How Building a House Made Me Hate Cows

“It might be time for you to go.  It might be time to change, to shine out.  I want to repeat one word for you Leave.  Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit.  It is a beautiful word, isn’t it?  So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be.  And you will not be alone.  You have never been alone.  Don’t worry.  Everything will still be here when you get back.  It is you who will have changed.”  -Donald Miller.

These were the words I read as I was on hour number 6 of 23 of the long drive down to Juarez, Mexico.  I knew that I needed to leave, not just to help a family, but I needed to leave for me.  I knew that staying in one place too long had a way of suffocating me, and I needed to leave so that I could breathe again.  But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was quite reluctant to leaving that Saturday morning when I crammed myself in the back corner of a van.  I didn’t want to go, I was comfortable here.  Which was exactly why I needed to go, I just didn’t realize it at the time.   So that is how I found myself reading Donald Miller poetically write about change and leaving as I sat in the back of a bumpy van looking out the window at cows eating grass.  It was then I realized that maybe that is how change works; it is like watching the land change.  We wake up every morning dealing with the same problems, becoming stagnate as we watch the same cows eat grass.  Then one day we leave and slowly over a 23 hour drive down to Mexico the land starts to change, until one morning you wake up and see Mountains and not cows eating grass.

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I was shocked to find out just how close Juarez, Mexico is to El Paso, Texas.  They are essentially one city divided into two by the border.  One night when we were in El Paso, we went to a lookout in the mountain to look at the city lights.  The only break in the lights was by the border, dividing the two cities.   It is crazy that only ten miles can change someone’s life that drastically.  I began to feel sorry for people born in Juarez as they were living in poverty and had to watch the sunrise every morning over the shiny glass skyscrapers of downtown El Paso.  Just imagine for a moment waking up every morning in Juarez cold and hungry and seeing the sun rise over those buildings, knowing that only ten miles away those people had everything they needed and more.  Then I spent four days in Mexico, spending time with our family, and I realized that I had it backwards.  They were not the poor, we were.  They had community and laughter, and all we had was an obsession with stuff, status, and social media.  They taught me that life isn’t about trying to get more stuff and success.  Life is much about sitting outside laughing until our stomachs hurt, life is about community, and life is about caring for someone just because.  Life is about love and relationships; something that can’t be bought, horded, or found on facebook.

The first thing I learned is that having a bed is a privilege.  Sometimes it takes something as awful as trying to fit three sleeping people on a van bench, spines twisting at impossible angles with butts half asleep and feet in each other’s faces, to really make you appreciate your bed.  It made me realize how much I take my bed for granted.  As if having a comfy bed is something that I deserve and not something that I am privileged to have.  But I have more than a warm bed at night.  I have more blessings than I know how to be grateful for.  Only I am rarely grateful for any of it. About 10% of the world gets to enjoy the wealth that we have.  10 miles, 10%, why did I get to be one of the lucky few that won the life lottery?

Now I am back in South Dakota, having everything I need and finding that none of it actually makes me happy.  I am worried about the same stupid stuff, and back to watching the same old cows eating grass. And I realized I really that hate watching cows eat grass.  I can’t fit back into the mold of who I was when I left, because I am no longer that person.  I can’t pretend that I am not changed, or that the things I once thought important now seem selfish and superficial.  It is a hard battle, knowing that you have been changed, but now knowing what to do about it.  It is almost like being stuck in this limbo state, unsure of what will happen next.  I don’t know what God has in store for me next, nor do I know what great adventure he longs to take you on.  But I do know that stepping away from your cows in one insane moment of courage will change everything.  Although be forewarned, you may come back to realize that you too hate cows.

Reclaiming the Word Pretty

Working in a male penitentiary,  I get gawked at and whistled at a lot.  It has gotten to the point that I hate the sound of whistling.  If I hear it and I instantly get angry.  Those simple two notes tell a girl that you do not care about anything about her besides that you like looking at her.  How is that ok?  I once yelled at a room full of inmates for whistling at me, and a couple of them actually looked scared of me.  Or so I thought, until I left and one stubborn inmate started barking at me.  But since then, not one inmate from that unit has whistled at me.  But my point is that it is hard being a woman in today’s society.  Who we are is not measured by how intelligent we as women are, how capable we are, how loving and loved we are, or our ability to be anything more than a pretty thing to be looked at.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   “This is about women who will prowl 30 stores and 6 malls to find the right cocktail dress, but have no clue where to find fulfillment or how to wear joy. This is about my own someday daughter, when you approach me already stung stained with insecurity, begging mom will I be pretty? I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap lipstick and answer ‘No, the word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be.  No child of mine will be contained in those five letters.  You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing, but you will never be merely pretty.'” -Katie Makkai
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             We have become a culture that is obsessed with appearance.  Our entire society broadcasts this lie to us that to have worth, you have to be pretty.  Buy this product and have silky skin that will never wrinkle, use this conditioner to have long frizz free hair, make sure you whiten your teeth after drinking all the coffee, wear the right clothes but don’t you ever repeat outfits.  We have such high expectations for what women have to look like that is no wonder we wrap and warp our identity on who well we meet this standard.  But the thing that no one tells you is that being “pretty” is not something you can buy.  No one talks about how how until you learn to value yourself beyond without all of the glitz, you will never feel truly pretty with the glitz.  But can we really blame ourselves for believing this? What I mean, is that the message has been broadcast to us all throughout the awkward insecure years of our youth.  I am not saying it isn’t important for young girls to know that they are beautiful, but we have to be careful that we aren’t sending them the message that being beautiful is the only thing that is important.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 I’m in the middle reading Donald Miller’s book Searching for God Knows What, and out of no where he starts talking about Adam and Eve.  Miller talked about how Adam had between 10 and 100 million different animal species to name before he met Eve.  We just kind of assume that Adam spent a day or two making the animals and the boom there was Eve.  But in reality it would have taken him a hundred years to name everything.  Adam was lonely for a hundred before Eve came along.  “I think it was smart of God because today, now that there are women all around and a guy can go on the Internet and see them naked anytime he wants, the whole species has been devalued.  If I were a girl in America, I would be a feminist for sure. I read recently where one out of every four women, by the time they reach thirty, are sexually harassed, molested, or raped.  And then I thought about how very beautiful it was the God made Adam work for so long, because there was no way, after a hundred years of being along, looking for somebody whom you could connect with in your soul, that you would take advantage of a woman once you met one.  She would be the most precious creation in all the world.  Adam was seeing a person who was like him, only more beautiful, and smarter in the ways of love and encouragement, and more deliberate in the ways of relationships” – Donald Miller.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Needless to say, I respected Donald Miller a lot more after reading that.  I have been very blessed to have a father, many brothers, and even more guy friends who care for me and love me for who I am.  But I wish that every girl could have someone like Donald Miller come along and tell why they are precious and how they need to never let anyone take that away from them.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Please don’t think this is a blog about how awful I think men are.  Women are just as responsible, because let’s be honest we want guys to like us.  And somewhere along the line we got it in our head that the only way a guy will like us is if we are pretty.   Isn’t about time that we as women decide to take back our right to be valued above our appearance?  Isn’t about time that we start teaching our daughters not how to put on makeup, but how to believe in their dreams and their abilities?  Isn’t it time that we taught our sons that girls are a precious gift God has given them, and that girls need to be valued for who they are?  Maybe we as women need to stop spending so much time in front of a mirror obsessing on whether or not we are pretty enough.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that or your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:2-4