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

Demons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The truth is that not everyone can handle it.

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

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

As the song goes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song Inspiration – Demons by Imagine Dragons

What is your blog about, really?!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway this was the book:

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

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

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

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

Let Her Cry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kinda reminds me of this verse:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She never lets me in,

only tells me where she’s been

When she’s had too much to drink

I say that I don’t care,

I just run my hands through her dark hair

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

Song Inspiration: Let Her Cry – Hootie & The Blowfish

Am I standing still?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simply, “Be Still”.

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

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

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

“Be Still”.

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

Are you familiar with the verse?

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

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

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

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

Song Credit Jewel – Am I Standing Still

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!”

Nothing Else Matters

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.

IMG_8015

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!

Listen here: Metallica – Nothing Else Matters

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