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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. โค

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….

WALMART ARCHIVE-0017

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. ย 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,ย  people felt like they had to comment on themย  (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. ๐Ÿ™‚ (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. ๐Ÿ™‚
  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. ๐Ÿ˜‰