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. 🎶
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.
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!
“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.
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.
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.
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? ❤️
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.
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!”
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,
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!
Since it’s been a little over a year since I first launched my blog tRUTHfulonline.com (Copyright 2017) I thought it might be fun to highlight some of my “top hits”. You may have noticed many of the titles of my blog posts are titles to songs. I don’t know if you can relate, but I often have what I like to call “the soundtrack of my life” on loop in my head. Plus I LOVE music! If I’m sad I listen to music, if I’m pumped I listen to music. I sing to my daughter daily at bedtime and during daily routines. I definitely sing in the car. I mean who can resist a jam session with three adorable back up singers? Of course now that my soon to be 12 year old likes to play DJ, I don’t always know the words!
The song by Queen seems to embody a popular idea in our culture; regardless of how you may feel behind the scenes, even if you are barely holding it together, plaster on that smile and tell people you’re “Good” when they ask. And why is that?
Two celebrities took their own lives this summer, and it’s been said most people didn’t know they were struggling. But hang on, before you assume you know what this article is about, I challenge you to read on.
Could it be that depression is often met with comments like “Quit playing the victim. Other people have it worse than you do….” or “what do you have to be so sad about?” There’s a lot of pressure in our society to “be brave” in difficult situations. I’ve noticed this especially with parents and children. But when we say “be brave” we’re also saying “don’t be scared” or “I can’t handle your sadness. Don’t show that to me”!
How much pressure are we putting on the people we love to be brave and to get over stuff and get “on with the show”?
Other diseases – like cancer for example- we hear people say stuff like “She kicked cancer’s butt, she’s a survivor”. We have a tendency to champion people who overcome things. (Side note: Definitely know that I am not discounting anyone who has overcome cancer.) But then there is Depression, and with suicide, that doesn’t have the same kind of ending.
When I think about it, why is something as simple as sadness so uncomfortable for people? Quite often when you see someone crying, you’ll see another try to do something to make it stop, like offer them a tissue or, less sympathetically, just ask them what their problem is or tell them to stop crying. Why is it so shameful in our society to be sad?
I would argue that some of the bravest people are those who battle a disease (because yes, Depression IS a disease) and attempt to overcome it.
Validating emotion, whether it makes us feel uncomfortable or not, is what we are called to do. Most of the time when people think of those we need to help as Christians, the needy and marginalized come to mind. Well, doesn’t our society marginalized people with depression?
The stigma that is mental health… “Oh they’re crazy”. “They are mental”. “What a hot mess”. “She’s out of control”. “Cray Cray”! Even some headlines we always see floating around after someone dies by suicide, ones like “Killing Yourself is Selfish” and if that’s not judgemental enough for you, how about, “Suicide doesn’t stop your pain, it just transfers it to another person”. If you have ever read those headlines and thought, “Yeah that’s right”! I’d love it if you’d reply in the comments section and give me some insight. Far from selfish, this is a suffering human being. Suicide is not a sin someone commits, it’s an act of desperation by someone who is hurting and sees no hope.
By now you’ve probably noticed a theme regarding authenticity going on here with my blog. If you know me personally, it’s probably something you’re aware I’m working on. I think of the number of exhausting years I put on my “show”. Having suffered with persistent depression on and off for decades, I reached a point in my life where I looked in the mirror and Just.Felt.Tired. Tired of Living.
Self awareness and getting the help I needed has resulted In me realizing this is the way I’m wired, probably the way my brain was formed in chaos, and the way my mind learned to cope with things. Depression isn’t a disease that a person can wish away. There are people that have a lifelong battle with it. Be kind. If you can’t understand depression, take some time to educate yourself about it. What you may view as someone “playing the victim” just might be the only way they know how to cry for help.
It’s very likely there’s someone you know who always says they are “Good” when you ask who really isn’t. It’s possible that person has grown tired of putting on a show, and it’s possible that YOU could be the one person who can help them to feel like they aren’t alone.
A verse that has personally helped me when I felt overwhelmed was this:
I like the picture with this verse because it represents to me the feeling of hope I’ve often needed, similar to the old “Footprints in the sand” poem. If you’ve never heard it, check it out here:
When I think back to some of my saddest moments, I realized when I didn’t know God, I felt utterly alone, and wondered, just like the Queen song goes,
On and on, does anyone know what we are living for?
It took a lot of insight, but looking back now I can see where God carried me through some difficult times when I didn’t feel like I had the strength to go on.
A word of caution though. Depression is a serious thing. A person shouldn’t be made to feel like they are weak and that they just need to become a more devoted believer to relieve their depression. If you suspect someone is contemplating suicide, ASK. And even if they aren’t, but are struggling, walk alongside them and help them get the care they need.
If you are reading this and feel hopeless and need help, I pray you will call this number for the National Suicide Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255
or tell someone that can help you. Also you can check out this link for additional resources:
Legacy. I’m not sure I thought about what this word truly means when I was young. I’ve always been kind of an old soul so I’m not sure how it didn’t at some point smack me in the face. Well, there comes a time in everyone’s life I think where you must face the cold hard truth. And for me it was a few months after I had my baby girl.
Even still, the full magnitude of the word Legacy didn’t do that whole SMACK ME IN THE FACE thing until the news of the Las Vegas shooting sent our country reeling. When 9/11 happened, I did not yet have children of my own. I never dreamed there would be another national tragedy that would change the very way that I look at the future and the world my children and grandchildren will live in.
After a whole lot of tears and shaking my head with disbelief, processing through anger that such a senseless crime affected so many innocent lives, I began to think about my own family. I thought about things like “Wow, what if I had gone to that concert and gotten shot, what would I have to leave behind for my children?” That makes sense, because we all want to leave our children better off when we leave this world. It’s such a heartbreaking thought that so many of those affected now have such a tragic piece to their family’s legacy.
Jason Aldean spoke about his pregnant wife and how he’s distressed about the world his children will grow up in. I have to say that is why now more than ever LEGACY isn’t just a word to think about, it’s an idea to ponder.
Before I decided to devote my life to being a Christian I had a whole different take on legacy. Exactly that, what money will I leave for my kids, maybe property and the story of their heritage? But now I realize legacy is so much deeper than that! In these times, especially I want my legacy to be one of love, not hate. I want my children to be able to live in a land where they don’t fear going outside or to special events. If people just keep getting consumed with hate, we are not moving in the right direction. We have come too far to give up on the truth we know the Bible tells us. LOVE WINS! It’s a little hard to believe when you watch the news, where all they do is report the negative and bad things that are happening in the world. Sure, they mix in a little hope here and there but honestly its the reason I prefer not to watch the news.
I truly believe that evil is a force in this world that is very strong. But there is One who is stronger and He is our Lord and Savior. More than ever I am standing firm that if ANYTHING can conquer all, its God that can. When it’s nearly impossible to find peace in the headlines or the words coming from the mouths of those around us, there is One undeniable place that we can go. This is the legacy I want to share with my children and grandchildren, and I don’t want to just stop with my immediate family, because we are all in the family of God.
Recently I saw a post from a celebrity girl, Sadie Robertson, that was calling other girls to not be afraid to bring their Bibles to school. I thought it was cute that she even challenged them to coordinate their Bible with their outfit. You can say what you want to about whether a Bible belongs in school or not but, I would love it if this idea would go viral. Maybe one girl would see another girl with a “cute book that matches her outfit” and maybe she might like the confidence and kindness and peace she sees in the girl who caries it. And maybe she might go and buy herself a cute Bible just because suddenly it’s the thing to do. And just maybe one day she might sit and open that Bible and view it not as a fashion accessory but as a source of peace and truth for her as well.
I heard some backlash on this where people were saying what if she gets discriminated against for carrying a Bible. If my daughter came to me and told me that other kids were picking on her because she carried a Bible, I think I would say two things. The same thing any parent would say about any other issue; You stand up for what you believe in. And this. There are some things that are worth fighting for. I’m not talking about fist fighting or exchange of words here. I’m talking about how from the very beginning followers of Christ did not have an easy path. There were so many persecuted for their beliefs. Even Peter denied he knew Christ because of fear. There are places in the world where choosing to be a Christian is life threatening. I think the beauty of it for me is that I know where I’m going, if I die young or I die old. I think of it this way: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10 NIV
So, if we look back at our legacy, it really starts there with a few people who believed and spread the word to others. Look at what that legacy has become! I am so blessed to have experienced the amazing Love and Grace of Jesus Christ. Its so undeniable that I’d love to share how much my life and me personally have changed just by knowing Him.
As always I must give credit where credit is due for my blog title. In her words “You gave me everything you had, Ooh you gave me life.” WHAT A LEGACY! Sarah Maclachlan – I Will Remember You
Speaking of Legacy, perhaps you’re curious about Ruth, the inspirational woman who’s name is cleverly imbedded in my title tRUTHful online. Read more about that inspiration and legacy here: Inspiration
So, if you’re like me you maybe spent longer than you’d like to admit trying to fit into someone else’s image of what beautiful is. Or maybe every time you looked in the mirror you saw something different from what was actually there, because of what you thought society’s expectations were. Or maybe it wasn’t that obvious but you just felt inferior and couldn’t put a finger on why.
The realization that so many of my life’s strivings, so many of the things I anguished over and spent a RIDICULOUS amount of money and time on, don’t even matter. I wish I could go on a tour around the country and somehow reach (mostly) young girls who are already being unconsciously conditioned to think their looks define them. If it wouldn’t be scary as all get out, I’d like to go up to each of them and tell them “Don’t spend your life comparing yourself to those figures you see on the TV screen and in magazines. In the end, looks don’t matter!” Maybe I feel that way because I wish someone would have done that for me.
If you understand what it means to be authentic, you know that it goes much deeper than what you see in the mirror. However the superficial mask that I wore started with my self-image. You see, somehow I got the idea that one of the worst things I could be would be to be ugly or over-weight. It was an idea that was reinforced in my environment and consequently I found myself staring into a mirror and hating any fat I saw on my body. I grew up in an era where fat was “out” from super models like Kate Moss, to Diet Coke and Rice Cakes! Being a short girl and a late bloomer at that, I rarely remember looking in the mirror and ever being satisfied with what I saw.
I remember I dated a guy who was pretty open about the fact that the reason he looked at magazines like Penthouse or Playboy was because “I’ll never have a chance to be with a woman LIKE THAT.” I wish I would have been raised to have enough self-esteem or self-worth to be able to hear a comment like that and not compare myself to the subject and come back with the understanding that I was less than. But I did. When I look back now at pictures of me when I was younger, I can now see a beautiful young woman, but at the time I was just trying to be something “better” or “more”, and of course a lot of it came down to being that way so that I could please others, not myself.
I never understood the concept of worth. I didn’t have anyone sit me down and tell me that worth is far more than what you see when you look in the mirror. I remember styling my hair or choosing clothes to please people I was with. I am so happy now when I hear people saying things like “I really want to get an undercut and fade cut in my hair but ‘Im afraid so and so wont like it” and the response is “But you would like it, right? Then who cares what so and so thinks anyway because its your hair”. I mean if “so and so” doesn’t like you because you shave off part of your hair, then they clearly don’t like you for the right reasons. Imagine if all your hair just fell out, would you be able to know without a doubt that that person would be right there beside you and going with you to your Drs appointments, even if you were cranky and in a bad mood and not any fun to be around?
Because at the end of the day THAT IS WHAT MATTERS. Those people that compare you to the airbrushed photos they see or tell you that wearing makeup is “false advertising” or who call you names, maybe even bully you for being different than what they have been conditioned to desire – those people aren’t going to define you. Their cruel words or behavior do however define THEM. Why would you want to bend over backwards to please someone who would probably never treat you the way you deserve to be treated even if you somehow did fit their mold of perfection? Because you don’t deserve that kind of conditional love. You are beautiful exactly the way God created you, you are worthy and you deserve to be loved just like you are!
So, Moms especially, if you have boys, hear this. Its our job to teach boys that women are not just beautiful when they are airbrushed and Photoshopped. Start talking to boys about the true meaning of beauty. See that expectant mom due any day standing in line at the supermarket? She’s beautiful. The matriarch out for a walk on a cool morning with laugh lines and a glimmer in her eye that can only come from wisdom and living a full life: she’s beautiful. Maybe I’m doing something right because when my 11-year-old sees me applying makeup he tells me I’m wasting my time because I don’t need it, and I’m beautiful without it. Love that kid!
But don’t stop there! As women we have the unique ability to teach what beauty is in a more subtle way, by showing others that we love ourselves. If you are critiquing your figure or hair in front of your daughter, she may decide to do the same thing to herself. But if you say ” I feel so amazingly beautiful today’ (and do it when you are wearing yoga pants with your hair in a pony tail as often as when you are dressed up and have makeup on), then she will learn that beauty is not defined by what you are wearing or the size you fit into. Try VERY VERY hard to not teach a girl her worth is in her beauty. Society is already teaching her that. It taught you that. Why else would you be spending all that money on face cream and makeup primer? As a girl her first compliment will likely be “You’re so pretty” or “Your dress is so pretty”. Start to point out to her the things that make her beautiful that don’t depend on her looks.
It is said: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”1 Peter 3:3-4 NIV http://bible.com/111/1pe.3.3-4.niv
As much as I’d like to protect my daughter from the world that thinks differently, I know the best thing I can do is teach her that she is “Not of This World” and do my best to surround her and point her towards other woman and people who are like-minded.
So, in tRUTHful style, I have found a way to weave the words of a song into a message I hope you will consider the next time you look in the mirror. “So close, no matter how far, couldn’t be much more from the heart, forever trust in who we are, and nothing else matters!” You are a beautiful child of God. God is right there with you, no matter how far away He may seem at times; trust that you are His masterpiece and perfect EXACTLY the way you are! NOTHING.ELSE.MATTERS!