I See You

 

 

 

On Mother’s Day, we tend to paint this picture of motherhood that looks an awful lot like the Hallmark cards so many of us probably bought to give to our moms today. But in reality, while we can speak eloquently about all the great parts of motherhood, we are often silent about the parts that are far less elegant. Let’s be honest; being a mom is hard.

So I asked God, “What would You say to a mom on Mother’s Day?” The answer came simply, settling into my spirit in the way that only His voice can:

I see you.

I. See. You.

To the mom who is perpetually invisible, always taking the pictures but never in them – unless they are selfies…

I see you.

To the mom who is in the trenches of parenting (and isn’t just about every age and stage “in the trenches” somehow?)…

I see you.

To the mom whose survival depends on coffee and dry shampoo…

I see you.

To the mother in the grocery store whose child is in the throes of a full-on meltdown and you’re convinced everyone within a 5-mile radius is judging you…

I see you.

To the single mom, and the temporarily single mom due to deployment or business, you’re holding it down on all fronts because no one else will, and “exhausted” is just your normal now…

I see you.

To the mother raising a child with special needs, walking down a life path you never could have anticipated…

I see you.

To the deployed mom, your willingness to go has never been a desire to leave, and this day feels to you more like a sacrifice than a celebration…

I see you.

To the mom battling mental or physical illness and trying desperately to hold it together for your family…

I see you.

To the mom who had one of “those” mornings and may have even lost your mind in the car before getting the whole family to fake the “we’ve got it all together” look on the way into church…

I see you.

To the mom who has adopted a child and is facing the unique challenges that go along with it…

I see you.

To the stay-at-home-mom and the working mom who can’t seem to escape mom guilt or the Mommy Wars…

I see you.

To the mom whose relationship with your kids isn’t what you hoped it would be…

I see you.

To the mom who is convinced that you’re a nonstop hot mess who will never be a Pinterest Mom and that your efforts will never quite compare to the highlight reel you see on everyone else’s Facebook and Instagram…

I see you.

To the mom who wishes your mom was still here…

I see you.

To the woman who desperately wants to be a mother, but is 1 in 8 women dealing with infertility. It is so common a struggle, and yet you feel so alone, and this day is so, so hard…

I see you.

To the mother who has known the unimaginable loss of a child, at any age – whether in the womb or as an adult, and this day is a painful reminder of that loss…

I see you.

To the mom who is struggling and overwhelmed, who harbors this shameful suspicion that you are too much and yet somehow at the same time not enough…

I see you.

I see you. I know you. And I deeply, powerfully, perfectly, recklessly love you. If you think My seeing you means I’m judging you, guess again. Don’t you know? I rejoice over you, I sing songs over you, and I absolutely delight in you.

Genesis 16:13 – “Hagar gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me.'”

Oh mama, the God who sees, sees you. He sees you. Let that wash over you and soak into the dry places in your soul, and with that knowledge may you have the happiest of Mother’s Days.

Sometimes Healing Sucks

We often talk pleasantly, longingly, about healing, but sometimes we don’t want healing. Because sometimes healing sucks.

Let me explain.

Awhile back, an opportunity was presented to me that was just that: an opportunity. Sounds good, right? The thing is, it came wrapped in a situation that also represented a stark reminder of the betrayal and humiliation I’d walked through five years ago. Most of the time, I’m good with talking about that whole episode of my life – I wrote a blog entry on it for the entire world to see, for crying out loud! But parts of that whole era were never addressed, and the remaining wounds scabbed over enough for me to be functional – more than functional, really – and I would have been content to keep things that way forever.

Ok, I would have been more than content. Way more. I really would have preferred to leave that aspect of things on a shelf and literally never deal with it again. Like that box of God-only-knows-what from the very first time you moved that keeps finding its way onto the moving truck and into the new house but never actually gets unpacked. I really wanted to just keep things packed and shoved into a corner, because the proverbial unpacking was going to hurt, and I just didn’t have the time or space or emotional bandwidth for that. And I wasn’t planning on creating any, either.

Until this…opportunity…came along. It was impossible to ignore, and, almost as bad, it was impossible to fight against. It was literally a Godfather-esque “offer I couldn’t refuse.” And I cried. Oh y’all, I cried some really angry tears. Because I could have been given the opportunity without the painful walk down memory lane, but it wasn’t going to work that way, and I felt like the extra gut punch just wasn’t necessary.

But perhaps necessary is in the eye of the beholder.

From my perspective, gallivanting through a bunch of stuff I’d rather just never think about again seemed like a terrible idea, regardless of how much better I’d be on the other side of it. If I was at the “80% solution” and was in a fairly good place, I was ok with that. Things were moving along, life was good on all fronts, and I didn’t see broken things, which meant nothing needed to be fixed.

I’m pretty sure The Man Upstairs saw something different. I had done a lot of healing, but I wasn’t healed. I had done a lot of forgiving, but I hadn’t completely forgiven. I had pieced my life back together, but there were still places with cracks and missing shards where my heart was unprotected. He saw through all my claims of functionality to the depth of my woundedness, and He couldn’t leave “well enough” alone.

Our Creator God is funny like that. He loves us as the hot messes we are, but He sees bigger, better, more complete things for us. He wants us to be whole. He wants us to be healed. He wants us to be free. And He will lead us on some really weird journeys to get there.

Have you ever broken a bone and had it heal badly? You might still have the use of that appendage, but not as completely as you might have otherwise. So the bone has to be rebroken and reset – so that healing can be complete. The process sucks – it isn’t pleasant at all, but the end is good.

When I wrote about God’s never-ending pursuit of us, I drew a lot from Cory Asbury’s Reckless Love. I still don’t know if this whole opportunity-wrapped-in-pain is a shadow, a mountain, a wall, or a lie that God is doggedly tearing down, but I know He won’t let it go. I really wanted Him to. I really, really wanted to run the other direction as He started pressing on the painful places that I just didn’t want to deal with. I would have settled for broken woundedness over complete wholeness, because while being healed is awesome, the healing sucks sometimes. But God’s not really into settling. He’s into pursuing. And redemption. And restoration.

He’s also into mercy and grace. Mercy, because God let me go five years without forcing a showdown with my pain. Grace, because with every effort to pull away, He kept bringing me back to this.

I’m not through this process yet. Everything about this “opportunity” indicated that it would be a season rather than a quick I-went-to-my-therapist-and-I’m-great-now session. Seasons take awhile; this crummy process is taking its sweet time. Here’s to whatever “healed” looks like on the other side of opportunity.

So I Went To A Supernatural Convention

I went to a Supernatural Convention, and I haven’t been home in a few days…

In August of last year, I bought tickets to the Supernatural Convention in Nashville. The show and many of the projects the cast members have spearheaded have impacted me greatly, and I wanted to say thank you – in person, if possible. So I went, and the experience was surreal. On the other side of it, here are some observations and a few things I learned along the way – although if you’re looking for convention tips, that’s not what this is about:

  1. Demographics are nothing more than descriptors.

I’m 36. A single mom. A military officer. As my first convention drew near, I seriously debated what the heck I was doing. Did people “like me” actually do this? I didn’t know anyone “like me” who would have flown by themselves to Nashville, TN to attend a fan convention completely dedicated to a TV show.

You know what? Who cares?!

My demographics describe me, but they don’t dictate the things I am interested in, and they certainly don’t have the power to create a box that I and all of my interests have to fit into. (Unless, of course, they are prejudicial to good order and discipline, because military regulations are what they are.) Imagine if I had said, “I’m 36, I can’t go to a fan convention!” or “I don’t know any other military officers taking leave to go to a Supernatural convention; I can’t be the first!” I would have missed out on so much. Lesson learned: don’t let what you think someone in your demographic should do hold you back from what you want to do.

2. The Supernatural Family (#SPNFamily) is a real thing.

I had suspected this for awhile, based on more than a decade of anecdotes populating the internet, a fantastic book edited by Lynn S. Zubernis called Family Don’t End With Blood (FDEWB), and the way that the fandom responded to needs – ones that had absolutely nothing to do with Supernatural – around the world. I remember reading FDEWB while deployed and finding validation for the impact the show, the cast, and their projects had had on me. Honestly, though, I wasn’t sure what I was going to find at a convention. I was new, this was my first con, and I felt really overwhelmed.

I shouldn’t have. On the first night, I had tickets to attend the relatively small Pajama Party with Kim Rhodes and Lisa Berry. I got onto the elevator, trying to figure out where in this huge convention center I was supposed to go, and I met three ladies who were also on their way to the Pajama Party. One of them happened to be active duty Air Force, and the other two were military dependents. They caught how lost I was, and they immediately offered to take me with them. Maybe it seems minor, but isn’t it the minor things that make such a major difference sometimes?

But if we’re going to talk about family, I have to tell you about Savannah. In our VIP group of ten ladies, Savannah was the youngest at 13-years-old, and she was absolutely precious. She and her grandmother were in the group, and we basically made her our unofficial mascot within the first twenty minutes. Her favorite cast member is Adam Fergus, and we made sure that all of our interactions with Adam involved giving her pride of place. This even meant that when Adam came over to pull one of the VIPs on stage during the karaoke party, we made sure Savannah was the one. There was this sense of “let’s make this weekend as memorable as possible for her” – just because. Each of us could have easily been out for ourselves, eager to steal the spotlight and the precious few minutes we got with each of the cast, but we chose instead to be intentional about making an already incredible experience even more so for Savannah. And we basked in the glow of her happiness with every encounter. In a ridiculously short amount of time, family happened, and it was beautiful.

Also beautiful was how every person there could just be themselves. Acceptance was pretty much the rule, and it was so fun to see people be fans without worrying about being judged. Heck, I could fangirl without anyone judging me; in fact, I got lots of grins when people figured out it was my first con and I couldn’t get the smile off of my face. More to the point, as soon as people realized I was a newbie, they offered pointers and tips to make the entire experience even better. All around, everyone wanted the best for everyone else, to include leaving random notes of encouragement around the convention. Talk about a breath of fresh air.

3. As much as I love to create, watching others create is a joy on its own level.

Music means a lot to me. It is my go-to creative outlet, and making music is one of the places I most feel “at home,” even when you put me on a stage and hand me a microphone and a set of in-ear monitors. However, there is a deep sense of joy in watching other creatives do what they do and just letting myself enjoy what they are creating. The Louden Swain concert – Saturday Night Special – was no exception, and watching the band perform with each other and with the cast was so much fun, mostly because they were clearly having fun as they entertained us. (That being said, Lisa Berry sang the heck out of Proud Mary, and Jensen Ackles brought the house down with Like A Wrecking Ball – the Eric Church version – and Whipping Post.) It was something to behold, and I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, how lucky am I to be sitting here, getting to witness this bit of magic in person?” Because that’s how it felt, like magic. Like a bunch of creatives were connecting in a big way, and something amazing was happening – and they were enjoying themselves immensely in the process!

4. Famous or not, the cast is made up of some of the realest people you’ll ever meet.

With every encounter with the cast, I walked away thinking, “They are so insanely normal.” They talked about the difficulties of being away from home, of parenting, of struggling with self-esteem and self-worth, of tackling physical and mental illness; they talked about the same things we talk about on a daily basis, and it was amazing.

They were also unfailingly kind. I had the opportunity to have some actual conversations with a few of the cast, and they were so present – I never felt like they were just getting through the event, biding their time until the next thing. I think we struggle with that in our everyday lives; they managed to make each person they interacted with feel important and valued in a brief period of time. That’s a gift, but I don’t think it is something you can fake – even if acting is how you make your living.

5. We impact them.

Consistently, from actor to actor, whether in Q&A panels or meet & greets, it was readily apparent that they are as awed by us as we are by them. This incredible phenomenon started off with a TV show but morphed into something powerful, long-lasting, and profound, and the cast realizes that the fans are essential in that equation. We all have stories, and many of us have offered thanks – but they return it to us with humility and a sort of wonder that this work they do has changed lives. That wonder in and of itself is something they continue to carry with them.

Those interactions made me think about the people we have in our everyday lives who make a difference, but we assume they know. Don’t assume. Don’t ever assume. If someone makes a difference, tell them. Thank them. Because that might be what keeps them going on the really bad days, when it’s easy to believe that none of it matters…and yet it all matters. It all matters, and the impact can be reciprocal.

6. Everyone warned me about Post-Con Depression.

Remember all the advice folks were quick to give me the second they figured out I was new to this whole thing? One item that came up over and over again was the warning about Post-Con Depression – when the high of being at a convention and interacting with your favorite cast and being a fan without being judged fades and you have to step back into ordinary life, which can feel like a deep, deep valley.

I’m not there yet. What I am, in this very moment, is grateful. I could have continued to say, “Yeah, it would be cool to go to a convention someday,” but someday isn’t on my calendar, and it might never have happened. I was part of an amazing experience, and I met incredible people – and I don’t just mean the cast. My belief that the #SPNFamily is a real thing was validated, and I got to be part of the fandom without judgment. The convention exceeded my expectations, and I couldn’t be happier. When the Post-Con Depression inevitably creeps up, I look forward to fighting it with the gratitude that I’m feeling right now, because gratitude doesn’t go away.

Bottom line: I’m so glad I went, and I have no regrets. Does it get better than that?

The Never-Ending Pursuit

My daughter accepted Jesus as her Savior today.  This was a decision that I’ve long prayed for, but never pressured her to make.  After all, a pressured decision of this type isn’t real, and if it isn’t real, what’s the point?  We had actually had a conversation about it last week, but I sensed that she wasn’t quite ready, so I opted to “plant seeds” and move on, trusting that when the time was right, she’d know.  Apparently, the time was right this morning.

What’s so funny when a child makes Jesus their Lord is that the gravity of what has just happened is often lost on them.  At that stage of their lives, there is no shadow for God to light up, mountain for Him to climb up, wall for Him to kick down, or lie for Him to tear down in His pursuit of their hearts.  (Yes, I am a really big fan of Reckless Love.  How could you tell?)  The decision is simple and big, but not “the weight of the world just left my shoulders” big – because, hopefully, they haven’t been carrying that kind of weight.

But someday, they might.  Actually, they probably will.  My daughter will have shadows and mountains and walls and lies to contend with – because she’s human, because she’s got a heart, because her decision today doesn’t make her perfect and impervious to the junk out there.  But it does give her hope.

Hope, you guys.

She doesn’t even really know that she needs hope yet, but I have enough perspective and have walked enough painful roads to know that she’s going to need hope in spades. Because we all do.

When I think about the choice she made today, I’m amazed.  Not at her, but at God Himself.  He could have sent His Son to die on the cross, raised Him three days later, and called it good.  He could have said, “Ok, world, I did My part.  I did more than My part.  Now it’s on you.  I’ll be waiting.”  But He didn’t, and He doesn’t.  He pursues us.  The cross was enough, but He didn’t stop there.  Our decision for salvation is enough, but He doesn’t stop there.  Every day of our lives, He continues to pursue us.  Even when our souls belong to Him, He is lighting up shadows and climbing mountains and kicking down walls and tearing down lies because having us wasn’t enough.  He wants us to live fulfilled, abundant lives in Him.  So He pursues, because He loves us…recklessly.

To be pursued by our Creator, by our Savior, by the only One who could see us at our best and our worst and love us unconditionally.  Wow.  And when you find that your little one – the one you asked God for, the one you’ve prayed countless prayers for – has begun to have an inkling that she’s pursued by Him, it’s kind of incredible.  Because His pursuit of her heart continues His pursuit of mine.

Tell Your Mountain About Your God

Confession: I’m a worrier.

Always have been.  It’s probably genetic, although I think it skipped my parents’ generation.  My mom says that if I don’t have something to worry about, I’ll find something.  It’s called borrowing trouble.

And it’s exhausting.

I recently made a list of the things that I fear, that I worry about, that wake me up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and threaten the peace that I hold so dear.  This was really important, because lately it has seemed that fear has been in crazy pursuit of me.  I mean, an all-out hunt for my heart.  I made this list as part of a prayer, fully intending to give the list to God in exchange for that peace that passes all understanding He is so good at giving.

That’s not how things played out.

Instead, I pictured a mountain, and I heard the phrase “tell your mountain about your God.”  I’ve seen that phrase a million times; I always thought of it as a clever script-flip on telling God about your problems…but I hadn’t really considered what it meant.  Until I had a list of mountains, and I had told God all about them, but suddenly sensed that maybe they needed to hear about my God too.

So, I kid you not, I told my mountains about my God.  As in, I stood in my bedroom and had a conversation with each of them.  (I’m not nuts, I swear.)  For example, one of my worries (that exists every time I have a move coming up) is about finding a home in my new location.  I told that mountain about my God who is Himself a shelter and a refuge, who could snap His fingers and create the house that is best for my daughter and me if He chose to.  I told that mountain about how God has never failed me in this area; I said this as I stood in the bedroom of the home discovered three months before moving to this assignment, for a great price, in a great area.  I told that mountain that it might as well shrink into nothing, because my God would make quick work of it in no time.

I went through every item on my list – some huge, some small, all important enough to gnaw at my soul in the late hours of the night.  I told each of the mountains about my God, about His character, about His willingness and ability to fight for me and for my daughter and to prepare the way ahead for us.  I regaled them with stories of His faithfulness, over and over, again and again.  And as I did so, my mountains transformed.  They were no longer huge, hulking obstacles to overcome; they became an audience – an audience for watching my God work, and my telling of who He is and what He can do was simply the opening act.

I told my mountains about my God, and I ended up reminding myself about who He is.  His character, His faithfulness, and His promise were enough to melt the giants into nothing.  The worry, the worst-case scenarios, the lies, the cringe-worthy things that my brain comes up with in the middle of the night – none of them can stand when faced with who He is, the light He brings, and the fierceness with which He fights for His own.

I made a list of my mountains and expected God to just handle it.  He could have, obviously.  But there’s something about facing the mountains and watching the magic happen simply by declaring God to be who He says He is.  Where the mountains disappeared into nothing, my faith grew in their place.  God handled it, just not the way I expected – but that’s usually so much better anyway.

Do you have mountains?  Of course you do.  We all do.  I challenge you to tell them about your God…

A Bowl of Strawberries

I’ve spent the last week thinking about strawberries.  Crying over them, even.

Let me explain.

When my daughter was two years old, she would break out in hives when she ate broccoli or peas.  (Weird allergies for a kid, right?)  A blood test ordered by her doctor indicated that she was also allergic to strawberries.  At that point in her young life, she’d never even tasted a strawberry, so the decision was made to simply keep her away from anything with “strawberry” in the ingredients list.  Eventually, she outgrew the allergy to broccoli and peas, but she had been trained so well to avoid this particular allergen that she refused to even try anything that had a hint of “strawberry” in it.

This year, I convinced her doctor to refer her for another allergy test, ideally to stop the parade of EpiPens and Emergency Action Plans that we weren’t even sure were necessary in her case.  On Wednesday, we received word that my daughter was not, in fact, allergic to strawberries, and the whole world suddenly looked very different.

After getting the big news, our first stop was the nearest grocery store, where she decided that her first strawberry was going to come on top of a giant cupcake.  Why not?  This was something worth celebrating!  We took it home and decided dessert would absolutely come before dinner; how could I deny her the taste of a strawberry for one second longer??  She laughed nervously as she opened the clear plastic container that held her cupcake and then she took a big bite.

I sat there and watched her, sensing that this was one of those moments that you hold onto, because it is rare and special and precious.  I observed as she slowly chewed, getting to know the seed-filled texture of the berry, and I waited for her response to the one-of-a-kind taste.  The look on her face worried me a bit at first; I thought she might not like this fruit after all and the excitement would have been for naught.  But I was wrong.  The uncertainty in her eyes was replaced by wonder, as she enjoyed the flavor of a ripe strawberry for the first time in her life.

As parents, we introduce new foods to our tiny kiddos all the time, but it is simply part of the process of learning to eat new things.  I took for granted the magic of it, as I mostly hoped she wouldn’t spit out the food or break out in hives.  But introducing new foods and flavors to her at seven is very different than it was at two; she could revel in the newness of a flavor that struck her as sweet and somewhat tart, and for a moment there was a captivation with the taste and texture dancing across her tongue.  It was beautiful to behold.

Part of why this entire thing has brought me to tears is that we were created to enjoy flavors; this strawberry tasting had nothing to do with getting nutrition and fueling up.  There was something worthy about taking the time to taste and experience and enjoy.

Think about that.

We were created with tastebuds, and not simply as a survival tool to keep from eating things that could kill us.  We were created to enjoy different flavors and combinations thereof, and there’s something to that.  God could have made fueling our bodies to be as boring and mundane as putting gas in the car, but He didn’t.  It may seem small, but I think it illustrates yet another facet of His crazy, creative, reckless love for us.  In creating tastebuds, in creating a way for us to experience flavors – giving flavor a reason to exist, He opened a door for the creativity of those whose giftings are more culinary in nature.  But He didn’t stop there.  How many meaningful conversations have you had over good coffee?  How many get-togethers have involved a meal?  How many celebrations were incomplete without a cake?  “Grabbing something to eat” is a mainstay of how we interact; breaking bread together is often at the core of developing connections and relationships.  And it started because God loved us enough to give us a way to enjoy foods and flavors, even though He definitely didn’t need to.

All of this is to say that I’m really, really grateful.  Grateful for tastebuds.  Grateful to have been made by One whose boundless creativity gave way to such a gift.  Grateful to have watched my daughter’s awe at tasting a fruit she’d only seen but kept her distance from.  Grateful for the bowl of strawberries sitting on my counter, waiting for my little girl to come take just one more of this goodness that is so new in her life.  Grateful that the little things are still so incredibly powerful.  Just grateful.

Creativity and Compromise

A couple of months ago, my friends Jesse and Becca began something at our church called Creative’s Night. It was a time and place carved out for anyone in the church to share their talents, and it was an ideal setup for folks who weren’t always in a position to demonstrate the creativity within. People shared cooking, scrapbooking, card-making, writing, original songs, dancing – all kinds of things that spoke to the spark of the Divine, the creativity inherently part of each of us.

It got me thinking, and I’ve really been trying to tie all the thoughts I’ve had together, but it has not been easy. You’d think that writing about creativity would be a simple thing – it’s writing, for crying out loud – but I am discovering that my own relationship with creativity is more complex that I would like to admit.

When it comes to being a creative, I have spent a lifetime somehow simultaneously wanting to be “a creative” while vehemently denying being anything close to one. Conversations over the years have gone something like this:

“But Jessie, you can play.” Yeah, I breathe across an instrument and sound comes out. I didn’t write the music. Not a creative.

“Ok, but you can sing.” Same answer. I open my mouth and sound comes out. The words and music aren’t mine. Again, not a creative.

“What about acting? You take a part and make it yours.” Is it creative if I’m taking a part someone else wrote and simply putting my actions and inflection to it?

“Fine. You can write, though. You can’t deny that.” I am perfectly capable of stringing words together that sound good, but I can’t come up with stories. “Creative writing” is called “creative writing” for a reason, and I can’t do it.

Looking back, it bothers me how much I pushed back against any suggestion that I might be a creative. Especially when my heart wanted deeply to be one, and I was convinced that one could not live in both worlds – you were either creative or logical, but you could not effectively be both. I think some of this comes from how we as a society tend to talk about what one traditionally calls “a creative.” For example, starving artists are a thing; starving doctors are not. Creatives are portrayed as free spirits, following their hearts, full of impractical whimsy and most often empty wallets. How many parents of college kids pursuing music or theater or anything else in the fine arts have begged those same kids to develop some kind of practical backup plan, because creativity won’t pay the bills? No one tells kids who are studying to be doctors or lawyers or engineers to have a backup plan; their financial security is assumed and assured. So we compromise. We compromise who we are and how we were made in order to fit what society says we should be and what success is. We bury our hearts and later wonder why there’s a void.

The irony is that creativity exists everywhere, even for those doctors and lawyers and engineers. It is in the numbers, in the approach to problems and illnesses, in the use of the law. Creativity is everywhere, in everyone. It is emblematic of our Creator, and we were designed for our individual creativity to complement that which exists in others. And when we are acting out of that spark, we tend to be happier and more fulfilled, because we are doing the very thing we were designed to do. When I am writing or making music, sometimes I get this overwhelming sense that these are some of the things I was born for, but I hid those things away for so long. In no way do they overshadow what I do in the rest of my life, but when I’m living in freedom – bridging the logical and the creative – I am better at being me, in all areas of my life. Additionally, when I am engaging in creative pursuits with others, there is a deeper connection, a sense that what we’re doing is so much more than the sum of its parts, and the result is so life-affirming.

So what about all of my responses to the earlier conversations, where people tried to point out my creative nature and I ran screaming the other direction? I have decided that it isn’t always about creating a new song or script or book. What if my creativity creates an emotion for someone? An experience? An environment? A perspective? What if I can put words to something someone has yet to find the vocabulary for? What if, in all the intangible ways that our giftings work, we can offer hope or a smile or a way to finally shed tears that have been held back for far too long? Friends, that is beautiful. That is something that I want to be part of, and it is why I am embracing whatever creativity is within me. I just wish it hadn’t taken me so long to do it.

Here’s another point to consider: we ascribe many things to God – Creator, Ruler, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Counselor, Comforter, etc.  God’s got a lot going on.  But none of His roles or attributes overshadows any other, nor do they undermine any other.  He’s multi-faceted, and He made us in His image, to be just as multi-faceted as He is.  Our creativity doesn’t have to negate anything else we do; it should complement it.

To that end, we were made to complement each other and not compare or compete.  If there’s this thing that you do, that you love to do, that you feel so incredibly alive doing…but so-and-so does it better, so you hold back, you’re missing out.  We’re all missing out on your part in an incredible masterpiece.  When I’m singing, I’m the embodiment of “amateur hour;” I’ve never had a vocal lesson in my life, and I’m surrounded by people with more training and talent in their pinky finger than I will ever have in my entire body.  But I bring whatever gifting and creativity I have in the hope that what we bring as a group is so much more than what we might bring as individuals.  I bring what I have because I want to be a part of the masterpiece God’s making.

Finally, as we’re complementing the creativity in each other, we need to speak it.  If you see creativity – in whatever form it takes – speak it.  Just as yoga practitioners say namaste, which loosely means “the soul in me recognizes the soul in you,” we should recognize the creativity around us.  “The creative in me recognizes the creative in you.”  For someone searching for where creativity fits in their lives, for what creativity even exists in their lives, speaking it out loud to them could be life changing.  This isn’t just speaking truth; it’s speaking life, and that’s ministry right there.

From Inside A Depressive Episode

Hello from inside the dark, oppressive bowels of a depressive episode.

Where the tears come easily but energy and motivation do not.

Where everything, even the air, is heavy – but not in a comforting, weighted blanket kind of way.  More like being slowly suffocated…but so slowly that panicking wouldn’t make sense quite yet.

Where there’s not enough eye cream and makeup to hide how tired you feel, even after a full night’s sleep…because, let’s face it, sleep doesn’t help this kind of tired.

Where minor things feel major and major things barely register.

Where the lies you tell yourself are easier to believe, and none of them are nice.

Where it’s easy to give up on the things you were excited about two days ago, because your brain chemistry did a 180 in that time and everything just looks different now.  More gray.  Less promising.

It’s also where you answer honestly when someone you trust asks if you are ok.

Where you make appointments in order to keep yourself accountable to do the things that are crucial to your self-care.

Where you practice self-awareness enough to call yourself out when you’re isolating – and wow, do you love to isolate when you’re in this place.

Where you dig out the self-care kit you’ve kept by your bed or in the bag you carry to work and you USE IT.

Where you talk yourself out of being overwhelmed by the ridiculously long To Do list and find the things that will specifically help someone else.  Accomplishing something for someone else feels good, and there’s nothing wrong with using that as the motivation.

Where you find a way to keep doing what you do because other people depend on you, and to let them down if you had even an ounce of strength left just isn’t in your wiring – even on your worst day.

Where you lower your impossibly high standards for a time so that you can conserve your energy – and your sanity, not to mention the negative self-talk that wants you to believe you’re just the worst because of what hasn’t been accomplished.

Where you make a list of things and people and places and experiences that you’re grateful for.

Where you make another list of the things you’re looking forward to tomorrow, next week, next month.

Where you offer grace to yourself.

Where you offer grace to others.

Where you breathe.  And cry.  And pray.  And hope.  And dig deep.  And fight for every painful heartbeat because this depressive episode is just that: an episode.  It is a season, and it will eventually end.  The sun will come back up, and it will be glorious.  There will be a day when everything doesn’t hurt and you don’t feel sad every second.  I know it because I’ve lived it, and I know that this won’t last forever.  And if you’re in a similar place, know that yours won’t last either.  We’ve got a life to live, and better days are on the horizon.

“If I knew not midnight, how would I know the morning?” ~Nichole Nordeman

2017: The Year I Gave Up “Someday”

Someday.

I used to say “someday” with this wistful, sad resignation, because whatever I had said “someday” about probably wasn’t going to happen. It was a nice thought, but there wasn’t any real effort toward making “someday” anything resembling “today.”

But I gave up “someday” this year.

I started this blog, after telling myself for years that “someday” I would make my writings public.

I completed my graduate certificate – something I started for me, because I never want to stop learning, and “someday” is a terrible time to further one’s education.

I saw my second wonder of the known world and have set a goal to see my next one by the time I turn 40.

I bought tickets to a Supernatural convention. No more “someday it would be cool to go.” I am going – look for me in Nashville in April!

I faced the deployment that I knew would “someday” come. I survived. My incredible aunt survived. Abby handled it like a freaking rockstar. It changed my perspective and no longer looms forebodingly in the distance.

I acquired furniture for my home that I am really happy with, that I picked out, that doesn’t give the “I am decorating a dorm room” feel.

I went to Hawaii. I paid my respects and cried my eyes out at the Pearl Harbor Memorial and National Cemetery of the Pacific. I saw volcanoes. I hiked to waterfalls. I touched a sea urchin. I saw whales and dolphins and sea turtles. I dealt with my tendency to panic in the water and went snorkeling.

I sang and laughed and cried and loved and made decisions and was present. The passing of a friend and colleague taught me to number my days, and I have done so. I have been more protective of my family time and of the balance I so desperately need in my life, rather than pushing those things off to “someday.”

I just checked the calendar, and “someday” isn’t on there. It isn’t anywhere. It is a wish, fleeting and without foundation. And I have given up on it. I have this one life, ONE LIFE, to live, and I want to make the most of it. I want to see things and talk to people, love the broken and make a smoother path for those behind me. I want to continue building a relationship with my daughter and laying the foundation for the young woman she’s becoming. And I refuse to cast it all on “someday.”

2017, you’ve been many things, but I will forever remember you as the year I gave up “someday.” May 2018 be all the better for the lack of “someday.”

Five Tips for Self-Care During the Holidays

Self-care during the holidays can be tricky.  The routine changes, the junk food is plentiful, and society creates a whole lot of pressure for perfection around this time – all of which can spell disaster for self-care if you aren’t really deliberate about taking steps to keep that self-care process intact.  Here are a few tips for doing just that:

Stay active.  I have a workout regimen, and I am dedicated to it.  But the second that my schedule changes, my workouts are some of the first things to slip.  This ends up making me feel yucky about my body, which tends to snowball into feeling yucky about myself in general, and it’s just a slippery slope from there.  So I make sure to have a plan.  If I don’t think I’ll be able to get a full-up workout in, I carve out time to at least go for a brisk walk; the combination of activity plus fresh air and being outside in nature tend to do wonders for me overall.  If the weather is crummy and I can’t get outside, I have to work a little harder to get activity in.  There are a ton of videos on YouTube that I check out to get a workout in if I can’t get outside, and I have no issue finding one that will keeps my attention (make it fun!) and my heart rate up.

No matter what you do, have someone you know you’ll be with keep you accountable – maybe they can even take a walk or do the workout with you!  If you don’t feel like being that vulnerable with anyone you’re with, tell a trusted friend what your plan is and have them keep you accountable via chat/text/email/a phone call.

Hydrate.  I am a big tea drinker – specifically red rooibos tea.  It is good for me, and I tend to down a ton of water in the process.  But I realized over Thanksgiving that it was far easier to reach for the wine or soda that was readily available than to make my hot tea or drink water.  I ended up using a tracker on my phone to note how much water I had consumed; it gave me a goal to pursue even if my normal hydration was off-kilter.  (I’m not saying avoid alcohol and soda, but hydrating with the good-for-you stuff is an important part of balance.  If you find that you’re experiencing depression during the holidays, however, alcohol may not be the best thing for you to consume, so keep that in mind.)

Pace Yourself.  Whether we’re talking food or activity, pace yourself.  I look forward to the food and drink of the holidays all year long.  For that reason, I refuse to deprive myself, but I also am careful to eat and drink in moderation.  I get to enjoy the goodness that only comes out this time of year, but I don’t hate myself for eating or drinking to excess.  Same for activities – there are tons of places to go, people to see, and things to do, but if you try to do too much, you can wear yourself out and end up feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation.  Don’t overschedule yourself, and don’t be afraid to step back when you need to.  It isn’t selfish; it is part of taking care of yourself.

Take a Nap.  Along the same lines as pacing yourself, the routine change of the holidays might mean that you actually have time for that nap you never seem to get.  Take it.  Enjoy it.  But don’t overdo it – if you’re struggling with depression, a nap can turn into spending the entire day in bed, and that isn’t going to help.  But if you have the chance to get some rest, by all means, take advantage of it!

Manage Expectations.  Most families have some level of dysfunction to them, but the holidays can set many people up for a whole world of disappointment if they go into family time expecting things to look like a Hallmark movie.  Go in with your eyes wide open; this includes watching for the tendency for everyone to fall into years-old dynamics.  You and your family members could all be mature adults, but you may instantly fall into the same relationship dynamic you had when you were kids as soon as you get together.  If you find that this is happening, step back and consciously work to change the dynamic.  It can be exhausting, so watch your energy level, but it can also have a big, positive impact on how your family interacts.  Additionally, if you go in with a clear, realistic picture of what you expect from your holidays, you won’t have to cope with the emotional toll of overwhelming disappointment if you haven’t set an impossibly high standard.

I love this time of year; it is by far my absolute favorite.  I genuinely wish that I could take time off from my battle with depression in the same way that I can take time off of work, but it just isn’t that simple.  Since that’s the reality, let’s make the best of the holidays, taking care of ourselves and kicking off the new year right!