Tuesday, July 19, 2016

To the Overwhelmed One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where does all this nonsense come from?

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

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

You know how we can change it?

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

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

{Ephesians 2:4-5} 

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

{Zephaniah 3:17}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Son, About "20 minutes of action"

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

Hey You,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, June 6, 2016

I Love You Lauren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

To The One Who CAN'T Drop The Weight

You see the "Hot Now" sign flashing at the Krispy Kreme and do a U turn. You see that sign and you've just got to have it. NOW. Maybe you nibble on one… Maybe you devour three. 

….and then you HATE YOURSELF. 

You hate yourself because you already hated the number on the scale this morning, and you just added to it.

You told yourself that you had a hard day and you needed some comfort in the form of deep fried sugar. You're jealous that other women seem to eat whatever they want and don't gain an ounce. But you? If you so much as LOOK at a slice of pizza and gain 3 pounds. But food has got a hold on you. Why does the grocery store feel to you like a liquor store feels to an alcoholic? Temptation is everywhere and you just can't stop buying all the junk they got. You tell yourself you'll try harder tomorrow, but you just can't seem to dump this extra weight. You've tried dieting so many times only to end up neck deep in chocolate ice cream. Why can't you just pull a TSwift and shake it off? 

Consider this: the fall of man came in the form of what? FOOD. Satan tempted Eve with a piece of fruit {probably because they didn't have Cinnabon or Haagen Dazs back then--let's be real.} Sin came into the world for the very first time by eating food.

What did Satan tempt Jesus with out in the desert? BREAD. Because let's be honest, who hasn't eaten a disproportionate amount of bread from the communal bread basket on a restaurant table while out to eat with friends? 

Why did the Hebrews start to want to go back into Egypt into the bondage God just liberated them from? Because they got hungry

The Bible talks about food a lot. Why? BECAUSE IT'S TEMPTING. Food was created to give us energy, but for some of us, we're addicted. I'll be honest. I feel like I like food more than your average person. I'm obsessed with it, and I can count the things I DON'T like to eat on one hand. I like it all, and I want it all. I have been in a pattern my entire life of starving myself fat. I eat nothing all day to try to get the number on the scale to fall down, until I'm so hungry I end up eating everything in sight. Those hunger pangs make me intensely crave sugar & carbs. I've tried fad diets, starving myself, and I end up making late night junk food runs. I decided to get off the diet yo yo for good this year. But to do that, I had to do some soul searching on how I ended up here hating myself so much for the number on a scale. If you relate, pull up a chair and let's figure out how we're going to beat this together. 

Yes, I struggle with food because it tastes good, BUT! I also seek food because I'm seeking something. I suspect the same goes for you, sweet one. You're looking for something to fill a hole in your heart. Something hurts you and you run to the fridge to fix it {usually late at night when you're all alone}. What hurts you? I don't know. Maybe you have anxiety about the way your life is going, maybe you feel lonely, maybe you feel ugly, maybe you feel damaged, maybe you feel rejected, or maybe you're just numb. Something is sending you to the drive thru window. 

There's a root to what is going on with you struggling to get this weight off. Because there's a root, no diet will fix you. Even if you manage to get skinny, you'll end up here again someday. You've got to get down to the source of the problem to fix this. You have to destroy the self defeat or someday you will AGAIN find yourself crying in a dressing room because the bigger size doesn't fit. 

Before you reach for that bag of cookies, ask yourself "Am I hungry or hurting?" Because for you, the line has been blurred and it's hard to tell the difference. But those cookies will NOT fix you. They won't heal your hurt. They will only make you hurt worse. The self hatred only continues to grow, and therefore you need more cookies, and round and round the cycle goes. 

So how do you get off this merry go round? This is what I have concluded for me: JESUS is the only real comfort I have. ChickFilA won't fix me. As delicious as it is, it will not heal this hurt inside me. Only Jesus can heal me, and He wants to do the same for you, my lovely. He doesn't want you to wallow in self loathing alone--He came to walk alongside you to set you FREE.

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?" 
-1 Corinthians 6:19

People talk about bodies being temples, and people like us tend to think as OTHER people's bodies being temples. BETTER bodies are temples, right? Better bodies that don't have love handles or stretch marks are temples. No ma'am. I think not. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and God doesn't make junk. But this world is full of junk. So you have to take your junk to Jesus. Junk food can't fix your junk, but Jesus can. No amount of Thin Mints are going to bandage up your wounds, but He will. 

"He is the healer of the brokenhearted. He bandages up their wounds." 
-Psalm 147:3

He not only CAN HE bandage up your wounds, but He's EAGER to. He cares for you, and He WANTS to heal your hurts. Why? Because He cares about you in a radical way. He is crazy about you because YOU are God's masterpiece. 

"Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you."
-1 Peter 5:7

At the end of the day, it's not living up to a beauty standard that is the problem for you. If you deal with self hate, a shrinkage on the scale won't change it. BELIEVE ME. Losing 40 pounds didn't fix it for me a few years back, because now I need to lose 50. You've got to reach for the Word instead of cheese fries because those cheese fries will only hurt you more than you're already hurting now. Instead of grabbing that leftover pizza out of the fridge next time you are lonely or sad, seriously--cry out to Him. He's waiting enthusiastically to team up with you to make you stop hating yourself. I pray that you see Him the way He sees you, as His creation that He not only loves, but that He is proud of. He rejoices and sings over you, and I pray that you believe that. 

"The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with singing."
-Zephaniah 3:17

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Love and Marriage

This is the latest picture of me & my husband.

Ain't he cute?! I still think he's the cutest guy I've ever met.

People ask me for marriage advice all the time. I'm not really sure why… Perhaps because I got married at 19 and I'm still married. So in our circle, we're the old married couple {AT 29 AND 33--SAY WHAT?!} So I guess when we're 90 and 94 we'll be the fossils of wedlock. The ancient wedded relics of a time before smartphones. Whatev. 

A quick disclaimer if you're expecting a perfect Disney fairy tale here: you won't get one. When I started this blog, I promised myself I would be nothing but real because I believe there is power in truth. So here's the truth: some days you'll be thankful to be married, and some days marriage is freakin' hard. Today my marriage was freakin' hard. 

I HATE being surprised. I hate surprise birthday parties. I hate surprise Christmas presents. I hate when someone jumps out behind a corner and yells "BOO!" I hate surprise visits. I like to emotionally prepare for something before it happens. There's a story attached to why, but I won't bore you with that today. It's something I'm trying to overcome, but I am definitely the Grinch that stole surprises. I buy my own birthday gifts so I won't be surprised. My husband and I have had multiple fights over the fact that he would like to surprise me with something, but I would just hate it. I know… It's weird and lot of women wish their husband would want to put thought into a gift. Sorry if that's you saying that you're jealous! I totally get it. It's stupid.

My 30th birthday is less than 3 weeks away, and all I wanted was tickets to see a comedian I have wanted to see for a while. I wanted a night of laughter with my husband. That's it. Simple, easy, piece of cake. I told my husband that was all I wanted, and the tickets weren't expensive, so he said "let's go!" I wanted to let him buy them because he's been wanting a chance to buy my gift, remember? I told him when they went on sale, I sent him the link, and explained they would sell out quickly. AND THEN HE FORGOT. AND THEY SOLD OUT. 

Now, this may seem like a stupid thing to get upset over, but for a control freak like me, to let go and trust someone--ANYONE--to handle ANYTHING for me is about the hardest thing imaginable. The only thing harder is to ask for a want or need. I was raised to feel guilty about wanting or needing anything. Asking for something I want, even something small, still makes me feel like a spoiled brat. 

I'll be honest here: I was very hurt by him forgetting to buy the tickets. I always make sure he gets exactly what he wants including an expensive pair of concert tickets for his favorite rock band later this summer. His tickets cost FIVE TIMES what my little dinky comedy tickets cost, and they were not even for a birthday or a special occasion. I just knew it was something he'd always wanted, and I made sure he got them. But I won't be getting the only thing I wanted for my birthday this year.

Anyway, let's just say he acted like forgetting getting the tickets wasn't a big deal and we'd figure out a backup plan. I was so sad to be missing out on the only thing I wanted, but now I was ANGRY that he treated it like it wasn't a big deal. He didn't apologize, and I was livid. Hot tears came down my face as I said shrieked "I HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR "JUST BECAUSE I LOVE YOU" CONCERT TICKETS!" 

YOWZA. The Messy Mrs just turned into The Maddened Mrs, and it's not the first time or even the worst time. We've fought over things a lot dumber than this, too. But here's the thing, this is just an inside window into what Disney doesn't tell you. 

Disney tells you love & marriage works like this:
  1. Find THE ONLY ONE DESTINED FOR YOU. Your prince charming.
  2. Have all the lovey dovey feely feelz. 
  3. Accept the proposal.
  4. Have a perfect wedding. POOF! You finished the race, princess! You're a queen now! TADA! 
  5. All done. Happily ever after. Roll credits.

Love & marriage ACTUALLY works like this:
  1. Meet someone flawed, but special.
  2. Have all the lovey dovey feely feelz.
  3. Accept the proposal.
  4. Have a wedding… Freak out over stupid details of a one-day event. It wasn't perfect, but you made it to the START OF THE RACE. 
  5. ISH. GETS. REAL. Budgeting & house hunting & shared closet space & cranky kids & differing parenting styles & in-law drama & IKEA furniture assembly happens. Find inner demons you never knew you even had. Get buttons pushed you didn't even know were there. Find out that your spouse wasn't who you thought they were. Find out you aren't the spouse you hoped you'd be. Sometimes all hell breaks loose, and rather than breaking up/going to a bar with friends {like you did with old boyfriends}, you'll end up wandering the aisles of Costco alone. 
  6. Hurt each other. A LOT. Hurt each other deeply. Bring out the worst in each other. Wonder where all the lovey dovey feely feelz went--maybe you fell out of love?
  7. Hang tight because you don't want your kids to grow up in a broken home and divorce attorneys cost A WHOLE FREAKING LOT. 
  8. Wait it out. Watch him sled down the big hill with your kid and feel the lovey dovey feely feelz again.
  9. Be grateful that you couldn't afford divorce a few years ago.
  10. Realize that you didn't fall out of love, you found unconditional love. Love isn't the happy, easy feely feelz. It's a decision. Realize that what you had before the wedding wasn't love, it was infatuation. This is love. Love is morning breath. It's the bills stacking up with a negative bank balance. It's the ruined birthdays. It's the pukey children. It's the diaper blowouts. It's untangling the bleepin' Christmas lights. It's the broken garage doors. It's him leaving his crusty socks all over the floor. It's you scattering your thousands of bobby pins as far the eye can see. It's the backed up toilets. It's the buttered noodles you eat because you're so dang broke. It's the burned dinners you try to choke down because they worked so hard to make it. It's the up-all-night sleep deprivation of having a newborn. It's the illness. It's the weight gain. It's the gray hairs. It's the pain. It's the hurt feelings. It's the forgiveness. 
  11. More than all this, love is TRANSFORMATIVE. It's refining. It makes you a better person. It makes him a better person. 
  12. Realize that transformation is HARD. Love is HARD. It's the hardest work you've ever done. BUT, as Tom Hanks said in "A League of Their Own", it's the hard that makes it great. 
  14. Think about how much it must suck to deal with you at your worst. Be grateful he didn't leave you. Feel respect for what he's doing working alongside you. Watch him sweat and commit to you even though you mess up too. Look for all the ways you see him working for you, even though you know he doesn't feel like it. Say thank you. Say thank you a lot. Hug him a lot.
  15. Discover that this love is BETTER than the feely feelz. It's something that's unwavering. It's not conditional. Learn that love isn't about the right one or the right dress or the right venue or the right conditions… It's not something that just happens. Hard work and action yield feely feelz, not the other way around. It's something that takes time and effort and energy to grow, but it produces a better crop than the early feely feelz ever did. 
  16. Wedding vows mean more to you now than they ever did when you took them. Show up every day to live them. Fight to overcome every obstacle, even each other, together. Lather rinse repeat every single day. Think to yourself that there is no better person to work this hard for. Wedding vows aren't something ceremonial you recited a really long time ago, they're something that must be earned. Fought for. Feel lucky that it's HIM by your side to fight for this with you, for better or for worse. 

EDIT: Funniest/best part of all of this? A few hours after this was published, more comedy tickets became available and we both bought them. I love this man! 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Church's Big Pink Elephant

I went public with my C-PTSD diagnosis almost eight months ago--you can read that post here. In that time, I've learned a whole lot about the Christian perspective of mental illness. Some people have been incredibly supportive, and some… well… not so much. I've had discussions with people who think I can get past this by praying it {or even just willing it} away. Rick Warren's son recently took his life by suicide, and most of the church is just now waking up to the reality that faith and mental illness can {and often do} coexist. I am so sad that it took something so horrible to revive the conversation, but I'm glad it's starting to happen. 

One person dies by their own hands every 40 seconds around the world. One American dies from suicide every 12.3 minutes. Reading a bible, praying, or attending church is not a vaccine to prevent it. For all those people who commit suicide, someone is left trying to make sense of it. The pain doesn't stop at suicide, it just gets transferred onto someone else who is left behind.

Mental illness is the big pink elephant in the room in churches. People don't want to talk about it. They'd rather just throw a tarp over the elephant and call it a day. These diseases stay invisible because people are discouraged from talking about it in church circles. And yet, they're just as rampant within church congregations as they are outside them. If you have not personally struggled with some form of clinical mental illness you know someone who does. If you can't think of anyone, I can almost guarantee that you do know someone who is suffering, they are just suffering alone because of the stigma. THIS. IS. WRONG! Not only are these people suffering, but the isolation only magnifies the suffering. I don't know who said that mental illness is a conscious decision for Christians, but it HAS. GOT. TO. STOP! Mental illness is not a choice, and not everyone who suffers from mental illness is in a white hospital gown tucked away in some facility for crazy, scary people. 

Due to my C-PTSD, I deal with overwhelming depression and self-hatred that is so intense it often makes me wish for death. So it can look like this:

But it can also look like this:

It can look like this:

But it can also look like this:

Just because you don't see someone with a limp or a physical struggle doesn't mean they aren't mentally limping through life. Also, just like people who pray for healing for physical ailments can find themselves not healed, the same goes for people who struggle with mental illness. They can hope, pray, cry, beg and wish for healing, but sometimes the healing just won't come. So saying things like they "aren't praying hard enough" is just adding shame to a situation that already feels like insurmountable shame. It makes them feel excluded and "less than" a "better" class of Christian that doesn't struggle this way. Maybe the church doesn't shame people on purpose, but WE ARE shaming hurting people. This has to end. No more. Not on my watch. 

I remember being asked not to volunteer my time because someone read my blog and said I was not "mentally stable" enough to do it. What do you think that felt like? At first, because I already assume everyone hates me, it made me turn that hate inward on myself. I felt accused. Accosted. Broken. Damaged. Worthless. I almost threw up in the parking lot from the self loathing that followed. Later, after I had processed the fact that I was probably not the only person who has been told things like this, it made me feel the need to keep speaking out. Most people that struggle with mental illness look just like someone who doesn't. They are also capable of doing great things. They can be funny, encouraging, smart, and surprisingly NORMAL. God has done his best work through people with broken hearts, so they can be the greatest and most gifted healers.

It's high time we stopped treating the mentally ill like they are outsiders or like they pose a threat. We have to show up and help these people fight what they are facing. We need to keep the discussion going. I will only stop speaking about mental illness when society stops asking me why I need to. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

To the One Confused By People

Hey you,

I'm personally walking out of a season that shattered every last little bit of my heart. People from all corners have deeply, deeply, hurt me. It's been 2+ years of stuff so ugly… so devastating… I can't even begin to put words to it. Let's just say I ended up very dazed and confused. Life tackled me, and as hard as I've tried to get up, I got my bell rung so hard that I just couldn't function. I have felt absolutely hopeless, empty, humiliated, betrayed, and even violated. I have felt deceived and foolish. Why didn't I see this coming sooner? At least then I could've put on my armor and fought against it. 

I have had days of seething rage. I have had days of crawling in my bed, pulling the covers over my head, and CRYING OUT for some kind of answer. Any answer! "Why did this happen to me, God? Why can't I just get past it? Why am I still struggling? Why do the hits keep on coming? I just don't understand! Give me something, anything… Any wisdom or lesson here would be wonderful! I just want some semblance of understanding." All I heard was radio silence. Zilch. Nothing. Nada. I've never been more lost or confused.

Relate? If so, pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee, and let's have a chat. 

I don't know why you find yourself confused by people right now. Maybe the one who made vows to love you until death decided to renege on their end of the deal. Maybe a coworker threw you under the bus and you ended up unemployed & worried about how your bills will get paid. Maybe people you thought were your friends turned out to be your enemies. Maybe you were victimized by an attacker. Maybe someone stole your dream. I don't know who hurt you, but I do know that not having answers about this can feel like the most defeating thing in the world. 

It's been in this tumultuous season of my life that I have felt God come lay down beside me. It's not something I can readily explain, but though I haven't gotten answers from him, I just FEEL Him there with me. 

"Be gracious to me, O God!
Though man has crushed me, 
fighting all day he oppresses me, 
My foes trample me all day. 
For many are fighting me arrogantly.
In a day when I am afraid, 
I will put my trust in you.
In God--I will keep praising His word--
in God I trust, I will not fear.
What can mere flesh do to me?
All day they twist my words.
All their thoughts are against me for evil.
They stir up strife; they lie hidden.
You have recorded my wanderings,
You put my tears in Your bottle." 
Psalm 56: 1-8

Did you get that? God stores your tears in jars. When your heart breaks, His also breaks for you. And though people may fail you, your God never, ever will. He is not only willing, but eager to hold you and catch your tears. That is how much you matter to Him, sweet one. 

You may be saying "OK, yeah yeah yeah I get it. God loves me, BLAH BLAH BLAH… and he "cares" about my pain, then why isn't He giving me answers about it? Why is He making me wrestle with this confusion? If I could just understand it, maybe it wouldn't hurt so much."

"Trust in the LORD your God with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding." 
Proverbs 3:5

Maybe, just maybe, understanding would make it hurt less, but it wouldn't draw you close to Him. Maybe He wants so badly to just HOLD YOU. Maybe He wants to protect you from your "understanding". Your "understanding" of people failing you leads to bitterness, grudges, hatred, a heart full of malice, and ultimately--self destruction. 

Darlin', I want to challenge you. I want you to lay down your need for understanding at His feet and open your broken heart to Him. Let Him wrap His arms around you and give you a hug so big that it not only comforts you, but it heals you. Embrace Him and trust Him when he doesn't give you the answers you want, and allow His peace {that surpasses all understanding} to wash over you.