What Is God’s Plan?

He may have said something inflammatory, but Indiana Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock did at least get me thinking. In case you missed it, Mourdock was discussing his stance on abortion in a debate with Representative Joe Donnelly. In explaining how he came to his beliefs that abortion is only okay if the mother’s life is at stake, he tried to point out why rape is not a valid reason in his mind.

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” said Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer.

There are several different reasons people are outraged and angered by this comment, including the repulsive image of God planning a rape in order to bring a child into a woman’s life, but the thing that sticks with me is the idea of God’s plan/God’s will and what that really means.

As you know, I consider myself a Christian. I grew up in a Catholic family and now attend Methodist services when I’m home in Texas. (I cannot find a single Methodist in Poland.) I also consider myself a bit lost at times on my faith journey. There are many teachings I struggle to live out and many I just don’t understand. A lot of the distress is due to my human frailty and weakness. Some of that uncertainty is from lack of study. Some of the doubt though comes from thinking on my own and listening to my own heart.

The doubts brought on by the second thing have me wondering if I’m really faithful at all. Am I willing things, God in particular, to match my life because it’s so hard to live up to His calling? Am I being naive about the love I feel He has for us?

My father and I have had discussions about whether or not someone like Mother Teresa would be in heaven if she were not Christian. Would her many good works and generous deeds be enough? Or would God turn her away if she didn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus? My heart wants to believe that God knows her heart enough to love her and grant her a heavenly place of rest, but that is not what’s taught. I place my husband’s family in this category too. His sweet Bubbie passed away in 2010, and I loved her so much. She welcomed me to the family right away and loved me easily. But, she was Jewish, so obviously she did not believe in Christ as the Messiah. The God I feel in my heart would never turn Bubbie away. Nor would he reject my sensitive, giving brother for being gay.

See? It seems like I’m believing things in my own way according to the world I live in. Am I confusing my love for God’s?

And this brings me back to Mourdock’s comment and the concept of God directing our lives. I believe God gave us free will. I’m pretty sure that’s in the Bible. (Seriously, I’m not well-versed on the verses.) So, does God’s will trump mine? Why give it to me then? I’m not asking to be snarky. This question rattles around in my head all the time. What does the phrase ‘God’s will’ even really mean? I interpret it as what God wants done will be done. I do believe He can move mountains and part seas. But does He intend for a woman to be raped in order to have a child? That doesn’t sound right.

Some people refer to this concept as God’s plan. To me that insinuates a life He’s already plotted for me. But, again, if that were so, why wouldn’t He plan for everyone to believe in Him? Did he plan for 2006 to be the year I lost my brother and my son? And this question has been with me for a long time: If my life is already written in God’s book, why does He command me to pray? The word ‘pray’ is in the Bible at least 100 times (depending on the translation used). We pray for healing and peace. We pray for guidance. And I believe my prayers are answered. My husband is the answer to a prayer. My kids are as well. I prayed hard that losing my son would not make my parents abandon their faith. They absolutely have not.

I see the awful things happening around the world as consequences of man. War is the product of humans and their anger and pride (mostly).  Car accidents happen because people are careless. Rape is the product of sickness of the mind. But did God make it happen? Man, that’s rough. I just can’t make my heart believe that.

I see God as our parent. And just as a parent cannot stop his or her child from being hurt, God can’t either. He has to let us reap what we sow because He gave us free will. But, like a loving parent, He does His best to provide us love and comfort when we hurt. Like a mother staying up to make sure the kids get home safe, He offers to carry our fears and worries as His.

Then my brain stumbles again because God is not like me, really. He can make trees grow new leaves every spring. He raised His own son from the dead. Why can’t He stop pain and suffering? And why does a woman leading a decent life get raped and pregnant?

Again, I’m not asking to be argumentative. I really do wrestle with these very big faith questions often, and I think Mourdock’s words made many people think about ‘their’ God and what He does and does not do. I wish I had the answers, but all I have to offer is my faith that God is love.

What Are You, Chicken?

I am not really an ‘issues’ blogger. (Well, apart from my personal issues and the hilarity they produce.) I don’t read the news of the day and then share my opinion with you. To be honest, it’s mostly because I fear being unarmed in a battle of wits, especially when lack of sleep has made me think it’s neat how the TV turns on when I press a button. I also believe there are so many good writers who can make you think about current events. Again, fear keeps me from joining them, specifically the fear of being less eloquent and thought-provoking. (I’m really a big chicken, aren’t I?)

For example, today I want to talk about Chik-Fil-A.

See? Not exactly breaking news is it? But I read a really great post (On the blog Native Born) that had some civil, thought-out reader comments as well, and I decided it was okay to weigh in. My opinion matters too. Because my opinion is not just about Chik-Fil-A; it’s about a human rights issue.

I support gay marriage. No, I don’t just support it; I want to actively get you to see how important it is to let adults marry the people they love.

And that starts by telling you I won’t be eating at Chik-Fil-A anymore. I will not support a company which takes its corporate profits and donates them to hate groups. Dan Cathy can run his business however he wants. His religious beliefs are his to spout. Further, my right to not support any of that is just as real.

So, enough being, and talking about, chicken.

My friends know that my brother Michael, who passed in 2006, was gay. He was also willing to give his friends the shirt off his back. He was very conservative and prayed the rosary. He loved movies; he had at least a thousand DVDs in his personal collection. He was a great older brother who kept our family together and connected. He was handsome. He was also human. He loved and wanted to be loved by one man forever and ever. I’m going to keep using my brother and other gay friends of mine as examples, so you don’t forget we are talking about humans. These are real brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends, and parents.

The meat of the matter (sorry, can’t help myself) is that my brother should have had the right to be married. Did he have the right to be married in your church? No. Your church can have whatever rules it wants about who can be married there. Most churches already do. A Muslim cannot get married by a Catholic priest, but a Muslim can still be married. Besides, I doubt a homosexual would want to be married in a place of worship that assumed homosexuals were unredeemable sinners for being in love and acting on that love. (I’m not singling out Catholics here, or even Christians.) The end of that ceremony could get awkward. “I now pronounce you Adam and Steve. You may go to hell.”

Have you ever heard anyone’s coming out story (the story a homosexual tells about telling friends and family their sexual orientation)? They usually have a common theme. That common theme is fear of losing relationships. They fear friends will turn on them. They fear family will disown them. It happens over and over again. What else did my brother fear? He feared physical harm. I sit here in a world where I can hold my husband’s hand and only worry if I have anything sticky on it that may gross him out. (From the kids, obviously. I stopped picking my nose last year.) My friend Vikki, from the blog Up Popped a Fox, made a fantastic comment regarding this point in the piece I mentioned earlier. She said, “Every time I kiss my partner or hold her hand, I look around to gauge our safety because, often, our affection has consequences – stares, comments or worse.” Think about that for one second. Kissing the love of her life could get her physically harmed. If you think that is an exaggeration, read her coming out story. Read other accounts. Check out the Human Rights Campaign web site. Ask around. It’s real.

The Human Rights Campaign also has a great feature where they rate businesses on how they treat their LGBT workers, which brings me back to chicken. (Later, can we talk about how gross raw chicken is? Just, yuck.) I have seen the comment that boycotting Chik-Fil-A will one, not hurt them one bit, and two, is kind of lame because what about all those other businesses that are morally suspect? I believe that my money does speak for me, and it will impact them. How? Well, if everyone who believes this sticks to it, then yes, we are making a difference. And to the other point, can we ever know what businesses do with our money? Um, yes, if we ask and look. I care about this issue, therefore I will do my best to research how the businesses I frequent support or reject it. I may support a place that is sending money to the devil himself due to lack of good information, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to avoid it to the best of my abilities.

And finally, let’s get to the elephant in the room. (Hey! What’s up religion? How are things?)

I am a Christian, and I have many friends and family who are as well. I have great discussions with my dad about faith and the practice of our respective religions. We don’t always agree, but I love the questions he raises in my heart because they help me find my way. I do not know all I can know about my faith and what it means for me. I have to also tell you that my faith got me through the year my brother died. It was also the year we lost our first child, Carter, to a stillbirth. My husband and I drew closer to each other and closer to God. I really believe that got me through it. So, yes, I’m a believer.

I just have a hard time with making other people follow my faith. I know Jesus calls us to convert, but I think there are many ways to do that and still be kind. One of the best ways to tell of your faith is living a faithful life. When people ask me how I survived losing my child and my brother, God is one of the answers. I hope that leads people to take a look at my faith to see if it can offer them hope as well. But I don’t expect all Americans to live by the Bible. Our laws are the laws of man, based on the heart of the people who vote. Many things in this country align with Christian beliefs, but that is not really the point. How do we, as a country, define traditional marriage? Whose tradition is better? We have human and civil rights that we should extend to all. Your religion (or lack of one) may guide your morals, but those morals should not infringe on the people around you. (So, if you think murder is morally correct, well, sorry, that infringes on my rights, so, no.) They should uplift your fellow man, and offer them the same chance to live a life THEY deem good and right.

It’s entirely possible I’m doing it wrong when it comes to being a Christian and an American. Maybe I’m supposed to make everyone be like me. That doesn’t really feel right though. I mean how many people do we need that think popcorn and reality TV bingeing is a good lunch?

Lessons from Daddy

I worked in the marketing department of an engineering firm one summer in college. (Yes, this job was super helpful in my teaching career.) Anyway, I worked with a group of three ladies, and we talked and laughed as we worked. I’m pretty much the most open book ever, so they learned a lot about me and my family. One day, my dad came by to see a friend of his that was an engineer there. He also got to meet my co-workers and see my first-ever cubicle. After he left, the ladies said, “I thought he’d be much bigger.”

This was not a dig at my dad’s size but a confusion based on how I described him. It seems that the way I talked about him made him seem 10 feet tall and bulletproof. The stories made him out to be like Gandalf, wise and legendary, but certainly not old and grey! Those are highlights.

Grandpa holding a wee twin. He was great at feeding them and caring for them. Just don’t ask him to put their teeny socks on.

It is not an exaggeration though that my father is much sought after for his wise counsel on everything from resumes to woodworking. His advice is considerate and no-holds-barred; he will tell you where you made mistakes in the context of getting you to a better position. He takes this role very seriously no matter what question you ask. He has time for you and your concerns. Every person in his family knows this.

Super Grandpa helping put together every piece of Ikea furniture ever made. Sorry.

That’s not to say he is only a serious man with serious thoughts. My sons adore playing with him. They have since they first knew him, and I know they always will. He was their first hide-and-seek partner! He sends them Oreo’s and Matchbox cars in the mail. And don’t even get me started on how they ‘ohh’ and ‘ahh’ over his stories. No one tells better stories than Grandpa.

Grandpa getting ready to take the boys to the library with Nana and Mommy for story time. He’ll never know how much it meant to me to have him come over and sit with me and the boys. I know I babbled every time, but I needed to talk. He made me feel less anxious.

I could go on with my father’s good traits and lessons he’s taught me. But that’s not what I have in my heart. What I want to say can’t be said it seems. It is banging all around my mind. Thoughts of health and home. Thoughts of pride and love. Wanting him to know he is what we need no matter what life throws at him or us. Wanting him to know that he can’t solve all his family’s problems, but we love him for wanting to. We love him just being near us and with us. I can’t express how it feels to have him be so close to our kids. I can’t say how much he helped me with my early days of parenting and suffering with PPD. He and my mom have just been invaluable for my whole stinkin’ life! 😉

We love you Dad/Grandpa. We can’t wait to see you next weekend!