Talitha koum…

 

 

God is good

 

I haven’t written in a long while.  And this is so not what I imaged my first post from hiatus to be. Not that I hadn’t wondered about this day.  What it would feel like, be like…  because I have. 

 

It isn’t anything like I thought it would be.  And yet a little familiar too.  Nothing could really prepare me for this.

 

How could it?  The kind of relationship I had with my father doesn’t beget neatly boxed or mentally prepared moments…

 

My life has always been a whirlwind of crazy and chaos.  That much has stayed consistent.  I’m quite good at waking up and rolling with what ever comes my way. 😉

My mind is fighting myself with each tap tap tap of the keyboard as nothing in me wants to continue this post.  It’s forcing me to be present.  I don’t want to be present right now.  As my sister of my heart is always reminding me ‘that which I fear is often that which I should write about most’…  Love her so much.  She makes me brave.  ❤ How blessed we are to have people in our lives that encourage us to be better and more courageous people??? ❤  ❤ Very…  (love you, Sum) ❤

I wake up early every morning declaring this day a battle against the forces that fight against me — and I push through every single voice in my head that has me defeated already (so many layers…) — before my feet have even hit the floor.  Because I have to keep living — somehow.  This is a blessing.  Yes.  A blessing.  Because it keeps me present.  It keeps me focused.  And I know He’ll get me through another day, like He always does — and I have faith — if I just keep moving and if I just keep walking, I know that little by little I will get there.  Life is a journey.  So I breathe.  So I pick up my mat.  I begin my practice, and I connect my body to my spirit.  And dammit, some days it’s so very heavy and it’s so freaking hard for those of you who do not know this pain.  We all have our “things”, right?  I remind myself of this and pray for all of us.  So many of us.  I know I’m not alone…  (I see you too…  hang in there, loves,  hang the hell on…) ❤  Some days are hard.  Some days are easier.  But every single day is a blessing.  And every single day we get to BE a blessing! ❤

These past few days have been somewhat of a blur of numb.  And I don’t WANT to be present or connected anymore.  This is a slippery slope for me… so.I.write.

After I got the bizarre phone call — because of the nature of the conversation — that went from one story to another as it changed, my sister said she ‘wasn’t going to do an homage of sorts, of course’ (and I was thinking, ‘why on earth would you???’ as my first visceral reaction of procession to all of the contents of the words of what just transpired) but then she put together an Instagram post.  One of which I didn’t even know about until a couple of friends reached out to me and asked if I was okay, and to let me know they were sorry.  So there was that.  Using the word father.  Crediting this person with life and addressing heaven.  It was all just too much for me in this instant of a moment.  Maybe one of her ways or  pieces of healing.  We all choose differently and uniquely.   It’s what makes us human, after all. ❤  And I wasn’t going to write a darn consonant or vowel.  Cause numb.  Yet here I am.  In this head space.  Writing.  Because it’s how I heal…

Huge life events bring out different things in all of us.  We’re human and so unique in that humanity, aren’t we?  In death some of us choose to remember better than it was, some of us choose to remember as it was, and some of us choose to not remember at all.  The mind is interesting like that.  In a way, it ‘takes care’ of us like that.  And equally interesting is the way in which those different ways of remembering can cause pain to those close to us.  It’s not intentional.  It just happens.  It’s all part of the circle of things, isn’t it?  It’s a process unique to all of us.  This is mine.

For me, authenticity is the only path through anything.  My brain is super annoying like that.  It’s super annoying to other people like that.  Really.  It’s a disorder of sorts.  It’s just pedantically how I tick.  I can’t escape it.  I’ve tried — for the sake of my husband and the “awkwardness” this sometimes entails sometimes for his family as well (and social situations 😉 ).  Apparently, there are no meds that really work for it.  😉  Yet — ultimately everyone has their choices in which to deal.  And we all have our lens, we all have our experiences, and we all have our way of dealing with the pain those experiences illicit.  And sometimes our brain tries to save us.  I get this.  I often wish mine would.  Sometimes I wish I never started therapy.  Just kept suppressing.  But then, I would have never started really living.  I would have never been free.

So now we get awkward… (it’s what I do best…)

See, the “creating” part of life isn’t all that difficult to me.  Sure, it’s a miracle — but a miracle that was created by God.  Not by us mere humans.  I’m not so hubristic as to think that we came up with and manufactured this whole process all on our own.  We’re fantastic yes, but not THAT amazing.  Shooting sperm into an egg takes a couple of seconds (give or take).  It’s the process thereafter that means more to me in terms of our significant fingerprint on the relevance of things.  The lifetime process thereafter of raising a child.  How we build up and strengthen our children, not systematically choose to destroy them or use them for our selfish purposes…

In that regard, I had a God that created me — friends, my husband, family, myself, teachers, several therapists (God bless them –really, amazing people, so thankful), amazing people (I do use that word often 🙂 ) and the Holy Spirit — that were involved in my creation.  And part of that creation?  It involved freaking YEARS of surviving and undoing what had been done to me, by my parent’s choice.  And I’m still working on all of this.  Respecting creation, I’ll thank God and everyone who truly had a part in that.  Not the person who didn’t think I was worth breathing and made a point to let me know that pretty much every single day he had the chance.  And if my father had a mental illness, it would have been amazing to know this as a child, young adult, and adult.  I was not made aware of this.  I was only ever aware that it there was something wrong with me.   It was something that I hoped in the exchange for the possibility of my inherent evil, but was not told.  I really thought the voice he was hearing was God’s.

I thank God for breath.  He had me in His plans before the creation of the world.  And how I came to be?  He had a plan for that too.  So I will credit God, who holds the plans he has for me — and always has and always will.  If He wanted me here, I would have come to be. 🙂  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29: 11

I understand peace and transcendence and wanting that for your self … yes, I SO do — but truth doesn’t need to be void from it.  They all coexist.  In fact, for my journey, true sustained peace requires it.  Years of walking THROUGH pain — not over, not under, not around — but THROUGH — has taught me that much.   Again, my journey.  Not everyone’s.  And part of this through? — reading through diaries I had kept since the age of 7 all throughout my college years until my babies were born — then I got too busy and started reaching out to all of you here.  Painful as hell.  Especially the first time.  Yes.  But necessary — especially in my family where things weren’t talked about and are forgotten.  It’s like I have to remind myself that it was bad.  That it wasn’t okay.  That it wasn’t normal — in the scope of your average, typical “family” fare.  That hey, it’s really more than okay that you freaking feel this way, Ang.  Because it  became my “normal”.  And really, until I got out of that “cult” of living and went to college?  I did not truly and fully know or grasp or even understand how messed up it was.  How messed up I was.  And how deeply and utterly self preserved I was — all in my neat little quiet package (because we do not speak or betray the family — my phone conversations were even listened to)  — all of the mechanisms I had used to self cope, to take care of me, to just make it on a daily existence — one foot in front of the other level, to rationalize the abuse — and it all went into self harm (because I needed to inflict more abuse to my body!!!! (ug), and to my brain, because I believed I was so vile) — and I took personal responsibility for absolutely everything (because I had been taught to and told to —  “you were always such an anxious child”). Barf.  All of it.  And I wasn’t really angry about it, on the outside.  That would draw attention.  I didn’t want any attention.  I so perfectly internalized it all. I was a good girl. A good kid. Despite everything being said about me.  So ironic looking back on all of that.

Loves, if you’re angry, rage a little.  Really.  If you’re sad, be sad.  Cry.  Feel it.  It’s okay to feel it.  And you might still feel it from time to time for quite some time.  That’s okay too.  You’re not a bad person for having feelings.  For having a voice.  Have a voice.  I found mine so very late.  I’m just so blessed by the people who helped me find it at all.  Really. For encouraging me to sustain it.   Thanks to all of them.  I still think quite often, is it okay if I talk? now sometimes…  because it’s still scary. But —  We are here to be who God created us to be.  We all have a unique purpose.  No rival.  No one gets to take that from us.  “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.”  Esther 4:14.  “For such a time as this.”  Speak, sister.  He’s got you.  ❤

And it’s funny how this is SUCH a hard habit to break.  I actually had this epiphany just a few days ago during yoga.  I am critically hard on myself.  On my awareness of myself.  I expect nothing less than perfection and am acutely aware of my endless flaws.  So.many.flaws.  I’m REALLY good at being flaw-full (y’all get this from my other blog posts, I’m sure 😉 ). I’m a hot mess of mistakes.  I try SO hard to get away from this (hence the yoga — smile), but it is a prison and a bondage I wrestle with constantly.  I demand the absolute best from myself at all times.  And yet, the absolute best has yet to be given TO me by anyone but Jesus (and I realize he’s the only one who will 🙂 )…  I give so much breadth and width to others.  Why can’t I give it to myself???  When those who were supposed to give me love, provide and care for me have  failed  — and I am totally okay with them simply throwing their hands up in the air and saying “oh for heaven’s sake, I did the best I could.  I don’t remember.  I didn’t.  I forgot.  Everyone makes mistakes”  — and my all time favorite — “Just get over it…” and it’s all forgiven — and I, somehow, end up taking responsibility for it all.  I yet I continue to demand perfection from myself, take absolute responsibility for all things (those that aren’t even mine to take), yet don’t really seem to demand it from others…  Why?  Because I don’t ever want to be like them?  Because some one HAS to?  Because I never feel worthy?  Because I believe everyone gets five billion chances? Because Jesus said to turn the other cheek?  Because I always feel like one should have hope?  Or because I am the only piece of this cray fest I can control?

I truly do not know what the answer is to that question…  but I’m also truly done asking it.  We all have choices.  And mine is to get off of this infernal wheel…  I need to let go of feeling like I have to have it all together and be everything to everyone.  And so I write… ❤ It frees my brain, it frees my voice, it frees my soul…

I am at peace.  I have forgiven.  And the shortness and quickness of those words does nothing to show the incredible length and struggle of that process and journey. But forgiveness doesn’t mean I have to make it prettier.   God makes beauty from ashes.  That’s so amazing, isn’t it?  (this journey isn’t pretty, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold holy beauty. ❤ ) Or that I need to somehow imply that any of  it was okay or just a different way of ‘doing things’ — a mere ‘difference in philosophy’ or ‘lifestyle choices’.  It was pretty ugly.  There was some lovely in it too.  But it wasn’t all pretty.  I’m proud of the work,  I’m proud of the person I’ve become for it, and I’m proud of the voices that have been released because of it…

Forgiveness, for me,  is realizing that the deep pain that person caused really had absolutely NOTHING to do with you.  It had everything to do with them and the kind of person THEY were.  Those were their choices.  That was their walk.  And yes, you gotta pick up all the broken — but you will.  Every single freaking day of your life, you will.  You will make that choice.  For you, and for those you love.  Because that’s the kind of person YOU are.  And your life will be beyond amazing.  Because you are you and God is God.  And that — THAT person He created for good and for an incredible purpose — and that is a holy miracle.  And that is YOUR miracle.  Amen.

There is peace in knowing that someone that evil is no longer taking isn’t here on earth.  That presence is gone.  And that may sound horribly cruel to some of you.  I realize this.  It doesn’t mean that I am “happy”, it means part of my mind is relieved.  One of the weird effects of my PTSD is that I would see him — when he wasn’t there.  Standing on the corner as the kids and I drove to school, in my home, in my bedroom — actually SEE him.  And then I would have panic attacks.  I would sometimes vomit.  I am hopeful that knowing that he is no longer physically here helps with those episodes.  I also hope the nightmares that I would have here and there diminish (they become more frequent with stress).  That I don’t wake up in my own puke, or having sweat through all of my clothes and wet the bed in terror — because I’ve been raped.   Throughout childhood, one of the ways I was punished was having to stand naked for periods of time (as chosen by him) before my father.  If I struggled with taking my clothes off, I’d have “help”.  He’d look at his watch and the minutes would start.  If I tried to cover myself or cried, the minutes would start again.  This happened well into adolescents.  As did timed and watched showers.  Until high school.  This accounts for the rape dreams for me.  My therapist link it to other issues that don’t bear talking about here.  Some things need to be kept private.  And everything is so real in those moments.  Because even though I am 41 years old, I never feel like an adult.  Ever.  And sometimes I am afraid he is going to come and take everything I love away from me.  Because that’s what he did.  Over and over again.  Friends, who I was, my dignity, all the junk that was made up about me, and I was left to fight for myself. Even within my own family.   And yet I would.  And God never let me go.  We are all such miracles…

And because all of that was hardwired into my brain for so long,  I would also STILL have to remind myself this is MY house and MY family and I am a grown up — I am a grown up — and he can NOT hurt me anymore.  I would have to remind myself of these things — when I would get the psychotic birthday cards, the notes stuck in my doorway — just so Marty and I would know that he knew that even though we’d moved he now knew where we lived (each time we moved, from apartment to apartment from house to house) — the calls from various people asking if we had money to help with this that or the other thing, the calls from the ex-wife he was married to for a year because she was divorcing him — could I help? — if not for her, for her boys — the all of the crazy of it all. That was just in the past nine years or so.  That is my reality.  Not to mention after college.  What my husband and  I went through with our wedding.  And helping my mother through the divorce.  After not being so very blessed in the family’s graces for so long up to that point.  Crying three month old in hand (colic is fun 😉 ), Marty and I did that together.  Off to the court house.  Because I wanted to be good daughter.  I always wanted to be good.  So incredibly thankful for my husband.  Through all of our issues (and as much as I can complain about him 😉 ), he has been through and supported me through so much of life (and has seen so much).  I thank God for him.  Going through everything with his mother and all of this has been tough.  Marty is amazing.  There’s that word again.

And Chuck was graciously given opportunities for reconciliation.  I have my own children.  This was important to me.  The “how could a parent do this, allow this, to happen to their child???” hit me beyond hard after having my first.  It still hits me from time to time during big (and small) childhood moments with my own boys.  But what also hits me is the want and need for family.  So I tried.  I tried.  And I feel like I constantly try and give chances in this department.  And I am also so incredibly aware that God gives us family all around us.  That that word is a verb. Not just a noun.  It’s what we do.  Another gorgeous moment(s) in reading my diaries (took a few times) 🙂 — is seeing all of the people God placed in my life along the way.  Thank you, heavenly Father.  You have always taken care of me. ❤

And I do I believe in hell.  I know it’s not a popular theology as of late.  I’m a minority.  And I believe there is some sort of a place for people who choose to crush innocence and mitigate the existence of childhood.  I don’t morn the loss of it, my childhood that is.  I just know I really didn’t get to have one.  And I know it doesn’t really matter what I believe to any of you.  At all.  Not a single bit.  It shouldn’t.  And I am not pretending to be God.  I’m not Him.  I’m not the one who does the judging nor the condemning.  Regardless, I don’t believe in a God who doesn’t have a sense of justice — of right or of wrong.  And that for those of us who can’t scream or have a voice on this earth through epochs of our lives, who are invalidated, smeared, silenced — just maybe those who take our voices away get to do some screaming somewhere else…  And maybe it’s not hell, for those of you for whom that word is too harsh.  Maybe there’s a middle place.  Maybe there’s a place of omniscient understanding.  A place where everything comes together.  Where our pain connects to the place of the hearts of people who weren’t able to feel or understand that pain.  For what ever reason.  A connection room.  I can’t imagine we get to go around hurting people all of our lives and then not learn from that — ever.  That makes this existence the most futile and pointless reason for creation… for all of us.

I can’t honestly cry over the loss of a father.  Because I never had one of those.  That word is reserved for someone precious.  I can’t even cry over the loss of a relationship — because I truly never had one of those either.  It was rather one sided in the trying department.  You can’t really have a relationship with someone you fear.  Someone who tells you who you are, but doesn’t know who you are or even takes an interest in getting to know you — because all of the you is bad.  It was all (and is still, to some extent) absolute insanity.

 

Thanks to the friends that have been with me through this all of this and that stay up till midnight and beyond through my bad times and get me.  Who don’t shame me.  Hold my hand, my tremors, and my heart.  You are so very precious.  I get beaten up and broken from time to time.  We all do, don’t we?  Other times I know I won’t let you in for anything.  In those times, thanks for understanding that I need space.  For understanding that during these times I am not building walls, that I just need space.  And often much of it (smile).  Sometimes it’s too freaking scary in there.  I know you know me well enough to understand that I don’t do fake.  So I just need time.  And all of this?  It’s sometimes just too dark.  And sometimes that dark is even too dark and heavy for me and I don’t want to put that on you.  Or just walk around sad all the time. Because I know it will pass.  It always does.  It never lasts forever.  Nothing lasts forever.  Not even the darkest darkness.  ❤ ❤ ❤

But it’s never too dark or heavy for Jesus.  So I will give it all to him.  Every day.  And what a blessing that is?!?!?!?!?!  And how close we walk.  ❤ And in him there is no darkness.  And he’s been through it all (and then some).  How small are my tribulations! 🙂  I may often feel like a little girl trapped in an adult’s body (smile). Yet HE makes me strong.  He IS the reason I AM.  I KNOW this.  Down to my bones and my beating heart and the soul that is filled with his Holy Spirit.  This.much.I.know.   His.love.remains.  His love always remains.   Again, what holy miracles we are. ❤ ❤ ❤

To hear that the person that gave me the literal sense of  life and then subsequently did his best to destroy it passed away on Father’s Day — and how do I feel, and how am I doing?

I don’t know…

But I do know that the God he claimed to hear and speak to he has finally met.

And I will too. 

So humbling.

I will too.  That very same God.

So, as my tattoo in Aramaic daily reminds me —

“Talitha koum” Little girl, arise! (Mark 5:41).

Because we don’t get to choose the hand we are dealt, but we get to choose how we walk with it and carry it now — don’t we?

And I am certainly thankful for what I went through and daily struggle with in that it has taught me to see people and love them in ways I otherwise may not have.  I know this. It has taught me to be brave.  It has taught me to be humble.  And it has taught me to love and hold onto God in a way I know I would not.  Vulnerable?  Painfully, yes — from a space that is constantly pierced open.  Making lots of mistakes?  Yes.  But I’d like to think, always growing.

Slow is still a pace.

Namaste — the light in me, sees the light in you.

And it’s holy beautiful.

(After having a lengthy conversation with my beautiful sister, I want to reiterate and make it very clear that I did not have any intention of coming off as angry in this post… and I had no intention of hurting or disrespecting my family…  I love them very much. ❤ My father was constantly in my prayers.  And it may appear as if this girl is stuck in the past — but I don’t believe that is so — some memories come back up with big things like death, I believe — but I also believe that some things are ‘forever heals’ — till we meet the one who heals all things.  And that this is not a bad thing.  Not a bad thing at all.  In fact, it makes us strong and present and courageous.  Not only for ourselves — but for others.  It’s kind of like our super power.  It makes us more — not less.  We are not less.  We were never less.  So every day we take the chance to grow and use our healing for others.  To do what we can to lift those who aren’t yet ready to lift themselves.  To let them know that we were once there too.  And that they can.  Maybe not right at this moment.  But one day.  They will.  And that’s not living in the past.  That’s living in a miracle.  And that’s pretty freaking precious.  So yes, when I wrote this — in that space of just finding out all of the everythings of death and what that all brought rushing back for me — some things came up.  But they don’t last forever.  Nothing ever does.  Not even darkness.  It’s not eternal.  But love is.  But.love.is.  Let’s not forget that.  And be kind to each other.  Please.  Love is never wasted.  Ever.  Nor is forgiveness.  Blessings and hope.) ❤ ❤ ❤

You did not waste your love

 

 

 

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So Loved and SO VERY Wanted…

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“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love:  not that WE loved God, but that HE loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if WE love one another, God lives in us and his love is MADE COMPLETE in us.

We know that WE LIVE IN HIM AND HE IN US, because he has GIVEN US OF HIS SPIRIT.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, GOD LIVES IN HIM AND HE IN GOD.  And so we know and RELY on the LOVE GOD HAS FOR US.  

GOD IS LOVE.  Whoever lives in love LIVES in God, AND GOD IN HIM.  In this way, love is MADE COMPLETE AMONG US so that we will have CONFIDENCE on the day of judgement, because in this world we are LIKE him.  There is NO FEAR in love. But perfect love DRIVES OUT FEAR, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

WE LOVE because HE FIRST LOVED US.”

1 John 4: 7-19 

(emphasis mine)

Dear Friends.  I love it when this phrase occurs in the Bible.  It just physically draws me closer to my Bible, y’all.  Here I am, just sitting with a ‘dear friend’ and a cup of tea and the Lord.  It’s holy space.  Me, God, and the millions of other people who have read this letter.  Goosebumps, this legacy of love…

And John, he’s my favorite brother — besides you, Tim 🙂 — (and I wish it was because I felt I was like him in temperament and spirit).  Truthfully I’m probably more like Peter –ever the reactionary, always getting himself into trouble, swiping off a guard’s ear here and there. That.would.be.me.  But John was such a passionate, all about the love man, wasn’t he?  When my heart is all beat up and broken, when I feel like I’ve failed  for the “that umpteenth” time in just today,  when I have to beg forgiveness from my husband and friends, when I need patience, when I need my heart aggressively opened, when I crave understanding, when I’m feeling all of my “whys” and “hows” and “tomorrow is coming and I’m not certain I can” — I go to John.  Not necessarily Revelation (smile), but the books of John.  So, we converse most days… (smile again…).  I hope he doesn’t freak out too bad when I give him a super big hug in heaven.  I’m usually a very timid “I need to get to know you” kind of person first when it comes to men and these things — but John is getting super squeezed 🙂 .

I often get asked what I believe the ‘main idea’ of the Bible is (y’all remember basic English class, right? heh, heh) — what are the guts of it for me?  That’s a hard question to answer, isn’t it?  If you had to direct a non believer to the essential — where would you turn their eyes?  For me, it’s all of those verses above.  And my goodness yes — all the ones before and after are solid words as well — but these for me are the basis of it all.  Love is all of it.  It’s the reason any of us are breathing.  It’s the reason any of us get a chance at anything.  It’s the reason any of us receive this thing called grace.  It’s all because of that bigger than life action word called love.

So as I’m fighting, what I’m assuming is allergies, stress, and not enough sleep lately and reaching for a Sudafed in the middle of church this morning, SO completely ecstatic we sang “How Great Though Art!” (I LOVE and ardently miss real hymns!!!!!) I had lots of heart tugs along with my head that was locked in a vice grip….  Questions are good.  It means we’re listening, right?  We’re listening and connecting…

And now I am listening to the boys bang around upstairs, which I’m assuming is basketball.  And I ask for your patience as I attempt to tie together some thoughts.

None of us come from places of same in our walks, and that’s what makes life entirely beautiful and yet utterly complex.  So I ask that you meet me here, just for a moment, in my place of different.  And if you’ve camped somewhere similar in your background — or live in somewhat familiar digs currently — I want to sit with you for just a minute and let you know that even if I don’t know you, I pray for you every night from a very holy place in my heart. You are held.  ❤ 

And the basketballs bang against the walls just in time to stop the tears…  My sanctuary of home — I never imagined it would be so noisy with boys…  I believe that testosterone must be the loudest hormone…  Hmmmmm, someone might be bleeding as that was a very boisterous “ow!!!!”, but there’s no screaming — they’re laughing — it’s all good… (although there might be a hole in the wall — it’ll just be another place to store dirty laundry…)

God does not need us.  I heard this message today.  This is so very true.  Being in very nature, God, this would completely negate his deity.  He is omniscient, all powerful, majestic, and bigger than we can ever imagine — he defies all human logic.  Him NEEDING us would no longer make him God.  He created the entire world, including us, out of nothing.  He, himself, just is and always was.  He is the great I Am.  That kind of God doesn’t need his creation, clearly.

I grew up never misunderstanding this.  In certain evangelical circles, this is pretty soundly hammered home.  Especially to women.  And my father took this to extents that were abusive in just about every context you can imagine.  I served and worshiped in churches that exerted control with this being their ultimate zeal and focus.  We are worthless.  We are nothing.  God is everything.  (negating power from a people is the best way to harness control, isn’t it?)

And while, theologically, this is actually and inherently true — a very huge, and a very MIRACULOUS piece of this ‘we’re not needed’ relationship with our God is egregiously missing.  Maybe it’s just assumed, but I’m just going to go ahead and say it so it doesn’t get lost or misunderstood for those of us who haven’t heard it enough — because it is so incredibly AWESOME and is worth repeating (smile)…

True, God most certainly doesn’t need us.  But the awe-inspiring miracle, the fantastic and incredible and awesome and blow my mind and move me to tears and drop me to my knees every single time AMAZING is that — he WANTS us!  He TRULY WANTS US!!!  He who always was created us and a perfect world — and we messed up.  Let me clarify — we messed up big time.  We had it all and we wanted MORE.  We threw it all away for a measly forbidden apple, for goodness sake (so I’m over simplifying — but still, you get the idea — the garden was PARADISE — Adam and Eve had it pretty darn good!!!).  And there was nothing we could do, nothing.  I mean, there were a BAZILLION rules — but no one could keep all of those perfectly (have you read Leviticus or any part of the Old Testament — good gracious, how did anyone keep up with that?!?!?!).  So he sent his son into this world to be a sacrifice for us — TO DIE FOR US — that’s how badly he WANTED US (I mean, that’s kind of HUGE, isn’t it?????).  That’s a pretty intense rescue plan!  That is the most amazing love story of all time!  A blameless Messiah — Emanuel — a GOD WITH US — to take on all of OUR sins!  And to top it off,  it’s OUR CHOICE — our choice — whether or not we believe.  He doesn’t even get a GUARANTEE that he gets all of his children back with this most loving sacrifice!  We get to choose…

And he WANTS us, not NEEDS us — but WANTS us — to choose love.

And it’s really the ultimate kind of love now, isn’t it? There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING we can give him that will complete HIS being — yet everything in him completes us.  I think that’s why they call it ‘amazing grace’.

We ARE nothing.  He IS everything.  And yet — and a very BIG yet, we are worth his greatest sacrifice.  All parts humbling and all parts holy.  I’m pretty sure that’s what it means to be human and of the spirit.  It’s a line of knowing your worth in Christ’s ultimate sacrifice made for you, understanding where you would be without him, knowing it is all by grace — and ONLY by grace — and pondering that you began as dust — but that grace makes you forever his soul, his new creation, his precious daughter — and that makes you wanted by a King that really didn’t HAVE to do any of this…  But he did.  For a creation that failed him miserably.  For a creation that continues to fail him miserably.  For a daughter named Angie that fails him daily, hour by hour — not because he NEEDS me, but because he WANTS me.  And I refuse to let that go.  I was bought by his blood.  I am his girl.  And no person, no principalities of heaven or hell can EVER take that away from me…

We are divinely his.  So loved and so wanted. And that is no small thing.  In fact, that is the very biggest of things.  It is everything…

I will confess to all of you something else of which I immensely struggle (I am so massively flawed, y’all)… which most of you know.  My aversion and attrition to memberships and rules — the man-made ones.  I pray about this continuously (at least I’m consistent — ha!).  God breaks me open often.  We’ll just say that.  It’s painful.  Being broken often.  I ask for it.  I want it — because I don’t want my pride to get in the way or anything that is of me.  I want my walk to be authentic, of him and for him — and my rebellion to these things to be real and of the spirit, NOT from a heart that is laced with bitterness.  So I search it and pray about it and wrestle — oh dear ones it often times feels so physically REAL, this wrestling — with this giant thing we call organized religion.

I’ve never, ever understood the need to compartmentalize people–to group them and label them. Maybe it’s because I have never neatly fit into one tidy little box involving Christianity — or anything for that matter. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen so many people misjudged and hurt and ostracized by silly labels.  We don’t as readily get to know individual people — but we sure get to know absolutely “everything” about their labels now, don’t we?  In fact, we get pretty smart and educated concerning their stereotyped ideology to the point where we feel pretty good about just how much we ‘know’ about those ‘other people’.  It’s just easier.  And it’s certainly safer than loving our real neighbors — named Susan and Allison with two kids named Ben and Karen who look just like — wait a freaking minute — US.

And I get that we feel some need to find comfort in sameness.  We all so desperately want to be KNOWN, don’t we?  I SO understand that.  We want to find OUR tribe, don’t we.  So much so that we often find a certain sense of comfort or “togetherness” in making jokes about other labels, other religions and other groups of people.  It’s polarizing and maybe makes us feel “better” and “more justified” in our walks of faith to laugh at “those people”. Maybe it’s because I’ve so often felt the ostracized outcast, or just in general been more connected to the struggling underdog — but I outright bristle at the Baptist, Catholic, Anglican, Unitarian, (insert any religion here) or “don’t get me started on those Mormons!” jokes — as if this puts us on some higher theological ground somehow.  And my heart breaks as I always wonder — what if one of those said denominations just so happened to walk into our little church today and is sitting here right this very moment among us?  What if they came seeking some comfort and solace?  What if they came seeking a deeper connection with Jesus? What if they came seeking him period?  What would they think of all of us and our Jesus we speak of? What if we just missed an opportunity? And just as passionate as WE are about what WE believe?  So is most everyone else (and wouldn’t we hope that they WOULD be?!?!?!?!?  My goodness, YES!) — and I never forget that — because I came from every single church of the zealot evangelical that thought that THEIRS was the only one true way to worship and believe in Jesus.  And those were some of the darkest and most Jesus free churches I have ever been a part of.

Because Jesus isn’t in our dogma, our sermons, our theology, he isn’t in our buildings, our traditions, in our programs, our songs, in all of our Bible studies or give aways or lunches or retreats or this or that or ten billion other things — he isn’t in ANY of it unless he is LIVING in our hearts and our EVERY SINGLE DAYS.  If his presence isn’t in our hearts and reflected in our lives, loves — he isn’t present at all.

And there in lies my issue.  I can NOT separate my spiritual life (what some people call their ‘church life’) from secular life. There is no such thing!  It’s just all life to me, honey — (which does get me into trouble a few times).  And so Sunday is just a day I’m taking my church (my body of Christ) to a building and meeting with other people taking their church to a building where God is because WE are. But God IS every other day of my life too.  And he IS in everything I do and he IS everywhere.  In fact, spirituality is the MOST real part of life.  What we can’t touch and see is the very realist of our reality.  He’s everywhere — unlike Santa who only SEES everything (smile–you can thank my eight year old for THAT analogy 🙂 ) — God actually IS all of the places with us — tap tap on your heart — hello Holy Spirit. So it’s a little more mysterious than that — but you get it — God is everywhere all of the time.  Not just in a building on Sunday.  Doesn’t really matter if you feel him or not.  He’s still there.  Doesn’t even matter if you praise him or not.  He’s still there.  Doesn’t even matter if you love him or not.  He still loves and wants you.  And when we get a handle on that–well, we can’t ever really, but in our limited capacity…  Life blows wide open…  ❤ No fear.  He’s there.  And tomorrow?  Yup.  He’s there too.  As I’m typing hoping for his glory and love to be understood — right here… ❤

And I don’t have to stop and think about the last thing I did for God or JUST for God, because he is the reason I get up in the morning.  He is the reason I do anything.  My ENTIRE life’s purpose is FOR HIM.  There is no separation.  He is, I am…  Pretty simple.  I like simple. ❤

My profession?  Yep.  Felt that calling for the Lord (and you guys, it was so NOT MY PLAN — I would have not so intensely studied for and taken the GRE’s in IC 😉 ).  Motherhood.  Yes and yes (again, so NOT MY PLAN 🙂 ).  Even a very simple thing like how I try to always smile at people — yes (this is actually a difficult one for me because nine times out of ten — just going to let you in on ALL of my secrets — smile — I really DON’T FEEL LIKE smiling — but GOD MADE EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING and THAT IS PRECIOUS REASON ENOUGH to smile at someone whether I FEEL LIKE IT our not — I’m actually insanely shy). What I put into my body, how I exercise (check out ‘fit for his glory’ if you need some inspiration–amazing resource), what I wear, how I feed my family, take care of my children, appropriate my energy, how we spend our money, decorate my home, the books I read, music I listen to, ALL OF IT.  There is no separation.  (and do I mess up?  um yes — like lots of times…) But it doesn’t mean we give up!  God is forever tries — thanks, Glennon! 🙂

So I get really confused about this “what do you do for God?” question.  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…” Colossians 3:23 

We are his, everyday.  We walk with him, everyday. We are church, everyday.  He gives us breath and life, everyday.  We are saved by grace, everyday.  It’s not a pick and chose when and what goes to God kind of life when you become a believer.  You’re all in and you are ALL HIS.  And how I spend my money actively being church?  That’s also led by God–and not by anyone else.  Help One, A21, Hope Now, and women’s shelters in our very own county carrying out these same goals of keeping children and women safe from sex trafficking and violence (rape, sex trafficking and violence against women and children is an EPIDEMIC in this nation of ours — I’d like to scream, where is church?!?!?!? where is church!?!?!??! and thank you Sarah, thank you Rachel, thank you Glennon, and thank you to every sister and every single Momma and woman and daughter and brother and father and human being in these trenches so few people ever talk about — I love you, so very, very much — and I thank God for you every day and pray for every single one of you giving of yourselves every day and all of you so bravely surviving — warrior on!!!!  warrior on!!!!!! ❤ ) – — yes these organizations ARE church to this girl.  Incredible organizations being the hands and feet of Jesus in our communities and around the world for causes that are so often lost in our church buildings today. This is what love looks like. ❤ This is what church looks like ❤ .  This is what grace looks like. ❤ This is where Jesus moves my heart. ❤

The other message that often fails to get relayed is that our ministry, our testimony — besides actually being simple — how we live and give of our lives and give of his love every.single.day — (hey, I’m not going to force Jesus on you brother and sister, but I sure would LOVE for you to know him and see him by how imperfectly I try to live my life in love 🙂 ) — is that GIVING and being GENEROUS for God does not always involve money.

And again, I’m asking you for a moment to please sit in my difference… 

My childhood might have been a little different from yours.  Or maybe not so different.  I grew up poor.  Food stamp and government milk and cheese poor.  Five kids living in a slum house poor.  Like walk around that huge gaping hole in the floor or you’ll fall through to the next level of the house, poor.  And please don’t get me started on Dave Ramsey and the prosperity principles.  I.just.can’t.  I grew up watching poor people who couldn’t even buy groceries and feed their families give and give and give some more.  Couldn’t even pay their bills and give.  Have no electricity or water and give.  Because if they just had ENOUGH faith, God would miraculously provide.  And when he didn’t?  Well, your faith just wasn’t strong enough, Christian.  Did the church help these families?  With stern admonishment to pray harder and be more faithful —  I guess if that’s what you call help, then yes.  But here’s the GIANT thing that’s missing.  Giving and generosity in God’s eyes isn’t strictly confined to the old white dead guys on green backs…

There’s this thing called servant-hood and our God-given gifts — both of which can be given generously (and often on a daily basis — praise God and hallelujah!).  And really, he just wants our heart, y’all.  And what moves from those hearts is our servant-hood to him and all the gifts that flow from it.  It’s pretty amazing — they synchronicity of it.  ❤

My husband is a teacher and a coach (one of the MOST dedicated and hard-working of BOTH that I know and love).  He coaches two sports because he loves coaching AND, let’s be real, his teaching salary doesn’t quite pay enough to take care of the bills and the expense of raising two very active boys.  I am a preschool para-educator.  That is like volunteer work with a little bit of cash on the side–smile (let’s just say I do not even own a credit card 😉 ).  But we both insanely love and have a sincere passion for what we do and feel called and led by God to do it (you’d kind of have to for what we do, right? 😉 ).  That pull is quite an intense one.  When God says do, you don’t say — um, I’ll think about it… 😉 It’s kind of like Jonah — he finds a way to keep drawing you back to his purpose 🙂 .  And so we make it work.  Some months more than others–smile.

My husband often gets teased for being thrifty and is known for hunting down some of the best deals (he’s REALLY good at it 🙂 ) — we also hit up Goodwill for clothes and clip lots coupons (smile) — but it’s the frugal life.  And it’s one we are quite thankful for.  We are supremely blessed on all counts.  And although our professions are filled with numerous stresses, we know that this is what God has called us to do and where he wants us to be — and we are in fields were we are necessary, where we make a positive impact, and where we wake up every day filled with purpose and ready to make a difference (most days we feel ready — smile — the other days we just feel called — ha! ).  And this means everything to both of us. Again — blessed.  We understand how fortunate we are.  We also wake up and go to bed each night grateful.  Our kids may not ever go on exotic vacations or have the most expensive or “it” brands of anything — but they don’t care about any of that stuff either — yet, smile.  And no, my husband does not get his summer’s off.  Just in case any one was under THAT illusion (wink).  He works just as hard during the summer months.  I truly do not know how he does it and I constantly pray for him — I can do all things… Philippians comes to our minds quite often in this house… 🙂

What I’m trying to get across here is that what we do every day can also be of service and a gift to our Lord and to everyone around us (and we shouldn’t trivialize that).  What you do at your place of work if done for God can also be your generous gift to him.  How you encourage and uplift your co-workers.  Small and big things you do for them are blessings.  Think about small and big things you can do for the kids you work with if you work with children.  There are so many ways we can give generously of ourselves to others in our work environments that are testimonies to his love.  ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING you give for God is service.  EVERYTHING done in love.  Nothing is too small or too insignificant to God when it’s done for him.  Example after example is found of this in the Bible.  Live your life in everything you do for the Lord — I believe that’s what this family calls walking with him (smile).  It may not be showy or get tons of praise or get attention drawn to it at the alter, but that’s NOT why we do it anyway, is it?  We do it for the glory and love of our God.  So don’t worry or beat yourself up or think you are less of a Christian because you aren’t often able to give money or tithe.  God doesn’t count you as less.  He really doesn’t.  He’s not solely counting your Benjamins as faithfulness, generosity, or servant-hood.  In fact, if they’re not given in love — they’re nothing.  Giving generously of our menial every day lives may not be as sexy or as flashy or as showy as the green stuff (or easily calculable), but it is just as important to God.  He counts it all as good.

And we are all given different gifts. We are all creative — yes, even me sometimes (smile).  Because we come from a very creative God!   I have friends who are amazing crafters in all mediums.  They bless me, amaze and encourage me and this world time and time again all for God’s glory.  There are also gifts of patience, time, just LISTENING when someone is hurt or lonely is such a beautiful gift isn’t it?  There are so MANY things we can DO in servant-hood, in generosity — so many things we can GIVE (some that aren’t even things 🙂 ).  Other examples: meals, little treats,  if you’re into oils there are some lovely relaxing scrubs and roller recipes to give sick or stressed out moms, teachers, friends going through hard times, babysit a friend’s children, clean her house, plant some flowers for her, weed her garden, get some one groceries when they are ill or strapped for time, read to someone, send a care package, cards of encouragement — really the possibilities are only limited by your imagination (or Pinterest if your imagination is as good as mine — heh, heh…).  Be open, get creative — and see how God can work in you!!!

What I’m getting at is God made you, and he made you for purposes to praise and glorify him and give of yourself and be generous with your gifts.  Don’t be afraid to use those!!!  Use them as often as you can.  Use them to glorify him, to turn people’s eyes to him, and to lift others up, and to bless those in your life and community.  Money may not be something you can consistently give or something you have extra of on a regular ‘laying aside’ giving basis.  And when you do, you will give when you can and where the Lord leads you.  But when you don’t?  It doesn’t mean you aren’t being a good Christian..  It means you’re taking care of your family.  And you’ll be generous in some other way that God has designed for you to be.  And God will love and bless you just the same.  

You may not be needed by our mighty God, but you are surely wanted and you are so innately loved.  Give someone the gift of your time to let them know that too.  Love you.  So much.  You are an amazing creation, a beautiful temple, a home to the Holy Spirit.  Let him shine! I can’t wait to see the amazing way you light up the world with his love!!!! ❤

And remember, sweet friend, you will forever and always be loved by a creator who thought sending his son to die for you was worth changing the story line of eternal damnation to eternal life.  You are living that forever story of love and salvation every day!  I happen to think it’s worth everything.  Worth sharing with others too. Our mighty hope.  And although only God can truly save, we can most certainly share his love.  Give and be generous with his love.  You see where I’m going with all this again 😉 .  It really always comes back to love, doesn’t it? ❤ He’ll make sure you always have enough… ❤ ❤

You are treasured, you are sacred, and you are his beloved, dear friend.  And no amount of money is ever necessary to prove that to him.  Just live your life in love for him.  Walk in love.  Every single day.  It’s just that hard and just that easy.  And he’ll be with you, every breath and every step of the way. ❤ You don’t need a mediator.  Just fold your hands and close your eyes, open your heart and pray.  He’s always listening. Even when you don’t have the words to say. ❤

Forever yours in his love. Ang ❤

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

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The Power Of Ordinary…

my story

The school year has ended.  And Marty and I are being hit with the repeated question, “So, are you enjoying your summer?”

And the line from Toby Mac’s song, “Love Feels Like” often goes round and round in my head — “but empty’s never felt so full”.  Smile.  (ps — get “This Is Not A Test” — it is absolutely AWESOME — it’s G and I’s rock out album of the summer — “Mom, can you turn it up?!?!?!??!” YES!  I can’t dance, but when the Spirit moves you, you MOVE — smile)…

I don’t think either one of us have truly been able to digest that this school year has come to a close as our schedules are still running us — Marty is daily working in his classroom with cross country stuff, running to Fourth of July meetings, and baseball is every day — multiple games — along with practices and all the other tasks we’ve taken on that we signed up for and had forgotten — I do that — really well (smile).  However, we are not contending with homework (middle school math is over for an entire summer, y’all — woot woot!!!!!!), reading minutes, and getting to bed on time mixed in with all this crazy — so that — THAT is awesome.  We are truly blessed and THANKFUL!!! We fully acknowledge just how fortunate we are!

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Garage sale time!

Marty ran his 18th or 19th or something-‘th’ Dam to Dam this weekend also.  Proud of him.  Bless his heart.  He’s amazing.  And persistent.  We also decided to take on our first garage sale.  Remind me to do that NEVER again.  Not only are they a giant and colossal expenditure of time, but introverts just should not participate in such events.  My husband is a wonderful people person.  He delights in small chit chat and banter and is so graciously good at it.  To me, it is the.most.painful.  And I’m awkward and awful at it.  Abysmally.  A garage sale is two entire days of the.most.painful.  I opted for sidewalk chalk and bubbles with my eight year old and any other child who wanted to join in with us so that I was present when it got really crazy, but could avoid being in the thick of things when I wasn’t needed.  I know my strengths.  I’m also very keenly aware of my weaknesses.  Talking about the weather or that one game or politics with strangers whilst going through our collection of home goods is not one of my strong suits.  Chalk and bubbles.  I freaking ROCK those!

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We managed.  Late nights and a tad bit stressful, but we did it.  Now we know.  My husband actually kind of loved it.  Being around a constant ebb and flow of different people is rather energizing to him.  I enjoyed getting rid of some things as I really can’t stand all the clutter we’ve amassed through the years.  But it still seems a tad simpler to just drop it all off at Goodwill.  Marty is already planning next year’s garage sale.  It’s going to be epic, ya’ll.  Perhaps we’ll grill hot dogs and have pony rides and Hawkeye tattoos and face painting?  We’ll make it a venue of sorts.  I’m trying to think of an excuse to be gone that weekend — whenever it is…  Sara, Summer, Karen — I think we need to have a girl’s weekend in Wisconsin?

And Griffyn decided to spilt his head open to start our summer off with a bang — literally.  Like, blood everywhere.  Like three dishcloths full and I almost fainted.  He was constantly begging me for yet another freezie pop before we were headed off to Norwalk for yet another day of baseball with Max, and I was telling him ‘for the love of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, NO — you can not have ANOTHER one!’ and he comes running up to me gushing red stuff out of his head because he had turned a corner too sharply and hit the molding on our wall with his head…  It was just.so.other.worldy.  G said I kept using my “super soft, sweet voice”.  I honestly don’t remember.  I do remember asking him if we could please sit down because I was going to fall and opening the door to the garage to rather firmly ask Marty to come inside to help me.

Plus side, our doctor is phenomenal.  Andrea got us in right away, our nurse, Sonja took amazing care of us — we couldn’t LOVE you more.  G got all cleaned up, I was reassured that “heads bleed a lot” and we were off to the ball fields in Norwalk (which I was not too happy about, but we survived).  No stitches necessary.  And Sonja called a few times to check on G and see how we all were doing — because they are just that amazing.  G missed a baseball game because he couldn’t have any pressure on his head.  He couldn’t have it split open again or he would need stitches.  Who wants those to start your summer?  Ibuprofen for a few days and he’s good to go.  Still looks a little rough, but he’s one tough kid.  Still is begging for freezie pops.  Hasn’t deterred him one single bit…

G has also been begging to start Bible journaling with his Momma.  We haven’t had a second of free time, and now that we don’t have to worry so much about bedtime — we can!  My girlfriend, Daphne, made both of these beautiful journals for me — check her out on Facebook at Papercake Creations.  There are lovely lined pockets inside and a few pages of the books in the front and back of the journals.  She is so talented.  They are treasures (as is she)!

I’ve also begun re-reading more of the obscure books of the Bible.  Time with God has been more than calling out to me lately — it’s been more of a scream to my heart.  I can’t put the Bible down and it’s a craving — not just a routine or ritual in my day.  It’s been such a huge blessing to have the extra time to linger in His presence.

The New Testament gets a lot of wear in my Bible, but lately I’ve been drawn to the books of Esther, Joel, Amos, Jonah, Obadiah, Micah (my third baby boy’s name — smile), Nahum, Hosea, you get the idea…  tiny books with names we really don’t hear mention of all that often in sermons or anywhere else — but they pack quite a punch.  I found myself writing, praying, crying, and having fervent conversations with my husband — whether he really was all that into them or not — about these books as they shook up my heart so vehemently these past few weeks.  We hear bits and pieces of their messages in pithy little Pinterest quotes here and there or etched on our Christian calendars or planners, but to grasp them in their entirety, view them in their historical context, and hold them up to our here and nows — it was just so much for this girl…  I was overwhelmed by the awesomeness of God — and that, well, that is just so many things, isn’t it?  #nowords (I don’t know how to use hashtags — but this seems legit…).

What I found especially striking about every single one of these books, was God’s use of the every day man — in some cases, what we would think is even lowlier than that — the commoner, the country boy, the shepherd, the farmer, the fig picker (which was about as menial as you could get in those days–and the evidence was stained all over your hands). And yet, he called these every day Joes and Josephines,  to be prophets — often of not so pleasant news — to stand up to great kings and leaders, to walk right into their kingdoms, courts and castles and to preach the word of God.  It’s all rather mind blowing when you stop to think about it for two seconds.  It goes against everything the world looks at in terms of qualifications and greatness, doesn’t it?  It reminded me, once again, so resolutely, that God looks solely at our hearts. He doesn’t see us as the world sees us.  The world may see us as weird, unimportant, and maybe even as completely insignificant — just as it saw some of these people — but God, our infinite creator, had great plans in store for all of these men and women.  He saw straight into their heart space.  And what He saw there sent them on journeys they could never have fathomed…

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One of the greatest promises of all hope, I believe, is found in the Old Testament in the book of Joel —  his name just happens to mean “The Lord is God.”  And maybe that’s the point of the entire book.  That the Lord is God.  And that we must repent  — to a God that desperately wants our hearts.  All of this in the midst of a locust plague.  And the verse that enveloped me, held me, froze me and stuck in my head and heart for days was Joel, Chapter 2:13 in which the Lord declares, “Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” 

Rend.your.heart.  Rend.  What does that mean?  It’s actually quite aggressive.  To tear apart violently, to split.  God wants our all.  He wants ALL of our hearts.  Not just a piece of it or the part we think we don’t need or want — all of it, and all of us.  And the equally awesome and amazing thing is, He just happens to love the all of us too. 

In talking about this verse and journaling with G (Max just wanted to write about it), we also talked about how God doesn’t want us to dress, or just ‘look’ the part of a Christian.  Our transformation is from the inside out, and not the outside in.  Rend your heart, not your garments.  And the GREATEST HOPE in this verse?  Yes, I had tears.  It is SO beautiful — if we return to Him, He is gracious, He is compassionate, He is slow to anger, He is abounding in love — and He relents from sending calamity.  I know that these promises were made for the people of Israel who had turned from God — but they are oh so true for us as well.  Transformation, restoration, healing, new beginnings, in fact — all things new — are possible because of grace.  And what a tremendous hope that is!  What a tremendous hope we HAVE — if only we will rend our hearts…

Obadiah is about the shortest little book that ever was but it also spoke to my heart in a way it hadn’t before — okay, so when I read Obadiah in the past it was more of a segway to Jonah then an actual preponderance…  But if ever one needs a lesson in pride, this is about the biggest admonishing one can get.  It also rocked me.  In all of my “openness” to others, I can get very judgey — I can get easily hurt — I can read all kinds of meaning into things that are said that were not intended to be — and I can create so many things out of nothing due to this one feeling — pride.  It doesn’t matter if it’s something I feel behind the scenes or in the quietness of my heart — the fact is that it exists and that it is there and that it’s quite ugly.  And Obadiah doesn’t mince words — “The day of the Lord is near for all nations.  As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.” 1:15  If I sit and sincerely think about coming before the throne of my Father tomorrow, five minutes from now — let’s just say soon — will I be comfortable with what I’ve given of myself, the thoughts I’ve processed, all that I’ve done for others — or will pride have gotten in my way?  Will I have gotten in my own way of being everything God has intended for me to be?  Have I given myself completely over to my God?  It’s a little sobering.  Again, rend your heart, Ang.

I won’t go through each book as some of you may be falling asleep by now, and I love you for bearing with me — but I can’t not mention my Micah.  This book has my heart.  Micah means, “Who is like the Lord?”  Micah was a country boy — but he wasn’t afraid of people that had great power or wealth.  He wasn’t afraid of much when it came to the opinions of man.  He also had a very soft place in his heart for the poor people of his land and he called those people out that took advantage of the poor.  I also love this Old Testament book as it prophesies the coming of our Savior in Bethlehem!  It is so exciting to read this in Micah and be able to nod our heads and say, “I know EXACTLY what he’s talking about!,” right?  Okay, just me (smile).  And in the heart of a chaotic world, where life and religion and theories and philosophies and rhetoric can make things all blurry and confusing — Micah breaks it down for us so simply — “And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8  There it is.  And that should keep us busy enough.

In the midst of all of this, I am reading a few of Dr. Schaeffer’s books (old school evangelical for you).  Having lived in the heart of L’Abri growing up and knowing the history of this man and his family and his work, it’s like a little trip back to family that wasn’t blood, but that was family none the less.  These books of the Bible remind me of many philosophical discussions held by Dr. Schaeffer who vehemently held that there were “no little people” in the eyes of God.  This was a man who invited children into his discussions concerning metaphysical, moral, and epistemological necessity–because children were just as significant as adults.  I’m having flashbacks of knickers, goatees, and turtle necks with tea — there was always tea.

I also came across this quote by Madeleine L’Engle (she was such a gorgeous writer–I have a notebook full of her quotes) that brought it all together somehow…

“In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory.  If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves.  If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there’s no danger that we confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own.” 

He takes our brokenness, our weirdness, our crazy, our hurt, our lacking — our everything the world sees as wrong or not good enough or messy or just not cool — and guess what?  He makes it beautiful.  All in his time, he makes it beautiful.  And the miracle, for this girl, wasn’t that he made it beautiful to other people — because I stopped caring about that when he took hold of my heart — but was that he made it beautiful to me.  To a very messy girl who has always felt broken, weird, strange and wrong and needing to be fixed.  Yeah…. He made all of that beautiful.  Because He made that girl.

And He made that girl to do some pretty amazing things.  And they may be small things.  But they’re HIS small things.  And that is just pretty awesome to me, that I would be even considered for such a task–any task at all.  It’s all for His glory, loves.  For Him I shine.

And you shine too, child of God–magnificent, beautiful and fabulous child.of.God.  And it’s really okay if you’re weird or quirky or not a cookie cutter Christian.  In fact, it’s quite perfect.  People thought those prophets and disciples in the Bible were pretty weird and crazy too.  We’re not of this world.  Why should we so desperately seek to be so like it?  To fit in…  To act or look a certain way so we don’t stand out or freak people out or make them uncomfortable? Maybe we can shake their world all the way to Christ! (psssst — spoiler alert — THIS reality?  it isn’t IT! smile!)

Here’s the thing…  we’re all made the way we are for a purpose, for a reason — and it’s His.  I can’t do what you do, and you can’t do me.  And damn — that’s awesome!  It really and truly is!  That’s God given uniqueness, people — not something man made or fabricated — and there’s a dignity in that too.  He’s got a place, a purpose, a walk for all of us.  My steps may not be yours, because my gifts, my talents, my calling — well, it’s not going to be exactly the same as yours now is it?  How precious, how amazing, how infinite, how divine…  And PRAISE God for that!  We all have to find our own hallelujah with the help and breadth of the Holy Spirit…  Man doesn’t dictate that for us…  That’s encouraging!  And we can encourage one another IN this — to shine and shine some more in the way God intended for each of us to shine…

And when we place a little less importance on ourselves in this “saving people” business — when we look at the mighty hand of God in all of this and give Him the praise while we take on the prayer — I think we can be a little gentler in our definition of ‘how we should appear to others’ as well.  “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.  Rather we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.  On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:1-2 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (7)  We speak the truth to an unbelieving world because it IS the truth, and then we pray earnestly for the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts.  Only God can truly bring a person to Him.  This is not our doing.  We bring the word, He brings the life changing power of the Holy Spirit — so let’s just take a step back for a minute and remember our place in all of this.  He is greater.  Always greater.

And then maybe we can pause and remember our authenticity to our calling and to who He made us to be and the voice that He created with that human being is vital to His message.  It all becomes so much simpler, doesn’t it?  “And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Thanks for bringing it home, Micah.  Much love to all of you lights.  Keep shining, keep loving, and keep being exactly who you are called to be.  That takes brave in a world, and often in a church, that wants us all to look and be the same!  And we were called to be courageous!

And if you get a chance, check out those lesser known prophets in the Old Testament.  Those country boys and a Jewish girl who lived in Persia, just might speak to your heart.  An ordinary life can become so extraordinary when God takes hold of it, can’t it?  Rend your heart, loves, and find your hallelujah… ❤

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will rise from another place, but you and your family will perish.  And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 3:14 

All things new…

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Happy Sunday!

Aside from a few bugs, the internal kind, the sun is shining and God is always, ALWAYS good. And we warrior on. Because every day is a battle.

“…this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Take off the turban, remove the crown. It will not be as it was: The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low.” Ezekiel 21:10

As my seven year old likes to preach and so often remind me, our God is a new kind of God — He makes the old new — He makes all things new — in our hearts, in our souls, and if we have the radical vision to see and embrace it — in our world as well. There is no fear in this new love, in our submission to Him which is akin to Jesus’s care and love for the church, straight up NO fear. We can talk about the fear of God — yes, we sure can. We can talk about His wrath, His might and how we ought to fear him — we can talk about it all we want. But the fact of the matter is — there is no fear in His love. Absolutely none. And for those of us that have grown up with the model of love being that of fear?  Well now, that is all the miracle we could ever need or imagine…

And what freedom then there is in blazing ahead, shouting out His glory and praise with.no.fear, being the ever open and giving hands and feet of Jesus! We’ve simply gotta get over ourselves. We just do. Take off our self imposed turbans! Remove our crowns! It will not be as it was. This is a new kind of God! One that let women sit at his feet. At.the.feet.of.Jesus, y’all! That was straight up revolutionary. Who preached and loved children and saw them as the.most.important. For real. If there was a pecking order, kids were FIRST (the disciples asked, he just answered the question)! A God who thought we were ALL worth dying for. Every single one of us. Amazing, humbling, incredibly real and raw stuff.

Our Jesus wasn’t afraid to get dirty, gritty, talk about the hard stuff. In fact, his life WAS all the hard stuff (and being the son of God, he could have chosen easy, well, easily). That’s the kind of love I’ll get behind.  That’s the kind of love I will choose time after time after blessed time.  That’s the kind of love that I’ll give — and that never comes up short or empty.  My love may be imperfect, but pointing people to God’s love?  Yes, the answer is always yes.

I’m saying this as a pep talk to my spirit. Because choosing to live differently is hard. And sometimes we don’t admit that. We think if we’re doing this grace thing right, it should be easy. We shouldn’t get tired or overwhelmed or both.  But, friends, that spiritual battle we fight every single day is just that – a battle – and we have a real enemy. And he shows up in the sneakiest of ways. And sometimes those ways are even churchy ones – like bickering about theology, or judging who is “fit” to be loved, or making our churches special clubs instead of straight up places for worship and God work—all time sucks from the real love work we need to be doing, right?

It IS hard – in our places of work, in our families, even in our churches. But we have a God who does hard things so expertly – because He is God and He’s kind of bigger than all of it. SO much bigger!  And if we really and TRULY believe that, well then, we never have to be afraid. EVER. And again, in that we are so free. To soldier on, to do the hard, to be his hands and feet – to walk so closely with him and receive that peace from him – that transcends any hard – any circumstance we may face. “When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it, they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. He allowed no man to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings: ‘Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.’” 1 Chronicles 16:19

We are not of this world.  I often think of one of my childhood favorites in literature when I read this Bible verse — The Chronicles of Narnia.  Every day we wake up and we make a choice — to live with it, or to live against it.  To live for Jesus, or to live as one with the status quo that engulfs us.  It isn’t meant to be easy.  But it will be fulfilling, it will be rewarding, it will be validating, peace keeping, heart breaking along with heart building — and moreover — it will be who you are meant to be.  I know that when there are situations that arise at work, with family, with friends were it is hard and often tiresome to be that one voice that has to over and over seek truth it often grows down right depressing, yes, and it stretches you, often to your limit — but when you ignore it and go for easy?  That hurts even more.  Because it is not authentic, it is not truth, it is not YOU — and when you live by the spirit — you can not ignore truth.  God will hold you accountable.  Your life will change.  And in a world that values truth so little (about as much as a stick of gum), you will be tested time and time again when you solely call for it.

But there is no freer way to live.  And when I meet my Jesus, I want to make HIM proud, I want him to say, “well done, good and faithful servant.”  And everyday, I must make the conscious effort to make THAT choice.  The call to love, the call to honesty, the call to truth, the call to humility, the call to the fruit of the spirit, the call to be his hands and feet, the call to every single day get.over.me.  All of this, every single piece of this — living on this earth in the midst of this without our Father — is hard.  But we have a mighty Savior.  We have each other.  So let’s keep encouraging one another.  Yes, that actually is part of our walk too as brothers and sisters — to encourage one another. “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13.  Not ‘every so often’, ‘during the  holidays’, or even ‘once a week on Sundays’.  Encourage one another daily.   How encouraging are we to each other as Christians?  How encouraging are we to non believers?  It’s a dark, dark world out there.  We are called to be the light.  We are called to shine like stars in the universe.  I will mess this up.  Most likely every day.  But I will also wake up and try my best at this.  Every day.  I know I need this encouragement everyday.  So when I need it, I give it.  My need is my reminder.  Praise God.

“Pure Christianity lives between two dangers ever present; the danger that it will evaporate into a philosophy… and the danger that it will freeze into a form.” C.I. Scotfield

But neither of these dangers can happen when we are actively living our Jesus.  And that’s a conscious decision.  A conscious choice.  A conscious breath.  Every day of our lives.  Not an afterthought.  Not something we save for a few hours on Sundays.  It’s everyday.  It’s how we meet everyone’s eyes, hearts, and hands.  It’s in how we greet humanity.  It’s in how we give up ourselves.  And this humbleness isn’t passive, it doesn’t come with a low self esteem, it isn’t indecisive.  Far from it.  Our Jesus died for us.  He rose again.  We have the divine living.inside.of.us.  Seriously.  That should blow our minds!  Really.  That should make us the MOST courageous warriors for his name!  We are all miracles bought by his blood.  And every single creation living and breathing on this planet is therefore worth the fight of salvation.  And we’ve got some work to do.  Some great love to give.  And every day we GET to do that.  Praise God!

Happy Sunday.  Happy every day.  And what ever you may be facing, know it will be okay.  Our battle ends in victory.  Much love to all of you. ❤

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. ” Colossians 1:17

hope knows no fear

 

 

Sanctuary…

“May we have communion with God in the secret of our hearts, and find Him to be to us a little sanctuary.”

Charles Spurgeon

This little family is in the throws of togetherness…  Otherwise also known to many of you as “spring break”.  Carrying the professions of teacher, paraprofessional, and coach in this family —  and having littles who have practice and every other blessed busy thing — we don’t have the means or so much the time to jet set anywhere exotic.  Omaha was in the plans, but this momma is still healing from sinus and ear infections — and honestly, being home is just sometimes quite lovely — as we always seem to be running away from it most of the time.

This probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to most of you, but I’m a home body (smile).  The outside world can be so overwhelming and obtrusive to this girl.  Many adventures are to be had within my own thoughts, books, and just a jaunt away on our beautiful bike trail (dude, it’s a snake fest and wild animal kingdom — serious Narnia amidst gorgeous foliage — new with every season — it’s even lovely in the winter). And I work with preschoolers.  Come on — top notch entertainment and non stop action.  I truly do not need anything else.  My life is  complete.  I just keep blooming my best where planted.  And that proves to be enough (smile).

And I am a person that craves peace, a sense of order, calm, my space, and sanctuary.  Less is always more.  I drown in things.  I drown in busy.  I just can’t think, get motivated, and often become paralyzed.  I want to take up space in this world with my thoughts, ideas, creativity — with BIG love — not with stuff, nor with obligatory events or “have to’s” that don’t really do anything in the grand scheme of things but stress me out — I crave the intimate, the authentic, the intense real — and I have come to totally accept this about myself (smile).  It only took a good 40 years (and some amazing friends who are my sisters and sisters who are my sisters — we’re all in this together).  Not everyone is an extravert and that is okay.  Really and truly okay.  Repeat 100 times…

So I want to be a procreator of what will last, what will stay, what will grow, change and transform this space around us–instead of suffocating it.  And for me, this is what has endearingly become known to this heart as keeping my sanctuary…

For there are very few things I NEED in this life, I’m pretty simple — but I am a person that straight up requires sanctuary — quiet, space, peace, intimacy, love — this is an urgent passion, not a flippant desire — and I have come to see this in my children as well.  They crave their quiet space, their place to be truly seen, their safe haven, their cocoons of home where their souls are read as perfectly complete and whole — however broken or ‘messy’ the world deems them to be.  How do I create this for them in a world that is so everything but safe, so everything but a guardian of the precious and sacred?  Is it even mine to create?  How do I guide them to something inside of them that only needs to be found?

“Remember the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you.”

Rumi

As a person who has spent a large portion of her life living in fear and anxiety, I would like my boys to generously skip over this state of being… And yet, I want them to understand HOW to deal with these feelings when they do surface–as an occasion and not a norm (smile).  For me, when all these old friends come to visit — my entire being craves God (this was not always the case–He’s graciously brought me through so much).  Like, face in the Bible, on my knees, hands up to heaven — crave my GOD.  Although He is my everything all.of.the.times — when I have questions, when I am feeling less than safe, when my heart gets all wonky and I feel it getting sick, the pull is ten billion times more intense.  It’s something I can’t really even describe.  It’s like needing air.  He IS my sanctuary.  I want my boys to understand this to their core. I want them to see his open arms.  I want them to feel his enveloping presence.  I want them to realize his vastness, his strength, his omniscience, his might.  I want them to appreciate, without a shadow of a doubt, that God is our refuge.  “You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah” Psalm 32:7

And it’s been a couple of those weeks for me, face in the Bible weeks.  Ezekiel and Hebrews have been my focus — and it surprised me how often the word “sanctuary” appears in Hebrews — and even a few times in Ezekiel. And if anyone needed sanctuary, it was the people being addressed in these books of the Bible — Ezekiel a hostage in Babylon, and the Jewish Christians who were experiencing terrible times of suffering for their faith in Hebrews.  Ezekiel 37:26 “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant.  I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.”  Forever peace.  Forever sanctuary.  Forever with God.

In Hebrews the word “sanctuary” is mentioned often.  Hebrews 6:19 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.”  Hope that enters our sanctuary.  Hope that anchors.  Hope that secures.  These happenstances caused me to search other places in the Bible for this word that has been on my mind and heart.  It appears several times in the Psalms.  In Leviticus as well.  And in Exodus 25:8 where the Lord speaks to Moses and requests that Moses tell the Israelites to “Then have them make a sanctuary for me and I will dwell among them.”  A divine relationship becomes personal.  It becomes intimate.  From heaven to earth.  From God to man.  Sanctuary becomes a dwelling place.

Sanctuary. What an incredibly powerful word.  Often when it is mentioned in the Bible, it is referred to as a place in the temple where God resided.  Where the presence of a majestic and powerful God dwells.  It’s a place inside a church, a synagogue, a place of worship.  It is holy.  It is sacred.  It is divine. 

Webster defines sanctuary as a place where someone or something is protected or given shelter — the protection that is provided by a safe place.  Also as the room inside a church where religious services are held.  It dates back to the 1300-50’s and is Middle English, late Latin — derived from sanctuarium.  It’s original meaning was a sacred place or shrine–but the term expanded to mean a safe haven or refuge.  Thank you, Webster.  Can’t remember the last time I used a dictionary.

I digress.  As a brain with ADD does.  I guess what this all means to me is the awesomeness and compilation of many thoughts crashing around–that may make sense to only me (smile).  The ultimate being this — that our most authentic and real sanctuary is truly within us.  What began in the Old Testament as a physical structure, a place where high priests could enter, a room where sins were ceremoniously required to be washed clean with the sacrifice and blood of animals, is now an intimate, metaphysical place filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is a place that exists within US!  And that verse in Exodus rings with clarity and truth still to this day — and is just so incredibly beautiful“Then have them make a sanctuary for me and I will dwell among them.” Our souls are a sanctuary for our Lord.  The power of the divine dwells in us.  How awesome.  How literally, mind blowingly, awesome…

He truly is my sanctuary.  We are so deeply interconnected and interwoven, my creator and I.  We can not be separated — ever — by anything.  I’m walking, breathing, living, with my forever sanctuary — bought by the sacrifice of his great love for me.  That is powerful stuff right there.  Shake you up powerful stuff.  My safe place, my holy place, my sacred place, my God — all encapsulated in the soul of  His creation.  Boom.  This girl is shaking.  That we could see each other with these eyes!  Wow.  Just wow.  That we could know, truly KNOW, we have nothing to fear!  Wow.  Just wow.  That we can live our lives in such a way to be worthy of this sanctuary.  Incredibly moving and powerful and inspiring — if not slightly daunting…  And that’s when it’s time to put my face back in the Bible…  (smile).

And, as always, the issues the Christians were facing in the Bible make my head and heart deals seem so small.  I mean really.  When Paul, chained to a Roman guard every waking minute of every day, pens the frequently quoted verse in Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” — I have to often give myself a reality check and give praise to God instead of going to this verse for the proverbial “strength” I need to get through my “troubles” as Paul also extols us in this same book to “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!”  While he is in chains – praising God and finding sanctuary in his Jesus.

For a girl that has a hard time finding a sense of sanctuary in things, in places, in structures, or in organizations, events, or societal constructs in general — it is so not you, it is so me – it is so very, very me (smile) — I get this sanctuary.  All the way to my soul.  And God gets me.  He created this crazy mess, after all.  And He loves his daughter.  Face in the Bible and all.  Whether I’m struggling to hear His voice in the noise that so often immobilizes me or it falls easily and gently on my ears like a sweet spring breeze after the rain.  The important thing is that I keep trying.  I keep pressing onward.  I continue to be faithful. Even with the smallest of steps.  And as Rachel Held Evans writes so gorgeously, “No step taken in faith is wasted, not by a God who makes all things new.” (Searching For Sunday) He is always making us new.  He never gives up on us, loves.  Never.  I know this.  In such humility and by His ever flowing grace and mercy, I know this…

And in this walk of faith I will always and forever find sanctuary in my Savior.  He’s always there.  Right there.  With every single breath.  With every single beat of my heart.  With every mistake I make (and there are so many — and yet he loves me anyway — over and over again as I try to get this whole service and love and life thing..).

And He loves you too.  The all of you.  The every.single.part.of.you.  The parts that you don’t let anyone see.  The parts you don’t like so much.  The parts you wish weren’t there.  He loves those too.  And all the parts of you that make you smile.  They make Him smile too.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  He loves you more than anyone could ever love you.  You have never known such a love.  You will never know such a love — until you begin a relationship with Him.  Until you come to rest in this place of sanctuary with Him.

❤ And it is my prayer for you — dearest friend — that you can find sanctuary in Him, and that He may find sanctuary in you. ❤

Bless you, loves, and shine on. ❤

forest

What Makes You Brave… (raising the anxious child)

fear is a liar
“You, my brothers, were called to be free.” Galatians 5:13

 

It’s Halloween here in the United State Of America.  Happy ‘Boo Day’ to you!  We don’t do much to celebrate it here in our house.  I’m just lamenting the take down of all of these fall decorations.  And dusting.  And reorganizing.  Maybe tomorrow when I come out of my sugar coma…

Begger’s Night was last night.  That’s how we do it in the Midwest.  It was SO MUCH more fun as my sisters Molly and Erin and Molly’s boyfriend, Tucker, got to join us (dressed as giant M&M’s).  They have never been home for this festive occasion.  It rocked our night.  Made it.  I’m from Minnesota where we did things a little differently, but here in Iowa they call it Begger’s Night and do this candy thing the night before Halloween.  So Begger’s Night is where we go and beg for candy, tell jokes, and dress up as cute things, scary things, and everything in between.  I have been eating G’s candy, doing laundry, and drinking coffee all day.  It’s quite disgusting.  I really need to stop.  I’m blaming Karey.  4Gotten Treasures wasn’t open today (smile). We never buy candy in this house.  My kids aren’t used to having it around or eating it.  So here I am.  Doing it for them.  I mean, we all have to make sacrifices for our children, right? (smile)

My youngest LOVES Halloween.  He always has.  The first few years of his life he would cry — literally cry — when I took down the Halloween decorations (more like fallish décor with a few cute spiders and ghosts from Hallmark) — so we would put pumpkins on our Christmas tree — just to make the transition easier for him.  We have kept this tradition to this day — G puts his “puntins” on our tree.  It’s his thing.  I hope it’s always his thing.  I adore it.  His favorite movies are all Tim Burton cartoons — his first being “Coraline” when he was all of two.  It scared the crap out of my oldest.  And he’s watched “The Nightmare Before Christmas” like “a fousand” times.  He has a Jack blanket — all black and skeletonny — with his name embroidered on it — from the Disney store — that he snuggles with.  He loves Jack.  And “The Book Of Life” that just came out not that long ago.  He found it fantastical.  The entire story is about death and All Saints Day.  He will tell everyone I cried at the end.  I thought it was fantastical too.  Maybe you think I should be worried about this little nugget of mine.  I’m not.  Here’s why…

G loves all of this stuff because it is straight up magical to him.  And he will tell you so.  It’s not scary.  It’s pure authentic uniqueness.  Halloween is a time to be other things.  To express sides of yourself that you may have been too scared to try on before.  And some of them might just be a little dark (this is the most loving and cuddliest and most empathetic kid you will ever meet in your lifetime — besides his older brother — smile). And we all have those sides to us too.  And Tim Burton’s films champion the creative underdog who isn’t just like everyone else.  He or she is the black sheep, the ridiculed misfit — who always comes to the conclusion that being themselves is the best way of doing things — despite what anyone else thinks or says.  And G loves all of this.  That, and his favorite color is orange.  The candy he’s not into so much.  I mean, his mom eats it all for goodness sakes.  I love my kid for this.  For all of it.  So yes, we have pumpkins on our Christmas tree.  And it’s pretty amazing.

My oldest is more of a Christmas kind of kid.  Both of my kids were scared to death of Santa Clause until they were too old for it to be cool to get pictures with the big guy.  I mean really, what is scarier — jack o lanterns or a giant guy with a long white beard in a red suite with ginormous black boots that says “HO HO HO” in a booming deep voice?!?!?!?!?  Smile.  Max loves that the world was saved on this day.  All of us.  A tiny, unassuming little baby — in the most unholy places — came to rescue us.  The Great I Am started as a small baby boy, in a manger, in a stable — and that the most awesome stories can have the most humble beginnings.  We talk about that so often in this house.  God’s great purpose for us all.  No matter how small we may feel or others may try to tell us we are, his divine purpose reigns.  And this great rescue, this freedom, this incredible and specific to us purpose all started with one baby boy — who was both man and God.  It’s rather mind and heart and soul blowing.  So yes, we crank up “A Baby Changes Everything” at least ten times a day during the Christmas season — not just for Max.  It’s one of my favorites too.

It’s pretty clear I love these two boys.  And that they have pretty big hearts.  It may appear they are very much alike, yet these two children of mine could not be any more different in their natures — which makes for some fun times in our house — some go to separate corners of the house times in our house — to Mommy has no more patience time in our house.  I have often joked that they are my yin and my yang.  They literally couldn’t be any more different.  Perhaps they are mirrors of their Mom and Dad.  Perhaps they are just who God made them to be…

However different they may be, they share a few similarities…  Along with big, beautiful hearts, they share anxiety.  I openly struggle with this myself.  I don’t think there is any reason for us to hide who we are.  I am who I am.  And I’m not ashamed of it.  Hiding and denying and covering things ups is what is ailing this world and making it even sicker.  I want my boys to understand that who I am, who everyone is, is exactly who they are meant to be.  There is good to be had, there are struggles to work through, and there is a mighty, mighty purpose for all of us.  We don’t have to stay stuck or sick — we are empowered in faith to be courageous and always move forward.  But broken is really okay.  As Leanard Cohen writes in his song, Anthem, “There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in”.  And we are all a work in process.  The key is doing the work and admitting to the broken and owning who you are.  That all takes brave.  That all takes honesty.  That all takes giant, deep breaths and so much encouragement that we gain from each other and the Holy Sprit.  We are all meant for great things.  We are all amazing master pieces.  And this includes ALL of our pieces laid in the hands of the master.

own who you are

Of course, I lamented that their anxiety issues were all.my.fault and manifested all.because.of.me.  I hadn’t done a good enough job of letting them see that life goes on, being chill and relaxed, I had hovered too much, I had made them feel like they had to be perfect, I hadn’t prayed with them enough, read the Bible enough, let them know Jesus loved them enough, I hadn’t done ‘all the things enough’ to make them feel whole enough.  Because if I had, then they wouldn’t feel this monster.  It was all because of me.  That was my anxiety talking .  That was my fear, and fear is the biggest liar.

And I didn’t understand it.  My anxiety, OCD, PTSD and all of the other labels that I had ever had, stemmed from horrific things.  My boys did not have these occurrences in their little lives.  I had made damn sure that they were not ever exposed to any of that ugliness.  Maybe I had made sure too much? Maybe I loved them to smothering-ly? And my brain got back on the anxiety wheel again — obsessing over every thing I may have done wrong as a mother.  How in God’s name do hamsters find those freaking wheels fun?

But this wasn’t about me, it was about them.  It was about now.  And what do we do?  Because this world is going to be FULL of crap that isn’t right or good or just — that is going to freak your brain out and put you on that obsessive seizure wheel time and time again.  And my boys are sensitive enough to pick up on all of it.  ALL.OF.IT.  And while behavior disorders like oppositional defiance and other very real and hard things are easier for some people to understand and maybe even deal with rationally — anxiety is often met with a glib “just get over it” and “toughen up and just deal with it” attitude — without ever realizing the very real physical conditions and emotional roller coasters it is putting your child through.  Things like abdominal migraines and panic attacks are super fun.  Breathing issues, not wanting to go to school, being painfully shy, being afraid of germs, obsessing about certain things (that change from one thing to the next at any given moment), etc.  It’s exhausting for everyone.  But please, just.get.over.it.  If only.  Yet we can tolerate and give ginormous breath and width to so many other things — so much room.  But anxiety and sensitivity in boys?  Not so much.  Being loud and aggressive is more easily understood.  I’m so very thankful to the amazing teachers who have given my boys the time and heart it takes to get to know and understand them.  You are absolutely incredible and we truly love you.  They grow and learn so much because of you.  You are all PHENOMENAL!  I am also so very thankful to my boys for teaching me so much as I see this in so many of my four year olds.  It takes time to deal with anxiety.  It takes such a great deal of time.  It takes all of two seconds to be dismissive and label someone as weird or ‘a baby’.  We don’t all work the same way.  And it’s absolutely outrageous to me that this is still having to be explained to grown ups.

you are enough

We talk a great deal in this house — about everything — because communication is power.  The more we know, the more we understand — about each other and the world around us.  And we NEVER, EVER stop learning.  It’s important for my boys to know that their dad and I don’t know everything (I’m pretty sure they get this by now — smile).  And, more over, adults don’t know everything and aren’t always right.  That they can trust themselves and their feelings and what they know too.  They are capable.  They are smart.  They can trust themselves and God — they are mighty.  They are not insignificant just because they are children.  And I firmly believe when YOU feel significant, you treat others in the same manner.  It’s all about respect.  We can discuss ANYTHING they feel may be wrong or they have strange or unsure feelings about.  We don’t hide things.  We are honest and truthful about all of it.  I don’t know that I would be like this if it weren’t for my anxiety or things I’ve been through.  Sufficed to say, my kids are quite verbal.  So I often call this anxiety of ours our super power.  Because for all of it’s frustrations, it gives us many positive attributes too.  There is always something we can be thankful for in everything — even anxiety (smile)…

For one thing, we are more empathetic towards others.  The boys are the best at making cards, sticking up for people, putting themselves bravely in the way of bullies, loving and being kind — and may I just say one of my boys is thirteen (smile).  We don’t ever want anyone else to feel the way we do inside when that anxiety monster is attacking.  We want others to feel comfortable, loved, cared for, and just plain good.  It grows your heart.  You want to give.  In my boy’s case, all the time.  They are the.most.thoughtful.  They are so concerned for all of those around them.  Our prayers at night are so lengthy because they pray for everyone.  When we say “I’ll pray for you,” — sister, brother — we are praying for you! That anxiety, which may manifest itself in worry at times — then translates over to a closeness with God in prayer.  And THAT is all good.  We take it to the Lord.  Lay it at his feet.  And we try our very best to leave it there.

It makes us brave.  This sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?  But anxiety helps us to be brave every single day — because, quite frankly, everything scares you.  So, we have to push through discomfort and muster brave and courage every waking morning to do the next right thing (thanks, Glennon– love you).  This may require more energy than the next person who doesn’t even have to think about being brave when they get out of bed every day and just thinks about how tired they are — but it puts us right in the moment, it connects us to the present, and it makes us focus.  Be brave.  Be courageous.  Because that’s what it takes.  Every.single.day.  Just to be.  And some people may look on that as a negative.  But wow, that can be one positive brain punch too.

love defines you

Because it’s all on how you look at it.  And we chose to look at it as God made us pretty amazingly.  He made us to shine like stars in the universe.  And we’ll just go ahead and praise him for it.  And it really doesn’t matter if no one else understands us or gets us.  Because he does.  And we’ll keep talking about it at home.  And this momma bear will keep fighting for her kids and your kids.  Because I believe we are all pretty awesome.  And it’s different perceptions and ways of seeing (and yes, even feeling) things that make this world the freaking amazing wonderland that it is.  And it’s when we lose those eyes of wonder that the magic is lost — the essence of who we are becomes convoluted.  We are all beautiful.  Because we are made in his image.  That’s not lost on this girl.  Ever.  I see him in my boys.  I see him every single day in their hearts.  Even in the anxious times.  Even in the times people roll their eyes, whisper, say rude things, are mean, bitter, and nasty because they don’t understand.  Oh, I see him.  And I smile and I know that what he created is so divine and good and we will continue to shine and love each other and everyone else around us.  And how very, very blessed we are.  And that makes this girl so crazy brave.

Love and peace and light.

And so much courage. ❤

Go rock your brave.

 

shine shine shine

 

 

Minions, toilets, teeth, and water… (and how commonality is found in the strangest of places)

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“(Love) doesn’t fly off the handle.” 1 Corinthians 13:5 MSG

Patience, peace, calm…  It’s something I work hard at.  Because I have to.  It doesn’t come naturally to me.  Anxiety does.  Panic does.  Let’s create the worst case scenario and amplify it times 1,273 does.  But peace, calm, patience?  That’s work.  But it’s something I HAVE to have in my home — like healthy food, essential oils, and comfy blankets and pillows.  It’s a necessity.  I want our home to be a safe haven, an easy place to breathe, a refuge in this crazy, chaos of a world.  No matter what storms rage around us, we have each other, we have a bigger God, and we can always have peace.  No.matter.what.  I want may kids to KNOW and FEEL this when they walk through our door.  And I want them to carry it with them when they leave — as an extension of the love and all the things they are taught in these walls.  And this peace, often, begins with me.  I mean, it starts with the Spirit ever moving in my heart — but it begins with me — in a house full of emotional, fly off the handle, often high energy and intense characters — it’s momma who brings the calm.  And some days, it’s a tough row to hoe, friends.  Just saying.  It’s heavy.

But I’m pretty good at carrying heavy things.  God made this girl scrappy like that.  I didn’t used to be.  I used to be the President of the ‘freak out, run around in circles, hyperventilate and throw your hands in the air’ club (which I still do occasionally) — but oddly, that never got me anywhere.  Except unhealthy, depressed, and wore unnecessary grooves in our flooring and in my heart.  So I breathe in and out — really big.  And I have mantras.  Turns out I need them.  And I just drop everything and talk to God.  Turns out he’s always listening.  And then I breathe some more.  And I know, that even if it’s not — it’s going to be okay.  And God is here, there, and already in tomorrow.  And we’ll do this together.  ALL of it.  Even the really crappy stuff.  Cause we’ve been there.  We’ve done that.  And it’s all good.  Even when it’s not.  And I say this to my house full of boys.  All.the.time.  Disaster isn’t disaster.  It’s doesn’t have to be our state of being.  It’s not who we are.  It doesn’t define us.  It’s a moment.  However freaking long it is, it’s a moment in time.  And it’s always, forever and always, how we deal with it — how we treat each other in those moments — that defines who we are, who we believe the other person to be, and what we believe this big ole world and our purpose in it is.  Big moments, little moments and all the ones in-between.  It’s how we react to all of those…

And when it rains, it often pours.  Like things kind of always seem to happen all at once, right?  My incredible husband has been laying in the way awesome flooring in our basement (or what ever the correct terminology is for that–it looks freaking fantastic).  Waterproof vinyl that looks like hardwood.  I love it.  It’s been lots of sweat and a back breaking process as he’s done it all by himself.  Absolutely amazing.  I can stand the bright gold and black of the Hawkeye man cave a bit more now.  Seriously.  Incredible.  And no monsoon was taking that away.  Nope.  We had another sump pump installed a couple weeks ago for this purpose (we have improper grading in the new houses behind us and get the brunt of that “it’s not my problem” from the city and builders and anyone else we’ve approached).  With the help of our awesome bucket carrying neighbors, my almost 13 year old who held a hose and hand held sump pump from the well to our bathtub in the basement, and lots of flipping muscle for hours — we made it.  Hallelujah! You feel that one the next morning.  We’re thinking of capitalizing on this as a workout routine of some sort.  Serious abs are worked.  Water.is.so.heavy.  Staying calm in this chaos again.  Not easy.  What IS easy is lashing out on each other — because you are so angry, freaked out, scared, just plain pissed the hell off, and that has to go somewhere, right??? Like, why couldn’t we have had a garage sale and gotten rid of half the crap down here so we wouldn’t have to be dumping totes of this junk to FILL with water and running crap upstairs?  That suddenly becomes someone’s fault.  Because for a second it might feel better to lash out and place some blame somewhere, anywhere — because no one else seems to have to take responsibility for the shit that happens every flipping time it rains a little harder than normal, right?  I mean, some people just sit and eat popcorn and watch TV and ENJOY these blessed storms!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Until you realize that being angry solves nothing.  Pointing fingers and laying blame and getting all pissed off does zero in the realm of helping or solving any kind of problem.  In fact, in only dissolves and wastes precious energy that could be spent doing something productive or scrambling up positive energy and sending that out — mustering up a little peace.

I can absorb it.  The tirade — because I so get it.  I empathize with where it comes from.  I see me all over it.  And I understand that the words coming at me have absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with the really jacked up situation.  And, in my mind, there’s just no reason to jack it up anymore.  It is what it is.  It will be what it will be no matter what we say or what we do.  So why not do what ever we can to make it better?  Breathe deep, speak peace, and do everything we can to solve the problem.  It’s not being passive, by any means.  I think sometimes it takes way more energy and focus to be calm when everyone else is bouncing red, but once you start making it part of your normal — it just comes.  It truly does.  And people mistake it for giving up — when you don’t freak out and scream and yell and get all crazy.  I’m still moving, I’m still doing — I just refuse to take part in expending my energy in the futile zone of chaos.  Take deep breaths, and amazingly, thoughts become clearer — even above the loud.  It takes practice.  Lots of practice.  And you have to hold on to your space in this.  But then it just becomes part of you — and if I can teach my boys that — I’ll be one happy momma.  You have to deal with life’s storms, but you always have a choice in how you deal with them.

And bless little G’s heart — my little guy who finds the positive in everything — he thought we were having a party.  He was just so excited to see everyone who showed up to help and so happy to have people over.  His job was to hold the door open and then close it again as people came up and down the stairs with buckets to dump outside.  He was elated.  He can’t wait to have another “water party”.  He also got to stay up really late.  It was just awesome.  All.of.it.  He’s always my little ray of sunshine.  Couldn’t love that kid more.  And Max.  He worked so hard.  He kept reminding us that we were all okay.  And that was the important thing.  Because it was people who were important, not things.  He said this at least a million times.  And then he kept thanking us for all of our hard work.  Couldn’t love that kid anymore either.  But somehow, every day, I do…

The next day, Marty was off to work — not sure how he did that — I’m sure he was more than tired and very sore.  He proctors the bar exam for a week every summer.  And that morning, our toilet decided to go completely nuts on us.  I walked into water, literally, spraying from the lid of the toilet — and little G frantically yanking on my arm “I didn’t do it!  I didn’t do it!!!!!” as I walked into water all over the bathroom floor.  At this point, I was really effing tired of water.  Seriously.  I threw towels all over the floor and lifted the back compartment lid off the toilet — which was really genius on my part — as water proceeded to shoot strait into my face.  So many kinds of awesome.  What.the.hell.  So water is spraying, I’m using my finger to cover the little hole it’s coming from, fishing around the bottom of the tank as it’s filling to find something that may have fallen, and it won’t flush.  Sweet.  Connecting pieces here and there — just to make it stop spraying — and then just decided to shut the water off.  That’s the take away here.  The water can always be shut off.  I have no idea what happened.  All I know is that G didn’t do it.  I was breathing, didn’t want my husband to have to deal with this crap when he got home, and the problem solver in me decided to Google this and fix it so he wouldn’t have to.  I mean, how hard can it be?  None of the inner workings of anyone else’s toilet looked quite like ours on any of the Google videos, so I improvised and got a little creative.  Turns out those aren’t the most coveted qualities when it comes to plumbing.  The hubs had to purchase an entire new system for the inside of our commode.  I may have innovatively challenged something.  Just turn the water off if you don’t know what you’re doing.  Lesson learned, all in Zen.  Sometimes I can try too hard to be a little too helpful.  I see y’all nodding your heads…  (smile) Not.my.best.trait.

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This is what it looks like after I try to fix a toilet. The entire inside had to be replaced. Thanks, husband. I missed our bathroom. You are amazing. I will steer clear of Google and plumbing issues from now on.

That night proved to hold one more little surprise for us.  G wanted some help brushing his teeth.  He had a big kancer sore on the gum line of the inside of his lip and he didn’t want to hurt it.  Just for back story purposes, this little guy has never lost a tooth — at all of seven and going into second grade — he feels like he is the ONLY boy his age on earth who has never lost a tooth.  While brushing, I noticed that he had a tooth shooting up behind — like FAR behind — another baby tooth.  Ug!  It looked so odd and awful, but I didn’t want to scare him — so I just said — “Hmmmmmmmmmmm, you have a dentist appointment to get your teeth cleaned next week, but Mommy might make a call to Dr. Jenny in the morning so we can check on this tooth here.”  Unfortunately, he knew ALL about tooth pulling from his good friend, Connor, who had to get lots of teeth pulled and had told G every bloody detail — so tears instantly flowed and it was a long night of calming anxiety.  Neither one of us slept — again.  Dental Professionals got us in at 8 a.m. the next day and Griff was such a brave and courageous boy.  Big needles, two long sticks with said needles, and the root on that thing was HUGE!  He didn’t cry and was the best and most calm patient.  I couldn’t believe how amazing he did!  He took deep breaths and wiggled his toes.  Dr. Jenny, as always, was fantastic, and let him pick out two prizes for being so incredible.  This momma took G to Target for a few extra prizes as well.  He picked a puzzle, a craft, and a science toy.  My G (smile).  That’s what brave looks like!  Noodles, his lovey Husky, came with us too for extra comfort.  My boys amaze me every.single.day.  On top of all of this, Griffyn was SO excited he had finally “lost” a tooth!!!!!!!!!!!  One heck of a first loss!  Dr. Jenny assured him that the ones he lost after this would be ever so much easier…  Love her.  And she’s a dentist (smile).

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Griffyn left a note for the tooth fairy because he wanted to keep his tooth since it was his first. She was very obliging and left him a note, along with some fairy dust, and a $5.00 bill. That was one well earned first loss of a tooth!

And we needed a stress break from all of this water and tooth fun.  Summer is just speeding on by.  So we took the boys to see the Minions movie.  I love those little guys!  They are just authentic little Twinkies of odd quirky fun.  They simply want to please and love their little guts out.  We even ate junk food — egads!  We stopped at A&W first in Indianola — a must — the BEST chicken fingers and fries — according to my kids — and of course, root beer floats.  It was popcorn, Mike and Ike’s, and I even got to partake in some gluten free Milk Duds.  Good times.  I could not think of the last time I had been to a movie.  I guarantee it was Disney or Pixar, but it’s always a good time with the boys.  Minions did not disappoint.  Loved the Beetles and Monkees references!

And somehow, all of these week’s events seemed to roll together for me into one big “lesson” of sorts — the little yellow guys, toilets, basement, and tooth shenanigans.  Life is a big ball of chaos and crap sometimes — often times all at once — but it’s how we handle it — it’s the faith we act on (not just profess to have) — it’s how we are there for each other — that makes it what it is.  Rain, storms, sun, floods (toilette water in your face), things not happening in the succession that they are supposed to (darn shark teeth) — it’s going to happen.  And it’s all beautiful if we let.it.be.  And if it’s not particularly beautiful — we can at least find some kind or type of beauty in it.  We can find something redeemable, gem worthy, sustainable, of value — in everything.  A lesson (most often taught to me by my children), something to be thankful for, reminders of blessings, or something within yourself you forgot about — God reminding you who he created you to be (G found his braveness!  Max found his strength!).  There is value in absolutely everything.  Every.little.thing.  And maybe that’s why I like those little minions so much.  They see life through eyes (or eye) of wonder.  Everyone is a buddy.  And so I may or may not have gotten a little teary in that movie — I so did not cry.  G kept watching, however (smile)– said in whisper “Momma, are you crying?”.

The miracle of life lies in our perception of it.  We’re all given situations, things, people — it’s how we choose to see them — react, expend our energy — learn our lessons — or see that there is anything to be learned or gifts to be given to us in the first place.  There is wonder everywhere.  Even in the muck and mire.  Sometimes you just have to settle the rage, the storm in yourself still enough to see it, hear it, feel it and let it change you and grow you.  We all have such potential and capability to be such amazing vessels of light. Sometimes we get a little scared of all that shiny.  Don’t be afraid of it.  Embrace that.  It’s all good and it’s all you. You can.  You.can.do.and.be.so.much!

It is utterly amazing to me what simply taking a split second to take one deep, calm breath can do in a situation that seems utterly lost and helpless — when anxiety seems to be spiraling me out of control.  Then I stop — take another, and another — understanding the one that is in me is greater than this world — and the ultimate battle has already been won, dear God, it’s really over.  God’s got ALL of this.  My job, my mission — if I choose this day to except it — it to be my best me.  The most incredibly, fearfully and wonderfully made me he created me to be.  And to take that on with authenticity and an open heart and mind and spirit each and every single day?  Well that, that is one miraculous adventure and one hell of a ride —

that just might involve buckets, basements, toilets, unforeseen trips to the dentist, and Minions (smile).

Love your guts… (remember to stop every now and then and take a listen to yours) ❤

Namaste and so much peace…