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

3am…

I don’t want to be awake right now.

Steroids do funny things. I’m on Day 4, & I know they’re doing what they need to do, but I’m tired…but jumpy…and honestly, emotional.

Her birthday is this week….it’s Tuesday. If you ask me specifically why it hits me differently every year, I couldn’t tell you. Everything was running along smoothly, except for, same as last year, when I realized that life was running along so quickly that I wouldn’t have time this week to take that “pause” to honor her….to reflect on her life….and I hate that.

I had to say the words last night out loud, “Hey, I get this. We need this. She was real, she was a person, and she is part of who we are, so even in this crazy, busy week, we make time.”

I don’t know how that is going to happen, but it IS going to happen.

We move along in life so quickly….we have our routines and schedules. We don’t take time to sit and reflect, so it feels unnatural, but it needs to be done. Pain and sadness need to be recognized, so they can be processed….so that they don’t get buried….because we all know they don’t STAY buried.

For me, if I don’t take this time now, these feelings and frustrations will manifest themselves in a couple of ways. I’ll cry or fly off of the handle about something innocuous. I’ll sulk or withdraw. I won’t sleep. I will carry around unnecessary guilt and shame. I’ll get sick. My family will suffer, & it will all be fallout from my failure to listen to that still, small voice that says, “Stop. Breathe. Remember.”

My daughter…my beautiful winter butterfly…would be 12 years old this week. We’d be going through “the change” that all of the women in my family went thru at 12, and OMG HOW WOULD WE DEAL?!?!? I imagine we’d be having arguments about social media & boys, & junior-high drama…there would be the introduction to makeup, or maybe a CCW class with Auntie, & Lord knows what else. We’d be starting the conversation about college, and I would be internally freaking out about how much information about LIFE, & HOW do parents maintain that balance? I think my Hannah & I would have a good relationship, & that I would be finding myself on my knees more than ever before as we enter the last year before TEENAGERDOME. 🙂

My little girl passed away before too much of her personality could be established, but there are some things I know for certain: She loved music. She loved songs with soul & excitement. 🙂 She smelled like Cheerios, & she knew her Daddy’s voice. She was a happy baby, which is amazing, considering the duress by which she came into the world…

And she made me into someone I’ve wanted to be, for as long as I can remember: She made me a Mom.

I will always, always be grateful to God for blessing us with her. I will always be grateful for our 29 days on this earth together, & I have absolutely no regrets. We had a gift that changed the course of our lives, our marriage, & our faith, & we are eternally impacted by 29 days with the most precious princess this world has ever seen.

I love that our journey with Hannah isn’t over. I love knowing that because of Jesus, it’s only on “pause,” until we are together in eternity. I love that He gives us that level of hope, and that He takes our despair & turns it into a beautiful anticipation of what is to come….

Happy birthday, Hannah Elizabeth Gayle Cooley. You’ve made my world more amazing and beautiful, just because I had the chance to call you mine.

3am isn’t so bad, after all.

Not Like the Movies (AKA, Why Rosanne Barr Can Never Be Liam Neeson)

 

Ever want to drop a drink on a 6’4,” 300lb overgrown gorilla, and be able to live to tell the tale?

Like, why can’t we just knock people out and walk away, like they do in the movies??? Every now and then, life should just work that way.

Every now and then, you should get a free pass, to take the swing and drop the drink…the Free Pass to knock the rude gorilla out on his rear. Someone should hand out the occasional Free Pass to be Karma, Incarnate.

Sigh.

Of course, this means that someone would eventually take THEIR Free Pass and knock ME out, but I almost think it’s worth the risk (KIDDING!!!).

Anyways,  violence is not the answer…

But sometimes?

Hmmmm…..

The Bible says to “bless those who curse you.” That sounds pretty easy, until you have to live it. Although it’s much more fun to lie in bed and think of all of the amazing insults you could throw back at a person, it’s not what we’re supposed to do, regardless of what we WANT. I’d much rather slash someone’s tires or put sugar in their gas tank. But that’s not very Christian-like of me, now is it?

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Just because we’re Christians, doesn’t mean we don’t get angry. It doesn’t mean we don’t shoot off our mouths, think stupid things, or act like idiots sometimes. I’m guilty of this as a wife, as a mom, and as a person. I certainly have one heck of a temper. Learning to keep it controlled is a lifelong struggle, and I think I’ve seen one too many action movies where Revenge goes off without a hitch, to fully understand the consequences of when we act out our anger.

In my head,  I see myself as Mel Gibson or Arnold Schwarzenegger, when in reality, I’m probably more like Roseanne Barr….and I don’t see anyone casting her in the lead role of “Taken #10” (maybe they should!! It might be scarier, to see the suburban Baby Boomer go all “Snapped” on a Bosnian cartel!!!!).

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In my head,  I pour the drink on the insulting gorilla and walk away, head held high, basking in the glory of my liberated female bravery.

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In reality, my anger grieves the heart of Jesus,  and shows a lack of faith. He fights our battles, right?

Sigh.

Darn it, Jesus.

Why You gotta be so RIGHT?!?!?! (stomps foot…pouts…throws toys)….

My blogs are generally based on my real-life experiences. This one is no exception–someone made me super-angry. Like, break-a-beer-bottle angry….like, “I wish I Knew PEOPLE,” angry.

They made me the kind of angry where I had to force myself to walk away, and I was actually (wait for it)….AT A LOSS FOR WORDS.

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And I spent the better part of the other night, thinking of ways to stealthily ruin their life. 🙂

Finally (duh, Cass), I prayed about it, & Jesus said, “bless those who curse you,” which loosely translates to, “shut up, Cass”.

Seriously, though, He got me. He’s right (again, DUH, CASS). We bless the haters. We bless those who hate. Bless those who hate us. Bless those people, and pity them, because the world they live in is sad and dark to them, and to everyone around them that gets sucked into their vortex of misery. And I foolishly let them suck me into their vortex last night, and cast their shadow over a beautiful evening.

Foolish.

I really am my own worst enemy, more often than not. I think that’s pretty typical of the human race, though–if we’d get out of our own way, and Let Jesus Handle Our Business, we’d be so much better off. I know I would be.

I know this woman at church who is nothing less than a stick of dynamite. Like, she’s maybe 5’2,” very petite, and has that kind of natural “blue steel” presence when she looks at you. You KNOW she knows Jesus–not like, “hey, yeah, I love Jesus.” Nope–Mona is a legitimate Friend of God. She’s an armor-bearer, and is the kind of woman you want in your corner when you have questions. She said yesterday that she will tell you the truth, and not many people like her, for it. Man, I need those people in my life. I don’t like hearing it, but when it’s said with true intention and love? You can’t deny it. She caught me in the middle of writing this, and told me about how she used to be “that” kind of person. She said she was the kind of person that would take on the gorilla in the room and knock him the heck out with one punch, if she got good and mad.

I don’t even care about the logistics of that–I believe her.

She told me about the love of God, and how it washed her anger clean…When you look at Mona, you wouldn’t think, in a million years, that she could ever have lived that life. She radiates peace and determination, she prays with purpose and intention. I believe she knocks out spiritual gorillas, for sure, but to think of her tackling them in person, in a bar? Man-oh-man, how the love of God can change a heart!!!

Goals, man.

I’m not the same person I was at 21, or at 25, or at 35. I’m a continuing work in progress that doesn’t always make the best decisions. I let my emotions get in the way, and I waste my time obsessing over things that I can’t change. I don’t let Jesus do what He needs to do, either for other people, or for myself…I can do a lot of things, but I can’t fix ME, or anybody else, so I should stop wasting my energy, trying.

I want to have the kind of trust that lets me not just physically walk away from gorillas, but mentally walk away. I don’t want to have the “I Could Have Saids.” I don’t want to lose sleep over things that are that stupid and wasteful. I have better things to do.

I have a better person to learn to be.

I should spend my time on that…and maybe, with one better person in the world, there will be one less gorilla hulking in the corner.

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