Archive for the ‘identity’ Category

The Summer Camp “Arms Race”   Leave a comment

So I stole the title from an article in the August 11 issue of The Economist.  You probably know people who send their kids to multiple summer camps.  There are apparently still camps that include nature and campfires, but around the world, those who have enough money are sending their children to better camps.  According to the article, the end goal in a lot of different cases is getting into college.  And apparently getting into the camps themselves is also competitive.  Canada/USA Mathcamp admits just 15% of applicants.  Nine year olds in London can attend a technology summer camp for only 1,700 US dollars.  Nine.  Years. Old.

Then there’s the kids in South Korea who are practicing debate by discussing whether plastic surgery should be banned, in the English language, of course.  This sounds like a fun way to spend the summer–if your parents’ ultimate goal is again, the best colleges.  Did I mention these are eight and nine-year olds?

What’s that all about?

Even twenty years ago it wasn’t like this.  Fifty years ago it certainly wasn’t.

I’m not saying there’s nothing good to be gained from experiences at niche camps.  I’m not saying we can necessarily go backwards in time.

But people, I just don’t understand what this rat race is about.  Or, if you prefer the term The Economist uses, what this arms race is about.

Why isn’t anyone hearing common sense or the research that says that time for free, pretend play and time for outdoor play and time to just be is absolutely necessary for human development?

Why is it necessary to make sure your children are better than the rest?  In this world, can you even have a life in which you’re content?  How did this happen?

Are there just too many of us?

 

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Posted September 6, 2018 by swanatbagend in identity, learning

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Calling   Leave a comment

When I was a teenager, and a young married, I felt at a loss as to what my calling was.  I had a high school diploma.  I earned a college degree.  I even got a master’s degree, and I was teaching English composition at a community college.  I was also married, playing piano at church, doing some freelance writing, but I still felt lost, like I wasn’t there,  as if I hadn’t fully arrived at my calling.  This was despite the fact that I was using the gifts I knew I had in fulfilling both a vocation and an avocation.

Only now, twenty years later, do I have more understanding of what I’m good at.  I feel more at ease with who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing.

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

But I do know more about what compels me, and what will drive whatever I do, as I figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  I learned through experiences with unwanted and unnecessary cesareans how much suffering is perpetuated on women and their infants in the name of safety and health.  I learned through postpartum depression how alone and how horrible someone can feel.  I learned through parenting spirited children how much practical support and encouragement a mother can need.  I learned when my eyes were opened to all the differences of ability around me, how much God adores every one of his children.  I saw how labels, while perhaps necessary, don’t fully do individuals justice.

Precisely because of the events that happened to me, I was given a desire to nurture and support others.  I gained the motivation to help mothers survive well because I experienced why that mattered.  I resonate with the outcasts because I’ve seen the view through the eyes of some outsiders.  I have compassion on the anxiety and despair some people endure because I lived that myself.

I don’t know exactly what the job title is; I just know this is what I’m doing.

I couldn’t have created this desire, this plan, out of nowhere when I was twenty-four years old.  It came from trips through the fire.

So if you are younger, and feel like you’re just spinning your wheels, and that what you’re experiencing right now isn’t taking you anywhere, think again.  It’ll come; trust me, it’ll come.

Posted April 13, 2018 by swanatbagend in identity

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Telescoping   Leave a comment

Have you ever returned to a place you lived in the past and felt as if you just walked back in with no elapsed time passed?

I came of age in Oklahoma and after many years’ absence, I traveled to Kansas and Oklahoma a week ago.  I spent time both in Tulsa, where I went to college, and in Oklahoma City, where my mother grew up and where I spent time as an adolescent.  I went back to my grandparents’ house and the friend who drove me there took pictures of me there, standing on the edge of the yard in front of my memories.

I came every summer to spend a few days or a week with my grandparents.  We’d go to the library, the farmer’s market, go for walks.  Those times were valued by me, even then, when as a child, I really didn’t know to value the times.  I can still hear the sound of the upstairs house fan running and the sound of the traffic clicking and thumping over the road joints on Northwest 19th street, as I fell asleep in the hot humidity to the song of the cicadas.  I have memories of that house and my time there dating back to the 70’s.

As I traveled around Oklahoma City and then went on to Tulsa, after 27 years of being away, I found that I did still know my way around town.  I was able to drive myself to the first house my husband and I bought, even though I hadn’t seen it for 27 years and we only lived there nine months before we had to move.  It really had not changed that much.  Nor had my ability to navigate in my past.

Of course, the years had changed me quite a bit.  There’s a long road between being twenty-three and being fifty.

After I was back home, eating breakfast one morning, I felt as if the past were catching up with me.

Going back to a place you knew and loved starting forty years earlier has this effect.  You realize that it has been long–and yet not long.

I saw myself as a child in the arms of my mother and father.

I saw myself as an old woman hoping for a visit from my children because they have just told me I cannot safely drive to visit them.

I saw myself as I am now.   Do you remember the Star Trek Next Generation episode about the Mannheim effect?  Data deals with the effects of temporal distortions due to Mannheim’s experiments with time.  As he experiences himself in the future and the past, he must determine which Data is the present one.  In the same way, I could raise my hand and say, it’s me, but the past me and the future me are also me.

All those “me’s” started telescoping down into the one moment.

They are much closer together than I had thought.

 

Posted April 8, 2018 by swanatbagend in identity

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Entitlement   Leave a comment

Do you have entitlement issues?

Think of King Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel.  He looked out at his kingdom and empire.  Everything had gone swimmingly so far.  He had no reason to think things would change.  He had no reason to revise his world view.  He was completely unaware that everything he believed about himself was wrong.

Daniel’s initial warning that he must turn away from his pride and arrogance was no more than the buzzing of a fly in the throne room.  It wasn’t comprehended as something significant.  How could it be?  Nebuchadnezzar had never known anything other than his own wealth and power, as natural as the sun rising and the river flowing downhill.  What could possibly divert the flow of the river or stop the sun from powering the earth?  How incomprehensible is a change of fortune!

He was the king, placed there by fortune, and confident in his own right to rule and reign.

And yet, everything he knew was overthrown.

So, entitlement issues.

I’d heard of the younger generation having those.  I’d heard that the demanding, muling, puking, younger generation thought it deserved an easy life, a fun life.  They say Generation X and Y have no tolerance for waiting and hard work.  I gathered some people think that benefits in life that are earned should be handed to them.  I’ve observed people who are inconsiderate of others in the pursuit of their own comfort.  I’ve seen adults behave in childish ways when things don’t go as they planned.

Of course, I am not one of those people.

I got aggravated when my grocery store somehow deleted our alternate ID so that when my husband did $200 of grocery shopping for me but forgot his discount card, he couldn’t get the discount.  That’s crazy they can’t keep their computer systems functioning normally so I can get the discounts I depend on.

I got aggravated when colds, flu and other fatiguing health issues plagued our family over the last six weeks.  Honestly, when it is going to end?  It’s not like I haven’t been washing my hands like crazy and feeding everyone really healthy food.

I got aggravated at the colleges who admitted my daughter, the ones who keep sending her and us recruiting letters telling us how fantastic their programs are.  You could paper a wall with them.  One even sent her a pair of socks–she’s supposed to go watch an online video to understand that one.  I can’t believe that while they claim she deserves their glorious educational programs, they aren’t funding the bottom line.

I’ve been the one who finds the words, “So, are we having fun yet?” coming out of my mouth.

So.

I read about Nebuchadnezzar, and instead of thinking what a moron the guy is, I am starting to identify with him.

 

Posted April 5, 2018 by swanatbagend in identity, reality

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More   Leave a comment

At many points throughout my life, I have wanted to do more.

Whether I was genuinely motivated by a wish of my own or an original idea, or just looking on at what other amazing people had accomplished, the emotional results were the same.  I read about a five year old who started her own non-profit to bring hot lunch to the other children in her school.  I observed the faithful and amazing way a woman I knew wisely and lovingly parented her children.  I admired local entrepreneurs who started their own brewery in an abandoned church.  I saw a doctor friend both parent her children and further her career.   I scratched my head in amazement at the knowledge and skill required to found and run a company like Google or Tesla.  I gathered from the vibe in my culture that I was supposed to have a paid career and that my at-home-ness was an odd aberration that better childcare options would make unnecessary.

At times, the observations I made about what other people were doing left me with the sense that there was something wrong with me, that the work I found joy in was too little of a contribution, that I should somehow be doing something more or something better.

Should.

Be doing more.

Be doing better.

Then I saw an ant.  It was doing what ants do best.  She was seeking food for her sisters.  She was removing obstacles from the doorway to her nest.  She was cleaning her antennae.  She was sprinting along the sidewalk.  She was crunchy, streamlined, tiny, formed of amazing minuscule parts, but perfect.  She was beautifully pursuing who she was made to be.

She wasn’t trying to pollinate flowers.  She wasn’t feeling disappointed because she couldn’t get her abdomen to light up every night.  She wasn’t attempting to migrate to Mexico.  She wasn’t sunk into despair because she could not stride rapidly past into the upper distance like those giants who shake the earth.

My conclusion is not that challenging aspirations should not be pursued because they are too difficult, or that there is an underclass of people who aren’t good enough to deserve meaningful work, or that a specific gender is responsible for all childcare and it’s immoral if they escape their homes.

Rather, there is no need to think we must do something better or something more or something else that someone outside us says we should be doing.  We can move forward following the leadings we’re given.  We can trust that who we are is enough.

 

 

 

Posted December 1, 2017 by swanatbagend in identity

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Helpless   Leave a comment

Life is supposed to be ever onward and upward.  Our culture, as you’ve probably already been told by other bloggers, developed from the American dream, which all started when someone had the audacity to decide our country would be based upon people having the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Somehow, since then, our raison d’être has ballooned to include not just the pursuit of happiness, but the thing itself.

Advertising and media envelop us in images of how it is supposed to be.  Life is full of sunshine, with healthy athletic attractive families prancing across fields.  If you just see the right doctors and buy the right car, take the right medication, get your kid into the right college, your existence will travel forward on this pleasant upward trajectory–forever.

It is true that we do learn skills and competences, and move toward being more independent as we grow and develop from a helpless infant to an adult.  We are responsible to do what we can with what we’re given and not sit around waiting for someone else to do the work.

However, our care of our bodies cannot stop unexpected events from happening.  Our work doesn’t guarantee that we will have a meaningful career, grow older with a loving spouse, and have a pleasant retirement, despite our culture relentlessly pushing this model as what to expect, what should be.

While our skills are valuable and meaningful, they can’t save us from old age and death.

I’d like to think they could, but all I have to do is look around me.  I look at my own life.  Despite doing what is in me with the strength I’ve been given to live a good life, so many of the big things that make the most difference long-term, I don’t control.

I like to think I am in control of them.  I work hard to make things be the best they can be.  And I know how I think things should be.

I make choices all the time.  I work.  I respond.  I choose.  It’s not that I have no power.

But my power is limited.  I don’t control the forces that have the most influence on me–what happens to me and who is by my side when it happens.  I cannot by sheer will command the ocean to roar and another human being to do what I think is right and my heart, mind, soul and strength to be what I think they ought to be.

I am hemmed in on every side by my impotence.

 

Posted November 21, 2017 by swanatbagend in identity, reality

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Grace Alone   Leave a comment

I’ve been the recipient of a really wonderful sermon, so I’m just going to paraphrase what I got today, and thank my pastor for it, and thank the 500th anniversary of the Reformation for it.  So without further ado, here’s Ephesians 2:1-9.

Sin is not just in our actions, it’s in us.  It is our nature.  We don’t want God.  Original sin is the Christian doctrine that is empirically verifiable.  You can see that death and sin are at work in the world.

As to your rescue, you are a drowning swimmer, not one calling out for help.  You don’t need reform; you need resurrection.  You’re sunk.

BUT because of his love, God has made you alive by his grace, ongoing from beginning to end.  The reason you are a Christian is not because I–but because God is rich in mercy.

Martin Luther states this more fully: “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it.”  It’s not because of something we did, or because we did enough good deeds to show that we deserved his love, that God loves us.

“Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.”

We see that we can become more attractive as God redeems us, but we don’t need to be attractive to be loved by him.  The only criteria for salvation is our neediness and brokenness.

Lisle’s four questions to reflect on as you ask if you are beginning to grasp grace.

  1. Are you growing in humor, joy and laughter?  Because grace.
  2. Are you growing in holiness?  A grace filled life is not a sin-filled life.
  3. Are you growing in humility?
  4. Are you growing in honesty with God?  You can, because it’s not about your performance.

 

Posted November 12, 2017 by swanatbagend in identity, reality

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