Lil’ bit gypsy, nun, feminist

Well, that’s an odd combination, you say. True. I am pretty odd :).

I thought it would be fun to expound a bit on my weird self. Not in a narcissistic kind of way, but in a relatable kind of way. Because like I like to say, we are not so very different after all.

I grew up in two houses and only one I actually remember. My parents built their country dream home and we moved in when I was six years old. It was idyllic- close enough to LA to enjoy the good stuff like cool LA beaches, yet far enough from the gangs and graffiti that I was cushioned from the urban decay.

Constant– it’s the word I use to describe my childhood. Dad works at the same job for 30 years, I live in the same town (until I marry at 19, GULP), mom stays home and is there every day to take care of everything.

Fast forward 25 years. I have moved 13 times, once moving out of and back into the same house. The reasons are vast, varied and would take a volume in itself to tell. But THIS is why I am a lil’ bit gypsy. God thought it was a good idea to s t r e –  t   c   h me, to take my rigid, constant world and turn it upside down. While it isn’t ideal (and it’s really sucked for our kids somewhat), it has made me who I am today- a much more flexible person, able to appreciate and love all the friends I’ve made, and not a lover of “stuff”. (You do a lot of purging when you move this much!)

A lil’ bit nun– that’s an easy one. Remember that I said I grew up “cushioned”? One rule was NO MOVIES at the theater. Why? Because movie theaters are evil, don’t you know… I also double pierced my ears on my honeymoon because, don’t you know, I would have been kicked out for doing it while living under my parent’s roof. Definitely, no two piece bathing suits! Yeah, we went kind of heavy on the rules at my house.

Dirty secret- I’ve never owned or worn a bikini. I go to the beach in shorts and a tank top. And just in case you’re all feeling sorry for my daughter, she owns and wears a bikini. I’m just not into the whole body bearing in public scene and I feel very strongly that this is sadly one of the ways that females unknowingly exploit themselves. (But that is a post for another day and obviously, I have very solid rationale for it.)

A lil’ bit feminist because I spent far too many years with my head wrapped up in the doctrines of MEN who like to write books about being the head of the home (while making the woman the tail) and being king of the castle (while making the woman his vassal, instead of his queen).

It took me way too long to understand my value and see myself as equal, just with a different and unique role. The deprecation and devaluing of women the world over breaks my heart and angers me. If I can bear and nurture a child, without which the world would cease to exist, I am invaluable. My ideas are not inferior, just feminine. My body is not weaker, just feminine.

My husband and I are both strong, type A personalities and trust me, we have had to WORK REALLY HARD to compromise and be cohesive and not step all over each other. But it’s beautifully worth it.

So, there, nothing like a complicated mess who ambles through life with a bit of baggage. (Don’t we all?) But it is this very stuff that has woven the complicated pattern of who I am today and what makes me tick as a person. To use the cliché’: God isn’t finished with me yet and he won’t be until my last breath is drawn.

If you had to use only 3 words to define yourself, what would they be?

 

in so many words

We like to hear ourselves talk and rant, really. I am no exception. Social media is proof of that. And sometimes religious zealots are the worst.

I love words. I’m pretty much a word nerd- I love to learn new ones and find etymologies fascinating. Words are my paintbrush, my chorus, my therapy– allowing me to maneuver through the labyrinth of my inner workings. At the end of the day though, if that’s all they are, I’ve just flapped my jaws for nothing. I’ve jumped on the bandwagon of the narcissistic, selfie generation, except I’m saying, “Look at me! Love my words!” Instead of perfected pixels, I boast perfected paragraphs.

I’ve realized lately, I’m not special and frankly my words might just be more noise added to the already deafening roar forced upon us from every side of every argument and issue.

So I had to ask myself then, why I write.

I concluded this: perhaps I AM different. My aim is to be the quiet voice, the evocative voice that someone, somewhere can nod in resonation with. I’m not the person standing on a soapbox with a megaphone. I’m not the loud mouth handing out religious paraphernalia. I am not even registered with a particular political party (Cue the shocked gasp!) But I DO have something to say. I DO believe in many things passionately that I won’t back down from, but unlike so many- I am always willing to listen as much as I speak.

I believe there are words better left unspoken. I believe God’s words are true. I believe combative words fall on deaf ears most of the time. I believe bold words are necessary and good. I believe words can bring healing or abuse- and I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of both.

I want my words to count for something. I want to say something ponder able. I want people who disagree to say it. I want people who find my words meaningful to tell the world.

This blog stands for truth but it also stands for acceptance and love and a willingness to change my ideas and say, “I don’t have it all together but I am sure of this: I journey towards my heavenly home. Won’t you journey with me? We can help each other and just maybe my words can be the balm to soothe your wounds or the prod to get you back on the right path.”

I Don’t Want No Stinking Band Aid ®

I’ll never forget the Sunday. Passing through the church lobby, a book on a small table caught my eye. The title: “Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology”. I turned away disgusted. (In all fairness, I haven’t read the book. It might be helpful or truthful.) I was ready to go see a therapist myself after months of dealing with the reality that someone I loved was a substance abuser. It was an exorable grief, coursing through my veins on a daily basis.

This opened a can of stinking rotten worms in my head. Reminded me of a time when I too, thought I could give a hurting someone a bible verse band aid and make it “all better”.

A flood of incidences came to me, like the time I mentioned yoga as one of my fave forms of exercise in a bible study and getting “lovingly rebuked” that this was a no-no. (She said), “Do you know what Namaste’ means? You have to be careful because this is tied to eastern mysticism.” Made me want to downward dog right there!

Or the time that I mentioned a personal problem that one of my kids was having, suggesting that I might take them to see a psychiatrist. You should have seen the narrowed eyes on this sister! “You need to be wary of those worldly philosophies,” she admonished in a lowered tone. Translation: treat this as a spiritual problem and go seek some counseling at church.

Don’t get me started on the stuff people have told me about my struggle with depression. Let’s just say that posting 25 3×5 cards with Bible verses all over my house was not doing the trick.

Before you go all Bible thumping on me, you gotta understand something: I love the Bible. I think it is the very breathed out words of the living God, without error or unable to be added to or subtracted from. It is my most cherished book and the Psalms speak volumes about the plight of human emotion.

BUT, I also strongly hold to the fact that LOTS of other things can help us when we are in the doldrums: like the calming poses of yoga, the trained words and methods of a psychologist or therapist, recovery groups, self-hypnosis (yes, I’ve used this one with great success), rhythmic breathing patterns, friends with open minds and hearts, journal writing, heck, even a great cup of coffee or a relaxing glass of wine.

I will never again just offer the bible verse band aid. It’s no solution to the wound, only a temporary cover-up. Underneath the gash remains, festering, like the continual grief I was weighed down by that Sunday.

Instead, I will offer a listening ear then perhaps a truthful word, soft with empathy and flavored with the salve of hope of Jesus Christ. I will offer arms to hold or hug, eyes to see solutions beyond the obvious, and feet to walk along the path they are walking on until a brighter way comes into view.

At 40

It’s no secret and I‘m not ashamed to say it- I turned 40 this year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m feeling it some days, mentally and physically. Every once in a while, I catch a look at my reflection and think, “Ay Carumba, I’m getting the gizzard neck!” Time for more Oil of Olay Night Firming Cream (as if that does anything for the inevitable) or sometimes I might just be an itty, bitty tad forgetful.

But I am not writing to play a sad song on my pity violin about the woes of aging. Instead, am celebrating 40! I mean isn’t it cool, the catch phrase we can now assuage ourselves with at the turn of each new decade: 40 is the new 30, 60 is the new 50 et al.? It makes no sense but it sure makes us feel better!

So, six months into this phase called “MIDDLE AGE”, I think I’ve learned a thing or two. While I know I have yet to arrive at some upper echelon of enlightenment, I do think that a few lights have come on (even if they are just night light bulb sized). So, at 40:

  • I wear what I want, what makes me feel comfortable, what I think looks good. High heels are hellish and I refuse to wear them. If someone thinks I dress “too young”, too bad. I still want a pair of Converse in every color and sometimes, I even wear my daughter’s clothes. It’s not like I am going around in a crop top for the entire world to see my lovely stretch marks that crept up my sides when I was pregnant.
  •  My friendships are deliberate and meaningful, deep and loyal. Life is short, so why waste time on some, whiny, over dramatic, manipulative woman that adds nothing to my life but another pain in the A? I love the fact that I have a variety of friends in all age groups, walks of life and religious persuasions. I’m done with overly zealous, backbiting gossips, quick to judge people.
  • Parenting is the most DIFFICULT job in the world. I went into it blindly and naively, depending on the opinions of others instead of God and my own good common sense. I was dead wrong about a lot of things, right about a few and still down on my face in prayer about most things. Every stage and phase brings a new set of challenges. This I am sure of- your parenting won’t look like mine and vice versa. If your kids turn out A-OK, PLEASE do not break your arm patting yourself on the back or smear it in my face. Likewise, if they turn out “different than expected”, don’t razor strap yourself with a burden of guilt. These are people with a will of their own, not a piece of Jell-O that I mold just how I want and they stay like that for life.
  • Marriage is a strange beast. I went into it with a textbook mentality and I am here to say- THROW THE TEXTBOOK TO THE WALL! (No, I do not literally think marriage books are not helpful.) My marriage has taken twists and turns that were wholly unexpected. Nothing could have prepared me or warned me of the issues we would have to duke out. Yet, my marriage is, this side of heaven, the pinnacle of delight in my life. At the risk of sounding cliché, I do consider my husband, my best friend and confidante. Yet, I speak my mind to him as he does to me and sometimes this does not bode well. Such is life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  •  I am unapologetic about my faith. It is the sum total of why I do what I do, how, when and where. I do not bow to the whims and fancies of man’s theological ideals. I do not ascribe to mere rules taught by other Christians. I think for myself with an abiding sense of awe for God’s word, holding to this as my highest authority; not because I am a weak-minded zealot but because I am convinced that if not for God being LORD of me, I would be dead or at very least in a shambley mess of a life (messier than the one I’m in).

At 40, there are a good many things I’ve learned, a good many things I hope to learn and a constant sense of keeping my fingers on my own pulse. I’m smarter than I was in my 20’s and more confidant than I was in my 30’s.

I’m not dead yet. In fact, I’m feeling rather invigorated, happy and ready to fight the next monster that comes around the corner called inevitable.

why?

You know how toddlers cutely, inquisitively and annoyingly ask, “Why?” one hundred fifty times everyday? Yeah. Well, sometimes my inner toddler just won’t quit. It queries all day long like a song on repeat.

Fortunately for you, dear readers, these questions have a bit more depth than a 3 year-old but can be equally perplexing (if not even unanswerable).

Here’s what’s been bobbling around my head (and this is just today)! {Do you ever wonder these things? Or am I the only one with this intense toddler like curiosity?}

– Why is it that when a celebrity succumbs to reckless or naughty behavior, we fiendishly mock, ridicule and scoff at their downfall? Stupid people do stupid arrest worthy things everyday. Shame on us for delighting in it. It shows what man worshippers we can be.

– Why do those over shared “you’re gonna bawl your eyes out”, “watch this with a box of tissues”, “I dare you to get through this without crying” videos NEVER even make me tear up? Am I some cold hearted, non-emotional creature that feels no connection to cute babies, animals or sappy love stories? My heart strings are not easily tugged apparently.

– Why do some of my friends continue to have Mount Everest amounts of crap happening in their lives right now? Again and again. Over and over, dealing with pain, suffering, sadness, disappointment. I wish I could take a Mount McKinley sized piece of it from them. Lighten their load. Make them breathe easier. Find an easy cure or magical potion to make it all better.

– Why do things really break in triplicate? Or why do car repair places always find additional repairs to recommend while fixing the original issue- as if the costs were not already making you bleed out?

– Why are teenagers walking oxymorons whose ideas wax and wane more than the phases of the moon; whose emotions yin and yang more than all the 80’s surf shirts still in existence? And WHY oh why do do they eat so strangely, have such filthy mouths and sleep either like a hibernating bear or like an always prowling cat?

– Why are some days just ethereal in nature and I find myself subconsciously saying: La Vita y Bella, smiling at the silliness of my children’s antics, fondly recalling the dashing bravery of my husband to go out and face the world for us everyday? When, why on other days (and for no apparent reason at’all), I feel a dark force hanging like a rain cloud around me, weighing down the very core of my being and making me mope around like Eeyore?

– Why do people seem to weave in and out of my life for different seasons? Or why does it seem so hard to make lasting friendships at this age, when as a kid, you could make a best friend in 5 minutes?

What bobbles around your head? Do tell.

To Need or Not To Need (that is the question)

I am just going to come out and say it:

Women are needy folks. (So are men, btw, just in totally different ways).

Lately, with all the hubbub surrounding my own life, I have seen a pattern emerge. It’s something I have remarked on for years to my husband: Women often look for someone to commiserate with, to share all their nitty-gritty-down-and-dirty details, when what they should be doing is leaning into the arms of Jesus.

Before you tune me out, throw your hands up in the air and think, “Humph, I need my BFF’s like plants need water. Without them I’d feel lost, alone, and have that ‘stranded on a desert island’ kind of feeling.”

I get it. I am a woman. I am needy just like you.

In fact, these past few months in particular have solidified that fact. My few closest friends have proven to be more precious than ever, like cool refreshing water for my parched dry soul. I have been wading through some serious excrement over here and they have been right there plodding with me, holding my hand at times, listening to me cry, pointing me to the way of the “crap-free” path! For that, I am truly thankful!

Yet sometimes, in our effort to unload our dump truck of feelings, spill the beans on every juicy detail or even (yes, I am going to say the “g” word) gossip about the ones who’ve hurt, offended or just plain bugged us, we are missing our greater need.

What we should do is to run like a child, vulnerable, hurt, broken, empty, into the arms of our Father God and our God-Man Jesus Himself, who has been tempted in every way, just like us and yet did not sin.

He waits and beckons us. Arms open. Comfort promised. Fears assuaging. Mercy abounding. Help offering. Unconditional-love giving.

But we are busy running to someone or something else: our husband, our friends, our children, our books, our blogs, our Facebook, our Twitter feed, our retail therapy, or our local Starbucks even 🙂 .

I have run to all these things. And they never quite satisfy. It is like putting a band- aid on something that really required a cast. What we want is full envelopment of our weary beaten down souls. We need Jesus to wrap us in the beauty of His perfect love. We need to cry out, “Abba, Father!” , pouring out our details to the ONE who can actually fix what’s broken.

Yes, we need each other. We need friends whose arms can wrap around us in a hug or a husband who will listen to us blubber. Outlets for emotions are good, necessary, helpful, tangible, keeping us from the unpleasant alternative of bottling it up (only one day to come uncorked completely). But let’s never forego the life giving water our thirsty souls must drink in order to find the truest comfort from our Perfect Friend.

Memoirs From the Gem State

Two things were solidified on my recent trip to Idaho:

One-  I was meant for the city and the city was meant for me!

Two- They say home is where the heart is and a little piece of my heart will always be in Idaho.

Two other random things were also reaffirmed:

One- I have some phenomenal friends that love me NO MATTER WHAT.

Two- My dad, despite all our differences is an absolute blessing in my life.

So about the city thing, here’s a little background: I was raised in the country, like the hardcore, rural part of none other than Los Angeles county. In my childhood, I experienced many creatures of reptilian persuasion, (including, but not limited to): Mojave Greenbacks, Rattlesnakes, King Snakes, and the Gardener variety type (discovered in the living room no less). Then there were the tarantulas, scorpions, fire ants, centipedes, and a plethora of black widows, wasps, and household spiders.

When I left home for the city life, I dusted my hands off and never looked back. This week after less than an hour in the boonies, I nearly stepped on a coiled rattlesnake! In that moment, as my life flashed before me, I remembered the many reasons why I hate the country: it’s dusty, the insects are large and in charge, it’s wild and untamed, too quiet, too isolated, too dirty. And besides, what is it about country folks and their large, obtrusive amounts of lawn ornaments? Oi!

Number two on my list was the heart thing. It’s true that a piece of my heart will always be in Idaho. Has to be. I have family there and several friends that I am sure beyond reasonable doubt, rival your best friends in character, love and over all coolness. But, I must say, the key to my heart is unlocked by the Golden State, hands down. California is where it’s at- plain and simple. Maybe because I was born in the heart of LA, the rays of sunshine (and prolific smog) hold my heart captive.

Now for the mushy stuff:

I had the privilege of spending the past two weeks with my dad. That’s the longest  amount of time we’ve been together since childhood. My dad and I were buddies back then. Over the years, our ideas have changed and we have not always seen eye to eye. He is sometimes just a grumpy old man, what can I say. Yet the past weeks together have reminded me that there is no love like a parent’s love: they will support you in times of trouble; they understand what a pain in the butt raising children can be. A dad always has that special protective eye for his daughter. MY dad loves me through and through and despite his many labels for me like tree-hugger and yuppie, I know he always has my back.

My friends are just the icing (actually, I hate icing, so I will dub them the “butter cream frosting”) on my cake. I spent several hours with many dear ladies that bless me beyond measure. One in particular has enriched my life for 37 years- a life long friend for sure. Over lunch, when she threw her head back and laughed her hearty, beautiful laugh at some silly antic from me, I was reminded of all the reasons I love her. She and I have shared many lovely and some sad moments together (our oldest sons were born 4 days apart almost 18 years ago), yet our friendship has stood the test of time and many miles. I am so, so grateful for her.

The Gem State may hold pieces of priceless treasure for me, but I prefer my sunshine, smog, and overpopulated city life to the wilds of untamed Idaho. I am a Cali girl through and through!

Come Grovel With Me

I’ve had a bit of a “week” shall we say. So while this may sound like a bit of a rant… well frankly, it is.

 People disappoint me. I disappoint myself.

 I fail. Others fail me.

Sometimes, I want to blurt out the F word- but I don’t.

For awhile now, I get the idea that Christians expect other Christians to just suck it up, pray to Jesus and move on. While I don’t advocate sitting around whining, pining, griping, grumbling, complaining, ranting, etc., I do believe in being real- honest with those around us- transparent, and most of all leveling with God. If we were, I think there would be a lot less guilt-based issues within the realm of Christianity.

What if, next Sunday at church when someone says: “Hi. How are you?” to me, I tell them just how my week has REALLY gone (in a churchy nutshell kind of fashion). What if I gave them a little glimpse into the major disappointments I had to deal with over my teen’s decisions or tell them how I’ve been struggling with discontentment. They would likely look at me aghast. Many people are afraid to hear the rawness of emotion or the blatancy of honest struggles. Instead they probably want to get this answer: “Fine”.

Thankfully, God isn’t afraid of us being raw with Him. In fact, HE IS THE FIRST ONE WE SHOULD RUN TO WITH OUR EMOTIONS/BURDENS ANYWAYS. He is not afraid of my anger. He will not back down when I question Him. He is not crushed (like I am with my kids) when I rebel against His word. He is never miffed when I have a season in which my heart wanes and grows rather affection-less.

Ever read the Psalms? David again and again expresses frustration from seeming lack of help.  He laments over an emotional and spiritual chasm. He even shakes a proverbial fist at feeling disregarded or abandoned by God. He feels forgotten about, afflicted, crushed.

Even so, he always brings it back to praising the worth of God.  He recollects all the very wonderful things that God has done- all the miracles large and small. He remembers the never ending kindness, love, forgiveness, compassion, grace, mercy. David never riles against the LORD and then just leaves it there.

Neither should we. When the hard moments or season of moments overwhelm us we must restore our soul with recounting the goodness of the Savior, basking in the loveliness of His forgiveness, the mercy of His grace and His sometimes strange providential workings. He wants us to adore Him. He wants our faithful affection. He wants repentance.

If only we could approach each other with the same honesty and candidness within the church. Why must we hide behind a guise of: “It’s all hunky dory all the time at MY spirit filled house?”

I believe: it’s ok to grovel from time to time and what better encouragement than to be able to sit there on the ground with someone who shares your faith, someone who loves you, despite the dust on your clothes. A friend that will extend the hands of compassion and grace, just like Christ does, is worth a hundred who “just can’t relate” or doesn’t want to get too messy.

Two Things

Today, we took an atheist to church.

My son had two friends spend the night and they wanted to go with us. Never thought one of them would be an outspoken God- hater. It started out a bit uneasy. His tone was loud enough for those around to hear and he had several comments. But then he stopped. The sermon was on God’s love- how to live it out and how it “looks” to others. He listened and took copious notes.

Afterward, I asked both boys what they liked or disliked about the service; what they thought was weird or helpful.  The atheist commented that the pastor contradicted himself. We talked about that. He thought the choir who sang, “Praise God!” (over and over) was telling everyone what to do. That bugged him. I explained, “You know when you find something out and you are really excited? You want to tell other people about it, right? That’s what they were doing- telling people about God because they are excited about worshipping Him!”

Praying that seeds were planted in hearts that will soon be watered.

~~~~~

Today, I made a new friend at church.

She and I have worked together in the nursery over the past six months. During chats while taking care of babies, I’ve learned a great deal about her and vice versa. Come to find out she and I are more similar than we would have thought. I love her openness and honest heart. I love her passion for God, husband, children and grandchildren. I cherish her wisdom about life.

It is often the intangible nature of just being in the same place at the same time that can cause a friendship to form between two people who would have otherwise not been drawn to each other. She isn’t someone I would have naturally sought out because she is a *wee bit older than I am. But I am happy God had other plans. 🙂