Mandy from the Middle

Charles Wheelan wrote in his book, THE CENTRIST MANIFESTO, “We need an insurgency of the rational: a generation of Americans who are fed up with the current political system, who believe we can do better, and most important, who are ready to do something about it. Are you one of those people?”

I’ve been asking myself since November of last year if I am one of those people.

I wrote an article for my blog on November 9th, 2016 about casting my vote for Donald J. Trump for President of the United States of America. I received the expected backlash, and occasional praise for my voting decision and my decision to publish my vote. I started that blog post by talking about how much I love this country. Nothing about that has changed. I still stand behind the vote I cast on that day. Do I wish things had gone differently? Yes. Do I wish there would have been another candidate? Yes.  Do I wholeheartedly stand behind everything President Trump has done? No. Do I still respect “the office?” Yes, that is how I was raised. Am I still proud of my friends who are working the Administration? Yes, I know their hearts and I believe in them.

But do I find myself looking for something outside of the Party I have grown up supporting my entire life? Yes. Am I becoming a Democrat? Absolutely not.

This blog post has actually been several months in the making. In fact, I’ve chosen to remain silent on my blog for a few months now. But in the words of President Theodore Roosevelt, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” I’m not in any way implying that what will come out of this blog today will be my proclamation of “the right thing.” I am simply choosing to take the time to put out there what is right for me, today, and a little bit of the reason behind why. I reserve the right to come back later and say that my ideology has continued to grow and evolve, and that the more I learn the more I change. I hope that I am able to come back and say that actually.

So what does all of this mean? Glad you asked.

For me, this means after 34 years of calling myself a Republican, I’m not sure I can anymore. I cannot in any way call myself a Democrat either however, so please, my friends on the Left, hold your applause. You might be from the Left, or the Right, but today, “I’m Mandy from the Middle” it’s a pleasure to meet you and I hope you’ll hear me out and attempt to see my heart.

Recently I read Charles Wheelan’s book, THE CENTRIST MANIFESTO (quoted at the beginning), and it completely changed my point of view. Not in a “drinking the Kool-Aid” way, but in a “there has to be a better way,” way. From reading Mr. Wheelan’s book I was introduced to his organization, “The Centrist Project.” I’ve not become a “founding member,” yet, but I am doing a lot of research into their work and their philosophy and from what I’ve seen so far, I like it. While I’m at it, let me give them a plug, check them out at www.centristproject.org/. It might not be for you, but then again, it might. If nothing else, I hope it spurs you to think more about what you believe, why, and what you are doing about it. It certainly has for me.

On their website you will see their tenant, “A centrist is someone who seeks the best ideas to solve problems, regardless of where they come from on the political spectrum.” I can unequivocally say, today, that is where I am in my life.

I am no longer interested in promoting a “party” platform.  I’m more interested in promoting my country.  I believe wholeheartedly if we do not start focusing on our long-term interests we will be leaving a heap of a disaster for our children. I believe in seeking out the truth, not the campaign rhetoric, in making mindful decisions about the questions we face.  I believe we MUST, and I declare MUST, find a common ground where we can still fight for our beliefs while understanding those who see things differently.  These statements that are true to my life fall right in line with the principles of “The Centrist Project.”

They are not focused on forming another “party” and I love that. The last thing we need in this country is another party. If you disagree, please remember, partisan politics elected Donald Trump. And some of you are still OK with that, and that’s fine. But I think there’s a lot of you out there that are not OK with that, and that is fine also.  The only thing that is not fine, is doing nothing.

For me, I’m more concerned today with finding solutions that involve everyone. Solutions that better everyone. And solutions that protect everyone. I believe finding those solutions requires folks from all walks of life, all nationalities, all religions, all sexual orientations, all socioeconomic classes and all parts of the country. If we continue down the path of Left and Right, we will just continue to perpetuate the same chaos we see today.

So why am I writing this today? Glad you asked.

I cannot, in good conscience, sit by idly and not say a word about the Republican Bill on Healthcare.

I believe there are issues with the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare.  But this Bill that has been introduced is not the solution. This Bill is however, a perfect example of why I can no longer get behind the “Two-Party System” that has divided our Nation.

The Better Care Reconciliation Act, AKA BCRA, does not do what the Republicans are trying to shove through the vote. The BCRA touts that it will “stabilize the collapsing insurance markets that have left millions of Americans with few options.” While I agree the ACA has damaged our insurance market, I do not believe the BCRA will stabilize anything.  By repealing essential health benefits like mental health care all we are doing is crippling an already wounded nation.  The BCRA will leave the children on Medicaid waivers defined as a “non-mandatory population,” how can this even be? There are thousands and thousands of children who rely daily on those services. The plan shows a cut of over 800 BILLION federal dollars in Medicaid care that they expect states to just come up with. Seriously?

I just can’t do it anymore. I just can’t stand by without exercising my freedom of speech to beg, to IMPLORE, my Representatives and Senators to vote NO on BCRA. Instead, vote YES on America. Vote YES on our children. Vote YES on those who cannot help themselves.

Earlier I shared that I have been pondering since November if I am one of those people who is fed up and ready to exercise my common sense, my rational side, and work to do better. The answer is YES. Sure, I still lean RIGHT, but more than anything I want to lean in the direction that will create a better place for my little boy to grow up and that means working together, LEFT, RIGHT, MIDDLE, even the “OUT THERE” to do what is right. I am fed up with the current political system, I know we can do better.

Congressman Rouzer and Senator Tillis, you will be hearing from me.

Sincerely,

Mandy from the Middle

Capture

 

Equality for ALL

The African American, Feminist poet, Audre Lorde once said, “It is not our differences that divide us.  It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”  I’m not sure that many of my political beliefs would align with Ms. Lorde’s words, if she were alive today, but this is one theory she left behind that I can agree with.

Several people have messaged me since Friday asking why I’ve not posted much in regards to the Inauguration, post Inaugural events and the Women’s March on Saturday.

Honestly, I’ve just been busy being a working wife and mother.  But I have been processing a lot and reading a lot as time has allowed.  And I decided to take the time to sit down and blog a little this afternoon about some of my thoughts and feelings.  And I thankfully have a supportive husband who encourages me to follow my passions of writing and learning.
As always, my prayer is that my words will be respectful and that my tone will be one of acceptance and a desire to learn and grow.

So here goes…

I enjoyed watching the Inauguration, and no, not because the man I voted for was being sworn in.  I love America, down to my core, and in that, the peaceful transfer of power is a pillar of our democracy and I always enjoy the pomp and circumstance.  I enjoyed Friday’s ceremonies just as I have on two occasions during the past eight years.  As for the speech, I thought it was very reminiscent of Mr. Trump’s campaign speeches so the consistency was definitely there.

As for the post Inaugural events, just on a superficial note, Ivanka Trump’s ball gown was absolutely stunning.  I definitely have a friend crush on her!

But alas, I really was disappointed in a lot of what I saw from my country.

I saw a meme on Facebook that I thought said it well, “Rosa Parks took a seat on a bus, she didn’t destroy the bus.”  Protesting is one thing, looting and violence is wrong on so many levels and I detest those acts.  I will never understand.  I didn’t understand in Ferguson, Missouri, when I watched a young man being interviewed after he burned down a store.  The reporter asked why and he said “we are just burning everything down in our way.”  It turned out the store belonged to his grandparents and being so caught up in the moment he couldn’t careless the harm and pain he was causing his own family, not even the people he opposed.  Friday afternoon, I watched video of park benches being burned in the town I used to call home, our nation’s capital, bricks being hurled at police officers, one man being sucker punched while giving an interview, and windows being broken out of businesses in the area.  That behavior is just disgusting to me and quite honestly, just completely ignorant.

If you have to cover your face, as to not be recognized while carrying out an act, you are most likely in the wrong.

On Inauguration night, I was also disgusted to read about Katie Rich’s tweet.  Ms. Rich is/was a writer on Saturday Night Live.  I’m not sure of her status today, as her name was removed from their writers credits on last night’s episode.  Ms. Rich felt the need to post the picture of 10 year old Barron Trump and insinuate that he would become “the country’s first home school shooter.”

While her comment itself was deplorable, and ignorant as he is not home schooled, I just had to know more about this woman who felt the need to attack a young, innocent boy.  Politics aside, children are off limits.  I was disgusted with how people mocked Chelsea Clinton during her White House days, I was appalled that people attacked the Bush twins for acting like a large majority of other kids their age, and I was proud to see our nation back off the Obama girls and impressed with how well their parents were able to protect them.

But what I found when I looked into who Ms. Rich really is amazed me even more.

In 2015, Katie Rich married Devlin Murdock who is actually the programs director for a rowing club for breast cancer survivors called, Recovery on Water.  So she is married to man who devotes his professional life to helping others make their lives better, while she is busy publicly insulting a young boy.

And here’s where I was blown away, in a speech at PeaceLove in May 2015, Ms. Rich revealed that she suffers from anxiety and panic disorder.  Really?

I was absolutely floored to learn that someone who suffers from anxiety and panic disorder would have the audacity to call someone out for acting a little different in an enormously public setting.  Let alone that he is a CHILD.

I too suffer from generalized anxiety and panic disorder.  It sucks.  It is a very hard battle to fight.  It is exhausting, draining and incredibly hard to deal with most of the time.  But as someone who is in the throes of that battle, I cannot even fathom mocking someone who shows nervousness in crowds of hundreds and thousands of people.  Are you kidding me?  I move more than a drunk walrus just sitting in meetings with 10 people.  How dare she attack someone who is fidgety!

And just for the sake of saying it, how dare ANY adult attack ANY child! It’s disgusting.  I feel the need to interject here I’m sure some of you will comment on Mr. Trump’s previous inappropriate statements.  There’s a huge difference here and I won’t waste my energy helping you see that. And no, that doesn’t take away from the fact that he was vulgar and wrong for what he has said.

Finally, several folks have asked me my thoughts on the March yesterday.

I stand with what President Trump said when he was asked the same question, “Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy.  Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.”

So what else do I think about the March yesterday?

First,  for the most part I was very proud of my friends who marched all over the world yesterday from New York, to D.C., to Little Rock and LA.

Sure there were some folks I’d consider to be “wackadoodles” but in every crowd that size, you are bound to have a few. The folks I know personally that marched, for the most part, marched for equality, and women’s rights.

Sure I had the friends who hash-tagged their way through the day talking about their stance against President Trump, and you know, that’s fine too.

I loved seeing some friends in Arkansas who took their young daughter to walk in Little Rock.  She believes that love trumps hate and she wanted to walk for that.  That’s good parenting to me.  Teach a child to develop their own belief system and to defend it.  That’s how we will change history.

I can’t really get behind the vagina hats that were worn, just seems distasteful to me.  And I can’t get behind any speeches that were filled with hate, or terroristic threatening.  Madonna spoke about her thoughts on doing harm to the White House.  I will not ever condone such rhetoric and believe she should be treated as we treat others who display terroristic threats.  Free speech is one thing, but threatening lives is another.  The White House is a building that houses not only a family but staffers.  Those staffers are innocent people doing their jobs to make ends meet and they are also there to stand for what they believe.  How hypocritical to wish harm on them because you disagree?

On the Women’s March website their mission and vision is said to be, “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for their protection of our rights, our safety, our health and our families-recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”  The mission goes on to say the organization felt the rhetoric of the past election cycle had “insulted, demonized and threatened many.”  They also published five guiding principles:  nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people (Madonna missed that one I guess), the beloved community is the framework of the future, attack forces of evil, not persons doing evil (guess Madonna missed that one too), accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the cause to achieve the goal (maybe she didn’t read any of what the March was even about) and finally avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence (nope, she didn’t read a thing).

The slogan behind the March was, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights.”  They were said to be marching yesterday in the name of ending violence (minus Madonna), reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, and environmental justice.

I think our nation is struggling today, maybe more so than ever, with believing we should have diversity, but drawing the line at diversity of thoughts, or beliefs.

I too believe in Human Rights, all humans.  Woman, man, gay, straight, black, yellow, white, wheelchair bound or marathon runner, born in smalltown USA or born in a third world country.  All humans have rights.

I get that our determining factor on when life begins is where we differ, for me it is at conception.  For others it’s when they enter the world.  And because of that difference, I was not a part of the March yesterday.

I have a hard time wrapping my head around being an advocate of human rights, but then on the flip side feeling that you can deny humanity to the unborn.  More and more babies are surviving today who are born as young as 22 weeks.  I just cannot resolve in my head that they don’t deserve the same rights as my now 13 month old does.  There have been more than 54 million babies aborted since the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973.  That’s a lot of denied human rights in my opinion.

And I get it.  “It’s not about abortion,” “it’s about having the right to choose,” “it’s about not being told what you can and cannot do with your own body.”  I’ve heard it all, had the debates, and bought the t-shirt.  I’m not here today in my digital presence to try and convince someone otherwise, I am simply letting my voice be heard too, if you have the right to march, I have the right to blog. We are all for equality right?

I saw quite a few signs in the pictures from the March yesterday that had the same verbiage I’ve seen on some Facebook posts this week, “NOT MY PRESIDENT.”  I mean I will skip over the factual ignorance of that as President Trump is actually the President of the United States, whether you voted for him or not.  But I guess I have a hard time reconciling the Christians I see posting that.  Romans 13:1-2 is pretty clear, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves.”

I don’t bring this up to say that Donald Trump is a good replica of high Christian character.  I too detest the vulgar comments he has made.  Just like I detested the immoral sexual acts that President Bill Clinton committed outside the vows of his marriage.  And honestly, just like I detest my own sin.  I bring this up to say, God is God, He is still on His throne today just as he was before noon on Friday.  He is not shaken by our election results, He is not confused, He is not disheartened because He knows the end of the story.  He knows who wins.

And yes, actually I would have still been writing this if Secretary Clinton had won.  She too has some baggage, just like you and just like me.  That’s the point.  No one is perfect.  But we can rest in the knowledge that God is in control.

My name is Amanda, the name Amanda means “lovable and capable.”  Some of you find the first part to be hard to believe, but there are some who love me.  If you know me at all, you know the second part is true.  I am capable of doing a lot of things, even if it is just making you mad with my blog.   I work very hard to make sure I am capable of doing more than the day before.  My parents saw fit to name me Amanda because they knew I would be capable of doing something great with my life and that’s exactly what I work every day to do.

I did not march yesterday because my belief system did not align with the entirety of the mission of the organization, and I honestly didn’t march yesterday because I do not feel personally attacked.  My story is not everyone’s story.  I have lived a very fortunate life so far.  I’ve been raised by a woman who has worked her butt off since she was born to be more and do more and today as a CEO she has shattered the so-called “glass ceiling” of her industry.  I was raised by a man who taught me to respect and serve others with all that I have and doing something different than that was simply unacceptable.  My closest friends today, my tribe as I call them, we treat others with respect no matter their color, their faith, their sexual orientation or their socio-economic bracket.  I have chosen to surround myself with people who walk the talk.  I know my life is not the story of everyone’s life.  As a mother, I work every day to teach my son to live like Jesus lived so that other folks can have a better life as well.

In response to why she didn’t march, one of my best friends said today, “I don’t believe hearts and minds are changed by marches of large crowds, but by individual relationships and conversations.”  She went on to say, “I don’t want anyone to change because they’re giving in to pressure from a frustrated group, no matter how large.  That kind of change is rarely sincere.  I want them to change because they see the truth and want to change.”

I respect your right to march, I thank you for standing for what you believe in and I implore you to stay involved, stay plugged in, get active in your communities and STAY active, work in the midterm elections, help educate voters, continue to study, and learn, be open-minded, be compassionate even towards those who believe differently than you.

Equality for ALL.

Aleppo: The Complete Meltdown of Humanity

If you have never heard of Aleppo, you really need to start watching the news more.  I don’t mean that as an insult, but there are so many very important things going on in our world right now and so many people that very much need your prayers.

A little background though for you, in case you are behind…

Aleppo is a city in Syria that is known to serve the populous Syrian government.  For centuries now, Aleppo has been the largest city in Syria and just following Constantinople and Cairo as the third-largest in the Ottoman Empire.  This all began to change with the Syrian Civil War that began in 2011.  It is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world.  It has always been a main strategic location as a trading center between the Mediterranean Sea and Mesopotamia (modern Iraq).  Aleppo’s historical context is that it is a city on one end of the Silk Road, which was the ancient network of trade routes connecting the East and West, from the Mediterranean Sea to China.

The Battle of Aleppo began in 2012 and the city has suffered massive destruction and to date, is the worst-hit city in the Syrian Civil War.  The battle has been marked by the Syrian Army’s use of “barrel bombs” which are dropped from helicopters and kill thousands of people at a time.  These bombs have been purposefully dropped on hospitals and schools by the Syrian government and their Russian allies and rebels.

Aleppo is one of the largest Christian communities in the Middle East.  It is estimated that more than 250,000 Christians live in the city, which is about 12% of their population.  [3]

Today the United Nations declared Aleppo, the “worst humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century.”  And what is crazy is the fact that most Americans have no idea what is going on there and no idea the gravity of it all.

Syrian rebels said Tuesday they reached an agreement with Russia for a cease-fire in Aleppo to evacuate remaining civilians and rebels from the bloodshed in a conflict that the U.N. is describing as a “complete meltdown of humanity.” [1]  As of the time of the announcement of the cease fire, the government forces had rounded up nearly 6,000 teenage boys and young men who were trying to escape the weeks-long assault there and have forced them into military service.

It has been confirmed and validated repeatedly that government forces are entering civilian homes and killing people.  Imagine that with me for a minute.  You are sitting in your living room tonight, probably watching TV, listening to the voices and laughter of your kids, while the Christmas lights twinkle in the background.  Now imagine soldiers rushing in your house, unannounced, not even ringing the doorbell and killing you all.

This morning alone, 20 women were confirmed suicide cases as their attempt to not be raped ended in their demise. Yesterday, 79 civilians were trying to flee the internment like camps in warehouses and were executed in the makeshift barricades.  Rubble is everywhere.  This once historic town with great museums and temples has now been reduced to rocky rubble on every corner.  Women and children can be heard crying out from under the debris for help, except in Aleppo, no help is there to be found.  On Monday alone, there was a report of tens of thousands of civilians being shot dead in one neighborhood.  There have also been reports that chemical attacks have now begun in one area of the city.

At the time of the cease fire the French President Francois Hollande said the Aleppo, “humanitarian situation…is unacceptable.”  That is such a hollow way of putting it.  What is happening in Aleppo is one of the worst humanitarian crisis our modern world has ever seen, and many have no idea it is even taking place.  Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations high commissioner for human rights said, “Civilians have paid a brutal price during this conflict, and we are filled with the deepest foreboding for those who remain in this last hellish corner of opposition-held eastern Aleppo.” [2]

Back in May it was reported that a Doctors Without Borders facility in Aleppo was hit, killing more than 50 of their staff.  In that strike, Muhammad Wassim Mo’az was killed.  He was one of the only pediatricians remaining in the city.  War correspondent Martha Gellhorn said at the time, “war happens to people, one by one.”  [4]  One surgeon on the day of the attack that killed Mo’az said, “Day by day, we are bleeding our medical staff.  We will wait for a day when there will be no more doctors inside Syria.” [4]  In 2015 it was speculated that 95% of the doctors in Aleppo had been killed or detained.  [4]

Wounded Syrian Kid Omran DaqneeshThe image of little Omran Daqneesh was spread throughout the media in August of this year.  You will remember his little face, bloodied and dirtied, just a heart-wrenching reminder of the ceaseless civil war in Aleppo.  Save the Children reported that one-third of the casualties in Aleppo have been children.  Innocent kids. The most vulnerable victims in this war.  [5]

Sarah Bessey, Christian blogger said today, “Aleppo. What is there to say? Words are inadequate, tweets are useless, status updates powerless, demands and cries disregarded. But I think if Jesus walked today, He would be in Aleppo with the suffering. I do not know what prayer will accomplish here but I am crying out for the big things anyway: miracles of peace, comfort, courage, healing, life, deliverance, all of it. How long, o Lord? Holding vigil with you, Aleppo, groaning for the new creation and the new day to dawn.” [6]

The madness that has become of Aleppo over the past few years during this battle is incomprehensible.  As Christians, as Americans, we MUST stand against this horror.  I should hope that those of you who have been wasting so much of your time and energy on conspiracy theories with the election and weeping over votes already cast, will take some time to get on your knees today to pray for those who are truly in need.  We can no longer pretend that this is not happening and that our petty, foolish gripes that have flooded social media since the Presidential election truly are wroth our time.  Today when you feel the need to gripe about hackers, your candidate losing, your candidate winning, or your so “highly educated” political opinions on Facebook…how about instead go online and donate to Save the Children who is working to get food and water to those innocent little ones left behind in Aleppo, or the International Rescue Committee  who is working to get medical supplies and mobile healthcare clinics into Aleppo, or Doctors without Borders who has lost so many of their own but are still working hard to help those in need in Aleppo.  [7]

[1] <http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/12/13/thousands-syrians-have-nowhere-safe-to-run-as-government-forces-descend-on-aleppo.html>

[2] <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/13/world/middleeast/syria-aleppo-civilians.html?_r=0>

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleppo

[4] http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/05/syria-aleppo-pediatrician-doctors/481212/

[5] http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/aleppos-children/aleppo-s-children-omran-daqneesh-one-thousands-suffering-n635391

[6] <https://www.facebook.com/sarah.styles.bessey/posts/1366956760022386:0>

[7] http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/aleppo-boy-omran-daqneesh-five-practical-ways-help-syrias-children-under-siege-1576973

PICTURE https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https://timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/omran-daqneesh-ali-dead.jpg%3Fquality%3D85%26w%3D1012&imgrefurl=http://time.com/4465904/omran-daqneesh-aleppo-survivor/&h=665&w=1012&tbnid=WBc5shJaF-FlHM:&vet=1&tbnh=131&tbnw=200&docid=iHCiMXClgefaAM&itg=1&usg=__CpJgHn3j78qyeWhQfzwMdtSj8jE=&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiZhtjr9_HQAhXMAcAKHUKpCZQQ_B0IYzAM&ei=T1BQWNmiMsyDgAbC0qagCQ

Little Women and American Politics

I am a sucker for a good book, and a good drink.

Today, November 29th, is the birth date of one of my favorite authors, Louisa May Alcott.  She’s best known for her more popular works like “Little Women” and “Jo’s Boys.”  But Alcott was far more than just an author and a poet, she was an abolitionist and a feminist who believed in equality for all, not just the privileged-of which she was not.   Alcott used writing as her emotional outlet, and that is something I have always been able to relate to.

For historical context, Alcott’s family served as station masters on the Underground Railroad, which basically meant they would house a fugitive slave for a week at a time.  She also advocated for women’s suffrage and actually became the first woman to register to vote in Concord. Massachusetts during a school board election.  In 1860, she began writing for the Atlantic Monthly, a publication I read to this day.  During the Civil War she served as a nurse in the Union Hospital in the Georgetown area of Washington D.C.  She was unable to serve long though, as she contracted typhoid fever.

So why do I share all of this here in this venue?

Honestly it’s because I have a lot of admiration for the works of Louisa May Alcott, but also because I feel that a lot of what she wrote and said is pertinent to our society today.  I’ve never been what I would call a feminist.  I am however a huge advocate of equal rights for all.

Our nation is in quite a tumultuous season, and an old Alcott passage comes to mind, “I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”  We really have two choices as a nation today:  we can protest, pout, degrade, insult, criticize, tweet and gripe, or we can support, speak out, fight on, vote, encourage, listen and do better.  It is a stormy period in our country, the right and the left have never agreed but I’m not sure they’ve ever been so vehemently against each other as they are today.  And truth be told, even though many feel that their votes don’t matter because the Electoral College elects the President, we are all sailors in this storm and we are all trying to “right the ship” of our nation.  We are all learning.  This is a new era, a new age.  We are dealing with issues today that our Founding Fathers could never have dreamed of.  Our debts are higher, our world has famines and wars going on in so many locations, our nation is full of sickness, violence, crime and pain.  The waters are rough right now.

But this nation has not lost its beauty.  And to continue with the words of Louisa May Alcott, “Love is a great beautifier.”  Believers, and I am one, are called to love one another.  And the greatest acts of love have brought about ridiculous amounts of good.  If we love one another better, we find less time to criticize one another.  If we love our nation better, we find more ways to serve others than to tear them down.  If we love our freedom more, we think of fewer ways to take it away from someone.  If we love, we are a more beautiful nation.

We all have different opinions, I’m not sure that has ever been more evident than the recent Presidential election.  And while everyone wants their voice to be heard, so many feel like they are not.  Alcott once wrote, “Let my name stand among those who are willing to bear ridicule and reproach for the truth’s sake, and so earn some right to rejoice when the victory is won.”  I voted an unpopular vote this Presidential election, and I hope that will not drive you away from this site.  If truth be told, I could have voted for either Presidential candidate, it was a game time decision for my family.  And I posted to my Facebook after the election who I voted for.  I faced some criticism for sure, some expected and some unexpected.  I was very rarely allowed to explain my point of view as to why I voted the way I did.  “My truth” was hardly ever heard.  I had no victory celebration.  I had no feelings of winning, even though the candidate I voted for won, at least so far.  But I wanted my voice heard. I believe that voting is sacred.  I believe that the freedom of democracy has been fought for, bled for and died for and should never be taken for granted.

Louisa May Alcott once wrote, “He who believes is strong; he who doubts is weak. Strong convictions precede great actions.”  Those very words were exactly why I voted the way I did.  I have really strong opinions on some things. And the things that I do not, I am constantly researching and trying to learn more to form more opinions.  I believe that having strong convictions is vital to helping bring about great change.  I have always said, and I stand firmly behind today, that I have no issue with how someone votes as long as they know why they voted the way they did.  I take no offense in being told I am extremely opinionated, I only take offense to the tone in which it is said.  What a shame to attack someone for having educated opinions, when really, shouldn’t we all?

Alcott wrote, “Housekeeping ain’t no joke.”  And man, does that ring true today.  This nation is in need of some housekeeping, on both sides of the aisle.  It’s a daunting task, and I’m not sure who is up to the task other than God Almighty Himself.  Each side has flaws, dirt and grime.  Each side has more issues than we can even count.  It’s easy to point fingers and name call those who think differently than you or voted differently, but what is the point exactly?

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Keep believing America.  Keep pursuing.  Keep dreaming.  Keep weaving.  Keep wishing.

Does Love Really Trump Hate…

On March 25, 1965, in Montgomery, Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at a rally giving a speech called, “Our God is Marching On.”  Being that the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” has been one of my favorite songs for as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed reading the magnificent words in this speech.  Dr. King gave this speech at the end of the Selma to Montgomery march, in a time period when fear was the norm and hate speech would have filled Facebook had it existed in that time period.  Many believe this speech sparked the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  The words of Dr. King fifty one years ago hold the same powerful truth today, “The battle is in our hands. And we can answer with creative nonviolence the call to higher ground to which the new directions of our struggle summons us.  The road ahead is not altogether a smooth one. There are no broad highways that lead us easily and inevitably to quick solutions. But we must keep going.”

Friends the struggles that were highlighted during this Presidential campaign season are far from over.  The road ahead is most definitely not a “smooth one.”  There is no “broad highway” or easy solution, and to be honest with you, even if the results were different this week, there would still be no “quick solutions.”  But the truth in 1965 that “we must keep going” rings true today, more than ever.

Martin Luther King Jr. went on to say, “the faith that nonviolence and its power can transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows, we will be able to change all of these conditions.” Violence is never the answer.  Violence never met a problem that it actually solved.  To continue with the words of Dr. King, he said in 1964, “But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”

Dr. King hit the nail on the head 52 years ago in that Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, we must strive to “win his understanding.”  We must strive to work together as a community to meet each other where they are, understand their point of view, embrace their fears and allow LOVE TO TRUMP HATE.  All violence will do is “create bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”  We MUST create a “dialogue” and not a “monologue.”

In June of 2007, Hillary Clinton said, “The worst thing that can happen in a democracy – as well as in an individual’s life – is to become cynical about the future and lose hope.”  And I truly believe, even in defeat today, she still believes this to be true.  And we as Americans, those of you who are her supporters and those of us who were not, would do well by each other to remember this statement. We cannot lose hope.  I cannot lose hope in America by watching the senseless violence that is stemming from what some hoped would be peaceful protests this week.  And you cannot lose hope in America by the swearing in of a candidate for President that you did not support.

Politics is as flawed as it comes, and that only makes sense when you remember that we as humans are ALL flawed.  Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Mandy Asberry, and you can go ahead and insert your name here as well.  Where humans live, flaws will exist.  Franklin Roosevelt once said, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”  Politicians are not the answer, government is not the answer.  We need to remember the words of David in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  We have to be careful who we place our hope in, politicians, entertainers, athletes will all let us down.  Heck Colin Kaepernick started a movement of kneeling during the National Anthem to bring attention to social injustice and then didn’t even go to vote.  I am NOT a Stephen A. Smith fan (quite the opposite), but I’d have to agree with what he said on ESPN yesterday that now, “what he said meant absolutely nothing” when discussing Kap.  This world will not bring you peace, it will not bring you hope, it will not bring you joy-only Jesus Christ can do that and we as believers, democrats and republicans alike, need to be showing that peace, that hope and joy to the world around us who is struggling with the events of this week.

Chants of “Not my President” are ringing out in some of our nation’s biggest cities from New York , to Chicago, to LA, to Seattle and many places in between.  One thing I do know for sure is that no matter how many anti-Trump slogans you yell, no matter how many fires you start in protest (which by the way makes no sense) that will not prevent his Inauguration in January.  But what it will do is drive a deeper divide in this nation that you claim is your problem with Mr. Trump.  I’m not sure how that makes any sense to these protestors.  I understand they are upset, disheartened, disappointed and scared-but just as MLK said, “violence is NEVER the answer.”

There have been a few moments that I’ve been proud of my country in reading Facebook.  I love seeing those who are feeling upset about the election results who are already taking action to help make a better tomorrow-they are writing letters to their elected officials, they are making donations to organizations that help others and they are hosting events for those on both sides of the aisle. I love seeing my fellow Republicans reaching out to their Democratic friends with an olive branch and words of encouragement.  This country has a lot of wounds that need to heal, wounds that I assure you existed before this week and have absolutely nothing to do with the Presidential candidates.

We MUST stand united, this is the UNITED States of America after all.  Barack Obama said yesterday in his speech about the election, “The point though is that we all go forward with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens, because that presumption of good faith is essential to a vibrant and functioning democracy. That’s how this country has moved forward for 240 years. It’s how we’ve pushed boundaries and promoted freedom around the world. That’s how we’ve expanded the rights of our founding to reach all of our citizens. It’s how we have come this far.”  We have to have faith in one another and we have to have faith in this country.  This democracy, even if you don’t agree with the results, is a far better place to live than those who face dictatorship day in and day out.  We have come this far as a nation by finding ways to understand our differences and finding a common ground of respect.  These protests around the country last night will not make matters better, they will only ensue further hate, further divide, and in turn-more fear.

If love really trumps hate, that means love for all people-not just those who voted the same as you.  And honestly, if love really trumps hate, it also trumps hate for Donald Trump.  We, as believers, must show love to one another no matter race, sexual orientation or religious affiliation-if we don’t set the example, how will the world know?

How Dare You Vote…

Well, here goes and with that being said, I know I stand to lose a friend or two after this post.

This morning while scrolling through Facebook I saw a quote that struck a chord with me, “We don’t have to agree on everything to be kind to one another.”  The author was not listed and honestly I have read so much today I cannot even recall which friend had posted it.  I find these words to be very powerful on this day.

I want to start out by saying, I love this country.  I love democracy.  I love my freedom to vote.  I love the political process, with all its stresses and problems.  I love history.  I love my African American friends (and husband).  I love my friends who are members of the LBGTQ community.  I love my friends who were not born in this country but have taken steps to join me in citizenship to the greatest nation on Earth. I love my fellow Republicans.  And I love my friends who are Democrats.

I want to also say that I am incredibly proud of some of my closest friends who worked tirelessly over the past few months for both Presidential candidates (as well as numerous Senate and Congressional races).  I am in awe of your dedication, your strength, your resolve and your passion.  I remember those days on the campaign trail fondly.

Here is where the rubber meets the road, brace yourselves.  Last Wednesday, while standing in the voting area here in Wilmington, North Carolina, I held my little boy in my arms and prayed with him over my ballot. I’ve never done that before.  First of all, this is his first election, but secondly typically my mind is made up far in advance of my actual voting.  But as I prayed with Judd I asked God to give me wisdom and to protect our country through His will being done.  And I firmly believe today, just as much as I did last week, that God is still sitting mightily on His throne and nothing has happened that He didn’t expect, even when the pollsters didn’t predict it.

Last Wednesday afternoon, I cast my vote for Donald J. Trump for President of the United States of America.  I realize some of you are about to hit the unfriend button on my Facebook page, and that is fine. I understand your anger, your frustration and your pain.  But what I would ask of you is to hear me out and have an open mind.

Let me start by telling you, I am not a racist.  I am married to a strong, African American man who I love with my whole heart and I could not be more proud of anything in my life than I am of being his wife.  I am also not a bigot.  One of my very best friends in the entire world is a homosexual.  I love him as much, often times more, than I love some of my heterosexual friends.  I want all the wonderful things for his life that I have experienced in the past few years including marriage and starting a family.  Deplorable is defined as being shockingly bad in quality.  If you are my friend on Facebook, you clearly know me.  I would hope that over my 33.5 years on this Earth, even with my  mistakes, you have seen that I do have some redeeming qualities and I cannot therefore be considered a “deplorable” human being.

In a statement today, Ellen DeGeneres (one of my absolute favorites) said, “And I believe we can all come together because if you take away the labels, you realize we’re far more alike than we are different.”  You see I am probably more similar to those of you who voted for Hillary Clinton than you’d like to recognize today.  I am first, and foremost, a believer in my Lord Jesus Christ.  I mention that to say that I have complete faith that He is in control of this world, no matter how we view the election results.  I’d challenge those of you who said early on last night that you were “leaving it up to God” to realize your later statements of dread and hate do not equal up.  We are tasked as believers to have faith, even when we don’t see the way.

The truth is today, I do believe that love trumps hate.  I actually love that saying.  But it has to stretch further than just one particular campaign’s usage.  If love trumps hate, it trumps all hate, that includes the hate being spread through social media today-on both sides.

I am also a wife and a mother.  I am raising a child of mixed ethnicity.  I am married to a black man.  I get the fear that exists based on racial issues.  But I have to trust my Savior, He’s never left me or abandoned me and He commands us in Deuteronomy to “not fear or be in dread for it is You Lord our God who goes with us, You will NEVER leave or forsake us.”  I have to have faith in that truth.  My only peace is in Christ alone, not in Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.  Today Barack Obama said, “We are not Democrats first or Republicans, we are all Americans, we are all Patriots who all want what is best for this country.”

As a mother I want the best for this country because I want to leave the best for my precious son.  I want the best for my African American husband.  I want the best for my gay friends.  I want the best for ALL Americans.  Today we have to hold steadfastly to Matthew 22:39, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  I get it.  A resounding number of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton, the popular vote displays that fact strongly.  And today you are disappointed, some are frightened, some are discouraged, some are saddened and some are confused.  But rest assured, this country can still be a great place to call home for ALL Americans if we love one another.  Love does trump hate.

In the worlds of Hillary Clinton from her concession speech today, “Never stop believing that fighting for what is right is worth it.”  Don’t let the results deter you from taking part in the political process.  Don’t let the electoral votes stop you from striving to contribute to the greatness of this nation.  Don’t let fear drown out your faith.

To Secretary Clinton, President Clinton, Chelsea, Mark, Charlotte and Aiden-thank you.  Thank you for your service to our country.  Thank you for your service to my home state of Arkansas.  Thank you for your passion for your ideals.  Thank you for your dedication to democracy.  And thank you for your graciousness today, even in defeat.  And thank you Madam Secretary for reminding all Americans that your gender does not define you and equality is one of the most precious gifts we have in this country.  And to your staff, and my dear friends like Hannah Herdlinger, thank you for working so tirelessly for your party and most importantly our country.

To President Elect Trump, Mrs. Trump, Eric, Donald Jr, Ivanka, Tiffany and Barron-thank you.  Thank you for your dedication to this race in the face of great adversity.  Thank you for continuing to strive to be a voice for those who were likeminded.  Thank you for your commitment to our nation in this enormous role.  And to your staff, like one of my best friends in the entire world Sarah Huckabee Sanders, thank you for fighting so hard for what you believed in, even when no one else believed with you.

God bless you, and God bless America.