Thank you, Chrissy Teigen & John Legend.

In this season, personally, it’s difficult to read an article like the one Chrissy Teigen just posted: https://www.ksdk.com/article/news/nation-world/chrissy-teigen-pens-statement-on-pregnancy-loss-public-grief/507-03d31b26-dbe8-4e61-9290-916dcef834b1

Let’s be honest: It’s difficult in any season, to read something as open and honest, about such a devastating topic. But to read it as we are once again approaching our annual time of remembering our Hannah-girl, truly hit a nerve. I feel like I’ve been writing about the need to “normalize” the topic of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss for years, and I have–over a decade, which sounds crazy. My little corner of the internet has nary an impact, but many times, I’ve felt like if I don’t write, I may explode, and if I’m not honest in what I put out here, then what’s the point?

Honesty is uncomfortable to read AND to write. Being raw and open, and exposing your highs and lows to complete strangers is dangerous and cathartic and messy and occasionally beautiful, but it is NEVER easy, and those that do it, either already have that understanding, or learn it quickly. Chrissy Teigen and John Legend have been candid about all sorts of topics, and have taken on the Keyboard Commandos with humor and grace. Even when I disagree with them on certain political points, it has never changed the fact that I genuinely LIKE them as they seem online, and that I appreciate their approach to the public….but this goes beyond good recipes and perfectly-lit Instagram photos.

Sharing the rawness of the experience of the loss of a child is monumental. The photos shown from Chrissy’s hospital stay are so striking; she stated yesterday that she specifically asked that they be taken, as she understands firsthand the importance of documenting every moment a mother has with her child…even at the end. Every time I see the photo of her getting her epidural, it breaks me and I remember The Last Photo I have of Hannah–the one that is locked in the safe, and that will never be shared. It is brutal, and I cannot stress that enough. There is more heartache in that 3×5 Polaroid than the world should ever see….

And yet here are two celebrities, taking an opportunity to put a face and a name to not only the disease (placental abruption), but to the fact that, “according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 pregnancy in 100 at 20 weeks of pregnancy and later is affected by stillbirth. Each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States.” THIS IS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and if those numbers do not make you angry at the state of healthcare in this country, then maybe you should check your heart. THESE STATISTICS ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE. 1 in 4 women suffer the loss of a child from miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal loss–that’s 25% of women.

That’s me.

That’s Chrissy Teigen.

That’s countless other women who have spoken to me, sometimes in hushed tones, about the miscarriages or losses they’ve never told anyone about, or that they were afraid to acknowledge, or the shame they’ve felt about their “complicated” or “failed” bodies. That’s countless other women who have had the courage to speak out, or that have taken women like me under their wing to usher them through the grieving process, or that had no one to help them on this journey…25% of women.

I guarantee you know someone who’s had a miscarriage, even if you don’t realize it.

I could go off on a tangent about hormone-altering chemicals or carcinogens or the millions of things we do that impact our bodies and impair healthy pregnancies and childbirth, but it’s not the place (and frankly, if you care, you’ll do the research). I think it’s more important to realize the strength it takes to publicly document and share the most vulnerable parts of your life–the good & the bad–when you have the kind of platform John & Chrissy have, because in their status, they raise awareness (I hope).

When we lost Hannah, I met a woman who later explained to me that when she lost her son years earlier, she entered the hospital to deliver a baby, and she left carrying a bouquet of flowers. There was no counseling; there was nothing to document before a nurse or doctor entered the room that there was no baby (and I know firsthand what it’s like to have a doctor ask, “How’s the baby?” and have to answer that “there is not a baby”). There was no special photographer for goodbye photos (a group started up not long after we lost Hannah, called, “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” that specializes in loss photography, which is incredible). There wasn’t a care group or support system in place for her, like I had to support me (please check out Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss; they’re a tremendous asset for those who have gone through loss). There really weren’t any devotional books that she knew of; I happened to land on one that was very helpful (I wish I could remember how I got a copy of this book, but it was AMAZING for me). There wasn’t anything in place, really, to help a woman or her partner cope with the tremendous hole left by the death of a child. Thanks to advocates, celebrity or not, resources are now in place to help millions of families heal and come to terms with something that is unnatural and foreign to any expectation we have going into pregnancy. Americans are NOT educated about the risks we face in childbirth. We’re duped into thinking everything will be Instagram-perfect, and we’ll all live happily ever after.

For 25% of us, that is simply not the case. We will always be missing our one special piece of our family photo…

My heart hurts for Chrissy & John, and for anyone who has been on this journey…for wherever they are in this process. I’m grateful for their candor, and I understand to a very small extent, how difficult it is. I hope she & John are surrounded by grace and faith as they set out on the course of healing; I hope that they encounter a restoration only Jesus can give.

Chrissy said something toward the end of the posted article, that she feels “bad” for making everyone else feel bad, as she had chronicled the announcement and the first parts of her pregnancy with Jack, with such joy. I’ve learned that we can’t feel bad for sharing joy, even if it doesn’t turn out the way we hoped. Joy is beautiful, even if it’s for a short season, and even if it ends in sadness. Maybe it sounds terrible now, but the sadness will eventually be redeemed to joy, and the contrast therein will be even more stunning…someday. Not now, but someday.

Chrissy, we honor Jack, and we are grateful that you shared your journey with us…We honor Jack, and Hannah, and Bentley, and Annalise, and Saige, and Savannah, and Brydon, and AnnaBella, and Emmaline, and Emma, and so many–so many–little boys & girls who have gone on to Heaven before us. Our hearts embrace you & John, and our prayers and support are with you. Thank you for being a face and a name for the grief and the struggle we have known; may God bless your family, and keep you close to His heart as you go on this journey…

The Blues and Bad Behavior…

I’ve determined that I’m boring.

I know we’re not supposed to compare ourselves to each other, but sometimes the differences are so glaringly obvious that you can’t help but to notice them, and yep–I’ve noticed: I’m boring.

There was a time (and some of you will remember this) where I actually PRAYED to be boring (and my statement of being boring is NOT a complaint). Things in my life were so chaotic that I couldn’t see which end was up, and all I wanted was for things to die down–I needed an ordinary, boring life, and I prayed on a daily basis for some kind of calm to take place just so that David & I could catch our breath!

And, just like that, here we are–We’re boring.

Now, I’m saying this with the full knowledge that much like the proverbial dog-paddle, we look calm on the surface, but underneath, we’re kickin’ full-steam ahead. We’re treading water in the middle of a panic attack, but at this point, SO IS EVERYONE ELSE. Everyone is stressed out, fed up, flipping over, & manic…

And so are we…but we’re used to this, so we’re still smiling. 🙂 I guess I never thought of repetitive states of chaos conditioning us to a lifestyle of stress, but I’ll be darned–it has! I don’t always look at the frantic pace with this same level of calm (LOL–y’think?!?), but for now–even if it’s just for today–I’m a peace with all of it.

So, yeah, I’m boring (and I’m generally okay with that).

I had the opportunity this weekend to hang out with my older sister, Billie. We’re typically as opposite as two siblings can be–she’s short, I’m tall; I like Broadway and rap, and she likes Southern Rock and the Blues (okay, I like everything except jazz, and I think she agrees with that). I love broccoli, & she’d practically shank you with a stalk when we were kids, as opposed to just eating it (this is great ammunition for my son, because I can now tell him Auntie is short because she didn’t eat her veggies. He has no idea that at 5’7″ I am freakishly tall for our family. All of the veggies in the world aren’t gonna make that kid tall, but I can try while I have the chance). I don’t remember the last time we spent 3 days together, and it was a lot of fun. I have to say, I’m a bit envious–at 47, she still stays involved with the music scene and is a fill-in drummer/percussionist whenever she gets the chance. Sometimes, I’m not going to lie–I wonder where music might have taken me, had I given it the chance? It’s those missed opportunities and/or a lack of pursuit that occasionally rumble around in the back of my brain….

This was also my first opportunity to attend Blues Farm, where a bunch of people hung out, camped, and listened to some great music (Jackson Stokes, the Kris Lager Band, and the incomparable Amanda Fish).

Jackson StokesNow, I haven’t been camping…ever…and I’ve been told that since I didn’t have to use the bathroom in the woods, that this doesn’t count. Whatever–I slept in the Tent From Hell, so I’m counting it. Speaking of the Tent From Hell, therein lies the title of this blog–“The Blues and Bad Behavior.”

Ever lose your temper so voraciously that there is NO GOING BACK?!?

Like, have you ever lost your temper and basically spit fire and sludge like some kind of vomitous garbage heap?!? Yeah, I totally did. I lost it, and I lost it BADLY. I’ve learned that I should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever–get it? LIKE, EVER–try to put a tent up in front of anyone. Like, no one should have to hear that hot mess. It was bad. I think I invented a few swearwords. I don’t even know what I said, but I know none of it was good. In my last blog, I wrote about, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” & I think I addressed the importance of the words you leave behind. It’s safe to say that if anyone had my verbal launch in writing, it’s a story no one would ever want to read…I flat-out embarrassed myself. I’m a firm believer that profanities should be verbal, never written, and that they’re a lazy man’s way of communicating….and boy, was I slacking on the job. Thus, the “Bad Behavior–“I wish I could take it all back and somehow preemptively wash my mouth out, but nope–there it lays. UGH. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I recollect….hopefully…maybe it just seemed particularly coarse because I haven’t lost it that badly in a very, VERY long time (pre-child)…but yikes.

116874173_10158303941443070_1560939172266913042_n

(OMG, the gray hair! Get a good look at it, because I’m goin’ in for color in a few weeks! BAH!!)  It’s a good thing I was a pretty good distance away from people, and that the people who were within earshot were very, very forgiving.

But, back to the good stuff–The Blues.

I love music. I love music that makes me emote, music that hits my soul and makes me want to sing. I love that God created music as a universal language, that even when we don’t understand the words, we still feel it the same across the world. I love that feeling when someone just blows you away, and all of the hair stands up on your arms. I love seeing skilled musicians that love what they do, and that pour that joy into their melodies and lyrics.

I love seeing people get gross and sweaty on stage, because they’ve just poured everything out there for the audience to hear and to see. I love worship sets that have ended on the floor, because people are worshiping so passionately with music as the medium, that they are spiritually overwhelmed in the Presence of God. Music was made for worship, to worship, the One Who created it. He made it for His pleasure, and He made us in His image, so we respond to it as well.

Music is so, so powerful–I’ve met very few people that don’t like music, and I have always looked at them sideways. I don’t know that life (and I don’t want to). A good musician touches you spiritually, emotionally, even physically in the overpouring–it’s such a deep thing. I love how I feel when I get to be a part of a team of musicians that all have the same goal: To reach the feet of Jesus…to bear witness to that ultimate expression of worship…

Music is amazing.

The Blues as we know them came from the hearts of an oppressed people whose souls were overburdened with the pain of their lives. It grew out of sorrow that eventually transposed to other emotions–love, even joy. It became a genre of music, as opposed to a culture in music. I feel like it gets appropriated a lot by Southern Rock, which is heavily, heavily influenced by The Blues, and that bands have to be careful of making sure credit is given where it is due. The Blues originated from a deep, soul-level longing, pulling from African roots, from slave songs, and from spirituals. I think that in American music, we tend to categorize it by bass lines and chord progressions; I believe it’s much more than that.  There are all kinds of categories of The Blues, but when I hear that phrase, I always think of the call-and-responses from the fields where a stolen people sang their hope and laments.

This weekend at Blues Farm had some Blues, some rock, some funk, and a good mix of stuff that anyone can dance to, and it was a ton of fun. The bands that played were approachable, honest, and engaging; the people in the audience were so fun to watch, and I could not have felt more out of my element, LOL–but my sister was TOTALLY in hers! She played percussion for almost 6 hours–I’d be a noodle by then.

Amanda Fish

One of the takeaways that I had from the weekend (outside of my renewed understanding in my overall boringness) is how music is so gracious and fluid. My sister played with 2 bands that she hadn’t rehearsed with. There was no soundcheck (um, shout-out to Terry, the sound guy, for being AMAZING–sound is difficult to run, and he was primo!!!), no practicing–there was just, “Hey, get in, let’s play,” and that’s SO EXCITING TO SEE!!!  As a singer, that’s a freedom I wish I got to have, and I don’t think I’ve ever got to do that–to just jump in on a full set, BOOM, let’s go!!–and to not only do it exceedingly well, but to have fun in the process! I didn’t see ANY ego in the bands–everyone was so humble and so obviously there for the sheer joy of playing. I don’t see that enough in music (or ever, really, in church music–people get so caught up in the techniques and the ego that it falls flat of actually being a joyful experience. I’m guilty of it, too). I always overthink things and then I get scared, even in a worship set. SO. Much. Anxiety. I loved looking up and seeing the drummer and my sister perfectly in sync on various rhythms, solely based on how they felt the music, as opposed to having every “i” dotted. It was messy and funky, and it was absolutely PERFECT. GOSH, it was fun to watch and to listen to!

Kris Lager Band

So, in spite of my Bad Behavior, I wound up meeting awesome new people, at a beautiful piece of property in MO, and listening to some really groovy music made by some true artists. I got to sit in on Live Frickin’ Music, y’all, and I’d almost forgotten just how wonderful it is to be in the audience again..

117226474_10158303941798070_6755122828776137988_oI took the opportunity to try my hand at concert photography, which was a new experience that I didn’t know I’d like as much as I do (David could have done much better, but I don’t think I was terrible!).  I gained a new appreciation for my sister’s level of skill, and a new understanding of music in the process. I had a beautiful 3 days in perfect temps, and then I came back home on Sunday to my awesome husband and my crazy kiddo, who both missed me a ton (and I totally missed them). I’m back on the hamster wheel, but for 3 days, I got to experience Blues Farm, and I feel like (in spite of the Tent from Hell), it was a refresher for my brain.

Yep, I’m boring–I’m nowhere near as cool as those musicians or the people who looked way chiller than me, relaxing in their lawn chairs and enjoying the show. I’m way too uptight (I don’t sit still very well), but it was fun to kick back a few days and to meet new people (which, if you know me, you know I don’t do so well on that part–dang you, social anxiety) who seemed like they liked my neurotic self just the way I am (and who made a great deal of fun of my sister, so now I have to love them forever).

I’m looking forward to hopefully going back to Blues Farm in the future…and to hopefully, better behavior….or duct tape. 🙂 (I swear to you, I will NEVER put that tent up again. I’ll sleep on the bare ground first. I’m not kidding).

Love, Peace, and Loud Guitars Forever, y’all. 🙂 (Or at least, that’s what the Cool Kids say). 🙂

 

 

A Disjointed Hot Mess of Getting My Head On Straight, AKA, “Why Am I Posting After Midnight?!?”

Doing that thing I’m never supposed to do…getting on the computer way too late at night, knowing it’s a bad idea but doing it anyway…

I’m quite sure someone will be offended by the time I finish processing whatever is pricking at my conscience, because as we all know, I process by writing and I’m dumb enough to put it online (“dumb enough?” Is it actually dumb? Or is it too genuine to be “comfortable?”).

I’m quite sure the Karens of the world will have their time clucking their tongues and clickety-clacking their keyboards to tell me how I’m not holy enough, or I’m not praying hard enough, or I’m not spiritual enough or whatever, and I’m sure they’re right, but that doesn’t make anyone feel any better, now does it?

KAREN

I’m not going to blame this on Mother’s Day (it sucked, don’t ask, and no, I don’t understand why. Grief is unpredictable, ‘k?). I’m not going to blame this on work stress (do I still have a job? Mandatory pay cuts? A cut in hours? All options, nothing decided, and we’re floating in a pool of what-the-heck-is-going-on?!?). I’m not going to blame this on COVID-19 (although I will tell you that my personal state of mental health is on the decline, if I’m being honest). I’m not going to blame this on the crappy remarks my husband made to me today, or that I made back to him (I don’t remember who started it, but we’re sick of being around each other right now, and I’m sick-to-death of sitting on the couch). I will blame this on the apparently 15 pounds worth of anxiety-eating I’ve done to cope with the last 9 weeks, and that falls squarely on my super-fat shoulders.

Now I’m ticked at myself for failing so horribly (really, what did I expect??!?!?  I’ve baked more in the past 9 weeks than I have ever before, during a non-Christmas season. David’s been doing all of the cooking, and he doesn’t know how to cook without going all Paula-Deen on everything, which is delicious, but terrible–and why I gained #20 right after we got married—and why I gained #15 being stuck in the house with him for 9 weeks, although we all know I could have gotten my fat rear up from the couch and made my own dang food. I didn’t, and now I feel horrible, I look like crap, and my blood pressure is through the roof). I have to put the brakes on EVERYTHING, and that sucks, because PEANUT M&MS ARE AMAZING, and no, David had nothing to do with those. Those are all on me…and on my hips.

I’m struggling with feeling really anxious, really sad, and really, really stressed out…and I know I’m not alone, but I feel like I am. I don’t feel like I can pick up a phone and tell anyone that I’m in a funk, because that’s not uplifting, and aren’t I supposed to be FRICKIN’ UPLIFTING?!?!?!  Because right now, all I am is a giant lead balloon in a forgiving pair of leggings and a piece of fried chicken.

I feel like a giant &$*%&$ failure in every possible facet of my life.

There–I said it. And now it’s permanently embedded into Cyberspace. CASSIDY FEELS LIKE A GIANT &(*$%&($ FAILURE.

Honey-LaBronx-Crying-Mascara

(We interrupt this rant to disclose that searching for a meme of a crying drag queen was enough to make me laugh. Those who know me know I love Jesus…and I also love drag queens. That’s an entirely different discussion. We digress.)

So, yes, much like the mascara on the photograph above, I feel like a failure/hot mess. The problem with getting something that sounds amazing (like working from home, or more sleep–is there EVER enough sleep?!? Not when you don’t have a thyroid, truth) is that over time, it becomes laced with uncertainties and eventually, tinged with paranoia. I’ve said for a few weeks now that everything feels very unsteady, and it’s not a good environment for me to try to live/work/be confronted with 24/7. Tension is building, and I’m not the only one. I’m internalizing more…I’m feeling more and more isolated and bleak and super-Don’t Touch-Me-ish (one can only be a landing mat for a projectile 7-year old without it taking a toll).

brak

David’s getting a shorter fuse. Jericho doesn’t want anything to do with homework and has turned into a screen addict who shrieks like he’s being beaten alive if we tell him the TV needs to be turned off (SERIOUSLY, PUPPET STEVE ON YOUTUBE, IF WE EVER MEET IN PERSON I AM SILENCING YOU WITH A GLUE GUN.). (And yes, KAREN, we know we did this. WE ARE TERRIBLE PARENTS, OKAY?!?!   I SAID IT!!!  Just add it to the reasons why I feel like a GIANT (*$&%(* FAILURE.) Going into this summer, my biggest fear is that if I don’t come up with some kind of schedule or curriculum, both of the guys in my house are going to get sucked into some weird vortex of TV/Legos/YouTube and I will never see any of them again…which is fine, because I will have buried myself with my headphones and my tablet, under a pile of blankets where I will binge watch “Drag Race” until I’ve eaten myself to death with the seemingly-endless bag of Peanut M&Ms that I have discovered. THEN the guys can watch my progress on television on “My 600lb Life,” and we’ll all feel like we’re learning about each other again. 

Yep…We’re not in our happy place.

Jericho has been spending a bit of time during the week at my parents’ house during our lockdown. I know that’s controversial, but I live in a 1,000sq. ft. townhouse. My parents live in a house that’s around 3x the size, out in the country, with a bigger backyard and far more to do outdoors. This gives me a bit of time to have some peace in my week (as I’m still working from home…good times) and for David to continue looking for a job (that’s another key point of stress. What do we do if he finds a job? There aren’t any childcare options right now. The “what ifs” are endless, right?). I’ve not seen my parents, as I’m stuck in “pause” regarding health issues right now (and every doctor I have is gonna be livid at the weight gain, so I’m already preparing to hear that lecture), so I miss them. I miss my job (does that make me a terrible mother? To say that I miss being at my office?!?  See, that’s another foothold for “mom guilt”–there are SO MANY.), and I truly, deeply miss my church (Zoom is meh.).

You know what?

The longer I sit here and type about how much everything sucks, the more I am reminded that THIS SUCKS FOR EVERYBODEEEEEE.

GROVER

I’m not special, you’re not special, and yeah, it’s okay for us to take a few minutes and gripe about it. From my blog history, it’s apparent that I’ve been griping about it for a few weeks, so yeah, I’m having some difficulties processing things and then dropping them. Whether that’s because I was raised by an Italian, or because I’m a vengeful harpy, who knows?

THIS SUCKS.

You can say it with me–it’s allowed. This is a safe place.

coronasucks

I know we’re hopefully coming to the end of the lockdown; just this week, I think I’ve officially got a true back-to-the-office date. I think we’ll get through this much more safely if people would get over themselves and wear a dang mask (they’re an “it” fashion accessory now, darling–you can even get them on Zulily!), we’d get through this a bit faster. I kinda think I may stick with wearing one during every flu season forever, because the flu I caught in February was WALKING DEATH, and I’m quite sure a face mask might have kept me from getting it…unless I got it from the germ magnet known as my child…hmm. But if people would just obey the CDC recommendations and wear a silly mask, what harm could it do? JUST DO IT, and get us out of this sooner!!!!!!

Just sitting down and writing things out is helpful for me–I know it’s oversharing, but at least by the end of this, I can sit here and say that my thought processes are linear. I’m not so scattered all over the place, getting slapped in the face by every emotion and feeling of failure that floats my way. I know it’s all a trick of the Enemy to get in my head and bury me–I hate to admit it, but it’s working, because I feel buried under all of this.

I can recognize the attack, but I’m truly so freaked out/worn out that all I can do is roll over and surrender. I haven’t yet, but I’m afraid that I will. I don’t feel like I’m strong enough to put my head up and to fight back, or even to pray enough to fight back. I can laugh at my own patheticness, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t scare me.

The other night, I tried to pray for some kind of peace or relief. I prayed myself to sleep (which is kind of normal for me), but I wasn’t making any sense to myself. It was mostly just me saying, “Jesus…please.” That’s all I got.  My brain is such a mess that I can’t even talk to God naturally. Like, I’m having to tell myself, “Girl, get yourself together and TALK TO HIM!!!!”

But you know what?

I don’t have to get myself together to talk to Him.

I don’t have to sit down and write a blog about how I feel like an epic failure, because He knows how I feel and He knows the truth. He knows every insecurity and He remembers them ALL (I don’t even remember them all. That’s ridiculous.). I don’t have to get “linear” for Him, because He knows me, mess and all, and even though it’s hard for me to believe,

He loves me.

I am without a doubt, a mess.

queen

Most of the time, I don’t want to stop and try to sort me out, because IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

grief

I love this graphic–I’ve seen it before, but it’s so perfect.  Grief isn’t something that exists in one moment, in one event of your life, regardless of how “huge” that moment is. Grief can be experienced during any kind of major transition, and baby, WE ARE GOING THROUGH TRANSITION. This whole lockdown experience is traumatic on many different levels, for many different people….for people who look like they have the “perfect” life, and for people who are in the trenches. We’re all unified by this one theme right now: STRESS.

There’s no coincidence that the word, “pandemic” and “panic” sound the same, and I think every time the word is spoken aloud, that energy goes into the atmosphere and we are in the thick of it!!! It’s oppressive, right?!?!  I can’t be the only one who feels like the sky weighs a million pounds right now.

Constant reminders in the media and the press of death, sadness, grief, fear…constant attacks on the mind that torment (and we all know who the author of torment is…stupid jerk). We’re getting hit from every angle by news that’s designed to destroy our morale and to basically fry our hope. I read an article from the Psychiatric Times that mentioned Camus’ The Plague. I’d forgotten about Camus, but from what I remember, he was an existentialist who had no hope. The story was about a town that lost half of its inhabitants due to a plague (thus, the title. Nice.). The article talks about the weight of “death anxiety,” which sounds a bit dramatic (even to me) and about how there is trauma in the persistent, unrelenting state that we’re in right now.

No wonder I feel like crap.

It’s literally in the atmosphere. UGH.

When all of this started, I thought, “YES, GURRL!!!!  You will read the books! You’ll start a workout plan!  You’ll learn new things and GET AWESOME,” not, “Your life will be boring as h*ll, your kid will mutiny, and you’ll get fat again.” I started the books…I WILL get through at least one of them. And yes, I have undertaken some creative projects (lots of painting. Too many flamingos…as if there could EVER be too many flamingos. Baking…which I like way too much of….and sewing! I’m learning to sew, and yes, my face masks are DOPE.). I was doing really well at forcing my household to go on daily walks with me until last week’s cold snap, and I can tell that was a bad idea, because walking really helps my back. So that’s getting restarted, for sure.

But truth be told, I haven’t done all of the things I’d hoped, so it adds a layer to being disappointed with myself…can I just write on all of the mirrors that GOD IS NOT DISAPPOINTED WITH ME?!? My weight or my achievements and/or lack thereof does not make God love me (or you) any less, darn it, so why do I let them make ME love me less?!?  BLAH.

The “Psychiatry Times” article had an interesting quote that, “death anxiety may also result in the following positive opportunities and growth-oriented goals:

• Valuing creativity and creative achievement22

• Generativity23

• Meaning making

• Mindfulness and meditation24

• Positive health behavior changes25

• Prioritizing growth-oriented goals and positive standards26″

Likewise, numerous websites have shown this graphic for finding the positives during this time:

coronacalm

I think there’s a fine line between looking at these great ideas, trying to do them or not doing them, and then using those outcomes by which to judge ourselves. I’m guilty of that, as seen above.

I’m also guilty of writing blogs that are way too long, waaaay past my bedtime, so I gotta wrap this up without feeling added guilt at the fact that I’m crap at writing conclusions (I should just end this here with a, “Bye!”). LOL!

I think I’m just going to say that I, and probably you, have to give ourselves some credit. We’re surviving a pandemic…it’s not only a viral pandemic; it’s a pandemic of misinformation, of unrealistic goals, and of misunderstood, confusing presumptions that affect us on every level. It’s a pandemic that has kids caught in the middle, and that’s a hard one to accept and to work with (I still don’t know how to explain all of this to my kiddo or how we’re going to get back into the routine I swore I wouldn’t let us get out of). It’s a giant ball of confusion and chaos in a world that was already a flippin’ disaster, and now we’re in deep. I’m struggling with feeling buried, and I’d wager that you might be, too, if you’re still reading all of this.

Peace is a concept that sounds so refreshing and so restorative…the other night, when I said I was trying to pray and all I could get out was, “Jesus, please?” PEACE was what I needed, what I was seeking. I didn’t have to say it–He knew, and I slept like a baby. Peace is the antithesis to Panic, and it’s not some global, Michael-Jackson-We-Are-The-World Sing-A-Long. Peace is a spiritual state, and I think it’s like a shield around us to protect us from losing our ever-loving minds during life as a rule. Panic tears holes in that shield, so we gotta get in a place of quiet and worship and GET IT BACK. That’s going to be my goal through the rest of the pandemic…sure, I want to bake all of the things but still lose these 15 pounds, and read all of the books and reorganize my household, but what is it without the very Peace of God?

And that’s my new focus…that’s what writing these nearly-3,000 words has led me to: Seeking Peace. Peace in the face of the Pandemic, Peace in the face of unsteady Mental Health, Peace in the face of Homeschooling and Job Insecurity.

Peace from the very Heart of God…for you and me, for our households and for our families.

Peace to you and to your loved ones….peace in the middle of the noise and the guilt, and the standards and the social media mess. Peace, be still.

 

Click the link to be taken to a list of Bible verses focusing on Peace. Shalom, y’all. 

shalom

Rescued…

More than the coronavirus…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t speak Spanish, y’all.

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

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

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

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

But you know what?!?

Someone threw me a lifeline.

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

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

YES.

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

GOD IS GOOD.

And people are good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m grateful.

I’m not forgotten.

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

He’s my Rescuer.

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

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

Chaos and Christmas Cookies

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

Peace.

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

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

Yet, this season is often met with anything but…

And I am no exception.

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

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

And then he lost his dang mind.

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

Um…

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

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

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

mADEA PEACE BE STILL

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

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

And I’d missed it.

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

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

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

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

79334477_751940835287909_3619306825197293654_n(1)

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

grinch

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

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

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

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

I’m humbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

“Jesus Wept.”

This phrase has been on my mind a lot lately.

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

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

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

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

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

They let us mourn….

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

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

It doesn’t say that “Jesus cried.”

It says that JESUS. WEPT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are. You. KIDDING?!?!?

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

I can’t answer that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus wept.

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

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

lazarus

Cardiology Update!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT IT’S NOT.

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

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

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

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.

“Out of the mouths of babes….”

You guys, God blew up my brain this morning. Like, He shattered me in the best of ways…..I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out:

In the morning, I have about a 45-minute commute. I like quiet in the mornings. My drive is usually where I try to get focused, I pray, and I listen. This morning, I had just finished praying the intro (LOL–by “the intro,” I mean the Lord’s Prayer. I start every day with that. Long story. Good enough for Jesus, good enough for me.) and I was thinking about my son. I was thinking about how he’s said a couple of times lately that he wants to be baptized. Now, he’s 5–I’m pretty sure he’s not ready yet, but it’s on the table. I was 9 when I became a Christian and was water-baptized, so I firmly believe that kids can know what they’re doing.

We pray with him every night. I want my son to know that God is real, that He is listening, and that we don’t have to fake anything with Him. Jericho’s prayers are really, really cute, and I believe that he prays with intention. David has been AMAZING at working with him on Bible verses (I highly recommend Pixie Paper on Amazon; we purchased superhero-themed prints with Bible verses on them, and Jericho’s been learning them since he was 3. “Green Lantern verse!” “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light onto my path!” “Captain America verse!” “Jesus is the Captain of my Salvation!”), and he’s been learning them at school. Image result for jesus is the captain of my salvation

Watching a child develop their own faith is fascinating.

As parents, we have to be careful of a trap that I have found myself in: Don’t disregard the strength of their prayers because they’re cute.

I was driving into work, thinking about how Jericho had jumped at the opportunity to pray over my family’s Father’s Day meal. It was a simple prayer, full of thanksgiving, and one I really didn’t put much stock into, because let’s face it: I have a really cute kid, and it’s cute when kids pray.

I was, of course, happy that he WANTED to pray (my mother was verklempt, LOL), but I didn’t really think too much more of it beyond the general pride I felt that MY KID PRAYS. Outside of that, it was adorable, and we go on with our day.

Image result for verklempt meme

God feels differently.

I felt Him whisper to me this morning as I merged onto 270: “His prayers are REAL.”

My brain exploded like a firework. If I could have stopped my car and pulled over, I would have.

He kept going–it all rushed in: “His prayers are real, his heart is pure, and I AM LISTENING. All of Heaven is listening when a kid prays. His prayers have stock in them, just as yours do. Age doesn’t matter. I listen. Nothing he says is in vain; all of Heaven takes note. It’s written down. Jericho’s prayers are HEARD.”

So much for my mascara this morning.

How dare I sit back and write them off as a novelty?!?!?!?!?!?

The prayers of our children are heard in the heavenlies!!!!!!!!!!

I came into work, and turned on Bethel worship from a few Sundays ago. I picked it based on the screenshot of the worship leader, who I hadn’t heard before (Sean Feucht), and Pastor Bill Johnson was doing the intro. What he said made me stop in my tracks, and open up this blog to write all of this down:

Psalms 8:2:
Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. (NIV)

Mr. Johnson went on to read a paraphrase of a few more verses of the chapter (hit the video at the 4:32 marker):

“You have built a stronghold, a dwelling place of strength, from the songs of babies. YOU HAVE BUILT A FORTRESS FROM THE SONGS OF BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!!  Strength rises up from a chorus of babies. This kind of praise has the power to shut Satan’s mouth. Childlike worship will silence the madness of those that oppose you.”

I have never, EVER read this verse like this. I’ve never seriously considered the power or strength of the prayers of a child. I’ve said, “oh, sure, that’s adorable, it’s good to teach kids to pray,” etc., but it’s never impacted me like it has this morning. Between what God whispered in my ear on my commute, and a different interpretation/paraphrase of a verse I’ve heard 1,000 times, my world is rocked this morning, and I am renewed in my prayers of gratitude for my son in my life. That boy is a gift and a blessing who has taught me more about God than in almost any other time in my life. He keeps me reliant on the Lord, and he keeps me committed to renew my faith every single day. Today is just one more example of the lessons God has taught me through Jericho…

You guys, how amazing, that the Creator of the universe stops in His tracks to hear the prayers of a child…that the prayers of the least of these matter to our Savior. Our prayers are never just a novelty act; He never writes them off because we’re who we are. He’s listening, and He’s not just listening–He’s looking forward to our conversations. He’s engaged with us as His Beloved. Jesus truly loves us so much more than we can know, and it’s a joy to belong to Him…it’s a joy to get to parent with the influence of His kindness…it’s a joy to be loved by Him…

 

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and the Blessings of “Boring”

Christmas cards, postage, etc., COST. So, in the interests of saving our budget, we greatly reduced the number of Christmas cards that we physically sent out this year. Besides, everything–EVERYTHING–is online. Also, the only stamps I have left are either Harry Potter or Disney Villains, and NOTHING says “Christmas” like a Cruella De Ville stamp. 🙂 That being said, here’s our OFFICIAL Christmas Card/Letter for the year:

Christmas Card 2017

Christmas, 2017

One of the doctors in the clinic stopped by my office the other day, and commented on how sometimes, people need to learn to be happy with “normal.” I’m a big fan of “normal.” As a society, we’re told we need to “thrive on chaos,” and to “work well under pressure.” That’s all fine, but I think we’ve lost the luster of celebrating every-day life.

Wake up at 4am. Get ready for work. Drive—a lot—and maintain your Christianity in the process. Do your job—and maintain your Christianity in the process. J Drive some more. Pick up your child from school, head home, make something edible for dinner, and crash in front of the television, read a book, play a game, etc., until it’s time to do the whole day over again. There’s a schedule, and the days tend to flow into one another in some kind of monotonous blur…Or do they?

I’m definitely locked into my routine; I know I can hit that snooze button 3 times before I’m at Critical Rush. My closet is organized so I can spend 5 more minutes in bed, and I usually pack my lunch the night before. I’m as streamlined into my routine as I can possibly be, all in the name of a few extra minutes under the blankets. Do I look forward to every single day? Heck, no. There are more days than not where I fight a major battle just to put one foot on the floor. It’s for medical reasons, it’s for mental reasons—My “expectation” for the day is honestly just to get it over with. I know that sounds like absolute drudgery, but I also know it’s more common than some people realize. I think that’s part of why when something exciting happens, it’s so much more dramatic, because HOLY COW, WE HAVE BROKEN OUR ROUTINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Do you know one thing that breaks any concept of a “routine?”

Love.

Although the first part of my day is routine, as soon as I pick Jericho up from school, it’s really “anything goes.” I know I’m going to get him, maybe talk to his teacher, and we’re going to drive home, have dinner, and talk about his day. I know he’s going to go to bed somewhere around 7:45, and that I’m going to bed at the same time. What I don’t know, is what he’s going to say…what he’s going to do, or what new skill he’s picked up. It seems like he grows every day, and before we know it, he’s going to be starting Kindergarten. Impossible. I know that when he says something sweet, that on the outside, I’m going to remain calm; on the inside, my heart is going to turn into confetti, and my brain is going to replay the memory a thousand times over the course of the next “routine” day. When he stops everything and hugs me, I know my heart is going to go full-on Grinch, and grow 3x in 30 seconds (it does that a lot). It’s a brand of love unlike anything I have ever known or can describe, and it’s mind-blowing. I don’t understand the love I have for my son. I don’t get it—where does it come from? How does it just keep getting bigger? How is every day with him so amazing? I mean, yes—he’s 4.

Four has tested us in ways we never thought we could be tested in. Everything everyone said about the “Terrible 2’s” or “Terrifying 3’s” is a load of garbage, because FOUR?!?!?. Four is insane. Four means we occasionally have a Tiny Tyrant who is dead-set on voicing his own opinions, on doing is own thing, and is NOT dead-set on simply accepting “DO WHAT I TOLD YOU TO DO!!!!” as a viable reason to do what he’s told. Jericho is feisty, opinionated, determined, and incredibly creative. He is also very loving and very sweet, most of the time. There is never a doubt as to what he is thinking, and I can’t help but to think that he comes by that honestly. J

He’s decided he wants to be a foot doctor, a chef, and a police officer. He’s working on his handwriting; he’s able to read lots of words, and his spelling is pretty impressive. He’s in Pre-Kindergarten!?!?! School has been very good for him, and it’s definitely been a year of transition. He’s just a typical 4-year old boy. I celebrate that.

David’s “routine” day is a little different than mine; he gets Jericho ready for school every day and takes him in. Jericho wakes up ready to punch the day in the face! His day starts with YELLING, “I’M READY TO GET UPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!” over and over and over again, until David finally goes into his room and turns the light on. The child is persistent. I’m not sure how David deals with the volume level of the morning, but on the weekend, it makes me a little buzzy. J I’m used to absolute silence in the morning when I leave, because everyone is still asleep. It’s a culture shock on Saturday morning!

David’s still working with MetLife, and if there’s any “routine” to his day, it’s that he’s going to be busy. Between hurricanes, floods, storms, fires, and crazy drivers, he never knows what kinds of claims he’s going to be dealing with (or what kinds of excuses he’s going to hear). We each have to maintain certain amounts of confidentiality with what we do, but when he does tell me a carefully-redacted story, it’s always jaw-dropping. People are hilarious.

I continue to work with the Center for Eye Care at UMSL. My favorite part of my job is working with our Mobile Eye Van to provide vision services in underserved schools. A proper diagnosis of a vision issue can change a child’s life; that’s exciting, to be a part of making that change. I also continue to work with contract negotiations, compliance, and credentialing. The laws change constantly, and my biggest challenges are being made aware of, and of understanding, these changes. I appreciate the “simplicity” of just being “Mom” at the end of the day, and of not having to worry about government regulation enforcements! J I also continue to do freelance editing when I have time, and “officially” launched www.CassidysCommentary.com over the summer.

We’re a completely “normal” family. We’re a Dad, a Mom, and a child, who start each day, work and learn each day, and go to bed each night. But when you look at that sentence, there’s a lifetime of hope and of love in each comma. There is no happier moment of my day then when Jericho crawls up into my lap, and sits with me. I’ve never known a fulfillment like I feel when we sit there, doing nothing. I’m so thankful for that little boy, and so grateful for the love I see in him. He’s such an answer to prayer, and such a daily testimony to David & I…

I remember that feeling of waking up on Christmas morning when I was a kid—the anticipation, and the expectation. I kind of feel like that every day when I pick Jericho up from school. J Even though it’s “routine,” it’s the best time of the day, full of the excitement of seeing his face and of hearing about his day. It’s a beautiful “normal,” and I am so in love with having it in my life. We are both so grateful to God for these “typical” moments…

For this Christmas season, I hope that you & your family find the gratitude and joy in whatever your “routine” may be. My prayer for all of us is that the drama we are so affected by on a regular basis, go back to being out-of-the-ordinary. My prayer is that the “routine” would be calm and joyful, and that as a society, we would learn to appreciate the beauty of the mundane. Celebrate “normal” this holiday season, and enjoy the peace of the Holy Spirit in your families as you celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Merry Christmas!!!!!

Love,

David, Cassidy, & Jericho Cooley,

And Holly the Boxer, who is very, very old….