Cardiology Update!!!!

So, for any of y’all that don’t know, back in 2006, I delivered my daughter Hannah via emergency C-section due to severe preeclampsia.

Long story short, my physician was a third-generation OB/GYN who had basically written off my complaints of being short of breath during my second and third trimester. My daughter was delivered at 34 weeks, and the preeclampsia was “supposed” to resolve…except it got worse. I wound up in full congestive heart failure due to peripartum cardiomyopathy and pulmonary hypertension. My left ventricle blew up like a balloon–it was 3x the size of the rest of my heart, and my lungs were full of fluid. In the first night after my diagnosis, if I remember correctly, they removed 30 pounds of fluid from my body that I had retained. Dealing with that, post C-section? Not cool.

As most of you know, my daughter passed away at 29 days of age, due to Late-Onset Group B Strep and bacterial meningitis. Her cause of death was not due to my heart failure-it was a completely unrelated issue. We were told for years that due to the extent of the damage my heart had gone through, that we should never have another child….but we did not believe them. Cardiologist after cardiologist refused to see me as a patient, until Dr. Michael Paul, perinatologist at Mo-Bap, referred me to Dr. Robert Kopitsky, who did the right tests and discovered that miraculously, my heart had recovered to running at 50-55%, which was completely normal! I had no scarring, no permanent damage, and I was cleared to get pregnant with my son. It was the best news I’d ever heard!

Through my pregnancy with Jericho, my heart was closely monitored, and I was admitted to Mo-Bap at 32 weeks along. At that point, my cardiac function was already less than 30%. It continued to decline, and the decision was made to deliver early once again. I had excellent care, and my miracle baby was born! My heart was still an issue, and remained closely monitored & medicated for the next few years.

In 2016, I had an echocardiogram performed, and my cardiologist (I’d had to find a new doctor due to insurance changes) put my estimated cardiac function at 40-45%. That’s not bad, but it’s not normal; however, my cardiologist said it was acceptable and to be happy with it, “because you’re stuck there. I don’t think you’ll see those numbers improve.'”

And you know what? I was happy with that. I mean, c’mon, I almost died–twice! I’m happy with what I can get!!!! I took my regular meds and considered myself blessed!

Last month, my new PCP said it was time to check on my heart again. I’ve had some issues with stress, headaches, and back pain, so she wanted to rule anything out. My cardiologist agreed, so last week, I went in for a new echo. I got the phone call from his nurse today, as I was getting ready to leave my office.

MY HEART FUNCTION IS AT 60%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m completely floored–the nurse said, “We just don’t see that. We don’t see those numbers with people with your history. Someone is looking out for you, for sure.” HA!!!!! Ya’ THINK?!?!?!?

My mind is blown. Like, I wasn’t even praying about it–I just accepted 40-45% and went on my way. Subconsciously, I think I was writing off even trying to exercise or anything, because why bother if I’m “stuck?” I come from a long family history of crappy hearts, so I just took it for granted that this is my life.

BUT IT’S NOT.

God takes over and answers prayers when we don’t even ask. He works miracles that we don’t expect or anticipate. David & I are in this season of struggle, where things have been extremely stressful. Yet in this, over and over again, I keep seeing little things, and big things, and random things, that remind me that God is watching. He is PRESENT. He meets needs we didn’t even know that we had. He loves us, He works in our lives unexpectedly, AND HE STILL WORKS MIRACLES!!!

Spiritually, mentally, and now physically (multiple times!), my heart has been broken and repaired in miraculous ways. I know it may sound dramatic to say, but I will shout this testimony from the ROOFTOPS, y’all, because I know my God is in the business of healing hearts.

“My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King! My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore, God has blessed You forever.”–Ps. 45:1-2, NASB

Part 4: Redefining Family Structure in the Church, AKA, “*But it Wouldn’t Be Nothin’….Without a Woman or a Girl.”

*I couldn’t just mention that song in my last blog without finishing the line in this one, right?

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Natural-Order-of-The-Family

Hey, look at that! The Pesky Umbrella Graphic got an upgrade!!! Well, it may have brighter colors and a few changes in the wording, but hey, guess what?

It’s still missing the mark.

Before I jump into all of that, though, let’s recap:

  1. The intro: His Banner Over Me is Love (AKA, “I am NEVER on the bottom of the totem pole”)
  2. Part 2: “Married/Single: There’s a Place for You
  3. Part 3: “This is a Man’s World

And after weeks (maybe months) of sitting on it, I think I’m finally ready to write the part of this series that’s the most difficult to me: “Redefining the Role of a Woman.”

I want to state again very clearly before I tackle this topic that I am NOT a feminist. You won’t find me wearing a “P” hat, burning my bra and screaming about the patriarchy (okay, you MIGHT find me burning my bra, let’s be real here). You will find me, however, more than willing to engage in discussions about respect and expectations, and I think that’s really at the crux of it all. People want to be respected, and treated well. No one wants to be treated as “less than” for any reason, especially if it’s because of facts that are out of their control. I recently blogged about why I’m grateful for Title IX training in my place of work, and why I think Christians have failed in getting and staying educated in such matters. Sexual harassment and improprieties stem from an overall lack of respect for another individual (& from an overdeveloped sense of entitlement & lack of humility). Last January, I blogged about hoping for a day when we rise up and instead of saying, #MeToo, we say, #IAm. What if we went from being victims and from being victimized, to being a people that are aware of the great Love with which we are created? A people that recognize that greatness in each other, and respect it? It would be the death of the #TimesUp movement, because the time for improprieties and inappropriate behaviors would TRULY be “Up.”

More than just respect, however, comes a need for people to seek God and ask Him the question, “Who do You say I am?” When we start…just to start…to ask Him that question and wrap our heads and our hearts around His response, we find ourselves shell-shocked by GRACE.

A leader in our Church told us we needed to ask God that question a few weeks ago. Since he made that statement, there has been a seismic shift in our church body that we’re all reeling from. We’re all processing, and a lot of people have been deeply wounded by the actions of another…yet in the midst of that, the question remains: “We are wounded. We’re bloody on the battlefield, God, but who do You say we are?”

He looks back at all of us, and His answer is the same: “You Are My Beloved.”

His banner over us as a corporate body, and as individual people, is still, in the midst of it all, Love.

When we look at each other the way HE looks at us, what choice do we have but to treat each other with grace and forgiveness? With love and respect? And in that treatment, where is there room for inequality or hierarchies?

I’m not a feminist. I’m an equalist. We are different in our roles and our responsibilities, but we are not worth more or higher than another. The only One that’s above any of us is Jesus. He’s the only One Who is worthy!

When we look at this Pesky Umbrella Graphic, it really does defy logic. It doesn’t make any sense!! WHAT’S HOLDING UP THE UMBRELLA, PEOPLE?!? It requires a central line and support pieces. What’s that supposed to be, in this graphic? IT’S NOT DEFINED. Whoops. There’s an artist somewhere who’d flat-out failed.

When I wrote the blog on them role of the husband in the household, I didn’t have the updated version of the Pesky Umbrella Graphic (the PUG) to work off of. I am not going to tackle the role of children in thein the household at this time; that may come later. For now, I am sticking to husbands & wives.

For the man, it states that role of the husband is to:

  1. To Protect the Family
  2. To Provide for the Family
  3. To Lead the Family.

That’s similar enough to the older version of the PUG that I’m not going to recap it for the sake of comparison. You can check out the link that’s listed above if you want the breakdown. I’m focusing on women in this blog.

The PUG graphic is basing itself on Ephesians 5. The older version of the PUG states that the role of a woman is:

  1. To Be a Helper to the Husband
  2. Raise Godly Children
  3. Submit to Husband’s Authority

The newer version of the PUG states that the role of the woman is:

  1. To Comfort
  2. To Teach
  3. To Nurture

I have to say, the older version of the PUG makes the hair on my arms stand up, and in fact, by omission, so does the newer version. This kind of thinking–this hierarchical system–is what belittles women and devalues their contributions to the household. It creates a system that opens doors to abuse and to second-guessing the unique roles that God designed us as women to take on.

I did a lot of thinking and questioning regarding this topic. I mean, the Word is the Word, right?

Ephesians 5–let’s take a look at it, because it’s really what this whole hierarchical system comes from:

Wives and Husbands

21 Honor Christ and put others first. 22 A wife should put her husband first, as she does the Lord. 23 A husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head and the Savior of the church, which is his own body. 24 Wives should always put their husbands first, as the church puts Christ first.
25 A husband should love his wife as much as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. 26 He made the church holy by the power of his word, and he made it pure by washing it with water. 27 Christ did this, so that he would have a glorious and holy church, without faults or spots or wrinkles or any other flaws.
28 In the same way, a husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself. A husband who loves his wife shows that he loves himself. 29 None of us hate our own bodies. We provide for them and take good care of them, just as Christ does for the church, 30 because we are each part of his body. 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother to get married, and he becomes like one person with his wife.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I understand it to mean Christ and his church. 33 So each husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself, and each wife should respect her husband.

I can’t, and I won’t, argue with the Word of God. My issues are not with what the Bible says. My issue is how it’s been interpreted, and how that interpretation has been twisted to manipulate women in particular. I want to be very, VERY clear, once again, that I AM NOT ARGUING WITH THE WORD OF GOD. Even when it uses words that rankle me in today’s retaliatory feminist construct, I’m not disputing it. I’m disputing the misinterpretation. Women were NEVER meant to be on the bottom of anyone’s list. Period.

The old PUG states that we are to “be a helper” to our husband, while the new PUG says we’re to be a “comfort.” I am not going to deny that we have a job to be a helper to our husband….but we share that responsibility. He is our helper, we are his helper. We are co-helpmates. It may be something as simple as, “I’m going to load the dishwasher; you can put the dishes away,” or something as complex as, “I’m confused as to my role in the church and I don’t understand what God is doing right now; would you listen to me and help me sort this out and get some focus?” When you have a relationship where there are medical issues, where you can’t keep up with what you need to get done, your spouse has to jump in and help you. Marriage is not about one person leaning on the other all of the time. Marriage is about two people leaning on Jesus, and working together for His common goal, whatever that looks like. It’s not co-dependent; it’s two independent people recognizing their weaknesses and learning the strengths that God put in the other to make the family work together for His purposes!

To be honest, I’m not as bothered by the new PUG stating that it’s our role to be a “comfort” as I am by the old PUG stating that it’s our job to be “a helper,” because I can see how one would assume that we as women take on that role of being a “comforter.” I get it, even though I know it doesn’t apply to all (having a uterus does not mean one is automatically a naturally-comforting person). I’m more bothered at the inequality of the old PUG stating ONLY for the women, is it a job to be a helper. Genesis 2:18 states that from the very beginning of Creation, God recognized that Man was not meant to be alone, and that he needed a helper “fit” for him. We’re designed to work together. One piece of a puzzle does not paint a picture; it takes pieces fitting together to make the whole scene come to life!

The second part of the PUG states that the role for women is to “raise the children,” or in the new PUG, “to teach.”

Please allow me a second to get up on my soapbox, & turn up my microphone so I can Bless God’s People.

STOP. DEMEANING. FATHERS. BY. ASSIGNING. GENDER ROLES. TO PARENTING.

It is NOT the role of the woman to raise the children all by herself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (how many exclamation points can I add without it becoming obnoxious?)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This goes back to the blog about the role of a man, and the things I said about the cyclical treatment of women by men, and of men by women.

We love our spouses. We set the example. We teach inherent sexism by making it out as though only one gender can be responsible for certain things in the household. By saying that women are responsible for raising the children, we strip men of their contributions and their value in the parenting process, thus teaching our boys how to be absentee/uninvolved dads, and our daughters to never learn to respect and value a man’s worth in the home outside of his wallet.

I married a man who is an EXCELLENT father to our son. He does it without pause or resentment; never once have I heard him say, “You do it, that’s a woman-thing”. He loves that little boy with his entire heart, & he’s proud to be for him what he didn’t have in his own life. We each contribute toward the raising of our child, for better or for worse. We don’t always succeed, but we’re trying, and we’re doing it as a joint effort.
If the role of a woman is to be a comfort, and thereby, set the stage for a child’s relationship with the Holy Spirit, than that reiterates that a father & his relationship with his child sets the stage for that child’s relationship with God the Father.

It is NOT the job of a woman alone to teach their child.

We teach our children by how we treat each other, together, and by how we individually treat them in their role in our household.

The link above is to a blog that a man wrote in the Washington Post about the whole, “It’s not babysitting if it’s your kid” movement.

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This picture infuriates me. Two people create a child. Two. Society has allowed women to take on the roles of both mother and father, and women have succeeded. We CAN do it all…but it’s at a tremendous sacrifice, and a very, very high price. It’s not the way it was designed to be. God made us to be together to raise our children…and two people can be together in a household, but only one who will raise the child. It’s a terrible imbalance that has spiritual, physical, and mental consequences.

Single mothers are amazing, strong, ferocious women that have taken on the collective responsibilities of the household. They’re the spiritual, physical, and financial leaders of their houses, and THEY ARE EXHAUSTED. But THEY. DON’T. STOP.

Because they can’t.

And in caring for their children to the best of their abilities, they sacrifice so much of their hearts and minds, only for the Church to come in and constantly remind them of why they’re just not good enough.

That’s crap.

The Church is designed to be a supply house, both physically and spiritually, for the widow and the orphan, and women that are single parents are women that have been abandoned by their helpmate (or have had to abandon their helpmate), so I believe they more than qualify. We’re to be a place of open hearts and arms for these women, yet far too often, all we are is a house of judgement. That’s junk, and we’ve missed the mark. We need to support single mothers in such a way that they are spiritually sustained to fill both roles of leadership in their household, not to drain them by pharisaical false theology.

There was a set of books that were so popular in the 90’s & early 2000’s, called Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. The book was a broad-spectrum definer of why women and men think in such different ways from each other, and I find myself referencing it when I can’t figure out the Why in David’s DO. In the book, women are considered to be the broad-spectrum thinkers, where men are the ones with a singular focus. We branch out, while they go in for the on-site kill. They’re the hunters, we’re the gatherers–caveman stuff. I see these differences in my husband and I, to perfectly answer the book’s stereotypes (and I’m normally not a huge fan of stereotypes). 🙂 I will converse about an issue for DAYS. David will make his point once, and be done with it (and be frustrated with me, because I’M NOT FINISHED!!!!!). He will go to the grocery store and get milk and bread, while I will go in and get $200 worth of food for the month, without a list, but with an entire calendar in hand. Neither of us is wrong–we both needed groceries. He’s just got a completely different way of thinking than I do, but it still works. Again, we are made to fit together, to help each other, & to balance each other. Sometimes (okay, a lot of times) our different ways of thinking frustrate us to no end, but it’s all part of the process of coming together as a team.

Single mothers have to have both sets of brains–they have to be both the hunter and the gatherer, the person of a single focus, but also the broad-spectrum thinker. That kind of duality is exhausting. The Church should be an oasis to challenge the spirit, but to also allow the mind to rest. The single mother should find no greater refuge than the church, and no greater resource to help her find her value as a woman, than in the church.

The third part of the PUG states that our role as women is to “submit to the husband’s authority” in the old graphic, or to “nurture” in the new graphic. Um…okay…..here we go….

When you nurture a plant, you feed it, you water it, you give it sunlight, and you give it the tools it needs to be healthy. “Nurture” is one of those words that evokes mental images of softness and of comfort, words that are not typically associated with men. We think of a mother nurturing their child from the womb and throughout life; our very physical body was made to nurture our children…but we weren’t made to do it alone. Mothers and Fathers work together to create a nurturing environment for their children. We need both the softness and the encouragement, as well as the firmness and the defined boundaries. I don’t think that just a mother, or just a father, should be one of those things at all times. I will say that in both of these graphics, giving the “duties” of nurturing to the woman makes the most sense to me, and it’s the least-irritating concept under the umbrella (ella. Ella. A. A. A.). I get that. It works. I’m not mad at it. The biggest, baddest, most aggravating concept on this entire umbrella (besides the fact that the old graphic puts women at the bottom of the patriarchal totem pole) is that word, “SUBMIT.”

When I hear the words, “submit!” I always hear it with an exclamation point, followed by an internal gif of an old white guy banging a judge’s gavel. The word “submission” has such a negative context; it’s because it’s been abused and misused so badly. I think it’s a word that’s been destroyed in the wake of misappropriation, and as Christians, we need to correct our interpretation and pull it back from this dictatorship-mentality that we have. If my entire series of redefining the Christian family does one thing, my hope is that it succeeds in changing perspectives on the word, “submit.”

Submission was never meant to be taken as a boot on the chest of women, holding us down or stripping us of our will. It was never meant as a constricting thing, never meant to confine us or to force us to do anything we didn’t have a desire to do or to be a part of. Submission is not abuse.

Say it again for the people in the back of the room: SUBMISSION IS NOT ABUSE.

We are not dogs, that we should roll over and expose our weaknesses for men to exploit. We are not victims, and they are not our captors.

We are not weak, that we should be parasites off of the strength of men because we lack the capacity to do it ourselves.

We are not at their beck and call, either in the boardroom or the bedroom, and we are not “less than.”

Back to Ephesians 5:24–“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husband as you do to the Lord.”

And there it is….”as you do to the Lord.”

There is quite a bit of instruction in this chapter; Paul runs through a list that’s pretty long:

  1. Do imitate God
  2. Do walk in love (some translations say, “Let Love be your Guide.” I like that.)
  3. Don’t be perverted or inappropriate
  4. Do give thanks.
  5. Don’t be deceived
  6. Do learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
  7. Do not participate in shady deals, but instead, expose them.
  8. Do make the most of your time, and walk in integrity.
  9. Do seek God’s Will
  10. Don’t waste time by being drunks
  11. Do be filled with the Holy Spirit and focus on worship
  12. Do submit to one another
  13. Wives, submit to husbands as you do unto the Lord
  14. Husbands, love your wives
  15. Church, submit to Christ
  16. Wives, respect your husbands

Of course, you can get super-exegetical and break all of this down, but that’s a volume. I’m focusing on those last 5 things. I can break down this section verse-by-verse and tell you the ways it’s been used to malign women. I think every one of us can think of a way that women have been shamed by the concept of submission. I think we can all see ways these verses have been misinterpreted….but look at the verses through the filter of that opening line. “Let Love be your guide.”

Working in optometry, I’ve learned the huge change that can come over someone when they get a properly-measured pair of eyeglasses. The entire world changes!

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We’re to look at the world through the love of Jesus. We’re to read the Bible through lenses of the Love of Jesus–not through lenses that are clouded by misinterpretations and oppression. When we as women read these verses in particular, we need to stop and put on those lenses of the love of the Lord. We need to read them as though He were saying them to us, to our face. How would Jesus speak these things to us?

As women, we have a responsibility to seek Jesus first and foremost. We have a responsibility to establish that relationship on our own, before we go looking to another to establish it for us. Our relationship with our husband should strengthen our relationship with Jesus, but our relationship with Him cannot be dependent on our relationship with him. Get it?

If only we could undo 2,000 years of negative connotations for that word…

When you love Jesus, you trust Him. And when you trust Him, you allow Him to direct your life. That’s submission. That’s what He wants.

He doesn’t want to bruise us, or to crush our spirits. Jesus wants the absolute best for us, which doesn’t always line up to what WE think is His best, so we have to submit our will to His. It can be a difficult process, but it’s SO worth it in the end!

Our husbands have a responsibility to love Jesus, first and foremost. They’re human; they’re flawed, and they fail. It doesn’t say they have to be perfect. They just have to maintain that heart that remains focused on Him. When they do that, they exhibit His character. When WE do that as women, WE exhibit His character.

We move in harmony with the will of God when we’re both focused on serving Him.

When we love Jesus, and we love each other, we each want God’s absolute best for the other person. We are willing to humble ourselves and to seek God’s will; we put our own egos aside and we go before God as a unified household. My husband is to love me as Christ loves the Church–that’s that Song of Solomon love, that love that goes before us and behind us. That’s the love that declares to the enemy that I am his, and he is mine, and you won’t come against our marriage or our household.

It isn’t easy for me to submit, & I can’t do it on my own. It’s not easy for me to say that word. I don’t like that word–“I am Woman, hear me roar!!–but submission is not a sign of weakness or failure.

Submission doesn’t mean that I go blindly, or that I haven’t put up an argument or asked my husband to explain himself. I’m not expected to acquiesce in obsequiousness. I’m not a blow-up doll, and God didn’t create us as women to be such. GOD MADE US AS WOMEN IN HIS IMAGE, and He loves how we think and work and function!!!! He made us to communicate the way we communicate, with reason and with intelligence for a PURPOSE! He thinks our brains are beautiful, and He loves us! He doesn’t expect us to suppress that in marriage—He expects it to improve as “iron sharpening iron!!!!!!” (Have you ever seen iron sharpen iron? It’s a really messy process.)!

It doesn’t mean that he disrespects me and doesn’t hear me out. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t miss the mark (or that I don’t miss the mark). It does mean, though, that there is grace.

Submission takes respect, grace, prayer, and support, from both parties in a marriage. We have to respect each other. We have to give each other grace. We have to pray for each other and with each other, and we have to support the decisions that are made. Without support, a structure crumbles.

When it comes down to it, though, biblically, I have to submit to the decisions my husband makes. I don’t always go quietly; in a previous blog, I discussed how during one season, it took me over a YEAR to finally get on the same page as David. In walking that out, though, I found out about the blessings that can finally come when two praying people stand together in unity. It’s still hard, but at least I can appreciate the process, & after that last experience, I’ve learned some lessons.

Before anything in Ephesians is broken down into focusing on marriage, we’re to submit to ONE ANOTHER. In the English Standard Version, it almost uses the words “respect” and “submit” interchangeably, which I love (Ephesians 5:33, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband”). When you respect someone, you submit yourself to their expertise. You trust them, and you trust that you can learn from them–how cool is that? We trust that they have something to say, and they trust that WE have something to say, so we listen to each other! We’re to be respectful and kind to each other (I Pet. 3:15)–Remember that when these chapters were written, they weren’t separated into topics. They were letters written to people groups. We broke these things up in our English translations, and in doing so, put our own spin and focus onto key verses that may not have been intended by the original authors. So, when you read Ephesians 5, read it straight through, without pausing for sections, and think about how it goes.

Submission is a requirement for a successful family dynamic, but that doesn’t mean everything looks like that totem pole/umbrella graphic. Just the visual of that graphic–placing women on the lowest rung?!?!–causes dissonnance and the devaluing of the roles we each play in our household. We’re so beautifully meant to intertwine and to work together for the glory of God…everything is for His elevation, not for our humiliation. I want to rethink this graphic, and take it completely out of the concept of a hierarchy.

The closest thing I can liken it to is a planetary orbit. I love how God gives us the best images of His personality in nature!!!!

The planets orbit around the sun, right? And each planet has their own course, with their own moons–do you see where this is going?

These planets all have different things pulling on them. Magnetic pulls, centrifugal forces, etc., all take part in keeping the planets on the course they’re designed to be on. If one planet decided that it didn’t want to stay the course, the entire solar system would be effected, and it would be cataclysmic. I think instead of a hierarchy, perhaps we should look at biblical family design like it’s own little Solar System spinning around Jesus. When one person stops seeking God, and stops focusing on Him, it affects the paths of the other planets.

I don’t like the hierarchical illustration. It reeks of manipulation. I don’t for a second believe it was ever meant to be taken as men are over, or are more important than women, but the Church has interpreted it that way for years. It’s not to be read in arrogance, but instead, in humility and grace. When you read Ephesians 5 in context, you see that it’s a manual for a life of integrity, respect, and kindness, . There’s no pride in the entire chapter. Men set the example of submission for women, by submitting to Jesus. Women set the example of submission by respecting their husbands & by submitting to Jesus, and we all respect each other. Our kids grow up in an atmosphere of SERVICE—what?!? It sounds a little utopian, but imagine how the world would be if we all acted it out?!?

Is that crazy?

In Galatians, the Bible says there is “neither Jew, nor Gentile; nor slave, nor free; nor is there male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I think it’s fitting that the verse comes in the middle of a chapter that focuses on deception and of being locked in custody. There is tremendous freedom that comes when we put on those lenses of grace, and understand that God sees every single one of us as equal to another, regardless of gender or societal position. We’re all on the same page, at the same level, and we all have the same goal: To love and to serve Jesus with humility and grace…to seek Him first. That is the very definition of what I mean when I say that I am not a feminist. I am an equalist. Every man has a role. Every woman has a role. Those roles together, centered around the mission that Jesus gives each and every one of us, is our entire Focus. There is no competition. There is no struggling for position. There is only focusing on the Lord, and uplifting each other for that purpose.

Ditch the umbrella graphic. Forget the totem pole concept of putting women at the bottom of the list. We all have a voice, and we all have a role in the Kingdom of God. We’ve been created by a God Who loves us so much….Who appreciates us as individuals, and as part of His Body of believers. Men and women are together the Bride of Christ, and He loves us with an immeasurable grace. As Christians, we have no other option but to love each other to the best of our abilities, with grace and with respect to the value our Creator puts on each of us.

A Time To Mourn…AKA, “Speaking Christianese Never Made A Heart Heal Faster”

You can’t slap a Bible-verse Band-Aid over a severed limb and expect the bleeding to stop.
Healing is a PROCESS–it’s not instantaneous, and it isn’t pretty. Sometimes, we have to take in the full extent of the injury or the loss before healing can even begin. Things take time to process..realizations and understandings come in phases, and we don’t get it all at once, therefore, we can’t process it all at once.
The thing about Jesus, though, is that He meets us where we are in the process. Day by day, hour by hour, He meets us, and He welcomes our honesty. We don’t have to put a smile on our faces and fake it with Him; it’s useless, anyways. No one knows us better, so why do we try to act like we’re fine? There is no weakness in the truth.
Things happen in our lives that reshape every perspective or opinion that we’ve held, but our foundation remains the same. Jesus doesn’t change. His Word says there is “a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” It doesn’t mean that we speed through one to get to the other…it means there is a TIME for each process. It doesn’t mean we avoid one and focus on the other; it means that we endure one and we know we have a hope for the other.
Autumn is always a sensitive time of the year for me. It’s not a time of falling back into those initial days of the heaviest of grieving processes, but it is a time of respecting that you know what? Certain days are going to affect me more than others.  I’ve had a few conversations lately that have reminded me that grief, for any reason, is grief, and it has a process that must be respected.  I’m reminded of a conversation that I’ve referenced  before, but I feel like I need to go back to it:
Around 2 weeks after my daughter passed away, David & I finally made our way back into church. While there, I was having a noticeably difficult time (I suck at trying not to cry), and I went to sit in the lobby. A prominent woman in the church came up to me and hugged me, and said, “Are you better, now?”
I nearly slapped her.
I don’t remember what I said back to her, but the conversation has stuck in my brain as indicative of how Christians handle the process of grieving.
We. Are. Terrible. At. Grief.
It makes sense. I mean, c’mon, every worship song we sing focuses on joy and peace and happiness and glory and awesome and blahblahblahblabityblah. It’s all true. We serve an amazing, glorious, fantastic Lord Who loves us, so what’s not to celebrate?
We have this extremely arrogant tendency to coat our sorrows in Bible Verses, like the paper they’re printed on is going to magically paper-mache a lead balloon and make it float.
You can throw Bible verses at someone all day long, and yes–there IS life in the Word. However, read the room–don’t throw Scripture at a starving man. Feed him first, then tell him about Jesus. Acknowledge the broken heart (yours or someone else’s) with compassion and empathy, not with counter-attacks and guilt-inducing Christianese.
We’re so programmed to put on that joy that we forget that true joy is there, in the grieving process itself. We don’t have to bypass grief to hang onto joy. Joy is there, in the darkest of times, providing the guiding line to lead us out of the cave of heaviness and depression. Joy doesn’t always mean that we smile and dance…joy sometimes means that we lean into the comfort of our Savior, and that we know He is PRESENT in all things.
In the darkest days of my life, I can look back and see that silver thread of joy that is woven through the tapestry. I can see it through the rage; I can see it through the tears. I can see it becoming ever brighter as I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, and I can see it with me even now as I deal with personal battles. Joy is not always expressed as laughter. Joy is sometimes a gentle strength that shows up as an anchor in the waves that want to drown you.
The Fruits of the Spirit (I’ve always thought of that as a funny way to word those characteristics. And now the song is in my head. GAH!!) work together in our lives in many, many ways, but in times of grief or crisis, they really shine the brightest if we let them. The love of Jesus pours over us, capturing every tear we cry. His joy stands firm in the face of sadness that wants to encompass us. His Peace–peace is so, so hard to come by in a crisis, but it’s there. Sometimes it comes when you’ve cried your last tear, and you’re exhausted and can do nothing but sleep. Sometimes it comes when you look at someone’s face that you know understands you, and you see their expression and that they “get you.” Their compassion and empathy give you the peace of understanding without words–that’s huge.
His patience–He is patient with our grieving process, and He gives us permission to take our time. He is kind–Jesus doesn’t get angry with us for being sad or broken. He’s good–He wants us to bring our pain to Him, and He loves our faith. He loves that we believe in Him enough to bring Him our burdens…
He is gentle…He doesn’t rush in to distract us from dealing with our crises, but He loves us like a Father.
The world takes us from drama to drama at an alarming pace. We stay in permanent crisis mode, or in a permanently-hyper-emotional state. The church tries to tell us we should focus on being frenetically joyful all the time, while the world tells us we should be in full-blown Jersey-Shore Drama Mode all of the time (I’ve never actually seen the show, but I don’t think I have to).
Life is somewhere in the middle.
The shortest verse in the Bible acknowledges that Jesus Himself cried when His friend died, even though He knew He was about to raise His friend back to life again. He still grieved, even though He had that hope and that expectation. Why?
Because He was fully God, but also fully Man, and He felt the grief and the loss, even in the eyes of Hope.
We are allowed to weep for a time (“How long?” I don’t know. Ask the person who’s had their arm cut off, how long it takes to get used to not having an arm…to using a prosthesis….to having phantom nerve pains, or physical therapy, or re-learning how to tie their shoes. That’s how long.).
We are allowed our time to mourn (“How deeply?” I don’t know. Hobart Vann once said to me that I would know I was through the healing process of losing my daughter when I could talk about it without crying. That took a while, and it took me a while to understand what he meant and why that was so important. You have to be able to tell the story and point it back to the love of Jesus. It might seem impossible, at first, but it can be done, and when you can do it and you mean it wholeheartedly, you can do it with joy. That takes a while).
And one day…maybe nearer or farther away than we can comprehend…we will see our way back to our time to dance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Capture3

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

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

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

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

I like this quote from Family Life:

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

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

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

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

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

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

WRONG.

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

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

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

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

Christian Family Hierarchy

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

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

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

.That Dweam Wifin a Dweam..…”

PeterCookPrincessBride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leave-It-to-Beaver

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

Being single was NOT on that checklist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family = Single people.

Family = Married people.

Family = People with kids.

Family = People without kids.

Family = Divorced people.

Family = Remarried people.

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

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

Why can’t the Church do the same?

 

 

 

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

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

It was cathartic.

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

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

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

Do as your told. Submit, submit, SUBMIT.

Image result for be a submissive wife

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

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

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

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

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

Related image

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

Capture3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s throw the umbrella away.

Let’s run together under His banner of love.

 

To be continued….

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

I have to process these words before I post.

I feel like I’ve gone back to school,

And the learning curve is steep.

 

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

And mother…

And how wounded women are left to pick up

A battlefield full of broken soldiers

That bite the hand that bandages the shattered….

How warrior women

Become contentious

And the difference between

Nice and “Nasty.”

 

Something new is coming…

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

It’s time to redefine

And

It’s time to shatter the mold.

 

….To Be Continued…..

Former Friends, Forty, & Feet…

My brain has been in a whirlwind for the past 2 weeks.  There’s a multitude of things going on…Shall I outline it all, in the hopes that writing it all down, makes it all make sense?

  • The dissolution of a long-term friendship  has led to difficulties maintaining a positive attitude.  As a fairly outspoken person, it’s increasingly difficult to not confront said “friend” regarding their demeanor. I have to trust God that truth will out…That being said, “truth” occasionally means that you piss people off, and I guess that’s what I’ve officially done.  Have I been a “good Christian” in how I’ve handled this mess? Nope (does the Silent Treatment count for or against me?!?). I’m hurt, I’m angry, and my eyes hurt from rolling them so hard. I’m almost 40, and this “act like you’re 17” crap is for the birds. And no, I’m not going to tell her about it—what good would it do? To pour out my heart to someone who thinks they’re never wrong? I don’t have that amount of time to waste.
  • Working with women is DIFFICULT (see #1). They’re catty, they’re mean, and they’re so, SO petty. I’ve been in a female-dominated industry for 18 years, and I’ve been both the Catty-B, and the victim of the Catty B. I’d like to think I’ve been on the receiving end of said BS more times than I’ve dealt it (because I generally dislike the confrontation involved—what good does it do? If someone hates you, telling them off about it isn’t going to make them like you any more), but that’s an easy thought to think. I can’t be objective in that thought, but I sure as heck can say that I’m in the thick of it right now, and OMG, I AM OVER IT. IF women would be kinder to each other on the job, men would have more respect for our work performance and authority. Instead, we shoot ourselves in the foot because we can’t keep our feet out of our mouths and our bitchery out of the office. Women need to build each other up, and cram this sanctimonious garbage where the sun doesn’t shine. Be nice, girls. Maybe someday, we can actually work together in PEACE.
  • The onslaught of stories of sexual harassment is a weight around my heart. Every. Single. Woman. Has a story to tell. Reading them is heavy…exposing our children to them is HEAVY. Hearing it all on the news is HEAVY. Since Mr. Clinton was in office, we have been subject to greater and greater exposure to sexual impropriety in the media. I have to wonder if purity is dead? “How shall a young man keep his way pure?” I don’t know anymore. How do I raise my little boy to respect women when even at 4, he is using words that by their very definition, sexualize? Thanks to a children’s movie that decided to use the word “booty,” I can’t get my son to quit saying “booty butt.” Sure, it’s funny…but what if he doesn’t stop? That’s a problem we have to quell NOW. As mothers, we are responsible for raising our sons to end the #MeToo in this world. We have to. We are the ones who can end it. Fathers, you are the other ones that can end it. Start with you. Start with respecting sex, with turning your eyes away when it’s inappropriate (women need to do that, too). Fathers, set the example of romantic love with your wife. Set the example of respect for her body. Mothers, set the example of respect for your husband. Turn off “The Bachelor” and shows that glamorize sexual behavior (I don’t mean to single out any show in particular, and in fact, I’ve never watched “The Bachelor.” I’m just gathering that from previews). Listen to the lyrics in songs—turn them off when they’re inappropriate. It’s a struggle for ALL of us, but it’s worth it. Sex is to be appreciated, bodies are to be respected, and WE need to restore purity by the grace of God, in our households. These are stands we have to take. I have to remember that IT’S WORTH IT, to turn off questionable lyrics when my Mini is in the car. Sure, I’m a grown-up, I can handle it, right? Maybe I’m jaded…but he’s not. My son is not. Let’s not callous our kids before their time (and maybe let’s collectively rethink what we’re so callous to, ourselves?).
  • Sometimes, we have to stand up for what’s right, even when it’s uncomfortable and in my case, leaves me paranoid for a solid month. That’s where I am right now. Yes, I am praying about it. I’m still paranoid. When you regularly deal with anxiety and something comes up to tip that cart just a little more in that direction, a small thing becomes a very BIG thing, and it’s an effort to not obsess about it.
  • I turn 40 next month. Why I’m having some kind of existential crisis over it, I’m not sure. The fact that I’ve made it this far is flippin’ amazing. While I’d like to celebrate by face-planting into some kind of elaborate pastry, I’m actually going to celebrate by getting stoned out of my mind. I’m kidding. Kind of. It’ll be the legal kind. 🙂 The day before my 40th birthday, I’m having the first of two foot surgeries, in an effort to finally end the years-worth of pain that’s really affected my life. I have tarsal tunnel/plantar fasciitis in both feet, so it will be nice to see that level of pain be taken care of. My goal is to be off of the pain meds as quickly as possible, so that I don’t ruin both Thanksgiving, AND Christmas (surgery #2 is the Friday before Christmas) for my family. Scheduling the surgeries in this way makes sure I don’t miss as much work as I would be, had I scheduled them any other time; I have to look at the financial impact over the social impact. I have to say, though, I’m a bit bummed about spending 40 so completely laid up, especially after I’ve seen (and been to) some amazing 40th birthday celebrations. I’m super-thankful my hubby and my parents are helping…and I’m thinking I can just snag JD with my cane if he gets terribly out of line, LOL.
  • As is wont to happen this time of the year, my anxiety/depression is a bit peaky. I’m in a (lengthy) season of feeling like the Lord is blocked off…like I can’t get to Him, and when I try, I’m too tired. He feels a million miles away, but I think it’s me that’s so far from Him. He never leaves, and I know that, even when I don’t feel His Presence. I feel like my heart is just crying out for some kind of Word, some kind of direction from Him, but I feel shiftless. Our church is getting ready to dive into the Song of Solomon study, and I’m ready for it. I need that revelation of the endless love of God, at a much deeper level. I find Him so much closer during worship, but when I’m in my 9-5 (or 6-3), I am so empty…It’s not like He’s hiding while I’m in my office or anything…I’m never insulated away from Him, but I feel like it.
  • One friend unceremoniously dumps me, and it sends me into a tailspin…whether that’s the definition of crazy or not, I’m not sure, but I know it’s had a huge impact on my life. It’s a Milestone Moment. I’ve questioned a lot of things over the past few weeks, and I’ve been reminded of several positives. I’ve also been taught/reminded of a few lessons:
    • My best friend in the universe has been my best friend since the 3rd grade. If I were horrible, Vinita would not be by my side through every good/bad/ridiculous stage of my life. I’ve several other friends that have been in my life for 10 years or longer. I rarely think about the longevity of a friendship as a proving ground for my moral compass, but it was recently brought to mind, and I’m grateful for those women that have loved me as I am.
    • This isn’t the first time I’ve ever had someone tell me I’m not good enough for them. I’ve been rejected before, for jobs, parts, etc., but never from a “friend.” When I got dumped by a guy (for the first and only time in my life), I spent 2 years in a death-spiral of depression. It’s been 20 years since that happened, and I would hope I would bounce back more quickly from rejection. Yet here I am, about a month after my dismissal, and I was so broken over it all that I’m  just now able to really write about it. I don’t anticipate a 2-year “death spiral” LOL, but I’m certainly impacted.
    • I don’t ever want to make another human being feel the way this person made me feel. I’m rethinking every aspect of how I treat people (including my husband who, let’s face it, gets the best AND worst of me). It’s a work in progress, but maybe someday, I will get it down pat. I just want to show the love of Jesus. That’s hard to do when you’re a jerk.
    • It’s also hard to show the love of Jesus when you’re stuck in the internal monologues of what you’d like to do to the person you’re angry with. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I haven’t imagined a million scenarios ending with me slapping the living daylights out of her or telling her off….but what good would it do? What would it do in the eyes of Eternity? It bears NO WITNESS to the love of Jesus. I’m struggling, I’m not going to lie—I can’t even look her in the eye right now (it’s mutual, don’t hang me), and God knows she won’t speak to me. I did try to engage, but all it took was one perceived slight and she was back to being a….Well, you get it. There comes a point at which you stop casting your pearls before swine…but you still have to show the love of Jesus…and I’m not sure how you do both. I’m figuring it out.  It’s selfishly worth it to put the work in, to figuring out how to show Jesus in a perceived no-win situation. I’ll get there.
  • Guys don’t do this. They don’t unfriend each other, and they don’t wax loquacious in the psychology of failed relationships (okay, at least not that I know of). Things like this make my husband crazy with me. They also confirm that yes, I’m occasionally nutso-pants, but he married me, so what does that make him?!?? I know it’s sexist, but I think guys get the easier part of mental health and of relationships. Women are waaaaaaaaaaaay too OCD in negative thought patterns (and maybe I’m a sexist troglodyte. I’m basing this solely on my husband and his miraculous/enviable ability to compartmentalize).
  • I want to ask for prayer, but I feel like I’m “that person” who is always surrounded by some kind of drama, and ALWAYS asks for prayer…like asking for prayer is just another way of saying that I’m broken, yet again. News flash, Cassidy—EVERYONE IS BROKEN in one way or another. We are all broken, and the beauty of life is watching Jesus take those pieces and make them into something/someone beautiful in His time. The process of waiting for His time? That’s the hard part…So in the waiting, I’m asking for prayer…Having 2 surgeries and basically being immobile for 2 weeks during the holidays, while trying to care for a 4yo (and having to rely heavily on hubby/family) is difficult. The situation with my former friend is difficult. This time of the year is—you guessed it—difficult, and my heart is tender. Please keep my doctor, Dr. Arnold, and her team in your prayers, so that my surgeries and recovery go smoothly. I am blessed to work a desk job that allows me to return to work 1 week after each procedure, so I am grateful for my job (I am!! SAY IT WITH ME!!!!!!!!!! I AM GRATEFUL FOR MY JOB!!!!!!!!). Please pray for David, Rico-Bean, and my parents, who are in their 60’s, and are willing to tackle caring for a pre-K boy that is VERY active. Pray that they have the energy they need!
  • Finally, never underestimate the beauty of worship, when it comes to focusing the mind and calming the heart, and in warming the spirit. I rediscovered Bethel Music on Spotify this week, and when my brain is a jumbled mess…when my heart is overwhelmed…I am grateful for people that make worship their life, and that share it with the world. We need it, desperately….I need it.

I realize that writing a bulleted outline for a blog is a bit excessive. At some point, I need/want to become disciplined enough to write on a daily basis…if I want to make this work, I have to pour into it consistently. Besides, when I wait too long to write, I wind up with a 2500-word tome that no one has time to read, right?!?!?!?!?

Thank you for your patience with my writing and my rants…and most of all, thank you for your prayers. Life is hard, but when there is fellowship…when Christians come together and lift each other up, life is a joy. I am so grateful to share that joy with you. You’re a blessing in my life, and a reminder that God’s people are GOOD. ❤

*When you’re friends or family members of a writer, and you KNOW they’re a writer, you have to know that at some point, they’re going to write about you, good or bad. Names have not been named, no slander has occurred, and no one may be held responsible for the contents of this piece. It’s ridiculous that I actually have to say this, but this world is looking for any reason to be a victim. You don’t get that from me.