All posts by blogobeth

A Christian’s Challenge

My grandparents were East European Jewish immigrants.  One fled persecution in Russia and the other escaped the growing Nazi threat in Austria. They came to this country for religious freedom.  They witnessed atrocities that most Americans cannot imagine and the emotional baggage that came with them did not disappear.

It has been my experience that Jews fall into one of two categories. They either believe in talking about the Holocaust  because it should never be forgotten or they NEVER want to talk about it.  My family is part of the “we never talk about the bad and the horrible” category.

My paternal grandparents came from West Texas. One Baptist and one Methodist, and as you can imagine it was quite scandalous when they married.  My grandmother’s family played cards which was strictly forbidden in my grandfather’s family.

So my Methodist father married my Jewish mother and they had three kids, whom they moved across the country. We lived in a variety of states but within communities that were all dominantly Christian, and in many cases Catholic.  Out of respect for both religions my parents neither went to church nor temple.  We were told as children when asked about faith to NEVER tell anybody that we were Jewish.  Keep it secret.

For years I obeyed this command and my life, as a result, was simple. I made friends, went to school and things moved along like most childhoods. Sometimes little hiccups would happen. I would mention a gift I had gotten for Hanukkah and a friend might ask me what that was, or I might mention that my mother was Jewish and a playmate might ask what a Jew was.  Simple, innocent questions asked by young, innocent children.  In high school things took a serious turn and this is when I first began to understand Christians.

I was in ninth grade standing outside of the band room talking with friends when the question of baptism came up. I had long since shed my inhibitions about my religious heritage and felt quite proud of it – especially after learning about the Holocaust.  I shared that I had never been baptized because my mother was Jewish. The young man standing next to me, with blond tousled hair and small town good looks, turned to me and said, “You’re damned to hell. You’ll burn for that,” and returned to his conversation as if he had stated the most obvious fact of all. I was silent.

This passing conversation would occur again and again and turn into more overt slights and judgements. The parents of boys I dated would discourage them from dating me – I was a non-believer, a sinner, a bad influence (which in many cases was ironic considering their son’s own lustful longings).  Girls were discouraged to be friends with me because I would tempt them away from being believers.  I had one set of parents tell my boyfriend at the time, a good natured young man whom my parents liked very much, that when we died he would go to heaven and I would burn for eternity.

None of these “Christians” took the time to know me, to talk with me, to share their own beliefs or even offer to take me to church. l was dismissed, labeled a “sinner” and quickly cast aside.  The message was clear, “The church does not WANT you! You are NOT welcome.”

I grew to view Christians as hypocrites – quick to pass judgement and label people as sinners without owning their own sins. If this was what Jesus stood for then I had no need of him in my life.  Who would want to join a club where it was obvious none of the members wanted you. And yet, I longed for a spiritual connection. I yearned for that relationship, and would pray alone in my room asking God for guidance.  By the time I was twenty I had attended over a half dozen churches – not once welcomed.

The first real Christian I met was Sister Dorothy. She was a Catholic nun who served Western Michigan University where I attended classes.  Western is a mid-size liberal arts campus sitting close to the shores of Lake Michigan. She didn’t wear a traditional nun’s habit but did wear a large wood cross around her neck as if proclaiming that she was the sole property of Christ.  Sister Dorothy was wonderful. She was funny, kind and generous. She would bring us snacks, talk with us about our classes and was a warm figure always close. She NEVER asked me for my religious heritage. She NEVER asked to what church I belonged. She didn’t judge me. She loved me and you felt it from the moment you met her.

After college, and one class short of a minor in world religion, I started attending The First United Methodist Church in Brighton, Michigan.  People looked me in the eye at that church. They shook my hand. They welcomed me even though I was a 25 year old single female coming to church alone. One Sunday rolled into several Sundays and then suddenly I started volunteering.  I felt like an impostor and feared that soon the truth of my background would be found out and they wouldn’t allow me to attend. Feeling the need to “out” myself I met with the pastor one on one.  I fought back tears as I explained to him my Jewish mother, my mixed heritage – I knew he was going to tell me that I could never return until I had been properly baptized. I held my breath.  And then the most amazing thing happened, he smiled, and he said this to me, “Every person has to walk their own spiritual journey and I can only meet you where you are at. Come when you want to come. Volunteer when you feel the calling and when you are ready for more I am here. Until then, you are welcome at our church.”

I moved to Texas and met David. I was still a non-believer, still unbaptized, and still a sinner.  Then the second most amazing thing happened – he fell in love with me anyway.  Unlike the parents of my boyfriends before, my in-laws loved me too. They didn’t discourage David from dating me because I was a non-believer, instead they encouraged me on my faith journey – they respected my religious heritage and background. They embraced me as a child of God, inherently good and already forgiven of my sins.

David and I were married in my first church home in Brighton Michigan in 2000.  Five years later David and I would be baptized – TOGETHER – for David a recommitment, for me a first commitment.

Up to this point this story has probably seemed like a happy tale of redemption and the testimony of God’s love but it isn’t. It is a story about the pain, desolation and sinfulness of judgement.  Because when I look at this story I see hundreds of missed opportunities of discipleship. I see people so buried underneath their “Christian” beliefs that they no longer see the children of God but instead see categories of people – the believers and the non-believers, the sinners and the saved, the right and the wrong, the accepted and the abomination.

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5

Everyday I see Christians building fortresses – concentric circles of believers in an effort to never have their children or themselves interact with non-believers — with sinners – in case the non-believing might wear off.  As if their faith is so fragile that it couldn’t withstand the questions or challenges of a non-believer.

I’m sure many of you are saying, “but I do love everybody, even non-believers.” How many of your children are friends with children who are non-believers? When was the last time you invited a non-believer over to your house? When was the last time you told your children they could date anybody, unless of course they weren’t Christian? It is easy to play disciple to those who already believe – to those who are already baptized – but God doesn’t ask us to do that.

“When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:17

Judgement, my friends, is a slippery rock to hatred and too many Christians like to throw stones from the fortress of judgement.

This is my challenge; seek out a new friend, a non-believer – don’t judge them, don’t change them, don’t invite them out of pity, or out of a desire to show them the “right” way to live.  Instead I ask that you love them. Love this non-believer as the child of God that they are and see the powerful transformation that can happen in the lives of people when all you do is share the love God has given you.

“Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.” Matthew 9:10


A Mother’s Day Battle

We learn how to be a mother from our own mothers. Everything from the simple, how to kiss a boo-boo to serving up tough love is all first taught to us through example. Our mother teaches us about love, nurturing, and kindness.

My grandmother was the product of war and oppression – an immigrant who fled her own country out of fear. Who witnessed atrocities of injustice and inhumanity at the young age of 8.  These tragic events created a woman, who in her own turn, transferred those fears and anger onto her own child.  My mother, out of the strongest of desires to not repeat the errors of her mother, went in the opposite direction.

My mother didn’t know about unconditional love, safety, fearlessness or warmth but she did her best to give my siblings and I that very kind of childhood.  A childhood from the pages of a magazine. We had homemade costumes, and cookies. She hosted themed parties that would rival anything you saw on Pinterest. She packed lunches and drove us to activities, and helped with homework and hired tutors and attended concerts and ALWAYS picked up the phone. My friends would often collect at my home and tell me that they wished my mother was their mother.

For 37 years my mother held her emotional breath – not allowing any of the negative thinking or abuse seep out of her mouth or her behavior. She held it in. All of it. The pain, her mother’s voice, the negative cloud of her own upbringing was kept sharply at bay until all of her three children left the house.

My mother has grown weary of fighting the demons. She has faltered and now they nip at her heels — they crowd her.

As a mother myself now – sometimes struggling with the right things to say or do for my kids. Hearing words come from my mouth that I wish I could take back – seeing and doing things that I wish I hadn’t done I can’t help but admire my mother even more.

How did she do it? How did she fight her most basic nature for so long? How did she not allow those demons to pass?

My mother spent several days in the hospital this week – she’s older, more frail, her weaknesses all raw and exposed. Her nerves frayed and easily agitated.  But I think I admire her more now than I ever have. It is in her weakest moments, when the demons raise their heads,  that I recognize the strength that she carried for so long.  The battle that she waged within herself.

And I want her to know, on this Mother’s Day, that she won.  I know she hurts and has regrets and I know all that pain is with her everyday now.  But she raised three children who know about unconditional love, and kindness and charity and nurturing and friendship. And we in turn are raising seven children who are growing in love and kindness and charity.  So perhaps her life was sacrificial, but those same demons will no longer follow our family line. They have been stopped. She might have lost her own personal fight, but she won the war.

I Love Teachers

There is a general assumption that if you homeschool you hate the public school system. Although this might be true for some it is NOT true for this homeschooling mom.


I mean that.

All of them.

I have so many friends and relatives who work in the public school system and they are amazing. These are smart, well-educated, passionate, caring people who adore children and the act of teaching. I’m rather fond of teachers and the administrators who support them. These are people who get up and fight a battle that is ALWAYS stacked against them. And no amount of jars of candy and gift cards will ease that difficulty.

No, what I hate is the public school SYSTEM.  The system which everybody agrees is broken.

A system where kindergarten teachers are so busy testing and assessing their students that the children have no time to play.

A system where 50% of new teachers will quit after the first five years of teaching

A system where a teaching salary is so meager that men are incapable of becoming teachers because they cannot support a family of four on that salary, which leads to our young boys being constantly surrounded by female teachers.

A system where teachers are told what to teach, when to teach it and how to teach it.

A system where teacher salaries are not based on work ethic, or innovation or time in the classroom but instead on whether or not all of their students test at the same level.

A system where a teacher must be equally afraid of being shot or wrongfully accused by a parent.

A system where one ISD can build a multi-million dollar football stadium, while an ISD the next town over doesn’t have enough money to build classrooms, or provide practice space for their students.

Nobody wishes this system worked more than me – I want the system to work because I want a country that is filled with educated, and critical thinking citizens. I want an environment where children are exposed to a variety of ideas, where their differences are celebrated, where students are not forced into homogeny.

And there are as many ideas regarding how to fix it as there are people with opinions in Washington but what nobody has stopped to do is to ASK A TEACHER. Teachers get it — they get it in a real way. They get the fact that it has little to do with fancy buildings or fancy technology and has more to do with the space and freedom to teach the children in front of them not the “standard” child which fits nobody. They understand that it is about allowing one child the space to learn slower and the freedom to let the other to bolt ahead. They understand that it isn’t about test scores but about inspiring a desire in a person to NEVER stop learning. It is about books and art and questions and sometimes not knowing the answers. It is about experimenting and play and mistakes and do-overs.

It is NOT about high-stakes test scores which tell us nothing about anybody.

Love Letter To Millenials

Dear Millenials,

You have unwittingly launched a societal hand-wringing over the future. Generation X, Generation Y, the Baby Boomers — they all feel that you are the harbingers of doom. That your generation will be the cause of our demise.  You are selfish. You have a sense of entitlement. You don’t believe in hard work.  Well, at least that is what all the “experts” are telling us.

I disagree.

I spend approximately 12 hours a week with millenials and I’ve grown to love you. To respect you and I’m excited about how you will change society.

It is not that you don’t believe in hard work, it is that you believe in balance.  You don’t believe that success should come at the sacrifice of everything else in your life.

It is not that you are selfish (well, no more than any other 20 year old) it is that you are used to being in a world with social media where at any moment the spotlight can be focused on you.

You are not entitled, you expect and demand more from society. You demand better work/life balance. You demand equal treatment between the genders. You demand fairness among the races and have little tolerance for digressions.

You also are scared of the future. You are worried that you will have a job. You are worried that you will keep a job. You are worried about the environment. You are worried about your food. You are worried that the political system is broken.

You live at home not because you want Mom & Dad to take care of you but because the cost of school is so high you can’t afford to live outside of the home. You work a part time job and go to school full time. You work over the summers. You take internships and mentorships and volunteer at a surprising rate.

What I love most about you is your belief that you CAN change things. That you will force the world to bend under your will. That things like peace, equality, and tolerance are achievable goals. My generation is filled with skeptics and cynics and non-believers – a whole generation that “gave up” on the system.  But YOU – you bright faced millenials are the cock-eyed optimists that we need right now. You are the face of good things to come.

I love you.


Vantage Point

Recently, I’ve been thinking about mortality. David’s grandmother is standing on the doorway of heaven and she has started talking to dead people. Her arms are out stretched welcoming the comfort that only death can provide.  Everyday I see Harper as she runs into life with her heart open and spirit soaring. My parents have entered retirement and are facing new challenges with humor.  My young neighbor with two sweet baby boys is battling life-threatening cancer, and my students sit on the precipice of adulthood.

And here I am – 44 – and with the unique ability to see all stages of life everyday and from one vantage point. It is both inspiring and frightening.  Middle age makes you acutely aware of how fast time flies and how little time each of us has on this earth.  This self reflection has made me ask many questions but the one most prominent seems to be, “How am I spending that time?”

When we are young it is a question that is supposed to inspire us to chase our dreams but as you get older it becomes a more practical question.  Every day I wake up and make a choice regarding how I’m spending that next 12 hour period. Will I regret it later in life? Will I regret not taking better care of my body? Will I regret not taking the time to be with my friends? Will I regret not traveling more? Will I regret not pursing some of my dreams and aspirations? I don’t have magic answers. I wish I did. Illness and old age overtakes us whether we are triathlon runners or life-time partiers.  But it is the WHAT of our lives that seems to make the difference. What did we do with our time.

1.) NOTHING is more important than friends and family

The time I cherish most is the time I spend with my children and my family. The lazy Saturdays, the funny conversations in the car, the snuggles in bed, the comfortable silence on the back porch, the conversation filled dinners. I don’t cherish the time I spend rushing my kids to lessons or classes or activities. I don’t cherish the time I spend fulfilling obligations. Obligations are for the young and I don’t choose to fill my calendar with such nonsense.

2.) Saying “No” is hard

A reoccurring New Years resolution for me is to start saying “no” more often. I pretty much fail every year but I keep trying. It is not out of obligation that I say “yes” but out of a desire to want to do EVERYTHING.  Yes, of course I want to sign up for cooking classes. Yes, I want my kids in the gifted engineering program. Yes, I want to organize field trips. Yes, I want to help the homeless at church. Yes, I will teach more classes.  It all sounds wonderful and exciting and FUN and I don’t want to miss ANYTHING. But in missing nothing I neglect the most important, which brings me back to point #1 – nothing is really more important than those quiet Saturdays and time spent loving each other.

3.) Balance health but don’t make it your idol

Our journey has been set for us and no matter how much exercise or gluten-free eating we do is going to change that.  However, don’t be purposefully neglectful because you might need some of that old body later on. I try to eat a balanced diet, but I’m definitely not opposed to the Oreo/Pop-tart/doughnut kind of day. I walk the dog everyday but I doubt I will ever commit myself to a spinning class or hours at the gym. Conversely though, if that is what brings you joy then DO IT. Walking the dog, during the early quiet hours of the morning when I can hear the birds chirping – that brings me joy.

4.) Prioritize your dreams

When I was in 5th grade I told my teacher that I wanted to grow up and write books for a living.  If I live to be 95 (which considering my genetic legacies and assuming no unforeseen circumstances) I am almost halfway through my life, which means I’m at the peak of my life mountain.  Realistically I probably only have another 40 years left to do all the things I want to do and trust me, that list is LONG. But, I have a list and that is an important first step. I might not write that novel I’ve always said I would but I will see the Globe theater, because I’ve prioritized it. I will suck every moment out of watching my kids grow up because I’ve prioritized that experience. I will take mother/daughter trips, and see my kids graduate college, and I will spend evenings with my husband sitting on the porch.  I will cook with my sister and laugh with my parents and fill my days with love. Which brings me to my last point…..

5.) It’s all about the people

This isn’t earth-shattering or even novel. We all know this but how often do we lose track of it? How often do we lose track of what is really important? And I guess that is why it has been on my mind. I’ve already lost people. I’ve already attended funerals with people shaking their heads and saying the “should haves” and “could haves” of regret.

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I’m terrified that I will lose track of those important things. I fear that I will get so caught up in checking off the “to-do’s” of societal obligation that I will forget to spend time doing the really important things. And perhaps this is just my long-winded way of justifying not cleaning my house.


Annual Birthday Wishes

I have just completed the last party of the birthday season. I have gotten in the habit of writing a blog post every year acknowledging the fleeting time that I have with my children, acknowledging their blossoming personalities.

Dear Lucy,

This year has been one of metamorphosis for you – both physically and emotionally.  About a year ago you began having panic attacks. These panic attacks grew increasingly more frequent until we – you, Dad and myself, agreed to seek outside help.  Mental illness runs long in our family and I saw the signs of an anxiety disorder early. While some people have criticized our decision for early intervention I don’t regret it. I don’t regret it because I’ve watched you blossom under the guidance and wisdom of these outside helpers.  And I could not be more proud of you.  You have embraced every offer of help, every book, every piece of advice, every technique. As a result you have become MIGHTY and STRONG. You faced your fears, and demons and you beat them.

And my darling girl, I want you to remember that. I want you to forever remember that at 10 years old you were strong enough to face your irrational fears and beat them back into submission. Because some day those fears are going to feel bigger and stronger than you can imagine and I want you to pull from this tree of strength that you planted this year and blossom. I want you stand in the warmth and sunlight of your inner courage.


Dear Max,

Your growth sneaks up on me every year. Every year you get bigger and more grown up and I watch in wonder and sadness. This year you really began to shed your “little boy” appearance. You’ve grown tall and muscular. Your speech is clear, your thoughts more complex.

I have relished in our bedtime routine which has evolved into nightly reading. We’ve read the first five books of The Percy Jackson Series and have now begun the next series. We have shared thousands and thousands of pages.  We have discussed characters and settings and what we think will happen next and what we hope.  Every night you call down for me to come up and read a chapter and by the soft glow of night lights we share another world. A world that only you and I are allowed.

Please, don’t ever leave me alone in that special world sweet boy. You will grow more independent of me, need me less, but I want us to always have that special world that we have so meticulously built together.

Dear Harper,

Who are you? Where did you come from? At times you are a complete mystery to me. I don’t see hints of my personality or Daddy’s. You are your own person – a gift that I wonder at.  You turned 5 this year – but the number is irrelevant because you like to run with the big kids. Anything they can do, you can do better – and nobody, and I mean NOBODY can say “no” to you. It is not part of your vocabulary.  You are self-sufficient in all things except one…….you refuse to go to the bathroom by yourself. EVER.  I’m writing this down now because someday you will have your own children and one of them will refuse to be potty trained and you will be frustrated and when you call me to complain I will laugh at you. I will laugh and laugh and laugh and then I will say, “God is just”.

However, I am wallowing in your childhood. I snuggle you and bend to your whim because you are my last. Do I spoil you? Probably. Do I care? Nope. I still love the way your breath smells in the morning and I still nibble on your toes and I will until it seems weird.  I sit in wonderment of you and most days I just shake my head and shrug my shoulders at the amazing person standing in front of me.

Small Victories

David and I decided to homeschool our kids in March 2013 – the end of Max’s first grade year.  You can read the whole sordid tale here but one of the main reasons we made that choice was because of Max. Max was ending his first grade year behind in reading, writing, comprehension and had developed a stutter which was aggravated by stressful situations — like being at school.  Max was also VERY aware that he was behind and that he wasn’t good at school.  Nobody needed to tell him or point it out – he knew.

Our first year homeschooling was challenging – in a good way.  We tried a variety of textbooks, workbooks and learning styles. Some of them worked and some failed. My main focus was to help improve Max’s confidence and to help him gain ground in the areas that he was the weakest, handwriting and reading.  We put aside things like grammar and focused most of our energy in these two areas (along with math and the normal things).

At the beginning of this year I had the kids take the California Standardized Test (yes, homeschoolers test too – it is just not high stakes, not stressful, and kids aren’t sent to after school tutoring or summer school if they do poorly).  Max’s test came back with average to high scores in almost every category.  (He had only one low area and that was grammar.  Easy fix for this English teacher).  I shared the scores with Max, explained to him what they meant, where his weaknesses were and what we needed to work on this year.

We’ve continued our work. Max is learning cursive and where a year ago his handwriting was similar to a Kindergartner or Pre-K student this year his cursive is beautiful and looks like another child wrote it.  His reading has taken off and although he still tells me he can’t read even he is starting to realize that is a lie he can no longer hide behind. The results of all this labor – and love – came about two weeks ago.

IMG_7413Max was sitting on the floor putting his shoes on and he looked up at me and said, “Mama, how do you think I’m doing in school?” I looked down and said, “I think you’re doing great. You’re picking up your grammar quickly, you are a natural at math and your cursive is unbelievable. But that isn’t the important question. How do YOU think you’re doing in school?”  Max paused, looked up at me with those big brown eyes and said, “I think I’m doing GREAT! I’ve got this year nailed!”

And that my friends is the sound of success.

Ebola: No Truth To Be Found

As David left for work this morning I shouted, “Have a good day! Don’t catch ebola!” We both laughed but living in the suburbs of Dallas – ground zero for ebola in the United States – it is a weak laugh.  Friends and family have asked if I’m worried and I suppose I’m less nervous than some, more than others. I work at a university with a heavy international population so I’m probably at a bit more risk than some but not as much as a nurse or health care provider.

The real problem though is the lack of truth. Depending on who, or where or what you read, the truth about ebola is ever changing and that is the problem. A problem that is infecting our democracy, our political system and our society.

If you think that the ebola outbreak is nothing to worry about then you could read this article in the New York Daily News, or this piece in the New York Times, or this article from Forbes news which clearly state that there are far larger threats than ebola and that we are all over reacting.

However, if you think ebola is a huge problem and that the CDC is doing a horribly botched job of handling it then I suggest this article from USA Today, which states that the situation is far worse than we can imagine or this article from Forbes (which counters their other article).

If you think ebola is just a political football that both parties are using to control the upcoming elections than you could refer to this article from NPR or this piece from MSNBC.

And it is this very moving target of absolute truth that is the scariest thing of all, because we have dissolved into a country not based on facts but on opinions.  Even something as cut and dry as science has now become open to debate.  With each citizen feeling the need to voice and defend their opinion there are no universal truths behind which we all stand.  A friend recently told me that China will be the next super power because they have a billion people who all think and believe the same thing and Americans can’t even agree on what color the sky is.

We no longer watch the news, but instead gravitate to the information source that supports and justifies our already existing opinions. We don’t challenge our own thinking but instead look for ways to support it.  This idea that we are all individually correct in our opinions and can point to an article to prove it does not make us well informed but instead makes us mindless sheep who fear everything that is new and different from ourselves and that is the most frightening thing of all.