A Life Contrary

living a life out of the ordinary

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Politico, I am not…

Once upon a time, I thrived on the political arena.  As a youngster, I loved staying up late to watch Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher.  I would debate along with the rest of the panel and loved figuring out my position and listening to others.  Government and civics were my favorite subjects in school.

I had decided to major in Political Science in college.  I even had an ‘in’ in the department.  Then I went to my first class.  It was bad.  Political Science in college was nothing like I thought it would be.  It was… boring.  It took me a minute, but I finally found a different major.  Though, I still kept my political side alive and thriving in the background.

After I got married, I would watch news channels constantly.  I didn’t talk as openly, but I didn’t shy away from discussion either.  My BFF and I would debate news (and news stories) all the time.  I followed most of the important stuff and few of the minor things.

Things slowed a bit when I had a toddler running around and Bill O’Reilly and Chris Matthews were exchanged for the Backyardigans and Blue’s Clues.  I still tried to hit the wavetops, but I couldn’t keep up with the minutiae for a while.  I still loved to talk about politics with those who I felt comfortable with, but I also listened a fair amount.

Once we moved to Rhode Island, my love for the political arena was waning, but talk radio on my commute was still a lot of fun.  I enjoyed talking back and, let’s be honest, New England politics is pretty much like a soap opera. Voter fraud, politicians who were legit criminals, and teamsters!  

It was quite sensational and also very eye-opening.  I realized that politics was always kind of sensational and salacious.  It was also always pretty corrupt.  Politics was a business just like anything else.  It was a career that people chose and worked at.  It was no longer a body of elected peer chosen to represent the people and area they came from.  I looked around and realized that my options for representation weren’t people that looked like me or that held my beliefs and opinions, they were people who’d been taught how to talk and act to get the most votes much in the same way that I had been taught the best way to sell a product to a customer.

Politics was much more than government and civics and history as I had studied in school.  Now it was a national soap opera that would be fascinating and amazing to watch, were it not for the fact that these are the people that we select to make laws and represent us to the world.

All of this is a roundabout way of stating my opinion on today’s inauguration and all the hullabaloo that is surrounding it.  Did I vote for Trump or Clinton?  Am I a Republican or Democrat?  None of that really matters to be honest.  We have a new president.  That’s it.  We have to respect the position whether we respect the person or not.  We’ve had this issue before.  We elected a suspected adulterer to the country’s top office.  We elected a suspected “dimwit” as the leader of the free world.  We elected a suspected “socialist” as the President of the United States.  Now we’ve elected a bigot or idiot or whatever you want to call him.  Each term, we have to deal with faults and issues, whether “our guy” was elected or not.

I am not happy with the state of things, but that is not anything new.  I’m not necessarily happy with my elected officials.  However, whining or sticking my head in the sand will not help anything.  Complaining and making an idiot out of myself on social media will not affect the outcome.  The best thing we can do is to pray for our leaders and be the best we can be.  Love God and love each other and see where that takes us.

2016 – A Reading Failure

There’s a classic 90’s era movie called Airborne starring Shane McDermott and Chris Conrad with a supporting cast featuring two unknown but up and coming actors you may have heard of – Seth Green and Jack Black.  It is a truly awful movie whose storyline revolves entirely around a California surfer “dude” who is forced to move to Cincinnati, OH, which just happens to be a hockey town.

Why would I begin a blog about books by talking about an obscure and little watched movie from 1993?  Mainly because I am weird, but also because there is a line in the movie that I feel captures my view on books.  Seth Green’s nerdy and unliked character, Wiley, has to give an introductory speech to the class and in an attempt to be well-received, he lauds his knowledge and prowess at the town’s beloved sport of hockey.  He rambles for a bit and ends with the statement, “My Dad drives a Zamboni!”

When talking about how much I love books, I could prattle on for hours about the smell or the knowledge contained therein.  I could tell you about how giddy I get over titles and synopsis or how I love looking at covers and reading bios and more!  And I would end this speech by saying, “I even work in a BOOKSTORE!”  All of this to say, books are my thing.

Now, I’m saying all of this to lay the groundwork for the fact that 2016 wasn’t my best reading year.  Life just took over.  Well, life and a tv, if I’m being honest.  My schedule at work kept me pretty busy so when I was at home, I had to do the tasks to keep things running and when that was done, I was just tired.  It was much easier to watch a tv show or listen to a podcast while washing dishes or cooking dinner.  By the time all the housework was done, I’d watch a show with Nathan or we’d watch something as a family and then I’d fall into bed (often falling asleep before the show was over!)

I did get a few books read, but I didn’t get anywhere near my goal.  I had even abbreviated my reading list to only 18 books with the intention of adding 6 books by the end of the year as I came across new books.  And come across new books, I did!  I think I only actually read 2 books off my original list (Help My Unbelief by Barnabas Piper and Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans).  However, I did come across several that I was able to read or listen to on audiobook.

Some of the ones that I readily remember are:

5 Habits of a Woman Who Does Quit by Nicki Koziarz

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs

Why We Aren’t Emergent by Ted Kluck and Kevin DeYoung

Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall

King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight

I just didn’t do well with reading.  I also began When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper, The Bride(zilla) of Christ by Ted Kluck and Ronnie Martin, Household Gods by Ted and Kristin Kluck, Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen, and Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin.

There may be a few that I finished or that I started that I don’t have listed, that’s kind of how bad my note-taking and follow through were.  I began the year with such a promising list and a record of when I began and finished each book.  It was so nerdy, so wonderful!  But I just couldn’t keep up.

I will say that a few of the books that I just absolutely loved were Help My Unbelief by Barnabas Piper, Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall, and Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs.  I would go so far as to say that these books were transformative.  Each book really changed my life this year and I would highly recommend them to anyone and everyone.

The great thing is that there is never a shortage of good books, and I’m excited to try again in 2017!

2016 in Review

How do you sum up a year like 2016?  For many, it will absolutely go down as a year in infamy.  There have been so many bad things that have happened even during the last week of the year (RIP George Michael and Carrie Fisher).  

And I will admit that this hasn’t been the greatest year of my life.  It has definitely had it’s share of ugliness and trials.  However, I can’t say that it was all bad (can any of us?).  I can’t even say that it was the worst year of my life.

All in all, a review of 2016 sheds light on some huge successes and some rather large failures, but still reveals a pretty decent year for the Drake family.  We ushered in 2016 huddled in a cold camper and gathered around my broken computer watching a movie we’d rented from our local library.  Now, as I write this, I am sitting all alone on a nice, comfy couch watching Netflix on a gigantic tv and typing on my brand new computer (thanks, Mom!) in a nice warm house.

To say that this is a contrast of events would be an understatement.  Early in 2016, we had a massive snow which knocked out our water in the camper and forced us to abandon our homestead and head to a friend’s house to hunker down until we could get it fixed.  To say that wintering over in a camper was difficult would also be an understatement.  I cannot truly express how grateful I was for that camper and what it meant to me and family, but I equally cannot express how difficult our time there was.

But we are no longer there, in that camper or in that state.  We’ve been richly blessed again and one of our neighbors has allowed us to live in his house, which I have mentioned is basically a palace compared to where we’ve been (I will need to remind myself of this again when I am complaining about one of the many… eccentricities of this house).  Our circumstances have definitely changed for the better.

Yet, the homestead still isn’t finished.  Nathan worked diligently on it for most of the year.  An illness and a prior commitment caused the work to stall in the latter half of 2016.  I will admit that this has caused a great amount of resentment in me toward our house and land.  It is such a HUGE project and I know that it will take a long time, but my impatience has colored most of 2016.  This is an attitude that I must leave in 2016.

Work was also a bit of mixed blessing.  I took on a new position, as well as a rise in seniority.  We had massive staff turnovers which saw me going from working 2 days a week to working 5-6 days a week.  This has continued right up until Christmas when we lost 3 team members in the span of one week.  I do love my job and I love my new position, but working that much has definitely taken it’s toll.  This will also be changing in 2017 (more on that to come).

Our church has also had a rough year.  It’s been a year of transition with many growing pains.  And it is still going.  I wish that I could elaborate more on this, but there are still so many gears turning and ramifications yet to come.

This blog itself has show a great deal of 2016.  Last year was a banner year for my writing.  I hit my goal of writing at least one blog a month and for most months, I exceeded that.  After that, I was quite ambitious for 2016 and intended not only to write every week or month, but I was endeavoring to post new blogs 3 times a week.  And it worked for a while, but with a big house to keep and work demands, I fell behind and ended up letting go altogether.  But I did move and begin the blog that I really wanted to write.

Added in the plus column, I did make a new friend, deepen some existing relationships, and rekindle some old ones.  I was able to organize a Mom’s Night Out in August with a pretty good attendance and a Cookie Exchange party in December with a great turnout.  Both were such a blessing and I’m hoping to continue on with such things.

So, how will I look back on 2016?  With fondness.  Sure, there were some huge, awful things that happened and perhaps even the majority of the year was such, but in the end it was another year of life that was lived with my family and friends and in service to my Lord so I can’t see it any other way (plus I lost 35lbs, so there’s that).  I’m quite eager to say farewell to 2016 and usher in 2017, but it is a fond farewell full of happy memories and blessings.

Dressember…

If you know me, then you know that I have a fondness for jeans and tee shirts.  After all, I do live on a farm.  My sister once joked that my closet pretty much contains jeans and ball gowns (16+ years of military balls).  So, what is a good enough reason to get me to wear a dress for a month straight?  Dressember!

dressember

In case you haven’t heard of it, Dressember is a fundraiser during the month of December where women all over the world wear a dress every day to raise money and awareness of the fight against human trafficking, slavery, and the sex trade.

I’m so excited to be joining in with a great group of women to raise money for International Justice Mission and the A21 campaign.  Want to help out?  You can go here to donate.  You can also join in and wear a dress.  Want to know more about what Dressember is about?  Check this out.  If nothing else, join us in praying for all those affected and for those who are participating in Dressember.

The (Gilmore) Girls are Back in Town!

Well, it’s been a minute since I wrote or posted anything and let’s be honest, only one thing could bring me out of my self-imposed hibernation… the Gilmore Girls Revival.  I cannot tell you how excited I have been about this.

I came late to the Gilmore Girls party.  I didn’t watch it much in its original run, though I did watch it here and there.  But I have been a faithful follower of it in syndication, DVD sets, and Netflix.  I cannot tell you how many times I have seen individual episodes or the entire series.

 

[SPOILER WARNING]   I’m going to try to keep this relatively spoiler free, but I’m not making any promises, so if you haven’t watched Gilmore Girls:  A Year in the Life, you may want to stop here. [SPOILER WARNING]

 

First, I will say how impressed I am that everyone came back for this show!  Taylor, Babette, Patty, Kirk, Gypsy (and even lesser knowns like Andrew and Bootsy!).  Dean, Jess, and Logan.  Jason and Christopher.  Lane (and all of Hep Alien), Michel, and Sookie.  Paris, Doyle, Ryan, Colin, Finn, and Robert!  I know I’m missing people, but with this kind of ensemble cast, can you imagine getting ALL of the cast back?  (minus Liz & TJ)

I’ll go ahead and start with some of my negatives…  I’m just not sure about a few things.  One, is the style of the characters, mainly Rory and Lorelai.  It’s been almost 10 years since we’ve seen them and the entire world has changed.  It was really hard for me to figure out exactly what Lorelai and Rory would wear and do now.

Also, can we talk about the musical?  I’ll be honest, I was a fan of it.  I thought it was hilarious and I love Sutton Foster.  It seemed so Stars Hollow that it was just awesome.  However, in a limit of 4 90-minute episodes, I think the quirkiness of Stars Hollow would be better served by a festival or some other fun event where we get to see the characters we love interacting rather than a bunch of comedic takes by Lorelai while watching a hilarious Musical.  Not to mention the fact that it truly seemed like something Lorelai would love.

Emily.  Oh, how my heart broke for Emily.  Richard was my favorite and I miss him.  I thought the loss of Edward Herman was handled so well.  I thought it was pretty accurate that she would go off the deep end and act completely out of character, but I’m not super happy with how it all ended up.  I think she would probably come back around at some point, but that just never really happened.

I also wasn’t thrilled with Lorelai’s Wild pilgrimage.  I get that it would be something she’d want to do, but actually going to do it?  That just made no sense.  I could see her adapting it and taking a hike around Stars Hollow.  Or even pulling a Liz Gilbert and going to Italy or something, but hiking the Pacific Crest Trail?  No.

So, what did I love?  Pretty much everything else.  Michel and the children!  Sookie and the wedding cakes!  The Stars Hollow Gazette.  There was just so much that was so classic and reminded us of why we love this show and these Girls so much.

And now, that ending.  Whew!  We finally found out what the final four words were and boy were they a doozy.  I thought the ending was amazing.  Do I like the cliffhanger?  No!  I want more.  I want to know what happens next.  But with a show like this, I think we can pretty accurately guess what will happen.  Not to mention is there any other way this could end?

 

So, what did y’all think?  Love it or hate it?

Food & Health

I won’t lie.  Life has been difficult lately.  I’ve been sharing a bit of that recently.  I also shared that even though many of my maladies have been in my own imagination, I do have some things that are in need of being address.

We are currently on a journey toward total, holistic health.  As a part of this, we went for a health assessment.  Turns out that a lot of what concerned me was actually, you know, of concern.  Perhaps it wasn’t to the extent that I thought, but still, something to take care of.

She told me a lot about what was going on in our bodies.  Me, in particular.  I got a list of things to work on and some supplements (which I still haven’t started).  I was also told to go on a specific diet.  Like, really specific.  And really limiting.

I won’t lie.  Food is my weakness.  I love food.  I love cooking it.  I love eating it.  I love reading and studying and learning about it.  I read up on the histories of food!  It’s just something that fascinates me.  Plus, I think there’s something to the fact that we should know what nourishes us.  We’re all going to eat so we might as well eat well.

A few years ago, I was introduced to clean eating, which is basically eating as close to whole as possible.  No processed foods.  Some die hard clean eaters will also shun some foods that aren’t “clean.”  We were never die hard, but I loved the concept of eating whole foods.  Making as much from scratch as I could and limiting what we ate to things I could pronounce.

Since we’ve been living in a camper and money has been tight, we’ve gotten away from the clean eating.  It’s hard to store bread, much less make it from scratch.  We went one step away and then before we knew it, I’m buying canned everything and hot dogs have become a regular menu item.

I also began to start medicating my stress and anxiety with food.  Wouldn’t it be great if you got stressed and craved an apple?  For me, it was a cookies and cream milkshake from Chickfila.  I’d have a bad day at work – swing through the drive through.  Great day at work – swing through the drive through.  Accomplish everything on my to-do list?  You got it.  A shake would be in my hand.  It’s no wonder that I put on 20+ pounds.

With returning to work and working odd hours (mostly in the middle of mealtimes) with no planning because who can plan with all this going on?  I began to swing through the drive through and grab an 8-count nugget and some waffle fries to go with my shake.  Or I’d hit McDonald’s 2 for $5 (though not quite as often).  So of course, my health was on the decline.

And now I am where I am.  I’m completely off sugar, processed foods, and cow dairy (goat cheese is my new best friend).  There are a lot of restrictions.  So much that I actually bought a protein powder so that I can supplement at least one meal and still get enough calories.

I’m having to think about food in an entirely different way.  I no longer thing about what is going to be yummy or how delicious something might be.  I think about sustenance.  How can I get enough calories to nourish my body and have it function properly and also fit into these parameters so that my body can also heal from the damage I’ve done to it.

And it is hard, y’all.  I don’t like it.  I’ve started eating eggs.  Plain.  No ketchup.  No hot sauce.  How boring and disgusting is that!  I have to plan now.  If I want rice as a side for dinner, I can’t just dump it in a pot.  I have to soak it for 8 hours ahead of time (same for oatmeal and beans).  There are no quick dishes or grab and go things on this plan.  I’ve started eating things that I don’t love, but I know that it’s good for me.

But it isn’t all bad.  Thinking about food in a new way is good.  I need to change some of my ideas.  I need to stop feeding my emotions through food and go to Jesus when I’m stressed.  Or happy.  Or accomplished.  I need to learn to put food in its proper place.

Lord willing, I will only have to be on this strict diet for a couple months.  After that, I’ll get to add in more fun foods.  But hopefully, I won’t forget all that learned while going through it.  Also, I’m hoping that I’ll get to the point where I’m focusing more on what I can have and less on what I can’t.

Discipline, Compromise, & Grace

 

This is kind of how my life goes.  I get really pumped about something and I do it… for a time.  Then life happens or I lose interest.  I’ve done it with diets, bible reading plans, hobbies, and projects.  I even recently read a book to help me conquer this attitude (5 Habits of a Woman who Doesn’t Quit by Nicki Koziarz – I highly recommend it).

For a good month, I’ve been doing well on watching what I eat, reading my bible, and turning off the tv (or actually the computer with DVD’s from the library) and reading something that won’t turn my brain to mush.  I was, dare I say, disciplined!  It’s something I strive for but rarely achieve.

Then I went to the grocery store while I was hungry.  I made it out with only a bag of gluten free chili lime crackers (that I ate in 2 days), but I’ve been growing undisciplined in my eating habits.  I’ve been placed on a special diet and I’ve been following it pretty well-ish.  But today after work I was hungry and EVERYTHING sounded so good.  Arby’s.  Dairy Queen.  Mexican restaurants.  Places that I haven’t been in years!

I wanted to give in and just eat something that sounded good.  It was difficult to find the willpower, desire, or faith to keep me from giving in.  Then I remembered what happened just a few days ago.  I was willing to “give-in” and indulged in a granola and yogurt parfait.  It was yummy!  And c’mon, it was yogurt – that’s healthy.  So, later that same day, I decided to treat myself to a Starbuck’s Frappuccino with cow’s milk.  And since I’d already blown it big time, I’ll just go ahead and eat some Monterrey jack cheese with dinner, too.

I’m sure you can guess what happened.  I’ll save you the details, but suffice it to say, my stomach wasn’t happy with me.  I tried to remember this as my husband and I debated on where and what to eat.  I tried to remember why I’m doing what I’m doing (to be the healthiest possible to serve God better).  And I’ll admit that it was tough.  I’m still struggling.  I ended up with a guacamole bacon burger with no cheese, no may, no bacon, no bun.  But I still got the steak fries (I’m not made of steel!).

The same is true with writing this blog and reading.  I’m doing my best to make myself do better especially on days when I’m struggling.  I’m writing today even though I don’t feel like it.  And I will admit that I haven’t picked up my book (When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper – SO good!) in a couple days and I didn’t do my Scripture reading today (yet!).

In the end, on your down days, you have to persevere.  Hold your feet to the fire even when you don’t want to.  Make compromises if you have to.  And give grace when you need to.

Confessions of a Hypochondriac

Hypochondria:  obsession with the idea of having a serious but undiagnosed medical condition.

 

Hypochondria was once called “morbid melancholy.”  It gets its name from the idea that the gut (liver, gall bladder, and spleen) was the cause of such a disposition.  It was believed to be a true medical condition.  Growing up, a hypochondriac was labeled a worrier and just dismissed.  Now, it is often joked about.  People kid about “web md-ing” symptoms and self-diagnosing cancer.

I’ve gone along with the joke my entire life, afraid to admit the truth:  I’m a hypochondriac.  I’ve seen people roll their eyes or crack a joke when you talk about it.  Most will say that they are, too, or recount a funny story of their mother-in-law/cousin/next door neighbor who thought they were dying of a rare disease but it turned out they just had ________ (insert common malady here).

Sometimes there are those who really do have a rare, or misdiagnosed ailment like Lyme’s or Fibromyalgia who are accused of hypochondria until they find that one doctor who will listen and truly find what’s wrong with them.  People like me are not a help to those.  We make it more difficult for them to get the help they need and I am truly sorry for that.  But it doesn’t take away from the belittling and brushing off that I have felt from those around me.

It’s hard when you know in your heart that there has to be a better way to live, but you can’t find any help because what is plaguing you is the punchline in so many jokes.

I have struggled with this for as long as I can remember.  When my husband was in Iraq, I can remember talking to a friend and telling her about a weird bump I had on my hand.  I had spent the last two hours thinking about this bump and stressing about it because, what if it was something really bad and I needed medical attention?  What if I didn’t get the medical attention and I died right there in the living room?  What would happen to my son and how would word get to my husband?  Now, once I made an off-hand reference to my friend (because I’ve learned not to speak seriously about such things), the worry dissipated.  I felt free.

That’s how it usually worked.  I’d get myself spun up in a tizzy about something but once I’d say it out loud, usually to my husband, he’d reassure me it was nothing and I would feel better.  Crisis averted.  But lately, that just hasn’t been the case.  I don’t know if it’s stress or just getting older and more aware of my mortality, but I have gotten much worse.  To the point where I spent almost a week completely sure that I was going to drop dead at any moment.  I was saying things like, “well, if I live to the weekend…”

It was trying to my family and it was trying to me.  I was so burdened for my own physical well-being that I had become hyper-aware of everything that was going on with my body.  I was also literally making myself sick.  The stress was unbearable.  What made things worse was that I know that I have some legitimate health problems, but I didn’t know how severe they were or what else may be wrong.  Yet, I had convinced myself that I was dying.  And that is no way to live.

With all these thoughts constantly on my mind, I could barely function.  I could barely work or serve my family.  I couldn’t maintain a relationship with anyone, even God, to whom I was praying constantly that He would heal me (from what, I didn’t really know).

I googled faith and hypochondria.  I tried to talk to people, but most people don’t really think you’re serious.  Or they just throw random Bible verses and platitudes at me.  I know that there are answers in God’s Word and that it will work, but simply quoting Philippians 4:6­-7 at me doesn’t really help that much.

And then one night I was driving to work and I was stressing out about… everything, really, and I had an epiphany.  Philippians 1:21 came into my mind:  To live is Christ, to die is gain.  I realized that if I live then I need to spend my time glorifying Jesus.  If I died, then I guess He was done with me and I get to be with Him.  It was a beautiful thought.  And it carried me through that evening and then next.

I wish I could say that that is the end and that I’m all better.  No more worry.  No more hypochondria.  No more of the anxiety or depression that follow.  No more fear or shame.  However, it is all still there.  I am constantly fighting it.  I am constantly trying to overcome those thoughts in my head that lead me to those bad places.  I’m fighting to renew my mind (Romans 12:2) daily.

It is difficult.  I wish I had help.  I wish that there was someone else who could shout, “Me, too!”  I wish that I could just come out and explain to people that I am not merely telling a joke when I say that I’m struggling because I think I may have an aneurism.   However, I know that I can still manage because I’m not really alone.  Jesus has this one.  I just have to work on the faith that allows me to see it.

Fear & Words

Right.  So, it’s been a while.  I have always proclaimed myself a lover of words.  I love to read them.  I love to write them.  I love to speak to others about them.  I was the kid that for fun read the dictionary and odd books and loved the vocab list.

So, why have I stepped away from my primary outlet for expressing my own words?  Well, it’s somewhat complicated.  I think the main reason is because I have been struggling so much in several areas of my life and that has produced a bit of a “word block.”  Also, there have been many questions floating around in my head about why I want to share my words and what words I really want to share.

Life has been hard lately, y’all.  I mean, I know that life, in general, is just tough, but I have gone through a serious bout of being knocked flat on my behind.  And I’ve let myself stay there.  Most of that has been out of fear.  I haven’t wanted to get back up.  I haven’t wanted to give life the opportunity to knock me back down.  It’s safe down here.

I’ve largely tried to withdraw from life.  I’ve gotten near panic attacks when I need to leave home and actually engage with others.  I’ve even withdrawn from social media.  It seems as though even virtual friendships were too much for me to manage.  I also realized that I have gone numb to my family.  Sure, I’m still here and still talking and cooking and cleaning and driving them around.  But I haven’t really taken the time to really be with them.

And why did all of this happen?  What was the singularity event that catapulted all of this?  The short answer is fear.  The longer answer has to do with a road trip, my ankles swelling, and a debilitating bout of hypochondria.

There are three great motivators in the world:  Fear, Anger, and Love.  Sure, we may do things for other reasons, but you can almost always boil it down to one of these.  If you think back to teachers, coaches, or other influential people in your life, you’ll probably realize that the way they inspired you will come back to one of these three motivators.

What I’ve known for a long time and finally has come to a head is that the main motivator in my life is fear.  It is amazing how much of my day revolves around it.  It has become second nature to me to the point that I don’t even think about it much anymore.  There are things I don’t say because I fear that my husband may get angry.  There are things that I don’t do because I fear how it may be perceived by others.  I fear that God may get angry with me.  I fear that I may have a stroke or heart attack.  I fear that I am failing as a parent.

Now, I want to be clear that I am not talking about worries or concerns or passing thoughts.  I am talking about the fear that is so real that I will completely shut down.  It has affected my health (I’ve pulled ribs out of place because of tension due to worry).  It has affected my family.  It has affected my relationship with God.  No one wants to be around the paranoid, worrying person who’s fear has gotten to the point that she has a meltdown while trying to order lunch at Panera (yes, this did happen).

And most importantly, God doesn’t want this for my life.  He doesn’t want me to serve Him out of fear.  There is something to be said about fearing the Lord, but that isn’t what I’m talking about.  I don’t mean the healthy, awe-inspiring respect.  I’m talking about the idea of the “Big Stick God” – where you view God as having a big stick and just waiting to pound you on the head with it when you step out of line.

God is all about love.  He loves us and desires for us to love Him back.  That is what He desires my great motivator to be in following Him.  That is what I should be focusing on instead of all the fear that has quite literally consumed me.  I should be basking in the love of my Heavenly Father and Sovereign Savior instead of huddled in a corner and fearing my own pulse.  I should be reflecting that love to back those around me, first to those in my own home and then to those I come into contact with – in real life and virtually.

I have neglected this practice.  I have not just sat and let my Jesus love me and truly spent time with Him with no other agenda than to experience His all-consuming love.  Because if I had, I wouldn’t be in the mess that I’m in right now.  I would be full of His love and light and I wouldn’t be able to help what spills over from my life into the lives of those around me.  I want that.  Or, I’m learning to want that.

So, I may still be huddled in a corner and distant.  I’m still struggling with both some very real issues and some that just feel real.  But the words are starting to come back.  And I can only hope that with the return of my words will also be the Word.

Chas, the Crooked, Little Redbud Tree

Once upon a time, there was a little redbud tree that was planted by a bird at the edge of a farm.   Also on the edge of the farm, there was an apple tree and a cedar.  The cedar had been there for a couple decades and was already getting big and lush with thick needles.  The apple tree had also been there for a while.  She was producing delicious apples and beautiful blossoms.

The redbud was planted there beside the apple and cedar.  It was pretty much a miracle that the seed took at all with the crowd that was around.  But take it did.  And before long it began to grow.  It had to suffer through adversity.  The cedars bulky needles crowded out the sun.  The apple tree’s blossoms created shadows and it’s apples fell dangerously close to the weak little redbud.

But throughout the adversity, the redbud continued to grow, crooking it’s trunk and spreading it’s limbs to reach the light.  Taking its bumps and bruises and suffering the elements.  But still it grew.  It grew taller and thicker and persevered.  Each spring it’s pretty, purple blossoms would appear between the cedar and the apple tree.  Each spring it would show it’s beauty despite its circumstances, never once being squashed by the hardships it had to endure.

Until one day a farmer came along.  He saw the struggling redbud and examined it.  Surely this contorted little tree needed to be put out of its misery.  However, as the farmer began to examine the situation, he noticed a problem with the apple and cedar trees.  It turned out that even though they were big and strong, they were unhealthy (it turns out that apple and cedar trees are prone to a particular fungus and will pass it back and forth).

They farmer wasn’t happy, but he knew he had to cut down the cedar and the apple trees.  So, he set about and got them both down.  And when he did, he saw the little, crooked redbud tree still standing, alive and well sprouting his purple blooms.  The farmer realized that the little, crooked redbud tree was the real treasure there.  So he left it and let it bloom and enjoy the sun for the first time unobstructed and free.

  

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