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

My name is Cassidy.

Cassidy Sarah, to be precise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a city that seemed indestructible.

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

He said it was theirs.

He promised them.

And they believed.

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

We all won.

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

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

They took what He promised them.

So did we.

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

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

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

No pressure, kiddo.

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

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

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

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

We’ve named our child well.

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

 

 

Faith and Finding Your Fabulous with the Fab Five…

Me on Sunday Morning: “God LOVES us!!!  He restores us and He renews us!”

Me on Thursday night: “I AM SO INADEQUATE! I feel pushed in so many different directions! I’m EXHAUSTED!!  This SUCKS!!  Why am I such A TOTAL FAILURE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?” Aaaand, cue the sleepless night.

Why do I live in this world of polarities?

So, little-known-fact: I absolutely love the show, “Queer Eye.” Of course, being that I run in mid-American Judeo-Christian circles, I know that this admission may bring some Internet or in-person-based gooey, thick judgeyness, but whatever. I’m not changing my mind.

I’m not going to argue about it. I’m just going to remind you that we’re all made by a God Who loves us & that we are all on our own journey. We don’t have to agree; we DO have to love, and according to 1 Peter 3:15, we have to be respectful. SO, that’s all I have to say, about that (and no, we’re not going to engage about their personal politics. Off the table).

Anyways, I love the show, “Queer Eye.” The biggest takeaway I have from the show is that these 5 men, from 5 totally different walks of life, have each grown into the “simple” act of BECOMING, and they take their subjects along the same route. They’ve each learned to accept themselves, to love themselves (even on days when they’re struggling), and to teach others to do the same. I’m not very good at that, so I love seeing people succeed on that journey.  I started writing this blog yesterday, and then watched another episode on Netflix. Lo and behold, it was the episode featuring those Barbecuing Babes, The Jones Sisters. Every episode makes me tear up, but this one had me Katy-Perry-Ugly-Crying.

I’ve struggled with my weight for the past, oh, I don’t know, TWENTY YEARS? I’ve never accepted my body, whether it was as a 14-year old with gigantic boobs, or as a 41-year old with a gigantic butt (and not in the sexy, Kim-Kardashian way). I’ve struggled with my looks, particularly as multiple surgeries have left some pretty unflattering scars. I oscillate between thinking my face is okay, and “OHMYGODWHYDOISTILLHAVEACNEAND WRINKLES?!?!?”

I can pick apart my personality to an obsessive degree: “You’re stupid. You’re not funny. Your sense of timing is crap. SO many people are smarter than you.  You’re never going to be successful. You’re just support staff. You basically just suck and are wasting your time. Oh, you’re bad at math, you’re a terrible mom, and you’re fat.”

I can DESTROY my faith; I constantly feel like people are judging my output….like, I don’t go to this meeting, or to this church, or I don’t raise my hands enough, or OMG, bad things have happened to me, so God must hate me. Whatever.

I know it’s all lies…but I find myself believing them anyways.

How can I say that we’re all created by a God Who made us in His image, but then have such a deprecating monologue?

How can I say that God restores us and renews us, yet beat myself up continually for my seemingly-perpetual state of exhaustion (it’s not an imagined exhaustion—I literally have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome caused by my thyroidectomy. I don’t think I’ve ever actually written that down before)?

And here comes the guilt from the constant struggle of living in a dichotomy…

I watch the guys on “Queer Eye,” and I follow them on Instagram. They’re a bevy of positivity. I also follow Tess Holliday (founder of the #EffYourBeautyStandards hashtag) and several other body-positive influencers. They’re all younger than me, and way cooler than me, and they’re doing an amazing job of being candid, positive, and strong. They show strength in honesty and in vulnerability, and even though they’re not “religious” influencers, I still find my spirit encouraged by them.

They’re “unconventional.” They’re not from “my” people (you know what I mean—don’t get it twisted. I’m referring to the stereotype of the church-raised, Midwest-born cisgender, straight, suburban/rural mom, and/or one of my previously-blogged-about Great White Women of Hope that I’m supposed to strive to be like…and that I gloriously fail in striving to be like…). They’re POC, or they’re gay, or they’re bi, or they’re EXTREMELY politically liberal, or whatever. They’re all the kind of people that a lot of people I know would love nothing more than to engage in enraged discussions with, and I want nothing to do with that.

I love them.

I love that when they look at someone who looks like me—average height, overweight, struggling—they see something beautiful. They look past what I perceive are flaws, and they find BEAUTY. They bring it out…isn’t that what we’re supposed to do for each other, not only as Christians, but as human Beings?

They’ve taught me to rethink my narrative….to reconsider the self-deprecating “humor.” I only tell fat jokes because in my brain, it’s (I’m) the elephant in the room, so if I just bring it up and make it funny, it’s okay and I’m getting the inevitable out of the way. THAT’S A LIE. Bobby, Tan, Karamo, Antoni, and JVN would NOT hear those words coming out of my mouth!!!!  Karamo would probably stick me in intensive therapy to learn how to see myself better, and how to speak better about myself. He LITERALLY recorded one guy and when the man heard how many times he fat-shamed himself, he was shook. I should try that.

A few years ago, before we got pregnant with our son, I had a conversation with David where I was the most vulnerable I have ever been. I told him that I thought God hated me. I had to come to a place where I could allow myself to trust that no, He actually LOVES me. Jesus LOVES me. I still struggle with it on a daily basis; it’s like I somehow have to un-brainwash myself, and it takes time. I have to push myself out of the thought pattern that, “people only say they love you because they feel  obligated to.” No, Cassidy, there are people out there that truly, deeply love you (um, like your husband? Seriously!?).  I feel like those are words that I need tattooed on my arm, to remind me that I’m not some wretched being. I’m not.

Christianity fails us when it doesn’t teach that Jesus loves us and that we can foster a relationship with God. Too often we sit in churches or classes that teach us that we’re never good enough for anything, and that we have to fit into a certain mold before He’ll accept us. That’s religion. I’m not about that, and neither is God. I’m not going to get all Calvinistic on you, but GRACE IS AWESOME. We are so loved, and our Father wants to know us. He wants us to know Him, and life is about that process–it’s about building that relationship between Him and us, not about us thinking we’ll never measure up, we suck, etc., He never says that. He gives grace, He loves us in ways we can’t understand, and He knows our hearts. When we build that relationship with him, it pours over into every facet of how we view ourselves and how we treat other people. It’s gorgeous!!

Why have I allowed erroneous, religious, self-flagellating theology to make me think that it’s a bad thing, to look in the mirror and be satisfied with what I see? Fat, scars, acne, wrinkles—it’s all part of my story, even the parts that aren’t pretty, so why can’t I look at this whole package and be thankful that I’m still here? For women in particular, I think we’ve been brainwashed into believing that negative self-talk is a requirement, and that we have to trust in other people to validate us in order for us to count. What a crock, right?!?

It’s hard for me to look in a mirror and like what I see. Is it arrogant? Is it foolish? Sure, I will take a selfie (thanks, Cousin Lisa, for that lesson in angles so many years ago!) if I feel like I look less-Princess-Fiona-ish or if I like my outfit. I think I’ve learned from the Instagram influencers that I follow that it’s good to documkermitent your journey, even if it doesn’t get you any clicks. As a mom, it’s hard for me to remember sometimes to snap that picture; however, I think of how I feel about pictures of MY mom when she was my age, and I want to recreate those feelings for my son. “Hey, Rico! Here’s your Mama feeling herself in that Kermit shirt!!!!! “ LOL!  Seriously, though—Maybe my mom didn’t feel like she was beautiful in every picture that I have of her, but I definitely think she was and is. I’m glad I have every picture of her that I have. David taught me the value of a photograph, and I respect photography as a method of journaling. Sometimes a selfie is just that—it’s a diary entry that happens to be public…kinda like a blog.

I’m learning to accept myself and the skin that I’m in. I’m learning that less is more….That I don’t “need” more to fill the void; I just need to redirect my focus on positive thoughts and on uplifting my spirit to fill the void. In Philippians 4, Paul talks about being content both with and without…I think that verse, and the other verses in the link, are verses that I/we could read every day just to teach us how to not only be grateful to God, but also how to love and respect where we are in life, be it how we look, where we work, or whatever our “station” is. I have to learn to love where I am and who I am, right now, before I can improve.

Part of that, for me, includes deluging my brain with positivity….Not positivity for the sake of lying to myself….more like, positivity for the sake of keeping my sanity and of finding my worth, and for the sake of the actual truth.  The Fab Five are SO positive, watching them make life-changing decisions and re-wire stuck mental concepts for internal success, has been good for my soul. It’s one thing to know you need to reboot your outlook…it’s another thing to actually watch it happen, and to learn how you can do it for yourself.

It makes me stop and think, and it makes me grateful to know the God Who created me with Love. Honestly, it makes me want to build that relationship with Him even more.

There’s a beautiful thing that happens in every episode of “Queer Eye,” where you see the subject look at themselves in the mirror, and you see them “snap.” It’s like someone takes the blinders off of their eyes and their minds; they realize, whether it’s because of Karamo’s life-goals; JVN’s hairography; Tan’s closet overhaul; Antoni’s food love; or Bobby’s renovation (seriously, he works THE HARDEST, and he’s my favorite); they realize that THEY’RE WORTH IT. They’re worth self-care! They’re worth having an organized household! They’re worth eating good, quality food! They’re worth LOVING!!!!!!! It’s like no one ever told them these things, or if they were told, they forgot!!!

The Fab Five REMIND them of who they TRULY are, and I think that’s an important spiritual truth.

I need to be reminded of Who I Am.

There’s a scene in Moana where she is facing the fire demon/god on the island, and she has to replace the Heart of Te Fiti. Moana has a SNAP moment where she realizes that the Fire Demon/god IS Te Fiti, but she’s completely forgotten it over time, and has resigned herself to being this horrible, terrifying being.

She bravely takes the Heart stone, and walks up to the scary monster….She sings the lines, “This is not who you are; I know who you are,” and she puts the heart back in its rightful place. SPOILER ALERT: The monster turns into Te Fiti, and the land is beautiful and fertile once again.

To me, it’s one of the single most spiritual moments I have ever seen in a film (and I’ve probably blogged about it before). You’ve been broken and burned; you’ve lost your heart and your way, and you don’t even realize it. Someone believes in you…someone sees you for who you truly are…and your heart is restored and healed. It’s what Jesus does for us on every possible level. He knows Who We Are…and He knows WHO HE MADE US TO BE.

I firmly believe that God uses unconventional methods to minister to our hearts. For me, it’s watching 5 guys give makeovers in rural America….5 men who see beautiful hearts in everyone they meet, and who just wants to help them live their absolute best life…5 men who know that human beings are WORTH fostering and loving, regardless of their appearances….5 guys who have faced their own journeys, failures, and successes, and who are on a mission to leave blessings and positivity everywhere they go.

I NEED THAT KIND OF LOVE IN MY LIFE, Y’ALL!!!!  Confidence in abilities, goals and achievements, having someone else not only see something in you, but having the ability to help you bring it out—isn’t that what we’re supposed to do for each other?!?  I need to do that for people! I need it for myself! Jesus says I’m worth something, and so are you…even if we just say the words to ourselves, it’s positivity we can speak into ourselves. Negative self-talk is so easy, and I know I feel stupid if I say, “Dang it, YOU’RE WORTH IT!” (Shout-out to Stuart Smalley!)! But I/we need to!

We can speak Bible verses aloud to ourselves about how much God loves us. We can literally write down things that we like about ourselves in order to offset those negative attacks of the Enemy. We can share those verses with people around us that are struggling, and we can help others, and ourselves, find our SNAP moment where we catch a glimpse of how HE sees us…how Jesus sees us….

So, thank you,  Queer Eye….Thank you for being a reminder that regardless of what I think I see, there is so much more, and that there is more than enough to bridge the gap between Sunday and Thursday night. Thank you for being one more thing in this world to point me back to the love and the value that God pours over us.

There’s nothing more fabulous than that. ❤

qe

P.S. (This is where I fan-girl out): IF I WERE TO EVER get the chance to meet them, I might die–and yes, I am a 41-year old grown woman. Also, my husband is dying to know how Tan does his hair. Also, I want to hug Antoni and Bobby in particular and tell them I’m sorry on behalf of every Christian that hurt their beautiful giant hearts, because that’s not what we’re supposed to be about. Also, I want Karamo to know his mental revolution of the guy that got married in the 3rd season WRECKED ME & was better than most sermons I’ve sat through. Finally, I want JVN to know that I would NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS enter into a political debate with him, because sister knows her stuff–JVN would DESTROY me. Even though we disagree on some things, I just like to hear him talk, because to hear someone of any side of a debate intelligently explain their position is like gold these days, and I am here for ALL of it.

Y’all got me writing with bad grammar. I’m shook. That is all. ❤

“Somebody Burned Down My She-Shed!”

Oh, the “She-Shed” commercial–you know the one!! Since we don’t have “regular” TV (the downside of living in a valley), the only time I ever hear the commercial is on the radio. When I Googled it to link it here, I decided that the “She-Shed” in the commercial is kinda glorious, you know?

I mean, just the concept–A She-Shed!!!  A quiet place, all my very own, to decorate how I want, and to do with what I want—GLORIOUS.  I think the concept of a private place that is unblemished by little fingerprints or man-boots…a place with perfect lighting and ambient music, with gentle motifs and plush carpet…oooh, okay, that sounds glorious.  My She-Shed would be devoted to crafts; the thermostat would never be above or below 65; I’d have inlaid bookcases, & no one would make me watch YouTube videos about Legos or camera lenses…aaaaaahhhhhhh….Oh, and it would smell of lavender & chocolate chip cookies. Always.

And I’d never leave. 🙂

Cue the music…”in my own little corner, in my own little world.….”

We have this unrequited need to have our Very Own Space in this world, and yes, even though our HOUSE is supposed to be that place, as we grow up we find that it’s not. No, our house gets taken over by stuff, or by the people, or by The Legos, or by the whatevers. It’s hard to maintain the upkeep of keeping your home a place of peace in a world that cranks out materialist must-haves at an alarming rate. Every time I Marie-Kondo my house, I make these wonderful spaces that fill back up again in spite of my promises to myself that it’s not going to happen. I’ve pared down and pared down and pared down, and recent events mean that nope–I’m not filling ANYTHING back up again, and it’s okay.

Learning to make do, and to be okay with making do, is an adventure. It’s frustrating, but it’s something we should all be good at by the age that I’m at (I’m not). The more we pare down or get used to telling ourselves, “no,” the more resourceful we find we are. The more we miss going and doing “the things,” the more I’m appreciating the quiet weekends at home. It takes more creativity to stay busy on the weekends when you don’t have the resources to do what you want (truth be told, we’re not really doing anything on the weekends right now. The weather is crap, and blankets are awesome. It’s an issue). In this process, I’m realizing there were a lot of ruts we were stuck in; there were a lot of patterns we were set in that needed to break. It’s not a fun process, truth be told, but the longer we’re in this boat, the more I realize we’re floating. It’s rough waters, but we’re together.

Last week, we faced some scary decisions…At one point, I was laying on the couch, and David had his head on my lap. My son took the opportunity to make a “DAD SANDWICH!” and pounced on top of him; meanwhile, the dog laid at the foot of the couch so that I couldn’t have got off of the couch if I tried.

I looked down at all of my happiness…my husband, my son, my dog…I know it probably sounds cheesy, but with these decisions looming over my head, in that moment, I felt like I could physically shove the anxiety off of my shoulders. Regardless of what happens…regardless of the outcome…this little group of 4 is everything to me. Everyone in that little circle–even the dog–is an answer to prayer and a reminder of how faithful the Lord is.

I’m choosing joy.

I’m choosing contentment.

I’m choosing to Consider the Lilies, and I’m choosing to stay in the room with this tribe.

I’m not going to lie–I’d love to retreat to my mental She-Shed and just check out. But it’s not what we do. It’s not what Jesus does. He dives in and surrounds the four of us–even the dog–and He wraps us in His arms.  He holds us. He has more of a reason to mentally check out than anyone, yet He stays involved. He’s never distant.

When I was in high school, we studied a book about world views, and one of them discussed the concept of Deism. My understanding of Deism is that God basically set everything in motion in some way–the Big Bang, Intelligent Design, whatever–and then He just steps back and watches us do whatever. He doesn’t intervene; He gives us passing interest, but He lets us live our lives while He does His Own thing. This view of God always struck me as the saddest, because why should we love a Father Who’s checked out?  Why should we care about the “will” of a God Who sits back in His Celestial Man Cave while we run around in the rat traps of earth?

It’s the same kind of philosophy that inspires us to want to hide in She-Sheds or Man-Caves or under a blanket in our bedrooms until the drama subsides. It solves nothing, it helps no one, and it’s entirely narcissistic. Granted, everyone needs some time alone sometimes. I’m not saying that’s a bad idea, and if you have the means to make a She-Shed, Sheryl, BUILD THE THING, OKAY?!? 🙂

Just don’t be surprised if it gets struck by lightning.

I’m kidding!  But seriously, we’re so inundated with noise and drama–my last blog discusses the beauty of getting small, and the appreciation for the quiet. There’s a time for noise and a time for drama, but there’s also a time for being involved and for community. Families aren’t made of individuals who hide and ignore each other. They’re made in the side-by-side, day-to-day relationships we form when we work together. They’re solidified by relationships with our ever-involved God, and with each other. They take constant work, but there’s a constant reward that it so worth it–I have to remind myself of that, because as I age I get more inclined to hide under that blanket.

If I hid in my She-Shed, or under that blanket, I’d miss the peace I found in the family picture of the four of us crowded around/on the couch. I’d miss that gentle reminder from the Lord of all that He’s done and will do, and is doing. I’d miss the reminders in church on Sunday of the people He’s placed in my life, and of the people in who’s lives He’s placed me.

He surrounds us with reminders of His love in the midst of every storm. Sometimes, we don’t see them until we’re through to the other side, and that’s okay. Sometimes, though, they’re undeniably present…as long as we’re present, and don’t check out into our mental She-Sheds or Man Caves.

Stay present. I love the cheesy saying that “it’s called The Present for a reason.” It really is a gift, albeit an occasionally frightening one. Storms don’t go away just because we find a place to hide–we have to face them. But when we face them and when we get present with those storms, we know that He is present WITH us–we’re not alone.

The world tells us to hide and to isolate; it glamorizes the concept a place of our own, but Jesus tells us to Go Out Into All of the World. He tells us to be open and to engage…He tells us He will be with us. He tells us we’re never alone, and that we always have a place of our own, in His Kingdom, in His time. Now is not the time for the She Shed or the Man Cave….Now is the time to change the world, and we do that by building relationships and by celebrating the relationships that we have.

Now, if only I could convince myself to get off of this dang couch….. 🙂

 

Mary, Martha, and the Beauty in the Small…

The world is buried in a cacophony of sound and volume.

We think everything has to be “harder, better, faster, stronger” (shout-out to Kanye for that earworm); everything has to be so much more “-er,” or it’s just not good enough.  We can’t be satisfied with “basic.” In fact, the term “basic” is now an insult! We’ve completely forgotten how to be satisfied with the “bare necessities” that our dear Baloo sang about with such sweet abandon. Everything has to be “Extra,” and if it’s not, well, then it’s “basic,” and that’s BAD. J

It’s so hard to just get quiet.

It’s difficult to get low…to get completely focused…to see the Beauty in the Small.

Last Sunday, I was privileged to be on an “abbreviated” worship team of 3 people. In a church that averages around 50 people or less, we usually have a team that includes a keyboardist/singer, another keyboardist/singer, a guitarist/singer, a bassist, an acoustic guitar player, a drummer, a bongo/cajon player, and 3 background vocalists (of which I am 1). That’s a worship team that’s around 20% of the size of the congregation.

I know that sometimes, there’s a focus on the “sound” that emanates from a team of musicians and singers. Number = volume = emotional impact. I’m not really about that (and that’s not intended to be any kind of a derogatory thought or statement). I’ve been on teams of 40-50 singers, and I’ve been on teams of 2, and one thing I’ve found is that if a heart for worship is there, the Holy Spirit moves. His heart isn’t moved by numbers or volume. His heart is moved by worship, and by a willingness to put ourselves out there to focus on Him.

That’s hard to do when you’re dealing with distractions.

Distractions come in so many forms. As a singer, I struggle with technology (anyone else hate Avioms? Or at least, Avioms that seem to have been chewed up internally by rabid mice? Okay, that hasn’t LITERALLY happened, but my Aviom is constantly going in-and-out, and that is a…problem). I struggle with understanding cues, and with knowing my place. I struggle with my age—am I still relevant as a team member in worship, at 41, when more and more kids and young adults are coming up? I don’t understand click tracks and talk-backs, and I’m not a musician, so I don’t always understand the “right” chord progression. I have this terrible tendency to switch harmonies in the middle of a song if I don’t stay focused, which is a nightmare for anyone singing with me (I’d assume—most people are nice to me about it). More times than not, I find myself rolling my eyes and thinking, “Dear God, I’m a mess. I’m TERRIBLE.” I’m distracted by my own self-esteem, and every single Sunday, I have to push past that to focus on the reason why we come together as a team to worship God: He is worthy. He is so much more worthy of our praise and our attention. He is EVERYTHING, and everything else is NOTHING, so I push it aside—as does every other musician on the team—and we unify in the single focus of worshipping our Savior.

Sometimes it’s messy…but He is always glorified, and we always have the privilege of watching a congregation join us on that journey to praise Jesus.

So, last Sunday, most of our team was at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, taking part in the final One Thing conference. The theme was, “Reset,” and David & I live-streamed as much of it as possible. So many things from the conference really resonated with me…particularly, the discussion led by Corey Russell about Mary of Bethany, and her dear sister, Martha (who is one of my favorite people in the Bible…can’t imagine why).

Martha & I have a LOT in common. Mary and my husband have a LOT in common. My sister and I are about as naturally opposite as two people can get. Mary and Martha were about as naturally opposite as two people can get. J

I identify so strongly with those two sisters.

Martha had work to do, dangit! None of this sittin’ around, listening, whatever! There’s food to make, dishes to wash, things to clean! “You got time to lean, you got time to clean,” right? All of this lounging around, listening to some Guy talk?!?! Ain’t nobody got time for that!!! DANGIT, MARY, GET YOUR REAR IN HERE AND HELP ME!!!!!!!!”  How many times have those words come out of my mouth to my husband?!?  “DAVID!!!!!!!!!!!  Put your tablet/Bible/whatever down and HELP ME!!!” “WHY can’t anyone see that I need help? Why do I always have to ASK?!? Why doesn’t anyone have INITIATIVE to come in here and do the stuff that needs to be done?!?!?!”  Oh, Martha, I love you—I’m so glad the Lord saw fit to put you in the Bible, because women like me NEED to know we’re not tyrants. We’re just the kind of people that see a need and fill it, and pour out constantly….

And we pour ourselves into exhaustion and in doing things in our own strength, because we NEVER take the time to get Small, and get focused.

We never get out of our own heads to find our rest in Him, because we’re convinced in our broken arrogance that the volume of our work, and the number of our works, will turn the heart of God and everyone else.

We break when our efforts go unacknowledged, because we strive so much, even subconsciously, to be recognized and valued.

We so often forget that when we get Small and get focused, then we can hear Him say, “I love you. Just rest.”

BUT WE CAN’T REST, RIGHT?!?!?  THERE ARE THINGS TO DOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

We are distracted, even with our good intentions.

It’s time to stop.

Last Sunday, 3 people came together in worship. It wasn’t perfect; it wasn’t bombastic or voluminous. It was simple…basic (in the best way)…and it was beautiful. It was Small, and it was intimate, and it felt like a healing balm in my heart.

When things are quieter, you have to listen harder. You have to focus more; you can’t be distracted, because then you miss the cues and there’s nothing that you can hide behind.  There isn’t a blanket of sound that covers mistakes or cushions missed cues. It’s stripped down, and it’s pure…

There is Beauty in the Small.

For us Marthas in the world, we “go big or go home.” We’re going to do what we have to do; we’re going to do it to the best of our abilities. We’re going to produce good works, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It becomes “wrong” when it becomes our focus, instead of the Jesus we say we want to serve. How can we hear what He wants when we’re so busy doing what we think needs to be done? If we don’t have those “Mary Moments” where we get quiet and focus at his feet…where we go Small and seek intimacy…how will know His heart?

We “go big,” but ultimately, in an All-Martha world, we get broken.

The Beauty of the Small is that in it, we find rest. We find focus; we find His heart in the simplicity and we are refueled and refocused to face the complicated.

The world throws volume and distraction our way….it keeps us from worship, and it keeps us from that place at His feet that He’s reserved for us.  When we reset, we find our seat with Him…where we are His, and He is ours, and the joy of the Bridegroom for His Bride is complete.

As I stated in my last blog, my husband lost his job shortly before Christmas. There’s a funny thing that happens when your finances get cut by 60%:  You stop running around. You no longer have the resources to fund things to do, so you find yourself staying home the majority of the time. Truth be told, had we done more of that prior to him losing his job, we probably wouldn’t have some of the financial troubles we’re currently struggling with. The sudden lack of income has left us reeling and has forced us to break down expenses, debts, excuses, bad decisions, and a lot of things we didn’t realize or didn’t want to deal with. Staying busy means that you can often ignore reality. Getting suddenly “unbusy” means reality comes crashing in, along with a WHOLE LOT of fear, failures, burdens, and things we hadn’t realized were quite so strong in our lives.

As a family, we’re in a bit of a “forced” Mary-Moment, and the Martha in me is FREAKING OUT. It’s a minute-by-minute process to stop, breathe, refocus, pray, and beg for peace. The conversations between my husband and I have been brutal, and outside of the death of our daughter, this is the hardest thing our marriage has been through. The anxiety is crushing, & while David tends to internalize to the point of my frustration, I am fighting to keep from exploding (to the point of HIS frustration). We don’t know how to deal with or process any of this…but we are. What else can we do?

And where else can we go? We have One place to turn with all of this.

Day by day, we look at each other…we watch our words very carefully, and sometimes, we fail. There’s a lot of unraveling…but as difficult as this is, we are taking the deep breaths and walking the path.

It’s not God’s “fault.” It’s an uncomfortable redirection, and it hurts. I don’t want to say “He has a plan,” because that phrase is so cliché. I want to say that He knows what’s happening, and what’s going to happen, so I will trust Him. We will trust Him…but to hear where He’s taking us, we have to embrace this Mary Moment, to focus, and to stay at His feet, even as everything within me wants to get up and run. “WHY ISN’T THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO FIX THIS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!” It’s not in my nature to sit down and wait.

It’s time to get a new nature.

It’s time to find the Beauty in the Small…to realize the vanity of the distracting…to dull the outside noise and to take off the burden of the to-do list.  It’s time to celebrate intimacy with the Father in quiet and in worship without the vanity of volume.

It’s time to reset.

 

(BTW, if you are looking for worship songs to help you in your journey of resting in Jesus, check out my friend, Bizzy Grapperhaus. She’s written so many songs that I call, “milestone songs;” the songs are Scripture-based, and for me, have truly helped key verses get ingrained into my heart through some of my toughest times. Right now, “Drink Offering,” “Here We Are,” and “Faithful as the Son” are on repeat on my Spotify account. This is NOT a sponsored plug, if you’re wondering; it’s just truth, because she’s awesome.)

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Cinnamon Rolls, Reality TV, and a Pink Slip for the Holidays…

I’ve been baking this holiday season….a LOT. I love the “Great British Bake-Off,” “Nailed It,” and basically any baking show that Netflix will offer. I like the challenge of it, I like learning new techniques, and I like discovering things I’ve never heard of (thank you, Paul Hollywood). I’ve realized that Americans are kinda crappy at baking, embracing loud colors and crazy fillings over subtle flavors and maybe even over techniques. I’m learning to value the time-tested traditions of doing things by hand.

There is so much value in what you make with your own two hands.

So, I scour my old cookbooks (like, 1950’s), my favorite websites (Buzzfeed/Tasty), and my favorite–the old church cookbooks that I inherited from a retired pastor’s wife. You find some real gems in there that are an education! It’s always a lesson, whether it’s in the mistakes, the measuring, or in the successes.

For Christmas, I made my usual–Russian Tea Cakes, Peanut Butter Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Sugar Cookies (which are from the pits of Hell). I also, for the very first time, made a gingerbread house THAT IS STILL STANDING!!! (Note: I am a CRAP decorator, when it comes to icing cookies. Just absolute CRAP. I accept it. Don’t judge me, Prue.)!!

The gingerbread was actually quite tasty, but the best part of all, was the fact that I got to recreate a favorite memory of mine, with my son. My mama was a single mom for a brief while, and a lady she worked with invited us over to make gingerbread houses, and I loved it. Jericho had a blast decorating the house, and a memory was made.

I also made an angel food cake from scratch; I tackled fondant for the first time; and I made a total of 4 different kinds of icing throughout the holiday season.

Man, I’m TIRED.

Baking has been therapeutic for me, for sure, although the mess has definitely increased David’s stress level!

I have some vacation time over this holiday, so I’ve been staying up a bit later than usual. Last night, I tried to watch a documentary on Netflix about memes and social media in society. It documented the hazards and the blessings of people who have made careers out of social media–Paris Hilton, some guy named Krill, The Fat Jewish–I didn’t get very far, because what they were saying was hurting my heart. They talked about “likes” being an addiction…about getting out of bed every morning, and pouring their time and attention into what was getting “likes” on social media. Paris was saying something about loving her fans just as much as she loves her family!!!! The fans are what fuels these media titans, and I just don’t understand it.

Granted, I’m HARDLY their demographic. I’m not cool, and I’m okay with that. I’ll stick to stalking my bakers on Instagram, and be on my merry way. That’s totally fine. These social media people look happy, and I guess they are? I can’t judge that. But I wonder who hugs them when the internet goes down? Who rubs their shoulders when they cry, and who plays frisbee with them on summer days? I mean, I’m sure they could post a call-out on Instagram and find 5 “friends” in 5 minutes, but who holds their hearts? “Likes” don’t fill the hole in our heart, and things sure get messy when the camera pans out.

Baking is a FANTASTIC reflection of my life right now…don’t things look pretty? Look at this gorgeous cinnamon roll! Not too bad, for my first time at this recipe! Once these babies proof tomorrow for a second time, they’re gonna rock our world!!!

I’ve posted the link to this recipe at the end of the blog. LOOK AT MY GORGEOUS PAN OF CINNAMON ROLLS!!!!!!

This recipe is COMPLICATED, to me (not to Paul Hollywood…sigh…). It takes patience, time, and some skills that I’m still working on. (BTW, if you make this, don’t use a spatula to spread out the filling. Use your hands. It makes the butter spread more evenly.)

My beautiful little pans of rolls are sitting in my fridge, and will proof for 40 minutes tomorrow before baking and icing. I’m EXCITED. And if you look at this pan, you see delectable cinnamon rolls…and that’s all you see….but here’s what’s really going on (pans the camera out):

It’s an effing disaster.

I’m a really, really messy cook…my kitchen is TINY…there were already dishes in the sink when I started…and why is my Dremel on the counter?!?!? This messy kitchen has already ruined one cake this season, when I spilled water on a 2-tiered cake and trashed the whole thing (including ganache). There’s always a mess, but we do get it cleaned up when all is said and done.

But you’d never know that, from the close-up of my beautiful cinnamon roll dough.

When we only focus on what we want to see, we are lying to ourselves. We are ignoring the mess, the process that got us to where we are, and the consequences of our actions. Social media stars only show you what they want you to see–the cinnamon rolls, which is why you love them–and never show you the mess behind the scenes. They’re succeeding based on a fictionalized, glamorized, perfect life–which we all want–and telling us we can have it all without the mess.

It’s not real.

There’s never a cinnamon roll without some flour….or without some dirty pans…or without the aching hands that come from kneading. There are messes built into our perceived perfection, and as a society, we’ve forgotten how to value that part of the process.

I’m just as guilty as the next person of only posting the “good life.” I post the cinnamon rolls–not the mess. I post the laughing–not the tears from the fight from the day before.

I just posted happy Christmas photos of my son and of my family….

I didn’t post that one month ago today, my husband lost his job, and with it, over half of our income.

I didn’t post that we’re individually and corporately gutted…that we’re in a mess, and that we don’t know what to do. I posted that God provides–He does–but not the tears and the prayers and the kindness that people have shown us privately.

I didn’t post the fears or the failures…the struggles David & I are having as we come to grips with new responsibilities and accountabilities, or the anxiety and overwhelming panic that has set in on multiple occasions.

No doubt, the hardest thing we’ve ever been through has been the loss of our daughter. This comes in second, even over cancer. We’ve looked at each other with every conceivable emotion over the past 30 days, and have struggled with keeping words in check. This is hard, and we’re struggling to regroup, even as we know God is in control and that He provides. It’s still frickin’ hard, and that’s all there is to it.

I want the cinnamon roll posts. I want to laugh, and show pictures of smiling faces. No one wants to see anyone look as awful as we feel right now, and I certainly don’t want to put that out on social media. I totally get why the social media stars paint their cinnamon-roll lives. I want to, as well..but reality is what we all deal with, so painting perfection is deceptive at best.

We serve a God of truth, not a god of entertainment. We serve a God of messy kitchens and of cinnamon rolls, a God of time-proven redemption, verses a god of microwave solutions. We serve a God that sees our messes and loves us through them. He sees our mistakes, our tears, and eventually, only He can weave them into portraits that don’t need Instagram filters or clicks.

We serve a God that is constantly reminding me that He cares about the sparrows…about the lilies of the field and the lost, the broken, the found and the repaired.

Social media, and social media stars, are visual candy in a world that is starving for steak. It’s better to take the time and effort to be the steak–to be the thing that sustains and nourishes–than to be the instant gratification of the “pretty” that we see on camera. It’s just not as easy to process or to implement.

So, that’s the truth. We paint pictures of pretty families and beautiful Christmases, and everyone “likes” it and calls themselves your “friend,” but it’s not real, and we have to understand that this faux “reality” is anything but. What’s real, is the person you call when you’re down…the person who shows up at your door, the person you stop everything to visit when they’re ill, and the face-to-face time (not the “facetime”) spent together. Real people, real prayers, real heart, and real love….even when it’s really messy.

In my last blog, I alluded to the fact that we were struggling, and now you know why. We are, though, still together, still trying to figure it out, and still dedicated to maintaining a happy household for our son. We’re so blessed that we have family, friends, and a church that is there for us–in person–to sustain us with prayer and love. We’re so, so grateful.

So grateful, in fact, that I think I’m going to have to bake another batch or two of these cinnamon rolls.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/hannahloewentheil/cinnamon-rolls-from-scratch-recipe-tips?utm_term=.rcVo9GAR9G#.rcVo9GAR9G

Mommy Bloggers & the White Women of Hope (in the Real World)

Dear Mommy Bloggers and White-Chick-Motivational-Speakers:

Hi.

I wanted to be like you, more than you could possibly know.

I wanted the Pinterest life, the 2.5 kids, the I-Can-Bake-Sugar-Cookies-And-Not-Get-Flour-Anywhere perfection that’s gorgeously-photographed-with-a-perfect-filter persona.

I wanted to have the right Bible verse at the right time, to show you and everyone that I. Am. A. Good. Christian. Wife.

I wanted the en-pointe brow, the Jenner-worthy highlight, and the Hatmaker-moxie that makes everyone love me and want to be like me…Just. Like. You.

I wanted to be Candace.

I wanted to be Jen.

I wanted to be Glennon.

 

I can’t.

 

Am I the only one that sees these “normal” women and weeps because they feel like their life is wasted in a reality that is NOTHING like what they read? Am I the only one that can’t listen to someone tell me, “Girl, Wash Your Face,’ because at this point, there aren’t any bootstraps to pull myself up by? Am I the only one that had a dream that keeps getting derailed by illness or finances or a million other obstacles that just keep coming, one after another, without a break?

 

Am I the only one that’s about to give it all up?

 

There are things in my life that I was told would never happen—my son, first and foremost—and they DID happen, so I know it’s possible. I know it CAN happen, but what does it take? Why am I not good enough, if I truly am giving my best?

 

How much more of myself do I have to pour out, before there is that promised refreshing of the Spirit? Before the “potential” is the realized present?

 

I’m not whining or indulging in defeat. These are honest questions that we as Christians need to be willing to ask with open hearts. These are questions that are very easy to slap a Bible verse and a Snapchat filter on, along with a “Cheer up, Charlie!”  response, but all that does is create impressions of a Martha-Stewart Reality. Jesus doesn’t listen to hurting hearts and say, “Girl, get yourself up and out of that funk, right now!”

Jesus says, “You’re hurting, and I know it. I feel it, and I’m here. You won’t be in this place forever, daughter, but you’re here now, and I’m here, too. Today, we rest. Rest in Me. I know you feel defeated. I know you feel like you’re at the bottom. I know you want to give up.

I know you’re broken.

I’m here to make you whole.

But it’s going to take a while.”

The Song of Solomon says, “Do not awaken Love before its time.” (Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:5; 8:4) It actually says it like, 3 times in the book, so that tells me it’s important. The dangers of focusing on the Mommy Bloggers and the White Women of Hope are that the image and the promises are instantaneous, although I do not think that’s their intention. We see the Glennons and the Jens and we see beautiful faces and gorgeous honesty…we see the aftermath, and we think our redemption and the answer to our problems is RIGHT NOW.

 

Well, I’m here to tell myself and to remind myself (and you, maybe) that we don’t want to awaken Love before its time. The statement tells us, it reminds us, that everything has a TIME—everything has a designated time and a designated process, and we (I) always hurt the most when my time frame and His time frame don’t match up.

 

He has a plan for my life.

I can’t see it, right now.

Right now, I’m an internal ball of electrified yarn, and every time I try to untangle it, I get shocked by the situation I’m in, and wounded even further.

I have to wait this out, and as I once told a friend of mine, “there is breaking in the waiting.”

 

I’m not pretty right now.

I’m not Pinterest-worthy (not that I ever was).

I don’t have pithy sayings and roll-script placards to hang in my foyer (LOL—like I have a foyer).

I want to awaken Love, and see the end of this story, because THIS CHAPTER SUCKS. (Underlined, italics, all-caps—get it?!?!?!?!?!??  I really, REALLY mean it. This chapter sucks. Completely.)

 

I am going out on a limb and saying that I need prayer right now. My family needs prayer. I hate saying that, because I feel like there’ve been so many times where we’ve had a “dramatic” thing happen and have needed prayer; it’s very hard for me to suck up my pride and just admit it right now. My little family is broken, and our hearts are hurting. We need supernatural provision and for doors to open in unforeseen ways.

 

I need peace that passes all understanding, and the physical capability to cope with the stress that we’re under. I need a refreshing in my heart that pushes past the things I see—the Jens and the Glennons and the Candaces—and seals in my heart the love and value that God sees in me, because I can’t see it right now.

 

The disappointment that is choking me is usurping my ability to find the joy in every situation, which is something I’ve always said I wanted to maintain. I can’t laugh, and that’s not like me, so this has to lift. I’m being transparent, here—the depression/anxiety that is always on the brink is threatening much more than just my sanity this time, and I’m struggling to fight through it (and yes, I’m medicated, but that only goes so far). This year is ending on the battlefield, and we’re wounded.

 

So, I can try to read the words of the Jens and the Glennons and the Candaces (and even the Voskamps), but they’re bouncing off, because all I taste is the bitterness of a sanitized presentation.

Then again, who wants to read the words written from the middle of Ground Zero?

 

Sometimes, I look back on what I wrote in the thick of it, in other times in my life.

I look back on the things I said from Ground Zero, and I remember the journey out of that valley.

 

I’ve been here before.

 

It’s different, but familiar

And I know that God is faithful,

Even when I’m broken.

 

I’m not going to awaken Love before its time.

I’m not going to read someone else’s words about how they went from nothing-to-something, or from broken-to-whole.

They’re not me, and the more I think about them, the more I sink into a pit of jealousy and frustration.

 

I’m going to read the words of eternal Life,

And I’m going to cry, and break, and be a snotty, un-Snapchattable, Pinterest-failure of a person, and I’m going to (eventually) accept that it’s okay.

 

I’m going to put one foot in front of another, and most likely, trip and fall flat on my face…again…and again….and again…

But eventually,

I’ll get back up, as will my household.

 

For right now, though, we are in yet-another valley, & there aren’t enough pithy sayings from the White Women of Hope that can pull us out.

 

We will not awaken Love before its time…we will go through this process, and we will embrace the hurting; we will learn the lessons we need to learn, and we will be as transparent as we need to be, even when it breaks our pride & makes us feel raw & exposed. We will accept the failure on our own, & we will not whitewash it in Magnolia paints or Pinterest craft boards. We will live in this moment, and maintain the hope that we have that it’s not forever. It’s a time, and there isn’t a fast-forward button on this one.

 

And someday, He will make the exchange of Beauty for Ashes, and we will see how His hand worked through it all…because He is Who He says He is, and through it all, we believe.

3am…

I don’t want to be awake right now.

Steroids do funny things. I’m on Day 4, & I know they’re doing what they need to do, but I’m tired…but jumpy…and honestly, emotional.

Her birthday is this week….it’s Tuesday. If you ask me specifically why it hits me differently every year, I couldn’t tell you. Everything was running along smoothly, except for, same as last year, when I realized that life was running along so quickly that I wouldn’t have time this week to take that “pause” to honor her….to reflect on her life….and I hate that.

I had to say the words last night out loud, “Hey, I get this. We need this. She was real, she was a person, and she is part of who we are, so even in this crazy, busy week, we make time.”

I don’t know how that is going to happen, but it IS going to happen.

We move along in life so quickly….we have our routines and schedules. We don’t take time to sit and reflect, so it feels unnatural, but it needs to be done. Pain and sadness need to be recognized, so they can be processed….so that they don’t get buried….because we all know they don’t STAY buried.

For me, if I don’t take this time now, these feelings and frustrations will manifest themselves in a couple of ways. I’ll cry or fly off of the handle about something innocuous. I’ll sulk or withdraw. I won’t sleep. I will carry around unnecessary guilt and shame. I’ll get sick. My family will suffer, & it will all be fallout from my failure to listen to that still, small voice that says, “Stop. Breathe. Remember.”

My daughter…my beautiful winter butterfly…would be 12 years old this week. We’d be going through “the change” that all of the women in my family went thru at 12, and OMG HOW WOULD WE DEAL?!?!? I imagine we’d be having arguments about social media & boys, & junior-high drama…there would be the introduction to makeup, or maybe a CCW class with Auntie, & Lord knows what else. We’d be starting the conversation about college, and I would be internally freaking out about how much information about LIFE, & HOW do parents maintain that balance? I think my Hannah & I would have a good relationship, & that I would be finding myself on my knees more than ever before as we enter the last year before TEENAGERDOME. 🙂

My little girl passed away before too much of her personality could be established, but there are some things I know for certain: She loved music. She loved songs with soul & excitement. 🙂 She smelled like Cheerios, & she knew her Daddy’s voice. She was a happy baby, which is amazing, considering the duress by which she came into the world…

And she made me into someone I’ve wanted to be, for as long as I can remember: She made me a Mom.

I will always, always be grateful to God for blessing us with her. I will always be grateful for our 29 days on this earth together, & I have absolutely no regrets. We had a gift that changed the course of our lives, our marriage, & our faith, & we are eternally impacted by 29 days with the most precious princess this world has ever seen.

I love that our journey with Hannah isn’t over. I love knowing that because of Jesus, it’s only on “pause,” until we are together in eternity. I love that He gives us that level of hope, and that He takes our despair & turns it into a beautiful anticipation of what is to come….

Happy birthday, Hannah Elizabeth Gayle Cooley. You’ve made my world more amazing and beautiful, just because I had the chance to call you mine.

3am isn’t so bad, after all.

The Inconvenience of Healthcare AKA, Making a Big Deal out of Nothing At All

*Never doubt my love of Air Supply.
**Back Story: If you’re new to the blog, I was diagnosed with metastatic thyroid cancer in 2015. I had a tumor that wrapped around my throat and went into my mediastinum; the cancer broke through the capsule of the tumor and went into my lymph nodes. I had a total thyroidectomy (TT) in 2015, and have been on thyroid replacement hormones (TRH) since then (Armour Thyroid). After firing my first set of doctors (oncology, ENT, and endocrinologist–the oncologist didn’t want to see me back for any follow-up care for a year, which my PCP didn’t appreciate; the surgeon became out of my insurance network; the endocrinologist miscommunicated a medication dosage to her staff, and almost killed me), I wound up switching all of my cancer-related care to Barnes Jewish Hospital’s Siteman Cancer Center, where I’ve remained since 2016.
Surgeon: “You need to visit the oncologist for updated testing; it’s been 2 years, so you’re due.”
Oncology Nurse: “Please come in for a consultation!”
Me: Has a day off, arranges schedule accordingly (I work 40 hours a week, and have a 45-minute commute each way. I stay busy. For this appointment, I was going to have my son with me, but whatever–we’d make it work).
Oncology Nurse (2 days before the scheduled consultation): “Oh, no, we don’t want to see you for a consultation until you get all of these tests, which will take an entire week to accomplish. Let’s get this scheduled.” This testing involves 2 days of injections, plus one day of radiation (tracer dose), plus 1 day off (because I can’t be around pregnant people), and then a day of labs and a full-body scan….which didn’t work on me, the last time I did it, and I wound up having to have a very expensive PET scan….so I was trepidatious, to say the least.
Me: Arranges appropriate time off of work; arranges childcare. Gets everything scheduled and gets everything approved through office (which couldn’t come at a worse time, given my current workload). Gets emotionally prepared to be a pincushion for a week. Informs family of process to come, and struggles with ensuing anxiety.
Oncology Nurse: “Oh, no, wait, we don’t want to do any of this testing until we have a consultation scheduled.”
Me: “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!?!?!?” LOSES MY TEMPER on highly-degreed individuals who have obviously forgotten that I AM A HUMAN, and I am more than the stupid disease that has been hanging over my head for 3 years!!!!! “Could you NOT have decided to do the consultation first, like we ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED, before putting me through all of the hassle to put a very busy life on hold for a week? Could you maybe have REVIEWED A CHART and a medical history, and REMEMBERED a few key details?!?!?! Who decided this?!?  Who decided to do one thing, then another, and then the first thing, after I already rearranged my life?!?!?! The Nurse Practitioner? Can I speak to her?!?!?!” She takes a message, and says the NP will call me back.
Me (super-mad): Calls surgeon who sent me back to oncology in the first place; gets favorite nurse on the phone. “Lisa? Can you help me? Can you talk to them and figure out the why in what the heck they’re doing, since your MD sent me back to that office in the first place?!?!?” She agrees to call them; she was out of the office when I was told to make the oncology appointment, and she’s aggravated that the MD forgot to explain everything to her. She’s been amazing. She can’t help what happens next.
Oncology Nurse Practitioner (now I’ve moved up the chain of command; my phone was IN MY HAND and went to voicemail, and this is what I got): “Mrs. Cooley, the insurance company won’t cover any of the testing until you’ve had a consultation.”
THEN WHY DID THEY CANCEL THE ONE I HAD SCHEDULED IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!!!!!!!!
I am so sick and tired of the medical BS that doctors put people through, because somehow, in all of this, they forget that we are individuals who put our actual lives on hold to deal with these things that come from out of nowhere to sideline us and our families!!!!! It’s been 12 hours since my conversation with oncology, and I’m STILL mad. It’s an endless cycle of bad communication, and it’s a small wonder that insurance companies are now basically practicing medicine without licenses in order to dictate the course of care/medical authorizations. IF THE DOCTORS THAT ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CARE THAT AFFECTS THE QUALITY OF OUR LIFE CANNOT EFFECTIVELY COMMUNICATE WITH EITHER THEMSELVES OR WITH THEIR PATIENTS, what hope do we have for our medical well-being?!?!
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I don’t think it’s too much to ask, for a doctor to review at the very least, a list of the patient’s diagnoses before they walk into a room for a consultation or order a test…but guess what? They’re so over-scheduled that they don’t have time. BUT, they’re so over-scheduled, because the insurance contracts reduce their allowed amounts to the point that in spite of popular opinion, doctors and hospitals generally make just enough money to make a profit, or even to barely meet costs. My orthopedic surgeon–you know, the woman who was responsible for cutting my feet open and rearranging the tendons so that I could relearn how to walk properly–was allowed maybe 10 minutes for each visit (actually, I think it was 4 minutes) by her overseeing medical group. 4-10 minutes, to make sure that surgery is necessary, that 4″ of incisions are healing properly (mine didn’t), to decide what steps need to be taken–she has 4-10 minutes to make decisions that will affect me for the rest of my life. Me, and the 50-90 other patients that she’ll see in a day.  Fortunately for me, my ortho was AMAZING, and her staff was phenomenal….not every MD is as dedicated, and not every MD can handle the workload they’re assigned (patients, documentation, insurance reviews–it’s more than the average patient understands).
ARE THEY KIDDING US?!?!?!? Are they kidding the doctors? They didn’t sign up for this; they signed up to help people, not to treat them like a cattle call.
But there they are, making decisions, saving lives, and leaving a trail of confusion and frustration in their wake…
At this point, I’m not sure what’s more frustrating—the doctors, the insurance companies, or the diseases that exist in the first place.
I was whining on the phone to my mother last night (God love her, for listening to me), and she pointed out (very gently) that since my thyroid was ripped out, my ability to process my emotions has been greatly affected. I detest admitting that she is correct, but it’s true. I struggle with being angrier when I’m mad, with being deeply depressed when I’m sad. There’s no happy medium with my emotions, and it makes things much more difficult. There are times when I’ve wondered if I’m straight-up bipolar, or on the spectrum, or if I’m just permanently screwed up from all of this. Maybe it’s PTSD on steroids, or maybe I’m just a terrible person. I don’t think it’s normal for people to stew on things like I do, or to have the internal (and sometimes external) monologues that I have to sort things out. I don’t want to admit that I’ve changed, but it’s true: I’m different.
I don’t know if I’m more honest, or if I’m just, frankly, more of a bitch. I don’t know if I’m more unfiltered (because I don’t have the patience to wrap things in snowflakes for the general public), or if the more choleric side to my personality has somehow mutated, but what I do know is that I am sick and tired of the hamster-wheel that a chronic illness put me on.
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I like people less. I have less patience for people. I like the fact that I sit in an office by myself, because I don’t think I can deal with the anxiety and stress that dealing with the public puts me through. I don’t like getting out of my familiar, and I don’t want to do it. When doctors lay out a course of treatment or protocol, I will latch onto that, and Type-A get it scheduled, and God-help-you if you get in the way of MY PLAN.
On the plus side, since my whole cancer debacle, at least you know when you ask me a question, you will get the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, once I’ve warmed up to you and feel like I can trust you with the unfiltered version of me. That takes a while–I’m not as easy of a person to get to know as one would think at first.
I think the thing I’m the angriest about is that I have an incredible amount of anxiety any time I have to deal with the oncology department. I can’t explain it or make it go away; just knowing I have to go back there seems to undo me, and I had just gotten it into my brain that this was actually happening again. Surely I am not the only person in the world who deals with this?!?!?  I had just made peace with it all, and had made my plans accordingly; as aforementioned, I do NOT like it when my PLAN gets messed up or taken out of order, LOL. That’s not doing me any favors in motherhood, let me tell ya’. Am I crazy for being this aggravated about this one instance of medical miscommunication?!? Or should we all get this mad, and maybe make something happen from it?
I know the “right” things to say, here: “God has a plan.” “This will all get worked out.” “Trust Him with your anger.” “Be angry, but don’t sin (stop swearing!).” “Stop ranting (that’s part of my monologue-ing)”. “It’s still the good kind of cancer, right? Be grateful!” Blahbaty-blah-blah. And yes, I’m praying about it..sort of. It’s one of those throw-up-your-hands-and-yell/pray kind of prayers. 🙂 I do that a lot lately.
Healthcare in this country has got to get figured out. I consider myself to be a pretty informed patient after almost 20 years of working in this industry, and if this kind of confusion in healthcare is “normal,” WHAT IN THE WORLD is going on? What have we come to?!? And what are we paying for?!?!?!?!?

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

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

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Natural-Order-of-The-Family

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

It’s still missing the mark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wives and Husbands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because they can’t.

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

That’s crap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is that crazy?

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

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

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

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