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

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

Burning House

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

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 I put the blog away in my drafts of unpublished blog entries.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inspiration: Cam – Burning House

Natural

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Is Your Blog About?

Song inspiration:

Imagine Dragons – Natural

Love Remains The Same

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

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

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

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

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

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

This line:

🎶 I,

never thought that I,

had anymore to give 🎶

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song Inspiration Love Remains The Same – Gavin Rossdale

Am I standing still?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simply, “Be Still”.

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

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

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

“Be Still”.

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

Are you familiar with the verse?

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

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

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

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

Song Credit Jewel – Am I Standing Still

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!

*tRUTHful Greatest Hits*

The Show Must Go On – Queen

Reckless Love – Cory Asbury

Broken – Seether

Look What You Made Me Do – Taylor Swift

Live Like You Were Dying – Tim McGraw

Mama’s Broken Heart – Miranda Lambert

I Will Remember You – Sarah McLachlan

Nothing Else Matters – Metallica You Give Love A Bad Name – Bon Jovi

I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash

Give Me Something to Believe In – Poison

(this one is a bit of a teaser because I called in Give Me Something to Believe in, but also referenced Forgiven by Alannis Morissette and Not Guilty by Mandisa)

Poker Face – Lady Gaga

Young and Beautiful – Lana Del Ray

My “album” even has some original tracks:

Old New Blue Jeans – Inspired by a couple of old country songs about Blue Jeans

Taste and See – Inspired by Hillsong/Oceans

Weed Em Out – Inspired by my garden

Burnt Buttermilk Biscuit – inspired by Sir Mix Alot

The Inspiration – inspired by Chicago

I hope you will enjoy checking out my labor of love over the past year. I leave you with my favorite bible verse containing the word Greatest.

So these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭

The Show Must Go On

‘Inside my heart is breaking

My make-up may be flaking

But my smile still stays on’

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:

Footprints In The Sand by Mary Stevenson

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:

Lifeline

This is the actual web address.

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Inspiration for this blog:

Queen – The Show Must Go On

Old New Blue Jeans

Recently I put on a pair of jeans that I bought probably 3 years ago and had never worn. I bought them without trying them on and when I got home I discovered that even though they were the same size as the other pair I DID try on, and made by the same designer, they were a slightly different cut. So rather than return them, I said “I’m going to fit in these jeans one day so I’m not going to return them”. I think I might have tried them on another time or two, they still didn’t fit, and then life happened.

I was elated to discover as a newly remarried mom of two boys that I was pregnant again. I had a suspicion this was true when I went to a crawfish boil and the smell and idea of eating crawfish repulsed me even though normally I would have loved the opportunity. Later at my May birthday dinner, I passed on having a glass of wine but wasn’t sure why. A few days later a pregnancy test confirmed the reason and boy was I sooo sick. I was so moody and just really had zero energy which was tough because at the time I was enrolled in a Graduate degree program.

I decided not to immediately announce my pregnancy, and in the back of my mind I had a bad feeling. A few weeks later when I started spotting, I was taken back to memories I had when a similar thing happened with a pregnancy resulting in miscarriage. I went to see my OB and had an ultrasound; I was still pregnant but it was unsure if the baby was developing. I was experiencing every pregnancy symptom while facing the unbelievable possibility that this pregnancy could end. I had to keep going in for ultrasounds to check the progress. Although the gestational sac was growing the OB said it was 50/50 whether the baby would start growing. She said she’d seen the exact same thing with another mother who was now over 20 weeks along. I was so hopeful but also so anxious and scared.

At 11 weeks the doctor gave me the news I dreaded hearing, the fetus was not developing. I waited and nothing happened. The doctor described it as a missed miscarriage. I’d have to have a procedure done. It was around the Fourth of July now, a holiday that I couldn’t even begin to think about celebrating.

After the procedure I began feeling much more moody, and depression and grief set in. I felt so alone and sad. I began struggling to even want to get out of bed. I’d go to my Assessments class and couldn’t even process what the instructor was saying. The class was a tough one; I began to realize that I might not be able to pass the class and my school had a policy where you weren’t allowed to miss any classes. Finally I decided to talk to my Director and decided to drop the course so I wouldn’t fail it. I sat there in tears considering whether I even wanted to continue in the program because by now I was about 6 weeks in to a serious phase of hopelessness. All I could think about was trying to get pregnant again because of the gaping hole that loss had left.

Unfortunately I wasn’t seeking help or getting the support I needed. Since I hadn’t told anyone outside of my husband and best friend about the pregnancy, other people around me didn’t know what was going on and didn’t reach out to me or even seemed to reject me. I felt isolated and alone. Things might have continued to spiral downward until in late September I got another positive pregnancy test.

I was so scared I couldn’t even be happy about it. I feared it would end the same. The timing wasn’t the best; I had just started the internship required for my Masters degree. With the dropped class and now this, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to complete my program. If it weren’t for my best friend speaking prophecy into me that this baby would grow and develop into a strong and healthy baby girl, I don’t know what I would have done. Every day of that first trimester was an uphill battle as I was still dealing with depression and lack of support.

Around that time it occurred to me I wasn’t trusting God to help me deal with any of the intense feelings I was experiencing. I walked into Mardel Christian Books Store one day, and on the featured books table was the book “Whispers of Hope” by Beth Moore. It was a daily prayer devotional and at that moment God spoke to me and told me “Give it a try”.

As a counseling student, I knew that 10 weeks of journaling about hope could be very beneficial. So began the process of me burrowing in and this book ended up becoming my survival guide. Literally all I was doing was surviving though. I was so worried my emotions would effect my unborn child. I prayed every day for her protection. At the same time I fought a daily struggle to not drop out of my degree program. My heart and soul just felt like it was being crashed against a huge rock every single day, and I just fought to keep going, always just reaching out for hope. To be honest at the time I’m not sure how I got through. Looking back It felt like that line from the Footprints in the Sand poem; clearly God carried me!

The next year and a half from my daughter’s birth to now seemed like I was climbing a steep, steep mountain. When I came across those unworn jeans, they still had the tag on them. Since my skinny jeans had recently become loose on me, I had a suspicion they would fit and they did.

The funny thing is, I had to look back at everything that happened between then and now and ask myself if I was really happy about being able to fit in those jeans now. The person I was then would’ve used it as a measure to some sort of “success”. The person I am now just looks in the mirror and thinks “they’re just jeans, but look at the person I’ve become inside and the ridiculous amount of clarity that has been unveiled by faith that could literally move me up and down a mountain!”

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