Click on the link below to view the original content from Chris and Taya’s page.
Click on the link below to view the original content from Chris and Taya’s page.
Transparency is the key to whatever is next for all of us. I’ve just come into my own on that one, because for years I’ve been folding more and more into myself. Sunday’s message was a doozie, and so timely. I feel like Richard is in my head every time he’s planning a sermon. His sermons speak volumes to us, and that’s what we need.
The message was on a lot of things, but my takeaway was regarding relationships – specifically how we need to fertilize and tend to our relationships. We can spread the gospel and witness to those closest to us with love, in turn creating a domino effect that reaches well past our front and back doors and property lines. Mother Teresa once said, “If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.” Substitute ‘Christ’ for ‘happiness’ and we’re exactly there. She also said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Both fully apply. There’s been a common thread in all of my goings on lately. The words spoken to me through various tangible and intangible avenues are all surrounding relationship, trust, abundance, and tenacity. So, somehow that all equals transparency. In order to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this hell-centric Earth, we need to give our real selves to the light of day instead of protecting our most vulnerable parts with the shadows of dark night.
I absolutely love staying in the shadows of the dark and praying no one will see me or even notice I’ve checked out. Its super comfy and self-serving. But, I’ve stayed there too long, checked out for too long. According to several professionals and books, it’s changed the way my brain works and my body chemistry. I’m a different person than I was because of my learned tendency to withdraw, which is not innate for me. Humans are created to crave fruitful community and, contrary to popular belief, I am still human. So, with that being said, Jesus is still in my heart, and God is still on the throne, and I’m not buying the neatly wrapped crap the greater “they” is gifting me. I’m going to open up and vulnerably pray my way through the newness. I’m being lead down this path. Otherwise, you can bet your booty I’d never, ever pick it. Here we go. We will see where I’m lead. Spoiler alert – it will be into the light and away from the darkness for this season of my life.
Transparency won’t change some people’s perspective of me or you. Some people will toss it aside because their perceived version is more buttery and flavorful. You know these people, too. They usually don’t read blogs and are still buying into the 80s marketing ploy – hook, line, and sinker – that whole grain is the way to weight loss (I’m lookin’ at you, Cheerios commercials). Side note: whole grains are not the way to weight loss. Eating a bowl of Cheerios is the same as eating a bowl of sugar. Not all wheat-eaters are judgy, petty meanies. However, I’m not editing my accusation out, because the ones I’ve interfaced with most recently love gross, 80s cereals. Quickly… let’s move on…
When we offer our true, candid selves, often times these people respond to the “you” they’ve created, which in no way, shape, or form represents or resembles the real you. You cannot help them with this and its best to consider it none of your business. The reality is that we are only a whipping boy for whatever they need to project emotionally at the time. We are an empty box. “I’m not empty,” you tell me. I know this, but the point is they do not care. They prefer you empty, to dress and decorate in whatever fashion best serves their insecurities and self-fulfilling madness. They have an itch they can’t quite reach under their scapula and you’re the backscratcher they got in their stocking last Christmas. They keep you beside the chair in the living room in case they need you. Then back you go, shoved in between an old Reader’s Digest and last week’s obituaries, just in reach of the miniature poodle, who chews on you from time to time, whenever he’s bored. We have to be totally okay with that. Because, also in reality, it has nothing to do with us.
These people say they know you well. They genuinely think they do. “Oh, Chassati? I know her very well. I’ve worked with her for XX years.” “Oh, Chassati? Yeah, her ex-husband is in prison for drugs. I feel bad for those kids.” “Oh Chassati? Yeah, I know her. I’ve never understood why she moved here. I’ve heard she has a shady past.” These people walk among us and believe they know us, well enough to actually converse with others about the intricacies of our lives. But they don’t. Not even close. It’s easier to pretend to know me (or you) and slather interesting, juicy icing all over the top of whatever meaningless conversation they were having at our perceived self’s expense while silently judging one another, than to actually sit down in the quiet and have a cup of coffee with themselves. Therein lies one of the tragedies of the human condition. What we see inside us hurts us, disappoints us, and is more difficult to compartmentalize than external strife, so we project on others, because for those smuggish moments, we feel superior and validated. And also, humans are the laziest of animals and it’s really hard to be honestly introspective. Like, the hardest.
I will tell you who I am and what matters to me, and you will receive that as truth or you won’t. Chatter amongst yourselves. Project all kinds of dysfunction and blaspheme on my little family of three. Prophesy on how my life will turn out desperate and desolate, plagued with bad decisions, and how my children will struggle and suffer at the hands of their parents’ iniquities and sins. Can you believe that there are actual people in this small town that have wasted their bandwidth searching the internet for the reasons Ren went to prison, instead of coming by my cubicle, popping their head in, and asking? Not-so imaginary person could ask, “So why is your ex-husband in prison, if you don’t mind me inquiring?” to which the real me (not their perceived, catty, whorish me) would reply, “Not at all. Assault and drugs. Lots of drugs.” Why do these people not just ask at work, or in line at the tiny HEB, or while waiting for a table at the Mexican food restaurant? Because their perceived me is shameful and secretive and elusive about the skeletons in perceived me’s closet, when in reality, the skeletons are pretty much in the front yard and a lot less interesting than the emotionally projecting masses had hoped. Oh, here we are back at the honestly introspective thing. Interesting how that tends to happen. If God is for me, I am not bothered by little ole’ Petty Mayonnaise, or her mom n’ ’em, or her ex-husband’s new girlfriend… You get the point.
Trust puts an interesting twist on transparency. I’ve been telling myself for years that I don’t trust people so, for the love of her mom n’ ’em, quickly lock up everything of worth and throw away the key. Build fences and walls so high and so solid that nothing can penetrate. But how ignorant is it to trust people in general? That shouldn’t even be a thing. People will absolutely always fall short of what trust seeks. We trust God and love people. Reserve trust for the One who is constant and omnipresent and absolutely will never hang us out to dry. Love people and God will connect the dots. He always has, even when I have not been faithful or deserving of provisions. He’s always made the crooked paths straight. I’m the one who generally screws up the plan and runs, screaming, into the bushes and finds myself back on the crooked path, needing my Father to give me another hand to find my way back to the straight one. If we’re honest, we can surely all admit that we are never that faithful or deserving of God calling us his own. That’s kind of one of the huge points of Christianity.
It’s taken me an entire lifetime to arrive at this place, and I’m not slipping back into the black hole from which I emerged. We are not defined by our past or our hardships or the horrific people who we have entertained at our tables and in our beds for whatever length of time. We are defined by our right to a place at God’s table in his home with all of our brothers and sisters gathered. Abundance. That’s where that one comes into the conversation. Put your hands out to receive. Internalize this and get your worthy hiney out of the pits of desolate desperation, too. Hey, I don’t deem you worthy. God does. Who are we to argue? I promise, freedom is so much better. Grace is my favorite, y’all. My absolute favorite.
A few questions for the road:
Share the answers to these with me, or your best friend, or your journal. Relationship with God, relationship with ourselves, relationship with family, relationship with community. This is the formula to changing the world. We start with ourselves, and the people in our immediate world. Then the wildfire catches wind.
I’m going to leave you with some thoughts from two of my favorites, Brene and Bec. Brene wrote it and Bec posted it. I simply stole it.
As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, a fairly common meme posted by a well-meaning acquaintance caught my eye and, honestly, instantly pissed me off. Y’all have probably seen it a thousand times before. It says, “A child that is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone.” There are a lot of variations, but the point communicated is always “Your child’s behavior is a direct reflection of what you ALLOW.”
Ladies and gentleman, this is a problem. I understand that If I had tallied the source and number of times this gem of advice came across my news feed since the existence of social media, I can without a doubt guarantee that it comes from nuclear families with neurotypical children every. blasted. time.
I have a very important piece of life’s puzzle to offer you right now at this very moment. This piece of advice is valuable and actually applies to every person on the face of God’s green earth. Are you ready? Here goes: You cannot control another human being ever, under any circumstances. Game changed. It doesn’t matter if you married them, gave birth to them, or they gave birth to you. You cannot control another human. Guiding our children in the way they should go is crucial, and our hearts, minds, and hands should always be prayerfully involved in shaping them and motivating to be their best selves. This includes teaching right from wrong which requires consistent discipline and follow through. But, notice, “guiding” and “teaching” are actually pretty much the opposite of “controlling.”
When my son was in PreK 3 and 4, we were blessed to have an exceptional teacher (Mrs. Susan Scott) and teacher’s aide (Mrs. Barbara Bedford) to love on him and teach him, in that order. He kinda requires it to go in that order, and they were intuitive and passionate enough to pick up on it and execute the formula beautifully. He loved school and his teachers dearly. However, because of his behavior challenges, developmental challenges and the interpersonal dynamic life has fostered between he and I, it was consistently very hard for him to leave me and go with them in the mornings. He would have better days than others, but usually dropping Kannon off meant hitting, kicking, biting, definitely verbal assault and 65 pounds of boy beef thrashing about in the middle of the hall at my feet. The same person who posted this nugget of wisdom walked by me probably a hundred times during just such displays from my youngest, and the judgement was no doubt, “She needs to teach that child some respect.”
The really hard part about all of this is that child knows respect. He loves me harder and purer than anyone I’ve ever known. But, that child also has behavioral and emotional developmental delays that create huge gaps in logical thinking and make it next to impossible for him to compartmentalize emotion. When pressure is applied to him in any way, positive or negative, its like pulling the pin on a grenade. When a person or situation makes him feel sad, angry, embarrassed, excited, overjoyed or in any way overwhelmed, the dynamite is detonated. His lashing out at me was the response to transitioning between “how I feel with mom” and “how I feel at school.” It was his response to transitioning between “unconditional, hands-on, obvious, warm, maybe-sometimes-grouchy-and-a-little-impatient” love to “conditional, hands-off, cordial, carefully measured” love. Time and consistency will help this little, intense boy learn how to negotiate himself in the world, but he isn’t there yet, and we can’t rush him. We continue to guide and teach. Controlling is a joke with this one, I assure you. But, the common consensus is, “he’s acting like that so there is a problem with the way he is parented.” I am definitely not perfect, but God gave ME Kannon and no one else, so turns out He has faith in ME and no one else to parent this child and be his mother. I love that so much and I take it very seriously. No amount of shade anyone can throw our way will ever alter any part of how I guide and teach my boy as we do life together.
Y’all, we’ve worked really hard to get to where we are in this journey together. I see shimmers of improvement in my boy daily, and I can only hope he feels the same about me. Grace is so vitally life-giving in every second we spend on Earth. Kannon is a person before he is my son. I am a person before I am his mother. We have to learn and grow together and as individuals simultaneously, and we are killing it, World, we really are. Some amazing resources that have helped us use the challenges as growth opportunities are Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child, The Explosive Child, Sacred Parenting, For the Love, Of Mess and Moxie, Boundaries, and many more. While these resources are so worth the money and time to buy and read, they pale in comparison to the amazing support and nuggets of applicable wisdom I have soaked up from my very own tribe. You’re either with us or against us, but we hope you’re with us. The party is over here here, y’all.
My son’s birthday hits me hard every year. It makes me reflective, honestly seeking out and isolating parts of myself that must improve. September 12th signifies a time to begin tackling a few stubborn, carefully chosen Goliaths in my life, because if we are all honest, we should only choose two or three to battle at a time. Kannon, by God’s design, forces me to be better and do better simply by meeting the spectacular challenges he presents hour by hour and day by day. He was born to shift perspectives and paradigms, and while change makes him uncomfortable and grouchy on a personal level, his spirit is crafted to force forward movement on those around him, assuming they don’t fall willingly into the rhythm of his current.
Anaiah was carefully planned. Ren and I lost two babies while trying for Anaiah and we were desperate to get pregnant. After I found out I was pregnant for the third time at ten weeks along, the first trimester was the longest few months of my life. I worried about every tiny thing under the sun that could go wrong. I read every book I could find on vitamins, development, folic acid and the Ferber method versus the Sears method of sleep training. I was adamantly against co-sleeping, rice cereal and formula. I was the poster child for What to Expect When You’re Expecting and homemade baby food. In short, I was the the epitome of injury prevention and had no real world knowledge under my belt. I knew nothing, but felt really good about it.
I was on birth control and breastfeeding when I got pregnant with Kannon. I didn’t go to Dr. Wang until I was between four and five months pregnant. I was sure stress and lack of sleep were responsible for my weight loss efforts tanking after having Anaiah. Ren was already not Ren anymore, our life was crumbling faster than I could glue it back together, and a baby was absolutely the last thing we needed to add to our stormy, tumultuous equation. Ren would be home some, then not at all, then come by randomly at 3am and take off with my wallet and my car… Such was our life for all of 2011 and 2012. I had no idea what was happening to my husband and, at that specific time, I didn’t have the emotional, mental or physical energy to completely attack the demons on his back as I had consistently and successfully done in the past. I was about to bring a perfect, baby boy into all of this horrible, broken mess and I was completely overwhelmed at the prospect. I had to practice saying, “I’m pregnant” out loud in front of the mirror for two weeks before I could verbalize it out without bursting into tears.
My son was scheduled to make his entrance into the world via c-section a week early. I registered my friend, Gina, to be with me at the birth because Ren was hit and miss. He ended up being there for Kannon’s entrance into the world, but left the hospital a few hours later. Kannon’s first night was spent right next to me in the hospital bed. We both fell asleep breastfeeding and there he remained, asleep snuggled next to me, until the nurse woke us both at 6 am to take our vitals. I looked around the dark, empty hospital room then down at him and thought, “It’s just us.” It was the first time I internalized the cold, hard facts that were slowly weaving in and out of life as I knew it and changing it forever. My husband was a stranger. It was Kannon, Anaiah and I. That was it. Kannon forced the three of us to turn a corner by simply entering the world. He was a catalyst for stretched limits and uncomfortable progress from birth, and continues to offer growth opportunities to all of those in his life.
The intensity of who my son is at the core matches my own, and matches the intensity of the conditions under which he was brought into this world. My intensity is quiet, simmering at my core. It is pensive and flashes are reserved for maybe ten people in the world. Kannon’s intensity burns hot and bright and loud. He is a bonfire. He’s a gorgeous ’56 Chevy with a huge, burly engine and absolutely no power-steering. He reminds me that amidst this horrific, chaotic world and weaved in the folds of the wake he creates by his simple existence, there is still magic, brilliance and wonder in leaves and caterpillars and rain. Slow down. Be quiet. Listen. Even when the demands of being a mom and a decent human and million other things are screaming about laundry, groceries, email and Haitian orphans. Those eyes. That smile. They take me amazing places when I have no choice but to stay right here for right now.
Kannon’s favorite song at six years old, besides “Jesus Loves Me,” (someone clap approvingly for me, please and thank you), is “Hurricane” by The Band of Heathens. It is so very fitting for him. He has a stubborn will of steel that makes me completely crazy but will serve him well as an adult in this world. He was born into a figurative hurricane that is seemingly impossible to navigate at times from my perspective, but he continues to surprise and encourage me by beautifully cruising in and out of tough spots seamlessly, and is only picking up steam as he rolls through life. Such a big man in a little body, struggling to get all of those emotional, mental, spiritual and physical levers balanced just right, while trying to please those directly in his path the best he can, if it fits into his agenda. This guy has an innate purpose to come in with guns blazing and shake things up. I absolutely cannot wait to meet 10-year-old, 16-year-old, 32-year-old and 55-year-old Kannon and look forward to every single twist, turn, hug, smile and side eye before, after and in between.
A few disclaimers, because I have some pretty harsh critics (who I genuinely appreciate), and because I’m not super touchy-feely in general, and the holidays wear me out physically and mentally…
#1 I say “happily married” because that’s what you say. I don’t know if you’re happy. You do. I’m trusting that you know more than I do on the topic and we’re going with it.
#2 None of my writing is directed specifically at anyone, unless I mention you by name. It is beyond self-absorbed to truly believe that any one person could elicit an entire blog post from me. I apologize, but my life is maddeningly busy and I genuinely don’t have time to sit around and think about specifically you that much, even if I really love and adore you. At this point in my life, my attention is commanded, not willingly given. In short, it’s not you, it’s me.
#3 “Words are a mirror. They either give us perspective on ourselves if turned inward, or perspective on the world around us if turned outward.” – Dr. Meyer, my Ethnic Lit professor in college
It’s not my responsibility to tell you which way the mirror needs to be turned for any set of specific words. That’s on you.
Now that the housekeeping is finished, we’re moving right along…
With the abundance of warm and fuzzy social media posts surrounding the holidays, there is an overwhelming amount of posts from people wishing to shout from the mountain tops how very happily married they are. Oh the hashtags… #mrssoandsoforever, #imnotaquitter, #marriageissacred #strongerthandivorce #quittingisntanoption #marriageisntamood. You guys…
First, let me congratulate you on your thriving relationship. I assume that is what you are wholeheartedly seeking, and I am genuinely cheering you on from the sidelines. Perhaps it is because I am more minimalistic than not, but posting these declarations to a select group of people who you have accepted as your virtual friends seems redundant. I am assuming that you are planning on staying in your marriage for your entire life until death parts you, because you chose to be married. I have never met a person that expected their marriage to end, but still chose to exchange vows and shoot in the dark anyway.
Sometimes (a lot of the time) people publicly proclaim how amazing or wonderful their partner is because of blatant or suspected infidelity. In 2016, the only logical action is to blow up all social media outlets with some version of the following: “Oh my gosh!!! My husband is SOOOO amazing to me and his three small children!! He truly treats me like a queen and I am SOOO blessed!” … while simultaneously scrolling through his private messages that you hacked into while he’s unsuspectingly drooling on the pillow next to you. These beauties give themselves away almost always by the time posted… 3:15 am, 1:45 am… anytime after midnight, really. My grandpa used to tell me that nothing good happens after midnight. His logic persists.
Happily married people also declare their love and devotion from the highest mountain tops because they are truly having problems. Maybe if they say all is well repetitively to as many people as possible, it will feel like all is really okay. The fake it ’till you make it mentality. I jump on that bandwagon all the time when it comes to parenting, so no judgment from me, but own it if that’s you. If you are a spouse or partner that needs your ego stroked via social media (“Awww, look Bob. Linda posted that she appreciated me taking out the trash this morning. She must really love me.”) you may need to reevaluate your priorities.
The meat and potatoes of this issue is that you should ultimately be communicating with your partner, and the success of your relationship should shine through your genuine love and respect for each other. Who am I to speak on marriage anyway, you may ask (as beads of judgement and self-validation pour from your palms and forehead)? I am, in fact, a devout believer in love and marriage. Afterall, I’ve done it twice (it’s a joke, calm down, take a moment to wipe that reproach from your brow…). While the majority of marriages do not weather the storms of time and ultimately sink in divorce, the shipwrecks we are left with are almost always horribly surprising to those of us at the helm. I promise we don’t plan the devastation experienced in the aftermath of a split and sometimes, (gasp) it is unavoidable and the best decision. In my last post, I discussed the difference between what we want and what is ultimately best. Marriage is sometimes, unfortunately, a perfect example. I wanted my marriage to last. I wanted my husband and I to die in each other’s arms seconds apart like Noah and Allie in The Notebook. Turns out, the best decision for us was cutting ties and beginning again with just the kids and I. If your first thought is, “There’s no way that’s true,” I ask that you and I sit down and discuss. You may need to hear something I have to say.
The disconnect occurs when a person cannot fathom anything horrible happening in their own lives that would constitute divorce, and their partner surely would never engage in any behavior that would validate leaving, scrapping the marriage, cutting losses and walking away. I’m not encouraging pessimistic mentality in relationships, but I am pushing you to realize that we are talking about humans in a broken world, and any sense of control we think we have regarding the actions and behavior of any human (even YOUR human) in this broken world is a farce. You and your partner are Christians? My ex-husband and I are Christians. God is in control? Absolutely He is. GOD is in control. Not you, regardless of how strong, fierce and well-meaning that perceived control is according to you. And sometimes, because of other people’s (Christians or not) free will, the BEST place for you and your children is NOT in the God-ordained marriage you excitedly created and built from the ground up.
Let’s revisit these hashtags whirling around the internet, validating relationships left and right.
#mrssoandsoforever – Yes, we know. You’re married. We assume that your expectation is that it lasts forever.
#imnotaquitter – You know what else isn’t a quitter? Abuse. Addiction. Infidelity. Food for thought for the publicly self-proclaimed happily marrieds.
#marriageissacred – Absolutely. As is our children’s well-being, emotional and spiritual development and life. Safety. The ability to sit in your own house with the doors locked and fear what is outside instead of what is within. All very sacred.
#strongerthandivorce – Fantastic. But are you already scrolling through his private messages that you hacked into while he’s unsuspectingly drooling on the pillow next to you? Please tell me you see the problem there. Are you stronger than addiction, abuse and mental illness? If you say yes, you haven’t had those issues brush close enough to your own life to weigh in.
#quittingisntanoption – Please see #imnotaquitter. Sometimes it is absolutely the BEST and only option.
#marriageisntamood – I’m kind of beating a dead horse, but neither is addiction, abuse, mental illness… you see where I’m going with this.
I love seeing anniversary posts and birthday posts and lovey dovey posts from all of you who really capitalize on a special day to lift your special someone up and recognize their place in your life. However, you should know that continually posting how amaaaaazzzing your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/non-organic partner/baby daddy is in a pretend dimension (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) actually communicates the exact opposite. Its two shakes away from those joint social media accounts. If people weren’t talking about you before, they will be now, and they’ll be wondering which one of you cheated or lied or talked to the neighbor a little too long in the driveway this evening before dinner.
And you do know social media is a pretend dimension, right?
Four years ago.
I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a post commemorating the Sandy Hook shooting. It said, “We will always remember four years ago: 12/14/2012.”
I stopped breathing for a minute. My back involuntarily tensed and my face flushed. I had to consciously gather myself and remember I was, in fact, at my desk waiting on my software to update. This is probably another reason why you should never open social media at work, even if you have legitimate dead time to fill.
Sandy Hook was definitely devastating, but the date is what knocked the breath out of me. December 2012 was four years ago. Four short years that have seemed like a lifetime a hundred times over. Four years ago was our last Christmas with the boys. It was the last time we saw them, actually. Four years ago, I thought I was losing the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. Four years ago, La Vega hadn’t happened. Four years ago, I still got a quick kiss and tight hug every once in a while from my husband, even though his eyes were empty and his mind had been a million miles away for at least a year. I had no comprehension regarding the strength of mental illness and addiction versus the strength of love. I still truly believed that as long as you had love, you had enough. Four years ago, I was praying desperately for a miracle, completely broke and struggling to pay for counseling and medication that Ren was quite literally flushing down the toilet. Four years ago, my body was in the best shape of my life, but my spirit was broken and my heart was grieving a best friend and life partner, physically alive but ravaged by meth, mountains of whores, false friends, mental illness and other drugs.
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly, I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:22-24.
Over the rocky terrain of 2013 and 2014, I shouted this verse at God. I was so angry above all other emotions. I told God time and time again how angry I was that He discarded my desperate, fervent prayers. I spent a few years distancing myself from God because I felt absolutely passed over and betrayed. I believed God had lost interest in me, but nothing could have been farther from the truth. In fact, God graciously and deliberately responded with the complete opposite of December 2012’s disillusioned, impassioned pleas. I received my miracle. Ren swirled down the toilet right behind his expensive medication and rejected counseling. That’s not what I prayed for and absolutely not what I wanted. I prayed for what I wanted, and received what was best. I wanted my husband back. I wanted our family Friday pizza and movie nights with all four kids to continue until they graduated from high school, then maybe beyond that when they came to visit with their spouses and children. I wanted the life I had planned, and I fought long and hard for it. I lost myself in the fight for my family, home and future. I lost the ability to define love for what it was, and was only able to define it by what it was not. Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” If you insist on fighting your own battles, God will step back and wait for you to get your ass kicked so miserably that you have no choice but be still. I am relentlessly stubborn, so I’ve taken this route more often than not. It’s taken my entire 35 years and about a million paradigm shifts to learn that I’d rather be still and ask God to fight for me at the first suspicion of battle regardless of how large or small. Life clicks along better that way, and aftershocks and post-traumatic damage are kept to a manageable minimum. Crushing defeats transform into growth opportunities before your mortal eyes. You can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks.
Grace is the power we receive to live our life from the standpoint of victory regardless of the circumstances swirling around us. Grace is received only through faith. God’s grace is sufficient when we actively trust that His all-encompassing view is much superior to our ridiculously limited perspective. I am the tuba player marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and God is the blimp overhead. It is in my best interest to trust the blimp’s perspective instead of my own. The blimp can see everything for miles. I can see the sweat beading through the back of the ugly uniform directly in front of me. I’m learning. I am learning that what we want often looks completely different from what is best. In this season of Christmas, I am so grateful and humbled that I get what is best, even though I deserve what I want instead.
So many changes have violently elbowed their way into our world over the last four years, and I’ve come to appreciate and savor the value in them all. The process of absolute brokenness and subsequent rebuilding has made me unrecognizable to those who don’t know me deeply. But those who do say I just put the pieces back together differently.
December 2012 was bondage I didn’t recognize as bondage. December 2016 is freedom. I am finally true and honest with myself, which evolves into truth and honesty in all aspects of my life. I spend my time on people and treasures that make me think and feel and laugh so hard I cry. Freedom means pausing my Gabriel Garcia Marquez documentary to watch The Farting Preacher, then jumping right back into Marquez, but pausing once more to catch Jason Boland live on Instagram. Freedom means swiftly and completely disregarding opinions and advice of those who have no concept of what our world looks like. Freedom means putting effort into what I know is important instead of being obligated to extinguish petty fires every moment of every day. Freedom means having the courage to live in the present instead of being comfortably chained to the sinking bricks of the past.
2017, we are ready. Morning by morning new mercies I see.
It’s important to believe in happily ever after. It helps. I don’t know if I’ll ever find that one person to spend happily ever after with, but just the hope it offers is quite comforting. The general consensus of the masses is that we should say, “I love you” more, and there are endless examples of this everywhere we look. “Love makes the world go ’round.” “All you need is love.” Both ideologies are overused and absolutely false. We should mean it more and say it less. Love has become an excuse and a loose interpretation for any number of things, at the very best.
Love is a get-out-of-jail-free card in our society. “But I love you…” And that is supposed to mean what? The definition of love varies so drastically from person to person. We give it so much power. Love can make or break days, months and decades, if we allow it. I sit in random coffee shops and bookstores and work on my computer, read while I’m eating lunch, or write while I’m soaking up some vitamin D in the park. I hear a socially predominate idea of love resonating so much more than any other. “If he loved me, he would have put the clothes in the dryer.” “If she loved me like she says, she would let me go out with my boys.” “If he loved me, he wouldn’t have slept with her.” “If she loved me, she would remember that I don’t like crunchy peanut butter.” I actually have heard every one of these and then some in the last few weeks, and every time, I cringe. This interpretation of love is disgustingly self-serving. Me, me, me. I’ll tell you what it means to love me. This is the modern, stylish, chic interpretation of love. It’s easy, comfy and sexy.
Love is not self-serving. Love is not romance novel material. It isn’t sexy or gentle or smooth. It is serious, intense and uncomfortable. It requires an individual to sacrifice and plow through virgin snow with vengeance and disregard. And you have to do these things and expect nothing. Shakespeare once said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” Part of love is not expecting. It is letting go when your brain and pride tell you the complete opposite. Sure, you don’t want to hurt, but loving means you definitely will at some point. Lovers, kids, grandmas and everyone in between will hurt you at some point. No kind of love is immune. Heartache is part of love, and ultimately makes it stronger and more stable. We are taught to avoid heartache and despair at all costs. If you love, these things will find you. But, trust me, its not as awful as you’ve been lead to believe and not all bad, either.
Alice Walker once said, “Nobody is as powerful as we make them out to be,” and that is real talk, my friends. But you are never more powerful and confident than after you’ve conquered a huge storm in your life, even if you crawled all the way through it while sobbing hysterically. You made it through, and it makes you more powerful and better armed to fight another day. And how much more do you have to offer those you love after fighting hard and coming out on top and stronger than ever? So heartache and despair really aren’t the enemies in love. In fact, we need them to chisel us into a more complete person.
Love is hard and intense and really very exhausting sometimes. Please remember, though, that hard and intense and exhausting aren’t necessarily negative. I have been told I love very hard, and I do. I take that as a compliment. If I love you, I will walk through hell for you. I really will, and I will have a smile and a hug for you when we both make it out. I do not expect that from anyone else. Most people aren’t capable of it, and that’s very important to accept. I can take a lot of hits in many different ways, and I don’t mind doing it if it helps the ones I love. Everyone has his or her strengths.
Loving hard means I don’t say “I love you” lightly. It’s awkward when someone says it and you don’t say it back, and that’s been me a lot over the years. However, I’ve never said it and wanted to take it back. Relationships fail as time persists, whether they are friendships, family or romantic in nature, but fault seldom has anything to do with love. We are all human, and that tends to get in the way. Obviously, none of my romantic endeavors have withstood the test of time, but I don’t regret a single one of them. Regret is a waste. I’ve learned from each of them and chosen differently according to what I’ve learned. I’m discovering more about myself, others and the world around me daily. My wise friend, Yvonne, periodically reminds me that it is a process, not an event. I forget that and I push, rushing things and ultimately creating a stressful mess. I attempt to force a conclusion when the process continues to rock along, whether or not I prefer it that way. Love is a process, not an event. As humans, we are egocentric, obstinate and strive to compartmentalize everything we think and feel so we can digest it more easily. This isn’t possible with love. Some things are bigger than we are, and that is okay.
Regardless of the inevitable flaws, being human is lovely and beautiful. Every single member of my family is very human, has unmistakable, obvious faults and every single one of them is immeasurably beautiful. I learned what love means from my family. It sounds cliché, but its true. I was and continue to be taught to love hard, completely and every chance I get. My cousin, Katy, remembers every birthday, anniversary and holiday. She makes every single one of us feel special with her kindness and consideration, and she does it without expecting anything. She’s a busy mom of three and a devoted wife, but she takes time out of her world to bless ours, and that is lovely and beautiful. I remember birthdays days in advance, then I forget, then I remember again in the shower the day of, ultimately failing to recognize them at all. I’m just not that good. We all have out strengths, and that’s not mine.
Love was my grandmother’s strength, all day, every day. She used to peel the strings out of my celery because I didn’t like chewing them. Occasionally, I would get mad for some crazy, unsustainable, nine-year-old reason and scream at her, telling her I hated her. Unmoved, she would grab me, hug me tight and tell me it would really hurt her feelings if she thought I meant that, but she knew I didn’t. Then she’d ask me what I wanted for dinner. Love. No expectations. Hard. Thankless. Life-saving. Life-giving. So beautiful.
That’s how my kids love and that’s how God loves. It isn’t a coincidence. We try other ways and explain it in language and deeds that are easily digested and fit best in our busy, frivolous lives and into this brutal world, but the truth remains. The greatest of these is still love. We just have to dig deep and love like we are made for it, because really, we are.