Ferguson Free At Last!

Tuesday, the Missouri attorney general’s office officially declined to retry Ryan Ferguson for the murder of Kent Heitholt.

In keeping with the court order, he was released from prison Tuesday. What a Thanksgiving celebration his family will be having this year! Now he just has to figure out how to rebuild his stolen life. What will he do? Where will he work and live? What kind of social life will he have? He’s 29. I think one of the reasons this story has resonated with me so much is how close in age he is to me. Had he not been wrongfully imprisoned, we might have gone to college together. I almost feel like I know the guy. I’ve imagined his personality in my mind. And I can’t fathom how it feels to be him. I’m so thankful that he’s finally free and will be praying that he can put his life back together.


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Ryan Ferguson’s Conviction Vacated

Today the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District vacated Ryan Ferguson’s 2005 murder conviction. The court granted his habeas corpus petition, finding that the state had committed a Brady violation by withholding material evidence from Ferguson’s lawyers in his original trial.

The evidence withheld was an interview the prosecution had with Barbara Trump, the wife of Tribune janitor Jerry Trump who testified as an eyewitness against Ferguson in 2005. Trump saw two men at the scene of Tribune Sports Editor Kent Heitholt’s murder. His initial testimony was that he recognized Ferguson as one of those men when he saw his photo in a newspaper his wife sent him while he was in jail for an unrelated reason. His wife told prosecutors that she did not remember sending him a newspaper. Trump later recanted his testimony, as did Chuck Erickson, they key witness. Erickson was a high school friend of Ferguson’s who came forward two years after the murder and told police he had dreamed that he was involved. He plead guilty and testified that he and Ferguson attacked Heitholt together on Halloween night 2001. He later recanted, saying he committed the murder alone but that he didn’t remember any of it.

Ferguson has maintained his innocence all along. He has been in prison for eight years despite the fact that his case was riddled with errors, inconsistencies and a total lack of physical evidence. Years of appeals attempts and various lawyers have gotten him nowhere, until now. The state has 15 days to either declare its intent to retry Ferguson or release him.

I first covered this story when working as a public safety reporter for the Columbia Missourian in 2008. Since then, I’ve followed the developments and have written occasional blog posts about Ferguson’s plight. I’ve been convinced of his innocence and extremely frustrated with the legal system. Today’s decision is a sudden glimmer of sanity and hope for justice after so many disappointments. I can only imagine how Ferguson and his family feel. He has lost almost all of his 20s in prison. Even if he is released, his life will never be the same. The state cannot give back what it has taken from him. But at least it can finally stop the madness. I hope with all my heart they don’t decide to retry him. It’s enough already.

I want to write more, but I have a grouchy 5-month-old who’s due for a nap. Besides, the real working journalists are doing a fine job of covering it. Check out this coverage from the Missourian and then give Ryan Ferguson a Google search if you’d like to read more perspectives on the developing story.

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A time for change

Today my son and I enter our third trimester of pregnancy. I have always made much of milestones. Since I got pregnant, those milestones come in weekly increments. Every Tuesday means another week of progress. I read about my baby’s development online and celebrate his ever-increasing odds of survival and anticipate the unfathomable day of his birth. Every day I feel him kick and squirm and move inside me. I talk to him and touch my belly and feel our relationship being established, although it’s still difficult for me to picture what life will be like when I have an infant.

My days are filled with research and decisions from what car seat to register for to what kind of diapers we’ll use to whether or not we’ll have him circumcised. There are trivial preparations, like joining Pinterest and collecting ideas for nursery decorations. There are potentially life-changing preparations like writing a will and choosing legal guardians should we die. And amid it all, amazingly, regular life keeps happening also. I still have meetings for various boards and committees, church commitments, time with friends, groceries to buy, bills to pay, family to keep in touch with. I still find myself wondering regularly if I’m doing too much or if I’m not doing enough with the opportunities in life.

My heart and mind are full to bursting. Yet this blog sits neglected. Part of it is busyness. Blogging just isn’t the priority that it once was in my life. But it’s more than that. Several posts languish as drafts that I may never publish. I love writing. But my worries about privacy nag at me more and more. I started this blog in 2008 for a class. I used my real name because I didn’t know what else to do and I expected that my readership would never expand much past my professor and a few classmates. I never dreamed that five years down the road I would be pondering how the collection of what I’ve written and disclosed could affect my children.

I’m proud of almost everything I’ve written. I love to look back and reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. This blog contains a lot of pieces of me. That makes it special to me, and I’ve been resisting letting it go.

But I’ve determined that this particular site is no longer appropriate for the type of writing I most enjoy. I do love occasional political writing. There are issues that get me passionate and I want my voice to be heard by as wide an audience as possible. But my strongest inclination is toward personal writing. I love to explore the human experience: thoughts, emotions, relationships. Those topics are easiest to approach through the lens of my own experiences since I have an all-access pass to my head and heart.

When I look over my stats and comments, it’s clear that my readership has evolved quite a bit. I now draw occasional heavy bouts of traffic, sometimes exceeding 1,000 views a day on popular stories I’ve covered. Comments come mostly from strangers who found the blog through search engines. They’re not looking for my personal writing, but it’s here for all to see. It doesn’t seem ideal for anyone that I keep treating this blog like I did in the past.

I can’t bear to take down the years of written history I’ve amassed here. At least not yet. I will keep this blog, and as I have time I’ll write posts that seem relevant to a general audience. But as of today I am creating a new blog where I can feel comfortable writing on a personal level again. E.B. White said that natural candor is the key ingredient to successful personal writing. I concur. I’ve debated what level of privacy is appropriate. My plan is to create a blog that is still publicly accessible but will lack identifying information such as my name. I won’t make any efforts to promote the posts like I have done with many of the posts on here. I will avoid tags that have done such a wonderful job of drawing people from search engines. I will only disclose the link to family and friends, understanding that occasional strangers may stumble upon its contents by chance.

That being said, life is not experienced in a vacuum. I don’t want to write solely for myself and I don’t want to lack feedback. And let’s be honest, I do like attention. If you know me personally and would like the link to my new blog, please message, email, text or somehow get a hold of me. One thing that Google+ has reminded me (although I never ever use it), is that narrow circles are wonderful in the right context. Dear friends and acquaintances, may we never lose touch.

To my Wandering Mind followers who I don’t know outside of cyberspace, I hope this is not goodbye. I enjoy our interactions and love seeing comments from a world bigger than I ever thought I’d reach. I promise to try to post on general topics that grab my attention, though as you have already seen those posts might be months apart. I feel this is the close of a certain chapter in my life, though I doubt anyone will feel as nostalgic about it as I do. This is my 270th post. It is a great conceit to believe anything I have to say is of interest to anyone else. To anyone who has ever taken notice of my writing and rambling, I thank you.

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A post-election pep talk for my unhappy Christian friends

Good morning, America. I see we all survived election night. No one combusted from elation or despair and no one died of bordem. The world goes on, no matter how overly dramatic anyone feels about last night’s outcome.

Because I have a high volume of Christian conservative friends, my Facebook is flooded with a barrage of spiteful, angry, scared and dismal comments. So here’s a pep talk and lecture for my fellow Christians who are disparaging the president of the United States.

It’s good to be involved in politics, to be informed, active and passionate about the goings-on of our country. But as Christians, we must never allow our political activity to overshadow or hinder our missionary activity. We are ambassadors of Christ. Our sole reason for existence is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls and minds and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Everything we think, do and say is viewed as a reflection of the God whose name we bear. Jesus commissioned us to make disciples of all nations. Our message and our reality are the Law and Gospel. All else are just details that we can use either for Christ’s glory or for sinful purposes.

How are you using politics today, my friends? Are you using them to bring glory and honor to God? Are you using them to open hearts and minds to the promise of salvation through Jesus? Or are  you consumed with a worldly view, selfishly airing your grievances, believing that ultimately being right and getting your way are the most important things in this life? Do you feel despair, outrage, hopelessness? If so, then you have put your trust in government and in the ways of man rather than the ways of God. Our lives and welfare do not ultimately depend on a human election. President Obama cannot save us (he also cannot destroy us). Mitt Romney would not have been able to save us either. And for those of you familiar with my political leanings, even Dr. Ron Paul would not have been able to save us. They are just men. They are tiny details in God’s vast plan for humanity. And they are tools that God uses. Yes, God uses our president, no matter who he (or someday she) is.

Understand me: you can hate every single thing President Obama does. But you cannot hate him. Check your heart. Barack Obama is a fellow human being, our brother, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). We are told in no uncertain terms:

“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:15

You may feel that Obama is not your brother, he is the enemy. He tramples religious liberties, defends the killing of unborn children and promotes immorality in our nation. If this is your view, consider Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5:43-46:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of  your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”

You may say that Obama doesn’t deserve to be president and doesn’t deserve our respect. But like it or not, he won the election. In this country, that’s what makes you deserve to be president. Also, dear Christians, what if God gave us each what we deserved? We were weak, ungodly, enemies of God deserving his wrath when Christ died for us (Romans 5). Instead of the judgment and death we deserved, we were given grace, love and salvation. Keep this in the forefront of your mind when you go to judge what someone else deserves.

Besides that, God commands us to respect and obey those in authority. President Obama is in authority over us, and the Bible says that his power comes from God:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” Romans 13:1-7.

Does that mean the Obama administration was instituted by God? Yes it does. No matter how evil you may feel the administration is. The quote above was written to early Christians living under the rule of the Roman empire. Cesar gave himself the title Lord, enraging the Jews. The Roman empire outlawed Christianity and martyred believers with zeal and brutality. Paul knew with what fear and consternation his readers would receive the message that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Even when a government acts in direct opposition to God’s will, God is able to use that government as his tool. He’s resourceful like that. Let’s trust Him.

Trust is what it all comes down to. The president is not ultimately in control of our destiny. This means our lives are not over if the person you support lost the election. Psalm 146:1-4 says,

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Put not your trust in princes (or presidents, or congressmen, or judges, or legislation), in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.”

Are you praising the Lord today with your thoughts and your words and your Facebook statuses? It is good to strive to improve our nation. It is important that we stand up for our beliefs and pressure our officials to make moral decisions. It is useful to our progress as a nation that we never settle for less than ideal circumstances. But we need to do those things in a state of praise and gratitude. Our economy might still be sluggish and our unemployment rate too high. But we are still so blessed. Realize that we have brothers and sisters around the world who are in constant fear for their lives from war, famine, unclean water, disease, rampant crime, and bloody persecution. Remember that when you complain about how “bad” things are, you are not only grumbling against the government, you are grumbling against the God who has given you everything you have.

Be discontent insofar as it motivates you to personally work for change in our country and in our world. But temper your discontentment with profound gratitude for the incredible blessings we enjoy. Even if every tangible comfort were stripped away, we would still have reason to praise the Lord. Everything we have is meant to be used as a tool to bring others to salvation. Our eternal salvation is far, far greater than anything temporal. Rejoice, for you are loved by your Savior. And for Christ’s sake, love your neighbors, democrats, republicans, libertarians, independents, socialists, fascists, anarchists and indifferents.

“So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

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Oh baby!

I’ve been delaying writing this post. No words can accurately communicate my new reality.

On September 11th, I turned 25. That morning, I stood in the bathroom expectantly watching little pink lines appear in the window of a home pregnancy test. The test line was clear – it had successfully registered. The second line, the important one, the one that means there’s a baby living inside of me, was pale and blurry. But it was there. I took a second test. Two lines again. Oh, baby. I’m pregnant.

I want to say that the moment I found out was the most exciting of my life. Truthfully, my emotions were like that second line on the test – blurry. I wanted to be pregnant. I have wanted this for a long time. I was relatively certain that the test would be positive, despite the numerous negative tests of the past when my body insisted on being unpredictable. But nothing prepares one for such news. No amount of hoping, waiting, expecting, could make me feel ready for this. My excitement and thankfulness were mixed with apprehension, caution, and a general inability to comprehend this new reality.

Blood tests, doctor’s appointments and an ultrasound later, I’m ready to share my new reality with the world. Today, my baby begins his or her ninth week. A week and a half ago, I saw a rapidly beating little heart on a screen. Hello, little one. Welcome to life. I hope I will be able to protect you.

It’s still so hard to comprehend. I watch videos and read all the information on baby websites. I deal with morning sickness and exhaustion every day. I make lists of names and research nursery decorations and try to eat all the right things. I can take a vitamin and a progesterone supplement and and give up caffeine, but I can’t make sure everything is OK. I feel frail and helpless, like my baby. We wait submissively to see what our future will hold.

You see, this is my second baby. I was not able to protect my first baby. I had her only five weeks. I talked to her and wrote her letters and prayed that she would live, but it wasn’t meant to be. In our bedroom, I have strips of ultrasound printouts. One of my first baby, at five weeks, a dark, indiscernible circle. One of this second baby at around the same age, looking much the same. And the newest printout, my baby at seven and half weeks. A little peanut in the circle. Or as some have said, a gerbil running in a wheel (it really does look like that).

I just knew that when I saw that heartbeat, everything would be fine. And for 20 minutes, everything was fine. Then I met with the doctor, and he told me my progesterone level had dropped a little low. It could be no problem, there’s no way of knowing. A supplement is recommended and might help. And I remembered that life comes with no guarantees. We’re doing everything we can. There will be plenty of things to be uncertain about throughout the process, and for the rest of our lives.

I like to think of myself as an optimistic realist. I brace for the worst, but choose to be thankful and content in all circumstances. Some circumstances make this much easier than others. But for now, all I can do is rejoice. I’m a mom. Our precious little one is getting all the help we can give. I’m thankful for our baby. And for the first one, who I will hold on the last day when God raises us all.

And so, dear blog followers, rejoice with me! And if you know God, please pray to him for my baby. I don’t understand exactly how prayer works, but Scripture promises that the prayer of faith has great power. All we can do is trust our Father who loves us.

Oh baby! Here’s a video animation of what our little one has been up to so far. What a miracle human life is!

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Secret Name

Last night I slept for 12 hours. Well, I was in bed for 12 hours. Except for the time it took me to get up and pack Michael’s lunch and set out his breakfast cereal. Then I got back in bed, although I wasn’t particularly tired. I wanted the warmth of the covers and the permission to let my brain go undirected.

We got in bed at 8:22 p.m. “We must be at least 70 years old,” I told Michael. “After this week, I feel like it,” he said and fell asleep. I lay in the darkness, thinking there was no way I could fall asleep so early. I wished I could read but the light would bother him unless I got up and left the room. I decided not to. I stared at the ceiling and cataloged my thoughts. These days I hardly take the time to realize what I’m thinking. It explains why I blog less. Let’s be honest, despite my grand intentions, this blog is always all about me.

Sometimes I want to create a second blog. A more secret blog. One without my name and all the identifying details I’ve let slip over the years. One not posted on my Facebook page. Then I could write with raw honesty. My best writing often doesn’t make it past the Publish button. I pour it out and then realize, I can’t tell them that. I’m not full of dark secrets. But it’s unwise to share everything with everyone.

In fifth grade I read a book called Island of the Blue Dolphins. An Indian girl gets left behind by her tribe when they leave their island. She’s trying to save her brother, who dies anyway and she’s left all alone. In her tribe they have a custom – each person gets two names. One is a public name they can use freely and tell to strangers. The other is a private name only shared with those closest to them. It’s bad luck to tell your private name to someone you can’t trust.

We used to have public selves and private selves. Parts of us were only revealed to those we trusted. That’s changing. We created MySpace, then Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Pinterest, and everything else. A lost and lonely generation decided to share our private selves with the world in search of understanding. We felt liberated, empowered and connected. But the question inevitably follows, how much sharing is too much? And are we really connected at all, or are we more isolated than ever before?

Writers began sharing their private selves long before the Internet. Authors and musicians have been exposing their souls through their art since the beginning. Their words touch us and move us and connect with deep parts of ourselves. But does the sharing help the sharer? So many of these leave life early and only their words remain.

I walk a careful line. I want my words to resonate with people. I want them to peer inside of me and exclaim, “I feel that way too!” Yet I don’t want to share too much. I want my private self, my secret name. I want to have something special to give to the ones I love – a piece of me that no one else knows. Perhaps I cross the line sometimes and tell too much and make myself vulnerable to strangers I can’t trust. Perhaps I hold too much back sometimes and become irrelevant or even dishonest. Most likely my words will be a cliche of this generation. One voice of a billion, floating around in cyberspace, asking who am I and hoping someone replies.

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Who are you, Mizzou?

My dear alma mater is having an identity crisis.

Saturday was our first conference game in the SEC. Our second-half flop to the Georgia Bulldogs was disappointing, but something else was bugging me. Mizzou seems to be utterly preoccupied with fitting in. Numerous newspaper articles talked about the difference in game day attire, what the Georgia fans were doing, where the Georgia fans were eating and tailgating, what the Georgia fans thought of the Tigers, how the Georgia fans liked Columbia. I’ve never seen Columbia fall so head over heels trying to welcome and impress a rival team. We were so eager to please, it felt like we were inferior and hoping to get a little approval.

Don’t get me wrong. Hospitality is great. I’m not against courtesy and manners on game day. Obscene and unsportsmanlike fan behavior has always embarrassed me. But there’s a difference between being polite and being insecure. The message I took away was that Missouri believes itself somehow unworthy of the SEC. And that ticks me off.

Some quotes from a Missourian article demonstrate what I’m talking about:

“I think it goes along with what Gary Pinkel was talking about — having to step up to the fact that we’re in a different conference,” (Binghams co-owner Dave) Danuser said. “Students are realizing that if they want to fit in with the SEC, they need to step up their game and dress up a little more.”

The article goes on to say, “As some MU students seize the opportunity to buy into SEC fashion, the question remains as to whether adopting the tradition will help Missouri fit in better with the new conference.”

“I do think we’re going to have problems,” (Envy store manager Lauren) Ward said. “I think some people aren’t going to want to convert over to the really fancy stuff. But I think dressing up will help us fit in. If not, when teams are visiting here and they’re dressed up, we’re going to feel like a visitor at our own home.”

Wait a minute, Mizzou. Since when did our goal become fitting in? Is that what we’re about? Conforming so that we won’t feel like outsiders? The college years are a coming of age for so many students. It’s a time to discover who you really are, not who people expect you to be. Or at least I thought so. I don’t have a problem with the tradition of dressing up for games. Football is a culture, and it can be fun and enriching to learn about other cultures and adopt new traditions. But if we do, it should be because we want to. Not to impress the SEC. Not to conform. Not because we’re afraid we’ll feel like “visitors at our own home.” That’s ridiculous.

A while back I received a letter from the athletic department asking for a donation. I realize they will ask alumni for money no matter what. But the letter went something like this: All the SEC schools spend huge sums of money on their sports programs. Their stadiums are really nice and their stuff is all fancy. If we have any hope of keeping up, we’re gonna need you to dig deep into that pocketbook. Let’s show them what Mizzou is made of (ie- please don’t make us look poor.) You know what? You got yourselves into this conference. I hope you can afford to compete. Maybe I should give you some money. But I’m not going to feel sorry for you while you’re worried about showing off for the SEC.

There was even an article titled Georgia fans impressed with Columbia but see room for improvement. Since when do Georgia fans get to decide where we need improvement? But we shouldn’t be surprised considering how we bowed before them and offered our humble town to them for the weekend. Most of their concerns centered around the perception that we are “too nice.” I’m not saying we should get ugly. But we should be who we are. A big part of the fun of sports is smack-talking and rivalry. Let’s prove we’re rivals and not a team to ignore or worse, to pity.

Who are you, Mizzou? You’re confident and proud. You’re cocky even in the face of the toughest opponents. If you lose, you brush yourself off and show even more bravado for the next game. You love your traditions. You know who you are. You’ve had your little identity crisis. Now get over it and stand tall.

Love, a True Tiger Alumnus.

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Political whining

Politics can be fun. Presidential elections are exciting…during the primaries. Primary season represents hope and the flow of ideas and new possibilities. It’s a time when my idealism wakes up and I believe that people’s decisions really matter. I start reading and listening voraciously. I love to jump into debates with people about philosophy and policy. I can’t get enough of it.

But once the words “presumptive nominee” emerge, everything changes. More honestly, nothing changes. For readers who don’t know, I’m a Ron Paul supporter. Ours is a life of great hope and great disappointment. We briefly dare to dream that government could be different. We believe we can escape the tired debate of how government should control everything, and enter a new realm in which government does not control everything. We enthusiastically try to explain our libertarian ideals to anyone who will listen and to many who won’t. And then nothing changes.

It’s tricky to evaluate these times that we live in. Everyone is always using scare tactics. This is the worst it’s ever been, they say. We must vote for so-and-so, or else such-and-such will happen, and it will pretty much be the end of the world. It doesn’t really matter if you can’t stand the guy, he’s our only hope. Maybe they are right. But I strongly suspect that the end of the world has been looming for longer than any of us has been alive. There’s always some disaster on the horizon that forces us to pick one of two choices and cling passionately to that choice for dear life. We are trained to be too terrified to think outside the box.

The liberals say we must vote for Obama or else the Republicans will kill all the poor people. The conservatives say we must vote for Romney otherwise the Democrats will kill all the babies and religion. Well crap. I don’t want the poor people or babies or religion to be killed. I just want to scream and tell both sides, “you’re doing it wrong! Your motives are twisted and your ideas don’t make sense and your business model for the country is unsustainable!”

The newspaper I used to read so eagerly lies in a corner, still in its bag. “Obama and Romney call each other mean names. Feelings are hurt. Outrage ensues.” “Experts debate which names were the meanest, and which were the most true.” I can’t read this crap. My Facebook is flooded with people arguing in smug and angry tones and I have no desire to get involved. Each side has heard the other’s arguments before. Neither is really listening.

I sometimes think one of two things must be true. Either a) The whole system is rigged. We have no real choice. Only when we wake up and revolt will change be possible (time to take up arms?) or b) The vast majority of our citizens are complete morons. Therefore, democracy is a really bad idea. Maybe I’m being generous. Probably a) and b) are both true. But if we find a moral leader, he will be unintelligent, and if we find an intelligent leader, he will be evil. There truly is no hope, except to hope maybe the Mayans were right about 2012.

Perhaps it all goes back to the Old Testament. The people of Israel whined, “We want a king!” And God said, “Trust me, you guys do not want a king. He will screw up everything.” And they insisted, “No! We want a kiiiiiiing!” like a bunch of brats throwing a tantrum. And since then humanity has been plagued with bad rulers and all we know to do about it is keep throwing tantrums.

I’ve probably wrongly thought of Ron Paul as a savior. He wouldn’t fix this broken world either, although I still think libertarianism is a better idea than what we’re doing right now. I guess if I want to be spared continual disappointment, I will have to accept that this world is totally flawed, and only God can save us. But all I really meant to say in this post is that I’m sick and tired of politics right now.

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Devotional thoughts as I prepare for a possible job

“Your will above all else still my purpose remains. The art of losing myself in giving you praise. My heart and my soul – I give you control. Let justice and praise become my embrace, to love you from the inside out. Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades. Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame. And the cry of my heart is to bring you praise. From the inside out, Lord my soul cries out.” From the Inside Out by Hillsong United

I sit in Spill the Beans, praying and drinking tea and waiting for my meeting with the teacher about becoming her aide. I ask God for guidance. And I pray for my friends. It’s never healthy to focus too much on myself. There are so many struggles around me. I wish that I could heal all of my friends’ hurts and set their feet on the right path. I can’t. But God can. I lift them up, one or two at a time, person after person. Pages of my prayer journal fill. God, I could go on forever. But you already know. I remember to praise, but my praise is so weak compared to what He deserves. I offer my thanks and wish I had more to offer. Song after song speaks to my heart. Father is here with me. What can I worry about? All worries are silliness under God’s watchful eye.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” James 1:3-9

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Questions I hate and learning to follow

September is just four days away. Soon, I will leave my early twenties behind and begin the trek toward 30. Is 30 old? My friends in their 30s aren’t old. But me? Why is it human nature to think ahead so much? I’m turning 25. My car insurance will get cheaper, renting cars will be easier, and Trinity will allow me to be a driving chaperone on youth events. These are good things. 25 is not 30. I just know how fast five years will go. There will be unspoken deadlines.

I’m in the phase where some people are still questioning whether I’m an adult and others are asking what I’m doing with my life like I should have it all mapped out. Some people still look at me and say, “you’re married? How old are you?” I usually get ID’d when I order a drink. When I chaperone high schoolers, I’m sometimes mistaken for one of them. But when I’m at the elementary school,  I’m often asked if I’m one of the parents.

In my last post, I mentioned my defensiveness when someone asks what I do. If I hate anything more than that question, it is this one: Do you have kids? I always tell them not yet. Some leave it at that. Or there’s the dreaded follow-up. Are you trying? I never know how to answer that question. Like the career question, it is almost always well-intentioned. But I think it stems from a twisted viewpoint in our society. We believe everything is always in our control. We are expected to plan the events of our lives in great detail. Logically, we will do whatever it takes to make those plans work. That’s the responsible thing.  Are you trying? Are you asking me if I have sex with my husband? Do you want me to explain my views on birth control and family planning? Do you want to know if I’m experiencing difficulty, if things aren’t working out the way I imagined them in my head?

Most people don’t want the long answer. They want a yes or no. I can’t give it to them. It’s not that simple. Do I enjoy this time of freedom and spontaneity? Yes. Do I worry that our life isn’t orderly enough to add a child yet? Yes. Do I want children? Yes. Do I see 30 as a looming deadline in the not-too-distant future? As a time when people will no longer ask if I’m trying? When they will wonder how I’m trying and suggest methods by which I might try harder? I do. I know plenty of women over 30 still having children. But there is a point when biology whispers, “It might be harder. It might be more dangerous.”

I can tell you that I don’t believe in planning. I can say I accept that God is in control and I am an obedient, patient follower. The world doesn’t understand that. The truth is, I struggle to understand it myself. I do have ideas in my head and dreams in my heart about how life should work. I don’t understand how to take risks and make decisions without an idea of what happens next. Sometimes I trust and sometimes I fear. I want what I want, but am I even sure what that is?

Most days I don’t even have time to think about it. I’m joining committees and boards. Going to meetings. Planning events. Scuba diving. Backpacking. Substitute teaching. Staying connected with friends. Getting a new dishwasher. Buying groceries and cooking dinner. Getting some sleep. Gardening. Volunteering. Going to church. Going to Bible study. Then someone asks a question, and everything stops. What do you do? Are you trying to have kids? Do you want this job? All of the busyness freezes. Time stands still as I step back to consider the question. My mind starts to swim with the big questions: Is this what I want to do with my life? Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Am I over analyzing? Should I be more reflective? Is this the direction God is leading me? Have I even asked God lately? How do I understand when He answers me? Is this the still, small voice or just another tempting distraction?  What happens next? I don’t know.

The latest thing on the docket is another job offer. I worked at the right to life office for a few weeks before deciding it wasn’t for me. Michael and I were immediately impacted by the change in schedule. The long commute wasn’t worth the hours and pay. Our time as a couple and my role as a homemaker suffered. Although I’m passionately pro-life, this wasn’t the way I was meant to contribute. They found a new secretary and I’m happy to still volunteer with them. Now Trinity needs a teacher’s aide, and my name came up. Again, it has the markings of being made for me. I want to teach. It’s part-time and possibly flexible. I already sub there. I love Trinity and Trinity loves me. The teacher I would be working with would probably be a great mentor for me…

On the one hand, I want to work and make some money while I can, before we have kids. On the other hand, I want to enjoy this unique freedom and flexibility while I can, before we have kids. Which is more important to us? The whole thought process betrays my stubborn assumption. Kids. I claim to have no plans, to be waiting on God’s plan. But I am still basing my every decision on what I think should happen next. I’m clinging to this thing. This thing I have not been promised.

Life has no guarantees, but how can we live without assuming things? There’s a quote that goes something like, “plan as if you’ll live forever but live as if there’s no tomorrow.” That’s cute and motivational and all, but how is it possible? Once again I’m frozen in limbo. Afraid to do anything and afraid to do nothing. Oh life, where are your instructions? Oh God, what is your will? Show me what to do.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:33-34

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