Tomorrow Will Be Kinder

“Stay with us, Lord Jesus, stay with us.  

Stay with us, it soon is evening.

Stay with us, Lord Jesus, stay with us, it soon is evening and night is falling.”

I tend to think in song lyrics sometimes.  I guess it’s part of being a musician.  I have songs from when I was a kid all the way to now stuck somewhere in my head.  When something reminds me of a song, the lyrics pop in my head and are there all day.  Most of the time it’s just simple songs.  Lately, it’s been kids songs since that’s all I sing with Selah.  On certain days, however, my heart takes over and reaches for songs like “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” or “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”  Recently, the song that’s been in my head has been one that we sang in Sanctuary Choir at church.  The lyrics come from Luke 24:29, “But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.”  Somedays, all I can think over and over again is “stay with me, please stay with me.”  The days when my Dad was really sick and the months after he died, I begged… Please, night is coming and I need You here.  Please, stay.  After Selah was born and I struggled with breastfeeding… please stay with me.  Every time I hear of a new tragedy that has happened around the world, when I think of children who have been separated from their families through war, when I become burdened with the darkness in this world… The list could go on… Please, Lord, stay with us.  

 When I was younger, I did my best to put myself in others’ shoes.  For whatever reason, the older I got the more emotional I became over other people’s burdens.  Part of it is growing up and having my world-view widened, I suppose.  As we grow up we, hopefully, become more aware of what’s going on and in turn, our hearts are opened up to the needs of those around us.  I believe the other part is teaching and motherhood.  Ever since I started teaching, I’ve tried to put myself in the shoes of my students.  Some of these kids have lives and struggles that I’ve never seen or experienced.  Before Selah was born, Taylor and I used to watch crime shows like Criminal Minds.  It was one of my absolute favorites.  The closer I got to the third trimester the less I wanted to watch them.  I would start to cry and feel anxious anytime there was an episode involving children or families.  

Now, the news comes on and there’s another story about some tragedy and my heart just breaks.  I just don’t understand how we can be so cruel to each other… how can there be so much suffering… how can families be separated, children be bullied, people be persecuted for any reason someone else can find?  I often become so overwhelmed with these feelings that all I can do is repeat these song lyrics over and over again.  

Stay with us, Lord Jesus.  I plead over and over again, please, stay with us.  I know we make mistakes.  I know we are cruel to each other.  I know we are not taking care of Your world, of Your children, of our brothers and sisters… but please.  Please, stay with us.

I search for hope in everything.  A song I’ve been singing this week is called “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” by the Secret Sisters.

“Black clouds are behind me, I now can see ahead
Often I wonder why I try hoping for an end
Sorrow weighs my shoulders down
And trouble haunts my mind
But I know the present will not last
And tomorrow will be kinder
Tomorrow will be kinder
It’s true, I’ve seen it before
A brighter day is coming my way
Yes, tomorrow will be kinder.”

On the days that I’m particularly bogged down, I try to sing this song.  It gives me a hope.  Some people are good at recalling Bible verses and I do wish I was better at it, but I am thankful that songs come to mind first.  Singing these lyrics over and over again assure me that there is hope for tomorrow.  There will always be hope for change in this world, for improvement, for love, and for compassion for others.  

It is too easy to become burdened, weighed down, and saddened in this world.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  I think allowing ourselves to feel for others makes us better human beings.  It becomes a problem when the sadness takes over and keeps us from action.  I pray that we are able to find something to hold onto each day, whether it’s Scripture, a song, a saying, a picture, a memory, or a simple hope that allows to look forward to the future and to know that even in the nighttime, Jesus stays with us.  

The Thing About Anger…

I promise that this isn’t a musical review.  It’s going to seem that way for the first 2 paragraphs, but I promise it’s not.  Just… get through it 🙂

Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely LOVE musicals.  I grew up watching them with my sister and my best friend.  Anytime there’s a new musical, my BFF seems to have a heads up on it before anyone else.  She’ll text me and say “OH MY GOODNESS! Have you HEARD the soundtrack to the new musical _____??!!! You’re going to LOVE it.”  And sure enough, she’s right every time.  I do love it.  We basically just find bootlegs of musicals on Youtube, watch them and then text each other what we think.  I have recently been listening to a musical called “Waitress.”  I found a bootleg of this musical on YouTube because I neither have the time nor the money to fly to New York to see all the greatest shows 🙂   The music was written by Sara Bareilles and you can definitely tell.  It sounds just like her music.  Simply put, the story is about these three women who work at a diner together and help each other through life.  The main character, Jenna, has a husband who … how shall we put it… he drinks too much and gets angry.  He takes her tips away from her at the end of each day.  He won’t let her have a car because he doesn’t think she needs to go anywhere by herself and while it is never actually shown, it is insinuated that he could become physically aggressive.

The tricky thing about Waitress is that it starts out fun and inviting and the songs are catchy.  While one of the first songs has a bit of profanity in it, I decided to give it 5 more minutes.  (I really can’t stand a bunch of profanity.  It makes me a little irritated.)  I loved the characters immediately, the humor was great, the music was perfect.  They get you settled into a world where one of the worst problems is one of the girls is making an online dating profile.  However, for Jenna, life is not so simple.  She is pregnant and does not want to be.  At this point in the show, you haven’t met her husband yet so you don’t understand her fear and hesitation.  They have lulled you into a bright and shiny world and then all of a sudden, her husband walks in.  He is tall and intimidating and controlling and I immediately got the chills.  He takes her tips and degrades her in front of her friends.  When she gets home, he’s been drinking and is angry.  He threatens her and to protect herself she tells him that she’s pregnant.  As I was watching this, I actually felt fear.  Part of this is the acting.  It was spot on, but the other part of this is something I’ve been realizing about myself over the past several years.  I am terrified of anger.

Now, I’m not talking about someone being “mad.”  That is something completely different.  If you are mad, you are upset at something or someone.  You need to vent, you need to work it out, you need to sleep it off, etc… Anger is something else.  I’m about to get all science-y on you.  Google says that…

“When someone is experiencing and expressing anger, he or she is not using the thinking (cortex) part of the brain, but primarily, the limbic center of the brain. Within the limbic system is a small structure called the amygdala, a storehouse for emotional memories.” (lakesideconnect.com)

When you are angry, you, literally, are not using your thinker.  Your emotions are controlling everything about you.  Anger is something that sinks its claws into your heart.  It makes you burn from the inside out.  It is wild and uncontrollable and unpredictable.  It is often paired with hatred.  Those two together are a dangerous combination.  I feel fear every time I watch a movie with a person who is unrighteously angry.  I am mildly fearful when I hear someone being angry.  I felt chill bumps and fear watching this fictional character on a YouTube video.  Even when the character wasn’t being “angry” I was afraid and thinking ahead of things that could happen that would make him explode.

I’m not saying all this to get sympathy.  I’m saying it because this is what I’ve realized: In movies, TV, musicals, etc… we watch people act out certain emotions.  Love, hatred, sympathy, anger, sadness, happiness, etc…  Sometimes their acting is not quite right and we don’t believe it.  Sometimes the chemistry is off between actors and we don’t believe they’re in love.  Sometimes, they cry and it makes us wonder whether or not they are actually sad.  Sometimes it’s just bad acting.  They don’t bring us into their story.  BUT… Rarely, have I seen someone get anger wrong.  Anger is one of the emotions that is almost always believable.  I honestly think that this is because anger is so easy.  It’s easy for us to tap into.  There’s a reason that Corinthians says, “Love is not easily angered.”  Anger is easy.  Ecclesiastes 7:9 says,

“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”  

Not to be too poetic, but I think anger just sits and waits for us to open a door, window, a crack somewhere, so that it can burst in.  It is, unfortunately, a part of who we are as imperfect humans.

Sometimes, after a bad week at work, or a busy week at home, I feel irritable.  I just want to sit down for 10 minutes and the baby wants me to walk.  I just want to watch a movie with Taylor, but there’s laundry to be done.  The list could go on and on.  Instead of voicing my irritation, or going for a run, or praying about it, I let that irritation sit and over the course of a few days it turns to anger.  It’s like Irritation is the fingernail of Anger.  Anger has put its sharp fingernail in the crack that I’ve opened up and it is slowly prying away so that it can come into my life.  I have a very vivid image in my head of what this looks like, but as I am no artist… think about the “Pain & Panic” characters from Disney’s Hercules.  I’d totally post a picture of them, but you know… copyright.  What I’m thinking of is like Pain, but creepier looking.

I end up exploding over something small.  People will say “don’t let your anger get the best of you”, but if it were up to me alone, that anger would best me every time.  It is so important for me to remember James 1:19-20,

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”  

I have to repeat that to myself over and over again.  Ultimately, I think I become angry because I do not seek GOD above all things.  I seek acknowledgement for everything that I do.  I seek praise or personal satisfaction or sympathy, rather than seeking GOD.  James 4:1-3 says,

“What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You desire, but do not have so you kill.  You covet, but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  

Or in the Message version:

“Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from?  Do you think they just happen?  Think again.  They come about because you want your own way and fight for it deep inside yourselves.  You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it.  You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.”  

Whoa!  This makes it so obvious where anger can become dangerous.  When anger does get the best of us, we become violent, pushing anything and everything aside JUST to get what we want.  James continues,

“You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you?  And why not?  Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to.  You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.”   

This makes it very clear to me.  When I am angry, I am acting like a spoiled child.  I do not have the logic to ask God to help me because I am not using my thinker.  I am so caught up in my emotions that I have forgotten that GOD has also given me a brain and the ability to be patient and calm.  I want what I want, when I want it, and I am not afraid of hurting anyone in the process.  This is a dangerous mindset to have and one that I want to stay far away from.

I am challenging myself to be more patient and calm over the next few weeks.  The closer we get to Lent, the more I want to give up anger, and with it irritation, impatience, bitterness, and pettiness.  It is going to take a lot of prayer and practice.  I hope that by saying it here, that the people around me will keep me accountable for this.  I want to live in a constant relationship of love, peace, and kindness with the world and if there is anger in any part of me, that is impossible.

“Therefore, as GOD’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” – Colossians 3:12.

Not What it Was Supposed to Be… but When is Life Ever?

I sit here with tears in my eyes at the end of a very long and hard week. I know I’m supposed to be uploading part two of Selah’s birth, but I just don’t have that in me today.  There are dirty bottles in the sink (as well as one that I cannot find; it’s somewhere around here).  The baby bath is sitting out, still full of water, baby blankets are covering every sitting space in the house, even though she only uses one blanket at a time.  There is an empty pizza box on top of the stove.  There’s a full trash bag in the trash can, waiting to be taken out.  Poor Leo (our dog) hasn’t had a good run in a week or so.  The floor could probably stand to be swept and mopped.  I’m pretty sure there’s even a dirty diaper sitting on the kitchen counter (leftover from bathtime).  It is very important to me that I say all of these things.  It’s like admitting you have a problem.  I like to live in a world where my house is constantly in order, the cloth diapers are always washed and ready to go, Selah’s things are always folded and put away, all the bottles are filled and in the fridge ready to go, and there is NEVER a diaper sitting on my kitchen counter.  This is rarely ever the case… or if it is, it’s only this way for an hour until Selah wakes up from her nap and the mess starts all over again.  

Back to the beginning… Why do I have tears in my eyes? (OH, btw.  I completely realize that everything I’m about to mention are 100% first world problems, but they are weighing heavily on me so I’m doing my best to get them out.)  Monday morning, I woke up at 5am, got ready for work, cleaned the bottles, got everything ready for Selah’s day, packed my lunch and went to work.  I got home at 3:45pm, fed Selah, played with her for about 45 minutes and then she was ready to go back down for a nap.  I laid her down, ate a snack and just as I was about to clean bottles and pick up the house, she woke up… that’s right… 30 minutes after I laid her down, she woke up.  How dare she? Didn’t she know that I had things to do? I ended up leaving a little while later at 5:40pm to go teach the musicianship class I teach at Charlotte Children’s Choir.  By the time, I got back, she was down for the night so I just looked at her on the baby monitor until I fell asleep.  Tuesday went very much the same.  I got home from work at 3:45pm, fed her, laid her back down, left at 5:45pm to go back to work since my students had their choir concert.  When I got back home, she was laid down for the night (deja vu?) so I stared at the monitor until I fell asleep.  That night, Selah decided to wake up at 2am, 4 hours we had given her the dreamfeed.  Taylor, being the saint that he is, woke up and fed her so that I could sleep.  Exactly 4 hours later, she woke up again at 6am.  I took her upstairs to Nana so that Taylor could sleep and so that I could get ready for work.  Nana fed her and she had a great day.  Wednesday night, I got home at 3:45pm, fed her while she was being fussy, not sure if she wanted the bottle or not, laid her down and she slept until 7pm, woke her up, took her to church, fed her and sat down for choir practice. (Taking Selah to choir practice is another post for another day.)  When we got home from choir, it was time for her to go to bed… proceed with the usual staring at the monitor.  Thursday, wake up, work, come home, try to feed her, lay her down for a nap, feed her again, lay her down for the night.  

This morning she decided to wake up at 3:30am and then again at 7am.  At that point, I was already gone for work.  I got home today at 3:45, tried to feed her, but she apparently wasn’t hungry.  She’d had a rough day with the girl that takes care of her on Fridays.  I had no idea what was wrong with her because I hadn’t been with her all day.  I didn’t know when she had eaten last, when she had slept today and for how long, when her last diaper change was, or anything.  After attempting to feed her multiple times this afternoon and getting barely an ounce in before she gave up and cried, I decided at 7:30 (which is usually her bedtime) that I was going to give her a bath.  She always likes baths.  It’s like a reset for her brain.  I got her in the bath and cried as I washed her.  She laid there, perfectly calm, and somewhat sleepy after her fussy afternoon.  I gave her one more ounce of milk while in the bathtub, she burped on her own, I wrapped her up in the towel and all of a sudden she was snuggly and sleepy.  This sweet little angel, that I had been crying over all afternoon, was fine.  She was more than fine.  She was content and sleepy.  It was at this moment that she looked up at me…

So now I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes because I haven’t known one day thisweek, what my child needs when I get home.  I haven’t laid her down one day this week to go to bed for the night.  I haven’t had one snuggle, one successful feeding without tears.  I haven’t had one hour this week that we’ve laid and played together and I know what she wants or what she needs before she gets upset.  I’ve had something every night this week and this is when the mommy guilt sets in.  For those of you who have never had mommy guilt, it’s the worst guilt I’ve ever felt.  I feel guilty when I stay at home with her, because I miss my job.  I feel guilty when I’m at work, because I miss my child and I don’t feel like I know what she wants.  When I’m with my child, I feel guilty because all I want is for her to sleep so that I can sleep, or shower, or eat without interruptions.  When I sleep, shower, or eat, I feel guilty because I feel like I should be cleaning the house or preparing for when she wakes up.  When I sit down at the end of the day, I feel guilty about not exercising because I desperately need to get back into shape.  

I’m doing my absolute best to stay present and not strive for perfection, but so far I’m failing.  I’ve been reading two books that talk about the importance of grace and not perfection.  But there’s a problem with that for me… I feel like if I read the books and master the art of grace and not perfection, THEN… I’ll be perfect.  But… that defeats the purpose.  I haven’t read those books in a week because every time I read them, I try to be BETTER at being present.  I strive for being PERFECT at giving myself GRACE and that is not helping the situation.  A friend of mine once told me, when we were talking about kids and jobs and family, etc… that “you CAN have it all… you just might not have it all at the same time.”

This week has been a great example of that for me.  I’ve tried to stay on top of things and be perfect.  I’ve washed bottles, been a mom, been a teacher, cleaned the house, started a load of laundry at 6am, while eating breakfast.  I’m trying to do everything and it’s simply not working.  I’m failing at trying to be perfect.  I’m doing my BEST to be the best I can be and that’s not the point.  The point is for me to be here.  To see Selah.  To give her what I can.  To do what I can.  It’s easier said than done and I wish I could wrap this all up in a nice pretty bow and tell you how I’ve overcome my perfectionist mindset, but I haven’t so I can’t.  I’m still a perfectionist and I’m prepared to struggle with that for my entire life.  Right now, all I can do is trust that GOD will continue to change me… to help me realize my imperfections and be okay with them, to help me realize what my priorities should be in life, and to help me present not perfect.  To give and want Grace over perfection.    

Who I Am (pt. 2)

Oh man.  TGIF.  I love teaching, but man is it exhausting sometimes.  Today was rough around the edges, but that’s a post for another day.  If you haven’t read pt. 1 you’re gonna want to.

_______________________________________________________________

After Christmas of 2013, my mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, and their dog came to our apartment in January for my mother’s birthday.  We went to bed the night they got there expecting to wake up the next morning and spend the day together.  

I was woken up in the middle of the night by mom asking for our address.  Thank goodness Taylor had a clear mind at 1am.  He spit out our address and quickly followed up with, “what’s wrong?”  Dad was having a seizure and it was not his usual quick, short-lasting seizures that he only had to let his doctor know about the next day.  This one had been going on long enough for mom to wonder and to worry and then decide to call 911, come to our room and ask for our address.  We all put clothes on, the ambulance got there, came up, got Dad, and we all followed them to the hospital in our own car.  When we got to the hospital, they began all the tests and procedures.  It lasted all night.  They eventually transferred him to a bigger, better equipped hospital in Charlotte.  We all followed the ambulance and settled down there for the day.  We each took turns going back home, letting the dogs out, and going back to the hospital.  At this point, we were each running on about 3 hours of sleep.  Looking back and thinking about my sister who was 8-9 months pregnant at the time… good heavens.  I’m not sure how she stayed on her feet that day.  God bless you Lauren.  

Eventually, after some scary moments, humorous moments thanks to Dad being able to use sign language, and some lovely supporting people… the doctors decided Dad was stable enough to be transferred back home to Duke hospital.  Mom followed the ambulance and Taylor and I went back home and said we’d wait until Mom had heard more from Dad’s doctor.  This last seizure had messed with Dad’s speech as well as the mobility on one side of his body.  His doctor said he would need lots of speech therapy as well as therapy to be able to walk, but that it seemed highly unlikely that he’d gain back full mobility.  At this point, my idea of church and faith was gone.  I mean, what was the point?  I went to church consistently for the first 20 years of my life.  I loved church.  I loved the Bible.  I loved God.  I loved sharing all of those things with other people.  My own father had taught Sunday School for years, hosted Bible Study in his home for years, been on countless mission trips, spent so much time studying the Bible and furthering his relationship with God, dedicated his life to helping others and look where it got him.  I did not understand how someone so dedicated to serving Christ could end up with such a bad deal.  

Now, looking back, I see so many things that had gone in our favor.  We were told in 2011 that he had brain cancer.  He knew, although he did not tell us, that it could be months.  We were given 3 more years.  For this last seizure, we were all there together.  All of us, in the same house, so we could all deal with it together and support each other.  Our apartment was literally half a block from the hospital.  It took the ambulance 2 minutes to get there and 2 more minutes to get Dad to the hospital where they stopped the seizure.  They saved his life and gave us a few more months.  There were so many times I thought… what if this had happened at his home?  How would they have gotten him to the hospital on time?  

After Dad went home, they moved his bedroom downstairs.  My mom promised to call me if something happened or if I needed to come home.  At some point a few weeks later, I got that call.  I left work, packed my bag, and came home.  One of my best friends that laid in the nursery with me was getting married while I was home.  I was a bridesmaid in her wedding.  I was there for a couple more days when my sister went into labor.  My precious nephew was born at the perfect time.   He brought such joy and excitement into our house.  Dad was continuing to try to talk with us and make jokes like always.  His hospice nurses would let us know a general time frame, as well as let us know they were praying for us.  Dad always charmed his nurses.  He was kind and sincere and I think people were drawn to that.  He wasn’t two-faced at all.  He was an honest and giving person.  One day, it was time to call Taylor and he came to my parents house as soon as he could get there.  We had another day or two and that was it.  Dad was gone.  I remember sitting there, holding his hand, not wanting to be anywhere else and simultaneously wishing to be anywhere else, but here.  After a few minutes of his light breathing it slowed and eventually got so light that I couldn’t hear it.  Mom signaled for the nurse to come in, she checked his pulse and shook her head.  As much as I loved my Dad, I immediately felt disconnected from that room.  He wasn’t there.  He was where he wanted to be.  He was where he could speak clearly and move freely.  He was where he had always wanted to be.  “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” became a motto in our house.  They sang “This is My Father’s World” at his funeral and I still can’t hear that hymn without crying.   

Taylor and I, at this point, had returned to the church we went to together in college.  I was struggling emotionally.  I would hear a song on the radio and cry.  I would listen to my students sing and cry.  I would look at my dog and cry.  I had never been an emotional person.  I didn’t cry a whole lot growing up, but I knew something was wrong.  I wasn’t allowing myself to grieve.  I sat down and had a talk with our pastor and through this conversation I realized a few things.  The most important one was this… If I don’t allow myself to feel the things that I need to, I cannot be honest with myself. I grew up with this mentality of “it’s no use to cry over spilt milk.”  When I said this to the pastor, he responded with something I will never forget.  “Well, okay.  Let’s take that analogy and use it.  Sarah, you’ve spilled milk on the table and not only are you not crying over it, but you’re not even acknowledging that it happened.  When you spill milk on the table and choose not only to not cry over it, but to even acknowledge that it’s been spilled… it ends up just sitting there.  It drips on the floor and possibly on you.  Then after a while, that milk begins to dry and sour.  You can ignore it if you want to, but at some point that milk is going to stink and you won’t be able to do anything without being bothered by the smell of that milk.  Now, would it be better to completely ignore the milk or to acknowledge that milk has been spilled, cry if you must, and then clean it up and take care of the problem before it becomes worse?”  I remember sitting on his couch and just sobbing.  I finally understood.  I had spilled milk.  It was everywhere and my heart was starting to sour.  I had chosen to ignore the problem completely.  I was jaded with church, I was distrusting of religion, I was bitter about what had happened to my Dad.  Rather than dealing with these emotions, I ignored them.  That was a turning point for me.  I began to try and let myself cry whenever it came up.  I tried to actually feel the feelings that I had pushed down for so long.  It was like I had opened floodgates.  Everything was heightened.  If I was happy, I was ecstatic.  If I was sad, I was inconsolable.  It has been a slow change and it is something I still struggle with today.  

Talking with Taylor helps tremendously, but I am hoping that this blog will also give me an outlet to let go of those emotions.  I can feel myself healing slowly.  Every once in awhile I have a day where I just want to forget about everything and harden myself up again.  Then I glance at Selah while she’s sleeping and my heart just melts.  In some ways, not acknowledging my feelings was so much easier, but I recognize that that’s not healthy.  My time at my school in Texas was perfect healing.  The teachers there were just amazing.  They were so friendly and accepting.  They made me laugh every day and made me fall in love with teaching again.  I went to Christ Lutheran Church while in Dallas and I from the moment I walked into the church, it felt warm and inviting.  Their choir became like family for me and I will always be grateful for them.  I am grateful to be in a church now and in a job where I am supported.  Every time I open myself up to someone, I can feel healing take place.  Anyways, I could go on for a while… like I said, floodgates.  For now, I rest knowing that I can find family anywhere as long as I am willing to open my heart.  For now, I know that healing comes in building relationships with others.  For now, I rest knowing that God can heal physical pain, emotional pain, and spiritual pain.  For now, I rest on the promise that GOD provides.  

______________________________________________________________

Who I Am (pt. 1)

While I sit here eating my post-run bag of popcorn and drinking some cranberry juice, I figure it’s about time to post something on here rather than reading over and over again what I’ve already written.  To start this blog off I’d like to say… I am NO writer.  I am horrible with grammar.  I will not be super perfect with punctuation.  Spelling…yeah, I’ll be pretty good with that, but everything else… out the window.  So, if you’re expecting to come here and read something written as beautifully as C.S. Lewis … I apologize ahead of time.

I decided to start this blog as a way to record some thoughts that I have throughout the day.  I want to be able to look back and see where I’ve been.  I also want some kind of record of these early days with Selah.  Things happen so fast these days and I don’t want to forget anything.

I guess I should start out by giving a little bit of background for those of you who don’t know me.  I hope this post also helps you understand who I am a bit better.  This first post will be in parts since it’s a bit long… but well… here we go.

Anyone who really knows me knows that I don’t like sharing a whole lot.  If I share something with you, it means I trust you (or that I’m desperate for help), but I am trying to push myself out of my comfort zone this year and this seems like a good way to do it.  I was born on September 6, 1988.  I was born around 1:30pm.  I was 3 weeks early.  My parents used to joke… “She was early.  It was the first and last time she was early to anything.”  Everyone always laughed although I never found it very funny.  

(my sister on the left, me on the right)

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-9-10-18-pm

I grew up in a house where we attended church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.  On Monday nights, my parents hosted a youth Bible study at their house.  I grew up sitting at the top of the stairs listening to high schoolers read the Bible and having discussions about what it meant for them.  I loved listening to my dad’s voice explain something about the verse they were reading.  He would use the Hebrew or Greek translation of a word and all of a sudden that verse would take on a whole new meaning.  His voice was passionate and his passion was the seed that was planted in my heart.  I never told him that, partially because I never realized it until right now, but also because I’m a private person.  Like I said, I’m not one that easily shares my feelings or thoughts.  

My mother has an incredible reading voice.  She used to do radio commercials for the continuing care community she worked at.  Hearing her read from the Bible was a soothing experience.  The room would always get quiet when she read.  She never taught the room like my dad did, but when she opened her mouth, people listened.  

As I grew up, I was steeped in the Bible and church culture.  Not only did my Dad lead a Monday night Bible study, but he also taught Sunday School to the youth on Sunday mornings.  We had to be at church 30 minutes early so that he could set up.  Sunday mornings in our house were always fun.  My sister and I would wake up, go to our parents room and crawl in bed with them.  Mom had gotten up before everyone else and made breakfast.  She would bring it upstairs and wake us up.  We’d sit on the end of their bed and eat groggily while Dad would tell us once again how we needed to leave on time this Sunday… like this Sunday would be different from every other Sunday we were late.  We’d then go through the process of taking the socks out of our hair that we used to curl it overnight.  Forty-five minutes later, I’d be running out the door with makeup, shoes, and a Bible in my hands while I listened to Dad get onto us about leaving the lights on, leaving the hair dryer plugged in, and leaving our shoes everywhere.  Nevertheless, we always made it to church on time. (This is probably not true.)

For the first 18 years of my life, church was a haven.  I absolutely loved going.  Part of that is because my parents never made it a choice.  We went to church as a family and that was that.  If the doors were open, we were there.  I learned to love it and eventually, truly did love it.  Youth group was exciting and fun.  I was always able to be myself.  I had a love for life and was excited about everything.  Reading the Bible brought such joy and discussing it with friends was a natural high.  I felt safe, passionate about life, untouchable as if nothing bad could happen.  Then I went off to college and things started to change.  Dad had always talked about how college seemed to shake people’s beliefs.  It’s the first time you’re on your own.  It’s the first time you’ve got to figure out why you believe what you believe.  It’s the first time your parents won’t wake you up and force you out the door with curlers in your hair.    

I got to college and visited 2-3 different churches my freshman year.  I still went to church semi-regularly, but I never found a church that felt right.  They were too big, or didn’t try to connect with the congregation, or tried to connect but simply couldn’t because there was no way of keeping track of all the visitors on any given Sunday.  I had a few different roommates my first year or two of college.  The first semester my roommate wanted me to switch with the girl across the hall because they got along better.  The other girl’s roommate was quiet and kept to herself so I didn’t see any problem with that.  Then, during my sophomore year, a senior wanted to live in the apartments on campus and wanted me to be one of the 4 girls in the apartment.  So, I moved in.  That girl graduated early in December, so we had another girl move in.  All in all, I had 7 different roommates my first 2 years.  Towards the end of my second year, a girl I had become good friends with told me about a baptist church in the area that she thought I would like.  I visited the church with her on a Wednesday night and immediately fell in love.  The people were kind and outgoing.  It felt warm and lively and like home.  That was the last Wednesday night before I went home for the summer.  I went home promising myself that when I got back in August, I would attend that church.  I did and for a while, I fell back in love with church and found that passion again.  

Things started to change.  At this point, I was working as an intern at the church.  For the first time in my life, I saw the politics that can sometimes happen in church and it really confused me.  It was a new side of church I had never seen.  While other people saw this as part of everyday “church business” I was confused.  I felt disappointed and hurt.  After a few more negative events at church and a lot of change, my attendance slowly lessened to 2-3 times a month.  Maybe.  

At this point, I had graduated college and begun to work at my first school.  I was living in a rented house with my best friend.  In February of 2011, the numbers at church had dwindled.  It didn’t feel as lively or as welcoming as it once had.  The church was trying to mend, but it had taken a toll on me.  I was slightly jaded.  While grappling with my inner turmoil about faith and the church, I got a phone call from my Dad.  I will never forget this.  I was standing in the kitchen, making quesadillas with Taylor (T-money to Dad).  He had come over since it was Valentine’s Day.  Dad called and the conversation went a little something like this…

Dad: Hey, sweetheart.  How was school today?

Me: Eh, you know.  Middle schoolers will be middle schoolers.  It was fine, I’m just tired.  

Dad:  Okay, well… is Taylor there? Are you by yourself?  

Me: Yup!  We’re making dinner.

Dad: Good.  Well, look.  I went to the doctor this week because I’ve been sick and just haven’t been able to get over this cold.  

Me: yeah…

Dad:  I’ve had a headache, so they did a few scans.  Turns out, I’ve got a brain tumor… It is malignant, but we’re talking about my options.  Possibly surgery, chemo, treatment… we’re not really sure yet, but I wanted to let you know.  We’ll keep you updated after we’ve met back with the doctor.  

Me: Okay.

Dad:  Okay?  Well, I’ll let you get back to dinner with Taylor.  Tell T-money I said hey.  

Me: yeah, I will.  

Dad: Okay.  love you.  Bye.

Me: Bye.

That was probably the shortest phone call I’ve ever had with my Dad.  We always talked a ton on the phone, but I could not get off that phone call fast enough.  I hung up the phone and just stared at the floor for a few seconds.  Taylor looked at me and asked what was wrong.  I simply said, “Dad has a brain tumor,” went into my room and sat down on the bed.  I don’t remember much after that night.  Dad called back at some point to say that they were going to do surgery and treatment.  I went home for his surgery.  It went smoothly and he recovered relatively quickly.  I vaguely remember it because my brain and emotions kind of shut down during those few months.  Everything was fine.  Dad was fine.  The surgery went fine.  Treatment was fine.  I was fine.  It would be fine.  I became unfeeling towards any of it, unfeeling towards church, towards Dad having a brain tumor, and towards my own struggle.  I focused on my students and I focused on work.  Later that year, I became engaged and focused on a wedding and moving in with Taylor.  Dad seemed to be doing fine from a distance, but now looking back he was slowing down a bit.  

One thing that I didn’t know until much later was the seriousness of his brain tumor.  At some point in the fall after I was engaged, Dad and I were driving in a car together, just us two, and he let me know how serious it was.  His doctor had told him that every person who had this particular kind of cancer, always dies from the cancer.  It could be 5 months or it could be 15 years, but that it was always the cancer that got them.  He could continue to do treatment as long as it worked, but that he didn’t have to.  Looking back, I know Dad told me this while I was driving the car for a reason.  He knew that I wouldn’t want to look him in the eye anyways.  He knew that it would give me something else to do to keep my mind occupied.  My hands were on the wheel and my eyes were on the road and that gave me an “out” to not be emotional.  I could nod and say okay without having to face anything until I was ready.  I will always be grateful for this moment and I will always be grateful that I had a father who knew me that well.  

After this, Dad slowed down a lot.  Over the next couple of years, he would begin to have small seizures, use a cane, use a walker, be in a wheelchair, etc… The treatment wasn’t working fast enough.  In Christmas of 2013, Taylor and I went home to visit my parents and I specifically remember sitting on the couch watching everyone open presents and hearing a small voice whisper, “This is your last Christmas together.  Enjoy this.  Look around the room.”  It startled me.  I physically jumped on the couch and looked around for a second wondering if anyone else had heard what I did.  Obviously, no one did.  I don’t know what exactly I believe about audibly hearing God or the Holy Spirit, but I can tell you this: I have never heard a voice like that as clearly as I did that day.  Dad gave my sister and I necklaces with our childhood nicknames on them that year.  I put it on that day and didn’t take it off for over a year.  

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-9-10-52-pm

That same Christmas, my whole family decided to come to mine and Taylor’s apartment for the first few days of the New Year.  My pregnant sister, her husband, their dog, mom, and dad all came to visit.  They got there in the evening and we all hung out for a bit and soon after decided to go to bed saying that we would walk around downtown the next day and go out to eat.  I went to bed excited and feeling at peace that we were all there together.

______________________________________________________________

This seems like an okay place to stop for tonight.  I’ll try to post part 2 tomorrow as long as precious Selah decides to sleep 🙂 Feel free to leave a comment or share this.  Don’t hesitate to reach out or contact me in any way.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this much and I hope you’ll come back tomorrow for part 2!