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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The anxiety builds…and it’s tangible.

Time is shorter in unsettled waters…

What stays?

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

I want to.

I hope that I have.

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

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

So, how do you want it to be used?

To answer Hamilton’s questions…

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not enough.

 

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

 

Rescued…

More than the coronavirus…

More than statistics, or reports, or fear, or uncertainty…

I’ve been in a dark place for the past 2 weeks, and even though I had more than one person tell me to get over myself, or that they knew I was struggling with fear more than reality, I just couldn’t get my chin up and out of the water.

My prayers have been sporadic and ADD. I can’t focus; my eating habits are out of control, and I find myself constantly looking for news, only to be completely unsatisfied and that I just keep wondering, “what’s next?” This sidewalk over raging water is unstable, and the constant tension is wreaking havoc on every cell of my being.

The truth is, a person can only take so much, right? And I’m coming into this with a pitcher that’s half-full and full of holes–I’ve been so tired, for so long, that it gets depressing, which in fact, just makes me more tired.

At the end of February, we were shell-shocked to find out that my thyroid cancer has returned; this means that just as corona-panic was beginning to sweep the nation, I was going back-&-forth to Mercy Hospital every day for about a week for shots and testing. I kept the number of people who knew pretty limited, because I honestly can’t deal with any negativity right now. I know this cancer doesn’t  kill people, but just knowing it’s there is somewhere between annoying-as-hell and frustrating-as-hell. I just got released for 3 years from Barnes hospital in January, and now, less than 2 months later, it’s back?!? Are you frickin’ KIDDING me?!?

And I tried to pretend that I was okay with it–that it didn’t bother me, and that telling my family was just a formality–and that’s complete garbage, because I was gutted. I hated telling my parents, my boss, my sisters….my husband. It’s not fair to them…they’ve had to carry me so many times–it’s just not fair.

So, I left my office on March 18th, thinking that I would take the 19th and the 20th off for Jericho’s spring break, and then I’d work half-days the week of March 23rd…but then came the news that I’d need to telecommute. Okay, sure–I’ll telecommute that week, and I’ll be back in the office as usual on March 30th, right?

Wrong.

I’m working from home, and will be most likely until the end of this month. I’ve always wondered what that would be like; it’s nice to see my kiddo in the morning. He comes into the office every morning and hugs me in his rumpled pajamas and tousled hair, proudly breathing on me because he knows I can’t stand morning breath. He crawls on my lap and rubs his eyes, and I savor the moments. I mean, I DID say that I wished I could be a stay-at-home mom, although this wasn’t quite how I saw it happening.

I miss my usual pace at the office–I do a lot of different things, so it’s been hard for me to adjust to doing one thing at a time, with one monitor at a time. I get really frustrated with technical issues, and my personal computer is not suited for my job, but I’m making it work! I’m learning how to Zoom and how to push through, and just how many webinars I can take and stay sane (Six Sigma!!!  I took a black-belt Six Sigma course, and passed the dang test!!!!).

When I’m not being productive, I tend to make bad decisions (primarily with eating–oooh, those Thursday weigh-ins are NOT GOOD) and I also tend to feel terrible about myself as a human being. I’ve recently taken up embroidery again, which is crazy, because all of  my patterns are from a little Ace Hardware I worked at back in 1999. They’re yellowed, but I can still make out the pattern; I’m remembering how to do the stitches from back when my Grandma taught me at 12 and 13 years of age.

I’m learning how to do my nails like a grown-up (dipping powder is awesome!) and I’ve really gotten into an at-home spa experience. I have a wax melter and every facial thing you can think of; most of the stuff I’ve had stocking up for years, and am just now learning how to use it.

David has been laid off from his position, so he has assumed homeschooling our son. I have to admit, it’s fun to listen to them…until Jericho gets frustrated and has a total meltdown. He has about as much patience as his parents, LOL, so we’re all learning how to take deep breaths and to to find better coping mechanisms. It’s a journey.  I spent my lunch break yesterday giving a Spanish lesson.

I don’t speak Spanish, y’all.

I don’t make enough money for the therapy this kid’s probably gonna need from my pathetic attempts to educate him.

So, all of this is to say that I probably would have been in the “mullygrubs” even without the added medical drama. I had a full-body scan at the end of March; the insurance companies demand that I go through the racket of doing a full-body scan before they’ll approve a PET scan, even though we know the full-body scan will be inconclusive. It was, so now we wait. My tumor markers are low–0.7–and we’re going to wait until I’m at 1.0 until we progress to the PET. It’s the usual hurry-up-and-wait crap that gets in my head and stresses me out (even when I won’t admit it, it shows). Add corona to this, the lack of income, the lack of school and the slow pace of my job, and it created a perfect storm for the Vortex of the Downward Spiral, and I couldn’t shake it.

I’m still not through it…I’m trying to surround myself with worship music and musicals, to remind myself to sing my way through this…Sunny days make it easier (that’s why I’m writing right now–the sun came out, the window is open, and I finally drug myself into a shower) and like I can process things a bit better.

Like everyone else in the world, I’m overwhelmed and I’m struggling to see the beauty in this mess.

But you know what?!?

Someone threw me a lifeline.

One of the young ladies that I work with texted me out of the blue (Emma! I’ve blogged about her before):
“Hey, do you wanna do a Social Distancing Photoshoot?”

Um–a reason to put on real clothes, and go outside, and see actual people?!

YES.

She sent me the pictures today, and I have to tell you, I don’t know why I reacted quite so powerfully to them, but I literally felt myself take a deep breath, and I got overwhelmed by GRATITUDE to God for giving me this amazing family who surrounds me with so many wonderful, hilarious, amazing moments that work together to form a pretty phenomenal life, even when the chips are down.

GOD IS GOOD.

And people are good.

Emma did a great job of catching “those” moments–you know, the genuine laugh, the squish-hug, the toothless grin of a first grader (click the link to see the proofs). She captured the joy of our family, and it was such a beautiful reminder that I am surrounded by the most beautiful of gifts, even when I get overwhelmed and bogged down in the dark places.

You never know when your act of kindness is someone else’s lifeline…when God speaks through you and opens doors to someone’s heart, letting His light shine through.

My dad really likes Lauren Daigle, and when I talked to him a few days ago, he’s like, “Yeah, I really like that ‘Rescue‘ song by that Lauren girl!” I’ve heard it, but I really listened to it today (thanks, Dad!):

“You are not hidden
There’s never been a moment
You were forgotten
You are not hopeless

How many times do we let words like, “hopeless” rule our lives, even as we say we’re dedicated to the God Who gives the greatest of Hope? I fully understand that anxiety and depression–which go hand-in-hand with chronic fatigue issues and autoimmune issues–are real, chemical problems. They have a spiritual effect, and it gets hard to focus on Who I know Jesus Is when I’m so chemically messed up–it’s so hard. Having the motivation to take care of myself when I’m in these pits seems unreachable. There are a LOT of superlatives when physical syndromes throw up roadblocks every time you turn around, and it takes constant discipline to not get shut down and drowned by it all (click the song lyrics above for a list of Bible verses about being rescued).

Sometimes a simple act of kindness is all that it takes to lift someone up out of all of that.

I’m grateful.

I’m not forgotten.

I’m not hopeless, and He never lets me think that for very long….

He’s my Rescuer.

We’re going to get through this, all of it. We really are, and the world will look different on the other side of it. We take one step, and He takes it right along with us.  We can do this, and we’re going to do it.

Come Follow Me: New Perspective about Peter walking on water ...

Diaspora…

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

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

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

“Diaspora”

We don’t know the day or the hour

But the season of power comes

Like a hurricane to believers and unbelievers alike.

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

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

What does the blind man see but the darkness?

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

And we walk in faith

Trusting Him for sight,

Every step a testimony of faith.

And when the blind reach for us,

We’ve walked away, toward the glorious outpouring;

And their hearts are hardened,

And the darkness grows,

And the earth is split in two

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

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

Let the revelation become your motivation,

Stepping out of the shadows of destruction,

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

He is coming….

He is coming…

And we are going Home….

 

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

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

I get to spend eternity with some pretty amazing people.

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

And so do you.

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Suddenlys and Falling Leaves…

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

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

I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should I even be affected by these moments anymore?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jesus Wept.”

This phrase has been on my mind a lot lately.

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

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

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

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

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

They let us mourn….

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

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

It doesn’t say that “Jesus cried.”

It says that JESUS. WEPT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are. You. KIDDING?!?!?

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

I can’t answer that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus wept.

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

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

lazarus

Raising Rainbows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m learning to navigate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

luna

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