Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The First Breath After Drowning


Disclaimer…not for the faint of heart.  I just started writing.  My heart is heavy and full all at the same time.  I hope this does not come across as insensitive.  Anyone who knows me knows that my greatest strength and weakness is sensitivity.  I feel other’s pain as deeply as possible without living it...blessing and a curse.  So this may bring tears, but I hope the end brings relief like…
 

The First Breath After  Drowning
I’ve never drowned
I’ve never lost someone I love to the water

But I know some who have
And I’ve seen ones who have

And I’ve spent the last few days seeing
And feeling the weight of those who have

And I ache inside for them
I hold my breath as they fight for theirs
I sigh with relief when they take one

I fill with pride for my fellow men and women
 
Who braved the treacherous waters
To lessen the drowning
To give more seconds, or minutes, or days, or hours, or years

To those they pull from the water

I watch in heartbreaking disbelief

A whole city, several cities, a region

Slip into cold muddy water

Hours and years spent building houses

And minutes and hours and days and years

Lived in homes that will never be the same

Memories washed away in the current

Photos, treasures, collections, family keepsakes

…Things

Under inches and feet of RAINDROPS

And to those who swam to shores that were once highways

Or drifted to dry land at the water’s edge

Or lifted into helicopters in baskets

Or dragged into flat-bottom boats

Or floated on refrigerators and mattresses

Or clung to stop signs and telephone poles

The lucky ones whose heavy hearts didn’t sink them

They may never feel dried of the floodwaters again

But they have another chance to take another breath

To live another life

A better life

To find more joy because of the pain they will carry

To share the courage and strength that was shared with them

With others during their storms

I pray that the water on their souls that may never dry

Only brings them a greater purpose

A reason to fight harder than the current

A reason to love deeper than the floodwaters

A reason to flow as peacefully as the receding tide

A reason to speak words that were once muffled

A reason to swim the rocky waters



Not all were gifted with the dramatic rescue

The crowd of those left behind were blessed with something

FAR GREATER

Their first breath after drowning was heavenly

It was perfection

And will be forevermore

The muddy waters were instantly dried

They were met with instant warmth from the cold

Infinite joy abounded

Their party wasn’t a heavyhearted celebration

But a never-ending fiesta

They weren’t yanked ashore by rescuers

But ushered in by a shepherd

Who led them to STILL WATERS

Refreshing to their soul

Their first warm meal

Was a banquet

They needed no blanket to warm cold bones

They were wrapped in clouds of grace

And arms of love

And joy abounding

And waves of mercy

And waves of grace

Their first breath after drowning

Was weightless!

What a blessing that will be.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Worth Every Penny



I am not a shoe person and could really care less about this finished product but this is a perfect example of why handmade items cost so much more than what you see in stores. Imagine spending all that time and effort and passion and thought then selling these shoes for $40 or $80 or even $100? Maybe if people knew what went in to every handmade product they wouldn't complain or walk walk away from something they love. Maybe they would smile and say thank you and that it was worth one day of work.

Think about how much you are willing to pay for a mass-produced dress you can't live without, and compare it to what is being asked of you by the crafter. Next time you even consider buying a piece of art, handmade jewelry, customized clothes, custom furniture, blanket, quilt, or hand-stuffed teddy bear, just do it! Don't sit and wonder if it is worth the cost. It is! Even if you have to save up for a little while, do it. It was made lovingly with YOU IN MIND, even if it wasn't a custom order. Every letter, brushstroke, bead, carve, loop, and stitch took time the crafter, designer, creator, crocheter, or seamstress could have spent doing anything else. Spend your hard-earned dollars proudly knowing not only what a blessing you are being to that person's family and or business, but that you are showing you appreciate the creativity, time, and heart that went in to what you are walking home with.

I will think of this video the next time I question if the price I am asking is too much. I will ask whether I am valuing my work and time high enough. I will remember the hugs and thank yous and oohs and ahhs every time someone rolls their eyes and turns up their nose when I tell them the price of something I have made. I will do my very best to never devalue my work in worry that someone will turn up their nose at what I am asking. Just know when we give you a price quote, we understand the hard-work that you put in to earning the money you are giving us. We realize it may be stretching your budget, or you may have to save up for a while. But we also know that if you are willing to hand over your hard-earned dollar for something we make, you love what you are getting in exchange. It means so much when someone appreciates the passion we put into each product. All this to say, understand we aren't trying to rob you or be greedy or thoughtlessly throw out a number. And thank you from the bottom of our hearts those of you who know exactly why you are spending what you are. It means the world when someone says in one way or another, "this is worth every penny."

If I tag you in this post it is because you either don't know how to express this to your customers, or you have been one of those customers who have seen this in me. So keep up the good work, crafters, and thank you valued customers.
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE SHARE!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why I Don't Pray Out Loud

Almost 4 years ago, I joined what my church calls a small group.  It was smallish then.  It started as a small house party at one of the couples' houses on the lake.  It was a nice little cookout with burgers and dogs.  I was feeling all nervous to be around a lot of adults I had never met.  I was a first-time mom going on little sleep, toting a two-week-old newborn around.  I sat quietly and took it all in because I really do feel uncomfortable around new people, especially when they aren't little people.  But God knew I needed an icebreaker so he let said newborn have explosive diarrhea through his clothes and all down my lap.  The host of the groupstart quickly jumped up and got me fresh clothes and changed his diaper.  So began my journey with the "Soddy Daisy Small Group."   

Many of the couples that were at that cookout are still part of our group that meets almost every Wednesday in one of the families' homes.  And month-by-month, more families join in on the fun.  There were months things just "didn't feel right" for one reason or another.  Sometimes spending our Wednesdays without our boys when we had a million other things to do seemed a little overwhelming.  Sometimes conviction happened and we got our feelings hurt.  Sometimes we just felt out of place.  Then, somewhere along the way, I realized I needed these people.  A turning-point in my feelings about this group was the day my second son was put in the NICU and the group wrapped their arms and their resources and their prayers around him and our family.  The feeling that these people were our family was overwhelming.  It opened my eyes to the fact that these people were put in my life for a reason, each bringing something into my life that was missing. 

Together we have laughed (probably more laughing than anything else), we have cried (probably second more than anything else), we have eaten (just as much), we have prayed, and we have lived.  We have lived a lot of life alongside each other, the good, the bad, the ugly, the downright heartbreaking, and the fantastic!

But there are times like tonight that I realize that I need these people...that we need each-other.  I don't pray out loud because I don't have much to say, but when I do, I can't seem to get the words from my heart to my mouth.  But oftentimes, they can make their way to my paper.



Tonight, there was a church-wide worship service.  That means that our church is packed to the brim with people and packed to the brim with children.  Tonight, my husband and I helped corral the children.  Tonight, while most of the congregation was singing "No Other Name," we were watching Bob the Tomato explain that he was "stuck between Iraq and a hard place," and Larry the Cucumber sing about not wanting to use a sippy-cup.  Then we were coloring doorknob hanger that said "Believe in miracles and trust in Jesus."  Parents were beginning to pick up these Papa John's pizza-filled little bundles of joy.  Then one of my dear friends from my small group rounded the corner for a hug.  I could tell she was holding back tears.  After years of occasional tears, you begin to learn what that pre-cry face looks like.  So there was a hug followed by a phone call.  I'm not a big phone person, but I felt like calling her anyways.  I am glad I called because I have felt EXACTLY how she is feeling tonight when another woman in my small group said to me what I said to her tonight.

Paraphrased phone convo:
I feel like such a terrible person.  I give my best to my students and my son, my husband gets what I have left, and God gets my scraps.  Tonight during the prayer I heard God saying he was disgusted by my heart lately.  I am selfish.  I am tired.  My husband is a saint.  He deserves better.  But I am so tired.

Paraphrased answer...worded much better than the phone convo for the same reason I don't pray out loud:
That is NOT the voice of God.  That is the voice trying to convince you it is God and that you are not enough.  God doesn't see all that you think is wrong with you.  God smiles on you because you are a rockstar teacher, rockstar mom, rockstar friend, rockstar wife, and rockstar daughter-of-God...not at all in that order.  He created you because the world needs a YOU and my family and I need a YOU and your family needs a YOU.  Even at your worst, you radiate Christ.  God knows you are tired.  He knows you love your son even when you growl at him because you just want sleep.  He knows you adore your husband (and so does everyone who knows you).  So just keep being awesome.  Fill those journals with honest prayers and uplifting verses...and I will do my best to take my own advice.  Jam to worship music on the way to school (or don't...you don't have to).  Love on your boys with all the love you have to give, but don't be so hard on yourself.  Communicate.  Unfortunately we didn't marry mind-readers.  That would get boring anyways.  Smile.  And when you can't smile, cry.  Have fun.  Don't be so hard on yourself.  Let him cry it out sometimes.  But not always.  Serve where you can.  Let those who love you serve you when they can.  And as that crazy-wonderful husband of mine likes to say: "Keep DOING YOU!  God's got you, girl!"

Her tears tonight led me to share the words other people have shared with me at times when I needed them.  I hope she's not the only one needing to hear these words passed along.  Share them with someone who needs to be reminded that they rock...who needs to remember how God sees them...who needs to look past their shortcomings and give themselves a break...someone who needs to know that God is smiling at their mess.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Little Faces

What do you do when a school bus full of little children wraps around a tree?
What do you say to the kids who show up in your class in the morning?
They may not know, those kids were on the other side of the city
But maybe they know.

What do you do when you see the face of the boy who walked away?
Who is only wearing one shoe
Knowing his pain is just as real if not more
Than those who lie in the hospital
I can't hug him and tell him his pain matters too
That he is brave
And strong
But I want to

What do you do when a former student
Took selfies with his cousin yesterday
Then finds out today
Those pictures were happy goodbyes



What do you do when you have your own class of little kids just like those
Waiting in your class tomorrow
To learn how to read or multiply or divide or be nice to their friends
And all you want to do is cry
And hug them
And pile on the pillows on your reading rug
And read Dr. Seuss and Shell Silverstein
Because who doesn't smile when they read that silliness?

What do you say when you want to say a million things
But you can't find your voice?
How do you hold it together when you see those little faces?
Knowing there are teachers just like you just a school zone away
Who will have too many little faces missing in the morning

The little faces I look at tomorrow will look just like the faces I saw today
They will be happy and carefree and silly and distracted by dust bunnies
And talking when I am talking
And rubbing their hands all over the walls walking down the hall
Even though I tell them every day to keep their hands off the wall
And making noises during testing just to drive me crazy
And tilting their chair back on the back legs
Even though I told them they will fall
And changing the background on their laptops
When they should be reading
And not capitalizing their sentences
And not putting spaces between their words
And not using the math strategies that I have taught them 100 times
And poking the friend beside them who is trying to focus
And looking at each other
And picking their nose
And not using their manners
And not trying their best

And at least for tomorrow, I am going to let these things slide

Because in the end, none of that really matters
If they don't pay attention to my lesson, it's not the end of the world
The walls will be okay if a few more kids wipe their dirty hands all over them
And a little bird noises to break the silence is better than no noises at all
And they can get ice from the nurse if they fall out of their chair
And if a picture of their favorite video game character on the screensaver
Really makes them that happy, then so be it
And the words they have to say still say the same thing
Without a capital letter
And maybe no one else can read what they write if they don't put spaces between their words
But I can read them, and tomorrow, that is enough
And I'm not the best at math either, and I've done alright for myself
And poking fun is fun, so hey, why not
And tomorrow, I will be looking harder at them, so they are welcome to look at each other
And boogers are just boogers, that's why God made Germ-X
And eventually they will have to learn their manners
And I can make them try their best next week

Tomorrow my only goal is that I leave knowing I loved them as hard as I could
That at least one person poured into their life
Tomorrow the only thing I want to teach them
Is that one person cares

Their teacher thinks they are awesome even if they are weird
And smart even though they are a work in progress
And funny even if none of their jokes have punch lines
And adorable even if I know they pick their nose
And talented even if they can't carry a tune
And loved even though that is not my job

Because I do

And if any of those faces I see every day isn't there
That face will be missed


Tomorrow teaching will be on the backburner
I can teach them all of those other things next week
Tomorrow I will teach them they are loved.


Tonight I will pray for the little faces who will be scared of all they saw today, the one who has carried little faces to school every day, the families who are missing little faces, the parents who are blessed to drop little faces off at school in the morning but will do so with a heavy heart, the little faces who will be missing their friends' faces tomorrow, the teachers who will miss little faces tomorrow, for everyone whose heart is heavy for little faces tonight.

Little faces are my favorite.

***I wrote this last night when I didn't know how to feel or what to say or what to expect.  But today I watched a whole school in Chattanooga do just what I didn't think I could do.  We all looked at our kids through whole new eyes.  We all loved them in the best ways we knew how.  We all did our best to find the words.  We hugged as many as would let us.  We thanked our bus drivers for the important task that they do each morning of  bringing a large group of kiddos to a place where they can learn as much as we can teach them.  We tried to hold it together but forgave ourselves when we couldn't.  Today we were better teachers than we were yesterday.  I didn't want to get out of bed this morning.  But I am so blessed to have walked into a place full of people with hearts as heavy as mine, just as determined to love them the best way we know how.  I am grateful for every hug, tear, look of understanding, short pep talk, and vent session I was blessed with today.  I wish I had more words.  All I have left are wordless prayers.

Friday, July 8, 2016

An Open Letter to the Dallas (insert your city) Law Enforcement

Dear officer/firefighter/first responder/etc.,
Your work, though often unnoticed, under-acknowledged, and/or ignored, is appreciated and respected. Sadly, it takes days like this for us to remember to give credit and thanks where it is due. So for starters, THANK YOU.  I want to remind you that the mission you took hold of when choosing your profession is still worthy and needed.  Unfortunately, the image of what your uniform stands for has been tainted by the ones who choose to misuse the power entrusted to them. However, wear it just as proudly. Continue your mission to maintain peace and justice as you first set out to do. Keep performing your duties with peace and compassion when at all possible, and strength and resolve when necessary, and humility and regret if ever it is due. In doing so, you have the ability to transform the culture of unrest, anger, division, and hate.
I have seen the faces of lives lost too soon, but you have seen more. I have hurt for those who had to face it but you had to face it while still performing duties required of you. You have felt fear, but felt the urge to protect those you serve stronger. You have moved forward where others have cowered. You have stood your ground where others have run. You have put on that uniform every day knowing it could be the last day you do so. All for me, and others far less grateful...even others who hate you and all you stand for.
To you I say keep standing.

Families of law enforcers,
You deserve our respect, and appreciation, and gratitude. I hurt for you tonight as I see videos that went live on social media of the final moments of officers lives on the front lines...grainy videos broadcast nationwide. Silluoettes with no faces of what can be assumed to be any officer on duty. I am sure you were wondering if it was them. Standoffs and negtiations continue in a parking garage...an active shooting situation...and you wonder if they were one of the chosen negotiators. You battle being torn between pride of the part that they play and wishing this once they decided to be selfish.
All I can say is be proud.
They are a hero whether it is just another day on the job, or their last day on the job.
Thank you for sharing your loved one with us.
To you I say, keep sharing.

Black officers,
I hate that color is part of the conversation, but it is. If everyone else is talking about it, I guess I should join the discussion. I am from a fairly large, fairly diverse city outside of Atlanta. Yes, I am white, so my thoughts on the matter may not carry much weight, but I will share them nonetheless. I didn't really notice a racial divide until college when I moved from a fairly diverse inclusive city to a less-diverse somewhat divided city. I moved to a city where people noticed and made not-so-discreet faces at the sight of me, a skinny white runner girl walking to class with one of my best friends, a definitely not-so-skinny tall black football player. I saw a divide and it made me sick to my stomach. Athletes at my school seemed to be the only ones that didn't segregate themselves in the cafeteria. The sight of a visibly voluntarily segregated lunchroom baffled me. I thought those days were over in my history textbooks. Silly me. Then my whole worldview was shaken when I started teaching high school in a rural community in the south and the N word was still tossed around like it was nothing. My freshman had no true knowledge of Nazi's, concentration camps, the civil rights movement. When the KKK came up in our studies, a student told me his grandfather was in that club. He had no clue what that meant. In those same classes, I had students that missed 2 weeks of classes because there were literal gang wars going on in their neighborhoods and they were scared to walk out their front door. All of this to say, I once was blind to the racial divide and hate and inequality, but now I see. In high school I saw what it could be and now I see just how bad it is.
And I see just how huge of a task you have ahead of you, and how significant your role is in our culture. Others of your race, and I assume you as well, are beaten and enraged at the injustice and brutality that has been given in far too many cases.  But you standing in the place you are in can be a symbol of strength and commitment to unity. You can speak the message that as a whole, law enforcement officials are there to protect peace and not to persecute and punish.
You are brave not just because you are in your profession, but also that you are in it despite the many that feel doing so is an act of abandonment.
To you I say, stand firm.

Those who feel oppressed,
You are justified in your feelings.  History and current events continue to speak a message of inequality and racism. Terrible crimes have been commited by those whose job it is to prevent crimes. Some men and women in uniform with a badge and a gun have done terrible things and many have gotten away with it and it isn't fair. And the inequalities and injustices don't swing in your favor. But something's got to give. Obviously peaceful protests aren't doing the trick. And I don't know the answer to flip the script. But violence in defense of violence doesn't make sense either. Let's come up with something different. Any ideas?
To you I say, I am sorry for those who look like me who have done terrible things and never made it right. Tell me how I can help.

Dallas Police Department and DASH,
I am in McKinney visiting family this week then watched all this unfold on the local news. My heart is aching for you and I have no words. All I can do is pray for you.  I know you are hurting for all those you have lost. But don't give up the fight.  Fight back for those for gave their all fighting.
To you I say, keep fighting.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Soaring Eagles, I Will Miss You



Dear several hundred Sequoyah students I have had the pleasure to teach the past five years,
I will miss you.  Some of you have heard and others haven't. I will be teaching at a new school next year. When some of you heard this, you thought I was leaving because I don't like you guys.  You are right. I don't.  I LOVE YOU GUYS! And going to another school is not easy.

But I want you to learn some lessons from my experience at Sequoyah...
Sometimes God puts you in a place or a job or a situation that you never would have chosen for yourself. I never thought I would be teaching high school. I went to college to be an elementary school teacher. When I graduated from college, I needed a job. I was newly married.  I had bills and rent to pay. I was in the real world now.
Sometimes you don't get to choose.  When I graduated, I only had one choice. I graduated in December, middle of the school year. And the job I got was the ONLY job available in the area. I was blessed to get it. But I can't say I was excited. I wanted to teach little kids who still liked hugs, and still liked to color, and still liked school, and didn't have cell phones yet. But instead I got you.
Sometimes God surprises you. Even though you didn't all like hugs, and we never had time to color, and you didn't like school all the time, and you used your cell phones way too much...I learned to like you. I really liked you. You made me laugh. You made me cry. You challenged me. You ticked me off. You made me proud.
Sometimes you have to embrace where you are until you get to 
where you want to be. For the first semester I was at Sequoyah, I was so bummed that I wasn't where I wanted to be that I missed the moments in front of me. I didn't notice the little victories, or the students I helped, or the memories I was making. It was wasted time. When I realized my time at Sequoyah wasn't going to be a short term thing, I decided to make the most of it. I got happier. I saw I was making a difference. I was there for a reason. This wasn't just passing time on my way to somewhere else. It was a season, an important part of my life. I needed Sequoyah and I needed all of you.
Sometimes you have to say goodbye. The teaching position I always wanted opened up and I was blessed to be offered the job. It doesn't mean I love you any less. It doesn't mean I didn't love being your teacher. It just means it's time for me to teach new students at a different school. But I'm not moving.  Keep in touch. Message me every now and then. I will still see you at the grocery store, or restaurants, or the ball fields, or the lake. And if you don't see me there, I promise I will see you at graduation. And you better be in a cap and gown if you are a senior or we will have some fighting words. Go make me proud, friends!

I will leave you with this. I wrote a letter after the first week of school last year about what it was like to be your teacher.  Keep these things in mind next year and treat your teachers accordingly.

"...I'm a little jealous of the pictures of my friends' classrooms that are super cutesy and have their students' names beautifully written and taped lovingly to their wooden desks. But most of my friends are elementary school teachers. I am pretty sure my high school students would think I was crazier than they already do if I did that. They wouldn't see it as an expression of my love for them and the excitement I have for them being in class, some of them for the fourth year in a row. This is not because they failed my class, but because I teach reading and writing to 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders. I love having them again, even the ones that drive me absolutely insane. That is because I get to see them grow as people, and as readers, and as writers. When they graduate, I feel like I played a part in it. They aren't just students I taught for a semester. They are my babies. 

I hate the first day when they walk in my room and some of them say, "Ms. Strauss, why do I have to have your class AGAIN?" And it warms my heart to hear some of them say, "stop it guys. I love Ms. Strauss, and her class isn't that bad." I'll take "not that bad" from a teenager that has been forced to take my class again when they could be in Ms. Cooper's Zumba class :) any day...

I love being a teacher, even though I forget how much I love being a teacher about 90% of the time. 

I forget because I start to drown In pile of paperwork, or my kids are ignoring me AGAIN, or they won't put their cell phones away even though I have asked them 5 times, or a kid asks to be switched to a different lunch because they "don't have any friends in first lunch" even though I know they do and I spent hours working on their schedules so I wouldn't have to take them out of their favorite class, or my student refuses to do his work because he is too tired, or her boyfriend broke up with her, or his dog died, or their parents got a divorce, or they are hungry because they haven't had anything to eat since lunch YESTERDAY at school, or they were up late taking care of their baby, or their friend OD'd, or or they had to work late last night to help their family pay the bills. 

And some of it I understand, because I was in high school like them not too long ago. I remember having homework in all 5 of my classes on the same night. I stayed up way too late on the phone with my boyfriend, against my parents warnings, and fell asleep in class a time or two.  I ignored my teachers sometimes, too. Sometimes I hid my flip-phone under my desk where I thought they couldn't see it. I, too, tried to  get my schedule switched so I could be in the same lunch with my best friends, because there was a time when I didn't have a lot of friends either.  I've had my heart broken by a boy a few times in my life. Once, my dog died and I had to be in class the next day trying to hold back tears.  And my parents are divorced, too. They aren't alone.

The rest I feel for, but I can't even imagine. I never lived their life. I never walked in their shoes. I never went without a meal. There was always food on my table. I didn't have to raise a child until after I had a career and a husband. It's really hard to do and I don't have to do it alone. I was blessed to never have to see the effects of dangerous addictions on people I love. I didn't have to work to help pay my family's bills. They were busting their butts to make ends meet so I wouldn't have to while I was in school.  I can't relate. I don't know what it feels like. But I do hurt for them. My heart breaks for them. When they aren't around, I cry for them. Life shouldn't be that hard yet, because they are just kids. And most of the time I forget they aren't really my kids. Because I love them that much, even when they are hard to love.

I hope they know that I wake them up because I love them. I take away their phones because I know they need to become better readers. I make them write a whole page about their feelings because one day it is going to be important to communicate their thoughts and feelings effectively. There are times when I can't communicate my thoughts and feelings about them and for them. I can't tell their teacher not to give them less homework. I can't fix their high school relationships. I can't let them catch up on sleep in my classroom, and I can't take their cell phone and throw it down a flight of stairs. I can't be a best friend matchmaker or change their schedule so they can find one. I can't bring their dog back to life or put their broken families back together. I can't put food on their tables, or feed them more than some candy and some pretzels from my lunch.  I can't pay their bills. I can't help them raise their babies. I can't take their friends' addictions away. So when I am at a loss for words, and don't know how to fix their problems or stop their hurt, I hug them. 

And then we take out a book and read. For about 30 minutes we are in another place together, enjoying the triumphs the protagonist is having, hurting over someone else's fictional problems, laughing at an author's wit, perusing the pages for plot and climax and similes and metaphors and personification. We search the novels for events we have experienced, characters we can relate to, and settings that take us somewhere else. Sometimes those stories are the only escapes they have.

And sometimes, near the end of the semester, a student will walk up to me and say, "I actually loved that book. I have never liked a book before."

That, my friends, is worth the mounds of paperwork, and whitewashed walls, and makeshift posters, and grumpy kids, and attitudes, and drool-stained desks, and self-funded classroom libraries. That is what keeps me going back. That is why I hate that I love to be a teacher. That brings me joy that outweighs the chaos that is the life of a high-school teacher. And when that student walks out of my classroom, I smile and rub my hands together and sigh and say, "my job here is done." ...until the next class walks in."





Tuesday, June 14, 2016

If Only HASHTAGS Could Heal

I wrote this angry prayer not so long ago after the terrorist attacks in Paris. But it seems the #hashtags# keep coming. The latest one I saw was #HealOurOrLANDo plastered across a billboard in Chattanooga.  A touching gesture and attempt at solidarity. One city struck by terrorism extending an embrace to another now facing the same hoping a billboard means something. What else is there to do? Yes, it happened here, too. We know the pain of having to say, "stuff like that just doesn't happen here." That statement is beginning to lose its shock value. Too many people have said the same thing. But what can we do? Now we both have a hashtag to go with our city. How tragic it is that cities are literally trending by terrorism? #Orlando is no longer just recordings of vacation memories. It's no longer just smiling faces by the beach. Now it is survivor photos, memorial photos, photos of people sobbing,  artistic expressions of grief. What can we do? I know. We will give it a clever hashtag. That will fix it.

#If Only Hastags Could Heal#

They were just out for a night on the town
#OrlandoUnited

They were just raising a toast at an office party
#SanBernadino

They just wanted to rock out to their favorite band
They were just enjoying a pleasant meal
#PrayingForParis

They were just getting pumped for the big game
They were just cheering on the OSU Cowboys
#HomeGoingParade

They were just going to class
They were just perusing degrees for a shot at the American Dream
#Umpqua

They were just reporting the news
They were just preparing for their big day
#LiveNotAlive

They were just doing their jobs
They were just enjoying time home between deployments
#ChattanoogaStrong

They were just going to church to learn how to be more like you
They were just black
#ChurchInCharleston

They were just going to see a movie
They were just enjoying their popcorn and Coke
#CheckYourAssaultRifleAtTheDoorCinema

They were just going to school
They were just little kids
#SandyHookStudents


#WhyIsKillingPeopleTrending




PS-I really pray from the bottom of my heart that this doesn't make anyone doubt the God that I pray to or his goodness or his faithfulness or his love. My prayer is that you know it's okay to ask why.  Jesus asked why that time, too. I figure if he can pray an angry prayer I can, too. But don't ask me why, God hasn't answered me yet.