Dry Bones Stop Bleeding

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He asked me, “Son [Daughter] of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3)

I was thankful to my mom for keeping Ezra so that this morning I had a chance to sit down at the table and spend time with God, worshipping Him in freedom afterwords with no one in the house but me.

Thirteen years.

Thirteen years.

Not a few hours. Not a whole night without someone staying with me in my room. Not one day. Not three weeks. Not a couple months before giving in. Not one year.

Thirteen.

I cut myself for the first time in a dorm room on the campus of a liberal arts college in Alabama with a pair of blue handled scissors. I cut myself for the last time thirteen years ago, today. At this moment, I am laying on a couch in a beautiful home, married to the best man God ever made, and watching my six month old sleep sideways in a blue recliner.

I have a story.

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There was a chapter of my story thirteen years ago in which my dry bones should not have come back to life. I was cutting myself, throwing up my food, self-medicating, and looking for love in dark places. My bones were dry and even the doctors and therapists weren’t sure if I would make it back to life again. I am so thankful, that in the end, they were not the ones writing my story. I am also thankful that there was a day in my mom’s kitchen when I specifically gave God control of a story I had taken into my own hands. Through His word, faith, acceptance, and belief, I breathed Him in until the hate, anger, anxiety, fear, and lies gave way to His truth and a freedom that could only come from a living God.

It was a miracle. It is a miracle. I am a miracle.

And like any miracle, I at times need to let go of control (again), call out the lies (again and again), and breathe Him in (moment by moment) — in stillness. Because while I never stopped being a miracle, I also didn’t stop living. There have been times when my bones have become dry again, but thank God, that I’m further along in my story and I’ve learned many things. Thank him that even when things look confusing or when loss leaves a huge hole or loneliness and physical health creep into the paragraphs … it takes me less pages to see the One who has the Pen. You know the author with the capital “A,” not the one with the pencil that erases, breaks lead.

A couple of years ago, I asked God to bring me to life again after a season of sickness. I was weary, and He answered that prayer by giving me a whole new life inside a womb at times a worried might remain empty.

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The helper. His name means salvation. I have learned so many things about God through my relationship with my son. God’s spirit brushing my mind and reminding of Him as Papa.

There have been many times that I have looked down at my infant son and I have seen my eyes, my hands … I have seen my image in him. It’s an amazing, yet strange feeling. Since the moment I first held him, He has had the most intense gaze — as if he knew way more than he should. He is joyful, peaceful. His is beautiful and soft. Daily, I have held him, kissed him. I have inspected his little hands while he slept, smelled him as his head rested against my chin. I have been in awe of how fast he learns, how intuitive and empathetic God has made him. I have had messages sent straight to me from Heaven from a baby not even a year old. I thought of the great love I had for my son and how proud I was before he even did anything. I think he is the most special person I’ve ever met.

I also began to realize, because there are things you just can’t know until you experience them, is that my parents thought that way about me, before I had ever done anything worth praising. My mom and dad thought I was the most special little girl ever. A miracle.

I used to cut myself.

I have thought about God the Father. I have relished Him as creator. His word says I am created in His image. Do you know what that means? When, God looks at me He sees himself, just like I see myself in my son’s eyes and his hands. I hope as I’ve grown He sees himself more and more. I was his masterpiece. Am. His word says He knitted me together in my mother’s womb. He delights in me because He made me. The artist and His artwork. The great love I have for my son, his love for me is unfathomably greater.

God was the only one who ever got to see me cut myself. He saw every time.

On a new scale, I understand some things. I can imagine now how horrific it must be to remember that baby you held in your arms that you loved so much, bleeds by their own hand. I remember the baby that I hold in my arms that I prayed for and cannot comprehend an instant in which someday he might now understand how special he is, how much he was wanted, how much he is loved, and how much he is worth to me or to God.

How must have God felt? Yet, He held my hand. He allowed me to walk through a season of hurting where I wore hundreds of marks at given times on my arms and my hips. I cannot imagine. He felt it all. He counted every tear.

He kept writing.

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” (Ezekiel 37:5)

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Today I so thankful for the God who formed my bones, knowing before I ever took a breath, He would have to breathe life back into them. I am thankful that the Father that saw me cut the skin that he sculpted around those bones … the daughter He delights in … was the only one who could help me overcome.

Today I asked Him to breathe life into my dry bones again. Bones that have been lonely and that carry the whisper of lies that I sometimes take too long to shake. I asked Him to breathe life into me for the specific purpose of loving Him more and praising Him more. I asked that nothing else be dear to me.

I thanked him for my life.

I thanked him for His life. (because I gave mine away long ago)

I thanked him for the life I am honored to snuggle in my arms daily.

I love Him as healer.

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I am a miracle. I am a miracle. I am a miracle.

 

 

Tangles — Too straightened or knot?

I live in tangles.

442309b5693c275f412e1e6d7705d7a2When I was a little girl, I had long hair from the time it would finally grow (I had no hair or eyebrows until I was one), until it was cut short in the second grade. It would always tangle, not just one or to small knots but a huge matted mass of tangles that could sometimes be hidden under the silky part of my hair and be mistaken for volume. I was tender-headed and to have these tangles not so gently brushed through was agonizing. I’m not sure why the decision wasn’t made to cut it before second grade, but I was a beautifully little girl walking with a mass of tangles only I knew about at times and only I felt the pain of them as they were tugged out.

Today I am arugably an adult.

I live in tangles.

Sometimes quiet unseen whispers in my mind that I can untangle quickly or with practice and on a good day quite proficiently. On rare days the tangles come to life, I feel them so hard they’re visible. Today they started in the nerves of my right jaw and spilled out into hoarse screams. Those were the big tangles. The kind you labor to calm. You may not even untangle them. The fight is just to calm yourself.

For me, the sticky tangles usually come on a day of rest. Maybe, a day that I’m really exhausted, but I can’t quite admit it to myself. Today I had a day off. That is to say, I had a full day just to myself to rest, nourish, and refresh so that I could remember to who I am as just me and therefore be a better mommy and wife.

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I got tangled. When, someone gives me a day to myself, especially now that I’m a mom, I feel like I have to do all the things I want to do … If I’m tired, I should go to the library, go find a friend to have lunch with, go buy groceries, and be out … If I were to have gone out, I would have been frustrated that I hadn’t rested, had a nap, read, written, did some Yoga or being in nature. Tangle.

Today my mom came to pick up my son and I fixed breakfast, grabbed my blankie, a pillow, a book, lit a candle, and decided to spend time in the recliner for awhile. Before, going to the library, grocery store, and take a few things the baby had outgrown and donate them to the women’s center.

I was in the moment. I wanted a nap, and I wanted it in my chair, by myself. I fell off to sleep for moment and then couldn’t sleep because of the pain in my mouth I am still having from some dental work two weeks ago. This is where the tangle began to slippery slide and start to find something to knot. I began to worry about my tooth/jaw injury. I worried about a trip I’d been looking forward to this weekend with my husband and that I had no control over whether the pain would be better by Saturday. I called three dentists. I worried that if I went back in they would aggravate it more and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my anniversary trip. Go to the dentist – possibly miserable on the trip. Don’t go – no way of knowing if it would be better but pain could be manageable. Tangle. The lack of control fueled my anxiety and depleted me of what little energy I did have.

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So, I cried.

More tangles came.

Crying on the phone to my mom I talked about not being able to take pain medicine and possibly get rest if I went to the library. But if I didn’t go I would be stuck in the house and maybe I felt guilty for resting when I usually don’t have a lot of time to go out on my own. I wanted the time to myself midweek to stay attached to who I am and the things I that bring my joy other than my baby and my family. I have felt so exhausted. (Not really just from the baby, but from “should” ing myself, and illness) I can’t really name what any of those things might be.

I felt guilty that I was wasting the one day I had to be me and then guilty because I wouldn’t get rest or to have any introverted fun and it would be time for the baby to come home and then felt bad I didn’t want the baby to come home until I had those things. Shouldn’t I want to be around my baby every moment? Because sometimes I don’t for way less important things like YouTube, old movies, writing (which is actually a priority), time with God (that one is important), naps (I LOVE naps. They make me feel creative and happy.), reading fan fiction, going to the library/bookstore …

And I want to know the things I love again. The thirties have been a time of losing things and now maybe it’s time to begin finding what I love again.

million-ways-to-be-a-good-mom-churchillBecause I don’t know what being a mommy is supposed to be like and even though I want God to shape me into a unique and creative mommy, I still want to know that I’m normal. Tangles. When I do have time when that sweet “little toot” is napping or chilling with me I’m tired. However, even before having a baby I had tangles where activity was concerned because of chronic illness in my life. I wanted to go and do and didn’t always have the energy and instead of high-fiving myself for the days I did, I focused on wanting to be this go all the time, do all things life, and I’ve never been that woman. I am a creative. I am an introvert. Yet, I crave community.

I guess if I’m honest. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll get to be myself again … Or what I thought life was supposed to be like. “Supposed  to” is also code for hidden tangles. I’ve been being taught by God for quite awhile now to “Be still.” I am learning that is my next great adventure to “Be still” and find freedom in that. I’m not good at it yet. I’m still working out all the tangles and my head is not the only thing that is sensitive although I’m a lot more tough than I used to be.

The big tangle. The huge one has been wanting to write for weeks. I imagine this tangle is more like pushing every day to birth a baby, pushing so incredible hard, while someone is down there at your literary vagina, pushing just as hard to keep that baby in. Every day you feel unsatisfied and lonely because you can’t stop pushing and neither can you stop the resistance. You’re too tired to write. Or you don’t know what you want to write or how you want to write it or you don’t feel you can use the words you want to use. Should it be just for you or should you share with everyone? As a creation who is made up of 90 percent creative desires, it hurts in every part of your being when you can’t sit down and breathe the knot straight by dripping letters into words on a page.

This blog was labored today. I cried on the phone with my mom, listening to the beautiful coos of my son in the background and missing him while wanting him to stay away until I could be with myself. I screamed until I felt I would go hoarse. I put my face of the floor sobbing and asking God for help. I walked in circles around the house afraid the day would be gone and I would find no true rest which for my spirit just may be using the gift God gave me — the love of words.

Honestly, my best “me” day would have been spending time with God, napping, watching Bette Davis on YouTube, catching up on Feud: Bette and Joan, sleeping, and maybe Yoga or planting my flowers. More sleep. And writing.

Today before the tears I had some time with God, I wrote a prayer to Him and found a verse in his word that spoke so deeply into my desire to have his light reach my eyes again, I napped very briefly, I cried a lot and was tangled tight, I showered, and now I have been able to push something past that which has been pushing with equal force. Sometimes that’s me. Sometimes it’s life. Sometimes it’s spiritual. Sometimes it’s war.

I have been in tangles of pain for a few years now, but most recently the past four months. It seems like one thing gets better and I get energy and something else “breaks.” Today it was dental pain. In the past, it has my soul/spirit/growing pains. Those are hard tangles for me. Even when I give up control.

I hate control but it’s my “go to” when I’m feeling scared or anxious. My weakness. When I know it isn’t achievable for me and belongs completely to God in my life. Tangle.

corsets-gwtwI don’t like tangles. Not the huge ones that are tighter in my intestines than Scarlett O’Hara’s corset. I don’t like days when I would like to tell you about is the beauty of the spring flowers on my table or that this new house in the land of slower space is starting to feel more like home. I would like to tell you about my son’s smile or that the way he trusts and clings to me reminds me of how I want to trust and cling to God.

I needed to write about tangles.

Tangles are important to talk about though. Tangles can be prayers answered that you feel thankful for while wondering if you did the right thing by leaving a life that in hindsight was plenty beautiful. Tangles are desiring community when your physical body at times requires to have that community come more to you than you are able to come to them. Tangles are being sad about loneliness when you are the kind of person who craves solitude.

There was a beautiful bird that “little toot” and I saw out that window in the kitchen. Well, I saw it. He tends to always be looking in the other direction — Geez, four month olds! I wondered what it was doing seeming to land on my passengers side window door edge and then stand there a bit before jumping back up and coming back to land. Later this afternoon, after all the crying, I saw the bird again and stopped to watch. He was beautiful and was standing on the edge of the car door and window seal. He was looking into the mirror, jumping on top of it, and then coming back to look in the mirror. Repeat. I’m not sure if he thought he found another bird in the mirror and wanted to be alone and then once he was alone missed the bird he’d found in the mirror, realizing he desired a friend. Either, way it was such a beautiful movement that God allowed me to see.

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I guess tangles or not we’re trying to determine who we want to see in the mirror and how to embrace them where they are with or without their knots. See birds use tangles to build nests, to hatch their young, to find rest. Maybe we don’t untangle everything in this lifetime. Maybe we learn to “be still.” To nest. To give up control and find our place on the edge of a branch, content in a nest where tangles build — learning to let the wind be less than a whisper.

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Part of My Pieces

“You’ve always said you want to be a voice for the voiceless — do it.”

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My husband spoke as I prepared a bath that Sunday morning. It had been a weekend of tears. In fact, the day before had been a day of tears, moaning, and rocking face down in child’s pose on the guest room bed.

My first period since our son was born felt as if was trying to arrive for weeks. So, I was not confident enough in the kickstarting hormones to think that might be what was causing the tsunami of tears.

I’m a new mom.

So new, in fact, I look down and still wonder how this beautiful little person got to be here with us. It seems like he was just a prayer in my heart yesterday and now that child my husband and I gave a personality to, talked about their favorite things, things they would like to do, and involved them in our daily lives years before they were born so that they would know they were loved before they arrived — has arrived.

3 months.

You see, I’m a new mom with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Sometimes I suffer from it, sometimes I overcome it … what I seek to do is have it be a piece of my life and not ever define who I am. (And because I’m a strong proponent for not having people associate a serious anxiety disorder with a desire to be tidy or keep lists, check out this neat video to get a better idea of what OCD really is like) While, OCD in my life has been a mosaic of benefits and sharp intrusions what I was frustrated with was … am frustrated with is

the thoughts.  

What if I believe life was better before my son came? What if I think that I had a great life where I could sleep, write, volunteer, do poetry readings, be spontaneous, have adventures, have lots of one on one time with my husband and now all that I’ll ever do is sit in my house alone with my sweet kiddo and stare? What if I molest him while changing his diaper? His penis bumps my hand while I’m trying to wriggle a diaper on a kicking infant and I have to tell myself things so my anxiety won’t rise? What if my nipples respond in a sexual way when he is breastfeeding? He’s crying and a picture pops in my head of whamming his head on the nightstand. I see his private parts and my brain associates it with the only other ones I see, which are mine and his dad’s, and weird images pop-up. I worry about if I’m bad if I don’t move his hand when he lays it on my breast. I scoot far away if he bumps my nipple when I don’t have a bra on under my shirt. Drowning. Thoughts of having to bury him and my husband because they leave to go to the store together and they might have/will get in a car accident. Images of him playing in the floor and having my stepdad fall on him accidentally. What if I don’t want to hold him for a little while it makes me a bad mom?changing-station

My brain lies to me. Everyone’s  brain does. The thoughts are hard to share with those that don’t have this particular talent embedded in their brains. As a woman who has dealt with intrusive thoughts caused by OCD since second/third grade, I know that they are things I’m afraid I’ll think or are afraid I’ll actually believe, not things I actually believe or will do. However, if I say them out loud someone who doesn’t have OCD might think that I’m telling them things I believe. They won’t understand intrusive, obsessive thoughts. Still, I say them outloud so that I know they aren’t real and so they don’t torture me. Luckily, I have a husband I can trust to listen even if at times I have to clarify these are not things I’m really thinking, they’re fears I’m afraid I might think. This is opposed something I for real believe. Not confusing at all, right?

When I held our son not too long after he was born, my husband said to me, “This is the most content I’ve seen you in quite a while.” It was beautifully true. I had prayed about some of the things I thought might trigger my OCD and asked God to be bigger than the disorder, to make me the mother he wanted me to be.  However, I had an emergency C-Section performed by a doctor I didn’t trust and have dealt with a lot of anxiety from the trauma of that. So unfortunately, that peacefulness was threatened by a disease that is a bit overwhelming during change, high anxiety seasons, and times when I feel I have no control over a situation.

The thoughts were bothering me so much because they made me feel ashamed and guilty. They were bothering me because I had to deal with them when I wanted to be completely focused on my son. I just didn’t want to have anything to do with OCD anymore. It is part of my pieces though. 

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I prayed for this child that I am now able to hold in my arms, and he is amazing. It would be an unjust to share with you only the good things and the wonderful ways he is changing/teaching me, how God is ministering to me through his little life without being honest about how I struggle at times. So, I share loudly some of the thoughts that haunt me and that change on a daily basis. I will share more if you ask. I’m not a secret keeper. I’m not one to hide in the dark.

So, here it is in the light — I’m a brave mom who has dirty, scary, dangerous thoughts that I know aren’t true. Because of how God chose to make me (my mind) I cling on to them and they become so much bigger than they ever should. Some days I can catch them like screeching bats in a butterfly net. Sometimes they leave me in tears … tears that have christened the head of the son I am so grateful for. I have baptized him in the saltiness, dedicating him to the only one who has ever redeemed my life — the God who formed the pathways and knew my synapses would misfire. The One who knew the pain of such a disease that I’ve never been able to medicate, would also be one of the things that has brought me great success, creativity, and empathy toward others in this life in which I want to love others as much as I can.

Tonight I am loving on you as much as I can by sharing the parts of me that hurt me. See, it isn’t the pain that the thoughts might actually be me. No, at this point of my life and with much therapy I can identify what’s not me a good percent of the time. It’s the distraction, it’s the fog that the dense thoughts form, that you have to push through daily. I get swept up and it takes minutes, hours, days, months … to realize and pull forward out of my mind, to look at what I’m actually doing, how I’m actually behaving, how I’m actually touching, how I actually think … That process is frustrating because I am afraid I will miss out on enjoying my son while constantly battling and having to be in my head too often.

“Don’t believe everything you think.” It’s a quote I saw on a bumper sticker a long time ago, and I love it. How about when you don’t believe it and know you can’t control the invasive thoughts, but that doesn’t help you stop feeling ashamed, guilty, or like a bad person? That they briefly appeared at all is enough to be upsetting. I was taught by a Christian therapist once to take a thought and ask myself these questions — is this me? Is this OCD? Is this the enemy? Or is this God?

imperfectionSometimes, as a Christian, I do believe the enemy uses anxiety and OCD in my life to distract me from my blessings, my purpose, to keep me afraid, and to stumble me from walking in complete freedom in Christ. It can be a spiritual battle. 

The truth is if I looked at a brown wall and I had an intrusive thought pop up that it was wallpaper with genitals on it. I would laugh or think it’s ridiculous. Who would pay for wallpaper with a penis pattern? However, when a thought is about my son, it scares me deeply. I makes me feel like a terrible person. And don’t get me started on feelings. Feelings aren’t often truthtellers either.

I am blessed to have done much work on myself throughout the years and I have tools. I also have a mighty God who formed me and is bigger than anxiety disorders. It is more difficult to stand firm in overcoming when you’re a new mom tired and recovering from surgery and you don’t have a norm to easily show you that your thoughts are irrational. It is difficult when you’ve gone through a season in your life in which it is an immense fight to go to the things that bring relief — like spilling out your words or tugging on the robe of the Savior who has healed you over and over again.

So, I cried. I cried a lot that weekend. I tried to get into a bath and soak in hot water, prepare to pick songs on the jukebox during our weekly trip to Waffle House, and simply to begin again. I ran the water. My husband stood in my son’s room watching me in the bathroom and talking to me about the struggle. He told me I wasn’t crazy, a hot mess, or whatever phrase I may have used. He said one of the things that he loved about me was that I said things, the things “normal” people wouldn’t say out loud. He admired that about me. You don’t want to be normal. You’ve always wanting to be a voice for the voiceless. Do it.

There was a peacefulness that followed after the words.

He reminded me of my purpose. My life goal is to love God and to love people as much as I possibly can while I can. I desire to be a voice for the voiceless through my writing and in life. I want to encourage others to share their stories.

This is part of my story as a new mom. Is it yours?

Because you aren’t going to drown your child. You aren’t going to accidentally molest them when you’re changing their diaper. You’re life will be just as beautiful or even more so even though you’ve had a big change.

620post-3-1024x703You are a blessing to this world of “keep inside and let everyone believe you’re fine” society pleasers. It’s the challenges that make you brave and although I believe in the beauty and brave of every mom. I know the thoughts you fight every few minutes and I believe an OCD mom is up there as one of the bravest creations God ever made.

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Later that weekend full of tears dried, I kissed my husband on the edge of his ear to aggravate him (he hates having his ear kissed or whispered in) and he told me that he’d sprayed our mattress with bug spray when he’d been spraying for fleas earlier that evening. Clever. I laughed at the quickness of his wit. We laughed.

There is a time to find joy in our imperfections.

Earlier, while he’d sprayed for bugs the baby had gone to my mom’s, and I found myself looking at photos of him on my phone.

I missed him.

Not a thought.

A completely divine

truth.

 

The next day, I started my period.

His Name Means Salvation

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This Sunday my husband and I visited a new church. Originally, I thought that maybe we’d come on the wrong day to see what the church was like on a typical Sunday. Not only was I wrong, but things inside me were broken in the best way possible.

I have struggled tremendously and painfully at different seasons of my life with doubting my salvation. Even, by means with which we are saved. Sometimes, I get scared or nervous when I find out others have come to know Christ. It often brings up questions and fears for me. Some of the time it is spiritual warfare. Some of the time it is anxiety. Some of the time, I think it is learning more and giving up control. A lot of the time it is a struggle for me because of the ways Obsessive Compulsive Disorder manifests itself in my life and my own failure to recognize intrusive/scary thoughts as false at times.

13307351_10156967629790258_1844672367572396345_nThat day, I tried to appreciate each moment of the service and what I could learn from/be blessed by during it. When we walked in and a baby girl was being prayed over during baby dedication, I was thankful for her sweet family and pointed out to my husband that the family next to them was holding a baby boy. We are having a son in the Fall.

When it came time for baptism, it was approached in a unique and beautiful way. There were two little girls and a mom from the same family sharing a bit of their testimonies and the husband/dad was going to be the one to baptize them. I had a bit of nervousness, but I was so blessed by the testimonies. Especially, the two from the little girls. Their maturity, faith, and pure love for Christ was beautiful, inspiring, and genuine. It reminds me of the miraculousness of our God and that receiving Christ at a young age doesn’t mean that God hasn’t drawn you to Himself and that there is a consciousness of decision or beautiful love that is sincere. It reminds me that we are to love as these.

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I was also reminded as the husband and wife cried while he baptized her, that my husband and I were baptized on the same day at our old church when we were engaged. A day that I spontaneously gave testimony to what God had done in my life at a time when I could remember fully and use my own words.

I prayed during the service Sunday for a few things. A couple of them were these — I asked God that if it were His will, would he give me confirmation and assurance that I was His and that if He felt that this was a prayer He had answered over and over that was fine too. Also, I have felt a lot of numbness spiritually, and I knew that it may be God teaching me to love and trust Him without sensationalism or relying on my emotions but I had missed being moved. After praying about the confirmation of salvation, I didn’t really think about it anymore but began to pay attention to the things that were being brought to my heart pretty vividly.

Members of the church got up and began to share things they were learning from God, encouragements, provision, and victories. I had already begun to notice the amount of young babies and the other pregnant women in the room. A couple got up and began to share about God’s faithfulness in their lives. They had struggled medically for awhile to conceive a baby. The wife shared of a women coming up to her at a library parking lot and telling her that she felt God wanted her to be reminded of His miraculousness. She shared that although it didn’t quell all her fears, I think it reminded her that God was with her, listening, and working. She was now sixteen weeks pregnant. I clapped along with the church in joy.

God brought many images and memories to me during the process of listening to the stories of each person. I remembered how grief stricken I was earlier in our marriage when I thought I was pregnant. The chemicals in my body and hormones had surged mimicking a pregnancy, and although I knew it probably wasn’t the perfect time or maybe the baby hadn’t been completely fertilized or had never been there … we saw so many signs. I was so sick like I was pregnant and I already fell in love with it, my husband in a lot of ways too. So much so, that when my period started late, my heart broke. I was reminded of times we went to church after that and when I saw someone holding a small baby I would cry.

Bridge-wbI remembered as my husband and I served the homeless while living in Nashville, God using several of them to speak to my heart about becoming a mother. Once we prayed over a homeless couple and the women said to me, “Are you pregnant? I feel like God is wanting me to tell you that you’re going to have a baby soon.” It was not the only time that it was brought to our attention by a homeless friend. In fact, one of them told us we were going to have a little boy. At at time when I wasn’t pregnant, it gave me hope that I would have a baby. Also, I think it made me think I was pregnant at times when I wasn’t, but on Sunday, I realized that God’s soon and my soon are different and if anything He was showing me that he hadn’t forgotten me, that he knew the desires of my heart, and that I could trust Him. I wasn’t always good at it. It wasn’t that I had baby fever so much or that I wanted us to have a baby before we were ready or had been able to enjoy our marriage. It was just that something was different in me after I felt the loss I’d felt.

I also remembered when my husband and I did choose to be open to having a baby and trust God with timing in our lives. We took the leap and a few weeks later we found out that I had a lesion on my brain that could be a low grade tumor, a cyst, or MS. I went through several MRIs, lots of doctor visits, painful headaches, visits to the ER, and a spinal tap. The neurologist made us wait on pursuing the baby and said that in six months we could try again if the lesion hadn’t changed or there weren’t any additional lesions. She said then would be a perfect window. We had no idea what would happen.

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It was brought to my mind that we had been without birth control for eight months, which isn’t long in a lot of ways, after deciding as a family that I would take time off from working so my body could heal and be healthy enough to carry a baby. Also, because of hypothyroidism in my life we didn’t know if there could be possible difficulties to navigate.

We moved to Birmingham to be closer to our families so we could start a family. I remember that the day I found at my sister was pregnant, I was so genuinely happy for her but when I got off the phone I was crying, thinking why is everyone super fertile but me. I read a devotion about not just praying but reminding God of the things He’d done in the Bible for others and asking Him specifically for the things we desire. I for a long time had looked at the beauty of Mary as a mother, Elizabeth was older when God brought John into her womb, and God was  faithful to Sarah. So I asked him that day to do for me what he had done for Abraham and Sarah. That day I’d found out my sister was pregnant. At my cousins wedding, I’d been more emotional than usual and had said to my husband, I’m never going to get a baby in my belly. What I didn’t realize at the wedding or the day my sister called was that already pregnant.

At church Sunday, I looked at the lady holding her young baby and remembered that time of great grief when such things would have made me cry and knew now without any doubt that there was a thriving baby in my belly — a little boy who I am six months pregnant with. No more sad tears. As each of the memories surfaced I was reminded of God’s faithfulness in my life. Sweetly, as the service passed, more and more pictures and moments came to mind, and I became more and more aware of God’s love for me. I had never been let down by Him even when I thought He was silent. This was no exception. There in the midst of His Spirit we sang about His goodness. The reality of His goodness in this situation became so tangible.

13895257_10157215381430258_4841005585647761234_nI thought about a movie we’d seen not too long ago that shared about how magicians trick our minds. They make us look at the thing they want us to focus on and we don’t see the reality of what is actually happening. Life is like that for me a lot. I’ve definitely enjoyed this pregnancy, but I’ve been focused at times on the distraction. The house repairs, learning how to fit back into being around people again as a couple, having healthy grown-up boundaries with family, and my own expectations. It’s crazy how a blessing comes and we are led either by our own humaness or the enemy to look at the illusion that keeps us from the truth. All that was torn away for me on Sunday …

I put my hand on my side and my tummy. I thought of how special this kicking baby would be for me. Not just because it was a child and we wanted a child. It wasn’t just like we said let’s have a baby and immediately got pregnant. Mostly, because at a time in my life when I knew I was being blessed but felt a bit lost, numb spiritually, and that maybe I was resisting my relationship with Christ . . .God reminded me of his faithfulness, that He is still moving in my life, that He’s not done with me, and He’s not distant.

I held to my son growing inside me and thought about how special he’d be because of the answered prayer he was and all God was showing me. I thought how though his birth may be painful that it would be a worship experience to me because of the things God showed me throughout the service. I thought about how God must have a beautiful plan for our son. After all, the baby’s name, Ezra, means help …

Then, quickly in my spirit I heard —

His name means Salvation.

I immediately broke into heavy tears. I was overwhelmed in the best way possible.

In a less than a moment, God had knocked down my walls with His power and stomped the enemy in my life. Answering a prayer I had forgotten about from earlier in the service. We had never planned on naming the baby Ezra and had decided a couple of months into my pregnancy. I knew now that every time I look at my son I will be reminded that I belong to my Lord and nothing can change that.

I have never been more blessed to crumble.

 

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The Second Woman President

When I was in high school, I sat in my best friend’s grandparent’s living room and watched a political debate on Television. I went over to the bar in the kitchen where my friend and her Nana were sitting and said, “I’m going to be the second woman president.” I went on to explain that I wanted to campaign by telling the truth, not being mean or name-calling my opponents, and win because of how much I cared for people. I remember my friend’s Nana saying something to the effect that she believed I could be the one to do it. fadedflag

I’m not completely sure why I said I wanted to be the second woman president except that I’ve always been really into being quirky and unique, yes, also weird. Also, I was probably only sixteen at the time. I don’t know that it was ever a dream I clung to, but maybe it was an honor to live in a world where I didn’t doubt there was the possibility.

What I do still cling to are the ideals of honor when it comes to the office of presidency, strive for genuineness, and how much I believe that roles that broaden our sphere of influence should hinge on caring and valuing those in that sphere.

One of my favorite presidents is Ronald Reagan. A lot of it has to do with his writing ability. Once, I bought a CD of his letters to his wife and they were beautiful. How could you not admire a man that felt such a way about his wife? Also, he was in one of my favorite Bette Davis movies, Dark Victory. He knew how to give a speech. In my baby book, my mom saved the front page of the newspaper from the day I was born, and he was on it Reagan’s inauguration 1981. I vaguely remember the Berlin wall coming down and the coverage on TV. He seemed to be a classy man, who although human/imperfect, wanted to help.

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When I was in elementary school, we said the pledge in the mornings. Hand over heart. Not because we were required to put our hands there but because that’s what you did with your hand during the pledge. Also, you never sat during the national anthem. There was a flag in the room. We were taught that flag was to be respected. I learned that if it ever touched the ground, it had to be burned.

We learned about presidents in history lessons. The office of the president held esteem and honor. No one was saying that the people who were president were flawless. However, for so many decades there was a bit of mysticism, value, and prestige attached to the office. If you were lucky enough for the president to come to your town there was Santa-like anticipation, a great privilege in shaking a hand or catching a glimpse of him, and as a child you didn’t bad mouth the president.

In fact, the flaws of the president were kept quiet (yes, he had some privacy), families gathered when he addressed the nation on TV, and trusted leadership in times of trouble. However, I am saddened in the ways our world has changed. With the rise of social media, we have all become overly transparent, we see more than we ever have, are viciously manipulated by the media, and we all, in some ways, seek celebrity status. We have forgotten how to honor one another. So, in a lot of ways, the office of the president has become no more to us than a celebrity-type cut-out. Ignorance may not always mean safety but having a little bit of privacy encased the presidency with a bit more dignity.

kindnessWe are not only constantly bombarded on social media by memes, opinions, and articles that are seldom solely factual, but the majority of the information we are fed through Facebook and media outlets is mean spirited, harshly argumentative, and negative. I suppose it is naive of me to believe there could ever have been a campaign of several people based completely on platforms, truth, and sincere hope for taking care of the American people that culminated in a vote leading to a president that we treated with honor and respect.

As a US citizen I grew up in a world where I was taught that I could be whatever I wanted if I dreamed big enough and worked hard for it. I suppose that maybe as a people it is hard for us to honor or value an office or expect other countries to respect our own, when we’ve forgotten how to value and respect ourselves and one another.

I am scared of a world in which I was taught to honor a country that has steadily become broken and shattered. Concerned for a country that will be led by leaders who we only vote for because we don’t want the other candidate to win, not because we are honored to swear them into office for four years. So, what would a valuable campaign for presidency look like to me?

help-the-homelessIt would begin with a candidate who was motivated from a servant’s heart. I would love to witness a person desiring to lead this country yelling at less rally’s to get in a sound byte or dig against their opponent and more images of them loving on others. If black lives matter … why not talk about it less and spend the weekend meeting voters by cleaning, painting, and doing yard work in a low income area of a local city. Without a lot of fanfare, serve food to the homeless or maybe have a rally just for them and give away tents, snacks, hygiene packets, bicycles, and handshakes/hugs. Read to an elderly man in assisted living who is worried about losing his social security or paint a women’s fingernails in a nursing home who can’t quite remember her name but could tell you amazing stories about president’s that served before you.

Maybe, it looks like learning a speech in a different language, even if it sounds like an elementary school student is giving it to that ESL individual. Maybe, pray or spend the day with a veteran or a current soldier who is suffering with PTSD or just wants to be home with their family. Maybe, campaign to the soldiers by taking a trip to where they are because they need to know the person they are voting for from so far away cares for them. Maybe, remind kids today that their worth isn’t in the most provocative photo that can be posted on social media but it is valued by a government that has their best interest at heart. Because they risk their lives daily by just going to school.school_refusal

A long time ago, children were taught not to say bad words, they were disciplined in school for treating their fellow students with disrespect or throwing punches with fists or words. They were taught that they could be whatever they wanted to be because they were growing up in a land of the free. This was a land where the president’s role was honored. Yet, now the very things we were taught as children that were wrong are displayed daily on TV and the internet to a generation who is wandering. A land that now, pays them back after years of hard work, dedication, and perfect grades with mounds of debt for their desire to continue their education. Education they were told was the pathway to their dreams.

A lot of people, a lot of my friends are longing for hope right now. What can I say to them as we are all disappointed in our options? I can say, Let’s do the things we dream of the president doing. Let’s value ourselves and honor our neighbors. For me, I can continue to love God and love my neighbor without blinders, walls, and classism. I can be kind to my family and the people I see every day. I can stop scrolling through internet feeds and step outside and serve. I can hug, pray, and comfort the citizens I come into contact with. I can believe that if we all took on the challenge of loving and valuing each other then we could be proud of our country again. Not because of one man or woman but because, as a community, being Americans begins to mean something worthy of honor again.

I won’t be the second woman president. I can be who I hoped she would be — genuine, courageous, and a full of caring for those she serves. We all can.

 

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Are you successful?

What is success?

My goal is always to find success where I am, in the small things as well as the “mile-markers.” Some days it’s getting through the day breathing and seeking to be kind to myself and others, even if I’m not perfect at either of those things. (Yes, sometimes I’m not the best breather.)

Morrie Schwartz of Tuesdays With Morrie fabulousness, once asked Mitch Albom (at least in the movie), “What’s wrong with being number two?” Geez, he actually said so many amazinMorrie Schwartzg things, “You’re not just a wave. You’re part of the ocean.” I love teachers (in school and life).

So, why do we compare ourselves to things and people? Why are we so quick to measure ourselves by success as an end product instead of celebrating each step of our journey as an achievement?

I believe success can only be measured by the things you value. So, someone may thing they’re successful because they make a lot of money or go further in their career path? While, success to others might be how many people they are able to encourage or help in their lifetime …

Awhile back, my husband and I decided we wanted to live for things that were eternal. We were aware that life is short and wanted to work each day to take steps toward doing the things we felt we were called to do, would lead us more in a ministerial time of life, and that we both wanted to be able to make enough money to live on and be responsible while putting most of our efforts and finances towards things that made our souls soar.

I put money on the back-burner before I met him. Making tons of money or having a lot of material things was much less important to me than getting to spend time with those I care about, getting to be creative, or seeking to live in the moment and lift-up others.

In fact, it seems that the people we are blessed to know or look up to are actually a good gauge in glimpsing at what we value as successful in a long-term life journey vs. what society or even other friends/family might view as success.hethballoon

I believe my husband’s beautiful grandmother if successful — She’s creative. She’s loving. She encourages others. She gives of herself even when it may not be the easiest thing to do. She loves God. She uses her spiritual gifts. She loves spending time with her family. In my life, she has given me the gift of bringing back a special role that I thought was gone forever.

I love Mother Teresa. I love the homeless that have blessed my life. I am inspired by the special need actors I got to spend time with in Nashville. In my eyes, all of these people are incredibly successful in very important ways. The things I value in others are not how much money they make, the things they have, or how they can impress me. Mostly, I love people that spend time with me, want to be creative with me, laugh with me, and I love hugs. If you are living a life where you are seeking to overcome, love yourself, love God, and give to others to any degree … Why would that be unsuccessful?

So, why do we tell ourselves so may times throughout the day that we are failing? Why do we compare ourselves to others and become disappointed when most of the time the things they have are not things are even what make us happy spiritually, uniquely, or personality wise? If I traded lives with that person, would I be happy in myself? No, but I think I should compare myself to them. That’s how we think. It’s so strange.

Today, I want to feel unsuccessful at sleeping (because I can’t sleep this week), unsuccessful career-wise because in the season of my life I’ve been unable to work at much as I used to, and unsuccessful creatively because things have kept me or I have resisted my gifts.

Wouldn’t it be so cool if we celebrated achievements in where we are daily? So, like, say your health is bad or your home-bound, maybe success is not being your neighbor but that you sat outside on the porch for ten minutes when yesterday you had to stay in bed all day. What if we had special dinners, at cupcakes, or gave ourselves little gifts were achievements like that?

What if.

Life would be more joyful, more often, I think. But I’m no Morrie. I’m just a sleep-deprived, thirty-four year-old, soon-to-be mom that sat on the porch today and was finally able to share some words.

Success.

 

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NewIsh Poem

I haven’t shared a poem in awhile. This one still needs work, but here is something newish from me.

After seeing an ad reading: “Spray the Bitch Away ­­­Aromatherapy Spray/Perfume for PMS Symptoms, Bitch Days, Menopause, and Hot Flashes ­­­ Frankie & Myrrh”

Dear Bitch
By Amanda Gayle Oliver

The same gifts the wiseman laid at the feet of the Mother, glowing Mary with her halo … the Messiah suckling at her breast. They set them at her feet.
Frankincense and Myrrh has been bottled for you, too. “Spray the Bitch Away” the label reads. The perfect remedy for PMS, “Bitch Days,” Menopause, and hot flashes. Because breathing in the gifts left for the Savior of the world will relieve you of being, being a woman.

Because the symptoms of needing
Bitch spray are the thing you were taught would help you become, become a woman. For 18.50 you can surrender the badges of honor that you wear across your Suffrage sash.
Veil the time of the month when you don’t suck in your stomach or hold your tongue. When the hormones slash your pearl necklace, when they cause you to spill the sweetest tea you’ve concocted yet, and render you powerless to feel sexy in that pure white lingerie that your husband loves so much. Stop feeling the pride that comes with the heavy flow of red, the reassurance that you can release, that egg, and hope for the baby you’ve been trying for now in years.
Breathe in deeply past the spanx slimming your bloat and spray. Spray it into your mouth in case you snap gnashed teeth shut on the hand that feeds you. Spray it on your feet when the fatigue becomes too much to carry to all the places your dreams haven’t dragged you. When hot flashes prevent you from flashing bright like the neon sign of his favorite strip joint. Spill it in his lap. Maybe some will rub off on the next bitch. The one who didn’t vow for better or worse.
Wise men lay gifts at your feet.
Love. Respect. Acceptance. Compassion. Grace.

I Am Drinking The Gross Tea

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Dandelion tea is not for tasting good or maybe back in the olden days before preservatives and “natural” flavoring bitter and flavorless was what tasted good. I’m not a fan of flavorless. I snuggle up on the sunporch and look at a newly bloomed tulip tree and knead a dream I had this morning in my mind — like dough, of which I cannot eat. Because? You guessed it, things that make things that taste good are not good for you.

dreamanity-dream-interpretation-guide-healing-through-dreamsI had a dream this morning after husband left to go to his networking meeting. It felt long but I don’t know how long episodes are in dream world. For sure, to me, it would’ve been like an hour long not sitcom length.

If dreams are representative, maybe it isn’t so strange when you dream of people from your past. Sometimes it leaves you dazed and wondering, for a good part of your “after waking up with Folger’s in your cup.” (or gross tea) Before, when I’d dream of someone I had seen or talked to in a long time, I would pray for them or reach and out and make sure they were okay. There is the woman I dream about who was a big part of a past journey, and I came to realize when I saw her in a dream that I needed to ask myself — what is going on with the strong woman inside of me? where do I need to be stronger in my life? where am I trying to be strong that exhausts me?

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This morning I dreamed about a high school crush. Unrequited love? What is it about that? Maybe, it’s the same thing as fanfiction. What compels me to write fanfiction about characters another writer has established? All three shows I’ve written for … it’s been about love that is unrequited. Writers that left tension, losse ends, almost a kiss. So, maybe that person is your fanfiction … the real life kind. Eh … But maybe, they represent something … So, a friend that I went to high school with showed up in my dream this morning. I had a crush on him … maybe my first love (but unrequited), he had a crush on me … the timing was always off. I wasn’t there that day he knocked on the door. Star Trek: TNG movie blocked that path in my life. It’s okay because Riker/Troi got married in that one. So, we’re friends, we were friends … it wasn’t something that probably would’ve worked out other than in high school and God had better plans for both of us. He married the love of his life, and God created the most beautiful man I’ve ever known to step into mine. But the mind wanders for a writer and in sleep … it makes for good stories … good ideas for stories and fanfiction. Maybe, the passion for a lot of creating exists on unrequited. We propel ourselves forward a lot on things that we won’t let ourselves miss out on again, ideas of the imagination, or things we hope to come true that are enough even if they don’t — the striving, the journey.

Anyway, husband and I were staying in the bonus room or basement room of a family friend in the dream who has a sick loved one. In someways, the reflection of a long love relationship that is facing the ultimate step to overcoming or loving wit the possibility of letting go is a beautiful thing to reflect on enough in a dream. The fact that we were staying at someone else’s house wasn’t surprising either. We’re in transition. We seem to have walked a lot of our marriage in the in between, but sometimes you have to take chances and risk changes even if no one else can understand … even if you don’t understand the journey.

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Also, in the dream husband realized that a huge final paper for a class we were taking was due the next day while we were talking to a neighbor that had tried to sell him pot. He had been smoking a cigarette moments earler or at least, had put one in his mouth. I was looking at him like, “Take that out right now! You don’t do that!” So, husband does indeed check the website for the class and the paper is due the next day. We’re both responsible for the assignment. It’s one of those long college papers that involves books, research, and steps. He leaves to go get it done, and I get on the phone to the doctor to see if he can write me an excuse for the illness and anxiety that has kept me from all the classes and now there’s a final paper and I’ve missed the lessons and the work. bc66b9b2106279f682ed7dc72b92240f

I think this part of the dream could go two ways. I used to dream a lot that I was on stage in a play that I’d never been given the script to or learned the lines for and I was expected to just carry the show. I think it’s kind of the same thing. We’re both learning still how to do life in a relationship, to be married, and as two people that are introverts … how to be with someone all the time. I also think that it is a time when spiritually husband has been growing a lot, is feeling God’s spirit, and is putting in a lot of work to know what he believes and the Truth of the things he believes in … I have struggled a bit with my faith this year. For various reasons, I have struggled with spending time with God over vegging out on things with no meaning.

top-10-carl-jung-quotes-4-638I know what you’re thinking … it was a dream. But it was a long dream and one that stayed with me. I was taught long ago to pay attention to my dreams … it’s a lesson I’ve kept with me. You can be biased and filter your emotions and thoughts in life, but in your dreams you can’t. They just are and are happening.

So, my friend shows up … it’s one of those examples of wanting to find out the answers from something that you’ll never have all the answers to. He doesn’t speak a lot in the dream. Mostly, in the beginning when he comes into the room with me. It’s when he is about to shed light on things that I wake up. But, he has come looking for me. It’s that thing in high school that you wish the person you like would show up at your doorstep or at your work with flowers. You want them to be looking for you. In my dream, he was. It was weird to me because we were no where close to where he lives … why would he think I would be there? At a person’s house he doesn’t know and in the basement? But, he was calling for me from a hallway. I told him about wanting to leave school … he got it. The thing that stood out to me was that I asked him the best thing that happened to him that day and he didn’t answer. I even brought it up later … “Why don’t you answer the question?” It’s not a really hard one. There’s always something in your day that you can be thankful for … even if it’s small. He was exposed in front of me in some symbolic ways … I was folding or packing or teaching … I’m not quite sure. There were feelings there. The kind that come when you’re reading a fanfiction. Will they or won’t they? Will they ever be together? Will he tell her what’s been going on in his mind? Faithfulness was always in place. Even, in my dream, I knew I was married, but I wanted to know only something he could say … wanted only something he could give me. Right before I thought he was going to explain everything, I woke up. Unrequited.

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Someone told me this once. I understand the idea. I don’t believe it, fully.

So, who is he? Well, if you even knew me in high school … you’re probably saying … duh, that’s an easy one. What I mean is, what does he represent? I’ve been asking for more affection towards God/Jesus and he’s the one with the answers that seem distant or illusive at times. Could that have been the symbolism? Maybe, it’s the dreamer in me. Maybe, it’s the creative life. You know I’m the one who struggles against the flavorless … even when it’s good for me. Maybe, seeing someone who represents something that you wanted to happen or a love that wasn’t reciprocated in the season or time you had laid out for yourself …

Yes, it’s the issue with being a dreamer. A believer in all things can come true. A faith follower in God wanting big and beautiful things for those He loves. It’s something about being a creative and trusting in the life you want to lead when everyone else’s looks more stable and possible. It’s that thing that makes you dream about your high school guy friend, that crush that never went further than cheek kisses, hugs, and wearing class rings … when you wonder if you’ll ever see your creative hopes come to fruition and if that sweetness the bits and pieces of “almost” will ever be enough for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Isn’t That I Fail To Try

I’ve been thinking since I got off work today. A lot of that is because my achy, headache-ridden, nauseous body wanted me just to stare for a few hours. However, I do feel like if you’ve been thinking for a hours straight you should always right a blog. *wink*

So, here I am, wondering if I will be able to stay up late enough to work on my X-Files fanfiction. I just got out of a lavender/rosemary bath, in a borrowed bathroom as we are living with a sweet friend and being blessed by God’s provision for her. I looked down at my body that has many moles and red freckles as of my late twenties and thought about how they look like constellations. Stars painted on to my skin by the Most Creative. How imaginative that they would form new solar systems at different seasons in my life …

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The best story I probably have from today is the one about how I think I might have accidentally “molested” the dog at work. We’ve become friends, he and I. It made me happy when I started my new job two weeks ago that the owners brought their dog to work. He’s there to pet when you’re nervous about starting something new, having a bad day, or just to have a new doggie friend. Anyway, it all started when I shared my chicken and bacon from my salad on my first day. It’s a nice way to start a relationship with a dog. Today, he let me rub his belly while he was standing next to me, and so I scratched his belly and looked over at the paint I was analyzing when I felt my hand bump into something. It took me a nanosecond to realize what it had been that impeded my hand movement. He rolled over onto his back and let me scratch his belly … I thought it was awesome that he wasn’t skittish around me anymore. Then, I saw something I didn’t want to see on a dog and remembered that we have a girl dog and I can scratch further on her belly because her penis is further down. Either, way it was barely contact, he flashed me a little, and now we’re back to boundaries. We’re still tight though, I think. This is the story I told my husband when he asked me about my day. It made us both smile.

Sometimes, I think a lot and on a subconscious level, I think, to be able to find answers … to fix things. I’ve wanted my health to be fixed for a long time now. What I’ve found, at times, is waiting and listening can be better than “fixing.” Last week, I was being. I started my new job and it was rough on my autoimmune stuff. It frustrated me that I would hurt so much and be so tired after shifts. However, I enjoyed the overcoming. I liked the ocean waves of just floating. I’m going to work today so tomorrow I have to be still, rest, be kind to myself. (I didn’t like it all the time …) I liked relying on God. I enjoyed the sunshine and the ride to work … listening to praise music, listing things in “my thinks” to be grateful for (also blessings, positives, and even small accomplishing). I did it and even though afterwards I might not be as peppy as I wanted … I could be blessed in the overcoming.

This week I had hope in new treatment, herbs, a new approach. I woke up the next day and was too sick at my stomach to go to work. I couldn’t even move without feeling super nauseous. I got no sleep. My voice was hoarse. I decided I wanted my approach to better health to have steps in it and not an “all at once.” I mean, there are times to push through, the “ick” that has to come before the awesome of getting your body back in order. There are also times when so many other changes are going on that maybe baby steps are worth it. I tend to jump in and then jump out at times. I felt peaceful going into my first IV treatment last week, but after I longed for the week before when I wasn’t at 100 percent, but I was more accepting of the “being.” I missed being able to ride to work with God without a tummy ache and a migraine … listing the things I’m thankful for.

I’m not saying that I fail to try … I’m just saying that sometimes there’s a little more joy in the floating. Healing will come when it’s meant to … God will be my always.

Strong Women (Part 1): Glasses

One of the first things I associated with strong women growing up, was the way they pushed there glasses back onto their heads. That, and the way their “grown-up” shoes clacked on the floor when they walked. (I love grown-up shoes!) Maybe, I didn’t realize that glasses on top of the head was the superhero signal that strong women wore, but I believe the first time I saw it happen, that time that left an palpable mark, was in elementary school.

little-girl-wearing-glassesRamona Shannon. She was my principal at the elementary school I attended in Birmingham, Alabama. I remember her glasses as if she was sitting across from me today. I remember knowing that she was walking through the hallways of our school because of the sounds her shoes made on the tiled floor. I remember how I would cry every day in the third grade for my mom/to go home. Eventually, my teacher had been instructed to put me in the hallway. Sobbing, I would end up being rocked by the school secretary. Smelling of her perfume, I would eventually be walked back to class by Mrs. Shannon. I remember her telling me that I had beautiful eyelashes. I remember how I grew there from the girl crying in the hallway to the one running for SGA Vice President, becoming co-captain of the Academic Bowl, winning the school spelling bee, and my last year being presented with the Principal’s Award for my growth as a student and for overcoming. I can still here the sound of her voice as she called my name.

Needless to say, when kids my age thought getting glasses was nerdy, I thought they were the coolest. I wore my cousin’s, I wore my best friends in middle school, and now, well, I where my own because I messed my eyes up being “cool” in everyone else’s glasses. I have always had a love affair with strong women without even realizing it. It was an admiration that caused me much pain in my late teens, early twenties when I grabbed onto them too tight and a gut twisting lesson that taught me so much about others and myself.

When I went away to college, I broke into pieces that I didn’t quite know how to put back broken-heartinto a whole. I had once been taught that if you see people that you admire or that do what you want to do, to learn from them, ask them to mentor you, and to set goals with habits that would help you be more like that yourself. It took me a long time to stand on my own and to learn who I was as a woman with strength. Being able to push your glasses back onto your head, it’s kind of like being able to where one of those cardboard hats and move your tassle to the other side. The road to get there is steep at times. When I was sick with depression, an eating disorder, and during the time I self-harmed I grabbed on to women I saw as strong because I thought the could keep me safe when the world I was living in was spiraling. Especially, because I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. I was scared of myself.

It was during one of the darkest times I’ve ever experienced, that I had to let go as some of those women who become huge idols in my life and some even had to be ripped away from me by people in authority. One of these women, who wore glasses on her head, and at times forgot they were there … she explained to me that I was gravitating toward these strong women because I wanted to be close to these things that I admired that I couldn’t see yet within myself. Yet, they were there. It was a painful season of growth. I learned on a real level about my own identity, how dependence on people will always let you down, and how my true strength was in God. I learned where my strength came from and how to walk in it.

I said to a friend, last weekend, that I believed that the beginning of each decade has been a time of growth for me. I crumbled in my early twenties. It was a falling apart that helped me to stand firm in God and to realize the unique way he’d made me and the gifts that he’d given me as an individual. It didn’t happen overnight this graduation of glasses pulled back to rest on my head, but what a blessing it is the day you look back and reflect on all you’ve learned. The beginning of my thirties have been another dark and painful season, however, because of what I went through before I am able to be excited about a season of learning and growth … maybe that next level, where you get to put the glasses on your head and then forget about them.

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It took me a long time to be able to separate the woman I admired from the myths I had created about them. When, I look back, I think about all the pressure my admiration caused. I also, see their flaws. I’ve learned what real strength looks like and I think these women are even more beautiful. I realize the women I admired for their strength had their own struggles with marriage, death in their families during those times, stressful jobs, probably family drama, and yet, somehow they made time for me. It is vulnerability, perseverance, and being raw in the flaws you have as a woman that make you strong. It is sharing your story without a mask, it is the puffy eyes behind the makeup, and the power in letting yourself be.

A strong lady, that has been in my life for quite some time, said to me recently that when we embrace the things about ourselves that maybe aren’t all shiny or things we might not like best about ourselves, things others might see as imperfections, that we are being healthy. It is when we resist them that it becomes unhealthy.

I’m glad as I’ve gotten older that I’ve learned to embrace who I am and to see strong women as they are (it’s a process), without projecting some type of fairytale on them. I think that we have to continue to refresh this lesson even as we get old. It is easy when you’re going through as difficult or exhausting season in your life to compare yourself to someone you see as strong, especially people on TV or in magazines. We look into the mirrors of writers we adore, women that run nonprofits that we admire, or even that have already reached where we want to be someday.

I think that you have to sit back and remember everyone is struggling, everyone has that thing in the mirror that they don’t like, everyone is looking to someone else at times and thinking they have it all together. Celebrities are real people.  Every strong woman is flawed. The beauty in strength is the embracing, walking in and through the difficult, and being transparent.

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It’s this strong women truth that I learned. This secret that had light shined on it so that I could see the flaws. It’s the myths that I learned to untangle that has helped me be able to walk in my own strength, even if on days that doesn’t look very strong. I am seeking to be supportive of women that I’ve met and may never meet, that just aren’t the stories we right on them. They are so much more powerful when they tell the stories themselves.

This week I got to lean back from a particular obsession and practice the skills I learned going from the girl clinging to strong women to the woman who sometimes pushes her glasses back onto her head without even realizing it. (See Part Two of Strong Women)

 

woman-making-listPut yourself at the top of the list of strong women you admire. – Kaye F.