Suddenlys and Falling Leaves…

One of the Millennials that I work with said something very interesting to me a few weeks ago…

[Please note that when I say, “one of the Millennials,” it’s with a surprising amount of love and respect. I say, “surprising,” because a lot of people in the “millennial” demographic have honestly bugged the holy heck out of me. This girl though (this young woman, excuse me)–she continually surprises me with words of self-empowerment and wisdom that I WISH I had at her age (or at MY age), and I learn a lot from her. When I turned 40, I told myself I was going to stop making apologies over everything. Emma has been a very influential voice that has echoed that sentiment, and even though we don’t always agree, I can’t help but to admire her strength and almost-frightening level of self-acceptance. Her story is encouraging and beautiful, and tough and scary, and it’s not mine to tell…but what I can say, is that she’s still standing, and that she has so much more becoming to do…There is so much beauty in her, and she doesn’t know it, but one day I will tell her just how much she’s taught me. I just want to sit on the sidelines and watch her bloom; there’s such a richness in her soul…she’s amazing.]

I digress.

Anyway, Emma looked at my Instagram feed, and said something to the effect of, “You guys LIVE for weekends.” It’s so true. My house is a wreck, I’d hire a housecleaner to bulldoze the kitchen in a second, and I barely stay on top of the laundry, but you know what? No one talks about a clean house when they tell the stories of their childhood. David & I are two very busy adults trying to keep a roof over our heads and raise a kiddo while working full-time and not abandoning either our families or our marriage, and it gets challenging. Monday through Friday, we barely seem to have time to carry on a full conversation, but on Saturday and Sunday? We refuel and burn it up in laughter.

Every weekend isn’t awesome, for sure. We’re far from rich, so we’re always doing things on the cheap; by the end of this hot summer, we’re sick of parks and tired of sweating to death…but October? Oh, you sweet, beautiful, melancholy month, how I love you!!!

I used to face the end of October like Grover in the “Monster at the End of This Book.” Hannah’s birthday is on the 30th, so every fall, I’d watch the days change on the calendar, and with every leaf that fell, my heart would break. For five long years, the month of October was crushing…but then, we were given the gift of making new memories, and of filling those painful places with peace and joy and anticipation…I have the greatest gift of having been given beauty for ashes, and for that, I can only sit back and praise God.

October still comes with “suddenlys….” I still have moments where my breath will catch, as a memory comes back, or with different realizations (I think I mentioned in my last blog that I realized out of nowhere that Hannah would be turning 13 this year. I’m still coming to grips with that one). Today, I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across a picture taken at Thee Abbey in Arcadia Valley. The owner had posted a picture of her two children with puppies, and I suddenly remembered that we had been pregnant with our daughters at the same time. She was baking cinnamon rolls in the restaurant, and I was working long hours doing makeup on a film project. We were pregnant at the same time, and there was her beautiful girl, showing up on my social media feed. I doubt they remember me, or that we were pregnant at the same time…Thee Abbey holds a very special place in my heart, for multiple reasons, and we go back there several times a year, but it’s not like we’re friends with the owners or anything. We were just two women with dreams of families, who had very different outcomes from the same seasons in our lives.

It’s in those moments that I still make conscious decisions. Those are the “sink or swim” moments, those “suddenlys.” Do they become a noose or a beacon? Do I drown in the waves? Do I pause, take a breath, and let the tears fall? Oh, my Jesus….how many bottles in Heaven are marked with my name? He knows, because He cares about every tear that’s fallen on this journey and beyond…

Do I rush through the thoughts that hit, ignoring them even as I know they’ll come back to me later, when I finally have some quiet time to process them?

Should I even be affected by these moments anymore?

Those moments…some of those moments are huge, while others are minute, but they do still happen. When they do, it’s a conscious decision to move forward, to pause, or even to fall apart (which doesn’t happen very often, thankfully). There are conscious decisions to remain hopeful and wholehearted, to not become bitter or faithless. Sometimes, I hear other women tell their birth stories, and it gets hard to not be angry or hateful. Sometimes even now, old pieces of things I thought I forgave, as far as my medical care went, come up and I get mad. Two women in line next to me in a resale shop were bragging about how they had their babies out in public at 1-and-2 days old. I said, “Wow, you’re brave.” They laughed and said, “well, that’s how you GOT to do it!” One of them went on her way, but I quietly said to the other, “We lost our first from something very common…I didn’t leave the house with my second, except to go to the doctor, for 6 weeks.” The look on her face said it all–perspective. When other moms look at you like you’re some kind of germ-phobic freak or a helicopter mom, it’s hard not to lash out. There’s a conscious decision that’s made, to either tell the story in kindness, say silent and put up with the awkwardness and feel completely inauthentic, or to tell the story in a way to slap them upside their heads for judging your parenting. I’ve done all of the above, and I’m not proud of that fact.

There are conscious decisions made that people who haven’t walked this road will never understand, and that’s perfectly fine. I refuse to apologize for the fact that I am a woman who has given birth and said “goodbye,” and that this is the season where those memories and dreams are the closest to the surface….

So, like Emma said, we “LIVE for the weekends,” ESPECIALLY in the fall. October is full of everything beautiful…the trees are putting on their finest colors just before they blaze out into their rest, and I want to celebrate every one of them. I want the “basic” life of pumpkins and spice and bonfires. I want my (second-hand) UGGs and my leggings, and I want to jump into every pile of leaves I can find. I’m not a huge fan of corn mazes (I did my first one last week; it was a kids’ version, and it freaked me OUT), but I dig pumpkin patches! We didn’t do that kind of stuff when I was a kid, but we’re sure enjoying them now.

When the second lady in line at the store was talking to me about Hannah, Jericho jumped into the conversation: “I’m a rainbow baby!” I don’t know if she knew what he meant, but I laughed because it was the first time I’ve ever heard him tell a stranger that fact. It kind of blew me away–what does it mean, to grow up, knowing that about yourself? I had a friend chime in on an Instagram post that she was a rainbow baby, and that she loved knowing about what that meant; she said she loved that her parents never hid the truth from her, and that blessed me. I never wanted to keep it from him, but I also never wanted it to be a burden, so we always want to paint his birth as the miracle to us that it truly was. He knows he’s special (maybe a little TOO well, LOL).

We have this chance–we have this GIFT–to LIVE, and to live well. We have this opportunity to seriously carpe diem–to seize the day (can you tell I grew up in the 90’s?)–and to make amazing memories of each season. Jericho is no doubt spoiled. He hates the weekends where we’ve stayed home, and I get it. We don’t stay home on the weekends very often (although to be fair, we don’t go anywhere during the week. Total hermits.), and he expects an adventure. When he doesn’t get it? He’s kind of a punk, and I can say that as his mother. 🙂 And even today, after we drove for 2 hours, did a cool hayride, got lost in a maze, shoveled pizza in our faces in the car, and ate something amazing called a “cinnamon chimney,” he STILL had some bratty moments–he’s 6, and there was a LOT of walking–and I found myself wondering why I try to do cool stuff. Um, kiddo, I’m going to admit that sometimes, I am the one that wants to do the cool stuff, and you’re along for the ride. I want to make these memories with you, so stop whining and smile for the camera (“You will smile for this picture, or SO HELP ME GOD!” #TheStruggleIsReal). I want to make the cool memories, and I want to look back at that awesome photo book that I make at the end of every year, and look at this amazing life that God has given us.

I know that life in pictures is only part of the story…but what a beautiful part of the story it is. I have to laugh–when I was 8, my mom took my sister and I to Disneyworld. There’s a really cute photo album somewhere that shows us in all of our glory in Florida…but do you know what we still laugh about to this day? The fact that my sister and I were absolute MONSTERS on that trip. OHMYGOSH, I can’t–we whined so much, and my mom had to have busted her rear to pay for that trip; we were SUCH punks, I can’t even…AND I AM REMINDED OF THAT TRIP, EVERY TIME I TAKE MY SON TO DO SOMETHING COOL, AND HE WHINES. Like, #KARMA. I have to laugh. We have the pictures, and we have the memories, and oh, what a life we get to experience!!!!

Life is hard. It is–it’s a struggle for so many of us. But we have each day to start over, to make new memories and to make the conscious decisions to breathe, to move forward, to celebrate and to grieve. We have the opportunity to celebrate the sweet and to not become bitter…we have the chance to stop apologizing when we’re doing our best, and to accept the love Jesus offers us. We have the choice to pick grace, and to put one foot in front of the other on this journey, and to help others to do the same. Fall is the season of such incomparable beauty. I hope and pray that you get to embrace it and the changes that come along in it. “LIVE for your weekends,” and if you can, let the dishes wait a bit while you make some memories–and don’t make any apologies for it, dang it. You carpe that diem, dangit, and light up your Instagram feed!!!!

Seriously, though–take every chance you can to enjoy this season. May your “suddenlys” and your fall leaves remind you that you are loved by our Creator who made all of the beauty that you see, just to bring you closer to Him. ❤

“Forty?!? Oh, Lordy!”

Well, it’s here.

Like the proverbial “Monster At The End of This Book,” my 40th birthday has crept up on me, regardless of my attempts to pretend it isn’t happening by ignoring that it IS happening..

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Alas, the pages are turning…

I’m not really much of a person who “fears” aging. Truth be told, I’m pretty darn excited to have made it this far. I mean, when you think about it (oooh, the condensed version sounds SO exciting!), I’ve survived cancer (“the good kind,” LOL), two rounds of congestive heart failure, devastating loss, blah, blah, blah, and I really have no frickin’ idea how I’m still alive. In my youth, I was in Lord-knows how many car accidents (including a head-on collision)…and, to top it all off, I survived growing up in the 80’s, where things like seat belts were NEGOTIABLE. I am not someone who has survived by any kind of “admirable” grit and fortitude; I am someone who has survived by the sheer grace of God, an inherent sense of humor, and a strong (STRONG) family and spousal support system.

My mental battles have been far greater than my physical ones, and if anything was ever going to take me out, it has always, always been that. My brain, were it not for my spirit, would have killed me a hundred times over. When God said He would send us a Comforter, when He promised us His Holy Spirit, He did it knowing that we as a human race are intrinsically nihilistic, bound for self-destruction, and completely anchorless without His Presence in our hearts. I have Jesus in my heart. I have His Holy Spirit, and I have that peace that comes from knowing that He hears me. I’m not just shouting random things into an empty universe. My heart is heard, my soul is comforted, and I live another day.

That sentence could sum up my 40 years on this planet.

The need to be heard by humanity is massive. We all just want to be heard. It’s why I, and millions of others like me, write or blog, or jump on social media. We want to be heard, and we want to be validated. We want you and the world to recognize that we’re here. We have a voice.

It’s when people stop feeling heard…when they cry out, but no one responds…that the light flickers out of their soul…

There are days when I force myself to remember that I am always, always heard. I am always validated by the grace of God. It’s a theme that’s repeated in what I write, because it means so much to me. This world makes me feel overlooked…I question my worth. Do I matter? Am I making any kind of a difference? Is there any eternal impact in the work that I do, whether it’s on the job or in my home?

I feel as though my footprint on this earth is very, very small…

I don’t say that to pander for compliments. I say that because I think a lot of people feel that way, and I’m not alone in questioning my impact. I’m not abnormal in wondering what ripple I will leave on the ocean of the universe. We all want to leave a legacy, and we all have a story to tell….We all have a story that SHOULD be told.

I’m fascinated by biographies in short form. I’m fascinated by stories told by the elderly, by stories of days gone by…I’m fascinated by history, and the threads woven in the tapestries we look back on in their completed form, even as we weave new ones of our own. I’m fascinated by the colorful people I’ve met that NEED to write a book, but feel as though they’re not interesting enough to do so. EVERYONE is interesting!! I’ve never met a person that didn’t pique my interest in some way.

I think part of why I write is because life is INTERESTING. It’s fascinating!!!  People don’t always see it, but when you combine perspective, vocabulary, and the freedom to wrote, you can paint a picture that makes what seems dull, shine brightly.  You can make what seems dark point directly to the sunshine. The challenge in writing about those times is not to focus on the drama of the story; the challenge is to focus on the triumph as you come out of that drama. You make yourself write more about the positive than the negative, and in doing so, you bring the glory of God into that “dark night of the soul.”

And then, you have the victory.

So, I’m turning 40. It’s inevitable. I can’t stop it, and I’m not sure why I even want to. I mean, what good is it, to whine about something as non-discriminatory as AGE? Everyone ages!

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(Yes, I just put that book there. It’s a classic!)

I’ve been a brat about this whole “birthday” thing. Like, REALLY. Image result for birthday divaI wanted a party (is that selfish?!? I threw myself one for my 30th, LOL. but that’s an ENTIRELY different story), but my family isn’t big on parties, and my husband isn’t big on birthdays in general. Money is tight, and we live in the “real world,” where lavish events are just not in the vernacular. And in my head (and okay, I blabbed incessantly to my poor husband, because he married me and he knows how much of a Brat I can be), I was super-pouty and dejected about it (I’m admitting this not for you to say, “aww, poor Cassidy!” but for you to realize that I. AM. A. JERK.), to the point that I was like, CRYING during praying about it one day. I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME. For some reason, I decided to internalize all of this as some kind of proof of a terrible rejection of me as a human being.

Because I was turning 40.

Because there wouldn’t be a party.

Because my friend at work just unfriended me and made a catty remark about it as she was sending me an e-mail about how horrible of a person I was.

Because my life is hectic and I spend too much time in my darn car.

Therefore, the universe hates me.

I am a terrible human being who does not deserve to breathe.

So, I cried.

A lot.

THESE ARE THE THINGS THAT GO THROUGH MY CRAZY BRAIN.

And this is why I am grateful to the Lord that He gave us His Holy Spirit, to knock some darn sense into me and to REMIND ME that He loves me, even when I’m being an idiot.

It was during the course of a commute where I was bawling like an idiot, praying, and driving, that I heard Jesus speak my heart:

‘Okay, girlie. Here’s a Kleenex. You’ve destroyed your makeup for work today, and it’s a good thing you keep a spare makeup bag in your cabinet. Now, if you’re done bawling like a lunkhead, here’s the facts about you, about 40, and about Me:

‘I love you. I like you. You’re an idiot sometimes, and this is one of those times. That’s not a rejection; it’s a fact. You know you’re being an idiot. Your husband has been nice enough to not tell you you’re being an idiot, but that’s because I made him smarter than you give him credit for. 40, like any decade, is the start of a new chapter, and look at how much changed in your last chapter! Enjoy this. Embrace this. You’re afraid that 40 means you have to change who you are? 40 just means you become MORE of who I made you to be. You get better at being you, because you learn better about Who I Am. You put away childish things, but that doesn’t mean you give away childish hopes. You stay you. There’s nothing to fear.

‘Turn the page, Love. I’m at the beginning of the book, and I’m at the end. There’s no “Monster at the End of This Book.” There’s only Me. I’m all there needs to be, and I’m on every page. Welcome to the next chapter.’

In that instant, where He spoke into my heart, I realized that it wasn’t 40 I was afraid of. It was rejection.

I struggle with rejection. It’s been a battle my entire life; I permanently feel like the kid that’s on the outside-looking-in, always shoved to the side, and wishing I could be one of the cool people of the world. Minor events in my mind meld together to become massive issues, and that’s exactly what was making my approaching birthday so darn depressing; I was looking at everything through rejection-smudged glasses, and my world was bleak. Jesus shone some light on the situation, and when I was faced with the truth of my feelings, I was shook.

In my minds’ eye, I saw the rejection I had been dealing with unfold like 2 pages of a book…I saw a sword come down, and slice the two pages apart. They were caught by the wind, and blew away…

This doesn’t mean that whoosh! Jesus swept in, and now everything is hunky-dory!

This means that I’ve gained some perspective on what has been dragging me down, and now I understand. It means I can shake off the funk of the mid-life crisis that’s been plaguing me, and of all of the thoughts of things I want to do but can’t afford (and don’t have time for). It means I can stop worrying about the footprint I leave on this world, and focus instead on the footprints He leaves as He carries me through.

It means that change is inevitable, but so is the solidity of His Word.

It means that I can still be “meh” about turning 40. I mean, c’mon, it’s 40.  It also means that although my knees quake when I research and find that biblically, 40 is a number defined as a period of testing (http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/40.html), that I know I can reach out to find His hand is always there, ready to lead, catch, guide, and hold.

It means that it’s going to be okay.

It means that I, regardless of volume, intention, content, or melody, am heard by the One Who Never Rejects His Children.

And I am always His child…

Even when I’m 40.

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