#MeToo verses #IAm…AKA, “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark…”

Luke 12:2-3 “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.”

Everything in darkness will be brought into the Light…isn’t that an Obvious Truth that we should all be familiar with by now? We get away with NOTHING in the end…or sometimes, in the middle.

When I was a kid, I swore that God had some kind of hotline to my mother. She KNEW, not from the look on my face, but by the tone of my voice, if I’d lied about something. It was the craziest thing, and now, as a parent, I get it. We know our kids better than they realize. Yesterday, I picked my 4-year old up from school, and he said in a little, panicky voice, “Have you talked to Miss Leslie?!?” I hadn’t, but I didn’t need to, did I? I knew from the look on his face and the tone of his voice that he’d behaved badly (it couldn’t have been too bad, because she would have messaged me). He told me exactly what he’d done, because he knew I’d figure it out, eventually.

Society needs to get that point: It ALL gets figured out, eventually.

Headlines were made recently when our governor was outed as having had an extramarital affair back in 2015. He had already dealt with it internally with his family, but now the media had a hold of it, so it’s being excavated all over again. Apparently, the husband of the woman he had the affair with, was getting pestered by the media to dish the dirt, so he came out with the story, and now the governor has to address it…as does his wife. Even when we’ve been forgiven, sometimes the consequences come back years later to haunt us….

But should they?

The internet is full of headlines about men behaving badly (and some women). The #MeToo movement has grown wings, and women everywhere are coming forward with their stories of sexual harassment. Many of these are just that—stories—and cannot be corroborated as anything more than he-said-she-said. In fact, once an accusation is made, a career is seemingly over. This strikes me as overkill, but before you eviscerate me, let me explain:

Find me a woman on this planet that has never, EVER, had a man make an inappropriate comment toward her.

I don’t know of a single one, based on how far-reaching I’ve seen some of these stories.

Being forced into a physical encounter is one thing. Having a guy catcall you as you walk down the street is another. Both things are being labeled as “sexual assault,” and without any further explanations, accusing someone of such can be easily misconstrued.

As a young woman (in Bible college, of all things), I was nicknamed “Hoots” by a member of the basketball team, who felt the need to comment at any given opportunity about the size of my breasts. This was demeaning, rude, and embarrassing. Should I name him? Should I name every other guy who felt the need to comment about my body? Should I talk about the shame I felt? Should I talk about the confusion I had, wondering why in the world this was “acceptable” behavior? I guess I could. I guess I could track him down, I could track down the others, and file suit. I could write articles naming them, and bring them embarrassment and shame like they brought me. Would it be justified? Maybe?

It’s been 20 years since I was in college. Those guys have families. I have a family. I’m sure those guys are all different men, and if they’re not, well, that’s on them. God can take care of them. I’m not going to be their judge and jury, and forgiveness has long been issued. However, I can take that experience, and use it to educate my son (when he’s of age) that you don’t treat a woman that way. It’s a learning experience that is not lost on me as a mother of a boy.

Over the course of the past 2 years, I’ve gone to several people affiliated with my alma mater and discussed their culture of sexual harassment. My alma mater has repeatedly hid their head in the sand about several stories of harassment and assault. Rather than acknowledge the past, they’ve simply remarked that they will try and improve in the future. This is not the best solution, and I don’t accept that it’s “better than nothing.” However, I do believe that per the verse I quoted in the beginning of this blog, truth will out, and our stories will be told. Patience, as they say, is a virtue.

My point in sharing my stories with my alma mater has not been to punish the men in the past who made poor choices. The goal in sharing #MeToo with my college is to teach women that they do NOT have to wait 20 years to speak up against sexual harassment. They can speak NOW, and they do not need permission to do so. Leadership cannot harbor the people who do these things, be they male or female, and ignoring a culture of harassment encourages MORE harassment. I don’t feel that names need to be named, in the stories of 20 years ago. However, if that story from 20 years ago helps the girl who was groped by a student in the back of the classroom YESTERDAY to go to leadership and have the offender punished, then YES, tell your #MeToo and shout it from the rooftops. Stop making people feel ashamed for what others have done to them. It’s time to make the current harassers feel ashamed. It’s time to make the people who cover it up, feel ashamed. It’s time to STOP CREATING A CULTURE THAT SHAMES VICTIMS. It’s time to encourage people to speak up when they have been victimized, instead of 10, 15, 20, years later.

That being said, I do not believe sexual harassment is a reason to end someone’s career. I don’t feel that telling the story needs to be in such a way that a crime from 20 years ago ends a life that’s been built today, unless there is corroborated proof. Anyone can say someone did something from 20 years ago that affected your life. Naming names without proof, however, is a dangerous thing, and I think it’s something that is going to have some serious backlash. I can say that Joe Snow attacked me in a parking lot 20 years ago; I can publicly out him, but there is absolutely no shred of proof. It brands him; it makes him guilty until proven innocent, and I think as a society we need to be extremely careful in doing that with any kind of criminal. Joe Snow (not a real person, of course) might be a jerk. He might be a reformed family man. He might be any kind of a person, but he doesn’t deserve to be punished for a crime he may or may not have committed based on unsubstantiated words. Michael Douglas came forward recently, stating that he had been contacted by a reporter that wanted his comments regarding an accusation of sexual misconduct (that can be SO broad-sweeping, right?!?). He decided that rather than comment, he would come out and directly make a statement prior to the running of the original story. He stated the accusation, denied the accusation, and made some really great points in explaining his side of the story. Do you think anyone will hear HIM? Or will they see, “Michael Douglas” + “Sexual Harassment,” and make their choice that he’s a miscreant? It’s thin ice for the accused, and we have to be careful.

Again, I believe in sharing the stories of 2, 10, 15, 20 years ago. I do not necessarily believe in sharing the names, unless you have absolute proof of something that has been done. It’s far too easy to create this movement that’s full of unsubstantiated claims, and then cut off your own feet because of hyperbole. It’s what the #MeToo movement is in danger of. It’s a trending topic that should be much more than a trend, but without substantiation, that’s as far as it will go. It’s time to make real change, which can only come from facts.

People need to live in a culture of understanding that things done in secret will be brought to light. The harassment of 20 years ago will come to light. The affair of 2 years ago will be brought to light, whether you’re an ordinary person, or a governor, or a President. We live in an age of technology where everything is archived. Everything is accessible, we have a footprint, and it’s aaaaaaalllllll out there. Nothing is secret, and in today’s world, that’s truer than ever. We have to be accountable for our actions, and because God is Who He is, we have to be accountable to Him above all. Even without the cyberworld, God is God.

Jeremiah 23:24  “Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the LORD “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the LORD.

He sees us. We have to live an exemplary life, so that when the past tries to haunt us, there’s nothing there to trip us up. If there is, there’s forgiveness…but that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t consequences. Our dear Governor is seeing this truth today—he’s forgiven by his wife and by God, but the State of Missouri may not be so kind, and his reputation is tarnished.

He’s just like the rest of us. I don’t want my high school hijinks coming back to haunt me. I don’t want the inappropriate things I’ve said, to come back to haunt me. Could someone accuse me of inappropriate behavior? I don’t think so, but I guess in today’s world, anything is possible? We’re to live our lives in such a way that when such accusations come against us, they’re immediately disregarded, because of the standards by which we live. That’s a difficult thing to do, but in today’s world, it’s more necessary than ever. Daniel, in the Old Testament, lived a pretty great life as far as standards go: “Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.” Daniel 6:4

“No error or fault was found in him?!?!?!?!” No one could say he had any skeletons rattling around in his closet! That’s pretty amazing. That’s The Gold Standard. And that’s also where grace and mercy come in, for those of us that fall short.

There’s room for grace and mercy in the #MeToo movement. There’s room for awareness, for positive change, and for education. There’s room for FACTS in the #MeToo movement, and I encourage those that support the movement to reiterate the importance of such. My biggest hope for the movement is acknowledgement, education, and improvement….that boys and girls would be educated that they are valuable and worthy of respect…that we would learn the beauty of boundaries, and the sacredness of these bodies we live in. There’s more to the #MeToo movement than the media portrays, and it all starts with viewing ourselves as unique, amazing creations of a God Who values and loves us. Once you understand your worth, you understand that you are worthy of protection, and that those around you are worthy of honor…I want to see this restored in our young people. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit…we were created by a God Who loves us with all of His heart, who gave His only Son for us. We are individual reflections of Who He is.

I don’t want to be a #MeToo.  I want to be an #IAm:

I Am loved by God.

I Am His unique creation.

I Am His child.

I Am who He made me to be.

And to that, I would like to hear an entire generation of young men and young women echo back, #MeToo.  

 

The Toddler on my Lap, or Thermodynamics in Motion

I just kicked my son off of my lap.  He needs to take a nap, his Dad is snoring on the couch and needs to take the child upstairs, (as well as to take himself and his snoring upstairs), and I need to write.

There’s currently a general rebellion taking place, according to the wailing now coming from the small bedroom upstairs.

Now, if the chld could sit still on my lap and keep his grubby paws off of my keyboard, all would be well, but nope–pushing buttons of any kind is Just. Too. Tempting. So, off he goes, wagging his tongue at me for good measure (which got him into additional trouble). He’s something else.

I am not going to lie: Sometimes, all he has to do is smile at me with his ridiculously cute face, and I’m just undone. Sometimes, when he sits on my lap and I smell that Little Boy Smell (it’s a mixture of the fledgling remains of Baby Boy smell, dirt, and farts), I am undone. Sometimes, I hear his adorable voice say, “You’re the bestest Mama EVER!” and I am undone.

And sometimes, I internally buckle myself down, and say, “YES, CASSIDY, HE’S CUTE. However, you’re not raising an entitled hooligan, so keep him in line!!!!”  Things in life will naturally go from order to disorder….especially if toddlers are left responsible for control….

Parenting is a difficult balance. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction…we have to figure out what actions to take, to raise up a Godly, kind, compassionate, strong human in this world…and how to be Godly, kind, compassionate, and strong humans, ourselves.

He’s so darn cute. We sat down this morning and built a marble maze (I’m gonig to spell this incorrectly, but I believe it’s called a “Rube-Goldberg machine?”). He watched, David started it, and I did the bulk of it (because unlike SOME people, I WEAR MY GLASSES, and can read the fine print). I was quite proud of myself when I finished it, considering my hatred of puzzles. The machine pulls marbles up to the top, and circulates them throughout the machine using a variety of levers and gears. It’s pretty darn cool. We used to call this “science,” but now it’s called “S.T.E.M.” Whatever it’s called, I like it.

I like it because it gave me the opportunity to have a discussion regarding consequences with my son.  Thermodynamics aside, it was good to have a tangible method of teaching him about actions, reactions, and consequences. Hopefully, this machine will stay together long enough for us to reiterate the lesson a few more times.

If I could label each marble and each gear, I wonder how it would lay out? Spending = debt = indentured servitude. Sharing = joy= eternal impact. Kindness = more kindness in return. Fear = anger = resentment= hatred = violence = war.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

What actions have impacted your year thus far? Can you look at the beginning of 2017, and see the gears in motion and how they’ve affected you where you are now?

What will you label your gears in 2018, and how will you put them into motion?

And what actions/reactions do you hope to see, for this coming year?

“Forty?!? Oh, Lordy!”

Well, it’s here.

Like the proverbial “Monster At The End of This Book,” my 40th birthday has crept up on me, regardless of my attempts to pretend it isn’t happening by ignoring that it IS happening..

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Alas, the pages are turning…

I’m not really much of a person who “fears” aging. Truth be told, I’m pretty darn excited to have made it this far. I mean, when you think about it (oooh, the condensed version sounds SO exciting!), I’ve survived cancer (“the good kind,” LOL), two rounds of congestive heart failure, devastating loss, blah, blah, blah, and I really have no frickin’ idea how I’m still alive. In my youth, I was in Lord-knows how many car accidents (including a head-on collision)…and, to top it all off, I survived growing up in the 80’s, where things like seat belts were NEGOTIABLE. I am not someone who has survived by any kind of “admirable” grit and fortitude; I am someone who has survived by the sheer grace of God, an inherent sense of humor, and a strong (STRONG) family and spousal support system.

My mental battles have been far greater than my physical ones, and if anything was ever going to take me out, it has always, always been that. My brain, were it not for my spirit, would have killed me a hundred times over. When God said He would send us a Comforter, when He promised us His Holy Spirit, He did it knowing that we as a human race are intrinsically nihilistic, bound for self-destruction, and completely anchorless without His Presence in our hearts. I have Jesus in my heart. I have His Holy Spirit, and I have that peace that comes from knowing that He hears me. I’m not just shouting random things into an empty universe. My heart is heard, my soul is comforted, and I live another day.

That sentence could sum up my 40 years on this planet.

The need to be heard by humanity is massive. We all just want to be heard. It’s why I, and millions of others like me, write or blog, or jump on social media. We want to be heard, and we want to be validated. We want you and the world to recognize that we’re here. We have a voice.

It’s when people stop feeling heard…when they cry out, but no one responds…that the light flickers out of their soul…

There are days when I force myself to remember that I am always, always heard. I am always validated by the grace of God. It’s a theme that’s repeated in what I write, because it means so much to me. This world makes me feel overlooked…I question my worth. Do I matter? Am I making any kind of a difference? Is there any eternal impact in the work that I do, whether it’s on the job or in my home?

I feel as though my footprint on this earth is very, very small…

I don’t say that to pander for compliments. I say that because I think a lot of people feel that way, and I’m not alone in questioning my impact. I’m not abnormal in wondering what ripple I will leave on the ocean of the universe. We all want to leave a legacy, and we all have a story to tell….We all have a story that SHOULD be told.

I’m fascinated by biographies in short form. I’m fascinated by stories told by the elderly, by stories of days gone by…I’m fascinated by history, and the threads woven in the tapestries we look back on in their completed form, even as we weave new ones of our own. I’m fascinated by the colorful people I’ve met that NEED to write a book, but feel as though they’re not interesting enough to do so. EVERYONE is interesting!! I’ve never met a person that didn’t pique my interest in some way.

I think part of why I write is because life is INTERESTING. It’s fascinating!!!  People don’t always see it, but when you combine perspective, vocabulary, and the freedom to wrote, you can paint a picture that makes what seems dull, shine brightly.  You can make what seems dark point directly to the sunshine. The challenge in writing about those times is not to focus on the drama of the story; the challenge is to focus on the triumph as you come out of that drama. You make yourself write more about the positive than the negative, and in doing so, you bring the glory of God into that “dark night of the soul.”

And then, you have the victory.

So, I’m turning 40. It’s inevitable. I can’t stop it, and I’m not sure why I even want to. I mean, what good is it, to whine about something as non-discriminatory as AGE? Everyone ages!

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(Yes, I just put that book there. It’s a classic!)

I’ve been a brat about this whole “birthday” thing. Like, REALLY. Image result for birthday divaI wanted a party (is that selfish?!? I threw myself one for my 30th, LOL. but that’s an ENTIRELY different story), but my family isn’t big on parties, and my husband isn’t big on birthdays in general. Money is tight, and we live in the “real world,” where lavish events are just not in the vernacular. And in my head (and okay, I blabbed incessantly to my poor husband, because he married me and he knows how much of a Brat I can be), I was super-pouty and dejected about it (I’m admitting this not for you to say, “aww, poor Cassidy!” but for you to realize that I. AM. A. JERK.), to the point that I was like, CRYING during praying about it one day. I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME. For some reason, I decided to internalize all of this as some kind of proof of a terrible rejection of me as a human being.

Because I was turning 40.

Because there wouldn’t be a party.

Because my friend at work just unfriended me and made a catty remark about it as she was sending me an e-mail about how horrible of a person I was.

Because my life is hectic and I spend too much time in my darn car.

Therefore, the universe hates me.

I am a terrible human being who does not deserve to breathe.

So, I cried.

A lot.

THESE ARE THE THINGS THAT GO THROUGH MY CRAZY BRAIN.

And this is why I am grateful to the Lord that He gave us His Holy Spirit, to knock some darn sense into me and to REMIND ME that He loves me, even when I’m being an idiot.

It was during the course of a commute where I was bawling like an idiot, praying, and driving, that I heard Jesus speak my heart:

‘Okay, girlie. Here’s a Kleenex. You’ve destroyed your makeup for work today, and it’s a good thing you keep a spare makeup bag in your cabinet. Now, if you’re done bawling like a lunkhead, here’s the facts about you, about 40, and about Me:

‘I love you. I like you. You’re an idiot sometimes, and this is one of those times. That’s not a rejection; it’s a fact. You know you’re being an idiot. Your husband has been nice enough to not tell you you’re being an idiot, but that’s because I made him smarter than you give him credit for. 40, like any decade, is the start of a new chapter, and look at how much changed in your last chapter! Enjoy this. Embrace this. You’re afraid that 40 means you have to change who you are? 40 just means you become MORE of who I made you to be. You get better at being you, because you learn better about Who I Am. You put away childish things, but that doesn’t mean you give away childish hopes. You stay you. There’s nothing to fear.

‘Turn the page, Love. I’m at the beginning of the book, and I’m at the end. There’s no “Monster at the End of This Book.” There’s only Me. I’m all there needs to be, and I’m on every page. Welcome to the next chapter.’

In that instant, where He spoke into my heart, I realized that it wasn’t 40 I was afraid of. It was rejection.

I struggle with rejection. It’s been a battle my entire life; I permanently feel like the kid that’s on the outside-looking-in, always shoved to the side, and wishing I could be one of the cool people of the world. Minor events in my mind meld together to become massive issues, and that’s exactly what was making my approaching birthday so darn depressing; I was looking at everything through rejection-smudged glasses, and my world was bleak. Jesus shone some light on the situation, and when I was faced with the truth of my feelings, I was shook.

In my minds’ eye, I saw the rejection I had been dealing with unfold like 2 pages of a book…I saw a sword come down, and slice the two pages apart. They were caught by the wind, and blew away…

This doesn’t mean that whoosh! Jesus swept in, and now everything is hunky-dory!

This means that I’ve gained some perspective on what has been dragging me down, and now I understand. It means I can shake off the funk of the mid-life crisis that’s been plaguing me, and of all of the thoughts of things I want to do but can’t afford (and don’t have time for). It means I can stop worrying about the footprint I leave on this world, and focus instead on the footprints He leaves as He carries me through.

It means that change is inevitable, but so is the solidity of His Word.

It means that I can still be “meh” about turning 40. I mean, c’mon, it’s 40.  It also means that although my knees quake when I research and find that biblically, 40 is a number defined as a period of testing (http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/40.html), that I know I can reach out to find His hand is always there, ready to lead, catch, guide, and hold.

It means that it’s going to be okay.

It means that I, regardless of volume, intention, content, or melody, am heard by the One Who Never Rejects His Children.

And I am always His child…

Even when I’m 40.

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