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.

Faith and Finding Your Fabulous with the Fab Five…

Me on Sunday Morning: “God LOVES us!!!  He restores us and He renews us!”

Me on Thursday night: “I AM SO INADEQUATE! I feel pushed in so many different directions! I’m EXHAUSTED!!  This SUCKS!!  Why am I such A TOTAL FAILURE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?” Aaaand, cue the sleepless night.

Why do I live in this world of polarities?

So, little-known-fact: I absolutely love the show, “Queer Eye.” Of course, being that I run in mid-American Judeo-Christian circles, I know that this admission may bring some Internet or in-person-based gooey, thick judgeyness, but whatever. I’m not changing my mind.

I’m not going to argue about it. I’m just going to remind you that we’re all made by a God Who loves us & that we are all on our own journey. We don’t have to agree; we DO have to love, and according to 1 Peter 3:15, we have to be respectful. SO, that’s all I have to say, about that (and no, we’re not going to engage about their personal politics. Off the table).

Anyways, I love the show, “Queer Eye.” The biggest takeaway I have from the show is that these 5 men, from 5 totally different walks of life, have each grown into the “simple” act of BECOMING, and they take their subjects along the same route. They’ve each learned to accept themselves, to love themselves (even on days when they’re struggling), and to teach others to do the same. I’m not very good at that, so I love seeing people succeed on that journey.  I started writing this blog yesterday, and then watched another episode on Netflix. Lo and behold, it was the episode featuring those Barbecuing Babes, The Jones Sisters. Every episode makes me tear up, but this one had me Katy-Perry-Ugly-Crying.

I’ve struggled with my weight for the past, oh, I don’t know, TWENTY YEARS? I’ve never accepted my body, whether it was as a 14-year old with gigantic boobs, or as a 41-year old with a gigantic butt (and not in the sexy, Kim-Kardashian way). I’ve struggled with my looks, particularly as multiple surgeries have left some pretty unflattering scars. I oscillate between thinking my face is okay, and “OHMYGODWHYDOISTILLHAVEACNEAND WRINKLES?!?!?”

I can pick apart my personality to an obsessive degree: “You’re stupid. You’re not funny. Your sense of timing is crap. SO many people are smarter than you.  You’re never going to be successful. You’re just support staff. You basically just suck and are wasting your time. Oh, you’re bad at math, you’re a terrible mom, and you’re fat.”

I can DESTROY my faith; I constantly feel like people are judging my output….like, I don’t go to this meeting, or to this church, or I don’t raise my hands enough, or OMG, bad things have happened to me, so God must hate me. Whatever.

I know it’s all lies…but I find myself believing them anyways.

How can I say that we’re all created by a God Who made us in His image, but then have such a deprecating monologue?

How can I say that God restores us and renews us, yet beat myself up continually for my seemingly-perpetual state of exhaustion (it’s not an imagined exhaustion—I literally have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome caused by my thyroidectomy. I don’t think I’ve ever actually written that down before)?

And here comes the guilt from the constant struggle of living in a dichotomy…

I watch the guys on “Queer Eye,” and I follow them on Instagram. They’re a bevy of positivity. I also follow Tess Holliday (founder of the #EffYourBeautyStandards hashtag) and several other body-positive influencers. They’re all younger than me, and way cooler than me, and they’re doing an amazing job of being candid, positive, and strong. They show strength in honesty and in vulnerability, and even though they’re not “religious” influencers, I still find my spirit encouraged by them.

They’re “unconventional.” They’re not from “my” people (you know what I mean—don’t get it twisted. I’m referring to the stereotype of the church-raised, Midwest-born cisgender, straight, suburban/rural mom, and/or one of my previously-blogged-about Great White Women of Hope that I’m supposed to strive to be like…and that I gloriously fail in striving to be like…). They’re POC, or they’re gay, or they’re bi, or they’re EXTREMELY politically liberal, or whatever. They’re all the kind of people that a lot of people I know would love nothing more than to engage in enraged discussions with, and I want nothing to do with that.

I love them.

I love that when they look at someone who looks like me—average height, overweight, struggling—they see something beautiful. They look past what I perceive are flaws, and they find BEAUTY. They bring it out…isn’t that what we’re supposed to do for each other, not only as Christians, but as human Beings?

They’ve taught me to rethink my narrative….to reconsider the self-deprecating “humor.” I only tell fat jokes because in my brain, it’s (I’m) the elephant in the room, so if I just bring it up and make it funny, it’s okay and I’m getting the inevitable out of the way. THAT’S A LIE. Bobby, Tan, Karamo, Antoni, and JVN would NOT hear those words coming out of my mouth!!!!  Karamo would probably stick me in intensive therapy to learn how to see myself better, and how to speak better about myself. He LITERALLY recorded one guy and when the man heard how many times he fat-shamed himself, he was shook. I should try that.

A few years ago, before we got pregnant with our son, I had a conversation with David where I was the most vulnerable I have ever been. I told him that I thought God hated me. I had to come to a place where I could allow myself to trust that no, He actually LOVES me. Jesus LOVES me. I still struggle with it on a daily basis; it’s like I somehow have to un-brainwash myself, and it takes time. I have to push myself out of the thought pattern that, “people only say they love you because they feel  obligated to.” No, Cassidy, there are people out there that truly, deeply love you (um, like your husband? Seriously!?).  I feel like those are words that I need tattooed on my arm, to remind me that I’m not some wretched being. I’m not.

Christianity fails us when it doesn’t teach that Jesus loves us and that we can foster a relationship with God. Too often we sit in churches or classes that teach us that we’re never good enough for anything, and that we have to fit into a certain mold before He’ll accept us. That’s religion. I’m not about that, and neither is God. I’m not going to get all Calvinistic on you, but GRACE IS AWESOME. We are so loved, and our Father wants to know us. He wants us to know Him, and life is about that process–it’s about building that relationship between Him and us, not about us thinking we’ll never measure up, we suck, etc., He never says that. He gives grace, He loves us in ways we can’t understand, and He knows our hearts. When we build that relationship with him, it pours over into every facet of how we view ourselves and how we treat other people. It’s gorgeous!!

Why have I allowed erroneous, religious, self-flagellating theology to make me think that it’s a bad thing, to look in the mirror and be satisfied with what I see? Fat, scars, acne, wrinkles—it’s all part of my story, even the parts that aren’t pretty, so why can’t I look at this whole package and be thankful that I’m still here? For women in particular, I think we’ve been brainwashed into believing that negative self-talk is a requirement, and that we have to trust in other people to validate us in order for us to count. What a crock, right?!?

It’s hard for me to look in a mirror and like what I see. Is it arrogant? Is it foolish? Sure, I will take a selfie (thanks, Cousin Lisa, for that lesson in angles so many years ago!) if I feel like I look less-Princess-Fiona-ish or if I like my outfit. I think I’ve learned from the Instagram influencers that I follow that it’s good to documkermitent your journey, even if it doesn’t get you any clicks. As a mom, it’s hard for me to remember sometimes to snap that picture; however, I think of how I feel about pictures of MY mom when she was my age, and I want to recreate those feelings for my son. “Hey, Rico! Here’s your Mama feeling herself in that Kermit shirt!!!!! “ LOL!  Seriously, though—Maybe my mom didn’t feel like she was beautiful in every picture that I have of her, but I definitely think she was and is. I’m glad I have every picture of her that I have. David taught me the value of a photograph, and I respect photography as a method of journaling. Sometimes a selfie is just that—it’s a diary entry that happens to be public…kinda like a blog.

I’m learning to accept myself and the skin that I’m in. I’m learning that less is more….That I don’t “need” more to fill the void; I just need to redirect my focus on positive thoughts and on uplifting my spirit to fill the void. In Philippians 4, Paul talks about being content both with and without…I think that verse, and the other verses in the link, are verses that I/we could read every day just to teach us how to not only be grateful to God, but also how to love and respect where we are in life, be it how we look, where we work, or whatever our “station” is. I have to learn to love where I am and who I am, right now, before I can improve.

Part of that, for me, includes deluging my brain with positivity….Not positivity for the sake of lying to myself….more like, positivity for the sake of keeping my sanity and of finding my worth, and for the sake of the actual truth.  The Fab Five are SO positive, watching them make life-changing decisions and re-wire stuck mental concepts for internal success, has been good for my soul. It’s one thing to know you need to reboot your outlook…it’s another thing to actually watch it happen, and to learn how you can do it for yourself.

It makes me stop and think, and it makes me grateful to know the God Who created me with Love. Honestly, it makes me want to build that relationship with Him even more.

There’s a beautiful thing that happens in every episode of “Queer Eye,” where you see the subject look at themselves in the mirror, and you see them “snap.” It’s like someone takes the blinders off of their eyes and their minds; they realize, whether it’s because of Karamo’s life-goals; JVN’s hairography; Tan’s closet overhaul; Antoni’s food love; or Bobby’s renovation (seriously, he works THE HARDEST, and he’s my favorite); they realize that THEY’RE WORTH IT. They’re worth self-care! They’re worth having an organized household! They’re worth eating good, quality food! They’re worth LOVING!!!!!!! It’s like no one ever told them these things, or if they were told, they forgot!!!

The Fab Five REMIND them of who they TRULY are, and I think that’s an important spiritual truth.

I need to be reminded of Who I Am.

There’s a scene in Moana where she is facing the fire demon/god on the island, and she has to replace the Heart of Te Fiti. Moana has a SNAP moment where she realizes that the Fire Demon/god IS Te Fiti, but she’s completely forgotten it over time, and has resigned herself to being this horrible, terrifying being.

She bravely takes the Heart stone, and walks up to the scary monster….She sings the lines, “This is not who you are; I know who you are,” and she puts the heart back in its rightful place. SPOILER ALERT: The monster turns into Te Fiti, and the land is beautiful and fertile once again.

To me, it’s one of the single most spiritual moments I have ever seen in a film (and I’ve probably blogged about it before). You’ve been broken and burned; you’ve lost your heart and your way, and you don’t even realize it. Someone believes in you…someone sees you for who you truly are…and your heart is restored and healed. It’s what Jesus does for us on every possible level. He knows Who We Are…and He knows WHO HE MADE US TO BE.

I firmly believe that God uses unconventional methods to minister to our hearts. For me, it’s watching 5 guys give makeovers in rural America….5 men who see beautiful hearts in everyone they meet, and who just wants to help them live their absolute best life…5 men who know that human beings are WORTH fostering and loving, regardless of their appearances….5 guys who have faced their own journeys, failures, and successes, and who are on a mission to leave blessings and positivity everywhere they go.

I NEED THAT KIND OF LOVE IN MY LIFE, Y’ALL!!!!  Confidence in abilities, goals and achievements, having someone else not only see something in you, but having the ability to help you bring it out—isn’t that what we’re supposed to do for each other?!?  I need to do that for people! I need it for myself! Jesus says I’m worth something, and so are you…even if we just say the words to ourselves, it’s positivity we can speak into ourselves. Negative self-talk is so easy, and I know I feel stupid if I say, “Dang it, YOU’RE WORTH IT!” (Shout-out to Stuart Smalley!)! But I/we need to!

We can speak Bible verses aloud to ourselves about how much God loves us. We can literally write down things that we like about ourselves in order to offset those negative attacks of the Enemy. We can share those verses with people around us that are struggling, and we can help others, and ourselves, find our SNAP moment where we catch a glimpse of how HE sees us…how Jesus sees us….

So, thank you,  Queer Eye….Thank you for being a reminder that regardless of what I think I see, there is so much more, and that there is more than enough to bridge the gap between Sunday and Thursday night. Thank you for being one more thing in this world to point me back to the love and the value that God pours over us.

There’s nothing more fabulous than that. ❤

qe

P.S. (This is where I fan-girl out): IF I WERE TO EVER get the chance to meet them, I might die–and yes, I am a 41-year old grown woman. Also, my husband is dying to know how Tan does his hair. Also, I want to hug Antoni and Bobby in particular and tell them I’m sorry on behalf of every Christian that hurt their beautiful giant hearts, because that’s not what we’re supposed to be about. Also, I want Karamo to know his mental revolution of the guy that got married in the 3rd season WRECKED ME & was better than most sermons I’ve sat through. Finally, I want JVN to know that I would NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS enter into a political debate with him, because sister knows her stuff–JVN would DESTROY me. Even though we disagree on some things, I just like to hear him talk, because to hear someone of any side of a debate intelligently explain their position is like gold these days, and I am here for ALL of it.

Y’all got me writing with bad grammar. I’m shook. That is all. ❤

Cardiology Update!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT IT’S NOT.

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

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

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

Mommy Bloggers & the White Women of Hope (in the Real World)

Dear Mommy Bloggers and White-Chick-Motivational-Speakers:

Hi.

I wanted to be like you, more than you could possibly know.

I wanted the Pinterest life, the 2.5 kids, the I-Can-Bake-Sugar-Cookies-And-Not-Get-Flour-Anywhere perfection that’s gorgeously-photographed-with-a-perfect-filter persona.

I wanted to have the right Bible verse at the right time, to show you and everyone that I. Am. A. Good. Christian. Wife.

I wanted the en-pointe brow, the Jenner-worthy highlight, and the Hatmaker-moxie that makes everyone love me and want to be like me…Just. Like. You.

I wanted to be Candace.

I wanted to be Jen.

I wanted to be Glennon.

 

I can’t.

 

Am I the only one that sees these “normal” women and weeps because they feel like their life is wasted in a reality that is NOTHING like what they read? Am I the only one that can’t listen to someone tell me, “Girl, Wash Your Face,’ because at this point, there aren’t any bootstraps to pull myself up by? Am I the only one that had a dream that keeps getting derailed by illness or finances or a million other obstacles that just keep coming, one after another, without a break?

 

Am I the only one that’s about to give it all up?

 

There are things in my life that I was told would never happen—my son, first and foremost—and they DID happen, so I know it’s possible. I know it CAN happen, but what does it take? Why am I not good enough, if I truly am giving my best?

 

How much more of myself do I have to pour out, before there is that promised refreshing of the Spirit? Before the “potential” is the realized present?

 

I’m not whining or indulging in defeat. These are honest questions that we as Christians need to be willing to ask with open hearts. These are questions that are very easy to slap a Bible verse and a Snapchat filter on, along with a “Cheer up, Charlie!”  response, but all that does is create impressions of a Martha-Stewart Reality. Jesus doesn’t listen to hurting hearts and say, “Girl, get yourself up and out of that funk, right now!”

Jesus says, “You’re hurting, and I know it. I feel it, and I’m here. You won’t be in this place forever, daughter, but you’re here now, and I’m here, too. Today, we rest. Rest in Me. I know you feel defeated. I know you feel like you’re at the bottom. I know you want to give up.

I know you’re broken.

I’m here to make you whole.

But it’s going to take a while.”

The Song of Solomon says, “Do not awaken Love before its time.” (Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:5; 8:4) It actually says it like, 3 times in the book, so that tells me it’s important. The dangers of focusing on the Mommy Bloggers and the White Women of Hope are that the image and the promises are instantaneous, although I do not think that’s their intention. We see the Glennons and the Jens and we see beautiful faces and gorgeous honesty…we see the aftermath, and we think our redemption and the answer to our problems is RIGHT NOW.

 

Well, I’m here to tell myself and to remind myself (and you, maybe) that we don’t want to awaken Love before its time. The statement tells us, it reminds us, that everything has a TIME—everything has a designated time and a designated process, and we (I) always hurt the most when my time frame and His time frame don’t match up.

 

He has a plan for my life.

I can’t see it, right now.

Right now, I’m an internal ball of electrified yarn, and every time I try to untangle it, I get shocked by the situation I’m in, and wounded even further.

I have to wait this out, and as I once told a friend of mine, “there is breaking in the waiting.”

 

I’m not pretty right now.

I’m not Pinterest-worthy (not that I ever was).

I don’t have pithy sayings and roll-script placards to hang in my foyer (LOL—like I have a foyer).

I want to awaken Love, and see the end of this story, because THIS CHAPTER SUCKS. (Underlined, italics, all-caps—get it?!?!?!?!?!??  I really, REALLY mean it. This chapter sucks. Completely.)

 

I am going out on a limb and saying that I need prayer right now. My family needs prayer. I hate saying that, because I feel like there’ve been so many times where we’ve had a “dramatic” thing happen and have needed prayer; it’s very hard for me to suck up my pride and just admit it right now. My little family is broken, and our hearts are hurting. We need supernatural provision and for doors to open in unforeseen ways.

 

I need peace that passes all understanding, and the physical capability to cope with the stress that we’re under. I need a refreshing in my heart that pushes past the things I see—the Jens and the Glennons and the Candaces—and seals in my heart the love and value that God sees in me, because I can’t see it right now.

 

The disappointment that is choking me is usurping my ability to find the joy in every situation, which is something I’ve always said I wanted to maintain. I can’t laugh, and that’s not like me, so this has to lift. I’m being transparent, here—the depression/anxiety that is always on the brink is threatening much more than just my sanity this time, and I’m struggling to fight through it (and yes, I’m medicated, but that only goes so far). This year is ending on the battlefield, and we’re wounded.

 

So, I can try to read the words of the Jens and the Glennons and the Candaces (and even the Voskamps), but they’re bouncing off, because all I taste is the bitterness of a sanitized presentation.

Then again, who wants to read the words written from the middle of Ground Zero?

 

Sometimes, I look back on what I wrote in the thick of it, in other times in my life.

I look back on the things I said from Ground Zero, and I remember the journey out of that valley.

 

I’ve been here before.

 

It’s different, but familiar

And I know that God is faithful,

Even when I’m broken.

 

I’m not going to awaken Love before its time.

I’m not going to read someone else’s words about how they went from nothing-to-something, or from broken-to-whole.

They’re not me, and the more I think about them, the more I sink into a pit of jealousy and frustration.

 

I’m going to read the words of eternal Life,

And I’m going to cry, and break, and be a snotty, un-Snapchattable, Pinterest-failure of a person, and I’m going to (eventually) accept that it’s okay.

 

I’m going to put one foot in front of another, and most likely, trip and fall flat on my face…again…and again….and again…

But eventually,

I’ll get back up, as will my household.

 

For right now, though, we are in yet-another valley, & there aren’t enough pithy sayings from the White Women of Hope that can pull us out.

 

We will not awaken Love before its time…we will go through this process, and we will embrace the hurting; we will learn the lessons we need to learn, and we will be as transparent as we need to be, even when it breaks our pride & makes us feel raw & exposed. We will accept the failure on our own, & we will not whitewash it in Magnolia paints or Pinterest craft boards. We will live in this moment, and maintain the hope that we have that it’s not forever. It’s a time, and there isn’t a fast-forward button on this one.

 

And someday, He will make the exchange of Beauty for Ashes, and we will see how His hand worked through it all…because He is Who He says He is, and through it all, we believe.