Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Hustle Is Real

The hustle. 

You know what I'm talking about. Hint: not the dance from the 70's.

The rush. The craze. The frenzy. The urgency. The panic in our lives astounds me. We live in a culture of busy. A culture that rewards the hustle. A culture that encourages the mad dash.

We go, go, go, go. We live our lives like sprint runners giving 1000% of our energy into GETTING. IT. DONE. But rather than a short sprint, we do this all day. Every day. Round the clock. 

And you know what? Living in this permanent state of chaos is not sustainable. Americans really don't get that. Other cultures recognize the value of pressing the pause button of life to actually LIVE IT, but we don't. We wish for more hours in a day, we don't wish for more joy in the hours we have. And therefore we are overwhelmed, panicked, stressed, anxious, defeated, exhausted, drained, depressed, or worse: we're just immune to it and numb. Every day we're hustlin'.

I swear… EVERY conversation I have with people is "I've been crazy busy lately." Every other tweet hints at being overwhelmed. I get in this place a lot, don't get me wrong. I do. I totally do. 

But I also need to veg. I need downtime. I need time to do nothing. I need time not to think. Not to dwell. Not to plan. Not to go. I just need to sit and bask in the glorious silence of rest. I need to watch my son laugh. I need to stop what I'm doing and hug my husband. I need to take naps. I need to pray. I need to read.

But when I'm in this place of stopping the hustle, the world still spins around me. I sit back and watch the hustle, and I feel so irresponsible. So inferior. So friggin' lazy. The hustle struggle is so real.

Because no one Instagrams pictures of themselves napping. They post the hustle. They post pictures of MacBooks with cups of coffee… and the comments are all "get it, girl!" This isn't totally wrong, mind you. We need some hustle. I'm all for working hard. Hard work is important. The grit & grind that comes with working hard is part of living a healthy life. 

But at what point is it too much? At what point is the hard work no longer healthy? At what point does the hustle become a black hole that consumes all of our stamina, peace, joy, love, kindness, patience, humility, grace, calmness, energy, and life? At what point does the hustle steal from life rather than add to it?

I think it's the point when the hustle stops being a means to provide and starts being a method to prove yourself.

When you work so hard to buy a beautiful, huge, perfectly decorated open floor plan to prove yourself… rather than providing a peaceful, joyful home with happy healthy children, you've passed that point.

When you schedule your kids in 15 different sports to prove yourself as a parent raising a rockstar jock… rather than providing them quality time & love them no matter what the scoreboard says, you've passed that point.

When you work so into the night to prove yourself to your boss… rather than working hard on that project and working just as hard at loving your family, you've passed that point.

When the hustle becomes solely about making you feel good about you… and you throw your coworkers under the bus to suck up the glory, you've passed that point. 

There is such a fine line between providing and proving that it's virtually invisible. It's so hard to detect. You often don't notice you've passed this line until you're so far past it you don't know how to find your way back.

There is no amount of hustle that will make you feel like you've achieved your goal in proving yourself. Proving yourself is a fleeting feeling. Once you've done that, you'll need to prove yourself again to feel that rush. And again. And again. And you'll blink and be at the end of your life without ever truly living it.

So work hard. Hustle hard. Work very hard at providing for your family. Provide them with food, shelter, clothing, joy, laughter, memories, kindness, guidance, work ethic, boundaries, rest and BALANCE

Please don't hustle so hard that you forget how to smile. Hustle responsibly.



Monday, August 22, 2016

Battle Wounds & Warpaint

Hello God. It's me. Gosh that sounded awfully Adele-ish if she were a worship leader. Oops! But that would be awesome, I will not lie. I kinda am obsessed with love her.

I know I'm no one exceptional. I won't ever be making headlines like Michael Phelps has over the last few weeks. I'm not a champion of anything. You name it--bowling, running, ping pong, a focused mind, weight management, coordination, dancing, crafts--I'm terrible at it. I bomb. I stink. I just outright CANNOT do a lot of things.

I see other people achieving great things. I see Olympic gymnasts slayin' it when I struggle not to trip on air. I see all the supermoms at the PTA Pinteresting so hard, and I'm confident my popsicle stick creation who be a hot mess-house of cards. I see people who never have to work hard at losing a few pounds, but I could starve for 3 days and still gain weight.

I am but one small portion of Your creation with no real extraordinary skills that translate to the worldly definition of success.

I accepted that I would never be an Olympian as a 6 year old because I fell on my keester more than I stood on my feet. I accepted that I will never reign supreme at being the mom's mom who is good at all things Crayola because my creations are more like Crapola. It doesn't matter what I have or haven't eaten, I have always struggled with weight. I always resolve to keep trying because I don't feel comfortable in my own skin. Maybe I'll get there one day. Maybe I won't.

But here's one thing I'm sure of: I want to do something big for You, I always have. I just assumed that my depression disqualified me from working for You. I saw people out there doing amazing things. Great things. Big, big, BIG things. They're bringing thousands of people to know You. They write bestsellers. They travel the world to feed the malnourished and the spiritually hungry. There have been times when my depression has felt like an anchor holding me back from doing big things for You. If I'm being honest, I feel this far more often than not. And I thought I would never do anything big for You. So I thought my worth was less than these people doing big things.

Talk about a load of Crapola.

For a long time I didn't know what it was that I would do for You. I didn't know what You wanted me to do. I do now. I now believe that this depression of mine makes me uniquely qualified to work with the mentally different {see here}; to work with them for You. To help them see their worth. To help them remove the stigma.

Sometimes this messy tearstained face represents my battle wounds, but I'm learning to turn it into my warpaint. I'm going to war against the stigma for people who suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, or any other mental difference. I'm not skilled in the traditional sense of being skilled, all I have to offer You is my broken heart. I will give every last shard of my broken heart to You and to people who are told to get over it, take a jog, or stop being a drama queen. I love these people without limits. They are Your people, but they are also mine. I will never stop working for them. My broken heart drives me to heal theirs, and my purpose is this cause.

That's better than any bestseller. It doesn't take being KNOWN to work for You. It doesn't take EXPOSURE to help people. You don't want me to wait to start working until I've passed go and have a blue checkmark on my blog's Facebook page. You want me as I am, right now. All you want is my heart, and it's all Yours. And if I use it help one person who is mentally different, that is more than enough, because You love that person enough to know the number of hairs on their head. I get that now.

And to you, dear reader, if you're someone like me who wants to achieve greatness for God, the greatest thing you can ever achieve is to give Him your heart. That is way more than enough.



Thursday, August 18, 2016

It's Not You, It's Them.

I spend a lot of time wishing my brain worked like other people's. I wish it was a normal brain. A mainstream brain. A brain that doesn't over-think everything. A brain that doesn't see as much pain in the world as mine does.

I spend an equally large chunk of my time wishing my heart worked like other people's. I wish it was a normal heart. I wish it was a heart that didn't bleed so much. A heart that didn't break so much. A heart that didn't hurt as much as mine does.

I wish I knew where I began and where my mental illnesses stopped. How much of me is depression? How much of me is C-PTSD? What would life be like without them? What percentage of me wouldn't exist of those issues didn't exist in me? What would I be like? 

I would be so much more confident. So much less obsessive. I would be so much more normal. So much less weird. I would feel so much lighter. I wouldn't feel like my whole body is made out of lead. I would have so much more peace. So much less pain. The self-hate would go away, and maybe, just maybe, I would be level. Stable. Still. Maybe, just maybe, that inner voice that tells me how much the world hates me, would instead tell me how much the world needs me. Maybe I wouldn't feel like a burden to my husband who feels powerless to help me out of the dark place. Maybe I would be more present. Less neurotic. Maybe I would be different… better, even.

Is this you? Do you do this to yourself? Do you also wish you didn't care too much, feel too much, or cry too much? Maybe you have depression. Maybe you have anxiety. This world labels you as mentally ill. And that's a tough pill to swallow, pun intended. You don't want to be mentally ill. The words "mental" and "illness" together are associated with mass shootings, violence, padded rooms, loud screams in some forgotten ward where patients are sedated and restrained. That association is the stigma. And that stigma makes you think even less of yourself. And you don't need any help thinking less of yourself. Am I right?

So let's take those words away for a sec, K? Let's not call you mentally ill. Let's call you mentally different. Isn't that better? "Illness" implies a deficiency, or even brokenness. "Different" implies uniqueness. You are mentally different. Not mainstream. You are special. 

Maybe… just maybe… being mentally different {like you} is not altogether bad. Parts of it are bad, I get that. Believe me, I do. The struggle is bad because it's hard. The hard almost consumes you. Maybe there already has been a close call to the struggle consuming you. Maybe the strugglebus hit you so hard you just wanted to lay there and die. That struggle is a fire that burned slowly and steadily, eating away at parts of you until you almost burned to the ground. 

--But-- maybe that same fire that almost consumed you is exactly what you'll use to light up the world. Maybe you'll set the world on fire with what makes you so unique. 

You'll love people too hard. You'll help people. You'll advocate for causes. You'll create beauty. You'll create art. You'll create history. Your mind will be turbulent, but your works will be mighty. Your heart will break, but the light that shines through the cracks will brighten the world for others. The world will tell you that you are too fragile, but you'll use that tenderness to pour out buckets of love. You won't want anyone to feel that sadness that you feel, so no one will work harder than you to bring joy to the world. There will be times that you need saving, but there will be times that you save the world right back. This world NEEDS people like you. This world NEEDS the mentally different. This world NEEDS people who show up and care too much.

So, when the world tells you that you are defective, high-maintainence, emotional, ridiculous, a burden, a drama-queen, frustrating, maddening, selfish, a whiner, or someone who just wallows…. If this world tells you that you would be better if you'd take up jogging, get a new haircut, eat better, take more vitamins, get out more, or if you'd just suck it up, buttercup… Just remember, it's not you… It's them. You have so many gifts that come with being mentally different--the world just labels you as mentally ill, or a stigmatized outcast. 

It's crazy hard being mentally different, but the world needs you. The mentally different are the poets, the healers, the history makers, the world changers…. If someone tries to tell you that you are defective or broken beyond repair, it's not you, it's them

Note: This post in no way suggests that you shouldn't seek help for mental "differences". This post is solely meant to reduce the stigma of those mental differences. If you are struggling, seek help with a mental health professional. Don't suffer alone so that the fire consumes you.  The national suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-TALK. The line is always open.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Gone Girl

I promised myself I would sit down and write something… anything… and press publish today. I've said this several days weeks now, actually. I've been silent because I had nothing to say. Nothing. NOT. ONE. THING.

But I miss you guys. I do. I really, truly do. I really, really, miss my sweet readers who send me so many messages. I love interacting with them and being their friend. Most of my readers have broken hearts, and they tell me all the things. All those things that are tangled up and dark inside. They tell me all the things they are afraid to put out on the Internet for the world to see. In fact, 80% of the communication I receive from my readers begin with "I was scared to comment, but I just had to tell you…." And then they do tell me. And then my heart shatters for them. So many of you are fighting such hard battles, and you feel like no one would listen or care. You feel like you'll be judged. You feel like your problems aren't that big a deal compared to other people's. But you can tell me. Can I just say I am so very sorry that you're hurting? But I'm deeply honored to be helping in whatever small ways I can. 

But lately…. I've had nothing to say. Nothing that is worth your time. Nothing helpful. Nothing worth hearing. Nothing worth reading. Not. One. Dang. Thing. 

I thought I was on solid ground. I thought I was on the upswing from this soul sucking yuck that is depression. I was up and about and greeting the world with enthusiasm. But now… I just feel empty and I do not know why. But if you were to run into me, you would never know it. 

My family went out to eat with some dear friends over the weekend. We got there before they did, and we were chatting with some of the restaurant staff while we were waiting for a table. I'm chatty and smiley with anyone I meet, no matter where I am. In fact, if I am not smiling, a zillion people will ask "what's wrong?" You've heard of resting b**** face? I have resting smile face.

My husband was distracted by watching the Olympics that were on all the big screens around the restaurant, so it was just me making conversation with a waitress and the seating host. We were laughing and having a great time. At least, that's what it would look like from the outside. But inside the thoughts were colliding everywhere: "Just stop talking." "No one wants to hear what you have to say." "They're just being polite." "You may as well go back home where no one has to put up with you." Our buzzer lit up, and one of the waitstaff walked us to our table. As I was walking away, I heard someone say "Well, there goes our entertainment. She is so much fun!" 

FUN? Did they really say FUN? I was feeling a lot of things, but "fun" was not one of them. I was feeling uncomfortable. Anxious. Like a burden. I was feeling like these people had an obligation to be warm and friendly to me because it is their job. 

And this, my friends, is depression. Depression sucks every ounce of life out a person, until they disappear. There is no more color or zest to life, there is just surviving in an exhausting, empty world of yuck. Depression isn't living life, it's existing while life goes on around you. 

You can see someone talking to you, laughing with you, and you can be so happy to be with them… But if that person is depressed? They are not there with you. They are not there at all. They are an empty shell of a puppet acting in a way to fit in with their surroundings. So you can see me, sit with me, hug me, but I am GONE. I am focusing all my energy to APPEAR to be there, but I am not.

Let me just tell you, it's a humdinger of a hootenanny. Good times. NOPE. Not at all.

I knew I had felt off for a week or so prior to this restaurant encounter, but this situation brought to my attention that I am gone again. Just gone. My life was back to being in grayscale, and I had no idea. Sometimes, no matter what I try: more sunshine, more interaction with people, better nutrition, putting on makeup, fixing my hair, and trying to go chase life, I cannot. It feels like my whole body is made of lead as I drown. I can't remember what I like about life. Even the things that used to make me squeal and giggle with delight, no longer do. Even the joyful things are just "meh" to me now. So I decided to make a list to myself from myself… a list from the "there" self to the "gone" self… to remind myself that this life is absolutely worth loving. This is what I came up with.

These lists bring me back. I'm here. I'm here again. I came back from wherever I was. So, that's good. But I've got to tell you, sometimes I get really frustrated at this do-si-do of depression. Always taking steps forward to only end up taking steps back, while going around and around in circles. It's exhausting. 

I feel like I end up erasing all the progress I made every single time I go and come back like this. I end up dazed and confused, and saying to myself "I had all this stuff figured out. I did. Now I know nothing again. WHY?! Seriously. WHY?!" One of the bloggers I follow posted a blog about how He makes us new. Maybe that's what this depression dance is for me. He makes me new in these places of coming back. 

"Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. 
It's bursting out. Don't you see it?
There it is. I'm making a road through the desert, 
rivers in the badlands."
-Isaiah 43:19 (The Message)

Every single time I come back from being gone, He makes something new out of it. Not just for me. For anyone who I want to help. Staying close to brokenness makes me uniquely qualified to feel the pain other people feel, and just listen. Only listen. Not to talk. Not to teach. Just to lay there with them in the deepest darkest pits of pain and listen. And understand.

Just to be there. And thanks to this newness of returning from the badlands, God has built a road next to me to help them through their desert.

Six people. SIX. Told me that I helped them get through their darkness or asked me to help them through theirs that same weekend that I was standing in that restaurant drowning. Within about 12 hours SIX PEOPLE were helped by my pain that I share from my little corner of the internet. In the midst of me encouraging all those people, I was at my darkest.

I am an encouraging blogger/motivational speaker who is clinically depressed. And maybe it is that depression that is what gives me the ability to encourage. Because from this deep place of brokenness, I have an overwhelming urge to love. Maybe, just maybe, my depression is not a shortcoming, but a gift.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

To the Overwhelmed One

Hey y'all. Did you miss me? I haven't been writing for a long while because to be completely honest, I have been completely overwhelmed. So hey, my name is Sara and I am an emotional hot mess right now. 

Something told me to write about this because I feel like lots of y'all can relate.

One moment you are conquering life. Killing it. Slaying all the dragons in your world. The next, you feel a massive meltdown as you watch your to-do list fall completely apart.

-OR-, one moment you're in prayer, feeling the presence of God right there with you. The next, you try to feel Him, but all you feel is radio static. Silence. Nothing. Nada. 

-OR-, one moment you feel so encouraged, with an overflowing grateful heart. The next, the emptiness of discouragement and weight of depression almost crushes you.

One minute you're fantastic. The next, you're falling apart.

Isn't life like that sometimes? It has been for me for the last few months. I'm searching for stability and stillness, and I just can't find it. Why can't I just be secure?

Secure in my purpose.
Secure in my aspirations.
Secure in my emotions.
Secure in my relationship with my great God.
Just secure. Stable. Still.

Even now, as I'm tip-tapping away typing this, my emotions are all over the place. I'm writing about stability, and I STILL can't find it. I have tears rolling down my cheeks. Actual tears. A lot of tears. Why? I'm just overwhelmed!

Sometimes, I get so overwhelmed that the simplest tasks feel like massive burdens. 
Sometimes, I get so overwhelmed that my heart just isn't invested in things like it once was.
Sometimes, I get so overwhelmed that it is impossible to keep my emotions in check.

I feel too much. I hurt too much. I stress too much. Relate? For people like us, it's so easy to let emotions drive us, not the other way around. Letting our emotions dictate our state of being makes life so overwhelming… and exhausting… and just not satisfying. 

The things that used to bring us joy, people we love, tasks that make us proud, our passions, our hobbies, our dreams… They can feel like a ton of bricks pulling us under sometimes. The dishes. The laundry. The early mornings. The tight schedules. The grocery shopping. The church service we'd really just rather not do {come on, let's be real here}.

For realz. It's so hard to DO IT ALL. It's even harder to do it all with a happy heart

It also doesn't help that I'm an obsessive, instant gratification type of person. I want to do it all, and have it done RIGHT NOW. RIGHT THIS MINUTE. It's extremely difficult for me to take small steps towards a large goal. I just want to take all the steps at once and just GET. IT. DONE. When I can't, {which, I never can} I feel defeated. When I think about going back to school for my masters, I just want to fast forward to graduation. When I think about God using me, I expect Him to use me in a HUGE way right away.  When I want to change my physical health, I go very extreme wanting results right away. When faced with the work necessary to get my book published, I want it finished NOW. So I work until 4am for a few days and end up exhausted and burned out very, very quickly. And then I fail. I fail a lot. That inner voice tells me that if I'm not succeeding at what I want finished, then I am worth nothing. Then I'm overwhelmed again. And the thought of being overwhelmed is overwhelming. I'm literally overwhelmed at being overwhelmed. Lather rinse repeat over & over. The struggle is so real.

Where does all this nonsense come from?

I think it comes from the need to BE SOMEBODY. To make our mark on society. To have worth. To be whole. To be enough.

I think we feel like being overwhelmed isn't a choice. But, dear ones, we do choose it, even if it's not a completely conscious decision. We don't have to be overwhelmed. We don't have to be emotional hot messes. We don't have to place all this pressure on ourselves. We don't. 

You know how we can change it?

What if we listened, really {actually} listened, to what He has told us over & over?

He has told us that He loved us before we loved Him.

{Ephesians 2:4-5} 

He has told us that He rejoices over us with singing. 

{Zephaniah 3:17}

He has told us that He doesn't need us, but He still chooses us.
{Acts 17: 24-26}

He has told us that we have worth independent from our deeds.
{Titus 3:5}

He has told us He loved us at our darkest.
{Romans 5:8}

He has told us to NOT BE overwhelmed, but to find rest in His love.
{Psalm 46:10}

He has told us that He chooses peace, not pain or pressure, for us.
{Philippians 4:8}

He tells us to come release all that overwhelming emotion to Him.
{1 Peter 5:7}

He has told us that He is all we need.
{Philippians 4:19-20, Psalm 27:1}

Basically, He wants us to be overwhelmed, but not by the ways of this world. What He ACTUALLY wants us to be overwhelmed by the radical, incomprehensible, overwhelming love He has for us.

Y'all. He wants us to be overwhelmed by his goodness {Galatians 5:22}. Goodness. Not the fear, worry, depression, anxiety, stress, anguish, or any bad place of this world that we choose to stay in. He wants us to rest at His feet, thinking about the landslide of love shown at the cross. 

I'm tired of trying to find my worth in this world. Not only is it not biblical, it's just not practical. It won't work. I want to die to myself. I want more of Him, less of me. Because there, sweet ones, is the stillness and peace we crave.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Son, About "20 minutes of action"

I don't think my son is quite old enough for me to give this letter to him, but when I decide that he's ready, I will. In the meantime, the contents of this letter are my parenting goals. 

Hey You,

When I see something horrific happen in the world, I will always want to find a way to teach something you about it. When I hear of a person {only 8 years older than you} that committed an unspeakably awful, violent crime… When I think about the fact that one incredibly ugly, vile, stupid, vicious, selfish, narcissistic, egotistical, maniacal, barbaric decision made his face go viral as a rapist {and justifiably so}… I sit back in silence while my head explodes. THEN I MAKE IT MY PERSONAL MISSION NOT TO RAISE A VILLIAN. Let me just say that there is nothing you could ever do to break my love for you. Know that. BUT I would ABSOLUTELY NOT write a letter to the judge like Brock Turner's father did  for you if you had done what he's done. If I did write a some sort of letter or make a statement, I would definitely use better terminology for what you had done than "20 minutes of action". I want to talk to you about horrific things like this before it's too late.

I brought you home from the hospital when I was 19. That's only a year older than Brock Turner was when he committed this crime. An 18 or 19 year old is young, but they are very much an adult capable of making decisions that benefit others, not harm them. I checked into the hospital as a pregnant college student, and I left as a mother. A young woman grew you inside of herself, gave you life, nourished you, clothed you, bathed you, diapered you, soothed your cries, dried your tears, cooled your feverish little body, comforted you while you threw up on me, and kept you alive. It was my joy, but I want to make you understand something: It's true that it takes both a man and a woman to create a life, but it's woman who brings that life into the world. God's own representative on Earth, Jesus himself, didn't magically descend from the sky; he came through a woman. Women have worth. In fact, when Jesus rose from the dead, it was a woman, not His disciples, that He chose to appear to first. He chose this in spite of the fact that in their culture, her testimony was worthless, unreliable, and unacceptable. Our Father TREASURES his daughters. WOMEN ARE CAPABLE OF (AMONG OTHER THINGS) GIVING LIFE, SO PLEASE SEE EVERY WOMAN'S WORTH BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO TAKE FROM HER LIFE.

When I think about the fact that witnesses caught Turner in the act… When I think about the fact that a jury found him GUILTY of this crime… When I think about the fact that an elected judge heard Turner's victim read her TWELVE PAGE impact statement letter… When I think about the fact that this elected official's job is a professional officiator and dispenser of justice… When I think about the fact that this professional dispenser of justice cared more about Brock's future than his victim… I am ENRAGED because this judge basically said that this heinous crime was an "oopsie" on Brock's part and AGAIN stripped this victim of her worth.

This is rape culture, son. Rape culture says "don't get yourself raped" instead of "don't rape". Rape culture says "consideration and kudos should be given that this rapist never raped before--this was a one time thing." Rape culture says "this rapist is talented and has a bright future, so we shouldn't take too much from him." Rape culture says that "a rapist's future is more important than his victim's". Rape culture says "boys will be boys" and "girls will be used and thrown away like garbage." Rape culture says "alcohol, not the rapist, is to blame." Rape culture says "well, she got sloppy drunk so what did she expect?" Rape culture says "with a dress like that on, what was she thinking would happen?" Rape culture says "she was flirty and danced with him, therefore she OBVIOUSLY wanted this." Rape culture says that "a rapist should apologize for partying, not for raping." Rape culture labels rape as "promiscuity." Rape culture says "justice is an elusive concept for someone who wants to remove her own skin to get him off of her." Rape culture says "Martha Stewart gets a similar sentence as someone who sexually attacked an unconscious victim in open outdoor space." Rape culture says that victims should have to live with a crappy, despicable sentence because "at least he got SOME jail time." Rape culture strips countless other women in less publicized cases of their worth and STEALS justice from them.

Fight against this culture, my dear boy. You're a boy now, but one day, you will be a man. Brock did not act like a man. He acted like a boy. My goal is to raise a man, not a boy. Let me tell you something about manhood: it's harder than boyhood. It is. It's something that requires a conscience and discernment and selflessness and hard work. Boyhood involves authoritative guidance and supervision and getting gratification from others and play. Manhood is treating women with respect. Manhood involves EARNING a woman's trust so TOGETHER THEY can decide to be emotionally, physically, and sexually connected. A man reveres a woman. He doesn't objectify or victimize or conquer her. A man doesn't value their power, control, or sexual satisfaction more than any woman. A man fights for what she needs, not what he wants. A man wants the whole woman, not just her parts. A man is interested in learning a woman's thoughts, dreams, passions, or at the very least her name. A man pursues a woman in hopes of finding someone they can share more than 20 years of life with, not "20 minutes of action" {that terminology has been on replay in my mind for days and it still makes me want to puke}. Son, when God created woman, he did so from a man's rib. Not from his foot, God didn't intend for man to walk on her. Not from his hands, He didn't want man to hit her or hurt her. He took the spot under his arm to form her, because he wanted men to wrap their arms around women to PROTECT THEM.

So when you see a woman who has had too much to drink, it is the sincerest prayer of my heart that you do that. Carry her to her bed not to gratify yourself, but to help her and protect her. Tuck her in, make sure she's medically OK, call for help if necessary. But if she doesn't need medical intervention, leave her be. Let her have a peaceful sleep instead of a traumatic awakening that Brock Turner's victim had.

That man I described up above--I pray that is who you become. You know why? Yes, it's because I'm sickened by rape culture. Yes, it's because I don't want you to victimize anyone. Yes, it's because I want you to become the man God created you to be and I know you can be. But I also pray this because THAT MAN + ME = YOU. I want some lucky woman to feel for you what I feel for your dad. Respect. Love. Trust. Security. Safety.


Monday, June 6, 2016

I Love You Lauren

I've known you less than two years. In that time, you have become not just my friend, but my family. I believe we were destined to meet, and I don't even believe in destiny. If I did believe in destiny, it would be a moving target that can change at any moment with different variables. But you… You were meant to be in my life. 

I knew right away that we would hit it off. You're so beautiful, I can't put words to it. Your smile lights up anyone who sees it. I've watched you soften the hardest of hearts. People are drawn to you. And I can see why. Just look at you. 

Stunning. An absolute beauty. The green in your eyes has the same hope as the first leaves of spring, bringing life back into the trees. You have the personality to match, too. You acknowledge the reality of the world around you, you take action when needed, but you're also incredibly gifted at finding the silver lining in the suckiest of situations. I just wish you didn't have to look for the silver lining so often.

The time that we met to when you got diagnosed could be measured in months, but you could also do it in weeks. It was not long. You had beat it once before, and now the cancer returned in a scarier way than it was the first time. I didn't know you when you battled it the first time, but you told me that you did it as a full-time working mom with two preschool aged children. I marveled at that before anyone discovered the cancer had come back. 

People use stupid words like "journey" or "life-change" to describe cancer, and honestly I can't think of accurate ones to describe the process, but I hate these words anyway. 

I've wanted to write about you for a while now for two reasons 1) I want cyberspace to know just how much I adore you and how wonderful you are AND 2) writing is how I deal with my own emotions. It's the only way I can accurately know and verbalize what I feel and try to find sense or a lesson. There is no sense to be had in a senseless situation like cancer, and the words "journey" or "life change" sound trite. And kind of offensive, to be honest. They make it sound like it's something glorious or exciting. Obviously, nothing about cancer is glorious or exciting, and no one wants to go on that journey. I don't know what word I would use to describe the cancer, but I know these words aren't it.

I think you could say that we were one of those friendships that got close quickly, but I never knew how close we'd get. 

I've had a window into your life dealing with cancer and other things a while now {nope--still not calling it a journey!} You're obviously the one who is living with it, but I'm so much more invested than looking through the window at this point. I'm walking right alongside you, and I often wish I could take on your suffering so you didn't have to. 

Like I said, I wanted to write about you for a while now. If I can be completely honest: I've avoided writing about you, and I write about EVERYTHING. If it's not on this blog, it's saved in a word doc or scribbled in a journal somewhere. But I've written absolutely nothing about your disease. I do talk about how much I love you, but you will find no mention of the words "cancer" or "chemo" or any of the other words I wish weren't a part of your life. Don't take this the wrong way, it's not that these things aren't a priority to me. I have avoided writing about this because it shatters my heart. It's too raw. Too real. And to be honest, the fact that there are no answers for you and no one can figure this out flat out pisses me off. A medical mystery has a proper place, and it's on Grey's Anatomy. I've been to so many appointments with you where there are so many questions with no answers. 

When my grandma got sick with cancer, she had been a long time smoker. I had a target to aim my anger at: cigarettes. The tobacco industry. The Marlboro man. I'm ashamed to say I was even frustrated with her for not quitting them sooner. With you, YOU DIDN'T DO ANYTHING to bring this on. There's no industry to blame. You lost your mom to this, and now you have it too. FOR NO REASON. It sucks.

I've spent countless nights with these questions bouncing off one another in my head like bumper cars at the fair. One crashes into another, and that causes a crash into another, and I google a lot of medical terminology I do not understand at 2am. More of these questions don't have answers than the ones that do, and if the uncertainty grates on me, I know they have to be driving you insane. I've had questions for you like: What stage? Where is it? Is it growing? What type of treatment will you get? What treatment will they switch you to because that one is no longer effective? Why are your side effects not presenting typically? Why do you have all these weird symptoms no one can explain? How is your marriage? How are the kids handling it? How are you juggling therapy appointments for your autistic son with your own appointments? Am I what you need right now? Does my friendship give you the kind of support you need? You know you can tell me anything, right? What do you need? How can I help you? What are your questions? 

I could go on with my questions for days, and I'm sure you could too. But your questions are usually heavier than mine, except when you ask about sending out late thank you notes to people when they've done something nice for you {no ma'am--you have a full plate and you absolutely get a pass on this one}. I may not have answers, but I do not want you asking these questions alone. I hope I can be the friend that you know is ALWAYS here to listen to your questions. Something told me not to go to sleep last night. I was really tired, but some vague, weird premonition told me to stay awake. At 1am, I found out why. You texted me with a whole list of scary questions for your appointment today. You were awake and alone, you googled and some horrifically terrifying things popped up in your search results. You needed to list all the things you were afraid of, and all of the worst questions you've had in this process happened last night. That list broke my heart, scared me, and I was devastated that these are the things that must run through your mind every single day. THANK GOD the news your doctor delivered wasn't the scary stuff we were googling last night. Today you got good news that it wasn't the scary scenario we imagined. I had a long silent moment sitting in my driveway crying tears of joy about that. 

We started out being in this married small group together {or small weekly Bible study if that's a more familiar term to my readers}.

But now we are so much more invested in each other's lives than a weekly check in. There's absolutely nothing we don't talk about. There's no topic off limits. We share housekeeping tips and exchange parental anecdotes. When one of us gets in a fight with our husband, the other one is there to talk her down off the ledge. We encourage forgiveness and love. We don't bash our men, we support each other's marriages. I have learned so much from you. I have become a better wife. A better mom. A better human. We've also talked about the most important of issues: fashion. We've shared where we bought new outfits, we've shared products we have our eyes on, we could talk about new shoes and cute purses all day. We've swooned in Pottery Barn over all the $5,000 furniture we decided wasn't worth it because our kids would destroy within a week. We've recapped every episode of the Bachelorette. We just get each other. I get you, and you get me. 

You have the cutest little family. You're so great with them, even though you're always thinking you're screwing it all up. By the way: all the best wives/moms question and try to improve themselves like you do. Your kiddos are cuddly with you for a reason. You're a fantastic mom. The love your husband has for you is palpable to me. 

You tell me what you're craving when we set lunch dates because you found a food that doesn't make you barf and actually tastes good, in spite of what chemo has done to your tastebuds. You always name a restaurant almost apologetically like I may not want to go there, but really, I'm just thrilled to have time with you. Everyone is thrilled to spend time with you.

We've talked about ports and chemo, and our text exchanges have included things like "biopsy" and "tumor markers" and "incurable" and "neuropathy" and "pain" and "PET scan" and "MRI" and "life expectancy". You have said to me "I don't want to use this walker--I'm only in my thirties". I have cried because I wish there was more I could do about that--I've playfully suggested bedazzling it, but I know that won't help. I've sent you memes that say "F*** CANCER!" On the worst days when you felt defeated, I have said to you "You don't suck. Cancer sucks." I said that because it's true. YOU DON'T SUCK. CANCER SUCKS.

I've had some of my hardest laughs sitting across from you while you're getting chemo. When we went to the pool with our families last week, you told me how insecure you sometimes feel in a bathing suit now. Since your mastectomy, you feel "lop-sided". That isn't what I see when I look at you. I see a shape-shifting super hero wounded from an enemy she defeated before. I see power. I see beauty. I see someone who doesn't let cancer kick her butt. Even if the cancer is growing, you don't sit on the couch feeling sorry for yourself. You get up and breathe life into people. If you were in a comic book, your character would be called "Cancer-Slayer". Whether you end up beating this cancer or not, I will always say you slay it because you have a zest for life and you REFUSE to let cancer take from it. I bear witness to the fact that you will not let this crapstorm stop you from having fun, finding joy, and making the best out of life. You chase goodness in spite of something that has STOLEN so much good from you. 

Some friends are the type you laugh with, some friends are the type you pray with, some friends are the type you call when you need a favor, some friends are the type you call for advice, and you are ALL of those things to me. In fact, while you've been dealing with the mountain of stuff you're dealing with, you were at a conference listening to a speaker talk about the stuff I struggle with. A lot of people would have just recommended that I read her book, but you bought it for me. 

You are facing a Goliath of a problem right now, but you listen to my junk. You help me when I need it. You show up for me. You are dealing with a crisis that is so much bigger than what most people are dealing with, but you show up for people in the midst of their crises. You not only show up, you dive right in. You volunteer to bring dinner to people when people should be bringing dinner to you. You help so many in precious acts of service. You are a person who goes above and beyond for people. You sacrifice time, money, or whatever you have to offer for people who haven't even asked you to. Light and love radiate from you. You have injected my life with so much light and love that I feel like I could never repay you. You ma'am, have a servant's heart and you instinctively wash people's feet. Your love for Jesus makes you SHINE. Magazines might declare what is beautiful with cosmetics, young thin models, and plastic surgery... but you prove to the world that a woman's beauty is really carved out from inside her heart. I can only hope that I am as good a friend to you as you've been to me. Being your friend is my great honor. I love you Lauren.