More than Anything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More than Anything Natalie Grant

Battle Scars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artists: Guy Sebastian, Lupe Fiasco

Hallelujah

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

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

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

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

The song has a refrain:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song Credit Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah

Continue reading “Hallelujah”

It’s been awhile…

🎶It’s been awhile

since I could hold my head up high 🎶

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🎶 And it’s been awhile

Since I’ve gone and

F#%&$@ things up

Just like I always do

And it’s been awhile,

But all that s#%$

Seems to disappear

When I’m with you 🎶

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

In the bridge of the song it says

🎶Why must I feel this way?

Just make this go away

Just one more peaceful day…🎶

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

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

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

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

Bye Felicia!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natural

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Is Your Blog About?

Song inspiration:

Imagine Dragons – Natural

Love Remains The Same

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

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

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

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

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

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

This line:

🎶 I,

never thought that I,

had anymore to give 🎶

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song Inspiration Love Remains The Same – Gavin Rossdale

Demons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The truth is that not everyone can handle it.

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

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

As the song goes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song Inspiration – Demons by Imagine Dragons

What is your blog about, really?!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway this was the book:

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

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

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

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

Let Her Cry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kinda reminds me of this verse:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She never lets me in,

only tells me where she’s been

When she’s had too much to drink

I say that I don’t care,

I just run my hands through her dark hair

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

Song Inspiration: Let Her Cry – Hootie & The Blowfish

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