“Stay Alive.”

Hamilton

I think it’s fair to say that most of life’s situations can probably be addressed in lyrics from Hamilton, if you look hard enough. That’s the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda. If I had a .015% of his brain power, I’d have figured out how to make the whole blogging-thing a career by now. 🙂 Say what you will about the man’s politics–his creativity & talent are simply unparalleled, both currently and in history, and his ability to turn a phrase? RIDICULOUS.

You know what else is ridiculous?!?!?

The fights in this nation right now, over a simple, easy-to-use, potentially fashionable scrap of material.

Wearing a face mask has become this ridiculous, left vs. right, conspiracy-theory laden soap box, and it BLOWS. MY MIND.

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I’ve gotten to a place where I don’t feel like I can trust people, where what they say doesn’t match what they do….I don’t feel like people are being honest about their COVID exposures (like, why am I finding out that I may have had a secondary exposure, a week after the fact and through a different person than the one I was with?!?), or about their testing (I’m negative). I promise you, if I’m looking at you, I’m secretly wondering if you’re actually following recommendations, or if you’re gonna be the one that passes along a disease that could kill me.

That’s where I’m at.

I just want to “stay alive.”  I know that sounds dramatic, but tell that to the over 1,000 people in Missouri that have died from this garbage (& yeah, I know the amount of flu deaths is higher–this furthers the reason to wear masks during flu season as well as during the pandemic).

I fail to understand why wearing a mask, or a requirement to wear a mask, has become some sort of, “You’re inhibiting my freedoms! If you wear a mask, you’re just a slave to the media!!” HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?!?

Look, man, I don’t want to catch this COVID crap. I don’t want to inadvertently pass it along, either. I just want to “stay alive,” and I want my family to do the same. Wearing a mask may or may not be the “best” or “most convenient” method of prevention, but it doesn’t hurt. IT’S NOT HURTING YOU. It’s not hurting me, either.

Frankly (and this won’t win me any anti-mask friends), I feel like if you’re so selfish that you don’t want to wear a simple, little piece of cloth on your face, then maybe you need to check your heart. Are we so arrogant that we can’t stop and pause for a second, and wonder if we may inadvertently infect someone with this virus? Are we so arrogant, and so blind, that we can’t possibly fathom that we may catch this thing ourselves??

I feel like a certain faction is stuck in that whole, “well, nothing bad will EVER happen to me” line of garbage that some people like to believe (Christians are particularly bad about this, thanks to a hot streak of prosperity-laden garbage preaching in the 90’s). They’re stuck in this faction that they’re so awesome, that germs couldn’t POSSIBLY stick to them and be passed along to someone….’cause they’re PERFECT.

Y’all are delusional, and you’re gonna kill people.

PERIOD.

SO, now I’m struggling with not being in fear so much of the disease, as I am afraid of the lack of honesty and reality to the people I’m surrounded by.

If you’re angry at a store because they’ve decided to make it a mandate that you wear a mask when you go through those doors, check your heart. THEY HAVE EMPLOYEES TO PROTECT. They have massive liabilities, should they have a positive test affect their business. This nation hasn’t been this financially fragile since….well, since Alexander Hamilton built our financial systems. It’s only by the business practices of our current President that we’re not up a creek right now (say what you will about the man; his trade arrangements and positions on jobs are doing wonders for our country). Businesses need to stay open; people need and want to work. If your arrogant self marches in their store, even if you’re asymptomatic, and inadvertently infects people, then you could cause the fallout from this pandemic to continue going on for months…Or you could inadvertently be responsible for someone’s death from the disease…

Wearing this tiny, 4×6″ piece of material on your face ISN’T HURTING YOU. It’s keeping you from spreading as many germs, and it’s keeping you from inhaling as many germs (it’s obviously not fail-proof. No one is believing that lie). It may not be comfortable (I’m broke out from mine), but they’re inexpensive to make and to buy, and it’s a simple thing you can do to prevent and/or slow the spread of this disease.

I can’t understand how the anti-mask faction justifies the risk over their own comfort. Because people can’t be personally responsible and take control over their own actions, now the police and the government have to step in like we’re selfish little babies, and make masks a mandated thing.

Because people can’t be personally responsible and take control over their own actions, stores like Wal-Mart are requiring you to wear a mask for your own protection. How stupid is that, and how personally insulting is it that WAL-MART has to tell us what to do?!?!? WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY WHERE FRICKIN’ WAL-MART IS TELLING US WHAT TO DO. I’m offended by the fact that it’s come to this point (also, I hate Wal-Mart–but y’all already know that).

EDIT: I came across this meme and laughed so hard that I had to add it back in here. Please don’t be offended—okay, maybe be offended a tiny bit–but c’mon, you KNOW it’s true!!!!!!!!

WALMART

Look, I don’t particularly like wearing these dang things. I have to wear one in my office, so I get it…but I also, again, don’t know or care about the comings-&-goings of other people in my office. I don’t know or trust that they’re being responsible on their “off” time, and I’m not taking any chances. I know the science is questionable, and my trust isn’t in this little piece of material; my trust is in God.

The Bible tells us to ask for wisdom, and to act with wisdom. My wearing a mask doesn’t mean I’m a lemming or a leftie; it simply means that I CARE about my own health, and the health of those around me.

My wearing a mask means that I am doing a small part to help myself and those I care about, to avoid the pandemic and to keep us all working and living. I like this quote from Clare Johnson, “Mask-wearing is an exercise in the spiritual practice of love of neighbor. I wear my mask as a sign of my love and care for others, especially those who are most at risk. Jesus tells us that when we care for “the least of these,” we are really serving him. I believe that by caring for the most vulnerable among us, I am following Christ’s example.”

It’s the epitome of loving your neighbor–let that sink in.

Meanwhile, here’s a few more articles, if you’re so inclined:

https://biologos.org/articles/walking-by-faith-and-wearing-a-mask

Four Reasons to Wear a Mask (Even if you Hate It)

And this one, which draws some interesting parallels about salvation and masks (because we Christians love our parallels)…

Our freedoms are not being taken away because a store asks us to mask up–that’s a conspiracy-theory laden mindset, and you can go down those rabbit holes all day long. Just put some tin-foil over your ears, if that’s your line of thought. 🙂

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There are enough conspiracies out there that are MUCH more frightening than a simple, 4×6″ piece of materials, people.

Just wear the dang mask. It’s seriously not hurting you, and in some cases that you may never realize, it just might save your life.

And don’t get salty with those stores that are requiring a face covering–you have no idea what it’s taking for business to stay open right now, and if wearing a little piece of fabric over your pie-hole keeps this economy going? To quote a company I shall never name again, “just do it.”

For a list of Missouri mask requirements, click here.

For CDC mask information (which, as we all know, changes every day–this fact has NOT escaped me, people. I trust them about as much as I trust Missouri weather), click here.

And, to listen to the full soundtrack of Hamilton (because it’s amazing), click here.

Finally going to write about it…

There are a great many things that have happened over the recent months that have made me wonder how we are still walking the earth.
Like, when Paul wrote, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption, (Eph. 4:30)”…how often are we doing just that? I read headlines and Facebook posts, and “news” articles, and moments in history that I never knew existed, and I feel like we should be wiped off of the face of the earth…We’re a terrible species of people.


I’m in a group on Facebook that sells leggings—LEGGINGS, people. Soft, comfortable, bury-me-in-them leggings—where one post about a pattern for law enforcement support blew up into the most hateful, racist, condescending, evil “banter” that I’ve ever read in my life. From LEGGINGS.

Christians are fighting with other Christians. It started with the mask-wearers vs. the non-mask wearers; now it’s somehow the “my freedoms are being violated!!!” vs. the “I don’t wanna die from COVID, and you’re an inconsiderate bastard if you don’t wear a mask!!” And yet all of them say, “Yeah, we love Jesus!!!”
“We support the police” is now equal to, “well, you’re a racist,” but “Black Lives Matter” means you’re either a lemming, a White Savior, or a militant. There is no “agree to disagree,” and there is no “middle ground.”
Blood is being shed, lives and careers are being ended, and #CancelCulture has taken over.A young man recently opened up an app on his phone, which told him his stock values had dropped to negative $750,000. He then killed himself…but what he didn’t know, was that the app had glitched, and the data was wrong. It was too late for this kid. He based his very survival on what was false information….he made a quick reaction to what he thought was truth, and now his family is devastated. I feel like this poor kid is indicative of our world right now.
We read posts, and we hear stories, and we react (and we post our reactions). We have knee-jerk responses to anything and everything, and we spout off our opinions or our dramatic rebuttal. We’re so quick to pick up offenses and to drag them around like roadkill that’s hung up on an exhaust pipe.

We do not stop and take the time to take things before the Lord in prayer before we make permanent impressions with either our mouths or our keyboards, and we leave a trail of broken hearts and souls in our wake.
There’s a reason why I’m saying, “we.” I’m guilty.
I’m totally guilty of a knee-jerk, biting response, or an embittered eye-roll, or even of being a part of Cancel Culture in my mind. And I guess because I’m not publicly sharing who and what I think should be cancelled, I tell myself I’m not playing a part in it, but I totally do. I have people and establishments that are 100% dead to me, and I’m not proud of it. Resentment and bitterness are suffocating, and they’re a chain I believe we all risk carrying around…
And our world is beleaguered with it.
Like the Dickens tale taught us, I feel like we’re all a bit like Mr. Marley, with our chains and our boxes dangling around our necks, but we’re too busy squawking like a bunch of chickens, looking at everyone else, to notice that we’re about to go under…We’re all tired, and we don’t even realize that’s why.
These chains and these burdens are heavy, and there’s nothing to make them any lighter.

Yesterday, we celebrated Juneteeth (which should be a national holiday. Mr. Trump, please make it so), and we took notice far more this year than in any other year, of the weight of that day: The End of Slavery in America.
The chains were broken, at least physically….but we all know they’ve lingered for generations even still.
I sat in our home group yesterday and commented that when I read the passages in Ephesians 6 about slavery, I wondered how we as a nation got it so wrong? I read in another post today about how we as white Americans “Disney-ify” the Bible to make ourselves the Israelites—God’s “chosen” people—when if we really think about it, we were more like the Egyptians, building our cities and our country on the backs of those who were stolen from their own lands.


Ephesians 6 gives clear instructions about slavery; the term, “bondservant” was a more accurate translation. There was to be a working relationship between master and slave, a mutual respect. It was to be more of a worker/boss relationship, than an abusive relationship. Our ancestors, who came here under the guise of religious freedom, twisted it so much (and I believe the biggest parts of that were rooted in erroneous translations of the Scripture by the Church of England at the time, who were in cahoots with the royals…everything was bought and paid and traded for, and I seriously question the authenticity of certain translations/paraphrasings of the Bible based on the studies I’ve done on the topic. I digress.). They twisted the Scriptures and used them to kidnap, abuse, and enslave people and to force our belief systems on them, to support their deceptive ideas. The irony of it all—religious freedom is used to enslave a race?!?—is nauseating, and the more I learn the history of the African American people in our nation, the more my heart grieves.
I wasn’t taught any of this stuff in school. I learned a little bit about slavery, but outside of watching Glory, I didn’t get it. The Tulsa Race Riots? I first heard about it last week. Ruby Bridges? I had to Google “little Black girl, integrated schools,” because I knew the story but I didn’t know her NAME. Juneteenth? I learned about it when I was 31. In going to a Christian school, one of the things I’ve struggled with as I’ve learned and read more, is that the history we were taught was so whitewashed. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, and it was in the 80’s & 90’s. The truth remains, though, is that it was. There was a complete imbalance in the history of minorities and of women in what we were taught, verses the history of male achievements. What’s the saddest, is that I didn’t realize it until I was an adult.


There is a difference between rewriting history and writing history. I do not think the textbooks I learned from rewrote history, but I sure as heck KNOW they omitted history. I believe our history books need to be expanded to include the stories of the amazing contributions of women and of people of color. They need to even out the representation, and if that means our general history classes take 3 years to get through instead of 1 semester? GOOD. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”—Santayana. My high school history teacher drilled that quote into my head, and I think it’s truer now than it’s ever been. The more I learn about the gross abuse that people went through at the hands of our forefathers, the more I see it coming back for another round….
Because we’re not learning.
We’re not learning to Be Kind.
We’re not learning to share Jesus.
We’re not learning to Love…
If anything, we’re getting better at hatred, and it’s so sad and it’s so scary.
I have a child to raise in this mess.
I have a responsibility to teach him to love first and foremost…to teach him to “seek justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly” with the Lord (Micah 6:8)…to know his own privilege and to use it to stop the mistreatment of another human being at any cost…
I have a responsibility to set the example, myself.


When Ferguson happened, I was, “All Lives Matter.” I was challenged by a few friends who were digging into Civil Rights, into true justice, who led me by example to really pray about it. I started reading, and listening, and having those Uncomfortable Conversations where I realized that I was wrong—no one ever said that all lives DON’T matter. I started to understand that Jesus left the 99 to find the one, and that That One Mattered to Him, so why am I sitting here with my arms crossed, clicking with the 99? If He cares about That One, so should I…and so should my son, and so should anyone that knows me. I truly believe that Black Lives Matter, and I can say that without being disingenuous.
I still struggle. I still struggle with stereotypes, and with using the wrong words, and with being so afraid to offend anyone that I won’t say a word during the Q&A portion of the endless Zoom courses on inclusion and diversity that I’ve sat in on over the last few months. I still struggle with the knee-jerk reactions and the type of mentality that you get when you live in a primarily white, rural area and where you’re oblivious to your privilege (which just goes to show you how privileged you really are—that’s another diatribe). I’m not the poster child of Woke White People, and I would never pretend that I’m on some kind of Civil Reform Bandwagon…
But my heart has changed since Ferguson. My heart has grieved since Ferguson…for the sights that I saw in the aftermath, for the anger that burned the city to the ground, and for the pain that boiled out of people..people that are fellow Americans, that feel betrayed by this country that brought their ancestors here illegally in the first place. That pain is deep, and it’s a generational wound that I cannot understand…but I can listen. The protests that are happening in the wake of George Floyd are different this time around (and not just because the case is so clear-cut, or because we’ve gone down this road too many times before). The spirit of the protest is different, and the violence that’s trying to sneak in is much more pronounced in how it’s deviant of the true heart of the message.
People are crying out for real, tangible, measurable change, and they’re sick of empty words and ideas. I don’t know if we’re willing as a nation, to put the work in that making these changes will require. My cynical side says we have no idea what we’re asking for…and my spiritual side says the only way any changes will come is by the power of the Holy Spirit.


God is grieving over our nation and our world. His very heart is grieved…I believe, and I hope with all of my soul, that this world is on its way to the Great Revival that I’ve heard was coming ever since I was a child…that the heart of people would be so drawn into praying for change that an encounter with Jesus Christ is inescapable…The Civil Righteousness organization (www.civilrighteousness.org) is covering our nation with prayers for lasting change, and for “spiritual, cultural, and economic renewal” by way of intensive prayer, Hope Rallies, fasting, and more…I am agreeing with them in prayer that we’re on the cusp of a national breakthrough, and that all of the pain of the last few months is like the birthing pains for a new nation that seeks the Lord’s face as we head into what I believe could be the last days…


Because we’ve grieved His heart long enough…and the burdens we carry, and the burdens our ancestors put on other people, are heavy….and His word tells us that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.
It’s time to lay our burdens down, and to seek healing and revival in this land.

Summer Goals, #PlayGloria, and Kindergarten Graduation

I go through phases where I write constantly, and then it’s “crickets,” and honestly, I don’t really know why. Is it a self-discipline thing? An emotional thing?

Maybe it’s an energy thing, and I haven’t written anything lately because I’m perennially exhausted.

I’m still here, in case you were wondering (in case I’m wondering?).

The schedule’s returned to an unreachable pace, with David not only being back to work, but working a different shift. I’m so grateful that he’s employed, but I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy. We see each other for around 15-20 minutes per day (usually trying to have conversations that are perpetually interrupted by, “MOOOOMMMMM!” and “LOOOK AT MEEEEEEE!”), and then I’m off to bed, and he’s doing the evening entertainment for the offspring (who couldn’t be happier, because Tired Mom is also BORING Mom). Our marriage is breathing on the fumes of weekends, and our house is perpetually messy.

Our lives are full.

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Meanwhile, since my last post, my son has graduated from Kindergarten. In the ceremony, his class recited Scriptures, sang songs, and basically let us know they were going to join together at some point and take over the world. I believe every one of them could do it. Jericho’s classmates are a beautiful mixture of personalities, and I’ve loved getting to watch them interact over the year. My little guy has matured and learned, and is showing more and more of an amazing personality.

We have Summer Goals (and even as I write that sentence, I’m laughing at myself). None of those goals involve housekeeping, but I supposed it must be done. Frankly, our dog is so old (“how old is she?”) that we’re kind of waiting for her to cross that Rainbow Bridge and go to Jesus, because the carpet will need to be replaced throughout the house…and I’m hankering for a change in our color scheme, so the entire house will need to be overhauled and deep-cleaned. It’s times like this where I’m grateful that we’re still in our “starter home,” and it’s tiny.

I’ve started Jericho on a First Grade curriculum from Brain Quest, and every day, he does 2-4 pages in his workbook. My goal is to get him through the book this summer, just to keep him sharp and to work on his handwriting. He still gets “6,” “9,” “d,” “p,” “g,” and “3” backwards. I haven’t gone so far as to discuss it with my office’s peds department yet…I’m not hugely concerned, because he can correct it when I call him out on it. I’m planning on mentioning it in his eye exam next month.

That being said, get your child’s eyes examined every year! It’s a relatively painless examination that can help their future!!!!  PSA—and done.

ANYHOOO, a little thing happened this week that completely de-railed any attempts that I’ve made to finish this blog in a timely manner. THE SAINT LOUIS BLUES WON THE FREAKING STANLEY CUP, and I’ve cared about little-to-nothing else this week. Image may contain: 1 person, stripes

Since I’m given to panic attacks at the mere THOUGHT of ginormous crowds of people, I’m going to be watching the parade from my app. It’s going to be amazing, and I’m so proud of the team. I’m not a big sports person—I always mention that I don’t like baseball, but I consider myself a Cardinals fan, simply because I love what the camaraderie brings to the city. I do, however, like hockey, and even though I never watch the games (my family is not a “sports” family, but we’ll scream like maniacs at a cooking show), I think hockey requires the most skill and tenacity of any sport. I admire hockey players—anyone that sacrifices their teeth for anything, gets mad respect from me. Also, my youth pastor’s dad was the trainer for the San Jose Sharks back in the 90’s, so my love and appreciation for the game runs deep (I’m SO glad we beat them for the Nationals!).

Sports talk aside, things are moving along at a frantic pace…it’s hard to find time to slow down and EXPERIENCE things, as opposed to just getting through them. I’m usually doing the latter, and by the time a week’s gone by, I’m wondering where it went? Too many hours spent on the couch and not in the sunshine.  Being in a somewhat-constant state of fatigue makes me feel like I’m missing out on so much…oh, and the MOM GUILT!!!  I can’t.

I keep telling myself that I won’t be like this, forever…Jericho asked me the other day, “Mommy, were you ever not tired?” Ouch—that hurt. I basically told him I’ve been tired for the last 7 years. J I’ve been without my Dear Thyroid for 4 years this month, and all of my Facebook Memories that come up threaten to drag me into the Abyss of What-If, so I’m trying to ignore them.

I deal with a lot of “Mom Guilt,” partially because of my personality, and partially because there’s so much to work with.  I’m a working mom who had to use formula, so start there, and work your way up, mom-shamers.  My son is starting to get Six-Year-Old Sassy, and he’s watching too many episodes of “Teen Titans,” (hey, I didn’t start him on it…but they’re hilarious, so now I’m mom-guilting over a moral failure) and eating too many tortilla chips. Overall, though, he’s getting lots of playtime during the day in his summer program, so during the week I’m not feeling tooooooooo horrible about coming home and being chill.

I know this sounds mushy and all, but every day I look at that kid and I swear, I love him more. Even with his sass, he’s still funny and sweet, & he’s creative. His imagination is limitless, and he reminds me of my favorite parts of my own childhood. I need to get back into the routine of reading him a bedtime story; he’s been staying up later than I do, so I’m missing out!!

This summer, we have Six Flags passes, and are planning on going if the sun comes out any time soon on a weekend.  We’ve had so much rain! I love watching Jericho start to tentatively embrace roller coasters. He’s working on riding his new bike; he got a bit scared of it, so we have to ease him back into it. I don’t think I coddle him (David does), but I know so well what it’s like to be afraid of everything, and to feel like less of a person because of it. I don’t want that, for him. When he’s afraid of something, I tell him that it’s okay to be scared. We take it slow, until we’re ready. If he isn’t ready, I think that’s okay—he will be. I’m surprised at my own patience in those cases, but I think that’s what it takes. I want him to enjoy roller coasters and bike rides, and roller skates and bowling, and everything fun (we’re back to bowling again, BTW—I LOVE it!!!). If it’s fearful, it’s not fun, and I know that too well. We have nothing but time, to make those leaps—even if that’s not true, we can live like it is, at 6 years old.

bowlMy goals for this summer are to take it in…to enjoy parenting, and to not enjoy too much TV…to take my time doing life in general, and to spend less time embracing the things that bring me down. I love that song by Lauren Daigle, called “Look Up, Child.” Rico-Bean sings it a lot, and I think it’s major goals, for me. That’s my goal—to Look Up, and to keep from letting myself be weighed down by fatigue, or stress, or whatever albatross has decided to land on my neck. It’s summer—it’s time to get free, to live free, and to stay looking up.

And maybe, to spend some time blasting “Gloria!!!!!” on repeat while my son yells at me because he’s sick of the song….He’ll get over it, and we’ll have these memories to last us a lifetime. I’m so proud of our team. #LETSGOBLUES!!!!!!!!

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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

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.

Hamilton.

I WON THE #HAM4HAM LOTTERY. I freaking WON. I’m still doing my interpretive dance of joy.

In case you don’t understand what the heck I’m talking about, in recent years, Broadway shows have offered a lottery, by which those of us that are poor/broke/financially strapped have the opportunity to enter a lottery, where we are randomly selected to purchase HEAVILY discounted tickets to shows. In the case of our dear Alexander Hamilton, the “$10-Founding-Father,” the selected lottery winners can purchase tickets for an unbelievable $10/each, with a maximum of 2. Odds of winning? Well, there are 40 tickets at the Fox Theatre in each lottery, with around, I believe per the Post-Dispatch, like, 10,000 entries per performance. AND I WON.

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I received the notification from the app the evening before the performance (the show was last night, the 2nd night of the show’s run in St. Louis), and promptly LOST MY MIND. I ran through my house (it’s a good thing our house is tiny, because I do NOT run), screamed, waved my arms, got speechless, got my voice back, screamed some more, ran some more, and basically closely mimicked a very fat version of one of these:

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Yep. That’s me….just imagine that thing way plumper and WAY happier. 🙂

Honestly, my first thought was, “Oh, no, you can’t do that! It’s a weeknight event! You’re going to be ZAPPED for work the next day, and you can’t take off of work! You can’t get childcare! This will be impossible!!! THERE WILL BE PEOPLE, CASSIDY.” Anxiety, SHUT UP. You can just SHUT UP. This is HAMILTON, AND I AM NOT THROWING AWAY MY SHOT (insert cymbal clash)!!!!!!!!.  Getting out of my routine and doing something new, especially during the week, seems like an insurmountable hurdle sometimes. That’s anxiety. Anxiety robs me of more than I let on, but IT’S NOT GETTING HAMILTON. Period.

So, I commenced screaming, tried to incoherently explain to David exactly what had just happened to us, told him it was happening, and frantically called for childcare. MOM TO THE RESCUE! You guys, my mom is amazing. She’d just worked that whole day at the election, and she drove up the next day and stayed overnight, just to watch Jericho so that David & I could have this amazing opportunity. Mom gets my love of musical theatre. Fun fact: I still have the ticket stubs from my very first show. She took me to see the Phantom of the Opera at the Fox when I was 16…and off I was going again, to my favorite place in St. Louis…that we can honestly just never afford…UNLESS WE WIN A TICKET LOTTERY, WHICH WE DID. WE. FREAKING WON (still in shock, 2 days later).

Yesterday, I floated through my work day, carefully timing my caffeine and my Nawgan (literally the only energy drink I can handle, with my heart. It’s great–B vitamins, no jitters, just an all-around clarity of thought and a gentle, subtle increase of energy with no crash and no weirdness), and drove home to get ready. I got Jericho ready for Grammy, and she arrived in plenty of time for me to figure out what I was going to wear (which I already had picked out, because I am ME. I wore a LuLaRoe Carly from their elegant collection, FYI, that I had purchased from a GOOB sale, because #Deals). Mom brought pizza (again, she’s THE BEST), and we left as soon as David got home.

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Honestly, that’s not highlighter. I’m glowing. David is humoring me. He had no idea what he was in for. 🙂

We got down to the theatre (I pre-paid for parking in the new garage on North Grand. You should try it. $15, and it’s secure, well-lit, and right off of the Fox. You can pre-pay, at MetroTix.com), and I went into the Box Office to present my receipt and my ID, and found out we’d lucked into THIRD ROW SEATS, Y’ALL!!  I almost hugged the ticket vendor. Keep in mind, through some kind of a glitch in the app, I didn’t automatically get my receipt. I had to e-mail, call, and eventually send a message to LuckySeat via Facebook messenger; once they responded, they were so nice, and very quick to help me out. The customer service with the Fox and with LuckySeat was AMAZING, and I couldn’t be happier. So, when I found out they were 3rd-row seats, I kinda-sorta yelled in the Box Office, and may have outed myself as too-poor-to-be-in-present-company, LOL. Those tickets at full-price are super-expensive (but I have to say, after watching the 60+ cast members dance, sing, and play for almost 3 hours, they’re definitely worth it!)!  Once we had our tickets, we went across the street for some grub at The Best Steakhouse (meh. It’s an experience), where I definitely enjoyed the company more than the food. The people were great to watch & listen to!

Finally, it was time…We were ready to go into the theatre.

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(I am not going to comment on how enormous I look in this picture. It is what it is. I’m not as fat as I’ve been. I’m not as thin as I’ve been. I’m me. I have to accept it. Also, that’s a big coat:) ).

People crammed into the theatre like sardines. Rare moments of rudeness were overshadowed by the general atmosphere of excitement to just be in the presence of the Hamilton Juggernaut. The merchandise was displayed; I was mentally prepared for the expense, thanks to the Hamilton app ($40 for a T-shirt, $15 for a keychain, etc.) so I knew we wouldn’t be purchasing anything. I already have the electronic libretto from Amazon, and I took as many pictures as possible (they won’t let you take a picture of the stage, so DON’T EVEN TRY. The ushers are trained in Krav-Maga and Jujitsu, and will chop you. I’m kidding…or am I?), so I’m happy with my takeaway. I MEAN, I GOT TO SEE IT FOR $10/TICKET.

The show STARTED ON TIME. No introductions, no flashing of the theatre lights, no warning: Aaron Burr (Nicholas Christopher) took the stage with a fury, stating his lyrics with a clarity and intensity that caught me off guard. He was HERE FOR IT, and he possessed the role. You can’t help but compare each cast member with the original Broadway cast; if there was anyone who took the role in a new direction, it was Nicholas Christopher. Leslie Odom, Jr.’s, Aaron Burr was passionate, and evoked compassion to a point, in the recorded performance. Nicholas Christopher charged in and grabbed your attention, and showed more of a character development than I realized in the original cast recording.

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And that leads me to a huge point–All I’ve had to go on, are some video recordings, and the original Broadway cast recording.  I consider myself to be pretty imaginative, and I’ve read so much about the production that I feel like I know these characters; however, seeing them played in-person brought so much more to the roles, and the interpretations with the touring actors was so different. It really was incredible, to see my imaginations come to life and then change from my presupposed concepts. Leslie Odom, Jr.’s Aaron Burr was competitive, passionate, and focused from the first line. Nicholas Christopher played him as searching in the beginning, to getting a handle on his destiny and finally, during the Senate Race where he defeats Schuyler, seeing a clear direction and method to achieve success. His ambition is complete, and then he goes off the rails & lets his ego and paranoia make him a perpetual villain. I really loved the way Nicholas Christopher portrayed such a heavy character with such vulnerability, comedy, and eventually, as the bad guy you just want to misfire. You feel sort of sorry for him at the end, but you’re really mostly facepalming his victim mentality. He was performing his last soliloquy, and I leaned over to David, “Oh, shut up, already, no one feels sorry for you. You did this to yourself.” I was invested, y’all!!!!!  I kept wishing for an alternate ending, just like I do, every time I listen to the soundtrack. Darn irrefutable facts.

Austin Scott played the titular character, and I felt like he exhibited such a gentle nature. It played well to the emotional flaws of Alexander Hamilton. Comparatively, Lin-Manuel Miranda played the role with greater intensity in regards to the passion Hamilton had for his legacy, but lacking the genteel dignity that Scott brings to the role. I can’t say that I prefer one to the other; I love the differences. Vocally, he was stunning. He flowed back-and-forth from rap to singing without any hesitation; he walked across the stage like he was born there, and he seemed to seamlessly take on this very high-pressure role with grace. Yes, “grace”–that’s the perfect word for his entire performance. Graceful. He really was beautiful to watch and to listen to, and the cameraderie he displayed in the first act felt genuine. You really think these guys get along off of the stage? It sure seems like it!! He had a different spin on Alexander, of course, but he truly embraced the softer side, even in his moments of fury. He played the role of a gentleman, and he played it extremely well.

I’m not going to break down the entire cast, but one person in particular took the entire show, wrapped it up, and made it a gift to us all: Chris De’Sean Lee. Taking on the roles of Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, Mr. Lee needs his own show, and he needs it YESTERDAY. He had my theatre-hating husband eating out of the palm of his hand.

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He made us laugh, he tore up the stage during “Guns & Ships,” and he made me want to throw my shoes on stage. I’m a huge admirer of Daveed Diggs, and I was very curious as to how anyone could take on that role as less than a copycat. Mr. Lee did so much with it; he made it his own. He didn’t need a spotlight; he IS a light, and he is a joy to watch. I have to wonder what he’s like in-person, because if he illuminates half of what he puts out on stage, he must be a world-changer. I’m officially a fan, and I want to hug that guy. That’s not weird at all, BTW.

Finally, the roles of Angelica Schuyler and John Laurens/Phillip Schuyler were played by Sabrina Sloan & Ruben J. Carbajal, respectively. Vocally, Ms. Sloan is probably the best singer in the entire cast, and that is saying SOMETHING, because they’re all A-list. She was amazing to listen to; she never oversang, she hit notes that were strong without being screechy, she sang over the top of complicated musical pieces and never shouted. She was intense, strong (I keep saying that word), and her reactions after “Hurricane” were played with FORCE. She’s the kind of actress that can emote across a stage with a raise of an eyebrow, and watching her from the third row was a masterclass. As a “singer,” I know the notes she was hitting, and I know the difficulty in the runs she did. I sure as heck can’t do that. I don’t know anyone that can do that. She’s an eye-opening wonder.

Ruben Carbajal came out with gorgeous bravado in his role as John Laurens, and brought so much maturity & power to the role by the end of the first act. His death was the first time I cried in the production; the true dream that John Laurens had for equality in history rang especially poignant yesterday, on the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ruben seemed to preach that message like an evangelist on fire. You wouldn’t think that his character didn’t have time to really grow in the first act, but he did–Ruben pulled so much more out of John Laurens than I ever knew, and I’m grateful. When he died again in the second half, as Phillip Schuyler, I was officially ugly-crying, so Ruben, thanks for that. Good thing I’m good with primer, because otherwise, I’d have been full-Alice-Coopering my ride home.

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Okay, so I knew Phillip Schuyler dies in the production, of course. I knew it would be a difficult moment for me, as a mom who has lost a child. I knew I was probably going to cry. I did. OF COURSE I DID! Julia Harriman shone in her role during this time, and played Eliza with sensitivity. Her interactions with Alexander during this, and the aftermath of his affair with the “whore wife,” Ms. Mariah Reynolds (grr), were excellent. When Phillip dies, Alexander reaches for her hand; she shoves his hand off with all of the passion of the spurned wife, and it’s glorious. She had my full “you go, girl” with that tiny little gesture, even in the midst of the sadness. 🙂 (Also, makeup team, her highlighter? Shut UP, with your awesomeness. I need some of that in my life!!!!).

I ALMOST FORGOT:  KING GEORGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Peter Matthew Smith played our archenemy, and just owned the crown. I hope he gets to keep it when his tour finishes (if he ever stops), because he’s Theatre Royalty. He was a show-stopper, and even though I’ve watched Jonathan Groff on video perform those pieces a few times, as well as Thayne Jasperson, I have to say that his take is actually my favorite! Maybe it’s a certain level of maturity? Can I say that? He just seemed really, really believable, and likeable-but-hateable. 🙂 Every time he came on stage, every single person in the theatre was smiling. It’s a pretty great skillset, to play someone everyone hates, but to also be able to make all of them grin back at you. I’m not sure how you do that, but Mr. Smith certainly knows. He was an unexpected delight. 🙂

So, that’s a lot–that’s a really, really long description of a shut-up-this-is-really-happening night at an amazing musical. I just don’t have the time or the space to break down all of the actors, but please know that each of them performed at a level of excellence that I can’t even begin to describe. Carvens Lissaint as Washington was so powerful & strong; you never question his ability to portray a Commander-in-Chief (and vocally, just soared. He left both David & I with our jaws on the floor). Chaundre Hall-Bloomfield was great as Hercules Mulligan, but had us laughing so hard as James Madison–I hadn’t caught the humor in the role over the audio recordings, so that was a nice surprise.

I still can’t believe how the cast made this show come to life…how amazing it was, to see the things I’ve only read about, in person. The stage was glorious, and far more complicated than meets the eye (2 turntables?!?). Sets are used in multiple ways; costumes are used and reused (it’s amazing how a jacket change can change a scene–who thought of that?!? BRILLIANT!!!), and the lighting is masterful in its apparent simplicity. The musicians–WHAT THE WHAT?!?!?!?!?  We were sitting right behind the orchestra pit, and it seemed like so few musicians made such an incredible sound! HOW DO THEY DO THAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?

The dancers….oh, the dancers. I’ve never seen dancing like that. They danced THE ENTIRE SHOW, and one guy in particular stood out to me the most (Andrew Wojtal, I believe; he’s also the doctor for both duels, LOL, as well as The Farmer), as he never broke in his intensity. I don’t think any of the dancers did, but this guy RADIATED focus & intention. Like, almost 3 hours of intensive dancing and singing? Phenomenal. The dancers were ridiculous, and if that wasn’t enough, their vocals were SICK. Just amazing. That word keeps coming up…because it’s true. The whole show was freaking AMAZING. The whole night was freaking AMAZING. MY MOM IS FREAKING AMAZING, for dropping everything to watch our son so that we could have this AMAZING experience. She gets a medal!!!!

THE FACT THAT WE WON THE HAM4HAM TICKETS WAS FREAKING AMAZING, PEOPLE.

And like I said at the beginning, everything started on time, from the start of the show, to the intermission–it’s a tight ship, and that gets nothing but applause from me! By the time we made it home, we were so tired; 4am hit WAY too soon for me today, but I made it to the office, and I am surviving on coffee and my last Nawgan, along with good mascara and a gigantic bottle of water that will no doubt, be refilled 3-4 times. 🙂

I am euphoric, and I’m still riding the post-Hamilton wave, combined with the wave of actually winning something. It’s a good wave.

I’m glad I took my shot. 🙂 IMG_20180404_191504_964

Grief, Gratitude, and the Grace of Pumpkin Spice

4 years ago, I wrote the following (thank you, Timehop):

“I’m in a season of celebrating one new life, while remembering the short life of one gone far too soon. It’s conflicting, celebratory, sad, & a beautiful dichotomy that is not lost on me, even in my current chaos. Hello, Autumn-you remind me again of what is lost, even in the midst of great, wonderful, amazing gain…”

If you’re new to my blog and haven’t read the “About Me” section, then you may not have picked up on the fact that my husband David & I lost our first daughter, Hannah, at 29 days of age, to late-onset Group B Strep with Bacterial Meningitis. I could wax loquacious about the details, but I will spare you (and me), and stick with the general, “Google It” response that I tend to give in order to stop reliving the worst 5 days of my life.  Our daughter was a preemie (34 weeks), and could not fight off the flukiest-of fluke diseases (even though she was born completely healthy). My pregnancy with her basically wrecked my heart (physically and emotionally), and it was nothing short of a miracle that we conceived and successfully delivered our rainbow baby, Jericho, 7 years later. My pregnancy with Jericho was spent partially in the peripartum “spa” (if you’ve been “incarcerated” into peripartum care long-term, you know I’m joking) of the amazing Missouri Baptist Hospital, under the care of phenomenal doctors (shout-out to Michael Paul, MD, life-saving and baby-loving perinatologist) and nurses that I couldn’t have survived (physically and emotionally) without.

Bringing home a newborn after losing one, is a strange, difficult, conflicting process…For Jericho’s first month of life, I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep (which led to some serious post-partum issues, that I am neither ashamed of nor silent about. Post-partum depression is real, and if you’re suffering from it, save yourself and your family, and get help), and I’m not so sure my husband did, either. I had a full 8 weeks at home with my little guy, and I think I spent most of my time crying happy tears, crying sad tears, swearing about a lousy milk supply, praying that I didn’t screw this up, and thanking God for how He keeps His promises….while also praying with everything within me that we could just get through the first 30 days. I think when Day 30 hit, I finally took my first post-partum breath. It felt like the oceans receded (proceeded? Words are hard) after being held back for a month…like all of the tension flew out of my body with that breath, and I finally, finally, could rest.

I didn’t, of course—hello, sleep training!—but I knew that I COULD, and that made a huge difference. After 30 days, I think I finally went from handling motherhood like a Swarovski crystal spider-web, and began to actually embrace that this really was my life now…he was ours, and he was everything I prayed for. The reality of the answer to years of prayers was staring me in the face, and he wasn’t going away. He was real…my precious boy…and I could truly, sincerely be happy.

After that first 30 days, through the spring and summer, I began to struggle with the “we nevers.” Jericho would have a milestone moment, and I’d think, “We never got to see Hannah do that.” I tried to turn it off, tried to celebrate what was happening, but the thoughts would creep back…”He giggled…I never got to hear her laugh.” “David, he flipped over…we never got to see Hannah do that.”

At one point, I dreamt that Jericho was lying on my bed, and a little red-haired girl was sitting there with him. Even now, as I type this, I can feel the tears at the back of my eyelids…that image was so, so powerful, as was the sentiment with it: “I will never, in this life, have a picture of my children together. What has happened to us? We will never be a normal family.” I woke up from that dream absolutely hysterical…I was deeply, deeply grieved. I can remember that intensity as if I’d dreamt it last night. Family pictures with one boy, one girl? They are still hard for me to see, even amongst friends…You just never have that sense of completion. You learn to accept it, to view it as your “normal,” but as a parent? You will always recognize that missing person in your family picture.

Anyway, the first year with Jericho was tough, as it is for all parents: You’re learning how to be a mom, learning how to juggle a full work-week, and finding trustworthy childcare. I had further complications that first year; my heart still wasn’t functioning correctly, my gall bladder required 2 different surgeries to remove, and my recovery post-C-section caused scar tissue to develop that would later result in a full hysterectomy just one year after having my son.

However, one of the greatest joys of that year was how often David & I would look at each other, or look at Jericho, and just know how great was the love of Jesus? How amazing was it that this tiny little person came about because of healing, grace, and love? We could look at this child and see tangible evidence that when you have a dream in your heart, and you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God is NOT finished with you, despite what modern healthcare says– He can make miracles happen!  We could look at this child and know that you cannot accept the things men say, when you hear in your spirit the things God says!!  My son is nothing short of a breathing miracle, and frankly, I am, too. He has that legacy—that legacy of prayer, of hope, of determination. There is nothing in this world I am more grateful for, except my husband and my salvation.

Yep—I’m officially crying now. Jesus, I am so thankful! You can’t know how my heart blows up at just writing these words…I am grateful, with every cell of my body.

Even as I write this, though, I come back to how this blog started, with that quote from 2013: “Hello, Autumn—you remind me again of what is lost, even in the midst of great, wonderful, amazing gain…”

The spring and summer of 2013 were full of new-mom fog, surgery, work, etc. We were just trying to get our feet back under us to charge ahead on our new life together as a Party of 3. But then….

Then came Autumn.

And then came The Hardest Part.

When I went into Missouri Baptist Hospital in October, 2006, the fall leaves were still on the trees. My room overlooked the highway, so I really didn’t get a good handle on watching the season change to winter; when I left my hospital room in November, 2006, winter had come, and the world was bare.  I missed the entire season in a 4-week span, and we brought our little girl home the week before Thanksgiving. By the day after Thanksgiving, she was in a coma, and then she was gone…we buried her on December 1st, the day after one of the worst ice storms Missouri has ever seen. The sun shone, and the world was crystallized for my winter princess.  I’ve never forgotten the beauty of the day my child was buried…it was like the Lord decided to cover the trees in diamonds in her honor. It was stunning, even in the darkness of our grief.

But that year, 2006, I missed the fall. So when the leaves turned in 2007, something hit my heart, and I could only think of that Fall I Had Missed…and every year, I am reminded as such.

In 2013, the reminders came as I was looking into the eyes of my son…my miracle boy…and I was so totally conflicted in ways I hadn’t realized were possible. I had so much, but had lost so much, and the season reminded me of all of it, combined with gutting guilt. HOW dare I mourn, when I had so much to be thankful for?

How could I not, when that world was staring me in the face every day I walked out of my door?

I found myself not necessarily regressing in my grieving process, but really struggling with the dichotomy of grief and gratitude. And I’m writing this not to say that I have ever found an answer to that conflict, but to say that every year, I’m reminded of Hannah’s precious life in so many stronger ways than in my usual daily thoughts.

There is no season like Autumn, in all of its symbolism and glory…it’s a season of death, but a season where colors come alive….where we breath in the dust of the trees as they make their fiery curtain call for the year. It’s a season of living at bonfires and parks, a season where photographers revel in making memories, and where families gather to celebrate all things together…

We know death is coming…that winter is coming…but there is no day like today, and today, we celebrate the abundance of the harvest.  Are we near-sighted, to not hunker down and prepare for the winter? Or do we understand the breath/breadth of life, and own the day with its undeniable charm?

We cram our calendars with activities to take in every moment. That first year? We did it all. And we did the second year, and the third, and I’m getting ready to do it all again in the fourth year with our Rico-Bean. We celebrate the Fall, and we run ourselves ragged with the memories we make…and we make no apologies. I celebrate the Fall season with my little guy, and I never let on that I am internally fighting the conflict of that grief and that gratitude.

And I realize through it all, that there is no “conflict.”

There is only cohabitation.

I miss my little girl. Fall reminds me of her birth, of her death, and of the 29 days we had between…of the crunching of the leaves as I walked into the hospital, and the Christmas decorations as we came out…of that first day home from the hospital with her in our arms…and of the last day, where home was a place I never wanted to go back to…I wish I could separate her birth and her death, but her death came so quickly that I simply cannot. It all happened in the same season…this season…and every day is a reminder…

But every day is also a gift.

Every day, I look at Jericho and marvel at who he is, who he was born as, and what possibilities are to come…Every day, I am so grateful, and so genuinely happy. Every day, I praise God that I get to be that boy’s mother…Every. Single. Day.

This fall, we have adventures planned…it’s his first year in Pre-K, so there are school events (field trips!), fall festivals, our annual events with Parents-As-Teachers, and my favorite, Halloween!!!!!!!! This year, he’s going as Harry Potter for at least one event (he wears glasses, so it’s perfect!).  We celebrate this season; don’t be surprised to see me in my Uggs with my leggings and some S’mores, cradling a Pumpkin Spice Latte in my monogrammed fleece jacket,  as a shining example of Suburban White Chick Bliss (that’s an entire other blog).

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I love this season. I love that it has multiple meanings, deep significance, and a beautiful, melancholy soul. I love the constant reminders of grace, which hovers over the grief and the gratitude. Grace envelopes both feelings, and makes them walk side-by-side instead of in mental conflict.

Grace is how we had our Hannah…how we said goodbye…and ultimately, how we will say “hello,” again…

Grace is how we had our Jericho…how we said “hello” for the very first time…and how we embrace each new day and sleep peacefully each night.

Grace is what brought David & I together in this crazy world—two kids with no idea of what was to come, and no idea how to engage on this life or on this journey—

Grace is what keeps us together, and is what pulls us through the tough times. It pushes us constantly toward the Father Who bestows it in abundance, and works in us independently to keep us engaged…to keep us from throwing up our hands and breaking our hearts in this process.

Grace is what binds our hearts, and binds our hearts to each other.

And Grace is what leads us home…

There is a beautiful loss in the season of Autumn, but it is part of the journey to a beautiful rebirth…and we are constantly on that journey, surrounded by grace, with eternity in our hearts….<3

Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

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Solidarity in the Midst of Confusion

Most of y’all know that I typically present as a regular ol’ Conservative, suburban mom…I (albeit, begrudgingly) have voted a straight Republican ticket since I was 18, and consider the issues of being Pro-Life as the pinnacle decision maker in any political choice. I know a lot of people are posting in anger about the protests. People have had trips ruined, concerts cancelled, businesses damaged, and the fear that is running through the veins of this city is suddenly palpable to everyone (not just the folks who live here).

When Ferguson happened, I started out just like everyone I knew: The protestors are horrible people! They’re ridiculous! They should all be jailed!!! However, our church began working with other churches in a prayer tent in Ferguson, and the longer they were there, the more stories and truths began to come out.

The more time I have had to reflect on Ferguson, and on working in the city during the process…the more cases that have come out that raise the questions about police accountability…the more my heart has changed. I don’t stand where I stood when Mr. Brown died. Do I agree with every case that has been brought to the press with the accusations of police brutality or racism? No. No, I don’t.

However…

The outcry is so great…the volume is so loud. How can we ignore the cry from the hearts of the African American community? We can say, “Well, just do what the nice police officer says, and no one will get hurt.”

Sure—makes sense…

Unless…

Unless you’ve done nothing wrong. You instinctively want to plead your case.

Unless you’ve done something wrong. You instinctively do not want to get caught; is dying, worth it? Why is death the first option?

Unless you’re scared that your name may be the one on the protest banners as another person who fell under the banner of, “my life felt threatened.” How flexible is that reason? And where is the outside accountability? Who holds the police department accountable? Internal Affairs? Who monitors IA?

Never let it be thought that I do not support the police department and law enforcement—I 100% support the police. I believe you can support a cause but ask for reform. I support the Republican party, but look at that hot mess! I most DEFINITELY support reform for that cause! So, yeah—I support the police. I’ve been pulled over before, by a cop who was having a bad day, one time—it was 1 out of the 5-6 times I have been pulled over—but that little encounter was enough to make me not like the police in a particular part of town, and I know good and well that if another one of “those” copes pulls me over? I’m probably going to have a ‘tude. And that’s after just ONE encounter.

When he’s older, I can let my son walk down the sidewalk in my neighborhood—even in my redneck neighborhood—without fear of getting derailed by police.

There’s no derelict building in my subdivision that houses drug dealers and addicts. There’s no abandoned building that we’ve BEGGED the city to take down, where a man abducted a little girl from a bus stop, and raped her.

When my son gets his license, I most likely won’t have to worry about him getting pulled over and never coming home again.

When my son gets his CCW, he most likely won’t have to be afraid to tell a police officer that it’s in the car.

My son’s school doesn’t have a breakfast and a lunch program through the summer, because I can’t provide food for him year-round.

I have a good job, I received a decent education, and I had teachers in my community that helped me succeed. No one side-eyed me because I was “different,” or wrote me off when I struggled, because I didn’t look quite like them.

I don’t get funny looks when I walk into a high-dollar store in the mall (as long as I haven’t rolled up in my sweats and a ball cap, LOL—they do look at me, then). No one usually looks at me like I don’t belong there, or follows me around the store. Frankly, if they did, I’d confront them, and the situation would be sorted out, and I would leave the store in my own vehicle, on my own terms.  Security most likely wouldn’t be called, police wouldn’t be called, and the drama would be over…for me.

During Ferguson, I learned about this concept called “white privilege.” What a crock, right? I mean, I worked hard for what I have. My mom worked her ass off, as have I—I grew up with a single mom, then a stepdad, and they worked hard every single day. We didn’t have a single thing handed to us…however…

I received scholarships based on academic performance, talent, and interviews. I’ve received job offers based on face-to-face interviews.  Things weren’t made particularly easy for me, but I’m learning that the simple fact that the opportunities were made available, is a form of privilege. I’ve never felt racially oppressed or profiled—that’s a form of privilege. Have I felt discriminated against? As a woman, yes. As a white woman in particular, no. My race has never once played into any feeling of oppression, hostility, etc. Not. Once.

I don’t know how that feels.

So how can I say that I can’t understand or empathize with those that do? How can I discount their cries for justice, when I have never felt their INJUSTICE? How can I brush them off, because I don’t see, or don’t know what they’re talking about?

WE CAN’T.

Jesus tells us to love. He tells us to listen with “gentleness and respect” (I Pet. 3:15). He tells us to have compassion, and to let our hearts break with what breaks His heart. I promise you, His heart breaks over racism.

He grieves for St. Louis, right now.

He grieves for the police who are being treated terribly right now…for those brave men and women who are dealing with the worst kinds of disrespect. He grieves for their families. He grieves for the African American community and their anger, for the injustices they have suffered throughout history, and for the children who are seeing this behavior as part of the “new normal.” He GRIEVES for the civil destruction and for the hearts that are being hardened by the fear that cloaks this city.

Our inconvenience—our ruined trips, cancelled concerts, blocked streets—are NOTHING compared to the hurting hearts of every person that is out there right now.

As a white chick, what in the world can I do? My own family disagrees with my positions on this issue, and that’s okay—they deal with things in their own ways, and God will work within them, if they listen.

I can listen.

I can tell my African-American friends that I do not discount their pain because of the things that inconvenience me.

I can stand for peace and discourse, over destruction and violence.

I can stand for compassion.

I can love.

And that’s where I am.

Do I understand where they’re coming from? Nope. I’m white. That’s an automatic, “no, you just don’t understand,” regardless of the environment or place you grew up. You’re white. Stop playing.

I don’t have to understand in order to have compassion.

I don’t have to understand, to show love.

I don’t have to understand, to be like Jesus.

 

“Holiness in the Shadowlands,” AKA, “Listening to Praise Music while Wanting to Throat-Chop People in Traffic”

Sometimes, when I talk about my faith, I feel like a giant hypocrite. Man-oh-man, do I make mistakes…I mean it when I say, “I love Jesus but I swear a little (somedays, more than others).” My filters are occasionally nonexistent, but I promise you, I am working on it.

I’m grateful for grace.

This morning, as I was on my walk around the local university, a kid (Millennials, LOL) with a man-bun, who was wearing those ridiculous Adidas slides with socks (they’re only ridiculous when worn WITH SOCKS), was texting and walking, and somehow walked OUT of their shoe, and tripped…because they were texting and walking. Did I respond with compassion?

Nope.

I laughed, and posted about it on Facebook, with the hashtag, #WhyDoesJesusLoveMe

I’m grateful for grace.

Last night, I was driving home with my windows open and my stereo BLARING a Brian & Katie Torwalt CD (BTW, what’s with mixing worship CDs with a crap-ton of bass? Are people gettin’ down in the club to worship songs?!?! I mean, Lord knows I love my bass, but it seems weird to have it bumped up in a quiet worship interlude? Is this for Da Youts? Am I just getting OLD?!?!?!?!?!?!?). I was singing along (loudly–sorry, other drives. Okay, I’m NOT sorry), and driving through what’s known as The Depressed Section of the city. It’s where the highway goes under the streets and pedestrian overpasses of downtown; it’s very congested, and dirty, and LOUD, and stands in direct contrast to the song about holiness that I was singing along with….

The juxtaposition of Holiness and “The Depressed Section” was not lost on me, and as the music (and the drive) went on, I could feel a fire erupt in my chest…

You see, this city–Saint Louis–stands on the brink. We stand on the brink of decisions that could potentially change the course of this city. We stand on the brink of once again, being the center of attention of this nation…this nation that is already so divided, and so on edge.

Everything is uneasy…

Everything is disjointed…

But the music in my car plays on…and I drive by the dirt and the graffiti, by the trash and by that glorious Gateway to the West…I breathe the fumes from the exhausts, but I refuse to roll up my windows, because I feel like the words to the song are a healing balm to this city….because I feel like maybe if I play it louder, someone–anyone–will hear it, and remember Who Reigns…

Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence Lord”

He is welcome in this city…there is still a remnant left, and we cry out daily for the hearts of St. Louis…

The song plays on, and my mind is taking in the scene around me as the traffic comes to a standstill…

My heart cries, “Holy.”

The dichotomy of Holiness and helplessness…the struggles in this city, the poverty, the glut of resources and the lack of communication in getting them out…the children that cannot fend for themselves, and the adults who are too selfish to help them stand on their feet…my brain and my heart are arguing, but the music answers the questions:

“Let us become more aware of Your Presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness”

That is my prayer, for myself, for my church, and for this city…that we Understand a Glimpse of the Grace of God….just a glimpse….

The traffic is thick, but the song says to “sing Holy,” so I do…because I HAVE to, because it is what I was made to do…I get cut off in construction, and I wonder, “Lord, where do these two worlds meet?!?”

And He says:

“I

Am

Greater.”

God is greater. He is greater than every mess in this city. He is greater than the violence and the fear; He is greater than the racism and He knows better than anyone that it is real. He is greater than the traffic that is sucking my soul; He is greater than the accident that just happened. He is greater than the storms and the hurricanes and the earthquakes. He Is Greater.

God is greater, and His holiness exists, regardless of where we are or where we live. His holiness reigns supreme in this microcosm of a city, and it reigns in every corner of every house in this nation. Our mind CANNOT HANDLE IT, so we try to drown Him out.

We fail.

He simply cannot be dimmed, and when we pause for worship, we are reminded that His holiness is the greatest Light. Everything else is in shadows.

My mind is ready to throw a stick at the next car that cuts me off, but my soul still cries in harmony with the music playing in my car…I cry “Holy,” with the heart of a grieving mother…with the heart of a stubborn wife…with the heart of a Daughter of the King, with the heart of someone who is struggling to reconcile what He sees in me, with what I see in myself. He is greater than all of my insecurities, my judgmental behaviors, my filter issues. He is greater.

I don’t understand Him, but I will not stop worshiping His Name, even in traffic…

Even when I laugh at falling Millennials.

I am so, SO grateful for grace….