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It’s Christmas!

Today is Christmas Eve, one of the most magical nights of the year. Even though my kids know the secret of Santa, I am looking forward to seeing their faces when they see what he has brought them. I remember Christmas Eve with such fondness. As a child, THIS was my Christmas. Christmas Day was fine and all, and of course, I wanted to see what Santa had sent. But, Christmas Eve was magical. It was the anticipation of Santa, the retelling of the story of Jesus and the presence of my family that wrapped my soul up like a warm hug every December 24.

Over time, as my family expanded, cousins married, new traditions were made and people moved, our family had to reconsider our Christmas Eve celebration. We moved it from Dec. 24 to just any Saturday in Dec. when we could get together. Too large to exchange gifts, we now bring food, play games and visit. At first I resisted the date change (because after nearly 40 years on Earth, change is STILL hard for me). But as we poured together into my aunt or my mom’s home on our “Christmas Eve” date, I realized, it’s still magical.

My husband and I have a tradition as well. Each Christmas Eve, when the kids are snug in their beds and the sugarplums are dancing in their heads, he and I crack open a bottle of wine, turn on A Christmas Story, and begin our elven works of putting together whatever Santa has gifted the children this year. Afterward, provided our work doesn’t go too long, we sit snuggled on the couch together, within the glow of the Christmas tree and reminisce.

Over the past several years I’d felt increasingly let down after Christmas. I’m not sure why other than I built it up so much that I forgot to enjoy every millisecond. Last year I made a conscious decision to live in the moment of Christmas and found I was much happier at the end of the season. Being mindful at Christmas (and every day), is something I actively work on and it’s lifechanging, albeit hard to do in our busy world. If this is you too, slow down. Enjoy it in the moment. Breathe in the immediacy and don’t get too wrapped up in the next day.

I love Christmas. I love all it represents (especially Jesus). I love gift-giving. I love family time and meals. I love traditions. I love magic and Santa. I love romance. I love giggles and squeals from children. I love the crisp December air. I love my church family and the service. I love Love. Love, also known as Jesus, was born of a virgin on a silent night. A King, born in a manger, his birth heralded by angels, celebrated and attended by shepherds and later, strangers from the East. A King, born in a most humble way for a most noble cause. Truly Immanuel, God with us. Truly Love incarnate.

Much love from me to you and yours this holiday season. And God Bless us. Every one.

“The Sex Museum”

OMG. Dear Daughter went to the Kansas Learning Center for Health today in Halstead. She is traumatized and I have never been so entertained by trauma in my life (except for an episode of Sister Wives). She’s been dreading this trip since the permission slip was sent home including a complete list of vocabulary words like “nocturnal emission”,  “testicles”, “menstruation” and of course all the proper terms for genitalia (oodi and wacker were not on the list much to her chagrin). Her agenda for school had this written in it for today…

Of course, we’ve already had “The Talk” with her (and she actually DOES know the correct terms for body parts already, we just prefer the silly ones). We had already explained 99.9% of what the list included. A brief lesson on “nocturnal emission” had to be given once she’d read the vocab list and was inaccurately interpreted as, “Nocturnal Ejection. That’s when wackers come alive at night. It’s basically a period for boys.” Wow. Total FAIL in our explanation.

This morning while she lamented about the trip, the song that ran constantly through my head was “Reproduction”  from the Grease II soundtrack and it took all my strength from the baby Jesus not to just belt out that completely inappropriate tune while getting ready for work. But while talking with your parents (albeit the goofiest parents that ever lived) is bad enough, experiencing the talk with your peers was enough to render her mute for the first part of the evening. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

But she is MY daughter so within an hour or so she was singing like a canary. And what poured out of her over the night was pure comedy gold. Her first observation, “Testicles contain sperm.” “Um, yeah,” I replied, “I thought they were balls. Solid balls. And that’s why they called them nuts.” I nearly peed my pants.

A friend of hers was handed “Nocturnal emission” for a term and said, “What’s THIS?” Elizabeth said, “Trust me. You do NOT want to know.” Of course, this was when she still had her twisty explanation about crazed, self-activating penises. Now that I think of it, she wasn’t totally incorrect, but that’s not the point.

Later we had been watching a recorded Christmas show (she needed to scrub her brain) and when it was over and switched back to live TV, a Cialis commercial began to immediately inform us that if we had an erection lasting over 4 hours to seek medical help. “ERECTION???!!!??? she screamed, “Will it ever end???” I wonder if a belly laugh has ever lasted over 4 hours?

For dinner I had cooked a batch of hot dogs and she had a pot pie. She thought she wanted a hot dog, but after pulling it up with tongs out of the pot of water, she turned white as a sheet and said, “You know, maybe hot dogs aren’t for me tonight.” I’m glad she didn’t have to perform the Heimlich maneuver on me.

She talked a lot about the robot lady at the museum she swore was named “Velveeta” (apparently it was actually Valeda). This robot’s anatomy would light up when she spoke about each body part and what it did. She is never eating cheese dip again.

I’m sure we will get more information out of her over the weekend. But for now, she’s tired of penises and vaginas and just wants to go back to the time when she didn’t know what “nocturnal emission” was. I see the entire situation as a win win. She is better educated about sexual health and anatomy and I got great material for my blog.

Walking Out on Worry

Worry. I do it a lot. I always have. In fact, on my report card in Kindergarten my teacher noted, “Andrea is a delightful child, but she worries too much.” My friends know that the first verse I ever memorized was, “Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1Peter 5:7. I’ve always said this is the first verse I memorized because God knew it would be the rock I’d need to lean on my entire life.

We’re doing a “Walking Out on Worry” devotional as a church for the next two weeks and day one we’re supposed to name our fear. My fear has many faces, but I think the name boils down to unworthiness. I feel unworthy. I always have despite having been loved my entire life by my family. It probably has something to do with my brain chemistry and tendency toward depression, but nonetheless, it’s a very real struggle for me. Unworthiness as the cancerous root in me sprouted tentacles that causes secondary issues including, anxiety (what if I do something and end up looking foolish/crazy/obnoxious), weight issues (I’m not worth taking care of my health), relationship struggles (who will love/like me) and I’m sure there are others. My mantra when I start to feel overcome with unworthiness, is “I am a beloved daughter of the King of Kings.” I have to remind myself of my worth in Jesus. My identity is who I am IN CHRIST and because of Christ, I am worthy.

During communion yesterday the band played a song that resonated with my heart and reminded me to remember to look to Jesus for my worth.

“Now blameless, You call me Holy
I’ve been forgiven, You call me righteous and free
Now spotless, You call me worthy
I am Your child, You call me chosen
I’m, Yours, I’m Yours”

 

I am worthy.
#ictworryfree

Ugh.

If my day were a book it would be, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” Why you ask? Did someone die? Did I get diagnosed with some terminal disease? Did I toss a winning lottery ticket? No. I don’t have a reason for feeling all the feelings about this bad day. It could be worse. Somewhere in West Africa, people are dying from a horrible virus. But I’m complaining about my bad day. Total first world problems.

But even though I’m trying hard to put on my “perspective-cles”sometimes a day is just blah. Turns out my daughter had a bad day too. So tonight, after she told me about her day, we just cried together. Just the two of us. Hugging and crying it out. She told me when she is upset writing makes her feel better. I told her I completely understand (hence the blog post tonight). This morning I started off the day asking God to show me what I need to prioritize in my day. By the end of the day, I was trying really, really hard to praise Him despite my circumstances. I don’t know if that’s what He had in mind, but that’s how it turned out. I just need to trust more. Worry less. But lawd, that’s easier said than done.

Depression isn’t a matter of faith

Friends, as a Christian woman, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say things like, “You’ve got Jesus, so you should be happy” or “this is just an attack” (which to me is only partly true), or the ever popular, “you just need to pray more” when dealing with my own struggle with depression as well as anecdotes from other family and friends who are also dealing with their own black dog. But here’s what I have to say about that. It’s crap. People who say those things certainly don’t mean to be ignorant or judgmental – but they are.

Here’s the deal with most forms of depression. It’s a brain chemical thing – not an issue of faith. What do most people need when they are chemically imbalanced? Medications. This isn’t to say that medication is the only answer. But it is a big part of the solution. In my deepest, darkest battle with my depression I struggled because as a person of faith I felt like I was a failure. I thought I must not love Jesus enough. Or pray enough. Or read enough scripture. Or <insert Christian thing we’re all supposed to do> enough. I must have angered God for Him to leave me so void of his comfort and presence. I must have sinned mightily for Him to abandon me and leave me so open to be attacked by the enemy. Again. Crap.

What I’ve learned is that depression is a complicated disease and one that is quite individual. No approach to recovery is a catch all. For myself it’s been the combination of medication, therapy and a deeper understanding and growing in my faith that has made the difference. For someone else, the approach could be all together different. The key here is to get help and if you’re a person of faith, not feel like you’re being punished by God. I believe God, like all parents, wants His children to be healthy and happy. He wants us to come to Him for comfort (and all too often we don’t). He doesn’t promise us a world filled with unicorns and rainbows, however. But He will help see us through any storm.

My revelations are my own just as my faith is my own. But I do get aggravated when I hear well-meaning Christian platitudes about depression because often they are rooted in shaming, demoralizing and humiliating the person suffering from depression. I know most of the time this is completely unintentional, but it happens. I long for the day when the Church can hear from a depression survivor and offer unfailing love and support instead of uncomfortable silence or patronizing catch-phrases. My prayer is that the more people open up and share, the more honest we are with one another, the better we can help one another heal – being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Lessons from the Campfire

I’m not a die-hard camper. But I do love camping with my kids. Man, there are so many interesting things happening in nature that in my daily life as a tech-loving, kid shuffling, urban planted mom, I am missing out of. But twice a year I get to slow down and see the world from a new perspective when I camp with my daughter’s school. Yes, they pile the kids into buses and take them around Kansas and Oklahoma to experience nature.

Here are a few highlights from our trip this past week…

5. I saw a scorpion, in the wild! It was tiny but still creepy. What an amazing little critter that is.

4. Meeting new parents and getting to know other parents better. These fellow camp warriors are quick to help the teachers with anything, will make sure your kid doesn’t fall off the rocks and will make you laugh at the campfire.

3. I saw a tarantula in the wild! It was creepy and disconcerting to see outside, in actual nature. I don’t know where I thought these phobia inducing creatures lived, but it wasn’t Oklahoma. *shudders*

tarantula

2. The stars. Anytime I can get far enough away from city lights to see more than a dozen stars I am amazed and in awe. Wow. The beauty and wonder of our universe is jaw-dropping. I wished my little astronomer was there to enjoy it too.

1. The kiddos. There is something about camping with kids that makes you appreciate the littlest details. Kids light up when they see a new animal or insect. They are eager to hike and blaze new trails. They laugh and love. I am incredibly blessed to get to be the momma of one of these campers and a camp-momma to the rest. As we were driving through Wooloroc in Oklahoma, Elizabeth looked at me and said, “This is the best day ever and I get to spend it with you, Mom! Thank you!” I seriously almost cried. I love my kids fiercely and my love bucket is filled daily with comments like that. Lord, thank YOU!

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Plus Size Yoga

yogalemur

It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with my weight for most of my life. In the past several years I’ve tried to get more serious about my health and more proactive with fitness. This brings me to Beginner’s Yoga at the Y. When my friend Michelle suggested we go to this class, my first instinct (as usual) is to scoff and think, NO WAY IN HELL CAN I DO THAT. But, I’m trying to fight that instinct and agreed to go to yoga last week. Of course, because it was my first time, I was late. And Michelle, being the awesome friend she is had grabbed a mat for me and all my supplies were ready…at the front of the class. As we started I realized that I could actually do most of what the super-limber-pretzel-zen teacher showed us to do at this beginner level. He of course demonstrated some harder poses, but I refrained from maxing out my health insurance by keeping it basic.

I’ve always been fairly limber, especially for an overweight person. But I admit, I do get self-conscious. It’s hard to be overweight in this world and not be self conscious. I usually notice when I’m the biggest person in the room. And at yoga, I was. But it’s okay. I am past not trying new things because I’m worried about how I will look. If someone has an issue with me doing down dog in front of them, they can move. If my cobra offends, sorry Charlie, I’m getting healthy no matter what it takes. After last week I was actually more concerned about the state of my super cracked heels than my body shape. I did remedy the heels, by the way. I mean, cracked heels are way easier to fix than a BMI.

Yoga was relaxing. My head hurt today afterward but that has more to do with my allergies and less to do with sudden enlightenment. But I’m doing it. It would be great if there were a Plus Size yoga class filled with people in various stages of girth. But I do love the average Joe and Jane-ness of the Y. Most of the people in the class were like me – moms and dads, just trying to get and/or stay in shape.

Tonight some of the poses came a little easier than last week which surprised me. Afterward I feel strong and relaxed and definitely like a warrior, ready to take on my next new fitness challenge! So if you’re like me and you’ve been afraid to try something new, stop it. Open yourself up to new things. Don’t be afraid of looking silly. Get out there and LIVE LIFE. Big or little, pretty or plain, just make life happen for yourself!

Namaste.

Social Justice – it’s important people!

Ugh, the news is depressing. But man, public responses to the news are even more depressing. Have people always been this negative and uncompassionate? Have Americans always been so damn sure they are right about everything they are unwilling to even consider all sides of an issue? All across my Facebook timeline I see people criticizing the people in Ferguson, MO because of the protesting and rioting there. These issues aren’t just black and white (no pun intended).  Racial injustice does still exist in America. Yeah, I know, this is where my super conservative friends will balk about how things are so much better than they used to be for minorities and how Michael Brown should have stopped when he was told to and how he shouldn’t have resisted arrest (if, in fact, he did resist arrest). But what people who are railing against the protestors aren’t seeing is that the anger isn’t just about Michael Brown’s situation. It’s anger and frustration from decades of racial injustice. It’s a fact that Blacks go to jail at a higher rate than whites. It’s a fact that Blacks get harsher sentences in jail. It’s a fact Blacks live in poverty at a higher rate than whites. It’s a fact that more Blacks are shot by cops than whites. It’s a fact that Driving While Black is a real phenomenon.

Now, I’m not saying rioting and looting are acceptable. Absolutely not. You can’t fight injustice while committing injustice. But not all those protestors are rioting and looting. But you know how sometimes you get to the absolute end of your rope and just explode? That’s what the rioting is about. It’s about being pushed to the sidelines once to often. It’s about being demeaned one to many times. It’s about fearing for your life because you might be reaching for your wallet and get shot because someone thinks you have a gun. It’s about being told consistently that you live in the land of the free and the home of the brave but you still don’t have the same educational and economic opportunities that Whites have. I mean, crap. I know people who flip their lids and get irate because A&E sanctions a beloved Duck Dynasty character. Or they can’t openly carry a weapon in Target. Or someone criticizes their favorite chicken sandwich place or hobby shop. Or people disagree with them about a political point. There are people getting pissed for a lot less important things that the disenfranchisement of an entire race of people.

Instead of criticizing the people of Ferguson and scratching our heads at the idea of being angry about the shooting of an unarmed man we should be standing next to them saying, “Let the light of truth shine and the scales of justice prevail.” We should try to understand the bigger picture of what it means to be Black in this country as best as we can. But the truth is, we’re not Black. I’ll never fully understand these issues. But I will try. I will keep my mind open. And I will speak out when I can. I don’t want to debate anyone. I really, really don’t. I just want people to expand their thinking.

 

 

Suicide isn’t funny business

When I was a kid I remember seeing the manic and hilarious Robin Williams play a clueless but sweet alien, Mork from Ork. I quickly adopted the rainbow suspenders and began a life-long affinity for anything Robin Williams created or starred in. I remember seeing the Live at the Met and Comic Relief specials and laughing until tears streamed down my face. Today my tears were different. Robin Wiliams, comic genius, versatile and acclaimed actor died of an apparent suicide.

Williams struggled with drugs and alcohol during his brilliant career and got clean and sober decades ago. But, I can imagine, the demons he was self-medicating were still there. I can relate. As someone who has struggled with depression my entire life, I am all too familiar with the oppressive darkness of mental illness. It still freaks me out to talk about “mental illness”. But that’s what it is. My brain chemistry is off (and has been ever since I can remember), and I must take daily medication to keep from slipping into the rabbit hole. I can now say those words without as much fear and shame, although the stigma remains and I fight it within myself.

I’ve contemplated suicide. Actually more times that I care to talk about and from a young age. My last serious contemplation was a mere seven years ago. I had an entire bottle of Xanex in my hand, water ready to go. But I couldn’t stand the thought of my kids living with pain I’d caused. I was in the rabbit hole and burrowing deeper but I stopped. I knew I needed help and I got it. 

But some people aren’t so lucky. Some people can’t stop the dark thoughts. They go deeper into the rabbit hole and disappear. Robin Wiliams is one of those tragically tormented souls who didn’t make it out. So I cried for his family. For his friends and for all those his crazy antics entertained.

My hope is that through this, people will be helped. Those who are contemplating taking their lives will reach out to someone else who will be reaching back because they have learned more about depression and care enough to stop, listen and encourage.

My dear, sweet Robin, I will miss you and I bid you, Nanu Nanu.

what happens when you follow Jesus and he leads you out of evangelicalism?

This woman reached into my brain and pulled out my thoughts. Love her perspective and her bravery. It’s through her that I speak my position on these controversial topics in today’s Church.

the thoughts i think

I guess it’s time to “come out”: I don’t identify as an Evangelical anymore.

That’s hard to write and put down in words, considering that I’ve grown up in the evangelical church and worked in evangelical ministries and churches for my entire adult life, but it’s something that I’ve been feeling and thinking for awhile now. I think it really crystallized during the whole World Vision debacle earlier this year, when thousands of Christians (primarily those who identify as evangelicals) dropped sponsorship of over 10,000 kids in poverty because they didn’t agree with a policy change that would’ve recognized the rights of Christian employees who were in gay marriages. I stayed away from blogging and engaging the issue on social media due to my penchant for getting in over my head in online debates and, honestly, because I wasn’t ready to come out as an ally of the LGBTQ community…

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