“Don’t Get Drunk and Do Things!”

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

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

Humanity is one big epic fail YouTube video - Imgflip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s too heavy,” I said.

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

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

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

Leviticus, Media Mockery, & Why Are We Still Putting Up With This?!?

Sacrilegious is never funny.

Mocking the “god” of any other culture will get you eviscerated, cancelled, or worse…but mocking Jesus Christ makes you a social media star? Especially around the holiest of seasons, as we celebrate His death & resurrection? How is that allowed?

In studying Leviticus, the weight of salvation stands out heavier than ever before…When you think about the different sacrifices that were made: Burnt offering, Grain offering, Sin offering, Guilt offering, Ordination offering, Peace offering—when you think about the cost of such offerings, even in just the financial sense….When you think about the mental toll it takes, to be a priest and to slaughter animals at an endless rate, to wake and sleep in the surroundings of blood & incense….when you think about the continual efforts of the people, to monitor thoughts and actions, to regulate when a sacrifice needed to be made, and the never-ending list of sacrifices to be made….

And you think about how the Messiah ended it all in the holiest of afternoons….

He carries the weight of the sacrifice, then—2,000 years ago—and now, and forever.

He carries the burden of the continual accountability, the weight of guilt and shame, the oppression of never being able to kill enough to completely wipe the slate clean. He is ENOUGH. He wipes the slate clean with His own Blood, with His Death & Resurrection.

The Cross was never a scrawny white guy held up on two popsicle sticks by some thumbtacks. The Cross was about The Innocent…the very Son of the Most High God…Who was brutally murdered by a people that refused to recognize Redemption in any other presentation than the blood-covered altar of the Temple.

The Cross is about freedom…it’s about Eternity. It’s about drawing us into Him, about allowing us into the Holy of Holies, free and cleansed of all known and unknown sin, without an animal sacrifice and without having to go through another human being as our gateway to the Throne. The Cross bridges the gap between the Outer Courts to the Inner Courts, and puts us on a freeway to kneel and worship with the elders, praising God in a chorus that never stops, because it CAN’T stop, because HE IS WORTHY.

Our relationship with God is not something to be mocked, and it isn’t something to take casually. He’s not “Buddy Christ,” and although He is most definitely our best of friends, He is still SOVEREIGN, and He is HOLY. Time spent with Him is HOLY. This casual attitude of mocking Him…of allowing the news and the media, of allowing movies and music to take His imagery and to twist it in such abominable ways is inconceivable. Conversely, our perception of Satan and all that he brings to the table is also not to be mocked or taken casually, as spiritual matters are serious. Degrading them to a form of blasé entertainment is utter foolishness (which is exactly what Satan wants us to do—the less-seriously we take him, the less seriously we take Jesus, and he’s happy with that).

I caught myself rolling my eyes at recent media outlets that were celebrating a social media star who is blatantly glorifying Satan in his latest video. He’s proud of himself—he says this is how he celebrates his “freedom.” He’s in more chains than he will ever know, until he’s facing eternity…and I rolled my eyes. Like, how am I not weeping over this? How am I not grieving in my spirit over this? I’m so calloused to the media portrayal of spiritual matters that I am reduced to rolling my eyes like a bored teenager, as opposed to crying out to God for a nation that is spiritually bankrupt. I’m disappointed in myself–have I gotten so used to skimming headlines, that I fail to allow them to penetrate my convictions?? How have we fallen so far as a nation, that there isn’t a huge moral outcry to shut this kind of imagery and glorification down??

The further in I go into the Old Testament, the more my salvation means to me…the more I realize my state as a human being that will never be worthy on her own. I so desperately need my Jesus, and I need Him not just as my Best Friend, but as my Holiness. I want to be cloaked in His holiness, to have Him take out the things that make me forget Who He is, and replace them with whatever makes me grow closer to Him. I want the mockery that makes my eyes roll right now, to break my heart until I see His face. I want to understand WHY His sacrifice means so much, not just on the surface, but on a deeper level.

I’m so flawed. I’m such a dichotomy—my mouth needs its own separate redemption, I swear—but in my heart of hearts, I want Jesus, and I want Him to be the center of my life. It’s a never-ending journey, and I’m thankful that He lets us be on it…that He’s with us every step of the way.

Sacrilegious is NEVER funny…but even to those who would openly mock Him, Jesus says, “Come.” He responds to the haters with Love—He did it 2,000 years ago as He was dying on the Cross, and He still does it, today. He says, “Come, and be with Me in My Father’s House.” He invites us to love, and to be loved in a way we don’t deserve, but that He freely gives. He’s Jesus, and He loves you as you are….and He loves you to who He sees you becoming as you grow in Him.

Insomnia…

I know a lot—too many—people who really struggle with sleep. I’m one of them. For me, it’s a combination of general anxiety, stress, and chemical imbalances related to either diabetes or my thyroid issues (I don’t have a thyroid, if you’re not up-to-date. I take thyroid replacement hormones. That’s an uphill battle that’s an entirely different blog…I may write it someday, but as I’m still too frustrated with the process, I’ll spare you the details). I realize that some people are like, “YEAH, BRUH, I’LL SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD, YO!!!!” That’s not me. I have issues with sleeping, and I’ve recently come into a few things that seem to be helping, so I’ll share:

  1. Everyone that I know is quick to say that prayer is the best way to get to sleep. This doesn’t always work with me, as I find myself on mental rabbit trails that are anything but peaceful. However, it’s worth a try, as God loves us and is always ready to hear us out. Also, I do find that I fall asleep faster when I’m intentionally trying to draw nearer to God in prayer, LOL—of course.
  2. Get off of the electronics. I struggle with wanting to reach for my phone when I’m trying to fall asleep, but YOU HAVE TO UNPLUG YOUR BRAIN. Some experts say that getting off of electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed. I wish my alarm clock wasn’t ON my phone, but it is—maybe keeping it in a different room would help (but oh, the anxiety while getting used to it!!!).
  3. Storytime!!!  I’ve recently discovered that even as an adult, I love storytime before bed. I read to my kiddo on the weekends, or we listen to an audiobook (Tim Curry’s narration of the Lemony Snicket books is AMAZING!!!!!! I just borrowed it from my library and had no idea Tim Curry would be the narrator. He’s perfect!); you can check these out from your library, or you can download them from the Libby, the Library App. I have always used Libby for my reading, but when I realized I could also use it for audiobooks, I was so excited!!!  I very rarely purchase books or audiobooks anymore; however, I recently discovered a podcast called, “Nothing Much Happens,” by Kathryn Nicolai. When I realized she’d compiled a bunch of these stories into a book/audiobook (with no commercials—commercials will jerk me out of a solid sleep like nobody’s business), I redeemed all of my Google Play points and I got the audiobook. Her stories are simple, descriptive, and sooooooooooo dreamy, and her voice is like butter. I’ll set the timer to 30 minutes, and I’m out like a light!!! 
  4. Music: Finding the perfect music for sleeping is DIFFICULT. For me, it can’t be piano, birds, or anything that’s high-pitched; I prefer delta-wave sounds or Deep Sleep Music.  I don’t want any chanting or weird psychic new-agey stuff; I’ve been tempted by guided meditations, but spiritually, it just feels “EW,” so I stay away from that kind of thing. I also really like basic rain sounds.
  5. Not bothering your Significant Other: Waking up your spouse with your sleeping “stuff” defeats the purpose of a “peaceful sleep.” I found these nifty headphones that are an eyemask (this is an essential piece of my sleeping habits—now my son wears one, which is hilarious), and they Bluetooth to my phone (I found mine much cheaper on Mercari). This means that my audiobook and/or sleep music is set to a volume that I like, and the lights in the bedroom can stay on so that David doesn’t trip over anything when he comes to bed (he goes to bed at least an hour after I do, since he gets up 2 hours after I do). Sleep masks may help your body’s natural production of melatonin–more on that, below.
  6. Have a schedule. This is SUPER hard to do if your spouse isn’t supportive. Mine has figured out that I’m more of a nightmare without sleep than he can handle, so he’s been on-board with helping me get this figured out for a while. I have to have 8 hours of sleep each night. This may sound like a luxury to some people (I don’t understand you 5-hours-of-sleep/night people!), but it’s an absolute necessity for me, particularly since losing my thyroid. Sleep > Almost Everything Else. I literally can’t function without enough sleep, so I keep a pretty set schedule throughout the work week. I think this was easier when my son & I went to bed at the same time, but now that he’s going to bed later than I am, it’s more of a challenge for David (who is AWESOME). So, build a schedule, and make sure your spouse is on board with it and is understanding.
  7. Aromatherapy: I like lavender, geranium, etc. in my diffuser. Diffusers don’t have to be super-expensive, and essential oils don’t need to break your bank (I’ve linked my favorite EO company–it’s NOT an MLM, rest assured). You can also use roll-on oils on pulse points (I like the ones from Ruministics), or sleep blends for either direct use (make sure you don’t need a carrier oil) or for diffusing.
  8. Planning ahead: This goes with #6, and is very important in helping to unload your brain at bedtime. If you take just a few minutes to plan ahead, you can help your morning to go so much better, and avoid unnecessary stress at night. Common sense, right? It’s surprising how many people go to bed having done nothing to plan for the next day, and then wonder why their mornings are so dreaded (adding to the stress of going to sleep)! I have a few hacks that make this go easier for all of us, particularly as David gets Jericho ready for school in the morning, and I need to keep things as simple as possible to make their mornings work, too:
    1. I plan my work clothes out for the week on Sundays. I know this is really Type-A, but I don’t want to wake my husband up when I get up at 4am with a bunch of drawers and closet doors opening and closing. I need to get up and get out, so planning is a must.
    1. Stay organized. Sometimes, I change my mind from what I’ve planned for the week. My closet is very organized so that I know where things are, and I minimize the amount of time I spend searching.
    1. Lunch plans: I try to grab my pre-packaged stuff and take it to the office on Mondays (yogurt, oatmeal packets, etc). For Jericho, I use a Shoe Organizer in the laundry room, and I fill it in advance with a juice box, a snack, a dessert, chips, etc., so that each day all he needs is the fresh stuff—a sandwich, fruit/veggies, etc.) It cuts the amount of time to prep lunches in half.
    1. Clothes packets!  For Jericho, I bundle a shirt and pants (or hoodie, t-shirt, and pants) together into his drawer. He grabs a packet, gets dressed, and life is EASY. I think everyone in the house sleeps better when they know they’re ready for the next day.
  9. Journaling: Some people swear by this. I can see how unloading your brain each night would be helpful….This does not work for me, because I can’t seem to get consistent at it. It’s a work in progress. Land of My Sojourn on Etsy makes BEAUTIFUL journals that just might help even me get consistent in journaling!
  10. Get Medical Help: If you have prolonged insomnia, get help. It could be anxiety; it could be hormonal. It could be psychiatric or a physical imbalance, or even a neurological disorder. It could be spiritual; it could be ALL of the above (which is what I run into). You can do all of the things that you can do on your own, but it’s not always enough. The stigma of taking medication for chemical/mental/hormonal issues has got to go—people die every day because they don’t take unseen illnesses more seriously. You’re worth it. You have a few options to think about:
    • Melatonin: This is considered a “natural” solution to support sleep, and is available over the counter. I hear people talk about giving it to their kids all the time; please don’t do that without talking to their pediatrician, as it’s been linked to causing seizures in children (even those without a history of seizures). I’ve tried sublingual (under the tongue) melatonin and a melatonin capsule; someone recently told me you could do both, but that seems a bit extreme. Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness (a sleep mask may help you more than you think!) and is meant to be taken as a short-term solution. I’ve probably been on it far too long. Synthetically produced supplements are cheaper than the naturally-produced ones; I’ve heard from many people in alternative healthcare that synthetic melatonin can cause crazy dreams and nightmares, so be careful! Synthetic supplements tend to be “all filler, no killer,” so if you have access to whole plant-based supplements, use them (check with your chiropractor, if you’re looking into it. Side-note: Chiropractic adjustments are a GODSEND for insomnia. Your spine houses your spinal cord, which is part of your nervous system. When your spine gets out of line, it has a huge impact on how your body switches from sympathetic to parasympathetic dominance. Do some research–it’s massively important to your overall mental function & ability to actually, physically RELAX. ).
    • Medications: There’s a ton of them, and I’ve tried a few. Ambien and other medications like it are, in my experience, too dangerous to be on the market. I’ll have to tell you the story about Ambien shopping sometimes—we had a good laugh, but it was very scary in retrospect. I’ve learned that medical doctors will sometimes prescribe medications for insomnia without regard to the psychiatric side effects. I recently spoke to a psychiatrist about a medication that my MD had prescribed, and she said it was far too strong. Her recommendation was a much lighter, non-habit forming medication that is doing a tremendous job! If you don’t need to “bring out the big guns,” don’t do it. Ask your doctor to start you out with the smallest dosage of a non-habit forming medication.
    • Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a HUGE issue that has a lot of preconceived notions. Nope—fat people aren’t the only ones who struggle with sleep apnea. I learned that it’s almost always a spouse that finally convinces a patient to get tested for sleep apnea or other sleeping issues. People with sleep apnea STOP breathing. I had a patient once who had a stroke in the middle of the night from untreated sleep apnea, and almost died; it was at that point that I basically forced my husband to get help. Shortly after David got a CPAP machine, I found out that the tumor in my throat had basically caused my windpipe to become deformed and my airway was limited. I had to get a CPAP, too, and boy-oh-boy, aren’t we attractive?!?! But you know what’s sexy? A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP, so I’ll take it. CPAP machines have come a long way, as have the masks that go with them. I wear a full-face mask; David wears one that only covers his nose. There are a TON of options to make you feel comfortable!!!! And being alive is always cool. 🙂 Sleep apnea is first determined by a sleep study, which is a pretty simple process that involves a few different methods of diagnostic testing. There’s a take-home sleep study that your doctor (PCP) or specialist (pulmonologist) can order; there’s also an in-office overnight sleep study they can order. It’s painless, and well worth it!

If you’re not sleeping at night, please consider some of the options I’ve listed. Sleep is so important! You and your family are worth you at your best, and we can’t be at our best if we can’t get some rest (hey, I’m a poet!). I’ve listed a few ideas that can help (NONE of these can be considered as medical advice, as I’m not a doctor and I’m not pretending to be one), and you may have read about even more (like, get a better mattress!!!). Take the time to figure out what’s blocking you from a good night’s sleep, and get a breakthrough!

Or, if you’re really tired, just re-read this blog. It’s long enough that it should knock you out in no time. 🙂

Sweet dreams, y’all….

Saying Goodbye to Santa…

I always knew this day would come, but I thought it would be more like, 9 or 10.

I knew that even barely introducing the concept of Santa Claus would have its consequences, but at some point I decided that cuteness and imagination outweighed whatever those would be….and now it’s time to pay the piper. My son has announced that “Santa isn’t real.”

Telling Kids the Truth About Santa | POPSUGAR Family
This might be the most fearsome Santa I have ever seen. Get this guy outta here!

Now, I have never confirmed or denied this fact. I’ve simply given him a response that is inspired by my life mentor, C. S. Lewis: “Is that a gamble you want to take?” This is loosely based on C.S. Lewis’ Trilemma, of whether or not you want to live your life in such a way that believes Jesus was real, or that He was a madman….It’s a pretty big gamble, and it makes perfect sense to me to utilize this logic when it came to the possibilities of Saint Nick, who is, as we know, based on a true story. But I digress…

The facts are the facts, and now my son is calling me on my bluff. In the interest of never again undermining my parental truths, this is the year that we metaphorically end Santa in our household…but how to do it in a way that spares imagination? In a way that keeps Christmas full of childlike wonder? IN A WAY THAT GETS ME MY GOSH-DARNED PICTURES AT CABELAS OR BASS PRO EVERY FLIPPING YEAR FOR THE SAKE OF CONTINUITY!!!! IT’S FOR POSTERITY, PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!! Ahem….

So, this year, I have a plan….Okay, it’s not much of a plan, but I thought I’d share it with you. Here goes:

  1. Jericho has only ever received 1-3 gifts from Santa. I think that’s only fair, since we work our butts off and deserve most of the credit. He’s not used to getting giant gifts from Mr. Claus, because Mr. Claus didn’t slave over an overflowing desk for the previous 11 months.
  2. Jericho has gotten a letter from Santa several times, including one which contained a gift certificate to Goodwill. Yep–at that point, Goodwill didn’t even MAKE gift certificates…but I know a fluffy lil’ elf who’s handy with clip art, thanks to years of yearbook editing.
  3. I got one gift for Jericho that’s earmarked from Santa, and it’s something he knows I would NEVER in a million years buy him. Really, I just did it to mess with him. I’ll pay for the therapy later.
  4. Finally, I wrote him the Last Letter from Santa that he will ever receive. I think I’m sending him out with a bang; I’m including it below. Feel free to borrow it if you need to.

Although I have a few regrets about introducing my kiddo to Santa in the first place, I don’t feel bad about how he’s ending. I think I have successfully brought the focus full circle, and that I’ve managed to write something that keeps the wonder and miracle of Christmas in a child’s reality, as opposed to something that’s magical and unattainable. Santa may not be real, but hope and joy are, when they are founded in the Reason for the Season.

It’s Jericho’s last Christmas with Santa, and it’s mostly sweet as opposed to bitter. He’s growing up…why does it happen so fast? I’m nostalgic, but I have so much hope for his beautiful future, and for the destiny God has for him. It’s an honor to get to watch this kiddo grow up.

Make beautiful Christmas memories, y’all. For those hearts that are hurting this season–and I know far, far too many–may His peace fall over your hearts and souls, and may His Love be the healing you need. Merry Christmas to all…..

Dear Jericho:

Merry Christmas!!!!! I see that you’re doing so well this year: You’re getting good grades, you’re learning about Jesus & the Bible, and you’re learning new things! You’re growing so much…you’re growing up, and that’s why I’m writing you this letter.

You see, when little boys and girls start growing up, certain things lose their “sparkle.” Stories about Santa Claus and reindeer are replaced with Mario and video games, and books about the North Pole are replaced with YouTube. It’s all part of getting older, and since I’m over a thousand years old (yes, over a thousand!!), I’ve watched generations of boys and girls grow up and move past believing in me.

And that’s okay.

You see, Christmas isn’t about me—it never was. In fact, all I do, and all any of my workers do (my workers—you know, the guys in the stores that dress like me, that Mom makes you take pictures with? Yeah, they work for me—but you’re right, they’re not me!) is to try and represent the truth of Christmas to a world that needs love and hope far more than it needs toys or games. When I lived in Europe (waaaaaay back in the day), I would see people in need and I would try to help them get food and shelter. Many people lived in poverty, and had no homes. I would try to get toys to the children, to bring joy to their lives, because many of them lived in sickness & in sadness. Jesus says that “the poor you will always have with you,” & it’s true. There are many, many poor & homeless people that live on this earth—even in Arnold or in Imperial!….And for every person that is poor or homeless in their body, thousands more are poor in spirit, living a life without Jesus in their hearts.

I know that you know “Santa Claus” as the TV and movies show him, is not real.  But the hope & joy that people feel when they see me is VERY real, & it’s a bright light to their soul that shines this season—almost like that beautiful Star of Bethlehem that shown over the stable where Jesus was born! THAT’s why we celebrate Christmas—not because of me, Santa Claus. We celebrate the Birth of the Baby that would save us from our sins, & Who would give us love, hope, & life forever. He’s a Reason to celebrate all year long!!!

So, you’re grown now…you’re 7, & you’re very, very smart. You’ve learned my secret…that no, I’m not real, but that I represent things that are very, very real: Hope, Joy, & Love. These are things that can only be found in Jesus, & I lived my life on earth in a way that celebrated Him to all of the people I knew.

Jericho, this will be my last letter to you, & my last present to you, so I decided to make it count…your mom might get mad at me over this, but she knows if she says too much about it, she’ll wake up with coal under her pillow!!! May your Christmas always be full of the hope, joy, and Love that comes from our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Always Your Friend,

Santa

“Breaking Down,” AKA, “How to Hide the Decline of Your Mental Health, for Dummies”

“I hear the subtle hum inside my head as I push the pillow further into my face, trying to stifle the sobs that are trying to escape: ‘You’re crazy. No one is listening. No one can help you. You’re losing it. Give up already. This is where it all falls apart. You can’t do this much longer. Admit that you’re failing. Admit that you’re nothing. You’re dying. You’re drowning. You’re dying. You’re drowning.’


Over and over, the words run through my head, fast, then slow…louder….louder….it’s a tattooed rhythm that, if I don’t stop it, will become a non-stop stranglehold that stops the air from escaping my lungs.


I feel the panic rising, and I try, try, try, TRY to breathe…I try to pray, calling on the Name of Jesus, knowing that He’s there but completely unable to grasp His peace or to hear His voice. I’m failing in this…just another thing that I’m failing at…


The water rises, and I can feel the pressure…my chest hurts, my heartbeat is heavy and erratic, and I wonder if it’s the stress, or the new medication for the never-ending headaches that seem to be beyond my doctor’s diagnostic abilities. Change a medicine. Order a test. Get some bloodwork.
Never tell anyone that your head is about to explode from the weight of all that has been layering up to bury you over the past 6 months…


Don’t tell your mother…
Don’t tell your dad.
Don’t tell your husband; he doesn’t understand and he thinks you just “love” going to the doctor…
Don’t tell your boss…you need this job, you can’t go anywhere else, and you have to make them think you’re on top of your game…
Don’t tell your friends…they’re sick of hearing about one health issue after another.
Don’t tell your pastors, because you can’t seem to pray this away…
Don’t tell your sisters…don’t tell your brother…

Surely taking it all to God is enough….
But I can’t sleep, and no matter how much worship music I pray, how hard I cry out, or what I say, there’s no miracle cure for this….

Five days…two weeks….three weeks….
How long have I been like this?
The inside of my cheeks are raw from chewing the sides of them….my skin is a disaster, and for whatever reason, I’m in constant, unrelenting pain in my wrists, feet, back, shoulders, and fingers.  It might ebb or secede, but it’s always there…”

These words…my words…were written last week. Last week…it seems like a lifetime ago. I’m not going to say that I’m not struggling, even now, but last week? I LOST IT. We’re talking, hide in my room, cry into a pillow, have to explain myself because my kid saw me lose it, Lost It. I’m still fighting through this, and I don’t say that in some way that says I’m some kind of a warrior or something dramatic. I say it because that wave of overwhelming anxiety is standing on the brink of my sanity for whatever reason, and I know I’m one wrong comment away from falling back into it. Just acknowledging my own fragility makes my chest tighten…I don’t want to go there again. I never did call my doctor…I should have, but I did a Google search on a medication I was trying to get off of, and figured out that panic attacks, massive depression, and suicidal tendencies are side effects of not tapering off of this medication correctly.

That’s not saying that I wasn’t tapering off of the medication–and yes, it was with a doctor’s supervision. I must have gotten confused on the specifics of the tapering, because it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I swear to you, I will deal with migraines until I’m blind before I go back on that medication again. My anxiety is usually manageable, but for the past 3-4 weeks, it’s gotten out of control, and last week nearly did me in. I know that sounds awfully final, but I was not in a good place.

Fortunately for me, God broke through and very lovingly, in His way, reminded me of two things: He loves me, unequivocally. Also, He gave me people in church leadership who know me and love me well, and can handle my frantic text of, “I can’t talk. Pray for me.” They know me well enough to know that I don’t say things like that, and that something is seriously wrong. They checked on me later on, and made sure I was okay…I also had a friend that knew the details of what was up, and listened–sometimes, that’s the biggest thing.

I have such a blind eye sometimes to toxic relationships…like, I’m just used to putting up with so much crap from certain people, that I haven’t even noticed what a blister they’ve rubbed on my heart, until it’s abscessed. I have forgotten to protect my heart, even though I know that when I don’t, it trickles down to my family. When chemistry goes bad (you know, all of those neurotransmitters in your brain that need to stay level or else you go off the goofy-crap-o-meter), coupled with the damages of stress and toxic relationships, it’s the kind of combination that results in only one thing: A CATASTROPHIC EARTH-SHATTERING KA-BOOM.

You know what I told my son last week, when he heard me crying in my bedroom?

I said (after I had pulled myself together), “You know what, Buddy? Everyone’s brain is a little different, and sometimes…

Sometimes, Mommy’s brain is kind of broken.

It gets overwhelmed, and it gets hurt, and then Mommy sort of crumbles and breaks down.

But it’s going to be okay…and I always know that. I just sort of have to reset sometimes, and crying, and getting all of my hurt out, does that; sometimes, Mommy’s medicines make things a little weird, too. I just have to process a whole bunch of stuff, and I will figure it out. Jesus knows what hurts, and what’s in my heart and in my brain, and He will sort it all out.”

How do you explain mental health to a seven-year old?

I have no idea, but I’ll tell you one thing: I’m always going to try.

Maybe if at 7, I had understood any concept of mental health, I would have been able to understand when mental health was good, and when it was challenging. Maybe if at 7, I had understood mental health, I would have developed the language I needed as a teenager, as a college student, as a young adult, as a grown woman, to understand that mental health challenges are NORMAL, and are just as treatable and as common as a headache, once you begin the conversation with the right people. Maybe if at 7, I had understood mental health, I would be aware that you can’t process spiritual concepts like prayer and healing, when your brain is so affected that you can’t sleep, or your eating habits are jacked up, or you’re so anxious that you can’t focus on beginning to get the Word of God into your mind. Maybe if at 7, I understood mental health, I would have understood that things like sadness, anger, stress, pressure, anxiety–NONE of these struggles mean you are a bad person, or that God loves you any differently or any less.

So, for better or for worse, I am always going to be honest with my kiddo about my broken brain.

There are physical, chemical reasons for emotional/mental imbalances…there are also spiritual reasons, and there is healing that needs to be done on multiple levels. I’m grateful for medical health…prescription medication is very helpful, even though getting the right balance of the right medication is tricky (if you’re going through this, please give yourself grace, and be candid with your doctor and with your family! It’s so, so hard, and I don’t think I’m there yet…I thought I was, and then these last few weeks hit). Spiritual health and support is KEY–please talk to your church leadership, and if they’re not the type that will respond to your text or your call for help, FIND A NEW CHURCH. There is no place in the Body of Christ for the pastor that will not shepherd his flock, and I speak from experience. I’m talking pastors, elders, home group leaders–you have to have someone in the church that will help you when you’re hurting. It’s biblical. We’re not made to go through these battles alone.

I’m still working my way through this storm. I’m not on the other side yet, even though I probably seem almost normal (whatever my “normal”) is. I’m waiting on some test results, and I’m probably going to look back into therapy. I still find myself getting caught up in the whole, “it’s expensive, and I don’t have time!!” but then I find myself making time for other things, so I need to figure this out. Stress is INTENSE, especially right now, as we’re one of many families that’s been impacted financially from COVID-19. My stresses and my mental struggles are so miniscule compared to some that I’ve heard about; I know I can’t compare myself to others, and sometimes it works against me (most of the time), but still. These are not the best of times. I’ll be glad to wave goodbye to 2020…and these past few weeks are burned into my brain as the pinnacle of the worst times I’ve had since all of this began (even worse than the spike of depression I dealt with in May).

There’s always, always, ALWAYS hope on the horizon, though, and I will not stop praying that I have my eyes open to the beauty in all of this. There are some amazing experiences that we’ve got to do and to witness through all of this. There have been blessings, there has been laughter, and there has been much to be grateful for. My biggest struggles have been in my own head, and regardless of the reason, I am so grateful that God does not abandon His own, even when they’re stuck in their own headspace. He breaks through in ways we may not even realize…we can’t give up. This world is quicksand, and it’s only getting thicker….I’ve had a recurring theme in this blog over the past year, though, and that’s how He is our Rescuer…He is our Anchor, and He’s also our Life Raft…

So, now that a week has gone by, I look back at the words that I wrote and the heaviness, though still tangible, is fading. I know it’s close by, and can lay back down at any second, so I’ve been doing some things that I know are preemptive…They’re not cure-alls, but they definitely help:

  1. I have some kind of worship music playing in the background all day long at work. Right now, I’m into Maverick City Music and I’m always into Bethel. I also like just about anything by Forerunner Music (International House of Prayer).
  2. I stopped looking at the news for more than a few minutes a day. I can’t deal with the state of this nation anymore, and I can’t handle the anxiety it induces, particularly during this election year, so I’m just checking basic headlines and I’m leaving it alone. Also, I DO NOT ENGAGE IN ARGUING WITH PEOPLE ON SOCIAL MEDIA. I also don’t tolerate people arguing on my pages. It’s nothing but a waste of time that does more to harm the body of Christ and further the thought pattern that Christians are nothing but argumentative, arrogant fools, and I won’t be a part of it. I Peter 3:15-16–I’ve quoted it enough on this blog that I’d better live it out, right? See an opinion you disagree with? Scroll on by. There–didn’t hurt, right? 🙂
  3. I’m sticking to a routine, which is easier since my son is back to in-person school (glory to GOD, y’all!). This includes getting in daily Bible readings or listening to a daily reading. Here’s the plan I’m using: https://thewaystlouis.com/bible-reading-plan/
  4. I’ve explained that certain messes in the house absolutely must be cleaned up, and need to stay clean, because I can’t handle it–messes aren’t peaceful, and I need peace. Since only one of us is working right now, that falls on the other to take care of. This mandate doesn’t win anyone any friends, but neither does having a mental breakdown at 4:30 in the afternoon. I’ve found this image helpful, as it explains things I didn’t realize (and if you’re the one in charge of cleaning, don’t take this as any kind of shade or guilt–that’s how I initially took it, and I started getting worked up over it, and then I realized that hey–I can only do so much. This is just the psychology behind it, and dang it, I’m gonna give myself some grace!!):

5. Deep breaths. I’m absolutely serious about this. I’ve botched a few presentations lately, and I’ve botched a few personal conversations lately, because I get so anxious and nervous that IJustStartTalkingAndICantShutUpAndBeforeIKnowItISaidWHAT?!? And, like toothpaste, you just can’t put those words back in the tube. It stinks. So I’m making myself breathe, deeply, and close my eyes, and refocus–sometimes in front of people, which leads to #6:

6. I’m being brutally, painfully honest. Posting this blog isn’t easy. Admitting my mental state from last week isn’t easy. Telling my husband that I’m cuckoo-crazy-pants isn’t easy. Watching him stomp up the stairs because I’ve unnecessarily snapped at him isn’t easy…and neither is apologizing a few seconds later, when he’s reemerged to find out if the weather’s changed. Admitting that I can be tumultuous (I’m being nice) isn’t easy. None of this is easy. Realizing that one tiny pill can upset this apple cart of a crap brain isn’t easy (and it’s incredibly, incredibly frustrating…not only to deal with, but to get doctors to understand). Having to make myself visibly stop and breathe/blink when in a conversation with a co-worker so that I don’t start bawling, isn’t easy, and neither is looking them dead-in-the-eye and admitting that, “hey, I’m sorry–I’m a mess right now while we adjust some medications” is NOT EASY, and I have to wonder what the professional impact will be. I’m not afraid to ask for kindness if I need to, I don’t think….but–

#7. I am worth it. My mental health is worth sorting out and worth paying attention to. My stability is worth fighting for, especially for my family’s sake, because being a wife & a parent is everything I’ve ever wanted in my life, and dang it, I’m not going to watch that relationship be affected or lost because I didn’t put the time, the education, the prayer, the help, into it.

If you’re still reading, please know that above all, YOU ARE WORTH IT, too. Jesus says so, and He’s said it from the beginning of time. You–not some ambiguous people group. You, as an individual, YOU are so loved, and you are so worth PEACE….I think that’s what mental, and spiritual health, all tie into–peace. We can’t have peace in our hearts when we’re fighting so hard, but we can’t give the battle over to the Lord when our brains are imbalanced. It’s a battle against flesh (the brain) and blood (the spiritual), and it’s one that starts with Him. He uses all sorts of things–meds, prayer, health and mental care providers–He has endless resources, and He loves you so much that He’s in this fight even more than you are.

You’re loved. Keep fighting. We’re in this together—I’m not saying that to be trite; I’m saying it because it’s true. ❤



Additional Resources:

https://www.aloveworthlivingfor.com/blog/verses-for-social-anxiety

https://themighty.com/2019/02/bible-verses-mental-health-depression-anxiety/

https://www.openbible.info/topics/mental_health

“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?”

In my last blog, I mentioned that if you look hard enough, Hamilton lyrics can be applied in the majority of life’s situations. I’m doubling-down on it, especially right now (does that get hyphenated? Hmm…). Ever since I first heard the soundtrack, the song, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” has resonated with me:

“And when you’re gone, who remembers your name?
Who keeps your flame?
Who tells your story?”

“And when my time is up, have I done enough?
Will they tell your story?”

“Oh, I can’t wait to see you again
It’s only a matter of time
Will they tell your story?
Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

I often think of the difference between the written and the spoken word. I had English teachers in high school & college who invested so much into me and into my writing…I hope I’ve made them somewhat proud (and that they’re forgiving of the occasional run-on sentence and/or “excessive verbiage” that one of them often accused me of…and rightfully so…have you read my blogs?!?!?). I’m often told that I write as if I’m speaking to someone, that I’m a “conversant writer,” and I’ve always found that to be an interesting compliment. Like, is that a back-handed compliment? Is it a compliment at all? I’m actually not sure.

My goal is always to write with honesty, even when I contradict myself (which seems more common through these crazy, fluid, everything-is-uncertain time). I don’t mind it when someone messages me and says, “Hey, you’re wrong,” or when they respectfully disagree with me (I have one particular friend who excels at respectful disagreements. I look forward to them, and yes, he’s actually changed my mind on Facebook, so it DOES happen). I’m constantly learning, and I hope that’s my permanent state of being. I firmly believe that when we stop being honest, and we stop being open to other perspectives or to discussions with those whom we wouldn’t necessarily agree with, that we stop learning, and when we stop learning, we stop growing. Honesty and respect are two words we are sorely lacking in society these days, so I want to buckle in and hold on to them more tightly than ever before…

The written word leaves a legacy—it’s the opportunity for us to claim our narratives, for us to leave our mark somewhere, even if it’s just in cyberspace. Every stroke of the keyboard is an indelible impression on the universe that may someday disappear, but with the retention of the digital world, probably not completely. Our Twitter feed, our Facebook statuses…every single one of them is marked in the annals of the digital history of the world. That’s insane—especially when I consider just how many idiotic posts I’ve made and/or “liked” over the years. It gives us an opportunity to truly think before we post: How will this affect my job? How will this affect my family? How does this reflect my faith?

Someone once told me to never end a blog on a bad note—to always try to find a way to end it with hope. I took her advice to heart, and I’ve tried to do that in every situation. I haven’t always succeeded, but sometimes, forcing myself to refocus and to view life through a lens of hope has been such an incredible healing process. Even when I’m drowning in my own cynicism, and I want to wallow in whatever pathetic state I’m in, I have to stop. It’s about His story and how He’s working in and through my life….even when I’m being “pathetic.” He Still Works—through all of us.

I have found myself thinking about the lyrics of Hamilton, and about the concept of legacies, for a few weeks now. It’s not because I have some kind of morbid fascination with death (in spite of how much of it is inundating our media these days). I think it’s because the older I get, the more I realize how short time gets. Days fly by, one bleeding into another, and it feels like it’s going even faster in the wake of COVID-19. I’m on my hamster wheel of work-home-work-home-work-weekend-work, and it feels both exhausting and never-ending. The needs are never met, the questions aren’t getting answered, and there’s no stability, so it seems especially draining. There’s no time to stop—to just stop—and to process before something else comes along to upset the apple cart (THERE IS NO CART! AND THE APPLES ARE FALLING EVERYWHEEERRRRE!). Murders in the St. Louis area are up by 30%, and there’s no justice. The nation is fractured and broken, and we’re on the cusp of an election that would take an act of God to be peaceful (please, God, do something). We are speeding along an Autobahn of chaos, and there is nothing stopping the insanity (that we can see).

The anxiety builds…and it’s tangible.

Time is shorter in unsettled waters…

What stays?

“Who lives, who dies, who tells Your story?”

I want to.

I hope that I have.

For me, the spoken word gets me into trouble. My lack of a filter combined with a face that physically can’t stop emoting bundles together to create some kind of idiotic verbal Thunderdome. I swear far too easily (a lazy man’s way of expression), I ramble too much, and I struggle with interrupting people. I’ll say it—I’m obnoxious (at times). The spoken word is fleeting & annoying…No one remembers your spoken words, but they sure as heck remember their impression of you based on what you said. I hate to think about what people think of me and of what I represent, based on verbal conversations.

The written word is permanent, and WILL be used against you…

So, how do you want it to be used?

To answer Hamilton’s questions…

I don’t care who remembers my name….have I written in such a way that people remember the Name of Jesus? The Hope that He brings?

Have I kept His flame burning throughout what I write? Will my own words be enough to convict me, if my faith becomes prosecutable? Have I lived a life of clear faith, or have I been satisfied with a lukewarm life of treading water?

 “I ask myself, what would you do if you had more time?
The Lord, in His kindness
He gives me what you always wanted
He gives me more time…”

Have I done enough? Have I told Your story? Have I glorified Your Name?

I’ll keep writing “like I’m running out of time.”

It’s not enough.

 

*Photo Credit: Hamilton magnets by HeyThatsCuteStudio on Etsy–Shop St. Louis! Shop Single Mom!

 

“Stay Alive.”

Hamilton

I think it’s fair to say that most of life’s situations can probably be addressed in lyrics from Hamilton, if you look hard enough. That’s the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda. If I had a .015% of his brain power, I’d have figured out how to make the whole blogging-thing a career by now. 🙂 Say what you will about the man’s politics–his creativity & talent are simply unparalleled, both currently and in history, and his ability to turn a phrase? RIDICULOUS.

You know what else is ridiculous?!?!?

The fights in this nation right now, over a simple, easy-to-use, potentially fashionable scrap of material.

Wearing a face mask has become this ridiculous, left vs. right, conspiracy-theory laden soap box, and it BLOWS. MY MIND.

the-universe-it-blows-my-mind

I’ve gotten to a place where I don’t feel like I can trust people, where what they say doesn’t match what they do….I don’t feel like people are being honest about their COVID exposures (like, why am I finding out that I may have had a secondary exposure, a week after the fact and through a different person than the one I was with?!?), or about their testing (I’m negative). I promise you, if I’m looking at you, I’m secretly wondering if you’re actually following recommendations, or if you’re gonna be the one that passes along a disease that could kill me.

That’s where I’m at.

I just want to “stay alive.”  I know that sounds dramatic, but tell that to the over 1,000 people in Missouri that have died from this garbage (& yeah, I know the amount of flu deaths is higher–this furthers the reason to wear masks during flu season as well as during the pandemic).

I fail to understand why wearing a mask, or a requirement to wear a mask, has become some sort of, “You’re inhibiting my freedoms! If you wear a mask, you’re just a slave to the media!!” HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?!?

Look, man, I don’t want to catch this COVID crap. I don’t want to inadvertently pass it along, either. I just want to “stay alive,” and I want my family to do the same. Wearing a mask may or may not be the “best” or “most convenient” method of prevention, but it doesn’t hurt. IT’S NOT HURTING YOU. It’s not hurting me, either.

Frankly (and this won’t win me any anti-mask friends), I feel like if you’re so selfish that you don’t want to wear a simple, little piece of cloth on your face, then maybe you need to check your heart. Are we so arrogant that we can’t stop and pause for a second, and wonder if we may inadvertently infect someone with this virus? Are we so arrogant, and so blind, that we can’t possibly fathom that we may catch this thing ourselves??

I feel like a certain faction is stuck in that whole, “well, nothing bad will EVER happen to me” line of garbage that some people like to believe (Christians are particularly bad about this, thanks to a hot streak of prosperity-laden garbage preaching in the 90’s). They’re stuck in this faction that they’re so awesome, that germs couldn’t POSSIBLY stick to them and be passed along to someone….’cause they’re PERFECT.

Y’all are delusional, and you’re gonna kill people.

PERIOD.

SO, now I’m struggling with not being in fear so much of the disease, as I am afraid of the lack of honesty and reality to the people I’m surrounded by.

If you’re angry at a store because they’ve decided to make it a mandate that you wear a mask when you go through those doors, check your heart. THEY HAVE EMPLOYEES TO PROTECT. They have massive liabilities, should they have a positive test affect their business. This nation hasn’t been this financially fragile since….well, since Alexander Hamilton built our financial systems. It’s only by the business practices of our current President that we’re not up a creek right now (say what you will about the man; his trade arrangements and positions on jobs are doing wonders for our country). Businesses need to stay open; people need and want to work. If your arrogant self marches in their store, even if you’re asymptomatic, and inadvertently infects people, then you could cause the fallout from this pandemic to continue going on for months…Or you could inadvertently be responsible for someone’s death from the disease…

Wearing this tiny, 4×6″ piece of material on your face ISN’T HURTING YOU. It’s keeping you from spreading as many germs, and it’s keeping you from inhaling as many germs (it’s obviously not fail-proof. No one is believing that lie). It may not be comfortable (I’m broke out from mine), but they’re inexpensive to make and to buy, and it’s a simple thing you can do to prevent and/or slow the spread of this disease.

I can’t understand how the anti-mask faction justifies the risk over their own comfort. Because people can’t be personally responsible and take control over their own actions, now the police and the government have to step in like we’re selfish little babies, and make masks a mandated thing.

Because people can’t be personally responsible and take control over their own actions, stores like Wal-Mart are requiring you to wear a mask for your own protection. How stupid is that, and how personally insulting is it that WAL-MART has to tell us what to do?!?!? WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY WHERE FRICKIN’ WAL-MART IS TELLING US WHAT TO DO. I’m offended by the fact that it’s come to this point (also, I hate Wal-Mart–but y’all already know that).

EDIT: I came across this meme and laughed so hard that I had to add it back in here. Please don’t be offended—okay, maybe be offended a tiny bit–but c’mon, you KNOW it’s true!!!!!!!!

WALMART

Look, I don’t particularly like wearing these dang things. I have to wear one in my office, so I get it…but I also, again, don’t know or care about the comings-&-goings of other people in my office. I don’t know or trust that they’re being responsible on their “off” time, and I’m not taking any chances. I know the science is questionable, and my trust isn’t in this little piece of material; my trust is in God.

The Bible tells us to ask for wisdom, and to act with wisdom. My wearing a mask doesn’t mean I’m a lemming or a leftie; it simply means that I CARE about my own health, and the health of those around me.

My wearing a mask means that I am doing a small part to help myself and those I care about, to avoid the pandemic and to keep us all working and living. I like this quote from Clare Johnson, “Mask-wearing is an exercise in the spiritual practice of love of neighbor. I wear my mask as a sign of my love and care for others, especially those who are most at risk. Jesus tells us that when we care for “the least of these,” we are really serving him. I believe that by caring for the most vulnerable among us, I am following Christ’s example.”

It’s the epitome of loving your neighbor–let that sink in.

Meanwhile, here’s a few more articles, if you’re so inclined:

https://biologos.org/articles/walking-by-faith-and-wearing-a-mask

Four Reasons to Wear a Mask (Even if you Hate It)

And this one, which draws some interesting parallels about salvation and masks (because we Christians love our parallels)…

Our freedoms are not being taken away because a store asks us to mask up–that’s a conspiracy-theory laden mindset, and you can go down those rabbit holes all day long. Just put some tin-foil over your ears, if that’s your line of thought. 🙂

12520479

There are enough conspiracies out there that are MUCH more frightening than a simple, 4×6″ piece of materials, people.

Just wear the dang mask. It’s seriously not hurting you, and in some cases that you may never realize, it just might save your life.

And don’t get salty with those stores that are requiring a face covering–you have no idea what it’s taking for business to stay open right now, and if wearing a little piece of fabric over your pie-hole keeps this economy going? To quote a company I shall never name again, “just do it.”

For a list of Missouri mask requirements, click here.

For CDC mask information (which, as we all know, changes every day–this fact has NOT escaped me, people. I trust them about as much as I trust Missouri weather), click here.

And, to listen to the full soundtrack of Hamilton (because it’s amazing), click here.

Chaos and Christmas Cookies

Christmas seems to be such a time of heightened emotions and drama, right? Either we’re emotional because we’re happy-reminiscing, or we’re emotional because we’re sad reminiscing, or we’re freaking out because there’s too much to do, or we’re filled with abundant joy because of what we’re surrounded with (hyped-up kids). Or, we’re stuffing our fists in our mouths so that we don’t say the wrong thing at our family gatherings…or we’re on a sugar high because COOKIES, or we’re disappointed because no matter how hard we try, we will NEVER BE MARTHA FRICKIN’ STEWART, or we’re hiding in our bedrooms for 2 seconds of peace because of school vacations, or…

Peace.

When the angels came to the shepherds (who were no doubt freaking the heck out, because angels are NOT soft, cuddly lil’ things with wings and halos, NOT TO MENTION the fact that they just SUDDENLY appeared out of NOWHERE. In some translations, Luke 2 says they were “terrified,” and who wouldn’t be?!?!?), they made it a point to say, “Peace.”

Of all of the things that the angels could have said, particularly in regards to the mission they were on, don’t you find it so indicative of the loving nature of God, that they used the word, “Peace?” They wanted their announcement of our Savior to be met not with fear, but with rejoicing…not with dread, but with peace. He wanted us to greet His Son with Peace…that amazes me!

Yet, this season is often met with anything but…

And I am no exception.

I work in a University, which means that I am beyond blessed to have some time off in December and January. This also means that I have a ton of projects that are wrapping up at work, along with my own Christmas preparations. I have schedules to finish, papers to process, contracts to review, doctors to credential, and compliance training to complete. I’m swamped, and I can be very short on patience.

At home, there is cleaning, cooking, baking, groceries to shop for, presents to wrap, recipes to hunt down…laundry that still somehow manages to pile up (even though I swear, I’ve worn the same t-shirt through 3 days of baking…okay, that’s TMI). A few weeks ago, I had to make a run to the grocery store with my kiddo in tow. He’s usually pretty good in the store, so I thought, “Okay, this time, I’m not going to lift him into the cart. My back is hurting pretty badly, and I just don’t want to lift him. He’ll be fine.” And he was…for the first half of the store.

And then he lost his dang mind.

I have no idea what set him off, but he got plain ornery, as we say in my neck of the woods, and I just about spanked his rear in the baking aisle. I was NOT having it, so I hiked him into the cart, and told him I’d had enough. I needed to get some basic greeting cards for work. I saw this blue card that said, “Peace on Earth,” and “Goodwill to all mankind,” and I thought, “Hey, it doesn’t say ‘Merry Christmas!’ I can use these for work!!”

Um…

Do you see what I see, in the picture that heads up this blog?

I was so distracted by my shopping lists and my crazy kiddo, that I didn’t see the Manger in the middle of the card.

I finished my shopping and had my son stand in the corner while I bagged groceries. I’m sure I was the picture of Christmas peace, let me tell you. 🙂

mADEA PEACE BE STILL

We made it home; I got the stuff put away, and my kiddo straightened up his behavior before the TV remote got hidden for the remainder of the night.

A few days later, I was sitting in my office, writing out my cards, when suddenly, I looked at the picture again. There it was, looking right back at me–The Manger.

And I’d missed it.

At first, I laughed with a Jewish friend of mine–“Look what I missed!” She said, “Well, so much for inclusivity, right?” “Yeah!  LOL–Can I still use them?” She said she thought they were fine, so I went ahead with it. I even posted it on Instagram, laughing about my typical dippy-ness. Pretty quickly behind that, though, came a feeling of sadness: How, in the middle of all of this madness, could I have missed the very thing that Christmas is all about?

I felt the Lord say to me, “My story will be told, even when you don’t see how. Even when you overlook Me, I’m still here”  Ooof….yep, that got me.

I had to repent–even though it is such a small thing, it’s true that I had my eyes off of Jesus in the midst of the chaos of my life. The card may have said, “Peace on Earth,” but my stress levels said everything but. How did I get so caught up in this mess?!?

After Thanksgiving, our holiday decorations went up. This year, I gave Jericho the job of setting up the Nativity that I’d bought for his first Christmas. It’s unbreakable, so I felt like I could breathe a bit.  🙂  I set up the stepladder, and let him do what he wanted.

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I’m kind of your typical Type A person, and I have “my” way of doing things. It’s hard for me to turn loose of things and to let other people give things a shot (I think “Type A” is just a classier way of saying, “anal-retentive,” and I will totally cop to my being a control freak in certain situations). He set up the Nativity scene, and I inwardly cringed–everyone was facing the “wrong” way!!!!  But, I took some deep breaths, and I left it alone…he deserves to have decorations, too, so I got over myself….and then, the Type-A Grinch’s heart grew THREE SIZES that day!!!

grinch

Every time I take a look at the Nativity, I smile a little more, & I feel the Father send me a wink. Every character in this scene is solely focused on the Baby in the Manger.
They’ve turned their backs to the distraction, and they’re focused on the Promise that’s in front of them.

They weren’t so busy that they missed the Manger that was standing right in front of them, right under The Star.

They weren’t so caught up by what people would think…by deadlines and groceries and recipes and outfits and schedules…that they missed the fulfillment of the Promise of God.

My son set up this Nativity where every single character is captivated by the scene before them….captivated by the sight of a Savior that would eventually bring Peace on Earth.

I’m humbled.

I’m correcting my oversight, because a six-year old boy unintentionally pointed out the biggest spiritual lessons of Christmas, right under my nose. I may have missed the Manger, but he sure didn’t.

This past week, I’ve had questions about my faith brought up to the surface…broken places that I thought were healed, came up in a way that I had to lay them before God. We had some intense conversations this week, and I truly felt Him whisper into my heart a renewal of faith…an awakening of sorts…and a restored peace that I didn’t realize I was missing. Feelings of inadequacy came in like an earthquake, and I could see the cracks in my foundation; rather than tell me “you should know better!” or, “hasn’t it been long enough? Aren’t you past this?!?” I felt Jesus say, “It’s okay. I’m the same God now as I was 13 years ago; I was the same then that I was 1300 years ago. Things you see on this earth do not define Who I Am, and when I tell you that I Am enough, you can believe that it is, it was, and it will always be true. I felt Him echo those words about me…”Cassidy, you are ENOUGH. Trust in Who you know I Am.”

Chaos in the past…confusion in the present…fear of the future–these are all things that cause us to curl into a ball of static rejection and anxiety. They steal our peace, and they separate us from God and the joy that He gives. These are things that build armor around our hearts and minds, and cause us to feel alone in the dark…but that’s not where He calls us to be.

The shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem were out on night watch. It was dark, boring, and dangerous work; in a darkness like that, who could possibly predict what criminal or starving animal would approach, next? It was smelly, terrifying, and pitch-black…but then God came, and everything changed in an instant:

[a]Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. 10 The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 [b]For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 [c]“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-14, NABRE)

 

God loved us so much that He gave His only Son to die on a Cross for our sins, and to be resurrected again three days later. He did all of this, so that He wouldn’t have to go through the suffering of losing a child ever again…He doesn’t want to lose a single one of us.

In this season, my hope is that we will all stop and see the Manger in a new way…My hope is that we can all take some time and solely focus on the gift that God gave us, in bridging the gap between sin and salvation with His Son, Jesus.

We are so grateful to the Lord for our son, for our families, and for our friends (that means YOU!). We’re thankful for our church and our pastors, and for the fact that they never stop their relentless pursuit of Jesus.

Have a blessed and wonderful Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, and of course, a wonderful Boxing Day, eh?!?  Celebrate the season with joy and wonder, and may the peace of God be on your household.

See you in 2020 (and yes, in my field, I’m “looking” forward to a year’s worth of terrible jokes)!!! Shalom, y’all!

 

 

 

13…

Every year around Hannah’s birthday, I Google things that girls her age like. I’m not sure why; I think because it helps clarify what she might have been like, had she lived. This year (today, actually), she’d be 13, so I looked up what a 13 year-old girl would like. I’m now convinced that I’m secretly still a teenager, because EVERYTHING on the list is something I like!!! 🙂  Seriously–a mini Polaroid camera? A tie-dye kit? Bluetooth headphones? YES, PLEASE!

I can look back on myself at 13 and remember what I liked (Lisa Frank EVERYTHING! Flamingos! Pink notebook paper!).

lisa frankI have to laugh–it was such an awkward time for me. I was all neck and legs, big puffy hair, and glitter. I was finally old enough to wear makeup; I was too tall for the dress code; and I was still wearing the Coke-bottle plastic frames that everyone wore in the late-80’s/early 90’s. I was in the 7th-&-8th grades; I was a dramatic, hormonal mess; and I had deep, deep hatred of hairbrushes (my hair had just decided to be curly, and it was a shock). I blogged recently about what I’d say to myself at 15; I think it’s totally different than what I’d say to myself at 13, because the drama level at 13 is A LOT. I think I barely survived that year. 🙂

Back to 2019…Thirteen year-olds today are VERY different than 13 year-olds in the 90’s. The threats they face; the exposure they get; it’s more than I can comprehend at almost 42. I don’t have a CLUE about how they make it, or what kind of parents they have to have. What would David & I be like, if she were here? Would we ever let her out of our house?!?!  How does anyone let a teenager out of their house?!?!?!?! I’m considering installing invisible fences. 🙂

I’m kidding, of course…..of course…..well, mostly…..

My little girl would be 13 years old…almost grown. And as much as I want to sit and reflect on what she’d be like, I’m finding that I can’t. There’s been a tremendous amount of healing that has happened over time, but when I try to fill that hole with what might have been, I realize that although I have a fantastic imagination, it doesn’t stretch that far.

I have no idea what she would be like.

I don’t want to sit here and say that it’s “okay” that she’s with Jesus. That will never be okay, if I’m honest, because I will always miss her, and I will always wonder why she died. The longing and the wonder will never go away, and I don’t think that I need to justify that. It’s not a sign that healing hasn’t or won’t continue to progress. It’s a sign that I am a mother that is missing her child, and that it’s unnatural for us to not be together. Moms want their babies, period, whether they’re 5 days old or 50 years old. We’re created to be with our children, and when that is taken away, there’s a hole. The only thing that can close that gap is Jesus, and even with that, the scars are sensitive. After 13 years, it’s a “tolerable” grief, but it’s still grief. I miss her.

I don’t have answers when I get asked questions like, “why?” All I can say is that I believe she’s with the Lord, and that one day, I will be, too. I can tell you with all sincerity that I believe in Heaven and in Hell;  I can tell you that I believe one day in His presence is like a thousand years on earth, and that what I feel like is a lifetime, is a split-second where I know my daughter is at. I believe in Jesus, and in His will, even when I don’t understand it. Faith means believing when we don’t see. We don’t see things clearly on earth; we see them once we’re in eternity. I can rest when I put my eyes on Jesus, and let Him sort out all of the details. He knows what He’s doing.

Tonight, before we get home, Jericho & I are going to stop and get a little cake (or I might bake one, depending on how I make it through the day), and he’s going to goof off and make me laugh, and I’m going to tell him a little bit more about her. I might show him some more pictures, and he’s most likely going to ask some uncomfortable questions–that’s totally okay. More than anything, I want him to understand that we’re grateful for the time we had with her, and for the impact she made. I want him to understand that Jesus brings restoration and healing, even in the midst of confusion and questioning. I don’t know what kind of situations our son will face in his future, but I know that if we can impart to him the undeniable love, compassion, and plan that God has for his life, then we’ve done our job as parents for both of our children.fb_img_154071595978315789262.jpg

I was reminded the other day that my story is His story. I can’t tell the story of Hannah’s life, or of our life before, during, and after her loss, without starting and finishing by pointing everything back to God. We’ll always miss our daughter, in this life. We rest securely in the knowledge that Heaven is real; we also have peace in knowing that salvation through Jesus Christ is possible, and that He can redeem any person and any situation. Grief is temporary (temporary is a relative term); His love is permanent, and Heaven is eternal.

II Corinthians 4:18: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Grief doesn’t win. Death doesn’t win.

Love wins.

And it’s because of His Love, that I can still say, “Happy birthday, Hannah Elizabeth Gayle!” I can know that she is loved and cared for, and that I have such hope:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” –Revelation 21:3-4

 

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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