All Over the Place

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It has been long, hard several months. My brain and emotions have been all over the place. This post may end up all over the place before all is said and done. Let me start by saying that cancer SUCKS!!!! In 3 circles I belong to, 4 ladies have been taken by cancer in the past 3 months. Me being who I am have stuffed the emotions and attempted to pretend I’m ok and not hurting, but the last death brought the emotions and the tears. Cancer is a thief. It takes people before we are ready for them to go. Yes, I could get all spiritual and give the trite response of “Because they had a relationship with Christ, I know I will see them on the other side of eternity and they are whole, healed and in the arms of our Savior.” While I know that to be true, I am hurting and even angry. Last night I had the privilege of getting to see Jen Hatmaker on the Moxie Matters Tour. My favorite line of the night was “It’s not bad Christian PR to admit that you’re hurting.” AMEN and AMEN!!! She gave us permission to hurt and feel all the feelings.

Let me back up and give a little more context to this painful story. Last June my MIL was diagnosed with Bile Duct Cancer. Later Liver Cancer would be added. Cancer would take her the Sunday, the week of Thanksgiving. In my group #the4500, cancer would take 2 of our members, one in November and then one last week. Lexi and Carrie were well loved and are missed by our crew. The day before my MIL’s funeral a friend from another group underwent emergency surgery where bleeding on the brain and lesions were discovered. The following week, Lea Anne would share she was battling stage 4 Malignant Melanoma. Yes, brain cancer. She fought like a warrior. At the beginning of last week she underwent another major surgery. By Saturday night her husband announced she had been placed in hospice and not given much time. Tuesday morning I awoke to the news she had stepped into the arms of her Savior.

My heart aches at all of the loss. I know my own personal feelings are a drop in the bucket to those closest to these ladies. My MIL left behind a daughter, 3 sons, 3 daughters-in-law, a son-in-law, 12 grandchildren, 2 great grandchildren with the 3rd great grandchild due this spring. Lexi and Carrie each left behind a husband and 3 sons. Lea Anne left behind her husband, 3 sons and a daughter. They all left behind a large number of friends.

While my MIL had lived to see 75 years, she still had plenty of life left in her. The other 3 were late 30s/ early 40s, so way too soon for anyone to have to say “goodbye.” All of the children, young and old, still want their mothers/ grandmother around. The 3 husbands definitely wanted to grow old with their wives. It’s not fair any of them had to leave when they did. When I think about all of the life experiences these ladies will miss out on and the life experiences the husbands and kids will experience without these ladies it’s heartbreaking. Did I mention it’s not fair. I know life’s not fair, but these losses take it to a whole new level of unfairness.

I don’t share any of this for pity, but for people to realize that we as Christians feel the same emotions as everyone else. We do have our faith, but the pain isn’t any less for us. We still ask the Lord “Why” and you know what? The Lord can take it!!! Yes, we can cry out to Him when we’re hurting. We don’t have to pretend we are fine when we pray. Plus He already knows how we’re feeling, so there’s no use putting on a mask with Him.

I think many of us are open in our prayers when we’re hurting, but we don’t let others in. The Lord gives us spouses, siblings, close friends to be His hands and arms here on earth. My husband and a couple of friends have seen the tears, but I tend to hide the tears and the pain from others. While I don’t think we need to think we need to share with every single person we interact with on a daily basis what we are walking, we do need to have the strength and the vulnerability to let our Tribe in. I have been blessed with an incredible Tribe. I don’t share the way I should, but I’m working on it.

We also need to let those around us know how much we love and appreciate them. My former pastor, Bro. Jerry, used to say “There is nothing so certain as death and nothing so uncertain as the time.” We never know when it the Lord will call us or someone we love home. Last night on the way home from the Moxie Matters Tour event I told one of dearest friends what I appreciated about her. I make sure my husband and children hear on a daily basis how much I love them. I stink at letting others know how much I appreciate them and how I feel about them. I need to be better about this.

The other thing when looking at the 3 younger ladies who passed is that I need to step out and work to accomplish my goals. I have spent too much time timid and afraid. I know the Lord has called me to do a couple of thing and it’s time to take those steps of faith and go for it.

I’ve also realized how much time I have spent wearing a mask and hiding behind walls. Masks and walls are safe. You see, you can be safe and no one can hurt you when you have your masks and walls. It’s really quite lonely. The safety is only imagined. The words to the song “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” have played over and over again in my head:

“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me.”

Because I have spent so many years with my mask tightly adhered to my face as well as kept my walls thick and high, it will be a process to figure out who I am without them. I am sure as the year progresses there will a blogpost or two on this topic.

If you have made it this far, thank you for letting me chase a few rabbits and get some feelings written out. The grief process is not quick. It is not a straight line. It’s all over the place. You go back and forth between the stages. I am sure as I walk through this process more tears will fall. I am not a perfect Christian. I am flawed. In spite of what most people think my emotions are large and I feel them with everything in me, even though most people around me never realize it. I could write a whole other post on my personality type and it “might” help people who have to deal with others with a similar personality.

Anyway, if you are walking a similar road please know you are not alone. Please reach out to your tribe. If you don’t have a tribe to reach out to, please start building that tribe. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to me.

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A Lot Like Moses

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Hey y’all. It has been way too long since I put up a new post. Confession, I have been living in fear of just about everything. The fear has been so bad that I have not even been able to write. I love writing, but my fear prevented me from writing. The fear also sent me into hiding. I don’t mean I have refused to leave the safety of my house, but I have not reached out to friends and basically stopped doing some of the things I love like hitting the greenway and the gym. The Lord is slowly bringing me out on the other side of this, but it’s a process.

This is the last blog post I started back in March, but never finished and hit publish. I have edited part of it because some of the timelines have changed.

If you asked me who I most relate to in the Bible, I would answer with Jonah, Peter and the task driven Martha. Our church is currently reading through the F260 reading plan and back in March we finished up reading about the life of Moses. While I grew up hearing and reading stories about Moses, I never really made any connections to my personal life until now. Ok, well, maybe I haven’t killed and Egyptian solider, nor have I seen a burning bush, but there are several other ways in which I can relate to Moses.

After Moses killed the soldier he fled into the wilderness to basically start life over. He walked away from a life of prestige and comfort. What he didn’t realizing by running off to hide is that we can never hide from the LORD. We often think we can hide, but reality is that He knows where we are at all times. When the Lord decided to confront Moses, it was in a way Moses knew it was really the LORD. I can’t imagine staring at a burning bush and hearing the LORD saying “Take off your sandals for the place you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). I can’t even begin to imagine what Moses was thinking as all of this is unfolding before him. I think most of us have had moments where the LORD made it clear as to what He was saying to us, maybe not like this, but still clear.

Then we hear Moses say “But God” for the first time. Y’all he says this multiple times throughout the remainder of his life. If I am honest, this past year has been a year of me saying the exact same thing. You see I know there is something specific the LORD has called me to, BUT I don’t feel qualified to do nor do I really think anyone else would want to hear what I have to say. I feel like it’s time for the dream He gave me in college to come true, but I am terrified to step out on faith and do it. For me, the LORD typically uses people as my “burning bush” moments. I have 3 people in my life who have encouraged me like crazy in the past year. Several months ago I was basically called out because there is something I typically do and this person noticed I hadn’t done it in a while. The next day a sweet note was written about me and the same area was addressed. I mean seriously, how many times does the LORD have to put people in my path to get the message across. Y’all, I am great at saying “But LORD.” I think like Moses, there is truly a feeling of inadequacy and fear involved. I don’t see it as a rebellious spirit and not wanting to obey, but more being afraid to take that step of faith.

Because Moses liked to say “But God” so frequently, Moses was reminded that he had Aaron. Every person needs at least one Aaron in their lives. I have a couple I would consider to be the Aarons in my life. Some of the people in the paragraph above fit into that category. An Aaron keeps us grounded and is by our side. In modern day terms, these people would be considered our “tribe.” My tribe is amazing and has walked through the mountain tops and valleys of my life. They have been there when I have admitted that I was having a “But LORD” moment. They’ve held my up my arms. They have prayed with me and over me. My tribe is small, but exactly what I need it to be. Even though they have not always been able to prevent me from having Moses moments, they have been there to help pick up the pieces or encourage me to follow the LORD’s leading in my life.

As I continued to read through the story of Moses, there are many times when I really feel like he rolled his eyes at the Israelites until his eyes hurt. The people he was leading were really ungrateful and complained a great deal of the time. They forgot he had led them away from slavery in Egypt, but because they were so ungrateful and disobedient, even after experiencing the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14: 15-31). While I have never led a group that large, we all have those people in our lives who rub us the wrong way. They are never happy. You can point out all of the positives the LORD has done for them and it’s just never good enough. Admit it, you have that person’s name at the forefront of your mind. I struggle to be around people who are like this. I can also imagine that sarcasm was a favorite form of conversation for Moses. I have often joked sarcasm is unappreciated spiritual gift and something more people should understand and appreciate, but I digress.

While my temper has definitely cooled over the years, I can see and relate to this trait in Moses. There are 3 times when I see that Moses really lost his cool. First, he killed the Egyptian soldier (Exodus 2:12). Second he broke the original stone tablets which held the 10 Commandments. (Exodus 32). Then, there are several more eye roll moments. Just before they are to finally head into the Promised Land, the LORD tells Moses to speak to the rock an water will appear, but Moses, being frustrated strikes the rock twice (Numbers 20: 1-13). While I believe there are healthy ways of letting out anger and frustration, going against the LORD is not something I recommend. Even when anger isn’t physically taken out on someone or something, it can still cause issues when done verbally. While I wish I was the quiet type, I’m not. Like the meme says “I always mean what I say, I just don’t always mean to say it out loud.” This is where my temper and my love of sarcasm can cause issues. There are also days where the greenway gets to feel my anger. Last summer I had an issue that brought my blood to beyond boiling point, so I laced up my running shoes and hit the greenway. During this run I knocked a full minute off of my mile. By the time I returned home I was drenched in sweat. Running or other physical activity is something I would highly encourage when you are angry and that way others around won’t feel the affects.

All throughout Moses’ story you can see how he has gained favor with the LORD. About the time you think the people are going to be destroyed Moses displays his faith and the people are saved. Several times throughout his story, you read about how his face “shone” because he had spent so much time in the LORD’s presence. This is a trait I would love to have. When I take my final breath on this earth and step into eternity with the LORD, this is what I want said about me.

I am grateful the LORD takes us good, bad and ugly. I’m grateful He sees through the mess, the doubts, the fears and the “But Lord” moments in our life. I’m grateful for a Savior who leads me and allows me to be used. I’m grateful He looks at me and calls me “Redeemed” and “Worthy.” I have grown to love the story of Moses because he a sarcastic hot mess and the LORD still used him to lead and the relationship Moses had with the LORD was sweet.

I have had many Moses moments in my life and will more than likely to continue to have them. If you haven’t read his story, you need to. I pray the Lord will continue to use me in spite of me. I also pray that I will find the courage to continue to write. If you are one who actually follows me on this blog, please feel free to say something if you notice it’s been a while since I’ve posted. My goal is to get back on track with my blog and my book. I’m as much a work in process as they are. It’s ok if you are as well.

Build Your Porch

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“Build your porch.” “Build your small group.” “Find the group where you can be completely open, honest and share your stuff.” These are all phrases I have heard more times than I can count in the past year and every time I hear them, it makes me stop and think. I have a pretty tight knit group of friends. If I was honest, I could list those in my inner core and then start moving to outer circles. In a way I have done this, but do I allow myself to be completely mask free when I’m with them, or do I still hold back?

I have 2 sets of friends who make up my inner core. 2 of those friends I have known since my single days. We have walked through the ups and downs of life together. We have seen each other through marriages, births of children and the other things that life has thrown our way. We may not see each other every week, but we don’t have to in order to stay connected. The 2nd group is also 2 ladies I meet with once a week. I have known them about 3 years give or take. While there have definitely been some life hurdles in the time I haven’t known them quite as long. I know that through the good, the bad and the ugly, we all have each others’ backs. The next ring in my circle of friends contains mostly ladies I have known for about 3 years and a dear friend from my seminary days. The next ring would hold friends I have known for a longer period of time, but don’t get to hang out with or get to talk with on a regular basis.

Even though I completely trust all 4 ladies on my porch, I know that there is still a part of me that I hold back. There are parts of my life with which I am an open book. Then there are other parts closed up tighter than Fort Knox. Since I started my blog, I have talked about and encouraged complete and total honesty as well as transparency with those in your inner circle. When I think about me personally, I realize that I have pretty much encouraged a “Do as I say and not as I do” mentality. I have encouraged my readers to be vulnerable, but haven’t been with the ladies on my porch.

In scripture we are encouraged to join with one another and live in community:

And if somebody overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

” Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Nowhere in Scripture are we encouraged to live life solo. This means that we share the ups and downs of life with those around us. Again, I encourage you to be careful about who you share certain pieces of information with. Now, go build your porch!