Saying Goodbye to Santa…

I always knew this day would come, but I thought it would be more like, 9 or 10.

I knew that even barely introducing the concept of Santa Claus would have its consequences, but at some point I decided that cuteness and imagination outweighed whatever those would be….and now it’s time to pay the piper. My son has announced that “Santa isn’t real.”

Telling Kids the Truth About Santa | POPSUGAR Family
This might be the most fearsome Santa I have ever seen. Get this guy outta here!

Now, I have never confirmed or denied this fact. I’ve simply given him a response that is inspired by my life mentor, C. S. Lewis: “Is that a gamble you want to take?” This is loosely based on C.S. Lewis’ Trilemma, of whether or not you want to live your life in such a way that believes Jesus was real, or that He was a madman….It’s a pretty big gamble, and it makes perfect sense to me to utilize this logic when it came to the possibilities of Saint Nick, who is, as we know, based on a true story. But I digress…

The facts are the facts, and now my son is calling me on my bluff. In the interest of never again undermining my parental truths, this is the year that we metaphorically end Santa in our household…but how to do it in a way that spares imagination? In a way that keeps Christmas full of childlike wonder? IN A WAY THAT GETS ME MY GOSH-DARNED PICTURES AT CABELAS OR BASS PRO EVERY FLIPPING YEAR FOR THE SAKE OF CONTINUITY!!!! IT’S FOR POSTERITY, PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!! Ahem….

So, this year, I have a plan….Okay, it’s not much of a plan, but I thought I’d share it with you. Here goes:

  1. Jericho has only ever received 1-3 gifts from Santa. I think that’s only fair, since we work our butts off and deserve most of the credit. He’s not used to getting giant gifts from Mr. Claus, because Mr. Claus didn’t slave over an overflowing desk for the previous 11 months.
  2. Jericho has gotten a letter from Santa several times, including one which contained a gift certificate to Goodwill. Yep–at that point, Goodwill didn’t even MAKE gift certificates…but I know a fluffy lil’ elf who’s handy with clip art, thanks to years of yearbook editing.
  3. I got one gift for Jericho that’s earmarked from Santa, and it’s something he knows I would NEVER in a million years buy him. Really, I just did it to mess with him. I’ll pay for the therapy later.
  4. Finally, I wrote him the Last Letter from Santa that he will ever receive. I think I’m sending him out with a bang; I’m including it below. Feel free to borrow it if you need to.

Although I have a few regrets about introducing my kiddo to Santa in the first place, I don’t feel bad about how he’s ending. I think I have successfully brought the focus full circle, and that I’ve managed to write something that keeps the wonder and miracle of Christmas in a child’s reality, as opposed to something that’s magical and unattainable. Santa may not be real, but hope and joy are, when they are founded in the Reason for the Season.

It’s Jericho’s last Christmas with Santa, and it’s mostly sweet as opposed to bitter. He’s growing up…why does it happen so fast? I’m nostalgic, but I have so much hope for his beautiful future, and for the destiny God has for him. It’s an honor to get to watch this kiddo grow up.

Make beautiful Christmas memories, y’all. For those hearts that are hurting this season–and I know far, far too many–may His peace fall over your hearts and souls, and may His Love be the healing you need. Merry Christmas to all…..

Dear Jericho:

Merry Christmas!!!!! I see that you’re doing so well this year: You’re getting good grades, you’re learning about Jesus & the Bible, and you’re learning new things! You’re growing so much…you’re growing up, and that’s why I’m writing you this letter.

You see, when little boys and girls start growing up, certain things lose their “sparkle.” Stories about Santa Claus and reindeer are replaced with Mario and video games, and books about the North Pole are replaced with YouTube. It’s all part of getting older, and since I’m over a thousand years old (yes, over a thousand!!), I’ve watched generations of boys and girls grow up and move past believing in me.

And that’s okay.

You see, Christmas isn’t about me—it never was. In fact, all I do, and all any of my workers do (my workers—you know, the guys in the stores that dress like me, that Mom makes you take pictures with? Yeah, they work for me—but you’re right, they’re not me!) is to try and represent the truth of Christmas to a world that needs love and hope far more than it needs toys or games. When I lived in Europe (waaaaaay back in the day), I would see people in need and I would try to help them get food and shelter. Many people lived in poverty, and had no homes. I would try to get toys to the children, to bring joy to their lives, because many of them lived in sickness & in sadness. Jesus says that “the poor you will always have with you,” & it’s true. There are many, many poor & homeless people that live on this earth—even in Arnold or in Imperial!….And for every person that is poor or homeless in their body, thousands more are poor in spirit, living a life without Jesus in their hearts.

I know that you know “Santa Claus” as the TV and movies show him, is not real.  But the hope & joy that people feel when they see me is VERY real, & it’s a bright light to their soul that shines this season—almost like that beautiful Star of Bethlehem that shown over the stable where Jesus was born! THAT’s why we celebrate Christmas—not because of me, Santa Claus. We celebrate the Birth of the Baby that would save us from our sins, & Who would give us love, hope, & life forever. He’s a Reason to celebrate all year long!!!

So, you’re grown now…you’re 7, & you’re very, very smart. You’ve learned my secret…that no, I’m not real, but that I represent things that are very, very real: Hope, Joy, & Love. These are things that can only be found in Jesus, & I lived my life on earth in a way that celebrated Him to all of the people I knew.

Jericho, this will be my last letter to you, & my last present to you, so I decided to make it count…your mom might get mad at me over this, but she knows if she says too much about it, she’ll wake up with coal under her pillow!!! May your Christmas always be full of the hope, joy, and Love that comes from our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Always Your Friend,

Santa

Overflow…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Beautiful Moments…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sojourners & the Quest for Comfort…

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

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

But I didn’t.

But then, COVID.

And lo-&-behold, I GOT THERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I.

AM.

PASSIONATELY.

AGAINST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chronicles of Prydain | Prydain Wiki | Fandom

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

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

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

Sacrifice is (wait for it)…UNCOMFORTABLE!

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

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

I don’t like to be uncomfortable.

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

True love is uncomfortable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it’s worth it….

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

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

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

Fourteen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one ever said that was a fun choice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do yourself a favor: Google “Misheard Lyrics.”

You’re Welcome.

Misheard Song Lyrics (a rrt2590 event) - Imgflip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The muppets GIF on GIFER - by Aralace

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

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

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

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

Your guide to the culturally appropriative tea lizard meme | Dazed

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

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

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

Hurry Up and Wait, AKA, “It’s Allllll Right.”

Some of you may have caught that back in February, my thyroid cancer decided to make a comeback. In typical “Cassidy” fashion, my sense of timing was AWESOME, and as the country was shutting down from COVID-19 in March, I was running back and forth to the hospital to have injections and scans done (Thyrogen injections and RAI with a full-body scan, for those that understand this garbage). This was all set up after my tumor markers (which were 0.00 back in December, which is why BJC decided to release me from monitoring for 3 years back in January ’20) jumped up to 0.7 in February. That may seem like a nominal amount to some, but in my case, it was not a great sign.
So, I had the full body scan done, and just like the last time I went through the test back in 2018, the full body scan was negative. Unlike in 2018 (when my labs were pretty clear), the labs said the cancer was present, but the scan didn’t pick it up (I have cloaking cells. Very Star Trek). In that case, the line of care is to repeat the labs and check the markers, and based on those changes, possibly to graduate to a PET scan and (I hope) eventual surgery to remove the threat (in my case, it’s a few lymph nodes in my neck that have been suspiciously enlarged for the last few years. Large lymph nodes with clean labs = No big deal. Large lymph nodes with positive labs = Kind of a big deal). I know it might sound crazy, but these lymph nodes have been a thorn in my side since my original diagnosis back in 2015. I’d really like to get them out of my body. I don’t know if taking them out will reduce the chances of the cancer showing up elsewhere, but either way, they stress me out, so I want them gone.
My endocrinologist said that if my tumor markers have gone up to 1.0, we’ll move on to the PET scan. I put off getting the tests done until the absolute last possible minute, which was this morning…
Labs are completed…so now, we wait.
I think the hardest part of any medical decision/result is the waiting. It’s like, “Let’s hurry up and get this done…but wait until your insurance approves it,” or, “let’s hurry up and get this done…but wait until the results come in, then we’ll do another test, then we’ll wait some more, and eventually, we’ll have answer…maybe…but that answer may just be that we monitor the condition, so yeah, our treatment advice is just to keep waiting (even though you feel like you have a ticking time bomb in your neck).”
Man, I don’t DO well in the waiting–haven’t we already established that, Lord?!?! Like, YOU KNOW I don’t wait well. I’m not saying that I’m going to sit here and worry until I get the test results, because I’m not going to LET myself say that–I’m going to argue with myself and pray for peace. I’m not going to worry. There’s enough worry in the world, and worry stresses out every body system. It doesn’t MATTER what the test results are–God is still in control, I’m not going to die from this, and it’s going to be okay. It’s the easiest kind of cancer to treat–so much so, that there are some that debate whether or not it’s an actual cancer (although how that’s debatable, I do not know). It really is the stress in the waiting, and the stress in the process, that’s the worst.
I have a friend right now that has metastatic breast cancer (and her treatment during COVID-19 has been terrible–I think the medical industry has let their standard of care drop significantly in the wake of trying to prevent the spread of the disease. Patients are still people, and they still need actual care). We were emailing yesterday, and she said something that really caught my heart: “I just want to feel normal again.”
I’ve said those words. I think anyone who’s been through a major medical issue has said those words, and the truth is, the day you received your diagnosis, your “normal” changed. You don’t look at life through the same lens. People can choose to let it define them, to make it part of their identity. I don’t believe that’s a healthy approach (although you do you–whatever it takes to get through it, do it). To me, it’s not a badge.  I told my friend that it’s part of my story, but it’s absolutely NOT who I am, and it’s not something I candidly speak about to just anyone (although here I am, blogging away. Yeah, I see that.). I think doctors let it define you–every time I go into a medical office, I get 3 things: History of congestive heart failure. History of thyroid cancer. History of diabetes. Every single other thing that has/can go on, is looked at through those lenses, regardless of what I say. That can be frustrating, but I know now to anticipate it. I can live my life with cancer in the background; doctors can’t treat me without considering the history at the forefront. I get it.
But as a human being (and I say “being,” meaning that “as a present, focused individual”), and as someone who says they believe in a Creator Who defines them, cancer/other medical issues are a consequence of living in a fallen world. They don’t reflect Him, and they don’t reflect Who He sees me as. Jesus loves Cassidy. Yes, He knows Cassidy the Cancer Patient, but He Loves Me as who He made me to be, and who He made me to be is whole.
So, that’s how I identify–I identify in hope as someone who’s jumped through the hoops and has come through the other side, unscathed. I might be scarred, but I’m not burned; that might not make sense to you, but that’s okay. The hardest thing for me to deal with through this resurgence of cancer cells is anger, and I’ll admit that it’s still an issue–but I’m not mad at God. I’m aggravated at the Enemy. Cancer didn’t come from God. It came from Satan, and he sucks, so yeah–I’m mad at him. I’m mad at weirdo-genetics and my own laziness, and the frustration of the American healthcare system, and the cost of the procedures, and the feeling like my own sin caused this to happen to me (that’s a lie from the pit of Hell. God is NOT sitting in Heaven with a Smite button. I believe in pleading the Blood of Jesus over sins for my redemption, so no–I’m not being punished by God with cancer. People that teach that kind of religious garbage need a swift kick in the head with the book of James. That’s a whole ‘nother conversation).
God does not look at us through a lens of sin or of sickness. He sees us through His Son, and He sees us through Love, so even though I’m angry at my present situation, I am grateful and I believe that He knows what He is doing. I think my best course of action is to get these rebellious lymph nodes removed. I’ve caught myself pleading my case for that to God, and I have realized that it will be a hard pill to swallow if He says, “no.” That will mean I’m back to square one with a treatment plan, and that I’m back on the hamster wheel of, “hurry up and wait” for another 3-5 years (which may happen if I get the nodes removed. My hope is that if I get the nodes removed, then we can just do periodic lab work instead of ultrasounds and scans).
Part of the new “normal” after a medical diagnosis is relearning how your body is going to function; it’s learning new medications and side effects, and how you need to treat yourself in regards to them. It’s learning the signs of when you’ve pushed things too far, and of listening to your body. It’s educating yourself and your loved ones to hopefully understand and extend grace when you’re not yourself, and it’s part of finding out how to be YOURself, when things can come along chemically, that try to alter that. It’s learning how to reach out when you’re frustrated or sad, and to find someone who can and will listen without judgement. It’s learning to ask for help, even if you may be a person that hates doing so. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness (I’ll say that again, for the people in the back: ASKING FOR HELP IS NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS. Thank you.).
Part of the new “normal” is learning to handle a load of fear, impatience, and apprehension that comes at you from every side–from well-meaning friends and family; from physicians; and from yourself (just think of them as these guys: Fear, Impatience, Apprehension–bloodthirsty little hyenas).
shenzi_banza_Ed_disney-villain-sidekicks
I’ll definitely admit to struggling in this department. Once the “C” word is in your vocabulary, it stays. Some days, it’s a Hollywood marquis; other days, it’s a whisper in the back of your mind. When I’m not in active treatment, it’s usually just a whisper. My daily struggles involve the thyroid replacement meds and the HRT–one missed or mistimed medication can wreck me for days, so I have to have constant organization to remember to stay on top of those things. And because my memory skills aren’t what they used to be (age, meds, oxygen loss, etc.), I have mental systems in place to try to keep things straight, but sometimes, I make mistakes (For anyone who’s on a regiment of multiple medications, I highly recommend PillPack. It makes things SO much easier!!! And they handle vitamins, too, which is nice). Fear, impatience, and apprehension are not from God, so we (I) have to come to a place where we recognize those feelings as they’re coming on, take a stand, and lay them at His feet. Easier said, than done.
And that brings me back to today…The labs are done.
He truly is in the waiting….And in the waiting, we (I) take deep breaths; I focus on knowing that it will all be okay; I pray that God would provide clear answers and direction; and I pray that I will hear Him clearly…
Some people would say, “Well, why don’t you just pray for healing?” Sometimes I think it takes more faith to believe for a healing, than it does to pray for a resolution. I think that’s another blog I will eventually be able to write–there’s a lot to unpack, there.
Right now, we wait. And like my sister’s macaw likes to say, it will be “allllllll right.”
🙂
Hey, if a bird can get it, so can I. 🙂
scully

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 ...

Social Distancing? Yes, I AM a pro.

Oh, people of the world…let me tell you a story:

In the summer of 2012, David & I were enjoying our lives as expectant parents. We were excited, and life was a beautiful ball of bliss.

Oh, please–that’s a lie. Truth be told, I was trying to work as much as possible between labs and doctors’ visits, and research, and a social life, and trying to hang onto my sanity as a mom who was expecting her rainbow baby.

It’s not all butterflies and fairy tales. It’s a terrifying test of faith that is only navigable by prayer, and by the prayer warriors who never let me out of their spiritual sights.

So, as 2012 came to a close, David & I were faced with the very real possibility that I was about to be admitted to the hospital–sans paycheck–for a very, very long time…and then on December 31st, it happened. I was admitted to Missouri Baptist Hospital for what became a 33-day stay.

My first few weeks at MOBap were the epitome of “social distancing.” I couldn’t do anything to raise my blood pressure. I couldn’t have visitors, for the most part. I couldn’t have the lights on, because the medications they gave me caused photo-sensitive migraines on most days. My husband couldn’t visit me as often as I’d liked, because he had just started a new job and we had a dog to take care of. My sister came almost every single night, and we’d usually have dinner together and watch TV. If I had other visitors, it was usually 1 at a time, and I looked like death warmed over. I felt like it, too–in fact, I felt absolutely terrible on every level–physically and mentally.

Spiritually, I was great–weirdly great. Like, I had this crazy calm that settled over me that rarely left me. Once, I got hysterically upset at a lab tech who scared the living daylights out of me, and once, I got into an argument with my mom. Other than that, I stayed super-chill, thanks to prayers, amazing nurses, my sister, and the knowledge that if I needed help, I’d better ask for it. I knew better than to try to go through the last days of my pregnancy on my own, and God came THROUGH. He took care of me…and He showed me that His presence is peaceful. He truly does give us peace like nothing else.

So, I’d forgotten about my early foray into social distancing, until of all things–I heard Kylie Jenner talk about her pregnancy, and how she’s a pro at social distancing after hiding her pregnancy for so many months. That reminded me–and it may be the first time a Kardashian/Jenner reminded me of anything to do with my spiritual life–of just how much grace I had poured out over me during my time of near-isolation. The time I spent at MoBap was one of the times in my life where I felt closer to the Lord than ever before–even in the face of complications; even in the face of frustrations; and even in the face of my potential demise. 🙂 God was there.

And guess what? He’s here, right now.

I survived my time in MoBap thanks to a team of friends, nurses, and family that checked in on me and made sure I never felt alone, even when I was. I think that if we’re going to survive the coronavirus lockdown/social distancing/drama, that we need to be sure that if we’re able, we can be part of that team (or “village,” if you prefer) to help others. The last time I had THIS much time at home, I was on maternity leave (and dealing with severe post-partum depression). So, check in on your neighbors.

Check in on the parents that have now become teachers (and who may be feeling woefully unprepared). Check on your teachers who now, don’t have an in-person class to teach (and who have had to radically alter their teaching methods and lesson plans, almost overnight). Check in on the employees who are now questioning how they’re going to make ends meet.

Check in on the elderly who may or may not understand the rammifications of COVID-19 (and don’t be afraid to tell them off if they aren’t getting it. Like, “YES, DAD, I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU’RE CHUCK NORRIS, BUT DANGIT, MAN, THE CORONA DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR MARTIAL ARTS SKILLS!!! STAY. OUT. OF. THE WAL-MART!!!!!!” (Wait, what do you mean, that sounds like an actual conversation? Did I say that?!? Y’all gonna get me in trouble. 😉 )

I think there are some positive things that can come out of this dark time, if we let our eyes be opened enough to see them. I know a lot of people are terrified…I can’t imagine what small business owners are going through, in particular. But we’re going to get through this. I don’t want to blow smoke or act like Suzie Sunshine, but I know that through all of this, God still reigns.

Every time I look at my kiddo, I’m reminded of the grace of God. Trials and tests come; some may seem WAY bigger than others. Grace stays. Love stays. And God, just as He was in the beginning, still is, “I Am.”

I’m writing this as a reminder not just to you, but also to myself. I have a feeling I’m going to need to look back on this more than a few times in the coming weeks. Pray for our President; pray for our government. They’re under a burden we cannot imagine, yet it’s easily handled by God. Pray that their eyes are opened, and that they have radical encounters with Him.

We’re going to get through this! We’ve got this!!!! And God’s got us, right? 🙂