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? 🙂

The Boy Who Cried Wolf…but didn’t.

Man, I blew off the initial warnings about the coronavirus–I totally didn’t take it seriously, because of “fake news.” I think it’s become a “Boy Who Cried Wolf” scenario–the media has over-hyped SO many things, that now we don’t take anything seriously…and here we are. This thing is spreading quickly, and I think that I, as well as many other people, were under the impression that it’s just a bad flu. It gets real, though, when you realize that YOU (as in, ME), per the letter your doctor wrote to your (my) bosses, are to be considered as “extreme high risk.”
Now, most of you know I’ve faced down some pretty challenging medical hurdles thanks to a heavy dose of grace and a touch of ignorant oblivion. Usually, I only find out that I’ve almost died in discussions with my doctors after the fact. 🙂 This time, though, they’re serious, and I’m realizing that I was an IDIOT when all of this started out. I’m not scared or working in fear or anything…it’s just a reality that I didn’t quite grasp. So, do me a favor–If you’re not taking this seriously at this point, I get it. I understand. But just take a second and realize the implications to your family if all of a sudden, you were out of the picture–either dead (worst case scenario) or stuck in the hospital for an extended (and expensive) period of time. Think about the implications if your parents were gone (and I know some of my friends know that all too well). Consider your life without any of the people in it that you KNOW are “high-risk” and the ones you DON’T KNOW are high-risk (because I don’t really look like I am, but I TOTALLY am).
I like my parents. I like their friends. And I like my family.
I like my life.
I’d like to keep it as long as I can.
So if you aren’t taking this seriously, and you try to get all up in my business, don’t be surprised if I or someone in my family corrects you. And if you see me forgetting what I’m supposed to do (which is easy, because I feel fine), feel free to smack me hard enough to put the proper “social distance” between us. 🙂 I’ll take it as a sign of love. 🙂
Be well, readers–I’ll be over here, trying to figure out how to work from home and home-school and basically not crawl up the walls. Gonna need more than thoughts and prayers to get through the next few weeks, for sure!!!!!!!! Gonna need a miracle and some divine intervention–LAWD, help us! 🙂
Hey, maybe I’ll get my writing caught up…

Fear.

Fear.
Fear is heavy, like a suffocating blanket of pressure that you just can’t shake.
Fear locks you in your own head, making you see everything through its lenses, where everyone is on the attack and even the air you breathe is tainted with its taste…
Fear chains your motivation–
Fear tapes your mouth shut.
Fear stifles your song.
But for God…
God says, “Perfect Love casts out all fear,” and He doesn’t just “say” it…
He IS it.
Jesus breathes LIFE into those burnt out, suffocated places…
Jesus gives freedom, and the suffocating blanket of pressure?
It’s no match for the One Who tore the veil to the holiest of places…
It’s no match for the One Who gives us access to the very throne of God.
Jesus gives us motivation…
Jesus shakes those chains loose,
And He opens up our hearts so that the song He gives has
No
Choice
But to tear free from the places where fear tried to stifle it.
“Perfect Love” doesn’t just cast out fear…it annihilates it.
“Perfect Love” doesn’t make sense to a society that is currently embroiled in a panic, hoarding things like an ogre hoards trinkets, thinking they will save his soul.
“Perfect Love” gives us clear vision.
“Perfect Love” restores our hope…
When we feel overwhelmed…when the choices we have to make seem to choke us to death…when the clouds of fear threaten to block out the Light…
When I struggle with anxiety….
When the decisions are too heavy, & my heart is quaking…
“Perfect Love” is the embrace to my spirit that tells me He is still in control.
So I will rest in Him…
And be at
Peace.

Chaos and Christmas Cookies

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

Peace.

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

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

Yet, this season is often met with anything but…

And I am no exception.

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

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

And then he lost his dang mind.

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

Um…

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

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

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

mADEA PEACE BE STILL

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

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

And I’d missed it.

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

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

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

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

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

grinch

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

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

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

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

I’m humbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Diaspora…

During worship on Sunday, I had this moment where I felt the presence of God hit so strongly. I almost said something, but held back–how do you verbalize something like that? In my mind’s eye, I could see a giant, navy-blue blanket cover the congregation as so many knelt and prayed…it was like the Holy Spirit was covering us with His love and comfort.

I spent a lot of time this week at church, during the Feast of Tabernacles. There will be more on that later, but for now, I’ll say that spending 8 days straight with any person usually results in a lot of tension and aggravation. You get sick of each other, and I know some personalities get sick of others more readily. We didn’t have any of that, that I could see. Every night was different, and every time we met together, there was the most amazing sense of community and family. It was awesome, and now I can’t wait until next year. Like I said, more on that, later….In the midst of all of this, come Sunday morning, I was so ready to come together with these people; I felt like we had a better understanding of each other, and where our hearts were. Guess what? We’re all on the same page. That’s so ridiculously cool and amazing–we’re united. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Anyway, Sunday morning worship hit, and I felt such an impact and clear vision in my spirit–I truly felt like God was holding us together in such a loving way.  This poem/prose/whatever came out of that:

“Diaspora”

We don’t know the day or the hour

But the season of power comes

Like a hurricane to believers and unbelievers alike.

But what one thinks is devastation, another knows is declaration,

And the world changes and what we see revolves around the Son.

What does the blind man see but the darkness?

But we who have accepted Him are blinded by the light,

And we walk in faith

Trusting Him for sight,

Every step a testimony of faith.

And when the blind reach for us,

We’ve walked away, toward the glorious outpouring;

And their hearts are hardened,

And the darkness grows,

And the earth is split in two

While we run onward to the place He’s prepared.

Take the blinders off and march to the rhythm pouring out of Heaven.

Let the revelation become your motivation,

Stepping out of the shadows of destruction,

While the veil is shattered and the truth covers us all….

He is coming….

He is coming…

And we are going Home….

 

When you’ve spent a week communing with family, outside and under the stars, you learn so much…you learn where you’re from, and most importantly, you learn where you’re headed as a community….Coming together is a beautifully powerful thing. The word “diaspora” literally means, “the dispersion,” and it refers to the scattering of the Jewish people across the earth. As Christians, we’re scattered in a different way, but when we come together, amazing things happen. All of us will be reunited some day.

In getting closer together as a church family, I found my heart often thinking of Heaven as our true Home…how everything before then is a dim reflection of how beautiful and whole Heaven will be. How kind is our God, that He goes to prepare a place for us? How amazing is it, that we should have such a thing to look forward to? And how great is the testimony of each one of His children, that we come out of darkness, into His Light? We gain eternity in our hearts the second we accept Christ as our Savior, and it never leaves.

I get to spend eternity with some pretty amazing people.

I get to spend eternity with a pretty amazing God. 🙂

And so do you.

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“Jesus Wept.”

This phrase has been on my mind a lot lately.

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

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

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

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

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

They let us mourn….

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

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

It doesn’t say that “Jesus cried.”

It says that JESUS. WEPT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are. You. KIDDING?!?!?

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

I can’t answer that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus wept.

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

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

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Raising Rainbows

I know, it’s been a while since I sat down and wrote anything. Life is BUSY, and it’s hard for me to discipline myself enough to focus on the monitor! So, to catch up—

The last blog was all the way back in July! It’s been over a MONTH?!?  What the heck?!? In August, we had some childcare crises to navigate, so we were running all over the place to make sure we were covered. My challenge for the school year is to find a new summer care program for my son, because he just didn’t seem to be as happy at the one he’s been in. I need to figure something out—I’m taking suggestions!

School started mid-August, and Jericho started the First Grade. He has a new teacher, and a new routine, and he seems to be settling in well! I also signed him up for Cross-Country!

I never did sports in school; I was always a music/drama geek, so the concept of team sports didn’t really come my way until I “played” volleyball in college (I use the term, “played,” VERY LOOSELY. I sucked.). My family did martial arts, which is a solo sport—well, solo, until they throw you in a ring and you have to either beat someone up, or get pummeled. I didn’t do so well there, either. J Either way, I believe in athletics and teamwork, and I’m really glad his school is so supportive. I was a nervous WRECK!

It was a million degrees, and I was mostly afraid that he wouldn’t finish the race, but HE DID, and I don’t even know if he came in last—I didn’t pay attention to that. He FINISHED!!  I was so stinking proud (and stinky—did I mention it was a million degrees?!?!)!  The first thing he said to me was, “Did I earn my Taco Bell?!?” Yes, baby, of course you did.

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And then, he proceeded to eat everything on the menu.

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As he gets older, one of the things I’m learning to work with is the endless list of questions. He doesn’t stop asking questions, and I try to answer them all; sometimes, I get overwhelmed and have to make him give me five minutes of silence, but normally, we have some pretty great conversations. He’s known for about a year now that he had a sister, and that she was a baby when she died; he’s now at a point where he’s asking pretty intense questions.

I’m learning to navigate.

He’s learning about germs and bacteria. His sister died of Late-Onset Group B Strep with Bacterial Meningitis, so the fact that a bacteria caused her death is fascinating to him. Yesterday, he was asking me about the technical aspects: “how did it kill her?” “What did it do?” “What kind of germ is it?” “Why couldn’t the doctors fix her?”

I don’t ever want to lie to him, or gloss over something. If he asks the question, I’m going to answer it in the most matter-of-fact, non-emotional way that I can. Working in healthcare for as many years as I have, I’d like to think I can be pretty good with divulging clear facts without emotional interference. It’s a compartmentalization kind of thing. He asks, “how did it kill her?” My response is, “Well, it got into her brain, and it made her brain stop working.” I leave out the other parts that will always hurt to remember…but I do remember, and it does hurt, and I can’t put into words what it’s like to say something so simple but to have such a complicated, graphic memory in my mind.

There are things he simply cannot know, but that I remember in vivid detail.

And there are moments of hope and love in the middle of those painful details…there are even moments of humor…And someday, when he’s much older, we’ll discuss the way Jesus wrapped Himself around our hearts with love and friends, and with memories of people who kept us lifted up in the heaviest of times…

But for now, I will stifle those emotions and those memories, and I will stick to the scientific facts that a six-year old boy is fascinated by.

When you’re raising your rainbow baby, there are no manuals for how to jump these hurdles. There’s nothing that tells you what to say when they ask you the hard questions, and he’s just getting started. Right now, he’s into the science of a germ that takes the life of someone. At some point, he’s going to get into the questions of faith, and healing, and “why didn’t God save her?” “Wasn’t He powerful enough to save her?” “Didn’t He love her? And you?”

I’m not sure how I’m going to answer those questions when they come—especially when sometimes, I can’t even answer them for myself. I’m past the point where the self-doubt, the accusations of the enemy, and the guilt Satan tries to throw at me over her death, sticks. It took YEARS to get through that part, especially since guilt over everything tends to be my go-to reaction when bad things happen. But I’m through it. Medically, I understand there was nothing we could have done. Physically, I understand that we did everything by the book. Because of that research, I am free from all of that.  Spiritually, sometimes I still struggle. It’s hard for me to pray for healing for other people, because that one time, it didn’t happen…

But the Bible says that we still pray for healing…We still pray for others, even when doubts tap in the corner of our minds. So, I pray, and I trust God to use His wisdom to do what He will.

I’m a pretty Type-A kind of person when it comes to life. I have lists, I have outlines, and I have step-by-step methods by which I keep things organized in my office (I try at home. It’s kind of pointless). I like to have questions and answers, and if I can’t answer it, then I FIND an answer for it. It’s been very difficult to come to the place where I let go and I trust God that He has all of the answers. I don’t understand, and I never will in this life, why my daughter died. I don’t get it, and when my son asks me “Why?” I don’t know what I’m going to say.

My go-to answer is that we’re not entitled to answers. We’re not entitled to understanding all of His whys and hows, but what we’re promised is that He knows, He cares, and He loves. How He chooses to love is up to His discretion, not mine, so I have to sit back and trust in Him.

I’ve been very candid to explain to Jericho that had we not learned the things we learned during Hannah’s birth and death, he would not be here. I want him to grow up being thankful for the sister he never knew, and for how God used such a sad thing, for His glory. I want him to understand just a smidgen of the miracle that he is.

These questions are TOUGH, and I wasn’t necessarily prepared for how they would start to be asked…but he’s asking.

I think that as long as my answers continue to point to the redeeming grace of God, even when we’re talking about the science of it all, that we’re on the right track….

And as I learned yesterday, the track isn’t necessarily a fun one to be on….but as long as we run the race, and we don’t give up, there’s a tremendous amount of glory in finishing it and in completing our mission!!!…

Happee Birthdae, Harry!

I’ve spent a bit of time lately, wondering why the Harry Potter books mean so much to me, a 41-year old grown woman.

I mean, I was well-into my 30’s when I was first introduced to the books, and it’s not like I was or am the Target Demographic, so what gives? Isn’t it a bit odd, that I’m so enamored with wizards and witches and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named? I mean, c’mon–I have T-shirts, and leggings, and earrings, and who-knows-what else, with The Boy Who Lived plastered all over them. I’M GROWN.

But I love the books, and I even love the movies (for those who don’t know me, it’s INCREDIBLY rare that I like both the books and the movies. Don’t even get me started.). I love the special effects, the illustrations, the logos–I wouldn’t say that I’m obsessed, but I AM wearing a Harry Potter dress today, to my place of professional employment, so…..

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(Shout-out to www.charliesproject.com for having a KILLER outlet store! Snagged this beauty for like, $12. They get my nerd-ness.)

When I was a kid, I got a new Dad. My Dad loved all things sci-fi, and that, combined with my natural interest in fantasy and imagination, sparked a keen interest in worlds beyond our understanding. Dad introduced me to Star Trek, and Star Wars, and later on, the X-Files, Quantum Leap, Farscape, and much more. I remember watching V (I can still remember my utter abhorrence at the snake-alien lady who ate the guinea pig), the Twilight Zone (Gremlins on the Frickin PLANE!!), and even masterpieces such as Labyrinth and the Secret of Nimh. These were the shows and the stories that formed my life and fed my brain; these were the stories that showed that yes, there were bad (very bad, Jareth!!!) people and things out there, but there was always, ALWAYS good to counter-balance and to overcome. Stories about the unexpected victors have been my lifeline through some very dark times–times where good didn’t necessarily win, and I was left to pick up the pieces. These stories gave me hope, and pointed me in the direction to seek the good in the situations.

Aslan-Narnia-Desktop-WallpaperMy all-time favorite book series will always be The Chronicles of Narnia. Aslan is “not a tame Lion,” and throughout my life, when things have been chaotic with no signs of stopping, that simple phrase has grounded me. God is in control, and He is not, nor will He ever be, our definition of “tame.” He is unpredictable, other than knowing that He is always good; He is wild in His love for us. Most of all, He is the Ultimate Victor, and He is present–PRESENT–in all that we face. He is the Foundation. The Chronicles of Narnia reinforced the basic theology and doctrine I was already learning in my Christian school, and married it to this beautiful narrative in my mind. I could trust Jesus, because He is Aslan, and Aslan is Not a Tame Lion…but He loves me. Reading the final book in the anthology, The Last Battle, seals the allegorical dimensions of the series. I still go back to key scenes in that book during times in my life–“Further Up, and Further In (originally said in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader)” or the scenes with the dwarfs and their Israelite-like stubbornness. It’s an amazing book, capping off a life-changing series. In fact, when I was in college, I had the opportunity to play The White Witch in a staged production, and it was awesome (including my death-scream. I got into it.).

Unfortunately, merchandise for The Chronicles of Narnia just doesn’t exist. Sure wish it did, ’cause I’d have it ALLLLLLLLL!!!!

So, I’m here, in my Harry Potter dress, celebrating Harry’s birthday. 🙂

The Chronicles of Narnia and the Harry Potter books heavily feature good vs. evil themes, along with underdog-type protagonists and big, evil, seemingly-unsurmountable baddies. There are elements of sacrifice, fear, violence, and deep, deep family relationships and friendships. The Pevensies grow up and out of their imaginations, while Eustace and Jill eventually helm the series; Harry, Ron, & Hermoine find their friendships solidified for a lifetime, and create their own family of support. The Harry Potter books come under heavy criticisms from Christian communities for their elements of witchcraft and wizardry–I get it. I’m not ignorant of it.

I’m careful with how much of the HP series I expose my son to. He hasn’t seen much of the first movie, and we haven’t started with the books. He knows the character, because let’s face it–he kinda looks like a mini-version of him. I dressed him up as Harry a few Halloweens ago, because he was just too perfect, and I knew that at 4 years’ old, I wouldn’t get another chance:

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(Seriously, this is my favorite picture that my husband has taken of my kiddo, and I have it hanging up in a 20 x 24 print that he made up for me, in my living room, when you first walk into my house. It’s everything.)

The Harry Potter series, in particular, means the world to me. I read the entire series in a week–yes, a week. My heart went out to this little boy–this kid who was unloved and unwanted, who had no place in this world to call his own….who felt out-of-place and cast aside…I saw myself in him, and I think a lot of people do, as well.

I came into the series in 2007-2008: The Year in Kentucky. I had no friends; David & I had basically escaped in the year after our daughter died, taking a new job in a new apartment, in a new state. We had to find ourselves again, and each other, and I spent a lot of time by myself. I don’t remember how the books came into my world, but they’ve never left.

Being able to dive into a world that was so well-crafted and well-written, meant that while I was there, I wasn’t thinking about the trauma I’d just endured. My load was lifted, even for that short time, and for a while, I was just Cassidy–not “Cassidy, Who’s Daughter Just Died” or “Cassidy, Dave’s Wife,” or “Cassidy, Heart Patient.” I was just me–just a kid again, locked in a book like I used to be, seeing the words in vivid color as the scenes played out in my imagination. As strange as it may sound to say it, those books helped to rekindle a spark of life back in me, after everything had gone dark.

The books inspire creativity, friendship, and duty. They inspire work ethic and integrity, which I think is far more important then poorly-phrased Latin masquerading as “spells.” The books show the importance of bravery, intention, goals, and even the love of a family. These are life skills, things that our society is sorely lacking. For every negative a judgey type would like to assign to these stories, there are five positives to take its place. From a writer’s perspective, the stories are bulletproof—J. K. Rowling wrote with such vivid detail and continuity, that they feel like a world you could literally step into. They’re flat-out well-written, with a depth that is sorely lacking in children’s books.

I’ll teach my son the stories soon enough…when he’s old enough to understand that witches and wizards are very real, and are nothing like the ones in the books…they’re more like The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia, and less like Harry, Ron, & Hermoine. As Albus Dumbledore said, “The Truth. It is a beautiful and terrible thing, & should be treated with caution.” The same will go with how we approach the Harry Potter books with our child. There are boundaries in my love of the books, and there is a definitely respect for the truth sprinkled in the fantasy. There is not, however, a boundary in my great affection for the heart of The Boy Who Lived, especially as his story is so close to my own.

Happee Birthdae, Harry Potter….May your story continue to light up the imaginations of kids and adults all over the world…may you remind all of us who feel out of place and ordinary, that we are truly extraordinary when we are embraced with Love and Hope….always.

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(Just for Fun–click!)

 

Things I’d Say to Myself at 15

I’ve been seeing this thing on Facebook (yes, I still Facebook, although I’m on it a lot less–mostly because I’m sick of seeing the same things. How do I get it to where I can see ALL of my friends’ stuff in my news feed?!?! I swear, technology makes me feel much dumber than I’m actually supposed to be) where people write things they’d say to their 15-year old self. I find it fascinating, introspective, and a bit sad…but it made me curious, as to what I’d say to that girl, so long ago….

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Look at that kid. Now, I’m not sure if I’m exactly 15 in this picture…but I remember wearing that shirt in England, and I went to England & France when I was 15, so I’m thinking I’m somewhere close. I think the biggest thing I notice in this picture is how much sharper my collarbones are…how much thinner my face is, and how much bigger my glasses are…I don’t know what’s going on with my hair, but okay…..Those high-waisted jeans aren’t doing me any favors, but that’s a great many pounds ago, and I can get lost in the rabbit hole of sadness, where my weight is concerned…oh, for the days of having a working thyroid!

There are no scars on that neck, nor are there any scars on that body that couldn’t be covered with basic makeup. There are freckles, which haven’t gone anywhere, and there is a tremendous lack of self-confidence that I see in that picture, that has only slightly improved with age.

So, what would I say, to that unconventional girl? There’s a lot that comes to mind…

  1.  You’re going to be okay. Yes, you’re nervous about everything–your hair, the sky, whether or not you’re going to get dress coded for whatever today–yes, life is going to hit you without restraint, but You. Will. Be. Okay. It’s going to take a long time, and you may feel okay one day, but wrecked on another. It’s alright–you’ll be okay.
  2. Love is real, and your wait was worth it all. Since you were 3, you’ve wanted to be a wife and a mama. Even though guys are curiosities at this point (oh, Cass, you think you know SO much), you’re not going to fall in love for a long time. And when you do, it’s going to hurt, and he’s going to let you down. And so will the next guy, and he’ll hurt you even more than the first. You’ll cry; you’ll feel broken and unloved. And you’ll watch your friends grow up and get married, and start families; you’ll feel rejected, and then one day, you’ll realize that, per #1, you’re okay. Jesus has taken His time repairing your heart and restoring your faith. One day, a fateful e-mail opens the door for a lifetime of love and insanity, but it couldn’t happen until you were in the right place, spiritually, and you DO get there. He’s worth it all…Your marriage is tough, but fun; amazing, and sometimes awful, but it’s always worth every step you take with each other. He’s going to drive you crazy, but you can’t imagine your life without him…And he may not remember to say it, but he can’t imagine his life without you, either. Hang on, little girl–those dreams of being a wife and a mama come true.
  3. Your mom loves you. You’re sometimes too similar; you’re sometimes too different, and you don’t always speak the same language. She works hard and she’s tired, and she always loves you. She’s not perfect, and you only hurt yourself when you expect her to be. She’s growing up, too, and everyone learns for a lifetime. Don’t project your own feelings of rejection onto her–that’s not where they’re coming from.
  4. You feel like an outcast, everywhere you go. That doesn’t really go away, and you learn to live with it. You challenge yourself with it, you make yourself talk to strangers and be inviting, just to create your own atmosphere where you feel comfortable. Once you’ve made a habit of forcing yourself to push past the chains of self-rejection, you start to find camaraderie with other weirdos, and you eventually have a solid group of weirdo-friends.
  5. The one person that stays with you, from before you were 15, until today, many years later, is Vinita. Cherish that friendship–don’t ever take it for granted, because no matter how much of a jerk you can be, she will always love you enough to keep you real. Keep that best friend (you just can’t know how much she will mean to you as you grow up. She’s the best).
  6. You have some medical garbage to go through. Pay attention to your body, but don’t be paranoid. Also, advocate for yourself. You’re worth it.
  7. Your body. Cass, you’re growing up in an era that celebrates stick-thin women. Society doesn’t stay there, and it’s amazing, but even now, at 41, I feel physically appalling. I can’t celebrate this body, because it doesn’t look the way I want it too…but it never has, has it? At 15, I looked 21 (and that was a huge problem–carry mace). I felt judged by people that didn’t understand how hard it was to dress curves that arrived far too early…I dealt with men who were inappropriate, and had to stand up for myself early on. I was never “thin,” and I never felt like I had a figure worth admiring, but because I had large breasts early on in life,  people felt like they had to comment on them  (both men and women–it was AWFUL). You may feel like you look the worst, and you’ll struggle with that for a lifetime, but know that you don’t. You’re not the kind of pretty that Hollywood tells you to be, but you’re unique, and you have a great sense of style (but not in THAT picture, LOL). You learn to dress what you have, and you’re pretty good at it. 🙂 (Too good–you have shopping issues. Get It Under Control. The sale will wait).
  8. You have huge dreams. That trip to England, those things you felt the Lord say to you? They don’t happen when you thought they would, and you go through a big portion of your life feeling like God was too disappointed in you, to let you do the “big things.” In fact, you still feel like that sometimes, even at 41. But don’t give up….I haven’t forgotten the prayers said on the wooden floor of an old church in Clacton-On-Sea, Essex…and I haven’t forgotten what He told me. God doesn’t lie; He just doesn’t answer on our schedule. But He’s “not a tame Lion,” and He will have His way…
  9. At 15, you have absolutely no career plans (people might think you do. Lies.). You want to be a writer, and it’s such a slow-burning thing. Your college plans go belly-up in your first semester; your career plans go belly-up after a failed internship your senior year. You literally do not care about what you want to be when you grow up, partially because you’re trusting God, partially because you’re not allowed to go the school you want to go to, and to major in what you want to major in (no Webster, no B.A. in English). Your academic plans get derailed time and time again, and you wind up in health care…where once again, your academic plans get derailed, and you start to think that Master’s degree is never going to happen. It might not. Your career in health care, although unexpected, takes care of your family, and you’ll be surprised that you enjoy it. You still want that Master’s degree, but you get to a point where you’re working to fund your child’s education…even if you’re not so sure you see the point of a degree anymore…You wanted to be a wife and a mom–you get those dreams, and they’re hard-earned. You find joy in those things, in ways you never found in a classroom or in an article. You’re published early on, and you do nothing with it. It sits there on a shelf in a library (it’s a boring book, like, for real–non-profits? BORING) and you find a great deal of joy in editing for others, but your dreams of writing that perfect story haven’t come true…yet…Have hope. Make connections. There’s this thing coming called, “blogging.” Maybe you should get into that. 🙂
  10. Finally, the most important thing I’d say to 15-year old me: Jesus. You’re growing up in the middle of the rebirth of the Charismatic Movement in the Church, and the things you’ll see both in the U.S.A. and abroad are going to create permanent milestones in your life. You’re going to go through multiple crises of faith as you grow up. One thing you never do, though, is wonder whether or not God is real–you always know. Your family, your school, and your church poured into you a solid foundation of faith, and even when the tempest rails, you’re grounded. When you’re shaken, God puts people around you that hold you together….even when you’re destroyed, and you will be, in ways you can’t fathom. You never find the words to tell the Lord exactly how you feel, but He knows. You have so much to be thankful for. There’s a song in your heart that the enemy tries to silence in the harshest of ways, but it carries on, even when you lose your voice. You were made to worship, and you’ll do it for eternity; never let that be dimmed. If you feel like your faith is shaking, reach out and talk to the people around you that love you–they will walk you through it. Get in the Word, and rewire your brain to stop looking at the Bible as a textbook. It’s a lifetime lesson that you’ll work on learning, and it’s hard, but that Word is a Love Letter. No one and nothing will love you or carry you like the Lord. He carries you a LOT, and He never fails. Don’t forget that.

Wow. Looking back at 15-year old me is a bigger trip than I thought it would be. I was a hot mess back then, and I’m a different person now….that’s still a hot mess…

I’m grateful for the journey.

And the improvements in Curl Control. 😉