Heavy Burdened?

SIGH.

As much as I want to wait to publish this so I can come back later and change my mind and put it into my growing file of unpublished writings, I am hitting that button tonight. I know someone is over burdened and can read these words to help lift them up. I’m praying for you.

So, I can’t sleep tonight. It’s just after midnight, everyone is snoozing away, but here I am wide awake. Nothing is really bothering me, really, but I know I have wanted to write lately and I have been holding back. Every time before I publish a post I go through a million names in my head to make sure nobody is going to be offended by something I have said. I try to be graceful with my words; to please everyone…but the fact is that I cannot do that. Pleasing everyone is being a dishonest person. If anyone knows me, they know that I am anything but dishonest. I am a klutz and a ditz and my heart is on my sleeve to feel all the emotions and show all the emotions, which is probably why I can’t be dishonest! If I try to lie, the guilt would just shine through like the sun!

Anyway, so I am a hot mess, and I am holding back. But, what am I holding back? I have my Bible right here beside me and I want to dive into those pages and find that answer so badly! Right now I am reading through the Psalms, and so many times I am reading David’s words as he cries out for grace and forgiveness and relief from his pursuers and I think of just how pertinent the Psalms are to our own lives. Shouldn’t we always be crying out for God’s mercy, as undeserving as we are? Should we not be at the feet of our Lord in awestruck wonder as we realize that He chose us? He sacrificed for US!? He forgives us.

This is the month of July which is the “unofficial” Sarcoma Awareness month. And this is one thing that is weighing so heavy on my mind. I usually try to be witty and funny, but Sarcoma is so serious to me. AND, I found out that there are THREE church members in my church family who have suffered through and survived this terrible cancer. This surprises me and worries me because Sarcoma is technically rare (though there are MANY sub-types). It is a cancer that affects the soft and connective tissues of the body so it can literally be ANYWHERE in the body.

You guys, this is crazy. Anyway, that wasn’t really my point; my point was more along the lines of David crying out. You see, I have been one who cries out, and I know it is so hard to cry out in the time where there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. A year ago this week is the anniversary of the second surgery to remove Scott’s cancer; the first recurrence he experienced. I remember the initial surgery when the surgeon came out holding the “unidentified mass” (because we did not know what it was at this point) in a specimen cup. I remember sitting with Scott’s mom and we were in happy tears because the surgeon was so proud of how easily this mass came out. He “popped it out with [his] finger”. This apparently aggravated the cancer that we did not know was cancer and when we went to our first appointment at M.D. Anderson we quickly found out it had grown almost the same size in a few short weeks. And boy did I cry out.

I remember the second recurrence just as vividly as I remember the first surgery and recurrence. It was like getting the first cancer diagnosis all over again, only worse, because we had nothing now.

We had been living in my aunt’s house (thank God for gracious family) and found out just before Christmas. It was terrible. I am actually in tears at this moment remembering the phone call. Scott had taken this trip to Houston solo because it was to be quick since it was the holiday season…all he could do was tell me it wasn’t good news. He felt like a failure…it grew back THROUGH radiation. I felt I had failed him. Maybe I didn’t cry out to our God enough. Maybe my faith wasn’t as good as a mustard seed. Maybe we were simply getting what we deserved. But, friends, we did not let that mentality keep hold of us for long. Though it is so hard, we refused to worship cancer, which is what we were doing if we allowed that, and not the Word, to guide us.

So, we pulled up our pants and got through the holidays (with a couple of secret Santas I still cannot name and will NEVER forget) and in January, just after Isaiah’s birthday, we headed back down to Houston to fight some more. It was worse this time. Scott lost most of the use of his arm, most of the feeling in it; he will never lift over five pounds without great difficulty and, according to many kids, he looks like he got bit by a shark. Recovery this time was terrible. He had to come home with a wound vac which basically means his surgical site had no skin; it was covered in plastic with a machine that vacuumed out the…whatever the stuff is. It had to heal up before he could get a skin graft, and the skin graft was no walk in the park either. It was yet another surgery, a new recovery and so much pain.

I would love to say I stood strong through this, but I did not. You see, I don’t agree with that saying that “God never gives you more than you could handle”. While Scott was in treatment and having all these surgeries, I was a full time student keeping over a 4.0 gpa. I was also home educating our children. We were hundreds of miles from a home that wasn’t really ours living with another aunt and uncle (yet again, thank GOD for gracious aunts and uncles) with no income and no way to make an income. The money Scott made from short term disability paid for our health insurance and that is all. We were denied every form of financial aid available to people who are struggling. We were frugal, and got by through our savings and the grace of God who brought people into our lives who really took care of us financially and emotionally and physically.

God gave us WAY MORE than we could handle. If we had tried to confront cancer head on, we never would have made it through. I am certain of that. But, Just as the Lord heard David as he cried out, God heard us as well and we had what we needed. We had a drastic lifestyle change, and we are still working on clawing our way out financially, but we are here and happy. We had way more on our plates than we could handle. How on earth could I have been a full time student, a home educating mother, and a care giver to my husband all while being away from a home we didn’t have any more if I was trying to go solo? “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. COME TO ME, ALL YOU WHO ARE WEARY AND BURDENED, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30 NIV).

So, friends, it is now almost one in the morning and I am ready to sign off. Writing can be so revealing. I don’t know if I will fall right to sleep, but I know that I can learn from my Savior. I know He has carried me through more than once, and He will again. I know, on this night, He is willing to take my yoke upon Him so I can learn from Him. He gives us more than we can handle all the time, friends, but it is good for wisdom. He is telling us right here that he gives us more than we can handle because we don’t have to handle it alone! Though the same people aren’t in my life now that were then, we could never have gotten through our trial without those people. Every prayer, penny, morsel of food, kind word, and care package was God teaching us how to share our burden; teaching us that, though we have been given a load we cannot carry, He will carry us.

So, friend, is your plate over flowing? Is your load too heavy? Is your heart burdened? Remember, you may have more than you can handle alone, so learn to lean on His wisdom and His words will guide you.

“My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long” (Psalm 35:28 NIV).

Running…running

Quick note about my picture…I took this on my very first run/walk around our local track…it was so beautiful and encouraging! God is so good!
This is a really emotionally raw post for me, I am still hesitant, but I want to encourage others, so I am closing my eyes and jumping.

UGH, MIA Again! A few reasons, one of which is summer school; yes, we do school ALL SUMMER here at Young Academy in Central Oklahoma because many days are too hot and miserable to do anything else! One other thing that has made me considerably busier AND more exhausted is the fact that I have finally taken charge of my health and am going to the gym almost every morning. Yes. Me. Every.single.morning. AND since it IS summer, after I have tortured myself for an hour and a half at the gym I find it necessary to take the kids to the pool/splash area of the gym for another hour or two and AFTER all that we do school!

What I really want to talk about is why people who are overweight and obese avoid the gym, and hopefully I can reach a few of you and help you to overcome the fears you have.

So the first reason is probably pretty obvious, you are afraid everyone is going to stare, gawk, and laugh. And if you have never had a weight problem, don’t chime in here and say nobody will do this, because I can assure you, it is done. You see, about a month ago I was running with a friend (before I joined the gym) and we were doing well and making great progress, but someone drove by and yelled at us (though probably me as this friend is much leaner than I) “run fat @#$ run”. Now, while I didn’t actually take offense to this (though it does make me sad that some people weren’t raised with basic manners) I know MANY people would be discouraged by this. I mean, as if someone isn’t hard enough on themselves, you want to take it upon yourself to put them down for this situation. Sure, many people get themselves into this ordeal, but it isn’t always a problem of overeating and sedentary lifestyle. While I may have not been working out for the last few…several…ok many years, I am a very active person and eat relatively healthy!

So, no, they don’t want to be put down because it is hurtful and makes the first step even harder to take. So PLEASE, consider your brother/sister before you make harsh judgments and spew unkindness out of your mouth. The first step is hard, but support makes it so much easier.

Another reason people shy away from the gym is intimidation. I mean, those machines are scary am I right!? I started on the treadmill (with the same friend who went running with me) and then went to the weight “machines” with picture instructions but avoided anything else if my pal wasn’t with me because I didn’t know how to use them and they looked scary. I mean, I do NOT want to end up on an episode of AFV being the person who flies off the treadmill or busts the mirror in the weight room when I send the weights flying! (As I edit this, I really feel the need to mention a gym episode the other day where my gbff and I were using exercise balls and repeatedly rolled off of them…I am really waiting to see us on AFV because we were laughing at ourselves at that point!) I just want to hide in a corner and do my thing, but I also was too…proud or nervous or something to go and ask someone how things work. I mean, what kind of world do we live in when we are afraid to ask for help for fear of looking stupid? When I was younger I was always told the only stupid question is the one left unasked and here I am in my 30’s (ok hahaha, that is a total lie…I’m a teen alright 😉 ) and I am afraid to ask a simple question about a piece of machinery that could possibly hurt me if I were to use it incorrectly! GUYS, THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THIS! But really, this is a huge factor is gym fear. It’s intimidating. AND we live in a world where we are afraid to ask questions because people laugh at everyone for everything…which kind of stinks.

So the final reason I am giving today is the cost. Now, we are BLESSED that Scott has a workplace which reimburses us for HALF of our membership. That is an amazing blessing to us because it actually makes joining and going a goal that we can reach instead of being something we just wish we could do. Now, we do give up other things to afford our gym membership, but these are probably things we didn’t need anyway so we don’t miss them, but the reality is that gyms are generally expensive. There are some gyms who have wonderful prices of something like $10 a month or so, but these aren’t available near me, so not a feasible option, and I don’t know that it includes the family (read that as ‘childcare) so we still get a steal with our half off deal. The Y in our town also does scholarships for up to 40% off monthly, but the kicker to this is the fees have to be paid 3 months at a time which ends up not being affordable after all. SO (yes, I know, I say “so” a lot”) ya, affordability is actually a big deal.

Any who, so my point is…well, there are a few. One is, if you happen to have a few extra bucks lying around, think about donating it to a gym scholarship fund at your local Y. Even though the dues must be paid up front and it can be hard, they offer up to 40% relief with their scholarships and that can be a huge blessing for someone struggling with their weight or self-image that has a tighter budget. Another thing we can ALL do is support our local parks and participate actively in our community by hosting and/or walking in charitable events which will support health and well-being in our communities. We have a decent track with some basic work out tools in a park just off the track. This is an AMAZING tool for those who simply cannot afford a gym membership! BUT, these things are paid for by communities and businesses, so get involved!

My next point is, if you are a member of a gym and see a new face AND you see that new face looking confused or seeming to struggle with using equipment, jump in and offer some tips and advice! This stuff is overwhelming! I mean, you’ve got weights and balls and stretching machines (I am seriously SO thankful I ran into a friend from church who showed me how to use the stretch master 5k [ok, I made the title up], it’s a new favorite!), there are rowing machines and elliptical machines and arc trainers…seriously, I don’t even know the names of everything, but help your fellow man out, please! It takes like five seconds to be a kind person, and you could change the other person’s life!

Finally, be a gym buddy to someone. I am SO thankful for my gym bestie (that’s your new name, Erica, I JUST made that up!). We hold each other accountable; we cheer each other on when one of us wants to give up; and we take turns looking up different workouts to do. This journey is so hard sometimes, and having a friend makes it so much easier, and I want to tell you a little why taking this journey with a friend is so important for me, personally, and why it can be so important to someone else. I struggle. I KNOW I have mentioned this before, but I have stupid hormones that don’t work right in a body that also doesn’t work right and it takes me twice as long to lose one annoying pound as it does for “normal” people. And it is frustrating! Just last night I was literally crying to Scott about how frustrated I am because I began “running” two months ago, joined the gym the Monday after Mother’s day and I have lost roughly ten pounds. I don’t eat terribly; I actually eat pretty wholesome foods 85% of the time, so this super Galapagos tortoise speed of weight loss is SO frustrating to me. Thank GOD I have my friend, and now my sister, joining me almost daily during this struggle because I honestly feel like people wouldn’t believe how hard I work if I didn’t have witnesses, and I would give up on myself without them. So, you see, being a gbff (gym best friend foreva) could change someones life…foreva! Plus, it’s just nice to have a friend!

So again, I just want to urge you, be kind to your fellow man. You have NO IDEA what their struggles are. I have never had an eating disorder, and until I was pregnant, I never struggled with my weight, but it isn’t something that is easy to overcome. Be NICE to people you see putting effort into bettering their lives! Lift up one another in love and be humble. You may not struggle with your weight, but you have your own struggles and you don’t want to be put down.

It’s amazing how far away our culture has come FROM practicing the “golden rule”.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12 ESV).

I’m not a hippie, but really, sometimes all we need is love…and support…and encouragement.

 

 

I Made the CUT

I am going to spend a few minutes talking about my hair. I know it SOUNDS vain, but I hope it doesn’t come across that way in the end. I don’t want to BE vain, I want to be known as godly and loving and giving and caring, but we are all vain to an extent, aren’t we?

So, my hair. For years, I have been growing my hair out. I have had long or longish hair almost my entire life; you know, your hair kind of becomes part of the definition of you. Now, if you are one of those amazing free-spirited people who can change their hair up then you may not feel the same—or maybe you DO feel the same and your identity comes with the fact that you have the ability and care-free nature which supports your frequent hair changes—ok, I’m rambling.

Anyway, so, my hair is long. Super long. Like I sit on it and have to move it or put it up to use the bathroom long. And I love it. Like, guys, I really love my hair. It isn’t that it is thick and curly and luscious, because that really isn’t the reason (and it really isn’t luscious lol). It isn’t thick anymore, it is frizzy, and really, it’s rather dry, so I don’t love it because it makes me LOOK good, I love it because it helps me to define me. You see, my hair is really a curtain I use to hide behind, I think. But it is just so…ME. I’m easy-going, hippy-ish, boho-esque, and semi-crunchy and my hair fits those personalities. When I do get to dress up, my hair matches my outfits and it isn’t because I try; it comes naturally to my hair. And now you see the trend—I have become dependent on my hair (seriously laughing at myself here).

So here’s the thing. It’s hair. Hair is actually a big deal in some cultures. I read an old Native American proverb once (sorry, I don’t remember the tribe) about how a person’s hair is like a sense to them. When hunting, it could detect wind changes, hair gives off scent so a child would know when its parent is near and be a little less afraid. When I hear things like this I wish I knew more about my heritage because maybe it would make more sense—the way I feel about my hair, that is. But I do know that I have an emotional attachment to my hair as ridiculous as that may sound.

Here’s the thing, though, I am getting ready to cut my hair. I am a little terrified, but I am a lot convicted. When Scott got diagnosed with cancer I stopped dying my hair with the intention of donating it at some point, and that point has finally come. All the talk about how attached I am to my hair and how my hair is a part of me, while true, can’t drown out the voice in my head and heart reminding me that it really is just hair. AND, if I feel this attached to my hair as a grown woman, then how would I have felt as a young girl if I lost my hair? You see, I have always loved my hair. And it has always been a security blanket for me. As strange as it may sound, my hair is the one and only thing in my life that I and I alone had sole control over. I am blessed with very long hair, and with all the hormone issues I do have, lack growth of hair on my head hasn’t been a negative side effect of this.

But you know what? I have a little girl now, and she also loves her hair, and I have a boy who loves his hair, and that makes me both happy and sad. Myrah is a happy and healthy little girl, but somewhere right this moment as I type this there is a little girl mourning the loss of her once luscious locks. Noah is a healthy and happy boy with a head full of amazing hair, but somewhere there is a boy wishing he could have hair like Noah’s. Somewhere at this moment a beautiful girl is crying into her pillow, maybe wiping her tears on the hair that is falling out of her hair by the handful. Somewhere there is a mom holding her child and crying with her as she brushes the hair literally right out of her baby’s head. Maybe she is saving the hair as a memory; maybe she wants to throw it away as soon as possible because it’s a horrific reminder that bad things happen to children too.

So, you know what, my conviction has finally overruled the love of my hair and I am finally making the cut. I don’t at this moment know exactly how much hair I will donate, but I am going to donate a lot of my hair. I know my hair will not cure cancer or alopecia or even dry the tears that are caused by these things, but maybe it can bring a little girl or boy some joy. Maybe my hair can help a mom sleep easier tonight or help ease a dad’s guilt. Maybe my donated hair will create a beautiful up do for a girl’s first date or prom. Maybe my hair will simply keep a head warm as a little girl is attached to another bag of chemo—poison in her body to kill the cancer raging through. And I am worried about MY hair. Now, that is vain.

Ok, so I wrote that a couple of weeks ago and as most of you know, my entries are rather sporadic, but I always try to pick up where I left off. And, I would apologize for this, but hey, it’s just a part of my quirky personality.

SO, today I made the cut! A wonderful stylist named Kaci cut my hair for donation and then gave me a wonderful style and you guys, I LOVE IT. More importantly, I didn’t cry! Seriously, though, as I was trying to type this morning before the cut I got so emotional, but I’ve thought long and hard about this and my heart is so happy right now. All I can think of is how maybe some little girl will get my hair and be able to walk through the candy store without the stares of pity following her. Or how a little boy may get his Justin Bieber inspired locks and fit in with the other boys. You see, it matters so much to them!

Why does it matter? Because our culture places a lot of importance on hair, and our children can’t help but want hair. And it isn’t a bad thing. I mean, of course we don’t want our children to grow up vain and thinking that only looks matter, but don’t we want our children to be children? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that these children suffering from some devastating illness that took their hair away can feel normal for a day? I mean, let them be little. Don’t teach them to be vain, but let’s let these babies be babies and if donating a little bit of hair can help them remember how to be a kid again, let’s do it. If it helps them to forget for just a moment that they are sick and suffering, then why wouldn’t I want to help them?

Who am I to say no? I can easily grow hair and I personally know someone who can’t, so why shouldn’t I use this little thing to try to show love to another person. Sure, my hair isn’t a monetary donation, but I took a lot of time, attention, and care to grow it out so someone else could hopefully enjoy it. And all this is such a wonderful and gentle reminder that our gifts do not always have to be big. Everyone has something they can do to help another person. You can donate your hair or your time or your money to any cause you find. It DOES NOT HAVE TO BE BIG! Little things are JUST as important and can make such a HUGE impact on someone’s life!

I watched part of a sermon the other day where the preacher was talking about all the time and money we (collectively speaking) spend on awareness. I mean, think about it, how much is spent on awareness in general? Millions? Billions? If we took that money and spent it on the actual cause think of the amazing difference we could make! Make people aware by using your time! Show people you care by donating your time! Go to the food pantry and volunteer or mow your neighbors grass or deliver groceries to someone who is home-bound. Make meals to take to shut ins or just pick up trash in the park. Could you imagine the difference we would make in the world if every single person did just one nice thing for another person or their community a week? I imagine there would be more smiles than frowns!

So, friend, go do something nice today. Random acts of kindness are so amazing and a great way to teach children the art of giving without expecting to receive anything, even recognition, for what they did. Donate something; you will never regret the nice things you did for another person!

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV).

If you want more information about donating your hair to a wonderful charity please consider donating to Children with Hair Loss. This is a legitimate charity and they accept mildly chemically treated hair and gray hair. The minimum length to donate is 8 inches and the wigs they make for children and youth who are suffering are free of charge. It takes thousands of dollars to make one wig, but they are able to provide this for free to children who are hurting. They are run by donations alone! That is amazing!
Check them out at http://www.childrenwithhairloss.us/

 

 

 

Isaiah has a NEW birth day!

My personal disclaimer:
As always, I began this post WEEKS AGO! THEN, home schooling and VBS preparing and children and life happened SO, I am NOW publishing it! Plus, I haven’t been pleased with my writing lately…so I put it off.

NOW to the good stuff!

On Easter Sunday Isaiah gets baptized.

So there has always been this burning question in my heart when it comes to my oldest: can someone with Asperger’s become a Christian? And thank the Lord that question has been answered.

You see, I always worried a little because I know that Isaiah views so many things as literal. He needs things to be tangible; to be present in front of him. He is interested in science and the reason why is because in a scientific environment he can ask a question, do some research, and get an answer that makes sense. How often does that happen, in that way, in Christianity? I mean, Christ the man even spoke in parables because people would not listen or could not understand, so how can my very literal son understand stories such as the Parable of the Sower and can he realize the deeper meaning behind it?

Well, he did. He does. And I couldn’t be more proud or filled with joy. Isaiah is twelve now, but around his eleventh birthday he came to us and told us how he knew the Spirit had changed his heart and he had become a child of God’s. He explained how he was ready to try his best to give up sin and live for God.

Now, this isn’t actually the first time Isaiah had come to us and expressed this, but this was the first time he had come to us using his own language (as opposed to things he heard others say) and he really showed the heart and knowledge and demeanor of someone who has had their heart changed by the Spirit.

As time goes on and Isaiah learns more about science and nature (as I am almost certain he will choose a career in this field) I do worry a bit that the world may get to him. BUT, he is a child of God now. The Spirit worked in his heart to soften it to the voice of Christ. There is no voice louder than God’s! AM I RIGHT!? He felt that conviction and I know I do not need to worry (as much) anymore.

I mean, sure, the science stuff is scary because it is tangible; it can be put into words and numbers and equations, and concrete evidence of existence, but Isaiah heard God’s call on his heart through all that stuff. This does not take away our responsibility as parents to disciple him in the home nor does it mean the church has no more responsibility for discipleship, BUT it does mean that we KNOW Isaiah has been changed so he KNOWS the real deal. As he gets older, not only will his knowledge in the world grow, but his knowledge in the Word as well. Isaiah will become more spiritually mature and conscious as time goes on, and this is such a wonderful and great thing.

God is wonderful and great, you guys. My heart is so full of joy right now knowing that one day my son will be worshiping our Savior in Heaven. While there is still so much I can worry about, what a great weight the salvation of my son has lifted from my heart.

SO, that was written two weeks ago and today was Easter!

Today, my son followed the call of God upon his heart with an act of obedience and public profession of his faith by becoming baptized as a believer in Christ. My son. My Isaiah. Isaiah got up in front of roughly 400 people and allowed our pastor to submerge him into water completely covering his head and face. And…it was memorable to say the least.

First of all, I have had a bit of anxiety surrounding today because Isaiah does not do well with being dunked in water, water being over his head, water being in his eyes and ears, and to top that off, someone literally putting their arms around him. To be honest, I don’t feel I was really fair to our pastor, I feel he needed a disclaimer before he baptized Isaiah! BUT, it was wonderful. And oh, so memorable (thank you, Will, and I’m also sorry [as I giggle]).

The first surprise was that Isaiah asked to wear one of the robes in the back which I thought was very much Isaiah. Then my brave boy walks down into that water knowing full well he is getting dunked, and through his fears and what I imagine was a mental overload knowing that his senses were about to be overloaded, he professed his faith. THEN it got a little tricky for poor Will! Isaiah went stiff as a board! He said his foot got caught in the robe, I don’t know if that is what happened, but I know we all had a good chuckle as he almost pulled our good shepherd down with him into that water! The amazing thing, though, was how he came up! He came up with water in his eyes which means he had them closed and his arms were outstretched like a blind person trying to find their way. And all my brain could do was think of how poetic that visual was.

Here we are chuckling, but a new believer is like a blind man searching for their way and it is up to us to help them and teach them (discipleship means to ‘become a learner or a pupil’). What is even more amazing to me is that Isaiah truly did not feel embarrassed as I am sure many of us would have in that position (thanks Asperger’s for that). When he came to sit back down I was worried and asked if he was ok and he said that he felt great. He had the biggest grin and I could see the Spirit radiating through him. Something that would have caused me to fly out the back door red-faced and ashamed and here my kid is literally having the best moment of his life. And rightfully so.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible and the one that is kind of my personal motto is 2nd Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (NIV). Here I am, supposedly a seasoned believer, and I was worried my seedling of a believer son would be ashamed of how his public profession of faith went. Here I am supposed to be doing my best to present myself as one approved and Isaiah, in his infancy, seems to have it all figured out.

You see, sometimes being a believer is messy. Sometimes it is painful. Sometimes it is downright terrifying. Through all of these, we should never be ashamed of the work we do in the name of our living God. I mean, what is there to be ashamed of? For Isaiah today, he got baptized! He faced several of his fears because he was doing what God led him to do and he was not even a little ashamed of the process or outcome! And yet, friends, don’t we act daily as though we are embarrassed or ashamed? Are there moments where we feel called to pray in public and instead of stopping and praying earnestly right then and there, don’t we instead mumble some half-hearted “God help them” prayer under our breath? How about when we are doing something like eating in front of people who are not believers? Are we bowing our heads and earnestly thanking God for our food and blessings or are we whispering it to ourselves afraid someone may hear and judge us?

Let’s dig deeper, now. When we do something, are we asking for recognition because, instead of being boastful in the Lord, we are working to cover our guilt in deeds and we need to be recognized for our works? We need a pat on the back to cover our shame, right? How about when you are a believer and your loved ones aren’t? Are we holding grudges against those people and judging them as Christians should be judged? Are we doing our best to show the unbeliever that we are Christ-like in spite of their unbelief? In these instances, are we doing our best to present ourselves as “one approved, a worker who correctly handles the word of truth”?

My twelve year old correctly handled it today. He obeyed a command on his heart to follow his change of heart with believer’s baptism and it was awkward and a little messy, but he was boasting in the Lord. At that moment, he knew that God was pleased with him. He knows we are wretched men, but that amazing Grace has literally saved our souls.

There are many times in my life I have been ashamed; though I do my best to present myself better, I often fail. Grace really is so amazing. I saw grace work first hand in my own son and more of that ice around my heart just chipped and melted away. Isn’t it amazing how the actions of a twelve year old can make me see the world with new eyes and understand God’s grace on a different level? I know the Word tells us what amazing things can come out of the mouths of babes, but man, today…I mean, it was a whole new level for me, you guys.

So, what I want to end with is grace. Have grace. Have grace for others and for yourself, but also, we need to hold ourselves more accountable. We need to recognize those moments that we mark off being “shameful” and reevaluate them. We need to rethink how we are following through with the Great Commission that Christ gave us before his ascension into heaven. He said to “go out and make disciples” but, friends, how can we do that if we don’t speak up? How can we do that if we are afraid of the messy days, bumpy roads, and ugly truths? The fact is, we (collectively) are not necessarily ashamed of the Gospel, but we are ashamed of the work we have to do to share it.

We are afraid and ashamed because we don’t want to get dirty and have people talking about us later. We don’t want anyone laughing behind our back even though the Bible CLEARLY tells us that is EXACTLY what is going to happen! WE WILL BE PERSECUTED! It is ugly, messy, and scary. Quit making it all pretty, because going through the ugly is what brings out the pretty.

So, friends, I plead with you, sister to sister and brother. Do not be ashamed, but also, handle the Word of Truth correctly. We can boast in the Lord all day long, but do it in a way that pleases God, not yourself.

And also, if you see Isaiah, give him a hug because he is a child of God, and taking the literal plunge was one of the hardest things he will ever face. I’m awed at God’s awesomeness.

 

Cesarean Awareness

 

Ok, so, can we talk c-sections for a bit since it’s c-section awareness month?

I just want to talk a little about this because, well, I’ve been through it and some people seem to think that if you have had a c-section you have either “chosen” the “easy way” or you have never really birthed a child. And this kind of annoys me; and hurts my feelings, so I want to address it.

So, way back in the day I got pregnant with Isaiah. It was just a couple of years ago, ya know, and I was younger and kind of clueless regarding labor. I mean, I had an IDEA…I was going to do all natural birth and no meds and sweat and pant and push and he would be here and then I’d be up walking around and getting back to business in no time. THEN I went into labor and my body did not work like a normal woman’s apparently. After 36 hours, a drip of Pitocin, some kind of pain relief they put through the i.v. that lasted all of 34 seconds and me losing the ability to breath anymore resulting in Isaiah being oxygen deprived, I lost my desire for a “natural” child birth and opted for saving the life of my child. It was long. It was painful. Recovery was…interesting, but not altogether excruciating (though there were moments). But I apparently didn’t “birth” my child. Having a cesarean was the “easy way out”.

Then comes Noah; what a blessing! We tried for SO LONG! We gave up hope; I had FINALLY begun to give away the baby stuff I’d been hoarding for four years in hopes of another coming along when I found out I was pregnant with Noah. Right from the beginning I was told I had no option BUT to have a c-section. I was older, but naive. I researched some, but I honestly thought the doctor would do what was best for me, not him. He was my doctor from the time I was 16 and I had trusted him. So, I opted for a c-section. I had a little peace of mind this time, though. I KNEW I would not have the exhausting and scary labor experience I had with Isaiah. I KNEW this time it wouldn’t end with doctors seeming worried and an emergency situation where the baby is whisked away with little more than a tiny peck from mommy (I didn’t see Isaiah for over 24 hours after he was born). And it didn’t. This birth experience was calm. We went in quietly, I was prepped and baby came. It went quickly, but wasn’t scary at all. Noah was able to come to me and nurse while I was in the recovery room. I was able to have skin to skin contact soon after birth instead of waiting over a day like I had with Isaiah. Noah had no oxygen tent, no i.v., he didn’t even have to go under the bili lights. I was home in three days as opposed to a week. Recovery went great; much better than with the c-section after a LONG and intense labor. BUT, I didn’t really birth him, right?

Don’t get me wrong when you read these stories. I despised having to have c-sections. I hate knowing that my body failed. I hate that I am not “normal”. I hate that it takes longer to even be able to do something like bend over and pick something up off of the floor. I hate having to rely on people for pretty much everything, but that is what happens after a major surgery (which a cesarean is, by the way). So this was even worse than the emergency c-section with Isaiah because I CHOSE it…this was for SURE the “easy way out”, right?

Fast forward to the insane surprise and shock that came with my pregnancy that brought us Myrah. I had a whole new level of education now and I KNEW I was going to have a vba2c with her. I was introduced to the world of doulas and midwives and went to Birth Boot Camp because I was going to do better this time. I wasn’t going to ALLOW my body to fail. I was sick as can be with that pregnancy, but I went by the crunchy book as much as possible. I did everything right, and guess what? I began having prodromal labor pains SEVEN days before I had Myrah. If you aren’t familiar with prodromal labor, well, it’s like a precursor to labor, but it is NOT the “practice” contractions of Braxton Hicks. It is actual contractions. They MAY come and go, they can be very intense, and they are exhausting because they, of course, come at the most inconvenient of times. So, I had a good four days of prodromal labor before the real thing began then I got dehydrated. Severely. I was in the hospital twice due to the dehydration. Then we knew something went wrong. Something went terribly wrong because I could not eat, drink, or sleep. I could not even sit. There was ONE standing position I could be in without being in the most terrifying and excruciating pain I had ever experienced. The docs brought a portable ultrasound machine in straight away, but we couldn’t figure what was causing the pain. Baby had her head in a position that was blocking us from seeing the cause of the issue, but Scott and I prayed right then and there and agreed to go ahead with (yet another) emergency cesarean section that the doc was recommending. I bawled my eyes out because my body failed again, but I KNEW something was wrong and getting my way was in no way worth risking my daughter’s life. Come to find out, waiting too much longer to make the decision really could have cost us her life because my uterus ruptured on either side and was being held together precariously in the middle but slowly tearing away. THAT IS PAINFUL!

But this was the “easy way out”. As I lay on that table not even getting to touch my daughter before a team rushed in the room like a scene from Grey’s Anatomy, I wasn’t thinking of my failed body, I was begging God to save my baby. I watched a tube go down her throat and a bag being squeezed to breathe for her and all I could think of was how the surgeon said this was the best decision I had ever made. I can’t have any more children now, but this “easy way out” saved my daughter’s life. And if you think for one second that recovery from a ruptured uterus is a walk in the park, then my friend, I must respectfully say that you have no clue what you speak of. I hemorrhaged during the night and begged the doctor to give me a few more hours to bring my blood count up before getting donor blood. The hemorrhage made me so weak I was unable to leave my room to see Myrah in the NICU. She had to be given donor milk because I couldn’t even pump yet. I was miserable, hardly able to walk and it took my back and abdomen at least a year to fully recover. To be honest, I still don’t think I have all my stomach muscles back. This is the “easy way”?

So, having a c-section is rarely the “easy” or “lazy” way out, and it doesn’t make me a person who has never given birth. Given the option, I’d have ten babies all natural, but that wasn’t the option I was given. You see, what makes this hard is that I don’t feel c-section moms get the same support or respect that “natural” birth moms get. Now, I’m not one of those people who needs a pat on the back or an award for everything, but as a c-section mom, I was never approached with the option of having something like a birth doula. There is no “birth boot camp” for women who know they have to have a c-section. I would have loved to consult with a midwife, just to have one on the team with me, but there is maybe one midwife in my area that would even speak to me on a medical basis because vba2c isn’t something commonly supported (especially round these parts). And if you want any kind of holistic, crunchy, or natural support when you KNOW you are having a c-section, you better look real hard. I mean, I personally know a doula or two who is willing, and my birth doula was one who was just starting out and had also had a c-section which was super awesome to me, but that is certainly not the “norm”.

Now, I know a decent community of crunchy gals, and I am in NO WAY making digs at them because they ALL supported me, but this was my experience from some and especially from the online community who didn’t know me personally. These are all things that have been said or done to me, and it hurts. I mean, once upon a time, I fancied being a doula myself, but only catering to c-section mommas, I quickly realized that makes me just as silently judgmental as most people don’t realize they were being to me. I gave birth, and my body did not work the way it was made to. There are factors behind this; I was abused as a child, I had some cervical tissue removed late in my teens, I have ovarian cysts and a hormone imbalance…all of these things played a factor in my body’s inability to read the hormones given out during birth and do what it should. That doesn’t mean I didn’t give birth, though. I fought for each of my children and the only thing I would change now, if I were even given a chance, would be to have a planned c-section with Myrah as well. You know, if I’d scheduled a surgical birth with her she wouldn’t have been at risk? I have some serious mommy guilt sometimes for the fact that she was in such a bad way when she was born. Her condition was brought about by my choices. But, she was meant to be just how she is and where she is and how she got here. So were my boys.

I wouldn’t change anything, so, world, stop making me feel as though I ought to have regrets. I don’t. My children are here. They are healthy and happy and thriving, and I have the scars to prove that I birthed them. I have the stretch marks and saggy girls and wide hips…I have my kids. Every staple was worth it. Ever catheter was meaningful. Every failed i.v. stick, every failed attempt to walk, and every wheel chair ride was worth it a million times.

Whether you have the ability to be the mom who goes completely natural in your birth, or get an epidural, or have a surgical birth, you are a warrior. You are a winner. You have already won because God gave you this beautiful child to keep for Him. We have known since Genesis that birthing wasn’t going to be the easy part physically, we were told before we ever had our children. But, isn’t any birth really the easy part? Because the minute they are born you have to begin letting them go, and that is the hardest part of all.

So, friends, moms, women who have no clue who I am and have stumbled across my jumbled mess of words, lift one another up in love. Support each other! There is no shame in child birthing because no matter how it is done it is a miracle! God has given you a child; you grew that child in your womb for about forty weeks. FORTY WEEKS! You are the SOLE provider for that baby for FORTY WEEKS of its life!

Grab your cape, girl. Wear it proud, and help your sister with hers too.

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world” (John 16:21 NIV).

Out of the Pit

So, I have my computer back and today is Sunday and I actually made it to church two weeks in a row, though Isaiah was sick (Scott took duty this morning) so it was just me and Noah. I’ve been having some conflicting feelings about church lately, and before I continue, let me tell you that 75% of my feelings are my own fault because contrary to what my brain is saying, my heart does love my church.

About six months ago we finally joined a new church, but in six months, we missed several times in October, the holidays were hectic, and my family traded illness all of January and February so our attendance has been spotty. But, I went today. I went today and I just felt bummed because while I know we are members of this church, it doesn’t feel like home yet. I don’t feel like family yet, and I so very much miss that feeling. God called us here right now, so I KNOW it is where I am supposed to be, but I think I am still in mourning. So, during the welcome I get all bummed and down on myself because I am not getting all the feels I want to get from my church (because, ya know, the church is there ALL for me…[please take note of sarcastic text tone here]). Yap, my selfish and very human heart made it ALL ABOUT me. Poor me because my kids have been sick left and right and I haven’t really been able to attend and I am not getting all those good feels I am SUPPOSED to get from church and it is all everyone’s fault because woe is me.

And then my pastor preached…and I shrunk lower and felt smaller and I was like “dude, do you have a hidden camera into my BRAIN? Because for real, you’re calling me out in front of ALL THESE PEOPLE” except that he never actually said my name and has no idea I am struggling with my faith i.d. at this very moment.

So, my pastor opens his mouth and ironically one of the first things he actually said was how people get annoyed at pastors who don’t tickle their ears (or something to that affect). Then he gets to the sermon which is all about the pitfalls a believer can fall into and how, just because we are Christian, we aren’t exempt from sin, nor are we exempt from the consequences (so no, you cannot do whatever you want, guys, sorry to bust your bubble). As a matter of fact, we are actually held to a higher standard because we are Christians, but we kind of like to gloss over that, don’t we. So, here I am waiting to get to my happy place and here my pastor is…calling me out! Sheshamundo. He is literally listing my sins off one by one like he has a daggum check list up there in the pulpit or something! YOU GUYS!  I was feeling sheepish. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do NOT believe prosperity preaching benefits anybody, as a matter of fact, I am pretty vocal in my opposition to such a way of preaching, so WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

Well, you see my pastor began listing these pits that Christians fall into and as he listed them, my heart was super convicted. Lately, my life has not turned out the way I planned it. Six months ago I planned on being somewhere else, living somewhere else, and doing something else, and all that didn’t and hasn’t happened so…apparently God didn’t listen to my commands (HUGE eye roll at myself here). So here are the pits he mentioned: drifting, doubting, departing, neglecting (also not listening, or not nourishing), and rejecting. Can ya guess how many I have fallen into in the last six months?  Maybe not all at ONCE, or maybe so…I mean, I’ve really been feeling sorry for myself. And, you guys, I’ve been stuck. All this time I’ve been crying out comparing myself to Job (laughable, right) when all along I am obviously being my own worst enemy by drifting, doubting, departing, neglecting, and rejecting the living God.

I’ve been slowly but obviously drifting away from the guidance of the Lord. All this time I’ve been praying for guidance, but failing to hold His hand and take that guidance. The Word tells us God holds us in his “righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).  His RIGHTEOUS RIGHT HAND! Jesus is holding us, guys. HE WANTS TO GUIDE US, but he can’t do that when we pull away! SO, I am lost for guidance right now because I have pulled away, not ever because He has left me. He has granted me grace; reprieve for the atrocities I commit daily, yet still he holds his righteous right hand out to me.

As if drifting isn’t enough, I doubt His plan as well. I have this grand scheme in my own mind as to how things are supposed to go and where I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing and none of it is happening! Why? Well, maybe it’s because it isn’t what I am supposed to be doing. Or MAYBE it IS what I am supposed to be doing but I am going about it wrongly or it isn’t the right time. We know that all things work together for Him and all things he brings about are good, yet I doubt every step of the way lately. Well, no wonder I’ve drifted, I don’t even trust my own Creator apparently.

On top of these, I’ve also stopped feeding myself daily. I mean, honestly, I try to read the Word every evening after the kids are in bed; that’s my time. That is when I read best and listen best and pray best, but I’ve been selfish and lazy and SOMETIMES I remember a couple times a week lately. Yet I sit and wonder why I am starving? You know what is REALLY ironic? Noah’s memory verses for his school the last two months…one was “I am the bread of life, whoever believes in me will not go hungry” (John 6:35) and the other was “if anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink (John 7:37). I mean, how ridiculous is it that I can teach my children this, but not listen or do it myself? Seriously, that’s like teaching the multiplication table but not knowing one times one. It’s one of the most basic aspects of our faith; knowing that Christ can fulfill us; that He alone can satiate our appetites. And here I am ignoring it completely!

So onto the departing portion of tonight’s post; in this scenario he is actually talking of failing to produce fruit. Being an unproductive Christian; luke warm; lackluster; LAZY. You see, if you aren’t practicing the Fruits of the Spirit then you will not be producing fruit period. Think of the parable of the sower; you are that seed on rocky ground and a good wind can come along and blow you away. I was going through the motions, but I haven’t been productive, even in my own home. I even see a difference in my children’s behavior recently; there is a lack of respect for authority, a lack of dedication and diligence in their work, and a general bad attitude all around. Well, I can stand now and take some responsibility in this. I am with my children 24/7 (remember, we homeschool) so OBVIOUSLY they are going to pick up on my attitude and behavior and reflect it back. I am a barren tree right now, and hearing my pastor talk and realize the Lord was speaking to me through him, it made me sad. I am guilty, friends, and this is one of those times when I am face down thanking God for his grace because I am so obviously undeserving. I haven’t offered to serve in my new home church. I got all sad and sappy because nobody really knows me, but I haven’t taken a minute of time to know them either. If anything, I’d say I’ve been cold and standoffish and I’d be weary to try to know me.

And this brings me to the final pit Will (that’s my pastor’s name, I should have started using it a long time ago, really, because there are way too many pronouns LOL) mentioned; rejecting Christ. Christians, we KNOW what the right thing to do it, and we reject Christ when we CHOOSE not to do it. I have KNOWN I need to be in the Word and prayer daily in order to stay on God’s track for my life, and I disobeyed. I have known I need to become more involved in my church for fellowship purposes and accountability, I have disobeyed. I have known I need to be exhibiting the Fruits of the Spirit and instead of being peaceful and patient and kind, I have been quarrelsome, impatient, and cold. This isn’t the fault of our new church home, this is my sin alone. Something that my pastor said that really got me here was (totally paraphrasing) “if I send my son to die for you and you don’t act like you appreciate it, I’m not going to like you” (Wilson, 2017). If I were God, I wouldn’t like me right now, thank God I am NOT God and, again, thank God for grace. But think about that. That has been with me since I heard it (oh, by the way, I started writing on Sunday, I am just now finishing and it’s Wednesday).

Friends, it is so important to see this so you can see how sneaky Satan can be. I am an eternal optimist, until the last six months. I am a happy and smiling person, until the last six months. I am diligent in doing God’s work and being fruitful, until the last six months. Satan found a weakness and crept right in. He was just waiting, and I’m proof that it can happen to anyone.  None of us is perfect and none is immune to the trickery of the evil one. If you asked any friend or family member about me I am certain they would tell you I am a “good Christian” and faithful and diligent and all that stuff; but I am also certain that they would tell you the last six months my behavior has been different. I’ve been sadder, more desperate, and lonelier. And you know what is so crazy to me? During the trials of trying to conceive children, I never became this way. During the trials of my husband’s deep addiction, I never lost faith. During the most terrifying cancer journey, I never lost hope. You know what pushed me over the edge? A simple rejection; that’s it. It isn’t even that big of a deal, really, but I’ve never experienced it before and made it a huge deal.

So, here I am. I am laying it out. I am showing my weakness and owning it, and I am asking that you pray for me and with me not only for me to overcome this, but for us all to remember that we must always repair the kinks in our armor.

What is your sin, friend? Do you have a loose tongue and say things without thinking? Do you stir up trouble for drama? Do you hold a grudge? Do you try to get even with everyone who has done you wrong? Let us band together, brothers and sisters, to stand against the enemy’s schemes.

I close tonight with the very first verse I ever learned upon becoming a Christian at the ripe age of 15:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11 ESV).

What’s the Fuss?

I’m annoyed at myself because my original post was SO GOOD and I, in my excitement I guess, did not save my work and lost it! I may have shed a tear or two…anyway…

So, first the introduction, in this beautiful photo I have two of my nieces and two of my friend’s daughters. The two oldest girls in the picture just turned ten! Lexy is in the burgundy and gold dress and Melissa is in the yellow. They are ten, and we dressed like princesses and we went to the movies. And, it was marvelous.

As you can see from this photo, we just finished watching Beauty and the Beast, the live action film, and boy oh boy do I have some stuff to talk about. This film has been talked about for weeks because of the alleged controversy brought about by a comment from the director. I am happy to have now watched it myself and even more happy to write my own opinions surrounding the film.

This is my only disclaimer—THERE MAY BE A COUPLE OF SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS SO IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED, WAIT UNTIL AFTER YOU WATCH THE MOVIE TO READ THIS POST.

There, I have disclaimed. Now, on to the first big deal—you guys, how did I NOT KNOW that Audra McDonald was in this movie! I LOVE her! I don’t watch much t.v., but I have seen her several times and I have seen her sing and she is simply gorgeous and talented and marvelous and my poor mother was next to me being elbowed by me as I LOUDLY whispered in super excitement when I saw her on the screen! Sorry mom!

Ok, so we know that was not the “problem” everyone had with this movie. Now, before I continue I need to remind every one of a few things since I’ve been absent for a while.  First, I am a Christian. One of my scriptural mottos in life is 2 Timothy 2:15—“do your best to present yourself as one approved; a worker who does not need to be ashamed, who correctly handles the Word of Truth” (NIV). I am a proud Christian.  I am not ashamed of the Gospel. I KNOW I will get heat for not agreeing with certain things and believing in others, and that is ok because persecution is in the job description. I am a good ole Southern Baptist girl. I am moderately conservative, I home school, and I am kind of a hippie. I love God, I believe in His Word, and I strive to fulfill the Great Commission. I have values that may be different from yours. We are all different. I am simply reminding everyone about me so they know where I am coming from with my review.

I am just going to go through the scenes that I specifically saw addressed over and over again in the media and we will begin with Gaston’s song, you know, the one that LeFou sings to Gaston after Belle turns him down. So it begins and there is some ear rubbing that may be awkward for some. To me, I thought it was kind of funny because I have a nephew who likes to rub other people’s ears. It’s like a comfort thing for him so this wasn’t something that seemed off to me, I guess I’m just kind of used to it. Myrah also has this quirk where she likes to play with my moles or Scott’s scar when she wants comfort so it just wasn’t something that seemed off…but that’s just me. I don’t think that was indecent or inappropriate (technically, LeFou passed the job onto someone else so he could do his song). There were also changes in wording made to the song, but there was not a single line that I could pick out that seemed in any way sexual or that sexualized Gaston from LeFou’s point of view. You could probably argue that LeFou’s movements SEEMED feminine at certain points, but honestly, even that is kind of a stretch in my opinion.

The ONLY reason it is seen as that way is because the director told us beforehand he wanted us to see it that way! In the animated version, LeFou is infatuated with Gaston, this did not change for the live action version. Now, there were a couple of awkward moments I will address, but to say these are “gay” moments is a stretch, even for the director to say it himself would be a stretch in my opinion. There was one point where someone said something to LeFou about him deserving better treatment speaking of the way Gaston treated him, and I don’t think any of us would argue that point. Gaston is a bully, LeFou deserves a better best friend! Another, I believe Mrs. Potts was talking to LeFou (but could be wrong, this is my SECOND writing since I lost the first so it isn’t as fresh) and there was an awkward moment where he stated he hadn’t found the right GIRL and emphasized the word girl. Again, a HUGE stretch, but since the rest of the country is stretching, I figured I better include it.

Now, onto the men who get attacked by the wardrobe (Audra McDonald you guys!), she does dress three men up as women, two run off and one kind of smiles awkwardly before he runs off and the wardrobe SINGS the words “be free” at least twice. In this scene, there is SO MUCH COMMOTION and action that I can’t be SURE, but I believe there was already a song in the background and she was singing with the song and it conveniently happened at this time. Now, I’m SURE this was done intentionally, but was it obvious? No. Would I have noticed it had I not read about it a gazillion times before seeing the movie? No. Will my twelve or seven-year old pick up on it? No. They will be too busy laughing at this scene, the same way they laughed at the scene in the cartoon.

Onto the dance scene because this was supposedly the big deal, right? In the end there is a dance scene with LeFou. They were having the big finale dance just as in the cartoon, and it seems as though LeFou and the guy who was happy about his girl clothes earlier (though he is now dressed in guy clothes again) both make the wrong turn at the same time and for about .4 seconds “dance” together. THEN they apparently go back to dancing with women. I know this because I specifically searched the big screen for a glimpse of two men dancing together and there was nothing to be found after that .4 second glimpse. It literally looked like an oopsie on the men’s parts, though they both, again, smiled awkwardly. That is it.  THAT is what we were all worried about?  Really?  Please, PLEASE hear the sarcasm in my voice as I type that because, you guys, we are fighting the wrong battles here.

You know what, we were all bamboozled. You know what happened, the director knew he could say the word “gay” and get a bunch of Christians up in arms which would in turn get the rest of America up in arms and he would get another billion or so on opening weekend because we ALL wanted to see what the fuss was about. We allowed a man’s words dictate what we believed without ever seeing it for ourselves.  We allowed a man’s words to guide our actions. I am embarrassed, and I am sad about that. The director did this for attention, to make Christians mad and to make everyone else happy and essentially to get us all to the movies. Well played, dude, because it worked!

You know what I really want to talk about? I want to discuss and see discussed how LeFou got the short end of the stick when it comes to media attention. Here is LeFou afraid to stand up to Gaston in this whole movie, doing wrong alongside Gaston otherwise Gaston will beat him up and you know what never got mentioned in the media hype? LeFou’s change from evil to good. When Gaston wanted to leave Maurice to die LeFou tried to talk him out of it. Then he tried to save Maurice and Belle and stood up for them saying they weren’t crazy.  Finally, LeFou kept Mrs. Potts from being broken AND joined her in fighting against the bad guys to protect the castle so they all could live happily ever after! The whole time leading up to the movie I couldn’t figure out why LeFou would be in that final dance scene, that’s why! His heart changed, you guys! WHY wasn’t THAT the story? Why wasn’t that the focus of all the hoopla? WHY OH WHY did we have to focus on one sentence the director spoke when after all that bad rap LeFou was a hero in the movie?

Christians, isn’t this what Christ asks of us? Isn’t this what God wants for us? His desire is for our hearts to be changed by the Spirit so we can believe in Jesus and go to heaven! His desire is for us to turn away from evil. I mean, sure LeFou standing up to a bully and defending the castle isn’t the SAME as our hearts changing and going to heaven, but I never thought Narnia (as much as I love the movies) was really accurate either. I actually think LeFou may be my favorite character in the live action movie because of this. No other villager had a change of heart until AFTER the beast was turned back into a man and the castle was restored. LeFou alone had that change of heart and made the choice to fight for the castle before anything changed. Good job LeFou!

Now, I am pretty conservative. So, if you just don’t watch Disney because you just don’t watch Disney movies in general, I totally get it. But, if you are fleeing this movie for fear of seeing some kind of same sex interaction, fear no more and go see it. The director got EXACTLY what he wanted by saying one tiny word—gay. He got attention. We caved in and gave him that attention. He started internet wars because of this! Guys! We HAVE TO STOP FEEDING THESE LIONS! I am talking to people on both sides of the Christian line here, too. We are feeding the hate in the world, which is one thing we ALL have in common right now–we all want the hate to STOP. There was literally NO REASON for the director to say a word except to stir up trouble. And I say this not because I have a problem with a person’s lifestyle choice in any way, I say this because if he was really out to make a statement and make Disney’s first “openly gay” character, he would have actually done it.  It would have been an obvious thing, not these minuscule supposed innuendos that one has to literally guess at and grasp for straws to believe it is an actual statement being made. You wanna stand up for some rights, hey, I am with you and I’ll be beside you, but don’t cry out about making a statement when you are really crying out “go see my movie because it MIGHT have a hint at some statement hidden in a word behind a bunch of clatter in the busiest scene in the move”. I’m calling the bull on that one!

If you aren’t a Christian, that’s ok, I still love you. If you are gay, I love you. If you are divorced, I love you. If you have an addiction, I love you. If you have stolen or lied or ever sinned in any way, I love you. And guess what, I am with you! I am a Christian, but I am corrupt in every way because I am also human! I sin every day. You know what, though, grace. I am saved by grace and I am humbled and amazed every day that God grants me grace.I can’t believe the Spirit was able to crush through the hard shell of my mortal soul and show me the path to eternal life; someone like ME! None of us is perfect, but this is a movie guys. It is make believe. I want my children to grow up loving everyone while also accepting the values my husband and I hold dear, but I also don’t want them to stop believing in fairy tales yet either.

So, to summarize, Audra McDonald plays the wardrobe and she’s one of my faves. The outrage over LeFou is pretty preposterous, the “taboo” dancing scene lasts maybe .4 seconds (Melissa’s mom actually missed it, that’s how tiny it was), and LeFou is a hero. So, if you want to take your kids to this movie and walk away with a lesson, walk away with a lesson about standing up to bullies or how hard it is to do the right thing. Talk them about how LeFou had a change of heart and couldn’t stand to see innocent people being hurt. Explain to them how difficult that must have been for LeFou because he had to walk away from his best friend and literally go against every other villager in order to do the right thing. THAT is a big deal. That SHOULD HAVE been the big deal all along!

Now, I THINK I covered all the points I covered in my long-lost post that was so well written (more tears here), but if you think I left something out, feel free to comment and let me know. I am always happy to engage in healthy conversation, however, I will NOT allow any type of demeaning, degrading, insulting, or attacking to occur.  Please be graceful with your comments, questions, and remarks.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two

I’m BACK!

Just a quick note you guys!  My computer is FINALLY repaired!  FINALLY!  Yes, I SHOULD have done this MONTHS ago, but life happened, over and over and OVER again!  And again, and again…well, you get the point.  SO, this short note is to let you know I am finally back on my lap top and will have some new reads soon!  Stay tuned!  I’ve missed writing, been doing the old fashioned…ya know…an actual pen and paper (GASP) and oi, my hand, my poor, poor hand!  Typing is just SO MUCH faster, and easier.  I do like the therapy that came from actually writing, though.  Journaling…a lost art…everyone should try it!

So, here I am, back, and ready to share my woes and (what is the word opposite of woe??? Happys?) not woes.  My accomplishments and failures, and just a general peek into the life of me (because I am SO interesting…[insert eye roll]).  Anyway, I miss writing, and I am ready to begin again, but first, Bible study.  AND Bible study is at my house tonight…in approximately 25 minutes so I gotta go!
Much loves!

Suicide-Silence Can Devastate

This post may have trigger warnings surrounding issues of suicide and other things.  Please be advised before reading and proceed with caution.

Ok, so I want to talk about an issue that is usually whispered about.  I want to address this subject because it seems so…dominating in the culture of our youth today.  I am cautiously broaching this subject today because on Thanksgiving evening, the loved one of a loved one made the tragic decision to take his life.  And my heart hurts so much for this family; I pray that by sharing some today, maybe, just maybe one life might be saved.  One life changed.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Teen-Suicide-010.aspx) “suicide is the THIRD leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds, and the SIXTH leading cause of death for 5-14 year olds”.  THIRD and SIXTH leading causes…this is not ok!  This should break your heart so much more than who won the presidency, what someone’s sexual orientation is, and what the leading cause of divorce is.  Our children are dying, and more die from suicide than cancer and heart disease combined according to the U.S. Census (http://www.allcountries.org/uscensus/129_death_and_death_rates_by_age.html).  Almost 4% of our teens are feeling so lost that they SUCCESSFULLY (note that word, these stats don’t cover attempts) take their own lives.  That may seem like a low percentage, but to put it into perspective, I emailed a company the other day regarding a defect in their clothes.  The defect has been found in over 3% of their clothing which is a legitimate reason to address the issue and repair it as well as revamp their quality control.  Friends, it is time to address this issue and repair it as well as revamping quality (of life) control.

Now, I am not of the mentality that the world needs to walk around with safety pins so we can recognize who is and isn’t nice, I am actually of the mentality that all people should just be considerate.  AND, if you are a Christian, you REALLY need to rethink how you are treating others considering the greatest commandment after loving God is to love our neighbors as ourselves!  Would you be a bully to yourself?  No…well don’t bully someone else.  Would you talk down to yourself?  No…well stop talking down to others.  You don’t agree with someone, that is OK!  It really is, (this goes for Christians and mankind in general) but don’t persecute someone for their view.  If you are right, gently rebuke, don’t trash someone and call them names and beat them down until they feel they no longer have a place in this world.  GOD created this world, not us.  GOD decides who is here and who has a place, and friend, if you are here then you have a place. Please believe me.

I am going to be open with something right this moment that I may regret later and that I have NEVER opened up about…I have briefly mentioned it to my husband and a few other key people, but I want to be brutally honest right now.  This is raw emotion here, this is me reaching out trying to let you know that if you feel alone, I too have felt that and I am here for you.  When I was in the early days of my high school era I began cutting myself.  This began with a mechanical pencil with a metal tip and me carving letters into my leg.  I don’t know what prompted me to start this; I know I was hurting so bad inside that I actually relished the pain on the outside.  It’s hard to explain if you’ve never felt it, but the pain actually made me feel better; I thought I was healing my heart by hurting my skin.  Looking back and knowing now what I didn’t know then, I was in need of not only someone to talk to, but attention.

Though I did my cutting in private and had good excuses and hid my wounds well, I found attention when I was hurt.  I was depressed.  There were signs, I am sure there were signs.  I never made an attempt on my life, but I would be lying to myself if I said the thought never crossed my mind.  I tried to imagine the world without me in it; who would be better off, who might miss me, who would cry, and sometimes in my teenage mind, it seemed better off without me.

I share this because I know the basic mentality toward suicide is that the victim is often selfish.  That they don’t think of how this will affect their loved ones and how hurt people will be and what they left behind.  Friends that is not what is crossing the mind of someone who is hurting; you know what is crossing their minds?  How they keep messing up; how they want to be away from the pain they can’t escape in reality, how they are tired of being abused, how they just can’t cope with life anymore and it would benefit the world if they were no longer in it.

I can’t speak for the young man who took his life thus prompting this particular piece of writing.  I do not know him personally, though I have met him.  I don’t know what led him to it, but I am sure it wasn’t selfishness; he was probably thinking of making it easy for someone else which is the opposite of being selfish.  Something else I can speak for, and this is to all teens who are victims of suicide, they do not think the way we do as adults which is why I say without a doubt that this young man was the very opposite of selfish.  I am going to say something that may seem to contradict this, but it is my opinion:  a teenager is meant to be selfish.  That is EXACTLY how the mind of a teenager works, so maybe every teen suicide victim thinks they can’t handle something anymore so they take their life.  That is how their brain is wired, which is why, dear friends, it is IMPERATIVE that we are aware of this problem, we address it, and we STOP BEING AFRAID TO SAY SOMETHING!

STOP being afraid to say something if you notice a drastic change in behavior and attitude and performance in the life of a teen (or anyone for that matter) and report it; saving their life may mean they get mad at you, deal with that later.  Save their life now.  I would much rather lose a friendship to doing the right thing than a friend losing their life because I was afraid to speak up.  We MUST CHANGE THIS IN OUR CULTURE!  We must be the ones to stop writing off depression as teen angst and something they will “grow out of”.  Collectively, we must address this issue head on with more love and less judgment.

We must address it first by raising our children in a way which shows them that it is 1) ok to be different and 2) NOT OK to make fun of people for being different. And parents, I am addressing you (myself included) now because the parents and family of this young man have said this several times which means it is something to be reiterated: PAY ATTENTION TO SOCIAL MEDIA.  PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR CHILD’S FRIENDS.  Be the nosy parent.  Be the annoying parent.  Be THAT parent who is all up in your child’s biz.  They may despise you for it now, but when they have children they will understand and thank you for it.  You are not meant to be their friend right now anyway; you are supposed to be the nosy one.  You are supposed to hack their phones and know their passwords and follow them on dates.  This is all part of that gig.

So, dear society, dear friends, dear Hillary and Trump supporters: STOP WITH THE DAGGUM HATE ALREADY.  QUIT SAYING ALL YOU WANT IS LOVE THEN SPREADING HATE!  QUIT HATING SOMEONE BECAUSE YOU DISAGREE WITH THEM.  Funny thing, God made us all different, yet we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

So, this is to all who are hurting.  You are worth it.  You are loved.  You are important.  You are special.  You are unique.  You are amazing.
“Once upon a time life was so innocent, somewhere along the line your smile came and went.  They made you feel like you just don’t measure up, they try to steal your light, but you are a treasure of the maker of the stars.  See once upon a time, there was a secret place where Heaven’s hand designed even those freckles on your face.  Some things you’d rather trade; some things you’d try to fix Love has one thing to say “it’s perfect just the way it is”.

You don’t have to wonder you are wonderfully made.  Perfectly beautiful in every way, wonderfully wonderfully made.  You’re anything but typical it’s true; they ain’t seen anybody quite like you.  GOD NEVER MAKES A MISTAKE.  You are wonderfully wonderfully made.

(Matthew West, 2012).

The following link will take you to a website with suicide hotlines in every state:

http://www.suicide.org/suicide-hotlines.html

Please, if you or someone you know is suffering from depression, anxiety, or having thoughts of self-harm and/or suicide I urge you to tell someone and call 1-800-273-8255.

You are not alone, sweet friend.  Please, give them a call and more than anything, please know there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Your situation does not have to be like this forever.  You can find a way out with the help of a friend or loved one or simply an open ear.  Please, please know, you are loved.

And to the family of the young man who prompted this article, should you ever read this, I am in tears for your pain and for the pain he must have felt as well.  Please, to all of you, you are also not alone.  Don’t suffer this tragedy in silence or alone.  Someone will talk to you, I will talk to you.  You are hurting and sad and devastated; there aren’t even enough words to cover the anguish you are feeling, but you do not have to feel them alone.  Please, find a safe person.  Find a person to talk to who you don’t feel the need to hide your emotions from.  Find someone who you don’t feel the need to be strong for so that you can grieve.  Don’t go at this alone.  You are not alone.

And to those of you reading, please join with me in prayer for this hurting family.

The Least of These…a Thanksgiving Post

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.  This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hooves.  The poor will see and be glad—you who seek God, may your hearts live!  The Lord hears the needy” (Psalm 69:30-33 NIV).

This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving and generally this isn’t a Christian holiday, but we should think of it in Christian terms…I mean, come on, it is thanks and giving in one word.  That can pretty much sum up how we should live our lives daily!  We should be thankful for grace and giving grace and charity to others in His name.

I want to start off by talking about what it is like to be needy and just how giving can make a difference during this season.  You see, we should be “giving” all year, though for some reason we don’t, but giving during this time of year means more.  Giving during the holiday season gives hope.  I have spent time on the streets as a person in need, and it is tough.  I was so blessed by gracious friends so I actually only slept “on the street” a few times, but I went through a period during the holiday season where I was homeless.  Friends, being homeless can feel hopeless.

For me, it was by God’s grace I already had a job at this time.  Have you ever tried to get a job as a homeless person?  No physical or mailing address to speak of; employers don’t like that much.  Then there is the hygiene issue.  Again, thank God I never really had to deal with this because I have wonderful friends, but have you ever tried to “wash up” in the sinks at the library?  OR, even more humiliating, washing up in the sink where you are interviewing for the job?  It’s not fun.

Now, I know most of us have this mindset that if a person has time to beg on the corner of the highway then they should have time to get a job.  I know I have thought that same thing even though I have experienced homelessness.  Jesus tells us that doing for “the least of these” is doing for him (see Matthew 25:40), so when did doing for the least mean turning our nose down and having zero empathy.  I actually know people who won’t visit our local library because that is where some of our local homeless population hangs out.  I was once told that homeless people don’t have God’s grace else they wouldn’t be homeless.  Because, you know, they know God’s plan for these people’s lives and of course God wouldn’t use a homeless person to do his work, right? (Hmmm, I wonder if that is why I am a former homeless person with a call to minister to children and families and to write and share my story with people in prayer that it reaches someone who needs to hear it).  Nope, God doesn’t use the homeless.  At all.  Never mind that many of the lepers he healed were probably homeless considering they weren’t allowed in the town walls after they got the disease.  I KNOW Christ used some homeless lepers in HIS work!

Anyway, so I KNOW that a few bad apples seem to ruin the bunch, but how fair is that, really? Do you have any idea what their story is? Not every homeless person is an addict, though the rate of addiction is quite high among the homeless community.  You know why?  I mean, I haven’t done a formal study or anything, but being homeless stinks in a way you cannot imagine if you have not experienced it.  There is no stability, no sanctuary, no safe place to lay your head; I mean you have no home.  No home means you probably also have no belongings to speak of save a few key pieces you tote in a tattered bag from place to place.  It makes sense, sad as it is that people find anything to escape the pain and horror they feel.  It isn’t a humbling feeling, it is a humiliating experience.  To know that people walk by and instantly judge your situation without knowing what happened in your life to get you there can beat you down.  All this anti-bullying campaigning is useless in reality, because bullying will always be prevalent when there is a community of people being judged for their situation and basically told it is their fault and that God doesn’t love them.

Have you ever felt hopeless?  I know I am painting a gruesome picture here, but I want everyone to understand just how much little things mean to this community AND to the Great Commission.  We are ALL the least of these because we ALL fall short of His glory.  Not every homeless person is an addict or a loser.  There is this guy who is a disabled vet, that girl who escaped the sex slave industry, the woman and her children over there are in hiding from an abusive husband, and how about that family lost everything they owned trying to fight off cancer.  Have you ever gone to war and come back to nothing?  Have you ever lost everything to disease?  Have you ever been in hiding in fear for your life?

When I was nine my mother gathered me and my brother and sister up and fled Arkansas literally overnight staying at women’s shelters along the way.  We left with the clothes on our back fleeing from a man who had been physically, sexually, and mentally abusive to us all.  I can’t imagine how it felt to be my mom at that time.  She had to hide us from a predator and literally do it at the grace of others without a penny to her name.  Now, my mom is no saint and we have come a long way in our relationship, but doing this…there are no words to show the respect I have for her.  My mom is not an emotionally strong person (I love you mom, don’t hate me), but she found the courage to gather up her children and flee knowing the consequence would be us losing everything but essentially saving our lives.  That is what a homeless person looks like.

How about the girl who aged out of the system, an easy target for the sex slave industry (which is VERY alive and thriving, friends, please research this and be aware) because she is alone, penniless, and vulnerable.  The man who lost all hope because he was laid off so maybe he left his family thinking they’d be better off without him.  These are the faces of the homeless.  It is real and these are their stories, I know because not only do I have a story, but I have talked to people and learned their stories because I am not afraid of them.

So, friends, this holiday season I encourage you to give without ceasing.  Show love to your neighbor who has lost all hope because you could be giving them hope.  This doesn’t mean give a ton of money to the bell ringers outside Walmart, this doesn’t mean take every angel off the angel tree…those are nice gestures, but gestures don’t have to be grand.  When you are making banana muffins, wrap some individually and go to your local shelter hang out and hand them out.  It’s probably been awhile since they’ve had a homemade muffin.  How good do you think that will taste to them?  Bake mini loaves of bread and get little bottles of water to hand out and add Scripture to them with ribbon or tape to remind people of the hope they have in Christ (bread of life and living water verses are perfect for this).  Make up little toiletry baggies with deodorant, toothbrushes, and mini tooth paste tubes to hand out; this will really help lift spirits and give them courage for that job interview!

Friends, we are called to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…because they cannot repay you” (Luke 14:13-14 ESV).  Let us follow Him in doing these things.  Let us be thankful for what we have by sharing with those who have nothing.  This is not just a blessing to them, but to you as well.  It will fill your heart with joy because you will be living out the Fruits of the Spirit.

Are there homeless people at fault for their position, yes?  Is it our job to punish them?  No.  We are all the least of these, and whatever we do to them, we do to Christ.  It is our job to love them and show them what hope looks like, and that is what your generosity can do.

“Then the King will say to those on the right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?’…The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ [and to those on his left] he said ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these you did not do for me.’” (Matthew 25:34-45 NIV).