“Nothing Breaks Like A Heart…AKA, “[Don’t] Take Another Little Piece of My Heart Now Baby”

Waaaaaay back when I was born, my mother was told that I had a slight heart murmur that I would most likely grow out of. I did.

In college, too much stress + bad food choices + lack of sleep + tooooooo much caffeine = Cardiac Arrhythmia, which eventually resolved. Everything was juuuuuust fine….

Until it wasn’t.

In 2006, I became pregnant with my first child. As a first-time mom, my complaints of, “Hey, I really can’t breathe too well,” and “Um, Doc? I can’t get enough breath support to sing,” were written off as new-mom, “well, what do you expect? You have a human pressing on your diaphragm,” rhetoric and explained away (I’m just a woman, Mr. Doctor. What do I know?).

2 months before I was due, I started seeing double, having migraines, and throwing up. Basic science diagnosed me with severe preeclampsia, and do you know what the “cure” for preeclampsia is? Delivery. So, my daughter was delivered 6 weeks early, and I was “gonna be just fine, ma’am,” said Mr. Third-Generation-I-Know-Everything OB-GYN….

Until it wasn’t.

2 days after I delivered, I couldn’t breathe…coughing and choking on top of a C-section incision is no fun. My sister ran for help, my mother prayed in tongues at the top of her lungs, and the nurses (who were in the middle of changing shifts, as of course, I have fantastic timing) & doctors realized I was in severe congestive heart failure. Over 20 pounds of fluid were drained out of my heart and lungs in the next 24 hours, and I went in for the fight of-and-for my life….while also trying to be a new mom to a premature infant.

Peripartum cardiomyopathy with congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension became the noose of a diagnosis that hung around my neck for the next 6 years as I went from specialist-to-specialist, trying to find a cardiologist that would both “fix” me, and would work with me as I wanted to try to have another child.

Once the heart has been blown up in CHF (my left ventricle was three times the size of the rest of my heart. I like to call it, “Grinch Syndrome.”), it tends to sort of hang around like a balloon that’s been overstretched. It’s kinda gross, if you think about it. My heart was literally broken in every possible way….by my body, by grief, by everything.

Image result for grinch's small heart grew

So, I had a few years of echocardiograms, medications, etc., until I found a doctor at Missouri Baptist that ordered more tests and found that my heart issues, outside of blood pressure, had miraculously resolved. I didn’t have any of the long-term problems they expected me to have, and we went on to have Jericho with the help of infectious disease specialists, cardiologists, perinatologists, and a whoooooole lotta grace from God….but it wasn’t without consequences.

As expected, even with a strict regiment of really miserable medications, I went into heart failure towards the end of my pregnancy with Jericho, and was rewarded with a lengthy hospital stay. After delivery, and after promising to never try to have any other children, I have a continued medication regiment that I’ve stayed on, and will be on for the rest of my life. I have my son; I have ZERO regrets.

The meds work great! Most of them are the same ones I’ve been on since 2006, with very few side effects, and with positive results. My CHF numbers stay low (the key number is the ejection fraction for the left ventricle. I’ve been under 10% before. My current numbers are around 40-50%, which is almost normal). My weight has been a challenge (particularly in the post-thyroid world), but has stayed in the same general area since my first pregnancy (give or take 40#. I gain, I lose, I gain, etc.), and my blood pressure stays under control with medication…it’s all working, which is crucial.

SO, why am I telling this story? Why does it matter? It matters, because YOU matter. 1 in 3 women in America are dealing with some sort of heart disease–that’s more than all other cancers, combined: https://www.goredforwomen.org/en/about-heart-disease-in-women

Per the Go Red for Women campaign, “80 percent of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action.” That’s what we can do. That’s what I can do–I can share my story, and maybe help others to become aware of the resources, the signs and symptoms, and the protocols that can help them understand heart disease more clearly. Knowing is the first step of prevention, right?

Today, my heart is functioning pretty darn well. In fact, I really don’t think about it very often, which is awesome when you consider that at one point, it was ALL I thought about…I couldn’t go up the stairs in my own home without feeling like I was going to pass out! I don’t have any limitations from cardiac issues, and I don’t worry about it…but I AM very conscious of it, and of paying attention to it when something seems “off.” I had some episodes last year of almost passing out. I wanted to ignore them, but I know better, so I called my cardiologist. Turns out, my blood pressure medication needed a simple adjustment….it was nothing complicated, and a simple phone call, and listening to my body, made all of the difference.

Take care of your heart, people. It really is the engine that drives you…and we all know that if the engine is broken, you’re not going anywhere. Love your heart….Live Fierce…and Go Red for Women!!!

Faith and Finding Your Fabulous with the Fab Five…

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

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

Why do I live in this world of polarities?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I need to be reminded of Who I Am.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s nothing more fabulous than that. ❤

qe

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

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

Annual Title IX Training, AKA, Where Bible College Failed

I work for a University. It’s not hard to figure out which one; I draw very little attention to where I work, because, DUH, public forum. I like where I work. It’s a very different world from where I grew up, and how I grew up; it’s a very different way of functioning from what I’m used to, and I’m very grateful that I have the opportunity to be here. It’s time for our Annual Title IX Training, and I have a few things to get out of my system…

I grew up in a small town (no stoplights!), and I graduated from a small, private school (in a class of 6 people, I was the valedictorian!). When I went to college, I went to my third- or fourth-string pick of a Bible college in Florissant, Missouri, not too far from where I’m currently employed.

I still don’t know why I wound up there. Honestly, it was down to the wire to make a college decision, and my choice of a school in Tennessee was firmly shot down, as was my choice of a school in Webster Groves, so here I was, in this tiny, little Bible college at 17, feeling out of place and completely on my own.

I grew up in a charismatic church, and was partially sold on my Bible college by a man who told me the school was “non-denominational.” This was, in fact, technically true…but not practically true. Sure, there wasn’t a governing body or a synod, but the Bible college was full of people from what’s called the Independent Christian Church, which I was unfamiliar with.  The basic theology was the same amongst 70-80% of my peers and professors, which was fine at first, but the longer I was there, the more it rankled me. Even as I went on to represent the school for over 3 years in various events and committees, the cracks in the foundation became wide-spread faults, and by the time my academic career ended with the school, I was in counseling as a devastated, spiritually-void trainwreck.

I was a shell of who I’d been just 4 years earlier.

As a freshman, I’d been excited to learn new things, and try out new clubs, meet new friends, and start a life outside of Franklin County. I sang, I taught Sunday School, I received decent grades, and even though I lost 1 scholarship my freshman year, I made up for it with 4 different scholarships over the next 3 years. I pushed myself harder than I should have; I got sick more often than I should have. I made terrible financial decisions, and I brought a lot–A LOT–of hard times upon myself…but not all them came by my own hand.

I loved (love) Jesus, and I wanted to serve Him. I wanted to reach out to people, to work with teenagers and junior-highers, and to eventually parlay that into a writing career. I didn’t really have a career trajectory, but I knew I wanted to work in the public speaking circuit. More than anything I knew I wanted to be a wife and a mother, which really played to the whole, “get your MRS. Degree” stereotype that every woman heard as she went through Bible college. None of us, of course, could ever hope to make it in ministry without a husband, didn’t you know that?

So, I got a boyfriend.

That was a mistake.

Between the emotional intensity of being 18-19, the lack of maturity, and the understanding that as a woman, I was automatically an inferior being, I was not prepared for the level of temptation that came with autonomous free time and a boyfriend at that age. I made some bad decisions. When I tried to rectify those decisions, my right to decide was taken away from me, and after that point, I knew God didn’t want me anymore.

I didn’t want me, either.

Wouldn’t you think that in a Bible college, a woman would have solace in knowing there would be someone she could identify with? Someone she could talk to, someone she could pray with? Doesn’t God have forgiveness and healing for all of us, not just for men? Nope.

I had no one, and I was nothing.

Although I never came forward with my story, I knew of 2 other girls that had similar situations happen with a guy. One actually had the bravery to come forward, and the shame she endured from leadership is TEXTBOOK for what NOT to do. Since my college years at that “fine” establishment, I know of a professor who was terminated because he dared to speak up about the inappropriateness and lack of proper reporting amongst students and faculty, and has basically been blacklisted because of his willingness to take on the topic. I know of at least 10 other people, men and women, who have endured sexual inappropriateness and harassment at this same institution, yet the school itself refuses to acknowledge any incorrect behaviors, responses, or situations that have repeatedly been reported to them, and has in fact taken great pains to silence them. Taking the time-tested path to “sweep things under the rug” seems to be their modus operandi; I’m assuming their Bible takes Luke 8:17 and chucks it right out the window.

There is something to be said for the simple acknowledgement that a wrong has occurred. There is something to be said for the basic acceptance that “bad things have happened,” and “we failed to respond, we failed to acknowledge, and we failed to provide a place of healing in an institution based on the very grace of a loving God.” 

The level of sexual harassment I endured on campus over the course of 4 years would not be tolerated today. I know this, because I’m current on my Annual Title IX Training (which, at last check, my alma mater does not require…but they sure do appreciate those government dollars for student loans and grants, don’t they?). It was common for women to be shamed for ANY kind of dress, thought or words deemed to be sexual, but for the guys? It was practically honored. The girls were actually subjected to an entire evening of “well, we’ve heard rumors of sexual activity,” that was nothing more than an attempt to get us to rat out our friends, and an overwhelming reminder that impure thoughts and behaviors meant that we were unlovable and terrible human beings. We were shamed for even THINKING about sex, and if we’d already had it?!? OMG, we may as well surrender any thoughts, hopes, or dreams we could ever have, because we were “Damaged Goods.” It was purity at the cost of hope, and more than a few of us lost both.

So much for being a “place of healing.”

I’ve been working on a series of blogs this summer about the “Pesky Umbrella Graphic” which firmly places women at the bottom of the totem pole of the Good Christian Family. My goal is to redefine this graphic, and place men and women in the roles God designed. I have one blog left to write, about the Role of a Woman in the Church, and it’s been simmering. I believe this blog had to come first–I had to get this out of my system, because for me, my role as a woman was never so undermined as it was over the course of 4 years in Bible college. It took 4 years to wreck who I was as a person, as a Christian, and as a woman; it took 13 years to heal, to hope, and to have a clearer understanding that as a woman, Jesus loves me, He understands me, and He sees me as relevant, with all of my hormones, emotions, and crazy detours that paint anything but the “perfect” Christian life.

My Annual Title IX Training is often referred to (by me) as our Annual “Don’t Be a Terrible Human Being” Training. I think we take it for granted that people understand that sexual inappropriateness of any kind is wrong, but we have people in national leadership and in Christian leadership that consistently prove us to be incorrect. People don’t understand inappropriate sexual behavior. Now, I could launch a diatribe on how the media takes a turn on this; how the rampant rise and access to pornography takes a turn on this, and how being scientifically reduced to molecular accidents takes a turn on this, but that’s an entirely other conversation. The reality is that EVERYONE needs annual training on abuse, discrimination, sexual inappropriateness and how to report it, how to respond to it, and how to understand that IT’S NOT OKAY.

It’s not okay for “no” to mean anything other than, “no.”

It’s not okay to make the “joke” or the inference.

It’s not okay to make women feel inferior. It’s not okay to discriminate against anyone, and it’s not okay to make someone feel differently or to be robbed of opportunities because of their gender, religion, skin color, race, or orientation.

Your (My) Christianity does not give you a “Get out of Jail Free” or a “Bypass” card. Your (MY) Christianity does not give you the right to play judge or jury to that person who comes to you, or to that person that is reporting an issue.

Your (MY) Christianity requires that you treat people with honor, integrity, and respect. ALLLLLL of these verses tell us how to treat people. NONE of these verses tell us to shame someone or to throw a blanket over bad things and act like they didn’t happen.

Above all, your (MY) Christianity tells us that our Father is close to the brokenhearted…that He is a strong tower, that He is a refuge, and that HE LOVES US.

For me, Bible college should have been a place of spiritual growth and encouragement. Instead, it became a place of private shame and hopelessness, and to be honest, I do not look back on a most of those years with fondness (although I’m grateful for the relationships with friends that I still maintain). Bible college was where I learned how to pretend that everything was fine, even as it was falling apart. It was where I learned to speak fluent “Christianese,” and where I learned that Jesus was not big enough to love me through my darkest days.

In the years that followed, I went through an intensive breaking process of learning to be very, very real in my relationship with God . It’s an ongoing process, and one I think I’ll always work on. I also went through a healing process that involved counseling (the first of several encounters with counseling that I’ve been through) with a pastor who was AMAZING. He restored my faith in church leadership and in the compassion of Jesus, and I’ll never forget him. I was directed to him by a professor at my Bible college, who was overseeing an internship that ended halfway through–it almost cost me my college degree, but that’s another story. Either way, between that professor and that pastor, they saved my life physically and spiritually, and they became the light at the end of the Bible college tunnel. They had the concept RIGHT–Biblical counsel and healing, and GRACE over shame–and they were a blessing. I’m still grateful. They showed me there could be good, kind men in Christian leadership, and I needed that hope restored. T

I know this is a lot; I know I’ve written a lot more than I intended, but the Annual Title IX Training has “bothered” me for the past 7 years that I’ve been required to take it. Where was this training when I was in college? Would it have saved me, or saved the 10 or more other people that I know of? Would it have saved our professor, who gave up his career in order to speak a truth that no one wanted to listen to? Would it have saved the others who never told their stories?

I don’t know.

I’m not upset that I “have” to take this training. I’m not upset that we’re creating a Culture of Compliance over a Climate of Fear or a Climate of Shame or a Culture of Arrogant Ignorance. The more Christians that stop thinking they’re above all of this stuff, and instead choose to engage the fact that we’re all sinners, we all struggle, and we all need grace, the less stories we’ll hear about places like Willow Creek, or the Catholic Church issues (which could be in ANY church), or whatever. The second we think we’re immune is the second we fall…it’s time that we all acknowledge our weaknesses, that we train to be aware of situations, and that we as Christians provide a place of healing and of hope, particularly in our areas of educational institutions for children and adults of all ages.

***Edit: I’ve had a few remarks on my Facebook post on this blog, and I just want to say that college was a long, long, LOOOOOONNNNNNG time ago. What I thought was the hardest time in my life was a cakewalk compared to losing my daughter, so I’m looking back at those experiences through completely different lenses. In fact, the breaking/building process I went through after college laid the grounds for a solid foundation for that very journey. It was an entirely different breaking/building process, but the foundation was tried and true. 🙂 My entire point in bringing up those years is to draw attention to the lack of care and the lack of change that’s been seen in places of so-called Christian education. NOTHING has changed–NOTHING. That’s wrong. Secular universities like the one I am employed by have moved farther and higher than religious institutions, and that boggles my mind. I’m not a broken or hurting college kid, anymore. I’m a grown woman, I know who I am in Christ, and I BELIEVE with all of my heart that the Church is failing in the areas of training their leadership to guard their sheep. I will definitely admit to being angry…Every time another story comes across my Facebook page where another person in ministry has hurt or abused someone, I’m reminded of how far we have to go in the journey to educate Church leadership, to educate those in places of Christian education, and to educate ourselves how to be wise and to be aware…I’m reminded that shame never helped a soul, and that the basis of our very faith is gentleness, respect, and love. We have a long, long way to go…and we are all–not just me, and not just you–responsible to make the necessary changes.

Part Three: Redefining Family Structure in the Church, AKA, “This is Man’s World.”

(Okay, let’s be honest: I can’t say the phrase, “This is a Man’s World,” without thinking of Christina Aguilera’s best performance of her lifetime. She did a tribute to James Brown at the Grammys several years ago, and KILLED it. So, now THAT’s in my head. Squirrel!!!)

This is a series that started as a response to the Pesky Umbrella Graphic (PUG):Natural-Order-of-The-Family

For the first blog post, I started  with what I  feel is the most important part: Jesus as the Song of Solomon bridegroom, as the One Who leads us to the banqueting table in celebration with a Banner over us…”His banner over me is love.” If you haven’t read it yet, take a second and go back to it.

I did a follow-up blog on marriage, and parts of it might have sounded more like it was about reasons NOT to get married (totally not my intention, LOL): Mawwiage

Marriage is tricky. Going into it with crazy, Disney-expectations is setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment. Image result for disney romantic coupleI’m not trying to rain on your parade; we’re all humans, and we’re terrifically flawed. Even under the banner of Jesus’ love, we make mistakes and we lose sight of our goals. We hurt each other, but the beauty of it all is that we learn to forgive, and we learn to grow together. It’s a lifelong process that requires incredible tenacity and faith.

So, for today, I’m going to discuss the role of the husband in this blog. This gets delicate because if you haven’t figured it out, I’m married. 🙂IMG_20180404_182209_201 I’m also EXTREMELY difficult to be married to (but hey, I have my good points). We were once told that 80% of couples who have lost a child, divorce, regardless of faith. That statistic has been proven to be false, but when you have that information hanging over your head and you’ve been through hell, it adds some extra challenges. Our marriage has been through more than anyone will ever know, but 13 years in, I’d say we’re successful in maintaining our relationship, SOLELY BY THE GRACE OF GOD.

Did I mention I’m difficult to be married to? Oh, and don’t get it twisted–David’s not the easiest thing in the world, LOL. He’s generally pretty great, but ask me about cabinet doors and cereal bowls….

I don’t want anyone to think that when I describe the role of a husband in a marriage, that I am disparaging or focusing on my husband unless I say so. Don’t put thoughts in your brain that shouldn’t be there. 🙂 I really do have a great man in my life, and the ratio of things that bug me verses the incredible qualities he has, is completely disproportionate. 🙂 I won.

So, let’s go back to the PUG, okay? Image result for cute pug

 

Ah, there’s that HUSBAND, lording over everyone else, burdened with being both the spiritual leader, the provider, and loving like Christ loves the church…

Capture3

See, this is why we have to start disassembling this graphic by changing it from an Umbrella to a Banner. To hearken back to my original blog in this series, Jesus is over our family as a banner of victory, a banner of recognition, a banner of declaration that screams out the Love of God like a megaphone across the heavenlies. He shouts His love for us in the face of the accusations of the Enemy, in the face of the temptations that come our way…That banner is everything; whereas an umbrella will only shield you from the elements, a banner carries the mark of the King! We have this amazing declaration over our household that WE ARE LOVED uncontrollably, without human understanding! We are covered in grace and dripping in mercy, and where we walk as a family, we leave a trail of the fruits of the Spirit. That’s the goal.

And there’s Mr. Right: There’s the Husband of the Household.

Is he a dictator? A lord? King of the house? Ruler of all? Is he a doormat that a contentious wife stomps all over (ouch, occasionally guilty)?

No, and if he’s playing the role like any of those descriptions, he’s out of line with the direction of the Lord.

I like this quote from Family Life:

“Head” does not mean male dominance, where a man lords it over a woman and demands her total obedience to his every wish and command. God never viewed women as second-class citizens. His Word clearly states that we are all equally His children and are of equal value and worth before Him. As Galatians 3:28 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

The teaching of the New Testament clearly shows that women are to be respected, revered, and treated as equals with men. Unfortunately, many husbands have not gotten the message. They degrade their wives by neglect or with insensitive and abusive treatment. One cause of the feminist movement may have been that men abandoned God’s design. When God presented Eve to Adam in the Garden, Adam received her as a gift of great value to God and to himself. When husbands, particularly Christian husbands, do not treat their wives as a precious gift from God and helpmate, they can cause those wives to search for ways to find significance and value as persons, often outside God’s will.

The PUG gives men 3 responsibilities, so I’m going to address each one:

  • Spiritually Lead the Family
    • We live in a society that has categorically undermined the authority of men and the structure of family in the media for the past 30 years. I’m 40, so I’ve had a front-row seat to this destruction. Shows like, “Married With Children,” “The Simpsons.” and the original “Rosanne” all painted pictures of men being basic morons, and the wives being the brains of the family. It was a huge departure from the shows of the 1950’s and 60’s that seemed to emphasize family. Men are now the brunt of every joke and have no authority whatsoever, in the name of comedy. I believe that issues such as sexual harassment, and abuse, are on the rise partially resulting from this oppression of the leadership role men are supposed to be in. They’re undermined and disrespected by women and children, so they retaliate with terrible behaviors (speaking broadly, of course). They’re designed to be respected, and they’re gonna get it one way or another, by golly, even if it’s by force!  Maybe that’s a stretch, but if a man is treated the way he should be treated, and if he’s locked in spiritually the way he should be, walking in the love of Jesus, there’s balance. Our world is miserably OUT of balance; men are mistreated, and are reacting by behaving badly.  I will say however, on the flip side of this, that the mistreatment of women by men most likely caused them to be portrayed as morons, so it’s a cycle of bad examples, poor leadership, and retaliation. If we carried ourselves with the balance that God created men and women to carry, NONE of this would be an issue.
    • Okay, so he’s supposed to lead the family in spiritual ways. …but that’s also something we all have to work together on. We’re not supposed to be unequally yoked, right? We’re supposed to be partners in fulfilling this mission to raise Godly children:  Deuteronomy 6:7 says that we are to “impress [the commandments] on our children; Talk about them when you sit at home, & when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.”  It doesn’t say “Fathers Only–do this.” It’s for ALL of us to do…
    • So, what does it mean to “spiritually lead?”
      • First of all, we all stand before God ALONE. When I die, David’s spiritual walk will have no bearing on how my walk with Jesus is judged. So, I’m responsible for how I spiritually lead our son. Am I instructing our son in God’s Word? Am I teaching him biblical concepts and Scriptures? Am I doing everything I can to pray for him, and to set him in the direction that Jesus would have me set him in? Spiritual leadership is just that: Using personal examples and teachable moments, combined with prayer, to direct the household in walking in the will of God. It’s having a life dedicated to pursing Jesus, and in sharing that pursuit with those around you.  My husband has the same responsibility to do that, as I do–one of us is not more responsible to live a godly life than the other.
      • Spiritual leadership for a husband, like leadership over the family, involves biblical submission for a woman (ooooooooh, we hate that word!! “Submission?!?!?!” NOOOOO!) For women, this means that we stay respectful, even when we disagree with the direction he’s taking us. It means we listen, we pray, and we stay open to suggestions. It doesn’t mean that he’s abusive or an authoritarian. It means we give him the chance to explain where he’s coming from; it means we pray about it, we search our hearts, and we see where we stand with the result. If your husband is trying to lead you, spiritually, in a direction you know is wrong, I say stand your ground and pray that God changes his heart. Or, pray that if you’re wrong, that God will change your heart.
      • Example: Around 7 years ago, David & I were at a crossroads. I was on the worship team at a larger church, and had “commitment.” David had never really felt like he fit in, and just wasn’t getting fed spiritually in a way that he needed to. He wanted to find a different church, and he knew where he wanted us to go (did I mention that he originally picked THIS church, shortly after we got married?). He wanted to make a significant change, and I was NOT having it. It took a year of praying on both of our parts, independently (I know, we should have prayed together), for God to change my heart and get the understanding that YES, we needed to leave that church. It was time. The craziest thing (and I’m NOT saying this will happen for everyone; it’s just our story), is that shortly after making that decision in unity, I got pregnant with our miracle baby. When a husband and wife come together in spiritual agreement, radical changes can happen. The Bible says that “one of us can send a thousand to flight, and 2 of us can send a legion fleeing” (Deut. 32:30). Personally, praying together with my husband is challenging for me. It doesn’t come naturally to me, even after 13 years. That doesn’t mean we stop trying, though.
  • Provide for the Family
    • Um, EXCUSE ME? What have I been doing for the past 18 years? What did my mom do for over 20 years? I’m coming at this defensively, because as a working mother, I’ve been seriously hurt by crap people have said about my decision/need to be a working mother. This isn’t 200B.C., people. They need to take that off of the graphic like, NOW. It’s borderline offensive. Welcome to a world where everything costs a fortune and most households cannot survive on one family member’s income. This is 2018, people, and diminishing the contributions of a woman in providing for the family is insulting. We work just as hard, and frankly, stay-at-home moms ALSO work just as hard at providing for the family (I think I read a statistic once that said if a SAHM was paid for the work she does, it would average over $150,000/year). WOMEN. FREAKING. WORK in this world, harder than we have ever had to, and we deserve to be counted as providers for our families. Men shouldn’t have to bear that burden alone in today’s world.
    • I will 100% say that up until the 1950’s, women didn’t have to contribute to household finances to the extent that they now have to. I will say that consumerism, materialism, humanism, and an entire textbook of -isms have contributed to the change in the atmosphere that has resulted in women joining and/or taking over the work force. However, this is how it is NOW, regardless of what was intended in the beginning of Creation, and most of us have children to think about. I’m not sorry that I’m a working woman. I fully recognize the sacrifice that goes into being a SAHM, and it’s not one I feel like our household can make, or that my nature can process.
    • Does the fact that I have to work in order for our lights to stay on, mean my husband is out of God’s Will as a provider for our family? ABSOLUTELY NOT. However, I also believe very firmly that if a woman is working and a man is physically capable of working, then he’d better WORK and not make her shoulder that entire burden alone. I do believe that God created man in His image, and just as He said in the Garden of Eden, they’re to work to provide for their families. Laziness is not a godly quality, no matter how you try to spin it. We’re not made to be a lazy, dependent people; God created both man and woman to be industrious (see Proverbs 31, for the ladies’ version) for provision and for mental well-being. When we do good work, we feel good about ourselves; a man that feels good about himself passes that along to his entire household. 🙂
  • Love Wife like Christ loves the Church
    • This is the third thing the PUG lists (reading L-<R), but it should be the first thing men are responsible to do…leave it to an archaic, misinformed, misogynistic graphic to put the leadership role first, and the loving role last. 🙂
    • HOW DOES CHRIST LOVE THE CHURCH?  Read the Song of Solomon–it lays it all out. In SOS, Jesus is the Groomsman, and we as the Church are the Bride. Read that book, men, and get your action plan on how to love your wife (and please, actually put it into practice. Just reading it won’t do the trick. Preaching to myself…). Here’s some killer resources that will revolutionize your Christianity:
      • International House of Prayer with Mike Bickle. The link takes you to a ton of free downloads.
      • Gateway House of Prayer with Tammy Riddering. Same concepts as the IHOP version, but taught from a woman’s perspective
      • My husband has been studying this for at least 10 years. I’ve just started (again–this is so difficult for me to grasp, but I’m on my like, 3rd try of the in-depth study. I’m a fighter, not a lover). When you just barely, just lightly, start to grasp the love Jesus has for His Church, your brain will explode. And when you think that’s how a husband is to love his WIFE?!?!? BOOM.
    • What does the love of Christ for the Church look like? It’s wholehearted. It’s full. Mike Bickle of IHOP says, “The way the God loves within the fellowship of the Trinity, beloved, here is the glorious thing—it is the only way
      He loves. He cannot love partially. He only loves wholeheartedly. God does not suspend one attribute to exercise another. He does not put love “on hold” when He shows justice. He does not put His holiness “on hold” when He expresses mercy.”

      • I John 4:7-8 says that “God is love.” He’s made up of Love–how is that possible? Bickle says in the same sermon I quoted above that “He always loves in fullness.” He doesn’t love halfway. He doesn’t STOP. He can’t love us anymore than He already does. His love is endless, boundless, and eternal. We can’t run from it. He won’t hide it from us. He doesn’t play games or manipulate it. God. IS. Love.
      • A man can TRY to love like Christ loves the Church, but it’s basically not possible, because we’re flawed. 🙂 It’s not possible without having Jesus at the front/back/middle of the relationship. Jesus is literally the glue that holds a loving marriage together, because He IS Love!
    • A man is to love his wife:
      • Wholeheartedly: Don’t reserve your heart or your feelings.
      • Honestly: Don’t play games or hide truths.
      • Humbly: Recognize your flaws and work together to fill in the gaps. Ask forgiveness when you’re wrong. Don’t be too proud to help; the Bridegroom in SOS is as much of a servant as He is a King.
      • Shamelessly: Don’t embarrass your spouse for the sake of a punchline, and don’t be afraid to be publicly vocal about how much you love each other. Be vocal with compliments, and back them up with action.
      • Compassionately: Egos are fragile. Contentiousness will destroy a marriage and will eat a person’s self-esteem from the inside-out.
      • Demonstratively: You set an example to your family and your friends by how you love each other.
      • Faithfully: This goes for physically, emotionally, and mentally. Cheating is a nasty, complicated parasite that will destroy your life. Whether it’s a physical act of being unfaithful to your spouse, or a lustful act of letting impure things creep into your marriage, you have to get that garbage out before it’s too late.  It is SO HARD to stay pure in this world, for both men and women, but our hearts have to be towards our spouses! If you’re tuned into the will of God and you catch that stuff creeping in (it’s so bad that I’ve had to leave the room for a commercial. RIDICULOUS), you have to get out. It’s a constant discipline to maintain faithfulness and purity, and you have to commit to it daily. It’s not impossible. Men can be faithful. Women can be faithful. Relying on Jesus and being honest with yourself is the only way, because it’s coming at us from every angle today.

As a woman, and as a wife, it’s easy for me to look at the PUG with contempt. After all, it IS 2018, and women are enjoying more freedom and independence than ever before, right? We can be who and what we want; we can hang with the boys and be equals, right? I don’t need a man, right?!?!?!?!?!?

WRONG.

The last blog in this series will cover the roles of women in today’s world, and it’s probably going to be the most challenging for me to write. Like I said in the first blog,  I’m not a feminist; I’m an Equalist. I believe we should be respected equally, paid equally, and treated equally, regardless of gender or race….but to be a woman is a glorious, unique thing, and I think our differences are to be celebrated.

Men carry such a burden. The phrase, “toxic masculinity” has recently become popularized, and to be honest, it makes me nauseous. Men are now being “punished” for being, well, MANLY. I think the definition of “manly” is more than a little distorted in today’s world, so let me take a crack at it:

Being “manly” is not determined by how much Budweiser you can drink, how well you can shoot a gun, or by how quickly you can disassemble an engine.  A man that follows Jesus is to love in fullness, to walk humbly, to seek justice and to give mercy. He has shoulders that carry responsibilities with strength and a heart that seeks the will of God, and he makes that his priority. He protects, he provides, and he works in partnership with his Bride. There is nothing more manly than a guy who leads his family with humility and serves his God wholeheartedly.

In closing (phew!), I’m going to reference a blog I linked to in my first post of this series: The Thistlette. In this blog, the writer keeps the umbrella, but places them on equal footing with mutual submission to Jesus. Although I’m still not a fan of the umbrella itself, I can appreciate how she relocates the relationships out of the hierarchy that the PUG places them in:

Christian Family Hierarchy

We have a responsibility, male and female alike, that we share equally: Love Jesus. Tell the world about Him, and set an example of His love with your life. Raise a family together that does the same. We have different-but-equal responsibilities in the kingdom, and a goal to work towards, together. Setting aside religious misconceptions and walking forward in freedom to further the goals of the Kingdom is what we should all be striving towards, and building families together without judgment is key.

One more section of the PUG to go……..#JustKeepWriting

This message will self-destruct…but I won’t.

I’ve had something brewing in my heart for a few weeks now.

Something’s changing…something’s being restored and redefined…

I have to process these words before I post.

I feel like I’ve gone back to school,

And the learning curve is steep.

 

I’ve been studying what it means to be a Christian wife

And mother…

And how wounded women are left to pick up

A battlefield full of broken soldiers

That bite the hand that bandages the shattered….

How warrior women

Become contentious

And the difference between

Nice and “Nasty.”

 

Something new is coming…

I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to write this, but it’s percolating…

It’s time to redefine

And

It’s time to shatter the mold.

 

….To Be Continued…..

Former Friends, Forty, & Feet…

My brain has been in a whirlwind for the past 2 weeks.  There’s a multitude of things going on…Shall I outline it all, in the hopes that writing it all down, makes it all make sense?

  • The dissolution of a long-term friendship  has led to difficulties maintaining a positive attitude.  As a fairly outspoken person, it’s increasingly difficult to not confront said “friend” regarding their demeanor. I have to trust God that truth will out…That being said, “truth” occasionally means that you piss people off, and I guess that’s what I’ve officially done.  Have I been a “good Christian” in how I’ve handled this mess? Nope (does the Silent Treatment count for or against me?!?). I’m hurt, I’m angry, and my eyes hurt from rolling them so hard. I’m almost 40, and this “act like you’re 17” crap is for the birds. And no, I’m not going to tell her about it—what good would it do? To pour out my heart to someone who thinks they’re never wrong? I don’t have that amount of time to waste.
  • Working with women is DIFFICULT (see #1). They’re catty, they’re mean, and they’re so, SO petty. I’ve been in a female-dominated industry for 18 years, and I’ve been both the Catty-B, and the victim of the Catty B. I’d like to think I’ve been on the receiving end of said BS more times than I’ve dealt it (because I generally dislike the confrontation involved—what good does it do? If someone hates you, telling them off about it isn’t going to make them like you any more), but that’s an easy thought to think. I can’t be objective in that thought, but I sure as heck can say that I’m in the thick of it right now, and OMG, I AM OVER IT. IF women would be kinder to each other on the job, men would have more respect for our work performance and authority. Instead, we shoot ourselves in the foot because we can’t keep our feet out of our mouths and our bitchery out of the office. Women need to build each other up, and cram this sanctimonious garbage where the sun doesn’t shine. Be nice, girls. Maybe someday, we can actually work together in PEACE.
  • The onslaught of stories of sexual harassment is a weight around my heart. Every. Single. Woman. Has a story to tell. Reading them is heavy…exposing our children to them is HEAVY. Hearing it all on the news is HEAVY. Since Mr. Clinton was in office, we have been subject to greater and greater exposure to sexual impropriety in the media. I have to wonder if purity is dead? “How shall a young man keep his way pure?” I don’t know anymore. How do I raise my little boy to respect women when even at 4, he is using words that by their very definition, sexualize? Thanks to a children’s movie that decided to use the word “booty,” I can’t get my son to quit saying “booty butt.” Sure, it’s funny…but what if he doesn’t stop? That’s a problem we have to quell NOW. As mothers, we are responsible for raising our sons to end the #MeToo in this world. We have to. We are the ones who can end it. Fathers, you are the other ones that can end it. Start with you. Start with respecting sex, with turning your eyes away when it’s inappropriate (women need to do that, too). Fathers, set the example of romantic love with your wife. Set the example of respect for her body. Mothers, set the example of respect for your husband. Turn off “The Bachelor” and shows that glamorize sexual behavior (I don’t mean to single out any show in particular, and in fact, I’ve never watched “The Bachelor.” I’m just gathering that from previews). Listen to the lyrics in songs—turn them off when they’re inappropriate. It’s a struggle for ALL of us, but it’s worth it. Sex is to be appreciated, bodies are to be respected, and WE need to restore purity by the grace of God, in our households. These are stands we have to take. I have to remember that IT’S WORTH IT, to turn off questionable lyrics when my Mini is in the car. Sure, I’m a grown-up, I can handle it, right? Maybe I’m jaded…but he’s not. My son is not. Let’s not callous our kids before their time (and maybe let’s collectively rethink what we’re so callous to, ourselves?).
  • Sometimes, we have to stand up for what’s right, even when it’s uncomfortable and in my case, leaves me paranoid for a solid month. That’s where I am right now. Yes, I am praying about it. I’m still paranoid. When you regularly deal with anxiety and something comes up to tip that cart just a little more in that direction, a small thing becomes a very BIG thing, and it’s an effort to not obsess about it.
  • I turn 40 next month. Why I’m having some kind of existential crisis over it, I’m not sure. The fact that I’ve made it this far is flippin’ amazing. While I’d like to celebrate by face-planting into some kind of elaborate pastry, I’m actually going to celebrate by getting stoned out of my mind. I’m kidding. Kind of. It’ll be the legal kind. 🙂 The day before my 40th birthday, I’m having the first of two foot surgeries, in an effort to finally end the years-worth of pain that’s really affected my life. I have tarsal tunnel/plantar fasciitis in both feet, so it will be nice to see that level of pain be taken care of. My goal is to be off of the pain meds as quickly as possible, so that I don’t ruin both Thanksgiving, AND Christmas (surgery #2 is the Friday before Christmas) for my family. Scheduling the surgeries in this way makes sure I don’t miss as much work as I would be, had I scheduled them any other time; I have to look at the financial impact over the social impact. I have to say, though, I’m a bit bummed about spending 40 so completely laid up, especially after I’ve seen (and been to) some amazing 40th birthday celebrations. I’m super-thankful my hubby and my parents are helping…and I’m thinking I can just snag JD with my cane if he gets terribly out of line, LOL.
  • As is wont to happen this time of the year, my anxiety/depression is a bit peaky. I’m in a (lengthy) season of feeling like the Lord is blocked off…like I can’t get to Him, and when I try, I’m too tired. He feels a million miles away, but I think it’s me that’s so far from Him. He never leaves, and I know that, even when I don’t feel His Presence. I feel like my heart is just crying out for some kind of Word, some kind of direction from Him, but I feel shiftless. Our church is getting ready to dive into the Song of Solomon study, and I’m ready for it. I need that revelation of the endless love of God, at a much deeper level. I find Him so much closer during worship, but when I’m in my 9-5 (or 6-3), I am so empty…It’s not like He’s hiding while I’m in my office or anything…I’m never insulated away from Him, but I feel like it.
  • One friend unceremoniously dumps me, and it sends me into a tailspin…whether that’s the definition of crazy or not, I’m not sure, but I know it’s had a huge impact on my life. It’s a Milestone Moment. I’ve questioned a lot of things over the past few weeks, and I’ve been reminded of several positives. I’ve also been taught/reminded of a few lessons:
    • My best friend in the universe has been my best friend since the 3rd grade. If I were horrible, Vinita would not be by my side through every good/bad/ridiculous stage of my life. I’ve several other friends that have been in my life for 10 years or longer. I rarely think about the longevity of a friendship as a proving ground for my moral compass, but it was recently brought to mind, and I’m grateful for those women that have loved me as I am.
    • This isn’t the first time I’ve ever had someone tell me I’m not good enough for them. I’ve been rejected before, for jobs, parts, etc., but never from a “friend.” When I got dumped by a guy (for the first and only time in my life), I spent 2 years in a death-spiral of depression. It’s been 20 years since that happened, and I would hope I would bounce back more quickly from rejection. Yet here I am, about a month after my dismissal, and I was so broken over it all that I’m  just now able to really write about it. I don’t anticipate a 2-year “death spiral” LOL, but I’m certainly impacted.
    • I don’t ever want to make another human being feel the way this person made me feel. I’m rethinking every aspect of how I treat people (including my husband who, let’s face it, gets the best AND worst of me). It’s a work in progress, but maybe someday, I will get it down pat. I just want to show the love of Jesus. That’s hard to do when you’re a jerk.
    • It’s also hard to show the love of Jesus when you’re stuck in the internal monologues of what you’d like to do to the person you’re angry with. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I haven’t imagined a million scenarios ending with me slapping the living daylights out of her or telling her off….but what good would it do? What would it do in the eyes of Eternity? It bears NO WITNESS to the love of Jesus. I’m struggling, I’m not going to lie—I can’t even look her in the eye right now (it’s mutual, don’t hang me), and God knows she won’t speak to me. I did try to engage, but all it took was one perceived slight and she was back to being a….Well, you get it. There comes a point at which you stop casting your pearls before swine…but you still have to show the love of Jesus…and I’m not sure how you do both. I’m figuring it out.  It’s selfishly worth it to put the work in, to figuring out how to show Jesus in a perceived no-win situation. I’ll get there.
  • Guys don’t do this. They don’t unfriend each other, and they don’t wax loquacious in the psychology of failed relationships (okay, at least not that I know of). Things like this make my husband crazy with me. They also confirm that yes, I’m occasionally nutso-pants, but he married me, so what does that make him?!?? I know it’s sexist, but I think guys get the easier part of mental health and of relationships. Women are waaaaaaaaaaaay too OCD in negative thought patterns (and maybe I’m a sexist troglodyte. I’m basing this solely on my husband and his miraculous/enviable ability to compartmentalize).
  • I want to ask for prayer, but I feel like I’m “that person” who is always surrounded by some kind of drama, and ALWAYS asks for prayer…like asking for prayer is just another way of saying that I’m broken, yet again. News flash, Cassidy—EVERYONE IS BROKEN in one way or another. We are all broken, and the beauty of life is watching Jesus take those pieces and make them into something/someone beautiful in His time. The process of waiting for His time? That’s the hard part…So in the waiting, I’m asking for prayer…Having 2 surgeries and basically being immobile for 2 weeks during the holidays, while trying to care for a 4yo (and having to rely heavily on hubby/family) is difficult. The situation with my former friend is difficult. This time of the year is—you guessed it—difficult, and my heart is tender. Please keep my doctor, Dr. Arnold, and her team in your prayers, so that my surgeries and recovery go smoothly. I am blessed to work a desk job that allows me to return to work 1 week after each procedure, so I am grateful for my job (I am!! SAY IT WITH ME!!!!!!!!!! I AM GRATEFUL FOR MY JOB!!!!!!!!). Please pray for David, Rico-Bean, and my parents, who are in their 60’s, and are willing to tackle caring for a pre-K boy that is VERY active. Pray that they have the energy they need!
  • Finally, never underestimate the beauty of worship, when it comes to focusing the mind and calming the heart, and in warming the spirit. I rediscovered Bethel Music on Spotify this week, and when my brain is a jumbled mess…when my heart is overwhelmed…I am grateful for people that make worship their life, and that share it with the world. We need it, desperately….I need it.

I realize that writing a bulleted outline for a blog is a bit excessive. At some point, I need/want to become disciplined enough to write on a daily basis…if I want to make this work, I have to pour into it consistently. Besides, when I wait too long to write, I wind up with a 2500-word tome that no one has time to read, right?!?!?!?!?

Thank you for your patience with my writing and my rants…and most of all, thank you for your prayers. Life is hard, but when there is fellowship…when Christians come together and lift each other up, life is a joy. I am so grateful to share that joy with you. You’re a blessing in my life, and a reminder that God’s people are GOOD. ❤

*When you’re friends or family members of a writer, and you KNOW they’re a writer, you have to know that at some point, they’re going to write about you, good or bad. Names have not been named, no slander has occurred, and no one may be held responsible for the contents of this piece. It’s ridiculous that I actually have to say this, but this world is looking for any reason to be a victim. You don’t get that from me.