Ignorance is Bliss

July 21, 2014 — Leave a comment

I wish I could go back in time.

Before I watched this John Oliver sketch.

Before I read about Jada.

Before I read the fiction story about Jesus, the immigrant.

Before, when I could eat shrimp.

Before I had heard of Michael Pearl.

Because I think if I hear of another child, man, or woman tortured, raped, killed, abused, starved or neglected because they are different than the majority of humanity – I might have a break down.

Because I want to help.  I want to give brownies and hugs and books and information -  and listen and hug and cry and rage and help and laugh and befriend them all.

But I can’t.  The best I can do is teach my sweet son that we are all loved and should love all.  And hopefully be the best that I can be to treat everyone I meet with the unselfish love of Christ and hope that it sparks a wildfire of love across all people.

But I’m only me.  I wish I never learned about the horribleness of the world.  But now that I know, I can’t do nothing.

 

Stockholm Syndrome – a victim bonding emotionally with their abusers.   According to this website – four conditions are usually present that lead to the development of Stockholm Syndrome -
1.  Perceived or real threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and belief that the abuser will carry out the threat.
2.  Presence of a small kindness from the abuser to the victim.
3.  Victim’s isolation from other perspectives.
4.  Perceived or real inability to escape from the situation.

These points sound an awful lot like what some Christians believe about God.  Especially the first one – the whole premise of Christianity is almost built on this point – Love God or He will damn you to hell!  If not that, how many times have you heard “God is putting me through a trial” or “God must be punishing me” or “Things didn’t work out so God must be saying no”.  The answer to these offenses?  More prayer, more adoration, more tithe, more church attendance, more loving actions toward God and maybe he won’t smite me this time.

But sometimes God is good.  (Of course, many of you know the answer to “God is good!” is “All the time!” – even when he is perceived as smiting you – He is still good.  Confusing?)  But God is good to us – point 2.  When we pray to him, sometimes He concedes!  There was no rain on our wedding day, we got over our flu, and we were able to pay our car payment on time.  We must certainly be doing all the right things to get such favor from God.

Point 3 – Christians are noted isolationists.  Cutting off ourselves from knowledge and information and people to stay “holy”  If you think this is not you – would you read a book or watch a movie where God was portrayed by a woman?  Would you accept a gay person to tell their story in your church about how the church hurt them?

Point 4 is a little more subtle.  But I know people who are stuck in marriages or churches or relationships because God has instructed them that it more “holy” to be subjected to abuse than to protect themselves and their families.

So what do we take from all of this?  Is our view of God skewed maybe?  God is not an abuser, but it is ingrained in us to think that way – it was in me anyway.  Make God happy or He will “get” you.  Everyone that doesn’t tow the line is going to be punished.  Sickness or poverty or a natural disaster is God’s anger at you.  We’d have to walk on eggshells all the time to avoid it all!

But we don’t.  God is LOVE.  There is no fear in love because fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18).  Jesus took our punishment for us.  All of it.  How would it be if we only loved our children when they were acting good.  Certainly they are more frustrating, but we don’t love them less.  Is God not the perfect parent?  Loving us, pouring his joy and blessings into our lives because he is our parent and he delights in lavishing on us.  We have nothing to fear from God.  He only asks us to do two things – Love Him, and love our brothers and sisters on this earth.  Which is really the same thing because when our kids love on each other, it fills up our love banks too.

Be free – be free from an oppressive God.  Don’t give up on him, but give up on the notion that he’s out there with a belt strap, keeping you in line.  You are loved.  You are loved by a daddy who loves his little girl or boy.  He wants the best for you in the most perfect way.  There is no fear because there is no punishment.  There is only love.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I updated and that has been for good reason – no internet!  But that is all fixed now and now both Brent and I have tethering off our phones so at least we can use the computer a little bit.  We’re still figuring out how to do the Netflix thing but instead we’ve been entertaining ourselves by reading Jurassic Park as a family bedtime story.  Gruesome!

Anyway, the end of June we left Sioux Falls and headed for Minneapolis.  Brent’s sister had invited Andrei down to visit his cousins, so we picked the Minneapolis airport for him to fly out of and sent him off.  That was quite the experience!  We got him a phone, explained the layover process about 50 times, gave him $20 for lunch and sent him on his first solo flight.  He did great.  He called a few times to clarify some things (where’s my luggage again?  Can I take my fries on the plane?) and then he forgot all about us for a week while my sister-in-law’s family took him all over kingdom come and wore him out.  He came back a seasoned travel pro and already was asking when he could visit again.

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While Andrei was gone, my parents came to visit us in MN.  They unfortunately could only stay for two days but we had fun going shopping and just catching up with each other.
When Andrei got back we had to vacate the campground the next day.  When we had made the reservations for the time he was gone, they clarified many times that we would be out by July 2nd.  It didn’t dawn on us until then our terrible rookie mistake.  We had made no reservations for the 4th of July – obviously one of the biggest camping days of the year.  Ruh-roh!
July 2nd we had an appointment to have our tires replaced about an hour west of the twin cities, and we spent the entire time while the RV was in the shop – down the street at a coffee place calling every single campground within a three hour radius.  Every single one booked.  We even drove to a couple of them that were close.  Full.  Then at the end of the day, when I was about to give up, one campground called us back and told us to call back the next day because they had an opening.  Hallelujah!
That night we actually did have a reservation.  We had decided the previous week to try out an RV camping group called Harvest Hosts.  The group matches farmers/wineries with RVers.  They open their property for us to dry camp for the night, and we visit their store and buy their stuff!  Sounds like a great time to me!  After finishing the tires, we finally got there about 7PM, threw together some dinner and didn’t do much before collapsing for the night.  No electricity and complete in the country darkness made for a great nights sleep.  The next morning I stalled around long enough for us to visit the farm store when it opened at noon and we picked up some treats for the weekend.
After that we called and confirmed our holiday campground and headed back to Minneapolis.  We got the campground for the week so we’re there right now – right in the middle of the city.  It’s not a resort or anything – just a random park with all the necessities – but golden when we had no other options for the holiday.
On the 4th we drove as close as wee could get to the action and walked the rest of the way – just like home!  Except 10x the number of people!  We walked down to the park and found ourselves a spot, only to find out we were blocked exactly by some trees.  So we quickly moved and got a slightly better view, but in the end, we saw a better show from the illegal ones being set off on our walk back to our truck!
After here we’re headed to Duluth for a month.  Not sure why – just decided it was a good place to visit.  There are churches everywhere that Brent can contact and I just want to be near water and someplace cooler!
One more random fun thing – on one of our journeys – a door fell off our closet.  It didn’t fall off the hinges like you would expect a door to fall off – it cracked completely in four pieces and fell apart in true crazy Homer fashion. I think because the hinges keep it in place, and then all the cabinets are latched shut, the stress of the swinging, twisting, bumping driving just wears on it it and this door just had enough of it.  Shortly after, we noticed another door cracking and I will have to see what we can do to prevent it from breaking in half also.
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So now that we have some sort of internet again and my phone that was being held together by packing tape has been replaced – things are all happy again in the Homer house.  Doesn’t take much! :)

Moving mountains

June 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

I moved a mountain for someone.  It was no big deal.  It was something that I was doing for Andrei, and I did some googling and some sleuthing and BAM – changed everything for them and us.

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:20

That was my verse this morning in my Daily Revelation.  I prayed about it and felt like God was telling me that it wasn’t my job to move my own mountains.  God puts people in our lives that help us with our impossible situations, and we, in turn, help out others with theirs.  Often, we don’t know we’re moving mountains for people – it might be a free item listed on craigslist, or a kind word, or a meal brought.  To us it’s no big deal – but to them it changes everything.

Andrei has a sister.  We inquired about adopting her when we adopted Andrei but the laws restricted us.  When she became an adult, she asked at the orphanage about Andrei and they said he had been adopted.  She wanted contact with him but it was impossible.
A year or so back I was googling and found his sister on a social media site.  They can have a relationship now.  What was impossible for her was possible for God and just something natural for us.

Don’t move your own mountain – move someone else’s – and God will send someone to move yours.

3 Year RVersary

June 11, 2014 — 2 Comments

Yesterday, 3 years ago, was the day we abandoned our house and moved into the RV full time.  We celebrated by having a friend over, grilling out, and watching the cheesy yet funny film – RV.

To celebrate on here, let’s play the Remember Game!

Remember when our door broke and we were locked into our RV?

Remember when we first moved in and the cat decided to hide inside the dashboard?

Or when he hid behind the fuse box and broke it?

Remember when Andrei turned on the bathroom faucet but it was frozen and then he didn’t turn it off?  It thawed while we were at church and all the water in our tank ran out.

Remember when we first bought it and thought we would roll down a cliff on our way home?

Remember when we took the RV to a drive in and the check in lady was disappointed that we only had 5 people?

Remember when the broom got stuck in the slide and I bent it all up?

Remember when we were at the state park and the dump station had a half a foot of ice on it and Brent and Andrei had to go over there every day and chip at it and dump antifreeze on it so we could use it (that was a record – we lasted 10 days on one tank!)

Remember when we left our city and just drove it off into the sunset?

Remember when life was awesome?  Oh wait, it still is!

RV Cooking

June 9, 2014 — Leave a comment

Whereas the question people ask Brent most often is “What’s it like to drive that thing?”, the question I get is – “How do you cook in such a small kitchen?”

The key is using the least amount of dishes as possible.  Dishes take up room on the counter, they use up precious water, and who really likes more dishes?

We have a 3 burner stove but I’ve really just only used the front burner.  I use one frying pan, large pot, and crock pot for most everything.

I’ve managed to change almost any recipe into a one pot meal.  If a pasta has a sauce, I make the noodles, pour them into the colander, cover them, and make the sauce in the same pot.  Both the pan and the pot can go into the oven if I am making a casserole.  I cook double meat or rice or pasta so I don’t have to dirty a dish the next day.

Baking is a little bit more complicated but I manage.  I do have a measuring spoon but I have learned how to eyeball those things.  I have one measuring cup and always measure dry before liquid for less washing.  I also sometimes mix in a large Pyrex measuring cup so it does double duty.  Our plate-bowls can be used for mixing, storing, or whisking.

Other little things – we use a napkin instead of a plate for a sandwich, we use the same glass all day, we do keep paper plates around for when there’s dessert or company, but try not to depend on them.

It’s a process I think.  If you don’t have a lot of dishes and do have a huge aversion to washing those dishes, you’ll figure out ways to use them less!

“You’re lucky we picked you, or you would have become a homeless street rat and not been worth anything.”

“We hated you until you were part of our family.”

“In fact, when you did join our family and you slipped back into speaking Russian or panicked because you had residual issues from the orphanage – we hated you then too.”

“We expect you to thank us every day for saving you from a life of destitution.”

“If you act like a Russian we will punish you.”

“You should remember daily how horrible your life was before we came and saved you and regularly tell us how sorry you are for ever being Russian.”

“You can never really be sure that you’re a Homer – if you slip up, we might kick you out.  In fact, if you ever get mad at us or say you hate us or quit talking to us, we might kick you out then too.”

I’m sitting here – almost crying.  My stomach is in knots thinking of these horrible, horrible things that we would never ever say to our sweet son.  I can not even imagine the kind of damaging relationship that would be for our family and especially to Andrei.  Besides – we love him!  We didn’t adopt him because we wanted to save some poor kid, we adopted him because we wanted a family – we wanted a son to love and teach and nurture.  We didn’t care where he came from, we just wanted to give our love to a family.

I’m sad when Andrei has sadness because of his past.  I grieve with him and help him analyze his feeling so he can do better.  But we would never ever guilt him for the feelings or mistakes he makes.  We gently help him to do better and love him through it.

Now read those sentences again.

“You’re lucky God picked you, or you would have been a worthless sinner destined for hell.”

“God hated you until you were part of a church.”

“In fact, when you did “get saved” and you slipped back into sinning or panicked because you had residual issues – God hated you then too.”

“God expects you to thank him every day for saving you from hell.”

“If you act like you used to, God will punish you.”

“You should remember daily how horrible your life was before you were saved, and regularly tell him how sorry you are for ever sinning.”

“You can never really be sure that you’re saved – if you slip up, God might kick you out.  In fact, if you ever get mad at God or say you hate God or quit praying/going to church/reading your Bible, God might kick you out then too.”

NO.  THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN.  God came to us from a place of love and concern.  He wanted us as children to be part of his family, not to have some type of power trip over some poor wormy souls.  It’s no wonder people have sadness and fear in their Christian lives, if they think these are the kinds of things God is saying to them.

 

In Matthew 1, is listed the genealogy of Jesus – through Joseph’s and all the father’s names – all  the way back to Abraham.  In the list, five women are named – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheeba (named as “who had been Uriah’s wife”), and Mary.

These women have their stories written elsewhere in the Bible and none of them (save Mary) would be considered righteous or pure by today’s standards.  So why are they noted?

Tamar was married to a man, but he died before giving her children.  In Jewish law, the widow was then given to the dead man’s brother, and hopefully he would give her some babies to carry on her dead husband’s name and care for her in her old age.  But the second brother used the old “pull out method” so he didn’t have to give her any babies.  And then he died too.  Her father-in-law was seeing a pattern here and told her his third son wasn’t old enough to marry yet so she’d have to wait until he got older – she’d have to live back at home with her parents as a widow (mind you, she could have been only in her 20s at this time).  Well, third brother was getting older and there was no sign of marriage in the works, and Tamar being left with nothing.
So she disguised herself like a prostitute and tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her.  (I also noticed that the Bible points out that father-in-law’s wife had died, so it apparently was okay that he was seeing the prostitute and not cheating on his wife.)  Word got back to father-in-law that Tamar was pregnant and it was obviously not in any legal way and he demanded her death.  She revealed then that it was her that tricked him and it was his baby.  He admitted that he was at fault for denying her protection (in the form of his third son) and left her alone for the rest of her life.  She went on to have twin boys and get herself in the genealogy.

Rahab was also a prostitute, but not just pretending – it was her job.  She worked in Jericho, one of the first enemy cities that the Israelites had to conquer.  So Israel sent two spies in to scope out the place.  They chose Rahab’s place to hide out.  Maybe it was a place where foreigners often went, maybe it was a place to get good gossip about the city, maybe there was another reason, but Rahab gave them info and hid them from the city officials.  In return for services, she asked that she be spared from the coming attack.  So the spies promised her that she and her household would be spared.  She escaped Jericho in safety and allegedly went on to marry one of the spies that she had helped.  It said that she had heard about the Lord and rumors about the Israelites and was obviously convinced of His power, even though she was an enemy.  And her son was named Boaz, the husband of the next woman in the genealogy.

Ruth was another foreigner.  Her in-laws had fled Israel because of a famine, and while they were abroad, their sons grew up and married local women.  An essay I once read about Ruth pointed out that this probably wasn’t a boy meets girl they fall in love story, but more like – boy sees girl, kidnaps her and sleeps with her – bam – they’re married.  But that wasn’t uncommon back then.  Ruth’s husband dies without giving her children, and as there were no other men, Ruth’s mother-in-law decides to go back to her hometown.  Ruth could have lived as a widow in her own country, but she also recognized the power and nature of God and decides to move with her mother-in-law back to Israel.  There they live as poor widows and survive by picking up scraps left by the grain harvesters.  Ruth chooses Boaz’s field and word gets around that Ruth is a godly woman, even though she is a foreigner.  Ruth’s mother-in-law tells her to make sure she gets noticed by this guy and even to crawl into bed with him in a public men’s sleeping area.  He wakes up, she tells him they are distantly related (he could marry her and provide for her like in the story of Tamar) and he goes on to do right by her.  She becomes the grandmother of King David.

Bathsheba (who used to be Uriah’s wife) was not a prostitute, or a foreigner, but she was taking a bath on her roof so y’know, being a stumbling block (/sarcasm).  King David saw her, wanted her, and took her.  The Bible doesn’t say if or it wasn’t consensual, but I’m guessing if the king calls for you, you go anyway.  She was damned if she did (adultery punishable by death) and damned if she didn’t (not obey the king – probably also punishable by death).  She ended up pregnant.  Which was also punishable by death because her husband was off fighting in a war and the baby was obviously not his.  So she sent word to the king about her predicament, and instead of trying to keep her quiet, he decides to fix the situation by getting her husband leave from battle to have some “family time” at home.  Her husband is so loyal that he won’t leave his unit, that the king does the only other logical thing – he has him murdered.  Now Bathsheba is a free woman and the king can take her as one of his wives.  And everyone lives happily ever after.  Just kidding.  Because of the king’s sin, Bathsheba’s baby dies.  Bathsheba does go on to become the mother of Solomon, who succeeded David as king.

Mary, mother of Jesus, would be the only one who would be considered “pure” by modern evangelical standards.  She was the only one who had not been previously married (a virgin) and the only one who really had any say in the matter.  But even being visited by an angel doesn’t do anything to protect you from certain death, as a 14yo “virgin” finding herself pregnant would ensure a stoning.  The angel also had to go to her fiancee/protector to let him know that this baby was from God and his wife was still of marriage quality.  But even then, Mary had to leave her hometown for the end of her pregnancy and for years after, possibly also to escape the stigma of getting pregnant before her official marriage.

So why were these women’s stories told?  Why were these women focused on in the genealogy of Jesus?  Women in ancient times didn’t have much say in their lives – they didn’t have much of a choice of who they would marry and if he was abusive or impotent, she would be stuck in a world where no one would provide for her.

But there is a different thing about these stories.  All of these women recognized their helpless situation, went to find justice for themselves, and trusted that God would not fail them.  The methods they used were questionable, but the bravery and trust they had in God was unmatched.  Their faith was their actions.  Tamar played the prostitute, Rahab was one, Ruth snuggled up to a man not her husband, Bathsheba called out the king of the land to protect her, and Mary didn’t fear, but sang instead.

Women – God has your back.  Trust him and do what He asks.  He will protect you!  It may be a man’s world, but God doesn’t differentiate between men and women – those who trust Him and take action find His favor.

 

Growing your own faith

June 2, 2014 — 1 Comment

Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.

Matthew 13:12

 

I used to think this verse was about money and I never really understood it.  It seemed kind of cruel – if you already had money, you’d get more, but if you had less, well then, too bad for you.  It appears in a few of the gospels, all in the middle of a bunch of parables, so I should have known that it wasn’t what it seemed to be.

It came up in my Daily Revelation this past weekend and it came to me that it was actually talking about faith.  Brent and I have been talking lately about how faith really is something you do with God – an action – as opposed to something you wish for.  So having faith that you would become rich would not be just hoping a lottery ticket falls into your lap, but rather seeking God in your business and money decisions and doing what he asks (probably something like being generous and not getting into debt).

When we have a little faith and act on it, we see that God is faithful and then our faith grows.  When we have a little faith but don’t do anything, or try to take care of ourselves, we become cynical and tell ourselves that God really doesn’t have our back because we’re worse off than we were before or things haven’t changed.

After you act on little things, you can move into more awesome things.  In fact that is one of the quotes on Brent’s business cards “I used to think I needed to sacrifice for God, but now I know faith is a game of Bigger and Better.”  - Bob Goff in Love Does.

I think some people think that our moving out with no job is some kind of unobtainable huge faith thing.  And it is by far the scariest thing we’ve ever done.  But it’s not unobtainable.  It just was after taking all kinds of little faith baby steps, it seemed natural. We knew God had our back so we were able to do the next thing.

Some faith baby step ideas:

- Pay for the car behind you in the drive-thru – then speed off before they know who you are!
- Next time you think “I should sell xyz” – just give it away instead – put an add saying “free xyz – no catch!”
- Take a nap – for reals – or just stop and stare out the window for 20 minutes.  Be still.
- Pray for strength for someone who is struggling and then encourage them
- Meditate on a time when something went really badly in your life and figure out a way that it worked out for you in the end – if you can’t, find someone who went through something similar and share your story with them.

All of these seem like super easy and piddly little things.  But if you do the little things and you see that your life is not completely wrecked –  in fact it might be a little better – you can go on to Bigger and Better!

I realized that Brent posts a lot about where we are and what we’re doing, and I just assume that everyone that reads my blog also reads his.  But maybe you don’t!

We moved to Sioux Falls on May 15th and we plan to stay here until around June 20th.  We picked out two campgrounds but when we called to confirm the rates, one of them said they had an event in the middle of our stay and we would have to leave for four days … we picked the other one.

It turns out we have stayed at this campground before!  Way back two and a half years ago, when we bought our RV, we had to drive it home from Idaho and we chose this place to overnight.  However, we got in late and left early and I didn’t write anything about the place when we stayed here the first time.  The campground is nice – it’s nothing remarkable but we are lucky enough to have some shade and a small bit of grass in the back Andrei to run around.  The not so nice part is that we’re backed up to the highway, but mostly we don’t notice anymore except when an ambulance goes speeding past.  Brent likes that we’re close to the entrance because he watches all the other RVs pull in.

I have one friend in Sioux Falls and we sort of picked this city so I could visit her.  Then I can go out with her and Brent can stay home and work :)  Andrei thinks this is odd since usually I am the one home and Brent is going out to work.  But I don’t let it bother me.  ;)

The actual city of Sioux Falls is much bigger than I’m used to and I’ve almost got it down how to get around to everywhere, but I don’t have to like it.  The traffic is much more than I’m used to and we don’t have air in the truck and it’s sweltering so I avoid going out as much as possible.  Sorry, whining.  :)

The city is nice.  Brent and I decided before leaving that we’d be intentional about seeing the places we live so we take half a day each week to do tourism stuff.  The first week we saw the waterfall that the city is named after.  It was nice and very pretty.  The park was big and had a lot place to walk around but it was late in the day and we had done plenty already.

This week happened to be rib-fest so we went to that.  It was really just 6 or 7 traveling rib stands that you could eat at and then vote for your favorite – but hey, lunch!  We all got from different stands and sat in the shade to enjoy our lunch.  Then we drove all over looking for a used bookstore for Brent.  Unfortunately Brent was the only one who didn’t get a book.

So we are slowly learning the town layout and getting around.  Things are a little different but my friend is helpful when I text her obsessively to find out where or what something is.  Except now I dropped my phone, so if she reads this maybe she can tell me where an Apple store is?