The Key to Whatever is Next

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.

Isaiah 41

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.

Nayyirah Waheed

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.

Audre Lorde

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.

viola davis

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:

  1. What is your favorite thing about yourself? How would sharing this favorite thing more (being more transparent) create positive change/growth/evolution in your life’s relationships?
  2. What is the most horrible thing that has ever happened to you? How would sharing this most horrible thing more (being more transparent) create positive change/growth/evolution in your life’s relationships?

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.

Brene and Bec

‘Tis the Season

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.