It’s been awhile…

🎶It’s been awhile

since I could hold my head up high 🎶

That’s the opening line from the title song by Staind. I guess you might not expect a blog like mine to include songs with explicit lyrics. So if that offends you, I’m here to say that it’s possible the reason people don’t want to come within a 5 mile radius of a religious establish might be because they listen to songs with explicit lyrics and feel like that makes them judged as less than. And maybe nothing Christians are putting out there is reaching them because they just can’t relate. I’m all about meeting people where they are. That’s how God met Saul on the road to Damascus. Right. Where. He. Was. At.

Everyone likes to focus on the reformed Saul, the man who became Paul, an apostle known as one of the greatest of all Biblical messengers. But I think the thing I like the most about Paul was his humility. He’s the first to admit he was the greatest of sinners. In Paul’s own words:

That’s so relatable to me! I don’t see the need to hide all my past sins under a rug, even though I’m not proud of them. It doesn’t make me more relatable to others to act like I’m sinless, at least not to others who aren’t trying to look more perfect than they really are. Have I lost friends because I was authentic about where I came from and the kind of raw person that I am? Yes, on more than one occasion.

But Jesus cautioned against being fake and acting like you’re perfect when you’re not and he had major beef with the Pharisees who acted like they were perfect, yet who played an important role in his crucifixion. I don’t want to look like a hypocrite.

The other day I heard a song that went like this, “There’s a sign on the door that says ‘Come as you are’ but I doubt it.” (Truth Be Told -Song by Matthew West).

If you feel that way, I don’t blame you. I’ve tried to go to a church and be transparent about my past and found out I couldn’t. They were too legalistic. I felt judged, even excluded. If that has happened to you, I’m sorry.

You see, as a therapist, I feel like we’re all a bit broken. I talk a little bit more about that in another blog post here: Broken

I’ve definitely had days when I felt like I’d screwed things up way past the point of saying “I’m sorry”. As the song goes, there were so many times I felt like:

🎶 And it’s been awhile

Since I’ve gone and

F#%&$@ things up

Just like I always do

And it’s been awhile,

But all that s#%$

Seems to disappear

When I’m with you 🎶

Can you relate, trying to fill that void inside with a person? Somebody who makes you feel good and helps you forget your pain?

In the bridge of the song it says

🎶Why must I feel this way?

Just make this go away

Just one more peaceful day…🎶

You see, physically, I’m a weak person. I’ve really struggled with my health in recent years and just felt so un-usable by God. I just wanted the pain to literally GO AWAY.

I was wrong though. God can use me like this. Because maybe some people aren’t willing to meet you where you are, but God isn’t like that at all. Somehow through my weakness and loss of faith in some of the people and things in the world around me, an unexpected thing happened. My faith grew. Exponentially! People repeatedly let me down. I lost trust in humanity at one point. I became rather cynical.

Then I thought about it. God was true to his word:

All the people that let me down didn’t break me though. I learned to stop putting my faith in people; in relationships, fair weather friends, politicians, leaders. It might be hard to believe, but I can now think about the song “It’s Been Awhile” as me telling God how much I’ve screwed up and hear him say “That’s ok child. Nothing you can ever do will stop me from loving you.” Isn’t that what we all need to hear?

In The Air Tonight

🎶Well if you told me you were drowning,

I would not lend a hand,
I’ve seen your face before my friend,

but I don’t know if you know who I am,
Well I was there and I saw what you did,

I saw it with my own two eyes,
So you can wipe off that grin,

I know where you’ve been,
It’s all been a pack of lies.🎶

I was driving around listening to Pandora when the song In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins came on. Being one who can often feel emotion in music, I wondered why this song had never hit me like this before. I mean, I’ve heard it hundreds of times! A tear lingered in the corner of my eye as I imagined being the target of those words.

That’s SHAME! I instantly thought to myself! Heavy!

There’s just something captivating about how he sings the song into that electrifying sound machine too. Like it totally grabs you and hits you emotionally.

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord.

Feel what? Maybe the weight of other people’s judgement?!?

Now it’s possible you could google song lyrics and discover exactly what Phil Collins was talking about in this song, but that’s not what my blog is about. I’m one of those “Soundtrack of my Life” people. You know like I’ve got a song that accompanies some of my most powerful encounters.

I recently discovered Enneatypes through a dear friend I share the same Myers Briggs personality type with, and FINALLY understood why music is such a big part of my life; I’m an Enneagram Type 4. So was Prince. No wonder I’m not like everyone else!!

I think this is a song that really gives a name to shame and how our society gets it wrong. Can you imagine seeing a person drowning and your first instinct NOT being to go try to save them because of something they did in their past?

But isn’t that what people do? People are “drowning” all around us. We find out someone died by suicide. Why couldn’t anyone see she was drowning? And that shame thing. What about the “invisible people” among us, the homeless that walk the streets that we won’t even make eye contact with when they stand next to our car with a sign asking for something, anything. He’s drowning.

It’s easy for us to look at these people as isolated incidents, not relevant to us, insignificant. But consider the story told in ‭‭Luke‬ ‭15:4-5‬:

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.”

He doesn’t say “That damn sheep has run off a million times, I’m just going to let him run off the side of the mountain and drown in the lake”. No. He goes after it.

I talk about this concept more in another blog:

Reckless Love

But it’s more than that. Ever thought about why that person even crossed your path today? Or why the same person with a shameful past crosses your path EVERY day? Maybe somebody you work with, a family member with an addiction, a neighbor, even, it could be anyone. I look in the mirror and there are days the enemy tries to remind me of shame from my past. I’d still like to think if I ever really needed someone’s help in a desperate kind of way like this song implies, that someone could look past what they know about me and still think I’m worth saving.

A pastor at a church I attended made a powerful statement to the congregation. He said ” It’s great y’all are here developing your faith. But if someone walks through that door who is lost, we’re dropping everything and helping them.”

How does that hit you? As Americans we like to think everything is about us. But sometimes it’s about them. The person or group out there that God is calling you to serve.

A common theme you’ve probably seen running through my blogs is that I find one of the most freeing things about being a Christian is that it’s not MY JOB to judge others. And I can’t love others if I’m keeping a list of their wrongs.

The gift I received when my shame was washed white as snow is a gift everyone deserves. Don’t let them drown!

Song inspiration:

Phil Collins – In the Air Tonight

Burning House

The picture at the top of this page is of a wildfire that came within a mile of my family’s home in 2016. Fast forward, I began to pen this blog entry about a week before the news reported the tragedy of wildfires in California last year. I’ve always had this weird radar or intuition about things, but it seems kind of odd to me that I was thinking about Fire. I often lack clarity when it comes to what God is trying to tell me.

After the heartbreaking accounts of lives lost and devastation, in light of a tumultuous year of conflict and loss, the correlation made sense. Still, thinking about my own experience seemed selfish after so many had experienced serious pain and loss. I put the blog away in my drafts of unpublished blog entries. At least 85 were dead with 14,000 homes lost. It’s so hard to fathom. I had no more words.

When we think of fire or flame we often think of destruction or heartbreak and loss. Fire is scary stuff. Just a spark can ignite and quickly spread if the conditions are favorable.

🎶I’ve been sleepwalking,
Been wondering all night.
Trying to take what’s lost and broke,
And make it right.
I’ve been sleepwalking
Too close to the fire…🎶

My experience in the first part of my life was exactly that. That fire I had inside me to find what I thought I was looking for caused me a considerable amount of heartbreak, and it came to the point where I looked back at my life and saw all the destruction, too. If I’m honest, that fire came with a price when I didn’t know how to properly channel my passion. An uncontrolled burn, if you will.

But God doesn’t want us to live a life devoid of passion either. Ask someone you don’t know well what they are passionate about, and watch that spark you see within them when they talk about what that passion is to them. It’s undeniable.

That kind of Fire is something we admire in others. I’ve always had an appreciation for people who get fired up; its convicting to everyone around them. To me it demonstrates courage and tenacity. That fire inside, although unchanneled, kept me going with hope through my darkest hour.

The song “Burning House” is a heavy song, but it also reminds me of how far I’ve come; there was a time when I avoided songs that triggered difficult memories. Now I’m learning to hear songs that evoke painful memories and use that as a kind of “exposure” therapy for myself.

Another place in scripture that talks about a flame is here.

I don’t know about you, but I am fascinated with genetics, and the idea of the legacy I’ll leave behind is very important to me. My work has exposed me to a concept that suggests that pieces of our DNA carry more than just our ancestors hair color, facial features or ethnicity, but other traits, as well as their ability to be altered by our experience. So, if you want to continue the metaphor, it’s like carrying a proverbial torch that my children carry on and then my grandchildren, continuing forward. That’s Legacy!

So, how do you manage being a passionate person and keep that fire going without letting it consume you? Or how do you exist in a world that might just rather you extinguish that flame all together? Spiritual warfare is a thing!

Something that stands out to me about my personal experience is echoed in many of my other blog entries. It’s Dangerous to go it alone. Even though our culture perpetuates the idea that individuality is “where it’s at”. It’s dangerous because it’s easy to elevate yourself to an unhealthy level and then to find yourself lacking after getting to where society told you you would be happy. Isolation is a dangerous thing. Surrounding yourself with other like minded individuals helps to fuel that flame, keep it healthy and strong.

The idea I love is that chances are the “fire” within you, your passion, is a spiritual gift. Whatever your talent is, it’s something God gave you to use, in my case, to help or reach others. When you use your skills this way, it’s for His glory!

There are lots of Spiritual Gift inventories out there. If you haven’t taken one to determine your spiritual gifts, I highly recommend it. I learned a lot about myself! The world might try to say you are lots of things but a Spiritual Inventory will tell you who He says you are!

Inspiration: Cam – Burning House

Natural

“It feels totally natural to be a Christian”. Said No One Ever. If I’m being honest, living in my human skin, being a “good” Christian does not come naturally to me.

What does come naturally to me is getting really mad when someone cuts me off in traffic or wanting to point out to someone who doesn’t seem to notice the “10 items or less” sign when they have 25 items in their basket and I have 3, plus a screaming toddler who is overtired and HANGRY. Clearly I fight my primitive brain regularly to keep my lips shut in such a situation, and it’s a battle I don’t always win.

🎶 That’s the price you pay
Leave behind your heartache, cast away

Just another product of today
Rather be the hunter than the prey
🎶

The human condition. That’s what comes natural to us because that’s who we are. It’s the part of you that just said “Duh!” In your head. 😆 There are simple truths we try to deny like this though. We stop viewing ourselves as moral creatures and view ourselves instead as animals, acting on our desires, we use this as a justification for our actions. “I can’t stop myself from doing it. It’s in my DNA. It’s who I am.”

Or maybe you feel like society has done it to you. I’ve been there. I definitely got to the point in my life where I became very cynical. Disillusioned. Being a person who DIDN’T guard my heart, I started to justify why it would just be easier to be like everyone else.

🎶You’re a Natural
A beating heart of stone
You gotta be so cold
To make it in this world
Yeah, you’re a natural
Living your life cutthroat
🎶

You know, it’s that “armoring up” concept, but sadly I wasn’t using the full armor of God, I was just building up a thick wall of protection for my own benefit. I began believing that being a machine would make my life easier. But it came at the expense of my authenticity.

God didn’t design me to have a heart of stone. He didn’t choose me so my life could be easy. So there I was, faced with a conundrum. Being fake really did feel like selling out. But being real was so exhausting.

Of course my natural human response to God’s call for me to return to the heart He gave me was, “I can’t do it God. It’s just too hard and painful”

I wasn’t quite prepared for his response. It was a simple, “You don’t have to do it alone”.

Not of this world. Ever heard that terminology? It’s the idea that as Christians we have to choose to act differently. But our culture screams, “What fun is that? You only live once!”

So if it’s not natural to act like Jesus Christ WHY do people want to be Christians? I mean if you find you’re a natural at shooting hoops you may join the basketball team, right?

But Christianity isn’t a club people join because they are good at it. You can’t “act” like Jesus. In fact, from my perspective, I decided to follow Christ after using everything else I thought I was good at that would work on my own effort and I came up empty. Emotionally, physically, financially EMPTY.

The reality of salvation is transformational, but it doesn’t happen over night. Being a Christian literally means to be a person who is Christ-like, but the process referred to as “dying to self” is what gets you there.

I almost used another song title for this article. I was driving down the road the other day and saw a car with a bunch of different bumper stickers on it, one of which said “Only the Good Die Young”. Classic Billy Joel. It hit me that it’s possible that not only does acting like a Christian seem unnatural, it also doesn’t sound like much fun to many people out there.

I mean I could spend my life putting others needs before mine, Or I could just live my life the way I want to live it, satisfying my every thought and desire.

Flashback to my life before Christ. That’s exactly what I was doing. I had the list many of us have that says “When I have THIS, THIS and THIS”, then I’ll be happy, life will be good. I will have ARRIVED.

It’s so funny for me now to look back at that version of myself and chuckle a little at how misguided I was. I’d been drinking the proverbial koolaid that our culture will sell you about what happiness looks like. The right relationship, status, money, that car and house you always wanted. A couple kids. Fantastic vacations.

I chuckle because the place that I said would represent the notion that I “had arrived” still didn’t fill that void. And I was ANGRY about it. Honestly I got to a very desperate point. I thought I deserved all that stuff but in reality, I was making it my God. And at the end of the day I had all that cool stuff, accomplishments, and still a HUGE GAPING HOLE.

That’s not surprising to me now but at the time I was like “what am I doing wrong?!” The problem is I was asking the wrong question. Being the girl that wanted to do everything on her own strength I was not only EMPTY but also EXHAUSTED. God let me know in ways only He can that it’s not going to work like that. Sadly, God had to show me that other people are going to fail me, often when I think I need them most but HE never will.

Now, I’m looking forward to a day where it’s a little more natural for me. It’s definitely getting easier.

I think about how even God’s chosen people had to have that desert experience for 40 years before they were ready to enter the promised land.

Honestly, I experienced the same kind of “wandering through the desert” trying to figure things out, and I had days when the path didn’t seem clear. It might have been right in front of me, but it wasn’t illuminated. Something like this photo. I just had to learn to trust God one step at a time.

There’s also the part of me that realizes it’s not an act. You can’t act like a “good” Christian. Putting on a show for others is addressed in this verse. BTW if scripture is hard to understand check out the MSG translation it makes sense to just about anyone:

So maybe you can’t fake it, but there’s a saying I heard that I really like: FAITH it til you make it!

Having served in the United States Air Force, it’s also about a code I live by, not by judging others but by feeling good at the end of the day because I’m not perfect, but I’m striving every day to live for something that’s bigger than me. To leave a legacy of Faith for my children and generations to come.

Reminds me of these lyrics at the beginning of the song:

🎶Will you hold the line?
When every one of them is giving up or giving in, tell me
In this house of mine?
Nothing ever comes without a consequence or cost, tell me
Will the stars align?
Will heaven step in? Will it save us from our sin? Will it?
‘Cause this house of mine stands strong
🎶

If you are curious about my blog and what that stands for, you can read about that here.

What Is Your Blog About?

Song inspiration:

Imagine Dragons – Natural

Love Remains The Same

Valentines Day is coming up. If you’re a romantic, you might be thinking flowers or even LOVE SONGS! I think love songs and my brain automatically reaches back into the vault and cues up “Soundtrack of my Life” song title Love Remains The Same by Gavin Rossdale.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who has that “Soundtrack of My Life” in my head?!?

It’s been said that after one becomes a Christian, it’s impossible to listen to any love song and not be able to relate to it like a love song between the listener and God. The old me, circa 2008 would have thought that was pretty hokey!

That’s what happens to me now, and it’s funny because when the song first came out, I might have claimed to be a believer but I didn’t understand what it is to have a RELATIONSHIP with God. As I’ve mentioned, somehow what I got out of being a Christian from a young age was believing in God so I wouldn’t go to Hell. I thought that was it.

The truth is that none of my relationships in real life had really had that much depth, so I couldn’t even contemplate how it would be possible to have a relationship with a God I didn’t feel, that I couldn’t see, or hear, or touch.

My entire concept was grounded in…. human relationships. God seemed like someone who was to be feared, and how do you have a relationship with someone like that? It seemed kind of unrealistic, that whole concept of unconditional love. Sadly, I don’t think I grew up feeling like love WAS unconditional. I only felt like I could be loved if I was perfect and since I clearly wasn’t, WHY would the almighty God want to love me unconditionally?

This line:

🎶 I,

never thought that I,

had anymore to give 🎶

Maybe you can imagine how that verse resonated with me when I started hearing this call from God to follow him. Up until that point, I really felt like I was so pathetic that any Christ followers who approached me probably just felt really sorry for me.

At this point I was divorced, living in a town I barely knew my way around in, trying to do the single Mom thing with 2 little boys, one with autism, and I was EXHAUSTED! I felt like my life had really been a string of unsuccessful relationships and this is what I tied my worth to.

Not entirely sure why, I started calling around to churches for months trying to find one that had a place for my son with special needs. I’d leave messages and not get a return call, or be told there wasn’t anything for him or find out the church had a Sunday school class for people with disabilities, but it just sounded like babysitting. I got discouraged and gave up.

But less than a mile from my house was a bookstore I’d never heard of called Mardel. I decided to go there to look for a gift for my mother. Turns out it was a Christian book store, and they had a really cute kid’s section with cushioned benches and a big tv they played Veggie Tales movies on. My son might have had Autism, but he sat still and watched with obvious joy while I shopped. It became a place we went weekly. One day, we went and the front door had a poster on it for a concert at a church I hadn’t heard of called “Crossing’s Community Church”.

I looked them up online and was amazed they had a whole department for kids with special needs. I felt the pull. What I didn’t know was how God was going to pull it off. On the weekends I had the boys, we started attending. Then I went alone on the weekends the boys were with their dad. It was nice to have joyful people around me.

🎶 Half the time the world is ending,
Truth is I am done pretending 🎶

I’d like to say it all clicked with me and immediately made sense. The truth is I’m stubborn and it took me awhile and a whole lot of self discovery to realize that living in the world had been my focus. I HAD been pretending. Pretending I had it together, pretending that I could carry the weight of the world on my own shoulders. No wonder I was exhausted! My hope is that someone may read this and feel that same pull to stop trying to do it all on your own power.

Now when I close my eyes and hear these familiar words, it’s God I am thinking of:

🎶 You make me wanna run till I find you
I shut the world away from here
Drift to you, you’re all I hear
As everything we know fades to black 🎶

I’m so glad I have that kind of “safe” feeling now when I think about God. When the world gets crazy, I just want to run away like a child, shut the door and tune out the world and get into the WORD!

This verse and picture in particular come to mind when I think of the effect the world can have on us…we want to bundle up to protect ourselves from the cold cold world. It’s inevitable…

That’s like God saying “I got you, no matter what!”

So there you have it. Any song can sound like a love song I sing to God in thankful praise for THE GOOD NEWS that his son Jesus Christ died for my (and your) sins. Not only that but that His LOVE REMAINS THE SAME, you don’t have to worry about His love for you ever changing!

Song Inspiration Love Remains The Same – Gavin Rossdale

Demons

The song by Imagine Dragons is just so raw and honest! Problem is, most of us don’t really want people to know our dark side. We might not even be willing to admit we have one. Or, we act like it’s all in the past or that generally speaking, deep down, we’re all just “good people at heart”. “Demons inside? They aren’t talking about ME”!

While living in Germany on a U.S. Air Base, I was lucky to travel to some amazing places. One such place was Trier, Germany where I visited The Dom St. Peter (Trier Cathedral) which is reportedly the oldest church in Germany. Much to my surprise, there was a statuary of the grim reaper right there in the church; it’s pictured in the photo you see at the top of this article. The entire photo below shows a “personification of death” and makes sense when you see it in its entirety, but at the time I struggled with such a harsh symbol of death in a place of worship.

Personification of death statue in Trier Cathedral, originating approximately 17th Century

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not equating demons with the grim reaper in this picture, but when I think about demons it does have that same sense of darkness and foreboding; after all, demons are characteristically known for being blamed (or responsible, depending on your viewpoint) for dragging someone down into the depths of sin, which leads to death.

Still, it’s so hard to talk about our demons, our bad choices and ultimately their consequences.

As a parent, I want to set a good example for my children. So saying “Yeah, when I was younger I struggled with being honest with my parents, etc…” was originally VERY HARD for me. I never heard those kinds of examples when I was growing up, but I’m not placing blame. At first I was sure my kid would think “So, Mom lied when she was young, it’s ok for me to do it too. Why is Mom being a hypocrite and telling me to make wiser choices than she did”???

It definitely gets really murky and gray when we step into this water, doesn’t it? I can see why many would just want to avoid it all together. In my past, I wanted to present the “best image of myself” to others, so why talk about all that shameful stuff?!?

The reality is that acknowledging a struggle that others are likely to experience helps them see you as real and relatable, someone they can trust to talk to when they encounter trouble. If they see you as perfect, it may be too shameful to mention to you, or they may get into a really bad situation and think “No way Mom would understand”.

Acknowledging ones weaknesses or mistakes is a risk, yes. Outside of parenting, I’ve trusted people with telling some of my past and was judged or even rejected. Looking back, it made me feel like I was naive or that I needed to self protect.

The truth is that not everyone can handle it.

I can’t make others see me the way I wish they would and although it was painful, I’m thankful that it happened because I’m going through a process of being ok with who I am. Not the “no regrets” kind of ok; I do deeply regret choices I’ve made, but those actions don’t define who I am. I choose to focus on who I am to God, and that’s where I find peace.

Still, I’m not doing myself any favors if I don’t own the fact that I’m just as capable as the next person at any given moment of making a choice that could end up with me on the 5 o’clock news.

As the song goes:

🎶Don’t want to let you down
But I am hell bound
Though this is all for you
Don’t want to hide the truth
. 🎶

The minute we say “Oh, I’d never let myself be tempted to do that! I’ve got control of myself”! is the moment we become weak. Romans 7:15, pictured above, states the truth about us all that we want to deny.

But here’s the best part! God CAN HANDLE YOUR DEMONS! He can handle your past mistakes, no matter what they may be, no matter who has shamed you or how bad you feel about it.

I bet there are some of you out there who have been made to feel like that’s not true. I recently met a girl who said a Priest told her she was going to hell because she had tattoos. Wait, what?!Obviously that’s not true (or else I’m going too, I have several), but it seems there’s a fair amount of biblical misrepresentation out there even from sources one would think were credible.

That’s part of why I have this blog. If you’ve been made to believe that you’re too dirty, too unlovable, you have to know that was NOT coming from God. 1 Peter 5:8 warns us that the devil prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Such imagery! Hence my choice of the song title Demons.

Sure, we all have the tendency to do what we know is wrong BUT true believers of The Gospel won’t tell you that you will never measure up. They will say “I’ve been there”, and perhaps caution you to be on guard, and remind you of what it says in Hebrews 4:16, that we can with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

But if that’s not what you’re hearing, I hope you can hear this; the God I know is the “come sit at my feet and give me your problems” kind of God. Me personally, I have to pray constantly, and give some of my sinful thoughts and tendencies to God on the regular.

I never “got” that God desires to have a relationship with his followers. I think that’s because God wasn’t presented to me as a gracious God. As Christians, I think we can do a better job of emulating the love of Jesus Christ to others, especially to non believers who have likely heard all the Hellfire and Brimstone side of it but possibly don’t know that choosing to walk with Faith means we can be forgiven. To do this we need to reach people where they are, possibly wrestling with their demons.

🎶I can’t escape this now, unless you show me how🎶

Those lyrics speak to me. Dan Reynolds sounds desperate as he SCREAMS those words, emulating the thoughts of so many. We’ve got a choice every day to reach out to those who so desperately need us or watch and judge, but do nothing.

Song Inspiration – Demons by Imagine Dragons

What is your blog about, really?!?

There’s no clever song title for this. It’s just the real, raw deal. I guess you could call me a blogger, but I don’t promote my blog to make money. It’s just an online journal, really. I started my blog to share with others who might be in a similar place.

After a long time of being a people pleaser and doing what I thought (or was told) others expected of me I arrived at a destination and it was like I suddenly awakened with a voice in my head asking, “WHY are you here”? And I didn’t have an answer. As the girl who always had an answer, this was new. I never considered that maybe the first thing that comes to mind about how to solve a problem might not be the best way. But I decided to sit in that uncomfortable feeling and discover WHO I was and WHY I was. I had to sift through a ton of stuff. It took time – years even- and I’m still not done. But one of the major things I had to ponder was WHAT I believe.

I know many people who hear the word “Christian” or “Jesus” and then react in disgust, they dismiss the words and anything associated with them because they knew someone (or many) who didn’t represent what it really means to be a Christian to them.

That breaks my heart. And if that happened to you, I’m so sorry! As I’ve mentioned before, I personally took an almost 20 year hiatus from faith for the exact same reason. It’s ironic really that Jesus came so that ALL could have the gift of salvation. He didn’t pick and choose. In fact he preferred the company of those the religious leaders of the time shunned.

Yet, I think that my generation grew up with an ideal about religion and it was basically something like this, “Here’s a list of all the bad stuff that will send you to Hell. Don’t do that stuff and don’t associate with those who do. Be better than that.” Or at least that was my experience.

Imagine my surprise when I figured out that isn’t even what it’s really all about. In fact it’s not even about being religious at all. It’s about cultivating a relationship and receiving unconditional love through my belief in Jesus Christ. More than that, it’s telling others about the Good News so they can also experience growth through relationship with God and salvation.

I can specifically remember telling myself I’ll never be one of “those people” who listens to praise music all the time and studies the Bible, because I just couldn’t get past the rigidity I’d experienced with ritual, that for me lacked depth. Now I know what was missing! I had no relationship with God, I just thought that I needed to believe in Him so I wouldn’t go to Hell.

You know what’s even more mind blowing than that? Many people who struggle with a relationship with a family member, or find themselves in superficial relationships have about that depth of relationship with God. Why is that? Questions, questions questions!

But there I go, as I do getting a little off topic. Getting back to God’s all inclusive invitation. You don’t have to be perfect to receive an invitation. Otherwise there’s no way I’d be even talking to you today because I’ve done some stuff! The invitation was extended to you nearly 2000 years ago. He doesn’t need you to earn it, none of us can. In today’s world it’s easy to understand why this is so hard to fathom, it can seem too good to be true, right?

I’m too far gone, some say, there’s no hope for me. Where would I even start? My suggestion would be to first seek out a group of true believers. That won’t be easy and it’s possible you’ve tried before and given up. Me too! My advice, you’ll know a true believer because you can tell them anything you’ve done and you won’t notice any change in how they treat you. More than likely, they will join in and tell you about some of their walk, and when you’re done you’ll have gained a friend.

Honestly I probably visited about 8 different churches before I discovered that, and that was just in one town. If you’re in Oklahoma, that place for me was Crossings Community Church, off Portland Avenue in OKC. It’s a large church, but after I started attending there it just felt like a large family. They broadcast live and they also have Wednesday night teaching series taught by a man who to me is like a modern day C.S. Lewis. He has no shame in telling the story of how he was a nonbeliever and had it all figured out (so he thought) but now he’s diving into the history of the Bible and explaining it in ways I never understood, even though I read the same thing multiple times. From that I’ve cut through a sizable portion of ways the Bible and it’s message was misrepresented to me. I’m so thankful there are those who have this man’s gift!

I don’t live in OKC anymore but my family still tunes in on Wednesday nights when we can to gain understanding and wisdom.

I really miss attending their Celebrate Recovery program, it was transformational for me to realize that Love can be extended to people who are struggling with addictions, or as they like to call it, hurts, habits and hangups. It takes something like the 12 step program to a whole new level. They show you how things others made you to feel were shameful can be overcome and CELEBRATED!

Back to my blog’s purpose. When you find something that you love so much you want to tell all your friends about, like let’s just say an amazing pair of running shoes that fit so good and you just love wearing.

Well, I think my love of God is kind of like those shoes, they make the “run” a lot easier but it’s still a lot of work. Don’t be fooled into thinking once you follow Christ you will have a problem free life. Just as a marathon you’ve never run before can have twists and turns you weren’t expecting, life can be the same with an unexpected event or realization leaving you with ragged breath.

There’s a difference between running a marathon and running after God.

Knowing with God you aren’t alone, when you get to those tough spots in life He is there to fall back on, to let Him carry you. When you’re just relying on your own strength there are some things that are impossible. Even if you are a regular marathon runner and have the gift of superior physical strength (I don’t!) it’s still possible to struggle. So maybe my analogy doesn’t resonate with you if 26.2 is just a pretty cool bumper sticker you’ve seen on somebody else’s car. Thats ok, because after running a 5 K I’d be the one saying “Jesus save me!” 😆 Everyone has their kryptonite. I bet you’re thinking of exactly what that is for you right now.

Another part of being a Christian is like being a parent who doesn’t want to see their child suffer through all the mistakes they had to make to learn from them. And let me tell you I have serious regret about so many things I did without any wisdom guiding me. I’m so grateful now for meeting my (now) best friend at an extremely low point in my life when I was divorced and trying to carry the world on my shoulders. She gave me a book that showed me a completely different side of Christianity, not like the judgemental, ostracizing mentality I was familiar with. I talk about that a little bit more here. This article: You give Love a Bad Name

Anyway this was the book:

And it might seem odd to some that Compassion wouldn’t be something my mind tied in with being a Christ follower. I wish it wouldn’t have taken me over 37 years to get this wake up call but I’m so glad I did. It’s my hope that this blog would reach others that need that same thing. To not feel like your only choice is to go it alone.

So, what’s my blog about? It’s about authenticity, it’s about love and it’s about how God gave me something to live for. After the tumultuous year we’ve had, with such a divided nation, I feel like someone out there is searching.

I love music. I’ve got the “Soundtrack of my life” in my head, for real. So you’ll notice a running theme of songs chosen for titles of my blogs!

I hope you will enjoy future blog posts as well as check out some of my “Greatest Hits”. Check out Greatest Hits here I’d love to hear about your journey and what speaks to you, too!

Let Her Cry

Hootie & The Blowfish just reminds me of a simpler time. 1994. A time when I sometimes wish I could go back and revel in all that simplicity. Then again, I was 18, and I’m kinda nostalgic. So the song was a natural selection for this blog title.

Let’s talk about the term “ugly crying”. You know, I really kinda hate this word! Saying that we were reduced to “ugly crying” implies that when we experience the most overwhelming of emotions i.e. sadness, that we can no longer be beautiful. I mean how many movies have you watched where a woman sobs and doesn’t ruin her eye makeup? I call BS, there isn’t even one of my most reliable mascaras that can survive a heartfelt cry!

Thats an example of how we don’t see crying authentically represented in media, so when we do see someone ‘legit’ crying it’s labeled “ugly crying”, Something referred to in the same vein as something you’d rather not do in public (like use the restroom when you’re a guest at someone’s house).

I actually read an article thanking an actress (Jennifer Lawrence) for having the courage to ugly cry in a movie (specifically The Hunger Games – Mockingjay – Part 2). We consider it being brave to do something that is just natural, but has been shamed so much people are afraid to do it.

People have to stuff their emotions for fear of “ugly crying”. Young girls are made fun of for ugly crying. Boys who cry in public have it even worse I think, though. Any type of crying a boy does is generally countered with dismissal of their emotions and a stern, “be a man.”

The attitude that boys shouldn’t cry or that it implies they are less than a man or feminine is insulting to both genders.

Further, not validating the emotions of a boy who is sad results in a man who can’t regulate his emotions and may be the reason we see so many angry men.

Every child, male or female, relies on their parents to teach them how to regulate their emotions until they can do it themselves. This is done by acknowledging what we see the child is feeling. For example, “I see that you’re feeling sad right now” and letting them know it’s ok to be sad or cry, and that they can take the necessary time to let that emotion ” just be” without someone handing them a tissue or telling them to “stop it”. It works the same for adults.

And just let her cry, if the tears fall down like rain, Let her sing if it eases all her pain 🎶

Kinda reminds me of this verse:

When crying makes us uncomfortable, we still don’t have the right to squash another person’s emotions. And research shows that being allowed to feel and process emotions without shame results in the development of a healthy human being.

Carrie Underwood even takes it a step further in her new song “Cry Pretty”. She talks about how you can fake a lot of things but you can’t cry pretty. So, the word “can’t” means physically unable to do something. Maybe I’m taking it too literally, but tears aren’t ugly when you see them on a baby, so at what point did we decide tears make this transformation to being ugly?

Personally I see the expression of emotion as a beautiful thing. But then again, I’m the person who can see the beauty in scars like my c-section scar that means I’m a mother, or stretch marks that mean I nourished 3 babies.

Well how about this? It’s ridiculous that we judge how someone looks after crying as ugly. It’s just how we look after crying. I was just thinking about the word ugly and how it’s such a dumb word. When is the word ugly even necessary in conversation except to be hurtful or judgemental?

My inner geek had to know, what is the origin of the word ugly? Because if you search for the word “ugly” in the KJV of the Bible, you won’t find it. The root of the word ugly first began as a word more often used to describe something that’s appearance brought fear or dread, something more along the lines of being morally offensive. An abominable sight. It’s sad that we now have so many people attaching this word to themselves or using it to make others feel less than.

But in our culture, we introduce children to the word “ugly” at a young age. Ever read the classic Hans Christian Anderson nursery rhyme from 1844 “The Ugly Duckling“? You have to laugh really, isn’t it funny how such a deep message can be turned into a story for children? Then again “Ring around the Rosie” was a thing when I was a child, and that’s supposedly about the Bubonic Plague!

You might be reading this and thinking “Geez just put on your big girl panties and deal with it! It’s just a word”! But is it? Vulnerability is about being brave, and isn’t that what you are suggesting?

I listen to the song and I like to think Darius Rucker knew about Emotional Intelligence before it was a thing. Chances are, you know somebody like he mentions in the song. Wouldn’t today be a great day to reach out to them and see how they are doing? ❤️

She never lets me in,

only tells me where she’s been

When she’s had too much to drink

I say that I don’t care,

I just run my hands through her dark hair

Then I pray to God you gotta help me fly away. 🎶

Song Inspiration: Let Her Cry – Hootie & The Blowfish

Am I standing still?

I was that girl. I was always busy, busy busy, no time to stop and question, no time to be still. And honestly, I didn’t want to. Life is funny like that though; you’re just cruising along thinking “I got this!” or maybe even going at a breakneck speed, whispering “If I just drive fast enough through this spot, I’ll get through it and onto the next adventure.” I specifically remember telling myself on many occasions that “I can do it, I’ll be ok.”But what if, like me, you never pause for reflection? What if you never take the time to relax and examine yourself? What if like me you’re counting on yourself to make things happen and as long as everything goes as planned…….

True to form, God knew I’d never do that willingly. 2013 was a year of tumultuous events. It’s as if God was dialing up the volume to see if I was paying attention. May 20th is my birthday. Oddly enough several weeks before my birthday I told my best friend that I felt like something bad was going to happen on my birthday. She shrugged it off but I remember feeling uneasy. I’ve always had a strange gift of intuition that I usually second guess but at times has been strangely accurate.

It was Spring in Oklahoma and the last couple of years had opened my eyes to some weather situations I’d never experienced in my life. Originally being from the East Coast where hurricanes are more of a thing, the unpredictability of the severe weather here was terrifying to me. The year before, I’d had my windshield and much of my car destroyed by baseball sized hail, but this year, there had been a pretty active tornado season.

Laying in my bathtub in my apartment with a twin mattress over me, I experienced a new kind of fear for the first time in my life, as a tornado touched down less than a block away. It pulled a roof off a house and then billowed East/North East to eventually hit other towns and cause more disruption and greater damage.

I woke up the next morning (my birthday) and the air was heavy with a sense of foreboding. I literally walked outside and drove to work with the lyrics of Jewels song like an anthem “I roll my window down feeling like I’m gonna drown in this strange town.” I’d been transplanted in Oklahoma by the military, and even after 4 years it didn’t feel like home. In this strange season of crazy weather, a girl who needed to feel control in her life was feeling very, very uncomfortable.

That was the day that May 20th was no longer just another day in May that happened to be my birthday. That day my coworkers and I sat in utter disbelief as we watched horrified at the surreal events play out live on the tv screen in our break room.

A huge tornado began to form near Moore Oklahoma just before 2 that afternoon.

Statistics from that day recall that this wasn’t just ANY tornado, it was an EF5, the biggest and baddest of all types of tornadoes, with wind speeds of 210 mph. It had a path of 14 miles that chugged along on the ground for 40 painstaking minutes with a wedge shape over ONE MILE WIDE . It was leveling everything in its path. This was the first time I had EVER heard a meteorologist say “If you aren’t below ground you aren’t safe.”

When all was said and done, 24 people had died and over 200 were injured. The area lay in ruin, looking like a bunch of rubble, where a housing community once existed. Most houses completely destroyed down to the slab; an estimated 2 billion dollars worth of damage.

The rubble left behind, while the sky was still primed with mamatos clouds typical of severe weather

When bad things happen, we have a tendency to wonder why or even think God has something to do with it, don’t we? We sometimes also don’t think about the enemy and his power to wage war upon the earth. It makes me think about this verse.

Looking back now at the May 20 tornado, I could question what was behind that tornado on my birthday, but at the time I really didn’t. It was only in retrospect that I began to ponder the connection.

Just a few weeks before my birthday, something had made me pick up the phone and call to make an appointment with a therapist at my church. The appointment happened to be for May 21st. In the aftermath of the tornado, I got a phone call asking if I still wanted to come in tomorrow for my appointment since a lot had happened on that day and the counselors were planning to do relief efforts. I still remember reciting the words “If I cancel this appointment I don’t know if I’ll have the courage to do it again” and hearing the receptionist tell me “then we will absolutely be here for you tomorrow.”

The next day I sat in the Counselor’s office, the same place I would sit every Wednesday afternoon for one hour, week after week.

Ironically, Mother Natural wasn’t done wreaking havoc. May 31st would prove to be another day of catastrophic weather. My best friend studied meteorology in college. A native Oklahoman, unlike me the prospect of seeing a tornado put a gleam of fascination and excitement in her eyes. The weather channel began warning people early in the day to get to a safe place, preferably below ground before 4 pm. Since I lived in an apartment, my bestie told me to come stay with her because she had a storm shelter.

I drove down the interstate scared because so many people were literally in their cars trying to drive away from the projected path of the tornado, that I feared that I’d be stuck in traffic when it hit. By the time I got there the news was already pinpointing a likely area. It wasn’t a matter of “if” today, it was just a matter of “when”.

When the news reported a tornado had split with 4 different vortices (something I didn’t even know was possible) I could see the concern spread across my bestie’s normally calm face. We went outside and looked up at the clouds; I’d never seen the sky look like that ANYWHERE I’d ever lived in the world. I remember her saying, “We’re getting in the shelter now!”

The sky overhead looked like this. Mammatos clouds I wish I’d have thought to take my own picture of!

There’s nothing like the feeling of going underground, not knowing if you’re going to come up to a completely leveled home, or if rubble would prevent us from coming up. Neighbors crowded in with us and in their eyes you could see how terrified the children were. They were asking the questions us adults had in our heads also, but were perhaps in denial of. We hoped and prayed and sweated A LOT as we listed to the wind and the rain roar above us. Amazingly, we emerged and still had electricity, while the neighborhood around us was a grid of darkness. Another close call, the tornado had come within a half mile of our location and then turned.

After that day I remember thinking “Ok God, I am listening!” What did I hear him whisper after that?

Simply, “Be Still”.

Looking back now I’m so glad I continued to go see my therapist, because when October rolled around I would’ve been in a very bad place.

One seemingly normal work day, we all were called into a meeting where we were handed our “pink slips”; our office location was being closed due to downsizing. My job was being terminated. As a single mom who thought she was holding it all together, that’s when I lost it.

The first person I called? My therapist, who managed to fit me in that very day. As I sat there with a tear streaked face she asked me what I planned to do. When I prayed about it later God whispered again,

“Be Still”.

Now as humans, especially a human soon to be without an income, our first tendency is definitely not to be still!

Are you familiar with the verse?

God knew I’d never be still on my own. So he gave me the opportunity to be still.

Something began to happen in those weekly visits in the office of a therapist who was only maybe the second person I’ve ever met who would listen to me and really hear me. Except for my best friend, whom I tended to not want to burden with my life that I saw as a “hot mess”. And it wasn’t just because my therapist was being paid to do so. I could tell she genuinely cared about me. No matter what I said, her face never looked at me in judgement, her voice remained at a reassuring tone and I just felt safe.

It was there in that environment I formed an alliance; at the end of every session she prayed with me. I’d never had a complete stranger pray with me like that. Sure I’d grown up saying Grace around the table but there wasn’t a connection with someone who wanted me to know the source of unconditional love, Jesus Christ.

The best thing about it was it wasn’t just a great relationship with my therapist that developed. It was the understanding that God didn’t just want me to believe in Him, He wanted me to seek Him. For the first time in my life I “got it”. There’s more to religion than just following a bunch of rules so maybe I can get into Heaven. Knowing Christ is believing that He cares for me and wants a relationship with me too. It’s a little mind boggling to think about, but the more I allowed myself to “Be Still” and seek God, the more things started to make sense. The journey was just beginning but it’s so ironic looking back now that it had to start with a complete halt!

Song Credit Jewel – Am I Standing Still

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