For the Love of a Dog…

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Once upon a time, in late November of 2005, a fluffy, shy, drooly cuddlebug came to be a part of our family. David had told me from as early in our dating life as I can remember, that he’d always wanted a boxer…so, he found one that was much smaller than most boxers, and she became ours.
I’d only had a cat (which I adored) and a dog (which my dad adored), and birds (which were never mine). I didn’t know what to do with an indoor dog, or such a “fancy” dog (She’s AKC registered, I mean, c’mon!!!). I didn’t know anything about walking them or training them, & I wasn’t even sure I wanted a dog, but I figured she’d be good practice for whenever we decided to try to have children (we had no idea how THAT was going to work out).
I fell in love.
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David studied The Dog Whisperer (Cesar Millan) religiously. Our house was filled with too much dog hair, too much slobber, and the sound of “tschhhht!” reverberating off of the walls.
She ate my cookbooks, my shoes, and had separation anxiety issues that we weren’t counting on…but we made it work.
She ate the bottom out of more kennels than I can count…which gets expensive.
She chewed every dog toy I bought her into tiny crumbs (except for the black Kong. Get it.).
She stayed on my lap or laid on my stomach every day…until one day, my stomach started to kick her…and eventually, she didn’t have any room to lay down…
And then Mommy disappeared for a few weeks.
When we brought our daughter home, she didn’t know what to think of the tiny, hairless being that Mommy & Daddy loved so much…but she knew how Mommy cried when that little person didn’t come home anymore…and she stayed with me through countless tears and breakdowns.
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Holly was definitely impacted by Hannah’s death…her separation anxiety worsened, and her need to be directly under my feet became problematic. I got annoyed…but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Boxers tend to live around 7-10 years.  When Holly hit the 7-year mark, she gained a bunch of weight, and then her hips went out. We found out that first of all, she had a thyroid problem…which in retrospect, I find hilarious.
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We knew things were off, so we visited a few vets, and found out that our girl needed a ridiculously-expensive surgery: Bilateral TPLO. I don’t remember all of the ins-&-outs, but she basically needed her legs cut open and the bones reworked, along with a bunch of screws, pins, and other such things, to the tune of around $7,000-10,000 that we. Did. Not. Have.
Because of her temperament, we were able to find a surgeon that did both surgeries for both legs, at the same time. That’s unheard of, in a bully breed or in a dog of her size. She made it through the procedure without complications; I was scared to death, and brought her chicken from Qdoba almost every night that she was in the hospital. 🙂
And then we found out that Holly was about to have a brother!!!
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It took Holly a solid 6 months to warm up to Jericho, and to be honest, she wasn’t terribly fond of him. Granted, we were terrible dog-parents; we were working full-time, and still hadn’t gotten into a routine of making sure she had her thyroid medicine. Speaking from a different place of understanding, now I KNOW how important that medication is!! Once we had her in a regular routine, she began to tolerate Jericho quite nicely. 🙂 He makes her nervous…but he sure does love her!
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Holly followed me around incessantly…I had absolutely no personal space, and I was really starting to get aggravated with her….but then came my diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Once my surgery and my medication started doing their jobs, her need to be in my face and under my feet seemed to decrease. I’m pretty convinced she knew I was sick, before I or anyone else knew. She’s pretty darn smart.
When David isn’t home, Holly will go ballistic on anyone who comes to the door. She’s been a fierce defender for Jericho & I, and even though I’ve only had to “sic” her on someone once or twice, I know that no matter how old she gets, SHE WILL TEAR SOMEONE APART on cue. 🙂 I like that about her. I didn’t train her to be a security dog…but I didn’t have to.
Our girl is quite old…we’re reminded of that every time someone asks how old she is, and we tell them, and they look at us like we’re crazy: “She’s REALLY OLD for a BOXER, isn’t she?!?!?!?”
Well, yes.
Yes, she’s old.
She’s losing her hearing and control of her bladder (that sucks, BTW. I’m going to buy stock in Resolve.). She’s crabbier, but she still defends me to the teeth (not that she has many left), and she still likes to “hug” me when I try to go upstairs (she runs one step ahead, and gets on her hind legs to put her paws on my shoulders). She still lets me do her nails, and she misses being allowed to get on the couch (it’s a new couch).
She loves her Daddy.
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And she definitely, definitely, loves ME.

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She’s an amazing dog, and an amazing soul…I believe all dogs go to Heaven. I mean, how could something love you like that…and I do believe it’s love…and not be allowed to return to their Maker? God blessed us when He gave us animals to love…

She’s been my very, very best friend…she’s been a dog I needed, even though I never knew just how much I’d need someone like her.

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She’s in my heart, and I am forever grateful for the day David called me and said, “I got a dog.”

Officially, she’s “Christmas’ Holly Golightly.”

Unofficially, she’s “Miss Stink,” “OooohGetOffaMeYou’reGross,” “$%&*%$&!!!!,” and a few other unmentionable names. 🙂

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She’s a Good Dog, and I wish she could read…I wish she could know just how grateful we are for her….and how we are changed for the better, because of the Love of a Dog.

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Happy 13th birthday, Holly. You’re a Very Good Dog, and we love you!

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Limbo…

Two years ago, I posted a status update that I was basically cancer-free.

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Before you read any further, please note that I’m not saying that I’m not cancer-free. THIS IS NOT A POST TO SAY THAT MY CANCER HAS RETURNED, so please don’t worry. 🙂
It’s actually a post to say that now they’re telling me it may have never really gone away.
Nobody seems to know the real answer to that question.
I’m posting this not as a means of being dramatic or whiny, but because it’s indicative of how confusing the medical industry can be…I’ve been working in healthcare for 18 years, and have had a complicated medical history, yet with all of that, the terminologies and explanations that healthcare providers give can be very misleading…
At this appointment, I was made to believe that I was done with this whole cancer thing…I even looked at my doctor and asked, “So, does this mean I’m done here?” He said, “Yes, but we’ll still need to see you every 6 months for ultrasounds. Cancer-wise, though, you’re in the clear.” I knew at that time that thyroid cancer, particularly when it’s as complicated as mine was, has a high chance of a recurrence, and that stays in the back of one’s mind.
So, here we are, 3 years after my initial diagnosis, and I’ve been a good girl; I’ve taken my meds, gone to Barnes every 6 months, and had my ultrasounds. I’ve dutifully supplied my blood tests on time, and I religiously maintain a spreadsheet of my results. My lymph nodes in my neck have finally started to shrink, and that’s a positive change since my biopsy in January of this year (when they actually suspected that I might have lymphoma, which was terrifying; turns out that I was still dealing with the after-effects of having mono the summer before). However, I continue to have something called, “residual activity” that shows up on my ultrasounds. It showed up on my PET scan in 2016, and it’s never actually resolved. So, how can I be told that I’m “cancer free,” when in fact. that’s not necessarily accurate? There should be NOTHING in my thyroid bed, yet there’s that stupid thing, boppin’ around on my ultrasound. I don’t have cancer, according to my labs…BUT my labs never said I had cancer in the first place–that’s the anomaly of my particular case of thyroid cancer. I never registered as having cancer, via labwork or biopsy, even though the cancer cells broke through the capsule and went into my lymph nodes. We didn’t know I actually had cancer until I was in the process of having my thyroid removed, when the surgeon biopsied me on the table. Now, however, according to my surgeon and the ultrasound (AKA, “anatomical scan”), I’m not totally clear, and I’ll need to see my oncologist again for follow-up scans (functionality scans, AKA, another PET scan).
I know everything is fine, but you mention the word, “oncologist” to me, and my anxiety skyrockets. I’m not sure why it freaks me out so much; I’d rather never see an oncologist again. Thyroid cancer is a SUPER-slow growing cancer, so even if my tests are positive or questionable, I really have nothing to worry about. It’s just a stupid mind-game, and I hate how it affects me (and everyone I care about).
When we lived in Kentucky, I had an accident with Holly, and wound up tearing a tendon in my wrist. I didn’t COMPLETELY tear the tendon, and as a result, instead of a simple surgery to repair the damage, I had 6 weeks in a cast, 6 weeks in a brace, and 12 weeks of physical therapy. Something relatively simple became extremely complicated; what sounds like the better version of the injury was actually worse than the reality (Partial tear vs. Complete tear). I feel like thyroid cancer is like that. It’s the “good” kind of cancer–it’s “easily” treated. You remove the thyroid, and we’re good, right? Not really…My dad had a kind of cancer where they removed it all with surgery, and everything was fine–no meds, no radiation, and no chemo. You’d think that thyroid cancer was like that, based on the whole, “just remove the mass and the thyroid” thing. No one talks about the chances of recurrence, the residual activity, and the extreme difficulty in balancing the medication that replaces your thyroid. No one tells you about all of things that are affected by your thyroid–the energy levels, the hormones, the immune system (in my case, because of lymphatic involvement). They don’t tell you that when you catch a basic cold, you’d better call your doctor, because it’s gonna mutate and turn into bronchitis or pneumonia or whatever, because your immune system’s compromised. I just started my 3rd or 4th round of antibiotics this year, and my 2nd round of steroids…over a dang COLD.
My nervousness/drama over the thought of additional testing/seeing the oncologist is admittedly stupid. I’m being WAY overly dramatic, especially when I think about all of the people I know who have dealt with “real” cancers…the ones that require multiple rounds of chemo and radiation, the ones that incapacitate people and take lives…Thyroid cancer is often treated by the medical community as the “good” kind of cancer, so the issues that we deal with are not treated with the seriousness or compassion that I believe they should entail.  Thyroid cancer is, by definition, “easy” to treat in comparison to every other kind of cancer, based on the previously stated premise that you just remove the organ, give the patient a replacement med, and send them on their merry way. It’s not like I’ve had a breast removed or lost a kidney…I’m not visibly scarred (unless you know where to look).  I didn’t lose my hair (well, I did, but no one really noticed, and it’s all grown back). My issues have all had to do with regulating the thyroid replacement medication, and that’s a process that will go on for the rest of my life. If I gain weight (huge struggle) or if I lose weight (ha!), the dosages have to be recalibrated. Right now, I’m actually medically slightly hyperthyroid, but the consequences of re-calibrating the medication are worse than dealing with the effects of being hyperthyroid (sleeplessness/heat intolerance/anxiety) so we leave it as is for now.
Ask anyone in my family, and they will tell you that my life after having the “good” kind of cancer is very different from my life before.
My son will never know the Mommy that existed prior to 2015, when I had issues, but I also had energy, and I could go outside in the summer and not feel like I was going to pass out (I thought I was heat-intolerant before this, because of my heart. This is another level). He tells my husband that he wants to “take Mommy home, so we can go to the park.” That hurts, I’m not going to lie.
But I’m being stupid. Aren’t just supposed to shut up and be grateful that I got the “good” kind of cancer?
REALLY?
I very rarely let my brain go down the rabbit hole of “why is this happening to me?” I’ve found that’s a very dangerous place to go, and I’ve learned to stifle that fire with a blanket of blind faith and self-control, per the whole, “blessed are they that have not seen, but have believed” verse in John 20:29. I could list the things David & I have been through that I just don’t get, but what point would it prove? We’ve been through hell? Yeah, but so has everyone to some extent. Everyone has their own definition of the worst thing they’ve been through, and my worst isn’t your worst, but that doesn’t mean one is worse than the other–who makes that judgement call? Life isn’t about comparing my life to yours, or your life to Kim Kardashian’s. Life is about doing all that we can to give glory to God in every situation. If the Apostle Paul can do it, so can we.
So, I try to avoid the “why, God, why?!?” Nancy Kerrigan-isms of my life. My life is GOOD!!!!  I love my life! And I’m not defined by this stupid cancer thing, but it does take up an inordinate amount of space in my psyche, particularly when I’m told that I have to go back to oncology and have additional scans in the next 6 months (they’re not in a hurry. That’s the perks of having the “good” kind of cancer. Nothing has to be rushed, which is cool, even though my brain says, “DO IT NOWWWW!!!!” I can wait until my FSA has renewed, LOL). I’ve been pretty whiny with God all week (when I’ve even spoken with Him–I’ve been so dang sick that I’ve barely prayed, which is embarrassing to admit). I did actually say to Him on Wednesday that “I just don’t understand why I get hit will all of this $hit (I’m not gonna fake Him out with some kind of churchy-fake lingo)!!!” And as soon as I said it, I’m like, “Eh, never mind.” I don’t really need to know the definition. Grace tells me it’s not a punishment. Grace tells me that we live in a fallen world full of crappy chemicals and emissions, of hormone-affecting toxins and atmospheric garbage that affects all of us in different ways.
Grace also tells me that regardless of the confusing definitions and my internal/external comparisons, that the bottom line is that it will all be okay. Grace tells me to stop being afraid of words like, “oncology,” and to start saying things like, “stop being a stupid worry-wart, and chill the heck out.” 🙂 (Okay, Grace doesn’t say that. Mom says that, LOL. I love her. Everyone needs someone in their life to cut through their crap, and that’s my mom. She’s like a younger Judge Judy with a penchant for wedding-based reality TV). Seriously, though, Grace says that this is one more bump/hill/mountain in the road, and regardless of what happens, I’ll get through the other side of it. It really, truly is not serious, and it’s only because of the “C” word that it seems so scary. My surgeon actually once said that thyroid cancer shouldn’t even really be termed as a cancer, because it’s such a slow-growing, minor thing to deal with, and that word is so complicated and fearful. I tend to agree with him, even though I know that trivializes something with major consequences.
Seeing an oncologist is actually just part of regular follow-up care for any kind of cancer. I probably should have seen her a year ago, but because things were so well-maintained at my visits with my surgeon and my endocrinologist, it wasn’t brought up. In fact, my endocrinologist isn’t particularly concerned at this point, and I don’t have to see him for a year (yay!). Oncology is routine, even though in MY brain, seeing an oncologist isn’t routine for ANYONE.
Like I said a few (okay, a LOT of) paragraphs earlier, this post is not to say that my cancer has returned…or that it ever reallllly went away. It’s just showing how confusing the medical industry can be (“you’re cancer-free! Oh, wait, you have activity—oh, wait, it’s not enough to worry about—oh, wait, go see the oncologist–but you’re fine!”), and the emotional roller-coaster that goes along with it. I am fine–believe me, I’m as fine as I get. My levels are well-maintained, and if you don’t count the bronchitis/respiratory garbage I keep getting every few months, my energy levels are good. I’m doing a heck of a lot better than a lot of people I read about on my “Life After Thyroidectomy” forum on Facebook!  Hoooo, those Facebook Groups!!!! “I stubbed my toe! It’s because I had a thyroidectomy!!!!! I hate my doctor!!!!” It gets DRAMATIC…and I’m not going to lie, it’s kind of entertaining. It helps me find out what I really need to be concerned about, and clears up a LOT of myths, particularly when I review some of the stuff with my endocrinologist.
Whether I do or don’t have a recurrence of this garbage, everything is fine, and it’s all going to be okay. Even though the thought of something as routine as a follow-up visit with an oncologist is scary to me, I know it’s a good thing to do. Ultrasounds can only tell doctors so much, and additional testing is a good thing. I just have to get over myself and the mental hang-up I have with that word. I don’t see myself as a “cancer survivor,” because of the type of cancer I have; however, I believe we probably all share a similar fear/anxiety of having to see an oncologist, and of the ensuing tests. It is part of the process we all deal with, regardless of the type of cancer. The mental aspects of the terminology are just as emotionally difficult as the physical processes, which is something I think healthcare would do well to address.
Any additional testing I have done will most likely not happen until next year (the perks of “non”-cancer cancers), so I’m probably not going to post anything else regarding my status until then. For me, just writing all of this out has been helpful; only so much can be said in phone calls and 10-minute conversations with spouses. Blogging is my way of having uninterrupted communication, so it’s completely selfish, and I’m not sorry. 🙂 If you’ve stuck with me this far, well, good on ya’, mate! 🙂
This is all just part of the process. And it’s okay. I’ve never been good at any kind of waiting, and I’ve wanted everything to be over and done with for the last 3 years. I’m not really getting that, and I’m not good at not getting what I want. I want closure. It’s not happening. It’s a bizarre kind of limbo.
I’ve never been particularly good at that game. 🙂

“Out of the mouths of babes….”

You guys, God blew up my brain this morning. Like, He shattered me in the best of ways…..I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out:

In the morning, I have about a 45-minute commute. I like quiet in the mornings. My drive is usually where I try to get focused, I pray, and I listen. This morning, I had just finished praying the intro (LOL–by “the intro,” I mean the Lord’s Prayer. I start every day with that. Long story. Good enough for Jesus, good enough for me.) and I was thinking about my son. I was thinking about how he’s said a couple of times lately that he wants to be baptized. Now, he’s 5–I’m pretty sure he’s not ready yet, but it’s on the table. I was 9 when I became a Christian and was water-baptized, so I firmly believe that kids can know what they’re doing.

We pray with him every night. I want my son to know that God is real, that He is listening, and that we don’t have to fake anything with Him. Jericho’s prayers are really, really cute, and I believe that he prays with intention. David has been AMAZING at working with him on Bible verses (I highly recommend Pixie Paper on Amazon; we purchased superhero-themed prints with Bible verses on them, and Jericho’s been learning them since he was 3. “Green Lantern verse!” “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light onto my path!” “Captain America verse!” “Jesus is the Captain of my Salvation!”), and he’s been learning them at school. Image result for jesus is the captain of my salvation

Watching a child develop their own faith is fascinating.

As parents, we have to be careful of a trap that I have found myself in: Don’t disregard the strength of their prayers because they’re cute.

I was driving into work, thinking about how Jericho had jumped at the opportunity to pray over my family’s Father’s Day meal. It was a simple prayer, full of thanksgiving, and one I really didn’t put much stock into, because let’s face it: I have a really cute kid, and it’s cute when kids pray.

I was, of course, happy that he WANTED to pray (my mother was verklempt, LOL), but I didn’t really think too much more of it beyond the general pride I felt that MY KID PRAYS. Outside of that, it was adorable, and we go on with our day.

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God feels differently.

I felt Him whisper to me this morning as I merged onto 270: “His prayers are REAL.”

My brain exploded like a firework. If I could have stopped my car and pulled over, I would have.

He kept going–it all rushed in: “His prayers are real, his heart is pure, and I AM LISTENING. All of Heaven is listening when a kid prays. His prayers have stock in them, just as yours do. Age doesn’t matter. I listen. Nothing he says is in vain; all of Heaven takes note. It’s written down. Jericho’s prayers are HEARD.”

So much for my mascara this morning.

How dare I sit back and write them off as a novelty?!?!?!?!?!?

The prayers of our children are heard in the heavenlies!!!!!!!!!!

I came into work, and turned on Bethel worship from a few Sundays ago. I picked it based on the screenshot of the worship leader, who I hadn’t heard before (Sean Feucht), and Pastor Bill Johnson was doing the intro. What he said made me stop in my tracks, and open up this blog to write all of this down:

Psalms 8:2:
Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. (NIV)

Mr. Johnson went on to read a paraphrase of a few more verses of the chapter (hit the video at the 4:32 marker):

“You have built a stronghold, a dwelling place of strength, from the songs of babies. YOU HAVE BUILT A FORTRESS FROM THE SONGS OF BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!!  Strength rises up from a chorus of babies. This kind of praise has the power to shut Satan’s mouth. Childlike worship will silence the madness of those that oppose you.”

I have never, EVER read this verse like this. I’ve never seriously considered the power or strength of the prayers of a child. I’ve said, “oh, sure, that’s adorable, it’s good to teach kids to pray,” etc., but it’s never impacted me like it has this morning. Between what God whispered in my ear on my commute, and a different interpretation/paraphrase of a verse I’ve heard 1,000 times, my world is rocked this morning, and I am renewed in my prayers of gratitude for my son in my life. That boy is a gift and a blessing who has taught me more about God than in almost any other time in my life. He keeps me reliant on the Lord, and he keeps me committed to renew my faith every single day. Today is just one more example of the lessons God has taught me through Jericho…

You guys, how amazing, that the Creator of the universe stops in His tracks to hear the prayers of a child…that the prayers of the least of these matter to our Savior. Our prayers are never just a novelty act; He never writes them off because we’re who we are. He’s listening, and He’s not just listening–He’s looking forward to our conversations. He’s engaged with us as His Beloved. Jesus truly loves us so much more than we can know, and it’s a joy to belong to Him…it’s a joy to get to parent with the influence of His kindness…it’s a joy to be loved by Him…

 

Part Three: Redefining Family Structure in the Church, AKA, “This is Man’s World.”

(Okay, let’s be honest: I can’t say the phrase, “This is a Man’s World,” without thinking of Christina Aguilera’s best performance of her lifetime. She did a tribute to James Brown at the Grammys several years ago, and KILLED it. So, now THAT’s in my head. Squirrel!!!)

This is a series that started as a response to the Pesky Umbrella Graphic (PUG):Natural-Order-of-The-Family

For the first blog post, I started  with what I  feel is the most important part: Jesus as the Song of Solomon bridegroom, as the One Who leads us to the banqueting table in celebration with a Banner over us…”His banner over me is love.” If you haven’t read it yet, take a second and go back to it.

I did a follow-up blog on marriage, and parts of it might have sounded more like it was about reasons NOT to get married (totally not my intention, LOL): Mawwiage

Marriage is tricky. Going into it with crazy, Disney-expectations is setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment. Image result for disney romantic coupleI’m not trying to rain on your parade; we’re all humans, and we’re terrifically flawed. Even under the banner of Jesus’ love, we make mistakes and we lose sight of our goals. We hurt each other, but the beauty of it all is that we learn to forgive, and we learn to grow together. It’s a lifelong process that requires incredible tenacity and faith.

So, for today, I’m going to discuss the role of the husband in this blog. This gets delicate because if you haven’t figured it out, I’m married. 🙂IMG_20180404_182209_201 I’m also EXTREMELY difficult to be married to (but hey, I have my good points). We were once told that 80% of couples who have lost a child, divorce, regardless of faith. That statistic has been proven to be false, but when you have that information hanging over your head and you’ve been through hell, it adds some extra challenges. Our marriage has been through more than anyone will ever know, but 13 years in, I’d say we’re successful in maintaining our relationship, SOLELY BY THE GRACE OF GOD.

Did I mention I’m difficult to be married to? Oh, and don’t get it twisted–David’s not the easiest thing in the world, LOL. He’s generally pretty great, but ask me about cabinet doors and cereal bowls….

I don’t want anyone to think that when I describe the role of a husband in a marriage, that I am disparaging or focusing on my husband unless I say so. Don’t put thoughts in your brain that shouldn’t be there. 🙂 I really do have a great man in my life, and the ratio of things that bug me verses the incredible qualities he has, is completely disproportionate. 🙂 I won.

So, let’s go back to the PUG, okay? Image result for cute pug

 

Ah, there’s that HUSBAND, lording over everyone else, burdened with being both the spiritual leader, the provider, and loving like Christ loves the church…

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See, this is why we have to start disassembling this graphic by changing it from an Umbrella to a Banner. To hearken back to my original blog in this series, Jesus is over our family as a banner of victory, a banner of recognition, a banner of declaration that screams out the Love of God like a megaphone across the heavenlies. He shouts His love for us in the face of the accusations of the Enemy, in the face of the temptations that come our way…That banner is everything; whereas an umbrella will only shield you from the elements, a banner carries the mark of the King! We have this amazing declaration over our household that WE ARE LOVED uncontrollably, without human understanding! We are covered in grace and dripping in mercy, and where we walk as a family, we leave a trail of the fruits of the Spirit. That’s the goal.

And there’s Mr. Right: There’s the Husband of the Household.

Is he a dictator? A lord? King of the house? Ruler of all? Is he a doormat that a contentious wife stomps all over (ouch, occasionally guilty)?

No, and if he’s playing the role like any of those descriptions, he’s out of line with the direction of the Lord.

I like this quote from Family Life:

“Head” does not mean male dominance, where a man lords it over a woman and demands her total obedience to his every wish and command. God never viewed women as second-class citizens. His Word clearly states that we are all equally His children and are of equal value and worth before Him. As Galatians 3:28 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

The teaching of the New Testament clearly shows that women are to be respected, revered, and treated as equals with men. Unfortunately, many husbands have not gotten the message. They degrade their wives by neglect or with insensitive and abusive treatment. One cause of the feminist movement may have been that men abandoned God’s design. When God presented Eve to Adam in the Garden, Adam received her as a gift of great value to God and to himself. When husbands, particularly Christian husbands, do not treat their wives as a precious gift from God and helpmate, they can cause those wives to search for ways to find significance and value as persons, often outside God’s will.

The PUG gives men 3 responsibilities, so I’m going to address each one:

  • Spiritually Lead the Family
    • We live in a society that has categorically undermined the authority of men and the structure of family in the media for the past 30 years. I’m 40, so I’ve had a front-row seat to this destruction. Shows like, “Married With Children,” “The Simpsons.” and the original “Rosanne” all painted pictures of men being basic morons, and the wives being the brains of the family. It was a huge departure from the shows of the 1950’s and 60’s that seemed to emphasize family. Men are now the brunt of every joke and have no authority whatsoever, in the name of comedy. I believe that issues such as sexual harassment, and abuse, are on the rise partially resulting from this oppression of the leadership role men are supposed to be in. They’re undermined and disrespected by women and children, so they retaliate with terrible behaviors (speaking broadly, of course). They’re designed to be respected, and they’re gonna get it one way or another, by golly, even if it’s by force!  Maybe that’s a stretch, but if a man is treated the way he should be treated, and if he’s locked in spiritually the way he should be, walking in the love of Jesus, there’s balance. Our world is miserably OUT of balance; men are mistreated, and are reacting by behaving badly.  I will say however, on the flip side of this, that the mistreatment of women by men most likely caused them to be portrayed as morons, so it’s a cycle of bad examples, poor leadership, and retaliation. If we carried ourselves with the balance that God created men and women to carry, NONE of this would be an issue.
    • Okay, so he’s supposed to lead the family in spiritual ways. …but that’s also something we all have to work together on. We’re not supposed to be unequally yoked, right? We’re supposed to be partners in fulfilling this mission to raise Godly children:  Deuteronomy 6:7 says that we are to “impress [the commandments] on our children; Talk about them when you sit at home, & when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.”  It doesn’t say “Fathers Only–do this.” It’s for ALL of us to do…
    • So, what does it mean to “spiritually lead?”
      • First of all, we all stand before God ALONE. When I die, David’s spiritual walk will have no bearing on how my walk with Jesus is judged. So, I’m responsible for how I spiritually lead our son. Am I instructing our son in God’s Word? Am I teaching him biblical concepts and Scriptures? Am I doing everything I can to pray for him, and to set him in the direction that Jesus would have me set him in? Spiritual leadership is just that: Using personal examples and teachable moments, combined with prayer, to direct the household in walking in the will of God. It’s having a life dedicated to pursing Jesus, and in sharing that pursuit with those around you.  My husband has the same responsibility to do that, as I do–one of us is not more responsible to live a godly life than the other.
      • Spiritual leadership for a husband, like leadership over the family, involves biblical submission for a woman (ooooooooh, we hate that word!! “Submission?!?!?!” NOOOOO!) For women, this means that we stay respectful, even when we disagree with the direction he’s taking us. It means we listen, we pray, and we stay open to suggestions. It doesn’t mean that he’s abusive or an authoritarian. It means we give him the chance to explain where he’s coming from; it means we pray about it, we search our hearts, and we see where we stand with the result. If your husband is trying to lead you, spiritually, in a direction you know is wrong, I say stand your ground and pray that God changes his heart. Or, pray that if you’re wrong, that God will change your heart.
      • Example: Around 7 years ago, David & I were at a crossroads. I was on the worship team at a larger church, and had “commitment.” David had never really felt like he fit in, and just wasn’t getting fed spiritually in a way that he needed to. He wanted to find a different church, and he knew where he wanted us to go (did I mention that he originally picked THIS church, shortly after we got married?). He wanted to make a significant change, and I was NOT having it. It took a year of praying on both of our parts, independently (I know, we should have prayed together), for God to change my heart and get the understanding that YES, we needed to leave that church. It was time. The craziest thing (and I’m NOT saying this will happen for everyone; it’s just our story), is that shortly after making that decision in unity, I got pregnant with our miracle baby. When a husband and wife come together in spiritual agreement, radical changes can happen. The Bible says that “one of us can send a thousand to flight, and 2 of us can send a legion fleeing” (Deut. 32:30). Personally, praying together with my husband is challenging for me. It doesn’t come naturally to me, even after 13 years. That doesn’t mean we stop trying, though.
  • Provide for the Family
    • Um, EXCUSE ME? What have I been doing for the past 18 years? What did my mom do for over 20 years? I’m coming at this defensively, because as a working mother, I’ve been seriously hurt by crap people have said about my decision/need to be a working mother. This isn’t 200B.C., people. They need to take that off of the graphic like, NOW. It’s borderline offensive. Welcome to a world where everything costs a fortune and most households cannot survive on one family member’s income. This is 2018, people, and diminishing the contributions of a woman in providing for the family is insulting. We work just as hard, and frankly, stay-at-home moms ALSO work just as hard at providing for the family (I think I read a statistic once that said if a SAHM was paid for the work she does, it would average over $150,000/year). WOMEN. FREAKING. WORK in this world, harder than we have ever had to, and we deserve to be counted as providers for our families. Men shouldn’t have to bear that burden alone in today’s world.
    • I will 100% say that up until the 1950’s, women didn’t have to contribute to household finances to the extent that they now have to. I will say that consumerism, materialism, humanism, and an entire textbook of -isms have contributed to the change in the atmosphere that has resulted in women joining and/or taking over the work force. However, this is how it is NOW, regardless of what was intended in the beginning of Creation, and most of us have children to think about. I’m not sorry that I’m a working woman. I fully recognize the sacrifice that goes into being a SAHM, and it’s not one I feel like our household can make, or that my nature can process.
    • Does the fact that I have to work in order for our lights to stay on, mean my husband is out of God’s Will as a provider for our family? ABSOLUTELY NOT. However, I also believe very firmly that if a woman is working and a man is physically capable of working, then he’d better WORK and not make her shoulder that entire burden alone. I do believe that God created man in His image, and just as He said in the Garden of Eden, they’re to work to provide for their families. Laziness is not a godly quality, no matter how you try to spin it. We’re not made to be a lazy, dependent people; God created both man and woman to be industrious (see Proverbs 31, for the ladies’ version) for provision and for mental well-being. When we do good work, we feel good about ourselves; a man that feels good about himself passes that along to his entire household. 🙂
  • Love Wife like Christ loves the Church
    • This is the third thing the PUG lists (reading L-<R), but it should be the first thing men are responsible to do…leave it to an archaic, misinformed, misogynistic graphic to put the leadership role first, and the loving role last. 🙂
    • HOW DOES CHRIST LOVE THE CHURCH?  Read the Song of Solomon–it lays it all out. In SOS, Jesus is the Groomsman, and we as the Church are the Bride. Read that book, men, and get your action plan on how to love your wife (and please, actually put it into practice. Just reading it won’t do the trick. Preaching to myself…). Here’s some killer resources that will revolutionize your Christianity:
      • International House of Prayer with Mike Bickle. The link takes you to a ton of free downloads.
      • Gateway House of Prayer with Tammy Riddering. Same concepts as the IHOP version, but taught from a woman’s perspective
      • My husband has been studying this for at least 10 years. I’ve just started (again–this is so difficult for me to grasp, but I’m on my like, 3rd try of the in-depth study. I’m a fighter, not a lover). When you just barely, just lightly, start to grasp the love Jesus has for His Church, your brain will explode. And when you think that’s how a husband is to love his WIFE?!?!? BOOM.
    • What does the love of Christ for the Church look like? It’s wholehearted. It’s full. Mike Bickle of IHOP says, “The way the God loves within the fellowship of the Trinity, beloved, here is the glorious thing—it is the only way
      He loves. He cannot love partially. He only loves wholeheartedly. God does not suspend one attribute to exercise another. He does not put love “on hold” when He shows justice. He does not put His holiness “on hold” when He expresses mercy.”

      • I John 4:7-8 says that “God is love.” He’s made up of Love–how is that possible? Bickle says in the same sermon I quoted above that “He always loves in fullness.” He doesn’t love halfway. He doesn’t STOP. He can’t love us anymore than He already does. His love is endless, boundless, and eternal. We can’t run from it. He won’t hide it from us. He doesn’t play games or manipulate it. God. IS. Love.
      • A man can TRY to love like Christ loves the Church, but it’s basically not possible, because we’re flawed. 🙂 It’s not possible without having Jesus at the front/back/middle of the relationship. Jesus is literally the glue that holds a loving marriage together, because He IS Love!
    • A man is to love his wife:
      • Wholeheartedly: Don’t reserve your heart or your feelings.
      • Honestly: Don’t play games or hide truths.
      • Humbly: Recognize your flaws and work together to fill in the gaps. Ask forgiveness when you’re wrong. Don’t be too proud to help; the Bridegroom in SOS is as much of a servant as He is a King.
      • Shamelessly: Don’t embarrass your spouse for the sake of a punchline, and don’t be afraid to be publicly vocal about how much you love each other. Be vocal with compliments, and back them up with action.
      • Compassionately: Egos are fragile. Contentiousness will destroy a marriage and will eat a person’s self-esteem from the inside-out.
      • Demonstratively: You set an example to your family and your friends by how you love each other.
      • Faithfully: This goes for physically, emotionally, and mentally. Cheating is a nasty, complicated parasite that will destroy your life. Whether it’s a physical act of being unfaithful to your spouse, or a lustful act of letting impure things creep into your marriage, you have to get that garbage out before it’s too late.  It is SO HARD to stay pure in this world, for both men and women, but our hearts have to be towards our spouses! If you’re tuned into the will of God and you catch that stuff creeping in (it’s so bad that I’ve had to leave the room for a commercial. RIDICULOUS), you have to get out. It’s a constant discipline to maintain faithfulness and purity, and you have to commit to it daily. It’s not impossible. Men can be faithful. Women can be faithful. Relying on Jesus and being honest with yourself is the only way, because it’s coming at us from every angle today.

As a woman, and as a wife, it’s easy for me to look at the PUG with contempt. After all, it IS 2018, and women are enjoying more freedom and independence than ever before, right? We can be who and what we want; we can hang with the boys and be equals, right? I don’t need a man, right?!?!?!?!?!?

WRONG.

The last blog in this series will cover the roles of women in today’s world, and it’s probably going to be the most challenging for me to write. Like I said in the first blog,  I’m not a feminist; I’m an Equalist. I believe we should be respected equally, paid equally, and treated equally, regardless of gender or race….but to be a woman is a glorious, unique thing, and I think our differences are to be celebrated.

Men carry such a burden. The phrase, “toxic masculinity” has recently become popularized, and to be honest, it makes me nauseous. Men are now being “punished” for being, well, MANLY. I think the definition of “manly” is more than a little distorted in today’s world, so let me take a crack at it:

Being “manly” is not determined by how much Budweiser you can drink, how well you can shoot a gun, or by how quickly you can disassemble an engine.  A man that follows Jesus is to love in fullness, to walk humbly, to seek justice and to give mercy. He has shoulders that carry responsibilities with strength and a heart that seeks the will of God, and he makes that his priority. He protects, he provides, and he works in partnership with his Bride. There is nothing more manly than a guy who leads his family with humility and serves his God wholeheartedly.

In closing (phew!), I’m going to reference a blog I linked to in my first post of this series: The Thistlette. In this blog, the writer keeps the umbrella, but places them on equal footing with mutual submission to Jesus. Although I’m still not a fan of the umbrella itself, I can appreciate how she relocates the relationships out of the hierarchy that the PUG places them in:

Christian Family Hierarchy

We have a responsibility, male and female alike, that we share equally: Love Jesus. Tell the world about Him, and set an example of His love with your life. Raise a family together that does the same. We have different-but-equal responsibilities in the kingdom, and a goal to work towards, together. Setting aside religious misconceptions and walking forward in freedom to further the goals of the Kingdom is what we should all be striving towards, and building families together without judgment is key.

One more section of the PUG to go……..#JustKeepWriting

Shofar….

This piece is a departure from the “norm” for me, but it’s where my heart was moved this week with the passing of someone in our church that had an incredible heart for the Lord, & who understood the spiritual significance of the shofar for God’s people. He & his wife have made an eternal impact on our family in ways we never really explained…or for me, in ways I couldn’t explain.  Our hearts are saddened by his death, but our spirits know he has claimed the reward of being in Heaven with Jesus…For Mark…

I’ve never been one

That likes the sound of a call to war

When the shofar blows

I cower and trust

That other people will

Rise up

And fight the battles on my

Behalf.

After all…

I am weak.

I am only one,

But they are many together,

And I stand on the outside

Looking in…

The shofar blows,

Nine, short blasts…TE’RU’AH

And I run to safety,

Covering my ears because I know

It’s a sound of war

And a sound of beckoning,

Calling me higher to the

Mountains…

But I stay in the peaceful places of

Plenty and comfort,

Knowing before I try that

I will fail.

I’m grateful for those that have answered the call…

That rise up on their knees and fight,

But I am not enough,

So I stay in my

Safe Place…

The shofar blows,

And the warrior responds,

Grabbing a shield to match the armor

He already has on,

Because he is prepared to fight

At any moment’s notice.

The shofar blows,

Three, short blasts…SH’VA’RIM

Blind, oblivious to my own regrets…

I pull the blankets over my head,

Hitting the snooze button

One

More

Time,

Truthfully, annoyed at the

Disturbance.

The shofar blows;

A single, long blast…TE’KI’AH GE’DO’LAH

A shepherd, calling His warrior home in Victory…

Home…what a wonderful word…

A sudden realization…I am shaken

The call to war is

Actually

A call

To rest….

To trust…

To yield…

The warrior is Home, kneeling at the Feet of the

Captain of the Hosts,

Standing in worship,

Realizing the dream of his heart to be in the

Presence

Of the King of Kings…

The son is welcomed home by the Father

With words that echo the deepest wish

That all of His children have:

“Well done,

My good and faithful Servant….”

The shofar blows…

As one soldier lays down his weapons,

I pick them up…

With the sound of the shofar,

I am changed…

I am listening in hope…

It is never too late.

I am only one…

But I can put a thousand to flight…

And we are many together…

The shofar blows…

One loud blastTE’KI’AH

No longer on the outside looking in,

I shake off the blankets and

I stand,

Ready to engage in battle.

No longer satisfied in

The Safe Place…

No longer satisfied with

Covering my ears and trusting in others

To fight

To prepare the Way.

No longer satisfied in the valleys of the place of waiting….

There are mountains to conquer.

The shofar blows

One long blast…TE’KI’AH GE’DO’LAH

Redemption….Joy….Focus….Praise…

And a new journey begins…

shofar-blowing

Pause…

A funny thing happens when I’m on the right track: The bottom falls out. Seriously, though, any time I’m researching something that I feel like the Lord is leading me to write (& I’ve never felt the need to keep moving forward on a subject quite like this, for whatever reason), I get TESTED…..and sometimes, I fail. Since my last blog post, I’ve been struggling at work, struggling to keep my mouth shut….Struggling at home, arguing with David…struggling to keep my mouth shut (& failing)….Just struggling.

Last week, I skipped church and went to the mall. I did my go-to, which is to make bad financial decisions….For the last 4-6 weeks, my food choices have been terrible.

I’ve been swimming in a pit, and I’ve been avoiding getting honest and getting back on track.

I’m working on it.

So, I’m aware of my shortcomings, and I will be back at this sooner than later. I’m not dropping this. To me, there is too much at stake, and too many hearts in the Church that have been damaged or burned. I’m not saying that I am going to be the one that fixes it, with my tiny, little blog….but if one person reads something I’ve written, & one heart is changed, even if that heart is mine, than it’s worth it.

I’m not stopping.

Just taking a short break. 🙂

Part Two: Redefining Family Structure, AKA, “Mawwiage, that Blessed Awwangement…”

.That Dweam Wifin a Dweam..…”

PeterCookPrincessBride

This is a series that started as a response to the troublesome umbrella graphic:Natural-Order-of-The-Family

I began with what I feel is the most important part: Jesus as the Song of Solomon bridegroom, as the One Who leads us to the banqueting table in celebration with a Banner over us…”His banner over me is love.” If you haven’t read it yet, take a second and go back to it.

Before I get too much farther into the husband/wife dynamic, though, let’s take a pause and talk about the “M” word:  Marriage.

As women (keep in mind that although this is a blog about family dynamics, I’m going to come at this from a woman’s perspective without apology, because guess what???  I’M A WOMAN.), we are taught from birth that our goal in life, particularly if we’re raised in the church, is to get married and have dem babies!  Opting to stay single is not portrayed as an option at all in the church, and we’re all pushed toward marriage pretty early on. And it kinda makes sense–I mean, we’re not supposed to have sex until we’re married, and celibacy isn’t really an option for most of us. “Taking care of business” isn’t discussed and if it is, it’s never in a favorable light, so in order to meet sexual needs, we get married. In order to have children, we get married. In order to be considered as grown-ups and valid members of society (it seems), we get married. Staying single isn’t an option, and if you DO stay single (either by choice or by just, life), it’s looked down on. You really do feel ostracized in the church as a single person. Singles groups tend to be college-age driven, so for the over-30 group, being single is like being the Loch Ness Monster. I’ve never lived that life (I got married at 27–waaaaay after all of my college friends, I believe), but I’ve had friends that weren’t married until they were in their 30’s, and it’s a common complaint. Now, I’m not saying that we get married primarily out of duty and then out of love–don’t twist this. I’m saying that IF we aren’t following the textbook path of marriage and babies, there can be a curtain of condescension that comes over us in the eyes of the church, and it can push us towards making hasty decisions.

It almost feels like there’s an age-related checklist of our duties:

  1. Get saved by ____years old (the younger, the better!)
  2. Get water baptized by ____years old.
  3. Get your Scriptures memorized (and get your prize) by ____years old.
  4. Get involved in your youth group, and eventually get promoted to being a leader, by ____years old.
  5. Go to college, find a member of the opposite sex (but don’t have sex) by _____.
  6. Get married by _____. For women, focus on that magic age more than your education. After all, that MRS degree is FAR more important than investing in your career or your future, right?!?!? “If you have your college degree before your MRS degree, well, that’s okay, honey. It’s just how it worked out for you.”
  7. Start having dem babies, okay?  OKAY?!?!  “NO, of course there won’t be any problems! Breastfeeding will be a dream, your sex life will bounce back, and your babies will sleep through the night, no problems! After all, you’re doing God’s will!!!!!!!!!!!”

People, this is a lie (especially #7, LOL, but that’s another blog). Learn these three words:  MARRIAGE. IS. HARD.

It’s hard.

But not being married is difficult, too, and I don’t think we should discount the issues singles face. People assume that we all want to be in a relationship. Maybe not–why is that wrong? Some people truly are happy on their own, and no one has any right to assume there’s anything negative about that.  The single life is difficult particularly in the Church, because you have to take an all-out stand to be valued independently of a married couple. You’re just as important of a church member as the next person, because guess what? When we all stand before God, we stand ALONE. I stand independently of my husband (I’m sure he’s thankful for that, because I’m not kidding when I call myself a hot mess!). Churches have to stop singling out the singles, because they’re so foundational to a successful ministry. People assume that being single means you’re much more available and flexible than married couples which can be true, but not necessarily, so the church also has to realize that being single does NOT equal Free Help. 🙂

There are huge blessings in being single; Paul talks about it in 1 Corinthians 7 (Message Translation):

7 Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me—a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others.

8-9 I do, though, tell the unmarried and widows that singleness might well be the best thing for them, as it has been for me. But if they can’t manage their desires and emotions, they should by all means go ahead and get married. The difficulties of marriage are preferable by far to a sexually tortured life as a single.

I have to laugh at the phrase, “sexually tortured life as a single.” It’s The Message translation, and I think it might be stretching it a tad, here….but maybe not? In today’s hypersexualized world, a celibate life probably IS tortuous, particularly if you’re not guarding your heart, your eyes, and your mind–that’s a key issue. Purity is difficult to keep, whether married or single; I would imagine that it would be more difficult as a single person, but with the easy access to explicit materials? We all struggle. I know I do.

Before I sidetrack on THAT discussion, back to being single:  My mother, God love her, divorced my biological father when I was 2. She had her reasons; he was not a good person. The best thing my biological father ever did, was to give me an amazing stepbrother and stepsister. I wouldn’t trade them for the world, and I’m so grateful to have them in my lives.

Anyways, Mom decided for some crazy reason, to put me in a Christian school for K-12. I went to a VERY small school where my mother was the only divorcee that I knew of. I didn’t realize there was anything “wrong” with our family until the 3rd or 4th grade, when the snide comments began to be made from others with so-called nuclear families. I will never forget the shame I felt when I was asked to do a family tree around that time.

Hey, guess what?!?  NOT EVERYONE CAN DO A FAMILY TREE. Maybe you should stop and consider the ramifications of that assignment before you send it out? My mother is adopted. My family is a combination of adoption, steps, surprise babies, and more. I finally invested in an AncestryDNA kit to find out what the heck I am, and I was so surprised that this stupid family tree assignment kept coming up in my thoughts to pester me. Finding out our actual family history (I traced my mom back to the Quakers. QUAKERS, PEOPLE!!!) closed a gap I didn’t realize was quite so deep. I mean, I know WHO I am; why should knowing WHAT I am be such an important thing?!?!?

It became important because of years of being made to feel “less than”…like there was some kind of great honor in having that so-called nuclear family…years of being made to feel like MY family wasn’t the “ideal” of the Church. I didn’t have 1 Mom and 1 Dad. I had a single mom, and eventually, an awesome stepdad, and then at one point, I had 2 Moms, 2 Dads, and more grandparents than I could shake a stick at. My friends at school didn’t get it; my best friend understood my issues the most, because she was the child of a single mom who was being raised by that mom and her grandparents. Since her family dynamic didn’t match the other families around us, we had a special bond. We also didn’t fit in with most of the other families in the school. My mom didn’t do the PTA (did I mention my mom was in the minority, as a working mother? GASP.). We didn’t do weekend “play dates” (and she wore makeup, darn it, so take THAT). My mother worked her rear off as a single mother, and she didn’t have time to care whether or not the other mothers approved. I don’t know how she did it. . As a married, working mother of one, I have to lean so much on my husband and on my parents; how did Mom survive with 2 kids?!?!?!?  Grace of God, I tell ya. As a child, I couldn’t see the incredible honor in the sacrifices she made. As an adult, I’m amazed by her more and more.

But as an impressionable girl growing up in a Mid-western Christian school, I was more impressed by the sneers and snobbery of the girls I was in class with, and even by some of the teachers.  My household shouldn’t have determined how my classmates or teachers perceived me, but it did, and that became more evident the older I became.

I firmly believe that a household is defined as a place where a nuclear group loves Jesus, serves God, and if kids are involved, commits to raising them in a Godly way. I say we love all households and all families, and we don’t treat kids any differently if they come from a 1-parent household, a 2-parent household, or a carnival. I didn’t have that luxury as a kid, so I longed for that “Mayberry” life it looked like my classmates had.

I wanted that MRS degree, so I could make my very own cookie-cutter, Leave-It-To-Beaver life.

Leave-It-to-Beaver

I knew I could be “good enough,” if I could just mark a few things off of that checklist….

Being single was NOT on that checklist.

When you’re rushed out of the time you need…the time God plans for…to be single, you find yourself making regrettable choices. DON’T RUSH BEING SINGLE, just because you want to check your list off. TAKE YOUR TIME.

I almost screwed it all up by marrying a guy my sophomore year of college. The relationship was toxic and abusive, and left me desolate for at least 3 years….but I felt guilty and broken, like I didn’t deserve anything else or better. Had he not dumped me, I would have stayed with him out of a perverse sense of Christian obligation–doesn’t that sound like a loving marriage?!? How many women have done the same thing?!? How many people have done the same thing?

Marriage is supposed to be a union that is based on the love of Jesus, not on some crappy sense of duty or obligation. Marriage is a step we take onto the battlefield of this earth under a banner that shouts the love of Jesus, not under an umbrella of oppression and duty!!!!!!!  If you feel like you’re about to get married and you don’t feel a sense of freedom and joy, DON’T DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!  Stay single! Really, and I know it’s cliche, but if it’s meant to be, it will be. I firmly believe that if God gives us a vision, a “heart’s desire,” He is FAITHFUL to complete it. If you have a heart’s desire to be a husband, a wife, a mom, a dad, whatever, HE WILL COMPLETE THAT WORK IN YOU. If you don’t, THERE IS NO SHAME IN THAT. Don’t try to make something happen if it’s not in your heart to do so. If you don’t want to be married, DON’T GET MARRIED. If you don’t want kids, DON’T HAVE THEM. Why do we feel like we have to be something God didn’t necessarily create us to be? I Corinthians 7 mentioned “the gift” of the single life. Why can’t Christians accept it, if they don’t have that burning desire to be a spouse?!?

Say it with me: IT IS OKAY TO BE SINGLE. IT IS GOOD TO BE SINGLE. It’s better to be single and happy than in a relationship that is bound up in oppression!! And if you are in a marriage that is bound up in oppression, GET FREE (easier said than done–that’s another blog).

Being single is not to be burdened in loneliness and sadness, and I recommend running from any Church that treats it like it is. There is no timeline for single-ness (is that  word?). And when I say, “single,” I mean “single for any reason:” Never married, divorced, single with kids, whatever. Single is SINGLE, regardless of why or how, and you can love your life without judgement. There is joy in being single, believe me.

Before I met my husband (I was like, 24), I remember sitting in my bedroom at my parents’ house (I had to move back in with them after college. Harsh.), thinking about what life would be like if I were never to be married. Keep in mind, I’ve wanted to be a wife and a mother since I could talk, so this was a major moment. I realized that in that moment, I was honestly HAPPY. I had peace and joy. I felt like the world was about to shift, and I was okay with it. I was HAPPY with it. I didn’t know what was going to happen next, but whatever happened, I had peace in my walk with God, on my own, by myself. I had absolutely no burdens; I was ready for whatever came next. I learned to be happy with who I was, and I WAS.  It was a huge moment of clarity and of self-acceptance, and I’ve gone back to that moment many times in my mind.  I was truly, truly happy being single, and it was a revalation that I never knew I could come to.

As women, as soon as we get into a relationship, we field questions about marriage. As soon as we’re married, we field questions about having kids. We are never given the time to JUST BE IN THE MOMENT of our lives, and we never get those moments back again. As a church, WHY ARE WE ALWAYS RUSHING PEOPLE?! Why are we so eager to check those marks off of  lists? Why can we not just enjoy our lives without the pressure to be something we’re not, or to move faster onto something we’re not ready for? That’s not a Godly way to live, and it’s not fair to subject kids to. We have to learn to redefine families and homes in a way that BREATHES, because the church is SUFFOCATING people and families RIGHT OUT THE DOORS.

Family = Single people.

Family = Married people.

Family = People with kids.

Family = People without kids.

Family = Divorced people.

Family = Remarried people.

Family = A home where people within its walls want to love and serve Christ.

Jesus goes out before us as His children, and His banner over us is love. Who walks under that banner? Holy, perfect people? Or people who are marked and battle-scarred, who have fought in the trenches and lived to tell the tales? People who are TRYING to serve, trying to show His love, and are trying to live their best life in the Kingdom? He takes our broken pieces and He puts them together under His banner, to make a picture of a family that defies the portrait studios in our minds…He calls us all to the table, married, single, whatever, and He celebrates us where we are.

Why can’t the Church do the same?

 

 

 

Part One: Redefining Family Structure in the Church, AKA, “Um, No, I am NEVER on the bottom of the totem pole.”

A few weeks ago, I had an unfiltered discussion with an old friend from college. We hadn’t seen each other in 20 years; we reconnected over Facebook quite a while ago, and randomly decided to host a yard sale together. During the down times of the sale, we caught up on all of the stuff that we HADN’T put on social media since Bible college, and needless to say, it got real.

It was cathartic.

We both agreed that the Church, in our experiences as Midwestern Gen-Xers that were raised in denominational/non-denominational upbringings, had done a crappy job of directing us as Christian women in what a “fulfilled” life should look like:

Follow the rules. Make sure your life is Better Homes & Gardens-worthy. Keep your voice low, your head lower, and remember your station in life. Love Jesus, love your husband, pop out babies, and live the American dream (God help you if those babies don’t come on the regular, you Barren Woman. You MUST be in sin).

Be bland, be meek, and for the love of God, never mention sex in any casual conversation…or ever. That’s for procreation, not fun, and any other perspective is just sin (especially for women). Never voice what you need or want (oh, and don’t have any wants) in the bedroom. After all, you exist for the pleasure of your husband and for his needs.

Do as your told. Submit, submit, SUBMIT.

Image result for be a submissive wife

Oh, and if your life doesn’t look like what we tell you it should (complete with a picket fence), you’ve FAILED. You’ve failed as a woman, and you’ve certainly disappointed God, you horrible thing. Go sit on the back pew (if you dare to show your face in church), and do not think for an INSTANT that you’re ever going to be fit for ministry again in this life. You don’t speak in church, you don’t question things in church, and you spend the rest of your life lamenting every missed opportunity. You’re JUST a woman, and you’re a second-class citizen, at best.

I’ve watched the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale (and read the book), and it was uncomfortable…the mind control and “biblical” structure they use is familiar to me, although highly dramatized. The concept, though, of owning a woman and of valuing her based on her fertility, all in the Name of God, is NOTHING new. Christianity has long been twisted and perverted to control family structure and the role of a woman. When I watched THT, my most recurrent thought was how easily everything flipped over to such oppression, and how easily it could happen today (I haven’t seen any of the new season, so no spoilers!).

Sexism is rampant in the American church, even in today’s world, even on a collegiate level (ask me about being a woman in a ministry program in Bible college, and why I couldn’t take Hermeneutics class), and I think it starts with a foundation of a jacked-up “understanding” of the structure of a family, which then turns over to jacking up the roles of men & women in the family.

(I want to clearly state that I am NOT a feminist. I’m an equalist: Equal rights, equal pay, equal roles, in Biblical context. I think my explanation of that term will present itself in the course of these posts…Save your “you’re a liberal!” torches for after I’ve finished the series. 🙂 )

After the conversation at the yard sale, my friend sent me the following graphic, with a caption that expressed her discomfort with the tiers:

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I agreed with her discomfort. I’ve seen this reposted a few times, and every time I see it, I inhale reflexively. Everything in me as a Christian and as a woman has issues with this graphic. For this first blog post, and because I believe it’s hugely foundational for the conversation, I want to focus on the importance of Jesus being at the forefront of the discussion…but not as an overlord or as some kind of oppressive umbrella. I want to focus on Jesus as the Song of Solomon portrays Him to be…as the Lover of our Souls. Bear with me, and let’s rethink this design…

Capture3

I cannot say it enough: Jesus has to be at the forefront of the family structure. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ—not a relationship where you do all of the talking, not a relationship where you follow a routine and a protocol, but a true, genuine, personal relationship with Jesus is foundational for any relationship we have with other human beings. It’s foundational for how we treat ourselves, our friends, our spouses, our kids, our pets, whatever. There is no relationship without a relationship with Jesus Christ. How does that happen? What does that look like? I’ll tell you right now, in my house, we get it wrong on the regular, and that’s okay. Jesus’ first priority isn’t looking at how we’re doing things wrong. He’s looking as to whether or not we have a desire and a want to TRY TO DO IT AT ALL. Eventually, we’re going to get it “right.” but in the meanwhile? Do you WANT to serve the Lord? Do you want to be His friend? Do you care about what He thinks? Do you read His Word (ouch—that’s a huge hurdle for me)? Do you WANT to read His Word? Do you know that He loves you with all of His heart? That His love goes beyond His death and resurrection 2,000 years ago? That His love is a daily, confounding, life-altering thing that will render you unable to ever be the same person, the more you learn about it? Do you know that you are His perfect Bride, the one His heart beats for? The one He chases, chastises, embraces; the one He longs for, the one He truly desires? He LOVES us, collectively and individually, and that Love is greater than any Umbrella graphic, any stereotype, any sexism, feminism, or –ism at all. We are so, so loved, and it goes so far beyond our ability to put words or thoughts around it. It’s REAL, and it’s amazing, and every day, I marvel at it. It makes no sense, but there He is, and there is no place we can hide. There is no cosmic “smite” button that’s waiting to hit us with a lightning bolt whenever we screw it up; there is gentle conviction (NEVER CONDEMNATION) from His Holy Spirit, but He’s not waiting in Heaven to take us down. He’s waiting for us to talk to Him, to have a relationship with Him. I can’t stress it enough: Jesus loves us. The Umbrella graphic makes the Name of Jesus seem like it’s ominously looming over us. It couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Song of Solomon 2:4 says that Jesus (portrayed in the story as the Bridegroom or the Beloved) leads us into the banquet hall, and “His banner over me is love.” He’s not looming or oppressing; He is pouring His love over us, and that is a foundational concept for Biblical family structure.

When we say, “His Banner over me is Love,” do we think about the actual definition of the phrase? Banners in today’s world are hung as ways to identify celebrations, and the word has lost its luster. Banners were signs carried like flags over troops in times of war; they identified the clans or tribes that were fighting, and allowed allies to spot each other from a distance. It also allowed the enemy to get a broad scope of just how many people they were dealing with. Banners showed unity & cooperation in battle! People carried the banners either on their own, or in groups where they EACH took a pole, and walked the banner out in front of the troops to guide them into the battlefield. Banners were carried off of the field, sometimes in tatters, to lead the troops into celebration and to rest. The banner was the biggest inspiration to the people that were fighting, because as long as it waved, THE FIGHT WASN’T OVER!!!!!  Think about the history of “The Star-Spangled Banner:” Francis Scott Key wrote the song because during the war, “whose broad stripes & bright stars, through the perilous fight, over the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?”?!?!?!!??  Bombs bursting in air! Gunshots!  Fire! BUT THE AMERICAN FLAG STILL WAVED, so he knew the war wasn’t over, and we are still singing that dang song to celebrate!!!! (I’ll never sing it live again; I’m forever traumatized over accidentally butchering it in college)!!

The banners of the enemy in battle were DESTROYED…taken down, burned, erased, because they LOST. They were BROKEN.  The U.S. Military uses the phrase, “Loss of Colors,” meaning that when troops lost, their flag was captured by the enemy (remember playing, “capture the flag?”), so the losers had no banner to wave over them on their return to their base. They went back to their barracks in shame, unable to be identified by their people from a distance! There was no celebration, because no one could see them coming, because they LOST the FIGHT!!!!!  The Banner of Jesus is Love, and Love is VICTORIOUS.

Jesus goes before us as an Advocate with the Father. He goes before us, before we go into judgment, and He stakes His claims by identifying us as His own…by proclaiming His Love for us over all. Song of Solomon 2:4 says He leads us to the banqueting table–that’s a place only the victors are welcome to be. Losers don’t get to feast. We are His Beloved, regardless of the state we’re in. We’re His treasured, and we get to celebrate with His banner over us, leading us into the party, leading us into freedom without judgement…leading us away from sadness, from desolation, and from failure.

When you take a look at Biblical family structure, and you throw that picture of an oppressive, encompassing umbrella away and replace it with the idea of a banner, you open up a world of hope and of possibility. You throw away judgement, and you walk under a banner of love and freedom–no ceilings, and nothing holding you back from embracing everything He has to offer: Peace, rest, and eternity with Him. There are no limits to the love of Jesus, and there is no limit to how He embraces His children….

So, that’s Part One of redefining so-called Biblical family structure. I’m starting at the top, and I’m building a foundation of identity. When you start to rethink this thing, and you start to reidentify as a free Child of the King, as a Child that wears His Name, you start to see that your concepts of this structured, cookie-cutter, Martha-Stewart fantasy life of picket-fence perfection does not have to hold you back. You don’t have to be valued or categorized by your gender in the home, or by whether or not you’ve procreated, or by whether or not you bring home the bacon, or run the household. Don’t get it twisted–Jesus values gender, and I’ll get there. He loves us and He created us as men and as women, and we each have multiple roles to play in our families…but one is NOT better than the other, and one is not oppressively looming over the other, nor sycophantically fetching the coffee for the other. As spiritual beings, our spiritual lives take precedent over our physical bodies, so once we understand His love for who we are, and for how we draw near to Him, then we can discuss boys and girls, their physical/mental differences, and how those best equip us for various roles in the home. If you go into rethinking Biblical family values and you focus on the physical (boys vs. girls, for example), you’re already starting off on the wrong foot.

We start with Jesus. We start with His Love, because it’s Who He is. And we go from there.

Let’s throw the umbrella away.

Let’s run together under His banner of love.

 

To be continued….

 

*Note: I’m writing this from my own mind, my own prayers, and my own research. Occasionally, I’ll come across a resource that I like or dislike, or that I feel is worthy of note. I’ll usually link such things in the blog, but this deserves a separate shout-out. I found this after I was 3/4 of the way through writing this:

http://www.thethistlette.com/2017/01/13/umbrella-christian-family-hierarchy/

Seminary-types as a rule tend to freak me out, because I sort of feel like once someone’s gotten to that level of academia, their brain gets bigger than their spirit, and they start waxing uber-philosophical. However, I enjoyed reading this, and I plan on digging a bit deeper…

 

This message will self-destruct…but I won’t.

I’ve had something brewing in my heart for a few weeks now.

Something’s changing…something’s being restored and redefined…

I have to process these words before I post.

I feel like I’ve gone back to school,

And the learning curve is steep.

 

I’ve been studying what it means to be a Christian wife

And mother…

And how wounded women are left to pick up

A battlefield full of broken soldiers

That bite the hand that bandages the shattered….

How warrior women

Become contentious

And the difference between

Nice and “Nasty.”

 

Something new is coming…

I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to write this, but it’s percolating…

It’s time to redefine

And

It’s time to shatter the mold.

 

….To Be Continued…..

Stay little….just a little while longer…

He crawls up beside me on this couch where I’ve been recuperating for the millionth time…”Play with me, Mommy!”

He sounds off–my Mom-radar is triggered, & I covertly check his cheek for warmth. Nope, all good. He snuggles up. Evidently, “play with me” is Rico-speak for, “I’m tired, and I just want to use you as my giant pillow, Mommy.” I oblige. Even when he hits a sore spot, or digs in his dagger-like elbows to jockey for position, I welcome him to this space that he has made on my lap. 

He takes his glasses off, he pats my arm, and he floats back-&-forth between watching, “Meet the Robinsons,” & whatever 5-year olds dream of.

He really is beautiful.

He gets those eyelashes from his father. 🙂

I know that I have to be consistent, set rules, maintain boundaries. I have to have structure, schedule, education, etc….But sometimes? I just want to look at him. My little miracle boy…Gosh. He’s just such a gregarious, hilarious, mysterious little creature….he’s happy, sunny, and just plain glorious. He makes my heart smile in ways I never could have understood, and I am so, so grateful for him.

I was a big advocate of “baby-wearing” from early on with him. We started with a Moby wrap (thanks, Kat & Susie!), went to an Ergo, and finally, moved up to a Tula that can go up to 50lbs. He’s just now 40lbs., and because of my surgeries, I haven’t been able to backpack him like I was. And, although he still meets the size requirements, he’s 5, so there’s that. I’ve been purging the house, simplifying closets and storage,  etc., and when I cleaned out my car, the Tula was sitting there. 

I know I can get a good price for it.

I’m not ready to sell it, yet. 

I’m not ready to close that chapter. 

He’s growing up so, so fast…How can I save every moment? How can I hang on, but let go while he grows? He met his kindergarten teacher today, & I am more emotional than I’d like to admit. Kindergarten!!! But….but….He was just born, like, yesterd……oh…..

You start letting go the second you say hello.

Go to sleep, Beautiful Boy, and I will still be your squishy Mama when you wake up. Stay little just a little while longer…..