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

Burning House

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

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 I put the blog away in my drafts of unpublished blog entries.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inspiration: Cam – Burning House

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

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

Give me something to believe in

Recently I was told that Christians are weak and that’s why they need religion.  ABSOLUTELY!  I think I was supposed to be offended by the comment, but I found it very relatable.  I could totally relate to this perspective because of a song I listened to frequently in my angry youth days from the album Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette.  The song is called Forgiven. The lyrics I’m referring to are: “We all had our reasons to be there, We all had a thing or two to learn, we all needed something to cling to, so we did.”

You know, I realize not everyone participates in worshipping a religion, but I feel like especially in our culture, there are many idols that are worshipped  or things that people hold onto because they need strength.  And I’m not here to pass judgement.  I am just sooo grateful that I stumbled upon the community of believers that I did who recognize that people have TOTALLY been wounded by the church (as Alanis implies in her song) and that’s probably the number one reason why people turn away from it.  Some never come back.  People like me took a 20 year hiatus ( you can read about why here: Burnt Buttermilk Biscuit) But the community I belong to does not see a problem with weakness.  There is no expectation that after you attend for a while you will be transformed into someone who doesn’t sin.

On the contrary, they are a group of “meet me where I am” Christians who will walk with me through my valleys and hills as long as necessary.

To be honest I didn’t believe that people like this really existed. I was accustomed to feeling like nothing I could do was good enough and there was a long list of things keeping me from getting into Heaven. Then one day I took a chance, went to a service and heard this song: Mandisa – Not Guilty . I remember sitting there with goosebumps thinking “What?! Why haven’t I heard this perspective? People want to love me even if I’m so flawed? They aren’t just gonna tell me I’m going to Hell and I need Jesus?!”

And let me tell you, when I showed up on the scene, I was one hot mess! Like the song title used for this blog, you could almost hear me scream, Give me something to believe in!” But, I grew up not having been taught that it was ok to show weakness.  Serving in the military probably did not help with that concept either. I thought like so many people do, that no-one would like me if they knew all my flaws.

I am very thankful for other people I’ve met in my life who called me out on my BS.  One such friend told me straight up that talking about myself like I had no weakness made me sound like a total snob.  OUCH!  But I needed to hear that. A manager took me aside and told me if I wanted a promotion I needed to be seen as someone who was not so ominous!  Let me tell you that really slapped me in the face too!  But you know what, I had a thick shield built all around me at that point in my life.  I can totally see how that could make me look ominous!

Ideas like that set me down the road to discovering myself, getting out of denial and being VULNERABLE!

If I hadn’t gotten laid off in 2014 and decided to pursue my calling (to be a counselor) I never would have done the work it takes to truly understand just what it means to be vulnerable.  In my program I repeatedly had to put myself under a microscope and not only list my flaws, but explain the conceptualization for them and how they affect me and others.  Hands down BEST thing I ever had to do.  Some people would just call this taking a personal inventory.  I feel like this is so important because it’s not very likely that I could begin to feel safe being vulnerable if I did not have an awareness of who I am.

When I think about how long it took me to get to this stage in my life, I just want to scream it from the rooftops to younger women out there to do the hard work it takes to discover who you are, including your weaknesses.  It’s ironic that God used some of the very things I thought were my weaknesses to help me discover who I really am!

Inspiration:

Something to believe in – Poison

Forgiven – Alanis MorissetteIMG_7264

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