“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras

“A Boxer’s greeting is a joy to behold. They jump into the air in such a jubilee of delight, it’s as if your return to hearth and home were the most noteworthy event of the century when all you’ve done, say, is walk to the mailbox and back. Return after an hour or more and you’ll get backflips, trumpets and a procession of drum-beating pageantry befitting a king.” —Thom Jones

Last year, when our beloved #HollyTheBoxer turned 13, I penned the following blog that really says more to me right now than I’m capable of saying: https://cassidyscommentary.com/2018/09/04/for-the-love-of-a-dog/

Holly was diagnosed with an unknown kind of cancer just a few days after her fourteenth birthday (14!!!  That’s unheard of for a boxer.)…Her hips and legs had become weaker and weaker, until last week, we finally knew that it was time to say goodbye.

On Friday, I gave her the last bath, and did her nails for the last time. She had trouble standing, and I found myself having to hold her up by one arm while I scrubbed with the other (it’s been rainy, and she had the muddiest paws–I swear, it’s like she packed some in from the outside to save for wallerin’ later on!). I sang her silly songs & used the expensive shampoo for once.  I lifted her out of the tub, and of course, she shook off the displeasure of the watery inconvenience; I couldn’t even complain. I just laughed at her, because at least this time, she waited until AFTER the bath to shake, as opposed to doing it midway through.

I dried her off, clipped her nails, and let her walk out with her usual post-bath annoyance…except this time, it was far more subdued than in her younger days, almost as if she had finally come to terms with the indignity of the fact that she’d had to endure such a scrub-down. That’s one of the things I was always rather proud of: David had trained her to follow commands, but I trained her to let me give her a bath and to do her nails. I always thought of it as our girl-bonding time. 🙂

On Saturday, we did one last photo shoot as a family, at Suson Farm. I know David didn’t want to do it; there’s something really intense about the bond between a man and his dog, and I could see that he was struggling. Also, Holly had lost a good part of her hearing, and did some uncharacteristically-disobedient things that we were not expecting….like, run off and try to get a drink out of the lake…except she couldn’t keep her balance…and David & Holly both almost fell into the lake, on a cold, November morning. I knew we would laugh about it later, but at the time, it was scary and sad. Our girl would NEVER run off like that…then again, she’d also NEVER drink out of the toilet (that started a few months ago) or pee on the floor (that started a year ago….we’re going to deep-clean the house over the next few weeks, yikes) or bark in her crate (that started a few weeks ago). She was declining, and neither David nor I wanted to admit it…until we had to, and Saturday was that day.

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We took pictures as a family, because that dang dog was a huge part of our family for 14 years. I was NEVER a dog person–I was a confirmed cat person–until David brought her home right before our first Christmas as a married couple. She made me a dog lover, and now I can’t pass one up without scratching its head. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my weekends….Every weekend morning, since I got to sleep in, she’d come around to my side of the bed and put her head under whatever body part I had dangling off (usually my hand, but every now and then, she’d get my foot and I’d jump out of my skin!). Every night, she’d sit at the “L” juncture of our couch, right where I couldn’t get out of my seat without her knowing. I missed her so bad last night that I sat there watching “Great British Bake-Off” and bawled my way through three episodes. I miss my friend.

At our photo shoot, I dressed her up in a pink tutu that I’d bought for the occasion. When I bought it, I didn’t know it would be for the Last Pictures, but it seemed perfect. I dressed her up in my favorite vintage pearls, and a costume jewelry necklace that I’d put on her for her 12th birthday. She looks thrilled in the pictures, LOL, but given how many times I’ve made that poor dog suffer the indignity of girlie accessories, I felt like we had to give it one more go.

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Our vet was amazing…I (for some stupid reason) didn’t think our son would be as upset as he was. He was DEVASTATED, and let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than a kid that’s about to say goodbye to the dog they’ve known their entire life. He didn’t know what to do with himself; one minute, he was crying and scared; the next minute, he was telling the vet a cow joke out of a book he’s reading. He made all of us laugh at the worst possible time, but again, that’s something we’ll laugh about later. I’m glad he did it.

Our vet (who was amazing) took the time to tell Jericho that dogs are a creation of God…and that He loves all of His creation. I firmly believe there are dogs in Heaven (I mean, why not–there’s horses, right? That’s what my Mama pointed out to me many years ago, and it makes perfect sense). I also believe that Hannah-girl has her dog back.  David told her that Holly would be “her” dog, and now they’re together.

It still hurts, though.

Just 6 days ago, we celebrated (weird term, loose interpretation) Hannah’s 13th birthday. 4 days after that, we lost our dog. This is a difficult season, and I’m struggling with feeling overwhelmed with everything…work, grief, loss, social requirements, parenthood…I feel like I failed my son by not giving him enough credit to understand the loss of our dog.  I feel like I failed my husband because I’m the one that made the veterinary appointment. I feel like I failed my dog because we had to let her go…it’s the second time in my life that I’ve had to make the decision to let someone I love go, and I know it’s different when one is your child and the other is a dog, but those decisions are incredibly, intensely, intimately painful and foreign, yet familiar…Holly was family, and now she’s gone. I’ve never lost a pet like this before. I’m alternating between feeling cried out, and chastising myself for not having it together. It’s hardly the worst thing I’ve been through, but dang…

We loved that dog.

As she was getting sleepy from the first shot, I picked her up and put her head on my shoulder, and held her like a baby (like I’d done until she got too heavy for my old-lady back). When we laid her on the table, I put my head on her head, and whispered to her…The last thing she heard us say was that we loved her, and that she was a good dog. I hope that she understood…I believe (I want to believe) that she did.

I read a blog where a guy wrote from his dog’s perspective, as his dog was declining…it broke my heart all over again, but it’s so beautiful that I’m linking it. Don’t read it if you don’t want a good cry…

This will take some time to heal.

“A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad.” – Robert Wagner

 

“Dogs die. But dogs live, too. Right up until they die, they live. They live brave, beautiful lives. They protect their families. And love us, and make our lives a little brighter, and they don’t waste time being afraid of tomorrow.” – Dan Gemeinhart

 

 

 

 

Diaspora…

During worship on Sunday, I had this moment where I felt the presence of God hit so strongly. I almost said something, but held back–how do you verbalize something like that? In my mind’s eye, I could see a giant, navy-blue blanket cover the congregation as so many knelt and prayed…it was like the Holy Spirit was covering us with His love and comfort.

I spent a lot of time this week at church, during the Feast of Tabernacles. There will be more on that later, but for now, I’ll say that spending 8 days straight with any person usually results in a lot of tension and aggravation. You get sick of each other, and I know some personalities get sick of others more readily. We didn’t have any of that, that I could see. Every night was different, and every time we met together, there was the most amazing sense of community and family. It was awesome, and now I can’t wait until next year. Like I said, more on that, later….In the midst of all of this, come Sunday morning, I was so ready to come together with these people; I felt like we had a better understanding of each other, and where our hearts were. Guess what? We’re all on the same page. That’s so ridiculously cool and amazing–we’re united. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Anyway, Sunday morning worship hit, and I felt such an impact and clear vision in my spirit–I truly felt like God was holding us together in such a loving way.  This poem/prose/whatever came out of that:

“Diaspora”

We don’t know the day or the hour

But the season of power comes

Like a hurricane to believers and unbelievers alike.

But what one thinks is devastation, another knows is declaration,

And the world changes and what we see revolves around the Son.

What does the blind man see but the darkness?

But we who have accepted Him are blinded by the light,

And we walk in faith

Trusting Him for sight,

Every step a testimony of faith.

And when the blind reach for us,

We’ve walked away, toward the glorious outpouring;

And their hearts are hardened,

And the darkness grows,

And the earth is split in two

While we run onward to the place He’s prepared.

Take the blinders off and march to the rhythm pouring out of Heaven.

Let the revelation become your motivation,

Stepping out of the shadows of destruction,

While the veil is shattered and the truth covers us all….

He is coming….

He is coming…

And we are going Home….

 

When you’ve spent a week communing with family, outside and under the stars, you learn so much…you learn where you’re from, and most importantly, you learn where you’re headed as a community….Coming together is a beautifully powerful thing. The word “diaspora” literally means, “the dispersion,” and it refers to the scattering of the Jewish people across the earth. As Christians, we’re scattered in a different way, but when we come together, amazing things happen. All of us will be reunited some day.

In getting closer together as a church family, I found my heart often thinking of Heaven as our true Home…how everything before then is a dim reflection of how beautiful and whole Heaven will be. How kind is our God, that He goes to prepare a place for us? How amazing is it, that we should have such a thing to look forward to? And how great is the testimony of each one of His children, that we come out of darkness, into His Light? We gain eternity in our hearts the second we accept Christ as our Savior, and it never leaves.

I get to spend eternity with some pretty amazing people.

I get to spend eternity with a pretty amazing God. 🙂

And so do you.

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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. ❤

“Jesus Wept.”

This phrase has been on my mind a lot lately.

Sure, it’s “that” time of the year…October is on its way, temperatures are “finally” supposed to drop at the end of this week, and fall is officially about to happen in St. Louis. With the change of weather and the crunch of leaves, my heart spontaneously turns toward that October in the hospital, and the love and loss thereafter…

Autumn is bittersweet in so many ways, and as time has gone on, there’s more sweet than melancholy, but that is the blessing of both time and grace.

My daughter would be turning 13 next month—can you believe it? I’d have a teenager!! It’s crazy.

This journey has been long, strange, completely unexpected, and so incredibly beautiful, even in the worst parts. I look back at when I realized I was pregnant with her—David and I were just about to have our first anniversary—and all of the moments we had throughout my pregnancy, hospitalization, and the Life-&-Death aftermath. Even in those painful things, I think about the way our families and our church families supported us and loved us. There is beauty in those memories, even as they came during such darkness.

When you’re going through absolute hell, and you’re willing to speak out about your situation (or in my case, unable to shut up about it), people that love you will come. I don’t think that’s altruistic; in today’s world, we’re connected in SO many ways.  If you’re going through trauma, there isn’t a reason to go through it without support and love. Share your pain with your trusted friends that love you and that most importantly, love Jesus. You’re not meant to be alone—I can’t imagine how much more difficult the days and months after Hannah’s death would have been, had we tried to stay silent and undercover. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I feel like it’s so important: my pastors were AMAZING in allowing us to grieve in our Body of believers…they never shut us down, and they never told us we should “suck it up” or “just pray harder.”

They let us mourn….

They let us mourn, because they believe, and because we believe, that Jesus Wept.

Those two little words have comforted me so much in my life…They gave me permission to grieve. They gave me permission to be honest with myself and with my leaders about how broken I was. Jesus knew Lazarus was going to rise from the dead—He knew it was going to be okay, and that the separation wasn’t for long, but He still wept. It doesn’t say that “Jesus sniffled.”

It doesn’t say that “Jesus cried.”

It says that JESUS. WEPT.

When I think of weeping, I think of those deep, guttural cries that come up from the depths of your spirit when you’re so heavily grieved that you don’t even have words. You can’t speak; you can’t breathe. You’re broken on a spiritual level, and you feel entirely cut off from anything or anyone that could be a solace.

Jesus wept. He wept from the depths of His soul for His friend, for the sisters, and for the fact that this was a separation from His friend, but it was also just a foreshadowing of the separation He was about to feel from His Father when He was on the Cross. He wept because He loved, and He wept because He knew it was important, both physically and spiritually, to excise that grief.

As Christians, we spend way too much time focusing on getting “better,” and not enough time focusing on where we are right now. The process of weeping is imporant in that you’re wrapped up in the moment you’re in, and you really can’t see anything before or after that pinnacle emotion that is sweeping you in. The critical issue is that you have that moment; you hold it in your hand and in your heart; you “get it out;” and then you have to let it go.

You absolutely, 100% have to make a decision to let it go.

We see this when Jesus wept, in that He has His moment—we don’t know how long He cried for—and then He went to work.  He refocused, He did what He knew He was going to do all along, and He kept moving.  Grief is such a difficult thing, because it’s so, so heavy. If we don’t make ourselves process and move, it will weigh us down and we’ll never get through it. It will latch on to us, and it will affect our every movement until we finally take the time to deal with it. Please know that no matter what you think, grief WILL be dealt with. You can’t let it go until you’ve acknowledged it, and started processing it, and then gotten up off of the floor to take those first steps (which can require some assistance, for real).

Jesus wept…and then shortly after that, He said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Are. You. KIDDING?!?!?

Please, oh please, tell me how in the world God can be glorified in the death of an infant. Please tell me how God can be glorified in the middle of a cancer diagnosis, or in the loss of a parent. Please tell me how God can be glorified in the middle of an unfaithful marriage, or in the middle of a church that’s been shaken to its core, or in the middle of the loss of a ministry?

I can’t answer that.

I can tell you it took a few years, but there are bright memories in the Valley of the Shadow of Death that I am grateful for. I can tell you that I remember every bowl of soup that was brought to us… I can remember the strangers that came to the hospital to pray with us, because they’d been where we were.  I can remember hearing that prayers were being rallied for Hannah at multiple churches across the world (!). I can remember the grain of the carpet, and the pleated pants on the knees of those who knelt with us on hospital floors.

I can tell you that after the first rush of hand-holding that comes in the days following death, when things quieted down, that we still had no shortage of people who prayed for us or who checked in on us. They didn’t always say the “right” things (seriously, some of it was flat-out hilarious), but their hearts were there, and they loved us even when it got awkward.

I can tell you that in the darkness, there were moments of glory that I didn’t understand, but I can see them when I look back.

And I can tell you that on my 13-years-and-going journey of grief, that there is so much beauty in remembering how Jesus loved David & I with such kindness…with so much grace, even when we were screaming at Him…I can tell you that my faith was built up in the midst of being shattered, and that even when it’s tested, I can go back to the floor of a hospital room and remember where He met me…

And I can tell you that when He met me, He wept, too.

He loves us so very much…He loves us in our joy, and He loves us through our grief. He welcomes our tears; He welcomes our absolute honesty, and He is faithful to love us on this journey, regardless of where we are.

If you’re in that process of grieving…if you’re in that position of weeping, and of not knowing if the tears will ever stop, please know that Jesus understands. He truly does—this isn’t some, “pie-in-the-sky” kind of Christianese foolishness. God is real; Jesus has deep, deep love for your heart; and this season of darkness has an expiration date. You won’t be here forever, even if it feels like it.

I can’t tell you that you’re going to wake up one day and “feel better.”  I can tell you that if you allow yourself the first specks of trust, that those specks will turn into pieces, and that eventually, those pieces will come together to form a new chapter in your life. And you know what? Grief may color the ink on a few of the pages in those chapters, and that’s okay.

Jesus doesn’t tell us to deny our grief or our emotions. He tells us not to be ruled by them, but He doesn’t say to act like they’re not real. He wept because even the Son of God knows grief. He wept because even though the Son of God knows the end of the story, hurt is valid of respect, and hurt is worthy of acknowledgement.

Grief is real, & He welcomes the chance to help us carry it. He welcomes the day when we’re able to shift the burden completely to Him, and He understands when we want to hang onto it for a short time. Letting go of grief doesn’t mean we don’t love and cherish what we’re grieving…letting go of grief just means that we love and cherish what we lost, enough to fully trust Him with it. We love and cherish what we lost enough to understand that we can’t carry it alone.

Jesus wept to show us that He understands…He wept to show us that He is worthy of our grief, and that He is worthy of our broken hearts. When you’re broken and grieving, your tendency is to want to protect that pain. You want to avoid anyone that you don’t think can understand you; you isolate, to deal with your brokenness on your own. Jesus wept to show you and I that He IS able to empathize and to handle that grief for you…you don’t need to isolate or to protect yourself from Him.

And when we come to that place of understanding, of letting Him take our burden and our heaviness, then we finally begin our journey of healing…

Jesus wept.

He wept for Lazarus; He wept for me. And you know what? He wept for you, too.

Pour out your heart to Him today; understand that there’s nothing you can say to Him that He doesn’t want to hear, or that He doesn’t understand. Let Him carry your burden; let Him open up the roadblock that’s weighing you down. You were not meant to bear your pain alone.

lazarus

Raising Rainbows

I know, it’s been a while since I sat down and wrote anything. Life is BUSY, and it’s hard for me to discipline myself enough to focus on the monitor! So, to catch up—

The last blog was all the way back in July! It’s been over a MONTH?!?  What the heck?!? In August, we had some childcare crises to navigate, so we were running all over the place to make sure we were covered. My challenge for the school year is to find a new summer care program for my son, because he just didn’t seem to be as happy at the one he’s been in. I need to figure something out—I’m taking suggestions!

School started mid-August, and Jericho started the First Grade. He has a new teacher, and a new routine, and he seems to be settling in well! I also signed him up for Cross-Country!

I never did sports in school; I was always a music/drama geek, so the concept of team sports didn’t really come my way until I “played” volleyball in college (I use the term, “played,” VERY LOOSELY. I sucked.). My family did martial arts, which is a solo sport—well, solo, until they throw you in a ring and you have to either beat someone up, or get pummeled. I didn’t do so well there, either. J Either way, I believe in athletics and teamwork, and I’m really glad his school is so supportive. I was a nervous WRECK!

It was a million degrees, and I was mostly afraid that he wouldn’t finish the race, but HE DID, and I don’t even know if he came in last—I didn’t pay attention to that. He FINISHED!!  I was so stinking proud (and stinky—did I mention it was a million degrees?!?!)!  The first thing he said to me was, “Did I earn my Taco Bell?!?” Yes, baby, of course you did.

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And then, he proceeded to eat everything on the menu.

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As he gets older, one of the things I’m learning to work with is the endless list of questions. He doesn’t stop asking questions, and I try to answer them all; sometimes, I get overwhelmed and have to make him give me five minutes of silence, but normally, we have some pretty great conversations. He’s known for about a year now that he had a sister, and that she was a baby when she died; he’s now at a point where he’s asking pretty intense questions.

I’m learning to navigate.

He’s learning about germs and bacteria. His sister died of Late-Onset Group B Strep with Bacterial Meningitis, so the fact that a bacteria caused her death is fascinating to him. Yesterday, he was asking me about the technical aspects: “how did it kill her?” “What did it do?” “What kind of germ is it?” “Why couldn’t the doctors fix her?”

I don’t ever want to lie to him, or gloss over something. If he asks the question, I’m going to answer it in the most matter-of-fact, non-emotional way that I can. Working in healthcare for as many years as I have, I’d like to think I can be pretty good with divulging clear facts without emotional interference. It’s a compartmentalization kind of thing. He asks, “how did it kill her?” My response is, “Well, it got into her brain, and it made her brain stop working.” I leave out the other parts that will always hurt to remember…but I do remember, and it does hurt, and I can’t put into words what it’s like to say something so simple but to have such a complicated, graphic memory in my mind.

There are things he simply cannot know, but that I remember in vivid detail.

And there are moments of hope and love in the middle of those painful details…there are even moments of humor…And someday, when he’s much older, we’ll discuss the way Jesus wrapped Himself around our hearts with love and friends, and with memories of people who kept us lifted up in the heaviest of times…

But for now, I will stifle those emotions and those memories, and I will stick to the scientific facts that a six-year old boy is fascinated by.

When you’re raising your rainbow baby, there are no manuals for how to jump these hurdles. There’s nothing that tells you what to say when they ask you the hard questions, and he’s just getting started. Right now, he’s into the science of a germ that takes the life of someone. At some point, he’s going to get into the questions of faith, and healing, and “why didn’t God save her?” “Wasn’t He powerful enough to save her?” “Didn’t He love her? And you?”

I’m not sure how I’m going to answer those questions when they come—especially when sometimes, I can’t even answer them for myself. I’m past the point where the self-doubt, the accusations of the enemy, and the guilt Satan tries to throw at me over her death, sticks. It took YEARS to get through that part, especially since guilt over everything tends to be my go-to reaction when bad things happen. But I’m through it. Medically, I understand there was nothing we could have done. Physically, I understand that we did everything by the book. Because of that research, I am free from all of that.  Spiritually, sometimes I still struggle. It’s hard for me to pray for healing for other people, because that one time, it didn’t happen…

But the Bible says that we still pray for healing…We still pray for others, even when doubts tap in the corner of our minds. So, I pray, and I trust God to use His wisdom to do what He will.

I’m a pretty Type-A kind of person when it comes to life. I have lists, I have outlines, and I have step-by-step methods by which I keep things organized in my office (I try at home. It’s kind of pointless). I like to have questions and answers, and if I can’t answer it, then I FIND an answer for it. It’s been very difficult to come to the place where I let go and I trust God that He has all of the answers. I don’t understand, and I never will in this life, why my daughter died. I don’t get it, and when my son asks me “Why?” I don’t know what I’m going to say.

My go-to answer is that we’re not entitled to answers. We’re not entitled to understanding all of His whys and hows, but what we’re promised is that He knows, He cares, and He loves. How He chooses to love is up to His discretion, not mine, so I have to sit back and trust in Him.

I’ve been very candid to explain to Jericho that had we not learned the things we learned during Hannah’s birth and death, he would not be here. I want him to grow up being thankful for the sister he never knew, and for how God used such a sad thing, for His glory. I want him to understand just a smidgen of the miracle that he is.

These questions are TOUGH, and I wasn’t necessarily prepared for how they would start to be asked…but he’s asking.

I think that as long as my answers continue to point to the redeeming grace of God, even when we’re talking about the science of it all, that we’re on the right track….

And as I learned yesterday, the track isn’t necessarily a fun one to be on….but as long as we run the race, and we don’t give up, there’s a tremendous amount of glory in finishing it and in completing our mission!!!…

Happee Birthdae, Harry!

I’ve spent a bit of time lately, wondering why the Harry Potter books mean so much to me, a 41-year old grown woman.

I mean, I was well-into my 30’s when I was first introduced to the books, and it’s not like I was or am the Target Demographic, so what gives? Isn’t it a bit odd, that I’m so enamored with wizards and witches and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named? I mean, c’mon–I have T-shirts, and leggings, and earrings, and who-knows-what else, with The Boy Who Lived plastered all over them. I’M GROWN.

But I love the books, and I even love the movies (for those who don’t know me, it’s INCREDIBLY rare that I like both the books and the movies. Don’t even get me started.). I love the special effects, the illustrations, the logos–I wouldn’t say that I’m obsessed, but I AM wearing a Harry Potter dress today, to my place of professional employment, so…..

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(Shout-out to www.charliesproject.com for having a KILLER outlet store! Snagged this beauty for like, $12. They get my nerd-ness.)

When I was a kid, I got a new Dad. My Dad loved all things sci-fi, and that, combined with my natural interest in fantasy and imagination, sparked a keen interest in worlds beyond our understanding. Dad introduced me to Star Trek, and Star Wars, and later on, the X-Files, Quantum Leap, Farscape, and much more. I remember watching V (I can still remember my utter abhorrence at the snake-alien lady who ate the guinea pig), the Twilight Zone (Gremlins on the Frickin PLANE!!), and even masterpieces such as Labyrinth and the Secret of Nimh. These were the shows and the stories that formed my life and fed my brain; these were the stories that showed that yes, there were bad (very bad, Jareth!!!) people and things out there, but there was always, ALWAYS good to counter-balance and to overcome. Stories about the unexpected victors have been my lifeline through some very dark times–times where good didn’t necessarily win, and I was left to pick up the pieces. These stories gave me hope, and pointed me in the direction to seek the good in the situations.

Aslan-Narnia-Desktop-WallpaperMy all-time favorite book series will always be The Chronicles of Narnia. Aslan is “not a tame Lion,” and throughout my life, when things have been chaotic with no signs of stopping, that simple phrase has grounded me. God is in control, and He is not, nor will He ever be, our definition of “tame.” He is unpredictable, other than knowing that He is always good; He is wild in His love for us. Most of all, He is the Ultimate Victor, and He is present–PRESENT–in all that we face. He is the Foundation. The Chronicles of Narnia reinforced the basic theology and doctrine I was already learning in my Christian school, and married it to this beautiful narrative in my mind. I could trust Jesus, because He is Aslan, and Aslan is Not a Tame Lion…but He loves me. Reading the final book in the anthology, The Last Battle, seals the allegorical dimensions of the series. I still go back to key scenes in that book during times in my life–“Further Up, and Further In (originally said in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader)” or the scenes with the dwarfs and their Israelite-like stubbornness. It’s an amazing book, capping off a life-changing series. In fact, when I was in college, I had the opportunity to play The White Witch in a staged production, and it was awesome (including my death-scream. I got into it.).

Unfortunately, merchandise for The Chronicles of Narnia just doesn’t exist. Sure wish it did, ’cause I’d have it ALLLLLLLLL!!!!

So, I’m here, in my Harry Potter dress, celebrating Harry’s birthday. 🙂

The Chronicles of Narnia and the Harry Potter books heavily feature good vs. evil themes, along with underdog-type protagonists and big, evil, seemingly-unsurmountable baddies. There are elements of sacrifice, fear, violence, and deep, deep family relationships and friendships. The Pevensies grow up and out of their imaginations, while Eustace and Jill eventually helm the series; Harry, Ron, & Hermoine find their friendships solidified for a lifetime, and create their own family of support. The Harry Potter books come under heavy criticisms from Christian communities for their elements of witchcraft and wizardry–I get it. I’m not ignorant of it.

I’m careful with how much of the HP series I expose my son to. He hasn’t seen much of the first movie, and we haven’t started with the books. He knows the character, because let’s face it–he kinda looks like a mini-version of him. I dressed him up as Harry a few Halloweens ago, because he was just too perfect, and I knew that at 4 years’ old, I wouldn’t get another chance:

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(Seriously, this is my favorite picture that my husband has taken of my kiddo, and I have it hanging up in a 20 x 24 print that he made up for me, in my living room, when you first walk into my house. It’s everything.)

The Harry Potter series, in particular, means the world to me. I read the entire series in a week–yes, a week. My heart went out to this little boy–this kid who was unloved and unwanted, who had no place in this world to call his own….who felt out-of-place and cast aside…I saw myself in him, and I think a lot of people do, as well.

I came into the series in 2007-2008: The Year in Kentucky. I had no friends; David & I had basically escaped in the year after our daughter died, taking a new job in a new apartment, in a new state. We had to find ourselves again, and each other, and I spent a lot of time by myself. I don’t remember how the books came into my world, but they’ve never left.

Being able to dive into a world that was so well-crafted and well-written, meant that while I was there, I wasn’t thinking about the trauma I’d just endured. My load was lifted, even for that short time, and for a while, I was just Cassidy–not “Cassidy, Who’s Daughter Just Died” or “Cassidy, Dave’s Wife,” or “Cassidy, Heart Patient.” I was just me–just a kid again, locked in a book like I used to be, seeing the words in vivid color as the scenes played out in my imagination. As strange as it may sound to say it, those books helped to rekindle a spark of life back in me, after everything had gone dark.

The books inspire creativity, friendship, and duty. They inspire work ethic and integrity, which I think is far more important then poorly-phrased Latin masquerading as “spells.” The books show the importance of bravery, intention, goals, and even the love of a family. These are life skills, things that our society is sorely lacking. For every negative a judgey type would like to assign to these stories, there are five positives to take its place. From a writer’s perspective, the stories are bulletproof—J. K. Rowling wrote with such vivid detail and continuity, that they feel like a world you could literally step into. They’re flat-out well-written, with a depth that is sorely lacking in children’s books.

I’ll teach my son the stories soon enough…when he’s old enough to understand that witches and wizards are very real, and are nothing like the ones in the books…they’re more like The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia, and less like Harry, Ron, & Hermoine. As Albus Dumbledore said, “The Truth. It is a beautiful and terrible thing, & should be treated with caution.” The same will go with how we approach the Harry Potter books with our child. There are boundaries in my love of the books, and there is a definitely respect for the truth sprinkled in the fantasy. There is not, however, a boundary in my great affection for the heart of The Boy Who Lived, especially as his story is so close to my own.

Happee Birthdae, Harry Potter….May your story continue to light up the imaginations of kids and adults all over the world…may you remind all of us who feel out of place and ordinary, that we are truly extraordinary when we are embraced with Love and Hope….always.

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(Just for Fun–click!)

 

We Need to Talk.

We need to talk.

I want to talk.

I want to have a conversation without the sensation of alienation,

To speak words that flow like a river without suspense or pretense or nonsense or

Offense to the thoughts that tempt us like distractions to reactions to words

We didn’t mean

Or maybe we did

But who would know

Because who has the time

To just sit

And

Talk?

I want to talk.

I want to look someone in the eyes without alibis or denials of a need for more than

Survival

I’m

Not

Satisfied

With

The ticking of the clock

I’d like to knock it off of the shelf or send it straight to hell.

The bells that toll the hour are trolls and what I’d really like

Is a good cup of coffee

With a friend

That knows me well enough to know when I’m falling apart but

Laughs at my stupid jokes

Because we all know that laughter is the best

Thing for insanity…

I want to talk.

I’m so tired of feeling like I’m constantly apologizing or capsizing or disguising true intentions

Of verbal apprehensions and the attempts for my redemption…  

So tired of the anxiety; it’s crippling and debilitating but the meds only go so far

And then I’m just left with me

And I’m a mess

But I’ve got prayer for that, right? #Blessed

Because serotonin and dopamine are free and if only I were good enough I’d see that they’re

Out there waiting for me if only I could get enough sleep but I don’t see that happening,

So what I’d really like

Is a good cup of coffee

With a friend

That maybe doesn’t make me talk

But just sits there

And understands that I can’t understand

And tells me I’m going to get through this…

Even when I don’t have the words to say what “this”

Is.

I want to talk.

Because maybe if I write it or verbalize it instead of fighting it, in spite of my confusion my delusions will clear up or clear out & I’ll be up from this place where I’m down for the count

On the upside of the bipolar pendulum no one has ever officially told me I’m on

But I wonder.

 

I need to talk.

But sometimes…

I can’t.

 

Things I’d Say to Myself at 15

I’ve been seeing this thing on Facebook (yes, I still Facebook, although I’m on it a lot less–mostly because I’m sick of seeing the same things. How do I get it to where I can see ALL of my friends’ stuff in my news feed?!?! I swear, technology makes me feel much dumber than I’m actually supposed to be) where people write things they’d say to their 15-year old self. I find it fascinating, introspective, and a bit sad…but it made me curious, as to what I’d say to that girl, so long ago….

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Look at that kid. Now, I’m not sure if I’m exactly 15 in this picture…but I remember wearing that shirt in England, and I went to England & France when I was 15, so I’m thinking I’m somewhere close. I think the biggest thing I notice in this picture is how much sharper my collarbones are…how much thinner my face is, and how much bigger my glasses are…I don’t know what’s going on with my hair, but okay…..Those high-waisted jeans aren’t doing me any favors, but that’s a great many pounds ago, and I can get lost in the rabbit hole of sadness, where my weight is concerned…oh, for the days of having a working thyroid!

There are no scars on that neck, nor are there any scars on that body that couldn’t be covered with basic makeup. There are freckles, which haven’t gone anywhere, and there is a tremendous lack of self-confidence that I see in that picture, that has only slightly improved with age.

So, what would I say, to that unconventional girl? There’s a lot that comes to mind…

  1.  You’re going to be okay. Yes, you’re nervous about everything–your hair, the sky, whether or not you’re going to get dress coded for whatever today–yes, life is going to hit you without restraint, but You. Will. Be. Okay. It’s going to take a long time, and you may feel okay one day, but wrecked on another. It’s alright–you’ll be okay.
  2. Love is real, and your wait was worth it all. Since you were 3, you’ve wanted to be a wife and a mama. Even though guys are curiosities at this point (oh, Cass, you think you know SO much), you’re not going to fall in love for a long time. And when you do, it’s going to hurt, and he’s going to let you down. And so will the next guy, and he’ll hurt you even more than the first. You’ll cry; you’ll feel broken and unloved. And you’ll watch your friends grow up and get married, and start families; you’ll feel rejected, and then one day, you’ll realize that, per #1, you’re okay. Jesus has taken His time repairing your heart and restoring your faith. One day, a fateful e-mail opens the door for a lifetime of love and insanity, but it couldn’t happen until you were in the right place, spiritually, and you DO get there. He’s worth it all…Your marriage is tough, but fun; amazing, and sometimes awful, but it’s always worth every step you take with each other. He’s going to drive you crazy, but you can’t imagine your life without him…And he may not remember to say it, but he can’t imagine his life without you, either. Hang on, little girl–those dreams of being a wife and a mama come true.
  3. Your mom loves you. You’re sometimes too similar; you’re sometimes too different, and you don’t always speak the same language. She works hard and she’s tired, and she always loves you. She’s not perfect, and you only hurt yourself when you expect her to be. She’s growing up, too, and everyone learns for a lifetime. Don’t project your own feelings of rejection onto her–that’s not where they’re coming from.
  4. You feel like an outcast, everywhere you go. That doesn’t really go away, and you learn to live with it. You challenge yourself with it, you make yourself talk to strangers and be inviting, just to create your own atmosphere where you feel comfortable. Once you’ve made a habit of forcing yourself to push past the chains of self-rejection, you start to find camaraderie with other weirdos, and you eventually have a solid group of weirdo-friends.
  5. The one person that stays with you, from before you were 15, until today, many years later, is Vinita. Cherish that friendship–don’t ever take it for granted, because no matter how much of a jerk you can be, she will always love you enough to keep you real. Keep that best friend (you just can’t know how much she will mean to you as you grow up. She’s the best).
  6. You have some medical garbage to go through. Pay attention to your body, but don’t be paranoid. Also, advocate for yourself. You’re worth it.
  7. Your body. Cass, you’re growing up in an era that celebrates stick-thin women. Society doesn’t stay there, and it’s amazing, but even now, at 41, I feel physically appalling. I can’t celebrate this body, because it doesn’t look the way I want it too…but it never has, has it? At 15, I looked 21 (and that was a huge problem–carry mace). I felt judged by people that didn’t understand how hard it was to dress curves that arrived far too early…I dealt with men who were inappropriate, and had to stand up for myself early on. I was never “thin,” and I never felt like I had a figure worth admiring, but because I had large breasts early on in life,  people felt like they had to comment on them  (both men and women–it was AWFUL). You may feel like you look the worst, and you’ll struggle with that for a lifetime, but know that you don’t. You’re not the kind of pretty that Hollywood tells you to be, but you’re unique, and you have a great sense of style (but not in THAT picture, LOL). You learn to dress what you have, and you’re pretty good at it. 🙂 (Too good–you have shopping issues. Get It Under Control. The sale will wait).
  8. You have huge dreams. That trip to England, those things you felt the Lord say to you? They don’t happen when you thought they would, and you go through a big portion of your life feeling like God was too disappointed in you, to let you do the “big things.” In fact, you still feel like that sometimes, even at 41. But don’t give up….I haven’t forgotten the prayers said on the wooden floor of an old church in Clacton-On-Sea, Essex…and I haven’t forgotten what He told me. God doesn’t lie; He just doesn’t answer on our schedule. But He’s “not a tame Lion,” and He will have His way…
  9. At 15, you have absolutely no career plans (people might think you do. Lies.). You want to be a writer, and it’s such a slow-burning thing. Your college plans go belly-up in your first semester; your career plans go belly-up after a failed internship your senior year. You literally do not care about what you want to be when you grow up, partially because you’re trusting God, partially because you’re not allowed to go the school you want to go to, and to major in what you want to major in (no Webster, no B.A. in English). Your academic plans get derailed time and time again, and you wind up in health care…where once again, your academic plans get derailed, and you start to think that Master’s degree is never going to happen. It might not. Your career in health care, although unexpected, takes care of your family, and you’ll be surprised that you enjoy it. You still want that Master’s degree, but you get to a point where you’re working to fund your child’s education…even if you’re not so sure you see the point of a degree anymore…You wanted to be a wife and a mom–you get those dreams, and they’re hard-earned. You find joy in those things, in ways you never found in a classroom or in an article. You’re published early on, and you do nothing with it. It sits there on a shelf in a library (it’s a boring book, like, for real–non-profits? BORING) and you find a great deal of joy in editing for others, but your dreams of writing that perfect story haven’t come true…yet…Have hope. Make connections. There’s this thing coming called, “blogging.” Maybe you should get into that. 🙂
  10. Finally, the most important thing I’d say to 15-year old me: Jesus. You’re growing up in the middle of the rebirth of the Charismatic Movement in the Church, and the things you’ll see both in the U.S.A. and abroad are going to create permanent milestones in your life. You’re going to go through multiple crises of faith as you grow up. One thing you never do, though, is wonder whether or not God is real–you always know. Your family, your school, and your church poured into you a solid foundation of faith, and even when the tempest rails, you’re grounded. When you’re shaken, God puts people around you that hold you together….even when you’re destroyed, and you will be, in ways you can’t fathom. You never find the words to tell the Lord exactly how you feel, but He knows. You have so much to be thankful for. There’s a song in your heart that the enemy tries to silence in the harshest of ways, but it carries on, even when you lose your voice. You were made to worship, and you’ll do it for eternity; never let that be dimmed. If you feel like your faith is shaking, reach out and talk to the people around you that love you–they will walk you through it. Get in the Word, and rewire your brain to stop looking at the Bible as a textbook. It’s a lifetime lesson that you’ll work on learning, and it’s hard, but that Word is a Love Letter. No one and nothing will love you or carry you like the Lord. He carries you a LOT, and He never fails. Don’t forget that.

Wow. Looking back at 15-year old me is a bigger trip than I thought it would be. I was a hot mess back then, and I’m a different person now….that’s still a hot mess…

I’m grateful for the journey.

And the improvements in Curl Control. 😉

 

Summer Goals, #PlayGloria, and Kindergarten Graduation

I go through phases where I write constantly, and then it’s “crickets,” and honestly, I don’t really know why. Is it a self-discipline thing? An emotional thing?

Maybe it’s an energy thing, and I haven’t written anything lately because I’m perennially exhausted.

I’m still here, in case you were wondering (in case I’m wondering?).

The schedule’s returned to an unreachable pace, with David not only being back to work, but working a different shift. I’m so grateful that he’s employed, but I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy. We see each other for around 15-20 minutes per day (usually trying to have conversations that are perpetually interrupted by, “MOOOOMMMMM!” and “LOOOK AT MEEEEEEE!”), and then I’m off to bed, and he’s doing the evening entertainment for the offspring (who couldn’t be happier, because Tired Mom is also BORING Mom). Our marriage is breathing on the fumes of weekends, and our house is perpetually messy.

Our lives are full.

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Meanwhile, since my last post, my son has graduated from Kindergarten. In the ceremony, his class recited Scriptures, sang songs, and basically let us know they were going to join together at some point and take over the world. I believe every one of them could do it. Jericho’s classmates are a beautiful mixture of personalities, and I’ve loved getting to watch them interact over the year. My little guy has matured and learned, and is showing more and more of an amazing personality.

We have Summer Goals (and even as I write that sentence, I’m laughing at myself). None of those goals involve housekeeping, but I supposed it must be done. Frankly, our dog is so old (“how old is she?”) that we’re kind of waiting for her to cross that Rainbow Bridge and go to Jesus, because the carpet will need to be replaced throughout the house…and I’m hankering for a change in our color scheme, so the entire house will need to be overhauled and deep-cleaned. It’s times like this where I’m grateful that we’re still in our “starter home,” and it’s tiny.

I’ve started Jericho on a First Grade curriculum from Brain Quest, and every day, he does 2-4 pages in his workbook. My goal is to get him through the book this summer, just to keep him sharp and to work on his handwriting. He still gets “6,” “9,” “d,” “p,” “g,” and “3” backwards. I haven’t gone so far as to discuss it with my office’s peds department yet…I’m not hugely concerned, because he can correct it when I call him out on it. I’m planning on mentioning it in his eye exam next month.

That being said, get your child’s eyes examined every year! It’s a relatively painless examination that can help their future!!!!  PSA—and done.

ANYHOOO, a little thing happened this week that completely de-railed any attempts that I’ve made to finish this blog in a timely manner. THE SAINT LOUIS BLUES WON THE FREAKING STANLEY CUP, and I’ve cared about little-to-nothing else this week. Image may contain: 1 person, stripes

Since I’m given to panic attacks at the mere THOUGHT of ginormous crowds of people, I’m going to be watching the parade from my app. It’s going to be amazing, and I’m so proud of the team. I’m not a big sports person—I always mention that I don’t like baseball, but I consider myself a Cardinals fan, simply because I love what the camaraderie brings to the city. I do, however, like hockey, and even though I never watch the games (my family is not a “sports” family, but we’ll scream like maniacs at a cooking show), I think hockey requires the most skill and tenacity of any sport. I admire hockey players—anyone that sacrifices their teeth for anything, gets mad respect from me. Also, my youth pastor’s dad was the trainer for the San Jose Sharks back in the 90’s, so my love and appreciation for the game runs deep (I’m SO glad we beat them for the Nationals!).

Sports talk aside, things are moving along at a frantic pace…it’s hard to find time to slow down and EXPERIENCE things, as opposed to just getting through them. I’m usually doing the latter, and by the time a week’s gone by, I’m wondering where it went? Too many hours spent on the couch and not in the sunshine.  Being in a somewhat-constant state of fatigue makes me feel like I’m missing out on so much…oh, and the MOM GUILT!!!  I can’t.

I keep telling myself that I won’t be like this, forever…Jericho asked me the other day, “Mommy, were you ever not tired?” Ouch—that hurt. I basically told him I’ve been tired for the last 7 years. J I’ve been without my Dear Thyroid for 4 years this month, and all of my Facebook Memories that come up threaten to drag me into the Abyss of What-If, so I’m trying to ignore them.

I deal with a lot of “Mom Guilt,” partially because of my personality, and partially because there’s so much to work with.  I’m a working mom who had to use formula, so start there, and work your way up, mom-shamers.  My son is starting to get Six-Year-Old Sassy, and he’s watching too many episodes of “Teen Titans,” (hey, I didn’t start him on it…but they’re hilarious, so now I’m mom-guilting over a moral failure) and eating too many tortilla chips. Overall, though, he’s getting lots of playtime during the day in his summer program, so during the week I’m not feeling tooooooooo horrible about coming home and being chill.

I know this sounds mushy and all, but every day I look at that kid and I swear, I love him more. Even with his sass, he’s still funny and sweet, & he’s creative. His imagination is limitless, and he reminds me of my favorite parts of my own childhood. I need to get back into the routine of reading him a bedtime story; he’s been staying up later than I do, so I’m missing out!!

This summer, we have Six Flags passes, and are planning on going if the sun comes out any time soon on a weekend.  We’ve had so much rain! I love watching Jericho start to tentatively embrace roller coasters. He’s working on riding his new bike; he got a bit scared of it, so we have to ease him back into it. I don’t think I coddle him (David does), but I know so well what it’s like to be afraid of everything, and to feel like less of a person because of it. I don’t want that, for him. When he’s afraid of something, I tell him that it’s okay to be scared. We take it slow, until we’re ready. If he isn’t ready, I think that’s okay—he will be. I’m surprised at my own patience in those cases, but I think that’s what it takes. I want him to enjoy roller coasters and bike rides, and roller skates and bowling, and everything fun (we’re back to bowling again, BTW—I LOVE it!!!). If it’s fearful, it’s not fun, and I know that too well. We have nothing but time, to make those leaps—even if that’s not true, we can live like it is, at 6 years old.

bowlMy goals for this summer are to take it in…to enjoy parenting, and to not enjoy too much TV…to take my time doing life in general, and to spend less time embracing the things that bring me down. I love that song by Lauren Daigle, called “Look Up, Child.” Rico-Bean sings it a lot, and I think it’s major goals, for me. That’s my goal—to Look Up, and to keep from letting myself be weighed down by fatigue, or stress, or whatever albatross has decided to land on my neck. It’s summer—it’s time to get free, to live free, and to stay looking up.

And maybe, to spend some time blasting “Gloria!!!!!” on repeat while my son yells at me because he’s sick of the song….He’ll get over it, and we’ll have these memories to last us a lifetime. I’m so proud of our team. #LETSGOBLUES!!!!!!!!

Image result for st. louis blues

Giving Your Kid Weird Names is Fun…AKA The Promises of God…

My name is Cassidy.

Cassidy Sarah, to be precise.

I’m named thus, in part because of my paternal grandmother (who I never got to meet; I understand she was short & plump, and that’s all I know), and in part, because nobody liked my mom’s other suggestion: Bethany.

By the time I came along in my parents’ marriage, things were NOT going well. My biological father hadn’t really proven to be overly interested in my pending birth, so he didn’t have any input into the name I wound up with. “Cassidy” came from a person who said “hello” to their daughter Cassidy on a game show, that my mother happened to see. The rest is, as they say, history.

I’ve only ever met one Cassidy who is my age. The name had a surge in popularity in the late 80’s or early 90’s, thanks to Kathie Lee Gifford. She named her daughter Cassidy, and then nicknamed her “Casserole,” so if I ever see her, I won’t need a reminder to slap her silly.  Other Cassidys that I’ve met have all been younger, and Lord knows, there’s a TON of spelling variations on the name (Kassidee? Kasidy? Casidy? Cassadee? Some of those hurt to type).

The name “Cassidy” has a few different interpretations. It’s undeniably Irish-Gaelic, and was traditionally a boy’s name. It can mean “clever,” “inventive,” or “Curly-Haired (yes, I’m serious),” and in some cases, it’s defined as meaning, “sly.” That’s flattering, right?

I’ve always believed that whatever you name your child is a proclamation over them for the rest of their lives. When I first looked up my name and saw that it meant “clever,” I wasn’t a fan. Further research made me reconsider; I definitely qualify as “crafty,” given my love of my glue gun (yes, I know, that’s not what “crafty” is inferring, but work with me), and “curly haired?” Really? Shut up. 🙂 I can’t imagine myself with any other name. I’m glad that my mama took a chance on this crazy name, and I’ve slowly gotten over feeling slighted because I can’t find anything personalized.

I recently received an e-mail from my son’s kindergarten teacher. He’s getting ready to graduate (sniff!!), and she does something with the meaning of their names every year in the ceremony. She asked me if there was any special definition we knew that she couldn’t find, because the only definitions she could find were “fragrant” or “City of the Moon.” I had to laugh–it’s come full circle, that the girl with the odd name would, after years of swearing off of odd names for her children, name her son something that’s not going to show up in a Christmas ornament kiosk. So, I had to expound a tiny bit on why we gave our child the unusual moniker shared with a city that got destroyed (and that had a curse attached to it, were it to ever be rebuilt…which it was….and bad things happened).

Even without researching the definition of the name, “Jericho” seemed like a perfect name for my son. It wasn’t just a city that was destroyed for the glory of God and the progression of His people.

It was a city that seemed indestructible.

It was a city that seemed overwhelmingly unstoppable, incredibly protected and well-armed, and like an impenetrable fortress. It was sophisticated, metropolitan, and and a place of great value. When the Israelites looked on the city of Jericho, they knew they didn’t stand a chance….but God said to take it.

He said it was theirs.

He promised them.

And they believed.

By now, you know the story–Jericho’s older sister died, and my heart failed. We were told we’d have no more children, unless I was ready to be too dead to raise them. Doctors told us “no” so many times that my husband was ready to stop asking; I begged for one last appointment, and that doctor (Michael Paul, MD, Missouri Baptist Hospital perinatology) said “yes.” We got pregnant in 2012, and I will never forget the spiritual battles that took place for the entire 36 weeks (okay, 35) that I was pregnant. The first 30 days of my child’s life were some of the toughest days I have ever known (post-partum piled onto everything else), and I was in the fight of my life…but we won.

We all won.

The people of Israel were told to march around the city of Jericho, silently, for 6 days. Only the trumpets could be played (how annoying would THAT be?!?!  I sense a strategy…). On the 7th day, they were told to march around Jericho 7 times, and on the last time, to deliver a mighty roar. When they did this, God moved and the walls of Jericho fell down. The battle was won! The people of Jericho had put all of their faith into those walls–they didn’t have an army that could fight. I’m guessing their army was untrained, because they were so secure in believing those walls would never come down. They were wrong.

God moved, walls fell, and His people took the city.

They took what He promised them.

So did we.

“Jericho” has a few different interpretations in history, but the ones my son’s teacher found are the most common: “Fragrant.” “City of the Moon.” There’s also “City of Palms” (a place of respite?), or these definitions, which talk about “breath,” “way,” or “width.” Those are less common, and I tend to stick to the definition of “fragrant.”

Fragrance is a powerful word in the Bible; it’s mentioned quite a bit, and evokes a lot of sentiment. It’s used by itself and in conjunction with the word, “incense,” which was always used as part of the sanctification processes in the Tabernacle, and symbolized faith that our praises and prayers are heard. Psalms 141:2 says, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” (NIV) In the Book of Revelations, it talks about incense rising with the prayers of the saints before the Lord.

The fact that my son’s name means something that seems so mundane, but has such a powerful connotation, is not lost on David & I. Every time we speak his name, we’re pouring out over him the fact that he is like a fragrance of worship before the Lord. Day and night, even when we’re in terrible moods, even when times are tough, no matter what happens, he is an answer to prayer and a testimony that resounds in our lives and evokes worship–that’s a powerful name. The kid was born out of prayers and trust, and he doesn’t know it yet, but he has a destiny to worship the Lord.

No pressure, kiddo.

So, yes, Jericho’s teacher, his name means, “fragrance.” And sure, he’s a stinky boy (are all boys stinky? Is that just part of it?!?!), but his heart was formed in the fires of intercession and prayer.

Our son is a living testimony to the promises of God that many people told us were not achievable (you know who told us they were wrong? Joe LoRusso.). We were told “no.” God said, “yes,” and we obeyed Him. Jericho was delivered to us, and our praises and prayers before, during, and after, are the least we can give a God Who kept His promises and blessed our socks off.

There’s a song called, “Worthy of It All” by David Brymer. It became a cornerstone song in my life during my pregnancy with Jericho, even before he got his name. My pregnancy was tough…really, really tough…and I’d sing this song to remind myself that God’s plan was worthy of all of it. I needed to anchor myself and remember that He is GOOD, and that He doesn’t fail, regardless of the past, regardless of the future, and regardless of the fears. He is WORTHY, even if you can’t see the outcome.

There’s a section of the song that says, “Day and night, night and day, let incense arise.” There is worship around the throne of God for infinity–it doesn’t stop. My prayer for my son is that he would learn the significance of his name…that he would know the power of God in his life, and that he would live to point others toward worshiping the Lord….that his life would be like that fragrance that rises before the throne, dedicated to Him and knowing His love…of knowing wholeheartedly that Jesus is Worthy of it All…

We’ve named our child well.

Oh, and if you’re curious, his middle name is “Daniel,” which means, “God is my Judge.” To this day, every time I think of the meaning of his middle name, I think of Tupac….but I never told my husband that when we were choosing names. 🙂