Aldi & Raging Women – Lessons in Grace.

I went to Aldi the other day.

It’s where I do most of our family’s grocery shopping these days since the move. I put my groceries in the car and puttered back to the store to drop off the cart and retrieve my quarter. My head was down, lost in private thoughts as I was happy to be alone for the first time in days due to the freezing temps which had shut down the school system leaving me newly employed as a zookeeper with eight bored monkeys – or so it seemed.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed an old suburban slowly backing out of a parking space. The vehicle was a tad bit ahead of my lackadaisical strides, and so I began to walk in a wide circle to avoid the oncoming vehicle. I managed to move in time and allowed for plenty of space between the two of us, or so I thought, when out of the blue I heard –

“HEY!

Not that I was backing up or anything BITCH!”

I looked up shocked. An older, morbidly obese woman was staring at me from the driver’s seat and shaking her head in disgust. She was livid. I felt my blood pressure quickly rise and my heart begin to beat hysterically as I stared back equally as livid. I never let my gaze leave hers as I marched the cart back to the dock. I was fuming mad. If I wasn’t a woman of faith, and if I didn’t have 8 children who looked to me as an example, and if I were in an Roman arena with this woman centuries ago, it would have been a different story altogether. For Sure. But here I was, in an Aldi’s parking lot, and just as these thoughts angrily caressed my mind and began to scootch Jesus right out of my heart, she screeched off before I could give her a good solid piece of my mind.

“What is going on with people nowadays?! Where is all this rage stemming from?!”
I thought as I began to employ deep slow breaths to regain my composure and then a memory flashed – a memory from only the night before, a memory which involved me not so gracefully chewing my husband’s head off for something so insignificant when viewed through the lens of time – the lens of only 24 hours later.

And another memory from the previous long day, a bored 14 year old special needs child screaming almost nonstop “Shoes! Go to school! Shoes!” because he could not comprehend nor understand why his schedule had been interrupted by cold weather and a few choice four letter words forming in his mother’s mind as she attempted to soothe him yet again.

I was no different.

Absolutely no different from the raging woman who called me the B word, and in fact, I may be worse. She was raging at strangers while I had raged at those I claimed to love; children I had birthed and a man I had chosen to do life beside. I was her and she was me, and we were both the sum of sinful humanity.

Exactly the same.

Both in need of grace. The Almighty’s and one another’s.

This revelation caused me to pause; to wonder and to ask –

“Why was she so mad?”

Had someone died? Did she lose her job? Did her husband recently receive a terminal diagnosis? Did her husband leave her for another woman? Had to be her husband’s fault – just kidding… but I’ll never know what had caused her rage.

But empathy. And Compassion. And second chances. And a new lens which included seeing myself in her. Seeing all of ourselves in the vastness of humanity even those whose political temperaments may not align with ours or those anti vaxxers or pro-lifers or wall haters.

“And the second greatest commandment is this, to love thy neighbor as thyself” – all of our neighbors, including those we live with and gave birth to. Extending grace. Extending love.

Just keep livin

Brick Builders Bible GIVEAWAY!

It’s been awhile since I’ve had the time or the desire to review a book here on the blog and who am I kidding, I don’t really have the time right now with the move, the book I’m writing, the non profit, the teaching, THE EIGHT CHILDREN, but I made time when the Brick Builder’s Illustrated Bible was offered because I have a kid who LOVES anything Lego related.

We purchased a super heroes Bible for him last Christmas and he devours that book. Reads it every day. Loves it, and I’m thinking he’ll do the same thing when he opens this gift under the tree. What an awesome way to incorporate the word of God into a child’s life.

Inside you’ll find all of popular Bible stories that pertain to a child’s interest such as Noah and the Ark, Joseph and Goliath, and of course, the birth of Christ. Each story is simple to read and understand and is complemented by bright Lego characters.

And, guess what?! I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader! Just comment below with who you’d love to gift a copy of this Bible to. I’ll pick a winner on Monday!

Stay tuned!  I have another giveaway to offer next week!

Just keep livin!

The Cloud is Moving – Courage in the Midst of Change.

It oftentimes takes courage to say that something isn’t working anymore, and truthfully, it hasn’t worked for some time for us.

A little over five years ago our family left Michigan for a dream that included a simple life in rural Tennessee. This is how Ryan and I operate – we hear “GO!”, and we go. We married quickly, Ryan moved to Michigan within months of proposing, and we moved to Tennessee after seeing our current house once. We are decisive, informed, and not prone to obsessing much about how our decisions will be perceived by others outside of our immediate family. To reference a Biblical metaphor, we move with the cloud. Continue reading “The Cloud is Moving – Courage in the Midst of Change.”

#metoo

(Disclaimer – this post contains graphic words depicting sexual acts).

Deep breath.

This is the first time I’ve shared my #metoo story publicly. I wrote this post four years ago as the Vanderbilt rape trials were occurring, and it has remained unpublished until now – tucked away in a file called “potential blog posts”.

Why now? You may wonder. I’ve asked myself the same. I don’t have an agenda outside of adding my story to the collective whole which is enough of a reason because attitudes only change when we openly acknowledge the wrongdoing and then move forward through authentic and open dialogue. I hope by adding my story to the conversation, others will also add their stories and as we add, one by one, brick by brick, our voices will begin to echo through the corridors of history, and we who have a story of sexual assault will no longer be mocked or dismissed. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll instead be believed and affirmed in our pain and our stories will lead to our sons and daughters having a different experience than we had. Maybe.

These have been difficult weeks – first with Bill Cosby’s sentencing and then the circus surrounding Judge K and Mrs. Ford. I don’t know the specifics of most of it as I’ve been too busy prepping for The Lucas Project’s first official respite day, but I do know this: I was sexually assaulted years ago, and I probably would not have been believed if I had said something. I don’t know if Mrs. Ford is telling the truth or if Judge K is telling the truth – and that’s beside the point in this post – but God help us all if we don’t stop the whole “this side is right and this side is wrong” argument. It is wrong to sexually assault a person, and it is wrong to lie. Period.

You see, twenty plus years ago, I was a nobody, and my assaulters were somebodies, athletes to be specific – untouchable Christian athletes. They were under the influence. I was not. I was a naïve, homeschooled girl way out of her league and flattered by the attention. I was sexually assaulted. It was wrong. They were wrong.

I wasn’t sure I would ever be brave enough to publicly share – and even as I push publish – my heart is racing. I have no reason to feel shame about what happened, but my fear comes from the world’s reaction. Will I be believed? Or will our culture adamantly defend two predators? Will I be mocked and ridiculed? Admittedly, my story isn’t nearly as horrific as many others; in fact, it’s pretty mild in comparison, but it’s still my truth. I don’t think about the incident often, and I don’t wallow in the pain that occurred. The experience doesn’t own me in any way, but it is a part of who I am, and as with most parts of my story, good and bad, if positive growth occurs from sharing it, then that’s enough for me.

I went there alone that fateful afternoon as a young nineteen year old. I entered the apartment of a man I knew, an athletic star, an untouchable athlete, a man who I was casually seeing, a man who was casually seeing quite a few women unbeknownst to me at the time. I’ll call this man Bob. I naively assumed I would eventually win Bob’s heart through my desperate devotion and desire. He knew how much I wanted him to want me; he preyed on that knowledge and became my teacher as I clumsily navigated my way through a new college environment; an environment so completely different than the innocent, sheltered homeschooled life I had experienced.

I knocked on his door, and he opened it. A cloud of hazy smoke and the smell of marijuana welcomed my arrival – although at the time, I assumed the joint in his hand was a cigar – yes, very naïve. Through the smoky haze I noticed two large men, boy men, sitting on a battered couch with a coffee table littered with empty beer cans in front of them. These were his relatives, also star athletes from a few towns away.

The details leading up to the incident are fuzzy, maybe due to fear or maybe due to the protective nature the brain can often provide, but I remember being summoned into the bedroom by Bob who smirked as he suggested I could help him study for an upcoming test. We sat on the bed together, and the two other men immediately joined us. I was confused. Bob quickly rose from the bed and slammed the door shut — leaving me alone with the two men I had just met. Two huge boy men towered over me while Bob tightly held the door shut. I heard hysterical laughter coming from him and so I assumed it was all a joke. A very bad joke.

I sat on the bed and waited for the joke to be over, but it didn’t seem to be headed in that direction. The two men each found a seat beside me and formed a tight barrier that would be difficult to escape from. They also seemed to find the situation highly entertaining as they laughed and began discussing random sexual activities and their presumption that I lacked in experience having been homeschooled. They then suggested that I should be tested to see if I knew what I was doing in those areas and if not, it would be a good idea for them to teach me. I nervously laughed and said probably not – still trying to be cool about the uncomfortable situation I was in. I didn’t want to get a reputation as one of those girls who was highly dramatic and couldn’t take a joke. My denial, sadly, was not in being horrified that two men thought they could joke about using me as a sexual pawn but had more to do with how Bob would react if he knew what was going on behind the closed door. At the time, I wasn’t willing to risk losing the precious, non-existent relationship I had with him.

I tried to stand, and one of them immediately grabbed my hair and shoved me back on the bed. He climbed on top of me and began dry humping while the other one unzipped his pants and proceeded to put his penis in my face – rubbing it crassly against my cheeks and mouth. They took turns taunting me in this way, one sitting on top of me, while the other one slapped his genitalia against my face while admonishing me to open wide. Tears streamed from my eyes, and I begged them to stop as laughter loudly resounded from the two of them and from the other side of the door.

I think that’s as far as it went.

I don’t know for sure.

I know it ended in one way or another but past those horrific moments I have no recollection. I don’t know why I can’t think past the point of being held against my will.  At times, I fear that I’ve blocked out something to terrible to recall, and at times, I pray that’s as far as the assault went. I don’t know how I finally left the room. I don’t know if I sat and talked with the three of them after it was finished. I don’t know if they continued laughing. I assume they did. I do know I didn’t blame Bob for what occurred. Somehow my mind was able to separate him from them for years until I just couldn’t anymore.

Back then, I didn’t know I had rights. Rights for what? I put myself in the situation. I chose to associate with Bob which in turn meant I associated with his acquaintances. I didn’t even know at the time what an experience like that would be called. I didn’t know if it was partly my fault because I had gone over there alone. I did know it would be my word against three athletes – three athletes who all stared on their respective teams.

I do know that I was naïve enough to think that’s just how men were, and it was a woman’s responsibility to accept it – “boys will be boys.”

The incident absolutely affected me, but it didn’t break me, no it did quite the opposite actually. A righteous flame flickered and grew intensely strong against the weight of many trials and formed the woman I am today – a woman who has stood firm in her faith against a thousand battles. I do know that if something similar happened today I would be killed before allowing anyone to shove their genitalia in my face. I also know that I would report it immediately. I do know that I’ve forgiven each one of them even though they’ve never asked, and I know that I am extremely grateful that throughout the past few years the law has repeatedly served justice towards men who had the audacity to think that they could treat women in such a horrific, uncaring way. This fact alone will enable my daughters to have a different college experience than I had. They will not be afraid to come forward – God willing.

I do know it’s time for women to stop pointing the finger at one another and saying stupid things like, “she deserved it, she was a slut, she dressed inappropriately, or she drank too much” or whatever it may be. It’s also time for everyone to stop blaming the very small percentage of women who lie about sexual assault and screw the system because for every one lie there are thousands of women who keep their mouths shut. Thousands of woman just like me.

I want to see justice permeate throughout our culture for men and women at every level. There are good men, and I sat beside one of them last night as he wept while reading this. We need more men to weep for us and to speak up for us and to defend our dignity and our honor. It’s time for women to end the silence and the shaming and start raising our voices. It’s time for our collective stories to not only be heard but to also be believed. Be brave. Breathe. Tell your story.

If you have a story you’d like to share, I’d love to publish it in this space. Please message me at jessplusthemess@gmail.com.

Just keep livin!