Suddenlys and Falling Leaves…

One of the Millennials that I work with said something very interesting to me a few weeks ago…

[Please note that when I say, “one of the Millennials,” it’s with a surprising amount of love and respect. I say, “surprising,” because a lot of people in the “millennial” demographic have honestly bugged the holy heck out of me. This girl though (this young woman, excuse me)–she continually surprises me with words of self-empowerment and wisdom that I WISH I had at her age (or at MY age), and I learn a lot from her. When I turned 40, I told myself I was going to stop making apologies over everything. Emma has been a very influential voice that has echoed that sentiment, and even though we don’t always agree, I can’t help but to admire her strength and almost-frightening level of self-acceptance. Her story is encouraging and beautiful, and tough and scary, and it’s not mine to tell…but what I can say, is that she’s still standing, and that she has so much more becoming to do…There is so much beauty in her, and she doesn’t know it, but one day I will tell her just how much she’s taught me. I just want to sit on the sidelines and watch her bloom; there’s such a richness in her soul…she’s amazing.]

I digress.

Anyway, Emma looked at my Instagram feed, and said something to the effect of, “You guys LIVE for weekends.” It’s so true. My house is a wreck, I’d hire a housecleaner to bulldoze the kitchen in a second, and I barely stay on top of the laundry, but you know what? No one talks about a clean house when they tell the stories of their childhood. David & I are two very busy adults trying to keep a roof over our heads and raise a kiddo while working full-time and not abandoning either our families or our marriage, and it gets challenging. Monday through Friday, we barely seem to have time to carry on a full conversation, but on Saturday and Sunday? We refuel and burn it up in laughter.

Every weekend isn’t awesome, for sure. We’re far from rich, so we’re always doing things on the cheap; by the end of this hot summer, we’re sick of parks and tired of sweating to death…but October? Oh, you sweet, beautiful, melancholy month, how I love you!!!

I used to face the end of October like Grover in the “Monster at the End of This Book.” Hannah’s birthday is on the 30th, so every fall, I’d watch the days change on the calendar, and with every leaf that fell, my heart would break. For five long years, the month of October was crushing…but then, we were given the gift of making new memories, and of filling those painful places with peace and joy and anticipation…I have the greatest gift of having been given beauty for ashes, and for that, I can only sit back and praise God.

October still comes with “suddenlys….” I still have moments where my breath will catch, as a memory comes back, or with different realizations (I think I mentioned in my last blog that I realized out of nowhere that Hannah would be turning 13 this year. I’m still coming to grips with that one). Today, I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across a picture taken at Thee Abbey in Arcadia Valley. The owner had posted a picture of her two children with puppies, and I suddenly remembered that we had been pregnant with our daughters at the same time. She was baking cinnamon rolls in the restaurant, and I was working long hours doing makeup on a film project. We were pregnant at the same time, and there was her beautiful girl, showing up on my social media feed. I doubt they remember me, or that we were pregnant at the same time…Thee Abbey holds a very special place in my heart, for multiple reasons, and we go back there several times a year, but it’s not like we’re friends with the owners or anything. We were just two women with dreams of families, who had very different outcomes from the same seasons in our lives.

It’s in those moments that I still make conscious decisions. Those are the “sink or swim” moments, those “suddenlys.” Do they become a noose or a beacon? Do I drown in the waves? Do I pause, take a breath, and let the tears fall? Oh, my Jesus….how many bottles in Heaven are marked with my name? He knows, because He cares about every tear that’s fallen on this journey and beyond…

Do I rush through the thoughts that hit, ignoring them even as I know they’ll come back to me later, when I finally have some quiet time to process them?

Should I even be affected by these moments anymore?

Those moments…some of those moments are huge, while others are minute, but they do still happen. When they do, it’s a conscious decision to move forward, to pause, or even to fall apart (which doesn’t happen very often, thankfully). There are conscious decisions to remain hopeful and wholehearted, to not become bitter or faithless. Sometimes, I hear other women tell their birth stories, and it gets hard to not be angry or hateful. Sometimes even now, old pieces of things I thought I forgave, as far as my medical care went, come up and I get mad. Two women in line next to me in a resale shop were bragging about how they had their babies out in public at 1-and-2 days old. I said, “Wow, you’re brave.” They laughed and said, “well, that’s how you GOT to do it!” One of them went on her way, but I quietly said to the other, “We lost our first from something very common…I didn’t leave the house with my second, except to go to the doctor, for 6 weeks.” The look on her face said it all–perspective. When other moms look at you like you’re some kind of germ-phobic freak or a helicopter mom, it’s hard not to lash out. There’s a conscious decision that’s made, to either tell the story in kindness, say silent and put up with the awkwardness and feel completely inauthentic, or to tell the story in a way to slap them upside their heads for judging your parenting. I’ve done all of the above, and I’m not proud of that fact.

There are conscious decisions made that people who haven’t walked this road will never understand, and that’s perfectly fine. I refuse to apologize for the fact that I am a woman who has given birth and said “goodbye,” and that this is the season where those memories and dreams are the closest to the surface….

So, like Emma said, we “LIVE for the weekends,” ESPECIALLY in the fall. October is full of everything beautiful…the trees are putting on their finest colors just before they blaze out into their rest, and I want to celebrate every one of them. I want the “basic” life of pumpkins and spice and bonfires. I want my (second-hand) UGGs and my leggings, and I want to jump into every pile of leaves I can find. I’m not a huge fan of corn mazes (I did my first one last week; it was a kids’ version, and it freaked me OUT), but I dig pumpkin patches! We didn’t do that kind of stuff when I was a kid, but we’re sure enjoying them now.

When the second lady in line at the store was talking to me about Hannah, Jericho jumped into the conversation: “I’m a rainbow baby!” I don’t know if she knew what he meant, but I laughed because it was the first time I’ve ever heard him tell a stranger that fact. It kind of blew me away–what does it mean, to grow up, knowing that about yourself? I had a friend chime in on an Instagram post that she was a rainbow baby, and that she loved knowing about what that meant; she said she loved that her parents never hid the truth from her, and that blessed me. I never wanted to keep it from him, but I also never wanted it to be a burden, so we always want to paint his birth as the miracle to us that it truly was. He knows he’s special (maybe a little TOO well, LOL).

We have this chance–we have this GIFT–to LIVE, and to live well. We have this opportunity to seriously carpe diem–to seize the day (can you tell I grew up in the 90’s?)–and to make amazing memories of each season. Jericho is no doubt spoiled. He hates the weekends where we’ve stayed home, and I get it. We don’t stay home on the weekends very often (although to be fair, we don’t go anywhere during the week. Total hermits.), and he expects an adventure. When he doesn’t get it? He’s kind of a punk, and I can say that as his mother. 🙂 And even today, after we drove for 2 hours, did a cool hayride, got lost in a maze, shoveled pizza in our faces in the car, and ate something amazing called a “cinnamon chimney,” he STILL had some bratty moments–he’s 6, and there was a LOT of walking–and I found myself wondering why I try to do cool stuff. Um, kiddo, I’m going to admit that sometimes, I am the one that wants to do the cool stuff, and you’re along for the ride. I want to make these memories with you, so stop whining and smile for the camera (“You will smile for this picture, or SO HELP ME GOD!” #TheStruggleIsReal). I want to make the cool memories, and I want to look back at that awesome photo book that I make at the end of every year, and look at this amazing life that God has given us.

I know that life in pictures is only part of the story…but what a beautiful part of the story it is. I have to laugh–when I was 8, my mom took my sister and I to Disneyworld. There’s a really cute photo album somewhere that shows us in all of our glory in Florida…but do you know what we still laugh about to this day? The fact that my sister and I were absolute MONSTERS on that trip. OHMYGOSH, I can’t–we whined so much, and my mom had to have busted her rear to pay for that trip; we were SUCH punks, I can’t even…AND I AM REMINDED OF THAT TRIP, EVERY TIME I TAKE MY SON TO DO SOMETHING COOL, AND HE WHINES. Like, #KARMA. I have to laugh. We have the pictures, and we have the memories, and oh, what a life we get to experience!!!!

Life is hard. It is–it’s a struggle for so many of us. But we have each day to start over, to make new memories and to make the conscious decisions to breathe, to move forward, to celebrate and to grieve. We have the opportunity to celebrate the sweet and to not become bitter…we have the chance to stop apologizing when we’re doing our best, and to accept the love Jesus offers us. We have the choice to pick grace, and to put one foot in front of the other on this journey, and to help others to do the same. Fall is the season of such incomparable beauty. I hope and pray that you get to embrace it and the changes that come along in it. “LIVE for your weekends,” and if you can, let the dishes wait a bit while you make some memories–and don’t make any apologies for it, dang it. You carpe that diem, dangit, and light up your Instagram feed!!!!

Seriously, though–take every chance you can to enjoy this season. May your “suddenlys” and your fall leaves remind you that you are loved by our Creator who made all of the beauty that you see, just to bring you closer to Him. ❤

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. ❤