It was dark out, and we were in a nice area in town. Still, my Dad insisted on walking me and my kids to our van. After buckling everyone in I walked around to the driver’s side where he was waiting to give him one more squeeze. Like he has done since I was young, he kissed me on the head, told me “lock your doors and drive safe.” I hopped in the car and closed the door, and stifled a giggle after he tapped on my window when I didn’t lock the doors immediately. I pushed the button, he was satisfied. I pulled out, and in my rear view saw that he watched me until I was on the main road before he ever even turned to walk to his own car.

As humans we have an intense desire to protect ourselves and those we hold most precious to our hearts. I know for a fact that my Dad would do anything to protect me and my family. If it meant defending us by using his gun, or if it meant throwing himself in front of a bullet. He would do it, no hesitation. He makes a point of walking me to my car so he can protect me if necessary, and reminds me to buckle and lock my doors to stay safe while I’m driving without him. I would venture to say your parents do the same for you, or that you would do the same for your children. You do it because you love them and value their lives.

I’m going to be honest with you. I’m not actually writing about my Dad being willing to take a bullet for me. I’m addressing my thoughts on whether or not the US should allow Syrian Refugees to enter here. How does my Dad walking me to my car have anything to do with that? Sit tight.

I have been struggling for several days. I’ve read articles and blog posts, from top officials to dear Christian friends of mine. I’ve watched videos and read Bible verses. I have wrestled with my thoughts, even getting up in the middle of the night to vent and hash it out with my thumbs on my iPhone notepad just so I could stop thinking about it enough to fall asleep.

Here’s the thing. I don’t know the answer. I don’t know the perfect solution to the refugee crisis. I understand what so many Christians are saying in support of bringing refugees here. I know the verses they are quoting. I know we are called to have compassion and I know we are called to help others in need. And truly, these refugees are in desperate need. I have seen the videos of these people arriving on the shores of Greece. Their children and babies in layers of soaked clothing, their lips blue from the frigid temperatures on their harrowing journey. These people feared for their lives so much that the dangers of piling into a raft and floating miles and miles across the ocean was worth it to them in search of safety and hope. This while knowing a raft per day doesn’t make it to shore. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I watched their first, shaky steps off that tattered raft. Their hopeful faces gripped my heart.

I also see the other view. I understand why our Governor and so many others are refusing to accept refugees. I understand the very real likelihood that terrorists or ISIS sympathizers have infiltrated these people, posing as refugees. We already know that one of the terrorists from the Paris attacks was among the refugees. Certainly there are more. ISIS has already said they are sending terrorists to pose as refugees. Top officials say that there is no way to fully vet or check backgrounds of all these people. Syria has been a closed country for so many years, documentation is negligent at best.

Here’s my problem. I have read too many posts calling out the Christians who “reject” refugees. Post after post calling into question their compassion, and challenging them to be like Christ. Verses being used to guilt Christians into feeling their faith isn’t strong enough or their compassion is lacking. Is it really so awful that a Christian wants to be safe? Is it a sin for a believer to want to protect their children? Is their faith not as strong as yours because they don’t want a host of terrorists to unleash a spray of bullets or detonate a suicide belt while they are at a concert or enjoying a date night at a restaurant? Does it mean they have zero compassion if they have fears?

I don’t believe for a moment that these people- your Christian friends, your Governors, etc- are rejecting Syrian Refugees. They are rejecting terrorists. Unfortunately for these desperate refugees, that means they get rejected, too, because there is no way to know who is who. It’s basically playing Russian Roulette. There is just no way to know who is who. These people who are against bringing refugees here are not lacking in compassion. They simply desire to stay safe, and keep their families safe. They don’t want to be on the next Breaking News report about an ISIS attack.

People are making this an “either/or” issue. Either you have compassion and faith or you have fear. If that’s the case and we are going to go all extreme- how would that look in reality? Here’s how it would look for me, personally. If I had only compassion and faith that “what can man do to me” mentality, I would invite random strangers into my home with my four children. Bring on the hitchhiker. I would walk downtown at 3am and approach strangers. I would let my kids answer the door while I’m in the shower. I wouldn’t give them boundaries while playing outside, nor would I check on them. For our country? No laws. No borders. No airport screenings. No need for police. Or firefighters. Or military. On the flip side- I could be ruled only by fear. In that case, I wouldn’t let my kids go to school. Newtown, Connecticut, anyone?  I certainly wouldn’t let them ride the bus to school- did you see that a bus got in a wreck yesterday morning? I wouldn’t let my kids go a friend’s house because you never know if their dad (or whomever) is a child molester. I would never board a plane again because there could be a bomb. Our country- completely close borders. Allow zero international flights in or out.

We can’t live either of these ways. We also can’t approach the refugee crisis this way. We must have compassion and we must help. But we must do so with an appropriate caution. God gave us the ability to discern. We cannot turn a blind-eye to common sense in the name of compassion.

So what does this mean? How should this look? I’ll be honest and say I don’t know. I have my ideas. I’m not exactly sure coming to America is THE answer. If they do pass a rigorous vetting and screening process and are allowed to come here- then what? Where do they go? Who teaches them English? Who feeds them? Who is to say that these Refugees want to come here, to an entirely new culture, nothing like their home? Obviously they want peace and freedom, something they risked their lives to obtain. But other than that, their entire way of life will be turned upside down coming here. Nothing is familiar. Maybe they want that, maybe they don’t.  Kevin DeYoung writes for The Gospel Coalition. In his article ­­from Tuesday he says “It is not unreasonable or unfeeling to think that in some cases that supplying refugee camps with humanitarian aid or protecting safe havens elsewhere could be a responsible approach that avoids the risk of immediate resettlement in the United States.” He also admits he doesn’t know THE answer. But I’m thankful for his compassion balanced by discernment. I like where his thinking is going. Refugees coming to America is not the only way we can help them. We can send humanitarian aid workers much like Samaritan’s Purse, and boxes of donations to help them in safe camps overseas. Jay Sekulow wrote an article for Fox News and states “The U.S. must continue to be a shining city on the hill and a beacon of freedom for the entire world. But we must not confuse compassion with taking all precautions necessary to protect our homeland.” It is an article well worth your time to read and consider.

Again. I don’t know the answers. But I don’t believe it’s as simple as fear versus compassion. Just because you have one, doesn’t mean you are nil of the other. They can co-exist. They authenticity of your faith and level of your compassion shouldn’t  be gauged by your desire to welcome all the refugees, nor by cautiously suggesting another solution that doesn’t include entrance to America. You aren’t a “better” or more faithful Christian if you are pro-refugees  in America. And you aren’t less-like Jesus or less compassionate if you would rather be safe than sorry.

Bottom line- I hope you will consider this and be gracious with one another as you seek to understand one another’s points of views.

I have to say, though- at least no one is talking about red cups anymore.

Dear France.

Effiel Tower

I was switching from Homeroom to my Advanced U.S. History class when I saw it. I walked into my class and saw my teacher staring at her television, her hand to her mouth, face filled with horror. We were only two weeks into classes for the year, and all I knew about this teacher was that she was a former attorney, tough as nails and seemed unbreakable. The morning of September 11th, 2001… she broke. One by one, students filed into the classroom and gathered around the TV and we watched the World Trade Centers as they became a fiery inferno. My teacher, with tears in her eyes, turned it off and feebly attempted to teach a classroom full of confused and worried Juniors. Throughout the day we moved through classes somewhat like robots. Some teachers had their TVs on, some didn’t. We got bits and pieces here and there- a plane hit the Pentagon and another went down in a field in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t until I got home that day that I saw how truly devastating the terror attacks on our country were. For hours on end, days and days in a row, we watched the news. Watched the planes hit over and over. I remember screaming when I saw people jumping from the top of the towers to their death. First responders going straight in, terrified people running out. The towers toppling and the cloud of dust and debris billowing like a mushroom cloud from an atomic bomb.

Everyone in France, and particularly those in Paris, will forever remember where they were tonight. Terrorists have struck again, and absolutely devastated their city and country. Family members are frantically calling and trying to get a hold of their loved ones; cell towers are tied up and it’s unbearable pain not knowing. First responders rushing in, the terrified and wounded running out. People who went out to eat, to a show, to a soccer match… just enjoying a typical Friday evening out… and their lives are forever changed. There are children whose parents hired a babysitter to go see a concert. Those children will never see their parents again. Those who survived the attacks will never unsee what they witnessed, they will never unhear those sounds. The gunshots, the bombs detonating, the screams. They will never forget this night.

France… America is praying for you. We have been there. We are grieving with you. Dear France… You are struck down, but not destroyed. You will prevail. You will find unity and strength you didn’t know you had. Your resolve to defend your country will reach new heights, new depths. We are so, so sorry for all you have lost. We pray God brings swift justice to those responsible. God bless you.

Photo credit: http://www.mirror.co.uk

With All My Love Always.

I remember like it was yesterday. I dragged my 3 year old a newly 2 year old through Harris Teeter to get some last minute balloons. For whatever reason, I thought it would be faster to skip the cart and just run in and run back out. I never factored in that I was wearing new skinny heels and would have to juggle a handful of balloons, a preschooler and a toddler in said heels. Somehow we made it back to the car and ultimately to Outback Steakhouse before my mom arrived.

Once we were all there, we were seated. My mom ordered her typical rare steak (which she always joked was “still moo-ing”). I got my steak-loving gene from her, but I like mine a little less… moo. Anyway. After we finished, we pulled out gifts. I gave my mom Shrek 3 (I still don’t know why those were her favorite movies) and a framed photo of my brother, sister, and me. My brother gave her UNC basketball tickets; something they had always wanted to do together. My sister gave her a scarf and a percolator. If you’re like me and were a teen in the late 90’s or early 2000s, you’re probably thinking of that song “It’s Time for the Percolator” and the dance no one could do. Except for my friend, Mitch (hi Mitch!). A percolator is a coffee pot that is similar to a tea pot, but boils the coffee grounds inside. She swore coffee tasted better from that than anything else. It’s what she wanted, so it’s what she got. We had an Oreo cake and sang to her, and gave her one more gift from all of us- a weekend at the beach four weeks from then, with all of us there.

After we finished, Mom went to go pull her car closer since the lot was full earlier. My brother followed with the gifts. I teared up when the door closed behind her. My sister came to the waiting area and was also crying- she had gone to thank the waiter for his service… Told him that our Mom had cancer and this was probably her last birthday we would spend with her, and he made it a great evening. The waiter pulled her into a hug and just let her cry. The realization that this probable last birthday was officially over hit us both hard, and we cried together for a few minutes until Mom came back in. She never saw our tears, just scooped up her grandbabies and talked excitedly about how good her coffee was going to be in the morning and that she couldn’t wait to go to the game and the beach. We asked the hostess to take a photo of us… and that was it.

Three months and four days later, Jesus called her home.

I miss her. I miss so much about her. You know those things that your mom does that annoy the mess out of you? I miss those, too. I miss her deep voice. The one I used to be embarrassed of in the drive-thru when they would ask, “Will that be all, sir?”. I miss how she laughed at mildly inappropriate times (now you know where I got it from). I miss knowing no matter what, she would be there. I miss being able to call her and ask what to do when one of my kids is sick. I miss telling her stories about the kids and listening to her laugh hysterically. I miss her smell. I miss her random gifts that she knew we just “had to have”. I really, really miss her cards she spent months searching for. Her familiar handwriting scrawled across the envelope, the perfect card, and her own sentiments added at the end. Sometimes even a little doodle… a balloon or whatnot.

My sister gave me my early birthday gift this weekend. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. It’s my Mom’s handwritten note made into a bracelet. One of my most favorite and most missed things about my Mom, I can now adorn my wrist with and look at it every day. Something I can look at on my hardest days and remember “With all my love always, Mom”.
IMG_7417Happy 66th Birthday, Mama.

With all my love always,

I Can’t Believe I’m Even Writing This.

red cup

On November 1st, I was on my way home from a relaxing and fun mountain trip in West Virginia with my sisters. I was flying solo- my first trip with all four of my kids long-distance and first time driving in the mountains. I had five hours behind me, an hour still ahead of me. Staying up until 2:30 that morning, coupled with time change (I got an extra hour of exhaustion. that’s it.) and a morning wake up call just over three hours later had finally hit me. It was dark (no thanks to the time change) and pouring, the baby was getting hungry and I needed reinforcements. I started scanning exits for that glorious white and green sign. There it was. Exit 141- Starbucks. I exited the highway and prayed it had a drive-thru. “Thank you, God!” I said out loud when I saw that it did. I placed my order for my Tall Upside Down With Whip Caramel Macchiato (yes, it’s a thing), and suddenly realized what day it was. The day after Halloween. November 1st. Brand new excitement hit me. IT’S RED CUP DAY!!!!!! I may or may not have clapped my hands and squealed when I saw my red cup sitting on the counter when I pulled up to the window. It symbolized the start of Christmas for me- my very favorite time of the year. And I’m quite certain coffee tastes better from those cups.

Fast forward a week and suddenly there is an outrage over the red cup all over the Internet. Something about how because the words “Merry Christmas” or whatever isn’t on it, it’s a war on Christians and infringes on their religious liberties. I’m sorry. WHAT. You got that from a plain red cup? I’m sitting here with butterflies and dreaming of trips to Target, sipping from my red cup while I sloooooowly peruse the aisles for Christmas gifts, and you’re declaring war on Starbucks? Last time I checked, Starbucks was not a Christian restaurant chain. In fact, Starbucks gives money to plenty of organizations that many would consider non-Christian. I don’t go to Starbucks to learn about Jesus. I go to Starbucks for coffee. That’s it! Whether it’s the drive-thru on a long trip home, a morning meeting with a good friend to catch up, or an evening with the other ladies from my accountability group… I’m there for coffee. Meanwhile, there are Christians who are actually being beheaded in other countries for their faith. That is a big deal. Try telling their families about how persecuted you are by a red cup. Or actually, don’t. 

Christians, please don’t tell the Barista that your name is Merry Christmas just to force them to write it on their cup and call it out to find you. Don’t demand your own way. Don’t force your beliefs on Starbucks.  If my memory serves me correctly, most Christians were outraged when a gay couple sued a Christian run bakery because they wouldn’t bake a cake for their marriage because it went against the bakery owners’ beliefs. The same goes for this- do not force Starbucks or its baristas to Christian-esque your red cup. Their job is to make your cup of coffee delicious. And to remake it for free if you don’t like it. That’s it. Here’s a thought: if you don’t like Starbucks, or their horribly offensive red cups (insert eye roll here), THEN DON’T GO TO STARBUCKS. Likewise, if you don’t like a cake bakery, don’t order your cake from them. It’s that simple. This red cup thing is a little bit like “crying wolf”. When there is an actual attack on Christianity, no one is going to take you seriously.

I have gone to Starbucks for years. I don’t go too often because it’s expensive and not really in my budget. But it has been a life saver to this mom of four who runs on little sleep and spreads herself thin daily. I have met friends for accountability group there, prayed with my friends there, sat in a corner and read my Bible there. Not once has my group been asked to stop praying or leave. Not once have I been asked to not read my Bible there. The only reason I have ever been (gently) asked to leave Starbucks is because it was closing time and I have a habit of wearing out my welcome. Sometimes I do tell them to write a name on my cup that isn’t my real name. But anyone who has ever gone out with me knows I love telling people my name is Cinderella.

I digress. I’m a black and white person… I don’t see both sides of this. This red cup “issue” is so stupid. This isn’t even making a mountain out of a mole hill (southern saying for you northerners). There is no mole hill! There is nothing! It is a red. cup. Period. This is why people think Christians are crazy. If you are reading this and are one of those who is thinking that- I profusely apologize for this ridiculous spectacle. Granted- if Starbucks ever asks me to leave because I’m praying or to put my Bible away- that’s an entirely different thing. But since I have always been welcome to read or pray at Starbucks, you will probably find me more often than not with a red cup in hand, moseying through Target (read: chasing my kids and threatening to take stickers off their Happy Heart Charts if they don’t obey Mommy RIGHTTHISINSTANT!!!)… or enjoying it in my car while my four monkeys are all strapped down in seat belts and the DVD player is on.

Now, can we all just move along to the more important things. Like inventing a machine that folds laundry for you.

Photo credit: http://www.starbucks.com