Friday, December 30, 2016

To The Messy One


    





If you've been reading my blog long enough, you know that previous season of my life was overwhelmingly difficult. I've written a lot about it from my teensy little corner of the internet, and I've poured out thousands of words on the subject… and I'm still not sure I did the heaviness justice. It was like all the color and all the oxygen got sucked out of my life. I was in an emotional state akin to lying on a cold, colorless bathroom floor--suffocating. My circumstances were smothering--and I wasn't sure I would make it out in one piece. Every time I tried to get up--and BOY DID I TRY--the heaviness shoved me down again. 



I'm breathing again. I'm on the upswing, but I was thinking back on this hard season I just crawled through. You know what's funny? Eleven and a half years ago I was actually lying on a cold tile bathroom floor--struggling to catch my breath. Though this is the place I have found myself metaphorically in recent years, I actually have physically and LITERALLY been there before. In the spring of 2005, I found myself on a dirty bathroom floor holding a positive pregnancy test. I was 18. And not married. And terrified. And yet--somehow after I allowed the panic to subside, I felt the presence of God there with me. It's not something I can put into words, but Jesus pulled me off that bathroom floor. He gave me peace beyond explanation. 



And then I showed up--ready, willing and able to serve Him. I was excited. I was on fire. And then the more I learned about God, the less worthy I felt of His offerings. The hits of the world just kept coming, and I credited these blows to my worth. You know the speech if you struggle like I do "life sucks, but so do I… I guess I deserve it. And since I deserve it, I guess God wants me to be treated this way."



Slowly, steadily, and surely… my flame fizzled out. And rather than showing up EXCITED to see God as I had before… I hid. Much like Eve did. She pulled out those fig leaves to cover her shame. I pulled out my bedroom comforter. And it was there I stayed for the better part of 3 years.



It was the gospel of Jesus that saved me, but somewhere along the way I lost the fullness of it. Or I decided I wasn't worth of all of it. 



I knew that I needed a Savior. But I forgot that He actually WANTED to save me.

I knew that I needed forgiveness. But I forgot that forgiveness was a free gift available to me at all times. 

I knew that God's love was deeper than all measure. But I felt deeper… completely out of reach.

I knew that I accepted Christ. But I also knew he could NEVER accept me.



I knew that I was a mess. But I forgot that being a work in progress is not wrong. It's human. It's NORMAL. And I forgot that my savior specializes in cleaning up messes



If this is you, dearest one, and you feel too messy for God--simply put, you're not. If you go searching for perfect people in the Bible, you'll be disappointed. God specializes in works in progress. Sweet one, you don't have to be all cleaned up to come to Him. He NEVER SAID to go get yourself right BEFORE you come to Him. He never said you'll be perfect. In fact, the word tells us that His power is made perfect in weakness. Without weakness and brokenness, we would have no need for Him. 



The Bible is CHOCKFULL of people in progress. These were people Jesus loved exactly as they were. He loved them and pursued them in spite of the messes they were in. If you look to scripture, I'm sure you can find yourself in pieces of all of them. 



We are the woman at the well. We are ashamed of our choices and completely taken aback that Jesus would even associate with our kind. 

…and yet…he quenches our spiritual thirst

We are Zacchaeus. We are hiding at a distance hoping to catch a glimpse of Jesus. We stay at a distance because we are small and we are seen by others as bad--so we hope to sit on a branch to catch that glimpse without causing trouble.

…and yet… Jesus comes by our hiding spot and calls us by name

We are Martha. We dash around like mad trying to find validation in making everyone else happy and comfortable.

…and yet… when we miss the point, yet again, Jesus softly whispers to us to sit at His feet

We are the Lazarus. Completely incapable of curing what ailed us. Jesus came too late, it seems.

…and yet… Jesus brings us back to life

We are the sinful woman. We've collapsed at His feet in exhaustion and shame. We use our best perfumes and our tears to wash His feet in an attempt to ditch our guilt.

…and yet… He forgives. He always forgives. No matter what we have done



We are a mess. We are a work in progress, just like ALL who have come before us. We will find pieces our ourselves in ever character in the Bible. This is why He gave His Word to us. The Word reminds us over and over that Jesus came for the mess. In fact, the religiously perfect were incapable of seeing Him for who He was. God does His best work in the biggest messes. He always has, He always will. 



"He reached down from Heaven and RESCUED ME; He drew me out of deep waters… He led me to a place of safety; HE RESCUED ME BECAUSE HE DELIGHTS IN ME." 

Psalm 18:16, 19





In order for Him to rescue you, sweet one, He first had to have His eye on you. He had to assess the situation you found yourself in to strategically intervene on your behalf. This means He saw ALL OF IT. The good, the bad, and the ugly. He reached down in the deepest darkest pits to set you free. He rescued you from your enemies, your fears, your sin, from distress, from weakness, from yourself, and from death. He rescued you because He delights in you. Never, ever forget that.



XOXO,

S

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 
  1. THEY DON'T GET IT.
  2. THEY DON'T DEFINE YOU.
  3. I GET IT.
  4. I HAVE A LOT OF HOOTS FOR YOU--I'M IN THIS WITH YOU.
  5. I'M HERE IF YOU NEED ME.


XOXO,

S





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. 



XOXO,

S