America, the Beautiful {thoughts from Independence Day}

20160704_215557 (1)America, the Beautiful.  The land of all whose free.  Yet, in this land, we fight and rage over what we think should be.

America, the Wonderful.  The home to which we love.  Yet, in this home, we worry and wonder what the future is made of.

Where have you gone, you mighty beast?  The mountain of the brave.  In our freedom, we spit and blame, leading so many to be enslaved.

Bring back the few, the furious, the ones who believed in truth.  The ones who fought so early on, laying foundations for our youth.

What if they could see us now?  How offended we easily become.  Is this what they battled for?  Isn’t this what they escaped from?

What happened to our invitation for the weary to our shore?  Since we did we become so bitter that we desire to shut the door?

The persecuted masses, the tired few, the ones who seek to breathe free.  What about the longing souls who want to kiss liberty?

America, the Beautiful, I still believe in you.  You raised this daughter to be one who seeks joy in things anew.

I still love you, my blessed home, the terrain of diversity.  Show me, teach me, prove to me that we will turn away from perversity.

We live our lives so liberated, free to do as we please.  Yet, in my mind, I fear and wait for the moment we are brought to our knees.

Our Lady Liberty exclaims these words, “…I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” America, sweet land of mine, these words we should not ignore.

America, the Beautiful.  The home of bravery.  Perhaps, it’s time that we reflect and consider our history.

Author’s note:  As I watched the fireworks last night, I thought about our nation.  With all of the political stuff going on and the “war of opinion”, I’ve been thinking a lot about the valiant ones who fought for our liberation, some losing their lives, for the very things that we take for granted – religious freedom, free will to set our own paths in life, and freedom from tyranny.  I think it is important that we truly remember who we are.  A land of immigrants.  A land of multiple origins.  A people who sought freedom for all.

A people of promise.

Let’s not forget that.

Yearning for Change

I have to admit that I was anxious about taking my son to school today.  I just wanted to grab him and run back out of the building, or stay with him all day.  I prolonged our usual walk to the cafeteria where he goes before school starts.  I hugged him once, went back for a second and third hug, and then turned around and hugged him for the fourth time while whispering in his ear that I love him.

For the first time today, I gave second glances to people I have not seen before in the school.  I noticed how many doors there were, and wondered if they were locked.  I imagined where my little boy would hide if he needed to.  I wanted to ask about school security, evacuation plans, etc, but, I could tell the principal and teachers were all probably preoccupied with the same emotional anxiety that I was feeling.

I’m not the only one who felt this way today.  Most of the mom’s I spoke to were ready for the hour to come when school was let out.  I was anxious to pick him up, embrace him, and get him in my car.  I kept up a quick pace from my car to the door, and just couldn’t wait to lay my eyes on him.  After seeing him sitting there in line waiting for me to get him, my pace quickened, I called his name, and wrapped my arms around his shoulders while walking him out.  He sort of gave me that “uh..mom…?” look, but I didn’t care.  I wanted him out of the building, and back in the warm secure place that we call home.

I’m struggling a bit to not write about the shooting tragedy, or to keep it out of my mind.  This shooting is no less tragic or no more tragic than any other violent act in our country, but this one…this one cuts right into the heart of us all.  Perhaps, it is the age of the sweet babies killed, the way it happened, the lack of security in our school systems, or the lack of professional, affordable mental health services.  Or, perhaps, and I say this with caution, it is the plethora of available weaponry on our streets.  Maybe, it is all of these things combined.

As a professional in the field of social work, I have worked with mentally ill adults and children.  I have worked with at-risk youth, adolescent sexual perpetrators, and drug addicts.  I have tracked down homeless people, or those with-whom society doesn’t care about.  I have been cursed at and threatened by angry clients.  I even had a somewhat mentally unstable man, high on pain killers, pull a handgun from behind his back and show it to me while I was doing a routine well-being check on him.

When I was a new case worker, I was told that I should step aside when I knocked on the door of a potentially angry client so that if the person shot at me, he or she would miss.  I was also told to always know where my exits are, and to never turn my back on someone.  Just last week I read an article about a young social worker who was chased down after a home visit, and brutally stabbed to death by a mentally unstable client.

I keep hearing all this talk about “changing the way things are done”.  If politicians really want to understand persons with mental health problems, at-risk youth, or the desperate struggles of parents and the “system” trying to heal and help these folks, then I think they should join us in the field sometime.  I think they should have to listen to the screaming and cussing phone messages of angry clients left on voice machines.  I think they should have to assist in finding a home for a youth who has severe mental health issues with violent tendencies.  I think they should have to accompany parents who struggle to get their children the help they need because of lack of funding.

I say all of this to not lay blame for what occurred, or to turn this into a political issue.  I don’t want to believe that this is only a gun issue either.  It is an issue of a young man who may or may not have gotten the help he needed.  It is an issue of a  mother who most likely desperately struggled raising a troubled son.  It is an issue of young persons slipping through the cracks, and desperately needed funding being slashed.  It is an issue of safety in our schools.  This is also an issue of the heart, and the lack of empathy or understanding for those on the outside of what is deemed as socially acceptable.

I think those in charge of writing policies, adding or cutting funding, and lobbying so passionately for what they believe in, should join social workers, teachers, counselors, and parents as they work tirelessly to fix the most complicated of problems.  I’m certainly not an expert on mental health, gun laws, and politics.  I’m just a mom who fears that my children are growing up in a less safe and more complicated world that I grew up in.  I’m a mom who wants people that need help to get help.  I’m a mom who yearns for real change, the kind that creates a world that is more loving, and accepting of others, to happen.  The ones who lost their lives last week deserve for us all to ponder carefully on these issues with sensitive hearts and open minds.

Our children, and our children’s children, deserve it as well.

Where is your treasure?

(photograph by Sarah Carter – http://www.sarahcarterphoto.com)

A friend recently told me that when she and her husband started telling people they are taking foster parent classes, they were met with responses that were both surprising and disheartening.  People have said things like “why don’t you just have your own baby?”, or “why would you do that?”  Unfortunately, the majority of these statements have come from fellow believers in Christ.

It seems this appears to be quite common even in the Christian community, or at least perhaps in our area of the country.  Thankfully, my husband and I did not deal with this as much because people knew we were infertile and that we wanted the opportunity to be parents and hopefully adopt.  But, my friend and her husband have biological children, and could have more if they chose to.  They have felt called for a while now by the Lord to minister to little ones through foster care.

After our conversation, my heart was a little unsettled.  The Lord kept saying to me “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”-Luke 12:34.  After pondering on this, the thought entered my mind that while we are truly blessed in America, where is our heart?  In my opinion, it seems that it is in worldly things.  We treasure our actors and celebrities. We lift them up on pedestals and award them.  Yet, do they reflect our hearts?

We fight so hard with each other over our political opinions and opponents.  Our different views in policies and our abilities to express them are an integral part of our freedoms, but do they really reflect where our hearts should be?  We strive for big cars, bigger houses, and small waistlines, but still, are these the things that we treasure?

It would be a lie to say that I don’t enjoy going to movies, voting, or admiring nice cars or homes.  It would also be not truthful if I never worried about what the scale said.  But, I hope these things never reflect where my treasures really are.

It breaks my heart that in this country of opportunity where fellow Christians can walk freely without persecution, we overlook what is truly important.  The Lord has called us to minister to ALL people.  This includes the politicians we don’t agree with.  This includes the actors or actresses that we may find “weird”.  This especially includes children who have fallen into the foster care system.

I have worked in child welfare for eleven years now and have seen so many horrible and vile acts against children.  I have witnessed foster families get their hearts broken time and time again.  I have watched birth parents lose their battles with addictions, and ultimately lose their children.  Sadly, I have seen social workers become hardened to their hopes that they can change the world.

I still believe that one person can make a huge difference in the lives of children.  I choose to believe that people can change, but they need willing participants to walk along them in their battles.  Sometimes, it seems that we want children to grow up in safe homes, or want adults to change, but fail to recognize our responsibilities in these things.

We might say “I believe in Christ and love Him mightily”; yet, we turn our backs on the things that take us out of our comfortable “God bubble”.  Christ surely was taken out of His comfort zone.  He could have decided not to follow His Father’s calling.  He could have walked away, but He chose not to.

If we want the staggering statistics of abuse and neglect of children to end, we too must not walk away.  Foster care and being involved in child welfare issues will certainly take us out of our comfort zones.  It will definitely break our hearts at times.  However, our involvement in children’s lives and doing what God has called us to do is a reflection of where our treasure should be.

I saw a poster one time that said this “You have never looked into the eyes of anyone who does not matter to God”.  I have decided to recite this to myself daily as a reminder of the incredible responsibility and calling as a Christian to love people, especially those that can be overlooked by society.  My hope is that my treasure and my heart will always be focused on the One who is worth treasuring, and on the children He desperately loves.