What Our Bumper Stickers Say About Us

Since the Spring of 2016, I have driven my Subaru Legacy around with a royal blue and yellow Human Rights Campaign (HRC) sticker on the right-hand side of the trunk, just above the bumper.

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The HRC logo, depicting equality for all, was released in 1995 by the HRC, designed by Stone Yamashita.

I got the decal during Denver Pridefest and knew, immediately, that I wanted to put it on the back of my car. For some reason, it felt easier to put the sticker on the rear of my car first, and then, subsequently, tell my family and friends that not only did I support marriage equality, but that I too was gay. When I decided that this was the marker I wanted to put on my car – for all to see – I thought it would be best to do so with a handful of other stickers, too: the Rwandan flag, a Peace Corps logo, and a simple cross.

 

Aha, I thought.

Now people would be really confused, wondering, who is this person driving around with progressive Christian flag-focused stickers? Exactly. Like a declaration of identity, I wanted to spread the word that we could be all kinds of different things, all at once.

But, again, what was so compelling about presenting my identity through the medium of a vehicle? Couldn’t I have been happy enough with having conversations about these sorts of things? Why did I feel it necessary to stick adhesive on my trunk in order to say, “Hey! Look at me! This is what I stand for!”

I suppose a great deal of this drive is to identify or stand with something. Perhaps, subconsciously we can feel “in” when someone else sees the stickers and acknowledges that we are a certain kind of person. We feel validated, like our stickers subscribe us to a larger set of values or pillars. Unspoken, of course, as most of the time cars that are around us, speed down roads and highways, interchanging lanes, paying no attention to us anyway.

Bumper stickers aren’t all that old in the broader view of things; bumper stickers weren’t really a “thing” until after World War II. In an upgrade from “bumper signs” that were made from paper and string, Forest Gill was able to invent a new kind of adhesive combination that made for an actual bumper sticker. In the years following, these became incredibly popular for campaigning. By 1968, 20 million stickers were printed from the presidential campaign for Alabama Governor George Wallace, the famous segregationist. They were a big deal. Now, many historians and manufacturers alike believe they are on the decline, with political campaigns focusing more on the televised process, rather than the rally-like “hurrah” days.

More screen time equals less bumper stickers.

In some ways, however, they’re still booming around the city, especially Denver, with political affiliations (be it Obama or Trump), and also, things that are declarative like, “University of Colorado Mom”, “Proud Parent of an Honor Roll Student” or wishful thinking like “Coexist” or “Peace Not War.” There’s some a bit more on the defensive side, like, “9/11 was in Inside Job” or “Fear the Government that Fears your Guns” or “Put the Cellphone Down and Concentrate on Being a Shitty Driver.”

Really. I’ve seen it all.

Then, I know many people who claim that they would never and I mean, never, put a bumper sticker on their car. Maybe their water bottle. Maybe. Millennials certainly enjoy putting them on the back of their computer, so that’s always an option as well.

But for the resistant, what’s the hold up? Perhaps, in ways, it feels crass to declare our ideas or belonging simply with a paper stuck on our car. Isn’t that the function of social media these days? Isn’t Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest enough?

Also, it takes a long time to get bumper stickers off cars. I should know. Just this last week I removed two of my bumper stickers out of the feeling of wanting a clean slate. I was tired of having a trunk-full of stickers, and so, I decided to leave only two. But that is the thing: it took at least 45 minutes to remove them both. Is it really worth it? It’s kind of a funny store, too: driving through rural Kansas, Chelsea and I stopped for gas at a Shell station. As the gas poured into my tank, I took a ice pick and furiously began scraping the stickers off my car. Of course, in this moment, I was removing the cross, which I am sure, looked just fabulous in the middle of nowhere. I’m sure bystanders were wondering about what kind of heathen I was. Oops.

Moreover, bumper stickers, at least from my travels, are curiously a phenomenon in the United States. We love being a place of free speech, so hey, why not use one of the many canvasses we have. Additionally, we likely spend more time in our cars than anyone else, so why not decorate as we wish. There’s one problem that I’m noticing, though, and it’s one of the reasons I don’t want the back of my car loaded with stickers, especially of the political kind.

Bumper stickers – more commonly the political ones – create visceral reactions in the people around us. Okay, so maybe it’s just me, but if I see a sticker that rubs me the wrong way, immediately, I build up improper, incorrect, uninformed, and rude ideologies about the person behind the wheel. Let’s be clear: I don’t even know this person. So, perhaps, less of a problem than the bumper sticker itself is our reaction to it. As an already dangerously divided nation, we keep marking territories of “us” vs “them” faster than we can do anything else. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone, and yet, if I have to be honest, I would say that I’m really tired of everything being so divisive. I’m tired of hate. I’m tired of disunity. I’m tired of rancor. I’m ready for something a little deeper, and a lot more sustainable.

I’m not asking that everyone puts “love” stickers on the back of their cars. I’m also not suggesting that no one should have bumper stickers at all. I’m just noticing that they are there, and so are we, and that we can’t help ourselves to reacting. We think these stickers are saying something about us, but it’s possible, even likely, that the stickers are saying more about the drivers around, and how we’re reacting to all of them. I’m keeping my HRC sticker on my car. I’ll hold on to my Peace Corps one, too. These come from points of pride, honestly, and I like the way they look against the sky-blue color of my car. Sure, I could put the logo of the party that I voted for, or some smart-ass comment about our President, but right now, the most important thing to do is to find the right forum. Create discussion. Encourage conversation.

We don’t have to be defined by the labels – or stickers – we put around us.

We can always be more, always learning, always striving for what’s beyond the boundaries we create. This doesn’t mean agreeing in a kumbaya circle. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a lot of hate to overcome, and a lot of healing to pursue. So, let’s find meaningful action, not assuming that a bumper sticker or a Facebook post or an Instagram picture is going to move the needle.

We need to read, to listen, to move. We need to become informed citizens, ready to articulate what is happening around us. We need to understand our history and what’s come before us. We need a lot of things, but divisiveness is not one.

I love a funny, good bumper sticker. Just next time you put one up, think about what you are putting out into the road, and therefore, the world.

You really just don’t know, until you think about it.

Drive Safe – and enjoy the view.

busy-ness.

Leaves fall, summer has left, and jewel-toned scarves slowly surface from boxes long neglected during the height of sunshine season. Time, as usual, has escaped us, and in rare moments of breathing room, I contemplate: “what has happened? where has time gone?”

Intentionally, I slept in this morning, allowing my body and my spirit to catch up with the swift movements of my days. My eyes flickered just after 10:00am and as I cracked my toes from a deep slumber, I realize it’s my first Sunday home alone since….well, I can’t even remember. I curl back in bed with a warm cup of coffee, a bowl of warm oatmeal and banana, and, of course, my notebook. I want to soak up the stillness of this time for as long as I can.

Weekends have guided me through Texas plains, Aspen mountains, rugby pitches, Silverthorne hikes, brunch with old friends, and cozy couches as I’ve offered my dog sitting services. Bouncing around, living life like the quick turning of pages in a delectable book, I have lost any semblance of routine that it took an entire summer to build.

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Maroon Bells, Aspen, Colorado. 

Certainly, my days are far from regurgitated sameness – on any given weekend, I might be farming, exercising, watching football, or baking. You never really know. Still, as I’ve become better about creating structure in my work-flow from Monday to Friday, I’ve also added markers for rhythm: things like, morning work-outs, evening walks, Sundays at church, and most importantly, daily morning time set aside for journaling, prayer, and devotion.

All of these have been essential as I’ve practiced what it means (and looks like) to work effectively, hard, but also with a heck of a lot of balance. Earlier in the year, I struggled with this a lot. Working remotely provides great freedoms and flexibility. However, if you fail to find boundaries, you might find yourself working from bed far too much, or worse yet, in isolation. A continual mindfulness is required when so much of your day can be autonomously determined. I’m proud of the balance I have struck. And yet, the end of summer and early fall has slipped away, and the benchmarks that I’ve established to bring rhythm to my life have fell by the wayside.

I’ve acquiesced to the tides of time, even forgetting the number of the day or the context for the week.

Busyness is not always inherently bad, but it does become problematic when we are robbed of the ability to recognize the present moment. Routine is essential in this way – in my experience, if you build your life with both room for expectation and spontaneity, you are full alive. Yet, when time just keeps slipping away, it can feel like you cannot exist in the experiences you are a part of.

I took time to delve back into scripture this morning. Space give us time to think. To reflect. To ask hard questions. To offer gratitude. To rest. I needed this immensely.

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The beautiful part though, I think, is that we don’t have to feel guilty when we feel far from the things that nourish us. Instead, there’s always an opportunity to return, to re-calibrate, and that will do much more for us than guilt ever could.

We could design our life with schedules that are rigid and focus on “what we do.” We could. However, in a return to this space, I realize our life should be lived more from our heart, and the orientation of our love towards God, ourselves, and others. Doing doesn’t guarantee peace. I could engage in time for morning prayer every single day, but if I’m doing it out of obligation – and not love- than my practice is fueled more by religious expectation than with a real kind of desire in my heart. Relationship implies sacrifice and commitment, but if we do things simply because we think we have to, we will hardly be living a grounded kind of life.

Time has slithered by, and I confess that I’ve hardly noticed. Busyness can numb us – but not forever. We can choose the way we live our day. Days, it turns out, become weeks, and months, and years. Small choices make a difference. I hope to practice my life with a bit more intentionality, even in these seasons of busy, busy, busy things. Intentionality doesn’t mean doing nothing. Actually, I think it means choosing to approach our schedules and days with an awareness about what we are doing – and why. Whether it’s work, or church, or family, or fun – why are we doing what we are doing? Do I need rest? How can I take it?

Maybe it’s time to say “no.” Maybe it’s time to say “yes.”

It’s different for everyone.

But, at the end of the day, we all have the same amount of time.

The question is,

What will we do with it?

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Amarillo, Texas with four generations of women in our family. 

 

 

burning out in a crying world.

Folk-tunes blared from my silver computer mid-morning last week as I sipped my third, lukewarm cup of coffee. These days, my Spotify playlists have been inundated with artists like the Dirty Guv’nahs, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, or The Civil Wars. There’s something spectacularly calming about strumming banjos, melodies that sound like campfires in the back-country, and lyrics that speak on the potency of truth, the allure of a sweet, sweet crush, and the hopes for unfulfilled dreams.

I smiled as I heard the lyrics from Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors’ song, “I Like To Be Me When I’m With You.” It’s just too adorable. Perhaps, should I get married someday, this would be a lovely choice for “our song.”

You never know.

If I owned the finest vineyard, I’d rather sit and drink cheap wine with you.
If I could live on the moon, I would rather stay in Tennessee with you.
If I could sail across the ocean, the ocean would just be blue without you.
And if I climbed up Mount Everest, I would turn around and climb in bed with you.
With you I can be myself, with you I don’t have to be somebody else.
It’s like puttin’ on my favorite pair of shoes. I like to be with me when I’m with you. 

 

The song finishes, but my mind does not.

Grant applications await. Upcoming events, needed content for website, the meeting at noon, and a review of our bank statements for the previous month’s transactions flood my brief moment of peace. Soon, I’m reminded of my own, personal finances and the things I have left un-done within the realm of my own life. I think of budgets, bills, and responsibilities; my goodness the glamour of adult life has run dry, it seems.

Yes. It took all of 10 seconds to transform from a calm, gentle morning to the chaos of spinning thoughts, worries, and pieces of the day to pull together.Unfortunately, living life in a myriad of rush in the gross glorification of productivity is considered the norm in our world. Just because I don’t agree with it, doesn’t mean I haven’t become victim. I know I’m not alone in this. But goodness, it can create a weary soul in no time.

In the midst of these distractions, I got a call from a Rwandan friend in Denver.

Recently, we have become fast friends. He’s a father of two, with a wife that works downtown at a large hotel in the housekeeping department. He works as a care-taker in a nursing facility. He – and his family – don’t speak much English. It continue to astounds me how they get by. Last week, I helped them mail their rent check to their landlord in Denver. The address had changed and when they received the notice in the mail, they couldn’t decipher what exactly the change meant.

It’s the little things, you see, that make living in an outside culture overbearing and overwhelming.

This particular call was different, too. He was frantic.

A car accident had occurred the day prior and his Subaru was getting fixed at a local shop. His insurance company had issued him a rental car in the meantime. He needed someone to take him to Enterprise to pick it up for the three-day allotment.He would need an advocate; someone who could explain the insurance policies and provide a thorough process for how renting a car in the United States works.

You know what I told him when I asked if I would come?

“No. I can’t. I am working, I am sorry. I’m just too busy today.”

He was surprised as I was. The air hung in a thick silence until he resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to come. We hung up the phone and I sat back down at my dining room table.

With folk music still playing, I quietly contemplated what had just happened. A friend of mine – a friend who can’t speak English! – needed help. I said no. Did I really just turn him down? Who else would help him out? How is it possible that I just reacted like this? Worse of all, I could have taken the break! Most of my work wasn’t time sensitive and I would need a lunch break anyway!

I was quickly upset with myself. Certainly, you can’t say “yes” every single time a need arises, but if you are able to lend a hand, my goodness, lend a hand! Hadn’t I learned anything from all of the countless times that I have been helped in life? Gratitude, like dust swept from the concrete floors of our home, had been swept away for a portion of time. I was embarrassed.

I called him back immediately. I apologized, and grabbed the keys to my car so I could journey to Aurora to help him. “I’m coming,” I told him. For that, I was glad.

A situation was salvaged – but we don’t always have those kinds of chances to make things right again. I was lucky. I had placed my needs first, above a friends’. Even in my best of intentions, I had missed (almost) a potential opportunity to serve.

We get so focused thinking our job or occupation has to be “of service” and yet so often, God gives us the opportunity in so many other ways. Would we actually take it?

In a spirit of honesty, I think my initial harshness was a deeper reaction to day-to-day, on-going stress that inevitably has created tangible, real burn-out. I felt trapped by the confines of my day, by my own lack of energy, and frankly, from exhaustion. I felt beaten down and so helping someone else – even for just a moment – felt impossible. For me, when I start feeling this way, that’s when I know I am in need of a strong dose of re-calibration.

It might be folk music. It might be roller-blading. It might be long talks with friends. It might be night walks. It might be a bath and a book. It might be a glass of red wine. It might be all of the above. What’s important, is to know when this is happening, and upon recognizing, developing a way to work through it.

Ignoring it doesn’t work. Becoming enveloped by it creates discouragement.

The only way is forward. Take that path. It’s the harder one, but it’s the better one. Plan to get more sleep. Eat healthy. Take a break. Find perspective. Be active.

I’m trying this and it’s hard. These seasons can be tumultuous; but in faith, and with prayer, there will be solace. You have to believe that. Because when you do, you can live – truly live- and know the bigger picture of what’s important – and what you have to hold onto. Our brothers and sister are all around us. Sometimes they need us, sometimes we need them. We mustn’t be afraid to ask. And, we mustn’t be afraid to answer.

Live Forever

selah, selah.

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I have one of those best friends who peruses and filters the roommate-search postings and boards on Craigslist. Yep, Craigslist.

After intensive scrutiny, she sends along the solid possibilities, with a few creepy ones in between just for kicks and giggles. Take, for example, a “Bob” who is a 50-something looking to share his 200 square foot flat in Denver. Um, for real?

Riding high on the internal empowerment of “finding my own place” or “building a life” or whatever pre-constructed myth I had put in my head, rent price points of $1065, $1280, and even $1300 (for a studio!) initially didn’t phase me. We’ll make this work.

Well. Then I put pen to paper and turns out, life is expensive.

Rent, utilities, car insurance, phone bill, loans, savings, tithing, emergency, fun, gas, food, car repair, clothes, restaurants….?

My euphoria came crashing down – and fast – how in the world do people make this work?

Suddenly my budgeting skills back from the Peace Corps days doesn’t seem so accomplished – yes, I had about $200 to play with, but I simply had to pay for food, transport, and extra expenses as I deemed necessary. My school paid my rent. I was provided with insurance. Oh, and food would cost me something like, 3 or 4 dollars per week. So, you know.

Enter craigslist.com for roommate requests and quickly monthly rent drops around four or five hundred dollars. Now we’re talking. Surely, I had dreamed first and foremost of actually BUYING a piece of property. But, in order to do that, you have to prequalify and when you live in Africa with no credit for a deal of time, you’re not really considered that strong of a buyer.

Bah, ADULTHOOD IS EASY – said no one.

With Rachel’s screening, she helped eliminate or at least remove as much of the “creep” factor as you really can from looking online. I made some calls and wrote back to snarky ads in which one person even posted a Star Wars photo and said it was him and his house-mates. Not missing a beat, I wrote back, introduced myself and said that, “we’d probably make a great fit because I have always found Chewbaca insanely attractive.” And get this, they did write back and are interested in meeting to see if we jive. Hmm. Interesting. Strange, yes, but also very interesting.

So, I’ve started this hunt for where to live and I’ll go through some, I don’t know, “roomie blind dates” to see if there is anyone that I click with. This reminds me of my match.com days, and let’s just pray it doesn’t turn out so ghastly.

It’s the sign of the times: this is not the process our grandmothers or grandfathers would go through to try and find someone to live with. But, the world is a very different place nowadays. Be cautious, don’t be stupid, and with enough luck, it might actually work.

I can think of at least 3 close friends who found lasting roommates this way, so it is absolutely worth a try.

*

As I try to not scare people away with my extreme extroversion and affinity for books and journaling, I’m committed to laying down PLANS that I create and letting the Lord actually lead this thing – and my life too. I’ve been on a full-throttle, month-long immersion process and to no surprise, I woke up the other morning (yesterday) and realized that quite quickly, I was planning my life like a math equation.

A > B > C ….

And cutting out God entirely.

Operating from the standards of the world, I am buried deep in following what makes sense on a practical, worldly scale.

SELAH – SELAH – SELAH.

A Hebrew word that first encountered in the book of Habbakuk to mean, essentially, “wait in peace.” It is also seen as a way to signal a musical interlude; but often the concept is interpreted as taking a moment of silence and digesting what is happening. Kind of how we should strive to be living our lives; instead of this all-hands-on-deck-take-no-prisoners restlessness. You know what I’m talking about?

I’m looking for a roommate, a home, and who knows what else?

Maybe a dog too.

I’m coaching, finding a church home, and joining a small group, anxious as ever to avoid any brush of loneliness.

It’s a lot and with all of this transition, it’s important to let me let God, to feel the transition (because moving on your own is a BIG one), and to feel guided – literally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Convicted, I die to my plans.

For school, for 5 year expectations, and for what society tells us we should or should not do.

We have to rid ourselves of this sickness every day – at least I do – and I suppose the big-time benefit is trusting and KNOWING that God provides. Even if he does so unconventionally, like on craigslist.com

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