Religious Freedom & Jesus

Oh friends, it’s interesting once again to be living in Indiana. It’s finally Spring and it is was 26 degrees this morning. Tomorrow’s high is 64 and then it’s supposed to drop back down to 36 for a few days before it gets back to “normal” temps.

But that forecast is actually pretty normal for the beginning of Spring in Indiana.

What has been interesting this last week is this controversial religious freedom bill that has passed through the state Senate and House and is expected to be signed into law by the Governor this week. I will say upfront that I’m not well-versed enough on the bill to comment about whether I agree with it or not. All I’ve read is what has been in the news and part of the actual bill I tried to read last night but couldn’t get past the first two pages of legal verbiage that confused me more than anything. I will also say upfront that I don’t believe people should be denied service because of their sexual preference or their physical appearance.

But what I want to talk about tonight are the responses I’m reading all over social media about the passing of the bill. Most people are outraged. Most people disagree with the bill. Many are kind of freaking out about it. Many are talking about the fiscal ramifications of this bill due to companies, conventions, etc. pulling out of deals with Indiana directly because of this bill.

But more importantly, the response that has bashed my God.

See, my biggest issue with the bill (as I’ve read) is that it’s about RELIGION. It’s not about Jesus. And that’s what I want to stress : IT’S NOT ABOUT JESUS. My God, My Jesus, he didn’t cover his ass with a religious freedom bill so he wouldn’t lose his business by getting sued because he wouldn’t bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. He loved his neighbors. Even if he didn’t agree with their actions. He loved them. He ate with them.

He wouldn’t have turned away a young unmarried couple who were expecting a baby together.

He wouldn’t have turned away someone who didn’t believe and act exactly as he did.

He wouldn’t have turned away me. A sinner for so many reasons.

Do you see now that this bill isn’t about my God? It’s about people who are afraid of people who are different. It’s about those who don’t know how to love others well. People who are misguided about what God’s love is and how they should pass it along.

So today I might not be proud of this religious freedom bill, but I will be proud of who I know Jesus to be and how he loved so well. And how he calls us to love just the same. So love well friends. If we love others well, regardless of our differences, everything will work itself out.

And businesses owned by people who don’t love well will fail. Of that I am sure.

Calling foul play on the 2015 NCAA selection committee

Remember when I told you how much we love college basketball and March Madness? Well, tonight I’m calling foul play on the NCAA selection committee.

(And not because IU actually made the tournament. That’s a whole other question in itself. And yes, I am an IU graduate and fan and I even don’t understand how they made it.)

Indiana is known for basketball. It’s a great thing for the state and it’s super fun to be part of. Especially when the championship Final Four takes place in your city and there’s so much fun happening. (Go Indy!!) But what isn’t super fun is when the selection committee puts ALL FIVE Indiana teams in the SAME region. And on top of that, puts them in the same region as Kentucky, the tourney favorite and outright number one team in the nation.

Selection committee following their placement of all 5 Indiana teams in the same Region. With Kentucky: "Yay! We did it! We found another way to make more money!"

Selection committee following their placement of all 5 Indiana teams in the same Region. With Kentucky: “Yay! We did it! We found another way to make more money!”

IU, Purdue, Notre Dame, Valparaiso and Butler – all Indiana schools in the big dance. All seeded in the Midwest region of the bracket. That’s 5 of the 16 teams in the Midwest region being Indiana teams (and 100% of Indiana teams I will remind you). And by the looks of it, not a single one of them will advance to the Final Four (remember, taking place in their own state) unless they beat an undefeated Kentucky team.

You may be thinking “But none of the Indiana teams could make it to the Final Four anyway!” But I think you’re wrong. Notre Dame has only lost 5 games this season, is ranked 11th in the nation and won the ACC title. Notre Dame has a legitimate chance at making it to the Final Four. And how amazing would it be to play in your state?! Just a couple hours south of campus?!

But see, that’s exactly it. While the NCAA doesn’t release financial information about ticket sales and host city revenues from the Final Four tournament, it’s OBVIOUS that having at least one local school in your Final Four is going to bring in less money than if Kentucky and Duke are battling it out in your city. Because those fans have to (AND WILL) drive and stay overnight, eat, drink and play in your city for the ENTIRE weekend. But Notre Dame fans could easily commute for a game or stay with family and friends who live in Indy, drastically decreasing the amount of money spent in Indy and on NCAA merchandise.

What other reason does the selection committee have for putting ALL FIVE INDIANA TEAMS IN THE SAME REGION? And with KENTUCKY? It seems pretty black and white to me.

Or maybe GREEN is a better color comparison…

Sometimes I get stuck in a rut.

Sometimes I get stuck in a rut. It’s often based off of what I think I should be. Or who I think I should be. Or what I think I should do. Or who someone else thinks I should be.

  • I should be skinnier.
  • I should be trendier.
  • I should be Godlier.
  • I should be a better mom.
  • I should be a better housekeeper.
  • I should be a better wife.
  • I should work out more so I can have a hot body. {It’s okay to laugh. I did.}
  • I should play with my kids more.
  • I should not eat that chocolate so I can have a hot body.
  • You’re too conservative. Boring.
  • You should work more.
  • You should work less.
  • You should have a hot body.

I get so tired of who I SHOULD be that I forget about who I AM. And sometimes it’s the smallest little things that bring me back to reality.

This morning I took the boys to the Children’s Museum for the member’s preview of their new Transformers exhibit. (Which is amazing and fun by the way. You should totally go.) The boys and I had a blast together. And then after a late lunch because we were at the museum for so long, I finally got the boys down for a nap and sat down to relax for the first time all day.

Then I hear Lucas in the bathroom “Mommy, will you wipe me?”

It really is the best part of being a mom, am I right?

So I begrudgingly walk upstairs and wipe his butt and as he’s walking out of the bathroom he turns around, flashes a sweet and sincere smile and simply says “Mommy, I love you.”

Photo credit: Eric Learned

Photo credit: Eric Learned

See there aren’t many times right now in parenthood when I’m super excited to be a mom of four kids ranging in ages from almost 13 to almost 2. (Yes, I have two kids who are entering horribly scary ages AT THE SAME TIME.) It’s hard and tiring and NOT fantastic most of the time. I feel like escaping to something easier more times than I’d prefer to admit.

But here’s the thing: this is real life. Real (often tough) relationships with real people. (Kids are people too, right? I have to remind myself of that a lot.) Living fully in mercy and truth. And I love it. I love my community and the girlfriends who I can turn to when this real life seems too much to handle. Because the alternative to me is just sad. And lonely. And I can’t imagine more sadness or more loneliness than I already feel during rough times. (Like the whole month of stupid February in Indiana.)

So today I remind myself to be happy with who I am, rather than who I should be. Because I’m making a difference and I’m important. And it’s okay to want to add parts of those other things to my life as long as I don’t get lost in them. As long as I hold tight to the truth of who God has created me to be.

And it’s almost Spring. I remind myself that it’s almost Spring and that gives me hope of life again. :)

 

Indy + NCAA Final Four = FUN!

It’s March and in my house that means NCAA March Madness is finally here. We love college basketball like crazy. And one of the best parts about living in Indy is that we get to host the Final Four tournament every 4-6 years. Including THIS YEAR! And with the Final Four weekend just a month away, I’m getting excited and thought I’d share with you some fun events already planned for the weekend.mff_2015_logo

  • Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships : Thursday, April 2nd at 7pm at Hinkle Fieldhouse – Tickets are $16 for ages 13+. Kids ages 3-12: $8. Now in its 27th year, the State Farm College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships feature 24 of the best collegiate dunkers and sharpshooters, and will be televised live on ESPN. Purchase tickets HERE. (We’re planning on going! Lucas LOVES this stuff!)
  • Final Four Friday : Friday, April 3rd – FREE. Watch the Final Four teams at Lucas Oil Stadium in one of their final practices before the national semifinal games. Fans who attend will have the opportunity to hear from each head coach after their sessions and engage in on-court promotions. The day concludes with the Reese’s College All Star-Game tipping off at 4:30 p.m. (We’ve been to these free practices in previous years and they are so fun for the kids! But SUPER packed full of people, so get there early if you care about where you sit.)
  • Final Four Fan Fest : Friday, April 3rd through Monday, April 6th at the Convention Center – Tickets are available online through March 15 for $8 – Adults ($10 starting March 16th); $4 – Children ages 3-11, Current College Students with valid ID, Senior Citizens ages 55+ and Military Personnel with valid ID ($5 starting March 16th) and FREE for kids 2 and under. This event is the ultimate pregame destination. It’s an indoor interactive event offering a chance to meet legendary coaches and former college stars at exclusive autograph sessions, sign up for daily youth clinics, and participate in a host of sport activities ranging from basketball to lacrosse to hockey and more. The weekend also boasts a variety of unique entertainment including the annual Final Four Pep Rally featuring the bands and cheerleaders from the four participating NCAA Final Four teams. Purchase tickets HERE.
  • NCAA March Madness Music Festival : Friday, April 3 through Sunday, April 5th : FREE. It’s a three-day outdoor music festival in downtown Indy. Performers haven’t been announced but past performers include Bruce Springsteen, Fun., Dave Mathews Band, Kenny Chesney, Sting, Jimmy Buffet, The Black Keys, Muse, Zac Brown Band, LL Cool J and The Kings of Leon. Details on times and places (and who!) can be found HERE.
  • NCAA Youth Clinics : Saturday, April 4th (doors open at 11 am, starts at noon) – FREE with registration for kids in grades 3-8. The clinics are a community outreach program where kids receive sport instruction from NCAA coaches and student-athletes and get valuable information on fitness, healthy lifestyles and sportsmanship. There are four locations throughout Indy and you can register HERE.
  • Road to the Final Four 5K : Saturday, April 4th (rain or shine) – $25 if you preregister, $30 on site. The event benefits the Coaches vs. Cancer® program, which is a collaborative effort between the American Cancer Society and National Association of Basketball Coaches. The 5K starts at the NCAA Hall of Champions. Register HERE.
  • The Final Four Dribble : Sunday, April 5th – FREE with registration for the first 3,200 kids to sign up. DRIBBLE a basketball through the heart of downtown Indy! Participating kids will receive a T-shirt, basketball and free entry into Final Four Fan Fest (on that day only). Register HERE. (We’re already signed up! Join us!!)

Indianapolis does a GREAT job at hosting sporting events. And the downtown area is beautiful and welcoming. So come downtown to my ‘hood and have some fun with us! We’ll be enjoying some of the events above but we’ll also just be hanging around downtown if the weather’s nice. SO JOIN US! We’re fun. :)

SPOTLIGHT on local non-profit JabuAfrica

I’ve mentioned lately that I’ve been struggling to write here, primarily because I feel like my brain is scattered and I’m not sure how to share all of that mess. But what has happened in this absence is my desire to better use this “platform” for good. I’ll still be writing about what I’m thinking and feeling, but I’m going to narrow it down to a few things: my community, my parenting (choices and struggles) and my passions.

One way you’ll see this new focus is in a new monthly series about organizations that I think are doing amazing things. It’s called SPOTLIGHT and first up is an organization near and dear to my heart: JabuAfricaJabuAfrica_RGB.1.2

A little tidbit about me: I’ve always wanted a brown baby. Always. Like, I can’t remember NOT wanting a little brown baby. The night before I got married (to a white man), my mom said to me, “Katie, you know you’re not going to have a brown baby biologically now, right?”

Another little (more important) tidbit about me: I have a HUGE passion for kids who grow up in less than ideal conditions – physically or emotionally. I imagine the differences between the hearts of my children (who aren’t parented perfectly for sure, but who have more than basic physical necessities and are loved through and through and are told and shown that every single day) and those kids who are never hugged, told they’re loved, tickled, laughed with or feel complete joy from a parent.

One more tidbit: I’ve always felt a pull towards Africa. I can’t explain it. My close friend Sarah Castor sums it up perfectly. She writes “There is a Congolese proverb that says, ‘You can outrun what chases you but not what is inside you.’… For whatever reason, my heart has always been pulled there…” This resonates within me exactly.

There is such amazing beauty in the African land.

Photo credit: Sarah Castor

Photo credit: Sarah Castor

There is also extreme generational poverty like nothing I’ve seen.

Photo credit: Sarah Castor

Photo credit: Sarah Castor

In comes JabuAfrica. Sarah (and her husband Dave) adopted three boys from Africa. Their sons were born in South Africa, Ethiopia, and Democratic Republic of Congo respectively. And it was out of their adoption journeys that she founded JabuAfrica to work as a partner walking alongside initiatives that empower Africans and provide the resources for leaders to rise up and lead their communities.

I love what Sarah says in this: “It was my love of Africa that led me to adopt but it is now my deeper love and understanding that motivates me to empower families so that poverty does not determine a mother’s story, a father’s story or a child’s future.”

I love that so much. And that’s exactly what JabuAfrica and it’s partners are doing: empowering families. It’s what we all want, right? To feel empowered to make the best choices for our families? The thing is, we already have a million legs up simply by living in the US.

Last year, I was given the amazing opportunity to hear about with JabuAfrica is doing with one of it’s partners, Giving Back to Africa. I was speechless and my heart was filled while listening to and seeing the impact the programs are having in the DR Congo. PLEASE take the next 7 minutes and watch this video to see how they are helping the Congolese people take control over the future of their people.

There is so much more I want to tell you. More about JabuAfrica and its partners. More about Sarah and her love that is completely contagious. But you can read all about it on their website. What I really want you to do is get involved. I did because I was giving to a big international organization and I was seeing reports after reports about how little money actually goes to those programs and even more so, programs that were actually empowering its people. Since I personally know Sarah and her heart, I know my giving is being used in the best way.

How can you get involved you ask? Sign up for updates from JabuAfrica through their website. Donate if your heart is in this like mine. Go to their big fundraising event in July. (I’ll totally be there and I’d LOVE for you to join me! And it’ll be FUN. I promise you that.)

And ask me about it in person. I’d love to share more with you. And hopefully one day I’ll be able to show you my own pictures of Africa and share my own stories of the people. Once Sarah agrees to take me with her on her next trip. :)

One shade of who gives a #*&@

I have NOT read any of the Fifty Shades of Grey books. I didn’t read any of the Twilight books either and when my writer-friend Shireen told me how poorly she thought of the 50 Shades books (because of how crappy they were written, etc. and NOT because of the sexual nature) I just never had the desire to read them.

So what I’m about to say is based solely on my personal interaction with friends. I haven’t read reviews of the movie or read a single article about it either. But here’s what I’ve got to say: Who cares what two CONSENTING ADULTS do in a sexual relationship as long as it’s, again, consensual between two adults and legal? (I throw legal in there so no one can come out and talk to me about bestiality, child sexual abuse, etc.)

shades

Whether or not you agree with what she (I don’t even know her name) does with Christian Grey, or lets him do to her, is not the point. If it’s agreed upon by two adults, under terms they set together, and they both feel safe within the agreed-upon situation, why do you care about it? It’s THEIR choice. Not ours. (I mean, I guess if you want to get critical, it was the author’s decision, because remember, this is a non-fiction book we’re talking about.)

If you want to talk about Grey controlling her, let’s talk about control. In every single sexual interaction between two people, someone is in control. In the standard, most common mission sex position, someone’s on top and someone’s on bottom. If literally being on top of someone doesn’t signify control, I don’t know what does. There’s always some level of control in a relationship. And that’s okay as long as you’re on the same page with your partner.

I’m sure this woman has self-esteem issues from what I’ve been told. (Don’t we all?) It sounds like maybe Christian Gray takes advantage of his “age and experience” and her lack-there-of. (I’m not entirely sure I care since she willingly walked into this relationship as an adult knowing her own age and experience.) I’m sure I won’t let my kids read the books or watch the movie. (Especially since they are all too young and not the target audience.) I would probably not do things I’ve heard they do sexually in the book/movie. (It just doesn’t turn me on.) I also won’t go see the movie in the theater. (Because honestly it makes me uncomfortable sitting with a 100 strangers watching graphic sex scenes.)

BUT. (And this is a HUGE butt. Kinda like mine.)

(See what I did there?)

Here’s the deal: We all have the freedom to enter into grown-up relationships. OR NOT. And what you chose to do sexually within the consenting boundaries of your marriage (okay, or whatever relationship you’re in) is YOUR choice only.

So be all gung-ho about non-consenting sexual abuse issues. But don’t knock someone down or tell someone they’re wrong because they’re turned on by something that you don’t understand. Especially if you haven’t even read the non-fiction books.

(This is all about a non-fiction book series for adults that NO ONE is required to read, right? Geesh.)

 

on being real and genuine. and not stupid.

I know it’s been quiet around here.

It’s been intentional. Kind of.

I can’t really write what I feel lately. I’m feeling things too much, too raw, to write it out because then I’ll probably share way more than any of you are paid to read since you’re not my therapist.

I’m struggling with this stage of life that I’ve been in for too long. And there’s no “light at the end of the tunnel” moment in sight. Life is hard and I’m trying hard to live it rather than be stuck in it. But that’s hard too.

But I also want to maintain some balance here. Not only complain, but encourage too. That’s why I started writing: because it helps me and because I hope it’ll help you. But sometimes I write and don’t publish because it’s just to help me and those “letters” (because they’re more like letters than posts) aren’t really meant for anyone else to see. I imagine they might help someone but they’re too personal to share for the other 99% of you that it won’t help.

I kinda just want to live in one of two fantasy worlds right now. One would look like this.Fantasy World One

My family would live right on the canal in downtown Indy. The canal would be our backyard. The kids could just go feed the ducks and ride their bikes around the canal at anytime. It’d be perfectly safe with no strangers and the kids would never fall in the canal because this is my fantasy world.

My other fantasy world would be me with no kids. It’s okay. Pick up your chin and let me explain. Of course I love my kids and I wouldn’t ACTUALLY want them gone. It’s just that I’m tired. Physically and emotionally. Having four kids (which I totally understand how it happened thank you and that I’m blessed and that I’ll look back on this time and miss it) is kind of wiping me out right now. They’ve been sick and mouthy and sick again and again. Until the end of last week, I was having several really horrible tension headaches every single day for over three weeks. And I still had to parent my kids. There are no breaks when you’re a mom. None.

See? This is why I haven’t written. Because I’m not sure this will encourage anyone. Pregnant? Well don’t read this. I’m sure I could do the same with marriage. In love? Engaged? Well if I write about marriage at this point you won’t want to read that either.

Here’s the thing. I obviously wouldn’t want my life without my kids or my husband. But sometimes it would just be nice to be alone and have NO responsibilities. (Or someone to do them all for you at the very least. Like a husband that was also a maid, cook and nanny.)  To just run away for awhile and only take care of myself.

So what have I been doing the last two days to combat this inner crap running around in my head? Listening to Lead Me To The Cross (I prefer the version by Francesca Battistelli). This is the part that I’ve been hearing the loudest right now:

lead me to the cross
where your love poured out. 
bring me to my knees, 
lord I lay me down.
rid me of myself,
I belong to you.
lord lead me, lead me to the cross

This might not be your thing. And that’s totally ok. All I ask is that if you find yourself feeling stuck or lonely or uncared for (I don’t even think “uncared” is a word but I don’t care), don’t do something stupid. Don’t do something that’ll keep you stuck. Talk to a supportive friend, not one who will pull you down farther. Get off Facebook if you’re lonely and it’s making it worse or connecting you with someone you shouldn’t be connecting with. Write. Write and throw away your thoughts. It helps me. (Most of the time at least.)

I don’t know the point of this post. I’m not sure I started out writing this to actually publish it. I just wanted to keep it real I guess. To *not* write right now would feel less genuine than writing a crap happy holidays post.

Anyways, don’t do something stupid. And be real and genuine. That is all.