What We Really Want

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I posted this two years ago but it is an election year so I thought I’d bring it back.

 

We stick our fingers in our ears and pretend that we don’t hear,

all the secrets, all the lying, all the unsatisfying

answers to the questions no one’s daring to ask.

 

We dance around the issues and we tear each other down. We

want the glory, not the gory problems we don’t wanna fix.

Honesty is forgotten in our politics.

 

Why should we even bother to hold our pundits to their cause?

We don’t want to vote for a president, we want Santa Clause

to bring us lots of presents and a shiny new year.

 

We give up our rights and freedoms because we don’t want to think

about our responsibilities, we’d rather sit and drink

away our worries while we neglect our country.

 

We don’t want responsibility, we want someone else to blame

for all the darkness in our world and all our lost boys and girls

searching for the reasons why they are left alone.

 

They are dying on our streets and battered in our homes waiting

for someone to love them like they deserve. Unemployment leads

to desperation but that isn’t the problem.

 

We stick our fingers in our ears and pretend that we don’t hear,

all the secrets, all the lying, all the unsatisfying

answers to the questions no one’s daring to ask.

 

Heartbeat

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I feel like this has been a rough winter. The weather has been beautiful but I have so many coworkers, friends, and family who have lost someone close to them in the last few months. The holidays are supposed to bring celebration and joy but grief has stepped in in a big way overshadowing everything else. It’s times like these we want to be near, embrace, say something, anything to ease the pain.
I’m sad. Not so much for the dead but for those who will miss them. I hate seeing people hurting.
I don’t seem like the type but I analyse everything and sometimes I over analyse. I can get lost in my head. Sometimes I do it on purpose so I don’t have to feel what I don’t understand. What I’ve learned is this: There are two ways to acknowledge pain and grief. You can look at the shattered remains of your life, the scars and missing pieces and drown in despair. Life has been unfair and unjust to you and there is no hope. Or you can look back on all the crap and hardship and see everything you’ve survived, everything God has brought you through.
When I’m in the middle of fresh grief I’ll admit sometimes I throw a pity party for one. But once I pull out of it and regain my reason I look back and compare. I look back at all the things that broke my heart and I say, ” I thought I’d never be the same after that” or, “I thought I’d never stop crying but I’m ok now. It was the end of the world then but now it doesn’t seem so big. I survived that, I can survive this.”
I’m rather proud of my physical scars. They all have stories. I have emotional scars, which I think hurt worse, but they all have stories too. And anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for a good story.
Danny Gokey sings a song called, “tell your heart to beat again.” I’ve wished to turn my heart to stone so I couldn’t feel pain anymore but that isn’t an option. Everyone wants to know how you keep going after loss but there is no magic answer, you just do. You wake up, take a deep breath, and tell your heart to beat again. God will give you the strength you need if you just ask. It may not be how you expect but one day you will realize the ache has dulled and you’ve survived. It may only feel like a small comfort but understand that it is a huge victory.

Is This What I Really Wanted?

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Why is it the people we love the most cause the most pain? I have always believed my brother Joe understands me like no one else but what if he doesn’t really? What if he’s just an excellent liar who knows what to say to make me feel understood?

I’ve always said that was second best but is it? Haven’t I told Mike that a hundred times? If you don’t understand can you just lie and pretend like you do? But now that I think that it’s the case with Joe, I feel cheated….it makes more sense but I still feel cheated. I never could reconcile how he could understand me so well and miss how much of a problem his drinking is to me and himself.

Now we’re back to square one. I’m not sure how to feel. Standard. I swear my emotions are like a box of theater candy that melted. Everything is mixed and melded. Indistinguishable. He was the only person who never made me feel damage but now I’m not even sure if it was truth or a lie or if it should matter.

I guess that’s the million dollar question: Should it matter?

Time is Flying by on Santa’s Sleigh

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Time is flying by. Christmas will be here and gone before we know what hit us, leaving a wake of gift wrap, credit card debt, and extra pounds. But hopefully we will have also created memories to outlast the Christmas carnage. I hear a lot of bellyaching about Christ not being born in winter at all, but winter is cold, dark, and depressing so what better time to celebrate hope and family? Sure we’ve commercialized the crap out of it and buried the true meaning under so much tinsel we may go blind looking for it but my family and I are going simple this year.

We went so far out of our budget over the summer we’re still catching up so presents will be fewer this year but that may not be a bad thing. Scaling back the extras dials back the stress, and that makes for a merrier Christmas. What is the point of spending time with family and friends if you are going to make yourself and each other miserable trying to cram stuff into an over extended budget or credit card? What happened to the good ‘ole days when we made or gave gifts that meant something to us?

This Christmas I’ll be happy to squeeze a Christmas Eve service into my family schedule and I will try to focus on what really has worth. (Hint: It’s people.) Whether I can keep my attention there with all the shiny distractions of the season is yet to be seen but it’s the goal anyway. My problem is that I love my family and I want them to have all the nice things I see in the stores but I get so wrapped up in the moment that I miss the point. These things will offer temporary happiness but will they truly make my loved ones’ lives better? Will they really find love under the wrapping paper and tinsel? That is what I need to focus on not just the price tag.

Merry Christmas to all and I will see you in the new year.

We Are Better Than the Bad Things That Have Happened to Us

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We are not the sum of our experiences but they are a major molding factor. I’m not very old yet and I have been very blessed. But every life has its hurts and hang-ups. These are the worst times in our lives but they are the most formative. These are the moments that make or break us.

I’m a survivor. I always have been. I don’t know how to be anything else. My mom was an alcoholic during my middle school and high school years. As if those years aren’t hard enough her illness didn’t help. My dad worked two jobs to support us and mom was falling apart so I became the adult. I became the parent. My brother rejected this role change. We grew apart. My mom failed to commit suicide twice in 30 days. I blamed myself. I had failed everyone I loved. I wanted to give up. I was only 16.

My mom, my best friend, was killing herself some days more aggressively than others and I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t fix it. She wasn’t the only one who couldn’t deal with her life. I wanted to die just to make the pain stop. I wanted the ground to swallow me, to find some shadow to hide in, to stop being me. I won’t say the only thing that stopped me was the fear of ultimate failure but that was one of the biggest reasons. I think God decided no one was getting a free pass that year and kept us all alive. I knew I was a failure but if I took the cowards way out I knew with every aching fiber of my miserable body that I would be responsible for my mother’s death. I couldn’t stand the thought of doing that and leaving my dad and brother alone. I couldn’t do it.

When God created me he made me stubborn. It’s a family trait and I have it in spades. I’m pretty sure he made me stubborn beyond reason. Looking back I know now that my mom’s illness was not my fault nor can I claim her sobriety my victory. It’s always been hers. People have told me all my life that because of how I handled things I was strong, that I was a trooper. My silent response was always, “was there a choice?” I never said it out loud because with stubbornness came pride and my struggles were my own. I had to be strong for the people around me. I couldn’t admit to failure or defeat. I soldiered on because it was all I knew how to do.

What did I learn since then? I learned that I can’t control other people. Their actions are not my fault. I learned that God is always there no matter how dark my life gets. No matter how alone I feel I know he’s there. I learned that I don’t have to deal with my pain alone. It is ok to admit weakness. It is not defeat. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Failure isn’t always bad. Failure kept my mom alive. I learned that you never know how strong you are until being strong is all you have, and when that isn’t enough God is there to carry you through.

I’m Sorry…If I Have To Be

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“I’m sorry” is something our parents forced us to say when we knocked a sibling over, took their stuff, or invaded their privacy. An apology can’t be forced though. It is more than the two words “I’m sorry.”  An apology is a promise to be better than what we are apologizing for. There is not only an element of repentance and reconciliation but restitution. That is what makes true apologies so difficult. It requires something of us, a sacrifice. It means we have skin in the game.

While repentance can’t be forced, restitution can. Which is why today’s society lives by the motto: deny, deny, deny. We no longer accept the consequences of our actions. We mumble “I’m sorry” if forced and move on. Is this the legacy we want for our children, a legacy of subterfuge and blame? If we don’t keep each other accountable how can we hold them accountable? And if we don’t hold them accountable for their actions how can we protect them?

I am not the leader type. I can do it. I have personality traits suited to it but I don’t like it. I would rather back someone I believed in. But I believe in leading by example and if no-one steps up then I will. I want my child to be different, to do the right thing even when it’s hard. I want her to be everything I wish I was, which means I have to try first. And that also means I am never allowed to mumble the words “I’m sorry” again. I have to mean them.

News and Our Legacy

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If copycat shootings and underage drunk and disorderlies are making news I think we need to redefine what news is. People are so hungry to get their fifteen minutes of fame, to be acknowledged, and to be heard that the lasting consequences of their actions seem to be lost on them. They trade fifteen minutes of fame for fifteen to life in prison. Is it worth it? But we as a capitalist society give them what they want because it sells. We feed off of the drama. It’s sad and degrading.

When did people and lives become nothing more than letters in a headline? Why do we feed the negativity around us instead of building each other up and watching each other’s backs? When was the last time you read a news story or heard a blurb on tv about neighbors watching each other’s houses while they are vacationing or getting together to clean up or build a park? How can we make the world a better place if only the squeaky wheel gets the attention?

We take our families and our safety for granted. One day it could be our lives or deaths splashed across the headlines we pay to read. Is that how we want to be remembered? Maybe we should redefine news and our legacy.

Fight, Flight, Fear, and God

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There are two basic responses to fear: fight or flight.

Fight: Face your fear, do something about it, acknowledge it.

Flight: Ignore it, take away its power, run from it.

Nothing is ever black and white for me. It all ranges in shades of gray. Not 50 Shades of Grey, that’s a whole other blog post.  I wish I could pick a strategy and stick with it but life doesn’t work that way. There are times when the best course of action against fear is to ignore it. Irrational fears and the what if’s are a good place to start ignoring them. Whenever I get freaked out by all the things that can go wrong I have a sort of mantra.

“I will not say what I fear. I will not give them names. I will not make them like people whom I owe loyalty and carry their spirits with me. Even monsters under the bed have nightmares and I’m pretty sure they’re about my God.”

A lot of the time fear sucks our energy, concentration and focus. If we simply ignore it and refuse to let it have power over us we can move past it and use our energy for better more enjoyable things. However, as much as I wish this were the once and done solution, there are times when fear needs action.

Fear isn’t always a bad thing. Fear can keep us safe. It tells us walking down a dark alley alone is a bad idea and that fire, unchecked, can hurt us. Fear hones our instincts. It makes our hearts beat faster, pumping more blood to our brains for better processing. If someone breaks into your house and attacks you fear calls for adrenaline which can give you extra strength and speed to do what must be done to keep you safe.

Then you throw God into the mix. He promises to protect his children. He has a good plan for our lives, not to harm us but to prosper us, to give us a hope and a future. I have never been good at deciding which course of action is the best for which situation. How much do I step back for and trust God to take care of and how much does He expect me to fight with Him? I suppose the point is I’m not alone either way.

Life, Strength, and Crime Dramas

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I like crime dramas. No surprise there for those who know me. I like the drama, the story, the plot. I’m drawn in by the insight into human nature even as twisted as it is. Most of it ties up neatly unlike real life. You get closure. It makes you appreciate what you have and makes you hold your children and loved ones that much tighter.

I will admit they make me a little paranoid if I’ve been binging. I can’t watch an episode where a child is kidnapped or harmed without crying or sneaking up to the nursery to check on my own. It is scary seeing what people are capable of. But I guess I like to see how people react. Bad situations can break people. We’ve all seen it happen. But they can also make us stronger, kinder, more compassionate and understanding. Sometimes it is the hardest, ugliest times in our lives that make us better people because we refuse to give up.

My mom was an alcoholic when I was growing up and it was painful and hard. Now that she is sober again those are years she wishes she could take back and do over. No one wants to hurt the ones they love. No one wants to admit they are broken. She says she’s sorry for putting me through all that and I tell her I’m not. And I mean it. I hated every minute of it. It hurt and I still have emotional scars that I will probably carry my whole life. But those dark moments made me who I am today and I’m ok with that. When things get hard and I worry that I will buckle under the stress or that my heart will shatter into a million pieces never to be rebuilt, I remember everything I have been through and how God brought me through it all. He has always been faithful, why would He stop now? I remember just how strong I can be when I have no other choice. I’m just too stubborn to roll over and die.

Crime dramas remind me of how good I had/have it even when it’s ugly. They make me think. I know, thinking is dangerous; it can set your hair on fire. I guess I’m a bit strange, always have been. I kind of like that raw emotion feeling, like rubbing sandpaper on exposed nerves. It hurts but it lets me know I’m alive and strong. I have been so depressed that I didn’t feel anything. The numbness almost scared me but even the fear was sucked into my oblivion. After escaping that, even pain is an acceptable reminder of what I have and how precious it is. So, in short, my obsession with crime dramas may be dark but it’s only because it makes me see the light so much brighter by comparison.

Love First, Love Often

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I met a couple last week who reminded me of something important. At our base level, strip away everything that makes us different and you get a need to be loved and accepted. Those who are different in more socially unacceptable ways wear this need on their sleeves. They haven’t found love and acceptance where most of us have so they’ve deviated in their desperation. How many of us have compromised our values, our personalities, and dreams to be liked? It doesn’t stop in high school either. I find myself in constant revision. So who am I to judge?

“I don’t want to say that because they will think I’m lame or stupid or a prude.”

“I don’t want to do that because I’ll look foolish.”

Christians can be a terrible bunch of judges. We hold up a measuring stick to ourselves and those around us. But the comforting thing about being a Christian is that Christ says, “God doesn’t look at the outside but at the heart.”

What are your intentions, your dreams, your ambitions? God could care less about what your hair looks like or who you’re crushing on as long as your heart and your passions are in the right place. God loves us for who we are, warts and all. We are imperfect beings. We fail and make mistakes but God loves us anyway no matter what. Why can’t we do that for other people?

One of my favorite quotes is from a pastor. “God loves you the way you are but too much to leave you that way.” Step number one in changing someone’s heart: love them for who they are. Be a decent person. You can’t pick a random person off the street and tell them what they are doing is wrong and expect them to just change because you said something. You need to love them first. Jesus did. Lepers, prostitutes, adulterers, and tax collectors where the common crowd around Jesus. He didn’t put a hand out and say, “You heathens, change your ways or else.”

He invited them to follow him. He shared meals with them. He healed them and the ones they loved. That is the hard part, the messy part, the part other people see and wonder if you’ve lost your mind. The most important part is showing love to those who need it most, to the people who may be difficult to love.

My husband told the couple I mentioned earlier, that I was very religious so when I met them they were almost afraid of me. They have come to associate religion and Christianity with judgment. When we got to talking and they realized I was just as normal and human as them the relief was tangible. It’s really sad when you have to footnote your beliefs and say you’re the odd kind of Christian who actually tries to follow Christ and love people first while withholding judgment. Do I agree with their lifestyle? No. To I care enough to want them to change? Better question do I care enough to love them where they are until they ask me why? Love people first then when they ask why you treat them differently than others treat them your testimony will have credibility instead of being a bludgeon. Food for thought.

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