A move and some change

Hi pals!

I wanted to let you know that I decided to make a few small changes to this blog: I’m focusing it a bit more on politics, culture, faith, and family. I also decided to host it through my own domain name and not wordpress.com. All that means is that if you follow my blog you’ll still see it in your feed but you won’t get an email notification and this URL will not have any of my post anymore. If you want to still receive email notifications when I post, go to www.quietasitskeptblog.com and subscribe! Easy peasy. Also, for those of you who have been with me for a while now, I have created a facebook page for this blog where we can connect more often. The links to that are in the top right corner of my new site. I’d love for you to come on over and to facebook and chat with me!

Thank you all for your continued support and conversations. I hope you’ll make the jump on over and join me.

Ashley

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A Hopeless Election in a Kingdom of Hope

On foot you will find that the earth is still satisfyingly large, and full of beguiling nooks and crannies.
-Wendell Berry

Are you all tired yet? Of the election, I mean. What a silly question. Of course you are. We are all feeling the political fatigue of 2016. It has been a long, gruelling, and exhausting road to election day. More so than I’ve ever experienced in my short history of voting. And since we’re only 3 weeks away from November 8th, the political tenor has reached a feverish pitch. I don’t know if you’re like me at all, but I love politics and I love even more to talk about politics. Researching, commenting, and keeping up to date on our nation and it’s leaders is exciting and stimulating for me. And I love a good debate. But not this time. There is nothing exciting or fun about this election or any of the discourses surrounding it. The world seems to have closed in and it feels so very small. Suffocating. Hopeless.

I hope that I have built a strong enough of a rapport and a relationship with you, my readers, that I might share with you the hope that sustains me when I’m suffering and struggling most. At the risk of being an insufferable evangelical, may I breathe a moment of hope and peace into your mind today?

God is a god of love, peace, and justice, and no nation, political party, or leader can ever fully capture the social, moral, and ethical concerns of the Lord. Neither conservative, liberal or independent can ever care for the poor, the widowed, the orphaned, the alien, or the oppressed to the extent to which God has called us. That is to say, there is no one way to vote as a Christian. There is no candidate or party that fully embodies the concerns and commandments of God. He is far too big for any political agenda or national identity. And what a relief that is for us because there is no morally right or ethical vote this election. I believe that there is only one candidate this cycle who has shown herself to be qualified, and fit to serve as our president. And as a Christian, this means that I must be very critical of her and our nation as to how we address education, poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, sex, crime, etc. To be a Christian involved in politics is to not sell your soul to a political party or a national agenda, but to love what the Lord loves, and hate what the Lord hates. And there is no one issue that the Lord hates more than another, including the hot button conservative issues of abortion and gay marriage.  For, to love the Lord and do as he commands is to have a heart for those in the margins of our cultures:

“If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs…You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.”
-Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 10-11

This is our hope: that the Lord, in our great need and depravity, came to earth and died for our sins so that we might have eternal life with him. And through his life, death, and resurrection, he has equipped us  with every good thing that we may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever (Hebrews 13:20-21). This is the hope and calling of the Christian, that we engage courageously, thoughtfully, and critically in politics and culture with our eyes focused on Jesus. There is no nation in the history of the world that has lasted the entirety of existence. Every nation rises and falls, but it is the Lord and his kingdom who lasts forever. And this should give us great hope. Who are you to believe that any president can thwart the will of God? That his sovereignty and goodness for us and his world is not big enough to right the wrongs of evil dictators and corruption? Neither Hillary or Trump can usurp the Lord’s throne and upset his divine will. Rather, it is the job of the Christian to speak truth and life into all areas of our politics and cultures and to be critical of how we engage with the commandment to act justly and love mercy (Micah 6:8).

For those of you who aren’t Christians reading this, thank you. I am honored to share with you what it is I believe and that you would listen. I’m sure that there are areas of my faith that I need to sharpen my understanding and that you don’t agree with. But, even so, I hope that my faith in Jesus may bless you and give you hope in some way today; that we don’t have to put our trust and hope in any political leader or nation, but rather in a God who has always been and who always will be.

The Autumn Breeze

Why, hello there! Time seems to have slipped out from beneath me and I look over my shoulder and it’s October 5th. No, wait. 6th. Good grief. Around here the breeze has turned in from the north bringing the slight chill of autumn that we’ve all been waiting for. I’ve thrown open the windows to circulate the recycled air from the summer out of our house and have invited the outside to come in. A welcomed cleansing. But wouldn’t you know it that the time of year when I like to start roasting vegetables and bake hearty breads that my oven would break? I know, I know. Does autumn really come when ovens are broken? It surely does. I’m actually not in a rush to buy a new one. We’re in a stage of life where I’m not working and money is very tight so we’re trying to fix things where it’s possible instead of tossing and buying. Rejecting capitalism and materialism by force rather than by romantic idealism. Living the dream. Ah, but anyways. I’m adapting. The stove top still works, so instead of biscuits from the oven with our vegetable and barley soup last night I hand rolled a few parsley dumplings and plopped them into the pot. What a delicious treat they were. Our bellies were full and the breeze was wonderfully cool.

Last night after supper, after Ruby was tucked into her crib and the boys were showered, the four of us settled into mine and Jason’s bed with a few books while we laid around telling stories and tickling feet. Wouldn’t you know that Myles read to us The Giving Tree in its entirety, without whining or complaining, but with a legitimate desire to read and finish it. I teared up, not from the old stump giving its dearest friend the only thing left that it had to offer, but from listening to my son read. What a long journey this has been for us all. This moment has come at a sweet time for our family. As you know from my last post over a week ago, I went around the house in a fit of being fed up and unplugged all of the electronics. I’m a bit confused because the boys actually haven’t asked to watch TV or play Minecraft but only a couple of times. I’m wondering if it was actually us who pushed all of the technology on them for one reason or another. What a revelation that has been. If I hadn’t have unplugged the TVs, I wonder if we all would have spent the evening together in bed talking and reading together. A memory that wouldn’t have existed. Honestly, the children have been better behaved over all. They’re not as grouchy. They play independently without any prompting from me or Jason. And we’re spending such better time together. Playing legos, building toothpick and marshmallow structures, reading books, playing games, sitting and talking. And Myles isn’t struggling with homework and reading these days. I’m well aware that correlation doesn’t imply causation. But if the shoe fits and the sun rises…

So, here we are. Broke and happy. Content with a broken oven and reading children. As embarrassed as I often get about our finances and the choices that we’ve made to get us here (graduate school for both of us, heaps of student loan debt, poor financial planning, and me not working) I don’t count it as a failure. Something about the shifting breeze has settled a contentment in our small house. Sediments of rest and peace have dusted the earth. Financial security and upward mobility have lost its grasp and drifted away. I’d also say that my desires to be thin again, trendy, and less grey have gone with it as well. Contentment. What a sweet gift. I hope you all are feeling the change of season wherever you are and that it pushes in a peace past your understanding, as well. Until next time.

When You Accidently Expose Yourself For Who You Really Are

When was the last time that you had one of those embarrassing moments where you did something wrong or acted in a way that exposed a part of yourself that you’d rather not have other people see? Perhaps you acted rudely, or said something mean to someone publically, or acted selfishly when you didn’t get your way, or you spoke too quickly and revealed that you are jealous. There are endless ways that this can manifest itself and it almost always leaves a pit of despair and desperation inside of us. We then conjure up ways to defend ourselves, make our reputations right again, shift the blame, gloss over the wrong that we have done, and do anything we can to take the blame and attention off of ourselves. If you’re anything like me, this happens far more than you’d like to admit.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if when you were found guilty, caught in a corner, completely in the wrong, that instead of talking and impressing your way out, you could just confessapologize? ask for forgiveness? All while knowing that you are already loved and forgiven.

This weekend, my husband went on a surfing trip with some of his friends to the Outer Banks. I can already see the smirks on some of the ladies’ faces reading this. You know what’s coming next. I was awful to him about it. I didn’t want him to go without me, leaving me home alone for the second weekend in a row with all of our kids. After the long, hot, tiring summer with all three of our young children, all I wanted was a weekend away with him. No fighting and whining kids. No cutting chicken into little bite sized pieces before every meal. Some personal space to breathe and be alone with my love. I was so jealous of his friends, that they got to spend the time away with him that I wanted so badly. And I let him know it through my passive aggression: on facebook, in texts, and in person before he left.

Naturally, when he came back home he was hurt. I had acted like a child and forced him to not have a good time on his trip from worrying about me. And there it was. I was backed into a corner with nowhere to run or hide. I had hurt him in front of his friends and had done wrong. My very first reaction was to throw blame back into his face. But we both knew that he had done nothing wrong. I was jealous and hurt that I couldn’t go along, so I punished him. Seeing the hurt on his face caused me to pause and stop running the solutions to my problem of having hurt him. And I told him how sorry I was for hurting him, for being so selfish. A death to myself. My body almost wanted to physically run away from admitting that I had done wrong and asking him to forgive me. And do you know what he did? He forgave me. He told me that I am always his. There is not much else in this world that draws me to love my husband more than when he forgives me or asks me for forgiveness. In those tender moments of honesty and grace, where wrongs are forgiven without a record being kept, I am captivated to him.

Oh, to be loved and forgiven.

Bed Sheets and Black Holes

 

This morning at 6:30, Myles crawled into my bed and snuggled next to me. Jason was already downstairs drinking coffee and answering email, leaving me alone in our dawn soaked room with the fan whirring and cooling the air. Bundled under the comforter Myles asked, “Where are black holes?” We started the day in bed together slowly uncovering the universe. He used his hands to demonstrate the earth’s orbit around the sun and how days end and nights begin. His little imagination and curiosity eager to wrap around the workings of time and space.

Colin Kaepernick takes his place in a long line of oppressed American patriots

Okay, class! I think it’s time for a history lesson. With our country having emerged upon a very important and timely intersection of blackness, Americanness, and football, I think that it’s high time for us to uncover some of the truths and unfortunate historical contexts that have brought us to this very poignant moment. I’m taking my cue from the 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who has been silently kneeling on the sidelines during the national anthem at his games in protest for the unjust treatment and oppression of black people at the hands of police officers. He has recently inspired many athletes across our country, professional and amateur, all the way to elementary students during the morning pledge of allegiance, to kneel in silent protest. A noble cause.

What we cannot ignore but rather must confront is our country’s history of racism, misogyny, and oppression. It has infected every area of our nation, from the first boots of colonialism that stepped onto marshy banks to knees that are bent on football fields. To ignore and to insist that this history has either been left behind or that this history is over exaggerated is to see history from a blind and ignorant lens of privilege. But the reality is that you don’t have to look far to find it.

Let’s go to 1781 when Thomas Jefferson, one of our country’s most honored founding fathers, wrote Notes on the State of Virginia only five years after he wrote the declaration of independence. In this text, Jefferson gives breath taking overtures on the separation of church and state, individual liberty, the richness of America’s natural resources, and the inferiority of “the blacks.” After describing black people as having no mind to write or learn, having a foul smell, being designed as an animal for hard labor and little sleep, being incapable of loving their women and only desiring their bodies, he concludes “I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” It should be no surprise then that when we look at the the creation of the constitution in 1787, our other founding fathers decided that black slaves were considered to be only 3/5ths of a whole person. Property to be haggled over for taxes and representation, more seats in congress.

Though we are two centuries away from these inaugural decisions at the birth of our nation and many if not most of the institutionalized systems of racism have been dismantled, the remnants of these systems ring in our ears and in the lives of black people if you choose listen and look around. From the war on drugs, to the repeal of the voting rights act, the mass incarceration of black youth, the labeling of “super predators,” the new Jim Crow, antagonism against the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, and on and on, this system of racism was bred and incubated in our country’s revered historical documents and founding fathers. This festering racism that is found in most of our founding documents has interwoven into the American consciousness. And how couldn’t it? The same documents and historical figures who we revere as the ancestors of our freedoms and patriotism are the very inscribers of racism and misogyny into our systems of governance, legislation and culture.

Recently, Boami Jones wrote an article in the Undefeated titled “Kaepernick is asking for justice not peace,” where he poignantly suggests that “While the major party candidates for president spent the week pointing at each other with charges of who is or isn’t the real racist, Kaepernick pointed at the flag and, by extension, every person who takes pride in the American flag.” This suggestion naturally ruffled quite a few feathers. But if we consider for a moment that you lived in a country where your founding fathers considered you to be 3/5ths of a person, a smelly, unintelligent, lustful person, property, that perhaps you would have a difficult time revering it as much as your white countrymen.  Especially when you witness firsthand the racist imagination that your fellow countrymen have inherited from our founders. It may often be much subtler and undetectable to some, but it is also very obvious when videos of murdered black citizens scroll across our screens every day.

To deny the very obvious historical racism that Kaepernick is protesting is not just ignorant, it is wrong. The work that he is doing is only un-patriotic to those who hold our country up to an infallible esteem and who ignore the very problematic and hurtful history of racism that many of our brothers and sisters in America experience daily. There is nothing noble about forgetting and ignoring that history and present reality.

That is why critiquing our country is important. It’s what moves our country forward and away from its dark beginnings of slavery and genocide, and towards a hope of more equality, freedom, and liberty. This is a freedom that has not solely been fought for by soldiers. It has been fought for by generations of oppressed people. People whose backs were striped with whips and held by chains. Necks that have hung from trees. Women who sat on bus seats. Children who first integrated into schools. Indigenous people who stand at Standing Rock. Football players kneeling on the side lines. Those are the patriots who demand that their country respect them and move us towards a greater freedom. A greater equality. A greater happiness. Kaepernick is actively participating in the National Anthem not by standing, but by kneeling in remembrance, reverence and in protest against the legacy of racism that has and continues to affect him and his ancestors. God bless America and the patriots who demand better.

The Ways of Changing the World

Heavy lids heaving down and back up again over giant round eyes as glassy orbs
with every blink, lying and praying that maybe this time they’ll stay shut and
bring me sleep. Gears grinding and winding images of words across my mind’s eye
I continue to think about the gloom that knows my soulful cries and long to not need
my eyes to see. Maybe tomorrow after I wake and brush my teeth the new day will
bring me closer to learning the ways of changing the world.