I always knew this day would come, but I thought it would be more like, 9 or 10.
I knew that even barely introducing the concept of Santa Claus would have its consequences, but at some point I decided that cuteness and imagination outweighed whatever those would be….and now it’s time to pay the piper. My son has announced that “Santa isn’t real.”
Now, I have never confirmed or denied this fact. I’ve simply given him a response that is inspired by my life mentor, C. S. Lewis: “Is that a gamble you want to take?” This is loosely based on C.S. Lewis’ Trilemma, of whether or not you want to live your life in such a way that believes Jesus was real, or that He was a madman….It’s a pretty big gamble, and it makes perfect sense to me to utilize this logic when it came to the possibilities of Saint Nick, who is, as we know, based on a true story. But I digress…
The facts are the facts, and now my son is calling me on my bluff. In the interest of never again undermining my parental truths, this is the year that we metaphorically end Santa in our household…but how to do it in a way that spares imagination? In a way that keeps Christmas full of childlike wonder? IN A WAY THAT GETS ME MY GOSH-DARNED PICTURES AT CABELAS OR BASS PRO EVERY FLIPPING YEAR FOR THE SAKE OF CONTINUITY!!!! IT’S FOR POSTERITY, PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!! Ahem….
So, this year, I have a plan….Okay, it’s not much of a plan, but I thought I’d share it with you. Here goes:
Jericho has only ever received 1-3 gifts from Santa. I think that’s only fair, since we work our butts off and deserve most of the credit. He’s not used to getting giant gifts from Mr. Claus, because Mr. Claus didn’t slave over an overflowing desk for the previous 11 months.
Jericho has gotten a letter from Santa several times, including one which contained a gift certificate to Goodwill. Yep–at that point, Goodwill didn’t even MAKE gift certificates…but I know a fluffy lil’ elf who’s handy with clip art, thanks to years of yearbook editing.
I got one gift for Jericho that’s earmarked from Santa, and it’s something he knows I would NEVER in a million years buy him. Really, I just did it to mess with him. I’ll pay for the therapy later.
Finally, I wrote him the Last Letter from Santa that he will ever receive. I think I’m sending him out with a bang; I’m including it below. Feel free to borrow it if you need to.
Although I have a few regrets about introducing my kiddo to Santa in the first place, I don’t feel bad about how he’s ending. I think I have successfully brought the focus full circle, and that I’ve managed to write something that keeps the wonder and miracle of Christmas in a child’s reality, as opposed to something that’s magical and unattainable. Santa may not be real, but hope and joy are, when they are founded in the Reason for the Season.
It’s Jericho’s last Christmas with Santa, and it’s mostly sweet as opposed to bitter. He’s growing up…why does it happen so fast? I’m nostalgic, but I have so much hope for his beautiful future, and for the destiny God has for him. It’s an honor to get to watch this kiddo grow up.
Make beautiful Christmas memories, y’all. For those hearts that are hurting this season–and I know far, far too many–may His peace fall over your hearts and souls, and may His Love be the healing you need. Merry Christmas to all…..
Merry Christmas!!!!! I see that you’re doing so well this year: You’re getting good grades, you’re learning about Jesus & the Bible, and you’re learning new things! You’re growing so much…you’re growing up, and that’s why I’m writing you this letter.
You see, when little boys and girls start growing up, certain things lose their “sparkle.” Stories about Santa Claus and reindeer are replaced with Mario and video games, and books about the North Pole are replaced with YouTube. It’s all part of getting older, and since I’m over a thousand years old (yes, over a thousand!!), I’ve watched generations of boys and girls grow up and move past believing in me.
And that’s okay.
You see, Christmas isn’t about me—it never was. In fact, all I do, and all any of my workers do (my workers—you know, the guys in the stores that dress like me, that Mom makes you take pictures with? Yeah, they work for me—but you’re right, they’re not me!) is to try and represent the truth of Christmas to a world that needs love and hope far more than it needs toys or games. When I lived in Europe (waaaaaay back in the day), I would see people in need and I would try to help them get food and shelter. Many people lived in poverty, and had no homes. I would try to get toys to the children, to bring joy to their lives, because many of them lived in sickness & in sadness. Jesus says that “the poor you will always have with you,” & it’s true. There are many, many poor & homeless people that live on this earth—even in Arnold or in Imperial!….And for every person that is poor or homeless in their body, thousands more are poor in spirit, living a life without Jesus in their hearts.
I know that you know “Santa Claus” as the TV and movies show him, is not real. But the hope & joy that people feel when they see me is VERY real, & it’s a bright light to their soul that shines this season—almost like that beautiful Star of Bethlehem that shown over the stable where Jesus was born! THAT’s why we celebrate Christmas—not because of me, Santa Claus. We celebrate the Birth of the Baby that would save us from our sins, & Who would give us love, hope, & life forever. He’s a Reason to celebrate all year long!!!
So, you’re grown now…you’re 7, & you’re very, very smart. You’ve learned my secret…that no, I’m not real, but that I represent things that are very, very real: Hope, Joy, & Love. These are things that can only be found in Jesus, & I lived my life on earth in a way that celebrated Him to all of the people I knew.
Jericho, this will be my last letter to you, & my last present to you, so I decided to make it count…your mom might get mad at me over this, but she knows if she says too much about it, she’ll wake up with coal under her pillow!!! May your Christmas always be full of the hope, joy, and Love that comes from our Savior, Jesus Christ.
After losing my Uncle Charlie last week, my Aunt Bonnie passed away this week. I wasn’t “close” to either of them, but they were still people in my circle, and still people that I knew and laughed with at family functions. I’m not going to be falsely dramatic and say that I’m devastated, etc., because it’s not true; however, any time you lose someone in your circle….someone you’re connected to, in any way…there’s a sadness and a sense of loss. Both my aunt and my uncle were on different sides of my family (my maternal uncle, and my biologically-paternal aunt). They both had wicked senses of humor (I still remember my Uncle Charlie making fun of my parents’ Christian bumper stickers on the “church van” one Christmas, LOL), and my Aunt Bonnie had a laugh you could hear 3 houses down. I think we may have had that in common. Family relationships can be complicated and tangled, and hard to explain–but they’re still family, regardless of whether you see them every few years, or every day.
My family, like many others (but few that I know of, directly) contains adopted family members, step-family members, biological family members, and a few people that we aren’t technically related to, but may as well be. We’re a mid-western melting pot. I remember being so sad about it when I was a kid; everyone in my tiny school had one mom, and one dad, and 2 sets of grandparents, and “normal.” What the heck is “normal,” now? I was sad because I was 7 or 8, and I didn’t understand what a blessing it was, to have so much variety in the definition of that word: “Family.”
“Family” means a lot of different things (and it sure as heck isn’t defined by blood, because that doesn’t BEGIN to make sense in many families). For me, it’s primarily that nuclear group that’s “in my bubble,” thanks to COVID: Mom, Dad, Sister, Husband, Son, Extra Parents. My in-laws, whom I haven’t seen since March because of COVID, are in that group, and I miss them. I miss all of them.
I think that missing friends and family magnifies any loss, even when you’re not that close to someone. This crazy COVID world has us all on edge, all isolated and spread apart, and all feeling the tinges of loneliness (for some, it’s much more than “tinges”). I had a moment yesterday where I was almost in tears, because I miss my friends; I miss spending my Friday afternoons having lunch with friends, getting things off of my chest and/or listening to them do the same.
I miss planning play dates with my kiddo (WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO OVER CHRISTMAS BREAK?!?!?!?!?!). I miss calling someone and saying, “Hey, can we come over?” (Let’s be truthful–I almost never call anyone and say, “hey, come over to my house!!” because I have no parking and I feel self-conscious about the mess of having 3 people crammed into a very small space. But if I COULD call someone and say, “Hey, wanna come over?” I’M AT THE POINT WHERE I WOULD.).
So, this is a short blog (for me). I’m sort of “in the mullygrubs,” as we say (but not at the point where I’m sobbing into my morning coffee. Maybe this blog is a way to get it out of my system before I get that far?). I know of a few people that are really struggling in this season–from loss, from the election issues, from winter blahs, whatever. This tends to be a season where many have a hard time finding their joy in a “normal year,” but this year? There are some dark struggles happening, and the spiritual/mental battles being waged are MAJOR. We’re a world in need of Hope, more than ever.
Writing is one of the ways that I refocus, and that’s what I’m doing here. Yes, you’re basically reading my personal therapy session and I have little-to-no concerns about oversharing–but you probably know that by now! 🙂 I choose Hope…I choose Joy. It doesn’t mean I’m not sad; it just means that I’m leaning on Jesus and pushing through….like a lot of people.
Please pray for Connie, Tammy, Travis, Tiffany, Alvin, Sabrina, Richard, Dena, & their families; they’re missing someone they loved so much, so close to Christmas. There are a lot of families really hurting right now, and all any of us can do, is pray. Don’t forget to reach out to your friends and family right now; stay safe, but stay sensitive to those nudges from the Holy Spirit to not forget those that need to hear kindness and concern right now.
We’re gonna get thru this year, people. We’re allllllllmost there…. 🙂
I think I reiterate this every year, but I. Love. Christmas!!!! I’ll spare you all of the things I love about it, but I think I love it more every year.
I really, really love Christmas songs–the Name of Jesus is proclaimed on virtually EVERY radio station, every TV station, all over Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, EVERYWHERE, and music is constant! Sad Christmas songs make me like, three times more emotional than any other sad song–can we NOT?!?! I like happy Christmas songs, and I’m not going to apologize for it. I usually start the Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving, but I started early this year because COVID is sucking my will to live. Thanksgiving bummed me out a bit, and I don’t know what our Christmas is going to look like this year (I miss my church homies, and I miss baking for them!), but in the meanwhile, there is-and-always-will-be, Christmas music.
Our church is meeting in home groups for the foreseeable future, and has for some time now. It’s taken some time to adjust to, but interestingly enough, we no longer meet on Sunday mornings (GASP! It almost feels blasphemous to say it out loud). Once a month, we meet corporately on Sunday afternoon (we livestreamed the last meeting, since we’re being uber-careful about ‘Rona), but weekly, we’re meeting on Friday nights (currently on Zoom, again, due to COVID). This means that Sundays are…wait for it…FREE. Wait, let me retype that as how I truly feel: FFFFFFFFRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (said in my Adam Sandler/Bedtime Stories voice)
I’m usually doing laundry or stuff around the house, since it’s the only time I’m not cramming full of other household things. This week, though, outside of a 7:30pm meeting (again, Zoom), our whole day was blank like canvas. I slept in, we had soup, there were Wii games and yelling, and it was nice. “You’re rambling, Cass. Where does this tie into Christmas?!?” you ask…
I found a YouTube Channel that plays Christmas music on a livestream. To my surprise, it’s pretty good!
The scene above was on our TV in the living room. If you look at it full-screen, you’ll see the details, down to the little dog parked down by the threshold of the fireplace. This is such a cozy scene; it reminds me of my parents’ house, and their best friends’ house, and the house I imagine for myself when I can’t sleep at night (what, you don’t play Imaginary Decorator when you can’t sleep?), and interestingly enough, it matches my Christmas decor.
David & Jericho were in the kitchen building a Christmas present for “someone,” and I was listening to their conversation…I was sitting on the couch, reading a book (!). None of us were out of our pajamas, and the Christmas music was playing in the background. I was suddenly struck by the beauty of this simple moment. I had such a breath of gratitude in my spirit.
I can remember being in a friend’s house and seeing their family together…the dad and one of the daughters was singing in the kitchen, working on dinner, while the mom and the other daughters & their husbands were milling about, talking about various subjects. Grandkids were running up-&-down the stairs in their beautiful home, and I had a moment of awe that was spiked with a bit of jealousy. This was AMAZING! Like, this is the kind of scene that TV tells us is normal, but that life says is anything but! I felt like I was on a 90’s TGIF sitcom, in one of those sappy “aw-shucks-hug-the-dog” moments. What was this?!?!?
I can remember being in the kitchen in the house that I grew up in, and I don’t remember what we were doing, but my mom, my sister, & I were all singing Gatlin Brothers’ songs. That’s one of those moments where everything was happy, and harmonious (literally–my mom’s a killer harmony singer), & I remember breathing it in and sealing it in my brain (BTW, click the link to hear the GBs if you’ve never heard of them). They’re still awesome).
The moments we get to stop and build a metaphorical monument in our brains–where we take a bit to breathe in what we’re seeing and feeling, and we seal that memory–are so precious. I have a ton of amazing memories of life in general, but especially at Christmas. I’m learning that no matter what gift you have for someone, you can’t force those moments. Those moments happen by the grace & love of Jesus–those moments are in & of themselves, like spontaneous worship. Those moments hit us in our spirit–they catch our attention and remind us to stop and to thank God for the life that He’s given us. They’re completely genuine, without pretense; they probably happen far more often than we know, because we’re so busy. Having that blank Sunday to rest and stop allowed me to remember what I was surrounded with, and to be so, so thankful.
Maybe that’s a blessing in all of this COVID garbage–maybe it’s giving us time to stop and think, to stop and appreciate who we have and what moments we’re surrounded by.
I’m so thankful for the Beautiful Moments…I know this little blog doesn’t go very far, but one thing it does do is serve as a marker for the memories I want to keep. I want to remember seeing the Christmas lights, the sappy scene on the TV, the silly pajamas and the paint on the kitchen table. I want to remember a lazy Sunday full of cozy blankets and soup, & a good book.
I want to remember that feeling of gratitude, and to go back to it on the days where I’ve lost my focus and have let the Hamster Wheel of Life detour my emotions. I want to hold onto the Beautiful Moments, and to pay attention so that when they come along, I’m ready to take that deep breath and to seal it in, to give thanks to God for making it all possible.
May this Christmas be a time of Beautiful Moments for you and all of your family…if I don’t see you until the New Year, may your 2021 be (and this is where I don’t say, “less of a dumpster fire than 2020”) a year that brings you closer to God, and closer to each other. Peace and Love to you and yours!
When the year started, I felt the Lord say from the beginning to “give Me a year. Give Me this year.”
Sure, I hemmed and hawed about it…I procrastinated. I had my book about the Torah sitting on the couch (it’s still there) and a few other books set aside, and as life would have it, me & my hamster wheel just kept spinning, and I kept on saying, “It’s early, Lord. I’ll get there. I’ll get there….”
But I didn’t.
But then, COVID.
And lo-&-behold, I GOT THERE.
In hearing God say, “Give me a year,” what He was telling me was that it was time for me to get serious about His Word. It’s time for me to read it; to love it; and to push past the arrogance of a lifetime of Christian education, & to look at it through new eyes. It’s time to read it in humility & in wonder…it’s time to read the Word with acceptance and through lenses of His love for us (or as close as we can come to understanding His love for us–THAT is an ever-evolving journey). 2020 has been a year of unlearning and relearning the Bible, and in undoing & redoing my personal theology in ways I never realized could be done. It’s been a year of restoration, depletion, and of new creation, as far as my spiritual life has gone. God put me in a position where yes, He took the year, but I gave it to Him, first…He gently asked, I stalled; He made it possible, and I have slowly-but-surely turned it over to Him, day by day.
Up until this year, I NEVER had a heart for reading the Word. I’m not ashamed to admit it anymore–I realize why I became so calloused, and why it was easier for me to act like I had it together or was so smart, when really, my head knowledge about the Word has never matched up to my heart’s understanding or desire for the Word–and I’m not ashamed to admit it’s been a work in progress. I’ve been following a daily reading plan that includes an audio Bible, and I’ve been listening to it every morning on my way into work. It’s been revolutionary. There’s so much I never noticed before, and so much that I never realized I was skipping or glossing over. Hearing the Word has revived parts of me that I didn’t know were dead! It’s drawn me in closer to God, and even though we all know I’m a salty chick, I think I’m more in love with Jesus than I’ve ever been before. Again, I’m a work-in-progress, and I’m always afraid someone will read this blog and think I’m something that I’m not. I’m a mess. I’m just…I’m a mess that loves Jesus, and is trying her best.
I’ve tried to stay committed on this path, and I hope I continue it for the rest of my life. I’ve found myself tempted by the glossy theology of deconstruction, & the only way I know how to stay on the path of the Lord is to follow His Word, so here I am…knowing there is no where else I’d rather be, even if my friends or my spiritual icons, or my personal inspirations, seem to be veering off course.
That seems to be happening a lot lately….people I used to have on pedestals (which isn’t their fault) are tumbling down into softened Christianity, selling out moral compasses for comfortable mattresses of “One Love theology.” It’s so tempting.
It’s so, so tempting, to sit back and say that Jesus loves us all, so therefore, we can ignore everything in Scripture that makes us uncomfortable….
It’s so, so tempting to sit back and say that Jesus loves us all, so therefore, we can ignore everything that doesn’t make sense to us….
It’s so, so tempting to sit back and say that Jesus loves us all, so therefore, we can ignore everything that sounds like judgment or conviction….
It’s so, so tempting to strip Christianity to one word–Love–but then to interpret that word into permission…
It’s so, so tempting to strip Christianity to one word–Freedom–but then to interpret that word into passivity.
–Theology that states that we “deserve” to be comfortable.
–Theology that states that we “deserve” to be accepted by the world.
–Theology that states that we “deserve” to accept the world.
–Theology that states that we “deserve” to understand or that everything “has” to make sense.
–Theology that states that we “deserve” to accept carnal influences and allows them to strip us of our abilities to make choices.
–Theology that ties love to acceptance, and states that in order for me to love you, I “have” to agree with all of your life choices.
I can’t live that way, and I can’t accept that’s the direction the Lord is taking His people.
Recently, our daily readings took us through Psalms 119. A particular verse stood out to me:
“I am a sojourner in the earth. Hide not Thy commandments from me.”–Psalm 119:19 (ASV)
The word, “sojourner” stood out to me; it’s not a word you hear very often, although it’s one I’m familiar with. I went ahead and looked it up, just to be sure my understanding was correct. A sojourner is a stranger or a nomad. Wikipedia says it’s “a person who resides temporarily in a place.”
There was a book series I loved when I was a kid, called The Chronicles of Prydain. If ever I was in love with a fictional character, it was Taran, the main character. In the book, Taran Wanderer, Taran goes on a quest to determine his parentage. Throughout the story, Taran proves his character & the end result (spoiler alert) is new confidence in the boy he was, and in the man he has become. The overall tone of the book is the journey itself, though, as Taran feels like a man without a family or a home. He has no roots, no lineage, and no claim to be able to propose to the woman he loves.
To wander through life without a feeling of belonging or home, is the very definition of what it means to be a sojourner. It is a feeling of being out-of-place, of never belonging anywhere tangible. It is a feeling of being, in a word, UNCOMFORTABLE.
Psalms 119:19 asks God not to hide His commandments from us–that’s because when you’re a sojourner, you need the anchor of His Word to ground you….to remind you that nope–THIS isn’t home, but you’re eternally tied into the place where you belong, which is with Him.
Christianity was never designed to be “comfortable.” It’s not designed to feel good–I mean, God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die a terrible death so that we could spend eternity with Him. It’s a belief system built on sacrifice.
Sacrifice is (wait for it)…UNCOMFORTABLE!
So, we’re sojourners—we’re just passing through this crazy world, and we know that no matter how difficult it gets, we have peace on the other side. Sometimes, that’s a huge comfort in and of itself (not always, but sometimes)…but “comfort” is the word I’m taking to task, because it seems to be more important these days than anything else.
We do EVERYTHING in order to make our lives more “convenient.” Like, I love me some Target Drive-Up or Walmart Pick-Up grocery shopping! I love me some Amazon! I love anything that doesn’t cause me to have to get out of my car or to interact with people. I love my electronics; I love my “quick fixes” for just about anything. I, like most Americans, do NOT like to be inconvenienced. I like my comfortable clothes, my super-soft blankets, and my aromatherapy mister.
I don’t like to be uncomfortable.
At some point, our desire to be comfortable has spread into our theology, and we have forgotten what our very faith is based in.
True love is uncomfortable.
True Love means I care enough about someone to say when they’re making a life choice that has spiritual repercussions. It means I care enough to have uncomfortable conversations in respect & in gentleness (I Peter 3:15). It doesn’t mean that I force my beliefs on someone, but it does mean that when that door opens, I am willing to step out in faith and talk to someone.
True Love means I stop expecting God to answer my questions. That might shock a few people–let me explain: Shortly after my daughter passed away, Natalie Grant’s song “Held” came out. The lyrics are forever burned into my brain; specifically, the line, “Who told us we’d be rescued? What has changed, and why should we be saved from nightmares?”
Those lyrics rocked my world, and woke me up to the absolute arrogance and entitlement with which I was living my faith. I will never understand the hows or whys, but what I do understand and believe is that God has a plan. I do understand and believe that God is GOOD…and even though what has happened does not always seem to match up on the surface with that, I am set in my belief that it is true. God. Is. Good….and that goes beyond the scope of my comprehension. Who am I, to demand answers and explanations from Him?!
WHY DO CHRISTIANS THINK THEY SHOULD ONLY EVER ENCOUNTER GOOD THINGS? Why do we think we’re immune to heartache? To loss? To sickness or disease? NOTHING in the Bible states that “you find Jesus, it’s green lights and allllllll rights from here, baby!!!!” NO–verse after verse after verse reminds us that this world is not our home. They remind us that yes, good can come from suffering, but THERE IS SUFFERING. I tend to blame prosperity garbage for these lies, and I most definitely think it’s a theology that’s responsible for devastating the church (I don’t agree with everything in this documentary, but the film American Gospel has some good sticking points about the Prosperity Gospel). WE ARE HUMANS. WE ARE BROKEN PEOPLE, LIVING IN A SICK, BROKEN, DISEASED WORLD. We are in the world, even if we aren’t of the world, and guess what? No matter what color you’re wearing, it’s gonna get dirty in a garbage bin. WE ARE NOT IMMUNE, and it’s total arrogance for us to think anything otherwise.
True Love means that when I don’t get the answers I want or think that I deserve, that I lean back in faith and still trust Him, even though not knowing or understanding makes me VERY uncomfortable.
A “comfortable” theology looks at the moral compasses and absolutes in Scriptures, cocks its head back, raises an eyebrow, and says those fateful words, “Hath God Not Said?”
“Hath God Not Said” are the Four Words that Wrecked it All, and they’re the first four words we say when we find ourselves faced with Uncomfortable Theology that we want to talk ourselves out of. “Hath God Not Said” are the Four Words that Satan the Snake used to lead Eve to eat the Apple and to corrupt her husband, and “Hath Got Not Said” are the Four Words that put us in this leaky boat on an ocean of UGH.
It is so uncomfortable to trust God. It is so uncomfortable to wander through this earth, through this mortal life, knowing that this unsettled feeling is permanent. We’re strangers in a strange land, and we’re a long way from Home. It’s okay that we accept the fact that it’s not easy, it’s not fun, and it’s VERY uncomfortable…
But it’s worth it….
It’s worth it for those glimpses into His character that we see in His Word. It’s worth it for those whispers we hear in our hearts from Him. It’s worth it to hear His Spirit speak into our hearts, to hear Him call us His sons and daughters. It’s worth it to know the security and grace only He can offer. It’s worth it to know we are forgiven, and that we are loved, and that we can share that love with others in this unloving world…in this world that sells a candy-coated, hollowed-out version of love that is so far from the Real Thing…We have in our hearts a Love that is more inclusive than anything the world can imitate. We have a Love that extends grace to all who ask…who extends eternity to all who seek it through Jesus. How great of a Love is that?
This has been a Most Uncomfortable Year for so many…I, for one, am glad that this world is not my home, because who would want to think this is it??!?! If this is all there is–if there isn’t an eternity to call Home–it’s sorely disappointing, even at it’s best, in the light of what Jesus offers us.
Truth be told, I started percolating on this blog last week, while I was sick, and while I was facing my 43rd birthday. I’ve had 43 years on this planet, and it takes me FOREVER to feel like I even slightly “fit in” anywhere. I always feel like a weirdo, but maybe instead of a “weirdo,” I should adopt the term, “sojourner,” because it seems more fitting. This world is not my home. Eternity is my home and my hope, and I am praying that as I continue on this road of reading and of falling in love with the Bible, that my eyes stay focused on just that….on hiding His commandments in my heart, and on hearing His voice. He asked me for one year…it’s turning into all of them. That’s uncomfortable to say…but I guess that’s the point of this blog.
Let’s be honest: It’s difficult in any season, to read something as open and honest, about such a devastating topic. But to read it as we are once again approaching our annual time of remembering our Hannah-girl, truly hit a nerve. I feel like I’ve been writing about the need to “normalize” the topic of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss for years, and I have–over a decade, which sounds crazy. My little corner of the internet has nary an impact, but many times, I’ve felt like if I don’t write, I may explode, and if I’m not honest in what I put out here, then what’s the point?
Honesty is uncomfortable to read AND to write. Being raw and open, and exposing your highs and lows to complete strangers is dangerous and cathartic and messy and occasionally beautiful, but it is NEVER easy, and those that do it, either already have that understanding, or learn it quickly. Chrissy Teigen and John Legend have been candid about all sorts of topics, and have taken on the Keyboard Commandos with humor and grace. Even when I disagree with them on certain political points, it has never changed the fact that I genuinely LIKE them as they seem online, and that I appreciate their approach to the public….but this goes beyond good recipes and perfectly-lit Instagram photos.
Sharing the rawness of the experience of the loss of a child is monumental. The photos shown from Chrissy’s hospital stay are so striking; she stated yesterday that she specifically asked that they be taken, as she understands firsthand the importance of documenting every moment a mother has with her child…even at the end. Every time I see the photo of her getting her epidural, it breaks me and I remember The Last Photo I have of Hannah–the one that is locked in the safe, and that will never be shared. It is brutal, and I cannot stress that enough. There is more heartache in that 3×5 Polaroid than the world should ever see….
And yet here are two celebrities, taking an opportunity to put a face and a name to not only the disease (placental abruption), but to the fact that, “according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 pregnancy in 100 at 20 weeks of pregnancy and later is affected by stillbirth. Each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States.” THIS IS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and if those numbers do not make you angry at the state of healthcare in this country, then maybe you should check your heart. THESE STATISTICS ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE. 1 in 4 women suffer the loss of a child from miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal loss–that’s 25% of women.
That’s Chrissy Teigen.
That’s countless other women who have spoken to me, sometimes in hushed tones, about the miscarriages or losses they’ve never told anyone about, or that they were afraid to acknowledge, or the shame they’ve felt about their “complicated” or “failed” bodies. That’s countless other women who have had the courage to speak out, or that have taken women like me under their wing to usher them through the grieving process, or that had no one to help them on this journey…25% of women.
I guarantee you know someone who’s had a miscarriage, even if you don’t realize it.
I could go off on a tangent about hormone-altering chemicals or carcinogens or the millions of things we do that impact our bodies and impair healthy pregnancies and childbirth, but it’s not the place (and frankly, if you care, you’ll do the research). I think it’s more important to realize the strength it takes to publicly document and share the most vulnerable parts of your life–the good & the bad–when you have the kind of platform John & Chrissy have, because in their status, they raise awareness (I hope).
When we lost Hannah, I met a woman who later explained to me that when she lost her son years earlier, she entered the hospital to deliver a baby, and she left carrying a bouquet of flowers. There was no counseling; there was nothing to document before a nurse or doctor entered the room that there was no baby (and I know firsthand what it’s like to have a doctor ask, “How’s the baby?” and have to answer that “there is not a baby”). There was no special photographer for goodbye photos (a group started up not long after we lost Hannah, called, “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” that specializes in loss photography, which is incredible). There wasn’t a care group or support system in place for her, like I had to support me (please check out Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss; they’re a tremendous asset for those who have gone through loss). There really weren’t any devotional books that she knew of; I happened to land on one that was very helpful (I wish I could remember how I got a copy of this book, but it was AMAZING for me). There wasn’t anything in place, really, to help a woman or her partner cope with the tremendous hole left by the death of a child. Thanks to advocates, celebrity or not, resources are now in place to help millions of families heal and come to terms with something that is unnatural and foreign to any expectation we have going into pregnancy. Americans are NOT educated about the risks we face in childbirth. We’re duped into thinking everything will be Instagram-perfect, and we’ll all live happily ever after.
For 25% of us, that is simply not the case. We will always be missing our one special piece of our family photo…
My heart hurts for Chrissy & John, and for anyone who has been on this journey…for wherever they are in this process. I’m grateful for their candor, and I understand to a very small extent, how difficult it is. I hope she & John are surrounded by grace and faith as they set out on the course of healing; I hope that they encounter a restoration only Jesus can give.
Chrissy said something toward the end of the posted article, that she feels “bad” for making everyone else feel bad, as she had chronicled the announcement and the first parts of her pregnancy with Jack, with such joy. I’ve learned that we can’t feel bad for sharing joy, even if it doesn’t turn out the way we hoped. Joy is beautiful, even if it’s for a short season, and even if it ends in sadness. Maybe it sounds terrible now, but the sadness will eventually be redeemed to joy, and the contrast therein will be even more stunning…someday. Not now, but someday.
Chrissy, we honor Jack, and we are grateful that you shared your journey with us…We honor Jack, and Hannah, and Bentley, and Annalise, and Saige, and Savannah, and Brydon, and AnnaBella, and Emmaline, and Emma, and so many–so many–little boys & girls who have gone on to Heaven before us. Our hearts embrace you & John, and our prayers and support are with you. Thank you for being a face and a name for the grief and the struggle we have known; may God bless your family, and keep you close to His heart as you go on this journey…
Every year around this time, I sit down to write with a focus on my Hannah Elizabeth Gayle Cooley. Can you believe she’d be 14 this year? This October 30th, my daughter would be turning 14 years old, & I’m sure had she stayed with us, that our social media feeds would be full of the things that mothers and teenagers are both besties and frenemies over. I’d like to think we’d have a great relationship, and that we would be on each other’s last nerve…that she’d be musical and lyrical, and free-spirited and independent, and that above all, she’d love Jesus. That’s my hope for both of my kiddos–that they love Jesus. I think a lot of parents would say that about their children.
I don’t need to go into the “whys,” for my breakdown (albeit a brief one) into the Ugly Crys. You know me well enough to understand that when I read the phrase, “we got our miracle,” that it broke me. I’m so grateful that HONY shared this story, because I remember what it was like to see that room full of people who poured their hearts out for days, petitioning to the Lord to save my daughter’s life. We didn’t get our miracle, and I can’t paint that in any kind of redeeming light. I will never understand the whys (on this earth), and even if I did, would that make it any better? No. So we pursue on in faith, trusting that He knows what He’s doing when He makes His choices.
Last week, our daily reading plan (click the link, you won’t be sorry–see my last blog for details) had us reading in both Micah and in 2 Timothy. In 2 Timothy, we see Paul coming to the end of his life, as he writes his final words from prison.
In Micah, we see a prophet trying to prepare his community…trying to get them to wake up and seek the Lord for their redemption…He states the oft-quoted,
Meanwhile, as Paul looks at the approaching end of his life, he states,
We have a mandate to “do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.” Only when we do these things, can we look at the end of our life and say, with confidence (not arrogance) that we have “fought the good fight,” and that we have “kept the faith.”
This is not an easy thing to do…it’s not a small task, and Jesus knows what He is asking us to do.
Trials–deaths, sickness, COVID, poverty, unemployment, crime, whatever–come and go, but Jesus and His love for us are eternal.
That’s the only reason I have any hope for anything.
After I read the HONY story last night, I tripped up over “we got our miracle,” and my mind immediately went to “why?” I’ve blogged about this before; the “whys” range from plaintive cries to flat-out screams, and they’re always there in some respect. The question is do I stay there? Do I keep questioning, knowing the outcome will always be the same, until I’m face-to-face with Him? Or do I take a deep breath (or 50), let the tears fall, and listen to Him remind me that He loves me? That He’s still in control? That I’m heard, and that He understands? I make a choice every time the “why” comes to the forefront of my thoughts. I choose to “walk humbly with my God,” and that means that above all, I trust Him.
No one ever said that was a fun choice.
Sometimes the world smacks us in the face with that reminder….that reminder that we are strangers in a strange land, and that we can’t let ourselves get sucked into the mindgames and emotional traps that are laid for us: “Dear friends, you are foreigners and strangers on this earth. So I beg you not to surrender to those desires that fight against you“–I Pet. 2:11-12, CEV
Those “desires that fight against” us aren’t just people throwing lusts of the flesh in our face. They’re also the “quicksand” that we get trapped into, that make us question His motives and character, and our own faith. It’s cyclical thinking that kicks off our anxiety and leaves us an emotional basket case. I’m not immune to it, but I’d like to think I can spot the traps a bit easier now than I used to. Those first few years after Hannah passed away? Oooh, I got caught UP in some messes.
Grief and loss are pitfalls for so many of us…playing the “why?” game with God is a dangerous dead weight that only serves an enemy that wants to see us destroyed.
It’s a tender time of the year for us–for David as well as for myself, even when we seem like everything is fine. Our daughter is never far from our minds, but as her birthday approaches, memories come back, and I know I find myself looking at her pictures a bit more…remembering tiny hands, and beautiful, red-pink cheeks (like her Daddy), and how she’d snuggle in to the soft robe my mother had made me…how she smelled like Cheerios, and how to this day, I cherish every photo taken of family and friends because I know how much those pictures of her mean to me.
I’m finding myself ready to withdraw from social events, and from social media in general–whether it’s healthy or not, I never know, but I will tell you that I make no apologies. Maybe that sounds rude, but I’ve learned that if I don’t listen to these emotions, they’ll pop out at the most inopportune times, and I have no desire to have another flippin’ sobfest in the middle of a Hobby Lobby, so if I tell you I can’t make it, let me be. 🙂
I started writing a piece last night that I think I will leave unfinished; I feel like it makes a good conclusion, even though it’s not fully written, because “unfinished” feels like a pretty good way to describe how I’m feeling through all of this….
There’s nothing I love more than misheard lyrics. Let’s be honest–if you’ve ever been stuck in a car with me (I’m talkin’ to YOU, David!), then you know I sing with the radio non-stop (as does my child, LOL. Karma!). You may also know that I’m a master of covering my tracks when I don’t know the words to something. It’s seamless. 🙂 From lip-syncing the ubiquitous “peanut-butter-jelly-watermelon” over the unknown track, to filling in whatever words that sound like the proper lyrics, I can fake my way through a lot of things.
Anyways, I’ve noticed that I apply these same concepts to misheard scriptures on a regular basis. “Why am I hearing the Bible?” you may ask? Simple explanation (please click the link because it’s awesome): The Way St. Louis Bible Reading Plan
Our church is following a daily Bible reading plan, and I absolutely love it. I love it because if you click on the link above, then click today’s verses, there’s a small “volume” icon on the upper right:
When you click on the icon, an audio version of the Bible passage (by the acclaimed Max McClean) plays, which give me a fantastic way to listen to the day’s passages on my way into the office (I’d like to say that I’ve gotten holier on my commute; alas, this is not true. I’m a work in progress.). I’ve been able to stay caught up for the most part, and it’s been very thought-provoking. It’s also been a great resource to help me stay focused throughout the anxiety issues I discussed last month (which are doing MUCH better, so thank you for praying for me!!). I’ve really loved hearing the Word on a daily basis, and it’s sparked some fantastic conversations with my husband.
Yesterday, though, something very interesting happened that made me laugh, and ties into the whole, “misread lyrics” start to this blog: I misheard a Bible verse.
What I heard, though, was, “So rend your hearts and not your governments.”
Pause–think about that, for a second. “Rend your hearts and not your governments.”
Now, I know the message in the verse itself–“don’t focus on showing outward grief or repentance for your actions; have true repentance in your hearts, and come before God with true mourning and by turning from the ways you’ve been living.” The verse is all about ending fakeness and false narratives. Be real, or don’t bother–don’t have Instagram-I’m-sorries without true, heartfelt changes. It’s particularly relevant for today’s world of staging EVERYTHING for that photo finish. God wants us to be genuine with Him–after all, He’s never been anything BUT genuine in how He loves us, right?
But check out my misheard verse again: “So rend your hearts and not your governments.” Let’s look at that, because I can’t get it out of my head:
This week, President Trump went into the hospital with COVID-19 this week. Love him or hate him, the leader of the greatest nation in the world was hospitalized with a disease that has proven fatal for thousands of people. I was shocked to read that many, many people wished him sickness and/or death, simply because they disagree with the politics/personality/policies he has implemented or statements he has made on social media.
I’m not so sure why I was shocked (minus the fact that, well….that’s kinda treasonous).
I mean, people post how much they hate the President on a minute-by-minute basis…but to wish him death? That’s pretty obtuse. I’ve had issues with every single President that’s run this country since I was eligible to vote, and have never wished that they up-and-die; what the heck, people?!??!?
The anger and rage in this nation by any people group that feels slighted for whatever reason, is palpable. I’m not dismissing groups in that statement. I’m saying that there are SO many angry people, and SO many reasons to be angry, and SO many causes, that no one can keep track of who-what-where-why anymore, and it’s all blurring together in one giant black hole of rage that’s suffocating the country.
Anger is legitimate. It’s a legitimate emotion, & it’s worthy to be heard. God gets angry, right? Right. He also gives us specific instructions on how we handle anger, and wishing death on people doesn’t really seem to be part of the plan of action. Ephesians 4:25-26 says, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one another. 26“Be angry,yetdo notsin.”Do not letthesunsetuponyouranger.”
If we’re unhappy with our government, wishing death and violence isn’t the solution. Positive changes by positive actions are the only solution. Vote. Period. If you don’t like who’s in charge, we live in an amazing country where We the People have the rights and the abilities to make the changes we want to see.
Mishearing Joel 2:13 made me stop and think about all of the comments, the snide remarks, the fighting and arguing, etc., that I’ve heard over the past few years regarding the leadership of this nation. Everyone has their agenda and is screaming to make their voice heard, but no one is listening. Our words have an impact; our words reveal the intentions of our hearts, and if we’re screaming and shouting at each other, we’re not walking in love, right?
I’m so tired of the fighting, even (especially) amongst Christians. We’re sacrificing our relationships with God and our testimonies to unbelievers in the sheepish support of a political person or party. We’re called to follow Jesus. We’re called to walk in Love, like Him. What does that look like, in a minefield of political and emotional pitfalls?
“Rend your hearts and not your governments.” I think this misheard verse has caused me to stop in my tracks and take a few steps back…I have to check my heart, and repent for some of my own attitudes. I’ve had to recommit to praying for our government and for our nation, and to process whether or not I’ve been more concerned with how my convictions have worked, verses how they have looked. What are the issues I say I care about, and what have I done to not only educate myself regarding those issues, but to advocate in love for those issues?
The online fussing and fighting is not something I get into myself, very often; however, I definitely read quite a few of them (I enjoy my tea, thank you very much–okay, that’s just not nice, Cassidy).
I am alternately appalled and humored by what I read, and I’m occasionally concerned that some people need hired protection based on their keyboard commando statements.
It’s not worth it. Don’t sacrifice your testimony for the dung heap of online bickering.
“Rend my hearts and not my garments.” Stay focused on what is true, honest, pure, lovely, etc. Please join me in praying that a new attitude of such things would cover this nation in grace, and that our leadership (before, during, and after the election) would be sustained and protected. Focus on real, genuine love and faith, rather than “likes” and “zings” in online forums. Maybe then, we will see the healing in this land that the Bible speaks about in 2 Chronicles 7:14, which we so desperately need in this land of anger and rage…
Okay, hold your horses–Before you get all, spooky-Halloween-ish on me, let me ‘splain.
I’ve recently had a few conversations that have brought the topic of death up in weird ways. Whether it’s a conversation about my daughter, or even recent conversations about my dog; the topics of death and grief have been on my mind–sometimes by my own mention, but more often than not, by conversations others have instigated. If I’m having those conversations with someone I’m not particularly comfortable with, I’m usually pretty clinical and factual when asked about the reasons for Hannah’s death. It’s a survival mechanism. When the conversation is with someone that I have a relationship with (like my bestie), I’m much more likely to show the emotion that comes to the surface (as opposed to stuffing it down like a casserole down the garbage disposal. Get. In. There. And Go. Away.). And sometimes, I get caught off-guard, and the emotions show up because they do not care about what impression I leave, or whether or not my eyeliner is waterproof. I’m very fortunate in the fact that that due to amazing church support and therapy that took place for the year after Hannah died, I am completely unapologetic about those times. Tears come, tears go, and life goes on. If I cry, so be it. If people get uncomfortable about it, whatever. I know that’s selfish, but I don’t have time for people that don’t have compassion for the very-rare times that those pesky tears sneak up on me. Like I said, 90% of the time, I skate right over the deeper pain and just get to the facts. I’m not apologizing for the other 10%.
It’s also pretty common for people to randomly cry in my office. It’s totally okay. It stays in my office. Stifling crying leads to feeling overwhelmed, which leads to bad things, so by all means, let’s all cry together.
My Facebook memories right now are all about last September, when we found out that Holly the Boxer was coming to the end of her life. September 4th would have been her 15th birthday, and I miss her.
(LOOK AT HER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Dawwwwwww!)
In discussing Holly’s life, Hannah inevitably comes up in the discussion, because as David will tell you, Holly was officially, as of October 30, 2006, “Hannah’s Dog.” Hannah didn’t know it, but I’m pretty sure Holly did, and when we lost Holly, we sort of lost the last physical connection…We’d lost both of our girls, and even though the losses were nowhere near equal, there was a “tie” of sorts that I won’t even try to make sense. You might think I’m crazy. If this is the first time you’ve thought that, well, this might be the first time you’ve read this blog. Welcome. Oh, and you’re right.
That being said, a few recent conversations have brought up both Hannah and Holly. I was recently in a restaurant (!), and recognized the owner of the place as someone who was pregnant at the same time I was pregnant with Hannah. When the very-young waitress came to take our order, I realized she was the owner’s daughter…the very same age my daughter would be. It was a bit of a shock. It was a gentle realization, a sore spot on the heart, and though tender, it passed. It opened the door for me to have a conversation with a friend where I was able to honestly discuss the actual trauma of my son’s birth–I don’t think I’d ever really shared with her how frightening the process was, how crazy-supernatural peace stayed with me, and how dangerous the whole pregnancy was. Looking back, it’s so easy for me to see just how truly held I was, by God…that tender conversation was once again an opportunity for me to be so grateful for the journey. Sometimes I think I take it for granted.
And sometimes, someone will say something SO random that you know it was a download from the Lord.
I had a conversation with someone yesterday who made a statement that stopped me in my tracks. I have no doubt that she heard from God, even if she herself didn’t realize it (she considers herself to be “spiritual,” but isn’t in a personal relationship with Jesus. She’s also someone that I love to have spiritual discussions with, because I think it’s important to have conversations with people outside of your typical box of same-minded friends). I was discussing the conversation with my friend, and the waitress, and the Facebook memories of Holly, when suddenly, she gave me the strangest look….She said, “I hope this doesn’t offend you…I wouldn’t normally say this, but I feel this so strongly…I just can’t shake this. I have to tell you something.”
I told her to go on, and braced myself for the worst (I immediately remembered that one time some weirdo in Kentucky told me that she kept seeing a little pink ball bouncing around my head…This was a person that already knew my daughter had passed away, and was one of these pseudo-psychics that pretended to tell you her “spiritual sightings” of things you neither believed nor wanted to hear. I politely told her to shut up).
She looked at me, and said, “I feel like God wants to remind you that you’re still Hannah’s mother.”
She may as well have shot me in the chest. I thought I was prepared to hear whatever potentially-crazy thing she was about to say, but when she said that, I had that instant confirmation in my gut that told me she was right-on.
I needed to hear it.
Of course I’m still her mother–that hasn’t changed. I needed to be reminded that I will always be, regardless of the state of the healing process, Hannah’s mother. Galatians 3:28 is the great equalizer of relationships in the Bible, but you know what relationships don’t make it into that list? Fathers and Mothers.
When we’re assigned the role of a parent, it’s eternal. It doesn’t mean we’re going to be parenting for an eternity, but it does mean that bond doesn’t evaporate when we’re gone. She’s part of me. Jericho is part of me.
The little reminders every now and then state that God does not forget. I don’t actually know or understand why I needed the reminder that I’m Hannah’s mother, but He does, and He knew it would hit me at just the right time. I needed to hear it, out loud–not just in my head, not just to myself, but by someone else acknowledging her existence and my relationship to her existence. Sometimes even as grieving parents, we still need reminders that our babies were REAL….they’re more than just a memory.
People talk about ghosts, or energetic presences, or orbs or whatever. I don’t meddle in such things. I do, however, believe that what some may call “para” normal is what we as believers should realize is, “normal.” There’s a spiritual world out there that we don’t see–there are angelic and demonic presences, and there is warfare we may sense but never see. “Para”normal instances aren’t inherently evil…Sometimes, they’re “ordinary” people having a split-second sight or hearing of spiritual things….things that we as Christians, just maybe, need to be a little more open to (particularly in the USA).
I know that verse discusses a spiritual battle, which is not what this blog is focusing on; it also discusses the “unseen world,” which I think is key. “Unlikely” people can hear that word or that insight from the Lord, and He uses them to encourage your spirit.
I think that’s what happened to me yesterday, and how God reminded me that’s a part of who I am. Even if I don’t understand the whys and hows, I know His voice well enough to know when He’s reaching out (at least, I’d like to think so), so I am confident in saying that He’s got my attention.
My takeaway from the encounter was not only the gentleness of the word from the Lord, but also, a reminder to be aware and expectant of the unexpected “Hey, YOU! Gotta tell you something!” that we may get from Him, from places we may not anticipate. It was a reminder that there is an entirely OTHER world out there where things are happening, and that eternity is so much bigger than we realize…it was a reminder that even the deep valley of loss has places where it can’t touch you anymore. We’re free from it, in eternity.
My identity as Hannah’s mother is eternal, just like my love for her, is. My identity as Jericho’s mother is eternal, just like my love for her.
And God’s identity as my Father, just like His love for me, is beyond eternal. There’s more encouragement and hope in those words than I could ever type or even comprehend. It is GOOD, to be loved by a God Who tells us such things…
“I hear the subtle hum inside my head as I push the pillow further into my face, trying to stifle the sobs that are trying to escape: ‘You’re crazy. No one is listening. No one can help you. You’re losing it. Give up already. This is where it all falls apart. You can’t do this much longer. Admit that you’re failing. Admit that you’re nothing. You’re dying. You’re drowning. You’re dying. You’re drowning.’
Over and over, the words run through my head, fast, then slow…louder….louder….it’s a tattooed rhythm that, if I don’t stop it, will become a non-stop stranglehold that stops the air from escaping my lungs.
I feel the panic rising, and I try, try, try, TRY to breathe…I try to pray, calling on the Name of Jesus, knowing that He’s there but completely unable to grasp His peace or to hear His voice. I’m failing in this…just another thing that I’m failing at…
The water rises, and I can feel the pressure…my chest hurts, my heartbeat is heavy and erratic, and I wonder if it’s the stress, or the new medication for the never-ending headaches that seem to be beyond my doctor’s diagnostic abilities. Change a medicine. Order a test. Get some bloodwork. Never tell anyone that your head is about to explode from the weight of all that has been layering up to bury you over the past 6 months…
Don’t tell your mother… Don’t tell your dad. Don’t tell your husband; he doesn’t understand and he thinks you just “love” going to the doctor… Don’t tell your boss…you need this job, you can’t go anywhere else, and you have to make them think you’re on top of your game… Don’t tell your friends…they’re sick of hearing about one health issue after another. Don’t tell your pastors, because you can’t seem to pray this away… Don’t tell your sisters…don’t tell your brother…
Surely taking it all to God is enough…. But I can’t sleep, and no matter how much worship music I pray, how hard I cry out, or what I say, there’s no miracle cure for this….
Five days…two weeks….three weeks…. How long have I been like this? The inside of my cheeks are raw from chewing the sides of them….my skin is a disaster, and for whatever reason, I’m in constant, unrelenting pain in my wrists, feet, back, shoulders, and fingers. It might ebb or secede, but it’s always there…”
These words…my words…were written last week. Last week…it seems like a lifetime ago. I’m not going to say that I’m not struggling, even now, but last week? I LOST IT. We’re talking, hide in my room, cry into a pillow, have to explain myself because my kid saw me lose it, Lost It. I’m still fighting through this, and I don’t say that in some way that says I’m some kind of a warrior or something dramatic. I say it because that wave of overwhelming anxiety is standing on the brink of my sanity for whatever reason, and I know I’m one wrong comment away from falling back into it. Just acknowledging my own fragility makes my chest tighten…I don’t want to go there again. I never did call my doctor…I should have, but I did a Google search on a medication I was trying to get off of, and figured out that panic attacks, massive depression, and suicidal tendencies are side effects of not tapering off of this medication correctly.
That’s not saying that I wasn’t tapering off of the medication–and yes, it was with a doctor’s supervision. I must have gotten confused on the specifics of the tapering, because it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I swear to you, I will deal with migraines until I’m blind before I go back on that medication again. My anxiety is usually manageable, but for the past 3-4 weeks, it’s gotten out of control, and last week nearly did me in. I know that sounds awfully final, but I was not in a good place.
Fortunately for me, God broke through and very lovingly, in His way, reminded me of two things: He loves me, unequivocally. Also, He gave me people in church leadership who know me and love me well, and can handle my frantic text of, “I can’t talk. Pray for me.” They know me well enough to know that I don’t say things like that, and that something is seriously wrong. They checked on me later on, and made sure I was okay…I also had a friend that knew the details of what was up, and listened–sometimes, that’s the biggest thing.
I have such a blind eye sometimes to toxic relationships…like, I’m just used to putting up with so much crap from certain people, that I haven’t even noticed what a blister they’ve rubbed on my heart, until it’s abscessed. I have forgotten to protect my heart, even though I know that when I don’t, it trickles down to my family. When chemistry goes bad (you know, all of those neurotransmitters in your brain that need to stay level or else you go off the goofy-crap-o-meter), coupled with the damages of stress and toxic relationships, it’s the kind of combination that results in only one thing: A CATASTROPHIC EARTH-SHATTERING KA-BOOM.
You know what I told my son last week, when he heard me crying in my bedroom?
I said (after I had pulled myself together), “You know what, Buddy? Everyone’s brain is a little different, and sometimes…
Sometimes, Mommy’s brain is kind of broken.
It gets overwhelmed, and it gets hurt, and then Mommy sort of crumbles and breaks down.
But it’s going to be okay…and I always know that. I just sort of have to reset sometimes, and crying, and getting all of my hurt out, does that; sometimes, Mommy’s medicines make things a little weird, too. I just have to process a whole bunch of stuff, and I will figure it out. Jesus knows what hurts, and what’s in my heart and in my brain, and He will sort it all out.”
How do you explain mental health to a seven-year old?
I have no idea, but I’ll tell you one thing: I’m always going to try.
Maybe if at 7, I had understood any concept of mental health, I would have been able to understand when mental health was good, and when it was challenging. Maybe if at 7, I had understood mental health, I would have developed the language I needed as a teenager, as a college student, as a young adult, as a grown woman, to understand that mental health challenges are NORMAL, and are just as treatable and as common as a headache, once you begin the conversation with the right people. Maybe if at 7, I had understood mental health, I would be aware that you can’t process spiritual concepts like prayer and healing, when your brain is so affected that you can’t sleep, or your eating habits are jacked up, or you’re so anxious that you can’t focus on beginning to get the Word of God into your mind. Maybe if at 7, I understood mental health, I would have understood that things like sadness, anger, stress, pressure, anxiety–NONE of these struggles mean you are a bad person, or that God loves you any differently or any less.
So, for better or for worse, I am always going to be honest with my kiddo about my broken brain.
There are physical, chemical reasons for emotional/mental imbalances…there are also spiritual reasons, and there is healing that needs to be done on multiple levels. I’m grateful for medical health…prescription medication is very helpful, even though getting the right balance of the right medication is tricky (if you’re going through this, please give yourself grace, and be candid with your doctor and with your family! It’s so, so hard, and I don’t think I’m there yet…I thought I was, and then these last few weeks hit). Spiritual health and support is KEY–please talk to your church leadership, and if they’re not the type that will respond to your text or your call for help, FIND A NEW CHURCH. There is no place in the Body of Christ for the pastor that will not shepherd his flock, and I speak from experience. I’m talking pastors, elders, home group leaders–you have to have someone in the church that will help you when you’re hurting. It’s biblical. We’re not made to go through these battles alone.
I’m still working my way through this storm. I’m not on the other side yet, even though I probably seem almost normal (whatever my “normal”) is. I’m waiting on some test results, and I’m probably going to look back into therapy. I still find myself getting caught up in the whole, “it’s expensive, and I don’t have time!!” but then I find myself making time for other things, so I need to figure this out. Stress is INTENSE, especially right now, as we’re one of many families that’s been impacted financially from COVID-19. My stresses and my mental struggles are so miniscule compared to some that I’ve heard about; I know I can’t compare myself to others, and sometimes it works against me (most of the time), but still. These are not the best of times. I’ll be glad to wave goodbye to 2020…and these past few weeks are burned into my brain as the pinnacle of the worst times I’ve had since all of this began (even worse than the spike of depression I dealt with in May).
There’s always, always, ALWAYS hope on the horizon, though, and I will not stop praying that I have my eyes open to the beauty in all of this. There are some amazing experiences that we’ve got to do and to witness through all of this. There have been blessings, there has been laughter, and there has been much to be grateful for. My biggest struggles have been in my own head, and regardless of the reason, I am so grateful that God does not abandon His own, even when they’re stuck in their own headspace. He breaks through in ways we may not even realize…we can’t give up. This world is quicksand, and it’s only getting thicker….I’ve had a recurring theme in this blog over the past year, though, and that’s how He is our Rescuer…He is our Anchor, and He’s also our Life Raft…
So, now that a week has gone by, I look back at the words that I wrote and the heaviness, though still tangible, is fading. I know it’s close by, and can lay back down at any second, so I’ve been doing some things that I know are preemptive…They’re not cure-alls, but they definitely help:
I have some kind of worship music playing in the background all day long at work. Right now, I’m into Maverick City Music and I’m always into Bethel. I also like just about anything by Forerunner Music (International House of Prayer).
I stopped looking at the news for more than a few minutes a day. I can’t deal with the state of this nation anymore, and I can’t handle the anxiety it induces, particularly during this election year, so I’m just checking basic headlines and I’m leaving it alone. Also, I DO NOT ENGAGE IN ARGUING WITH PEOPLE ON SOCIAL MEDIA. I also don’t tolerate people arguing on my pages. It’s nothing but a waste of time that does more to harm the body of Christ and further the thought pattern that Christians are nothing but argumentative, arrogant fools, and I won’t be a part of it. I Peter 3:15-16–I’ve quoted it enough on this blog that I’d better live it out, right? See an opinion you disagree with? Scroll on by. There–didn’t hurt, right? 🙂
I’m sticking to a routine, which is easier since my son is back to in-person school (glory to GOD, y’all!). This includes getting in daily Bible readings or listening to a daily reading. Here’s the plan I’m using: https://thewaystlouis.com/bible-reading-plan/
I’ve explained that certain messes in the house absolutely must be cleaned up, and need to stay clean, because I can’t handle it–messes aren’t peaceful, and I need peace. Since only one of us is working right now, that falls on the other to take care of. This mandate doesn’t win anyone any friends, but neither does having a mental breakdown at 4:30 in the afternoon. I’ve found this image helpful, as it explains things I didn’t realize (and if you’re the one in charge of cleaning, don’t take this as any kind of shade or guilt–that’s how I initially took it, and I started getting worked up over it, and then I realized that hey–I can only do so much. This is just the psychology behind it, and dang it, I’m gonna give myself some grace!!):
5. Deep breaths. I’m absolutely serious about this. I’ve botched a few presentations lately, and I’ve botched a few personal conversations lately, because I get so anxious and nervous that IJustStartTalkingAndICantShutUpAndBeforeIKnowItISaidWHAT?!? And, like toothpaste, you just can’t put those words back in the tube. It stinks. So I’m making myself breathe, deeply, and close my eyes, and refocus–sometimes in front of people, which leads to #6:
6. I’m being brutally, painfully honest. Posting this blog isn’t easy. Admitting my mental state from last week isn’t easy. Telling my husband that I’m cuckoo-crazy-pants isn’t easy. Watching him stomp up the stairs because I’ve unnecessarily snapped at him isn’t easy…and neither is apologizing a few seconds later, when he’s reemerged to find out if the weather’s changed. Admitting that I can be tumultuous (I’m being nice) isn’t easy. None of this is easy. Realizing that one tiny pill can upset this apple cart of a crap brain isn’t easy (and it’s incredibly, incredibly frustrating…not only to deal with, but to get doctors to understand). Having to make myself visibly stop and breathe/blink when in a conversation with a co-worker so that I don’t start bawling, isn’t easy, and neither is looking them dead-in-the-eye and admitting that, “hey, I’m sorry–I’m a mess right now while we adjust some medications” is NOT EASY, and I have to wonder what the professional impact will be. I’m not afraid to ask for kindness if I need to, I don’t think….but–
#7. I am worth it. My mental health is worth sorting out and worth paying attention to. My stability is worth fighting for, especially for my family’s sake, because being a wife & a parent is everything I’ve ever wanted in my life, and dang it, I’m not going to watch that relationship be affected or lost because I didn’t put the time, the education, the prayer, the help, into it.
If you’re still reading, please know that above all, YOU ARE WORTH IT, too. Jesus says so, and He’s said it from the beginning of time. You–not some ambiguous people group. You, as an individual, YOU are so loved, and you are so worth PEACE….I think that’s what mental, and spiritual health, all tie into–peace. We can’t have peace in our hearts when we’re fighting so hard, but we can’t give the battle over to the Lord when our brains are imbalanced. It’s a battle against flesh (the brain) and blood (the spiritual), and it’s one that starts with Him. He uses all sorts of things–meds, prayer, health and mental care providers–He has endless resources, and He loves you so much that He’s in this fight even more than you are.
You’re loved. Keep fighting. We’re in this together—I’m not saying that to be trite; I’m saying it because it’s true. ❤
I know we’re not supposed to compare ourselves to each other, but sometimes the differences are so glaringly obvious that you can’t help but to notice them, and yep–I’ve noticed: I’m boring.
There was a time (and some of you will remember this) where I actually PRAYED to be boring (and my statement of being boring is NOT a complaint). Things in my life were so chaotic that I couldn’t see which end was up, and all I wanted was for things to die down–I needed an ordinary, boring life, and I prayed on a daily basis for some kind of calm to take place just so that David & I could catch our breath!
And, just like that, here we are–We’re boring.
Now, I’m saying this with the full knowledge that much like the proverbial dog-paddle, we look calm on the surface, but underneath, we’re kickin’ full-steam ahead. We’re treading water in the middle of a panic attack, but at this point, SO IS EVERYONE ELSE. Everyone is stressed out, fed up, flipping over, & manic…
And so are we…but we’re used to this, so we’re still smiling. 🙂 I guess I never thought of repetitive states of chaos conditioning us to a lifestyle of stress, but I’ll be darned–it has! I don’t always look at the frantic pace with this same level of calm (LOL–y’think?!?), but for now–even if it’s just for today–I’m a peace with all of it.
So, yeah, I’m boring (and I’m generally okay with that).
I had the opportunity this weekend to hang out with my older sister, Billie. We’re typically as opposite as two siblings can be–she’s short, I’m tall; I like Broadway and rap, and she likes Southern Rock and the Blues (okay, I like everything except jazz, and I think she agrees with that). I love broccoli, & she’d practically shank you with a stalk when we were kids, as opposed to just eating it (this is great ammunition for my son, because I can now tell him Auntie is short because she didn’t eat her veggies. He has no idea that at 5’7″ I am freakishly tall for our family. All of the veggies in the world aren’t gonna make that kid tall, but I can try while I have the chance). I don’t remember the last time we spent 3 days together, and it was a lot of fun. I have to say, I’m a bit envious–at 47, she still stays involved with the music scene and is a fill-in drummer/percussionist whenever she gets the chance. Sometimes, I’m not going to lie–I wonder where music might have taken me, had I given it the chance? It’s those missed opportunities and/or a lack of pursuit that occasionally rumble around in the back of my brain….
This was also my first opportunity to attend Blues Farm, where a bunch of people hung out, camped, and listened to some great music (Jackson Stokes, the Kris Lager Band, and the incomparable Amanda Fish).
Now, I haven’t been camping…ever…and I’ve been told that since I didn’t have to use the bathroom in the woods, that this doesn’t count. Whatever–I slept in the Tent From Hell, so I’m counting it. Speaking of the Tent From Hell, therein lies the title of this blog–“The Blues and Bad Behavior.”
Ever lose your temper so voraciously that there is NO GOING BACK?!?
Like, have you ever lost your temper and basically spit fire and sludge like some kind of vomitous garbage heap?!? Yeah, I totally did. I lost it, and I lost it BADLY. I’ve learned that I should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever–get it? LIKE, EVER–try to put a tent up in front of anyone. Like, no one should have to hear that hot mess. It was bad. I think I invented a few swearwords. I don’t even know what I said, but I know none of it was good. In my last blog, I wrote about, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” & I think I addressed the importance of the words you leave behind. It’s safe to say that if anyone had my verbal launch in writing, it’s a story no one would ever want to read…I flat-out embarrassed myself. I’m a firm believer that profanities should be verbal, never written, and that they’re a lazy man’s way of communicating….and boy, was I slacking on the job. Thus, the “Bad Behavior–“I wish I could take it all back and somehow preemptively wash my mouth out, but nope–there it lays. UGH. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I recollect….hopefully…maybe it just seemed particularly coarse because I haven’t lost it that badly in a very, VERY long time (pre-child)…but yikes.
(OMG, the gray hair! Get a good look at it, because I’m goin’ in for color in a few weeks! BAH!!) It’s a good thing I was a pretty good distance away from people, and that the people who were within earshot were very, very forgiving.
But, back to the good stuff–The Blues.
I love music. I love music that makes me emote, music that hits my soul and makes me want to sing. I love that God created music as a universal language, that even when we don’t understand the words, we still feel it the same across the world. I love that feeling when someone just blows you away, and all of the hair stands up on your arms. I love seeing skilled musicians that love what they do, and that pour that joy into their melodies and lyrics.
I love seeing people get gross and sweaty on stage, because they’ve just poured everything out there for the audience to hear and to see. I love worship sets that have ended on the floor, because people are worshiping so passionately with music as the medium, that they are spiritually overwhelmed in the Presence of God. Music was made for worship, to worship, the One Who created it. He made it for His pleasure, and He made us in His image, so we respond to it as well.
Music is so, so powerful–I’ve met very few people that don’t like music, and I have always looked at them sideways. I don’t know that life (and I don’t want to). A good musician touches you spiritually, emotionally, even physically in the overpouring–it’s such a deep thing. I love how I feel when I get to be a part of a team of musicians that all have the same goal: To reach the feet of Jesus…to bear witness to that ultimate expression of worship…
Music is amazing.
The Blues as we know them came from the hearts of an oppressed people whose souls were overburdened with the pain of their lives. It grew out of sorrow that eventually transposed to other emotions–love, even joy. It became a genre of music, as opposed to a culture in music. I feel like it gets appropriated a lot by Southern Rock, which is heavily, heavily influenced by The Blues, and that bands have to be careful of making sure credit is given where it is due. The Blues originated from a deep, soul-level longing, pulling from African roots, from slave songs, and from spirituals. I think that in American music, we tend to categorize it by bass lines and chord progressions; I believe it’s much more than that. There are all kinds of categories of The Blues, but when I hear that phrase, I always think of the call-and-responses from the fields where a stolen people sang their hope and laments.
This weekend at Blues Farm had some Blues, some rock, some funk, and a good mix of stuff that anyone can dance to, and it was a ton of fun. The bands that played were approachable, honest, and engaging; the people in the audience were so fun to watch, and I could not have felt more out of my element, LOL–but my sister was TOTALLY in hers! She played percussion for almost 6 hours–I’d be a noodle by then.
One of the takeaways that I had from the weekend (outside of my renewed understanding in my overall boringness) is how music is so gracious and fluid. My sister played with 2 bands that she hadn’t rehearsed with. There was no soundcheck (um, shout-out to Terry, the sound guy, for being AMAZING–sound is difficult to run, and he was primo!!!), no practicing–there was just, “Hey, get in, let’s play,” and that’s SO EXCITING TO SEE!!! As a singer, that’s a freedom I wish I got to have, and I don’t think I’ve ever got to do that–to just jump in on a full set, BOOM, let’s go!!–and to not only do it exceedingly well, but to have fun in the process! I didn’t see ANY ego in the bands–everyone was so humble and so obviously there for the sheer joy of playing. I don’t see that enough in music (or ever, really, in church music–people get so caught up in the techniques and the ego that it falls flat of actually being a joyful experience. I’m guilty of it, too). I always overthink things and then I get scared, even in a worship set. SO. Much. Anxiety. I loved looking up and seeing the drummer and my sister perfectly in sync on various rhythms, solely based on how they felt the music, as opposed to having every “i” dotted. It was messy and funky, and it was absolutely PERFECT. GOSH, it was fun to watch and to listen to!
So, in spite of my Bad Behavior, I wound up meeting awesome new people, at a beautiful piece of property in MO, and listening to some really groovy music made by some true artists. I got to sit in on Live Frickin’ Music, y’all, and I’d almost forgotten just how wonderful it is to be in the audience again..
I took the opportunity to try my hand at concert photography, which was a new experience that I didn’t know I’d like as much as I do (David could have done much better, but I don’t think I was terrible!). I gained a new appreciation for my sister’s level of skill, and a new understanding of music in the process. I had a beautiful 3 days in perfect temps, and then I came back home on Sunday to my awesome husband and my crazy kiddo, who both missed me a ton (and I totally missed them). I’m back on the hamster wheel, but for 3 days, I got to experience Blues Farm, and I feel like (in spite of the Tent from Hell), it was a refresher for my brain.
Yep, I’m boring–I’m nowhere near as cool as those musicians or the people who looked way chiller than me, relaxing in their lawn chairs and enjoying the show. I’m way too uptight (I don’t sit still very well), but it was fun to kick back a few days and to meet new people (which, if you know me, you know I don’t do so well on that part–dang you, social anxiety) who seemed like they liked my neurotic self just the way I am (and who made a great deal of fun of my sister, so now I have to love them forever).
I’m looking forward to hopefully going back to Blues Farm in the future…and to hopefully, better behavior….or duct tape. 🙂 (I swear to you, I will NEVER put that tent up again. I’ll sleep on the bare ground first. I’m not kidding).
Love, Peace, and Loud Guitars Forever, y’all. 🙂 (Or at least, that’s what the Cool Kids say). 🙂