Sunday, April 23, 2017

4.5 Weddings I'm Crushing On

I have zero regrets that my wedding was simple, but I sure do love to look at weddings that are over the top. I love conceptualizing parties, but the logistics will always be a deterrent for me. I've only recently started to host people for dinner because I've always psyched myself out about how impressive everything should be (rather, how I want to it to be, because the planning is fun!) and then feel exhausted and disappointed when I try and create something on the scale of what I imagine and end up not enjoying (or simply never throwing) parties.

One of my favorite (and sometimes most embarrassing) things about this blog is being able to see how my style and opinions change over time. Way back in 2014, I did a roundup of my favorite weddings on the internet, and while that list was already reflecting my love of the unusual, my latest favorites go even further into the realm of the fantastical. You will probably notice some commonalities running throughout, not least of which is PINK!

This Pastel Kawaii wedding (part 1 and 2) is so fun. I would not choose it for my own wedding, but oh how I would love to be invited to a wedding like this! I'm less and less a believer in making major life moments look or feel "classic" or "timeless" because for one thing, that's almost impossible: even what we feel is timeless now will show its era 50 years from now. So why not let personality and quirks shine and take the opportunity to ultra-personalize events that are once-in-a-lifetime occasions?

This iridescent tablescape has been flitting about in my heart for weeks, which is saying something in terms of my attention span. It was part of an event, not a real wedding, but just imagine the wedding this might go with! It looks like it would fit right in with the Kawaii wedding, but it's a bit more polished.

Those of you fellow central-coasters will know all about the Madonna Inn. It's an ultra-kitschy hotel in San Luis Obispo, just north of where I live. In the last few years, it's become a mecca for bloggers (especially the vintage-loving variety) which gives me a bit of pride for this otherwise culture-less area, but also makes me laugh. I've only ever poked my head in at the inn, but even with my ability to see potential in the oddest places, it's a dark and dingy place. Which makes it all the more impressive that blogger's photos make it look so appealing. Teach me your filter ways! Even Grimes did a music video there! I should also mention that my husband's best friend's dad (Frank Bouget) is a legit French pastry chef (like, he's a French national) who invented the champagne cake that the Madonna Inn is known for. Some design goddesses around the internet literally order it for themselves from across the country. Lolz.

Anywayyy, it's become a bit of a destination spot for funky weddings. At this first Madonna Inn wedding, the bride wore Gucci! Then she changed into more Gucci for the reception. #Imdead. Max Wanger took the official photos which were featured in Domino Magazine, but you can see a bunch under #hellomiracle on Instagram. I love the marigolds, the glitter, the balloon drop (they were unleashed from the ceiling as the ceremony concluded), the kid's outfits, the custom bomber jackets, custom tees, neon signs, the guest's outfits... you name it, I was into it at this wedding. I happened to be driving by the hotel while this wedding was in progress, which is kind of like being at it, right?!

hello miracle intro


The second Madonna Inn wedding had a Super Pi Day theme. You should read the details on the original post and see more pictures to get the full awesomeness of the theme. I'm just here to show you pretty pictures.

Custom Bride By Design Wedding Dress

Pi math ceremony runner

Pi Punch

star earrings

This last Marie Antoinette inspired wedding was another inspiration shoot as opposed to a real wedding. There were parts of this one I would have done very differently, but I love the hair and the little eye veil!! Also the pink chandelier and the desserts.

Which is your favorite? What kind of over the top themed wedding do you dream of being invited to? 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

2017 trends

I feel a little silly talking about this stuff while my country is carelessly killing civilians left and right half way across the world (I don't think it's too harsh to put it in those terms), but I honestly don't know how to process every day being full of appalling news and yet living in a world where it doesn't directly affect me. I will let it rest for the moment, extremely grateful that I even have the option to drown out the horror of what's going on around me. 

I'm not sure that I'm any good at predicting or noticing trends, but it's fun to try. Here are some things I think might be associated with 2017 when we look back, in terms of the design world. 
I tried to pick fashion trends that weren't extremely obvious (like patches and pins on everything - as much as I love them!), but I started writing this list at the beginning of the year and a few of things already seem to have left "the scene", so maybe they weren't true trends after all? I also tried to pick trends (fashion and lifestyle both) that weren't already a big thing last year (or else I would have included the amazing and prolific use of tropical plants in the world of home decor).

Loose-fitting tailored pants for women seem to be in lots of street style looks and editorials, but unfortunately it's an expensive trend to emulate well. I was also noticing a lot of "robe jackets" - the one in the picture above is particularly night-robey, but in general, there seem to be trench-like jackets that are less structured than a classic trench and lighter weight. Slicked-back, wet looking hair was having a moment, and I'd like to try it out again because it's pretty easy and it looks very sleek. Ribbon-laced heels add a touch of interest in the shoe department, but I don't think I ever saw this style hit main-stream store shelves. Then again, I mostly shop second hand, so maybe I just missed them? Those early 2000s chunky-heeled wide-strap slip on heels are back, but I hate them, so I'm not going to include them on this list. I'm obsessed with all things holographic and it's a trend that is in stores like H&M so I can easily access it and incorporate some pieces without spending big bucks on something that will be out of style by next year. I pretty much wear what I want when I want anyway, but I appreciate the playfulness of iridescence. Finally, feather trim has exploded in the past few months. It's so diva-like, I love it. And I happened to find some vintage pieces at an estate sale recently that very much resemble some pieces from high fashion runways right now, so I was pretty excited about that!

Here are some non-fashion related things that are creating a buzz at the moment.

Oman and Canada have been mentioned a lot as travel destinations of late. Canada has been in the spotlight because of the burning-pile-of-poo that is American politics right now, but I think that recognition (and their hip Prime Minister!) has boosted interest in non-political tourism as well. Oman isn't mentioned a lot, actually, but trying to find obscure travel destinations definitely holds some status in the realm of people who like to travel, and Oman seems like a hidden gem. It's definitely on my list! // Ikebana floral arrangements are showing up more and more, and I am thrilled. It's a Japanese tradition, characterized by spidery and sparse shapes. It's a fantastic way to draw attention to a few particularly beautiful blooms, and it's also easy (at least in theory) for those of us who only have a handful of flowers to work with in the first place (as opposed to the buckets full that florists are working with). // The world of food definitely has trends, but they're hard for me to spot sometimes since I don't eat out a ton and there aren't a lot of progressive eateries in our area. However, I have noticed that vinegar seems to be popping up in many (and some unusual) places in cooking, and apple cider vinegar in particular is a big trend in the health-food world (dare I say, the new coconut oil?). Shishito peppers finalllly became available at some local groceries in our area, though I've been seeing them praised for a year or two now. When I looked up a recipe for how to cook them, Bon Appetit magazine actually said they were one of the 2016 trends they wouldn't miss, haha! But Jonas and I are obsessed with them, so I thought it was worth a share. You basically just blister them in a cast iron and salt them! We add a dash of sesame oil, soy sauce, and sesame seeds. // I didn't put this in my collage, but doesn't it seem like all of a sudden, all electronics work with voice command? It's still something I find super dorky and it's hard for me to imagine it being something that sticks around as the new normal, but who knows?!

Have you noticed anything that's a craze recently? Things you like? Things you can't wait to see disappear (revival of the the worst parts of 90s fashion, anyone?!)? 

Monday, March 20, 2017


Time passes quickly when I'm at home, but seems to take on otherworldly qualities when I travel.
I just got home from my first trip abroad in 10 years, and my first trip abroad as an adult. It's strange to realize that, considering how often I think about traveling and consider myself "well-traveled."

In many ways, I've become fully American. When I fly over Los Angeles, it feels like coming home. I quickly sink back into routines and old frames of mind, but there are fragments of me that got to step out of my time and my world for a little bit while traveling. Coming home feels like viewing the world from underwater - being conscious that I'm reentering a bubble, and everything feeling muted and warped for a few days while I re-calibrate and absorb new experiences into the old ones.

How odd to have to remind myself of the things that I care so much about here at home, and try and avoid the cycles of frustration and burnout that I'm generally stuck in. How odd that my world is largely a construct of my own perspective, and when taken out of my regular environment, I am floating and detached from all those things that have felt like solid identity.

How remarkable to be a US passport holder - no questions asked, yet no interest expressed by others. In airports I was aware of how easily I moved, and how exceptional that I can just pick up and travel for fun, wherever I want. At the same time, I felt the burden of that little blue book, my American passport, and all the assumptions and figurative baggage that goes with it. Are people disgusted by me? Do they think I'm clueless and careless? Do they think about it at all?

How typical, really, for me to have been surprised to realize that the United States is not as important as I thought. No one was talking about American politics, no one was waiting with baited breath or heavy sighs to see what was going to happen. Are all the things I care about and pore over only weighty in my own micro-climate? How can I be so easily distracted from what I find most important when I'm at home? How refreshing to take a break, but how laughable that I get to choose whether it even affects me.

I think of travel as something that "everyone but me" gets to do regularly. Again, what a narrow lens I generally view the world from. I was struck by how unusual it is that most of the people closest to me prioritize international travel above most other experiences, and how unusual to travel for leisure without our children. Guilt and pleasure mingled in that decision, and it made me think hard about where to go from here in terms of raising our children with a global perspective. I often consider Asia to be in their blood because it is in mine, but the truth is that experiences are not hereditary and they have zero connection to it. All of those things that come with growing up abroad are things that are being projected on them by me, rather than them taking part in it. How do I change that without moving abroad with them? Should I change that?

I knew that Asia today would not be the same Asia I left. What I didn't realize is that traveling for leisure in a 3rd world country is grueling, and lonely. So much of the hardship of traveling in Asia was absorbed by my parents and shielded from me last time I was traveling there. This time, many people were not friendly, and we couldn't even speak the same language as other tourists. Before now, I have only ever traveled in groups or to visit people I know, so this was a new dimension of alienation. Frankly, it seemed like a ludicrous scenario, at times. I have never been interested in traveling around Europe or in hopping from hotel to hotel, taking guided tours. That is not experiencing the real world (the latter, that is). And yet, even backpacking tourism seems like such an American thing to do. To willingly subject myself to discomfort, inconvenience, and alienation in the name of "experience". I don't regret it, but it is a rather strange concept.

I want to blend in and belong in Asia seamlessly, but I don't. Chinese and Thai people don't think of me as belonging there, nor is it easy for me to be there. I am an American now.

Monday, February 13, 2017

On Being Political

I've been in a major funk the past week or two, which is why all has been quiet on the political opinions front. ;) There's no shortage of things to talk about, but it's also incredibly overwhelming to try and process the current political scene. Ever since reading that February is the month in which the most people commit suicide each year, my mild depression has been almost a self-fulfilling prophesy. No small part of this funk is due to politics. But still, one of the things that's been gnawing at me the most is the prevalent attitude on Facebook that anyone talking about politics is a thorn in the side of everyone else. It's so smug, and I hate it.

Image: me feeling smug about other people being smug. Meta, baby. 

I'm often afraid that I'm losing readers between the ending of one paragraph and the beginning of the next. As always, I'm sort of working through my own thoughts as I write, but hear me out if you can.

I know that this prevalent dismissal of political rhetoric comes from a place that is well-meaning. Plenty of people can't talk about politics on social media without becoming despicable and plenty of lies are perpetuated with a simple "share". There's a completely valid option to just say nothing at all relating to politics on social media, and I've definitely taken that option more than usual lately. But saying "let's not be political" or "I'm so tired of all the politics" isn't really necessary if what you really want is to not engage in anything political. If you're "tired of all this talk", take a leave from Facebook quietly. We need not announce how exhausted we are by other people's lives crumbling, because that's more often than not what's at the heart of politics.

I know that some people are willing to have political discussions in person or with people they have safe and respectful relationships with, and just avoid those topics online. Even so, there's this rule I hear voiced all the time in in-person situations to "not talk about politics". Indeed, preserving relationships is more important than debating opinions, and I respect that, but I have two main reasons that I think the call to be silent on politics is *thumbs down* (can't think of quite the right word). First, there's an oft-cited myth that sharing your opinion never changes anyone's mind. Personally, I change my mind all the time. There is nothing more valuable to me than a well argued, well substantiated point of view that differs from mine. It's nice to have friends that post stuff I agree with, but it's even better when I come to understand that other people see the world differently than I do.

I recently heard that 25% of people on social media are set in their opinions to the point that arguing with them is pointless and a waste of energy. These are the ones that are the loudest and that we naturally want to argue with, no matter what "side" they are on or we are on. Perhaps they are also the ones who post the most obnoxious and polarizing political opinions. I think it's perfectly fine not to engage with that group if you're looking to free yourself from exhausting and fruitless political banter. Another 25% already agree with you. The middle 50% are the quietest. They may be considering changing their minds or becoming active about what they believe in, but they need encouragement to get into action. That 50% may find real value in your political or spiritual views, but we must approach this opportunity with gentleness, not disdain.

The second beef I have with the "no politics" attitude is that being "above politics" (even if you don't label yourself that in so many words) is a luxury that basically only middle-class white people have. Most people in this world and even in this country don't have the option of not being political, and so for us to refuse to be political is to ignore the things that fundamentally alter other people's lives. I'm not saying that God isn't above politics, but I think you will notice that when anything we hold dear is threatened by those around us or those in power, we quickly become political (whether or not that's on Facebook).

So what does it mean to be political? I've loved Rufus Wainwright since basically forever, but I love him for this all the more:

When I looked it up, the definition was: 
Politics (from Greek: Politik√°: Politika, definition "affairs of the cities") is the process of making decisions applying to all members of each group. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance — organized control over a human community, particularly a state.
Can you imagine if we made love and truth political in this sense? An affair of our cities? Concepts that informed our decisions that apply to all members of each group? That is, in essence, the Great Commission. 

If your family is divided by borders, you become political. If you can't save your child's life because you can't access healthcare, you become political. If police kill your baby under dubious circumstances and face no consequences, you become political. If your wife is a police officer and can't do her most basic duties without fearing for her life, you become political. If the government is trying to strip you of your last ounce of dignity on the last plot of land that you can call your own, you become political. If you can't feed your family without a job pumping oil, you become political.
If I may dare to say it, if you are brave, you become political. If you want to take the words of Jesus and put them into practice in a world full of humans, you probably have to become political in some sense. The words and example of Jesus demand that we care for people cast aside, and it's almost impossible to do that without being political in a world that operates under the authority of governments.

If you've never found yourself that forces you to become political (I haven't!), than consider yourself extremely blessed and be aware that most people aren't as blessed in that way. The reason that we are exasperated by politics is because we are not threatened in our areas of identity.

This slide from a conference I was at recently stuck out to me.

Being political isn't just about having debates on Facebook or re-posting memes. You don't have to engage in political conversations, but important conversations often have political roots and ramifications. Doing much of anything of consequence will often arouse the ire of at least a handful of people, but that shouldn't be condemned. Sometimes it's entirely necessary. Taking a stance means that you're drawing a divide between you and something or someone else. We're not meant to be neutral in all situations. The good Samaritan's actions had political meaning. The Underground Railroad was political. Corrie Ten Boom was defying her government by harboring Jews, which was political. In light of this, we should not shush people from being political, even if it's on Facebook. Talking the talk is a good stop on the way to walking the walk. I suspect that life is going to get a *lot* more political before our work is done.

Again, I completely get it that a lot of people who post political things on Facebook aren't there to have a meaningful conversation, they're there to feel right-er than everyone else. Brush it off. Let that stuff roll off you like water. Unfollow if you must. But don't demonize politicism, because politics are part of real life, and Facebook is an avenue by which many people share their real lives. Instead of saying what you're against ("being political"), find something that you're "for" and get involved.

To my Christian friends, I understand that the Kingdom of God is not of this world. But that doesn't mean that we sit back and ignore the practical calls to action that Jesus gave to be enacted in this world. Jesus did not come to Earth to overthrow the Romans who were oppressing the Jews during his lifetime. He did, however, send his disciples to witness and love Samaritans, and that was a hugely political issue at the time. Preston Yancey said, "If you don't see Jesus as decidedly political in the Gospels, put some blame on your Sunday school teachers for not being equipped with the historical context necessary to see them in that light. " 

I take comfort in knowing that my God is bigger than politics, bigger than the refugee crisis, bigger than President Trump. AMEN. But my hope in my God should never remove me from struggling for goodness and justice on Earth, even as I am fully aware that man can never redeem himself and that we will never be able to fix this world.

If our faith is genuine, it must drive us to action. If our brothers and sisters both in the US and abroad, both Christian and Muslim, conservative and liberal - if they are suffering and can not avoid being political, we must rush to be political along side them. This means treating "rednecks" with dignity, because they feel deprived of it. This means advocating for Christians who are being massacred by ISIS. This means advocating for Muslims who are being massacred by ISIS. This means praying for our brothers and sisters who are members of ISIS, because they too are created in the image of God. We live in a political world, and to refuse to take part in any political actions means to refuse to stand by those who are suffering and do not have the luxury of avoiding political situations.

A note about marches - I have yet to participate in one, but on the day of the Women's March, I could not shake my regret at not taking part. I think peaceful protest is very important. Even if it has no affect on our president, it speaks to the marginalized, whether that is women or immigrants or other groups. Seeing hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom you undoubtedly know, pouring out into the streets sends a message that many of us are not okay with the actions our government is taking, and we are so not-okay with them that we're willing to say so in public (even beyond Facebook!). That is worth something. It also helps us to see with our own eyes who are our allies and who we may serve. I'm not saying that the people who didn't march or who opposed the march are my enemies, but it seems incredibly empowering to stand with so many people on a physical street instead of liking a post on Facebook (which I did a heck of a lot of during the women's march). It's empowering to see that even as we feel frustrated and helpless, we won't give up on one another. People are donating their time and money and talent to causes on both sides of the aisle in numbers seldom seen before and it feels like the very most American thing.

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a racist. I really try and avoid calling anyone a racist anymore, because being accused of racism shuts the accused down immediately. Furthermore, I have come to see myself as a racist. Furtherfurthermore, as the ever quotable MLK said, "for evil to succeed, all it needs is for good men [and women] to do nothing." Our complacency - our unwillingness to be political, our unwillingness to get our hands dirty, our unwillingness to be disliked - does nothing to stem racism, and therefore allows it to thrive. What is that, if not racism? Racism is refusing to see someone else's suffering as your problem too.

I'm learning that my politics are worthless without love. I have a lot of [what I feel is] righteous anger over what's going down in this country right now, but as I advocate out of righteous anger, I must also practice radical love. That's not something I made up, that's Biblical. Love does indeed trump hate, and that includes hatred for those who have stood in the way as I've sought to do what God is calling me to do. The specifics of what I'm feeling called to is a separate conversation, but it is communal so I welcome private messages from anyone who wants to know more or get involved.

It's a struggle, a daily struggle, to balance righteous anger with overflowing love. People think I'm too young and naive to talk about the things I do or act on the convictions that I have. It stings, but it's really none of my concern. The more we are resisted, the fiercer we will love. Not everyone who loves Jesus is called to serve in the same ways, but please do not thwart me in what my God has called me to do. Please do not ask me not to talk about these things in public, either.

Sometimes I get people warning me that I'm on the brink of "falling away", or something. I try and listen critically so I can be open to knowing what my faults are, but overall, on the contrary to falling away, I am leaning in. I am putting my money where my mouth is. I am putting my foot into the Red Sea, which God did not part for His people until their toes touched the water. Quite honestly, I do not care what most people think of my politics, I care what Jesus thinks of my actions.

If you thought I was political before, buckle up my friend. I am coming out of my shell. Maybe talking less, but striving to DO more. So with moderate respect, I request that you get behind me, ye mansplainers, ye who take it upon yourselves to tell me that I've misinterpreted God's calling on my life, and yes, ye politicians who care nothing for Truth.

Rarely, if ever, have I felt more patriotic, and I'm also in awe of how relevant the Bible is to a political life. It's driving me to cast aside political labels and consider fewer people my adversaries, even as I grow stronger in my convictions. There are innumerable opportunities presenting themselves in which we can be ambassadors for Christ's name, regardless of religion or politics or documentation status. Jesus never asked those questions of people.

What a wonderful thing to see shaky pillars of our government bring lovers of good, lovers of kindness, lovers of truth out of the woodwork. I know many great men and women who have shifted from talking on Facebook to reaching out to their neighbors in tangible ways. But let me add, I still see a place for sharing politics on Facebook. I see it like this - Step 1: saying it on Facebook (it's somewhat safer than IRL and involves a lot less commitment), Step 2: taking your Facebook opinions to the street (or more IRL conversations), testing out how much you really believe in them, Step 3: committing to working with and for real people for the long haul in your home community, Step 4: inviting people to join you, perhaps via Facebook ;). For pushing me to take steps 2 and 3, I thank you, Mr. President!

As a follow-up to the implications of getting political on behalf of those who are suffering, I was struck by reading one journalist's observation that "marching is a seductive substitute for action." In this country, marching hasn't cost us very much yet. I think it is good to march in some cases, but what's even better is to incorporate your convictions into your daily life. Seek out ways to help in your own neighborhood. Tutor immigrants to help them in school. Invite Muslims to your home to share a meal with you. Invite your neighbors with the Trump sign still in their yard to your home to share a meal with you. Ask your church leadership how your place of worship can incorporate the Latino community in your midst. Listen to the stories of war veterans. And if your school or your church or some other group can not act quickly, just start it yourself. The concept of Church (as in the body of Christ) does not cost money, does not wait for permission, does not have to get a degree first. Jesus has already commissioned us, so GO!

Here I am, Lord. Send me. Make me political for your glory. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

My President Was a TCK

I don't think I've ever been as conflicted as I am about President Obama as I have been this past week, researching this post and reading everyone else's "summing up" articles. It's difficult to even remember what all has happened in the past 8 years, and of course there are mixed feelings, as well as a mixed record. All the same, I've done what I can to understand and then tried to work through some thoughts.

I've loved Obama from the very beginning, without always knowing why. I do not claim to understand or even be aware of all or even most of the politics that surround the Obama presidency and I am not writing to defend this or that thing that he did or said. I know he is merely a man, and I know that he made mistakes. I know that many people feel that he helped to ruin something they loved. I'm not writing to persuade you or to mock your feelings, I am writing because this is a significant goodbye for me, and I want to honor it.

"He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again".
- Hamlet

I am a woman intoxicated by words, and Obama was a master with them. As the prophet Muhammad was believed to have said, "verily eloquence includes sorcery." I know that we should choose our leaders based on a multitude of factors, least of which should be campaign promises or excellent speeches, but I do not know (nor do I believe it fully possible) how to know what can truly be known about another human being except their character, and for that reason, I often go by "my feeling" about politicians. My feelings are not infallible or unchangeable, but I never stopped admiring Obama and simply liking what I know of him as a person.

I believe he did what he thought was right as a leader and as a man, and I felt safe within that.

I'll miss his calm, steady voice on the radio. He is a man who showed compassion and emotion, yet rarely (if ever?) lost his cool when ridiculed or demeaned with the most base and false accusations. He never spoke thoughtlessly, hurtfully, or hatefully. He so often looks happy in spite of the gravity of his position, but he also cried in response to national tragedies and hugged those who were in pain.

He was cool. He was fun-loving. He was gentle. He felt accessible to me. He was free of personal scandals. His wife was the epitome of grace, yet real and warm; his daughters were respectful, yet fierce.

To me, Barack Obama has been worthy of respect and has played a substantial role in a formative decade in my life - my first decade in this country, my first decade of being old enough to vote, my first decade of awareness of politics.

One of the first things I heard about him after he became president in 2009 was that he was employing TCKs (Third Culture Kids) in places of prominence around him. This caught my attention, not only because I am a TCK, but because few people in the US even know what a TCK is, despite the fact that plenty of Americans are TCKs, even if they don't know it. To be a TCK is to be first-generation multicultural - it does not necessarily mean mixed-race, it just means you have multiple cultural backgrounds as a result of growing up on more than one continent. (Here's another article on Obama's TCKness.)

I recently watched the movie Barry on Netflix, about a year or so in Obama's life as a college student at Columbia. It wasn't remarkable as a movie, but it definitely drove home his struggle with defining himself as a young man who wasn't from any one place. Hawaii, Jakarta, Kenya, California, New York - he had long explanations any time someone asked where he was from, and I'm not sure that even he knew. That is the classic dilemma of a TCK. At the end of the movie, he had started to say, "I live here, now", which is in some ways the ultimate response of someone who has come to terms with their identity as a child of multiple cultures and places, belonging with no one race and to no single city. The best part of the movie was when he was launching into the whole explanation of his background to a mixed-race couple, who simply said, "well, that makes you American." That's part of what I admire about the Obamas, and part of what crushes me about Trump. I feel like Obama knows who I am and what makes our country truly great (strength and richness through diversity), and I don't think that Trump does. I realize that this sounds like "I like Obama because I am like him, and I don't like Trump because I am not like him", and I'm not ashamed of there being some truth in that.

Some people said Obama only got elected because he was black. I don't think that's true, but I also don't see why that should be a smear. I am proud of diversity in the public eye, and I'm proud that we had a black president. Although it shouldn't feel momentous, it did. The first post on this blog was about Obama having won the nomination in 2008, and it felt like I was standing in the middle of a glorious piece of American history.

Obama's blackness doesn't make me ashamed to be white, it simply makes me proud to be an American, proud to be a TCK who chooses a path of resistance instead of blending in when blending in would be the easier choice. His presidency felt like riding a wave of powerful goodness as young people of color and diversity were emboldened to continue demanding justice and respect. I don't think that wave has crashed for good with the election of Trump, but I think things will get much uglier before they get better (if they ever get better, which I pray they do), and I'm walking into this new era with some trepidation, even as I try and be brave and willing to stand up, myself.

In Ta-Nehisi Coates' series of essays, "My President Was Black" (from which I hijacked the title for this post), Obama is presented as a black man who grew up in very unusual racial circumstances that allowed him to have faith in white people. That factor of his outlook enabled him, sometimes to his detriment, to believe in the goodness of all Americans, even though not all Americans are good.

I find it hard to fault him for that. Just as we tend to overlook the flaws of those we are romantically inclined toward, I find that some of Obama's flaws endear him to me even more. When I look at him, I feel warmth and acceptance, and what a privilege to feel that way about my President (without feeling like that comes at the cost of other people feeling that toward him). I believe he genuinely cares for the well-being of all Americans, even the ones who hate him.

When I think of the things that I know of that Obama did, the first things that come to mind are international, because that's often where my heart lies and we relate to all authority figures on the basis of what they do/who they are that concerns us, in my opinion.

  • He made provisions for children fleeing violence in Mexico. (The illegal immigration of children may have ended less happily...)
  • He repaired relations with both Cuba and Iran, and stood up to Israel when necessary (though perhaps not enough, in my opinion - I can't find the example from last year that I was most pleased with). 
  • He didn't close Guantanamo, but he relocated all but 45 of 242.   
  • He cut back on military spending, brought many deployed soldiers home, and decreased our nuclear weapons stockpile (though apparently not as much as several previous presidents).
  • He enacted the Child Soldiers Prevention Act (am I crazy, or was there some momentous thing about this being the first grassroots bill to be signed into law by a president?! I have some memory of that, but can't verify it), though it's implementation has been flawed
  • He engaged with Southeast Asia, which is often treated as not important (or simply left out) in global conversations. 

Things I was not cool with:

And to be categorized under silly:

  • Winning the Nobel Peace Prize (not his choice) after less than one year on the job for a "vision" of what his presidency could accomplish.
  • Awarding your BFF (Joe Biden) the highest civilian honor simply because....? I think this cheapens the award. 

There are more good, shady, and silly things leaping to mind as I compile this list, as well as things I'm just not sure about. As I mentioned at the top, I felt very conflicted over my views of Obama's legacy in light of some of the things he did that I really didn't like. The deportation numbers felt like a betrayal of some of the ideals that I equate with Obama and admire him for. The results of Obama's policies are a mixed bag. This article is the best I've found in terms of comparison and numbers. Strangely, the international category is the least successful looking, though it's hard to say how much of that is Obama's fault. At any rate, in many ways, Obama is leaving things in better condition than in which he inherited them, and for that I'm grateful.

As I said before, sometimes admiration aids us in looking past a person's faults. Despite Obama's faults, I still believe he did the best he could with what he had, and he did it believing he was doing the right things. That does not excuse everything, but if we were to agree that both of those things are true of his actions, I don't think we could ask more of him, or anyone else.

I don't say this with inconsolable sadness, but I think American has been and continues to be in decline in terms of world power. We live in volatile times indeed, and even if Obama couldn't completely turn this ship around, he made a valiant attempt.

I'm not sad that Hillary didn't win, I'm not even sad that a Democrat didn't win. I'm just sad to see a president I admire go. And sad to see one I don't trust take control. On second thought, I do not wish Obama could continue being the president - change is good, though change is hard. It is just hard to see someone I respect stepping down to give way to someone I do not respect and who I fear will undo the things that brought me comfort and hope in the past 8 years (and even beyond). I know the same could be said with the candidates reversed for some of my friends, and although I don't understand that, I try and respect it.

One thing that I actually appreciate about Trump is that more than any other president, he has helped me to see that anyone can be president! That may be a backhanded compliment, but it's probably healthy that I don't idolize the position so much that I think the "little guy" doesn't matter. I feel like the little guy matters more than ever under a president Trump.

I am determined to have a voice in my community and in this country. As Nelson Mandela said, "may your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears".

To me, Barack Obama has embodied much of what I want to see in my country, and I will miss him greatly.

Mr. Obama, thank you for being my president.
Thank you for going grey for me; you have not gone unappreciated.

Photo sources: 1, 2, 3

Thursday, January 12, 2017

5 Lessons from 5 Years of Marriage

Five years of marriage (as of 1/14/17), 8 years of togetherness. In the grand scheme of things it's not very long, but it feels like a noteworthy accomplishment for multiple reasons. The beginning was so bumpy, the circumstances somewhat precarious. The odds so against us, in some ways.

If I did not have an extremely healthy awareness of the fact that divorce is not something you overcome once and then never are threatened by again, I'd say HAHA to everyone who said we couldn't do it and that we were too young...
(sometimes being right is still painful)

I used to think divorce was something that just fell from the sky on you one day and ruined everything. I used to think divorce was something that happened to people who somehow were never right for each other in the first place. Because perfect-for-each-other people never get divorced, right? Five years in, I know there are no perfect people, nor perfect-for-each-other people. No perfect unions. Sometimes the illusion that perfection is real leads to disaster. It's in expecting one person to fulfill every part of you that we are let down severely in marriage.

I never thought I'd have divorced friends - not because myself or my friends are above that, it just simply never occurred to me, despite statistics. I didn't know very many couples growing up who got divorced (a product of being surrounded by missionaries, perhaps, though they are not immune either). As it has turned out, several of my dearest friends have been divorced, and many, many acquaintances and schoolmates have been divorced. It is a heartbreak that I bear with me and a sobering reminder that none of us is too good or too strong to will a marriage into lasting. Divorce is not always a result of having done everything wrong, which is what I tend to think of it as. But no matter what the cause, it is a bitter pill to swallow, even as a friend once removed.

Now I see divorce as a storm that is always raging, always whipping at the cliffs. Marriage takes place on the edge of that cliff where we cling to one another bracing against that storm. Marriage is not a calm field upon which the storm attacks from nowhere. Marriage is the improbable eye of the storm, the defiant clinging to the cliff in the face of the storm. And our muscles flex and grow as we cling to that cliff. Sorry if that's cheesy.

I don't mean to be doom-and-gloom about marriage or to simplify marriage or divorce, or even to give the impression that I'm in fear of divorce. My views on divorce and marriage may not apply to the average couple, I'm not sure. For me, I have seen staggering numbers of people I know personally go through divorce, and because of that, it feels like it's closing in sometimes. My wariness of the possibility of divorce is not lack of faith in marriage, but merely that I've grown not to take marriage for granted. Making marriage work is not a decision you make just one time, as any married person can tell you.

With that in mind, here are my imperfect pearls of wisdom, thus far...

1. Relinquish control.

A friend asked me recently what the biggest lesson I'd learned in having kids is. After basically zero thought, I said "that I'm not in control". And I think the same is true about marriage. I want to be in control because I think that will make things work well, but apparently other people don't think so.

The only thing that comes from wishing my husband or kids were something other than what they are is resentment. Sure, I pictured some (most? all?) of the dynamics of our life and marriage differently before we were actually in the thick of it, but often times, what I focused on was what I wanted my husband to be, not on who my husband really is.

Jonas and I do not share every interest or goal or value, but we try and facilitate one another's abilities to explore our personal paths. It is better to walk my own path with my hand in his than it is to be pulled on to his path, or to try and drag him on to mine. The very concept of us having personal paths was not something I believed in at first, nor perhaps something that everyone will agree with.

I'm even learning to let go of my desire to control the very concept of control. Jonas is not the "driven" one between the two of us, which is what I've wanted him to be at times, but he is almost always the self-sacrificing one. And what is true leadership if not sacrificial? Leadership is saying "I'm sorry" first, it's forgiving first, it means reaching out, even when your partner is at their worst. Leadership is not setting a goal and making your spouse claw their way to it. It's so odd, looking back, how I could have missed that truth. As if I would have really enjoyed Jonas pushing me to hit such-and-such a goal instead of allowing me to create my own goals and enabling me to reach them.

2. GET COUNSELING. Communal and professional. This is the advice I give brides-to-be at showers (ever the downer...) - it is never too early to get help.

Plenty of people say not to air your partner's dirty laundry in front of others, but I say do it (with trustworthy, wise people). My one disclaimer is that my husband knows that I'm a giant blabber, and he's learned to spell out specific things he'd rather me not discuss (I don't do it maliciously, I'm just a very open person).

When it comes to communal counseling, I don't have secrets from my husband or my best friends, and that means they can tell me when I'm being an ass and they can comfort me when I'm struggling and they can send me back to my husband to patch things up when need be. Multiple divorced friends of mine never talked about their marital turmoil until divorce papers were drawn up. The one I can think of who was open about her marriage being on the verge of collapse did talk about it - it felt dark and heartbreaking and helpless, but that couple actually stayed together, and it was an incredible testimony in several ways.

I often think about that part of marriage ceremonies where the priest/pastor/officiant asks the congregation whether they will support the marriage and be their community of accountability. I think everyone says "we will" every time, yet we so rarely share or probe that deeply into one another's friendships, thinking "it's none of our business". I understand that there's a fine line, but let us at least give one another a chance to uphold our communal vows.

When it comes to professional counseling, WORTH. IT. It doesn't save marriages in every case, but it's very rarely totally useless. I think the cost of professional counseling would have been prohibitive for us, but I also know that we could have asked our parents (on both sides) for the money and they would have willingly given it. I probably would have been too ashamed to ask for money for counseling, as it was remarkably difficult to overcome the shame of going to counseling in our first year of marriage in the first place. Thankfully, it was free to talk to the pastor of our church (who also married us), who's not always the gentlest counselor, but he said some things that we needed to hear, and we had the added benefit of him knowing us a little bit. I'm so thankful that we went, as it was a major pivot point during a pretty rough stretch. Within the past few years, our church has begun offering free professional counseling as well.

3. Nurture your sense of self, as well as your sense of place in things other than your marriage; spirituality, community, society - if you need space to be a whole individual such that you can be a good partner, make it happen. The same applies to parenthood, in my opinion. I still feel like this advice rubs up against Christian cultural conventions, but I'm not saying "think only of yourself", I'm just saying don't let yourself be swallowed. Don't let your husband or your kids be what defines you, because then you will fall apart when they disappoint you. As an introvert, I need space to be alone or be myself. If you're an extrovert, you probably will need more than just your partner for social and emotional health, and it's better to realize that and cultivate those other relationships than resent your partner for not being enough.

4. Throw out conventions. I have trouble discerning between what is good about tradition and orthodoxy and what is truth that has become twisted by time. So often, I find that bucking convention really means carving away at the callouses that have grown over something that was once beautiful. Like the leadership issue - Biblical truth is solid, it's our cultural and sinful interpretations that have us operating in the opposite direction, all the while thinking we're doing it "right". Church culture tends to think that the man, in being the "head of the household", should make the big decisions and be the breadwinner. I've seen the attempt to stick to marital gender-norm expectations cripple relationships more than once, and I wouldn't be surprised if Jonas ends up being a stay-at-home or work-from-home dad down the road, while I have a more typical "career". Let's get rid of that stigma - doesn't it make sense that doing what we're suited to would make a marriage stronger rather than threatening it? Unconventional roles don't need to cancel out mutual respect.

5. Put down the phone. This one is hard for me. I use my phone and computer a lot in every-day life; for work, for school, for recreation. Even though I'm pretty good at setting aside media at events or in gatherings, being with my husband isn't really an event (unless it's a date), it's every day life! So, we have to make a very conscious effort to connect during every day life. Put down our devices when we talk to one another, and even schedule time to spend with one another at home. Otherwise, it is incredibly easy to drift apart or not appreciate your partner as anything beyond part of your mundane routine.

The first few months of our marriage were so happy, but the second year was hell. Since then, there are have been long stretches that just felt blah - sometimes so mundane that I forgot what being in love meant. Being in love is quieter with time, and parenthood complicates that, and now we battle busyness. I cherish the good and fun and intense times, and I plod through the not-as-great times, knowing that it can and will be vibrant again. I am not so naive as to believe that we will never go through hell again, whether self inflicted or as the result of tragedy that seems insurmountable (grave illness, loss of loved ones). But I'm also encouraged by what we've persevered through so far.

We're taking it slow - a day at a time - but I fully plan to be a gnarled old couple, a rarity in a sea of wrecked ships, though it is assuredly not by my own strength that such a thing has been or will be achieved. Maybe it sounds sad, but 5 years really feels like something to be proud of.

Top photo from our reception in 2012, by Kappen Photography.
Illustration by Wiebke Rauers.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2016 In Review & 2017 Goals

What a difference a year makes. I was looking at my year wrap-up post from 2015/2016 and my year-in-a-word was "content". This year, on the other hand was tense. Not in personal terms, but I felt so wrapped up in the pains of the world. I know that's a huge burden to bare, but its one that I dwell on often, none the less.  This is the first New Years that I don't feel as if the future will probably be better than the past, but I don't see that as an ultimately hopeless situation.

I suspect that life in the US in 2017 may be a bit more tumultuous than it has been (and it has been) and it doesn't seem as if international woes are dying down either. I realized that assuming that the future will be brighter goes against my fundamental view of humanity, which is that we're circling the drain. In Biblical terms, humans don't age well in any sense, but also in Biblical terms, we're not left to our own devices forever. So that's my take on 2017 and beyond - it will probably get worse before it gets better. The war in Syria, the truck attack/massacre in Nice, France, and the Tennessee school bus crash stood out to me as irreconcilably sad in 2016, though the entire year felt like a string of tragedies and injustices. 

Destruction is certain, but there is every reason to hope and push toward peace and reconciliation in the mean time. If that makes zero sense, I... realize that, too. Sometimes it strikes me as a great act of courage that anyone in this life can resist substance abuse in light of tidal waves of pain and sorrow. I'm predicting that my word of the year for 2017 is going to be my "...interesting", which is a PC way of saying, "holy poo, what is happening?!"

In the midst of all this, it's humbling to have had a pretty fantastic year on a personal level. 

Some highlights from 2016 for our family: Ishmael started preschool, which has been great for everyone, and has aided my general sense of having hit my stride in parenting (as much as that is possible, which is questionable). I turned 25 on the 25th of August and had an amazing birthday party at which my best pals presented me with plane tickets to Thailand! We took several mini vacations within California this year, but our favorite was Santa Cruz. Last but not least, Jonas wrapped up nearly a decade at In N Out and started a new job at a dental lab called Denmat. Moving on up! 

{some of my favorites from my Instagram in the past year}

I've not kept very good track of my favorite entertainment this year, but I also consumed less than usual. I occasionally share favorites on my friend's blog, The Conversation Collective. A few things I enjoyed that I didn't mention on there are the TV show The Killing (Netflix), and the book (nonfiction) Revolutionary IranI also made a playlist of the songs that will most remind me of 2016. 

I didn't do that well on my 2016 goals, but I'm okay with that:

  • Begin collecting art
  • Begin investing money beyond my 401K/IRA
  • Submit writing to a publication I haven't submitted to before
  • Read the Koran, at least in part, as well as read the Bible 
  • Become involved in my local Muslim community  (slow, slow progress on this front, am definitely rolling this one over into 2017)
  • Visit the CRM plant in San Diego
  • Jonas apply to Otis
  • Figure out when/how to get Ishmael started in school
  • Have $10k in the bank by Jan 2017

I'm not feeling the resolutions thing as much as usual, but my main goal for 2017:
  • Finish college!!! After 9 years of studying on and off, I'm on track to graduate November of 2017 and I CAN'T WAIT!
We have some other fun things coming up as well - Jonas and I will be going to Thailand in February, my first time out of the country in 9 years! In other momentous news, our 5th wedding anniversary is coming up in less than 2 weeks. 

I may or may not go right on to get my masters when I graduate later this year. I'm also looking forward to cooking dinner with new and old friends throughout the year. And not to jinx myself, but I think this is finally the year I will finish the painting I started in 2012 - I'm so close to done! 

{not surprisingly, these 9 photos on the right were my most "popular" on Instagram ;)}

Another small and highly unlikely to be fulfilled resolution is to watch more good movies. I mostly watch shows, but I miss seeing good movies within the same year that they come out. Like I said, this is a completely impractical goal to work toward given my school and life schedule and other much more important priorities, but none the less, I desire it! 

What's been on your mind as we ease into 2017? 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

One Truth in a Post-Truth Society

I first heard this trend/term of "post-truth/fact society" a few weeks ago and I was appalled. Almost the same day, I watched a movie called Septembers of Shiraz which opens with a beautiful quote by the mystic poet Rumi:

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there." 

I almost shared it on Facebook because it so swept me up in its imagery, but I suddenly realized it was more or less the same idea that I've choked on in the news this month. I do not want to visit any fields beyond what is right. I recognize that much of the space we live in falls along the wayside of right and wrong, and I believe that much of life is up for discussion, but being post-truth is nothing to be proud of. 

Believe me, from a scientific perspective, I realize that Truth is very hard to come by. If I wasn't there in person, my belief in any news story is putting my faith in journalists and corporations, who often make mistakes and sometimes outright lie. With the way that the human brain and memory works, we know that even witnessing an event in person does not guarantee that we will remember it accurately. 

I don't pretend to know very many things unequivocally. Perhaps disregard for even a veneer of Truth-seeking has never been so blatant in our country during my lifetime as it is under the influence and example of Trump, and that is a crying shame, but the murkiness of facts at least highlights the several things I know without a doubt that do not rely on fact. 

In light of what's happening in Aleppo, I've been wrestling with this burning, twisting question of what is the "right" thing to do. In our pain and our confusion and our helplessness, we (and news sources) blame each other, wailing "how could you? how could we? why is this happening?" The idea that "we let this happen" or we simply "turned our faces away" assumes many things erroneously, even if there is (and there is) some legitimate blame to be cast on the US as well as other players. 

It's not blindness or lack of care that we're suffering from. At least, that is not true for many of us. We, and the Syrian people, are suffering from lack of any good options. It's not that there was a good option that wasn't taken due to anyone's negligence. I am frustrated by the ideas of helping boiling down to giving money or protesting. Those things are not bad, nor do I discourage them in any way, but I do not believe that they will sponge out the hurt or the wrongs. 

It feels gross to talk about political strategies while cities and bodies burn. But I find myself baffled at what it is that we could or should have done to help prevent the destruction of Aleppo. I can and do blame the United States government and many of its citizens for debating whether to aid Syrian refugees over the past several years, before so many were trapped and unable to escape the violence. But I also realize that many Syrians can't or didn't want to leave their homeland. 

The "fault" of the situation in Aleppo is wrapped up in so many issues, perpetuated by so many people, namely the country's own president, Bashar al-Assad. I do not see what could have prevented bloodshed in light of the aims of ISIS, Assad, Russia, and Iran (the main players/backers in the war). The US has become slightly more careful about dropping bombs on bad guys willy nilly, partly because it often kills as many civilians as anyone else, but they have targeted ISIS with drones (sometimes with tragic consequences). The US also negotiated with Russia over Russian behavior in Syria, to no avail. Even the media, which is often criticized for covering one thing and not another, has been covering Syria for several years now. 

I could write at length about the misery-inducing results of the US having taken out dictators in other countries prior to the Syrian war, or the possible affects of "forcing" Russia to withdraw from Syria, or about the tragedy that is our immigration system. I devote a great deal of time to studying these things and am always willing to discuss it further. But in the interest of honest news stories and truth seeking in a post-fact society, I do not believe that Americans simply didn't care enough to keep Aleppo from turning into a bloodbath. It is numbing and it is heartwrending, but I don't know what else can be done but to sit with these people in their hour of devastation, even if we're half a world away. 

I feel very uncertain of what is factual, and that is a bitter pill to swallow because this is a mire that we have lusted after with our love of entertainment and our encouragement of open questioning of every idea that comes our way. In many ways, I count those American traits as virtues. The more I learn, the less I'm sure of, and there is a kind of bravery in being aware that you may not always be right. But at the same time, dispensing with all certainty turns out to be that quicksand we feared in our childhoods. For me, the bottom line is that treating people with humanity doesn't depend on my knowledge or interpretation of facts. Even if I was wrong about every single thing I've ever said about Muslims or immigrants, would that exclude them from being worthy of love and care? No. No it would not. 

I'm saddened by my perception that taking an interest in the lives and livelihood of Muslims is somehow a progressive stance, or even a political one at all. Every time I try and bring awareness to the attitude of our general culture toward Muslims, I feel like a main concern of people reading is to disprove me. Why do you, oh Christian, insist on fighting me on this? It's almost like you don't want them to hear about Jesus, at least from my lips or yours, and you should be ashamed of standing in the way of that. 

I realize that this will mean nothing to those who do not share my faith, but I think more and more people will be searching for Truth as we're told it no longer exists. Today, my Truth is this, Micah 6:8:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

What do I know that is true? To care for one another, to care for widows and orphans. Even Muslim ones. How can you argue against my paltry efforts to do that? How is that anything but hindering the hands and feet of Christ, if I may be so bold as to call my efforts that? Go stick your self righteousness and need to be right somewhere else. Do I have to write an academic thesis on my knowledge of the history and culture of the Middle East every time I want to care for someone? I hope your high horse kicks you in the ass. 

I'm not under the illusions that caring and being vocal on these issues is easy or comfortable. I am swift to anger, slow to humility, and the things I care about quickly incite the most remarkably ignorant and hateful remarks, and it never fails to hurt me. I call my sister and monologue to my husband and then get on with it. Because someone else died so that I could experience life, and the least I can do is put up with some trolls, irl and on the interwebs, in order to extend that opportunity to others. 

{artwork by Judith Mehr}

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

An Ode to 2016, A Hard Year

How do I approach you
Strange, Beautiful, 
Terrible, Shocking
Thing that you are 

Bombs on the ground
Drones in the sky
Exploded in my 
Pulmonary artery 

Flags of the planet 
At perpetual half-mast 
But I lift mine eyes
Up to the hills

To see where my help 
Comes from
I see a storm

I feel charged
Lightning bolt for a spine
Blood running in the streets
The fresh
And the coagulated
Life and Death mingling 

The pale horse 
Rears on its hind legs
I am small
Torn, Beaten
And in awe

I'm strangled by 
Beyond my control 
I'm laughing 

Written 12/3/16 
Image Source
I don't know if it's just the Christmas season or what, but I feel surprisingly joyful and hopeful at the end of this year, despite how brutal it was in many ways. I have much to be thankful for in my personal life, even as I ponder and grieve things on a larger scale. This summer, it felt like the flags were at half mast more often than not, and it broke my heart that I lost track of why most of the time, it was simply the perpetual norm. I think we always assume that a hard year will get a fresh start when January 1 rolls around, but I'm realizing that all of these years are hard. 2017 may be incredibly shocking and devastating in our nation and abroad - I don't doubt that it will be. I do not leave this year with a feeling of hopelessness, but I want to acknowledge that for many people, and even for myself at moments, "our skin was a terrible thing to live in" (Laura Mvula). Bunmi Laditan wrote, "I think when we look back at 2016, what we'll remember most about this year apart from that it clearly didn't care about any of our feelings, is that it exposed the truth. If you were willing to let it clean out your closets, it did. Ruthlessly. It burned down all of the shaky bridges and showed us, me, what we're really made out of." May 2017 be a year of Truth, even if it hurts. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Across Enemy Lines

Well, well, well. Here we are again (I started writing this about 3 days after my initial post-election post, but then finals happened). This presidency got me like:


But seriously. First, I want to thank each of my friends who answered my plea for help from my first post-election post. I've said yes to everyone who wanted to talk this stuff out, even though I haven't always wanted to, and I've gained something of worth from each one. One of the most touching things was a friend of mine who voted for Trump who reached out to me (even before my initial post) and said that she wanted to understand why I was so hurt. Even though it seemed glaringly obvious to me and I was tempted to be offended that she would even have to ask that question, her gesture was more than I have ever extended to anyone who I would have categorized as a Trump supporter in the past 8 years. I did not think their hurt worth asking about, yet to have someone genuinely inquire after mine softened me immeasurably.

Another friend (not a Trump supporter) encouraged me to search for the good in Trump. The internet says that it's almost impossible (seriously, I Googled it), but I must say that that frame of mind has led me to some little floating chips of open-mindedness in the sea of lava that is my indignant soul. The verdict is still out on whether there's anything good about him as an individual to be found on the internet, but one thing that at least peaks my interest is his relationship with his children. Not all of it has been outstanding, and I understand the concerns of nepotism in having ones children as business partners and advisers, but I also don't often see parents who respect their children's council to the extent that it appears Trump might.

I've been reading my brains out, but the piece that most helped me empathize with one of the largest groups of Trump supporters was this one from Cracked about the differences between world views in the city and rural areas. I'd highly recommend it, as it is both hilarious and insightful. I could go on and on about this article (many thanks to my friend Zachary for passing it along to me!). If you don't understand how so many people could find Trump an acceptable option, make this the one article you read of all the ones I link to. I've even been reading articles that I know will make me furious because even if I can't see eye to eye with the reasoning or politics, I don't want to shut out the voices of people who feel like liberal white elites don't give a damn about them. That seems to have been largely what got us in to this mess, and I don't intend to let it happen again if there's any way I can help stop it.

The Cracked article was valuable for me because it put something that I don't understand into terms that I'm familiar with. It does a good job of explaining the economic woe as well as the liberal ridicule that Trump supporters have faced in the past 8 years. it confirms that yes, their way of life is dying. And of course that is scary and painful. It also has some excellent illustrations of how we all excuse the yuckyness in people who we feel are accomplishing "the greater good." It touches on how we can be civil, or even kind, to people who are different when they're right in front of us, but still lump "those people in that group over there" into a category that we feel free to fear or hate or ridicule. It talks about the Church as a place where people in rural areas congregate for community when there are few other options for that sort of network and support. As a Christian, I believe that the Church should be available for that purpose, but church can quickly become more about culture and agreeing with one another inside of safe walls instead of focusing on Jesus's mission, which is to take love and community outside of the church walls. That distinction is at the crux of my heartache over the Church's support of Trump.

I've told plenty of people why I'm upset about Trump, but most of them already agree with me. As a writer, but also just as a reasoning person, I ask myself, "so what if I can make people who are like me nod their heads in agreement"? If that's all that I can accomplish with my voice, why bother? Nothing will really change. Instead, progress in my own mind and heart happen when someone else is able to present an idea to me without belittling my opposing view. That's what I want to be able to do too. While my grief over Trump as president is real, pitting myself against Trump supporters won't make it all go away.

Even though I wasn't a fan of Hillary, I think that if she had won, I probably would have privately rolled my eyes at the protest of Trump supporters and gone on with thinking that America was headed in the "right" direction, in many ways. For that reason, I'm thankful for Trump's presidency. He's provided a stark reminder to fight for what is right and to genuinely care about the situation of all kinds of Americans.

I must start by confessing that I truly did not care what argument a Trump supporter might come up with in his favor prior to his win. I said as much in my first post. Although my views on politics and even ethics have not changed, I've come to see that my complete disregard for the voice of Trump supporters is basically no different than what I perceived as their complete disregard for what I held so close to my heart in this election and considered to be of utmost importance to the fabric of our nation. I contributed to this rift, and thereby Trump's triumph, and I now see that very plainly. I try so hard to be "in touch" with what's going on around me, but somehow I managed to be very, very out of touch with what a lot of people were feeling. Clearly they have felt unheard, and I was one of many who thought they were better left ignored.

As most of us do, I broke my world and this election down into very simple terms: "I'm moving in the direction of good, and it's okay to be out of touch with what is bad." I've taken pride in surrounding myself with progressive thought and input, which are to me "good" ideas. Ideas that push me in a direction that I want to see myself go, because I view the gospel as fundamentally all-inclusive, which is what I want for America too.

But I failed to remember that all-inclusive means people that I don't like, too. People that baffle me and even infuriate me. People who've ridiculed me and people who make me feel stupid or say things that hurt me. God loves them too, and he offers them grace just as much as he offers it to me. Imagine that! Also, let us pause and thank God that I am not God. Because there are a lot of people who would not receive grace from me.

I heard part of an interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber, the heavily tattooed recovering alcoholic female pastor of the Lutheran church called House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver. She's a badass. She became ordained and started this church with the express purpose of making a place for those generally left out of the Church, and it's became a truly beautiful thing. In fact, it has been so successful that she gained national media coverage and "normal" people who heard about her church on the news started attending her congregation.

She said that it upset her at first because these "normal" people were messing up her demographic of outcasts and weirdos. She even called a fellow pastor to complain about it, but her pastor friend gently reminded her that perhaps these normal people needed the message of an all-inclusive God too.

In many ways, the Trump supporter - especially the Evangelical Trump supporter - is my mission field. Not because I am better than them and therefore I need to save them with my superior understanding of the gospel, but because they are the ones that I struggle to love, and therefore the ones I am called to love.

Something that disgusts me about my preconceived notion of the Trump-base is that they lump the immigrant, they non-heterosexual, the black or brown into these giant categories that they see as standing in the way of a better life for themselves. But that is how I've viewed Trump supporters too - if we could just cleanse "those people" of their brutish and twisted generalities, then America would be good.

I've read over and over about how "people without a college degree" are much more likely to have voted for Trump. Even to me, who is the "type" to have a degree (though technically I don't), there's a not-very-subtle message that, "smart people vote liberal" and "stupid people vote for Trump." When was the last time someone calling you stupid made you want to agree with them? I've unthinkingly gone along with the idea that because my side is better educated than the other side, I'm smarter and therefore righter. It's what John Oliver calls "a liberal echo chamber". I do happen to believe I'm righter on the issue of Trump, but I no longer think that the alternative to being right is being stupid.

Let me be the first to admit that over-educated white people are the WORST. You probably didn't need me to tell you that, because we all have at least a few of them in our lives. There are few things more miserable than being talked down to by an incredibly well-read philosophy or political science major. It wreaks of privileged and pomp, and it makes me feel like this (grumpy cat). Honestly, what was that expensive education worth if no one can bear to listen to you?

I apologize if I've talked down to anyone in that way. I am very snobby about what constitutes good literature (not Twilight), and I'm quick to write off any opinion if it's not stated eloquently, properly formatted, and error-free, rather than being able to set those things aside and focus on the message that someone is trying to communicate. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever has bad grammar should not perish, but have everlasting life. Amen.

I'd also like to posit that "higher education" goes beyond book knowledge. What education does is provide us a way out of our bubbles. Exposure to new ideas and new people does help you grow, and in that sense, "more educated" can make all the difference. But you can get education like that in more than one way.

I may have actually gone a bit overboard with my quest to put myself in the shoes of the Trump supporter. I am, after all, a poor white person living in a rural area without a good job, not owning a house, on government assistance, with mostly white friends. If it were not for my childhood abroad and my elitist media leanings and my breakup with American Church culture long before this election, I might have voted for Trump.

I say this to other people all the time, and then sometimes it bites me in the butt: the easiest/best way to stop fearing or hating a category of people who aren't like you is to simply get to know one.

It's much easier to be disgusted by people I don't know and will never know than it is to completely write off someone I already have a relationship with. I confess that it was a small blow to realize that some people I know and love voted for Trump, but it immediately helped me too, because I already knew them to be loving and multi-faceted people and so I could not write them off as giant dummies without trying to understand how they could have come to this conclusion that I fundamentally disagree with. I don't want to be friends with Trump supporters, to tell you the truth, but I already am, and that's been an excellent reminder that I can and should loving toward Trump supporters.

I understand that many people have felt trapped in an America that is shifting, and perhaps it is true that America used to be Greater for some of us before we felt so much heartache or anger over issues of immigration or being reminded that there's a lot we can no longer say as white people without someone being upset and calling us racist. I feel like being reminded of those things and being pushed to change does me good, but change can also be hard and painful. I understand that many people see Trump and his lack of concern for whether he's saying "the right things" as the only path to something beside their misery and a collective sneer from progressives. My understanding doesn't change my politics, but I'm trying to let it change my heart.

The struggle is real, as they say, but we must remember that in many cases, the struggle of the immigrant and the non-heterosexual and the African American and the disabled has been even harder than the economically flattened working-class white person. So much of the what we love about America is only available to us because of the blood, sweat, and tears of immigrants who have gone before us. Actually, we owe literally all of it to immigrants, some white, some black, some brown.

I've been asking myself whether my dismay over Trump's election and his subsequent actions since the election are simply a reflection of my liberal-ish politics, but I'm convinced that there's more to it than that. I have many conservative friends and friends from various socioeconomic backgrounds who are as frustrated and confused - particularly by Evangelical support of Trump - as I am.

I've worried that maybe my public heartache will seem pathetic to people who felt relief that maybe their hardships would ease with a Trump presidency. Maybe I am being bougie for feeling so sad. But to over-empathize with Trump supporters would belittle the genuine pain and fear felt by all of my friends who are gay, Muslim, recently immigrated, and those who recoil at the support of the Evangelical church. I think moral outrage is allowed, it's just that it can be genuinely coming from both extremes at once and I've only been willing to see it as truth from my own end.

To many of us, this was a spiritual election as well as a secular one. The funny thing is that my spiritual values led me as far away from Trump as possible, and what I believe to be sincere spiritual values on the part of others led them to vote for him. Once again, only the fact that God is God and not man could account for such a thing.

I tend to fixate on the racist aspect of a vote for Trump. I read something that resonated with me, "not all Trump supporters are racist, but all of them decided that racism isn't a deal breaker." When I quoted this to a friend, he commented that "I get very hung up on the racism aspect". No shit. He further noted, "you are very saddened that many Trump voters did not think racism is a deal breaker. To a Trump supporter, they may not even see racism in the equation. To you that is inherently racist."

I would like to point out that I am right on that point (passive racism, of which I certainly take part in at times, is still racism), but I still have to wrestle with, "so what?" Ok, so someone I love (or even someone I don't know at all) is a racist. That doesn't let me off the hook for loving them as much as I love the immigrant. I don't think my bristling at passively (or openly)-condoned racism is wrong in the slightest, but I can admit that it's given me tunnel vision to the detriment of understanding the feelings (of which most are not evil) of the Trump supporter at times.

Some of these passive-racists that I truly love and even respect have tunnel vision about their own political stances. I can give you a well-reasoned rebuttal to every "Christian-valued" reason to vote for Trump (and be sure that I will froth at the bit to get them to you if you request them of me), but I realize that you probably don't care and/or don't agree. Instead, my goal is to LISTEN, and shut up about how I'm more right.

If even one of us thinks we're not a part of the problem, you, my friend, are mistaken. I'm still trying to learn to see the racism in my own ways that I've failed to recognize (I wrote a bit about this before). We must strive not to be offended when we are confronted with parts of ourselves that do not align with the gospel of our Lord.

This election and its aftermath has led to me a lot of outbursts (if mostly inward) of, "who are you to offend me?!" And it's true, I find Trump and support of Trump to be deeply offensive. But so what? My job is not to slam everyone who has offended me (ahem, Donald Trump re: cast of Hamilton). In fact, it takes a much bigger person to not only brush off the genuinely offensive, but to be humble and gracious and not plot revenge for the wrong said or done to you.

(not to put the actions of all listed above on equal footing, but simply that the people we fear the most, whether they are illegal immigrants, Donald Trump, or extremists, are all made in the image of God)

Every time I read something that calls me stupid or entitled or whiny, I want to fire back, but instead, I'm trying desperately not to feed the fire. I try and grit my teeth and understand why such and such an argument is so important to someone who thinks I'm stupid for not agreeing. And when I think that misinformation or misrepresentation is being spread (this seems to happen frequently in articles about how liberals are idiots for not seeing the frustration of the right-wing Church) I speak up as gently as I can. I urge you not to repost anything that calls people names. Don't repost things that dehumanize your opponents. Don't respond to other people's posts with "how lame" or "that doesn't matter". The more we're hurt, the less we want to listen. I've not always been guiltless on this front, but ridiculing (even in a joking way) never draws hurting people in, it only pushes them away.

Sometimes I start thinking that extending God's grace to everyone means liking everyone. But it doesn't. We can and should stand up and speak out against the wrong we see going on around us. I wish that I had spoken up more about what I disagree with about Democratic politics over the last 8 years, because then it would be a bit more balanced as I criticize Trump and his cabinet. Even though my emotion has died down slightly since the days immediately after the election, I probably will be talking and writing about life in America under Trump for at least the next 4 years. To let it go is to become comfortable in a climate (no pun intended) that may not be very threatening to me personally, but that others will have to struggle with every day for at least the next 4 years.

I want to take one more crack at what was so troubling to me about Christian support of Donald Trump. Even though I will never agree on the reasoning, I believe that some of my Christian friends who voted for Trump did so after much thought, and after coming to the conclusion that he was the lesser of two evils. It was not always in blind support of his hate speech.

From a gospel perspective, there was not a good option between Trump and Clinton. They are two sides of the same coin, as my dad says. One is careful and calculating in order to appeal to her base, the other is crass and loud in order to appeal to his base. I believe both of them are dishonest and self serving. In that light, I have to reexamine my disgust at the Church for voting so heavy handedly in favor of Trump. Would I be making the same argument if the Church had whole heartedly supported Clinton, with all her deep flaws and counter-gospel attitude? Probably not, because I lean left and her rhetoric of championing human rights appeals to me. But again, that's just politics. I realize that it is unfair to demonize Christians who thought Trump was the lesser of two bad choices. Still, not liking Clinton was not a good enough excuse to vote for Trump if we're talking in strictly moral terms. Hillary is staunchly pro-choice (which is not the same thing as "wanting to kill full-term babies", for the record) and militarily hawkish, stances that seem to me to be at odds, but incidentally both stances that I disagree with.  

What I can - and do - blame the Church for is not that they voted for Trump, but that they endorsed him and sung his praises. It's understandable to grit your teeth and make the choice you think is best (which is certainly how some people came to vote for Trump), but to sing the praises (I can come up with better "singing the praises" examples if you need them) of a demagogue who has specifically targeted groups of people that Jesus calls us to protect? THAT is anti-gospel behavior. As one reporter wrote, "I think Trump votes are the result of pain — but they’ve also created deep pain." And for the Church to cause pain without remorse is not acceptable.

The support of Evangelicals remains an issue much harder for me to digest than why the greater working-class white population voted for him. Even so, I've come here to say...

Dear Trump supporter. Dear friend, 

Forgive me for ignoring you because I thought I was so much righter that you did not even deserve my honest curiosity. Forgive me for thinking that being right meant I was excused from loving. Forgive me for always making you the butt of the joke. I pledge to learn your name instead of seeing you always as "those people", and I pledge to acknowledge your wounds. To listen to you and bite my tongue, even if I want to prove my capability of rebuffing your arguments point by point. I pledge to see you as a complicated person, not a single label.

I think I owe an apology to immigrants too. I do not know very many recent immigrants, but I use them as my battle ax against ideas that I don't like. I commiserate with their hardship for a moment, in intellectual debates, but I always put off helping them on a local level until tomorrow. As SNL and this prose piece noted, this sickness in American society was not news to the African-American community, and the fact that I'm shocked by it shows how I've failed to engage with the African American community or the immigrant almost as much as I've failed to engage with the Trump supporter.

It's funny, I always feel like I'm on firmer footing as a writer when I'm repenting instead of admonishing. It always gets a better response, too. I believe that both democracy and the kingdom of God need both me and the Trump supporter. We will reach different people and can serve in different facets. We must also challenge one another to keep our eyes on our common goal: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30-3(NIV))

(artwork by Penelope Dullaghan)

Some other articles that helped me adjust my head and heart:
Why calling people racists doesn't help
Why some women voted for Trump
Empathy isn't a favor I owe white Trump voters. It has to go both ways.
A modern creed for those who can no longer call themselves Evangelical
(although I don't think "Common Good Christian" is quite the right alternative)
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