Tuesday, April 25, 2017

I Used to Be A Porcupine (And the 5 Stages of Grief)


Grief, and the process of healing, deserves attention because it's holy. Getting well is a holy thing, ya'll. Grief and Pain change us in the deepest, truest, ways.

I think we come here pretty broken and get even more broken as our lives move forward. We adopt our parent's brokenness and our friends and family's brokenness. We adopt the world's idea of who we should be and how we should do things and this breaks us even more. It's up to us to determine what needs to remain broken and what must be repaired with holy glue. 

God made us the stewards of ourselves. He chose to make us the boss of us. He expects us to handle his creation with care.

In my head, I'm writing this post to 2 particular people that wrote to me who've never been to therapy and had no support in their efforts to try to get help. I don't know them personally, but I know their Spirits and their hearts. I know their hurt and their truth.

I get a LOT of questions about therapy and how it helped me and what I learned. These 2 women had a lot of questions but admitted they had a negative view of therapy. Therapy is still a taboo subject in a lot of ways. People flinch a little when the word therapy comes up, I think. 

Wellness, like beauty, warms people and brokenness, like intellect, will cool them. 

Brokenness will cause some people to cool to you because your brokenness reflects a part of themselves they aren't ready or willing to face (because we are ALL broken in some way) or because brokenness can often manifest in ways that are just flat out unpleasant.

I've talked openly about my therapy. It was extensive, it was long and I'm not done yet. I may never be done with therapy because I am never going to be done with myself and, for me, therapy helps me see myself clearly.

First, I need to touch on this: Almost every email I've received asked me how I got better in some form or another, directly or indirectly. The truth is that I don't much like the word "better". It implies that I was less than, at some point. I wasn't. I just wasn't well equipped to deal with where I was at the time.

So, I went and bought myself some equipment. The equipment was knowledge and understanding that began with therapy. I didn't get "better". I became more aware and more equipped. I learned a new skill. Same person, new skills.

I will continue to increase that skill for the rest of my life.

We are all either getting more equipped or we're staying in the same place. I am not a fan of stagnation. Funky junk grows in stagnant places.

Through the emails I receive, I learned that too many people think grieving is a structured process with a time limit. Almost every person that wrote me have people in their lives who are judging their grief. PS...if you are one of those people who think grief and/or pain has a time limit and you get to determine what that limit should be, please stop. Today.

So, here's the thing: I'm not a therapist. I'm not an expert. I'm just a woman who's on a journey and I like to write. 

But, I hear you. 

So, here's some more of my journey up to this point.

The first thing we all have to do is recognize where you are on the spectrum and call the Pain what it is: GRIEF. MOURNING. HURT. LOSS. There is zero shame in those words. You do not have to feel shame for being in pain. 

You don't even have to pretend. I've cried sitting in a restaurant while people stared. I'd gotten to the place that their imagined truth about me simply didn't matter as much as my actual truth. And in that moment, the truth was I was sitting in a restaurant when the pain became overwhelming. But I was also hungry. So, I ate and cried and ate some more.

Pain is a much bigger and truer teacher than Joy. Pain will teach you truth that no other emotion or feeling has the power to teach. Pain teaches us compassion in ways no lighter emotion has the capacity to teach.

Maybe that's why God allows us to go through it? I don't know, I just know it's true. 

One of the first things I learned in therapy is that grief (pain, mourning, hurting) usually has stages or steps. By learning what they were, I could recognize them and then think instead of reacting. Reacting is rarely a good thing. 

The 5 stages of grief are pretty universal but not necessarily linear (this is important). They were originally applied to people grieving the loss of a loved one (Kubler-Ross model), but have since been applied to all kinds of grief: divorce, sexual abuse, terminal illness, etc...   Really any kind of loss or grief.  

Everyone will experience each stage differently. Some people may circle around to one stage or another until they learn what they need to learn and some people may only visit each stage once and soak up the lessons quickly. There are NO RULES TO GRIEF AND PAIN except these: Do no harm and don't allow others to harm you.

 Say it again: THERE ARE NO RULES TO GRIEF and PAIN. Don't allow anyone to tell you otherwise. 

You get to feel however you feel. Period. 

You can't normalize a deeply abnormal time, or times, in your life.

Grieving in this way is not "normal" but it is universal. We all must walk in the dark at some point. The only real choice we have is what equipment we choose to take with us when the darkness comes. 

I once flailed around, smiling like a loon, pretending to be fine, even though I was drowning. It worked for a long time until it didn't. Here's the basics of how I stopped flailing and pretending.

The 5 stages of grief (sadness, heartache, whatever word you like more) are : Denial/Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. 

You may or may not experience these all at once. You may or may not experience these more than once. You may or may not experience these in this order, but most likely you will to some degree. Your walk will not look like any other's path, but I'll give you a run down of how mine looked.

I denied I had a problem(s) and almost every single person does this with some aspect of their life. Healthy people and unhealthy people.

I was strong, successful and smart. I am fine. I'm fine. I may have a temper like the 7th layer of hell and be more controlling than Kim Jong-Un, but I am fine.

I AM FINE. Porcupine quills engage!

I held on to fine for as long as I could and that may have saved my life. I may have broken into a million pieces if I'd tried to move past "fine" and denial any sooner than I did. There's no proof of that except that I'm still here. I'll take it. 

Denial was my longest step, but also the one I am least likely to revisit at this point in my journey. I've become a pro at recognizing denial and kicking it's ass. If you aren't there yet, then you're not. It's not a race.

Anger has been my companion throughout my life. I've learned that those in close proximity to addicts almost always carry anger with them, whether acknowledged or not.

 I was short tempered, and impatient. I still struggle with patience.

I went through life as a porcupine. Don't get too close or I will hurt you back. I expected hurt from others. It's what I knew. I expected others to overlook me, so I made sure they didn't (You may do the opposite. You may become a little mouse and then resent it when people overlook you. No one handles this in the exact same way). I expected others to be fake, so I was extra harsh to force them into what I considered "real" emotions. Controlling and anger are cousins. Piss off a control freak and you will see the relationship.

Anger isn't always screaming and shouting, either. I am not much of a screamer when I'm angry. Anger is how we survive the pain and our core survives through the Pain and Grief. 

There are still days that I struggle with anger to an unhealthy degree. We are works in progress and I am learning how to feel the anger, determine if I have a legitimate reason to be angry and then either release it or take care of myself by expressing it in a healthy way. Mostly. (This is extra tricky for women. We're told being angry or mad and expressing it is wrong and/or makes us bitches. It's OK to be angry. That's not the kind we're talking about.We are talking about anger that can't be resolved with conversation and lingers over situations you can't change. Anger that sits on simmer, even when you're happy.)

Anger can feed denial because if we're angry enough then "We're fine!!" Anger can mask that we aren't fine, at all. This is anger and denial in one big suck cake. I've been there. I feel you. 

Bargaining (negotiating) is the "if only" part of healing. It's where we say, "If I'd only done....".  "If I'd only been more..."  "If only...."  It's the place where guilt lives and guilt will convince you that if you bargain long enough and well enough, you'll be fine. Everything will be fine. Just ask the woman/man who lives with an alcoholic.

Bargaining is the place we make up scenarios that change the outcome. We negotiate to pretend that we are in control or that if we'd had more control and been more controlling, things would have worked out differently. It's a fairy tale. It's a lie. But, it is also necessary so that we can heal. We have to feel what we're feeling!!

Bargaining was hard for me because I am a recovering control freak. Bargaining almost always returns me to anger, so I have to be careful with "if only". I'm also realist, so the "if only" part of grief pissed me off. I knew I couldn't change the past but... "if only" tries to creep in and old patterns try to take up residence. It's a trap I hate but one every grieving, hurting person must face. 

Bargaining can become heavier than lead. The fantasy of all we "could have" done differently can weigh us down with such force it gets hard to breath. This sets us up for Depression and Sadness.

See how all this works in a big, ugly circle? You have to see it first and then FEEL it. Feeling it will help you release it, but try to cut off the "what if's..." when they come. The past is unchangeable, but the future is right now and in your grasp. Cheesy and still true. 

Depression is a common word these days. No depression feels common. It feels like crap. This stage can range from a sad feeling to a black hole inside to someone being unable to function. 

You need to be self-aware here. Depression comes in many, many forms and can be a place to heal or a place so dark you must seek help immediately. It also tends to circle back around in times of deep grief and mourning and, for me, just after times of intense happiness (this truth is a completely different post and one of the things that once made me a porcupine).

Depression is a sneaky bastard. One day you're fine and then...BAM. One tiny thing happens and depression will take up residence.

Depression is also the thing that can numb you to the feelings you need to feel to get healthy. Numbness is necessary sometimes, but be wary if it lingers. 

Feelings aren't your enemy. Feelings are important flags on the journey that let us know what we need if we're brave enough to ask but some feelings like "what if..." are liars. Constant feelings of inadequency are also liars. It takes practice and deliberate focus to learn the difference.

It's important to take inventory, even on the really bad days.  If you're too numb for too long, you walk right off the path and down a slippery slope.

Here's a hint about the slope and it's a little sassy: Depression is BORING. My God, it's boring. If you think watching someone not be able to get out of bed is as awful as watching grass grow, you should try being that person! (don't actually do that) 

Depression will not only incapacitate you, it will bore you right into misery that makes the slippery slope look better. Recognize, ya'll. See the truth and then speak it. Depression is a liar. Remember that.

And finally, there's Acceptance (or Peace). I think this one is a step by step process all on it's own and I am not there in lots of ways, yet. I don't feel really capable of speaking about acceptance, so I'm going to give you what I've learned and leave it there.

I think you can accept certain pieces on the spectrum of grief, pain and loss, without being fully accepting of what caused those things. For me, acceptance has been a slow process and, some days, I'm just not there. I can live with that right now.

Here's where I am with it: 

I accept that I am a child of God. I am a beloved child of God. So is everyone else.

I accept that life is a journey. A true, real journey. Pain and Grief are as much a part of that journey as Love and Joy. They are teachers, not enemies.

I accept that everything I've ever lost has claw marks on it. Detaching and letting go is HARD for me. I feel and think very deeply and I accept that I probably always will. These are traits I accept and love about myself.

I accept that I am learning and growing.  Learning has always mattered to me. Growing is beginning to matter to me. These are good things. Light in a sometimes dark world. There is more light than darkness.

I accept that I may never understand many things I'd hoped to understand. I don't love this truth, but I do fully accept it. Some things will be mysteries forever. I think that may be a blessing.

I accept that I am the boss of me and only I can take the steps to grow and heal myself. I am not necessarily in control of what happens around and to me, but I am where I am because of my choices. Childhood is over. I can't blame that for my decisions today. I am an adult and I am capable of walking away, detaching, letting go, healing, seeking help and making better choices. Me, and only me, gets to decide what I am willing to accept into my life. 

If I am surrounded by emotional succubus, that's because I let them in. If I am surrounded by kind, healthy, fun people, that's because I let them in. That's hard truth, but it is absolute truth.

I accept that I am not the boss of anyone else, including my children and my husband. Controlling behavior is a sign that you are dealing with something deeper, as well as a maturity issue. You aren't the boss of anyone else. The end. If your kids are 18 or older, you aren't the boss of them and even if they are under 18 you are only a little bit the boss of them. You are controlled by everything you try to control outside of yourself.

I accept that I am imperfect and flawed and forgiving myself is as important as forgiving others.

That's about all I've got, so far. 

But, I'm still on the path. Even if, some days, the path is strewn with litter and curse words. Even if, some days, the path is dark and scary. 

Even if, some days, I simply breathe.

Today, that's enough. 

My quills are slowly disappearing and my heart is opening. Mostly. 

Amen. 
K



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I'm Not Always The Nice Girl and I Don't Particularly Care

Someone told me the other day that what I said wasn't "nice". My immediate response was, "Sorry you feel that way." I wasn't being flippant. I was sorry they felt that way, but I wasn't sorry for what I'd said. It was said calmly, gently and truthfully (and they did freakin' ask!!). 

I can live with that.

They were super offended by that comment. I mean like red-faced offended that I wasn't overly concerned that they thought I'd lost my "nice" badge. 

I didn't get it. I still don't. 

Here's my take away from the experience: 

1. "Nice" is something women in particular are expected to strive for. It is the gold standard of adjectives if you are female!

2. "Nice" is an adjective that will be used as a weapon if you dare to be anything other than "Nice" 100% of the time. For me, it's begun to mean that I'm doing what I'm told, no questions asked. Sorry, I'm not gonna be your girl there. I ask questions and I often question authority. Period. 

3. "Nice" is JUST an adjective. There are other ones.

So, in typical Kristi style, I thought about the interaction for almost 4 days because I'm neurotic like that. This is how I assimilate and order the information in my head. I think about the interaction, rip it apart and then feel my feelings to see what feelings I'm actually feeling. 

THEN, I think about what I'm actually feeling and why I feel that way and what I want to do about it or if I want to do anything at all.

Initially, I was hurt that someone thought I wasn't "Nice", which bugged me. Not that I wasn't nice, but that I was hurt. Why would that hurt me?!  

And finally, I looked up the origin of the word "nice" because I love word origins. This TOTALLY reminded me why I love it, too!

 I laughed and laughed and laughed. Know what nice's original meaning is? 

It's derived from Latin "nescius" meaning....wait for it....IGNORANT. From there it took the 14th century by storm as a term for "foolish" or "silly". In the Middle Ages it took on "wantonness" and even "sloth" and then slid into "shyness" or "reserve". I suppose this is where we get our definition. I mean what is a woman if she isn't "shy and reserved", right?!  I am neither of those things, by the way. YAY!! Not kidding. Those are not qualities that I usually admire in anyone. And if you think those are Proverbs 31 qualities, you should re-read the text.

 We're taught from birth that we should be nice. I mean if you didn't want to hug Uncle G, who was a dirty, old, little girl ass grabber, then you weren't a nice little girl, right? If you didn't speak to the lady who spoke to you like dirt when your Mom wasn't around, then you weren't being nice. If you didn't totally want to date the guy who was SUPER nice to you for two entire whole days, then you were NOT a nice girl. You must be into "bad" boys. Again, not nice. 

After rolling that mess around for a while, I've decided that I'm going to strive for other adjectives that actually mean something to me. Ones like intelligent, funny, witty, interesting, driven, passionate, compassionate, generous and honest. (Honesty will quickly knock you out of the "Nice" tribe, so be prepared for that one)

After thinking about all the beautiful adjectives I prefer over "Nice", I couldn't stop thinking about all the nice people I'd known in my life. The ones who really, really embody the adjective. Like they will go to any lengths to maintain that adjective, Nice.

Every single one of them were full of crap. Almost all of them even spoke in that weird voice of high octave, breathy chirpiness that reeks of fake, but we still respond to it, or at least I often do. It wouldn't be "nice" if I didn't, right?

 Now, this is MY experience, so yours may not line up and I'm not knocking the people who strive diligently so that "Nice" will cling to their name for all time. I'm not. I'm just telling you that most of the hard core "nicers" that I've known were most often liars, gossips, fakers and about as deep as a 20 minute summer rain mud hole.

They'd tell you those skinny jeans TOTALLY held that cellulite in and there wasn't a lump in sight, even if you looked like cottage cheese had sprouted legs.

Most of the "Nice" people I know were also massive gossips. They were bubbly and chirpy until someone got about 10 steps away and then all bets were off. But, they'd end their gossip with, "But she's a nice girl and I'm not being mean, though."  And everyone around "Nice" girl would bob their heads because she'd ended her mean gossip by saying she wasn't being mean. Must be true then! And then THEY walked 10 paces away and she'd start in on them. They were all so "nice", though.

And "nice" is also a super general term, isn't it? It doesn't really say anything. Most often it means someone told you what you wanted to hear in a chirpy voice that made you feel all fuzzy. And then we're all like, "AWWWWW! You are so nice." "What a nice thing to say!" "She's so nice."  Bob head up and down in unison. 

People will go to great lengths to be labeled nice and to resist taking that label from someone. We loathe taking away an adjective that we've been convinced has value. We loathe it even more if someone tries to strip if from us, even if we don't place that much value in it.  Nice is what makes us say "Yes" when what we really want to do is scream "NO!!!!" from the top of our lungs. SO WEIRD!!

In all my thinking, I couldn't figure out why this was truth, because it absolutely is.

I'm giving up on nice. There are flat out better things to be that feel more like truth to me so don't feel too bad if you don't think I'm all that nice. I don't, either. 

I'm doing just fine being funny and driven and intelligent and passionate and generous and compassionate and kind and stubborn and brave.  

Kristi




Saturday, November 5, 2016

Girls and Tribes and Quarters

I have a confession: Girls scare me. 

When they travel in tribes, I can actually feel my breath back up in my chest and bad words want to slip out before I run frantically in the other direction. 

I'm a girl coward.

I'd like to say I don't know where this started but I totally know.
Two words: High School. 

Two things happened in quick succession this week that reminded me of my girl fear. One, I shared a post on Facebook that had beautiful women emailing and messaging me their stories that were a lot like mine. So, my perception got knocked around a little bit, which is a really good thing for me.

The second thing that happened was we had a CL100 done on our house because we're moving. A CL100 is a fancy way to say termite letter. Since I'm a real estate broker in real life, I know those guys pretty well, which means we talk about stuff besides bugs and vapor barriers and moisture levels. For some reason, Keith, my termite guy, said something about wanting to be 17 again and I laughed and laughed. Until I realized he didn't get the joke. 

I mean, would ANYONE do high school again?! Evidently, the answer is yes for some people. I even asked my Facebook buddies and some of them said YES! I am not one of those people. 

For me, high school felt a little like an LSD trip must feel. (I've never done LSD, so I'm guessing here.) 

I floated through high school marveling at all the colorful, shiny people and how they seemed to be doing life SO much better than I was doing it. Some of them were even having fun. I could totally tell!

I was (am) awkward. I was (am) loud. My brother was an addict who soaked up all the air in the room and it was an unspoken rule that we did not discuss this in my home, which added to my awkwardness, I think. I was in college prep and Honors classes but  had no ambition to be a doctor or lawyer or nurse or teacher. I wanted to write. Not a super cool thing for most 16 year old girls.

I was also more interested in becoming a Solid Gold dancer than partying and boys (that is a true story). 

I feel compelled to add that I often hid the things I was interested in because I believed no one else was interested in those things. Retrospectively, which is unfortunately the only way I see things clearly, I can say I think there were other people interested in those things, I just didn't know how to find those people. I made good grades and read books and went to exactly 3 parties my entire high school career. I also feel compelled to add that I was invited to more than 3, but that was my limit, evidently, and I would lie and say I had other plans when people asked me where I'd been Saturday night when "so and so" had their AWESOME party at the Peach Blossom Motel.

I clearly remember standing kind of over in the corner at one of the 3 parties I attended and, literally, eye balling every single person while thinking, "Are you REALLY having fun? Because you look like you're having fun over there playing quarters. Or maybe you're just drunk.Why aren't I having any fun here?" I hated the noise and the crush of people and the drinking and the sort of weird boy/girl dance that was very, very confusing for me. Side note: My husband, who wasn't yet my husband, was at that party playing quarters. He said he was, in fact, having a lot of fun, but doesn't remember most of it.

I wanted to go to the movies and talk about the new book I was reading and maybe grab a pizza without having my ass grabbed. Also, I wanted to remember doing those things.

So, anyway, high school wasn't my gig. College was more my thing, but even there I felt odd and out of place and like maybe I'd missed some secret meeting where the rules were explained in great detail on how this whole socializing thing worked because I didn't really get it and socializing still sometimes (all the time) makes me super nervous which makes me more awkward which makes me more nervous and so it goes. A GREAT cycle to be caught in, by the way. Good times.

Girls often travel in packs and I never found my pack. I was always just sort of floating along, happy to be involved in this group or that one, but never so far in that I got the inside jokes. I was cool with that because some of them were mean. Mean like a rabid dog is mean. But, I also kind of wanted to belong but I didn't know how. Then, I would feel "wrong" and anytime something feels wrong for me I become super offended because that's one of my struggles. Again, an awesome cycle to be caught up in.

But, here's the other thing: Girls are usually awesome when we're one on one, at least in my experience.

So, when I got those emails and had that high school discussion, a thought occurred to me that had truly never really occurred to me, which might be sad or might be totally common.

I was like, "OH MY GOSH!  Maybe we aren't in separate tribes. Maybe we're all one big tribe that's bought into the lie that women are gossipy and mean and cliquish. And we're helping to perpetuate the myth by being a little afraid of each other and cursing under our breath and then running away before we can know each other."  

Or maybe that's just me. I don't know. 

What I know is that for the first time in my life I paused and asked myself, "Why do women suffer alone when there are so many other women out there who share their story and their truth and their path? This isn't high school! Why aren't we lifting one another up and bearing one another's burdens with pride and strength and dignity and cheering like fanatical fans for one another when one of us finds her way and succeeds?" 

So, I'm making this blog that place. I'm going to tell the truth here, even when it's hard. Everyone is included here. There are NO exclusions. That's the only rule. Everyone gets to come to this party just like they are and they are included.

This can be a place for the girl tribe of women who want to love one another well and include everyone and encourage each other to be who we are, find our way and tell our truth. I would LOVE to have some guest bloggers write some awesome articles about their experiences and how they need a tribe or want a tribe or would like to stick a toe in just to see if they can be less scared, too.

This is going to be the place for me that I trust other women to care for me and trust me to care for them, exactly where they are. We can do that. We can totally freakin' do that. We can even do it while we're still in our pajamas! WIN!!!!

If you have a tribe, invite them here. If you don't have a tribe, I'm inviting you here. Everyone is welcome and safe and awesome. 

Even if you like to party and play quarters. I'll just be the one in the corner cheering you on and you can wave at me in the corner and ask me about my book when you're finished. 

Amen, 
Kristi



Friday, November 4, 2016

Audacious

I shared this post on Facebook yesterday. I was blown away by how many people read it and then sent me either private emails or direct messages. I cried because so, so many of us are hurting and we don't feel safe to share that we're hurting.

We don't feel assured that we will be loved in spite of our pain.

We are ashamed that we're in pain. When did that become truth for us? When did we become a people who regards false strength as something to worship and achieve instead of loving people where they actually are even if where they are is a deep, dark pit? 

So many people are hiding who they are because they are afraid. Their fear and shame has defined them. That makes my heart weigh about 1000lbs.

So many people are hiding because there are always those people like the "1" email I received that told me they'd be praying for me because, obviously, my faith wasn't strong enough to "get over it". Seriously, thanks for the prayers. You won't ever waste one on me.  

Then, I started reading between the lines of these emails and messages I was getting. There's this undercurrent in every one of them that says maybe God doesn't love me if I'm this way.What is "wrong" with me? Why can't I "just be joyful"? Why can't we all "just get over it"?  Even the one from the person who thinks someone can pray off everything wrong on this plane of existence and we can all run through the tulips together.

And that pissed me off. Not at the sweet people writing me letters, but at the lies they'd believed. 

How do we counter lies? With truth. That stuff will set you free!

So here's what I believe:

We're God's children. He LOVES us. All of us. NO ONE is excluded. He loves us just like we are, right where we are today. Period. You can't be badder than God's goodness and love. You can't be bigger than God's heart. I KNOW this.

I have four kids and I love them. Do I always love what they do? No. Absolutely no, but I love them with a wholeness that can not be reduced. Nothing can reduce the love I have for my children and I KNOW that God loves me and the entire world even more than I love my kids.

He is bigger and cooler and truer and better and more everything than I will ever even glimpse in anyone on this plane, so if I can love my kids this way, I know that God loves His kids in a way I will never understand in its fullness.

So, I wonder...

I wonder if these sweet women who sent me those heart wrenching emails and posts believe, like I believed for a LONG time, that God is just waiting to bring the hammer down because they "aren't doing it right". I mean, when I struggle, my first thought is that I am not doing this right and something is horribly wrong with me. I know now that that is a lie, and yet I still struggle with that truth.
 
Sometimes, I imagined God just waiting on me to get to heaven so he could judge me and tell about all the blessings I missed because I wasn't perfect down here. I've heard that preached from a pulpit.

Perfectionism is something I struggle with every single day of my life and have for as long as I can remember so I tend to project that thought onto pretty much everyone I meet. I had to be perfect and do life perfect, whatever the hell that even looks like.

Life is hard. It isn't hard because I am doing something wrong or awful and God isn't waiting to beat me over the head with divine judgement. 

He already did that to Jesus in my place. 

God is waiting on me to accept His grace and do the very best I can right now and He will walk with me and not leave me in the dark because He knows the dark scares the Holy right out of me. 

We are not going to get to heaven and God point to the divine calendar and show us all the dumb things we've ever done and all the blessings that we've missed. I do not believe that because God is good. God is FOR ME. God gave His Son for me. He LOVES ME RIGHT NOW JUST LIKE I AM.

When my kids get hung up on their mistakes, you know what I do? I listen, let them know I heard them and, yes, they made a mistake and then I remind them of that time they gave up their seat for an elderly person. I remind them of the time they spent 30 minutes picking me the PERFECT bouquet of flowers (weeds!) and made my entire day. I remind them of how courageous they are and how gentle they are and how joyful they are and how much I love them. I tell them truth. They are not defined by every mistake they make!

How can I not believe that God will do even better than that when I go to Him and say, "DID YOU SEE THAT GOD? How can this ever be made right. I am so awful"?!  

How can I not believe that God won't say, "Yes, honey. I saw that. It was a tough day. Do you remember that day that was even harder and you were still kind and gentle and prayerful?"  

And He'll smile at me and hold me close, because He is a good Father. He isn't waiting to punish us. He's waiting to love us.

He reminded me just yesterday that I didn't give up. Not on my husband or my friends or my babies or myself and, most importantly, I didn't give up on Him.

And He never ever gives up on me or you or anyone else. Like every parent, He remembers every tear and every kindness. He isn't waiting to punish us. He's waiting on us to come get a hug.

If that hug precedes a Lexapro and a good hard cry on the bathroom floor or something else we're told repeatedly to feel horrible about, God isn't loving you based on you.

He is loving you based on Jesus. 

You get to be imperfect and broken and still be loved. So does everyone else.

For God so loved THE WORLD. The entire, whole world just like it is was right then even when they hung His only kid on the cross. Actually, especially when they hung Jesus on the cross.

We aren't bigger than that. Our pain and our hurt and our joy and our heartache and our laughter and our lives and our good deeds and our mistakes aren't bigger than that. Thank God!

Love, K

 ps...even if you don't believe this today because the lies are big and loud right this minute, it's OK. You're OK. Maybe even audacious because you're still fighting and I believe God loves audacious people and scared people and sad people and all the people. All the time. He is to be revered for that reason more than all the other reasons. Amen.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Freedom, Football and Duck Dynasty

I love my country. I am proud of my country and the men and women who serve her.

I love that we stand for something that is revolutionary. I sometimes wonder if Americans have forgotten that we are revolutionary. 

Less than 250 years ago, there was no country in the entire world where any kind of real freedom could be found in the way we have freedom. There had rarely been any country in written history that has the kind of freedom found in the United States of America, for that matter.

I mean, we didn't just TALK about it. We wrote a DECLARATION declaring our freedom and inalienable rights, people. We put it in freakin' writing and made it the law! We said, "Hell no, we're not gonna take it anymore" and we meant it and that gives me goosebumps.

And you know what? Other countries followed suit. Obviously, not all of them, but lots and lots of them saw that it was good to let people be free and forge their own destiny without interference from...well, really anyone with the exception of laws that protect people and their stuff. How awesome are we?!?!

And yet...in the last few years there's been this really disturbing trend. There's been this trend that if people say something you don't like or agree with that doesn't harm you physically or damage your stuff we want a different kind of revolution. We want to string them up or force them out of their job or scream at them to, "GET OUT!".  

All because they don't view things a certain way or share a certain ideology or view life in the way other people think it should be lived or agree about what true freedom actually means. 

There's nothing American about that.

So, let's talk about two instances that I can think of right off hand that pissed a LOT of people off. 

First, we'll start with Phil Robertson. That Duck Dynasty guy. I'm pretty sure he's the head guy, but I don't watch the show, so that's an assumption and if it's wrong I'd still like to stay, mmmkay?

He was asked point blank how he felt about homosexuality. He wasn't pulling a Westboro (we all crazy up in here) Baptist Gathering Place. (I refuse to call them a church.) He wasn't standing on the street harassing good people or standing at a soldier's funeral chanting things I will not repeat here or anywhere else in this lifetime. He was ASKED. He answered.

But, here's the thing: People almost immediately began the now popular chant of "Yes, you may have freedom of speech but you don't have freedom from the consequences of that speech." 

Do you know how Orwellian that is? Do you understand that by threatening someone with loss of job and livelihood if they say things you don't like or agree with, you ARE damaging their freedom to speak their truth. That is a threat to damage them if they're speech doesn't agree with your truth or ideology. The very foundation of freedom of speech is understanding that others may disagree with everything you hold fundamentally true and, as long as it does not harm your life, your liberty or pursuit of happiness, they are FREE to say it and expect no repercussions like loss of job, threat of bodily harm and harassment. 

We're talking about someone who was asked a direct question about their private beliefs. He answered. That's it. 

 Did I agree with him? Doesn't matter because that's not the point.

Now, we have Colin Kaepernick. If you've been under a rock and don't know who he is, he's a back-up quarterback for the San Franscisco 49'ers and he has refused to stand for the National Anthem as it's played before each NFL game begins.

As a black man, he is making a statement about the abuses and  lack of equality toward African Americans in our country. He is making a statement that African American citizens in our country are not afforded the same equality as white Americans in our country.  

We are not talking about a man who threatened other people or harmed anyone or mocked anyone. We're talking about a guy who chose not to stand or place his hand over his heart during the National Anthem because he feels like his Nation isn't fulfilling its truest destiny of freedom and life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for ALL. 

Do I agree with him? Doesn't matter because that's not the point. 

Here's the REAL point: We are losing ourselves and what makes us so revolutionary!!!  We are defiling the very thing that so many actually died to protect! 

We are the country who says you can have your religious beliefs, no matter what those beliefs happen to be or stand for, so long as you are not harming another human being physically or harming their personal belongings and private property. 

It means that even if someone stands on the flag or refuses to stand for the Anthem, they have that RIGHT. They have that right without someone screaming for them to be fired or harmed.


Not just "whether you like it or not", but ESPECIALLY if you like it or not. The kind of freedom we have in this country is revolutionary BECAUSE of that, not in spite of it. 

My fellow Americans, we so often mourn the loss of life that our freedom has cost so many. We understand so deeply what freedom has cost. It is part of who we are! It is part of our very definition as Americans. FREEDOM IS NOT FREE!

It not only costs our beloved soldiers their lives. It costs us our pride and our right to be right and our anger. It costs the citizens of a free country the belief that their opinions are the ONLY opinions.

So, who are we if we, the very country who revolutionized freedom, begin to pick and choose how someone exercises their freedom?!  Who do we become if freedom is only true if we all agree on the same things in the same way?

Again, I am NOT talking about people who rape and pillage and murder and harm other people...we are talking about words and actions that express someones privately held beliefs and truths. Not bullying. Not standing on the streets screaming at people to cause damage, but privately held beliefs and feelings and hurts and truths, even if those feelings are publicly known. 

For me, I see other countries - countries who curb speech to the point that you can go to jail for speaking out against the reigning powers - and I KNOW that I do not want to begin the walk down that slope. It is slippery with self-righteousness and hate and harm and cruelty. It is lacking in compassion and kindness and hope and renewal and FREEDOM. 

 I do not want to walk a path that shoves someones truth back down their throat because they do not believe or feel as I feel or believe. I do not want to walk that path because one day someone is going to disagree with me. Some of you are disagreeing with me RIGHT NOW.

We are peeking over the edge of that slope. Can't you feel it?  Can't you feel the churning, vile cauldron of hate and descension in our beautiful land of the free because we will NOT allow someone else to be free to express themselves because they have the audacity to NOT agree with us or they express themselves in a way that YOU wouldn't express yourself? 

I feel it. The media feeds on it like sharks in a bloody pond. Social media's cup is overflowing with it. 

But, it's one on one, face to face, where we must make our stand. We must stand together and hear one another. 

You want to make America great again? Really? You want unity? Really? 

Then UNITE. Allow others to speak their truth without being offended. The very people who mock others offense are very often the ones who become so viciously vocal when they are offended, by the way. Surely you see it.

You are not harmed if the Duck Dynasty man holds a religious belief that you do not hold. You aren't. Keep living. Keep loving. Keep being kind. Be angry if he is NOT allowed to hold a religious belief so long as he doesn't harm others with that belief.

You are not harmed if a black man doesn't stand when the National Anthem is played. You aren't. Keep standing. Keep placing your hand over your heart. Keep loving. Keep being kind. Be angry if he is NOT allowed to sit, so long as he doesn't demand others do the same.

THAT IS UNITY. 

That is who we say we are when we go to other countries and fight for people who can't fight for themselves. That is who we say we are when we go to other countries that are killing people to oppress their privately held beliefs and feelings. 

I want to BE what revolutionizes Americans and makes us unique among all the countries on Earth. I want to LOVE those who don't agree with me. I want to HEAR them. I want freedom.

I want those things BECAUSE I love my country and everything it stands for. 

I believe in America and every word on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America. I believe that freedom is worth dying for, even if it means I have to listen to and support someone who practices their freedom and rights differently than I practice mine.

I can only believe in freedom if I believe it for everyone. 

Maybe I can only truly believe in freedom if it means I must support someone's freedom when everything they stand for is diametrically opposed to everything that I stand for.


Over here still believing in inalienable rights,
Kristi




 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Because It's Suicide Prevention Week


On August 5th, 2015, I learned something that brought me to my knees. Then, it curled me into the fetal position and left me on the floor. Then, it kicked me in the back and knocked life down around me and sat on me until I couldn't breathe.

In September, 2015, at the age of 44, I sat in my home contemplating suicide.

Oh, it wasn't some instant moment of, "Hey. Why don't I check out?". It was more a slow realization that I could not deal with this kind of Pain. 

I was not equipped to deal with the kind of Pain that embodies you and refuses to leave for even one minute,one second, of the day. And for a long moment, checking out seemed like a really beautiful option. A relief. A respite. It looked like hope.

I am what Suicide Prevention looks like.

Here's the thing: My entire life, in some form, people around me have consistently spoken to me, and about me, as someone who is strong. Maybe I am, I don't know. Maybe not. I don't think I care anymore.

What I am is broken and human. But, I'm learning that the truest, brightest light only gets in through the cracks, though, so I'm embracing my broken. Usually.

What I also know is that we don't talk about depression and anxiety and brokenness in a way that people who aren't struggling can understand that the people who ARE struggling look completely normal and, usually, OK. I mean, truly OK. 

We don't look like our lives have crumbled. We look like everyone else on the outside, but we aren't like everyone else on the inside at that moment.Maybe for lots and lots of moments and we need to talk about it without shame or fear of judgement. 

There is no judgement here in this place with me. None.

Usually, even the people around us don't know. No one advertises their pain on a big pain banner because - let's be real - our world idolizes, "I'm fine. How about you?." "I'm fine, thanks for asking." We actually like to think we're "finer" than most people and will go to great lengths to prove we're fine. We're awesome. Everything is awesome. Even if we're light years away from awesome, the motto is, "We're still fine!"

Most people don't want to be real because it hurts. It's a little embarrassing. I mean, God forbid you not be fine! God forbid you not be happy and OK and doing pretty well. It's not acceptable. (Acceptable is my new least favorite word, by the way.)

Here's the other thing: Pain and shame and hurt are the things we humans run from like our butts are on fire and it's burning the skin from our body in bite size pieces. It catches up with us through drugs or sex or food or shopping or lying or perfectionism or isolation or all sorts of other ways but sometimes, it catches up to us as we view the EXIT door like it's the last real thing in a world filled with lies and hurt and pain.

Too often, we're taught to fear, or avoid, the pain and the shame and the brokenness. So, if you find yourself in a place that you can't run from it and you can't deal with it, what do you do?

You try to kill it.

You try to kill the pain and the brokenness and then it'll be dead. It'll be gone!! In that moment, you aren't thinking about you being dead along with it. You mostly don't give a damn as long as the excruciating pain will just stop.

So, we need to talk about it.

 I need to talk about it. And because it's Suicide Prevention Week/Day/Month, I'm going to talk about it.

And I'm not talking to the people who've never been there and think they understand. You don't. I used to be one of you and you don't understand and I hope and pray you never, ever do.  

BUT, if you HAVE been there, if you ARE there, if you know someone who IS there, this is for you:

 It's OK to feel too much. It's OK to feel pain so visceral that it rearranges you, changes you forever. It's OK. You're OK. There is Hope.

 It's OK because you are really a gift that the world needs for those of us who have found ourselves in a place that isn't "fine".

I need you.

I swear to you there is Hope.I have been with you as you lay curled on the floor crying so hard you are soundless and formless and bereft of anything but Pain.

I know what it feels like to be soundless and formless, sweet friend.

I have been with you as you looked at the world that has gone dark and cold and it just keeps on spinning and spinning and why the hell won't it stop spinning for JUST A SECOND?!

I know the soundless place. It is the loudest, most chaotic place on Earth, isn't it? It's so loud that no sound can escape, but no sound can get in, either. Not even thought can survive there, but Hope lives. The depression, the pain, is lying to you. It is a liar. Hope is living and breathing.

Stand up. Crawl out. Claw your way to the door. There is more good coming. I swear to you, there is more coming.

You and I know that once the Exit door makes itself truly known, it never really gets unknown, though, right?

But, please listen to me now: You get another try. YOU GET TO TRY AGAIN. You are NOT out of options.

Listen closer: Pain is not your master and it is not your enemy. It is your teacher. It's trying to tell you something. You don't have to listen to it RIGHT NOW, but you have to let it visit for a minute. You can listen to it once you get out of the soundless place that's so loud you can't hear anything but the pain. Feel it, stand up with it and RISE.

This is the hard part, but you can do it. You are loved. You are loved right now, right where you are.

If you have people in your life who are telling you to just "get over it", ignore them. They don't know and they don't understand and that's OK. They don't have to. Ignore them.

If you have people in your life who are telling you to just "pray harder and believe more", ignore them. God has not placed them on your path. They do not know and they don't understand and that's OK. They don't have to. Ignore them.  

This minute, simply choose the option to take one more step. 

Turn off the music that feeds the darkness pouring into you and out of you. Refuse to feed that. Turn off the TV shows that trigger things in you that you don't understand. Stop immediately. Turn on happy music and eat something you love. Do this until you can get somewhere to get help. And you MUST get help. You can't do this one alone and that is OK. You don't have to. 

Get help. I will tell you I went through therapy about 5 years ago that helped me see my EXIT door and walk away. I went back to therapy and have every intention of continuing. Ignore people who tell you not to get help. Get help. Find someone who HEARS YOU and you feel comfortable with them hearing you and then tell them.

If you and your therapist determine that for now you need medication, take the medication. No one tells someone with cancer not to take meds, or rather,  healthy people don't tell people with cancer not to take medication or get help, right?

If you cannot heal right now without the meds, take the medication. TAKE THE DAMN MEDICATION. Ignore anyone who tells you that you don't need it if you can not do this without it right now. That is your call. You are the boss of you.

You probably won't need them forever but if you do, take the medication because you deserve your time on this plane of existence. Hold up your medicated head and LIVE. 

The medication will help you hear the lies in the depression if you can't hear them without it.

The medication will help you see the Pain without becoming the Pain. (Only you who've been here understand that statement. We are a tribe. We understand.)

YOUR LIFE IS WORTH LIVING. You matter. You are worth doing whatever you need to do to get healthy. No matter who has hurt you or who you have hurt, life is worth living.

Pain is real, but so is Love. Wrestle the Pain and the Love will come. Embrace the Pain and Love will return your embrace. Learn from the pain and Love will be your final teacher. I get that that may not make complete sense right now, this minute. Will you trust me when I say that you will understand and relief will come because you feel SO MUCH, so strongly and so deeply that you will understand if you just rise and stay and fight?

Please, please stay with us. You have something to say and do and achieve and be. I know because those of us who face the monster called suicide and knock it on its ass find a place inside that other people don't have. I know because I didn't have it once. I know because I have it now.

It is a new place where Hope and Compassion and Truth and Honesty live in a way they did not live in me before.

Stay, sweet friend.

Stay.

I love you. I feel you. I am you.

Kristi   


PS...If you are alone or you don't have anyone you trust enough to talk to or you simply can't tell anyone but a stranger or if you just need this number, I am begging you to call them if you think today might be the day the EXIT door looks better than the LIFE door:  

1-800-273-8255

They are available to you 24/7. They will hear you.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Love Wins

My social media feed is filled with Confederate flags and multi-colored banners with "PRIDE" written from end to end.  It's overflowing with terrorists acts and people being murdered on the beaches of Tunisia and beheadings in France. And it is exploding with my Christian brother's and sister's posts of outrage and anger. 

So, this post is merely a gentle reminder to all those who believe, as I believe, that God is on His throne and Christ stands at His right hand pleading with the Father on our behalf:

God has purposed the generations from end to end, since time began.  He makes no mistakes.

THIS is the world we are to SERVE.  The one just as it is right now. I'll say it again:  God planted us HERE, exactly.  We are to SERVE this world.

Jesus tells us clearly that there WILL be troubles.  But, He also says with equal clarity that He has overcome the world.

He HAS overcome it.  Not that he will, but that He has overcome. Currently.  Present time.  Right now.

We are to serve and love and share the Gospel.  We aren't to worry if people will hear it or respond or like us. That's not our job. The Holy Spirit is really good at what He does and He's got this.

We are to stand firm in our faith, but be gentle and kind. 

We are to forgive and love and serve.

We are not called to serve only those who are kind to us or those who believe as we believe or those that we like. Actually, Jesus is pretty clear that those kinds of people aren't His and aren't following His heart.  Those kinds of people are just like the world, not different from the world, as we're called to be.

"For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?"  Mathew 5:46

We are to love God with all our hearts and all our minds and all our souls, with all the strength that WE have and then to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Period.

Side note:  He never, not once, said that would be easy.  As a matter of fact, Jesus said,

“I have spoken these things to you so that you shall have peace in me. You shall have suffering in the world, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33   Basically, this is going to be tough, but you can do the hard things because I have paved the way. I HAVE overcome the world.  Now go, tell the world. 

And this:

"If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you."  John 15:18

We are planted exactly where we're supposed to be and we're called to love. It's hard and it's sometimes humbling.  (more often than not, actually)  But, while we were STILL sinners, Christ died for us.  Not when we finally got our junk together or when we were good enough or when we eventually dropped all that sin that was weighing us down, but WHILE we were STILL sinners, He died for us.  

How can we possibly do any less, even knowing that some will never hear us or be kind to us in return?  

Last week, Elisabeth Elliot passed away and man was she a walking example of knowing she was planted where she was supposed to be and loving those that were unlovable to her! 

The very people who murdered her husband were the people she served. She loved them FIRST.  Their salvation followed as she told them about Christ, but most important, as she LIVED out the love of Christ.  Those she served were cannibals. They ate her husband after they murdered him. Literally. I cannot fathom it.

 If you've never read about Mrs. Elliot, please do.  Her life was one of suffering and obedience and love.  

Her life reminds me that I am not called to love the lovable and easy.  Her life stands as a reminder of who I can become if my focus is on Jesus and Him alone.  Mrs. Elliot wasn't supernatural.  She loved Jesus and believed Him and His Word.  She BELIEVED.  

She didn't come to them with harsh words and retribution for murdering the man she loved.  She came to that tribe of lost people and loved them as her Father Loved. She loved them. She knew that they could not love as she loved because they did not know the very One who IS Love.

 I am reminded by Mrs. Elliot and, more importantly, the Word of God that this world isn't surprising God or wiping God from it's pages.  This world is following the exact path God foresaw and knew and He loved it anyway.  My thanks for that cannot be expressed on this little corner of the blogosphere because He loved me right in my sin, too.  

I want to remember and know that my light can only shine when it reflects His love.  

"But I say to you, love your enemies and bless the one who curses you, and do what is beautiful to the one who hates you, and pray over those who take you by force and persecute you."

We either believe Him or we don't.  We either obey Him or we follow the world.  We either trust Him or we don't.  There is no gray or middle ground.  Stand firm in Love.