had to maneuver through more rocks to get up on the boardwalk. I couldn’t see the medics so I kept walking toward the street. It turns out they couldn’t find me. They tried calling back, but Aidan was on the phone with Rob telling him what happened. I thought I was either going to puke or pass out and I had to hold myself together because it was just me and my kids.

We probably passed 20 people, none of which asked if I needed help. Maybe I looked crazy and people were afraid of me. So if you ever see someone who looks like they are in pain and they are breathing heavy and they seem scary, don’t walk past them! What is wrong with our world? I would never walk past someone who is clearly hurt. It’s almost frightening how our culture can see right past people. Frightening, I tell you.

Rob says I walked about a mile holding my arm up. I finally had to sit down because I thought maybe I was going to hit the deck. Our bikes were a mile away, my kids were upset and worried and I was in incredible pain. I sat on a bench and I prayed, “Lord, just please send someone I know. If someone I know walks by i can ask them to get the bikes and take care of the kids. Please just bring someone I know.” 

Nothing. No one I knew walked by and I know a lot of people He could have chosen. I waited. I hurt. Finally the medics found me and so did Rob, about 45 minutes later. I got to the ER and of course had to check in and got a room right away but I had to wait for what felt like forever. And I get it. Other people have way worse problems than this. I just wanted drugs. I literally wanted to scream “Just get me some freaking druuuuuuuggggggssss!” But I knew they might have thought I was a junkie, so I tried to keep my desire for pain meds to a minimum.

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Finally the x-ray guy came to get me and as he wheeled me in I told him I knew I was a baby and there were people here with way bigger problems, but the pain felt unbearable. He said “Oh no, elbow injuries are the worst.” He was nice and probably thinking “this chick needs to calm down.”  On the way back from getting pictures snapped, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a lady I knew. I looked at her and waved slightly with my good arm. She was an ER nurse that came and spoke at a Collide event last year. She started an amazing non- profit that cares for doctors and nurses when they experience trials and hardship because they care for so many. The work God has called this woman to is impactful and amazing! And there she was, the day I landed myself in the emergency room. She walked in right away and asked what I had done. I explained. She then said that she wasn’t in the ER that day but was roaming the hospital giving out stints. She had just come down to say hi to someone for 2 minutes and then saw me.

Sometimes you pray and you think your prayers aren’t answered. But usually you pray and your answer comes differently than you expect. When I picture me alone on that bench honestly crying out for God to bring me someone I knew and He didn’t, that’s disappointing. I mean how hard is it to bring one person by that I know? But God did bring someone by I knew! He just brought the most helpful and effective person I know, an ER nurse when I most needed it, in the hospital.

She gave me an IV, hooked me up with pain meds, got me an ER doctor and like 6 people walked in that room shortly thereafter. She said “We are gonna give you Michael Jackson drugs and don’t worry we will be able to turn you back on.” I smiled and said “Oh good, thank you. I’d like to make a comeback.” She assured me that what they were about to do would hurt like heck, but I would never remember any of it because they were giving me some special drug that wipes your memory away. Now that I think about it, I could have used that drug for a lot of other experiences I have had in life.

I turned to Rob and said “When are they gonna get this thing going?” Rob said, “They already did it honey.” I was shocked! “They did?” Rob said “Yeah and when they put you under, the first thing you said was ‘I have some stories to tell!’ ” Apparently, I like to tell stories. I didn’t go onto to tell them anything scandalous, thank God. But I did say over and over again “Please be careful. Please be careful.” It turns out that the kind of drug they put you on brings out the real you. One doctor friend told me that every teenage boy he knows on the stuff comes out of surgery ready to fight. As you can see folks, the real me wants to avoid pain and tell stories.

But no good stories come without pain. They just don’t. All great plots have struggle. All victories, the ones we care about, come through loss. All healing arrives after sickness. All great triumph stands upon great trial.

The bats, lice, cold sores, sinus infection, lump, maggots, dislocated and chipped elbow that made cooking, writing, ponytails, hugs, driving, getting dressed and lice checks nearly impossible…were all followed by an old friend’s sudden death, rats, a yellow jacket infestation, a friend with cancer, my son having a shoulder injury that would sideline him for football and bring possible surgery and a lice comeback, all in 4 weeks time.

There were a lot of jokes about the plagues coming upon us by friends because everyday brought with it some disappointing news or another annoying pest or a prayer unanswered or a waiting. Just waiting.

What do we wait for when things go wrong? We wait for things to go back to the way they were. But life doesn’t ever return to the way it was. God is making all things new. Things move forward. Things change. But they never go back to the way they were. We wait for things to ease up and get better as quickly as possible. We wait for things to get good again. But rarely do we we sit in what is and ask “What story are you writing, God?” 

What story are you writing, God?” is the question I keep asking. If you believe that God is the Author of Life, of all story, of Destiny, then He has got to be writing something. He is writing pain because He is writing plot.  He is writing loss because He is writing victory. He is writing trials because He is writing triumph.He is writing a good struggle because He is writing a good story.

when your prayers seem unanswered

I have realized, you can sit on a bench and pray for it to all go away. You can pray for the answer you think you need. Or you can say “What story are you writing God?” And by faith you can believe that God is doing something beautiful, good, deep. And though you might not know what that is yet, you can wait and watch expectant that the Author is up to something.

 

 

Wherever you are, you might want the happiest place on earth to be there. (Instead of with fake princesses, cheap thrills, no coffee and lost children.)

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After all the spiritual insights in San Francisco, we visited friends in San Diego, which was lovely and made me want to be a California gurrrrl. I strolled the beach and for half a second wondered how God could make that place home. I pictured daily walks on the boardwalk, a bike with a basket, a hot tan and real Mexican food with wonderful friends. But then I woke up out of my daydreams and was reminded that God has me rooted in Washington, maybe, because I like sweaters and coffee, grunge music and the beautiful people I get to do life with. After a few days of dreaming on the beach we headed to the happiest place on Earth…Disneyland!

happy princess

But is it?

Our kids have never been to this magical place. We rolled up and had road trip stuff falling out of our car as we checked into our hotel. From bushes to waffles to legos, we were surrounded by Mickey Mouses. They were creepin’ up on us everywhere. We have never gone there as a family so I should have assumed that Rob, my husband, was going to take this whole thing seriously. He was hardcore Disneyland. Let me try and explain just how hardcore.

When you plan this type of trip, you listen to a lot of advice on what to do and what not to do. You read the web, you skim books, you listen to your friends share the places to go, the tickets to buy, the tricks to skip lines. All of it. As soon as we got out of our car, Rob was like “See those people, they have laniards. We need laniards!” So we were the dorky family that went and bought laniards because we thought we needed them for our tickets. As it turns out those laniards were for “pin” trading not for kids to hold their own Disney tickets worth hundreds of dollars! So here we were with cheese ball laniards on with no tickets in them, but of course our kids wanted to start trading. Right off the bat they wanted to use their spending money on a few pins so we could be even more Disney dork and stop at trading posts to trade. This was the first half hour of stepping foot into Walt’s world.

happy princesses

Rob insisted that we get up at 6 and get into the park by 7. The first morning I agreed as I couldn’t wait to see the kids faces. They had no idea what to expect. They used to say things like, “We could go to Disneyland or go jump on a trampoline”, as if they are comparable. Though I agreed to get up early, I still wanted to stop at Starbucks for coffee so I could be nice when we were meeting the princesses and not a grouchy wicked witch. But Rob was doing Disney with an iron fist and a serious bucket list insisting we get into the park ASAP. This was not the happiest place on earth, I was sure of it.

We did have a magical time watching our kids eyes light up at all they experienced from the light shows to the parade of happiness to the Cars ride and everything in between. I feel like we left no stone unturned in that happy place. We got scared in the House of Terror. Actually, to keep true to the story, Aidan wanted the “bragging rights” in his words of going. I did not want those rights. So I sat out. We got tripped out when the Indiana Jones rock came at us and we were sure for half a second that this would be the one time that ride would go kaput and that rock would finally actually kill people. People, as in us. We spun tea cups and heard “Its a small world” so many times that the world felt miniature size. We did it all and we had fun! Really, we did.

happy car

But is it the happiest place on Earth? There were long, impatient, hot lines. There were people angry and fighting with one another. There were lost children. The food was worse than McDonalds. The tickets were so expensive that they left out whole populations of people from ever entering. The princesses weren’t real. The water was the same price as that of gold. And my husband was rocking this place like it was a job. Was I happy? Is this happiness?

Happiness as I see it, is a temporary state. It comes and goes depending on what is going on at the time. Happiness is about as real as Cinderella. Happiness is the 4 minutes on Splash Mountain after the 45 minute wait in the hot burning sun to get there. Happiness is the laughter, but joy, that’s the belly laugh.

Joy is more than a temporary state. Joy is a place you stay, a place you choose. Joy is longer lasting. Joy can be found in the line and the ride. Joy comes because of something deeper. Joy sees past heat. Joy senses something deeper at hand. Joy chooses to say “Look at all I am blessed with” even if the blessings haven’t come around in awhile. Joy can be found in and out of Disneyland, on and off rides, and it costs nothing.

happy carousel

I get that Disneyland produces happiness. But I want more than that. And I want my morning coffee. I want the feeling of something that I don’t have to wait for, pay for, or produce. I want the joy that God gives that allows me to find happiness in the midst of any and all circumstances.

Paul who God used to write a significant proportion of the Bible, he went on some serious rides. He got on roller coasters that stopped working and ships that wrecked. He ran into mean carnies and princesses that betrayed him. He got put in real jails and almost died so many times it was nuts. He lived a crazy life. And in all of it Paul came out swinging with this statement in Philippians 4 : I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

happy and cheap thrills

I think joy is contentment’s cousin.I think they are so closely related. Joy brings contentment. Contentment brings joy. I want to be the girl who in the middle of Disneyland with no flippin’ coffee walks with deep joy and feels content. I want to be the family that doesn’t need to go to Disneyland to find happiness. I want to be the girl that doesn’t have to look good in a pair of jeans to find contentment. I want to be the child of a Father in Heaven who is completely satisfied with who God made me and where God has me.

And I don’t think I am that girl.

 

I don’t think we are that family.

 

And I don’t think I am that child.

happy ever after

But me not being that girl is not entirely up to me. This is not me having to muster up some joy off a shelf in a joy store inside of me that I have yet to find.  My contentment and joy can grow into full life within me whoever I am and wherever God has me when I allow it to come from God who gives me strength to weather any circumstance, any need, any situation, any hunger and any want.

Sometimes, I think God is trying to get us all there. He is trying to get us to find deeper happiness, this joy in places we never would deem as possible. He wants us to find our strength, our all, our hope, our identity in Him and Him alone. You and I, we may not like it, but sometimes our circumstances, needs and situations are pushing our character like gravity toward this raw place of seeing our joy meter. And when we see it, we don’t like what we see. Because we see that our happiness is hiding behind all the distractions, all the plenty, all the material, all the busy, all the fake happily ever after love, all the princesses, all the coffee and all the cheap thrills. And when those things are gone and the park closes, we are tapped out of “happy.”

you might want the happiest place on earth to be where you are.

When we left the happiest place on earth, we got home and our family faced some things that challenged our joy.  I got home and am currently going to the school of learning what it means to be content in any and all circumstances. I will share more about that soon. But in the meantime, I encourage you to participate in the school of contentment that God has you enrolled in, knowing that His strength in you is the only ride that brings actual happiness. No longer allow all the other distractions, cheap thrills and fake princesses to convince you they are what will do it. Real joy and contentment will only come from One who is longer lasting, One who is consistent, One who never lets you down, One who never closes, One who doesn’t give up, the One who Loves with a Perfect Love.  May you and I be able to echo these words, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” 

 

 

the crookedest street in San Francisco is not the crookedest street

lombard street

There is this street, Lombard Street, that people come to far and wide in San Francisco. They come around the back side of this famous lane and drive down what is known as the crookedest street in the city. Now, if you haven’t been to Lombard, you have to know that this is on everyone’s stop at least once when they visit. It draws thousands and thousands of people. Tour buses and trolley cars drop people off so they can look over the top and see the winding cobblestone curves, the quaint homes, and the amazing view. This place was on our SF bucket list.

We saved it until the early morning when we were saying goodbye to San Francisco. Everyone knows Lombard as the crookedest street. Thats why they talk about it, take photos of it, and visit it. And guess what? On that bus tour I mentioned in my last post, where we learned more than that Pearl Jam is better than any girlfriend you’ll ever date , we  also learned Lombard is not the crookedest street in San francisco!

Whaaaaaaaaaaat? How can this be? Why have tourists been taking family photos there for years? Why are we filming goofball family videos driving down this road? And why does it even matter?

There is another road, apparently called Vermont Street and maybe if you are from those parts you have heard of it, but for the rest of us travelers who road trip, boat up or fly in, we haven’t. I personally have been to San Fran several times. I had grandparents who lived there, I spent my 21st birthday there, which I might have to save for a later post:) In all my visits, no one ever told me about Vermont Street. Apparently, it is way more windy, is steeper and would win the giant gold medal for “crookedest” street in San Francisco. But no one is looking at Vermont Street.

 

crooked

As we drove down this road I was thinking….I think humans are so quick to judge, to call crooked “crookedest” and then that’s all something will ever be. Even more, I think those of us who have struggled with the pain and destruction of sin and God’s desire for humanity to live rightly, we might be some of the worst to deem one thing more crooked than another. We often find ourselves in mental matches determining what is worse, this sin or that sin? We know in our hearts we would rather have our kids committing this rotten act than this one. We stop talking to people because they actually had the audacity to be doing this and at least we only do this. These are the kinds of things we find ourselves thinking and saying. We deem someone the crookedest of all crooked. And that’s all she wrote.

But I wonder if the crookedest of the crooked are the paths no one is looking at. Just like Vermont Street. Yes, there are crooked places in our lives that people notice, that are outright, that can be seen. But perhaps, if we want to award a gold medal to the most crooked, because it seems like we do….perhaps that should go the one whose crookedness is going unnoticed. Because it is in the unnoticed places that you don’t get help. It is in the secrets that you downward spiral. It is all alone that you don’t hear truth because you aren’t inviting visitors who will point out your crookedness.

the crookedest paths

We are often most fearful about certain paths we have deemed as the most crooked. I wonder if we should be most scared of the paths no one is noticing, including our own.

I am not a tourist attraction

 

bus tour

We had one day to see San Francisco on our vacation . We had so many things we wanted to cover from Alcatraz to the Italian district to riding a trolley car and going to Fisherman’s Wharf. As we surveyed the land, we thought, how will we ever do all this on foot? Parking is practically impossible there, according to the locals. Taxis will suck the money right out of your pocket. Walking will get you nowhere especially when you look up the famous crooked street and see how steep it is. We kept seeing these double decker bus convertible tours pass us by as we were trying to decide what to do. We hesitated because we didn’t want that cheesy tourist feeling, but we also wanted to really capture this city.

After making friends with strangers and asking their opinion, we decided to bite the bullet, cheese or not and pay for a tour of San Francisco. The way this particular tour worked was awesome because you could get on and off the bus in any area and a new bus came every 15 minutes. So you could say “Hey- lets go to Haight and Ashbury for awhile.” And that we did. We stopped in that lil’ hippy block and enjoyed a dirty dive for lunch, the kind where you feel like you need to wash your hands afterwards. We had quirky soda pops that you place in what looked like dry ice for 5 minutes and the pop becomes cool and refreshing with flavors like ginger, pineapple and chocolate. We saw tattoos we have never seen and smelled a lot of Mary Jane.

bus

We got back on the bus and then off to go see where Kate and Ashley made their start. I actually never watched the show, so I was unimpressed with the grandeur of some twins who used to film there. Though the view was very “San Francisco”. We also stopped at the amazing Golden Gate park and went to an incredible museum and visited the planetarium and saw amazing fish of all kinds. We experienced an artificial earthquake that was more like a ride Disneyland would cruelly make you wait a half hour for.

We visited the Italian district and it was enough to make me claim (falsely) I am, indeed italian. I wanted a cappuccino and biscotti, lasagna and a fancy dress with red lipstick. I didn’t get any of those things. But I wanted them and I wanted to go into this beautiful cathedral and pray the rosary. I’ve never prayed the rosary, but this place peaks your curiosity about the rich prayers of the saints.

cathedral

We stopped in China town and our kids got lured by store owners asking them to come in and get a souvenir. There were American flag spandex leggings for only 5 bucks. I was tempted. Everyone knows how hot my thighs would look in those bad boys. We saw a lot of jade and wind up toys that looked like sushi and fancy flip flops that would break your ankles. We walked under the red lanterns and heard foreign tongues and smelled smells that woke our senses.

There were so many places we got to see in such a short time. This bus tour had different guides on different buses. Our first tour guide was a guy who had Rob and I laughing out loud. He made a lot of jokes about losing girlfriends because of his love for grunge music. One girl dumped him because he loved Pearl Jam more than her. I resonated. I think I love Pearl Jam more than most of my exes too. These guides were cheesy, informative and always pointed our view to the right or the left causing us to see and understand some new corner of this city.

We got on the bus and a woman guide was speaking into her microphone, which by the way echoed out onto the streets with passerby’s hearing whatever was being said. We drove through the Financial District and then on into the not so wealthy part. This tour guide was pointing out the impoverished neighborhood. She was sharing the dismal statistics of people who live there and the huge population of homeless people here in this part of San francisco. As she is beaming this out on her microphone loudly. I looked over the side of this topless bus and there are people lying there in their sleeping bags on the sidewalks. There were friends sitting with friends sharing some food they had been given… Some shooting up, some smoking, some just staring up at us. And I saw this lady keeping stride with the bus. She had short blond hair and dark black eye makeup. She was stocky and mad. She was making the international “I’m gonna cut your throat.” sign. The one where you take your flat hand and motion it back and forth across your adams apple to tell people to shut up. I saw her anger. I saw her being a voice for her people. It was like she said, “ I am not a tourist attraction and neither is my pain or my poverty! Stop!”

i am not to be gawked at

This was one of those moments where you see how we work. We, as in many middle class, rich americans. We pay with our extra “vacation” dollars to hop on some tour bus to see the sights and the next thing you know we don’t even think twice that the sights are now poor people. It is like we are at a zoo and we are staring down at them like they are monkeys or polar bears. “Wow, look at the animals. Look what they do. Look at how different they are than us. Look how they lie on that rock in the shade hiding from the hot sun.”

What do you think that sounds like to a homeless person who has lost everything including their dignity to hear tour guides all day long gawk at their poverty like its a tourist attraction? “Well folks, we have now landed in what is the poorest part of San Francisco… home to hundreds of homeless people. People who choose to be homeless,” says the guide. “They don’t want to work because the system works for them. The crime here is crazy and you wouldn’t want to walk around here at night because it is unsaaafe.”

How would the homeless people feel hearing this? They would hear things like: You are a statistic to me. You are something to avoid. You are dangerous. You are what makes this place unattractive. You are one to take pictures of, an object, but not a person. You are an attraction to drive through but never be. You are the one stop no one gets off for on this bus.

get off the bus

I mean I could keep going on. I wanted to scream at this tour guide! Stop! Just stop! Enough already! I understood why the lady was motioning the slit throat sign. These words held people down. They told people what they already believe: that their lives matter little.

People in pain and poverty are not tourist attractions. DO not gawk at them. DO not stare. DO not take pictures of them. DO not drive by them like they are a statistic, a thing.

There is this guy where I live who has stood on the same corner with the same cardboard sign for like a decade. And he waits and he hopes that people will give him what he needs. When I get stopped at his light, because it is his light, I observe people. And ordinary people, most of them, their cars are right next to his body and they look straight ahead as if he is not there, like you would a stop sign. You don’t look to your right and wave at a stop sign. But this man is not a stop sign. He is a human being. He is God’s creation. He is a child. He is a father. He is a brother, He is a friend.

Why don’t you look him in the eyes and if you insist that you will not give him money because you know “he will go buy alcohol with it” then give him the right to be a human being. Look at him and give him your biggest smile and wave. He is not a thing. He is not a monument of poverty. He is not a neighborhood that is bad. He is not a zoo animal. He is not a tourist attraction. And he is not a scary monster. Don’t worry, your smile won’t make him bust through your window and grab your wallet and your body and drag you into the bushes where your entire story ends. No, your great big smile might just say, “you matter.” Heaven forbid, if we cannot pull that off.

Ok, fine I went off. But we have got to understand these people are not tourist attractions. They are stories. Every homeless person I have ever had the privilege of spending time with has a story. And their story doesn’t find them there simply because they are wild animals or lazy. They are people in pain, people with wounds that need healing, people who have been abandoned. Do not drive through them like they are one spot on your way to somewhere cool.

financialtour

Jesus might actually puke in his mouth if you do this. Am I using strong language? Yes, I am. Jesus would stop and touch people no one else would touch. Jesus would care if people needed food. He fed the five thousand because he was concerned they would be hungry and miss a meal, one meal. You don’t follow Jesus so He can make you rich, you follow him and He will make you care about the poor. Jesus called the rich young ruler to give everything he had to the poor and then come follow Him. I  always imagine that Jesus had in mind the poor when he called for such a sacrificial move. But the rich man could only think of himself. Jesus told the story, the famous one, about the Good Samaritan. And how many people, religious people walked by the hurting man on the other side of the road, as far away as they could get, to pass him by? Too many. Jesus commended the one who went and helped the man whose circumstance left him there to die. So, this Jesus we talk about, how is it that we call ourselves his followers, yet we tour past poor people in pain as if they are nothing to us?

streetview

I am not a tourist attraction. Perhaps, a life on vacation or not, that lives like Christ would get off the tour bus and step foot into the scary places. Perhaps we should get off our high bus and go eat lunch on their sleeping bags. Perhaps we should ask them questions and actually be curious about their lives. Perhaps we should take tours of their lives and what journey brought them to this place. Perhaps, we should treat them as we want to be treated, with notice, care, respect, dignity, and love. Perhaps, we should realize we are standing in their living room, not our vacation destination. Next time you pass by someone in pain and poverty, take note. Look at your body language. What stereotypes are you handing out? What assumptions are you making? How nervous and fearful are you? Do you hide behind your sunglasses and act like you don’t see them? That is not a tourist attraction, a road sign or a monster, that is someone’s child.      God’s.

If you want more blabber from a woman who wants to be Italian and loves Pearl Jam and keeps colliding with Jesus and it’s wrecking her life (in a good way)…subscribe to get these yammerings by entering your email address in the box on the right:) – Willow

Shanghaied in San Francisco

God on vacation

So we rolled through the redwoods right on down to San Francisco. We couldn’t wait to show our kids the city. We booked a hotel and got a steal of a deal on one of those sites that promises such, if you win your bid. We had decided that we would splurge in San Francisco and stay somewhere nice because this place was one we had really wanted to visit! I bid on a 4 star hotel and got it for the price of a 3 star. I felt like I won the lottery! And coming from a girl that never wins the cake walk, the school raffle or the sweepstakes, I was thrilled!

Right before we got to the golden gate bridge we were those parents with big expectations and wanted our kids to capture the moment and soak it all in. So I yelled excitedly from the front seat  in one of those screechy granny voices, demanding, “Turn the movie off and look out the windows kids! It’s Saaaaan Fraaaaancissscoooooo!!!”  I had to repeat myself like a parrot on crack. What is it with kids these days (I am using that voice again) who somehow can’t let go of the TV? It’s like they are getting their arm amputated when they have to turn a movie off. So the parrot repeated itself and the surgery took place. And behold! There was the golden gate bridge!

Awwwwww…..cool.

the golden gate

Rob, like many of you might remember your own father’s doing so, veered off the freeway before heading over the bridge because he saw a sign that said: lookout point. It is like there is this unwritten rule that all dad’s have to stop at all historical markers and lookout points and all moms and children have to sigh and moan when the father insists. Our car winded up this road that overlooked the city while I whined incessantly about getting to our hotel. But as soon as I looked to my left, I was captivated by this city that invites people far and wide to breathe its air.

We headed to pick up my hotel sweepstakes! When we drove up to what was supposed to be a 4 star hotel, it was clear that we had been duped! It was a dump. The picture of the pool online looked like a tropical paradise surrounded by hammocks where one could order pina coladas and get a suntan. Oh no! This pool, maybe the size of 3 bathtubs, was literally in the parking lot surrounded by cars. It was covered by a roof, complete shade and had auto exhaust floating over it like a cloud.  This is the kind of pool you’d drink Quad Loco at and pray a pigeon doesn’t have a bowel movement mid air on your head. The neighborhood was sketchy and the location was far from anything a tourist would want to visit. The place was not what they made it look like online. They had bragged that they had been written up in travel magazines and all I could think was “We’ve been lied to!

It’s not so much that we are above a place like this. It’s not like I have Coach luggage and I refuse to drink anything but Perrier water and I cannot bear (said in an English accent) a room without air conditioning.  In fact, we stayed at a total dive the night before. It was the principal… I want to be told the truth.

san fran sky view

We called the company we bid through. I calmly told them we were sitting in a hot car with two tired and hungry children and we were in this city and had 24 hours to check it out and were very disappointed that we were paying what we were paying for what we were getting. I told them this was a 4 star hotel that looked like maybe a 2 (on a good day) and we were paying for a 3. I asked how they determined how many stars a hotel is? They said, “The hotel determines that!” I said “You are kidding me? You have never seen the hotel nor verified their information, yet you are selling their vacancies? So… they could have bed bugs, rent by the hour and deal crack and tell me, the bidder, they are 4 star?”

“Yes mam, that is correct mam.”

Not only was that the case, but this company we bid through told me they could not cancel our stay with this hotel even though the hotel had recently  changed their stars in the last 2 weeks online from a 4 to a 2. It’s amazing how a hotel can decline in a matter of weeks! We had paid the insurance to have the ability to cancel at any point and this company and hotel refused to honor that. We were ticked!

Now, it’s at this point, as a side note, in case you are judging me for being a diva, that I must mention that we aren’t those people that get angry at waitresses and leave lame tips. We don’t fill out customer evaluations and mark 1 out of 5 on every box. And we don’t use our assertive voice and another word that starts with those first three letters and demand to speak to managers. We just don’t. We, honestly, aren’t thoooose people. But sometimes, just sometimes, out of principal you have to stand for what is right. And it’s just plain wrong to false advertise. It is plain wrong to make a family who has been sitting in a hot car sweating and excited, stay in your dive because you lied to get them there. And its just plain wrong not to honor your cancellation policy.

Rob and I looked at each other and we were like “We have been Shanghaied in San Francisco!” Some people say they left their heart in San Francisco but at this point I wanted to leave my hotel there.

Wikipedia (and we all know that everything Wiki says is true;)  refers to Shanghaiing as  “the practice of kidnapping people to serve as sailors by coercive techniques such as trickery,intimidation or violence. Those engaged in this form of kidnapping were known as crimps. Until 1915, unfree labor was widely used aboard American merchant ships.”

Apparently, crimps used to trick people to get on board ships by getting them wasted or what have you, so they would wake up the next day trapped on the ocean blue as newfound slaves. The Captains of these boats would pay crimps to capture people. This used to happen in San Francisco and apparently still does! But we, Weston’s, refuse to be tricked! I think there is part of you, when people lie and trick you, where you feel like you just need to let it go. You don’t want the drama. You just want a pillow to lie your head upon. It’s only a hotel, you think. And that is how we felt….

But then there is another part of you where you feel like you don’t want these scoundrels to keep this up. You don’t want them to think they can keep lying and falsely drawing people onto their ship. I am not sure that we are always called to make a thing out of every false advertisement or lie, but here is what I do know.

Ecclesiastes 7:29 says:

This only have I found:
    God created mankind upright,
    but they have gone in search of many schemes. 

Why should I be surprised to be shanghaied in San Francisco? I shouldn’t. Often the way of man finds him searching far and wide for one scheme or another. How can he make more money? How can he self advantage? How can he position? How can he win? How can he gain even more power? How can he get his way?

So first, do not be surprised when man tricks you. 

Secondly, when you collide with trickery respond with truth.

when you collide with trickery, respond with truth.

So what do we do when we find ourselves colliding with a schemer? Do we get on their ship of trickery? Do we let them get away with their piracy? Or do we get ugly and fight scheme back with scheme and swords?

Ephesians 4:14-15 says: …we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ…

peace

There is this sense that we should get to a place in life where we will no longer be tossed around by this or that, nor will we be fooled by people who craft deceitful schemes. But instead we are called to speak the truth in love. And who knows maybe speaking the truth in love to our friend living a double life, to our coworker who is stealing from the company and to the shady hotel industry that is lying… maybe in love, saying “Hey, this isn’t cool.” …Maybe all it will take is that one “hey” to wake up these modern day pirates so they will wave their white flag, surrendering their schemes and then turn to the only One who can change their ways.

But even if they don’t…even if they still lie and trick and scheme, we can be sure to let them know with great love that we will not be held captive by their lack of integrity, principals and trickery. There is great empowerment in knowing they can be crimps, but we will not be slaves!

Rob sat in our car after driving hundreds of miles talking to Visa, the bidding company and the hotel front desk man. He spoke truth and he did it in love. He simply explained there is a way to do business and way not to. And with patience and grace, he explained how wrong this whole deal was and let them know we wouldn’t be held captive by their shady practices. And it was that truth in love that freed us up to get a new place to stay so we could get to the heart of this city!

And yes, it’s only a hotel, but here is why this is an important lesson:  If we cannot speak the truth in love in the small schemes, how will we do it in the big ones?

It is not so much whether or not you will get shanghaied… because you will. But you are no longer a captive. You have been set free. Do not let someone hold you captive and when they try, set them free with truth and love.

the san fran cathedral

And the vacation continues…..