Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Its not what I expected it to feel like.

I had expected a lot of feelings. Draw from the first time? Maybe.

But just so you have it in writing, I was dead wrong.

If you ask me how I feel, the answer is "strong"

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I won a scholarship from Red Robin with this short essay.

Closer Than I've Ever Been Before
By Rebecca Turner Miles

 I promised my dad I'd go to college.  He tried college once, but it just wasn't for him.  He was a talker, not much of a listener.  He was successful as a salesman and never really regretted dropping out of college after a semester and a half until the economy crashed in the mid-nineties.  When I graduated from High School in 1999 in Southern California, my dad gave me $100 as a gift under the condition I would try to go to college.  He cried when he said he couldn't pay for it.  I didn't know it then, but that $100 was probably all the money he had. 

 I worked all summer to pay for that first semester at Riverside Community College and in the 12 years since that first semester I've changed majors twice, lived in three states, had three children and found more start-overs and do-overs a woman could hope to find.  In 2003, on my third attempt at college, I returned as a single mom.  The Governor of California, Gray Davis, attempted to raise community college tuition from $12 to $27 a credit.  We decided to protest and marched up to the capital with picket signs and chanting.  More than 1000 students stood on the steps of the capital building.  My then 6 month old son Caleb and I made the cover of the Press Enterprise Newspaper- he in his stroller with a sign taped to the top that read, “Don't make my mommy choose between diapers and books.”

 Now, as I can't stop the runaway train that barrels toward “30,” (I celebrate my 30th birthday in November) I am at the point where I can look back and reflect both positively and negatively at the journey.

Yes- I am 30 and still a server- a sales person just like my dad. 
Yes- I have 3 beautiful kids who will hear the same apology I heard, I won't be able to pay for their college education either.
Yes- I am 30 still not quite holding the Bachelors degree I promised my dad 12 years ago.
Yes- I could be a practicing physician in this amount of time. 

 But- I am closer than I've ever been before.  I am determined this time to finish the task I have been working toward for so long. Three semesters until I can gift wrap up that diploma and send it to my dad. 

 This is for him. This is for the three kids who will value a college education because they saw their mother do homework, and stress finals week, and came with me to class on the occasions there wasn't a babysitter available. The kids who will make signs and hold them high at my graduation. I imagine them reading something like “That's my mom!” or “My mommy's going to be an executive!” Different of course from the one taped to the top of Caleb's stroller so long ago.  I imagine my dad sitting next to them. And that image, that moment is for me, the fruits of my hard my work, both for Red Robin and my household coming together, crossing a finish line. Accomplishing something for my past, empowering something for my present and establishing something for my future.  

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Multi Housing ministry... a grand thing indeed!

The first time I heard about Multi-Housing Ministry through Bear Valley Church, I thought, “What a good idea! I'd like to be involved with that someday."  I turned my information into the offering plate that day, checking the box "I'd like more information on getting involved with Multi-Housing Ministry."  The idea is that in poverty ridden areas, where people need the most hope, church need not wait for them to come, rather take the church to the people.  Problems with transportation, and the social stigmas of not having "church clothes" or even a Bible to bring with them, keep many people who would otherwise love to fellowship, at a distance.  I called Luanne Turner, the woman in charge of the ministry and introduced myself over the phone.  She said "Oh, Rebecca Miles, you are on my list of people to call. There just isn't enough of me to go around!" I met her at the church office just 10 minutes later to pick up pamphlets and information on the ministry to use in this paper, and before I left I'd stuffed 100 envelopes with invitations to receive free thanksgiving meals.  I didn't show up with the intention to start my project then, but Luanne had other plans.  I was an able bodied person, and my toddler son playing with her stacks of canned foods was no bother to her; she was grateful for the help. 
                      I showed up at 9:30 just as Luanne asked me to at the Green Gables Condominiums.  This, come to find out, was a euphemism.  I was looking for building 7, and it appeared to me that the buildings went numerically to 6, skipped 7 and 8 all together and picked right back up at 9 to what seemed to be infinity.  Building after building on this beautiful Sunday morning looked exactly the same.  I pulled up to a man standing on the sidewalk. "Excuse me, can you tell me where building 7 is?" He attempted to copy what I said, but his strong Spanish accent let me know I needed to change it up a bit.  Thankfully after years of restaurant service, my Spanish is adequate in most situations.  He told me I was on the wrong side of the complex.  I realized he was waiting for a ride, and I was made acutely aware of how embarrassing it is to pull up in a newer car, in nicer clothes, and stand out this severely.  I suddenly wanted to be at the safe place of the pews and the church clothes where I looked just like everyone else. 
                        I found building 7, a clearly out of place old white woman in fancy shoes pointed me in the right direction.  I walked in the apartment to find 4 teenagers and a man in his 30's vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, and arranging frantically.  I informed them I was there to help, and they took me back to a "bedroom" that had two long tables and shelves of art supplies.  No bed, no dressers, no clothes in the closet.  I was confused, but I just kept at my task: clean the paint off the tables from the last art project.  The apartment itself was clean, but hardly livable conditions. The drywall was coming off in chunks; the windows were easily from the 50's, I imagine when these condos were the cream of the crop.  No doubt about it, this place is covered in lead based paint.  It was decorated with adorable "God loves you" posters and faith based art work, whoever lived here was faithful. The kitchen had a long banquet sized table that took up the entire length of the kitchen.  Some pumpkin bread and pineapple was out, coffee and water to drink, and some of the most impressive 1970's decor a person could ever want or need!  I asked a woman who was doing kitchen work, "who lives here?"
            "No one." she says, "This is the church's apartment, and we just got another one in building 11.  We use that one for the teenagers, grades 6 to 12!"  The kids who were frantically cleaning the place came to tell me they were heading to the other apartment to finish up over there.  I came along, hoping to maybe learn someone's name along the way.  These kids were part of a small group that does activities together: bowling, toilet-papering, typical high school stuff.  But every fourth weekend, they pack up a bag with clothes and toothbrushes and head out, going on service weekends.  Building houses, helping small churches with repairs, and of course stopping in with Luanne and one of her many Multi-Housing Ministry locations.  I talked with these clearly better off kids, asking them why they gave up a whole weekend for this. Their response was quick- it's fun.  On this side, the master bedroom walls were lined with shelves.  The shelves were carefully organized by size, from newborn clothes to woman sized dresses, highchairs, car seats, even diapers and formula.  This was their storage area for the donations to meet the needs of the community here at Green Gables Condominiums.  I dusted the back rooms and headed to the kitchen where I feel the most comfortable.  Another woman pieced together a lunch for the teenagers: leftover turkey, lettuce, onions, jalapeƱos, a loaf of wheat bread and peanuts.  I chopped carrots and celery, and put out ranch and peanut butter secretly hoping the teens would eat every last bite of the vegetables, but consciously knowing there was no chance. 
               Time diminished quickly and before I knew it, 11:00 was rolling around.  Luanne arrived, and I felt glad to have a familiar face.  She sent me and the man in charge of the service teens to help in building 7 with the children.  Last week, the woman who leads the kids grades 5 and under had 17 kids, and no helper.  This week 5 kids came.  She said this was pretty standard, "the more help you have the less you need it."  She had hoped that "the 5 R's" would come: Rudy, Raina, Ralphie, Ronnie, and aRrianna.  They had planned to move and gotten a house big enough for all 6 of them in Aurora. They rented a U-Haul and loaded up the truck, but at the last minute the house in Aurora fell through.  Green Gables Condominiums wouldn't let them have their apartment back, so they'd been staying in the U-Haul truck for 5 days. Any minute Luanne and her team expected the police to show up and tow them away.  We all prayed they'd just come inside.  They didn't.    
            Just a few minutes after 11, the teens were safely in building 11, the adults and kids were with us, the music began.  A lone guy and an acoustic guitar is secretly my second favorite sound in the world, second only to newborn cry.  He sang old familiar songs: amazing grace, our God is an awesome God.  I didn't even notice how different this was than last Sunday was for me.  No lights, no synthesizer, no drums, no harmonies, but real honest worship is awesome no matter how it is presented.  We took the kids after worship to the room with the tables I cleaned earlier.  The kids sat down, Jacob sat at the second table by himself.  He was white and the only one of the visitors other than one woman in the adult room I had noticed during worship.  She was clearly mentally handicapped but worshiped nonetheless.  I wondered if they were related somehow.  The other 4 kids were a pair of sisters, and a brother and sister team.  Alonzo, the little boy was 4 and hardly spoke English.  His older sister did most of his talking for him, and boy did she have a thing or two to say. 
                      The sister-sister team treated Alonzo as if he were their own little brother and they drank juice and ate pumpkin bread, and with full mouths attempted to answer the teacher's question: "What are you thankful for?"  
            Jacob said "sleep" without looking up from the toy he was playing with. I tried to get him to join us. He declined.  The sister's all looked at each other as if they wanted to say something, finally Alicia spoke up, "I am thankful for my mom coming home." I should have bit my tongue but without a real thought about it, I asked "Why? Where was she?" honestly expecting to hear "the hospital."  She said, "Jail," again without making eye-contact.  I felt bad for asking, but worse for these kids.  Come to find out their dad had come to take care of them while the mother was in jail.  I didn't find out why she was there, but I was relieved to find out that Dad didn't leave as soon as mom got home.  Alicia seemed a little excited at the prospect that her Dad and Mom could live in the same house again.
            The rest of the time flew by quickly.  The mentally handicapped woman came in and said "Jacob, let’s go."
            "Mooooooom! We just started our craft! Please just 5 more minutes," he said.
            "No Jacob, I told you we have a place to be at noon!" she demanded.
            He broke into silent tears, stood to his feet and marched out.  She followed behind him, begging him to cheer up, and the most wasted words she'd speak that day.  The child who couldn't even sit near us didn't want to leave, nor did he want us to see the tears that fell.  He didn't get his way either time this Sunday.
            The day finished with the children finishing their craft- candles rolled in glitter.  They prayed, I explained that "Horned thing" is called a cornucopia, and it represents having more than enough, what we celebrate at Thanksgiving.  They were the only people in the room unaware that they did not know what a cornucopia was because they had never had excess.  I was left in my sore-thumb-of-a-van to jot notes of this experience, words wouldn't come but tears did easily.  Sociology will put names, phases, approaches and theories to the experience that Sunday morning at Green Gables Condominiums, but they won't do it justice. Hard to imagine these children coming up out of these circumstances, the section 8 housing, the welfare and the "situation" they are in, to prevail to much better of a situation.  Forgive my bluntness, it would take a miracle!  My white privilege had scued my view of poverty. My perspective of poverty has changed and I am forever grateful. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

For all I've been through...

Studying David and his flee from Saul, I am found in awe of a man that would and could spare the life of this king, who just a page or 2 back had priests and the entire city (Nob) they live in killed.  Slaughtered. 

David chose mercy for Saul because he knew that God would repay Saul for the masacre at Nob.  I think about those people who take justice into their own hands,

... The father or mother who avenges her murdered child
... The fervent activist who kills abortion doctors
... The assasins who take out leaders, or attempt to, because of their political party
... The husband who sends his wife's rapist to his maker
... The woman who assalts the other woman in her marriage

The list could go on.  And all of these acts could be "justified" by someone else.  There are plenty of people who would say the victims of these crimes DESERVED what they got, and many people might even feel joy at these injustices- these victims were first victimizers. 

David saw through all that.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit, David gave mercy to Saul, when he could have killed him and been hailed victorious! Society would have backed him! They would say "Saul got what he deserved."  I was actually a little disappointed in David when he DIDN'T kill Saul! It would have been one of those "YES!" moments in literature, where the protagonist defeats the antagonist! God convicted David, saying- NO, or at least, Not yet. 

The victory for David over Saul is coming in scripture (I have stopped and taken a break in the story to write about it).  As is our victory over those who seek after us to cause us pain.  Stay firm soldier! Stand knowing that even though you could easily take them out- and trust me, those temptations are coming, Satan is a crafty fellow- Listen to what the Spirit tells you.  Know that God has your back, and is out for your victory! And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us? and if our God is with us, then what could stand against us? A Saul? Never!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A million cars out there turning into prayers...

Sitting in traffic, I see a thousand cars. 
I wonder about the people behind those wheels.

Are you hurting? Are you celebrating?
Are you passing through life, going through the motions?

Have you felt anything today?

Your car reminds me of someone I know, who drives a car that looks like yours.
Is that you in there? No.  Someone else; another nameless face come and gone.
The story of my life.

I will pray for you.  I will pray for God to reveal himself to you. 
To breathe this crazy love into your chest.
I will also pray for the people I know who's car looks a lot like yours. 

Traffic into spiritual warfare being waged against the forces unseen around you,
And someone else you probably don't even know.

Powerful God can can use traffic, loving God can use a wretch like me.
Faithful God will answer my prayers, whether you know I am praying for you or not.

Amen.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A woman who is not a feminist. A social outcast.

Just say the word "femininity" and instantly I am torn. Plainly, I am a woman. More complexly, I am a Christian woman. And as complex as I would like to take it for today, I am a Christian Woman who embraces the things that make me distinctly woman, specifically motherhood.

I read two articles on the ideal of feminism. One by a male author Paul Theroux, contemporary-ish author who has fallen head over heals in love with the idea that what defines men or masculinity is just absolutely unbearable! being a "man" means being "Stupid, unfeeling, obedient, soldierly and unable to figure out the riddle and nuisance of woman."

Excuse me, but I don't define men that way at all! A manly man is Strong, feeling (even if expression of feeling is different than a woman's), honorable and sacrificial! He claims "manliness" comes from "feeling inadequate because it denies men the natural friendship of women." He is implying that it is Manly to shoot pool with the guys, to go shoot elk in the woods with the guys, drink beer with the guys, throw a football around with the guys, and if you do anything with the girls, (other than sex of course) you are simply not manly.
As opposed to women who are more womanly by needing and seducing a man. The more seductive the more womanly. I think this guy is far more sexist than first appearances may imply.

He claims that this idea of "manliness" is (and I must quote this, because it is so extremely offensive) "Right wing, puritanical, cowardly, neurotic and fueled largely by a fear of women." (Women and Men, Paul Theroux) This idea of a man needing male companionship goes back far beyond a political party mentality. I suppose Socrates and Plato were republicans then? I hardly think so! Manliness is not the end of the life of the mind, but rather the mind being processed through sentiment, that there are roles - like it or not- that are manly, and to believe that doesn't make you sexist. It makes you able to understand that men and women are indeed different. Not superior or inferior, not right or wrong, just different. (quote, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, Love and Respect).

He goes round and around about how horrible it is to be tied so mercilessly to the stereotypical male, even to the point that it is shameful for him to be a writer, a woman's work. I suppose that I lost respect for this piece when he said that manhood is not a privilege, rather "an unmerciful and punishing burden." To be honest about my feeling on this piece...Oh for goodness sake! Cry me a river!

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote a not-so-opposing article called "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman." She agrees, though she wrote this in 1792, that women are not as weak as society says they are. Strength and usefulness as she calls it are put second fiddle to beauty, considered seductresses rather than respectable human beings. As a self fulfilling prophesy, women are taught to be ladylike being refined, and then become sub-human species. And women are satisfied with this objectification because they enjoy the attention. Being physically weaker (in most cases) than men is not enough to society; they seek to belittle women even further by attributing such goodness to the appealing woman.

She equivalates nobility to masculinity, and as a person gets closer to a noble character, they are actually getting closer and closer to what is defined as masculinity. The attributes to woman-soft spoken, a sentimental and vulnerable heart, good taste all are descriptions of weakness. Even worse, a woman gets farther in life by flashing a womanly charm, using her sweet words and wiles that are aimed straight to the heart, not the head.

Women therefore, if they intend to keep their womanhood, can only progress in life by getting married. We call it, Getting your M.R.S. Degree. and fall into the prophesy that they are only animals made to care for the babies they bare. She ends with a sharp jab at the male intellect, and with that she ends her argument- That society keeps women from filling their potential.

The Bible says feminism is simply foolishness. See women have the good deal here. A common misconception is that "Wives submit to your husbands" means "Do what he says mindlessly, never question him. If he asks you to jump- you say how high." That's the "Uninformed Idiot translation", UIT for short. So what does it mean?

This command is really more aimed toward the man. Understand that this is actually an order in which we die. In a battle, the officers go into it first. They go on their horses, galloping ahead to take out the enemy. The "lesser" or "submissive" troops, run fervently right behind them. God is saying to the woman- "You let your husband defend you, quite possibly to the death."

Now imagine for a second that someone you know actually and not figuratively took a bullet for you. Imagine they lived. Would you not spend the rest of your life wanting to do what ever they needed or wanted, after all, you do owe them your life? This is the idea behind God's submissive command to wives. It is that it is expected of the husband to lay down his life for his wife, just as Christ laid down His life for The Church. Husbands would do it, almost without thinking of it! It is natural for them, they sleep closest to the door, they guide you away from danger because if you are in danger, he is in danger.

Its not a hierarchy of importance or value. Its a command to the family- "Husbands you go first. Die for your wife and kids. And wives, because you know that he WILL do this for you, treat him accordingly."

According to UIT, we as women should abandon this and go into battle with the husbands, on our own horses. This seems silly doesn't it. No military on earth goes about battle this way, at least not for long- send everyone in at once! The battle will be over quickly. If being a feminist means that I put myself on this plain, I set myself up for failure, and there is no reason to say feminism is to believe that men and women are equal, because God already says they are. In fact you may even translate it as women are FAVORED because the men should die for us.

I will not be a feminist. I will believe God. He hasn't gotten anything wrong so far, why would I (who get most things terribly wrong on my own) try to change it!