The Real Question We Should Be Asking About the Migrant Caravan

Migrant Caravan: When Wanting a Better Life is a Crime from genevalopez2012.com

My stomach was recently turned when watching a news station’s report on The Migrant Caravan(s). I couldn’t believe some of the things “professionals” were stating about these groups of human beings making their way here, flippantly throwing around words like “invaders,” “diseases,” and “terrorists.” It was disheartening and even more disturbing to me that their large audience was taking it all in and blindly agreeing with their discourse.

I am not here today to try to change your mind about who you vote for. I am not here today to try and even change your mind about how our country should handle immigration reform. Today, I’m here simply asking us to treat human beings like human beings, in both our actions and our words.

So many individuals, including our government entities, have placed a major focus on the theory that someone is paying the caravans to do this. It might surprise you to know, that I don’t dismiss that theory. Heck, not even my husband, a native of El Salvador, rejects that theory. We both think it’s quite possible that some of these individuals are being paid, though we believe it could be either political party behind it. But, Friends, why are we not asking the more important questions?

For argument’s sake, let’s propose that some of the members in these groups of individuals are, in fact, being paid to make this journey. Even if that’s happening, they’re not being paid much. Maybe-maybe-a few hundred bucks. Maybe. But let’s look at the bigger picture, here.

These individuals are traveling mostly by foot from Honduras and El Salvador. From El Salvador to Texas, there are approximately 1,400 miles. Let me repeat that: 1,400 miles distance between the Texas border and El Salvador and these groups are traveling it by foot. Additionally, many of these migrants are making this journey with infants and children in tow, sleeping on the streets and walking the harsh terrains. It will take them more than 1 month to make this trek by foot.

The most important question here isn’t whether or not these groups are being paid to do this. The most important question here is that even if they are, why are they doing it? What would possess a woman to journey on foot, 1,400+ miles with her 6-month old baby, to a land where she knows political tension is high, where she knows she is not wanted by a great many, where she knows that she will most likely be detained by authorizing agencies that have many claims against them of violations of human rights? What would make anyone willing to do that, even for a few hundred dollars?

The answer? Desperation.

Even if you believe these recent caravans in the news are fake and made up of paid actors, the truth is, they represent reality. Because even if these aren’t “real” people (and I believe the majority are, in fact, “real”), there are thousands before them and after them who are real and who are making dangerous journeys here. We can try to pass it off as fake news, we can shut our eyes to it, and we can bury our heads in the sand, but it will not change the fact that these caravans represent the very real reality.

Even if “real” people aren’t traveling the whole way by foot, their journey is still incredibly dangerous. Women and children who try to make the trip are often raped and violated on the way. Many migrants die on the journeys through the harsh climate of the desert. Parents will take out loans to pay “coyotes” to transport their minor children to the USA. Why? Why would anyone be willing to take such risks with their own lives or the lives of their children?

Desperation.

Let’s look at a few facts. I focus on El Salvador in this post because I am the most personally involved with it and have the most knowledge about its problems compared to the other countries involved. However, the other Central American countries affected have very similar statistics.

  • According to the World Bank, 1 in 3 Salvadoran inhabitants lives in poverty, which means they make less than $5.50 per day.
  • The World Health Organization classifies homicide rates at epidemic proportions once it reaches a ratio of 10 for every 100,000 inhabitants. In 2017, the average homicide rate in El Salvador was 60 per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest in the entire world.
  • In 2017, the homicide rate of children and adolescents in El Salvador was 16 per 100,000 inhabitants. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot to you, so let me try to make it a little more real to you: That would wipe out my 6-year old son’s entire 1st grade class.
  • Businesses are being extorted by gangs, forced to pay money to the area gangsters in order to keep their business; in order to stay alive, even.
  • Children and youth are being forced to join the violent gangs and if they refuse, the lives of their family members are threatened and the innocence of their sisters taken as retaliation.

This is the reality that these individuals are living in every day, so even with all the risks that come with an “illegal” journey to the US border, it all seems worth it. For many, it’s no worse than the risks they face every single day in their home countries.

THIS is what we should be focused on when we look at the caravans. Maybe these particular caravans are a ruse, but ruse or not, they represent the very real reality of thousands of other migrants. We don’t have to agree with their methods. I’m not even suggesting that we should allow all of these individuals into the United States. But can we please stop treating them like dirt and referring to them as animals? Can we treat them with the dignity they deserve as human beings? Can we stop spreading rumors and fear among our citizens? Can we get out and meet our neighbors? Can we stop relying on the media, our President, and our government for all the facts about these people and can we step out of our comfort zone and start having open conversations with people who are different from us? Can we think about what we would do if we were faced with the situation many of these migrants find themselves in? Can you really sit there and try to tell me you would do anything different if you were in their shoes?

While not all who make the journey have good intentions, the majority are simply desperate for a better life. Let’s thank God that most of us in the United States can’t even fathom this level of desperation and let’s treat these people with decency. Let’s look past our political parties, our political beliefs, and for goodness sakes, let’s show some integrity and stand up for the humane treatment of a group of individuals who are literally willing to put their lives at risk to come here. Let’s refuse to justify everything that is said by someone simply because they’re on the same “team” as us. Let’s agree to disagree on political reform, but let’s all agree to treat human beings with decency and respect, both in our actions and the words we use to describe them.

They are not invaders. They are simply human beings desperate for life.

Migrant Caravan: When Wanting a Better Life is a Crime from genevalopez2012@gmail.com

Does Prejudice Have To Be Personal Before We’ll Recognize It?

Does Prejudice Have To Be Personal Before We'll Recognize It? from genevalopez2012.com

President Trump has often been accused of racism and fear-mongering and the latest Republican campaign ad endorsed by Trump, has once again brought these allegations to the forefront.  Many of his supporters adamantly dismiss these claims as outrageous and ridiculous, stating he simply tells the truth.

The thing is, Friends, our language matters.  The way we say things is important, and most especially when we are leading an entire country.  The manner in which we present information is critical.  The POTUS often uses scare-tactics to prey on the fears of America.  When discussing the problem of illegal immigration, he has referred to immigrants numerous times as rapists, murderers, and “very bad people.”  And yes, there have been some horrendous crimes committed in this country and elsewhere by individuals who entered the USA illegally.  I’m not denying that or justifying it, nor am I suggesting that we shouldn’t discuss those cases when looking at policy changes to our immigration system.

The issue, though, is to hear the President speak, one would think that these bad apples are the majority and they are not.  The majority of individuals who have entered this country legally or illegally, are simply looking for a better way of life for themselves and their families.  Many are trying to escape extreme poverty, government corruption, and/or terrible violence.  Most are just trying to give their children a chance at life.  Not even necessarily a chance at a good life, guys!  Just an actual chance to live to see their 16th birthday!

But President Trump doesn’t talk about these things.  Of course not.  That wouldn’t fit in with his political agenda.  That wouldn’t build that wall.

To be fair to him, though, the President’s fear-mongering is nothing new in politics.  Look back in history and we see countless incidents from politicians and news rooms from all sides who have employed the same tactic.  It’s just easier for us to see it when we, or the causes we support, are the scapegoat.

I’m a Christ-follower.  Do you know how many people in history have been viciously murdered by individuals in the name of God, in the name of the same God I love and serve?  Millions, my Friends.  Millions.  Yet, I would find it ridiculous if people started using those facts to denounce Christians as dangerous.  Why?  Because I know we’re not all like that.  In fact, most of us aren’t.

I support the 2nd amendment, though I support some policy changes regarding gun laws.  Lots of people I know do, too.  And lots of people I know get so frustrated with the fact that after another mass shooting in America, politicians and the media prey on our fears and lump all gun owners into the same category: dangerous.  My news feed will be inundated with people’s arguments that most gun owners are responsible citizens and they’ll be furious with “the other side” refusing to distinguish between the majority and the bad apples.

I don’t support abortion because of my religious and moral convictions.  Yet, there have been quite a few individuals with allegedly the same convictions as my own, who have committed heinous crimes against abortion clinics.  I would never condone such actions and I certainly don’t want to be associated with them.  I definitely don’t want my convictions and those of the majority who believe like me, to be judged by the violence of that minority among us.  That would be crazy.  Right?

I support our law enforcement.  I believe they should be respected and appreciated for their work and sacrifices.  I also know, though, that not all who wear that badge, are good people.  There are incidents where minorities have been profiled, unjustly apprehended, and yes, even murdered by racist cops.  But I recognize that most of the men and women behind that badge are not like that and I would never condone violence against them based off the disgusting actions of the minority among them.

I’m a 34-year old white woman in America.  I didn’t live through the Civil War. I didn’t own slaves nor do I condone it.  But my ancestors did.  I know plenty of white racists today, sadly.  There are white supremacists marching around in KKK hoods and preaching hatred even today.  But I definitely don’t want to be associated with those kinds of people.  In fact, it annoys me when people assume that I am a racist because of the color of my skin, the history of my people, and the actions of a bunch of morons who happen to have the same skin tone as I do.

Am I making my point, here, Friends?

I think every single one of us in some way or another have experienced frustrations at being grouped into the same category as extremists and minorities in our individual groups.  Most of us don’t have any difficulty identifying how unfair or ludicrous it is to be scapegoated against when we are the victims of such actions.  So why is it so difficult for us to not hold ourselves, to not hold the individuals who we align ourselves with, to the same standards?  Why can we not see past our politics, our religions, our genders, our races, etc and recognize prejudice even when it’s not personal to us?  Do we have to be the scapegoat before we’re willing to step up on our soap boxes? Do we have to be the victims of bigotry before we are willing to demonstrate integrity?

I’m not an “open all our borders and let anyone come and go as they please” advocate.  I believe in a system to immigration.  I believe in enforcing immigration laws when they make sense.  But I do not support, nor will I ever support, preying on the fears and lack of understanding of my country to bring about changes to the broken system.  I will never support any leader’s policies on the issue, who demonizes entire populations based on the terrible actions of a minority among them and refuses to address all the truths on a subject, not just the ones that support their agenda.

Does Prejudice Have to Be Personal Before We'll Recognize It? from genevalopez2012.com

The Biggest Threat to Christian America? Christians.

Christians: Christian America's Biggest Threat from genevalopez2012.com

 

“When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. (Luke 22:49-51)

I fear for the Christian faith in our nation, America, but probably not for the same reasons so many of my Conservative friends do.  I’m not living in fear of the Liberals, the Muslim refugees, the feminists, the LGBTQ community, the ACLU, and any other alleged enemy of our Christian ideals.   No, I’m much more frightened by my own brothers and sisters in Christ who seem to have forgotten that our entire Faith is based on Love and that the world will know we are Christ’s disciples only by our love for one another (John 13:35).

We have our precious Supreme Court Justices, now.  We have our National Day of Prayer.  We have our unwavering support of Israel.  We have our real news stories that always align perfectly with what we think we know and believe to be true.

But at what cost, my Friends?  I’m not saying that any of those things in and of themselves are bad, but I am asking, what did it cost us?  With all of that, do we also have more converts to our Christian Faith?  Do we have more people who don’t know Christ as their Savior, asking us how to know this God we serve?  Because while we posted that meme with the derogatory message against the “Libtards,” “Snowflakes,” and “Idiots” on our Facebook wall, we followed it right up with that inspirational message about the goodness of God’s grace and forgiveness.  Surely that counts for something.  Surely that “Libtard” who doesn’t know Christ, knows me by my love for others NOW.

We have become so fearful that our supposedly Christian ideals will be trampled on by those who do not know Christ, that upholding those ideals has become more important to us than even Christ himself.  We have forgotten to look to Jesus as our example of how Christ-followers should respond to a world lost in sin. We have forgotten, as Christ shows us through His own life, that it is entirely possible to uphold Truth, refuse to compromise our beliefs, and still love those who do not yet know that Truth.

Instead, like the disciple, we have responded to the lost who threaten Christ and His teachings, with violence, whether physically or verbally. And while we’re busy thrashing about our swords with little thought to our words or actions, Jesus is pleading, “No more of this!”  While we’re busy looking for that next best meme to attack our “enemies,” Jesus is still trying to work on patching up the bloody mess we’ve left behind in our last self-righteous rant against those who don’t yet know Him.

Let us be reminded that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  And while Jesus was blameless and more pure than any of us before or after Him, He never once fought or slandered those who persecuted Him, falsely accused Him, beat Him, or crucified Him.  In fact, some of His very last words that day were, “Father, forgive them.”

But before any of this, after His miracle of feeding the 5,000, people recognized Jesus as the One who had been prophesied about and they, not understanding from an eternal perspective, wanted to make Him king on earth.  And what was Jesus’ response to this?

 “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”  (John 6:15)

Perhaps, then, in trying to force a Christian kingdom on this earth,whatever the cost, we not only further isolate the lost, but we also isolate ourselves from the very One we say we are defending, leaving us with a shiny earthly kingdom that has absolutely no eternal value and consists of only those who look just like us, think just like us, and vote just like us.

Heavenly Father,

Forgive me when I lose my temper.  Forgive me when I get in the way of Your Kingdom and Your ways.  Forgive me when, rather than lead others to You, I become a stumbling block in their path to You.  I pray that You would help me trade my earthly perspective for an eternal one.  I pray that You would lead me and guide me in standing firm in what Your Word says is true, while also loving others as You have commanded me to do.  Help me find the balance of a resolute Faith, unwilling to compromise Truth, with the tempering of Your unconditional love for all mankind.  And when I am tempted to yield my sword of self-righteousness against those who oppose You, help me instead, respond as Jesus would. 

Prayer

11 Tips for Traveling to New York City with Kids

11 Tips for traveling to NYC with kids from genevalopez2012.com

Back at the start of August, I made the spontaneous decision to take a weekend trip to New York City with my 6-year old son and I thought I’d share a few tips I learned along the way. Before you read any further, though, keep in mind that I am not an expert traveler by any means, but I am experienced.  With quite a few trips within the USA as well as nearly a dozen international trips under my belt, I have experience, but I certainly don’t pretend to be an expert in the field.  Also, my family travels on a budget.  We don’t fly first class, staying in fancy hotels is not our priority, and we’re not interested in fine dining.  If those things are more your style, just understand that’s not our style and my advice on those experiences would be totally useless, unfortunately.

If you’re still with me, though, my son and I had such a wonderful experience in NYC and I want you to have just as much fun.  So here’s a few tips to help make that family trip to The Big Apple more enjoyable.

1. Don’t be afraid to travel with kids.

I can’t stress this tip enough, you guys, which is why I’m placing it at the top of the list. Yes, traveling with kids is different from traveling solo and in some ways, it’s definitely more complicated, but don’t let it hold you back!  Not only does traveling teach our kids great life lessons, but I absolutely LOVE experiencing new places through the eyes of my children.  There’s nothing like it and NYC with kids is definitely a great choice.  I personally felt that 5-6 years old was a perfect age for a first trip to the City, but some might argue you can start even younger than that.

2. A NYC vacation does not have to be expensive.   

I have found great deals to NYC on websites like Kayak and Hopper.  In fact, if you live in the continental US, it’s probably one of the most affordable stateside flights out there if you plan it right.

Apart from the affordability of getting there, there are so many ways to spend very little and still have an amazing trip to the City.  You could make an entire day of meandering in Central Park and just down the road is The American Museum of Natural History.  The museum was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.  Best of all, though they have a suggested price to pay for both adults and children, it operates on the policy of “pay what you want,” meaning you could literally pay $1 and gain entrance.  I don’t suggest being too stingy if you can afford to pay, but this is a fantastic option for those who wouldn’t otherwise have access or for larger families.  And apparently, there are other local museums that follow this policy as well so do your research.

Then there’s The Staten Island Ferry, which is completely free, and gets you fairly close to The Statue of Liberty.  Of course, just walking the New York City streets will leave you with plenty of free entertainment and attractions.  And while New York City is a great destination for true foodies who enjoy fine-dining experiences, there are so many great options for those of us traveling on a much tighter budget.  From street vendors (don’t knock it until you try it!) to cheap hot dogs or slices of pizza, you do not have to spend a fortune to eat well in The Big Apple.

3.  Stay outside of Manhattan.  

Finding an affordable hotel in NYC?  Now, THAT can be a bit more challenging.  Your Manhattan hotels are going to cost you a pretty penny, prettier than what my family prefers. Through the guidance of others on Trip Advisor forums, I booked our hotel in Long Island City, not to be confused with Long Island.  It was only a 15-minute subway ride from Times Square, in our price range, and even provided a delicious continental breakfast each day, a rarity among the majority of NYC hotels.  Before you book a place, though, ALWAYS check out guest reviews on websites like Trip Advisor.  We may not care about staying anywhere fancy, but we want clean and safe.  Those guest reviews always help us find what we’re looking for.

4. Know your child and plan accordingly.    

New York City is known for their Broadway plays and musicals.  While many shows have age restrictions for children, there were a few shows at the time of our trip where my son would meet the age requirement.  So I really considered going, but I know my son.  I know his interests and his attention-span and I was convinced that even though thousands of other kids his age would probably thoroughly enjoy these shows, even though everyone told me we just had to go, the chances were very slim that my kiddo would truly appreciate it.  So we’ll save that for another trip.  There was still more than enough to keep us entertained!

5. Use the subway.

Probably my biggest fear about this trip was that I was going to be using the subway.  Look, Friends, I am somewhat directionally challenged.  I get furious, for example, when my GPS expects me to know what “Start out going northwest on Such and Such Avenue” is supposed to mean. Where the heck is northwest??  Left or right at the stop sign, Siri!  Left or right!?

But I am here to tell you that I successfully navigated the NYC subway system and you can too. I learned through my research before the trip, that there are some great free apps out there to get you around on the subway.  I used Citymapper with no complaints. I would suggest that if you are as new to the whole subway thing as I was, that you do a little reading on understanding the NYC subway system and terminology in case you run into any unexpected issues with the app. But also, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  If you’re uncomfortable asking strangers who seem to know what they’re doing, you can always find a NYC police officer or subway attendant to help you out.

6. Buy a 7-day unlimited MetroCard.  

In order to ride the subway, you will have to purchase a MetroCard.  There are various purchase options, but I went with the 7-day unlimited option.  You only have to use the card about 12 times and the unlimited card pays for itself. With kids, you will use that EASILY even in just a weekend trip, especially if you stay outside Manhattan. The more you can utilize the subway to rest little tired feet, the more pleasant your adventure is sure to be. Plus, the 7-day card allows you to ride the local buses as well (we used the bus to get us to and from the LaGuardia airport) as well as the Roosevelt Island Tram-which my son loved, by the way- and for a total of $32 per card, it’s so much more cost effective and doable than taking a taxi, Uber, or Lyft everywhere.  You need one card for each traveler, but kids under a certain height can ride for free.

7. Bring a power pack or portable phone charger. 

My son and I spent from 9am-8pm exploring the city every day.  As I used my phone for taking pictures and getting us from destination to destination via the Citymapper app, my phone battery died often.  You don’t want to have to stop what you are doing constantly to find the nearest Starbucks so you can plug your phone in and wait for it to charge.  Luckily, you can purchase a portable phone charger which will allow you to keep exploring and charge your phone at the same time. Depending on the type of phone you own, there are lots of great and affordable options out there.  If you click on the Amazon link below, something like this is great for iPhone users, but there’s tons of options for android users as well.

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8. Be flexible!!!

Before our trip, I had made an itinerary for each day of our NYC adventure.  When you look at a map of NYC, it doesn’t look that big, but it really is spread out.  It took much longer for us to get from point A to point B than I had anticipated and that messed up my itinerary.  But don’t let that ruin your day!  It’s great to have a plan, but don’t be too rigid with it.  Getting lost, bad weather, traffic, etc, etc, can all play a role in forcing you to change your plans at times.

9.  Don’t let the rain (or snow) stop you.  

We traveled in August, which can generally be one of the rainiest times of year in NYC.  Again, it was a spontaneous trip.  Had I had a chance to plan it better, August probably wouldn’t have been my top choice due to humidity and rain.  We were fortunate that we actually caught NYC during a slightly cooler August weekend, but we did get rained on a fair amount.  Yet rain and snow in NYC is seriously not a big deal.  Pack a rain jacket or winter coat and some close-toed shoes, and have at it.  If you’re really dead set against walking the City in the rain/snow, there’s plenty of indoor activities you can find to keep the whole crew entertained.

10.  Plan downtime in your daily schedule. 

My son and I were only supposed to be in NYC for about 2 days and I thought we had to go everywhere and do everything.  I tried to squeeze adventure into every second of our days.  I realized on our first day there, that I should have factored “downtime” into each day.  My son is only 6.  We were doing a TON of walking every day in August heat and he was quite the champ, but he could have really benefited from more time with no agenda and no pressure.  Whether it’s just taking a break in your hotel room watching TV or resting at one of many parks in the city, don’t skimp on the downtime.

11.  Soak it all in.  

This was a trip that neither of us will ever forget.  We bonded over New York pizza, conversations on the Subway, dinosaur exploration at The American Museum of Natural History, people-watching in Central Park, history discussions on The Staten Island Ferry viewing The Statue of Liberty, and sugar rushes at Dylan’s Candy Bar.  And in my son’s words, the best part of the entire trip was absolutely “Everything!”

11 Tips for traveling with kids in NYC from genevalopez2012.com

 

7 Things Our Kids Will Never, Ever Learn How to Do

7 Things Our Kids Will Never, Ever Learn How to Do from https://genevalopez2012.wordpress.com

Listen, Guys.  I’m usually that annoyingly optimistic, always-sees-the-glass-half-full kind of gal.  But even I have my limits and today, I’m here to deliver some pretty tough news: There are a few things that our kids are just never going to learn how to do.  Now, I can’t provide you with tons of documented research on this, but I can speak from my own experiences as a mom, the experiences of my friends, and my own observations in the Wal-Mart checkout lines and that’s basically the same thing, right?

I’m currently Mom of a 6-year old boy, a 2-year old girl, and as of sometime around the beginning of January, they tell me I’m going to also be the mom of a newborn boy.  So, sure, my kids are far from grown, but even still, I’m already convinced that the following information is factual and cannot be refuted.  As much as I want them to learn how to do these things, or in some cases, NOT to do these things, I’m convinced it’s just never going to happen.  I’ve accepted it and I’m here to make sure I crush your hopes and dreams, too. I mean, (cough, cough) I’m here to share my wisdom with the world.

When I had my first kiddo, I had absolutely no idea what the heck I was doing, so I often turned to experts in the field and saturated my mind with all the information I could find about how to be good at this Momma thing.  And you know, a lot of it worked pretty well. Our pediatrician even congratulated me at my son’s 1-month wellness visit on “keeping my child alive.”  True story!

But I don’t care how much information I’ve read, how many experts I’ve listened to, or what research I’ve found, nothing has worked to help my children learn how to do these 7 things.  I’ve gently reprimanded, begged, tried a reward-system, shamelessly bribed, and even had my 6-year old memorize Philipians 4:13 so we could repeat it together when feeling frustrated.  (Yelling through gritted teeth, “I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO GIVES ME STRENGTH” should still totally be effective, right?? Asking for a friend).

So without further ado, let’s just rip that band-aid off and get to it.

7 Things Our Kids Will Never, Ever Learn How to Do:

7 Things Our Kids Will Never, Ever Learn How to Do from https://genevalopez2012.wordpress.com

1. Find their shoes.

They can find a pimple on your face in 2.5 seconds that you worked for over 30 minutes to cover with layers of concealer and foundation, but they’ll never be able to find their shoes when it’s time to leave the house.

2. Drink the water (or not).  

It takes all day and multiple threats to your own sanity to get them to finish the 1 glass of fresh water you fixed for them this morning, but only 5 seconds for them to gulp mouthfuls of the bath water their disgusting, germ-covered, crusty rear-ends have been soaking in the last 15 minutes.  Gotta be building that immune system, though, right? Right?

3. Not to leave their winter coat at school.

They can remember every word, chord, and irritating special effect to every single one of the most annoying kids’ songs in the world, but they can’t remember to not leave their new winter coat on the school playground, the gym, or the school bus.  Every. Single. Year.

4. Pee in the toilet.

They can’t figure out how to consistently pee in the big, round, open toilet bowl and not on the seat, wall, floor, or their new underwear.  However, do not be dismayed.  Their ability to hit a target is in-tact and functioning because you better believe that when they’re sick, they’re always going to hit the bulls-eye and puke all over you.

5. Not to eat their boogers.

They scream, gag, and wail “BECAUSE IT’S GREEN!!” when you ask them to eat a piece of broccoli, but you can’t get them to stop chomping on their own boogers in the back seat while you’re driving down the interstate.

6. Sleep in.

You have to drag them out of bed at 9 a.m., yell until you’re blue in the face, and pray for repentance on your way to church every Sunday morning, but they’re whispering “Mommy, I’m hungry” over and over again with their putrid morning breath 2 inches from your face at 6:30 a.m. every Saturday.

7.  Just sleep in general.  

They’ll fall asleep in their car seat with their head bent at strangle angles, or in their plate of rice at dinner time, or on the front row of a rock concert.  They’ll fall asleep anywhere, anytime, but put them in that $200 crib you bought them, with the $500 mattress “guaranteed to have your toddler sleeping soundly all night,” with the down comforter, memory foam pillow, and rainfall white noise machine running, and they’re suddenly 2-year old scholars who want to read every book in their library, play peek-a-boo 8 million times, and see how many times they can get you to sing “You Are My Sunshine.” Oh, and you remember that glass of water you begged them to drink all day? Yeah, our little dictators are finally ready to drink it now.  Every single drop.

*****

So there it is, Friends.  The ugly list of parenting realities.  Take a deep breath and try to relax.  Somewhere out there some other exhausted parent is learning to accept these truths, too.  You are not alone!  We will survive, Friends!  We will!

I think.

7 Things Our Kids Will Never, Ever Learn How to Do from https://genevalopez2012.wordpress.com

When God Asks a People-Pleaser to Hate Others

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even their own life-such a person cannot be my disciple.”  Luke 14:26

I know what you’re thinking.  “When God asks a people-pleaser to hate others? Geneva, you’ve always been a bit whacky, but THIS has definitely taken the cake, girl!”  I know, I know. It sounds crazy. But hear me out, ok?

I like to refer to myself as a recovering people-pleaser.  Some days, I totally kick the urge to fall into those old, ugly habits and other days, I fail miserably.  So, yeah, definitely still recovering and quite honestly, for as long as I live, I will probably always have good days and bad days with it; I’m just hoping those good days continue to be more frequent and the bad days become fewer and fewer.  

I first experienced God working on breaking these chains in my own life, with my relationships with peers and friends in high school.  Then later, I had major reconstructive surgery on my character in my professional life as a mental health and substance abuse therapist.  My concept of a “good” counselor was rocked when I realized that while being a good listener and being nonjudgmental were, as I presumed, certainly important traits of a counselor doing their job correctly, just as important was the need to speak truth to Clients.  Sometimes – often times – truth was difficult to hear. It was challenging to the listener and it would often be met with resistance and even dislike of the counselor speaking it. And that knowledge was hard for me to accept. Didn’t my Clients need to “like” me as a counselor?  How could I help them if they didn’t like me all the time? Oh, the growing pains I experienced as God transformed my character and understanding of my responsibilities as a therapist and once again chipped away at my natural instincts to please others.

Not so long ago, though, I looked back in awe at how far I had grown as a therapist in this area of my life.  I felt proud to realize that I was confident in gently speaking needed messages to Clients and that I was no longer paralyzed by fear to do so, despite the fact that it didn’t always make me popular with those I was trying to help.  And so I thought I had finally mastered my people-pleasing habits. I mean, where else could I possibly still need work in this area? Hadn’t God challenged me in every way possible to eliminate this habit?

Imagine my surprise when I soon learned that maybe, just maybe, God had actually saved my biggest problem area for last.  It was an area that I wasn’t at all prepared for and it has been met with lots of pain, heartache, and discouragement.

You see, growing up, I was always a bit of a “golden child.”  Gosh, that sounds incredibly snooty of me to say, huh? But that’s the only way I know how to describe it to help you really understand why this battle has been so difficult for a gal like me, so hang in there and let me explain.  I became a Christian very early on in life. I generally did what was expected of me, I made good grades, and I didn’t really go through any scary teenage rebellion. I was the stereotypical first-born child in my family, with my biggest show of irresponsibility being a constantly messy room (which by the way, I am totally paying for these days trying to raise a 6-year old to not be a slob. Sorry, Mom!)  My close-knit, southern family was proud of me and they supported my decisions in life. In the small church we attended, I was a leader. In college, I made phone calls every night to 3 people: my momma, my mamaw, and my aunt, who was like a second mother to me. The overall consensus among my family and those who knew me was that Geneva was a “good girl.”

Initially, I didn’t do any of these things to please others.  They were genuine acts from a genuine place in my heart and honestly, most of it was never a real act of heroism or courage to go against the grain as a teen.  My personality is just naturally inclined to generally follow the rules and live in peace, so if I’m honest, being “good” wasn’t ever something I could really brag about because it never required extreme sacrifice on my part. But looking back, I think I eventually became accustomed to the praise and the accolades to a point that my best behavior wasn’t always being done to honor God, but to please others. And as God’s most recent efforts to eliminate my people-pleasing habits have revealed, perhaps, even, it had become an idol in my life.  

I dread almost every election season because it’s always filled with mud-slinging, empty promises, and confusion.  The 2016 presidential elections were no different in that respect, except they seemed to be even uglier than normal.  This country, who I’ve never found to be particularly united, became even more divided than usual. My Facebook feed, like many of yours, was full of opinions, hatred, and nonsense.  I’ve never been a real fan of talking politics because I’ve never been a real fan of conflict. Oh, who am I kidding, I HATE conflict. But 2016 shifted something in me. Though still not a fan of speaking out politically, I found myself unable to keep quiet about some of the things I found disturbing.  And while I was expecting criticism, I wasn’t prepared for who most of that personal criticism was coming from: From people I had been a leader among, I had been admired by, and I had always been supported by. It seemed that my incredibly unpopular opinions on several political matters had hit quite a nerve among those I’d always felt the most comfortable around.  People who had shaped my life in great ways, been there for me in some of my darkest days, and who I owe a great deal of gratitude to for their influence and leadership in my life, suddenly felt like strangers to me. People I loved the most in my life were suddenly disappointed in me, shaming me, and even angry with me. And I wasn’t prepared.

I began to do a lot of soul-searching.  I questioned my motives for speaking out.  I questioned my beliefs. Was I wrong? I mean, according to a national survey, 80+ percent of the white, evangelical population all seemed to disagree with me.  Surely that meant something. I mean, believe me, I was used to having unpopular beliefs.  But I wasn’t used to not fitting in among my own; quite the opposite, actually. This was new terrain for me and I didn’t like it.  Was I allowing my mind to be tainted with worldly influences? These are the types of questions I wrestled with daily. These are the types of conversations I had with God at 3am when I couldn’t sleep.  I mean, how could I possibly be in God’s will here when nearly every spiritual and personal influence I’d had in my life at this point, disagreed with what I was saying. Clearly, I had to be wrong. Right?  

And then, I started praying about it.  People had accused me of being biased in some of my opinions because of my life experiences.  My immediate reaction to those accusations was to dismiss them, but I eventually came to a place of true brokenness and I found myself thinking that maybe they were right.  Maybe I was being biased. I didn’t know anymore. I started praying, “God, all I want is to be in Your will. If these passions of mine aren’t from You, then take them away.  I’m begging You, that if I am out of Your will here, strip these desires and this unrest in my soul away.” That became my daily prayer: “Not my will, but Yours.”

And you know what?  Things started shifting, but maybe not in the way you’re thinking they did.  I didn’t find those passions eliminated. I didn’t find God shutting my mouth. In fact, I came to realize that these weren’t just my personal opinions on topics, but they were things I clearly felt the  Holy Spirit convicting my heart about. I found the courage to continue to speak up for people God had burdened my heart for and to advocate for these causes, no matter the approval or disapproval of others. And while I still struggle at times with no longer being in the good graces among many who are important to me or among those I’ve always related to the most, I am learning that I used to depend on those opinions more than I depended on God’s.  

So does God really expect us to hate our family or our friends?  Of course not. But what He does ask of us, is that we do His will always, no matter the cost.  And rest assured, it’s going to cost us at some point. It may bring us to a place where doing what God has laid on our hearts just doesn’t make sense to our mother, our father, our husband, our wife, our brother, our sister, our son, our daughter, our uncle, our aunt, our grandfather, our grandmother…to anyone.  It might bring us to a place that feels desolate, where it feels like it’s just us standing in our brokenness, defeated, discouraged and confused. But be encouraged, Friends. Throughout all of this, God has been faithful in strengthening me through the wise words of some mighty leaders, establishing new, godly relationships in my life, and giving me the courage to stand for what He has laid on my heart, even if it feels at times that He is the only one supporting me in it.  What about you?  What is He asking YOU to do?

Where God leads, He always, always provides and He is masterful at breaking us, but somehow, if we let Him, He brings beauty from the ashes of our destruction.