faith, God, Jesus, parenting, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

When You Know Someone’s Story Things Change

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In December I switched from an Evangelical church to an open and affirming congregation that allows me to address doubts and concerns I’ve had for many many years.

It wasn’t an easy transition for me. I came from a background where everything I was supposed to believe was rolled out like a red carpet for me. I only needed to dance.

I’m an awkward dancer. I’m six foot tall and my husband isn’t a party guy. I’d often find myself alone on the carpet trying to figure out the beat of the songs. When the kids came along, we’d ring-around-the-rosy every Sunday and be appeased with doughnuts and life groups, but in the end, I felt exhausted from my shimmying to something that I thought I was supposed to get but just didn’t.

When I started opening my mouth about my questions, I was shocked to find many people on the carpet had the same ones as I did, but they chose to accept what worked and moved on. I have zero disrespect for these people, it’s just not me. I am not one to go with the flow if I’m not comfortable. I had to, in the end, quietly leave. Much to my inner narcissist’s surprise, there was no banner shouting “Andrea has left the building!” Nope, not even a phone call or an email. I was either that much of a disappointment or not important enough. Either way, it was an immense relief. (If not a bit terrifying. Now what?)

My New Building

No one was more shocked than I was to find that at my new tiny church God showed up even more strongly than he had before. I felt a sense of peace and belonging I had not felt in years. It’s a place where, in true Rachel Held Evan’s style, we all are called to the communion table. We don’t have an agenda to push. We have only God’s love and grace to receive.

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This kind of message seems radical and hippy dippy to many more conservative folk. But to me, it reminds me of Jesus: a rebellious conviction to love everyone. (Unfortunately this kind of acceptance got him killed. But I get it. He was no longer able to live with the hypocrites. And that goes for me being able to live with my dual personality of wanting to fit a mold I just wasn’t cut out for.)

Getting clean with who I was felt so refreshing. But I had been warned about this kind of serenity before from my more conservative church: “It’s the devil.” And yet, having done an immense amount of spiritual work through 12 step, I knew this simply wasn’t true. In my 12 step, it is crystal clear that to not live a life of honesty and integrity is to drink, and to drink for many is to die. I was not willing to die in body or spirit. Instead, I chose surrender.

The Power of Surrender

I could go on and on about the power of surrender and what that means to an over-thinker like myself, but in a nutshell it means: I am not God, neither are you, how about we just lay down or guns and admit we don’t know everything? How about we let go and trust that each person has a God of their understanding to guide them to make decisions for themselves?

For me that is Jesus. But until he shows up at my door with a cappuccino and a doughnut, I’m not willing to tell all my other friends of faith that they are 100% wrong in who their higher power is and aren’t going to heaven “until they know the truth.” The path to destruction might be wide, and the road to salvation might be narrow, but that simply cannot be true of our hearts. Hell is happening NOW, with our minds too narrow and our compassion not wide enough. People are dying. People aren’t getting the healthcare they need. People are being sent to prison for making heart wrenching decisions for their children.

Surrender also means listening. In joining a new church, I asked question after question of my gay pastor. “How do you reconcile your sexuality with the Bible? How do you keep from creating a God of your own understanding?” These open questions and resulting communication was both scary and transforming. But in the mystery, like driving through fog, light came at the other side. In being patient in the dark, I felt more of God’s all encompassing love than I ever felt listening to straight up theology.

It also meant asking my friends about their feelings on abortion. I heard story after story about why they did, or did not, choose to terminate a pregnancy. Instead of feeling judgment or elation, I was led right back to surrender. And in doing so, I was overwhelmed again and again with the idea of dignity: That a woman must decide for herself what she can or cannot live with. That her life, and others’ lives, are as valuable as the one in their womb. And as painful as that is for me to admit to my inner evangelical, it’s what I believe now to be true. No one – especially a rich white man – gets to decide this.

I am not writing this to convince you on what you should or should not do with your life and your votes, especially if you disagree with me. But I am writing to you to consider asking yourself the very tough questions that I began asking myself a few years ago:

  • If your child came to you and told you he or she was gay, would you pound them with theology and Bible verses or would you wrap them in your arms and tell them you love them?
  • Do you really believe that everything written in that Bible is 100% without error? Because if you do, you have a lot of explaining to do. And if that explaining makes sense to you only from a place where, in our society today, straight white people win, would you consider that maybe, just maybe, it’s possible you are wanting to interpret something that best fits your view of the world versus real people with real struggles and needs?
  • Do you truly think that God stopped talking 2000 years ago when the Bible was shut and that we can’t possibly see God in people and situations outside the book of Revelation?
  • If your 16-year-old daughter comes to you pregnant, are you willing to tell her that she must have this child or face prison time?

None of these questions are comfortable, but they are real. Is our God big enough to handle them and have us talk to others with dignity and respect? Mine is. And for that I’m so grateful.

Conversations

I am being clear with you all because, like my decision to leave a conservative church, I can’t live with pretending to be someone I’m not. While on one hand I can’t stand what the internet has done to our culture (the polarization, the vamping, the lurking) I also am in acceptance of the fact that it’s not going away anytime soon. And so, with that in mind, I felt it important to be have my virtual life match up with my human life. Unlike the Andrea of old, who might have done this out of defense or wanting to fit in, the Andrea of now is doing it from a place of transparency and truth. Right or wrong, this is who I am. Maybe you are in a place I was and need to know that someone else is out there.

Consider this your virtual red carpet to dance in the unknown. To rub shoulders with other people and ask about their stories. To make decisions based on real human beings with hearts, not just theology, and begin to trust your journey.

Services at my new church start at 10. Perhaps you’ll join me at the table.

The Table reminds us that, as brothers and sisters adopted into God’s family and invited to God’s banquet, we’re stuck with each other; we’re family. We might as well make peace. The Table teaches us that, ultimately, faith isn’t about being right or good or in agreement. Faith is about feeding and being fed. – Rachel Held Evans

Happily Ticked Off Tip #53:  When you get to know someone’s story, your heart transforms your head and not the other way around. Every time.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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education, faith, God, self improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

The Power of Re-Framing – And a Good Broom

I write because it helps me make sense of the world. And it reminds me that there is always, always, something to be grateful for.

As a complainer in transition, it took me a few years of active work to truly get to a place of freedom on this subject. Do I have hard days still? Absolutely. Just ask Tuskany and my friend Annie who hears more play by play than Vin Scully at a Dodger game. But I don’t live in my negativity. I can’t. It’s too… uh… negative. Nope, in addition to gratitude is a chaser of reframing.

Take today for example. It was the first day off from subbing in quite a while. I had sooo much housecleaning to do. But I gave myself an hour to do the basics. And then I forced myself to sit at my desk to work on that pilot.

Ooooh, the office.

I won’t lie. My office still looks like a storage dump for Good Will for a Pinterest fail.

There’s the multi colored ceiling fan from 1987 that Punky Brewster has yet to pick up.

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There’s this section of cubed “outgoing” projects flanked by a hot man in uniform and an old set of shutters that has yet to make it’s way to the curb.

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There’s this section of photographs needing better storage boxes, a jewelry case desperately in need of organization and my gift wrap/gifts to give/very old dresser inherited from my son yet to be painted.

4(Um, yes that IS a set of plastic drawers that houses my scarfs, belts and tights because, you know, the one day I get rid of it I will need to dress as a sixty’s character for school.)

Lest I forget, there is this beautiful secretary’s desk I scored for $40 last year. It only needs to be repainted! And, well, it needs to be combed through and made usable. This means throwing out old Christmas cards and organizing the individual sections with stamps, letters, cards and so on.

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(Oooh, do you see my fabulous bathroom in the back? Do you like the “open shelving” I got going on? Don’t be jealous. At some point it’s going to have some amazing cherry curtain swag.)

Now before you think I’m being too self-deprecating, I have to say that I totally love my house. It’s got a 1950’s charm that just makes me smile every time I walk into it. It’s just I have chosen to surrender to the fact that I’m a busy busy busy working mom. I know I will organize this when I have time, but my script and my family are more important. When I sell this sitcom (and I’m determined to) then I can hire a maid and take more time to putter to my satisfaction.

Until then, I have learned the art of staging myself for success. Not unlike selling a home, I clean up what is most important so it’s more attractive for me to work, then gently ignore the rest. This means sweeping up quickly.

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It means firing up the diffuser so it smells good and removing any junk from my fainting couch. (Minus my Doc Martins that give me great pleasure.)

6And then I look up at those faces above my computer. And I know that, in the end, those connections are worth re-framing the stuff that doesn’t matter.

What are you willing to re-frame in your own life so you can work on your passion?

Happily Ticked Off Tip #52:  Re-framing a thought or an action doesn’t keep the challenge from going away. Instead, it keeps you from focusing on it so you can move ahead with more positive actions.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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faith, reading, Uncategorized

How to Read 5 Books in 4 Weeks in Ten Minutes/Day (Hint: You Gotta Think SMART)

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Most of you know I’m a sub. And ya’ll might think subs are just in it for the glory and fame. The feeling we get when we are pounded 100 times in less than five minutes with questions like “Where’s our real teacher?” and “You don’t have a credential, do you?” and “We don’t have to sit where you want us to sit because you don’t know what you’re doing anyway.” It’s really fun.

All the perks aside, I didn’t get sober a while back to freeload off the education system. And so, while I far from teach them how to dissect War and Peace and form it into a Haiku, I do attempt to help them to think differently.

Because Yeah, I Care So I Do This

At the beginning of every class I give a short life lesson. It’s the one time of day I insist they put down their phones and don’t talk. (Note: It’s not that I think being on the phone during the movie we are watching is an amazing use of their time, but I’m realistic. I’m a long term sub the last month of their senior year. If they choose to “sneak” behind my back and text friends ideas for their ideal promposal rather than be illuminated by Adrian Broady’s incredible performance in The Pianist, it’s up to them.)

Similar to the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, another movie we are finishing up this week, I can either freak out about what I can’t control and spray the problem kids with Windex, or I can be like Ian Miller’s character: Chill, go with the flow, change what I can and ignore the rest. (Ah, Ian Miller…. Played by the handsome, rugged and oh so sexy John Corbett who I did not just announce here on the blog is actually in the running for world’s hunkiest man right up there with Rex. No, I did not. Oh, and I did I just use the word “hunky?” Yes, this 1970’s child certainly did. Along with my penchant for flared jeans and the word “groovy” I am not ashamed.)

Inspired by Kelly Corrigan’s father in The Middle Place, I enthusiastically tell each class what I tell myself when I wake up every day. Picture a big smile on my six foot frame, likely surrounded in polka dots, shouting: “This is going to be a GREAT day!” I remind them that I no longer wait for circumstances to dictate my mood. So now I’ll tell you that also. I mean, if I look hard enough (especially the last few months) I’ll find plenty to complain about. Sure, my ship might go off course a bit even under the best circumstances with my emotional rudder, but if I don’t set my sails right at the beginning of my daily voyage I won’t just veer off course, I’ll go to another destination all together. If you catch me on a day with little food or sleep, I might drown.

In relaying this to my kids yesterday, I realized that I should also model for them what new thought looks like. And what better way to do this than with a book? And right on the spot this idea was born: Read out loud 10 minutes before the film starts. And… since I have five classes…. I can read five books! That means by June I’ll have read stuff I might not have time to read after class.

As I mentioned a few days back, I’m already reading The Great Gatsby at home. And I have decided to read Tales of the City to Period 2 and The Alchemist to Period 3. That leaves 3 other books I could use suggestions on. Thoughts? (I have already read Tales of the City but that’s it. I’d love to read 4 that are new to me.)

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Okay, I’m ready for book suggestions for 18 year olds! Go!

Happily Ticked Off Tip #51:  Reading 10 minutes 5 times/day can grant you 5 books in a month! It’s worth taking the time!

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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faith, reading, self improvement, Uncategorized, writing

Daily Magic

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I recently picked up The Great Gatsby. It was sitting in a pile of free books at my daughter’s summer school location and it was begging me to read it.

“I’ll read it also!” my daughter said.

I jumped at the offer. The past few years I’ve only read books she has recommended to me. Wonder. The Fault In My Stars. Holes. I see dozens of books scattered in her room that I’ve not been privy to. The Book Thief. Night. And so many more.

She’s almost 15 now. I’ll admit to being more than a tad jealous of her secret world that she lives in her books. That world used to be through me.

Some of my favorite memories were reading to her out loud. When she was five I read her the original Secret Garden. I can still remember cuddling on my bed with her – those long languid days before I had to scoot out the door for work and time wasn’t such a rare commodity. Lazy moments seemed to grow like those flowers up the garden wall… slow and relaxed. Why rush? Why not bloom in our own sweet time?

That same theme of quiet, languid living is now coming alive to me as I read The Great Gatsby again. It’s been thirty years and I had forgotten about that beautiful house… the white dresses and fluttering curtains. I had not remembered about the racism and the affairs. The anger and the snobbery. And the dump near the train tracks… oy, vey, the dust!

Despite not remembering the details of this book, the themes and tone of it, and so many others, are buried deep in my subconscious, because there’s a familiarity when I enter a new location that comes from a knowing deep in my gut: “I get this person,” I think. Or, “I’ve been in this old town before… at some point.” This knowledge keeps me feeling connected always.

And that’s when it hit me this weekend, while walking on the beach with my husband, that reading to my kids when they were younger was the same thing as giving them a positive mindset. If we are literally what we think, then filling their brains with as much literature as possible at a young age made so much sense. Their world couldn’t help but be richer and fuller and full of sneaky hidden passages. It’s not the school that made all the difference in the end. It was the adventures in their brains.

As humans, it’s so natural to compare ourselves to where we are at any given moment. But if where we are is building a giant tree house to a new land or forging our ways through wilderness in covered wagons with Pa and Ma, than what some dorky five year old says to us about our thrift store skirt really has very little significance.

Maybe for some of you this idea is obvious. But to me, it really came out of the blue and I am feeling so much gratitude: for books, for adventures, for education and Jane Eyre which, hooray to this last statement, my daughter is allowing me to read to her out loud this summer! In between the summer schools and the dishes, and the commuting and the braces, we will sit side by side and enter Jane’s world. We will talk about spirituality and class conflict, relationships and abuse, mansions and horses.

And mostly I will be grateful for Jane. Because she, like so many other characters, have helped my daughter focus on the things of life that matter most. And it’s not her looks or her money or her job. It’s her very spirit, bursting within her, reminding her that she is, indeed enough.

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Happily Ticked Off Tip #50:  Reading is an adventure into a world that keeps you from worrying too much about the crud in your own world that doesn’t matter. It’s a portal into bliss, confidence and courage.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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education, faith, God, spirituality, Uncategorized

Slowing Down. I’m Not Getting Older. I’m Getting Wiser.

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If I’m standing in front of some noodles in Trader Joes, and someone pushes their cart next to me, my first reaction always is, “Let me move this out of the way for you.” This often happens before they’ve even asked me to scoot over.

If I’m in class giving instructions, and one kid raises his hands to ask about something that’s not even relevant, my first impulse is to feel pressured to get that question answered.

If I’m driving my kids to an appointment, and I decide to stop at the post office for stamps, I automatically get this push in my chest to go go go. I know they are just teenagers, and it’s not my job to work around them, but I feel that surge pushing me forward none the less.

I don’t give into this pressure with my actions, but inside it’s still there. An old flame that is no longer a raging fire but still burning with loyalty to toxic patterns. These flicks of negative light are traits that my old self would have called being considerate. But my newer, older wiser self knows what the real name for this is. It’s lack of self-worth that am not valuable enough to slow down and do something just for me.

Today in class, this point was brought home in a New York Times piece I read about Oprah Winfrey. In it she was saying how guilty she felt buying her first plane. It cost in the millions. But in the end, she unabashedly decided she was worth it. Hell, she’s the Queen. And if she says she’s worth it, she is.

It was my gentle reminder that I’m a queen, too. And queens don’t rush. They are busy, efficient and sometimes short with words, but they are not rushed.

Which is why I am sitting here, happily typing with just my bath towel wrapped around me. The tub water is stopped. My husband has gotten into bed and my kids are eating God knows what downstairs. I am doing what I love most and I won’t apologize.

And you don’t have to either.

Until next time,

Happily Ticked Off Tip #49:  Slow down, not just to enjoy the roses, but to make a point that you, my dear, are worth every languid second.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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faith, God, Jesus, meditation, self improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized

Everything Happens Perfectly. Even When It Doesn’t.

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As a recovering perfectionist, one of the biggest keys to my serenity has been to change what I can, let go of what I can’t change, and have wisdom to know the difference. Translation: Everything happens the way it’s supposed to. When I stop fighting it, and accept it, it’s easier.

I would not believe the above statement, except that lately I’ve been dealing with more chaos than I ever have, and yet there’s peace.

I can call it prayer and meditation. Or sleep. Or any of the things I listed in this blog. But a good chunk of my peace has come from reminding myself… literally reminding myself… “Hey , Andrea, this stuff that is happening at this very moment? It’s happening! The laundry! The last minute friend plans that got swapped. The dog barking at the mailman. The tv shoot three corners down that makes you feel crappy that you still haven’t sold your pilot because, oh… here’s a concept… you have not finished it! Oooh, new concept:  Let the guilt go because you can’t change it. The only thing you can do is change your attitude!”

Besides the fact that my inner voice really needs to stop drinking so much coffee and shut up for once, the fact remains that there is one person and one person alone responsible for my serenity.

You guessed it! Me me me! Normally my favorite subject is me, myself and I. But not when I’m responsible for the change in my reaction to life. Which, of course, I always am. Every. Single. Time.

That’s a lot of change.

But, not unlike this giant metal container my husband has in the corner of our bedroom, a drop of change here and a drop of change there adds up to quite a bit of treasure in the long run.

Tonight, as I start my bath, my default setting is to go a bit glassy eyed with the prospect of work yet again tomorrow. With getting ready for camping. With paperwork due to a new school district and how again will I manage my daughter’s latest social commitment combined with my picking up my son and his friend after school?

But instead I will remember that everything happens perfectly.

I can only get so much done in a day.

I can stay right in the moment.

And thank God that for now… this very moment… I am safe. I am loved. And you are, too.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #48:  Everything is happening perfectly. Just surrender and stop fighting. You don’t have to like it, but acceptance makes it easier to decide what you can change, what you can’t, and allows for wisdom to know the difference.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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