Thursday, December 1, 2016

I'm Not Sending Out Christmas Cards

The week of Thanksgiving, I remember thinking to myself that I should probably get on it with the Christmas cards. I didn't send them out last year either… so I was feeling guilty and feeling like I probably owed it to relatives and friends to just get them out no matter what. I started googling looking at all the pretty Christmas card designs and I felt an instant pang of dread. It felt a lot more stressful than joyful. I mean, it always has been an extra layer of stress for me during the holiday season… But this year the dread struck me like lightning. 

So since it's so much harder for me to be kind to myself than it is to be kind to a friend… I thought to myself "what would I tell a girlfriend if she were telling me this?" It's my new thing to help me not torture myself more than I already have the propensity to do… Here's what I would say to a friend "Girl, don't even send those cards. Focus on your sweet family. Spend the time you would've spent addressing cards loving on them. Bring joy instead of stress into their lives. Mailing out Christmas cards doesn't make you a better wife and mom--ditching stress does." 

So, no cards. OhMahGosh y'all it feels so great to come to this decision. No individually mailed cards this year, and it's quite possible there will never be individually mailed cards ever again. No stamping stuff. No begging pardons from people for asking for their addresses once again because I can't keep my sh** together and just input their info into my phone like any normal, civilized human in 2016. No spending an insane amount of money on cards and stamps to send to people I haven't physically seen in almost a decade. No coordinating outfits to match and arguing with my son that he better get that freshly pressed shirt tucked in. I DON'T EVER PRESS SHIRTS, Y'ALL. My dryer has an over-utilized steam function that makes me never iron anything. Anything requiring an iron and starch gets outsourced to the dry cleaners because I ain't about that life. So I ask you: WHY IN THE BLUE BLAZES do I need people on my mailing list to think that my son wears starchy, crispy shirts he hates wearing?! Lawd.

Last year I did a silly e-card with a pun-tastic caption and a photo collage on Facebook. This year I'm doing only this blog post. YOLO! It feels so good to scratch an unnecessary stressor I burden myself with off of my list. There is stress that comes with the ebbs and flows of life, and then there is stress that is self inflicted. I feel like American culture is absolutely LOADED with self inflicted stress. This is the kind of stress that we choose and pile on because "it's just how things are done", "it's just what we do", and this is "just the way it is". Um. Who is the boss of these ridiculous rules of Pinteresty cute Christmas cards?! Who decided this is a thing moms must do?! I don't know… But she's fired. 

So anyway, our family still exists. I promise. We put on a little weight from last year. My hair is longer than it was last year. The Messy Mr has a little more salt in his salt and pepper look he's been rocking the past few years (which I think is sexy as all get out). Our kiddo is a little bigger and he cares a lot more about his swooshy bangs than he did last year. Barkley is still as ugly as he ever was, but we had another year of his sweet snuggles. 

We tried to take a selfie with all 4 of us in it 45 times and this was the best we could do. It's super fuzzy because the dog sneezed in my husband's face right before we took it. Bless. But I love it anyway. I put it in black and white to make it feel a little fancier. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

We Probably Won't Have Another Baby

Where to begin? Even thinking about this topic causes my emotions to bubble over until hot tears rush down my cheeks. While my son enthusiastically (and loudly) plays Madden 17 in the other room on his Xbox, I am a blubbering hot mess in my bed. I am the same blubbering hot mess that I was at the end of Marley and Me and the same blubbering hot mess that I was when I watched P.S. I Love You. I'm talking the snotty, salty ugly cries. It's so ugly it's scary. Literally. It is literally scary. My husband is the only one who has ever seen me cry like this, and I see horror and distress looking back at me in his eyes. It's shaky and I sometimes hyperventilate when I cry like this. It's the kind of ugly that is the rawest of raw. And I'm about to get really raw so buckle your seat belt.

People read my blog for encouragement with dashes of humor thrown in. Although I do have pain in my life, but I usually spin that pain around and share what I'm learning so people won't feel alone. I want them to be encouraged and uplifted. I want my readers to walk away from my blog happier than they came. That's always my main focus because that's what I want my friends to walk away feeling IRL. I have no encouragement today. I have no sunshine. I have no digital hugs to give. I'm sorry about this. I truly am. My heart is again shattered after yet another month has passed… and I'm still not pregnant. 

Every month I think I'll be better prepared to handle the disappointment... and every month I am more emotionally leveled than the month before it. More money down the drain spent on negative pregnancy tests and unsuccessful doctors visits. More wasted time and energy. By my estimation, we've probably bought about 67 zillion pregnancy tests in the 7 years we've been waiting. 7 years is equal to 84 attempts. 84 failures. Now, this may not sound like a huge number. But anyone who has ever tried to have a child will tell you, the 12 it takes to be considered "infertile" feels like an eternity. 

Gosh, infertile. I even hate the word. It implies brokenness. My system is a defective model. It lacks the ability to perform its only function. And even though it's not my fault, stage 4 endometriosis makes me feel like such a failure. This disease not only kills my ability to have more kids, it rocks my body with such unbearable pain that I occasionally cease to function as a human. The pain can sometimes be so severe that I am frozen mid-step, unable to move.

I turned 30 this year, which obviously still isn't too terribly concerning when it comes to my biological clock. But I started a family early. I was 19 when I had my son, which makes him 11. Thank you, math. NOT! My biological clock isn't ticking so loud it's keeping me awake at night, but my kiddo gets another month older every time my reproductive system fails me. I don't want to have a high schooler while we're starting completely over. My husband feels the same. I'm dangerously close to time running out for my husband and I to have another child. I think that's why this gets harder as time goes on. I know the time to give up is coming. And I'm terrified.

I'm terrified because I don't know who I am without being a mom with a kid at home. I never really got to figure out who I was before I became a mom, and I found an identity I loved when my son was born. It's one of the only things I feel proud of myself for. So who am I without it? I know my son will obviously be in my life after he grows up, but if I don't have someone to pack a lunch for, or someone to play Plants vs. Zombies with, or someone to take to football practice, or someone who needs help with their homework, or a child to feed every night at dinnertime, then who am I? Who will I be, then? I haven't the slightest clue.

I already feel him slipping through my fingers. He's not leaving for college or anything, but every day I feel him getting closer to that finish line. I feel him making the transition from boy to man, and as excited as I am about his future, I know that I won't know what to do with myself. The mom lane is the only lane I've been in as an adult, and I know I'll struggle greatly with the empty nest lane. I want to stay in this lane. I like this lane. I'm comfortable here.

I always planned on having a lot of kids. I'VE. ALWAYS. LOVED. KIDS. No one ever had to make me play with my sister that is 10 years younger than me. I fell in instant love and we were stuck together like glue whenever I came to her house. I grew up in a different state than she did, and I would count down the 12 days I would have to wait to see her again. Leaving her every other Sunday was absolutely devastating. I gravitated to serving in middle school ministry for a very long time. MIDDLE. SCHOOL. GIRLS. This is an age known for tweenagers with sassypants and mean girl drama, but I loved every minute of it. I adored my church girls. I still do as they grow up and go away to college. All of this to say that I am gravitate to kids. And they gravitate to me. Strangers' babies have always grinned so big at me and wanted to be held by me. This may sound ridiculous, but it's true. Every time I see a baby in public, it will lock eyes with me and smile. My husband comments on it "these babies are drawn to you." And I'm likewise drawn to them. I always imagined a life with at least 4 of them. 

I have been shamed that I'm struggling with this because at least I have one. Not everyone does. This is true. I get it. I totally do. I can't imagine the pain of never being able to be a mom. If I was in their shoes I would be thinking exactly the same things. But I promise I can feel overwhelming joy and pride for the one I do have while grieving for the ones I don't. I promise that it is possible to feel both emotions at 100%. Simultaneously. Secondary infertility is a lonely road. You are don't quite fit with people facing primary infertility and you don't quite fit with the people who have more than one kid.

Having an older child means that you're around people that have more kids than you do. And while they were all getting pregnant the second and third time, I was CONSTANTLY getting asked when I would "get around" to having more. I was getting told that having an only child meant he would be spoiled. I was told having only one was a selfish decision when it was never a decision at all. I was being told that my life was SO MUCH easier because I had "just one". Those words "just one" pierced my heart like shards of hot glass. People tell me it's not in God's plan. Ouch. That one had me paralyzed in a shame spiral for years thinking that God must think I'm a terrible mother. Or maybe he was punishing me for getting pregnant the first time before we got married. People tell me that my 40's will be awesome. I can travel and "live free". I don't want to. I'm dreading it. It doesn't feel free to me. 

I know most people mean well when they say things to me. But 98% of the things people have said have been unintentionally hurtful. I think we're just uneducated as a society on how to support couples going through infertility. We just are. So if you're wondering what to say to someone struggling through this, and feel like you don't have anything to say… I get it. Because nothing you can say will fix it. But there's a whole laundry list of things I feel like you shouldn't say.

Don't tell these people to just wait on God's timing. Don't tell them at least they don't have to deal with the expense or hassle (IMO, this is tantamount to telling someone who just lost their father that at least now they don't have to buy gifts for his birthday.) Don't tell them this could be a blessing in disguise. Don't tell these people to stop stressing so much. Don't tell them it will happen when they least expect it. Don't tell them to take a cruise. Don't tell them "so and so got pregnant with this home remedy of herbs and fairy dust." Don't tell them to cheer up. Don't tell them everything will be OK. Don't tell them that praying hard enough or having enough faith will give them the child they so desperately want. Don't tell them that at least their miscarriage was early, as if that would soothe the pain in any way. Don't tell these people to pursue more treatments than they are comfortable with. Don't tell them that pursuing treatment is wrong. 

AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T ASK THEM "WHY DON'T YOU JUST ADOPT?" In our case, my husband wasn't a US Citizen for a long time so we were ineligible. Now, I have gone public with my diagnoses of chronic depression and complex PTSD so our application ain't exactly at the top of the heap. Adoption is far too expensive for some couples. Adoption doesn't always fix the grief of being unable to experience pregnancy anymore than getting a new dog heals your heart after your longtime pet got sick and passed away. A lot of people need time to process letting go of the idea of having a child with daddy's eyes and mama's smile. Adoption is beautiful, and I'm not slamming it, I'm just saying that this doesn't automatically heal the deep wounds of infertility. For some it does, but it doesn't for everyone. 

What should you say to someone struggling with this heartbreak? Say "I am so sorry you're going through this. I wish you weren't. How can I help you?" That's it. Don't give advice. People in this predicament have had ENOUGH advice. Believe me. They have heard it all. And they have been hurt by it all. All they want is a friend to listen. Not to talk. Not to teach. Not to find the silver lining. But to listen. And to make it safe to unleash the salt and snot of the ugly cry. 

I probably won't have another child. I couldn't say that out loud for years. And it was hard just to type it out. Right now I don't feel like keeping my chin up about it. Right now I feel like crying. Alone.

Because letting go of this completely will be hard enough work without working at faking being OK. And today I'm telling myself it's OK to not be OK. It has to be. Because it's not OK to let go of the images I've had in my head of a new baby to snuggle. It's not OK that I spent thousands of hours crying out to God for a child that probably won't come. It's not OK that I have near constant dreams of being pregnant or holding a newborn and wake up in a puddle of tears when I {again} realize it wasn't real. It's not OK that I've had so many days of locking myself in my room to secretly cry so the child that I do have doesn't see it. It's not OK that while I'm crying I'm feeling guilty for laughing and playing with him. It's not OK that every prayer my son prays he says "and please help us have a baby." It's not OK that he has prayed this thousands of times over the years. It's not OK that any first milestone I have with my son is also likely my last I will experience as a mother. It's not OK to feel so defective. It's not OK to face the reality that we probably won't have another baby. But it is OK to not be OK. At least for today.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Mama vs. Mama

The mommy war struggle is real, y'all. So much judgement is out there for the choices you make in raising your kiddos. The worst offenders of hateful judgement are actually other moms! We've got some serious friendly fire issues over here on Planet Mom, and I'm so sick of it. Go peruse through a Scary Mommy comment section sometime. There is some serious shade thrown at one another for the DUMBEST of reasons. I wearily listen to all these arguments and get a serious urge to lock myself in my closet with a bible. Or wine. Preferably both. Come quickly Lord Jesus! There's the breast vs. bottle war.  The attachment parenting vs. free range parenting war. You've heard of the battle of the sexes? I feel like the battle of the moms is JUST AS BAD and far more frequent. These wars are VICIOUS. They are BRUTAL. And you know what? They are just flat out UNNECESSARY! Not only are they unproductive, but hello?! Moms have ENOUGH guilt in our own heads that we're messing this whole mom thing up. 

The worst war, though? I feel like it's the working mom vs. the stay-at-home-mom war. My word are people opinionated on this! Whether it's your mother-in-law, other moms at the PTA, or some lady in the grocery store giving you the side-eye, people have way too many opinions about this subject. If you work outside the home, then CLEARLY you must care nothing about your kids because you're letting other people raise them. Eyeroll. If you stay at home, then you OBVIOUSLY have no ambition and only want to stay home to watch television and sponge off your husband's income. Eyeroll. This is getting seriously old, y'all. And let's not forget the single mamas who have ABSOLUTELY NO CHOICE in this situation at all. If I see anyone throwing shade at a single mama for working then so help me…. I'll be the grocery store lady dishing up a mean case of sideye at you.

Look, I've done both. Both are so incredibly hard. I don't feel like one was easier for me than another. I had overwhelming guilt in both scenarios. 

I remember telling the room mom that I would love to commit more time to helping out in the classroom, but my work schedule wouldn't allow it. I got one of those slow nods. You know the ones. The judgmental slow nod came with a long "Ohhhhhh". Then she turned and walked away from me, and never spoke to me again. She didn't have to say a word for me to feel her judgment and condemnation all over me. 

Bless. Listen, my mommy guilt was just another passenger buckled in my car next to my computer bag on my commute when I worked. My unwelcome passenger got out and bugged me all day. She would tell me that a better mom would have remembered to put a blue shirt on her kid on blue shirt day. She would tell me that my sniffly boy would be better off with a mama to lay on & snuggle all day. She would tell me that a better mama would get the laundry done more often. She would tell me that a better employee would stay later to finish that project like everyone else without kiddos does. She would tell me that a better mom would be a better wife who wasn't so tired and snippy with her husband. She would tell me a better mom would have a cleaner house. She would tell me a better mom wouldn't bring work projects home so I would have more time to make healthier dinners and pack better lunches. She would tell me a better mom would be there for every milestone, every laugh, and every moment. When I was at work, I felt guilty about how I was cheating my family. When I went home from work, I felt guilty about how I was cheating my employer. I felt like I was constantly struggling to give both my all. I felt guilty about my divided focus and assumed that a better mom would stay home. 

When I stayed at home, I had no people or projects to distract me from the mommy guilt. She was with me all dadgum day. Stay-at-home-momming has its own challenges, and the mommy guilt from these challenges was omnipresent. It was both overwhelming but yet not challenging enough. I felt guilty for being so exhausted and overwhelmed by the all-day never-one-moment-off reheating-my-coffee-four-times demands. I felt guilty for feeling bored by the fact that I only used my brain for dumb things like which household cleaners to buy. I felt guilty for wasting my skills on hungry hungry hippos and scrubbing sippy cups. I felt guilty that I couldn't even keep up with the demand of keeping the sippy cups clean or getting ground up cheez-its out of the carpet. I felt guilty for not carpe-diem-ing all the time and not loving every moment. I felt guilty for looking forward to nap time. I felt guilty that my house was far, far messier as a stay at home mom than it ever was as a working mom. I felt guilty that my husband came home to a wife in yesterday's sweats and a ratty ponytail. I felt guilty that I was just as tired as a stay at home mom and I was still just as snippy with my husband as I was when I worked. I felt guilty when I was cleaning that I wasn't playing with my boy. I felt guilty that when I was playing that I wasn't cleaning. I felt guilty for spending money when I didn't make any. I felt guilty for looking like crap in old, ratty clothing because I couldn't bring myself to buy anything new. When I would take my son to the park and see his laughter and joy, I would feel guilty for not doing it often enough. My guilt would say to me "Sara, you stay home ALL DAY and you can't manage to get your kid to the park when it brings him THIS MUCH JOY?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!" I'd shame myself while my son giggled at the park. Even the momming wins made me feel guilty. I would feel guilty when I looked through our checking account and tell myself that a better mama would go to work to give her kid more. 

Lawd. The point is, our value as moms has absolutely NOTHING to do with our choice of occupation. ZERO correlation. NONE. Our value has EVERYTHING to do with how we try. How we assess the needs of our family, how we assess our own skills and put them to work, how we grow, and how we learn from our mistakes. The path we take in our occupation is irrelevant. What matters is how well we love our kiddos and give them the best shot at becoming responsible, well adjusted, contributing members of society as adults. And happy mamas raise happy kiddos. A resentful, grumpy stay at home mom will raise resentful, grumpy kids. A resentful, grumpy mama will raise resentful, grumpy kiddos.

If I physically did to myself what my mom guilt does to my mind, I'd look like Jim Carrey in "Liar, Liar" when he thrashes himself against the wall, slams the toilet seat on his head, bloodies his own nose, rips his suit… And my husband would be the horrified man that walks in and says "what are you doing?!" I would be Jim again, screeching "I'M KICKIN' MY OWN ASS!!!!"

Mom guilt makes us kick our own asses. Hard. But I ask y'all WHY IN THE BLUE BLAZES do we kick one another's?! Don't we have enough of that mess in our own heads?! What good does it do?! Have the mom-wars ever ONCE make someone a better mom? Doubtful. Highly, highly doubtful. 

Furthermore, these wars imply that there is only one correct way to raise a child. There can't only be one way to mom correctly. Any mom who has had more than one child will tell you that they naturally come out with completely different personas and completely different needs. If there was only one correct way to mom, that would mean that all children would need exactly the same things. Not true. Not true at all. If it were, momming would be so much simpler than it is. I'm thankful for all the types of momming available out there. The diversity in my friendship with mamas adds to my parenting repertoire, and my son is better off for it.

I see my working mom pals raising INCREDIBLE kids. I see my stay at home moms raising AMAZING kids. I see so many different types of moms using their unique gifts and talents to bless their families in ways no other mom could. All these different moms use those gifts and talents to bless other moms. You know why they say it takes a village? Because any good village includes all different kinds of moms. If we all mommed the same way, the village wouldn't be beneficial anymore. Our children need moms of all types to help them through all challenges and pique all their interests. 

So to the working mamas. To the stay at home mamas. To the work from home mamas. To the room mamas. To the board room mamas. To the single mamas. To the married mamas. To the yesterday's yoga pant mamas. To the fashionista mamas. To the gourmet meal mamas. To the frozen pizza mamas. To the bento box mamas. To the school lunch mamas. To the only child mamas. To the multiple child mamas. To the breastfeeding mamas. To the bottle feeding mamas. To the natural birth mamas. To the epidural mamas. To the C-section mamas. To the adoptive mamas. To the type-A mamas. To the hot-mess mamas. To the crafty mamas. To the mamas who would rather deal with colic than crafting. To ALL OF Y'ALL: I say to you, if you are feeling mommy guilt, you are one helluva mom because you want the best mom possible for your kid. Don't let anyone shame you into feeling like you would be a better mom if you made their choices. 

I want to thank all of you just for being you. You're creating a world that shows my son all possibilities for how to become an adult. All types of mamas have made me better. Even the judgmental, hateful ones. They challenge me to love my mom tribe harder. 

This mom thing is hard enough when we're kicking our own asses. Let's not kick each other's. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

….So Where Do We Go From Here?

OK, y'all. This election. I don't know where to begin. Let me make a disclaimer before I start that this is neither pro-Trump nor pro-Clinton. K? Fill up your coffee cups (or wine glasses) and breathe with me. Leave your political opinions at the door. Even though this post is about the current political climate, it's not a political debate.

This entire year has been one of gut wrenching cultural and political turmoil. This year has pitted just about socioeconomic group against one another. Every demographic has been polarized. So much hate. So much pain. But more than anything, there has been so much fear. 

I believe that it is fear that is the root cause of all this division. Fear has prevailed in 2016. I would argue that the fear has led to more stereotyping, more polarization--not less. When we have been afraid, we have stopped listening to opposing viewpoints. For months, people have been nervously pacing around saying "What if {fill in the blank} gets elected?! What if the opposing viewpoint to mine wins?!"

Last night, hearts shattered across the nation but a lot of people are also celebrating. This level of hate this year has been killing me. KILLING ME. I have been having migraines, tension, rashes, insomnia, anxiety, and more. I was counting down the minutes hoping that the actual election result would help people move on & hate one another less. I've seen the opposite. I've seen anger. Heartbreak. Gloating. Smugness. Meanness. Grieving. Despair. Taunting. Boasting. SO MUCH SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS. SO MUCH FEAR. SO MUCH DIVISION. SO MUCH HATE. All the emotions that were there pre-election have been magnified post-election.

It's exhausting. It's nasty. It's disheartening. And I'll be honest, I have been embarrassed to be a Christian in light of how we have behaved on our social media accounts {both political parties, for the record}. We have attached our political parties to Jesus as if they are synonymous. For the record, setting your political beliefs where your conscience and faith-life leads you is not wrong. Filtering your ballot through beliefs is not inherently wrong.  It's not.

However, idolizing either one of the man-made, flawed political parties and elevating it to the same level as Jesus is wrong. It's not only wrong, it's impractical and not conducive to our cause as followers of Jesus. Because when we do that, we stop the conversation. We're burning bridges instead of building them. We're narrowing our circles of who we will subject ourselves to eat dinner with. Y'all. My heart broke all day today reading all the arguments on my Facebook timeline. I told myself I would stay off Facebook today, but I couldn't look away. I would stop for a few hours, then curiosity would pull me back. 

I felt so defeated watching this division that I HAD TO sit down to pray.

So I prayed. And I prayed. And I prayed some more. You know what God lead me to re-learn today? 

He has done some of His best work in times of political unrest. He has pulled off miracles in times when division was at the highest. 

You know what that means? These times of grief and gloating are difficult, but they are also an opportunity. This is not a time to slap people around with our exhausting and ultimately unproductive debates, it's a time to roll up our sleeves and put our steel toed boots on because we have hard work to do. This is the time to show the world what we're made of. I hope to God we're not only made of where we placed our checkmark on our ballots. 

We need to show up and get to work because most of America has been disgusted with every news cycle this year. Most of America has lost faith in our entire democracy. We have lost faith in each other. We have lost the ability to unify and work together in our government, but that does not mean that we have to lose our ability to work together as the church. In fact, let's not… K?

People are going to be looking for hope, and we can't offer them a thing with our hopelessness or smugness we're putting out there on social media. We have to work with people we disagree with. We have to work with people who think differently than us. We have to stop pointing people towards Red or Blue, and instead look up. We're going to have to have to give people hope and love, and we're going to have to do that with humility and subtlety. We've got to stop arguing about what God thinks and we've got to start loving the people God made. For the record, that's everyone.

Shame on us for placing our hope in who lives in the White House. Shame on us for declaring that people who don't vote the way that we do "aren't real Christians". Shame on us for placing our trust in our government. Jesus never once set up a government, he set up a church. He didn't write a Constitution, or Amendments, or Propositions, he moved from community to community breaking bread with people of all sorts. He never called on a government to do his work, he called on us, his followers to do it. If the depth of our faith is measured only by which way we vote, then there is no discernible difference between the ones who show up to church only on Christmas and the ones who have devoted their lives to putting Christ first because which bumper sticker they put on their car would tell us all we need to know.

We don't have to wait on the government to do the work of God. We, not congress, are the Church's hands and feet. We will not get there by curling up and crying in a ball, and we will not get there by with posting sarcastic memes. We will get there by gathering around tables with people of differing beliefs. We will get there by opening our church doors to people who don't look or dress like us. We will get there by volunteering at soup kitchens. We will get there by adopting the orphaned. We will get there by digging deeper than reading cherry picked verses on memes on our smartphones. We will get there by visiting the elderly with no family left to care for them. We will get there by praying over one another. We will get there by befriending people that are different than us. We will get there by encouraging our children to have diversity in their friendships. We will get there by hugging one another. We will get there when we stop being afraid of the other side. We will get there by listening more than we talk. No government can do any of these, but we can. Better yet, Jesus can. Jesus can offer people hope in a hopeless world. Jesus can surprise people with how much he loves us… all of us. 

Let's stop obsessing over who will lead this country and instead focus on who will lead our hearts. The world is watching us so closely right now. Let's be the light of the world. Let's give people hope for a change.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Whatever, Y'all

OK, loves. This is going to be a tough one, so go ahead and take a pee break or top off your coffees before you dig in. K? We good now? OK let's go.

I started writing this blog to simultaneously connect with people whilst remaining in my sweatpants. Multitasking, y'all.

I got some hate mail on my blog's Facebook page this morning. This person sent me an extremely hateful message and her words included the phrases "your husband only married you because you were pregnant" and "quit your bitching" and "you are the problem".

WHOA. Maybe instead of a coffee break I should've called for a break for an early happy hour. I don't need any help thinking this crap, y'all. My depressed self-loathing brain comes up with this stuff all on its own. I have days of hot mess-dom that have no origin at all. Sometimes I have absolute meltdowns over spilling my drink. I will curl up and cry--completely immobilized… debilitated. My husband will say to me "it's OK babe… it's just spilled water" and I will say "IT'S NOT THE WATER CUP. MY WHOLE LIFE IS FALLING APART." He just stands there scratching his head confused. I know. I don't get it either. 

I often have days of sadness and curling up in the fetal position because… Y'ALL. I AM A HOT MESS. There's no other way to explain it. They don't call me The Messy Mrs for nothing.

If you're someone who doesn't GET what I write about… the real life… the grit… the struggle… dare I say? DEPRESSION--Well, I am so dang glad you don't get it. It's brutal. And confusing. And exhausting. And contrite. And just endless. 

I have such a difficult time figuring out how much of my struggle is depression and how much of it is just the normal ebbs and flows of life everyone deals with. It doesn't help that I am just an emotional creature. I just am. Whatever I feel is MAGNIFIED. The highs are HIGH and the lows are LOW. Joy feels like euphoria. Sadness feels like absolute devastation. Whatever thoughts cross my mind become absolute obsessions. When I say I obsess, I mean I OBSESS. I spend 17 hours looking up Amazon reviews for the best $3 ice scraper for my windshield. I can feel people getting sick of hearing me obsess, but I just cannot stop. Pray for my husband, y'all. Bless him. I am a platinum frequent flier of the strugglebus… this bus often drags my husband behind it. I feel guilty about what he has to deal with being married to me, so I automatically assume he wants to leave me because I desperately wish I could leave me. I am a handful. Lawd. I'm lucky he loves when in the highs and the lows. I have to relearn this all the time.

I so wish I was the easy-peasy-roll-with-the-punches-type. I am just not. I have tried to be, but I just cannot. I am quick to hug, and I am quick to cry. I am quick to love, but I am also quick to anger. I spiral intensely downward for reasons I rarely figure out. I attach to people's stories of sadness and make it MY RESPONSIBILITY to fix it. I cannot be bothered to balance a checkbook, but I am balancing the emotions of dozens of my friends. 

I was just crawling out of the hole when this person wrote this to me. I was on the upswing and not paralyzed with pain this morning and then I read this message. 

I sat there staring at it for a solid 20 minutes not knowing what to feel about what was said. I struggle hard enough to understand what goes on in my OWN HEAD, I have no room left with figuring out how to deal with HOW OTHER PEOPLE FEEL about what I say about it. None. 

But, whatever y'all. I can't even with some people. I have enough yucky, murky, dark, fragility in my own genetic code. My seratonin levels already struggle enough. Sometimes this murk is lower than low and sometimes it's just number than numb. I'm lucky today was leaning more towards numb when I read this message. Normally, criticisms like this hit me HARD. But today... I have no hoots left to give, y'all. Haters gonna hate. 

I wrote this piece today just for the people who get haters like this. I don't want you to believe what they say to you. You don't need help thinking less of yourself. I don't want you to walk that road alone. Because if you're alone, you'll be tempted to believe the lies. And that's what this hate is--LIES.

I do have all the hoots in the world for people who get my struggle. If that's you, you have been blessed with a burden, my love. You are mentally different. Read more about that here. You feel more. You're acutely more aware of the pain around you. No one loves harder than you. No one cares more than you. The struggle is a fire that can consume you, but you can also use your fire to light up the world. #AllTheFeelz, yep that's you. 

If anyone hates on you for that, just know that 
  3. I GET IT.



Friday, November 4, 2016

To the Bruised One

Hey you. 

I see those bruises. They may not be actual physical bruises, but they're there all the same. You're spiritually banged up. Your faith life got smashed all to pieces by some great big force that came barreling towards it at full speed. The enemy had you in a chokehold, and though you're running away from him, those bruises are still all over you. 

Giiiiiirrrrrrlllll… I feel ya. I'm right there with you. We're fighting through what has come to be called spiritual warfare. If that term is new to you, it may seem melodramatic, but it's so much more common than you think. Actually, the Bible tells us over & over again that it is completely expected.

"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil."
- Ephesians 6:11

He told us to arm ourselves because the devil is coming for us, and the fight will not be easy. God knew this. He knew we would need an arsenal to protect ourselves from the one who seeks nothing but destruction. The expression "fight like hell" comes to mind, because when hell comes to fight, it don't play.

Spiritual warfare is the battle between the good One and the evil one, and the war rages inside of you. This war beats the heck out of you, and you're so bruised up that you don't even recognize yourself anymore, am I right? What seemed clear no longer does, what seemed certain has evaporated, and you feel completely wiped out. 

You know why? Because hell don't play. He wants your faith demolished. He wants you smashed. He wants your children to be obliterated. He wants anyone who threatens his evil plans GONE. He wants you to bruised up to fight back.

God warns us over & over that this war is coming for us. So now that we know that this is NORMAL and this defeated feeling is not a shortcoming of us, let's all relax. Take a deep breath. Woosah, y'all. 

K. Let's figure out how we're going to fight our way out of this mess. God told us to arm ourselves. But with what? Tomatoes to throw? Teargas to hurl? 

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage war in the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not flesh but divine power to destroy strongholds." 
- 2 Corinthians 10:3-4

Our weapons against spiritual warfare are not weapons we use in mortal warfare. Our weapons come from the divine power of Jesus. What does that mean, though? It means that His promises are our armor. We cannot be protected if we don't pick up His Word, read, and claim His promises as our own. These are the weapons with which we protect ourselves from defeat. 

We say OUT LOUD "You don't belong here" to the enemy. You fill up your head and your heart with His words to you so that THERE IS NO ROOM for the thief to enter. You do this every single day. You do this multiple times a day. When you feel weak, stop what you are doing and say to yourself "I will not be defeated because God is my strength. So you, Satan, can HIT THE DIRT, SCRAM, GET LOST!" Though you walk in flesh, you have the power of the divine to destroy evil because this divine has already claimed you. 

This war never ends. There will be times when it will feel exhausting, insurmountable, and downright impossible… and it is if you rely on yourself. Whenever you feel broken, powerless, or afraid, remember to whom you belong. 

You are a protected by God's fortress, but only if you remember to keep your whole being inside it. When you let your mind wander around aimlessly, you are putting yourself behind enemy lines. When you sit at the feet of the One who can protect you, He will rescue you. He will protect you. He is the only one who can heal those bruises.

I'm praying SO BIG for you, my love. 



Friday, October 28, 2016

More Heart, Less Attack

Y'all. I can't even right now.    I. CAN'T. EVEN. 

2016 has been such a hate filled year that it is crippling me--KILLING ME--due to my C-PTSD. I can barely function. When I say it's killing me, I mean that I am so tense I am having migraines, rashes on my body, tremors, nightmares, and intense depression. I often go days without leaving my home. Check out my last blog entry and you'll see it was months ago. Blogging used to be therapeutic for me, but lately I've just been hiding in a bunker. This turmoil is almost entirely due to the news cycles of this year. There's this group vs that group. This group is for THIS but that group is for THAT. All the groups. So many groups. …and rather than sitting down to have a harmonious discussion to get through this year together, we're running at one another with our rage and our pitchforks. So much animosity. So much hate. 

Literally. Cannot. Deal.

Think of a hate-filled issue from 2016. They run aplenty. There has not been a more hate filled year in my lifetime (I was born in 1986, if inquiring minds want to know). I have remained silent on my stances on a lot of these issues because of FEAR. That's right. I've been AFRAID to express my opinion in America. Land of the free. Home of the brave. I don't know about you, but I feel neither free nor brave. My opinion could go viral and trigger the hate of America which would trigger me to hate myself more than I already do. And believe me, the level of hatred I have for myself is more than enough.

You know why I'm so afraid? We the people are dying to know what a blogger thinks on the issues... but then when the blogger actually tells them their opinion {about something other than what reality television shows they watch} all hell breaks loose. 

Case in point: Jen Hatmaker. Jen Hatmaker is a hilariously talented Christian author. The woman is not just comedy, however. Her emotional and spiritual intelligence runs deep, y'all. Her words have touched deeper places in my heart than any sermon I've ever heard from a pulpit. 

Read this Facebook post she wrote here, but get you some steel toed boots on to do the work she's talking about. She's not talking about showing up to churches with well manicured lawns and like-minded believers to sing our sweet praise songs and go home. She's talking about that true grit of being a Christian. She's talking about the hard stuff. She's has the boldness to ask Jesus to break our hearts to open our eyes to what we can't see. 2016 has been anything but that. 2016 has been a defensive year. Most of our eyes haven't been opened to anything new at all. Those pitchforks are ready to defend what we see now. We don't want to shift our perspective. That's too hard. And dammit, we are RIGHT. Right?

Jen expressed her opinion on marriage equality in an interview, and the haters came out in droves. The biggest being Matt Walsh's blog about her. You can read it here. Seriously. Read all of it. The line I'll quote directly is when Mr Walsh says "It's a grave responsibility to be a Christian with an audience." I won't disagree with him there, because it is. There is no greater responsibility than representing our great God. What Mr Walsh represents as a Christian with an audience is snide, snarky, superior jokes about "the lady from HGTV." He made no mention of her brilliance. Her wit. Her raw talent. Her hard work. Her love of the poor. Her drive to help the underprivileged. To him, she is a "heretic" and a "supposed Christian". And as of this moment… 29.2K people who have shared his blog on Facebook agree with him. 

When I read this ugly attack on one of my favorite Christian authors, I could remain silent no more. I get very upset about the hateful Christians. I always have. I used to think I got upset because they made the rest of us Christians look bad. But I now realize that I get so upset because they make GOD look bad. God is not a God of hate.

So what do I think about all of this? What is my opinion?

Step # 1: We HAVE GOT to stop hatefully arguing about what God thinks. Step # 2: We HAVE GOT to start loving people God made. 

For the record, that's everyone. You know why? Because Jesus directly said so when asked.

"'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?' and to them He said 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind'. This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" 
Matthew 22:36-39 

He didn't say: "the greatest commandment is to argue with one another over the law". He didn't say: "the greatest commandment is to follow all the rules correctly". He didn't say: "If you disagree with another follower, go on a smear campaign against them." 

You know who did say all this though? The Pharisees. 

We Christians talk about Jesus' perfection all the time. He was tempted and didn't succumb in the desert. He hung out with the poor. He did not sin. There ain't nothin' perfect on this Earth but Jesus.

But hang tight here for a moment, because here's the thing: that's on this side in history of the resurrection. Jesus being sinless is a notion that only came about AFTER he was resurrected. Jesus bucked tradition and broke the law ON PURPOSE. Even his own followers thought he'd gone nuts. In his time and culture, he was the chief of sinners because he {GASP} hung out with sinners, drank wine with them, told them to skip the rituals of relatives funerals {even though that was part of the law}. By the way--the lowest of the low in Jesus' day were tax collectors. When he hung out with what, by today's standards, would be an IRS employee… pandemonium broke loose down at the synagogue. Do I still think Jesus was sinless? I do, but not in the way we traditionally think. 

I think the whole reason God sent Him was to show the world that going to the "right" synagogue and following the "right" rules didn't bring them any closer to loving Him with all their hearts, souls, and minds. And you know where that got Him? Nailed to a cross. People thought he was so bad, so sin-infested, so blasphemous that He deserved to die. Religious leaders DID NOT STRAY from their religious texts, and they clung to the words in them more than they clung to the people around them. This is understandable. Who is religious and doesn't care about doing it the right way? Everyone wants to get in good with the Big Guy upstairs. 

But in so doing, they MISSED THE POINT. And what was the point? To love God and to love others. Clinging on so tight to religious texts made them miss the essence of who God is and what He's about*

So when Jesus came, the One who had so long been prophesied, THEY MISSED IT. In their minds, this Jesus guy was a BAD DUDE. He healed people on the Sabbath. What's up with that?! He hung around hookers and adulterers. Like, what?! Who does that?! This Jesus guy was the flagrant foul of religion in those days. 

He was breaking what the interpretation of the rules were at the time. In fact, when religious leaders would confront Jesus TRYING to get Him to blaspheme God, they would get a wise-crack response that made them scratch their heads. The conversation went something like this in today's time and culture:

Pharisees: "Dude, you're helping people on church day and missing church. You can't do that and still be on a church staff."
Jesus: "Um, if your dog was hit by a car on Sunday wouldn't you take him to the vet? Do dogs matter more than people?"**

In other words, Jesus pointed out that these people got so hyper focused on dotting the i's and crossing the t's of their checklist of religious rules, they forgot how to love. And since love is the greatest commandment, it should be assumed that love supersedes religious ritual and dogma. This is how God works. If you're faced with the necessity of helping a friend in need on a Sunday morning vs the necessity of sitting in a church pew, I hope to God you'd go BE the church instead of GOING to church.

This type of counter-cultural but also creepily common-sense radical stuff is the kind of stuff that makes people nervous. And angry. And defensive. They start saying "you aren't REALLY part of our faith…" You're a "heretic"… "Regina, you're wearing sweatpants. It's Monday. It's against the rules…. YOU CAN'T SIT WITH US!" I may have lapsed into Mean Girls, but hey… if the shoe fits. The point is that questioners of the rules in groups tend to be squashed, hushed, hated, and even killed.

These people tried to catch Jesus being blasphemous many times, but they failed at it. The man just made too much dang sense. But then he'd say things like "I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it to the letter"*** as he went around purposefully breaking all these laws. 

If we were alive when Jesus walked the Earth we would be super confused by this too. So wait Jesus…. You've come to fulfill the law to the letter, right? Well I've seen those letters. And it doesn't include this, this, and this that you're doing. You know what I think he'd say? First he'd chuckle, then he'd wrap his arm around us, and he'd say "you're missing it." The law of love is the one that supersedes all the others. If you have to choose between getting religious procedure perfect or loving God/people perfectly, the answer will always be love.

So if Jesus' past behavior is at all indicative of future behavior, what traditions would he buck to compel us to love harder? By today's standards, Christians are allowed to eat unclean meat. We are allowed to do stuff on the Sabbath. We have whole church staffs full of people who do nothing BUT WORK on the Sabbath. So what, then, would the hot button of today be? What would Jesus do that would send the religious zealots' heads spinning? GAY MARRIAGE. 

I believe if Jesus were to come to us today, he'd come as a homeless infant from a strange land. He would grow up to be a religious leader with a wide following who made controversial statements. His statements would make people doubt his devotion to scripture… and therefore to God. He would befriend communities that were shunned by his home church. He would go hang out with people deemed unworthy by his faith traditions. He would blur the lines of who is "in" and who is "out." He would tell us that His love is never neatly packaged the way we expect it to be. He would compel us to STOP cherry picking individual verses that met our agenda, and he would tell us to get dressed up because we're going dancing. He would be sitting there right next to Jen Hatmaker, raising His glass to toast the happy couple. He would not be rigid, inflexible, and writing hateful blogs.

I think this issue would be the one that would make the religious experts of today doubt that the real Jesus was walking right here with us. You know why? Because it's the one issue that the ├╝ber-religious can pull out their bibles and quote, but it's the easiest one to pour a bucket of love over. Because it is love. Love is love is love. 

And yo, I love you dearly, even if you're now one of my haters.


*1 John 4:8
**Matthew 12: 9-14
***Matthew 5:17