Where Have I Been?

A Daddy Lion looks on tenderly at his cub
Standard

One of my images of Father God, a gift from a discipleship class facilitator at church, photographer unknown

If you’re wondering where I’ve been, honestly, for a long time, the adoption process and keeping my home clean enough to please our agency was so stressful, I didn’t have enough creative energy left for any writing at all. Now I’ve improved on that front, only to take a class at church that required as much energy as college and took up a lot of free time and frankly after my chores and my course work I just wanted to play games, read, or Facebook on my Kindle. That got boring, so I got a job.

That story begins last September, when my friend Niccole asked me to host a Lilla Rose party for her, as an adoption fundraiser for me–in addition to my hostess rewards, she threw in her own

commission from that party–that floored me. Not many people like her in business these days. If you’re wondering “what’s Lilla Rose?” So was I.

The company sells unique hair accessories that work better than store-bought, last longer than store-bought, have a 1-year product warranty , and they’re gentler on hair and work for nearly any hair type. Including mine, and that says something.

I was born with a thick set of curls that my family had no idea how to care for on a girl and they were too proud to ask for help. At age twelve, my hair was frizzy and so brushed out, we’d thought my baby curls had gone away rather than having matured into long, wavy hair very stressed from neglect and so unmanageable, I was daily asking my mom to comb out my rat’s nests.  After she reached her frustration limit there, I ended up in a salon, getting an impulsive, bad hair cut fixed. I wanted my pretty curls back, which led to a perm and advice from the beautician that I needed to use conditioner and hair picks (or wide tooth combs) and never again let any sort of hairbrush anywhere near my head.

So over the next few years, the perm grew out into the long, naturally wavy hair I have today. And I could now manage my hair myself–but it remained unruly and stubborn. My styling was limited to the half-up, a ponytail, and a basic bun at the nape of my neck. I was surprised at first at how much it made the professionals’ day to get to put my hair up for my prom and my wedding. For the most part, I’d all but lived 24/7 in the boring buns and ponytails before the Lilla Rose Fundraiser. My best styling trick was making my hair look shorter with a Scrunci upzing–which you can get for under $10 easily but they’re not big enough to hold my buns and they caused scalp pain the whole time I had them in. They also tangle on themselves and break easily. Lilla Rose costs more but you get better quality and you can exchange any items that do develop defects in the first year.

Jesus saved my life; Lilla Rose reduced my hair problems. I still have migraines but otherwise I can now put up my hair as fancy as I can learn to do it with little pain, when only the boring bun wasn’t painful before. On top of that, these things are unique hair jewelry that jazz up even my standby simple bun, simple pony tail, and the half-up.  There’s also something to suit all tastes, ranging from a metallic Celtic knot, a skull and cross bones, to flowers and bling suitable for the prom queen or even a bride getting married on a tight budget. I was used to buying cheap, so their prices seemed high to me at first, but their prices are low-end from the jewelry standpoint. Their main product, the Flexi, was too unique to sell in stores, so Lilla Rose restored to selling their products online and via network marketing consultants like my friend Niccole and now me.

Yes, I got that excited but gave myself until this late spring to think about it before getting bored enough to go for it. In the end, I figured consultants get a 30% minimum discount and the $125 kit contains $300 worth of their best-selling products.  To keep this independent contractor position, we only have to sell like $29 a year and sales to ourselves count. You only have to actually work it if you want to actually make any money–and if you do work it, you may eventually build a passive revenue stream. If you want to test things out, host an online party for me either on my public Ashira Clips page or in my private  group.

Note this is a one-time announcement that will not repeat, and I do plan to get back on topic here soon. If you’re interested in becoming a consultant or hosting a party, PM Ashira Clips on Facebook. If you’d like to see more, check out the product demo videos on my Facebook page or browse my online catalog at: lillarose.biz/ashira

For the rest of my life update, my last class ended only for me to need to start a Bible Study that reads like an MLM/network marketing approach to Christian evangelism/missions. It’s talk about reproducing and “be fruitful and multiply” may be triggering for infertile women, and I’m concerned it talks too much like the goal is for us to multiply ourselves rather than for Christ to multiply himself through our efforts, but otherwise it looks good. We need more discipleship in the church, and the other evangelism methods known to me are obnoxious and boundaries-violating so I’ll be interested to see if this approach is instead respectful and effective. I’ll let you know when I finish the course and get back from Romania. (The Romania trip story is one I’ll save for another time.)

One thing I will say, in all this whirlwind, I’ve had a few thoughts. 1) Christians are too busy to be asked to spend more than three hours a week with Jesus, which is why so many wait until their only alternative is therapy to take my previous, more intense discipleship class. 2) What is more exciting to us? Hair jewelry that considerably reduce our hair headaches? Or Christ who saved our souls from Hell and supplies all of our spiritual needs according to his riches in glory? What do we show more appreciation for? A friend who gives us an unexpected gift worth in excess of $200? Or God the Father, who ransomed us with the precious blood of his only begotten son, whose worth is beyond measure?

Another of my images of Father God*, a gift from a discipleship class facilitator at church, photographer unknown. (*The Son is the image of the Father See Col. 1:15)

Not to say we shouldn’t be grateful to our friends or happy to have solutions to every day problems. God cares about those, too, and he wants us to be grateful for each other when we do good for one another. I’m simply contemplating our priorities and wondering if we’re taking Christ for granted or if we’re letting the good gifts of this world remind us of the excellency and matchless worth of God’s gifts.

Let us remember the good people and good gifts we’ve received from them with gladness. Let’s also remember Christ’s glory and be spurred on to stir up what we’ve received from Christ and be mindful of Christ with us as we go about our day.

For anyone who walked in off the street because of Lilla Rose and now has no idea what I’m talking about, sorry. Please pretend I’m from a foreign country and speaking broken English from the strange cultural viewpoint of my strange foreign country. If you’re curious to understand it–not necessarily accept it–feel free to ask questions. Otherwise, please feel welcome to take in the data of interest to you, ignore the rest, and go on about your hopefully peaceful day.

 

What are trigger warnings? Are they bad?

Standard

photo credit: Giorgio Galeotti Non-Violence – UN, New York, NY, USA – August 18, 2015 via photopin (license)
Trigger warnings have gotten a bad rap from abuse of them as an excuse to shut down dissenting viewpoints. This has tragic results for everyone. The growing lack of respectful debate leaves us all poorer off intellectually, and the backlash against it is understandable. My concern is with the backlash’s tragic potential to endanger our ill neighbors’ health.

The abused word “trigger” comes from conditions like PTSD, migraines, and seizures where those conditions’ symptoms are triggered (or worsened) by environmental stimuli; flashing lights, loud noise, and the person consuming specific foods can all be triggers along with detailed accounts of violent acts. A trigger is to mental health and neurological health what an allergen is to immune system health. Some patients, with some conditions, with much, intensive medical treatment, may eventually be able to overcome their triggers. However, avoidance is always part of the treatment plan. And some triggers, just like some allergies, can only be treated by avoidance. For example, migraine patients and seizure patients can’t stop having a migraine or a seizure when exposed to their own specific triggers.

In a similar fashion, autism spectrum disorders and ADHD can also have a legit medical sensitivity to sensory stimuli that needs managed by the patients or their parents and teachers in the case of young children.

Some believe the adult patients’ and the child patients’ guardians’ above responsibility means we are not responsible to look out for them. If they were being responsible, they wouldn’t need us to look out for them, right?

What you may not realize is most people with legit trigger-sensitive medical conditions DO take ownership of their illness and do take responsibility to manage it. They must in order to live with it each day. As their neighbors, especially if we are Christians, we do have a responsibility to be kind and compassionate, to love our sick neighbors and avoid knowingly exposing them to stuff that we’ve been made aware is harmful to them.

Perhaps, when we’re hosting our neighbors, we can’t avoid all legitimate common triggers and common allergens to protect our ill neighbors’ health. After all, this would mean unfairly depriving ninety-nine healthy sheep for the sake of one sick sheep. Christ would leave the ninety-nine spiritually healthy sheep to go after one lost sheep, but to ask the ninety-nine to go without for the sake of even one ill sheep?

That is a Christian love that not all are ready to walk in. If so, the least we can do is love our neighbors as ourselves by alerting them to any hazards to their health that we know about, but they don’t have reason to expect.

Note it is not necessary to label a trigger warning as such. In fact, with all the present negativity, it’s probably better not to use that phrase except in articles about them. To give a trigger warning, simply make it clear upfront a common trigger is coming and give anyone who needs to avoid it for health reasons a chance to leave or otherwise protect themselves.

It’s important to only use trigger warnings properly, as the equivalent of letting people with peanut allergies know a dish contains peanuts or peanut oil. You know, so the allergic person can avoid the allergen. Avoid wording trigger warnings in a way that discourages everyone from enjoying. And they should never be used as a weapon to silence dissent. Labeling all dissent as “triggering” is bad for everyone in and of itself and bad in that it has a crying wolf effect that potentially puts people with medical conditions with genuine environmental triggers in real danger to their health.

That said, after we’ve been made aware of the legit needs, it is unkind, selfish, and uncompassionate to refuse to warn ill people of something that will make them ill. Yes, we are our brother’s keeper. It’s only due to a widespread lack of love and consideration for others that ill people can’t expect all common allergens and common triggers to be clearly identified to them in advance so they won’t be caught by surprise. Our not looking out for our neighbors leaves patients with a bad choice between risking exposure to something that will hurt them, and assuming they’ll be exposed and staying safe but perhaps needlessly deprived and isolated from the world.

Triggers crop up all the time in places that had previously been safe for the patient. Leaving them guessing can do real harm. Let’s love our sick neighbors by making ourselves aware of the legitimate needs that trigger warnings do have their proper usage for. Again, their proper use is not to shut down debate or to deprive you of a pleasure that is safe for you to enjoy. Used properly, trigger warnings simply make people with legit needs aware of the presence of a trigger they must avoid for health reasons.

Disclosure: I suffer migraines that are worsened and occasionally caused by flashing lights and blinking images. Information overload causes my brain to either meltdown or shutdown but I can tell from an event’s description and its posted length whether I’ll need to excuse myself from a session or two to decompress, if my brain requires more breaks than are scheduled. God used my suffering to raise my awareness of these issues and to teach me compassion for others. My goal here wasn’t to benefit myself but others.

[tweetthis]What trigger warnings are, when to use them, how to use them correctly, and how not to use them.[/tweetthis]

True Love Marries.

Standard

weddingbands
First, my apologies for the meme’s attention-grabbing nature. True love for God does wait for marriage to have sex, and it is best to be prepared to enter into marriage before doing so. However, it seems we need to start preparing kids to marry at younger ages. If the reports are true that upward of 80% of Christian evangelical young adults are having premarital sex, that is a rather strong indicator we’re delaying marriage longer than most have the self-control to wait.

Based on my experiences, for a young couple deeply in love, following the cultural trend of delaying marriage until nearly thirty and also delaying sex that long would be unbearable torment. I applaud the single folks who do remain celibate successfully into their thirties, their forties, or even for life due to a personal calling. However, for those who are struggling, the clear biblical solution is to stop delaying marriage and tie the knot before you fall into sexual sin (or to repent, get a clean slate, and marry before you fall again.)

God has called us to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and trust him to keep his promise that he knows our need and if we trust him and honor him first, all these things we worry about shall be added unto us. Frankly, many of the worries Christian parents have boil down to, “but if our children marry right out of high school, what shall they eat, where shall they live, what shall they wear?”

It is written I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor their children begging bread, and God’s word will not return to him void even if we defy the wisdom of this age and choose to marry young rather than fall into temptation and sin against him.

We need to have our hearts set on eternity’s definition of starting out right rather than the world’s definition. My husband and I were only 20 and 21 on our wedding day, and he lost his job not long after we were married, but God took care of us and saw us through it.

If the couple both attend a college with married housing, being married college students isn’t any poorer financially than being unmarried college students spiritually impoverished due to falling into sin and sleeping together out of wedlock. I recall hearing married college students tend to do quite well academically, too.

Regarding non-college students with jobs, it is more expensive to maintain separate households, so a budget wedding followed by combining households is cheaper financially. (Save the fancy dream wedding for a vow renewal down the road.) This approach is also more profitable spiritually than the world’s shacking up solution is. The biblical counter offer to that, however, doesn’t apply to those couples who are willing and able to maintain separate households while they’re delaying marriage without falling into sexual sin.

By the way, when I first heard about this issue afflicting the Church, I was tempted to judge the sincerity of the faith of the 80% of young believers who fall into sexual sin, but God checked me. That is not always the case. For many, cultural expectations that are unreasonable for those individuals set them up to fail. If that’s you, admit it was wrong, apologize to God, receive grace and strength to stop sinning, and resume practicing celibacy until marriage.

Many fear marrying young dooms those couples to divorce. The truth is, marriages at any age fail today because at least one spouse is irresponsible, self-centered, and not committed to keep promises no matter what. So, Church, let’s do our best to teach children better than that, gradually begin to treat them like responsible adults when they physically become adults, and support them as needed. With such tools in their hands, they’ll have better chances of staying married to one person for life, having no sexual regrets, and remaining in right relationship with God most importantly, whether they head off to college as husband as wife or leave it as such.

More of our high schoolers might find temptation easier to withstand if the finish line of the marriage bed was somewhere anywhere close to in sight. If I recall, at that age, college seems an eternity away, let alone turning twenty-five or even thirty. Again, I’m not advocating we force teens into shotgun weddings unprepared; I am saying let’s prepare them for adulthood and for marriage and give them the tools needed to marry and stay married at the ages where their bodies are urging them to date/find spouses and open minds to the possibility of a personal calling to marry young.

When true love can’t wait anymore, it marries, and it needs to learn how to stay married with the support of its family and/or its church.

(Original draft written on December 16, 2011 at 11:03pm)

[tweetthis remove_url=”true”]True Love Marries http://www.christsglory.com/?p=1722 pic.twitter.com/U2CguARmnE[/tweetthis]

God Wants Lovers, Not Lawyers

Standard

manwomanbeachverseThe Pharisees confronted Jesus over divorce in Matthew 19 asking if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause. Jesus answered in part with a line that would become part of many marriage ceremonies, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) The Pharisees raised a reasonable legal point and asked, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”

Jesus responded, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”  (Matthew 19:8) The certificate of divorce was a protection for the woman. American history shows how this “hardness of heart” could play out  many centuries later in the life of President Andrew Jackson’s wife, Rachel. She received a notice of divorce from her first husband and thought she was free to marry Jackson. Only later did she discover the divorce wasn’t final and her first husband used this to attack her as a bigamist. Jackson’s political opponents used the same attacks during the 1828 campaign, and she was driven to her death by them. A simple certificate of divorce protected the divorced wife.

Yet many had interpreted the ability to write the certificate of divorce as God’s blessing of the practice. If the Pharisees had paid attention to the prophets, they would have seen this was clearly not the case.

In Malachi 2, God announces that he’s not honoring people’s offerings because they’ve covered in his altars in tears and he explains how they did this:

…Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.  (Malachi 2:14-16)

The Old Testament law contained no specific prohibition against divorce. It contained a mechanism by which divorce could lawfully be obtained. Yet the men of Judah’s treatment of their wives had invited the ire of God.

foreversunsetUltimately, they made the same mistake we’ve all made. They assumed God was primarily concerned about our ability to follow all the technicalities of the rules. We can look at the commandments of the living God as if we were a corporate lawyer combing the latest pages of regulations from the Federal Register, seeking a loophole to keep our clients in good standing.

Yet God is concerned about our hearts. We often approach situations with impure motives. (ex: Is it technically adultery? Would God really punish me for this? Can I still do this and go to Heaven?) As long as our heart is focused on, ‘What can I get away with?’ we’ll be far from God.

God wants us to be faithful, loving, and kind. Jesus gave us the Great Commandments to Love God and love our neighbor. The goal of the Christian life and the cry of our heart should be for our hearts to be faithful, kind, and loving so that we would fulfill these commandments rather than hoping to find a loophole to get away with it.

[tweetthis]God Wants Lovers, Not Lawyers: Guest post by Adam Graham @idahoguy[/tweetthis][tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]”As long as our heart is focused on, ‘What can I get away with?’ we’ll be far from God.” Quote by @idahoguy [/tweetthis]

Hope for Lock Box Hearts

Standard

lockbox heart

In my mid-teens, I wrote the following poem:

The Box

I locked my heart in a tin box
And threw away the key.
I ran from all like the fox,
But someday it will return to me.

 

Though I lost my tin box in my flight,
It returned to me to my surprise.
But alas, where is the key?
Without it, there is no hope for me.

 

So I must ask: Who has my key?
Would you please return it to me?

Guess who had the key?

When I look through the poetry I wrote in my teens, the ones not dedicated to Jesus, or not overtly about difficulties at school or home, were all about my imaginary boyfriend—or rather my hoped-for future husband–or crying after my imaginary ex-boyfriend had imaginarily beat me or otherwise broken my heart.

Yep, I was that kind of teenage girl once. This one was straight up a poetic confession about my defense mechanisms, hyper vigilance, on guard, emotionally withdrawn—in short, I was often too busy protecting myself from pain to let anyone in to love me, either. I had a lot of issues with going numb, shutting down, just going through the motions of life, only remembering what I needed to remember to function and survive at the time. It left most of my childhood a huge blank today with few memories retained. I fled into books and story worlds, both those others wrote and stuff I wrote—and I can remember the paracosms I created fairly well with a little effort.

As implied by the second stanza, to my surprise, God managed to reach me, to connect with a locked-up heart, teach me to trust the Lord and let in my Father God’s spirit, and submit to the long, slow, painful healing process. It began with an awareness of the dangers of my state and a desire for healing and freedom.

As a young, emotionally abused teenager, I imagined what I needed for my heart to heal and for me to come out of my shell was the love of the right boy. I also wanted my first serious boyfriend to be the man I married and to marry the one God meant for me to marry. God only gave me the second. When I met my husband, Adam, in college, I was no longer hoping God would send me a mortal man to rescue me as the Church’s Bridegroom was the great love of my life healing, teaching, and spiritually growing me, and helping me connect with others. I still have issues but I’m far better than I used to be.

you had mineI’d forgotten all about this poem when, for our anniversary one year, Adam got me a cutesy card with a heart on it and an attached key meant to go on a charm bracelet. The words inside read, “you’ve had mine from the start.”

Nonetheless, my heart seized, though consciously I was more thinking “aw” at the intended meaning that I had the key to Adam’s heart in a romantic way.

Yet a young woman with a heart on fire for Jesus tore that key off the card and placed it on the cross necklace I’ve worn regularly ever since I received it as a gift from Adam back when we were engaged. In fact, I pried apart the loop that connects the cross to the chain (shoelace really) and added the key to the cross charm.

The jewelry that I wear around my neck, personally, has powerful symbolic meaning to me; what I wear over my heart is a testimony to—and a personal reminder—of what is supreme in my heart. God’s even convicted me for having added to the chain an angel charm that I’d dedicated to the children I’ve lost before they ever got to be more than a dream in my heart. (Note: my ‘angel babies’ aren’t literally angels.) God let that go for years; only when I was ready to surrender them to God was I asked to put that one away.

God had previously talked to me about idolizing my husband and dealt with that heart issue without the key charm ever being mentioned. When I got on a roll and went to remove everything I’d hung beside the cross, and saw how I’d even chained the key physically to the cross, I actually felt convicted to leave it and God began showing me what it really was meant to represent.

The answer to the prayer of the young girl I’d been. God owns my heart, so the key to my heart was God’s from the start. God thus had the key, and God had returned it to me as I’d so earnestly prayed. The symbolic one coming to me via my husband is gently humorous as when I wrote that I’d still been foolishly imaging a husband could ever do more than hand me powerful symbols that remind me of inward, unseen realities and be a vessel of God’s grace.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]God remembers what we’ve forgotten. He will restore the years the locusts have eaten. (See Joel 2:25-27)[/tweetthis]

I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.
“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
–Joel 2:25-27