God is love AND God is just? Reconciling the two. An unnecessarily long essay by Jessica Williamson.

This was written by me May 6th, 2011 as a Facebook note (Facebook note, seriously?!) but I felt it should be added to my unofficial collection of writings here. Five years later and I’ve grown into my thoughts a bit but can still get behind my 2011 feelings. I’m still not a theologian and I still don’t study the Bible as I should so hopefully my thoughts aren’t damaging to anyone’s collective understanding of God. Shout out to the teaching staff at my church that leads me to the water with scripture based messages each week! Commence old post:

 

I’ve been hearing a lot about God’s justice lately. It seems that people find great comfort in knowing God will justly judge those around us. I know that at one point, I took comfort in this because I felt like I had been wronged by others and liked knowing God would avenge me for it. Thankfully, I don’t have that attitude anymore. What kind of life would I be living if my biggest worry was God punishing another person for causing a tiny, tiny issue in my life in the grand scheme of things? People are dying of preventable diseases in massive numbers and I want to be avenged because someone hurt my feelings? Please. The current atmosphere surrounding God’s justice seems to be pointing to God rightly sentencing people who deny Him to an eternity in hell. What kind of person would I be if that brought me joy? Not a very Christ-like person I would say. I will not be overjoyed or feel justified at the end of this age if I find out hell is standing room only. I love people. I want them to share in the promises God has made us in the age to come…even if they don’t agree with me theologically.

Anyways, that is not how I planned on starting that. We’ve been doing the song “Sweetly Broken” by Jeremy Riddle in church lately. I heard it on the radio driving home last night and one line stuck out to me. “For on it my savior, both bruised and crushed, show that God is love and God is just”. At first I felt like blocking the “and God is just” part out. On Facebook, my “churchy” friends have been posting a lot of stuff about God’s wrath lest we forget how powerful he is. Like they’re afraid someone will focus too much on God’s powerful, transforming love and forget he can strike us down with lightning. This next part may be a concept many, many other people have already embraced but last night that particular “just” line was transformed for me. God is just because there are great, enormous, tragic inJUSTices occurring all around us. Forgive me if I take too much of a liberty with God’s character here but I truly believe he is more worried about the millions without clean drinking water, the droves of girls being sold into prostitution, lack of proper medical care, and on and on and ON. I believe he is more worried about those people he CREATED (just like comfortable you and me) than making sure our friend Johnny believes the correct set of beliefs that will “save him”. Who really needs saving in this situation? It is true God could deliver those people in a wave of the hand but he’s obviously waiting for something and I can’t help but wonder if it is his “believers” that are doing nothing but locking themselves in prayer rooms for hours on end instead of getting their hands dirty. (PS – not against prayer, obviously).

I’m not a theologian. I suck at reading the bible. But you don’t have to be a scholar to see the big picture. A group of friends and I met recently and this question was asked: “Have you ever experienced the kingdom of God on earth or had a moment where you felt like ‘this is what it will be like’?” Two of us answered with instances where we were serving or living alongside those less fortunate than ourselves. That made me think…when God restores this earth and comes to live among us and everything is made whole again…there won’t be others “less fortunate than us”. Right? So I pointed out that maybe it was flawed thinking to feel like we were experiencing “heaven on earth” in those moments. My wise, sage-like friend said she didn’t think that was the case because in those moments it is more about an honest connection with those individuals, our fellow “earthlings” and not about our socioeconomic status, money, power, etc. It wasn’t about patting ourselves on the back for serving or even the reward of serving as much as it was about feeling totally unified with another human being. THAT is heaven to me. No injustice, no inequality, no judgment, just oneness with others and creation. Imagine a world like that…it makes me feel like I might float away.

Half of my friends can tune out now (you’ve been warned) because I’m about to quote a man and a book who obviously has it all backwards and doesn’t care about the fate of his fellow human beings (jokes). In “Love Wins” by Rob Bell on page 7, before you even get into the meat of the book, he’s talking about the really terrible idea that heaven is a “there”, a destination, an end. He says:

“If this understanding of the good news of Jesus prevailed among Christians, the belief that Jesus’ message is about how to get somewhere else, you could possibly end up with a world in which millions of people were starving, thirsty, and poor; the earth was being exploited and polluted; disease and despair were everywhere; and Christian’s weren’t known for doing much about it. If it got bad enough, you might even have people rejecting Jesus because of how his followers lived.

 

That would be tragic.”

At the risk of totally ruining a great literary device I’ll just point out that that passage is dripping in sarcasm. Just in case you missed it. Just in case you thought we, as Christians (and I can hardly stand to call myself that sometimes), are doing a halfway decent job of displaying who Christ is to others. Just in case you thought arguing about the nuances of salvation was helping lead others to knowing a full, whole, freeing life with Christ.Just in case you thought focusing on how God is going to punish someone who got the wrong idea about Him is going to draw others closer. Just in case you thought condemning another for not being JUST like you would help them out.

Sorry for taking it to church just then. Didn’t mean to. But really, this message is for me as much as everyone else. I just can’t stand to watch a perfectly good message from an amazing, powerful, loving, gracious God get complicated. It’s simple. It’s not offensive. It’s good news. It’s easy to understand and to put into action in our lives. The action isn’t carrying out God’s justice in terms of how to be GOOD ENOUGH to enter into the kingdom. The action is carrying out God’s justice in terms of CREATING the kingdom in the here and now by working to uproot the much, much greater injustices occurring around us. That is something I can get behind. I’m not interested in discovering the 976 different laws, rules, and regulations that will get me into the kingdom of heaven…I’m interested in bringing it to life right now.

 

Here are a few ways:

www.20liters.org or www.charitywater.org

www.worldvision.org

www.yfcwichita.org

www.youthhorizons.net

www.feedingamerica.org

www.twloha.com

 

I’m officially a hippie.

 

 

FareWell. Changes in the Williamson Family.

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This weekend, Andy and I said farewell (but not goodbye!) to our church family At the Well. Andy began leading there shortly after we got married so they’ve seen us through 5+ years and many situations including early marriage, pregnancy, having a kid, and numerous ups and downs. It was at At the Well that I experienced my first real death – the kind where you see the person laughing and radiating love and light one day and learn that they are gone the next. It was also there that I first experienced real community that was welcoming, loving, and understanding.

Our family would have gladly stayed at At the Well for a very, very long time. It’s small enough to be non-intimidating, it’s big enough to blend in and slip in and out, it’s welcoming, it’s kingdom focused, etc etc. My friends at At the Well have allowed me to be myself and haven’t judged me for my personality quirks and my occasional lack of enthusiasm for small talk and engagement.

Despite all that, a few months back (probably 4 or 5 months by now), we heard of an opening at Pathway Church. A friend of Andy’s who was on the worship team there mentioned how awesome it would be to be able to work with him. A few more situations arose in the coming weeks that made Andy feel like he was being led towards Pathway. We talked late into the evening many times about what it would be like to leave our current church and whether or not we felt called to pursue other options/churches. Finally, we decided Andy would submit his resume and let God take it from there.

Long (LONG AND STRESSFUL) story short, Andy submitted his resume and was swept up in months of interviews, more interviews, evaluations, and so on. This church does NOT take hiring new people lightly and for that I am grateful. It was about halfway through the process that I realized I really, really wanted Andy to get the job. I loved (love) our current church and all the people in it but I do truly believe Andy is gifted to take on more responsibility and oversee a larger operation than the position he was in. We had talked about the reality that he can’t solely be a worship leader forever. At some point he will need to move into a position where he fosters in new talent and steps back a bit. (Side note: not now, honey. You still have many, many prime years left ;)).

I’m very proud to say that Pathway Church found Andy as talented, honorable, genuine, and gifted as I do. In the end, the position he initially thought he was applying for was given to an incredibly talented guy already employed at Pathway and a new position was created and offered to Andy. He’ll be the Worship Director at the Westlink campus while also overseeing some aspects of the Goddard campus and any future church plants. He’ll lead the majority of the weekend worship experiences at the main campus.

It was tough to experience our last Saturday night at At the Well. I’ve grown to love so many people there and appreciate the various stories and families that make up the church. I can definitely say I’ve never experienced a group of people so willing to get their hands dirty and make a difference. A group of At the Well moms has taken a local woman’s ministry under their wing and assists in getting women out of prostitution and into safety. One group of people meets downtown once a month and feeds hundreds of homeless and struggling families a hot meal. One family came over and helped my mom and I super duper deep clean our old home to prepare it to sell when Andy and I were moving to a new home. Most families there will drop everything they’re doing to assist in a crisis whether or not they know the person in need. It’s an incredible group of people.

My family has been blessed to experience the community of At the Well and I hope that I can carry the lessons I’ve learned into our new church. It will be bigger and more intimidating than I’m used to and I’ll have to make an effort to find friends and plug in. However, I’ve been trained well the past five years to identify areas of need and get my hands dirty. I love you all and know you’re going to continue to do amazing things in our community. Thank you for loving my family so well and being the kind, generous, genuine people that you are.

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Beating Death

Here’s my Easter lesson for the day.

NEEDTOBREATHE’s new album “Rivers in the Wasteland” came out this week. Despite sounding like a bleak dystopian novel, it’s actually quite positive and refreshing. I am not a huge fan of Christian music. Much of it (not all of it) lacks the musical ingenuity I find in secular music. It also often lacks the honesty I hear in secular music. There are a few Christian bands that I do enjoy and they’re typically the ones that are a little more honest and aware of themselves. Also, I’ve seen NEEDTOBREATHE live twice and they are in my top 5 live acts. They’re phenomenal.

So Andy bought me the new NEEDTOBREATHE album this week and I have listened to it pretty constantly. Thursday morning it had me in tears in my car on the way to work. Then that evening I attended Friends University’s monthly worship service where Patrick Sehl preached. He mentioned that ever since he was very young, music has affected him deeply in that way. Big shout out to Patrick for using secular music with honest, poignant lyrics in his Easter message. It definitely drew me into the story. If you get a chance to hear Patrick preach somewhere, don’t hesitate, just do it. His delivery is unique and engaging.

Anyways, all this rambling nonsense to say that I found my Easter message this morning in NEEDTOBREATHE’s song “Difference Maker”. It says:

We are all transgressors, we’re all sinners, we’re all astronauts

So if you’re beating death then raise your hand but shut up if you’re not

I particularly love how they wrote “BEATING” death instead of “if you’ve BEATEN death”. Beating is a much more accurate representation of life. Some days you are doing a great job beating death and some days you are inviting it to take up residence in your life.

Since Easter is all about beating death through Jesus’ sacrifice, I feel like that lyric was particularly relevant this morning. That’s all :).

 

I wrote the bulk of this Monday evening, February 4th:

There are times in life that you receive news that makes your heart drop. Your whole body drop. Yesterday, I got some of that news. It doesn’t even seem fair to say that I got it. A LOT of people’s hearts dropped heavy in their chest yesterday.

A friend of ours, Randy, and his wife Suzy died suddenly yesterday in a car accident. Randy was a friend of Andy’s through ministry work and most recently has served as a marriage counselor for us. (Don’t act like you don’t know at least 10 people in counseling right now). He has been an integral person in our marriage in the past two years, helping us grow together as a family. It isn’t easy bringing two incredibly different people together but Randy has helped us see that our strengths and weaknesses can come together to make a great relationship.

Now, I struggle with sharing about death. I always feel like I don’t deserve a voice in the matter when I’m such an inconsequential person in their group of “people”. Randy and Suzy leave behind a family and loved ones that were much closer to them than Andy or I was. However, I can only see things through my own lens and I suppose every story is important if it wants to be shared.

I suppose I just want to say how thankful I am for Randy’s gift and his eagerness to share it. There was something about him, and I suspect I’m not the only one who feels this way, that made you feel at ease in his presence. Being in a counseling situation isn’t easy or comfortable. It can feel unnatural and frustrating. As someone who (at times) walks through life feeling very misunderstood and unknown, Randy made me feel known. I didn’t have to spend hours on end telling him about my past or what my likes and dislikes are…he just seemed to have an understanding of me within a few minutes. And not in the sense that I felt sized up and judged at all. Since yesterday, I’ve heard many people talk about Randy and Suzy’s incredible capacity for grace. They met people where they were, in pain and darkness and struggle, and showed them grace and love in that. I suppose that I felt that grace almost immediately in his presence. That feeling was an enormous relief.

I’ve seen counselors on and off since I was probably 17 or 18. In my late teens I was a train wreck. I’ve spent nearly 8 years living some of my actions down and being unfairly judged by people seeing me through that lens. As I think about it now, several of the people I’ve had the worst problems with have held past actions over my head and refused to see me as someone who has grown and changed. Andy and I spent many hours talking with Randy and never once did he imply there was something wrong with me or that I was abnormal in some way. As someone who, in the past, has spent hours scouring the web for what particular diagnosable “disorder” ails me, I am immensely grateful for him. To Randy, I was someone who had lived my life, made choices, been shaped by a million different things and was sitting in his office looking for a little wisdom. I’m not crazy. I’m not flawed. And I don’t need fixing.

One of my favorite things Randy helped me learn was that I’m responsible only for myself and I cannot let other people’s opinions, expectations, or actions weigh me down. If I do wrong, I take responsibility for it and do what I can to set things straight. If someone else has wronged me, that is on them. It is absolutely toxic to let someone else’s issues weigh you down. That is on them. They can have opinions about you or think you should be a certain way but it simply doesn’t matter. I can only be who God made me…strong and independent and a bit of a firecracker.

The last time I saw Randy was last Thursday when I went in alone because Andy had a conflicting doctor’s appointment. Up until then, we had always gone together because I’m not the only one in my relationship in need of guidance ;). Randy and I talked about being a working mom and how hard it is to try and juggle the myriad of tasks involved and still find time to be a normal human being. For the record, everyone tells you how tired and overwhelmed you’ll be as a parent but NOBODY tells you how hard it is to stop trying to do everything perfectly and take a stinking breath. It’s one of those things…you think you know, but you have no idea. Your job is never done. There are no days off. There aren’t even really any hours off. Instead of telling me to take some time to myself or to plan an afternoon with a friend, Randy gave me some incredible, simple, and probably obvious advice. He told me not to let the control I’m trying to have over everything steal the joy from my everyday life. I’ve been so busy caring for Landry, cleaning up after him, trying to keep a halfway sanitary home, trying to spend meaningful time with Andy, work (that’s the easiest part!), and so on, that I’ve forgotten I’m supposed to be enjoying the process. Imagine that.

I’m thankful for that simple advice. I’m thankful to have seen evidence of that truth in Randy’s own life. Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen some incredible people pass away. It seems cruel that those people have been some of the brightest, kindest, warm souls I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. However, there is something to be said about a legacy. Randy and Suzy definitely left their mark on our town in the best way possible. It’s hard to walk around in a dark cloud knowing that they blessed so many people and lived with honor, joy, and, most importantly grace.

Update Feb 8th, 2013: Randy and Suzy’s funeral was today. I wasn’t surprised to hear some of my sentiments from above echoed in Casey’s message. He, too, spoke about that feeling of being “understood and known” in Randy’s presence. His take on this was really neat. He said that the reason Randy and Suzy were so effective in their ministry is because they had experienced God in their own brokenness and shortcomings. That may seem overly simple and not very profound, but have you ever been in someone’s presence that is full of pride and grandiosity and felt judged and belittled? Randy embodied the opposite of that. He was confident and strong but humble and sincerely compassionate. This week, I’ve felt Randy’s influence in my life spurring me to be more positive, enjoy life as it is, cherish my family time, and to be above drama. I’m sure other people have carried his voice with them this week and I pray that we never stop learning from, and spreading, his legacy.

Reflections.

…and the wisdom to know the difference

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.”

When my Grandma Cary passed away, my mom and I went through her boxes of jewelry. Mom got to keep her beautiful vintage wedding ring and I got a box full of her everyday jewelry. One piece is rather unattractive, gaudy, and obviously cheap. But it is probably my favorite thing out of the whole box. It’s a serenity prayer necklace, the actual gold chain long gone. The front has a pair of praying hands surrounded by rhinestones. When you slide it, the back slides out to reveal a tiny serenity prayer. This week, I brought it with me to visit Andy’s parents in Arkansas. You can infer from that what you will but I think it is safe to assume that it is perfectly normal and unfortunately status quo that we don’t feel quite at home with our partner’s family. I’ve struggled to relax, enjoy myself, and not nitpick innocent people to death in these situations but after 4 years of marriage, I’ve decided it’s time to sit my stubborn ass down and grow up.

A couple of days in, it’s doing the trick. Accept the things I cannot change. Accept the things I cannot change. Say that enough and you’ll find it easier to love people as they are even though they aren’t JUST like your mom and dad or sisters and brothers. (Now is the perfect place to say that Andy’s family is lovely and kind and thoughtful, there is nothing wrong with them and they don’t need to change…it can just be tough as I’m sure some of you know).

The Newtown, CT, shootings have remained on my mind since they happened December 14th. Since everything transpired, there has been a massive debate on gun control. I’ve already blogged about that but my mind keeps coming back to the other important line in the serenity prayer – the courage to change the things I can. Some things should be accepted as they are. We should adapt. It is important to be adaptable because we will never move forward if we don’t. But when do we adapt and when do we change?

Forgive me if I get a little preachy here, but it fires me up a little. I followed the NRA news conference held last Friday with anxious anticipation. Would they support the President? Would they renounce their gung-ho attitude of “MORE GUNS, MORE GUNS”? Or would they spit in the face of the individuals who have had to bury their children this past week? It all played out like a bad spoof. They called for more guns. Armed officers at every school. Armed teachers. Armed principals. Arms, arms, arms.

So…now we adapt? We accept mass violence via firearm in our schools? We accept that that is the new way of life in America? It isn’t even a question – YES, that is what they are asking you to do. They didn’t even use flowery language that made it sound “not so bad”. Their supporters rallied behind them as if it wasn’t ludicrous. Talk about a mob mentality. And remember – these people are ARMED.

It will take an unarmed army of people with enough courage and “wisdom to know the difference” to push back. We will NOT accept such violence as “just the way it is”. This goes back to what I’ve said about God in all of this. Does he ask us to adapt to unacceptable things or does he ask us to be voices of reason and agents of change? If you have a hard time answering that, you ought to stop reading now and go polish your guns. Or pick up your Bible and re-read it. Whichever.

It is time to start asking ourselves the hard questions. Do we accept how things are now? If not, how do we move forward and change? It has been said over and over that this issue is not easy. The solution isn’t simple. Let’s not let that stop us from creating a NEW status quo. One that we feel ok about when we go to sleep at night.

“These tragedies must end, and to end them we must change.”

Using this lens, what issues in your life need to be accepted and adapted to and what issues do you need the courage to change? My hope is that we all might find within ourselves the wisdom to know the difference.

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In light of recent events … some thoughts.

I’ve become a bit of a wallflower when it comes to speaking out online about current events. Maybe you wouldn’t interpret my behavior that way, but if you put me on a continuum of Facebook jaw flapping, I think I’d be somewhere in the bottom half. A couple of years ago, I dug myself a hole that was pretty hard to crawl out of in regards to a particular hot topic. I’ve learned a lot since then and one of the most important things is when to keep my mouth shut. It’s helped me remain friendly with people who don’t share my opinions and I really value that. Anyways, this has all turned me into a bit of a watcher.

This past week, I’ve watched Facebook ignite in debate. Gun control. Mental health. God in schools. It’s a giant jumble of arguments falling all over the spectrum. I feel like I’m ok to lay out my thoughts on my own blog where people have the choice to read or not to read as it doesn’t show up in anyone’s newsfeed.

1) Gun Control:

Many of my friends are all up in arms (heh) thinking gun control equals eliminating guns. If you want to keep guns for self defense or hunting so be it. But does anyone really need an assault rifle handy just in case there is an intruder? I am too tired at the moment to go hunt down the statistics but you are more likely to accidentally injure or kill yourself with a gun than you are to need to defend yourself in your own home. Gun control means tighter restrictions, longer waiting periods, and stronger laws in general. No, this will NOT eliminate all violent crimes committed with guns. If we cut death by gun down by half, a quarter, heck one tenth, isn’t that worth it? In Australia, stronger gun laws were put into place in 1996. Their government bought back 650,000 guns and put into place tighter restrictions on guns overall. The 18 years prior to 1996 saw 13 mass shootings and they’ve not had one single mass shooting since 1996. Moreover, their murder rate (committed by firearm) has dropped 40% and their firearm suicide rate has dropped by half (source). No, gun control may not be the ONLY answer to the mass shooting problem but tell me this – could you look into the face of a parent who just lost their 1st grader to this violence and tell them that it isn’t even worth TRYING to reform?

2) Mental Health:

Fortunately, the mental health policy talk on Facebook is much less polarized. The general consensus is that the issue seems complicated and insurmountable. There is nothing to do but to slowly chip away at the issue and try to make some headway. I have strange feelings when it comes to the perpetrators in these violent crimes. Sometimes I get the feeling that the person committing the crimes is truly nuts (Aurora?). However, sometimes I have the strong feeling that, while they have committed a heinous and unspeakable evil, they have been failed by society along the way. We all know the typical description of a lone gunman who commits this type of crime. A loner. Smart. Quiet. Anti-social. While watching the Today show this morning, I saw an interview with a man who wrote a book profiling the shooters in these types of cases. He said that the men that commit mass murder/suicides are severely depressed. Yes, I know, that is obvious. Bear with me. He said they often do this type of thing because they feel completely isolated and alone. Let’s say, hypothetically, that the young man who did this awful thing was severely depressed (and mentally ill in other ways) and saw that, in this world, he was a hopeless person that only his mother could love. An interview with one of his classmates basically stated that he kept to himself and everyone left him alone (read: ignored him). Imagine now that he lived with this stigma and reinforced negative image of himself for years on end. I believe that we have a responsibility as part of the human race not to let anyone get that far. I’m not saying we all need to become best friends with someone who is nothing like us and doesn’t want anything to do with us. But it isn’t hard for a student to do kind things for another student. Make a kind comment that doesn’t put pressure on someone to verbally respond. Meet somewhere where they are at, in the way that they need, and let them know they are recognized as a valuable human being. This is where someone says, “That scum didn’t recognize the lives of those innocent victims as valuable.” Valid point EXCEPT that it is rather cyclical. We treat others as subhuman, they become subhuman, they treat others as subhuman. Hate breeds more hate.

3) God:

I would really like to just direct you to THIS if you want to read an incredibly poignant, beautiful piece about God in this situation (and how he is in it whether we invite him in or not – and also how Mike Huckabee is a massive jackhole). I’ll add my own thoughts that will undoubtedly pale in comparison to her amazing way with words. What bothers me the absolute most is that when a tragedy like this happens it is inevitable that nine hundred of my friends will post things like “Jesus come quick!” or “God come now and rescue this wretched ball of dung” (paraphrasing). To be frank, I’m sick and tired of that lazy, self-centered brand of Christianity. Do we have NO responsibility to take action? Does this God who will swoop in and drop you on fluffy pillow clouds not ask anything of you in return? Jesus talked A LOT about what we are to do in our lives. Love others. Be a light. TAKE ACTION. My God is most honored when those who claim his name take positive steps to create a better world. If you believe better gun controls will help save lives each year, TAKE ACTION. If you believe we need to stop ostracizing those who are different and driving them to such hateful actions, DO SOMETHING. If you believe that we need to eliminate the stigma associated with receiving mental health care, DO IT. Finally, this may be hard to hear for some of you and I love you all, I really do … but “liking” an in memoriam page on Facebook and sharing their photos isn’t action. It doesn’t sufficiently honor those lives. It is good to spread stories of remembrance and people’s heroism. To really honor them, make a tangible difference. Vote. Write. Advocate.

In the end, I’m probably too idealistic. In fact, I know I am. Even if the U.S. and all those within it were better at all these things, the events of last Friday may have happened. But does it mean we continue to ignore something that is “too hard”? After all, tighter gun laws, more accessible mental health care, and an increase in basic human decency won’t prevent ALL loss of life so it isn’t worth working at, right?

The Real World

I’d like to thank someone for once saying something condescending to me which has made me quite introspective for several years now. They said something to the effect of, “Welcome to the real world.” This was right after I’d gotten married and was “thrust into real life” as they say. This wasn’t spoken as a warm reception into adult life and marriage. Because of the circumstances of the conversation (and the source!) I know it was definitely condescending.

Now every time I hear that wonderful line from “that one” John Mayer song I laugh and shake my head: “Welcome to the real world, she said to me, condescendingly.” Why has this one thing that this ONE person said affected me so much? It’s a phrase used in many situations that may mean many different things. Here’s your college diploma – welcome to the real world. Congratulations on the new baby – welcome to the real world. You now have a car loan – welcome to the real world. It’s just a saying. But because I’m an annoyingly introspective person, I read into it more.

What it has done for me is cause me to constantly question what is considered “real”. One person’s real is not necessarily another person’s real. Your list of things that constitutes a real, legitimate, grown up life may not be mine. If everyone simply accepted this as a universal truth things would be great. However, as humans it seems like we always need someone to look down on. So if your real isn’t just like my real, you are really not as good as me?

Earlier, I posted an article on Facebook that I’ve probably read ten times. Jon Foreman writes articles for Huffington Post from time to time and they’re always amazing. This one has really stuck with me though. It’s about “making a living”. A lot of times, when this whole “real world” thing is bugging me it is tied in with materialism. Jon Foreman posits that making a living should be redefined beyond merely meaning “making money”. Making a living, in his theory, should mean creating life – “ingeniously crafting the true and the beautiful out of the confines of the present tense. Remixing tomorrow out of the raw materials of today.” I 100% agree with his sentiments. It’s a long article, so if you have ADD or can’t read here’s the best part:

“I’d like to suggest that ATM receipts and mortgage payments have very little to do with living or life or making life worth living. In my personal struggle to make a living, I’ve found that true success has very little to do with income or comfort. In fact, it seems to me that inconvenience, hardship and discomfort are my best teachers.”

It’s been several years now since that person spoke those words to me over the phone. The most amazing and beautiful thing I can take from this weird, introspective journey is that I am a vastly different person than I was that day. From everything I’ve seen over the past 4 years, that person is exactly the same. I’ve grown (literally and figuratively), I’ve admitted I was wrong at least a million and one times, I’ve gotten farther away and closer to God all at once, I’ve examined and re-examined my life, I’ve loved, I’ve hated (unfortunately), I’ve realized money and things will never fill me up while still coveting money and things (dumb!), and I’ve continually evolved.

So, the “real world” is an abstract thought that is incredibly different for a world full of incredibly different people. I think I can let my faithful friend John (Mayer, not Foreman) close this one out with his wise words:

“I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world – just a lie you’ve got to rise above.”

Baby Announcement: Landry Alexander 7.26.12

Hello all! I’m going to try and get a blog post knocked out while our little dude sleeps. (fun note: I started this 4 days ago and now I’m resuming). We finally had our son, Landry Alexander Williamson, a week late on July 26th, 2012 @ 1:33 am. He was 7lbs 15oz and 20″ long. Here’s a brief summary of how it all went down (no gory details, don’t worry):

Our doctor suggested we only go one week overdue and then at that point he would induce me. So as we got closer and no baby was showing up, we scheduled for me to be induced on Wednesday the 25th. I actually went into early labor on Tuesday night but it wasn’t anything too significant. So we showed up Wednesday night to Wesley to get the party started. I was SO LUCKY to have my friend Kellie come in to be my nurse. She is simply amazing. It seemed like things were progressing along a little so they started the medicine that gets labor going. Within 30 minutes or so, however, we started having issues. Each time I’d have a strong contraction, Landry’s heart rate would drop. Long story short, they tried several things to get that to stop but nothing was working. The possibility of a c-section was getting more and more likely so I went ahead and got an epidural so that I would be pretty much ready for the procedure. For the record, getting an epidural isn’t really painful….I’d do it again ;). The issue with Landry’s heart rate was persistent so the doctors were consulted with and pretty much everyone suggested that I go ahead and deliver by c-section. So we got all prepped, Andy got operating room ready, they wheeled me down, and anesthesiology did some more work to get me ready. I won’t go into detail with the procedure except to say it was pretty scary being awake and knowing what they were going to do to get the baby out. Andy watched the doctor pull him out and said it was CRAZY. The words “big baby!!” kept being thrown around and I was thinking “um…HOW BIG?”. When I heard the weight I didn’t think that seemed so big :). I got to hold him for a minute while the doctors finished up. It was definitely surreal. I have to give props to Andy for being an all star by keeping me calm and reassuring me constantly. It was pretty awesome. Also, my nurse anesthetist Jennifer (right??) was really amazing too. So reassuring and sweet!! (post cont’d after a few photos…..)

Landry on the scale showing the world his pipes.

Me holding my son for the first time. Crazy!

Andy being a proud dad 🙂

Landry’s first Instagram photo taken by Uncle Justin

So that was the story of Landry’s birth :). Because of the circumstances we had to stay in the hospital longer but I was determined to get my butt up and out of bed ASAP. I got up out of bed that afternoon and tried to stay as mobile as possible. The worst thing about having a baby that way is not being able to move around very well to take care of said baby!! Not to brag, but all my nurses and doctors were very impressed with how quickly and easily I got up and moving. I think I should thank my trainer at the Y for helping me get in “pre-baby” shape because that probably helped a bit. Anyways, Andy and I powered through a couple days at the hospital before being sent home a day early (hallelujah!!). Everything they say about all the hormones and your first couple days home are true…it is a frustratingly teary time :). Time creeps by and you drive yourself crazy worrying about every little thing. But it slowly gets better and before you know it you are nicely settled in and much more relaxed! Another “thank you” to Andy on that note for being patient, understanding, and very caring when I was almost intolerable.

Being a mom is totally cool. My mom was right that at first you think “WHAT ON EARTH DID I DO???” but that goes away (haha) and it is definitely rewarding. I am proud to say I have read over 150 pages in a fiction novel (my favorite pre-baby pastime) and have stayed up to date on the KStew/R-Patz scandal so the little guy hasn’t totally changed me. Andy is an amazing dad and I love listening to him talk to Landry about all sorts of things. My favorite moments so far have been watching Andy play guitar for Landry and sitting in our glider playing my favorite music and singing along while Landry hangs out. He’s going to be the next John Mayer on guitar. Just you wait. To all my friends who are currently pregnant and approaching this experience – it is great – it is also really hard and at times scary but those feelings pass. Having people tell me that is the only thing that got me through the first 4 or 5 days!!

Thank you to our parents, Nurse Kellie (!!), all the staff at Wesley, my sister in laws for all the various support (laundry, dishes, essential baby supplies, advice, and the moral support!), Misty and Jerry for being Landry’s godparents, my 3 older brothers for not killing me before I got to have a child, all the great-grandparents who have already snuggled Landry, Kristy J. and Ginger for letting me bug you at all times with baby questions and making me feel normal(ish), our friends for all the nice comments and congratulations, everyone who has brought us food!, and all the people I’ve forgotten. Small side note of thanks to my totally amazing mom and dad for encouraging me and giving me a great example to parent by!

An “outtake” from Landry’s first photo shoot with Justin…this is just an iPhone photo.

Sunday morning hanging out with mom and dad.

If you wondered where the dark hair came from, that’s a baby photo of me on the right…I had dark hair when I was born.

Andy & L in the hospital

Not the best picture of Landry 😉

One of our first nights at home

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Baby W Update: 38 Weeks

We’re coming in to the home stretch! Only a little longer and Andy and I will have a son. Totally crazy! Anyways, things are going well. Still getting good reports from the doctor and all that. Andy will be back in town from his LAST camp of the summer on Wednesday (the 4th of July). I’m anxious for him to get back…that way he is just here if I end up going into labor.

Here are some photo updates (they’re thumbnails so you can click them to view them larger…if you didn’t know :)). Here are the explanations:

#1 – The cake from my first shower that my mom & grandma threw me. It was perfect so thank you to them! (the cake is a replica of the invitations that my cousin Meghann made!)

#2 – Me at said shower.

#3 – Andy applying the wall decals we got for the nursery. He did an amazing job.

#4 – The nursery mostly done.

#5 – #8 – Some maternity photos Justin did for us – he did an AMAZING job. But we all know he’s the best ;). Yes, we did the cheesy hand heart photo – do you know how hard it is to come up with maternity poses??!!

#9 – Our church threw us a phenomenal shower as well – this is a photo of the guys playing a hysterical game.

Baby W Update – 33 Weeks

We are now just 7 weeks out from meeting our son! That’s a relatively terrifying but exciting thought. Pretty soon, Andy will be heading out for the 3 different summer camps he’s leading at this year. We’ll have a little time in between the 2nd and 3rd but I’ll be on my own for a bit. I never mind that, though, because it means Andy’s is doing what he loves to do.

Today we had another doctor’s appointment. Dr. K said everything is still looking good…no swelling or high blood pressure or anything. Still measuring about right for my due date. I did, however, lose a couple pounds which is strange. Last time I had gained the “perfect” 2 week amount. But this time not so much. In that time I even had my birthday (giant chocolate cake picture to follow), our cooking classes at the store (LOTS OF FOOD), and plenty of other excuses to eat cake, homemade ice cream, etc. In other words, I wasn’t skimping on food. So I’ve been told to “eat a little more”. I think I’ll eat a little more of the healthy stuff though…….instead of cake :).

We’re slowly but surely getting our house ready for our little guy and an increase in out of town house guests. I’ve been wanting to get some of this stuff done for a while so I’m glad for the excuse! Hopefully in the next couple weeks I’ll have some nursery pictures to post. For now, here are some other pictures:

This is me on Memorial Day (technically 32.5 weeks):

Here is my Great Wall of Chocolate from PF Changs, also known as birthday diet food:

And here’s one of my favorite pictures of Andy since the only recent one I have of him on my phone is too goofy to post:

Ok, Andy came home and said I could post this picture haha. We had fun going through all the stuff our friends Tom & Kristy sent us!:

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