Sunday, September 11, 2011

Being Different

After the past couple days posts and the comments I received, and with the addition of today's sad anniversary of September 11th, I have done a lot of reflecting about who I am, who we are as a culture, and what all of that means.

Being different in this world is never easy.  Of course, in one way or another, we are ALL different but many of us try to conform to fit the norm for fear of attack or being left out.  Our family is different.  We look different, we have different values, more often than not we are judged (often quite harshly) for our decisions.  

One thing we are though, is true to ourselves.  That is also not easy.

But on this Sunday, September 11th, as we ponder how America reacted to the tragedy that befell us, I wish that our nation would have fallen outside the norm.  Actually, I wish we had been true to our former selves, a country who weighed military action far more carefully than we seem to do these days.  What would our lives have looked like these past ten years had we responded as Norway did recently?  If we had met hatred with peace?  If we had not immediately jumped to retaliation and revenge?  How many lives would have been saved?  And I am not talking solely about American lives.  God doesn't view American lives as worth more than Iraqi or Afghan lives...only we do.

During Sunday School today, I was teaching and the topic was about "Why do we go to church?".  We came up with many wonderful reasons why we attend church, ranging from being part of a community of like minded souls, to being reminded that God loves us.  Matthew showed incredible insight when he added one I hadn't thought about, saying "I think going to church helps us to become more self-aware."  Twelve years old, and already he understands something many adults never do, an understanding that intentional living requires self-awareness, and a willingness to confront that which we may not always want to see in ourselves.

Our family's vehicles each have stickers on them with the LaJoy family theme, "Love Wins".  In order for love to win, it doesn't just "happen".  It takes a desire to walk through this world with intentional deliberateness, with self-awareness.  It takes sticking up for those who can not speak for themselves, for the voiceless orphans of the world, for the Hispanic child who can not read, for the gay man who simply wants to be accepted, for the drug or alcohol addict who needs another chance.  It takes putting love into action, for mere words alone can not create change in the world.

Without action, love loses.

Our family is different in the very obvious ways...we don't "match", we have kids virtually the same ages, we decided to go against the mainstream and homeschool for the salvation of our kids' minds, hearts and souls.  We are different in many other ways, some much more subtle and less talked about.  We volunteer to work with kids who need a caring adult, we embrace the supposed unlovable, we give the addict another chance, and another chance, and another chance. We are different in that we really, really, really love being a part of our family, being a member of Team LaJoy.  We don't shrug our shoulders and say "Yea, my family's OK I guess.", we recognize what a special unique blessing it is to be part of something bigger than we are when all alone.  We are each grateful to have been "saved" in a way that only an orphan or infertile couple can feel.  We love those in our lives as completely as possible, we love our friends unabashedly and are willing to put our heart and our backs where our mouth is.  Things don't matter to us much, people do.

When someone insinuates that the love we share is somehow twisted, it hurts my heart...not for us, but for them.  How unloved must someone feel to have those sort of thoughts?  And yet, so many in our world today walk around completely, utterly alone.  

Our society, our world, is broken.  It is turned upside down and shaken so hard that like fragile pieces of glass from a shattered mirror, we see things in altered form.  We are so used to seeing families who rarely speak to one another other than the rare occasion when the ear buds are taken out, that a family who laughs and plays together seems somehow "wrong".  We are so accustomed to watching kids perform at low levels at school, that we attack those who point out the obvious, that all the little Johnny's...and Jose's...and Jamal's...can't read and we as a nation need to fix that somehow.  We are so comfortable with the "They'll get theirs!" attitude, that waging war and being responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqis somehow seems like adequate compensation for our 3,000 lives lost, as if even that 97,000 body count difference will ever bring those loved ones back to life.  We are so filled with the idea that vengeance is ours to exact, that we don't find it at all disconcerting that a presidential candidate would state that he's never struggled with the enforcement of the death penalty in his state...this despite the fact that in his state alone 12 innocent persons on death row have been exonerated.

Our world needs a little self-awareness.  Our world needs active love so that Love can Win.  Our world needs voices to speak for the voiceless, regardless of the consequences.  Our world needs people to be different.

So if you read our blog and you find us to be "different", if you read and think our ideas are outdated, wrongheaded, or flat out stupid, I guess I'll have to take that as a sign that we are being true to ourselves.  Those who are true to themselves never get away unscathed.  Notice I do not say we are "right" and any dissenter would be "wrong".  We are just different.  It is far, far easier to reach for this world and its values, it is far more challenging to walk through this world intentionally, deliberately, and with self-awareness, being different and not conforming.  That self-awareness piece can be so painful, for it means you have to actually see the wrongs you do...and repair on them.  You have to see the wrongs of the world...and not ignore them.

By placing our family "out there" for the world to get to know on this blog, it is a big, big risk.  I have taken some hard body blows over the years, and have also been called to think more deeply about things in a respectful fashion.  I leave us open for condemnation, ridicule, and judgment for merely sharing what we do and how we do it.  Why?  Why should we bother?

Because Love Wins.  And people need to know that.  It can be hard won, but it does win.  You have seen us at our most broken, and how we have healed.  You have seen us in our frustration, and seen us respond. You have seen us jump off cliffs others would never dare jump off, and seen us fly...with the occasional flop :-)  

Hopefully, you have also seen God somewhere along the way.

On this September 11th night,  I pray that together we continue to grow as we share our lives here.  I pray that we can hear our differences and be drawn into new ways of seeing and being.  I pray that you and I, my Constant Readers, are willing to tackle the hard things together...agreeing to disagree when necessary yet loving one another virtually anyway as we are called to do.

For together, even here, we will be different and we will show that Love Wins.

He's different...

He's different...

She's different...

She's different...

He's different...

We're all different!


Linda said...

Cindy -- Please keep on being different and putting your wise and insightful views and opinions out there. Yours is a voice that needs to be heard.

Anonymous said...

Love wins when we move beyond emotion to act, when we use the emotion of love that we feel to consider the way we demonstrate that feeling of love. Love wins when a Cindy, a Dominick, a Matthew become self-aware (at least part of the time), thoughtful, and intentional about how they manifest love.

That is what you model for each of us in each blog. That is what you abundantly share with those of us who are fortunate enough to live near you. You choose each day to live love intentionally and to live love openly. Love wins because there is a you, because there are thousands, millions of you, and because you and others call us to moments of thought-full love.

Once again, thank you,

Anonymous said...

I am in the midst of reading a book about Buddhism--specifically the Paramitas (Perfections of the Heart). I've been struck by how many things in your blog echo what I've been reading. Don't mean to compare you to the Buddha, but I think you are a teacher of the best sort (and I don't mean just for academics). Your blog touches me and helps ground me. Thank you.

(And btw, I think you might enjoy the book, "Pay Attention, for Goodness' Sake" by Sylvia Boorstein.)

Shannon said...

Cindy - You guys are quirkily and beautifully different! What a hideous and boring world it would be if we were all the same and all agreed on everything. While you and I share many similarities, we are night and day different on many levels. Still, I believe, we share a very special friendship. I respect you and your beliefs and I think you respect mine. I, for one, send my kids to public school and believe whole-heartedly that it is the best thing for our family and for our kids' unique situations. I am in no way, shape or form interested in or qualified to homeschool them. I have seen firsthand homeschooling gone terribly ary and I have seem some public school systems totally fail their children. Whatever families choose, the responsibility lies with the parents. I read your very passionate homeschooling post and while you have very strong opinions on the subject, I really didn't find myself feeling attacked or belittled in any way for my choices. I'm not sure where "anonymous" was coming from, especially with regard to the adoption and incest comment - that was just plain ignorant. Schooling aside, differences should be celebrated no matter what they are. I am so proud to have a five year old who is already qualified and confident enough to "educate" older kids and even adults about the differences in culture within our family as well as the challenges that his little sister faces. We live in a society where blending in is celebrated and we should be teaching our children to stand up and stand out! So, party on LaJoys - I hope you continue your goofy, silly ways. You are a family built on love and that is something many families unfortunately are not.

My Girls R Angels said...

Thank you, Cindy! Your post is beautifully written and I so enjoyed reading it!

Karon said...

As always I love your insite and perspective. You are doing a beautiful job of seeing what your kids need and you are all willing to put in the hard work to reach your greatest potential for this world. I will say this as a parent and a public school teacher, this right there is the key to sucsses. Parents have to truly care about their kids sucsses for it to happen. I love what I do, and I remember every day what an honor it is for me to get to teach my students. Also, I have been to meetings where I completely understand why the larger system gets a bad name. I stay in the field I continue to be a noisy participant because failure is not an option, and most kids and families are not as lucky as yours. Also, I am very fortunate that both of my special needs boys have amazing teachers who are better trained at providing my children with the therapies they need. Ultimately my wish is that everyone finds their "teacher" who loves them and belives in their full potential. Thank goodness you all found each other to learn from. May you enjoy the differences you make in each others lives and the world.