More Than 2 Words

Me too.

Me.

Too.

It’s just that sexual harassment began in my life when the word harassment was taller than me, and I wouldn’t have understood that there was a “too” to be initiated into. In fact, I would have not know how to differentiate between “to” and “too,” one being for direction or part of together and the other involving also, for a bit to come. I would have known “two.”

In the first grade, it was two boys who rubbed my rear end any time we were in line to go to PE, to walk to the bathrooms, to the lunchroom, or to assembly. They called it something specific that at thirty six, I can’t quite remember. I do remember having to sit with my mom and the vice-principal on the cement steps that faced the playground and explain what was happening to me. So, my “me too” begins at six or seven given that my birthday is in October.

mYEpJAJhCZjOLIllGFbZU8w

It was my first time in public school having spent two years of kindergarten at my church. That first classroom on the right with the heavy wooden door when you walked into the school held heaviness in so many other ways. I had been kissed on the cheek by a little boy in my class, which I suppose is cute and fine, when you’re both small and you’re a pretty little girl who is scared about being away from her parents and in a big school where the teacher got on to boys (just boys) by putting them over her knees behind the reading chart and spanking them. Fear. Fear is real and so big when your six, small, and sensitive. Another little boy who I vaguely remember exposing himself when the teacher was out of the room, liked to pick his nose. One day he teased me by attempting to wipe a booger on me. I believe I was reprimanded for making noise or squiggling around, and I was so scared that I would be brought behind that chart. Only boys. Once we had a tornado drill, the kind where you shuffle out and put your nose to the floor and your hands over your head, so that when the tornado comes and the lockers topple on top of you it won’t hurt — at all. In first grade, the little boy to my left tried to kiss me, and I elbowed towards him. His tooth fell out. When he told on me, I was afraid of going to the principal’s office. I’m not sure if I had seen that paddle carried around the halls yet, but I said to the teacher, “He told me it was already loose.”

10155322_10154094570995258_5610320201125344547_n


My heart has hurt for her. That tiny girl with the knobby knees. Her grandmother called her “skeeter” short for mosquito bite because she had been so small. Growing up she was surrounded by grown-ups and grown-ups in training — closest sibling 9 ½ years away. Smart, funny, kind, and brave in a family where she was deeply loved but not quite normal … though she walked life like it was normal — she walked it with a slight limp. Diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis a year or so earlier, there were times she had been forced to crawl. She was hospitalized after being overdosed by a medical professional. The teachers in kindergarten had carried her when her body attacked the joints on her skinny legs. In first grade, she had to stand up in the back of the class when sitting too long caused pain and her legs to start drawing up. This girl who was emotionally abused at home while being loved deeply and treasured all at the same time. Who was scared of the dark, whose daddy was beginning to be a little too dependent on pain medicine after hurting his back, and a mother who was overworked and overwhelmed. This first grader who felt so much. She felt tiny hands rubbing her rear end when she was walking on her own. She was just a “me” then. Me.

When I was in the sixth grade I was across the street at a neighbor’s house when his cousin who was visiting for the day, grabbed my butt. I believe I told him not to touch me there and when he did it again, I picked up a combination lock that was close to me and threw it at his crotch. When the lock made contact, it angered him and he punched me in my mouth. It was mouth still tender from being busted at gymnastics when a front handspring made contact with another gymnast’s handstand. My teeth had gone through my lip. That day I stood up for myself and a boy’s knuckles met an already tender place. Tenderhearted.

IMG_20171020_200258217When I was sixteen, I began to be nauseous in the mornings. I was itchy in a tender, private place, and I was trying everything I could think of to make it better. Earlier that year, my parents had divorced and my mom and I were living in an apartment where our rooms were on the opposite ends of the hallway separated by two bathrooms and a tug of war rope that often stayed tight with tension. A tightrope walked without a net. Me. Walking. My mom took me to the “girl” doctor for the first time. I was afraid but I made it through. It turned out that I had a bacterial infection and somethings small that had to be biopsied that the doctor cut from my labia. Later that week, my mom came to my high school, checked me out, and sat me down on our couch. She seemed scared? Nervous? Upset? I hadn’t had sex. In fact, I’d never even had a real boyfriend and hadn’t even really kissed a boy yet. She was afraid I had been raped and that I was keeping it a secret. I couldn’t. I couldn’t remember anything. Yet, I had an STD. I couldn’t understand it. The pediatrician’s nurse later told her that you could get a wart on your private area just like any other place on your body and for her not to listen to the gynecologist who was saying that I had HPV. (You know before it was so rampant, had its own commercials, and was controversially vaccinated) I tried to forget about it. In my early twenties, I once again began to have a lot of ovarian and vanigal issues. After a biopsy of my cervix, a rather esoteric daughter hurried us back to her office, scaring us into thinking I had cancer, to spill forth a long scientific word that once again meant — genital warts. HPV. The medicine they gave me made things worse and my HPV never looked exactly like the sample photos. I found myself crying through painful acid treatments by a doctor that never quite believed that I’d never had sexual intercourse before. I lay flat on an examination table as she poured acid on that tender place and a nurse held a fan toward my vagina to soothe the burn. Tears streamed down my face because I felt so ashamed and dirty and I didn’t know why. Tenderhearted.

IMG_20171020_200143352I remember the first time I cut myself on purpose as clear as I remember the last time. It’s a time in between, that took away her breath. Mine too. Me too. On one occasion much removed, I referred to her as my guardian bull dog angel. She may have been the strongest woman I recognized before I began to see myself in the mirror correctly. Straight through my eyes to my heart, like God does. She was the viewer of the aftermath sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, and always I know wishing she wasn’t seeing the dark and warm red that became larger and more scary. It was SGA picture day. My hair was dyed dark and my sleeves long and black when I pulled that one back in her office to reveal over hundred fresh cuts on my left wrist. It took her breath. She may have held my arm. She looked at me.

“You’re sure no one has raped you?”

Her too? It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked the question. Not even the first time she had asked me.

I knew the meaning of “too” by college. That wasn’t a group I remembered being initiated into. No, not me too.

Because I’m not of the ones who can remember.

 

IMG_20171020_195746658

 

*** I have a wonderful family and God has redeemed my life in beautiful ways. I am thankful for the love I had growing up, but I also believe being honest and real is the only way to help others who may feel alone. The artwork belongs to me. It is from my journals and assignments when I was in therapy for depression, self-harm, and an eating disorder. God’s timing and plan is perfect. I have so much good now because the things that have been overcome from my past. Stories are powerful. Share your story. ***

Advertisements

And the Baseball Cookies

hbchearts

Many would agree that the place were you married that special person God wrote into our story to change you, grow you, and walk the journey of life together with you is a beautiful marker in your book of life memories. It’s true I desire to be under a bridge in Nashville with my unhoused friends and those serving them at The Bridge Ministry on Jefferson Street. I love worshipping beside my brothers and sisters in Christ there, and I loved marrying my husband (a divine gift from God) there April 23rd, 2013.

What you may not know is that it wasn’t my first time to be a bride … What I want to share with you is my memories of the  place where I first said, “I do.” No, the first venue I stood in the role of bride was more pebble-y. The ground was decorated with white rocks that slushed and smushed when you walked on them. There were swings and monkey bars framing the area for the guests (who most likely didn’t know they were attending) to enjoy themselves during the short ceremony. In the center, there was a large tire, a giant tire. Attached to the tire which was taller than me, you went up steps and down steps to lower in … a tough journey for someone with a train … and this is where the vows were exchanged. I in fact, could not tell you whether I was even wearing a dress, who officiated the short ceremony, or if we stuck with traditional vows. Why not?

154764_10150333112960258_466833_nI was in five year old kindergarten. It was recess. I was marrying the little boy in my class whose table I walked up to in class every day, snuck my hands over his eyes, and as
ked, “Guess who?” When, he guessed my name I would take my hands down and kiss his cheek. I remember that room. The feel of the pages of the tiny readers we used to use when learning to sound out sentences. I remember my art supply box — the way the supplies fit in like a perfect puzzle. Wanting to be left handed because those students got special spacers when we were practicing writing down words. I remember being the leader and getting to go into the closet and pick which flavor Kool Aid we got to have with snack that day. I am almost positive I always picked yellow. I remember the days Mrs. Friday would carry me to the playground when I couldn’t walk because of my Juvenile Arthritis. I remember that I walked into the door of a large building when I was four years old and into Mrs. Hudgins Pre-School class where I clung to my mom and did not want her to leave me. A building I would come to love and make many memories in — one at times I did not want her to take me from.

A church is something that doesn’t have walls, but a building houses scents, words, experiences. The carpet and the pews hold long dried tears and kneel marks. The windows are stained with more than just color but praise, laughter, and sermons that shaped and grew spiritually. The balcony held an overflow of not just people but love. During my childhood and the baby steps of my young adulthood, Hilldale was a living sanctuary. It was a safe place for me, when the world outside wasn’t always everything it needed to be. Inside of this building, I began learning more about Jesus during school and eventually when my parents joined the church — I made the decision to follow Christ in that sanctuary.

jesusI was five. (So, the same year I got married. Wow! A lot happened that year!) I often write about fears and worries the enemy has tortured me with over the years because I came to know my Savior at such a young age. I will testify to the truth that I believe that this decision was pure and from the heart of a child. It was during a big revival and I was sitting in the balcony with my mom. She says that I asked her to come with me and walked in front of her, “prissing” my way down that aisle of burgundy carpet and up to Dr. Edwin Jenkins, who was our pastor. “I want to ask Jesus into my heart.” I told him. I don’t remember if I prayed with him or with the woman who took me into the hallway to talk with me. How special a memory for it to be my teacher, Mrs. Friday. I remember feeling very joyful and warm in my heart. My grandfather had passed away in April and there had been a spiritual revival in our family. I went home and told my dad and I just remember that feeling. I like to think it was the Holy Spirit. I do remember that after that feeling began to not be as tangible, I had a lot of anxiety. I cried in those pews where I had colored in my coloring books during evening services and sat with my “husband” as his parents sat in the pew in front of us. My mom took me to see Dr. J in his office, and I remember him talking to me to see if I understood the decision I had made. He asked me to talk to the small statue of Mickey Mouse on his desk and tell him how you become a Christian. To this day — I like to say that although I’m not sure, if Mickey made a decision that day. I for sure witnessed hard and, if he’s a believer today it is definitely because of the seed I planted.

sanctuary

The truth is there are too many memories of the building Hilldale Baptist Church is housed in for me to fit in one blog or the people who absolutely changed my life for the better. I met my best friend from childhood there. I watched Brother Ned literally sculpt the bible stories he was telling us to life before our eyes in children’s church. I went to mission friends and GAs. I started church choir when I was six and continued until I graduated high school. I did every kids musical and always had a speaking part. I was involved in the drama team in high school. I went to lock-ins and roller skated and mine and my friends birthday parties in the gym. I can remember the way the sun felt lightly kissing us as we stood in the dewy grass lining up for march-in at VBS every summer. Fellowship dinners. The way the bible pages sounded as they quickly turned while Dr. J preached up on his toes. The choir every Christmas singing in a huge Christmas tree. Candlelight services. Jesus’s huge birthday party that was held in the gym that year Christmas fell on a Sunday. Being scared I would drop the huge tray of grape juice during The Lord’s Supper when I was a little girl. Crushes. First boyfriends. Sleepovers. People.

Charlie Martin who taught me what it truly meant to worship. I remember the first time I was asked to close my eyes and just worship God directly at a Youth Retreat, worship an intimate thing between just God and myself. He also talked me into going on my first Choir Tour when I was so shy in the seventh grade. We sang a song, “God Love People More Than Anything …” at a homeless shelter and the spirit of God was so palpable there that I asked if we had to leave. I went over and told him thank you for insisting I come because I don’t know that I’d ever experienced God’s spirit that thick before. I didn’t want to leave those people there. Later, we went to DC, and I worked in a homeless shelter for a week and got to meet so many amazing people. I heard their stories. Because of my own story and this early planting of love for the outcast in my heart, binding the broken has been a call I have never stop following or listening to … the homeless are a special group of people God has called me to love from a young age because of the guidance I experienced from a people that served me inside a beautiful building. These people taught me to take the love of the Lord outside of the building.

donnyhat

I was driving down the road with my son about a month ago and without thinking dialed the church phone number that is ever familiar in my mind. I asked for Donny Holley. And my former youth pastor and friend, made space the next day for us to catch-up. I enjoyed the conversation and was very glad to be an adult, able to listen truly and give without just receiving the benefits of those who are put in our lives to enrich them. I had become super shy in middle school and Donny noticed. He noticed me at a time when I needed someone to notice. Because of his own shyness and low-self esteem, in high school, he didn’t want me to miss out on things and he began to mentor me. He put me on the Youth Leadership team so that I could be around older Youth who were serving God. When I became depressed in eighth grade, he met with me weekly, teaching me my identity in Christ through a book about stomping out the darkness. He taught me to look people in the eye, to say positive things to myself in the mirror even if it felt weird in the beginning, and he taught me about stinkin’ thinkin.’ Sometimes we need a “check-up from the neck up.” He set me up in a discipleship group where I connected with a spiritual mentor who was four years older than me. She drove me home after group and we talked. She spent time with me. She held me during one Youth Retreat when I cried during a whole service when I had been doubting my salvation that week.

I grew. I flourished. The times the darkness came back during my parents divorce and later as a young adult he was there — even if that meant sitting in a hospital room with me behind the doors or a lock down unit in a mental hospital. A healing that also first began in some ways when I stood up in a service where a guest preacher spoke about the woman with the bleeding disease in the Bible and I shared for the first time in front of the whole congregation that I had been cutting myself.

We caught up. Whole for many years, I sat with him and chatted. Then, I asked for permission to wander. So, once again, he unlocked a door for me. Only this time, it was to that building that I’d walked into at four years old and didn’t want to let go of my mom’s leg. As the door closed behind me, I began to explore my memory. Just God and me.


preschooltableTraveling through the darkened hallway that led to the classrooms I sat in a small wooden chair, touched a table that I used to fit around to learn about Jesus — where I probably learned to write my full name for the first time. I checked for the readers. I wandered to the closet where the Kool Aid used to be kept. I went into rooms upstairs where I used to have choir practice, Sunday School. Slipped through rooms I’d not been in since I was a child. I went to the third floor where I had GAs when I was a girl. I went into the room where I prepared the day I was baptized. I opened the door to the baptismal and looked in, turning on the lights. I saw the bar Dr. J asked me if I wanted to put my feet under it as he explained what would happen when we got into the water. Could I hold my nose? I chose not to put my feet under the bar and I nodded when he asked me if I was sure. Liking to be different is something that has never left this spirit. I remember people in the congregation being amused as when he pushed me under the water my feet went straight up into the air.

cross

As I said before, I’ve struggled my whole life with my salvation because of being saved at an early age (I’ve also flourished from it), so a couple of years ago, I decided to focus on learning daily to accept this free gift from my Healer. So I walked down the steps and I sat in the bottom next to that bar that never bound my feet and I prayed with my hands open. In the room where I decided to follow Jesus and ask him into my heart. I purposely chose to accept. His spirit was there. I laid down in the baptismal and looked at the ceiling and then I got up. I sat in the pew my family and I used to sit in when we attended church at Hilldale and I looked around the room and smelled the smells and I saw my moments replay across my every buzzing mind. Then, I took out a hymnal. I smelled it I’m sure. I even smelled the wood of the pew. I read through hymns. I took things in. Once again, I was moved.

baptismal

God was there.

I was so thankful for being allowed time to wander.

I am blessed because of the experiences.

So, the building that was constructed will be sold soon to a new owner.

But the building God built — His church where each brick was a person and His son the Cornerstone — we’re still moving. The building lives.

I smell of hymnals.

I breathe out praise. I am stained.

A window.

 

window

This Post Needs No Pictures

And still I rise.

I watched a documentary in pieces. I started yesterday afternoon, watched about 45 minutes before bed, and finished the rest a few minutes ago. In a way, I’m glad I didn’t just get to take it all in one sitting because I got to be inspired over and over.

Dr. Maya Angelou.

I knew the poems. The ones read at Trumbauer competitions and for school projects. I knew she was to be respected. I liked her, but I did my project on Gwendolyn Brooks. I liked that she was friends with Oprah. She sparkled. I used to sparkle. What I’m saying is that until this weekend, at least in my adult life, I didn’t know her story. I love her story.

Ms. Angelou.

I was inspired by so many things. The African dance that I wanted to learn in Nashville at the Global Education Center because it seemed so absolutely freeing. The language. Her voice was her voice. She didn’t try to conform, even if her views were not the societal norm. However, there are two strong things I will take away from watching her life be documented on film – two confirmations.

  1. How important it is in my lifetime for people to know how important they are, how valuable.
  2. Words are powerful. In my lifetime, I’m going to eliminate some from my vocabulary and use mine for benefit and connection.

I will love her forever.

I am thankful for God today for reminding me that I am enough through this documentary. Something he has tried to show me more than once this week — earlier it was through a book I’m reading, It’s Okay About It, by Lauren Casper.

I am thankful for being reminded that God isn’t finished with me. You see, something happens when you realize your mortality in that real, when you know it your bones type of way. Something happened when I got sick three years ago, when my friend died unexpectedly in a train accident, and when chronic illness caused me to miss community — be lonely. I became afraid of losing my life. Not the before or the after but the in between.

When I learned, that loving and following God does not mean you are safe; I became afraid. What I remembered in seeing Ms. Angelou’s story visualized is that the climax of your life, umm the pinnacle — hmm, maybe it’s just all a journey with spikes of joy. What I realized is that some people know to live in the moment because life is short and that propel them. These people produce more creatively, they become more passionate. I have somewhere in the back of me, maybe in the muscles of my skull or the aches of my joints — I’ve believed that it’s over. God is done with me. But maybe what I thought was God using me was actually just the “moments,” what I was perceiving as the adventures, the being known, or what I thought my life was supposed to look like. What I have observed is that some people don’t even get into the groove of their life until halfway through. Maybe what I think is “over” or while I’m fearing death on some cellular level, I might get 10 to 30 more years. It’s not too late. I am enough. And if I live without that lie but step in Truth even if I just get one or two more years or 8 more months — I’ll never know it was coming because I was loving so much and living in abundance.

In this world, we think success is being known. I’ve learned success is being faithful to God. We want people to know us and when we’re famous at what we love then we’re successful. I want people to know they are loved. I will spend my life loving God even when I don’t feel like I know how to and loving others until as many people as I can connect with know that they are important. We are here to serve each other and we aren’t here long.

I want little brown boys and girls like the ones I met at church in West End last week are so special, that their lives have such meaning. My own son. I can’t wait to teach him the value of others. We don’t have television, and I find life is easier without the constant “news.” However, I want every glimpse I get to not be another child or person killing themselves. I want to start everyone talking not about each other or behind their backs but to each other. How are you? You are beautiful. What are the things you’re thankful for? I feel alone today, do you? Let’s hold hands.

Why am I here?

I’ve known for a long time that I had a very special call on my life.

Sometimes, I falter in, “Is it still there?” Sometimes, I falter in seeing success as the world sees it. I had the call confirmed this weekend. I felt  joy in my heart a few weekends ago at a small church on the other side of town – the call whispered. In a conversation I was having about homesexuality I stated it myself.

I am called to love.

What more special call is there? What greater call could I have placed in my life?

I don’t believe there is any.

I will love hard every moment that I breathe.

When I stop breathing, I’ll know a love that I’ve never imagined.

I am inspired.

Whose story has inspired you today? Have you loved the community of this world to share your story? They are dying to hear it. Love them that much.

Love.

Others will rise.

Dry Bones Stop Bleeding

bones

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.

pen
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.

20161128_172215

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)

breath-of-God

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.

thirteen tattoo

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.

free_day_button

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.

hqdefault

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.

d38ba73039876f82a5e5ce8b9558e741

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.

birds-nest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part of My Pieces

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

tub

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. 

9463465-colorful-glass-mosaic-wall-background-stock-photo-mosaic-abstract-painting

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.

***

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

quote-15

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.

christ-100-37

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.

bridge-wedding-2

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.

 

13669767_10157137827710258_3032373754731286498_n

 

 

 

 

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.

ronreagan

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.

 

mic.jpg

 

 

 

 

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.

 

il_570xN.286987096

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.