What’s your agenda?

We all have an agenda in life. Your agenda is that core ideology or belief you hold that drives you in your decision making and your actions. Your agenda is the thing, or things, that motivate you. Agendas are personal so there isn’t anything inherently wrong with them, it’s the actions you take because of them where you can cross a line.

I used to think my agenda was love, and while love is part of it, it’s not the complete agenda. If I want to appear altruistic, then saying my agenda is something like, “To show everybody unconditional love”, is perfect. It’s not a lie, I do want to show everybody unconditional love and yet, if I’m willing to be honest that desire is not my core agenda. It’s a factor in what moves my agenda. My core agenda is to bring equity to marginalized or oppressed people groups.

That’s not a bad agenda, right? I mean, it sounds very “power to the people” to want equity for the marginalized. Here’s the challenge in self-discovery and being truly honest with and about ourselves: we have to be willing to be as granular as possible and that means calling BS on ourselves. So I call BS on that agenda because it’s not quite true.

Yes, in my core I want to live in a world where truly all people are treated equitably and lovingly. I want all people to thrive. I want love to be the prevailing wind of change, and stability. If I take all of that and really allow myself to be open to that thing that drives me, that internal agenda, I have to get more granular. Allow me to take another shot at my life’s agenda. My core agenda is to bring equity to the LGBTQIAP, female, and people of color people groups. Ahhhh, that’s more real.

While I want equity for all, I’m more willing to stand up and ruffle feathers for these three people groups than I am any other groups. Showing these people unconditional love, understanding their stories and adversities, and trying to figure out how to raise their voices is my core agenda. I believe my agenda is wrapped up in my purpose for being here so, for me, I believe my agenda is why God created me. I also believe I have to be very careful in how I walk out that purpose and push that agenda because what I don’t want to do is harm other people in my pursuit. Lately, I’m finding that my ego gets a little more bruised, and my anger a little more aroused, with those in the other side. In that space I’m more apt to say something harmful or stop trying to understand and I don’t want to live in that space.

Only by knowing our personal agenda well can we navigate how to actually bring feet to the vision. I’m finding my place as an accomplice in my focused people groups and as I do, I walk a thin line between decrying oppression and letting my ego take over and causing harm. For me, allowing all to have a voice is important and it means that if I want someone to listen to me, I have to be willing to listen to them. If I want to be understood, I have to be willing to understand. I haven’t been doing the best at that lately and, it’s never to late to start. My life’s motto is, “Love all. Judge none.” and I desperately want to live that out well.

I hope you take the time to really discern your personal agenda. I also hope you allow yourself to be open to those who oppose your agenda. We all have to coexist here and it is our collective responsibility to build community. Community doesn’t have to mean everyone is the same, I think that would be boring. Community means working together for the greater good.

Shalom,

KA

When You Don’t Fit In

So, I don’t know what you do in your down time but I, I analyze my life. It’s a skill I’ve learned from years of trauma, therapy, healing and God. If you know me well, you know that I know myself very well. That is both a blessing and a curse, trust me.

Today, I’m contemplating transitioning and how, as an American society, we are terribly hard on and crushing for those who don’t quite fit the mold. I have never quite fit the mold and it’s taken me nearly all of my 50 years to be ok knowing that about myself. My sweet Grrr doesn’t quite fit the mold either and that’s been hard.

She will be done with high school next week and I couldn’t be more proud of her. Middle school and High school have been pure hell. Not every child fits into the round hole of our American educational system and we have no good plans or support system when they don’t. I know this first hand. See when I was a teenager, I knew how to work my system and fly under the radar. Not healthy. I pretended to fit and worried so much about being good enough, I became an alcoholic. I want better for my daughter so I have spent the last 6 years fighting against a system that would have lost her and loses thousands of kids like her every single day. I have spent hundreds of hours meeting and emailing with teachers and administrators trying to understand. I’ve done all the necessary paperwork to get her extra support. I’ve cried, raised my voice and written letters. I’ve listened to teachers and administrators tell me over and over again there is nothing they can do, she has to smash her square peg in to the round hole at any cost. It’s wrong. It’s always been wrong and it will always be wrong until we stop thinking everyone processes the same and learns the same.

We fail our children when we don’t acknowledge that not everyone knows exactly the path to take after high school so always screaming “go to college” is the wrong message. Go to college if YOU want but don’t go because your parents want you to. Don’t force your child to be what you think they should be, let them be what they were created to be. There is no job too low because we all know we need the garbage man and plumber. If you knew at 18 exactly what you wanted to do for a career and you are older than 40 and still loving it, kudos. You are an extreme case. Most of my friends fell into work and they would do nearly anything to make a different choice 30+ years ago. Too many “I wish I had…” dreams piled up. Too many of us doing the volunteer work of our dreams because we have to pay the bills with the “real” job.

All of this rant to say, I implore you, if you have kids in school still fight for them. If they fit the round hole, great. If they don’t, take a deep breathe and launch in because your child needs to know you hear them, see them and believe them. You are their best advocate and that doesn’t mean that they are always right, it means that they have rights that just be held tight. Let your kids be what they want to be and if they don’t exactly know, help them just find a path that makes sense for now. Nobody needs to know forever, just for right now. Don’t live vicariously through your children, it’s not fair and it’s abuse.

Transition with intention to honor your children and yourself. Advocate well and find friends who become partners in the journey of parenting. Your children are worth the fight.

KA

Did I Do Enough?

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with feeling like I didn’t do enough or didn’t do well enough. It’s an exhausting mental loop I get caught in that always leads to increased anxiety and this sense of being a complete failure. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember and I’m 50 now. I’m tired.

I love the idea of letting go, of standing on the edge of the pool and falling gently backwards into the waiting water that will always welcome me. The water that will always accept my offering of my body, never spitting me back out and stamping me as “not enough”. See there’s the actual issue: not enough. How on earth can I ever DO enough when I don’t feel like I am enough? When I walk around feeling like a have to prove my worth and my value. When I believe somewhere in my core that I simply can’t possibly do enough…ever.

My friends, who are amazing, tell me things like I’m brave or I’m a badass and while those sentiments make me soar in the moment, I don’t really believe them. I know me better. I couldn’t keep my family from moving across country when I was a kid. I couldn’t keep my parents from getting divorced. I couldn’t stop my violent step dad from terrifying me. I couldn’t stop myself from finding some kind of peace in alcohol as a kid. I couldn’t stop him from shutting his door and assaulting me. I couldn’t keep my own marriages together. I couldn’t stay sober when I drove and got arrested. Somewhere in my under-developed brain, I’ve absorbed all of these situations, and many more, and decided that my lack of control meant that not only was I not enough, I could never do enough no matter how hard I tried.

As I watch my lovely daughter launch into adulthood, brilliantly I might add, I am plagued with the question, did I do enough? Will she be safe? Will she make all the right choices? Will I be able to rescue her when she needs it? So many anxious thoughts that my stomach hurts often and, I’m missing out on being fully present because I’m living in fear. Fear of things I can never control, and blame for things I could never control.

So what now? Deep breathes and faith. Faith that I did all I could with the tools I had in the moment. Faith that what happened in my past was both painful and beautiful and, I have used every experience to help make the life I now live better. Faith that there is a God who knows it all and is always present. Faith that when my friends say I’m a badass and brave, they mean it and I can believe it. Faith that my sweet daughter will find her way well. Faith that I am doing all I can and that, my friends, is ultimately enough.

I am enough.

You are enough.

Shalom,

KA

Thigh gaps and other things I don’t need

Self judgment and comparison are about the worst things out there. There always seems to be some trait, physical or personality, that someone else has that we want and the wanting brings about much heartache. We look in the mirror and we compare that person staring back at us to the other people we typically see while we’re out in the world and we determine everything that’s wrong with us. Such a waste of time and energy when we consider this fact: it is highly likely someone is looking at us and wishing they had something we have.

I’ve been about 100 pounds overweight for a couple decades now. I’ve never really lost more than about 20 pounds over the years and I’ve only done that a couple times. I can’t really even tell you what motivated me to lose weight other than feeling like I was never as pretty as “them”. And for me, that isn’t sustainable motivation. This past July, on my 50th birthday, the realization that I likely have fewer years ahead of me than behind was a solid motivation to get this body of mine in better shape so that it lasts as long as possible. But here’s the thing, I can lose every unnecessary pound and I still won’t have a thigh gap! LOL When I was in my 20s, that mattered to me and now that I’m in my 50s, I could care less. Some of us will always have thighs that snuggle up and some of us never will and you know what? Neither is better or worse, they just simply are. I’m learning in this process of watching what I eat and moving more that motivation matters.

So since I’ve started a little list in my head, here are a few other things I don’t need:

Anything perfect.

A mistake-free life.

Judgmental attitudes from me or around me.

Other people’s approval.

More “have-to’s” than “want-to’s”.

I imagine I could go on and on and, I bet you could too. What’s great is that your list will be totally different from mine and, those differences don’t negate each other! If you like things perfect and that’s important to you, than strive baby, strive. You see the biggest thing none of us need in lives is to feel less than just because we are different. Different is nothing more than that, different.

Honor the differences you see in each other. Own what you need and what you don’t need and never forget those lists are specific to you. You have the right to build how you want your life to flow and to work to make that happen and by golly, if you need a thigh gap to feel good than you do the exercise to get there because it’s valuable to you. Just don’t expect to see me at the gym with you. 🙂

Honor each other and in the honoring, you build inclusive communities where people feel safe to be themselves and share their challenges.

Shalom,

KA

Just a Kid from Akron – Turning 50 and Relaunching

For those of you who have followed me here for a while, welcome to a relaunch of my blog. For those of you who are new, a warm welcome.

I turned 50 years old a few months ago and felt like life turned a pretty sharp corner and I wanted to use this blog a little differently. I will always talk about God here because, well, I love God and all that I encounter as I follow Jesus. And, I want to talk about more than just my spiritual side, I want to talk about all my sides. After 50 years, I’ve got a lot of experiences and sides to who I am and my hope is that you’ll find someone here you can connect with and feel fully accepted, loved and less alone in this big ‘ole world.

I chose the title “Just a Kid from Akron” because that’s exactly what I am…a Kid from Akron. I was born in Akron, Ohio in the summer of 1969, a fantastic summer if you ask me! Actually, 1969 was a pretty fantastic year in general from a historical perspective. I share a birthday with Sesame Street so come on, what could be better than that?? I suppose Apollo 11 landing on the moon, Led Zeppelin releasing their first album, and Woodstock were important too.

I’m not 100% certain what you’ll find here other than this: someone who has experienced deep trauma and has found healing and joy; someone who loves people deeply, especially the marginalized and the misfits; someone who wants to build a community. I don’t have time or interest in arguing with people so everything here is either my opinion or my interpretation. I will never push those things on anyone, I just simply share them because they are part of my story and I love story.

Here are a few basic things to know about me:

* I’m an LBGTQIA ally,

* I have several chosen family members, and some DNA family members, who are drag queens,

* I am a non–drinking alcoholic (sober 8 years now!),

* I am fascinated by people and their stories,

* I love Jesus and attend a Lutheran church.

Whew! Glad to get those things out of the way so you know what you’re getting into should you decide to hang around with me.

Shalom and love,

KA

Belonging

Belonging. I think if we could break through the rough exteriors and the walls that so many of us put up, we would find that we all desire to belong. Belong to a family. Belong to a club. Belong to a friend group. Belong to a community. Any kind of belonging that keeps us from feeling alone. Feeling like we belong and are allowed to occupy space is critical for good mental health.

I’ve been on this planet for 5 decades and in that time, I’ve lived in 5 states and lots of cities. Moving around and trying to find where I fit in took up a lot of my time and that meant that I didn’t often feel like I belonged. Last weekend, sitting on a wall with my feet dangling into Lake Washington, I felt a deep sense of belonging in my community. Not because I know a lot of people or because I’m known by a lot of people, but because I’ve spent 14 years of my life in this city and it is truly my home town. I’ve never really felt that before and I was definitely overwhelmed by the warmth of belonging. It was a gift from heaven.

Another space I feel belonging is in Jesus. I believe fully that all are welcomed and all loved by Jesus. I don’t believe He makes distinctions about people or cherry picks who is “acceptable” or “unacceptable”. In Jesus I find community and unconditional love and acceptance and that is deep belonging. I know that not all people feel that and I’m always heartbroken when I hear of people turned away in a church. That isn’t the Jesus I follow, the Jesus I follow loves you and wants you to know you belong.

Where do you feel like you belong?

Where do you feel like you don’t belong?

Really looking at questions like this can help us determine areas where we may need to work and also, areas where we may need to leave. Belonging takes some effort because people aren’t perfect but I believe that the more authentic we live, the more we increase our opportunities to feel like we belong. And the more we feel like we belong, the more we actually belong.

You are valuable.

You are remarkable.

You belong.

Shalom,

KA

Everyone

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.””

‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:12-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Everyone who calls out to God will be met by God with love, grace, peace, mercy and salvation. You and I may never see any outward change in a person and that doesn’t mean they haven’t found their way to peace in God. We must stop judging people.

Earlier in this passage in verses 6 and 7, Paul calls out quite plainly that we should not go around asking who’s going to heaven and who’s going to hell and yet, I hear those very words from far too many Christians today. Making a proclamation that someone is going to hell for a choice they are making seems all to prevalent and it is making a judgment on someone we are truly unable to actually make. I don’t know anyone elses heart, only my own. And if I’m being honest, sometimes I don’t really even know my own. I can’t possibly allow myself to be arrogant enough to say I know who has or has not found their way to God.

Our job, our call as followers of the Christ, is to love God, love people and talk about our own experiences with God. Our role is clearly stated in many places in the Bible and it is never stated that we are judge. We don’t have enough information and we can’t see into the heart’s of others. There are no distinctions, no exclusions, made in heaven and there should be none made here on Earth.

Love all people. Share what God has done in your life. Stop saying anyone is going to heaven or to hell. Honestly, I think (and quite frankly hope) that we will be suprised to see just who all is in heaven and we need to be far more concerned with our own path.

Shalom,

KA

Setting Things Right

I love that from the very beginning, God has been all about creating a way for us to be in relationship with Him. I’m not a fan of rules, I’ll just be honest, and yet I find deep beauty in the law because of its purpose. It was meant as a pathway to God and that is lovely. It is also daunting.

Following the letter of the law is overwhelming and quite truthfully impossible in and of ourselves. No one can follow every single law set. (Most of us don’t even know all of the laws in our own towns!) So we do our best and we fall short more than we know. We take pride in how well we follow the rules, we beat ourselves up when we fail, and all of it becomes about us. That’s too much pressure and God knew it from the beginning.

The Messiah, Jesus, lovingly walks up to us and says “Here, let me carry that load you’re struggling with”, and He takes it all on Himself. In that moment, the moment we can shift and believe that Jesus completes it all, we find that all is made right and that divine approval is not based on us doing anything more than handing it all over. There is deep and amazing freedom in believing Jesus made it all right. There is also deep and amazing struggle with abdicating the control. It’s an interesting battle that we wage in our hearts and minds. I’m convinced we make it all harder than it has to be.

God made a way for you and I to experience Him without shame and guilt at not measuring up. None of us are able to live out the law in our own ability and so God had planned from the beginning to show us grace through Jesus. The law didn’t go away so you are certainly free to try and follow it. I’m going to choose to give up and give it all up to Jesus.

Shalom,

KA

Apple of His Eye

I don’t know about you, but I love the feeling I get when I can grasp even for a moment that God cherishes me. That I bring Him joy. That He thinks of me as the “apple of His eye”, someone of beauty and deep value. It is my daily prayer that I never forget these truths and that I never lose sight of how expansive God’s love is for His people…me and you.

When I do lose sight of God’s love, it’s usually because shame has moved in between me and Him. Shame tells me God can’t possibly love me because of this thing over here that I’ve thought, felt or done. It’s too big, too bad, for someone like God to love me. I’m damaged goods. All of that language, all of those emotions, can feel crushing and they push us down into darkness. And God sits with us whispering over and over words like beloved, child, friend, mine. God’s love goes to whatever darkness you are sitting in and it lights a match so that you know you aren’t alone.

Life is hard, that’s just the plain and simple truth. God’s love is strong for you. He is in your corner, wiping your tears and believing in your best. He’s well aware of your flaws and, you are still cherished.

You are the apple of His eye.

Shalom,

KA

Wait for the Lord

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭27:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Waiting stinks, let’s just be honest. Waiting is some of the hardest work we do in life and it is rarely fun. Waiting is where faith is most active because we are holding out all hope that what we are desiring for in the future IS going to happen, but we have no guarantee.

The value in waiting, though, is rich and awesome. In waiting, we find strength we didn’t even know we had. How many times while we wait do we say, “I can’t keep doing this…” and yet, we live to wait another moment and another day. In waiting we also find courage. Faith (being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, Heb 11:1) is on its own contrary to common sense and takes courage. In faith, as in waiting, we have placed all of our eggs in one basket and now we can no longer see the eggs or the basket! And in that moment, the moment the dream takes hold and becomes an act of faith, we wait.

I don’t know what you’re waiting for God to do today and all I can say is…keep waiting for the Lord to move. Be strong. Let your heart take courage. Stay faithful in believing and hoping. Wait for the Lord.

Shalom,

KA