Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Let Him Watch Porn

My husband and I have a 10 year old son. We're getting to the age where someday soon, we have to give him "the talk". Now, I am not a person who believes "the talk" should be one long awkward conversation. We'd rather have several mini "talks" to make the facts of life easier to digest. When he was little, we talked a lot about how God made him. He made his whole body and it is a good thing. We talked about how to use his body for God: use his hands to create, to write, to work hard. He can use his feet to dance, to run fast, to play, etc. Then, as he got older and wasn't with us 100% of the time, we talked about how his body belongs to him. No one else can touch him without his consent {Yes, this extends to hugs too. Kids shouldn't have to hug someone if they don't want to!} Now, with technology being right at his fingertips all the time, my husband and I are talking a lot about how to tackle the subject of porn. 

We're people who think porn is harmful. That is our belief. We've done a lot of reading up and fact checking for us to reach this decision. Most of our research has been secular, not based on our religious beliefs. For example, when serial killer Ted Bundy did his last interview the night before he was executed, did he want to brag about what he'd done? Apologize? Make excuses? No. He wanted to warn the world about pornography because of the role it played in how his life had turned out. You can read the transcript here. Definitely give it a read. Another example of someone who publicly spoke out against porn is Russell Brand. Watch his video on the matter here {seriously--it's fascinating}. Other celebrities have spoken out on how porn has been problematic in their lives. These include Hugh Grant and and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Check out what they have to say here. What do all of these people have in common? They are not Rick Warren or Billy Graham. They're not religious people setting forth the typical religious agenda of "Porn is bad. Jesus disapproves. Don't watch it. That's all." There are also plenty of secular academic studies that prove that porn literally rewires the brain, to its detriment. See here. There are countless others. Porn doesn't just harm the viewer, it can harm the porn star as well. Read here.

Anyway, my husband and I are thinking about how to have this conversation because now the average age for first viewing of porn is 11 {see here}. Let that sink in for a sec. 11. Crazy town! Even if we try to keep him from finding it, porn now will eventually find him. We were in our bedroom talking about all these facts and research we've turned up, and we were talking about how to upload this information we found into our son's brain so that he is able to navigate his life having all the information available. Later that night, I saw an interesting fact sheet over on Fight The New Drug's Facebook page {see the fact sheet here}. The page said that the most commonly used word in porn commentary was a surprising one. It's not an expletive, it's not a sexual term, the word is {get ready for it}: LOVE. Say what?! Regardless of your stance on this issue, I think we can all agree that the word "love" is a weird choice for #1. Porn ≠ Love. [[SOMEONE CUE JACKIE DESHANNON SINGING "WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVE"]] My husband was already asleep, and I thought this would be interesting information to pass on for later discussion, so I tagged him on Facebook. Some lady took this as an opportunity to weigh in on the situation and said this to me:

"Let him watch porn. Don't be so insecure." Um. Thanks? Thanks for your rude & unsolicited advice to a stranger, lady. It was assumed that I was talking about controlling my husband & not allowing him to watch porn, when that's not what happened behind the scenes at all! In her mind, I guess I am some insecure, neurotic control freak that has him on a short leash. Not true, lady. Not true. WE {not HE, not ME} choose not to view porn. We choose to focus on the real thing over the screen. But thanks for checking on us.

You can't find this with a point and click.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I Quit the PTA

I became a mom very, very young. 19, to be exact. My boy is 10 now, and when I stop to think about the fact that my little mini-me {not so mini anymore} is now closer to the age I was when I had him than he is to his birth… Cue twilight zone music because it's freaky. It's no small miracle that our family made it. I stop and think about the fact that I've been married over a third of my life, and I don't turn 30 until June. Crazy town! If Connor walks in the door with some babe in 9 years and says they want to play house get married, y'all will probably never see us again because we're changing our identities and moving to Siberia. 

I knew it would be hard. I prepared myself in every way possible. I read all the parenting books. I obsessed over everything from what kind of laundry detergent to buy to every medical decision under the sun. I thought about educational opportunities, I prepared for the up-all-nights, and bless my little heart I was learning how to wife as a teenager. I prepared {as much as one can prepare} for the terrible twos--those never happened for us, but lordamercy I think I had a glass of wine in my hand every night during the threes. I accepted the fact that our bank accounts would be empty, but our hearts would be oh-so-full. Oh, how they were!

I knew this was a huge undertaking, and I felt really prepared for the journey. I knew my son would, at times, make me go crazy or turn my hair prematurely gray {that hasn't happened yet thank the Lord almighty! Thanks up there to You!} I prepared for disaster. I prepared for diaper blowouts. I prepared for toddler meltdowns. I prepared for boo boos. I prepared to read a gazillion bedtime stories. I prepared for exhaustion. I thought I had prepared for it all, and then I became a citizen of planet mom, and I DID NOT prepare for the other moms on this planet. I did not prepare for the all out hostility that can exist over on planet mom. We were isolated at home a lot during the toddler years, but once he started Kindergarten, I was so excited to get some other mom friends. 

….and then I joined the PTA, and I'll tell ya, my experience there wasn't a good one. No offense if you're a member. I do hope your experience there was far better than mine. For me, it was the suburb's version of being in a cult. These moms I dealt with were extremely judgmental, rude, and just plain awful to be around. I was constantly feeling judged for not eating organic everything all the time {give my child a bag of Doritos and you'll be both amazed and horrified that any human can consume anything that fast}, not having a child who sat perfectly still during circle time {these moms had kids who always look like models for GAP Kids, mine isn't afraid to slide in the dirt behind a bush to play hide n seek--he has never been still--even in utero!}, not throwing huge blowout birthday parties {Little Caeser's and a few cupcakes did the job back in my day}, not wanting to continue to stay home {I just wasn't cut out for it. I'm a far better mom when I'm working} this list could continue all day. Judgey, hateful moms just ain't my jam, and the longer I was around them, the more judgey I became myself {both to myself and to other moms}. So I left the group. YOLO! 

Some moms are married living their picket fence dreams in the burbs, and some moms are flying completely solo.
Some moms are crafty and throw crazy cute birthday parties, and some do last minute store-bought cupcakes with no decorations. 
Some moms look like fitness models, and some moms have some extra padding.
Some moms buy all organic everything, and some moms would be lost without pop tarts.
Some moms make crazy great food for their families, and some moms are crazy great at ordering takeout. 
Some moms have spotless and perfectly decorated homes, and some moms have sticky floors. 
Some moms contribute amazing things to the PTA, and some moms run from the PTA screaming. 
Some moms homeschool their kids 4 grades above level, and some moms happily wave from the porch as their kids ride the bus to public school.
Some moms bring home the bacon, some moms stay home. 
Some moms have roast beef, some moms have none. {Sorry--too many years doing little piggies to resist!}
To ALL OF YOU I say: well done, good and faithful servant. You keep doin' you. God made you exactly the way you are on purpose. Use your God-given gifts to raise your kids and bring value to your family in ways no one else can.

My best mom friends have been found in the heart of the storm: during an atomic three-year-old meltdown in Target, a special lady gift from God who was a few years ahead of me in the game walked up to me and told me that I wasn't alone, this mom thing is crazy hard, I was doing the best I could, and kids melt down. They just do. Her spidey senses were up that day that I was questioning EVERYTHING I was doing as a mom, and she extended kindness instead of judgement. We ended up talking for almost an hour, and I've loved her ever since. She was my port in the storm that day, and I've made a point to pass on her kind spirit onto other mamas in my path. I do my best to smile {in lieu of the typical evil eye} at other mamas who are just trying to buy their crazy, cranky, crying kids some cheerios and go home. 

Momming is hard, y'all. We're all in this tribe together. Let's change planet mom into a place where we love each other so very well. Let's lean in to be a lifeline instead of giving the stink eye from afar. We don't need to judge other moms for doing the best they can with what they've been given, because all the best moms I know are already judging themselves hard enough. Let's not speak judgement about people,  let's speak life into people.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Taco Soup Makes Me a Better Person

I've always complained that I hate winter. And I really truly do, bless my little heart. I am just not a cold person. Last summer, my family went to Orlando on vacation. We covered EVERY INCH! My husband feels like if he's going to book a Disney vacay, he's going to pack every friggin' second full of rushed, stressful activity family fun to make every nickel we paid worth it. Me? I don't consider stress and running from attraction to attraction a vacay. I need to negotiate a good amount of lounging by the pool time so I can have a magazine to read, a drink with an umbrella in it, and my sanity. FOR THE LOVE OF UMBRELLA DRINKS! Disney is not an adventure sport to me, it's not something to be conquered, but it's his Everest. I feel like the last time we had a balance of what both of us wanted to do, and we were far more peaceful than the time before that. The first time we went, I really thought we might need the services of Dr. Phil. {Sorry for this big unnecessary paragraph--I just need to vent to you people!} 

Anyway,  the last time was going great. No major existential crises. UNTIL we got to Universal. We were standing by the big Jurassic Park water ride {unknowingly in the splash zone--we must've missed the 15 signs--proof that having too much fun is distracting and dangerous at an amusement park} AND ALL THE SUDDEN THE MOUNT VESUVIUS OF ARCTIC WATER ERUPTIONS CAME FORTH AND SOAKED ME FROM HEAD TO TOE! There is no quicker way to bring out my inner tantrum-throwing-child than making me cold. Especially when I'm expecting Floridian warm glory! WHY IS THE WATER SO COLD THERE?! We were standing amongst a bunch of darling sweet families. These people were clearly far more harmonious vacationers than us, and bless them, they were not at all prepared for the depths of my rage. I screamed "THAT IS JUST OFFENSIVE!" Bless them. If you were one of those people, get in touch with me and I'll happily make amends.

A really unnecessarily long explanation just to say that I. HATE. COLD. With the cold temps here lately, it's highly possible that a mugger could rob me blind just from threatening to splash me with a bucket of water. Because I hate cold so much, I stay indoors as much as possible all winter long. Lordamercy. I don't even like walking near drafty windows. Now, winter does have its perks, I guess. Cuddling up on the couch in my sweats binge watching Netflix? That part I'm down with. Netflix and chill for me is actually = Netflix lest ye be chilled. 

The other part of winter that's awesome is that your crock pot can cook for you every single day. You can throw a bunch of mere ingredients together in that electric invention of glory and call yourself a hero. As much as I love cooking, sometimes I just want to watch my Netflix guilty pleasures in peace, y'all. These frigid temps have had my family eating soup just about every day. Don't judge me.

I was digging through my freezer {is there someone I can hire to go out to my frigid garage and do this for me? If you're out there, just tell me who to make the check out to} to find some inspiration, and I found some ground beef that my bestie brought me from her cows. Side note: does your bestie bring you beef? If not, you're missing out. I treasure my bestie beef. #BFF--Bestie beef forever.

I whipped up this taco soup with it. 

Y'all. I can't with this soup. It's like a party in a bowl, and it definitely dials back my winter crazy. By the way, my old Crock Pot recently cracked. The excellent customer service peeps they've got over there sent me this beauty

Photo courtesy of Crock Pot

The insert is stovetop safe so you can brown your meat right in it, then add the remaining ingredients in there. It's like those people read my mind. It's perfect for my personality: type-B with type-A tendencies. Less dishwashing is always the way to my heart. Two steps. One pot. A friggin' miracle!

I'll shut up now and give you the recipe:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 {14.5 oz} cans diced tomatoes 
  • 1 can ranch style beans
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 {12 oz} bag frozen corn
  • 1 {7 oz} can diced green chiles
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp {each} salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1 packet ranch dressing seasoning
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • toppings: whatever your little heart desires. I used shredded cheese, sliced green onions, chopped fresh cilantro, black olive slices, tortilla strips {you can find these on the salad dressing aisle next to the croutons}, and lime wedges for squeezing over soup 
  1. Heat oil in a sauté pan or large pot over medium-high heat. Add in ground beef and sauté {breaking into small pits with your spoon} until browned, cooked through, and broken up into small pieces.  
  2. Transfer beef to crock pot, place remaining ingredients {except for toppings} over the beef. Stir everything around and cover Turn the crock pot on high for 3-4 hours or low 6-8 hours. 
  3. Serve with desired toppings.

Monday, January 18, 2016

My Inner Jezebel

When I was a little kid, I conditioned to believe that expressing an opinion made me "bossy", and that being "bossy" was the worst case scenario for a girl. So I grew up to be a fun, silly girl, but a girl who knew how to keep her trap shut when the chips were down. I didn't want to grow up to be some pushy, bossy broad. I didn't want to ruffle feathers, rub people the wrong way, or step on their toes. I didn't want to be someone who walked on people, barked orders, or ran people over. 

….and then I grew up. And I became a bossy broad, but not in the way that you think. I think I was afraid to have opinions or take the lead, so I channeled my bossiness into my safest place to do it. In public, I was a fun-loving but passive person who didn't want to make waves. At home, I became that bossy broad to my wonderful, special, amazing husband.  A few years into our marriage, his honey-do list was long, and my patience was short. 

One time I completely lost my sh** over hamburger meat. Let that sink in for a second. HAMBURGER MEAT! Crazy train. I sent him to the store with a list of things, and he brought home 73% ground beef. I was helping him unload the groceries and let out an exasperated sigh when I saw that fatty beef. He looked at me and said "What? What is it? What did I do?" I said "Ugh. Nothing." He touched my arm and said "no really, what is it love?" I said howled "We've been together for YEARS and you STILL don't know what kind of hamburger meat we buy?!"

Y'all. The look on his face still haunts me. In that moment, I started crying and apologizing profusely. It dawned on me that he asked "what did I do?" My first reaction was that he cared nothing about my hamburger meat preferences, so therefore he cared nothing about me. It was my crazy place, because it's totally not true! This was a lie in my mind that I instantly accepted and believed. When I had a minute to think about it, I stopped to absorb the weight of what he asked me: "What did I do?" What did he do? He ran an errand for me. He lightened my load. And what was I? Ungrateful. Rude. No one I'd want to be married to. Bless. He really is a great catch, and he married a heaping bucket of crazy.

I was reading about Jezebel today. I've always associated her name with evil, manipulation, and adultery. But I read this passage, and I was seeing me in her. Ouch. Her dear hubby was trying to get her some land, and came home upset from not being able to adequately do it. Her response is "is this how the king of Israel acts?" I feel bad for Ahab, but I also feel bad for my husband. Hamburger meat unleashed my inner Jezebel. 

Good thing we have Jesus. Jezebel didn't. We can experience the love, grace, and truth that Jesus gives us. He restores us & makes us new. He gives us kindness and love that we can dish out to others. We can replace the rot and decay of anger or frustration we've dished out with that love. We're made in His image, and when we walk in Him, we reflect that image. Jezebel never looked for that. She never experienced the healing power of God. She was all about Baal, a false god her family worshipped. Her god never gave her a chance to be made new. 

I saw this quote floating around Facebook this week: "I want every little girl who's told she's bossy to be told instead she has great leadership skills." Me too. I never learned how to use my voice in the public arena, so all that pent up emotion leaked out on my husband in a U-G-L-Y way. I am so relieved that we have a God who desires us to be confident in His purposes, which can include pushing and leading--bossiness isn't all bad! Ladies, our leadership can be glorifying to Him! But He also freely gives grace when our bossiness turns into something that no longer brings Him glory. And I praise Him for that!

There's a difference between being a boss and being a b****. I'm leaning on Jesus every day to help me walk that line without going into Jezebel territory. I'm learning the difference. I'm always asking myself, "is this for me or for God?" Sweet sisters, my sincerest prayer is that we are able to carry forth His purposes for us, and lead others to do the same. So if you're in that board room, heading up that event, or sharing your expertise, hold your head high and own it #LikeABoss. Because you are! You are His masterpiece. You're made in His image. You have something to contribute. He wouldn't have created you with your unique gifts if He didn't want you to use them! We have the potential to bring such glory to His name. So, go get it girl! 

Gorilla Wrestling 101

Mental illness is a hot topic right now. In the last few years, our nation has grappled with Robin Williams' suicide, drug overdoses by countless celebs, and the suicide of Rick Warren's son--this is an issue that America has swept under the rug for far too long, and now it's oozing out. While I'm happy we're talking about it, I'm sad it took such pain to bring about the conversation. 

I always sit back and watch social media trends when these events happen, and I can always tell who has dealt with this firsthand vs those who haven't. Those who have post articles with #youarenotalone, #pray4{insert celeb here}, etc. Some who have struggled say things like "my heart is shattered" or "I hurt so much", but a lot of us say nothing at all. 

Because we get it. We get it in a way that we wish we didn't. I'm not saying that people who haven't dealt with wrestling the 600 pound gorilla that is clinical depression aren't trying to get it. I'm just saying that until you've lived it, you can't get it. And that's totally OK! I think I can speak for all of us gorilla wrestlers when I say that we sincerely hope you never have to get it. 

Though #youarenotalone sounds comforting, it is not {at all} a depressed person's reality. Not even a little bit. This year and last has absolutely been rock bottom for me in terms of depression, and I feel like I've dealt with a low hum of it my entire life, and I've had periods of low places. This place I've been in has been lower than low. What's lower than rock bottom? Because that's where I've been. 

I will tell you that I have had so many people sending me sweet encouraging bible verses and blogs, they're texting me little emojis, and I know they want me to feel better. I love them for it, but snapping out of clinical depression isn't that simple. I wish it were.

It's really impossible to describe. There just aren't words to adequately describe the emptiness, hopelessness, and despair that accompany this affliction I deal with every single day. We need to create new words to describe it, because they just don't exist in the English language. The only way to "sort of" describe it is to say that I feel smothered. I feel enveloped by a thick tent of black awfulness that suffocates me. It's airtight. Nothing and no one can penetrate it, so yes, I really am alone in a major depressive episode. #youarenotalone doesn't always exist in my world. Sometimes people are able to reach in, and sometimes I'm able to reach out, but most of the time I'm surrounded by this dark cocoon of yuck. Gorilla wrestlers are often alone--even in a crowded joyous room. Even with an inbox full of cute e-cards from loved ones. Even at the dinner table with people we love so much. Even with a community of people loving on us. We see people around us, but we're still alone. 

Imagine being at a loud, amazing, crazy-cool pool party. Everyone's hanging out, laughing, sipping drinks, eating snacks, and having a grand ole time. PARTAY! And you're drowning in the pool right next to everyone. Now imagine that they're talking about how much they love you and care about you. You can hear the love, everyone is right there with you, but you're still dying alone in misery. That's what deep depression is like. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Never ever. 

Gorilla wrestlers are alone. So don't just be near them. Be with them. And #pray4gorillawrestlers? That's a nice sounding hashtag too, but don't settle for JUST that. Don't just pray for them. Pray with them. 

[NOTE: I am in no way saying that you are responsible for fixing your loved one's mental health issues. I am just trying to give non-gorilla wrestlers a frame of reference for what this condition is like for people who suffer. Encourage your loved one to meet with a mental health professional as well as the suggestions I gave. The national suicide prevention hotline # is 1-800-273-8255. It is always open.]

Stay tuned for how I figure this crap out. XOXO,

Gorilla Girl

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Blog About Blogging

Can we just talk about food blogs for a sec? They're EVERYWHERE. Food blogs pop up every day, and I could never even find them all, let alone read them all. I love adore them. I LOVE reading them. I have so many blogs I regularly follow that write ONLY about food. Back in 2010, I started a different {mediocre} food blog that has now been taken down {LONG BORING STORY}. I started this one, and decided to write about food, but to also write about the rest of life that happens between eating. Now don't get me wrong, food = life {in the world of Sara}. I could talk about butter for days. Nothing brings a cheshire cat grin to my face like walking around a farmer's market picking up heirloom vegetables. I bond with pretty veggies on the reg.

I mean… C'mon. Just look at 'em. They're just so dang purty! 

However, that being said…. Food blogging is absolutely draining. I look at other blogs who have perfect masterpieces captured so effortlessly--their tomato basil soup bowls are like their own personal Rembrandt. They have beautiful baskets overflowing with berries, mint leaves, and nirvana. They have vibrantly colored shredded pork in a crock pot that looks absolutely nothing like what you'll produce when you make it. The kitchens have no evidence that anyone lives there, let alone cooks there. No dirty dishes, no veggie peels, no fingerprints on the fridge, and somehow the stirring spoon that is sitting next to the pot is perfect and pristine… there's no soup on it. It's just so overwhelmingly beautiful, and it's also just. not. real. Trust me. Food ain't naturally photogenic, y'all. 

I cook for a living. As much as I Mise en Place at work and at home, and as much as I clean up as I go… When I'm cooking, I'm a sweaty-foul-mouthed-hot-mess and my kitchen looks like it was attacked by a drunken pack of dogs with a wicked case of the munchies. A talented cook ≠ a talented food blogger. A talented food blogger has to be a great recipe inventor, a great food stylist {that's a real thing--a very lucrative career if you're good at it!, a great food photographer, and a PhD in marketing probably doesn't hurt. It absolutely overwhelming if you think you're just going to be the next Pioneer Woman overnight… Because you're not. There is so much to learn! The greatest cooking tool in our modern technological world is no longer a pot, pan, or knife--it's a camera. Crazy, huh?

No one reading my blog gets to hear the bubbling hissing and popping that comes from deglazing my favorite pan, they don't get that scent of garlic that perfumes the air of my kitchen immediately after I add it in to my soup pot, they don't get to hear the grind of my pepper mill, they don't get to be there when my family's eyes swell with joy with that first bite, and I feel like I can't accurately convey the ACTUAL joy that comes with cooking. A blog post or an Instagram snapshot doesn't accurately convey the joy that comes, and the process of making those blog posts has the potential to suck any joy I did have right out of the experience.

When I first started, I saw all these people around me who were just "naturals" at this thing called 'food blogging', and it absolutely murdered my joy of cooking. Comparison really is the thief of joy. It's so very Ghandi of you to teach us that, Teddy Roosevelt. Well played, sir, well played.

I always wanted to be a food blogger… but only because I'm a shameless stalker megafan of the blogs that I read. But it's actually exhausting. It's very expensive. Just the staging materials and groceries alone cost a small fortune! After you've drained your wallet, you drain an entire afternoon with staging, photographing, editing photos, and then you have to muster the strength to make witty commentary about…. a recipe. This recipe is becomes your baby. You created it, birthed it, launched it into cyberspace, and then someone will friggin' steal it and claim it as their own. It's enough to send me to a padded room, honestly.

With all of that said, I once had a reader message me on my Facebook page and say that she made my banana yogurt pancakes with cinnamon butter, as she and her husband hit a rough patch in their marriage. She said he walked up behind her as she cleared the dishes and hugged her from behind, in a time when they had not touched in a long time. {INSERT UGLY CRY HERE}

So yes, food blogging does not {at all} come naturally to me. But when I think about families gathered around their tables laughing/talking/eating my recipes, or I think about people who just needed something delicious after a terrible day, and I'm honored when they tell me that my recipe brought them the joy that I sometimes lose in blogging. Being a blogger has made me laugh, cry, scream, love, and then love some more. I'm grateful for every little bit of it.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Come At Us, Bro

"I'm losing myself, I'm stuck in the moment.
I'm look in the mirror, my only opponent."
~Jay Z

I posted the beginnings of my "The Year of Thirty" list a couple days ago. {You can view the list here.} I've spent 29 years pouring into everyone else's lives and setting no real goals for my own life. I've just been sort of coasting through and hitting the snooze button on God's purposes for me for a very long time now. I never thought I was good enough for God's purposes for me, like I didn't deserve them somehow. The crazy thing is that God's purpose for me IS to pour into other people's lives, I just went about it all wrong. You can read more about that here. Anyway, that's not really the point today. 

My "Year of Thirty" list brought a lot of people out of the woodwork on my Facebook feed. I had friends cheering me on, and I had friends who stated that they want to do something big for a milestone in their lives, but they were just struggling too much to do it. Most of those people messaged me and said stuff like "Go girl! That's amazing! I was just too bummed about turning {insert age here} to celebrate in any big way. But yay you!"

Can I tell you how sad it makes me to see people struggling? I can struggle all the live long day, but watching wonderful, special people hate on themselves makes me want to grab them and shake them and say "YOU! STOP IT! YOU'RE SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE!!" 

Now listen, I'm no where {even kind of} close to perfect at this. I have to battle that inner voice of self-loathing every single day. I've spent 99.8% of my life talking myself out of stuff and telling myself that people were only friends with me because they wanted to be nice. When I get an invitation to a party, I still feel like it's a courtesy invitation, NOT that people genuinely wanted my presence there. I have so many people encouraging me, and in my mind I would say to myself "Sure, they're saying nice things because they HAVE to! As my {fill in the blank with whoever said it: husband, child, friend, relative, whatever} they HAVE to say nice things to me, so they don't really mean them." The biggest barrier against me was me.

All these people that messaged me battle themselves too. I see it right in front of me. I can hear it in the apologetic way they speak about themselves. When I call people out on it, and I tell them how much they are loved not only by me, but in a HUGE WAY by Jesus, I can see the confusion on their faces: it doesn't quite compute. They have no idea what to do with it, because it's so contradictory to what's going on in their own brain. It's like a dramatic courtroom bombshell. It shatters everything that the other side is trying to prove.

That garbage in your head? Don't you buy into it, dear one. Don't you do it! DANGER WILL ROBINSON!

That other side? It isn't even you. It's the Enemy. He wants you to feel worthless. He wants to suck the air out of you. He wants you to cope every other way BUT Jesus. He wants you to be defeated. He wants you to lay in bed depressed. He wants you to have panic attacks. He wants you to self soothe in any way that keeps you tethered down so you are incapable of chasing God's purposes for you. 

I was reading the story of Nehemiah yesterday, and it hit me like a train. I've read the story before, but I never had it impact me so hard. If you haven't read it, or you'd like to read it again, you can read it here. I always read the story and thought of Nehemiah's determination in getting that wall built. It is that, but it also means this: when you are taking on God's work, be it a job, a family, volunteering, forgiving, loving, or whatever that looks like for you, others {and by others I mean the Enemy or his work} will work against you in every way possible. Because this isn't just an effort to get you distracted, this is a war to make you stop working for God. These forces against you may come in the form of distraction, but they may also come in the form of threats, abuse, self hatred, etc. By far, the worst one for me has been that nagging, incessant self loathing. When it's someone else, you can walk away, but when it's your own brain, how do you stop that? 

Be Nehemiah. Be stubborn. No matter what, don't stop what you know God has laid out for you. 

"I am doing a great work and I cannot come down." {Nehemiah 6:3}. 

Though I feel like I'm nothing worth celebrating. 

"I am doing a great work and I cannot come down."

Though I'm another year older and I feel like this wall is never going to get finished because I've accomplished so little.

"I am doing a great work and I cannot come down."

Though I hate myself.

"I am doing a great work and I cannot come down."

Though I wonder if God picked the right person to build this wall.

"I am doing a great work and I cannot come down."

Though I don't know if I have enough bricks.

"I am doing a great work and I cannot come down."

Though I didn't go to wall-building school.

"I am doing a great work and I cannot come down."

Though your desire is to bring harm to me. 

"I am doing a great work and I cannot come down."

Though you plot against me. 

"I am doing a great work and I cannot come down."

Though you lie about me. 

"I am doing a great work and I cannot come down."

Though you make me believe lies about myself.

"I am doing a great work and I cannot come down."

Though you use others to confirm those lies about myself.

"I am doing a great work and I cannot come down."

Though you put awful ideas about me into me. 

"I am doing a great work and I cannot come down."

Instead of bricking ourselves in with our own walls, we're going to start building God's walls. So come at us bro, because we WILL NOT come down.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Year of Thirty

If you've been following my blog for any time at all, you know that I've lived survived life from a very, very, very low place. I've just masked it for a very, very, very long time. A lot of my friends would describe me as the peppy one. The silly one. The encouraging one. That is not how I would describe myself {IRL} at all. You can read my past writings on that here, herehere, here, and here. That's not the focus on today's agenda! Today's agenda is about looking forward, not back. I'm turning 30 this year, and I {all of the sudden} got this urge to do something crazy to commemorate the occasion. I put up a Facebook poll and got a lot of great responses, and I couldn't choose between a lot of them. Then it dawned on me! I should do LOTS of crazy things! I've come out of a lot of turmoil and strife in my life, so I want my 30th year to mean something different. A new leaf, a fresh start, or whatever cliché you want to insert here.

I used to be the crazy girl, the impulsive one, now I own about 37 cardigans that I wear everywhere and my idea of a wild time is using the express lane for 12 items. Somewhere along the way, I lost it. I'm looking forward to finding that little spark of madness I once had. I decided to do 30 things in my year of 30. I'm started this list with 7, and added to it as more ideas popped up.  I'll be blogging on each item I cross off.

  1. Cover over a tattoo that I got when I was 18. I'm excited to do this for two reasons, 1) I got that tattoo in a more carefree time. While I was definitely lost, I still had a lot more fun back then. I'm excited to remember that time BUT 2) The tattoo is faded, and it never really meant anything to me. I'm excited to cover it over with something so much more meaningful from my year of thirty. 
  2. Get another tattoo. I want another tattoo on my wrist, also meaningful. I'm excited to show y'all when I get it done.
  3. Get my nose pierced. WHO HAVE I BECOME?! I never thought I'd see the day!
  4. Make one more push to have more kids. You know, secondary infertility is a tricky thing. You have so much joy in having the kid{s} you have, but you hurt for the one{s} who don't have, but so badly want. I want to get some other medical opinions and get on some adoption lists just to see. I'm not sure it will work, but I don't want to look back in my old age and regret not trying one more time. This time it's about closure, not desperation for anything to happen. So I feel like I'll be at peace with whatever God lays out for us.
  5. Go on an amazing trip. Alone. I know that sounds weird, doesn't it? It sounds weird in my mind too. I never got to experience a whole lot of life on my own, and what I did get to experience was drenched in alcohol at 17-18 years old. I'd love to make a magical memory that is just mine.
  6. Write a book. Note: Not publish a book. I've been wanting to write a novel for a while now, and I'd love to get it finished this year. I don't want too add in any pressure on myself in getting it published. Even if it just takes up space on my hard drive, I just need to make something that is creatively and intellectually amazing.
  7. Get an amazing job. I've helped people all my life, and I want to make a career of it this year. I love working with my clients in my personal chef biz, and it's been lucrative, but my purpose is to help people with bigger problems than menus.
  8. Get back into yoga. The first time I did yoga, my life was changed. Never have I ever breathed like that before, and afterward it felt as if 2 tons of bricks were unloaded off of my shoulders. It was incredibly calming and energizing at the same time. I want to make this a bigger priority in my life and make time for it often.
  9. Lose weight. I know, it's kind of cliche. But I'm actually the heaviest I've ever been in my life, and I just don't feel comfortable in my own skin. Depression and stress eating has take a huge toll on my body, and I'm done letting it own me. I want to dump this weight for good. 
  10. Build a house. We're about to move to a new city, and the idea of building our forever home that our grandchildren will someday visit is so exciting.
  11. Find my tribe. As I said, we're about to move, and I want to find friends that are on my team. I want to be on their team. I'm done with the games and backstabbing and gossip and drama. I want to find a tribe that always bans together and has one another's backs. 
  12. Forgive. If you've been reading my blog for any time at all, then you know I've had a rough run with people over the last few years. I have a lot of forgiveness to do to move forward. I don't want to just think happy little thoughts about forgiveness and letting go of the past, I want to actually do it. 
  13. Change a stranger's life. I want to do something for someone that is so powerful that it changes the trajectory of their life. I'm calling on God to bring me someone who needs to know Him, and I pray that He reaches them through me. I don't know what that looks like. Maybe it's an at-risk youth. Maybe it's a lonely widow. Maybe it's a teen mom. I'm excited about the prospect. 
  14. Become a better wife. I want to stop picking at him for little things he does that irritate me and instead show gratitude for all the big things he does that amaze me.
  15. Become a better mom. I want to spend more time thinking about values I want my son to have, and spend even more time helping him develop those traits. 
  16. Spend more time in nature. I'm not really a huge nature girl, and camping is just not my idea of a good time. But I do reconnect with God in places with no cell signal, no distractions, and just natural beauty. This year I want to embrace nature.
  17. Fight for a cause I care about. It's great to allocate money to a cause, and that is something I do frequently, but I want to actually put up my dukes and fight for something I care about. I want to show up and put in the man hours required to make a difference. 
  18. Read outside the box. I read a lot. Like, A LOT. But I also end up reading the same sorts of books. I'd like to switch things up this year and check things out of the library I normally wouldn't.
  19. Practice photography skills. I love the creative process, but my fancy camera I just couldn't live without intimidates me. I want to figure out what all the modes and menus mean and take better pictures. Maybe I'll do some reading online, or maybe I'll take an actual class. Either way I plan to point and click a lot.
  20. Watch more worldwide news. But I don't want to be consumed by it. I used to think that the news was just depressing, biased, or not worth my time. But my stance has changed a bit. I want to see the problems in the world so I can take action to hopefully make a difference. I already have an altruistic heart, but I need to know where that altruism is needed.

To be continued……..

Tuesday, January 12, 2016



They can build us up, they can tear us down. What other people say about us or to us can completely change the trajectory of our lives. At least, it did for me. From a very early age, I was labeled as "dramatic" and "exhausting" and "a hassle". There are far worse words that have been placed on me, but these were the earliest ones, and the ones I most believed. These words silenced mine, and they made me pleasing and compliant. I never thought anyone would care or even listen to what I had to say, and I definitely thought no one cared about how I feel. 

Sometimes words can break us, but they can also heal us. Words have to power to empower. My own words that I've written here have enabled me to {finally} trust my own truth.  Of all the words I've learned over the last two years, "no" has been the most foreign to me. "No" means that I exist. "No" means that I have a say. "No" means that I don't have to tolerate maltreatment. "No" means that I'm releasing the broken to embrace the beautiful. "No" means that I'm no longer a doormat. And mostly, "no" means that I can confidently say "YES!" to what God has planned for me. 

My own words have taken me on long walks through my memories, and they've shown me truths I wasn't able to see clearly before. I can't rewrite my story, but I can learn the truth through writing about it. Through my own words, I'm learning the truth about myself, and through that truth, I'm seeing strength, and though that strength, I'm learning to respect myself.

If I could, current me would grab the hand of the me from so long ago, and tell her it's going to be OK, and that she should find herself sooner. I would tell her what real joy means, not the fake joy that comes in her permanent faux smile she wears. I would tell her that smile was just her armor, that it makes her feel camouflaged, and it allows her to pretend that she is strong and happy. I would tell her that's nothing like real joy. I would tell her she is God's masterpiece, and that REAL JOY comes when she finds God's purpose for her life. But mostly, I would tell her that she is WORTH ALL OF God's plans for her. Dear one, you're worth it too!

Two of God's creations: The Grand Canyon, and Me :)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

I love people. I love getting to know them, I love getting to know what makes them "tick", I love laughing with them, but more than anything, I love pouring into them. God created me to be the type of friend that gets calls when my peeps are at the lowest points in their lives. Walking through worst case scenarios may not be most people's cup of tea, but I feel fulfilled and full of purpose when I do that. It's weird, I know. My husband doesn't get it either. I am not at all happy that my friends are hurting, but I am so deeply honored to be helping. 

I have prayed with and dried tears of so many people, I've also brought about conversations with strangers in public where they share their hurts with me too. It's really crazy. BUT, what I have found is that strife and hurt are just part of life. It's not possible for me to come into regular contact with someone and not feel their pain. Sometimes you have to peel a person back like an onion to find it, sometimes you scratch just below the surface like a lottery ticket, and sometimes you barely brush up against them, and there it is. Clear as day. 

Who among us has not been tangled up in affliction? Weighted down by chains of bondage, heavily beaten down in a cloud of depression, sadness, or self doubt? Who hasn't been twisted with guilt, anxiety, dread, or worry?

If that's you, and you've never been afflicted… oh please teach me your ways, wise Jedi. But I digress.

For me, I struggle so hard with C-PTSD and deep depression. I had made it my life's mission {until last year} to keep it hidden. I made sure that no one saw my chains. I dressed them up and covered them over, and cranked up the music of my life so no one could hear ugly, awful chains clanking all around me. I carried them as calmly and quietly as possible, while plastering a smile on my face, making sure no one would ever see. 

But then, I predictably grew so very tired. I grew weary and weak from carrying these heavy chains. More and more often, they would creak and clank as I tried to redistribute the weight to make them easier to carry. As the fatigue grew, so did my gentleness. I was not as soft, patient, or kind. My chains would bump up against my family, often bruising my husband and my child. The guilt of that added on more chains. More bondage. One day I woke up to find myself completely chained in. I was incapable of reaching out, and everyone else was incapable of reaching me. The shackles and chains swallowed me whole. I was bruised, broken, and completely crushed. I reached a point where I was too weak in my own afflictions to help anyone else carry theirs.

Like my pain, yours has the potential to completely imprison you. It could completely eclipse anything good in your life: love, laughter, joy, career, family, hobbies, friends, and most importantly: your God. Yet, our church culture tells us to pray harder, and we'll be healed. Or maybe they say that if we had more faith, we wouldn't be struggling any longer. "You'll be fine if you trust God with it", that's what they say. These are dangerous thoughts, y'all. Not only is it completely WRONG {read your bibles people, all of God's favorite peeps were absolutely cray cray}, but it keeps people like me {and you, if you also struggle} in isolation. It builds this stigma of Christians who feel like freaks for not having themselves perfect and pulled together, so they isolate and try to deal with it alone. This is a huge problem! People were built for community {see here}, and if you lock people away who are hurting, you are also keeping them from the fullness of what God has planned for them. This type of thinking keeps adding more chains on to people who are already bruised and broken and about to shatter at any given moment. Is that what God wants for them? I say nay, y'all.

If I think about the ultimate example of someone who healed & helped people, I obviously think of our main man, Jesus. People came to him by the thousands, from all over. He was their guru, their miracle worker, their life-infuser, their teacher, and most importantly: their pain reliever. Jesus and his squad retreated from these needy mobs often. They went into hiding for a quick meal, prayer, or some basic rest. Yet these people followed Him EVERYWHERE. These folks were like Beliebers on steroids. They just would NOT leave Jesus alone. Jesus continued to show up for them anyway. He continued to serve them. He fed 5,000 with only a couple fish and some bread {read about it here}. That's the part of the story we tend to focus on. Oh, yay Jesus! You performed a magic trick. You turned a small meal for a few into a feast for thousands. You could take that act on the road and it would sell out for years. That's not the part that wows me the most, though. This part does: Jesus was running away in grief from John the Baptist's death. He wanted to cry. He wanted to pray. But mostly, He probably just wanted to be left alone. His cousin had just died, and it was not just any cousin, John was also His friend, His partner in this great mission of His ministry. They were teammates, besties, amigos, pals, and brothers. I can't imagine suffering a loss like that and then having to heal and feed 5,000 people. I mean, I'd probably try to pull it off, but I wouldn't have a great attitude about it. How about you? Would you tell those folks to scram? Get lost? Beat it? Hit the dirt? Or would you be like me and serve them all, begrudgingly, out of some sense of duty or obligation? 

But my Jesus. Oh, Jesus, He is just the best. He responded with compassion. He always healed those who needed healing, fed those who needed feeding, taught those that needed teaching, etc. BUT! He never had a sour attitude about serving people. He never ran out of steam for those He loved so much. I've often beat myself up for not being like this. I always show up for people, but I'm sometimes left feeling run down, depleted, out of juice, and my low fuel light is on more often than I'd care to admit. 

Relate? You know why? Well, for one, we are so not Jesus…. No matter how hard we try to emulate Him. AND! You know what else I've learned? I've been interpreting this passage all wrong. So very, very wrong. "Love your neighbor as yourself". Jesus didn't say "love your neighbor better than yourself". He certainly didn't say "shackle yourself up for your neighbor". He definitely didn't say "carry your neighbors chains and yours". If you can't carry your own chains, take heart. Jesus never asked you to carry your chains and everyone else's chains. You know what else Jesus is saying here? He's saying to you chained up people "Your neighbor deserves your love, but you deserve love too!"

How do we do that? How do we find that balance in loving our neighbor and loving ourselves? First off, realize that we are not Jesus, so we can't expect to save anyone! We want to pour Jesus into people, right? We have to pour the same amount of Jesus into ourselves as we're pouring into other people if we don't want to end up running on fumes. You can't solve everything. In fact, you can solve very little on your own. But, Jesus can and will solve a whole heck of a lot THROUGH you! That's precisely why He said that the greatest commandment was to love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The love that you pour on to your neighbors can't all come from you, and Jesus knew this. He knew that kind of love only comes from up top. So spend a ton of time praying, dialing into the word, praising Him, giving thanks, and THEN show up with what little bread and fish you have, pray a lot, and let Jesus take the wheel.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Please Be Strong

A few weeks ago, I woke up in the morning, my feet hit the floor, and I just got swallowed whole. I got swallowed in all those emotions. You know the ones I'm talking about? The ones that hit you like a train… the ones that get up under the skin… the ones that twist your stomach… the ones that rush your heart… the ones that crush your spirit… the ones that make your loved ones suffer…

They can be triggered by anything: and interaction, and exchange, a word, a glance, a thought, an insignificant event, a temperature on the thermostat, a song on the radio, and all the sudden, you go to your crazy place. BOOM! Ugh. I hate it.

There are a lot of emotions that are pleasurable, good, wonderful, or lovely, but we're not talking about those today. Those emotions pick us up off the ground, and they don't swallow us like the "other" ones. Yay for them. I really wish I could have them in moments like I'm describing. 

These types of emotions capture you like a fish hook grab hold of you like they grab that big catch. No matter how hard you kick, scream, and try to get away, you're hooked. No matter how hard you try to find peace, you can't help but show your crazy. 

When I feel these things, I am overwhelmed, hit right in the feels, curled up in a ball, and powerless over how I behave. When I've have these feelings, I put my guard up, I lash out at others, I panic, I cry, I whine, and I've even been paralyzed; frozen in place. It's such a strong current of emotion that I just can't swim. These emotions reduce me to a cranky, crazy child. I feel like a failure, and I just can't put one foot in front of the other.

Have you ever had feelings like these? I do. Every. Single. Day. Every time, I tell myself "you're better than this!" I think "why am I this way?" But I feel "I just can't do anything right now." I convince myself to get out of bed. I stumble downstairs, and I look down, close my eyes and I whisper: "please be strong"

….to my coffee. I take a big gulp, and then all is right with the world. I aspire to be a morning person, but I probably never will. Nope. Can't do it. Thank you coffee! You rock my world, you make me a better person, and pull me out of my morning crazy place that I described above. I'll love you always, and I'll never quit you!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

What Going "No Contact" Is Not

I wrote this post last week, and it has been going viral ever since. It's obviously struck a chord with people in a similar position to me, because I think it's not a position most people in the church world take… However, I would also imagine it's not a position that most people have actually found themselves in. I've listened to a lot of sermons about this issue, and the message is always "love harder, forgive more, you have the power to heal this!" Then a few people share their testimony on how they did it. They discuss how they have forgiven & reunified with relatives for past hurts. These hurts highlighted include: people who have forgiven a ruined a wedding day, people who forgave relatives that overcame addiction… These stories basically boil down to people who worked TOGETHER on solving their issues. I think this is wonderful! I praise God for situations like these! I wanted to clear up some common misconceptions about people like me who have no choice but to go no contact with a toxic relative {or relatives}.

  • Going no contact is NOT about dissing someone, it's about accepting them for who they are.
  • Going no contact is NOT the easy way out. Most people who do this not only suffer with feelings of grief and depression, they also have other relatives that angrily come out of the woodwork to attempt to bully them into reunifying.
  • Going no contact does NOT mean that the person who chose to walk away is bitter and hasn't forgiven. It usually means that the person has chosen to walk away over continuing pain IN ORDER to forgive and move forward. 
  • Going no contact is NOT a method to punish the person that is being walked away from. It is a way to keep the person walking sane.
  • Going no contact is NOT giving up on the idea that God can heal it. It is giving up on the idea that the person walking away can heal it. 
  • Going no contact is NOT about wielding power, it's about being powerless.
  • Going no contact is NOT about hating on the family of origin, it's about loving the family you created.
  • Going no contact is NOT about taking away from the family of origin, it's about giving to the family you made.
  • Going no contact is NOT throwing stones at anyone, it's protecting the self.
  • Going no contact is NOT about promoting conflict, it's about minimizing it. 
  • Going no contact is NOT about being heartless, it's about having no more heart left to give.
  • Going no contact is NOT about creating turmoil, it's about searching for peace.
  • Going no contact is NOT about disrespect, it's about self respect.
  • Going no contact is NOT about dishonor, because there's nothing honorable about dishonesty, denial, and enabling. 
  • And most importantly, going no contact is NOT about being unChristian! Jesus rebuked false teachers, Paul often warned about the contagiousness of sin, see here. Paul also outlined what love looks like here. As enabling empaths, we tend to hold ourselves to that standard but no one else. That is what were raised to believe is true, except our family of origin looks nothing like that, so we're conditioned to accept all the blame and over-apologize. We've forgiven far more times than this, and we have gotten no apologies {maybe a tiny few, if we're lucky}. 

There does come a point where the options are exhausted and everything else has been tried. There does come a point where sanity, peace, and physical/emotional wellbeing are compromised. There comes a time when the is literally no other option but to walk away. It's a unspeakably awful & painful truth, and it's the sincerest desire of my heart that there were a better solution. But sometimes, there just isn't.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

I Get Knocked Down….

Anyone else remember that super weird song from the 90's? No? Just me?

I never liked it when it was on the radio, but it's a great lead in for tonight's blog. C-PTSD is a lot like that song, but in reverse. You get back up again--THEN you get knocked down. Just when you make a breakthrough in recovery, and you think you've got this thing managed…. You just don't. It sucks.

It's so frustrating to take four steps forward, only to take the same four steps back. SQUARE. FREAKING. ONE.

That's what happened to me tonight. One of my recent blogs has started to go viral, and I was feeling on top of the world. Then it happened: I got triggered up and had an awful panic attack, and I wasn't alone. I can write uppity blogs about how I conquer this stuff, but let me just tell you: those blogs are written in pre-blocked off sections of alone time complete with cups of coffee and inspirational playlists. Episodes couldn't be more of an opposite experience. They come out of nowhere, they can happen at anytime, in front of anyone. And as much as I try to learn my triggers and prepare for them, and they are becoming more rare, I can melt down much quicker than Olaf in a microwave.

This gal slid off her rocker tonight. And I'm not talking breathing into a paper bag, I'm talking about an atomic meltdown. To do that in front of someone else {instead of the quiet tip-tapping of my keyboard that happens when I write about it} was…. You know what? There's no word in the English language to complete that sentence. Because the pits of shame and despair are too deep to describe.

But I'm learning to reach out to friends. And I have some of the best ones in the world. I always have, but I haven't always asked for help. I once landed myself on a stretcher picking up a dresser all by myself because I couldn't ask anyone to help me with it. I've made huge progress in asking for help from my gal-pal-tribe. C-PTSD sucks, but my favorite girlfraaaands don't. I'm grateful for that.

I've gotten so many messages and blog comments that I'm a hero for what I write and how I write it, and let me just set the record straight: I am no one's guru, so don't look to me to be your answer. Because I'm not. But Jesus is! Stay tuned for how I dial into Him & continue to figure this mess out!



Not Fully Living

Can I just be really honest? I've been hitting the snooze button on my life for a long time now. My whole life, in fact. I turn 30 next this year, and I've realized I have spent all 30 years living for someone else. When I was a child, let's just say I didn't really have the best life. But when holidays and gatherings would roll around, I'd come out in a fresh outfit, hair clean and shiny, ready for a performance. It wasn't a performance I wanted to do, and I wasn't wearing what I wanted to wear, but I'd get up in front of relatives and recite this poem flawlessly, complete with hand gestures and facial expressions. I was maybe 3 or 4.

My mother's reputation and happiness rested entirely on my shoulders, and I had only one job to do with her: "baby girl, make me look good!" But at home, I was nothing like the spunky, silly little girl that everyone else saw in public. My home life was nothing like that, and I really do wish the worst parts were just about performance pressure. But I did learn is that I better be pleasin' to people before I walked out the door. So I did. I was fun and bubbly and giggly, and I played that part quite well.

You've heard of the "resting bitch face?" Well, I have "resting smiling face." When I don't smile, it's unnerving to people who know me. I can just be tired, but to them it must be the end of the world. When people find out that I struggle with PTSD and depression, they always look at me {aghast} and say: "but you always look so happy!" Fooled ya, didn't I? Because most days I can barely keep my head above water.

I left home at 17, went to college at 18, and had a child at 19. I never really learned how to fully live or even what my own interests/talents are. I'm just going to recap my 20's for those of you in a similar position:

  • I lost weight, and gained a ton.
  • I grieved my childhood, and gave my son one.
  • I made the best friends of my life, and I never felt so alone.
  • I was hurting, and I was healing.
  • I didn't discover my dreams, and I helped my wonderful husband chase his.
  • I loved, and I lost.
  • I grew, but I shrank back.
  • I stepped out of my comfort zone, panicked, and crawled right back under the covers with Netflix.
  • I experienced brokenness and beauty. 
  • I held grudges and I forgave.
  • I was stagnant and I made great progress.

I'm ready for a comeback in my 30's. I'm not sure which direction they'll take or what my goals will be, but I now know that I'm worth something. I'm worth what my dreams and goals are about. But most importantly: I learned to empower myself, and to trust God with how it all turns out. My past is part of my story, but it doesn't define who I am. Same goes for you.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Dear Survivor

Dear Survivor,

I'm not going to use the "v" word here, because you are nobody's victim. You are a victor! You've survived so many battles no one knows anything about. 

All those people see is you divorcing a spouse, estranging yourself from a relative, or kissing another person in your life goodbye. People may say well-meaning {albeit idiotic--or, at least ignorant} advice of "is this what God would want?" or "just pray on it" or "God can heal anything" or "you'll regret this" or "blood is thicker than water" or my personal {least} favorite: "life is so short, don't you want to heal it while there's still time?" 

Here lies the problem: all they see is your choice because that is the only part that went public. You chose to survive. You chose to start breathing again. You chose to keep your head above water. Except… all anyone can see from the outside looking in is that you're a quitter. 

But what they don't see could fill an ocean, couldn't it?

The person you're walking away from has rarely, if ever, been kind to you. They didn't actually want you, per se, they wanted the idea of you. Maybe they wanted arm candy, maybe they wanted a fat wallet to hitch their wagon to, maybe they wanted a picture perfect child to brag about, or maybe they simply wanted someone to blast out fake happiness about on Facebook. But home… Home was something no one else saw but you. No one knows better than you how perfectly polished the lies of public perception can be. The person you're running from is a hero to many, beloved by all. But only because they groom their public persona very, very carefully. A lot of them are philanthropists, deacons in churches, and so good to their communities, but behind closed doors… Another persona lurks. No one else sees both, except you. The public sees someone who works overtime at convincing the world that they are someone who helps and doesn't hurt.

You couldn't take it any more, could you? You couldn't take being their punching bag while people on all corners God's green Earth cheer wildly for them. I know, dear one! Believe me… I know

The life they're pedaling around town isn't even close to real, is it? And because deceit is already this person's drug of choice, the lying will only escalate after you leave. You've now become a loose end… a liability… so now a public relations campaign must commence. The person you're running from will flip the script on you, and what was a closely guarded secret will now become oh-so-public and oh-so-ugly. The story will be stood on its head, and the "v" word will now be cast as the abuser, so the abuser can wear that victim badge of honor oh-so-proudly. They thrive in that victim role. The abuser fought hard to spread the message as having a happy family, and they'll fight so much harder to run their character assassination. Their smear campaign is necessary to protect their image as the perfect mother, father, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, sister, brother, friend, etc. They are ruthless, and there's no person off limits for them to spread their lies to. There's also no limit to the lies that will be told. You will be provoked into acting sad, mad, upset, and then that person will stand back and act surprised that you are. They'll frame it to others and package it up that you're crazy, vicious, mean, etc.

Their pride wants to protect that perfect image, and will stop at nothing to do just that because they aren't capable of respecting boundaries. There's typically no accountability to an abuser's actions. They will never, ever accept the truth. Wait, I don't want to say never, because God can heal anything. However, it's not your job to make that happen. It's not possible for you to "fix" them. Only God can do that.

I'm not saying you've always acted perfectly, and there aren't some things that you would've done differently if given the chance {trust me, I get that too}. Make amends where you can for where you messed up. However, if you aren't provoking chaos, creating turmoil, and you're running from {not to} conflict, it's time to rewire your brain. Start peeling off the labels placed there by people who want you to believe that you're the problem. Here's a select few of the labels I'm removing: 
  • dramatic
  • crazy
  • difficult
  • uptight
  • bitch
  • annoying
  • nasty
  • stupid
  • idiot
  • psycho
  • heartless
  • liar
  • weak
  • rebellious
  • broken
  • damaged
  • not worth it
  • selfish
  • burden

In the church world, we talk a big game about "Honor thy mother and father" and "God hates divorce", and these things are certainly true. I'm not here to suggest that you should cut everyone out of your life when your feelings get hurt over minor issues, and I recognize that not everyone who deletes family members from their list of Facebook friends is justified in doing so. But in my experience, it is assumed if you remove yourself from a marriage or a destructive family situation, then you must be mean, crazy, awful, disrespectful, and most importantly: unChristian. 

Not true, dear one, not true. In response to the above advice tag lines: 

  • "Is this what God would want?" God doesn't want abuse for His children, He just doesn't. See hereherehereherehere, and you know what? I could go on all day. Let's just agree that abuse ≠ love.
  • "Just pray on it." I have. Oh, how I have. So many sleepless nights. So much desperation. So many times of begging God to heal it. So much forgiveness. But forgiveness ≠ fixing the relationship. Forgiveness also ≠ an invitation for "loved ones" to wipe their mud caked boots on you. Forgiveness means wishing them well in spite of the mud they've wiped on you, it's not continuing to allow it!
  • "God can heal anything." Absolutely! --BUT--if {and only if} both parties agree to let Him.
  • "You'll regret this." Maybe I will. But I'll also regret getting run over, violated, cussed out… I'll regret the self loathing, depression, and not fully living. I can't say that I've ever regretted saying "no more" to being someone's doormat. I am worth more than that, and I don't regret realizing it.
  • "Blood is thicker than water." What does this even mean?
  • "Life is so short. Don't you want to heal this while there's still time?" Exactly. Life is so short. Life is far too short to put up with abuse and maltreatment. There have been attempts by other parties for me to re-engage in a relationship around holidays, but never a real attempt to resolve the underlying issues {or even admit to them}. 

I so know your pain. I know what it is to say that I've severed a bond, and I know what it is to watch the smile melt off faces of people I tell that to. I can see it in their eyes. I can see their judgement right in front of me. Only someone selfish, mean, or heartless could do what I did, right? I've just had to accept that people believe this about me. I'll never be able to change their minds. Neither will you. You're just going to have to let some people go. It'll feel like grief. Sometimes you'll be fine, sometimes that loss will hit you like a train. Just realize that it's not your fault that those people have bought into a lie. You know your truth, and you know your God. Make peace with the fact that this is the only validation you need. 

I wrote this letter to you so you'll know you are not alone, and you're not crazy. You're doing the best you can. You've got this. You survived the abuse, and you'll survive the recovery. 

All My Love,