Ten.

I’ve loved Nick George for 10 years. Give or take. May 18, 2007 was the day I realized it was actual love. There we were, walking across our college campus, mere hours before we were both meant to go home for the summer. I’d spent a week in a sort of funk because I knew that our friendship would end up whittling away to “oh, she’s just that girl I hung out with my sophomore year”. I had come to accept it…until he asked me to take a walk with him.

That Day led to a forever.

Because three months after May 18th, he asked me to be his girlfriend. Another almost 5 years after that, he asked me to be his wife. And a year after that, we would start to have our kids.

Our path has been far from easy. And we have both felt like giving up at one point or another. But the fruit of being loved by Nick is immeasurable. The “18th” will always be significant for us. I’m so glad I agreed to go take that walk.

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Pride.

I have spent so much of my life trying to hold a compliment in my head long enough for it to seep through my ribcage and into my heart. Most times, I end up gagging on a fear that I’ll be found out as a phony.

I’d end up holding the compliment in my sweaty palms, instead. Awkward and unsure, give it a once over and toss it back to its recipient. Or into the thin air.

Now. I can’t seem to hold a criticism in those same palms without my heart crumbling inside of my chest. I’ve never been this fragile. Every face is a potential enemy. Everyone carries the potential to destroy me. My husband. My clients at work. My God.

This isn’t the “toot your own horn” on loop kind of pride. But a sinister type where I feel inauthentic in moments where I want to shine the most. I look over my shoulder and test out each glance. Are you pleased with me?

….and I answer the question with a “Of course not.”

I can see an image of myself as a small girl, with my mother’s church clothes, jewelry, and shoes on. They are obviously too large for me. Swallowing my tiny frame. I want to feel pretty. As pretty as the person whom these clothes belong to. But I spin and twirl and pray for a “Oh, darling. Look at how beautiful you look.”

The one compliment that satisfies the need. Finally.

So I can rest my tired feet and stop this rat race; constant pursuit of pleased nods and grateful hugs from those around me that I often get. But it never seems enough.

I think pride is kin to memory loss. You must be privy to forgetfulness to be prideful.

I forget that I have always been valued and cherished.

Even before I was cognizant of any desire to please and take the credit. Before any hands raised in front of pulsating hearts to give accolades, high-fives, or wide hugs. Before the creation of selfies and high school superlatives. Before I knew what it was like to be ignored by a boy I liked.

Pride is an insatiable black hole. Matched only by Love. Nothing can win against Pride except Love. Only Love. I can rest, return glances with smiles and be great because I am Loved.

“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” – Zepheniah 3:17

#takingbackpostpartum (part one)

About 5 weeks ago, I gave birth to my son, Noah Michael George. I spent the first few days in awe that God allowed us to have a quiet, uneventful pregnancy & a quick 2 hour labor. My husband and I sat in the hospital room just hours after he was born, anxious to get home with our family.  

When my son turned a week old, a dark cloud settled over our home as we struggled through the onset of what turned out to be silent reflux & severe colic that plagues many newborns. Noah screamed all day & night. My mom had gone home by this point and my husband was back at work. We stayed up nights and he rarely napped during the day. I was angry, resentful, and lonely. I actively fought off depression, having been acquainted with the symptoms, but was unable to keep the tears to a minimum. It was a struggle to feed him even though I had an oversupply & was conquering engorgement. The way we’d described him in those days would be “cranky”, “high maintenance”, & “needy”. He hated everything it felt like…and I was not bonding with my son.

I missed spending time with my 2 year old daughter (who was a much easier, more pleasant baby) & I felt myself mourning it just being the three of us. Luckily, my marriage survived this period. I cried in my husband’s arms more time than I can count, but I could see how hard he was working to keep our family afloat.

The turning point for me happened when Noah turned 3 weeks old. My mother-in-law was here to spend a week with us & she, my daughter & husband had left that morning for church. After feeding Noah in the living room, I turned on the tv to catch a local church’s worship service. One of the songs they sang was “It is Well with My Soul”.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say

It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well

With my soul

It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)

With my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

It is well (it is well)

With my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well (it is well)

With my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with my soul

With my son sleeping in my lap, I lifted my hands in worship and wept cleansing tears to my Heavenly Father. The lyrics reverberated deeply in my soul & I felt His presence wash over me.

Things are still hard. However, His grace and strength is more than enough. I’m becoming more acquainted, in this season, with God being my Daily Bread. He gives us exactly what we need, daily.

Weights & Scales.

While watching Good Will Hunting (one of my favorite movies, by the way) with Nick, I looked at him and said its good to be a little self depreciating while attempting to reach people. He agreed:”Yeah. A little bit.”

I say this to establish that the following topic is not meant to make light of anyone else’s beliefs or passions. 

Alright…let’s continue…
I am probably at the heaviest weight I’ve been since I was at the climax of my pregnancy last year. I’m not fond of that fact, and am actively pursuing a change in that area, obviously. Oddly enough, immediately following that statement, I can say with full confidence another, seemingly contradictory one:

I’ve never been happier at any other point in my life. 

  

The above picture is recent, at my daughter’s 1 year birthday party. I remember many things about that day: I remember momentarily stressing over how I felt in my outfit. (“This dress definitely looked better on me last month, didn’t it?”) But I also remember my daughter’s laughter and how she played. I remember hugging on beloved friends that I hadn’t seen in a while. I remember seeing the pride in my mom’s eyes. I look at this picture…and even though my eyes briefly sweep over flaws, I step back and see something massively more important.

Our smiles are genuine; Nick’s and I’s. 

2014 was a test. A battle. And by Gods grace we were victorious. Stress and pain could have marred us but instead we shine. 

God deserves all the boast: This year, I’m working in a job/position that I love and get fulfillment in. Nick is making amazing, tangible strides in a dream/vision he was born with. We have survived disappointments, closed doors, & lack. 

I’ve gotten a few compliments recently. People telling me I look great. I laugh because I’m at least 30 lbs heavier than I was 2 years ago. Maybe people can see deeper. 

The Race Card (My One Post about Race)

With regards to race, I have come to rest on two main truths:

1. There is both an individual manner and a collective manner to experience race.

and

2. If you have a heartbeat, you have the potential to be a racist. And there are many ways to be racist.

Let me break each one down, as candidly as possible…

1. There is both an individual manner and a collective manner to experience race.

Each race in America has both individual, day-to-day experiences as their race, as well as experiences shared with the remaining people of the same race. Those shared experiences can be at a community level, a state level, class level, political lean level, national level, etc. Both manners are necessary for statistical purposes. Some people make the mistake of assuming that their personal experience is the same for others of the same race, but that may or may not be true. This is why it is dangerous for people to use generalizations when discussing race, without the correct stats to back it up. Even our modern media can use “race baiting” tactics to make people conclude that a small collection of experiences is the majority. Whatever the race, you should be examining your community (the smallest collective you have easy access to), to see what the racial climate is like.

Having said that, it is easy for some to hide racist agendas on the institutional level (e.g. Job discrimination). Plus, people who have no local awareness of racism, will assume that racism does not exist, or that it isn’t a “big deal”. Many will assume that “the race card” is being used unfairly, and will experience frustration towards the “victimized” people group.

I have seen people compare their individual racial experience with an entire people group of another race. Example: “I don’t know why they need welfare, I’ve worked hard for everything I’ve owned my whole life and never got a single hand out. Those people are just entitled.”

Here’s the problem with that reasoning:

a. This person is making both racist and classist generalizations about that particular people group who are on welfare. This person isn’t just assuming that people on welfare are lazy and entitled, but that the people of that race (who are on welfare) are lazy and entitled.

b. This person is also assuming that just because his individual experience was favorable (He worked hard and received the just due for his hard work), that EVERYONE’S experience will be the same. This is ideal, but naive. If we have learned anything from America’s history is that even though Lady Liberty welcomed many demographics onto her land, whom all had the same hopes and aspirations, not everyone has been able to achieve a piece of her coveted American dream. While it is honorable to teach others that individual hard work gets you success, it should also be taught that often times, the SYSTEM has uneven playing fields. Certain races teach each other to look out for those uneven places, not so we can sit and complain, but so that we can know how to survive and thrive IN SPITE of those places. The person who claims they do not exist are actually doing certain people groups a disservice.

If our nation is truly based on a free market and open, fair competition, I would rather win my place over the next man HONORABLY.

Okay. I hope you’re keeping up. On to #2.

2. If you have a heartbeat, you have the potential to be a racist. And there are many ways to be racist.

Inside, we are all the same. Historically, we were taught that blacks were born inferior due to the shape of the skull (re: Phrenology). Thankfully, we now know race to be both a sociological construct and a way to classify and experience shared culture. Some people promote a “racially blind” society, where they believe that if we would simply erase the racial lines, we would all see our similarities clearly and racism would thus be eradicated. Others feel that ridge separatism is the answer; that we should just stick to our own kind.

I’m of the school of thought that a balance should be achieved. That celebrating our differences, and seeing the beauty in each curl pattern and skin tone, will accomplish two things:

a. We will be amazed that we are all capable of great things that are carried out in different ways. It’s the same as with the Biblical analogy of the Body of Christ. Some are feet, some are hands. Their differences in role and gifting are all needed for the Body. Unity does not have to equal uniformity.

b. We will recognize that we are all identical in our ability to commit the worst atrocities. We create a shared humanity by seeing that we are all human. I am amazed by how some people groups fight for equality, but will only fight for the best and brightest claims to being human. Here are a couple of examples: White Privilege exists because some Whites accept the benefits of their race but little of the responsibility that comes with it. And Blacks are infamous for being quick to distribute blame on a collective front, but take no responsibility back to their communities. We all hurt. And we are all responsible.

Going back to the two manners of experiencing race: we share responsibility on both individual and shared levels. If you never examine both manners, then you are only taking half of your responsibility. And you may feel that racism isn’t a huge deal, but it may be because you are only looking as far as your front yard. Look deeper. Look farther.

There is still so much to be done.

Let Them Play

I’m reading the book, Scary Close by Donald Miller and it is jarring loose major parts of my life and thinking.

He tells a story of one of his breakthroughs that occurred while in therapy: speaking to his 9 year old self, who’d he had given the burden/responsibility of gaining attention and validation from others. His 9 year old self had the mindset that he had to be bigger and better in order to gain love from others. Also, this 9 year old represented his outer self; the persona he projected for others. There was also his inner self that existed, his true self, whom the author decided was about 35 years old. His inner self was at peace and okay with being alone most of the time, meanwhile the outer self was stressed and fearful.

The therapist told him to sit in a chair across from his 9 year old self and talk to him. Donald Miller said, “I also want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for pushing you out there in the world so you could impress people for us and fight for us and make money for us while I sat in here and read books”.

I paused after reading this and begin to cry. Looking across my bedroom, I stared at the wall and imagined the age/image of my inner self. She is 14 years old; bangs covering up her quiet, wise eyes, but sitting up straight for fear that others are watching. She wears baggy clothing so that her shape doesn’t show too much, and she’s picking at the sides of her jeans to help keep her from running off to her room; her place of refuge.

She sees me staring at her, so she straightens her back even more, and waits for me to speak.

“I bet you’re exhausted, huh? I’m sorry I let them put so much pressure on you. You’re not even close to being done being a kid, but you’re preoccupied with so many burdens right now. Here, let me take those from you. I know just what to do with them. Please, go off and play. You’re far from done playing.”

Those last two sentences resounded deeply inside of my heart.

Children find both expression and freedom when engaged in play. Imagine, the whole world is filled with turmoil and pain, but our children (the brightest and purest of us) actively seek Play. I had not reached the age where I no longer needed play to express my joys and frustrations. In fact, I needed play at 14 more than ever. It was stripped from me, and I was given adult burdens in its place.

A child who is unable to play is a traumatized child. They see the world with a different set of eyes, and without an adult to protect them, they are left to both understand and defend against this new world on their own.

This was a profound truth to realize because it made me understand why I interact with others the way I do. Why I still throw up a wall when I have conflict in my marriage. And why I still struggle with trusting spiritual authority.

I’m so thankful that God sees me as His child, no matter my age. And that He still encourages me to have liberty and joy in Him. I can cast all burdens to Him and truly be “as a child”. I still believe my days of play are far from over.

Additionally, my struggle fueled my purpose, which is to work with children. Provide them with an atmosphere where they can play freely, without judgement, and encourage their sense of joy and abandon. There are many children who do not have anyone to defend their right to play. Some who have placed adult burdens on to their shoulders and emphasize correct behavior over exploration and the process of becoming an individual. My heart of hearts is to “let children play”.

Their…our…lives depend on it.

Excuses, Excuses

I have way too many excuses & not nearly enough courage.

Apparently, so do most people. A well-known guy in the Bible named Moses was chatting with God about emancipating his people out of slavery. When told to go, here’s what he said:

Exodus 3:11;4:10
“But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

“Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

Ha. Of all things, Moses brought up his lack of charisma and charm, or that the fact that he might not be able to be very convincing to the ruler of Egypt. Honestly, I was here for Moses on this one. If I were chilling in the desert, enjoying my comfortable existence with friends and loved ones, I wouldn’t want to leave all that and go save a bunch of people I didn’t know anyway…

…but that’s God’s M.O.
Saving folk. Right?

WHO AM I, God? The call is always overwhelming. Too big. Too difficult.
Larger than my hands can hold.
Moses couldn’t wrap his logic around it.

…and neither can I.

I have hobbies. Things that I enjoy doing to pass the time. They are not only enjoyable, but easy.
Then I have talents. Things that I am both good at and enjoy doing. The work that goes into it is enjoyable.
Then…
I have passions. They are overwhelming and taxing at times. Especially when they push me (or pull me, sometimes kicking and screaming) towards my purpose.
Now, Purpose is NOTHING like your hobby or your talent. They can be connected, but they are rarely identical.
Your Purpose is divine and God-breathed. It’s like a distinct birthmark or a mole: it’s unique to you. It’s what identifies you in the Kingdom of God. It’s like your fingerprint, not because no one else will have that purpose, but no one else will carry it out EXACTLY like you.

Imagine this: God made you unique because He needed you to be exactly who you are, so that you can take your place (one picked out JUST FOR YOU) in the Kingdom of God.

So, when I/you make excuses, we are leaving our places unoccupied. And we all suffer because of it.

It’s hard enough DISCOVERING that purpose. Moses had to leave his cushy existence as Pharaoh’s son in order to find it. But the delay caused by excuses are on us. IT’s time to edge them further out of our lives & trade them for a little more courage.