Colder Weather

My brother died recently. Unexpectedly. Tragically. As a person who references the “Soundtrack of My life” regularly, I suddenly felt as though that soundtrack was frozen on pause.

My brother and I didn’t share a love for most of the same genres of music. Perhaps that is why, for one of the few times in my life, I struggled to find ANY type of song that was relatable. Sure, there are a lot of songs that “could” be appropriate. Probably many that even “should” be appropriate but surprisingly not one that seemed to be a perfect fit.

I asked a few of those who were close to him if they could guess his favorite song. No one seemed to know. Why didn’t I know? The answer will haunt me, I’m sure. I’d be willing to bet my brother loved music as much as I did. And he was an artist. So it’s possible we might even have shared some similar personality traits, but not to the average onlooker.

My brother was bold and unfiltered. I am reserved but equally as passionate. Although we were apparently close prior to beginning school (after all with only 18 months age difference, he was my first playmate), after that, he went one way and I went another. Still, I can remember his excitement over getting a new CD to play on our home stereo at maximum volume. It wasn’t a matter of if he would do this, but when. My brother and I got home from school before our parents came home from work. I’d usually choose to go to my room, but he often took advantage of no parents to blast some loud music downstairs. I’m not really sure what happened to that stereo we had, but the speakers were huge, and he made sure we knew their capacity.

Prior to my brother passing away, we hadn’t been close. In fact after my grandmother passed away and family stopped getting together for Holidays, a decade passed after leaving home since I’d seen him. A quick trip home, then nearly another decade. But in between the times I saw him, every so often, I used to send him a message and say, “Hey Aaron, are we ever gonna put our past disagreements behind us?” and I’d make an effort to try to connect with him; he would just say “F#ck you Renee” and that was that. After trying numerous times, The last time he said that, I just thought to myself “Maybe I’ll just wait till he gets older and calms down before I ask him again.”

I never got that opportunity.

About two weeks after the heartbreaking news, I flew back home for his funeral, then returned and tried to get back to “normal”. It was surprisingly difficult accepting the death of a brother I always thought I’d eventually have time to get to know. But then, this morning on the way to work I accidentally selected “shuffle stations” on my Pandora app, resulting in a random selection of the song ‘Colder Weather’ by the Zac Brown Band. Surprisingly, the floodgates opened and I just bawled my eyes out, listening to a genre of music that was probably more dear to his heart than my own.

I’d heard the song once a long time ago and it wasn’t relatable. This time it hit me differently; in grief I seem drawn to anything that reminds me of my brother, almost as a way to cope with a loss I hadn’t had time to prepare for. He was 47 when he died. Surely I had thought on many occasions that he just needed more time to simmer down -with age many men grow milder- maybe then we’d be able to become closer.

It’s hard to imagine not having the opportunity to grow old. I always envisioned the two of us being there to figure things out when we were the oldest 2 remaining in our immediate family. Suddenly, I was left as the oldest surviving sibling, feeling like I was frozen there, just holding a pile of question marks.

The song has this line that says 🎶 Im a rambling man and Im never going to change. 🎶 Now, I am personally not one to use the clichè phrase “People never change.” I don’t believe in it. As a therapist I see transformation and generational patterns broken on the daily. It’s almost magical when it happens. Aaron would have said it though. It’s possible maybe he even thought that about me, resulting in his continuous rejection of my attempts. I guess I will never really know. Maybe not in so many words, but he’d have said “This is who I am, if you don’t like it, tough.” That authenticity was something we could probably agree on, despite our many differences. The irony of it all is I don’t want to remember him any differently than exactly the way he was.

🎶Maybe tomorrow will be better, can I call you then? 🎶 It’s heartbreaking singing this verse of the song. I’ll never to be able to call my brother and ask him if we can finally resolve our differences. I saw his body in the casket. I remember thinking I was glad to see him again one last time. We all sobbed as the bugler played taps and the Army carefully folded up that flag that was draped across his grave. No parent thinks they will bury their son before they pass. Honestly even though my brother served in the military years ago, I realized I’d never considered after he survived his time on active duty that he could still die before he had a chance to grow old.

It’s a strange song to have resonated with me enough to blog about. The song is about a different type of relationship, but left me with the same feeling of longing for something more that the lyrics describe. I went from a little sister who sat across from my brother and mirrored everything he did to a grown woman who felt like she barely knew him; on the outside looking in.

I don’t currently live close to where he is now buried. We hadn’t had time to think out his gravestone but I look forward to the next time I get to visit. While others find cemetery’s morbid, I’ve always felt a strange sense of comfort and peace there among the headstones honoring the legacy of generations with the groupings of familiar names. Although I can visit his final resting place I’m left finding truth in a quote I heard over the years that never applied to me. Until it did….

What one thing resonated with me most during this experience? My brother had two Bibles he used and studied. When my Mother and I looked at them there were so many things underlined and highlighted. I’m not sure why this surprised me. I’m so glad even though I never anticipated this happening, that I did anticipate bad things would happen in life and prepare for it by devoting my life to a spiritual practice that provides peace during difficult times. It was comforting to see that he did too.


Inspiration: Zac Brown Band/Colder Weather https://youtu.be/oouFE51HcqM

More than Anything

🎶 Help me want the Healer, More than the healing 🎶

It seems like a natural progression to me now, but it didn’t back then.

My taste in music is generally pretty edgy. I like some depth. Some raw, live acoustic music. Throw in a raspy voice or deep inflection, some passionate lyrics, and you’ve got me in my happy place. But sometimes even I need a feel good song.

This is that song; ‘More than Anything’. I can hear it coming from a place of desperation, a place I’ve been before. Back in my totally clichè ‘Jesus take the Wheel’ days (translated, thats the “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing here God, but I sure have messed things up on my own steam, PLEASE please help me.”)

That was the single Mom living paycheck to paycheck who’d just been laid off unexpectedly and bawled my eyes out when HR walked in and coldly gave us all our pink slips a week or so before Thanksgiving. I remember thinking “What the hell am I gonna do?!”

I remember later that night in a fit of chest seizing anxiety, drinking a glass of wine, looking into the mirror at my tear stained cheeks just feeling so defeated. I had been plugging along telling myself if I could just pay my bills, my rent, my car payment, buy food for my kids, I’d be fine. And then it just felt like someone pulled the rug out from under me. In that moment I prayed the desperate prayer “Lord why is this happening? PLEASE HELP ME!”

🎶 I know if You wanted to, You could wave Your hand
Spare me this heartache, and change Your plan.
And I know any second You could take my pain away.
But even if You don’t, I pray…🎶

I’d mentioned before about how I’d once been turned off by religion, but I know now it was the people that falsely represented it that actually turned me off. There in that very workspace a couple of years before, I’d encountered a coworker who walked it out differently. She saw my down trodden attitude and somehow identified a deep and hurting soul. Did she come to me and tell me I needed Jesus, or make me feel judged? Nope. She handed me a book entitled “Letters” of Mother Teresa. I remember looking at it and thinking “Hmmm, I vaguely know who that is, I think I heard about her on the news or something.” I thanked my coworker and said I’d take a look at it.

I opened up the book and started reading about a woman who surprisingly reminded me a little of myself. She had a deep need to help humanity but she felt so much emptiness inside her that it was nearly overwhelming. And she liked to write! Her letters reminded me of the poems I wrote as a teenager, where emotion filled every word. Compassion and Christian in the same sentence? I shook my head. This equation hadn’t been one that equated for me in the past.

That this happened was one of those things only God could have orchestrated, my coworker (now my best friend) refused to take credit, stating only that she was an instrument of God. Talk about goosebumps!

🎶You know more than anyone that my flesh is weak
And You know I’d give anything for a remedy
And I’ll ask a thousand more times to set me free today
Oh, but even if You don’t, I pray 🎶

Amazingly less than six months prior to the layoff I had begun therapy. And the only reason I had an ounce of hope that a therapist would show me compassion was due to one person showing me what that looked like. I would go on to find a community of others who thought and acted the same. And it just so happens that the therapist was a graduate of the Grad School I would go on to get my Masters in Counseling degree from.

I couldn’t see it that day nor could I see it for a few months afterwards, but that layoff would change my whole trajectory. I’d go on to have a job that not only paid my bills but also gave me an opportunity to do something I’d always wanted to do but didn’t think that I could. Most importantly I had internalized the sentiment mentioned in this verse.

From “LORD HELP ME” to “I’m so glad I have my faith, and a loving Father.” You don’t even know how much that’s helped me since Covid hit!

More than Anything Natalie Grant

Battle Scars

🎶 These battle scars, don’t look like they’re fading,
Don’t look like they’re ever going away,
They ain’t never gonna change 🎶

We’re deep into 2020. This year has brought some of us to our knees. A song called ‘Battle Scars’ seemed fitting to me based on my perception of the current state of those around me. I rarely speak to a person who doesn’t feel damaged in some way by the way the year has played out.

But I wonder why this song spoke to me; why do I find the lyrics so captivating? Maybe because in life and in my work, I’ve met many people who think armoring up is the way to avoid pain.

🎶 Shields, body armours and vests,
Don’t properly work, that’s why you’re in a locker full of hurt 🎶

🎶Now you’re down on the ground screaming medic
The only thing that comes is the post-traumatic stresses🎶

“It hurts when I do. It hurts when I don’t”. Which is worse? It’s hard to say. In my line of work it’s often the emotional pain that has people afraid. Afraid to heal. Or having healed but fearing ripping the scar back open. Self protecting. Feeling delicate, Feeling “broken”.

Honestly, I did that thing too. It’s called avoidance; the idea of something we fear being too much. So we do everything we can to rid the thoughts from our mind, avoid the memories, and even the people places and things that remind us of the painful thing that’s got us stuck.

Unfortunately that’s the very thing that keeps us stuck; not getting help to deal with the trauma from our past. And that’s where the writer of this song was going when he speaks of being in the front lines. It feels like that sometimes, at least it has for me.

🎶A lover not a fighter on the front line with a poem
Trying to write yourself a rifle
Maybe sharpen up a song
To fight the tanks and drones of you being alone🎶

Grief and loneliness can be gripping. Terrifying. Seemingly Unbearable. And with all of the rules and isolation we’ve had, it’s just hard to go it alone. As humans, we’re wired for connection.

Perhaps life has taught you people aren’t safe. They always leave. You’ve got that abandonment wound. Or maybe they were there, but emotionally unavailable. If that’s the case, this part of the song might resonate.

🎶I wish I couldn’t feel, I wish I couldn’t love
I wish that I could stop ’cause it hurts so much🎶

Being vulnerable comes with a price. You legitimately put yourself out there. You’re authentic. You don’t hide your feelings.

And then suddenly, they’re gone, leaving you to declare “Never again.” Heart broken. Feelings raw. Now what?

I think it’s fair to say 2020 has a lot of fear in it. We HAVE to avoid actual things for our safety but the thoughts can still be dealt with. America got down to business this year in a lot of ways; shining the spotlight on racial injustice, and uniting over leadership for our country. That’s where one thing came into the picture and really resonated with me. Hope.

Light was always going to defeat darkness. It’s hard to see that this year especially and with this administration. We’ve had perhaps one of the darkest years most of us can remember, or will ever remember. And the battlefield isn’t in a distant land. It’s our country, our very doorstep.

It’s so hard. We’re in survival mode. The entire country is in crisis, and it’s not just the pandemic it’s our perception of democracy, it’s the fear of going backwards from all the progress we’ve made, and it’s personal. It’s so dark that it seems like everything is closing in on us at times. We may think there’s no way out. We may think we’re doomed. We don’t know what to expect. Some of us are scared and rightfully so. We have no control over the people around us and their actions. We’re thinking catastrophic! Is this the end? Why is this happening? And we aren’t getting answers.

On top of the pandemic, a handful of my closest friends have lost loved ones. Now I’m starting to regularly counsel on grief and other emotions that come along with a season where ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ is already bad enough.

It’s nearly Christmas. So many around me describe this year ending as a finish line of sorts. Even if we’re slo-mo working our way there. Not everyone we know got to make it to the finish line this year and that resonates with me, hitting me especially hard as a veteran, where I often think of the creed; a Latin phrase ‘nemo resideo’ or “leave no one behind”. Weren’t there people we lost this year that we would have literally carried to the finish line if that meant saving them? Life is so fragile and this year was an unpleasant reminder of that.

As a Christian the peace I find when I think about all the loss and uncertainty is this. God won’t abandon us. He’s with us through the battle, our scars have a purpose, and we already know the ending. He wins. Thank God for simple truths in difficult times!

If you aren’t a Christian, that’s ok, God loves you no matter what! I like to think of a special verse I often repeat. I know that in life even the most loyal of all people may let me down, but I can rest in this.

Artists: Guy Sebastian, Lupe Fiasco

Hallelujah

What’s your favorite version of the song Hallelujah? It seems like nearly every popular singer or group has done one from time to time. Since I first heard the song it was an instant favorite, but never did this song hit me quite the way it has in 2020! Who is with me?

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post because…well, because 2020! In fact, after I wrote my last blog, filled with hope and excitement about a new decade and then almost a few weeks later we got the news of Covid 19 and the shut down, I have to say I was sort of in freeze mode or WTF mode as probably was most of the country, even other parts of the world.

And what a year it’s been! I think we’ve gotten to see every side of human nature in the last 5 to 6 months, haven’t we? We’ve seen the people who catastrophize. We’ve seen people who are overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. As a therapist, I’ve seen people who believe it’s just gonna blow over really soon and people who think will be dealing with it for a couple of years. I’ve personally known people who have lost family members, and others who think it’s a conspiracy. With all the unrest right now, it’s really difficult to be positive.

We’ve seen the people who believe in conspiracy theories. We see the people who are in denial that it’s even a problem. Meanwhile we see 200,000 Americans dead and political and social unrest. All in all it’s been one hell of a year, and the years not even over yet. I have been thinking for a while about what song could embody 2020. It took me a while, but I arrived at the song ‘Hallelujah’.

The song has a refrain:

🎶 The baffled King composing Hallelujah...🎶 showing us that it’s not uncommon for people to be in disbelief on how their life is playing out, or their reaction to their experience.

I guess it had always been a thing that I’ve wondered how people do; stay joyful through a difficult time? How is that possible? It seems that when those thoughts crossed my mind I wasn’t really aware of the difference between joy and happiness. Isn’t our culture obsessed with being happy? We see coffee mugs and T-shirts and memes and slogans that say things like ‘good vibes only’. I like the way Maya Angelou put it.

So that brings to mind the question; what is the meaning of the word Joy? Joy is not the same as happiness. Our culture is obsessed with being happy. For many it’s a life goal, one that has people living outside of the present, telling themselves, “I’ll be happy when…”. But life was never supposed to be 100 percent happy. Joy is different. Joy is more like a deep abiding. It lies in the realm of authenticity. It is the acceptance of unchosen circumstances over which we have no control or power. It’s an ability to sit in and walk through difficult life experiences with a sense of peace. Allowing us to be present and available for those around us. For me, it’s been a lifelong destination. A practice I’ve begun to hone through desert experiences, rock bottom valleys, and the occasional mountain top view.

Living in America for some people makes it hard to get an accurate view of what life is supposed to look like. For some people 2020 is a struggle, sure, but they’ve been struggling their whole lives. For others 2020 is a big slap in the face for someone who realizes that maybe they really don’t have as much control over their life as they thought they did. Or maybe 2020 is a wake up call for someone who didn’t think racism was a problem, or that a pandemic wasn’t just a chilling movie plot, but something that could affect the entire world.

I do a lot of deep pondering. Not a stretch for an Enneagram 4 who is comfortable in melancholy. And then I heard the Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah. The person who recommended it to me has a unique connection to music, but didn’t know about my deep connection to the song. Listening to this version of it for the first time felt like time and space standing still, as I experienced its raw unrefined melody. You see, nothing speaks to me more than live acoustic versions of songs because of their authenticity. The song is like that too though isn’t it? All the ways a person, in this case a man, can go wrong and still end with a bittersweet hallelujah. Whether it’s sung courageously, triumphantly, defeatedly, or barely audible through grief or regret, its a song for every life chapter, inevitable that we’ll hear ringing true if we’re blessed to live a life of any length or magnitude.

🎶 And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
🎶

Regardless of where you stand with how 2020 hit you, it seems reasonable to say that it must have affected you in some way. For me personally, I got to a point where I realized why it’s so important to lay a solid foundation, and to have a contingency plan or to prepare for a future that you don’t have a guarantee will ever happen but realistically know could, or for one you hope for and pain to bring into existence. If 2020 finds you disillusioned Buckley’s version has a verse not found in all versions. It’s one questioning if there is a God above. If you feel that way this year, you aren’t alone.

My hope and prayer for you is that through whatever you are experiencing this year, you will remember God wants us to ask for what we need. Hallelujah!

Song Credit Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah

Continue reading “Hallelujah”

I lived…

There’s going to come a moment. A day. A week, maybe a year when you find yourself fully awake. Maybe it will feel like waking up after a long restful sleep. Or maybe it won’t be that comfortable, less like something you’d see on a movie, and more like something real and raw. But don’t dread that day.

🎶Hope when you take that jump
You don’t fear the fall🎶

It might not be obvious that it’s even “that” day. You probably won’t wake up and hear a chorus of angels sing. I mean if you wake up and hear that, it might be a different day altogether.

😳

It hadn’t really hit me that the end of this decade was nearing. I’d been really caught up with my kids, my health and getting my career back on track. I’d been really busy all summer the way I like to keep myself so I don’t have to really think. But who am I kidding, even at a breakneck pace, I’m the girl that’s thinking like a browser with 24 windows open.

Still in the last couple of years I’ve noticed more loss than in my young life. And not just of people you kind of expect are near their expiration date. Friends. Parents of friends who you thought had decades left. The level of grief people around me are experiencing seemed to kind of toggle there in a much more obvious way than it ever had before. It reminds me that we’re not promised tomorrow and to live accordingly. I talk about that here:Live Like You Were Dying

But, I’ll be honest with you, I thought I’d already experienced my awakening. I talk about that here: I Can See Clearly Now This most recent wave has been one I never would have expected. You’d think by a certain point in life the surprises would grow less, but maybe I’m still a lot like that naive girl who I can still close my eyes and imagine from decades prior. Maybe visiting my childhood home this summer awakened her, but with recent exploration and discovery of my Enneagram type I realize she’s always been there. Waiting. Waiting for me to ” get it”.

Maybe I’d had my awakening, but perhaps the journey from awakening to authenticity isn’t that simple. So I challenge you to stick with it. If you feel awakened, it doesn’t mean that exact day everything is going to fall in to place. Maybe not even that year. If I’m honest it’s been several years between the awakening and the “moment” I’m describing.

My son is a teen who can’t remember a time he didn’t get almost an immediate connection to the internet, a few clicks and he’s where he wants to be on the TV. A book he wants to read can be instantly downloaded without a trip to the library or waiting for a package to arrive in the mail. So if you’ve become accustomed to instant gratification, it’s a bit unnerving when life doesn’t play out that way. Even I, who does remember dial up, or the military lifestyle of “hurry up and wait” that can train an inpatient mind to practice patience, finds myself frustrated with the speed and seeming lack of control I have over it all.

🎶Hope that you spend your days
But they all add up
And when that sun goes down
Hope you raise your cup🎶

Don’t dread the work you’ll do between the awakening and the day it all makes sense. That old adage about time passing either way is true. You’ll (hopefully) still pass the time one way or another, but the satisfaction of arriving at that day feeling like this…well, it’s hard to beat!

We’re all worried about getting to the end of our lives and having regrets, yes? I feel like it would be really hard to regret working on yourself.

🎶I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places, the things that I did
Yeah with every broken bone
I swear I lived. 🎶

Raising my cup with you, friend. Happy 2020.

Song Inspiration I Lived – OneRepublic

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?

Bye Felicia!

You know it’s really funny how I got so used to not leaving the house without a tampon or a serious stash of them in my purse. Most of the time actually having a tampon in, even though it technically wasn’t supposed to be my period because, inevitably, I’d be out in public somewhere and have “that feeling” (I don’t have to tell you other ladies what feeling I’m talking about) and be nowhere near a bathroom. Potential disaster. Especially with a toddler in tow. So frustrating. Like why didn’t I buy stock in the Tampax company? At times I’ve felt like I singlehandedly kept them in business.

I guess I just got too used to going and seeing doctors that told me my heavy bleeding was “normal for someone like you” or being told by a female practitioner “it’s just something we all deal with” or being over 40 and hearing “it’s just the age you’re at” because they don’t want to do the work to figure out what’s really wrong with me when I’m coming in with questions they can’t answer. But then I started noticing how many tampons I was buying and that I kept needing to find a box with super. Then ultra. Then super ultra. And a period that last 21 days with only a week of no bleeding. Severe bloating. Horrible cramp and pain. After enduring it for 3 years after the birth of my daughter I was finally like “Something’s gotta give.”

I was tired, REALLY tired (not figuratively) of all the bleeding and pain. I was tired of hearing doctors tell me I just needed a higher dosage of estrogen. I’m not a doctor but I know my body, and who wants all the side effects that come with a high level of estrogen not to mention the cancer risk? Then I got a new (female) doctor who, after hearing my history, said “YES” to my request to get an ablation. For those who don’t know, Endometrial ablation is a procedure that surgically destroys (ablates) the lining of your uterus. The goal of endometrial ablation is to reduce menstrual flow, or stop it completely. I was ALL IN about doing this. “Heck yeah” I thought, this will be the solution to all my problems! It’s a simple procedure with little recovery time. Even better!

Just to be safe, she mentioned that she’d like to get an ultrasound and do an endometrial biopsy. If you’ve never had an endometrial biopsy it’s pretty uncomfortable but not horrible. They do that to make sure you don’t have endometrial cancer. Unfortunately for me, the ultrasound showed a defect in my uterus that was contraindicated to an ablation.

While I was there I had my yearly mammogram. If you’re over 40, have you scheduled yours?

With a potential hole in my uterus (and me thinking “Why on early had I been seeing doctors for 3 years about this, and no one else thought to do an ultrasound?!”) my only option was a hysterectomy. With 8 weeks of down time for recovery, I wasn’t thrilled, but just ready to be done.

I scheduled my surgery for about a month out and thought about how I’d handle the situation. I decided that I wasn’t going to mourn the loss of an organ that had enabled me to become the mother of 3 precious children. With no desire to have any more children, I was ready to move on to a pain free life. So I did something that might seem unorthodox but seemed perfectly natural to me. I sent invitations to my girl friends to join me in celebrating this stage of my lifestyle at my favorite sushi restaurant with killer ambiance. Kind of a ‘Sex And The City’ style girl party, if you will. I even dressed up like my alter ego Carrie Bradshaw to celebrate the occasion.

My bestie mentioned she was bringing a cake but gave no details. Let me tell you how excited I was when I saw it! It couldn’t have been more perfect; “BYE FELICIA”!

So, with the party over and the reality of the actual surgery approaching, I wondered if it would be an easier recovery than my C-sections. The Doctor assured me it would; she was doing a robot assisted hysterectomy done laparoscopically, where I could retain my ovaries and, only if there were complications, would she potentially have to cut me open. We knew from the ultrasound that there was likely scar tissue gluing my bladder to my uterus, they wouldn’t be able to tell til they got in there if I’d have the risk of a perforated bladder.

Next, I asked all my friends and family to PRAY. 🙏 Pray for a positive outcome and to guide the hands of those performing the procedure as well as to ease my anxiety about this robot she was going to be using.

I went into surgery feeling no fear and emerged with no complications. Praises were sent up all around. I stayed the night in the hospital and went home about 24 hours after my procedure. I’m not going to lie. I took a picture of my belly as soon as I got home and thought I would never have a normal belly button again. As you can see I was extremely bloated and a bit bruised around my incisions. This was all quite painful and sore. I was very happy for my pain meds and the ability to rest.

The major pain I had initially was wincing pain upon sitting. I was quite nauseous. So much in fact that the doctor called in a prescription for me to have Zofran. It really helped so I could get my pain meds down. Going to the bathroom was painful too. Definitely thankful someone explained to me how important it is to take Colace when you’re on opioid pain meds. Trust me, you’ll want to make sure you don’t forget!

Fast forward two weeks later, my tummy looked like this:

My belly button looked a lot better, the bloating was gone and most of the bruising. By this time I was just taking my serious pain meds at night and Motrin during the day. I got my biopsy results back from the procedure and discovered the reason I’d been having heavy 3 week a month long bleeding for 3 years. I had a condition known as adenomyosis. You can read more about it here: Adenomyosis

Basically part of the endometrial tissue inside my uterus had migrated into my abdominal wall causing extreme pain and bleeding. I’m so glad I had the hysterectomy because an ablation wouldn’t have solved that problem! I’d done my own research after I started having heavy bleeding and asked my OB/GYN if he thought I could have Adenomyosis and he quoted me statistics about how rare it was and that it was unlikely. Just goes to show that your gut feeling can be way more accurate than a statistic yielding doctor.

Something noticeable 2 weeks post hysterectomy was a lot of night sweats. We’re talking getting up in the middle of the night with so much sweat I had to change my shirt. It was probably due to the fact I stopped taking estrogen, but rather annoying, none the less.

I think that this hormonal drop off also triggered some emotions I wasn’t expecting to have. I had a day of feeling pretty sad that even though I had my 3 wonderful children and had no desire for more, that this phase of my life was over. No more pregnancies or carrying babies. I took some time to grieve that and talked about it with some close girlfriends. Then I celebrated by putting all my extra tampons and pads in a box to run by and donate to the shelter.

I actually went to two job interviews after week 2 and I didn’t feel horrible. Well, that was until I got a stomach bug. It definitely isn’t any fun having to vomit 2 weeks after surgery and boy was I glad I had that Zofran prescription!

I was feeling pretty good about 3 weeks out, but I got a little carried away around Thanksgiving and had a little scare. You aren’t supposed to lift more than 10 pounds, but I’m guessing that frozen turkey might have been a bit bigger. I hadn’t had much bleeding at all, but then suddenly I had some fairly heavy bleeding and something that looked like a little blood clot. I was almost ready to head in to the ER when I was able to talk to a post surgical nurse who eased my mind, and told me to relax and stop overdoing it. Luckily this was likely due to the superficial healing around my internal stitches, and after taking it easy for about 4 days I felt much better with no further bleeding.

At my 6 week follow up I had to endure a vaginal exam, but got the green light that I could start some light exercise like elliptical training, but still no weight over 10 pounds for another 2 weeks.

By 8 weeks, the bruising is gone, my belly button looks quite a bit better, and I’ve lost 2 inches off my waist mostly due to no more bloating! Talk about a win! I was feeling very much like my regular self, and was amazed at how awesome it was not to have to worry about having feminine products with me 24/7.

Even better, since having kids I’d literally have to go pee like every 30 minutes or so or my bladder was in serious pain. I just thought I had a small bladder. Apparently it had something to do with the uterus putting all that weight on my bladder and the scar tissue. Now I can sit through a session at work, watch a movie, or go to church without missing something important because I have to keep getting up to go to the bathroom.

Besides the 8 week recovery time being a bit inconvenient I have zero regrets about my hysterectomy. I am no longer in constant pain. I have a new level of freedom I can’t even remember having. Feel free to post a comment or question!

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

A WordPress.com Website.

Up ↑