“Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes–Turn & Face the Strange”

I haven’t blogged since the end of July!! Having COVID really, truly rerouted me. I’m not sure how I can even begin to sum up the last 2 months, so the words of David Bowie come to mind:

“Strange fascinations fascinate me
Ah, changes are taking
The pace I’m goin’ through

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Ooh, look out, you rock ‘n’ rollers
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older”

And older, I am…There are definitely times where I feel every bit of the 43 years under my skin, but I think having a third grader keeps David & I feeling somewhat spry (at least, that’s what they tell us). Jericho started the third grade in mid-August, & thanks to some of the tutoring we did over the summer, it seems to be going well. If only he could stop talking out of turn–so many ideas, so many words, so little time!!! It’s the story of my life. I deeply empathize with my kiddo, but that doesn’t mean he gets out of the consequences of pulling cards when he misbehaves at school, even if they’re related to his “excess verbiage,” as one teacher told me when I was a kid. He had two–TWO–face plants/head smacks in a 2-week time that nearly sent us to Urgent Care (if only one was available without a two-hour wait, under our insurance plan). My mom patched up one, and I patched up the other. He’ll have some cool scars, but other than that, he’s fine. He started Ki-Do Defense Systems, and it’s exciting to see a third-generation martial artist come out of our family!

David continues to do well with his job; the only drawback is the hours, so I am praying that he gets a slightly-earlier shift. I’m very proud of him! I’m also very thankful to the Lord–David landed that job in the middle of the pandemic, and it has been a huge blessing.

Speaking of jobs….deep breath….after 10+ years, I have resigned my position with the University of Missouri–St. Louis, and have taken a position at another University in our area. For the first time in over twenty years (21!!!!!), I will not be working in healthcare. It’s a realization that is staring me in the face, & I’m in a bit of shock over the decision. If God would not have so clearly opened so many doors, this would not be happening. Leaving the security blanket of a good job, good benefits, mostly-nice people, etc., is a big, scary, Nestea-plunge into unchartered waters!!!!!

But it’s time.

I think I’ve grown hermit-ish. I think I’ve grown comfortable, like a fat cat lounging in a windowsill. I felt the Lord ask me last year, “are you tired of being comfortable? Are you ready to make a change? Or do you just want to stay with the familiar?”

At the time, I said, “I’ve been here this long. Let me stay. It’s easy–I’m in my comfort zone. I can deal with the one-or-two people that make things difficult. I can do this.” And then the pandemic hit.

I realized that I didn’t want to do this anymore. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew that it wasn’t this–it wasn’t any major blow-up kind of thing. I just missed my family.

I’ve missed almost every morning of school. I’ve missed almost every bedtime. I’ve missed conversations with my husband, and I missed walking the dang dog. I’ve missed countless plans or evening meet-ups; I’ve missed relationships because I’ve had to be in bed by 8:00am. I’ve missed people.

When I missed the entire month of July because of COVID & found myself deeply, deeply struggling with anxiety, anger, bitterness & even resentment, I found myself face-down with the Lord, wondering what in the world needed to happen? I’d been looking at other positions, but nothing seemed to fit; when this position opened up, I didn’t think I had a chance (much like I felt when my UMSL job opened up), but to my surprise, they picked me! Then began the process of leaving, and it’s a difficult process, indeed.

There are so many things I’d like to say, but I think I will leave it at this: I am thankful. I am so grateful for the time I’ve had here; for the experiences & the opportunities; and mostly, for the schools I’ve been able to work with, with our Mobile Eye Van project (please-oh-please, click the link!). I’m thankful for those I’ve met along the way, & for those that took the time to teach me the importance of what they do at the Center for Eye Care offices. I’m thankful for the communities I’ve been able to connect with, and for every single school nurse that shared a laugh in one of the many meetings in which I awkwardly tried to convey the importance of optometric care (“If you can’t see, you can’t read, and if you can’t read, you can’t succeed!” Trademark pending!!!!). I’m thankful for the other vision service providers who tirelessly drive their RVs up-&-down the streets of St. Louis to care for kids and even adults and senior citizens. I’m thankful for the staff that have come together to provide patients with the best care manageable, and for the doctors and students who work seamlessly to diagnose, to treat, and to educate patients in a way that makes sense. It’s been a privilege to be a part of this team.

I know that it’s time to move forward towards new things, new people, & new adventures. I know God is delivering me from anxiety (it’s not “my” anxiety anymore. It’s His.) & that He is with me on this journey…If I fall, He’s there. If I fly, He’s there. If I stay grounded, if I get it right, if I screw it up–He’s there. What do I have to fear? I’ve found myself singing a song that a friend wrote several years ago; the whole album was my go-to during my pregnancy with Jericho, & I’m listening to it daily as I make this new transition. The song (“Jacob,” by Bizzy Grapperhaus) has the line, “there’s one way out of the wilderness…leaning on my Beloved.” I’ve been holding onto it like a childhood teddy bear, a security blanket of sorts. I need a constant reminder that He’s got a plan, and the closer I get to Him, the more peace I have. When the fear or anxiety threatens, I lean in harder. He always calms the storm.

My biggest hope as I leave this institution is that people knew/know that my faith has been more important to me than anything….that my relationship with God is the only thing that has carried me through the last 10 years (so many highs-&-lows)…and that with all of my skills and/or flaws, I tried my hardest to work in a way that honors God. I’ve done my best, and I’m leaving with that peace in my heart. I’m thankful for that. I’ve worked hard, and now I’m going to go work just as hard for someone else! Keep us in prayer as we make this transition, as a family–and please, pray for me as I take on different responsibilities in an entirely new field.

I’m looking forward to the new adventure…starting 10/4. 🙂

Update…COVID & The Cooleys

In the month of June, for multiple reasons, I had a mental health freakout. My anxiety hit the roof, I wound up face-to-face with unresolved childhood trauma; there were parenting crises, & things at work were coming to a boiling point. When one area of my life goes haywire, I can generally process. When EVERY area of my life goes haywire?!?!?! My brain broke.

I wound up reaching out to my pastors, a counselor, & a friend; they all counseled me to take a break, & after pushing the guilt to the back-burner I asked my boss if I could take 4 vacation days over the Fourth of July holiday.

Those four days turned into TWENTY.

For my first day of my vacation, I spent an entire day with my mom. I had her ALLLLLL to myself! We had an amazing time, shared stories, had some adventures, got the car stuck on the side of the road in no-man’s land, & I cherished every single minute. I love my mom, & I love learning from her. It looked like this break was going to be awesome!

Me & My Beautiful Mama!

On the second day of my self-imposed mental health break, I received a text that my son had been directly exposed to COVID. My initial reaction was, “Oh. Well, I guess that’s really nothing new.” It’s not that I didn’t take it seriously–rather, we’d been so good about masks, hand-washing, etc. The environment in which he had been exposed was a small group of kids and 2-3 adults. I notified my family, but that same day I received word that I needed around $2000 in car repairs, so I had more pressing things on my plate…or so I thought. Two days later, our plans for celebrating the Fourth with my family moved forward as usual.

‘Merica!

We spent most of the time outside, and my parents have a large, airy house. Towards midday, I looked at my son & thought, “He seems off. NO WAY.” Out loud, I said, “Mom, do you have a thermometer?”

Lo & behold, my beloved boy had a temp of 102. The bottom fell out of my stomach, & the anxiety hit me like a punch from Conor McGregor. My mom looked at me and immediately prayed; we gave Jericho some aspirin & began hourly temperature checks. We kept him hydrated; outside of the fever & a lack of appetite, he was as keenly interested in the fireworks as ever before, and in less than 24 hours, he was perfectly fine. Whew!!!! We’d spent a lot of time outdoors, so maybe it was just a sinus bug? The next day, we went to the zoo (we were masked), & all seemed fine! He seemed a bit crankier than usual, but it was bloody HOT, so it wasn’t completely out of the norm. Life moved on.

The Zoo!

The next day, I had some tests to run at the hospital. I’ve had a lot of issues with pain and inflammation this year, particularly in regards to my legs. The cramping, aches, and stabbing pains have left me unable to rest, & that’s contributed to my mental health struggles. The testing took two hours; after I left, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling all that great. I stopped and got what seemed like a super-bland lemon-berry slush, & made my way through the hell we all know as Wal-Mart. By the time I got to the car, I felt like I was coming down with the flu–I still hadn’t put it together.

The following morning, I had a telehealth appointment. By the end of it, it was determined that I had better get tested; I was supposed to return to the office the next day. I opted for a rapid test & set up the appointment for later that afternoon. By the time of the appointment, I couldn’t drive, & had to ask David to come and get me. The test, to my surprise, was positive.

I spent the next 5 days in bed…& somewhere in there, David got sick as well (he never bothered to get tested). I stayed in bed from Wednesday evening through Monday afternoon.

People, COVID sucks. If you haven’t had it, it’s horrible. I am still pretty sure that the three of us had a more moderate version of it in February, 2020; I thought I had it again last November, but I never tested positive. THIS, though? This has been infinitely worse than both respiratory things I had in February & in November. It’s been 3 weeks; I still have major chest tightness and unrelenting fatigue. I feel like my lungs have been destroyed by a cheese grater. David still has a cough, along with the fatigue. We haven’t gone ANYWHERE with the exception of work & Jericho’s summer school, since the holiday weekend. I tried to go into a store last week, but couldn’t do it. It’s bad enough that I asked my sister to take Jericho for the weekend just so we could rest & sleep (she’s NEVER cared for him on her own before, so this was a huge ask. Not only did she volunteer to take him for the whole weekend–I had initially only asked her to take him for a day–she knocked it out of the park! They had a TON of fun, & the pictures are awesome!! She braved Sky Zone!!!!!), and so that Jericho could get out of the house.

If I didn’t have a nebulizer, albuterol, & a CPAP machine, I don’t think David or I would have been able to avoid the hospital. I have monitored our oxygen saturation like a vulture. We both have medical appointments at the end of this week that will make sure we’re recovering, but seeing David as sick as he’s been? That’s been terribly alarming to me. He’s never really sick, & he’s terrible about taking anything when he is. We’re both exhausted. The reports that this can take a long time to come back from are not anything I want to read–ain’t anybody got time for this!!!!! Neither one of us can taste or smell anything properly, which I suppose is fantastic for the diet; it’s frustrating for me, because I like food!!!!!! And when you have a taste for something, but can’t taste it?!? ACK!

I personally think COVID was designed from the pits of hell. It’s debilitating, demoralizing, destructive, & deadly. All of the conflicting information, the division, the inconsistencies–I am sick & tired of reading about masks, vaccines, incentives, etc., because from the very beginnings of this mess, the “facts” have constantly changed. I’ve been dragged for being unvaccinated–if I’m willing to keep wearing masks and washing my hands, why do I need to be vaccinated? I’d rather do that, than inject something into my system that is proving to have inconsistent results. And now that I’ve got all of these lovely antibodies, it’s giving me more time to think about the vaccine, the information, the consequences, and the benefits. I’m the type of person that the more something is pushed, the more likely I am to take a step back & say, “wait a minute.” Vaccine incentives & the constant propaganda is off-putting to me, especially based on government involvement. I’m completely content to do my part to reduce the spread/exposure by wearing masks and washing my hands (and social distancing–I love social distancing), & I feel like that’s generally enough–isn’t that what they told us for the first 10 months of this mess?

We take preventative measures to protect ourselves & others. I’m not an anti-vaxxer, but I am someone who has been known to have the weirder, more rare reactions to various drugs, & I don’t want to take any chances. Wearing a mask has zero side-effects to me (I know that’s not the case for everyone) & I am happy to do so. I’m not going to rail on anyone who doesn’t want to wear one (but I will not hesitate to tell you to step off if we’re indoors & you’re not wearing one, ‘k? I’m not getting this crap again).

With all of the preventative measures that David & I were taking, we still got COVID (and it’s pretty clear to me that we got it through our son). With vaccines, people are STILL getting breakthrough cases of COVID. It’s become very, very evident that the designs of this disease are just evil, & even with all of the things we try to do to comply and/or to prevent, it’s mutating past the expectations. I don’t honestly have a lot of hope for a COVID-free future.

Please take every preventative measure you can take! Get your vitamin C (it’s particularly good for the lungs), get your N-Acetyl-Cysteine. Boost your immune system (chiropractic adjustments have been shown to boost your immune systems!), wash your hands, wear your mask if you want. Be cognizant of your surroundings and your distance from people, even when you’re outdoors. Know that your kids can be little germ vessels, and help them take personal responsibility for their hygiene–I think that’s the one area where we let our guard down.

COVID SUCKS. Period. David & I are trying to get back to “normal” at a much slower pace. To everyone who has reached out in prayer; to the family that dropped off an amazing meal; to the friends who gave us an Instacart gift card; to INSTACART: THANK YOU. We have appreciated all of the love, prayers, and support. Please be patient with us as we try to get caught up on things & as we try to get some energy back. This feels like a long road to come back from, & I feel like we’re going to need a lot of grace with ourselves and from others!

DON’T GET COVID. <><

Noodle, the #ChiweeniePuggle, demonstrating what we’ve accomplished since the Fourth of July

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.

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…

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

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).

Pin on Quotes

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…

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). 🙂

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The anxiety builds…and it’s tangible.

Time is shorter in unsettled waters…

What stays?

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

I want to.

I hope that I have.

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

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

So, how do you want it to be used?

To answer Hamilton’s questions…

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not enough.

 

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

 

Finally going to write about it…

There are a great many things that have happened over the recent months that have made me wonder how we are still walking the earth.
Like, when Paul wrote, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption, (Eph. 4:30)”…how often are we doing just that? I read headlines and Facebook posts, and “news” articles, and moments in history that I never knew existed, and I feel like we should be wiped off of the face of the earth…We’re a terrible species of people.


I’m in a group on Facebook that sells leggings—LEGGINGS, people. Soft, comfortable, bury-me-in-them leggings—where one post about a pattern for law enforcement support blew up into the most hateful, racist, condescending, evil “banter” that I’ve ever read in my life. From LEGGINGS.

Christians are fighting with other Christians. It started with the mask-wearers vs. the non-mask wearers; now it’s somehow the “my freedoms are being violated!!!” vs. the “I don’t wanna die from COVID, and you’re an inconsiderate bastard if you don’t wear a mask!!” And yet all of them say, “Yeah, we love Jesus!!!”
“We support the police” is now equal to, “well, you’re a racist,” but “Black Lives Matter” means you’re either a lemming, a White Savior, or a militant. There is no “agree to disagree,” and there is no “middle ground.”
Blood is being shed, lives and careers are being ended, and #CancelCulture has taken over.A young man recently opened up an app on his phone, which told him his stock values had dropped to negative $750,000. He then killed himself…but what he didn’t know, was that the app had glitched, and the data was wrong. It was too late for this kid. He based his very survival on what was false information….he made a quick reaction to what he thought was truth, and now his family is devastated. I feel like this poor kid is indicative of our world right now.
We read posts, and we hear stories, and we react (and we post our reactions). We have knee-jerk responses to anything and everything, and we spout off our opinions or our dramatic rebuttal. We’re so quick to pick up offenses and to drag them around like roadkill that’s hung up on an exhaust pipe.

We do not stop and take the time to take things before the Lord in prayer before we make permanent impressions with either our mouths or our keyboards, and we leave a trail of broken hearts and souls in our wake.
There’s a reason why I’m saying, “we.” I’m guilty.
I’m totally guilty of a knee-jerk, biting response, or an embittered eye-roll, or even of being a part of Cancel Culture in my mind. And I guess because I’m not publicly sharing who and what I think should be cancelled, I tell myself I’m not playing a part in it, but I totally do. I have people and establishments that are 100% dead to me, and I’m not proud of it. Resentment and bitterness are suffocating, and they’re a chain I believe we all risk carrying around…
And our world is beleaguered with it.
Like the Dickens tale taught us, I feel like we’re all a bit like Mr. Marley, with our chains and our boxes dangling around our necks, but we’re too busy squawking like a bunch of chickens, looking at everyone else, to notice that we’re about to go under…We’re all tired, and we don’t even realize that’s why.
These chains and these burdens are heavy, and there’s nothing to make them any lighter.

Yesterday, we celebrated Juneteeth (which should be a national holiday. Mr. Trump, please make it so), and we took notice far more this year than in any other year, of the weight of that day: The End of Slavery in America.
The chains were broken, at least physically….but we all know they’ve lingered for generations even still.
I sat in our home group yesterday and commented that when I read the passages in Ephesians 6 about slavery, I wondered how we as a nation got it so wrong? I read in another post today about how we as white Americans “Disney-ify” the Bible to make ourselves the Israelites—God’s “chosen” people—when if we really think about it, we were more like the Egyptians, building our cities and our country on the backs of those who were stolen from their own lands.


Ephesians 6 gives clear instructions about slavery; the term, “bondservant” was a more accurate translation. There was to be a working relationship between master and slave, a mutual respect. It was to be more of a worker/boss relationship, than an abusive relationship. Our ancestors, who came here under the guise of religious freedom, twisted it so much (and I believe the biggest parts of that were rooted in erroneous translations of the Scripture by the Church of England at the time, who were in cahoots with the royals…everything was bought and paid and traded for, and I seriously question the authenticity of certain translations/paraphrasings of the Bible based on the studies I’ve done on the topic. I digress.). They twisted the Scriptures and used them to kidnap, abuse, and enslave people and to force our belief systems on them, to support their deceptive ideas. The irony of it all—religious freedom is used to enslave a race?!?—is nauseating, and the more I learn the history of the African American people in our nation, the more my heart grieves.
I wasn’t taught any of this stuff in school. I learned a little bit about slavery, but outside of watching Glory, I didn’t get it. The Tulsa Race Riots? I first heard about it last week. Ruby Bridges? I had to Google “little Black girl, integrated schools,” because I knew the story but I didn’t know her NAME. Juneteenth? I learned about it when I was 31. In going to a Christian school, one of the things I’ve struggled with as I’ve learned and read more, is that the history we were taught was so whitewashed. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, and it was in the 80’s & 90’s. The truth remains, though, is that it was. There was a complete imbalance in the history of minorities and of women in what we were taught, verses the history of male achievements. What’s the saddest, is that I didn’t realize it until I was an adult.


There is a difference between rewriting history and writing history. I do not think the textbooks I learned from rewrote history, but I sure as heck KNOW they omitted history. I believe our history books need to be expanded to include the stories of the amazing contributions of women and of people of color. They need to even out the representation, and if that means our general history classes take 3 years to get through instead of 1 semester? GOOD. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”—Santayana. My high school history teacher drilled that quote into my head, and I think it’s truer now than it’s ever been. The more I learn about the gross abuse that people went through at the hands of our forefathers, the more I see it coming back for another round….
Because we’re not learning.
We’re not learning to Be Kind.
We’re not learning to share Jesus.
We’re not learning to Love…
If anything, we’re getting better at hatred, and it’s so sad and it’s so scary.
I have a child to raise in this mess.
I have a responsibility to teach him to love first and foremost…to teach him to “seek justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly” with the Lord (Micah 6:8)…to know his own privilege and to use it to stop the mistreatment of another human being at any cost…
I have a responsibility to set the example, myself.


When Ferguson happened, I was, “All Lives Matter.” I was challenged by a few friends who were digging into Civil Rights, into true justice, who led me by example to really pray about it. I started reading, and listening, and having those Uncomfortable Conversations where I realized that I was wrong—no one ever said that all lives DON’T matter. I started to understand that Jesus left the 99 to find the one, and that That One Mattered to Him, so why am I sitting here with my arms crossed, clicking with the 99? If He cares about That One, so should I…and so should my son, and so should anyone that knows me. I truly believe that Black Lives Matter, and I can say that without being disingenuous.
I still struggle. I still struggle with stereotypes, and with using the wrong words, and with being so afraid to offend anyone that I won’t say a word during the Q&A portion of the endless Zoom courses on inclusion and diversity that I’ve sat in on over the last few months. I still struggle with the knee-jerk reactions and the type of mentality that you get when you live in a primarily white, rural area and where you’re oblivious to your privilege (which just goes to show you how privileged you really are—that’s another diatribe). I’m not the poster child of Woke White People, and I would never pretend that I’m on some kind of Civil Reform Bandwagon…
But my heart has changed since Ferguson. My heart has grieved since Ferguson…for the sights that I saw in the aftermath, for the anger that burned the city to the ground, and for the pain that boiled out of people..people that are fellow Americans, that feel betrayed by this country that brought their ancestors here illegally in the first place. That pain is deep, and it’s a generational wound that I cannot understand…but I can listen. The protests that are happening in the wake of George Floyd are different this time around (and not just because the case is so clear-cut, or because we’ve gone down this road too many times before). The spirit of the protest is different, and the violence that’s trying to sneak in is much more pronounced in how it’s deviant of the true heart of the message.
People are crying out for real, tangible, measurable change, and they’re sick of empty words and ideas. I don’t know if we’re willing as a nation, to put the work in that making these changes will require. My cynical side says we have no idea what we’re asking for…and my spiritual side says the only way any changes will come is by the power of the Holy Spirit.


God is grieving over our nation and our world. His very heart is grieved…I believe, and I hope with all of my soul, that this world is on its way to the Great Revival that I’ve heard was coming ever since I was a child…that the heart of people would be so drawn into praying for change that an encounter with Jesus Christ is inescapable…The Civil Righteousness organization (www.civilrighteousness.org) is covering our nation with prayers for lasting change, and for “spiritual, cultural, and economic renewal” by way of intensive prayer, Hope Rallies, fasting, and more…I am agreeing with them in prayer that we’re on the cusp of a national breakthrough, and that all of the pain of the last few months is like the birthing pains for a new nation that seeks the Lord’s face as we head into what I believe could be the last days…


Because we’ve grieved His heart long enough…and the burdens we carry, and the burdens our ancestors put on other people, are heavy….and His word tells us that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.
It’s time to lay our burdens down, and to seek healing and revival in this land.