Nashville (Where Else Can I Go?)

I am shaken to my core.


Sandy Hook broke my heart and put a fear in me that I have never truly gotten over. I was pregnant with Jericho at the time, days away from being hospitalized, and was absolutely terrified to bring my child into this world. I remember sitting in my office, bawling my eyes out, typing messages back-&-forth to a coworker that “this is yet another reason why I’m determined to put my kid into a Christian school.”


I haven’t said anything about Nashville because I have to process that yet another protective bubble I’ve put around my child has been shattered.


I’ve Googled bulletproof backpacks. I’ve thought about quitting my job to homeschool more times than I can count. I’ve questioned God, gun laws, gender identity, and why the hell people are so distracted from the truth of these tragedies…I honestly don’t know what to do, or how to protect my child in any other way but to daily fall on my face and beg God to take care of him…to trust Him to watch over his school, his classmates, his teachers and leadership….

When I was pregnant with my son, I knew every day that I was carrying a miracle. I knew that I could keep him safe…I could eat and drink the best things (sorry about the Taco Bell); I could cut way down on my coffee, eliminate the occasional glass of wine, watch the salt, and take my medicine. I took shots every day with a smile on my face, knowing that if this is what I needed to do to bring this child safely into the world, I’d do it. I’d do anything. 30 days of bed rest and twice-daily injections? Absolutely. Daily lab draws and internal ultrasounds? You got it. Lights off, no reading, and no visitors? Sure thing, Doc–you name it. Whatever it took to keep my baby safe, that’s what I’d do.

When he was born, I remember the fear I had on the drive home from the hospital…no nurses? The outside world seemed so big and scary, and everyone was a potential threat. Even David’s driving was under a microscope; every car on the highway was the enemy. I didn’t take my hand off of the car seat until we carried him inside of the house.

I learned to carry him in a Moby wrap, and he’d nestle into my chest, safe and sound. I held him as closely as I could, & I continued wearing him in some kind of carrier until he was 5 years old. I know that sounds ridiculous to some, but when your kiddo is a runner and you’re not, it sure makes it much less panic-inducing to have him in a crowd of people. I remember the last time he was in the carrier; we were at a huge Blues festival, and I knew where he was the entire time. I could have fun, and so could he, and he was safe because he was right with me. Who is possibly safer than an slightly-psychotic mother?!?

In-home daycare and preschools were tolerated because they sent daily photos & I knew I could check on him any time. We loved the people who cared for Jericho, not only because they were so good to him, but because they were so understanding of my anxiety & they responded to me with love and patience (and prayer). We interviewed potential schools for almost 2 years, and finally chose a local Christian school. For me, it was never a question: My child would be in a private Christian school. They put Jesus first, and he would be safe & surrounded by people of faith who would love him.

Kindergarten started, and we had a principal that I’d grown to love…but then he retired. I had to learn to trust new people, which hasn’t been easy, but as Jericho has grown, so has my ability to let others lead him in his life (not without behind-the-scenes questioning and some minimal trouble-making when I’ve been irked). I’ve had lots of questions, and I’m sure at times the school has dreaded seeing my e-mails come through; overall, though, we know he’s in a place where he’s loved and that teaches him the truth of Jesus in love.

School safety is an issue, even for a small Christian school, and I had to get used to seeing security on my child’s campus. Nothing is more heartbreaking than hearing your child say they’ve had to endure active shooter training. What kind of world do we live in, where that’s done on a regular basis? What kind of mentally unstable maniac goes after children?!? In a school? I just don’t understand….I had a very difficult time when I as an adult had to undergo campus shooting safety training; I struggled with panic attacks in the aftermath of my first training (I’m not going to say I’m ashamed to admit that. I think if someone feels like this kind of training is natural, they’re the ones that are crazy, not me). Now that I work on a different campus where there doesn’t seem to be any active shooter training, I almost find that more frightening.

I am struggling today, people. I’d like to say that I sat down to write this blog thinking that I’d end it with some pithy, spiritual, give-it-all-to-Jesus solution, but I don’t have it. My former pastor used to repeatedly sing the phrase, “where else can I go?” Where else can I take this? Where else can I lay my fear, my urge to wrap my kid in packing materials and never let him leave my house? His school sent out a mass e-mail today stating they were re-evaluating security measures, & I had to fight the urge to grab my keys & to go get my son. I can’t live in fear, and I can’t let my kid see that I’m afraid; kids DESERVE to live a life free of this kind of anxiety, and as parents, we can’t show them how deep it runs.

I have no choice but to say on repeat, “where else can I go? ‘For You have been my refuge, a tower of strength against the enemy’.” (Ps. 61:3). I’m going to claim this verse repeatedly until the panic in my spirit settles down. I’m going to trust that God is in control, and that the fear that is plaguing me will not take over my thoughts and actions today. I’m going to do my job, do the laundry, take care of the dog and on the outside, present as a normal suburban mother….I’m going to pray until the panic stops, and crank up the worship music to change the atmosphere in my house.

What I will not do, is:

  • Politicize gun control (although I have MUCH to say on this issue)
  • Comment on how I feel like weaponizing sexual identity is a terrible approach to any issue (although I have MUCH to say on this issue)
  • Focus more on what I have to say than on the spiritual conditions of this nation and the fact that we’re at this level of daily violence (although I have MUCH to say on this issue)
  • Embrace the rhetoric that fuels violence and hatred on all sides of any issue these days (although I have MUCH to say on this issue)
  • Get caught up on social media comments and the keyboard commandos who can’t seem to filter themselves or to present with any kind of kindness or love in their words (although I have MUCH to say on the issue)
  • Tell everyone all of the things I have to say on these issues, as if my words are anything that have an effect on these seemingly never-ending attacks and topics

I think we all have a lot to say on the topics of school shootings, gun control, identity, and violence. Words do nothing. Actions > words. Votes > words. Love > words. “They will know we are Christians by our _________” Um, comments on Facebook? Nope, that’s not it….Tweets? Nope, that’s not it……Protests? Nope….By screaming at people? Wait….um, nope.

“They will know we are Christians by our LOVE,” John 13:35. I John 4:18, “Perfect love casts out fear.”

Today, I am afraid.

Today, I am angry.

Today, I am ready to snatch up my boy and hold him as tightly as I can hold his little 10 year-old self, & never let him go.

Today, I didn’t want to see him leave the house.

Today, I remember that I had to stop myself from going into his room at 3:00am to kiss his head and make sure everything was okay, because I’m still dealing with PTSD that it’s hard to admit I have.

Today, I am finding it difficult to focus, because my spirit is sick at the condition of the world and how it’s creeping in from the East and West Coasts, and is in my so-called safety zone of the Midwest.

Today, I am claiming the mercies of God to breathe.

I’m not having a mental breakdown. I’m just putting all of my feelings as a mother into words, as someone who struggles with anxiety on days where there hasn’t been a mass act of violence against children. I normally function quite well with my mental issues. Things like Nashville can derail me, but I do find that I’m now armed with the things I need to do to stay on track and to not let my anxiety be visible to my child (thank you, therapy and Celebrate Recovery). To be honest, I wrote this blog because the comments on Facebook were causing me to have so much anxiety that I ripped what’s left of my fingernails down to the quick–that’s me being very real. The fighting and politicizing have got me so on edge that I can’t think straight, and I’m about to get rid of Facebook all together. I sat down to blog it out just so I could process and refocus on the grace of God–where else can I go? If you Google that phrase, you’ll find it’s in the Bible multiple times. It’s foundational, especially when the fear is so overwhelming. I know I’m saying it again, but it’s true, and it’s how I’m ending this. We so often think of Psalm 139 for the passage on being “fearfully and wonderfully made,” which is true, but there’s another part of the chapter I am choosing to focus on today:

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Ps. 139: 8-11)

Please join me today in praying for the overwhelming fear, panic, and hatred that has this nation so firmly in its grip. Pray for the mental health of parents and children who struggle with the understanding of the headlines; pray for Nashville and other cities that are triggered by yet another mass shooting. Pray for the people who fund lobbyists that focus more on bottom lines and money, rather than the lives of children. Pray that we all focus on how to love better, and how to love louder than the fear.

Restoration in the Face of Deconstruction

I’ve probably started to write 15 blogs about the concept of Deconstruction. It’s a pervasive, sneaky, deceptive line of philosophy that breaks down Christianity into four words: “Hath God Not Said?” If you remember who spoke those four words, you’ll understand where I’m going with this. “Hath God Not Said?” in the King James vernacular, are the four words Satan, disguised as the Snake, said to Eve in the Garden of Eden just before she made her eternally-impacting bite of the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil. With those four words, Eve decided she needed to know more than the Lord wanted her to know. She decided that her thirst for knowledge was more important than the spiritual consequences, and so began the downfall of humanity (please note that I am in no way, shape, or form blaming Eve for the Fall of Man. I believe Adam & Eve hold the responsibility evenly & that humanity has used Eve’s arrogance to subjugate and discriminate against women since that singular moment, but that’s another blog. 🙂 ).

So, Deconstruction began in the very infancy of earth…Satan came in, made Eve question the truth she’d known since Creation, & that line of “wait a minute, is THAT what God said? Is THAT what He intended?!?” has been used & abused ever since…it’s nothing new.

In 2020, I started studying the Torah with a small group of people–my home church at the time–and as the pandemic began, we took a pretty deep dive. It was fascinating; I found myself going back to the Garden & the original plan God had for His people. As we studied things in the original Hebrew, I really found myself getting more & more frustrated at the differences between the Hebrew intentions & the English translations. This wasn’t anything new to me, but it was the first time I REALLY took a deep dive, & it came with some very frustrating side effects. I’m still struggling with some things. I’m struggling with how God laid out His word very clearly, yet His people even in those early days started off on such a wrong foot. The precedent that was set even by patriarchs such as Abraham, Moses, Isaac–these are deeply flawed people who were responsible for creating the foundations of the children of God–how do we reconcile this? How do we trust a murderer to accurately transcribe the words of God? How do we trust a man who openly deceived kings, to raise up an anointed people?

And then I REALLY got into my head about language, which has always been a struggle for me, even in the New Testament. There are Hebrew words that we CAN’T translate into English–we don’t have the words for it–and there are words the translators were actively influenced into mistranslating by those that funded the work (the King James Version is a great example, particularly in regards to baptism).

I’m still struggling with these issues. If I had the time to do the deep dive into Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, I’d like to say that I would; in all honesty, I’m probably too lazy to do the work myself. I know that’s kind of pathetic to admit. Do I still believe the Bible is the word of God. Yes, I do. Do I believe that our English translation has some work to do? Absolutely…but for now, it’s the best we have. Am I willing to bank my salvation, my lifestyle, and my eternity on “the best we have?”

Yes, I am.

I have almost 37 years of reading/studying/singing this Book under my belt (sometimes barely, sometimes voraciously), & it’s never steered me wrong. It’s always drawn me closer to a God Who understands and welcomes my questions. There are things I do NOT understand (imprecatory Psalms? Those seem harsh…although I understand the sentiments, particularly when I am stuck in traffic.:) ), & I firmly believe that’s okay. Where we do not understand, we trust. That’s faith.

That’s a hard lesson I learned a long time ago. I’m reminded of it a LOT as I go through this journey of processing issues with translations.

Most of the time, when I compare the Hebrew information I’m given (my husband is really, really great about studying this stuff beyond what I can begin to process) I get aggravated as to why it’s not broken down more accurately in the English version. It always, ALWAYS puts a new light on the very character of God & His intentions for His people. In fact, the more you look at the Hebrew words in the Old Testament, the more you get the picture of a loving God Who wants a people that are truly set apart & dedicated to His goodness. Most of us that are raised in the church see an Old Testament God Who has His finger on the “smite” button…but it’s not the case, so in reviewing the original languages of the Old Testament, it causes you to realize just how much He truly adores His kids!

This disconnect with the Old Testament–seeing it as the book of the Smite-Happy God–verses the Jesus-Died-For-Our-Sins happy-lovey God of the New Testament–has created this whole, “well, the OT is all of the rules and harshness, but the NT FREES us to do whatever we want!” kind of mentality. It’s not the truth.

The New Testament is the restoration of the separation caused in the beginning of the Old Testament–The sin we started with, the gap between us & the very throne of God, is erased and reconciled with Jesus’ sacrifice in the Gospels. It’s a beautiful, circular coming to salvation that God planned thousands of years ago.

Yesterday during worship, “restoration” was a word I couldn’t get away from. There are times where we feel so stripped down; I’ve really struggled lately with feelings of worthlessness & of being ignored, gaslit, & dismissed. It’s actually a lifelong issue. I guess I’m finally able to put words to the feeling, and in doing so, am finally able to identify and process how to get through it (maybe). I think when we talk about restoration, we look at physical and material things. Have you ever thought about it in regards to our mental and spiritual health?

What would life look like if we were mentally and spiritually restored and refreshed?

We sang the song, “Homecoming” by Cory Asbury, & it hit me like a brick in the head. What does it mean, to be restored?!? Is it a restoration of mental health? Peace…feeling acknowledged and valued…feeling like I matter? Is it a restoration of family? What would it be like, to hold hands with both of my kids? What would it be like, to see my Grandma again? To feel her kiss my cheek or call me “spider monkey?”

What will it feel like, to be whole?

We’re going to know–we’re GOING TO KNOW. We have that promise. Amos 9:14 says, “and I will bring my people Israel back from exile. ‘They will rebuild the ruined cities & live in them. They will plant vineyards & drink their wine; they will make gardens & eat their fruit’.” The Bible is full of verses about restoration.

Do you know how deconstruction ties in here?

Deconstruction seeks to actively undermine the authority of Scripture and in doing so, it steals every promise in the Word.

I don’t want to live like that.

Deconstruction puts the intellectualization of the Bible above the spiritual intention of the written love letter we have from Jesus.

I don’t want to live like that.

Deconstruction steals the restoration of what this world steals from us, and replaces it with the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.

I know what’s good. I know what’s evil.

And I choose the restoration that Love gives.

I choose the promise of our Homecoming.

I choose the promise of Jesus.

And when I don’t understand, I seek clarity. When I don’t get clarity, I seek peace. And when peace is evasive, I still trust in Him, because through it all, His Spirit still loves without fail.

Deconstruction will only serve to decimate the spiritual, but restoration will heal your soul & deliver the promises of eternal life…so that’s what I pick. I hope you do, too.

Radioactive fallout? AKA, When it’s not cancer, but….

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, but sometimes updates require more than a Facebook blurb (and let’s face it–Facebook is a bit of a cesspool. Sometimes it’s amazing, but more times than not, I find myself reading statuses & struggling with anger/jealousy/politics/etc. Totally mentally unhealthy).

A few months ago, I started to notice issues with my voice. Maybe they would seem normal to a person who doesn’t sing all of the time (in my car, you know. Not like I’m singing anywhere right now, and I haven’t in a long time); I don’t know. I talk a lot more in my current position than I’m used to, so I chalked it up to that, until April, when I clearly felt the Lord say, “Hey, kid, that’s not normal. Call the doctor.” So, I called “Dr. Doogie,” as my husband calls him–the otolarynologist at Barnes/WashU that I had seen after my thyroidectomy–and scheduled an appointment for today.

Meanwhile, back in February, I hurt my neck. I had an MRI earlier this month that revealed two things: #1, I have a couple of bulging disc issues that I’ll be tackling with my chiropractor. #2, my lymph nodes in my neck were super-enlarged, & needed to be addressed. Clinically, my labs were good, so I wasn’t concerned about my cancer returning. However, after dealing with these lymph nodes for 7 years now, I decided I was going to tell Dr. Doogie that I wanted them out of my body–I was pretty set on it. And then I had my appointment today.

It turns out that my lymph nodes haven’t changed in the last few years. They’re just weirdly large, and as long as they don’t change and my labs look good, they’re staying put. Obnoxious, but solid–sounds like me, amirite?!? 🙂 What HAS changed, is what brought me into his office in the first place: My formerly-partially paralyzed left vocal cord is now completely paralyzed. I have no idea how that’s possible, but the next steps are to see a speech/occupational therapist at WashU that specializes in vocal cord paralysis. Those people exist?!?!? I find that amazing, as I find just about any specialist. Who decides that’s what they’re going to do?!? I wish I had known years ago that those kinds of careers existed! Evidently, they can help restore some movement with both injections (yikes!) and physical therapy.

So, the “radioactive fallout” from my thyroid cancer continues–I’m so, so thankful that it’s not back, but I’m slightly bummed that I’m dealing with side effect issues. I’m hopeful that they’ll be able to help–I mean, I’ll never be where I used to be, when I was singing 7-8 hours a day; I don’t expect that. I just want to be able to yell at David at full volume, you know? 🙂 I can still get pretty loud, but still….bwahahahahahahaha!

And that’s the update–I could write a small novel if I had the time, but that’s a BIG if, as time seems to be my most precious commodity these days. Time to have some summer fun & to enjoy & soak up every minute with my kiddo…..Blessings on you! And if you have any insights on vocal therapy, send them my way!

Cut Off These Hands–the Beat Goes On.

I was listening to Bethel this morning (it’s my go-to, especially when I’m struggling with my mental/spiritual health), & the lyrics, “with every breath that I am able, I will sing of the goodness of God,” resonated with me. Breathing seems so ordinary until you can’t do it, right? Like, we just expect lungs to inflate & deflate. We expect the transition of oxygen to our cells to be seamless, to be subconscious, until it’s not.

When you’re aware of every breath, it’s stressful–>which can contribute to anxiety–>which also makes it hard to breathe…But singers gotta sang, right?!?

Worshippers HAVE to worship. It’s how we’re wired–it’s what God made us to do, even those of us that may only sound mediocre to others. When He makes you to do something, He shuts that fire up in your bones and it HAS to come out, even when you don’t think you’re able.

If you cut the hands off of a drummer, they will rig a set and keep a rhythm with their feet (just ask Rick Allen). They literally have cadence running through their veins–try sitting next to my sister during ANY kind of musical performance. She will tap on whatever is handy, impulsively. I think she probably taps rhythms out while she sleeps–it’s who she is. She. Is. A. Drummer. It’s who God made her to be, regardless of the job that pays the bills. When God creates you to worship Him in a certain way, it consumes your entire being.

I have always been surrounded by music. I remember singing Gatlin Brothers songs while washing the dishes, or The Oak Ridge Boys, or even Madonna, Skynyrd, or Cash. Church hymns line the wrinkles of my brain–“The Old Rugged Cross,” or “In the Garden.” My mom’s harmony laid the path for my own, & the Baptist church I was raised in taught me deep lyrics & rich melodies, & how they all worked together to worship Jesus. For my sister, it was the rhythms and the guitars. For me, it was the voices, and since I can remember, I have sang my lungs out whenever possible…

But sometimes, I can’t.

Asthma is a jerk–I’ve made it no secret just how I feel about the contemptable beast. Most of the time, I go on uninterrupted. No one would know I actually have a partially-paralyzed vocal chord from my cancer surgery. I sound almost normal, and God knows I haven’t lost a lot of volume (in short bursts). Vocally (when I can breathe), although I’ve lost a lot of power and duration, things sound almost the same, which had originally stressed me out the most about the surgery. I don’t even think about that, most of the time. Breathing, however, is another story. Vocal chords work based on how air moves between them. Asthma likes to rear its ugly head this time of the year, & this time it’s BAD–like, ER, steroids, and more steroids bad. Nothing really seems to be touching it, & I’m struggling with worrying about it (amongst the stress of everything else). “With every breath that I am able?” Oh, Jesus, what if I’m not?!?

Then we praise Him in the silence.

We praise Him with our voices, and when those run out, we find other ways to give Him glory, whether it’s a blog or a note to a friend, or a silent prayer, or even just a hug to someone who needs it. We praise Him with whatever we can do or find, because regardless of the method or ability, IT’S WHO HE MADE US TO BE.

So, “with every breath that I am able, I WILL sing of the goodness of God,” even when I can’t breathe, even when I’m stressed, even when I’m run-down, and even when I don’t think I can function. He still is, and I am still who He created me to be. I’m going to push aside the emotional aspects of this, and focus on that.

https://www.aafa.org/

Wallpaper Christianity…

I’ve been so focused on the new job that I’ve felt like my brain has left me zero room to process emotions–does that make sense? I’ve been struggling with feeling like God is near (is He? I mean, of course He is, but He’s hard to hear when the world is so loud & obnoxious), in the middle of trying to get thru the day-to-day…
But He finds ways & places to capture our hearts, sometimes when we least expect it, & emotions, like water, WILL make their way thru.
Sitting at Hannah’s grave hurt today… it hurt in a way that it hasn’t in a long time. 💔 

Maybe it’s the season–after all, her birthday was October 30th, & November 28th is the date of her death. Maybe it’s the fact that this time of the year, I feel pulled in more directions than are humanly possible to reach. Maybe it’s that time is flying by, & I get this “hitch” in the center of my chest every time my son outgrows another piece of clothing…

I sat at her grave, putting up her Christmas tree, & as I was making things “just so,” I felt God say, “Wait. Take a breath–you need to process this.” David & Jericho were in the car–they could wait. I sat there & looked at the beautiful hills…15 years. 15 years of memories, of decorations come and gone…15 years of tears, of occasional stoicism or anger, many years of finding, losing, and re-finding peace in the unknowing….even peace in the non-understanding…and still, 15 years of unanswered questions…

I still find myself asking if it will ever make sense…and I still find myself leaning back on Him, knowing that He is still there to catch me. He is in the unknowing, even when He is all we know.

You know, people have gotten really crazy with what I call “wallpaper Christianity.” I can’t do the whole, “live, laugh, love” thing on my wall…I have a Cricut, & I’m pretty sure David’s biggest concern when he bought it was that I’d plaster the house with all of that, “this is us” crap, LOL, but he needn’t worry…usually….But the other day, I saw a sign on Facebook that I’m going to have to duplicate. It said, “I still remember the days I prayed for what I have, now.”

Oooooh, that got me.

I still remember the letter 14-year old me wrote to her future husband, & all of the prayers poured into this man that steals my heart & my bath towel, or forgets to change the toilet paper roll. I still remember the prayers poured into finding joy again, or into recovery. I remember the prayers poured into learning to trust God all over again, into finding who I was again….and I remember on a daily basis, the prayers poured into the crazy-pants, static, loud, lovable, kind, adorable, occasionally obnoxious, and always-amazing now 8-year old miracle that I get to call, “Son.”

Even on the days where I have utterly failed at wife-ing or parenting, I remember those prayers, & I am endlessly grateful.

I’m thankful for this journey. Above all, I am thankful for a God Who loves & sustains us thru the the business & chaos, & Who lovingly calls us to selah, or “pause” & to listen to His voice….Who created us as emotional beings & Who never tells us to “stifle it” or to “suck it up.” He understands our processes because He created us in His image, & He IS an emotional Being–He loves, He grieves, & He celebrates. He doesn’t expect or want us to pretend; He wants our reality & our actuality.

We may want to focus on “live, laugh, love, ” but He is also in those commas & spaces between,,,in the parts no one wants to paper their walls with. He is calling us to pause in the chaos, and to allow ourselves to feel…to feel all of it, and to share it with Him.

So, I got a little….well, I almost said, “wrecked,” but it was more like an emotional flat tire: easily fixed, but not to be ignored. And that’s okay. There is peace after the processing.

I hope that you get to take the time through the next few weeks to breathe, to feel, and to fall into His arms. He will always be there.

Happy Thanksgiving, and if you don’t hear from me, Merry Christmas, beloveds. May you find your selah in this season.

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes–Turn & Face the Strange”

I haven’t blogged since the end of July!! Having COVID really, truly rerouted me. I’m not sure how I can even begin to sum up the last 2 months, so the words of David Bowie come to mind:

“Strange fascinations fascinate me
Ah, changes are taking
The pace I’m goin’ through

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Ooh, look out, you rock ‘n’ rollers
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older”

And older, I am…There are definitely times where I feel every bit of the 43 years under my skin, but I think having a third grader keeps David & I feeling somewhat spry (at least, that’s what they tell us). Jericho started the third grade in mid-August, & thanks to some of the tutoring we did over the summer, it seems to be going well. If only he could stop talking out of turn–so many ideas, so many words, so little time!!! It’s the story of my life. I deeply empathize with my kiddo, but that doesn’t mean he gets out of the consequences of pulling cards when he misbehaves at school, even if they’re related to his “excess verbiage,” as one teacher told me when I was a kid. He had two–TWO–face plants/head smacks in a 2-week time that nearly sent us to Urgent Care (if only one was available without a two-hour wait, under our insurance plan). My mom patched up one, and I patched up the other. He’ll have some cool scars, but other than that, he’s fine. He started Ki-Do Defense Systems, and it’s exciting to see a third-generation martial artist come out of our family!

David continues to do well with his job; the only drawback is the hours, so I am praying that he gets a slightly-earlier shift. I’m very proud of him! I’m also very thankful to the Lord–David landed that job in the middle of the pandemic, and it has been a huge blessing.

Speaking of jobs….deep breath….after 10+ years, I have resigned my position with the University of Missouri–St. Louis, and have taken a position at another University in our area. For the first time in over twenty years (21!!!!!), I will not be working in healthcare. It’s a realization that is staring me in the face, & I’m in a bit of shock over the decision. If God would not have so clearly opened so many doors, this would not be happening. Leaving the security blanket of a good job, good benefits, mostly-nice people, etc., is a big, scary, Nestea-plunge into unchartered waters!!!!!

But it’s time.

I think I’ve grown hermit-ish. I think I’ve grown comfortable, like a fat cat lounging in a windowsill. I felt the Lord ask me last year, “are you tired of being comfortable? Are you ready to make a change? Or do you just want to stay with the familiar?”

At the time, I said, “I’ve been here this long. Let me stay. It’s easy–I’m in my comfort zone. I can deal with the one-or-two people that make things difficult. I can do this.” And then the pandemic hit.

I realized that I didn’t want to do this anymore. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew that it wasn’t this–it wasn’t any major blow-up kind of thing. I just missed my family.

I’ve missed almost every morning of school. I’ve missed almost every bedtime. I’ve missed conversations with my husband, and I missed walking the dang dog. I’ve missed countless plans or evening meet-ups; I’ve missed relationships because I’ve had to be in bed by 8:00am. I’ve missed people.

When I missed the entire month of July because of COVID & found myself deeply, deeply struggling with anxiety, anger, bitterness & even resentment, I found myself face-down with the Lord, wondering what in the world needed to happen? I’d been looking at other positions, but nothing seemed to fit; when this position opened up, I didn’t think I had a chance (much like I felt when my UMSL job opened up), but to my surprise, they picked me! Then began the process of leaving, and it’s a difficult process, indeed.

There are so many things I’d like to say, but I think I will leave it at this: I am thankful. I am so grateful for the time I’ve had here; for the experiences & the opportunities; and mostly, for the schools I’ve been able to work with, with our Mobile Eye Van project (please-oh-please, click the link!). I’m thankful for those I’ve met along the way, & for those that took the time to teach me the importance of what they do at the Center for Eye Care offices. I’m thankful for the communities I’ve been able to connect with, and for every single school nurse that shared a laugh in one of the many meetings in which I awkwardly tried to convey the importance of optometric care (“If you can’t see, you can’t read, and if you can’t read, you can’t succeed!” Trademark pending!!!!). I’m thankful for the other vision service providers who tirelessly drive their RVs up-&-down the streets of St. Louis to care for kids and even adults and senior citizens. I’m thankful for the staff that have come together to provide patients with the best care manageable, and for the doctors and students who work seamlessly to diagnose, to treat, and to educate patients in a way that makes sense. It’s been a privilege to be a part of this team.

I know that it’s time to move forward towards new things, new people, & new adventures. I know God is delivering me from anxiety (it’s not “my” anxiety anymore. It’s His.) & that He is with me on this journey…If I fall, He’s there. If I fly, He’s there. If I stay grounded, if I get it right, if I screw it up–He’s there. What do I have to fear? I’ve found myself singing a song that a friend wrote several years ago; the whole album was my go-to during my pregnancy with Jericho, & I’m listening to it daily as I make this new transition. The song (“Jacob,” by Bizzy Grapperhaus) has the line, “there’s one way out of the wilderness…leaning on my Beloved.” I’ve been holding onto it like a childhood teddy bear, a security blanket of sorts. I need a constant reminder that He’s got a plan, and the closer I get to Him, the more peace I have. When the fear or anxiety threatens, I lean in harder. He always calms the storm.

My biggest hope as I leave this institution is that people knew/know that my faith has been more important to me than anything….that my relationship with God is the only thing that has carried me through the last 10 years (so many highs-&-lows)…and that with all of my skills and/or flaws, I tried my hardest to work in a way that honors God. I’ve done my best, and I’m leaving with that peace in my heart. I’m thankful for that. I’ve worked hard, and now I’m going to go work just as hard for someone else! Keep us in prayer as we make this transition, as a family–and please, pray for me as I take on different responsibilities in an entirely new field.

I’m looking forward to the new adventure…starting 10/4. 🙂

Update…COVID & The Cooleys

In the month of June, for multiple reasons, I had a mental health freakout. My anxiety hit the roof, I wound up face-to-face with unresolved childhood trauma; there were parenting crises, & things at work were coming to a boiling point. When one area of my life goes haywire, I can generally process. When EVERY area of my life goes haywire?!?!?! My brain broke.

I wound up reaching out to my pastors, a counselor, & a friend; they all counseled me to take a break, & after pushing the guilt to the back-burner I asked my boss if I could take 4 vacation days over the Fourth of July holiday.

Those four days turned into TWENTY.

For my first day of my vacation, I spent an entire day with my mom. I had her ALLLLLL to myself! We had an amazing time, shared stories, had some adventures, got the car stuck on the side of the road in no-man’s land, & I cherished every single minute. I love my mom, & I love learning from her. It looked like this break was going to be awesome!

Me & My Beautiful Mama!

On the second day of my self-imposed mental health break, I received a text that my son had been directly exposed to COVID. My initial reaction was, “Oh. Well, I guess that’s really nothing new.” It’s not that I didn’t take it seriously–rather, we’d been so good about masks, hand-washing, etc. The environment in which he had been exposed was a small group of kids and 2-3 adults. I notified my family, but that same day I received word that I needed around $2000 in car repairs, so I had more pressing things on my plate…or so I thought. Two days later, our plans for celebrating the Fourth with my family moved forward as usual.

‘Merica!

We spent most of the time outside, and my parents have a large, airy house. Towards midday, I looked at my son & thought, “He seems off. NO WAY.” Out loud, I said, “Mom, do you have a thermometer?”

Lo & behold, my beloved boy had a temp of 102. The bottom fell out of my stomach, & the anxiety hit me like a punch from Conor McGregor. My mom looked at me and immediately prayed; we gave Jericho some aspirin & began hourly temperature checks. We kept him hydrated; outside of the fever & a lack of appetite, he was as keenly interested in the fireworks as ever before, and in less than 24 hours, he was perfectly fine. Whew!!!! We’d spent a lot of time outdoors, so maybe it was just a sinus bug? The next day, we went to the zoo (we were masked), & all seemed fine! He seemed a bit crankier than usual, but it was bloody HOT, so it wasn’t completely out of the norm. Life moved on.

The Zoo!

The next day, I had some tests to run at the hospital. I’ve had a lot of issues with pain and inflammation this year, particularly in regards to my legs. The cramping, aches, and stabbing pains have left me unable to rest, & that’s contributed to my mental health struggles. The testing took two hours; after I left, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling all that great. I stopped and got what seemed like a super-bland lemon-berry slush, & made my way through the hell we all know as Wal-Mart. By the time I got to the car, I felt like I was coming down with the flu–I still hadn’t put it together.

The following morning, I had a telehealth appointment. By the end of it, it was determined that I had better get tested; I was supposed to return to the office the next day. I opted for a rapid test & set up the appointment for later that afternoon. By the time of the appointment, I couldn’t drive, & had to ask David to come and get me. The test, to my surprise, was positive.

I spent the next 5 days in bed…& somewhere in there, David got sick as well (he never bothered to get tested). I stayed in bed from Wednesday evening through Monday afternoon.

People, COVID sucks. If you haven’t had it, it’s horrible. I am still pretty sure that the three of us had a more moderate version of it in February, 2020; I thought I had it again last November, but I never tested positive. THIS, though? This has been infinitely worse than both respiratory things I had in February & in November. It’s been 3 weeks; I still have major chest tightness and unrelenting fatigue. I feel like my lungs have been destroyed by a cheese grater. David still has a cough, along with the fatigue. We haven’t gone ANYWHERE with the exception of work & Jericho’s summer school, since the holiday weekend. I tried to go into a store last week, but couldn’t do it. It’s bad enough that I asked my sister to take Jericho for the weekend just so we could rest & sleep (she’s NEVER cared for him on her own before, so this was a huge ask. Not only did she volunteer to take him for the whole weekend–I had initially only asked her to take him for a day–she knocked it out of the park! They had a TON of fun, & the pictures are awesome!! She braved Sky Zone!!!!!), and so that Jericho could get out of the house.

If I didn’t have a nebulizer, albuterol, & a CPAP machine, I don’t think David or I would have been able to avoid the hospital. I have monitored our oxygen saturation like a vulture. We both have medical appointments at the end of this week that will make sure we’re recovering, but seeing David as sick as he’s been? That’s been terribly alarming to me. He’s never really sick, & he’s terrible about taking anything when he is. We’re both exhausted. The reports that this can take a long time to come back from are not anything I want to read–ain’t anybody got time for this!!!!! Neither one of us can taste or smell anything properly, which I suppose is fantastic for the diet; it’s frustrating for me, because I like food!!!!!! And when you have a taste for something, but can’t taste it?!? ACK!

I personally think COVID was designed from the pits of hell. It’s debilitating, demoralizing, destructive, & deadly. All of the conflicting information, the division, the inconsistencies–I am sick & tired of reading about masks, vaccines, incentives, etc., because from the very beginnings of this mess, the “facts” have constantly changed. I’ve been dragged for being unvaccinated–if I’m willing to keep wearing masks and washing my hands, why do I need to be vaccinated? I’d rather do that, than inject something into my system that is proving to have inconsistent results. And now that I’ve got all of these lovely antibodies, it’s giving me more time to think about the vaccine, the information, the consequences, and the benefits. I’m the type of person that the more something is pushed, the more likely I am to take a step back & say, “wait a minute.” Vaccine incentives & the constant propaganda is off-putting to me, especially based on government involvement. I’m completely content to do my part to reduce the spread/exposure by wearing masks and washing my hands (and social distancing–I love social distancing), & I feel like that’s generally enough–isn’t that what they told us for the first 10 months of this mess?

We take preventative measures to protect ourselves & others. I’m not an anti-vaxxer, but I am someone who has been known to have the weirder, more rare reactions to various drugs, & I don’t want to take any chances. Wearing a mask has zero side-effects to me (I know that’s not the case for everyone) & I am happy to do so. I’m not going to rail on anyone who doesn’t want to wear one (but I will not hesitate to tell you to step off if we’re indoors & you’re not wearing one, ‘k? I’m not getting this crap again).

With all of the preventative measures that David & I were taking, we still got COVID (and it’s pretty clear to me that we got it through our son). With vaccines, people are STILL getting breakthrough cases of COVID. It’s become very, very evident that the designs of this disease are just evil, & even with all of the things we try to do to comply and/or to prevent, it’s mutating past the expectations. I don’t honestly have a lot of hope for a COVID-free future.

Please take every preventative measure you can take! Get your vitamin C (it’s particularly good for the lungs), get your N-Acetyl-Cysteine. Boost your immune system (chiropractic adjustments have been shown to boost your immune systems!), wash your hands, wear your mask if you want. Be cognizant of your surroundings and your distance from people, even when you’re outdoors. Know that your kids can be little germ vessels, and help them take personal responsibility for their hygiene–I think that’s the one area where we let our guard down.

COVID SUCKS. Period. David & I are trying to get back to “normal” at a much slower pace. To everyone who has reached out in prayer; to the family that dropped off an amazing meal; to the friends who gave us an Instacart gift card; to INSTACART: THANK YOU. We have appreciated all of the love, prayers, and support. Please be patient with us as we try to get caught up on things & as we try to get some energy back. This feels like a long road to come back from, & I feel like we’re going to need a lot of grace with ourselves and from others!

DON’T GET COVID. <><

Noodle, the #ChiweeniePuggle, demonstrating what we’ve accomplished since the Fourth of July

Radio silent…

I’m posting a quick blurb to say that I know it’s been over a month since I last posted (almost two months, now). I’m going to be way-too candid for a public blog and just admit to you that I’m really, really struggling, & I can’t find a way to verbalize it right now. This isn’t a click-bait, “pray for me” kind of a post; it’s just an update since I’m usually not this quiet. I’m not trying to be deliberately vague. Between my existing physical/mental issues and the overall spiral into burnout, I’m having a hard time and I cannot DEAL with responses like, “you just need a vacation.” I’m not in a place where I want or need a response at all. I simply do not want to talk & am overwhelmed at the thought of a dissecting conversation.

So, it’s not your computer. It’s me, and I’ll hop back on here when the sun has come out once again. There are plenty of things that I have, and I am, celebrating, so please don’t think I’m on a death-spiral of depression. I’m not exactly sure WHAT I’m dealing with, so until I know or can at least intelligently express it, I’m putting my keyboard away. Peace out.

“Don’t Get Drunk and Do Things!”

Like that title? LOL—okay, maybe it’s a bit click-baitey. Life moves FAST, and even though I try to document all of the hilarious things my kiddo says (#ConvosWithRico), there are some things that I just don’t get the chance to write about. Not all of them are funny, but even the “unfunny” conversations have a way of ending with a laugh. It’s just part of how I’m wired, and seemingly, how my son is wired (also, David has a pretty good sense of humor. He’s not as funny as he thinks he is, but he has his moments).

I love #Fail videos. Jericho & I have watched Fail videos since I first discovered Fail Army on YouTube. I’ve loved Fail videos since I first discovered America’s Funniest Home Videos (in its first incarnation, and now, as AFV), and I think it’s because had there been video cameras as easily accessible when I was a kid, I’m sure I could have gone viral for my own idiocy. I once fell over a trashcan in the middle of Disney World…and I once tripped over a Safety Cone in Northwest Plaza, making my poor mother laugh so hard that she SAT DOWN in the MIDDLE of the MALL because she couldn’t walk from laughing. I have a knack for tripping and falling, and it really hasn’t gotten that much better in my adulthood. In fact, if I were to keep writing about all of my klutzy adventures, I wouldn’t stop typing until December. I’m that graceful.

Humanity is one big epic fail YouTube video - Imgflip

So, my lack of coordination and/or general lack of observance has made me fodder for Fail videos my entire life, and if I can laugh at myself when I fall down, I think I have the right to laugh at videos of other people doing the same thing, as long as no one is bleeding.

Generally, we’ll watch montages of Fail videos and they’ll involve things like snowboarding, or stairs, or falling off of porches—all things your Average Joe-Jane can do with aplomb. Sometimes these videos clearly involve alcohol, and this has involved moments of Adam Sandler-inspired parenting:  “Alcohol = puke = smelly mess = Nobody Likes You.” It’s a classic quote, and has served me well in both reminders and in education, about the perils of booze. And let’s face it—Mr. Sandler knew what he was saying. I think anyone can point a finger and preach to someone about alcohol, but how much of that actually sticks? I’ve never, ever forgotten that scene in that movie, and it’s lasted in my brain far longer than any sermon on the topic.

I have a fear of my son taking things like alcohol way too lightly.

He’s 8. Alcohol and drugs are far too commonplace in society, either in billboards or commercials, or in news stories, or in random conversations. Addictive behaviors present pretty early on, and I have to wonder if we intervene with a healthy presentation about what addiction is, and how it can change your life, at this age? Do we stoke curiosity, or do we lay a foundation of preparation?

I joke about being addicted to chocolate (I totally am), or that he’s addicted to his tablet or to YouTube (curse you, YouTube. I rue the day I let you into my house!!!!!!); we talk about how Jesus breaks addictions, and how it’s good to talk to Him about these things.

Fail videos often show cups of beer or obviously inebriated people, doing really dumb stuff. It’s an easy conversation starter along those Adam Sandler lines: “Alcohol = Fall down and look like an idiot, and get made fun of by the entire world = Never goes away in Cyberspace.” We talk about actions having permanent consequences. Drunk people doing dumb things have enabled me to have gentle conversations with my son about feelings of abandonment and sadness, because someone I loved, loved alcohol more than me…Nothing good comes from the abuse of alcohol or drugs, and it’s not the life Jesus wants for us.

I say all of this because this past Sunday, I realized how much of an impact some of these conversations have had—you know, you don’t realize what your kids retain until it comes back to haunt you. David was making pork steaks, and he opened up a beer to add to the marinade.  He put half of a beer in with the steaks and he gave me the rest of it to drink (it was a Wicked Orchard Apple Ale from Aldi, and they’re delicious. They’re also AMAZING to use in beer bread). Jericho looks at me wide-eyed and goes, “MOM!!!!!!! DON’T GET DRUNK AND DO THINGS!!!!”

I laughed so, so hard. Like, snort-laughed. I think he thought that if I drank that half-beer, I would immediately start falling down and being a Fail video star. My son says the funniest things, and he has no filter (much to my chagrin—I have found myself LAUNCHING to intervene after he’s said something unintentionally rude or embarrassing), & I know that will tone down as he gets older. I feel like by maintaining the #ConvosWithRico, I’ve made it where I can retrace every funny thing he’s said that I’ve documented online. It’s sentimental—I know these things will decrease as his awareness of the world and his maturity levels increases. He’s growing up…and there are so many building blocks I want to lay out for him as he’s on his way.

Some things are too heavy for him to understand, and I worry that the world will throw them at him too soon. Corrie Ten Boom has a marvelous quote in her book, The Hiding Place, that I’m often reminded of when I’m faced with a Big Topic:

‘And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sexsin?” He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor. Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said. I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

It’s too heavy,” I said.

Yes,” he said, “and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you“.’

The world wants our kids to grow up way too soon. Conversations about sex, desire, gender roles, drugs, alcohol, etc., are heavy topics, and they’re not meant to bear the weight of them too soon. It’s our job as parents to determine the when and the how of those conversations (and not the schools, although they’ve taken it on as parents are often too naïve or too inattentive to do so). When certain conversations become unavoidable (it’s astounding how much alcohol and drug advertising there is, or how much it sneaks into family programming or cartoons. Beer billboards are a dime-a-dozen in this city–go figure), I try to make them relatable or in kid-friendly terms. Because of my paternal family history, I know that addictive tendencies run deep, so I want my son to understand how dangerous these things are. I want him to know there are consequences and that Jesus offers both freedom, and a better way.

Our conversation on Sunday went from me laughing, to a gentle explanation of the concept I quoted earlier: “Everything in moderation.” Jericho brought it up again yesterday in a conversation about cigarettes (SO. MUCH. LITTERING.) & I rephrased my quote to, “everything in moderation…except cigarettes & drugs. Those are a Hard NO.” I’ll probably repeat that to him countless times as he grows up and faces the world. I hope & pray that David & I are building a foundation with him that will keep him protected from things like being drunk and doing stupid things (and worse). I hope that these gentle conversations that start with laughter still impact his heart, and that the concepts of love, truth, and purity stay with his spirit as he grows…Maybe I’m not taking the most conventional approach? I don’t know…I feel like preaching things “at” him will only push him to rebel, but that being honest about the good, the bad, the idiotic, and the ugly, will help him understand & to respect the dangers that are out there. Kids are going to grow up and make their own decisions…I want to raise this child to make Good Decisions, grounded in faith, with wisdom and intelligence. Maybe we set him on this path with a big dose of faith coupled with love and a sense of humor, to gird him for the journey…