“Don’t Get Drunk and Do Things!”

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

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

Humanity is one big epic fail YouTube video - Imgflip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s too heavy,” I said.

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

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

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

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

Sacrilegious is never funny.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unpacking the Brain Backpack, AKA, “What grade did my kid just get?!?!?”

My kiddo is smart.

I’m not saying he’s like, “genius-savant-off-the-charts” smart, but the kid can keep up conversations with people three times his age. Half the time, when he’s in trouble, he can skillfully debate with my on a level that leaves me shaking my head (and he definitely keeps me on my toes). I’m not looking forward to the teen years, let me tell you.

He’s quick-witted, easily distracted, and possibly OCD when he gets on a topic of choice. He may have a slight dose of ADD, but as long as he continues to maintain acceptable levels of self-control, I’m not going to look at getting a formal diagnosis. The investment into keeping him in a small, faith-based school means that he’s getting a lot of one-on-one relationships and education, so we’re able to maintain independence as parents when it comes to our child’s unique personality (Unpopular opinion: When your kid is 1 in a class of 24, with 1 teacher, and they have a lot of energy/thoughts/need to express all of the above, the teacher can’t possibly give them the space they need to do that, without affecting the other kids. Kids then fall behind, because they’re not getting what they need and they’re in an impossible environment. It’s hard on the teacher, the child, and the parents, and many times, parents are told they need to get their kids “under control.” The conditioning has become to get your child a formal diagnosis, an Individual Educational Plan, medication in many situations, counseling, and an asterisk that they are “different” or somehow not on a level that’s even with their peers. I feel like this would be the path we’d be facing in public school. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, but I am saying that it’s not for us. Small classes, individual attention, a solid curriculum, and most importantly, a foundation of faith, is the education I grew up with and is the education we chose for our child. I understand it is not for everyone—I’m not here to pass judgment, and am in no way saying that all kids are treated the same, or should expect to be. I will definitely say that I’m a huge advocate for Christian education, and that if you ever have any questions about it, I’m more than happy to answer to the best of my abilities. I went to Christian schools from Kindergarten through my Bachelor’s degree, and my son is now in his 4th year of Christian education, so I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grasp on the good, the bad, and the scary.). My son’s teachers have all celebrated Jericho’s strengths and have challenged his rough edges; I don’t always agree with them, but I will always support them (and when I don’t agree, I reach out to them to clarify my questions, and they ALWAYS respond with kindness).

Second Grade is challenging my son. I have to say that I don’t believe it’s challenging his intelligence as much as it’s challenging his patience and his focus (and looking back, I wish I would have realized the same things about myself as I faced my own academic issues). He gets the facts straight for his classes, but then doesn’t exhibit the focus he needs in order to recall those facts. He doesn’t want to slow down enough to have legible handwriting for his answer to count as correct.  This has led to a number of discussions (many ending in tears) about, “Jericho, what is the point of knowing the answer if you won’t take the time to write it neatly enough to be read? You KNOW this stuff!!!” I find myself getting frustrated. I don’t want to go the route that devolves into hurting feelings, or making him feel like he’s “less than.” It can be challenging to convert, “DO better!!!” to, “Hey, you’re awesome, and you’re enough…and you’re also way smarter than a “B,” so slow down and do the job.”

I want him to understand that he is more than capable, and that it’s WORTH IT to slow down and to do it right…

But what does he hear???

It’s very difficult for me to stop, refocus my words, and to clarify both my intention and my love for him. I look at his little face when he’s turned in a “Bad” grade, and I know he’s beating himself up for it more than I ever could.

When we’ve had remote learning, he’s told me, “I don’t WANT to do the work with you!!  You expect me to be PERFECT!!!!!!!”

It’s not true, but oh, how that hurt my heart to hear. I still want to cry when I think about it—have I failed him, in pushing him towards his potential? Or do I keep pressing in? 

I’m not inclined to accept mediocrity when I know he has the ability to excel, but at what cost?

“You’re not here to be his friend,” I remind myself on an almost-daily basis. I love him too much to let him take the easy way out, even when it’s hard for me to stand my ground.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not Tiger-Momming it over here. I consistently tell him that I want to see that he’s TRIED. If he tries and he gets a “C,” I’m totally okay with that—but I want him to TRY. That’s what matters to me, more than letters. Speaking of “C,” last night, he brought home a “C” on a science test.

I about fell over….the words escaped my mouth before I could stop them” “What in the world?!?  A C?!?!”

Cue the tears.

He cried, and he wailed, and he yelled, and he had a Total. Meltdown. David was working upstairs, and he came down to see what torture I had inflicted in the household, to warrant such a racket.

I hadn’t said a word, other than my initial shock. You see, the night before that test, Jericho had recited almost word-for-word, the entire Study Guide. He knew it all. When I went to bed the night before, I just knew he was going to kill that science test, and maintain his GPA (yes, we talk about it in the Second Grade). He knew all of this stuff, and for him to bring home a “C” was a genuine shock to me.

He cried his little eyes out while sitting on my lap. I shushed him, told him it was okay, and quietly said that I just wanted to unpack what happened (I never raised my voice, if you’re wondering). He kept yelling. It took a while to calm him down and to focus, but once he did, I told him this story:

“Your brain—sometimes, your brain is full of cats in paper sacks. It’s nearly impossible to get your thoughts wrangled together and to focus through to find what you need, right?

Jericho, think of your brain like your Backpack. Say you’re going to Grammy’s house, and you need socks. You throw them into your backpack, first thing…and they sink to the bottom, as everything does when you throw it into the backpack, first.

As the day goes on, more things go into the backpack: Shoes, pajamas, stuffed animals…everything goes into the backpack, on top of everything else….

But you need your socks….and they’re at the bottom of the backpack….So what do you do?”

“You dump the backpack out and you find them.”

“Exactly. So, you sort through everything to find what you need, right?

It’s the same thing for your Brain. Think of your Brain as your Backpack:

You see, you KNEW all of the answers to that science test. You had it!  But things happened….maybe a video game, or a TV show. Maybe you put a puzzle together that you were excited about, or you had a really great recess. All of those were things that went into your Brain Backpack, on TOP of the science stuff you knew so well, the night before.

So when the science test started, you needed to take a few deep breaths, focus, and really concentrate on sorting through all of the “other” stuff in your Brain Backpack, and find the answers you knew in the bottom of the bag—THEN you can pull the answers out, and write everything down as you know it.”

I don’t know if this mental picture will help him on his next test, but I know that as parents, our responsibility to encourage him towards excellence while protecting his self-esteem is very important to me. I never want him to feel like HE is not enough, even when his efforts are lacking. I’m grateful that he’s first of all, in a classroom, and secondly, surrounded by educators who are on the same page as David & I are, in lovingly pushing him towards his potential while giving him space to learn. It’s a delicate, balance and one that I am very challenged by.

Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart, and it’s not for those who aren’t willing to look at tear-filled eyes and still stand their ground (in love). I’m not his friend; I love him so much more than that….and I’m so grateful for my spirited, smart, hilarious little mini. He’s a good kid.

This video by The Holderness Family basically sums up our lives right now, and I couldn’t agree more!!!!!!!!!

Side note—Since my last post, we got a dog! Say “hello” to Noodle the Mutt—she’s about 5 months old, and she & Jericho are still getting used to each other, so that comes with its own set of challenges. I never wanted a small dog, and David never wanted a rescue or a mutt….Noodle happily meets all three of those “nevers” and we couldn’t love her more.

“Nothing Breaks Like A Heart…AKA, “[Don’t] Take Another Little Piece of My Heart Now Baby”

Waaaaaay back when I was born, my mother was told that I had a slight heart murmur that I would most likely grow out of. I did.

In college, too much stress + bad food choices + lack of sleep + tooooooo much caffeine = Cardiac Arrhythmia, which eventually resolved. Everything was juuuuuust fine….

Until it wasn’t.

In 2006, I became pregnant with my first child. As a first-time mom, my complaints of, “Hey, I really can’t breathe too well,” and “Um, Doc? I can’t get enough breath support to sing,” were written off as new-mom, “well, what do you expect? You have a human pressing on your diaphragm,” rhetoric and explained away (I’m just a woman, Mr. Doctor. What do I know?).

2 months before I was due, I started seeing double, having migraines, and throwing up. Basic science diagnosed me with severe preeclampsia, and do you know what the “cure” for preeclampsia is? Delivery. So, my daughter was delivered 6 weeks early, and I was “gonna be just fine, ma’am,” said Mr. Third-Generation-I-Know-Everything OB-GYN….

Until it wasn’t.

2 days after I delivered, I couldn’t breathe…coughing and choking on top of a C-section incision is no fun. My sister ran for help, my mother prayed in tongues at the top of her lungs, and the nurses (who were in the middle of changing shifts, as of course, I have fantastic timing) & doctors realized I was in severe congestive heart failure. Over 20 pounds of fluid were drained out of my heart and lungs in the next 24 hours, and I went in for the fight of-and-for my life….while also trying to be a new mom to a premature infant.

Peripartum cardiomyopathy with congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension became the noose of a diagnosis that hung around my neck for the next 6 years as I went from specialist-to-specialist, trying to find a cardiologist that would both “fix” me, and would work with me as I wanted to try to have another child.

Once the heart has been blown up in CHF (my left ventricle was three times the size of the rest of my heart. I like to call it, “Grinch Syndrome.”), it tends to sort of hang around like a balloon that’s been overstretched. It’s kinda gross, if you think about it. My heart was literally broken in every possible way….by my body, by grief, by everything.

Image result for grinch's small heart grew

So, I had a few years of echocardiograms, medications, etc., until I found a doctor at Missouri Baptist that ordered more tests and found that my heart issues, outside of blood pressure, had miraculously resolved. I didn’t have any of the long-term problems they expected me to have, and we went on to have Jericho with the help of infectious disease specialists, cardiologists, perinatologists, and a whoooooole lotta grace from God….but it wasn’t without consequences.

As expected, even with a strict regiment of really miserable medications, I went into heart failure towards the end of my pregnancy with Jericho, and was rewarded with a lengthy hospital stay. After delivery, and after promising to never try to have any other children, I have a continued medication regiment that I’ve stayed on, and will be on for the rest of my life. I have my son; I have ZERO regrets.

The meds work great! Most of them are the same ones I’ve been on since 2006, with very few side effects, and with positive results. My CHF numbers stay low (the key number is the ejection fraction for the left ventricle. I’ve been under 10% before. My current numbers are around 40-50%, which is almost normal). My weight has been a challenge (particularly in the post-thyroid world), but has stayed in the same general area since my first pregnancy (give or take 40#. I gain, I lose, I gain, etc.), and my blood pressure stays under control with medication…it’s all working, which is crucial.

SO, why am I telling this story? Why does it matter? It matters, because YOU matter. 1 in 3 women in America are dealing with some sort of heart disease–that’s more than all other cancers, combined: https://www.goredforwomen.org/en/about-heart-disease-in-women

Per the Go Red for Women campaign, “80 percent of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action.” That’s what we can do. That’s what I can do–I can share my story, and maybe help others to become aware of the resources, the signs and symptoms, and the protocols that can help them understand heart disease more clearly. Knowing is the first step of prevention, right?

Today, my heart is functioning pretty darn well. In fact, I really don’t think about it very often, which is awesome when you consider that at one point, it was ALL I thought about…I couldn’t go up the stairs in my own home without feeling like I was going to pass out! I don’t have any limitations from cardiac issues, and I don’t worry about it…but I AM very conscious of it, and of paying attention to it when something seems “off.” I had some episodes last year of almost passing out. I wanted to ignore them, but I know better, so I called my cardiologist. Turns out, my blood pressure medication needed a simple adjustment….it was nothing complicated, and a simple phone call, and listening to my body, made all of the difference.

Take care of your heart, people. It really is the engine that drives you…and we all know that if the engine is broken, you’re not going anywhere. Love your heart….Live Fierce…and Go Red for Women!!!

Overflow…

After losing my Uncle Charlie last week, my Aunt Bonnie passed away this week. I wasn’t “close” to either of them, but they were still people in my circle, and still people that I knew and laughed with at family functions. I’m not going to be falsely dramatic and say that I’m devastated, etc., because it’s not true; however, any time you lose someone in your circle….someone you’re connected to, in any way…there’s a sadness and a sense of loss. Both my aunt and my uncle were on different sides of my family (my maternal uncle, and my biologically-paternal aunt). They both had wicked senses of humor (I still remember my Uncle Charlie making fun of my parents’ Christian bumper stickers on the “church van” one Christmas, LOL), and my Aunt Bonnie had a laugh you could hear 3 houses down. I think we may have had that in common. Family relationships can be complicated and tangled, and hard to explain–but they’re still family, regardless of whether you see them every few years, or every day.

My family, like many others (but few that I know of, directly) contains adopted family members, step-family members, biological family members, and a few people that we aren’t technically related to, but may as well be. We’re a mid-western melting pot. I remember being so sad about it when I was a kid; everyone in my tiny school had one mom, and one dad, and 2 sets of grandparents, and “normal.” What the heck is “normal,” now? I was sad because I was 7 or 8, and I didn’t understand what a blessing it was, to have so much variety in the definition of that word: “Family.”

“Family” means a lot of different things (and it sure as heck isn’t defined by blood, because that doesn’t BEGIN to make sense in many families). For me, it’s primarily that nuclear group that’s “in my bubble,” thanks to COVID: Mom, Dad, Sister, Husband, Son, Extra Parents. My in-laws, whom I haven’t seen since March because of COVID, are in that group, and I miss them. I miss all of them.

I think that missing friends and family magnifies any loss, even when you’re not that close to someone. This crazy COVID world has us all on edge, all isolated and spread apart, and all feeling the tinges of loneliness (for some, it’s much more than “tinges”). I had a moment yesterday where I was almost in tears, because I miss my friends; I miss spending my Friday afternoons having lunch with friends, getting things off of my chest and/or listening to them do the same.

I miss planning play dates with my kiddo (WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO OVER CHRISTMAS BREAK?!?!?!?!?!). I miss calling someone and saying, “Hey, can we come over?” (Let’s be truthful–I almost never call anyone and say, “hey, come over to my house!!” because I have no parking and I feel self-conscious about the mess of having 3 people crammed into a very small space. But if I COULD call someone and say, “Hey, wanna come over?” I’M AT THE POINT WHERE I WOULD.).

So, this is a short blog (for me). I’m sort of “in the mullygrubs,” as we say (but not at the point where I’m sobbing into my morning coffee. Maybe this blog is a way to get it out of my system before I get that far?). I know of a few people that are really struggling in this season–from loss, from the election issues, from winter blahs, whatever. This tends to be a season where many have a hard time finding their joy in a “normal year,” but this year? There are some dark struggles happening, and the spiritual/mental battles being waged are MAJOR. We’re a world in need of Hope, more than ever.

Writing is one of the ways that I refocus, and that’s what I’m doing here. Yes, you’re basically reading my personal therapy session and I have little-to-no concerns about oversharing–but you probably know that by now! 🙂 I choose Hope…I choose Joy. It doesn’t mean I’m not sad; it just means that I’m leaning on Jesus and pushing through….like a lot of people.

Please pray for Connie, Tammy, Travis, Tiffany, Alvin, Sabrina, Richard, Dena, & their families; they’re missing someone they loved so much, so close to Christmas. There are a lot of families really hurting right now, and all any of us can do, is pray. Don’t forget to reach out to your friends and family right now; stay safe, but stay sensitive to those nudges from the Holy Spirit to not forget those that need to hear kindness and concern right now.

We’re gonna get thru this year, people. We’re allllllllmost there…. 🙂

The Beautiful Moments…

I think I reiterate this every year, but I. Love. Christmas!!!! I’ll spare you all of the things I love about it, but I think I love it more every year.

I really, really love Christmas songs–the Name of Jesus is proclaimed on virtually EVERY radio station, every TV station, all over Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, EVERYWHERE, and music is constant! Sad Christmas songs make me like, three times more emotional than any other sad song–can we NOT?!?! I like happy Christmas songs, and I’m not going to apologize for it. I usually start the Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving, but I started early this year because COVID is sucking my will to live. Thanksgiving bummed me out a bit, and I don’t know what our Christmas is going to look like this year (I miss my church homies, and I miss baking for them!), but in the meanwhile, there is-and-always-will-be, Christmas music.

Our church is meeting in home groups for the foreseeable future, and has for some time now. It’s taken some time to adjust to, but interestingly enough, we no longer meet on Sunday mornings (GASP! It almost feels blasphemous to say it out loud). Once a month, we meet corporately on Sunday afternoon (we livestreamed the last meeting, since we’re being uber-careful about ‘Rona), but weekly, we’re meeting on Friday nights (currently on Zoom, again, due to COVID). This means that Sundays are…wait for it…FREE. Wait, let me retype that as how I truly feel: FFFFFFFFRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (said in my Adam Sandler/Bedtime Stories voice)

I’m usually doing laundry or stuff around the house, since it’s the only time I’m not cramming full of other household things. This week, though, outside of a 7:30pm meeting (again, Zoom), our whole day was blank like canvas. I slept in, we had soup, there were Wii games and yelling, and it was nice. “You’re rambling, Cass. Where does this tie into Christmas?!?” you ask…

I found a YouTube Channel that plays Christmas music on a livestream. To my surprise, it’s pretty good!

The scene above was on our TV in the living room. If you look at it full-screen, you’ll see the details, down to the little dog parked down by the threshold of the fireplace. This is such a cozy scene; it reminds me of my parents’ house, and their best friends’ house, and the house I imagine for myself when I can’t sleep at night (what, you don’t play Imaginary Decorator when you can’t sleep?), and interestingly enough, it matches my Christmas decor.

David & Jericho were in the kitchen building a Christmas present for “someone,” and I was listening to their conversation…I was sitting on the couch, reading a book (!). None of us were out of our pajamas, and the Christmas music was playing in the background. I was suddenly struck by the beauty of this simple moment. I had such a breath of gratitude in my spirit.

I can remember being in a friend’s house and seeing their family together…the dad and one of the daughters was singing in the kitchen, working on dinner, while the mom and the other daughters & their husbands were milling about, talking about various subjects. Grandkids were running up-&-down the stairs in their beautiful home, and I had a moment of awe that was spiked with a bit of jealousy. This was AMAZING! Like, this is the kind of scene that TV tells us is normal, but that life says is anything but! I felt like I was on a 90’s TGIF sitcom, in one of those sappy “aw-shucks-hug-the-dog” moments. What was this?!?!?

I can remember being in the kitchen in the house that I grew up in, and I don’t remember what we were doing, but my mom, my sister, & I were all singing Gatlin Brothers’ songs. That’s one of those moments where everything was happy, and harmonious (literally–my mom’s a killer harmony singer), & I remember breathing it in and sealing it in my brain (BTW, click the link to hear the GBs if you’ve never heard of them). They’re still awesome).

The moments we get to stop and build a metaphorical monument in our brains–where we take a bit to breathe in what we’re seeing and feeling, and we seal that memory–are so precious. I have a ton of amazing memories of life in general, but especially at Christmas. I’m learning that no matter what gift you have for someone, you can’t force those moments. Those moments happen by the grace & love of Jesus–those moments are in & of themselves, like spontaneous worship. Those moments hit us in our spirit–they catch our attention and remind us to stop and to thank God for the life that He’s given us. They’re completely genuine, without pretense; they probably happen far more often than we know, because we’re so busy. Having that blank Sunday to rest and stop allowed me to remember what I was surrounded with, and to be so, so thankful.

Maybe that’s a blessing in all of this COVID garbage–maybe it’s giving us time to stop and think, to stop and appreciate who we have and what moments we’re surrounded by.

I’m so thankful for the Beautiful Moments…I know this little blog doesn’t go very far, but one thing it does do is serve as a marker for the memories I want to keep. I want to remember seeing the Christmas lights, the sappy scene on the TV, the silly pajamas and the paint on the kitchen table. I want to remember a lazy Sunday full of cozy blankets and soup, & a good book.

I want to remember that feeling of gratitude, and to go back to it on the days where I’ve lost my focus and have let the Hamster Wheel of Life detour my emotions. I want to hold onto the Beautiful Moments, and to pay attention so that when they come along, I’m ready to take that deep breath and to seal it in, to give thanks to God for making it all possible.

May this Christmas be a time of Beautiful Moments for you and all of your family…if I don’t see you until the New Year, may your 2021 be (and this is where I don’t say, “less of a dumpster fire than 2020”) a year that brings you closer to God, and closer to each other. Peace and Love to you and yours!

This is a small collection of the COVID photo shoots….the picture in the bottom center is the only one taken by a professional. We literally shot the rest ourselves with cell phones because we couldn’t be bothered with real equipment…which we have…but 2020. Also, based on these pictures, which were taken 3 completely different times, I am dubbing 2020 the “Year of Denim,” because I evidently couldn’t get away from some incarnation of a denim shirt in Every. Single. Picture. 🙂 Photos taken at Strawberry Nature Reserve and at Bee Tree Park, by David Cooley and Emmybee Photography

Sojourners & the Quest for Comfort…

When the year started, I felt the Lord say from the beginning to “give Me a year. Give Me this year.”

Sure, I hemmed and hawed about it…I procrastinated. I had my book about the Torah sitting on the couch (it’s still there) and a few other books set aside, and as life would have it, me & my hamster wheel just kept spinning, and I kept on saying, “It’s early, Lord. I’ll get there. I’ll get there….”

But I didn’t.

But then, COVID.

And lo-&-behold, I GOT THERE.

In hearing God say, “Give me a year,” what He was telling me was that it was time for me to get serious about His Word. It’s time for me to read it; to love it; and to push past the arrogance of a lifetime of Christian education, & to look at it through new eyes. It’s time to read it in humility & in wonder…it’s time to read the Word with acceptance and through lenses of His love for us (or as close as we can come to understanding His love for us–THAT is an ever-evolving journey). 2020 has been a year of unlearning and relearning the Bible, and in undoing & redoing my personal theology in ways I never realized could be done. It’s been a year of restoration, depletion, and of new creation, as far as my spiritual life has gone. God put me in a position where yes, He took the year, but I gave it to Him, first…He gently asked, I stalled; He made it possible, and I have slowly-but-surely turned it over to Him, day by day.

Up until this year, I NEVER had a heart for reading the Word. I’m not ashamed to admit it anymore–I realize why I became so calloused, and why it was easier for me to act like I had it together or was so smart, when really, my head knowledge about the Word has never matched up to my heart’s understanding or desire for the Word–and I’m not ashamed to admit it’s been a work in progress. I’ve been following a daily reading plan that includes an audio Bible, and I’ve been listening to it every morning on my way into work. It’s been revolutionary. There’s so much I never noticed before, and so much that I never realized I was skipping or glossing over. Hearing the Word has revived parts of me that I didn’t know were dead! It’s drawn me in closer to God, and even though we all know I’m a salty chick, I think I’m more in love with Jesus than I’ve ever been before. Again, I’m a work-in-progress, and I’m always afraid someone will read this blog and think I’m something that I’m not. I’m a mess. I’m just…I’m a mess that loves Jesus, and is trying her best.

I’ve tried to stay committed on this path, and I hope I continue it for the rest of my life. I’ve found myself tempted by the glossy theology of deconstruction, & the only way I know how to stay on the path of the Lord is to follow His Word, so here I am…knowing there is no where else I’d rather be, even if my friends or my spiritual icons, or my personal inspirations, seem to be veering off course.

That seems to be happening a lot lately….people I used to have on pedestals (which isn’t their fault) are tumbling down into softened Christianity, selling out moral compasses for comfortable mattresses of “One Love theology.” It’s so tempting.

It’s so, so tempting, to sit back and say that Jesus loves us all, so therefore, we can ignore everything in Scripture that makes us uncomfortable….

It’s so, so tempting to sit back and say that Jesus loves us all, so therefore, we can ignore everything that doesn’t make sense to us….

It’s so, so tempting to sit back and say that Jesus loves us all, so therefore, we can ignore everything that sounds like judgment or conviction….

It’s so, so tempting to strip Christianity to one word–Love–but then to interpret that word into permission…

It’s so, so tempting to strip Christianity to one word–Freedom–but then to interpret that word into passivity.

I.

AM.

PASSIONATELY.

AGAINST

–Theology that states that we “deserve” to be comfortable.

–Theology that states that we “deserve” to be accepted by the world.

–Theology that states that we “deserve” to accept the world.

–Theology that states that we “deserve” to understand or that everything “has” to make sense.

–Theology that states that we “deserve” to accept carnal influences and allows them to strip us of our abilities to make choices.

–Theology that ties love to acceptance, and states that in order for me to love you, I “have” to agree with all of your life choices.

I can’t live that way, and I can’t accept that’s the direction the Lord is taking His people.

Recently, our daily readings took us through Psalms 119. A particular verse stood out to me:

“I am a sojourner in the earth. Hide not Thy commandments from me.”–Psalm 119:19 (ASV)

The word, “sojourner” stood out to me; it’s not a word you hear very often, although it’s one I’m familiar with. I went ahead and looked it up, just to be sure my understanding was correct. A sojourner is a stranger or a nomad. Wikipedia says it’s “a person who resides temporarily in a place.”

There was a book series I loved when I was a kid, called The Chronicles of Prydain. If ever I was in love with a fictional character, it was Taran, the main character. In the book, Taran Wanderer, Taran goes on a quest to determine his parentage. Throughout the story, Taran proves his character & the end result (spoiler alert) is new confidence in the boy he was, and in the man he has become. The overall tone of the book is the journey itself, though, as Taran feels like a man without a family or a home. He has no roots, no lineage, and no claim to be able to propose to the woman he loves.

Chronicles of Prydain | Prydain Wiki | Fandom

To wander through life without a feeling of belonging or home, is the very definition of what it means to be a sojourner. It is a feeling of being out-of-place, of never belonging anywhere tangible. It is a feeling of being, in a word, UNCOMFORTABLE.

Psalms 119:19 asks God not to hide His commandments from us–that’s because when you’re a sojourner, you need the anchor of His Word to ground you….to remind you that nope–THIS isn’t home, but you’re eternally tied into the place where you belong, which is with Him.

Christianity was never designed to be “comfortable.” It’s not designed to feel good–I mean, God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die a terrible death so that we could spend eternity with Him. It’s a belief system built on sacrifice.

Sacrifice is (wait for it)…UNCOMFORTABLE!

So, we’re sojourners—we’re just passing through this crazy world, and we know that no matter how difficult it gets, we have peace on the other side. Sometimes, that’s a huge comfort in and of itself (not always, but sometimes)…but “comfort” is the word I’m taking to task, because it seems to be more important these days than anything else.

We do EVERYTHING in order to make our lives more “convenient.” Like, I love me some Target Drive-Up or Walmart Pick-Up grocery shopping! I love me some Amazon! I love anything that doesn’t cause me to have to get out of my car or to interact with people. I love my electronics; I love my “quick fixes” for just about anything. I, like most Americans, do NOT like to be inconvenienced. I like my comfortable clothes, my super-soft blankets, and my aromatherapy mister.

I don’t like to be uncomfortable.

At some point, our desire to be comfortable has spread into our theology, and we have forgotten what our very faith is based in.

True love is uncomfortable.

True Love means I care enough about someone to say when they’re making a life choice that has spiritual repercussions. It means I care enough to have uncomfortable conversations in respect & in gentleness (I Peter 3:15). It doesn’t mean that I force my beliefs on someone, but it does mean that when that door opens, I am willing to step out in faith and talk to someone.

True Love means I stop expecting God to answer my questions. That might shock a few people–let me explain: Shortly after my daughter passed away, Natalie Grant’s song “Held” came out. The lyrics are forever burned into my brain; specifically, the line, “Who told us we’d be rescued? What has changed, and why should we be saved from nightmares?”

Those lyrics rocked my world, and woke me up to the absolute arrogance and entitlement with which I was living my faith. I will never understand the hows or whys, but what I do understand and believe is that God has a plan. I do understand and believe that God is GOOD…and even though what has happened does not always seem to match up on the surface with that, I am set in my belief that it is true. God. Is. Good….and that goes beyond the scope of my comprehension. Who am I, to demand answers and explanations from Him?!

WHY DO CHRISTIANS THINK THEY SHOULD ONLY EVER ENCOUNTER GOOD THINGS? Why do we think we’re immune to heartache? To loss? To sickness or disease? NOTHING in the Bible states that “you find Jesus, it’s green lights and allllllll rights from here, baby!!!!” NO–verse after verse after verse reminds us that this world is not our home. They remind us that yes, good can come from suffering, but THERE IS SUFFERING. I tend to blame prosperity garbage for these lies, and I most definitely think it’s a theology that’s responsible for devastating the church (I don’t agree with everything in this documentary, but the film American Gospel has some good sticking points about the Prosperity Gospel). WE ARE HUMANS. WE ARE BROKEN PEOPLE, LIVING IN A SICK, BROKEN, DISEASED WORLD. We are in the world, even if we aren’t of the world, and guess what? No matter what color you’re wearing, it’s gonna get dirty in a garbage bin. WE ARE NOT IMMUNE, and it’s total arrogance for us to think anything otherwise.

True Love means that when I don’t get the answers I want or think that I deserve, that I lean back in faith and still trust Him, even though not knowing or understanding makes me VERY uncomfortable.

A “comfortable” theology looks at the moral compasses and absolutes in Scriptures, cocks its head back, raises an eyebrow, and says those fateful words, “Hath God Not Said?”

“Hath God Not Said” are the Four Words that Wrecked it All, and they’re the first four words we say when we find ourselves faced with Uncomfortable Theology that we want to talk ourselves out of. “Hath God Not Said” are the Four Words that Satan the Snake used to lead Eve to eat the Apple and to corrupt her husband, and “Hath Got Not Said” are the Four Words that put us in this leaky boat on an ocean of UGH.

It is so uncomfortable to trust God. It is so uncomfortable to wander through this earth, through this mortal life, knowing that this unsettled feeling is permanent. We’re strangers in a strange land, and we’re a long way from Home. It’s okay that we accept the fact that it’s not easy, it’s not fun, and it’s VERY uncomfortable…

But it’s worth it….

It’s worth it for those glimpses into His character that we see in His Word. It’s worth it for those whispers we hear in our hearts from Him. It’s worth it to hear His Spirit speak into our hearts, to hear Him call us His sons and daughters. It’s worth it to know the security and grace only He can offer. It’s worth it to know we are forgiven, and that we are loved, and that we can share that love with others in this unloving world…in this world that sells a candy-coated, hollowed-out version of love that is so far from the Real Thing…We have in our hearts a Love that is more inclusive than anything the world can imitate. We have a Love that extends grace to all who ask…who extends eternity to all who seek it through Jesus. How great of a Love is that?

This has been a Most Uncomfortable Year for so many…I, for one, am glad that this world is not my home, because who would want to think this is it??!?! If this is all there is–if there isn’t an eternity to call Home–it’s sorely disappointing, even at it’s best, in the light of what Jesus offers us.

Truth be told, I started percolating on this blog last week, while I was sick, and while I was facing my 43rd birthday. I’ve had 43 years on this planet, and it takes me FOREVER to feel like I even slightly “fit in” anywhere. I always feel like a weirdo, but maybe instead of a “weirdo,” I should adopt the term, “sojourner,” because it seems more fitting. This world is not my home. Eternity is my home and my hope, and I am praying that as I continue on this road of reading and of falling in love with the Bible, that my eyes stay focused on just that….on hiding His commandments in my heart, and on hearing His voice. He asked me for one year…it’s turning into all of them. That’s uncomfortable to say…but I guess that’s the point of this blog.

Fourteen.

Every year around this time, I sit down to write with a focus on my Hannah Elizabeth Gayle Cooley. Can you believe she’d be 14 this year? This October 30th, my daughter would be turning 14 years old, & I’m sure had she stayed with us, that our social media feeds would be full of the things that mothers and teenagers are both besties and frenemies over. I’d like to think we’d have a great relationship, and that we would be on each other’s last nerve…that she’d be musical and lyrical, and free-spirited and independent, and that above all, she’d love Jesus. That’s my hope for both of my kiddos–that they love Jesus. I think a lot of parents would say that about their children.

Last night, I was perusing Instagram when the Humans of New York page came up:

“(edited for space)There were prayer chains and Facebook groups. My friends got together without me knowing, and they prayed over us. We received letters from so many people: family overseas, people we’d lost touch with, people we’d never met. We hung them all in the bathroom until the entire wall was filled. But a few weeks before our due date, we received the worst possible news: Elliana’s chest cavity hadn’t grown enough, and there wasn’t room for her lungs. I asked the doctor to give me the odds, but he just shook his head. We began to plan for her funeral… On the day of her birth, the waiting room was filled with people who loved us. They prayed from 10 AM to 5 AM the next day. I still keep a picture of that waiting room hanging in our hallway. And it’s my favorite picture, because it reminds me of all the people who petitioned for Elliana’s life. And we got our miracle. I struggle with it sometimes, because I know so many people lose their babies. But Elliana came out breathing on her own, and the doctors were in awe…Our story has a happy ending. But even when it seemed like a tragedy, I never felt alone. I never felt like the story was my own. Because in my darkest moments, a community of people chose to share my burden.”

I don’t need to go into the “whys,” for my breakdown (albeit a brief one) into the Ugly Crys. You know me well enough to understand that when I read the phrase, “we got our miracle,” that it broke me. I’m so grateful that HONY shared this story, because I remember what it was like to see that room full of people who poured their hearts out for days, petitioning to the Lord to save my daughter’s life. We didn’t get our miracle, and I can’t paint that in any kind of redeeming light. I will never understand the whys (on this earth), and even if I did, would that make it any better? No. So we pursue on in faith, trusting that He knows what He’s doing when He makes His choices.

Last week, our daily reading plan (click the link, you won’t be sorry–see my last blog for details) had us reading in both Micah and in 2 Timothy. In 2 Timothy, we see Paul coming to the end of his life, as he writes his final words from prison.

In Micah, we see a prophet trying to prepare his community…trying to get them to wake up and seek the Lord for their redemption…He states the oft-quoted,

Meanwhile, as Paul looks at the approaching end of his life, he states,

We have a mandate to “do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.” Only when we do these things, can we look at the end of our life and say, with confidence (not arrogance) that we have “fought the good fight,” and that we have “kept the faith.”

This is not an easy thing to do…it’s not a small task, and Jesus knows what He is asking us to do.

Trials–deaths, sickness, COVID, poverty, unemployment, crime, whatever–come and go, but Jesus and His love for us are eternal.

That’s the only reason I have any hope for anything.

After I read the HONY story last night, I tripped up over “we got our miracle,” and my mind immediately went to “why?” I’ve blogged about this before; the “whys” range from plaintive cries to flat-out screams, and they’re always there in some respect. The question is do I stay there? Do I keep questioning, knowing the outcome will always be the same, until I’m face-to-face with Him? Or do I take a deep breath (or 50), let the tears fall, and listen to Him remind me that He loves me? That He’s still in control? That I’m heard, and that He understands? I make a choice every time the “why” comes to the forefront of my thoughts. I choose to “walk humbly with my God,” and that means that above all, I trust Him.

No one ever said that was a fun choice.

Sometimes the world smacks us in the face with that reminder….that reminder that we are strangers in a strange land, and that we can’t let ourselves get sucked into the mindgames and emotional traps that are laid for us: “Dear friends, you are foreigners and strangers on this earth. So I beg you not to surrender to those desires that fight against you“–I Pet. 2:11-12, CEV

Those “desires that fight against” us aren’t just people throwing lusts of the flesh in our face. They’re also the “quicksand” that we get trapped into, that make us question His motives and character, and our own faith. It’s cyclical thinking that kicks off our anxiety and leaves us an emotional basket case. I’m not immune to it, but I’d like to think I can spot the traps a bit easier now than I used to. Those first few years after Hannah passed away? Oooh, I got caught UP in some messes.

Quicksand – Stuff Rater
Actual photo of getting stuck in the quicksand of an emotional mind trap. 🙂

Grief and loss are pitfalls for so many of us…playing the “why?” game with God is a dangerous dead weight that only serves an enemy that wants to see us destroyed.

It’s a tender time of the year for us–for David as well as for myself, even when we seem like everything is fine. Our daughter is never far from our minds, but as her birthday approaches, memories come back, and I know I find myself looking at her pictures a bit more…remembering tiny hands, and beautiful, red-pink cheeks (like her Daddy), and how she’d snuggle in to the soft robe my mother had made me…how she smelled like Cheerios, and how to this day, I cherish every photo taken of family and friends because I know how much those pictures of her mean to me.

I’m finding myself ready to withdraw from social events, and from social media in general–whether it’s healthy or not, I never know, but I will tell you that I make no apologies. Maybe that sounds rude, but I’ve learned that if I don’t listen to these emotions, they’ll pop out at the most inopportune times, and I have no desire to have another flippin’ sobfest in the middle of a Hobby Lobby, so if I tell you I can’t make it, let me be. 🙂

I started writing a piece last night that I think I will leave unfinished; I feel like it makes a good conclusion, even though it’s not fully written, because “unfinished” feels like a pretty good way to describe how I’m feeling through all of this….

Hannah Elizabeth Gayle Cooley, 10/30/2006-11/28/2006

“Sweet Dreams are Made of Cheese,” AKA,”Misread Scriptures & Politics”

There’s nothing I love more than misheard lyrics. Let’s be honest–if you’ve ever been stuck in a car with me (I’m talkin’ to YOU, David!), then you know I sing with the radio non-stop (as does my child, LOL. Karma!). You may also know that I’m a master of covering my tracks when I don’t know the words to something. It’s seamless. 🙂 From lip-syncing the ubiquitous “peanut-butter-jelly-watermelon” over the unknown track, to filling in whatever words that sound like the proper lyrics, I can fake my way through a lot of things.

Do yourself a favor: Google “Misheard Lyrics.”

You’re Welcome.

Misheard Song Lyrics (a rrt2590 event) - Imgflip

Anyways, I’ve noticed that I apply these same concepts to misheard scriptures on a regular basis. “Why am I hearing the Bible?” you may ask? Simple explanation (please click the link because it’s awesome): The Way St. Louis Bible Reading Plan

Our church is following a daily Bible reading plan, and I absolutely love it. I love it because if you click on the link above, then click today’s verses, there’s a small “volume” icon on the upper right:

When you click on the icon, an audio version of the Bible passage (by the acclaimed Max McClean) plays, which give me a fantastic way to listen to the day’s passages on my way into the office (I’d like to say that I’ve gotten holier on my commute; alas, this is not true. I’m a work in progress.). I’ve been able to stay caught up for the most part, and it’s been very thought-provoking. It’s also been a great resource to help me stay focused throughout the anxiety issues I discussed last month (which are doing MUCH better, so thank you for praying for me!!). I’ve really loved hearing the Word on a daily basis, and it’s sparked some fantastic conversations with my husband.

Yesterday, though, something very interesting happened that made me laugh, and ties into the whole, “misread lyrics” start to this blog: I misheard a Bible verse.

What I heard, though, was VERY thought provoking, and led me to pray for the people of this nation in a different way, so I’m going to go ahead and share it with you. Joel 2:12-13 states, “12“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.” 13 So rend your hearts and not your garments, and return to the LORD your God. For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion. And He relents from sending disaster.

What I heard, though, was, “So rend your hearts and not your governments.”

Pause–think about that, for a second. “Rend your hearts and not your governments.”

Now, I know the message in the verse itself–“don’t focus on showing outward grief or repentance for your actions; have true repentance in your hearts, and come before God with true mourning and by turning from the ways you’ve been living.” The verse is all about ending fakeness and false narratives. Be real, or don’t bother–don’t have Instagram-I’m-sorries without true, heartfelt changes. It’s particularly relevant for today’s world of staging EVERYTHING for that photo finish. God wants us to be genuine with Him–after all, He’s never been anything BUT genuine in how He loves us, right?

But check out my misheard verse again: “So rend your hearts and not your governments.” Let’s look at that, because I can’t get it out of my head:

This week, President Trump went into the hospital with COVID-19 this week. Love him or hate him, the leader of the greatest nation in the world was hospitalized with a disease that has proven fatal for thousands of people. I was shocked to read that many, many people wished him sickness and/or death, simply because they disagree with the politics/personality/policies he has implemented or statements he has made on social media.

I’m not so sure why I was shocked (minus the fact that, well….that’s kinda treasonous).

Happy Treason Day Colonial Peasants Shirt a great 4th of July Tee to wear  on Independence day if you are from the United King… | Treason day, Peasant,  Peasant shirt

I mean, people post how much they hate the President on a minute-by-minute basis…but to wish him death? That’s pretty obtuse. I’ve had issues with every single President that’s run this country since I was eligible to vote, and have never wished that they up-and-die; what the heck, people?!??!?

The anger and rage in this nation by any people group that feels slighted for whatever reason, is palpable. I’m not dismissing groups in that statement. I’m saying that there are SO many angry people, and SO many reasons to be angry, and SO many causes, that no one can keep track of who-what-where-why anymore, and it’s all blurring together in one giant black hole of rage that’s suffocating the country.

Anger is legitimate. It’s a legitimate emotion, & it’s worthy to be heard. God gets angry, right? Right. He also gives us specific instructions on how we handle anger, and wishing death on people doesn’t really seem to be part of the plan of action. Ephesians 4:25-26 says, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one another. 26“Be angry, yet do not sin.” Do not let the sun set upon your anger.”

If we’re unhappy with our government, wishing death and violence isn’t the solution. Positive changes by positive actions are the only solution. Vote. Period. If you don’t like who’s in charge, we live in an amazing country where We the People have the rights and the abilities to make the changes we want to see.

The muppets GIF on GIFER - by Aralace

Mishearing Joel 2:13 made me stop and think about all of the comments, the snide remarks, the fighting and arguing, etc., that I’ve heard over the past few years regarding the leadership of this nation. Everyone has their agenda and is screaming to make their voice heard, but no one is listening. Our words have an impact; our words reveal the intentions of our hearts, and if we’re screaming and shouting at each other, we’re not walking in love, right?

I’m so tired of the fighting, even (especially) amongst Christians. We’re sacrificing our relationships with God and our testimonies to unbelievers in the sheepish support of a political person or party. We’re called to follow Jesus. We’re called to walk in Love, like Him. What does that look like, in a minefield of political and emotional pitfalls?

“Rend your hearts and not your governments.” I think this misheard verse has caused me to stop in my tracks and take a few steps back…I have to check my heart, and repent for some of my own attitudes. I’ve had to recommit to praying for our government and for our nation, and to process whether or not I’ve been more concerned with how my convictions have worked, verses how they have looked. What are the issues I say I care about, and what have I done to not only educate myself regarding those issues, but to advocate in love for those issues?

The online fussing and fighting is not something I get into myself, very often; however, I definitely read quite a few of them (I enjoy my tea, thank you very much–okay, that’s just not nice, Cassidy).

Your guide to the culturally appropriative tea lizard meme | Dazed

I am alternately appalled and humored by what I read, and I’m occasionally concerned that some people need hired protection based on their keyboard commando statements.

It’s not worth it. Don’t sacrifice your testimony for the dung heap of online bickering.

“Rend my hearts and not my garments.” Stay focused on what is true, honest, pure, lovely, etc. Please join me in praying that a new attitude of such things would cover this nation in grace, and that our leadership (before, during, and after the election) would be sustained and protected. Focus on real, genuine love and faith, rather than “likes” and “zings” in online forums. Maybe then, we will see the healing in this land that the Bible speaks about in 2 Chronicles 7:14, which we so desperately need in this land of anger and rage…

Paranormal is Just Normal When Eternity is On Your Mind.

Okay, hold your horses–Before you get all, spooky-Halloween-ish on me, let me ‘splain.

Inigo Montoya - let me 'splain..No, there is too much. Let me sum up. |  Funny quotes, Princess bride quotes, Words

I’ve recently had a few conversations that have brought the topic of death up in weird ways. Whether it’s a conversation about my daughter, or even recent conversations about my dog; the topics of death and grief have been on my mind–sometimes by my own mention, but more often than not, by conversations others have instigated. If I’m having those conversations with someone I’m not particularly comfortable with, I’m usually pretty clinical and factual when asked about the reasons for Hannah’s death. It’s a survival mechanism. When the conversation is with someone that I have a relationship with (like my bestie), I’m much more likely to show the emotion that comes to the surface (as opposed to stuffing it down like a casserole down the garbage disposal. Get. In. There. And Go. Away.). And sometimes, I get caught off-guard, and the emotions show up because they do not care about what impression I leave, or whether or not my eyeliner is waterproof. I’m very fortunate in the fact that that due to amazing church support and therapy that took place for the year after Hannah died, I am completely unapologetic about those times. Tears come, tears go, and life goes on. If I cry, so be it. If people get uncomfortable about it, whatever. I know that’s selfish, but I don’t have time for people that don’t have compassion for the very-rare times that those pesky tears sneak up on me. Like I said, 90% of the time, I skate right over the deeper pain and just get to the facts. I’m not apologizing for the other 10%.

crying is okay here | close-up from this project: thelulubir… | Flickr
Really, it is…

It’s also pretty common for people to randomly cry in my office. It’s totally okay. It stays in my office. Stifling crying leads to feeling overwhelmed, which leads to bad things, so by all means, let’s all cry together.

My Facebook memories right now are all about last September, when we found out that Holly the Boxer was coming to the end of her life. September 4th would have been her 15th birthday, and I miss her.

Christmas’ Holly Golightly: Yep, that was her official AKA name!

(LOOK AT HER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Dawwwwwww!)

In discussing Holly’s life, Hannah inevitably comes up in the discussion, because as David will tell you, Holly was officially, as of October 30, 2006, “Hannah’s Dog.” Hannah didn’t know it, but I’m pretty sure Holly did, and when we lost Holly, we sort of lost the last physical connection…We’d lost both of our girls, and even though the losses were nowhere near equal, there was a “tie” of sorts that I won’t even try to make sense. You might think I’m crazy. If this is the first time you’ve thought that, well, this might be the first time you’ve read this blog. Welcome. Oh, and you’re right.

That being said, a few recent conversations have brought up both Hannah and Holly. I was recently in a restaurant (!), and recognized the owner of the place as someone who was pregnant at the same time I was pregnant with Hannah. When the very-young waitress came to take our order, I realized she was the owner’s daughter…the very same age my daughter would be. It was a bit of a shock. It was a gentle realization, a sore spot on the heart, and though tender, it passed. It opened the door for me to have a conversation with a friend where I was able to honestly discuss the actual trauma of my son’s birth–I don’t think I’d ever really shared with her how frightening the process was, how crazy-supernatural peace stayed with me, and how dangerous the whole pregnancy was. Looking back, it’s so easy for me to see just how truly held I was, by God…that tender conversation was once again an opportunity for me to be so grateful for the journey. Sometimes I think I take it for granted.

And sometimes, someone will say something SO random that you know it was a download from the Lord.

I had a conversation with someone yesterday who made a statement that stopped me in my tracks. I have no doubt that she heard from God, even if she herself didn’t realize it (she considers herself to be “spiritual,” but isn’t in a personal relationship with Jesus. She’s also someone that I love to have spiritual discussions with, because I think it’s important to have conversations with people outside of your typical box of same-minded friends). I was discussing the conversation with my friend, and the waitress, and the Facebook memories of Holly, when suddenly, she gave me the strangest look….She said, “I hope this doesn’t offend you…I wouldn’t normally say this, but I feel this so strongly…I just can’t shake this. I have to tell you something.”

I told her to go on, and braced myself for the worst (I immediately remembered that one time some weirdo in Kentucky told me that she kept seeing a little pink ball bouncing around my head…This was a person that already knew my daughter had passed away, and was one of these pseudo-psychics that pretended to tell you her “spiritual sightings” of things you neither believed nor wanted to hear. I politely told her to shut up).

She looked at me, and said, “I feel like God wants to remind you that you’re still Hannah’s mother.”

She may as well have shot me in the chest. I thought I was prepared to hear whatever potentially-crazy thing she was about to say, but when she said that, I had that instant confirmation in my gut that told me she was right-on.

I needed to hear it.

Of course I’m still her mother–that hasn’t changed. I needed to be reminded that I will always be, regardless of the state of the healing process, Hannah’s mother. Galatians 3:28 is the great equalizer of relationships in the Bible, but you know what relationships don’t make it into that list? Fathers and Mothers.

When we’re assigned the role of a parent, it’s eternal. It doesn’t mean we’re going to be parenting for an eternity, but it does mean that bond doesn’t evaporate when we’re gone. She’s part of me. Jericho is part of me.

The little reminders every now and then state that God does not forget. I don’t actually know or understand why I needed the reminder that I’m Hannah’s mother, but He does, and He knew it would hit me at just the right time. I needed to hear it, out loud–not just in my head, not just to myself, but by someone else acknowledging her existence and my relationship to her existence. Sometimes even as grieving parents, we still need reminders that our babies were REAL….they’re more than just a memory.

People talk about ghosts, or energetic presences, or orbs or whatever. I don’t meddle in such things. I do, however, believe that what some may call “para” normal is what we as believers should realize is, “normal.” There’s a spiritual world out there that we don’t see–there are angelic and demonic presences, and there is warfare we may sense but never see. “Para”normal instances aren’t inherently evil…Sometimes, they’re “ordinary” people having a split-second sight or hearing of spiritual things….things that we as Christians, just maybe, need to be a little more open to (particularly in the USA).

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I know that verse discusses a spiritual battle, which is not what this blog is focusing on; it also discusses the “unseen world,” which I think is key. “Unlikely” people can hear that word or that insight from the Lord, and He uses them to encourage your spirit.

I think that’s what happened to me yesterday, and how God reminded me that’s a part of who I am. Even if I don’t understand the whys and hows, I know His voice well enough to know when He’s reaching out (at least, I’d like to think so), so I am confident in saying that He’s got my attention.

My takeaway from the encounter was not only the gentleness of the word from the Lord, but also, a reminder to be aware and expectant of the unexpected “Hey, YOU! Gotta tell you something!” that we may get from Him, from places we may not anticipate. It was a reminder that there is an entirely OTHER world out there where things are happening, and that eternity is so much bigger than we realize…it was a reminder that even the deep valley of loss has places where it can’t touch you anymore. We’re free from it, in eternity.

My identity as Hannah’s mother is eternal, just like my love for her, is. My identity as Jericho’s mother is eternal, just like my love for her.

And God’s identity as my Father, just like His love for me, is beyond eternal. There’s more encouragement and hope in those words than I could ever type or even comprehend. It is GOOD, to be loved by a God Who tells us such things…