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Political Correctness Is the Real Bully on the Playground

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Screen shot 2014-06-03 at 1.20.47 AMI grew up in a fairly conservative home and wasn’t ever taught how to be politically correct.

Thank. The. Lord.

Because, today, I am a mother of three elementary children (one with special needs) in a day where the PC police are out of control!  Scratch that.  I mean in control.  Of everything.

Sarcasm aside, I don’t approach this subject lightly.  I was bullied in elementary school.  The real kind of bullying, like when a group kids follows you home, constantly harassing with words that cut deep, and push you down on the playground taking turns stepping on your back.  Not like today’s definition where one 8-year-old child calls another a “Booger Head” during a heated game of tag and has to spend the rest of the day in the counselor’s office doing self-reflection exercises.

Sometime over the last 20 years the definition of “bully” has been changed to mean anything that hurts someone’s feelings, or has the potential of hurting someone’s feelings, or anything that is said or done by every child ever.  When did this happen?  Probably around the time that students started showing up to school with weapons and murdering one another.

So the education system’s knee-jerk response was to eliminate, not only bullying, but normal childhood behavior as well as important natural consequences, like grading work, that would have set them up for success in the real world.

But these poor educators are in an uphill behavior-modification battle against the human nature of tiny people, so campaigning for the cause of bully-awareness has to be applied pretty strong. I recently overheard my daughter talking to her brothers about her “bully” at school.  When I asked her what she thought that meant, she told me it was because he “Chases me all the time and tells everyone that I am his girlfriend”.

Uh….. When I was in Kindergarten we called that kind of behavior “Kindergarten.”

Things like school shootings and teen suicide are very serious and growing issues whose roots need to be exposed and addressed, but my suspicion is that these epidemics have not been spawned by bullying itself (That’s been around as long as there have been people), but by how our generation has been trained to respond to life’s difficulties.  So what does Political Correctness have anything to do with it?  Because the very foundation of PC teaches you that you are a victim, and every school massacre has been justified by its inflicter because of their perceived victimhood.

What kids learn

As parents, we need to see the hardships that our children face at school as incredible opportunities to mold character and endurance necessary for adulthood success into them.  I know this is hard.  I KNOW this is hard.  I have a son with Aspergers who is constantly on the receiving end of playground unkindness and another son who has to watch it happen every day to the brother he loves dearly and defends valiantly.  As painful as it is to see my kids hurting, I want to be so careful of what lessons they are going to learn from how we respond.

Are we going to get angry, storm into the school and demand justice for their wounds, communicating to them that they are victims and in every hardship in life they are owed a defender?

Are we going to tell them, “Tough titties. Suck it up” and just dismiss their hurt, communicating to them that their feelings aren’t legitimate and that something is wrong with them for being too sensitive?

Or are we going to put our arms around a teary-eyed child, enter into that pain with them, feel with them, and then teach them.  Teach them their real value.  teach them that they are going to face more times like these in life.  Teach them that they can use the memory of this pain to have compassion on others.  Teach them that they are not going to be hurt forever.  Teach them to love and pray for those who aren’t fair to them.

Life isn’t fair

We have a saying in our house that we use every time one of the kids cries foul: “If God were fair, we’d all be dead.”  And it’s true.  It wasn’t fair that Jesus took the punishment for our sin when we deserved it.  Love isn’t fair.  And it isn’t very loving to send our kids off to face a world that is competitive and cruel without preparing them for that reality.  How are they going to handle working hard on a project only for their boss to tell them to take it back to the drawing board when their school teachers weren’t allowed to correct their papers with a red pen?  How are they going to handle being turned down by the opposite sex when their parents told them they were a victim every time they were teased?  I think we just saw last week on the news how that turns out.

Is it possible that the real bully here is not the hazing child in the locker room, but political correctness?

Let’s hear your thoughts.

 

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Intolerance Takes the Cake

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One of my happy places is in my kitchen, baking.  I started making fondant cakes a couple of years ago and get a lot of requests from family, friends, and co-workers to provide the desserts for their events.  I also get a lot of “You should really think about making this a business” comments.  I’d love to get paid to bake.  To me, it is art.  My heart, soul, energy, and creativity all go into each one and when it is finished, it’s a little painful to watch the knife make that first cut.

But this blog isn’t about cakes. I wish it could be. Everyone likes cakes.  Instead, it is about something that everyone likes to get up in arms about.  I try to always be considerate of others feelings, hearts, and experiences when writing, and taking a moment to pause, and put myself in another’s shoes before responding usually ends with me holding my tongue all together.  But if I shy away from a controversial topic for the sake of keeping peace, what does that make me? 

I did start the process of obtaining the proper licensing to make and sell cakes from my home, when something stopped me in my tracks and launched me into a philosophical journey on my own.

It was this story:  A Christian photographer in New Mexico who refused to shoot a lesbian wedding ceremony and was sued.  She lost, and lost big.  Her business, reputation, and finances destroyed.  That story was followed by this one and this one, and got me to thinking, “As a whole-Bible believing Christian, What would I do if asked to make a wedding cake for a gay couple?”  Honestly, I didn’t know.  I had never even considered it before. 

This blog isn’t about the morality or theological correctness or incorrectness of homosexuality.  That’s a conversation for a face-to-face coffee date.  This is more about the question, “What would happen to me if I said ‘no?'”  It’s about rights, and freedom, both of the homosexual couple and of the religious person.  These stories beg the question, “Can rights and freedoms exist for both parties harmoniously?”  I don’t know, but when you read these articles, it’s not looking too good.

 Semantics

I love people.  Short people, tall people, gay people, straight people, white people, black people, Asian people, people in the womb and outside of it, pro-choice people, pro-life people, people who live behind white picket fences and those on the streets, democrat, republican, it doesn’t matter.  If you’ve got human DNA, it’s hard for me to see you as anything other than a masterpiece of an indescribable creator, and to see myself as anything more that just as flawed as anyone.

So when words like “Hate” and “Bigot” are hurled at those of us who view a lifestyle as contrary to God’s design, we call foul.  Hate? That hurts my heart.  It’s such a powerful word that, much like love, has been grossly over and misused, and unlike love, has been brilliantly used as a marketing semantic to sway public opinion and slowly strip the rights away from those who hold the Bible to be truth.  Yes, we absolutely want to eradicate hate.  But real hate.  When we eradicate disagreement, we become 1930s Germany, and no one wins. Like I say to my children, “We need to use our words properly”.

The Double Standard

Christians don’t have a perfect tract record for the treatment of others, I’ll be the first to agree.  And the reality of those specific examples in history saddens me, too.  But it seems as though the pendulum of tolerance is in full swing to the extreme opposite side.  I would not expect or fight to require a Hindu to serve me a cheeseburger.  Religious based Carols have been removed from public school Christmas programs so as not to offend the Atheist, and the student whose gender identity is still undecided can choose which sports team he or she wants to play for.  Consideration and accommodation is being made to respect the feelings and convictions of every group except for the Christian.

The LGBT community has fought so hard for so long to get to where they are today: the right to be who they are and live what they believe.  But the freedoms that are held so dear to many of them are the same ones that some are fighting to take away from others.  Mutual respect means it goes both ways.  I respect your sexual orientation, and you respect my beliefs.  

“Coexist” is a popular word used by those taking up these efforts, when forcing Christians to violate their beliefs is actually the opposite of coexisting – it’s forced conformity.  Where is the tolerance for these people and their faith?  Or is open mindedness only for those with one point of view?

Human nature and Utopia

My state of Washington recently voted to allow gay marriage.  On this issue, I didn’t vote.  I just left it blank.  I didn’t know what to put down.  While my biblical beliefs tell me that homosexuality is a sin, I also don’t feel that it is my job to stop people from sinning.  It would be impossible to stop people from sinning, I can’t even stop myself.  A “yes” vote would be condoning said sin, while a “no” vote would be saying that what other people chose to do is somehow up to me.  Since I didn’t agree with either, I just moved on to the next bubble.

It doesn’t bother me if you’re gay.  I think a person is defined by so much more than being gay or straight, and if you want to get married, then go do it, but I expect to be afforded the same respect and not required to use my art to celebrate the occasion.  How is that not discrimination? I’ll tell you: If a gay person asks me to make a cake for a birthday, celebration of a promotion, or just about anything else, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  A person who hated gays wouldn’t do that.  Bakers like me don’t want to turn these orders down because the customer is gay, but because the wedding is.  Are events now a protected class?  Race, religion, gender, and church potlucks?

But I also understand the fear of regression.  If businesses are allowed to refuse service to anyone in the name of religious freedom the potential for abuse is great.  People on the left side of the political spectrum tend to see legislation in favor of protecting religious freedom and their minds go straight back to a wild west culture where minorities and homosexuals lose out on jobs or opportunities just because of who they are.  There are people out there who aren’t wanting to adhere to their faith, but truly do hate, and would take advantage in a regulationless world, I’m not denying that that exists.  And that is unacceptable, too. So what should be done?  Where then is the balance, or are we all destined to step on each others toes, forever infringing on one anothers liberties?

Utopia will always be fiction as long as human nature is at play.  We could be adults about it.  We could agree to disagree.  We could understand that offenses are a part of life and move on to any of the other 10,000 photographers in the phone book, but if the cases mentioned above set the precedent, I can’t say that I’m hopeful.

Your comments and feedback are welcome!  Please be civil and respectful when commenting.

Like this post?  Check out   Of Noble Character – A new Kind of Feminism

Today’s Civil Rights

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On January 22, I posted the following to my Facebook page in recognition of the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade.  Like the previous post, these things are difficult to write about as I know they can strike such a tender cord in the hearts of so many.  But that doesn’t mean they should go without being addressed at all.  It’s not about shame, it’s about love.  It’s about opening the floor for dialogue and starting the conversation toward both healing and action.

I don’t typically like to post things on my Facebook page about abortion. Because, while I pray for and work toward a day when it no longer exists, I also understand that many of my friends, statistically 1 in 3, have experienced an abortion in their past, and are at a variety of phases in the journey of the heart that follows an abortion. If that is you, I want to first say that I love you. I really, really do. My heart is for everyone to feel respected, loved, and heard. “…It’s the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance.” Romans 2:4

Today is also the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion. Since that day, over 55 million abortions have taken place in the US. If you believe that this is THE human and civil rights issue of our day, as I do, will you take an hour with me today to pray for an end to abortion? Regardless of what happens to its legality, let’s work to make it unnecessary, through genuine love and practical support, as the Good Samaritan did. Lets not live to see another 41 years of abortion.

Actual audio from Roe v. Wade trial

Stuff Christians Should Do (And Shouldn’t Do)

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  1. TIP BIG when eating out.  If you pray up, pay up!  Bless your waiter or waitress.
  2. Stay out of debates on Facebook/article comments.  I’ve got a secret for you:  You’ll never change hearts and minds using that outlet, so just stop.  Really.  Walk away.
  3. Apologize.
  4. Take a course on listening skills and practice on your own family.
  5. Go on a mission trip.  not only will you get to serve and be used by the Lord to help others in need, but ministering in another culture can help you see your faith without the filter of Americanism on it.  Separating cultural from actual biblical values brings a fresh appreciation of the truth of scripture.
  6. Actions of love > words of debate.  Serve others.
  7. Read the Bible.  Okay, I know, yes, obvious.  But if you’re going to be sitting around with friends at the coffee shop chiming in on your opinion of the nature of God and whatnot, it had better have come from your searching the scriptures to formulate said opinions.  Who God is and how He rolls is not really a mystery.  It’s in the Bible.  If you wonder, read it to find out.  Otherwise, keep your opinions to yourself.  Don’t devise and spread your theology on what best serves your social perspective or what you gleaned from some blog (except this one, of course, whose information is infallible) 🙂
  8. Get connected.  We’re called the “Body of Christ”.  If you cut off a part of your body, like your pinky finger and hid it away in a drawer, not only is it ineffective, but it starts to become stinky. We all need each other.  Allow those who have gone through life before you to teach you, surround yourself with “Iron sharpening iron” friends, and find someone to disciple.
  9. Get real.  We all have junk.  Sometimes we tend to think we have to prove God to others by putting forward this polished person that our life magically becomes when we add Him to it.  But God will prove HIMSELF through how we allow Him to work on all that junk that’s in our hearts.  Let’s just be real about it.  “A church that cannot grasp a fallen person is a church that a fallen person cannot grasp.”  And unknown to some of us, that includes all of us.
  10. Laugh!  Find the humor in things whenever you can.  It’s good for your body and soul.  God has a sense of humor, if you don’t believe me, just look in the mirror!

Got more?  Add them in the comments below.

Putting The Pieces Together – Our Autism Journey

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I remember holding my firstborn son, Samuel, in my arms all swaddled up in his blue blankie, pacifier in his mouth, and singing to him until he fell asleep for his daily nap.  Everything about him took my breath away.  Everything about him was samuel babyperfect.  Like many parents, I would look down at him and imagine his future:  What sports will he play?  probably Football since his daddy loves it so much.  When will he meet his wife?  He’s so handsome, all the girls will be following him around.  What career path will he choose? Something that can well support a family, I hope.  Web designer, or engineer, though a missionary would be awesome, too.  Samuel’s life according to mom, was looking pretty good.

Dec 28 2005 (47)The lack of hitting developmental milestones can be easy to overlook in the first year or so, especially if you don’t have enough experience with small children to be able to gauge “normal”.  It wasn’t until Samuel’s brother, Silas, just 13 months younger, began to progress as an infant and toddler should, that we began to suspect something may not be right with Samuel.  Little things, like lining up his cars by color, his delay of speech, his adversion to certain textures and water became highlighted by our younger son’s “normal” behavior.

Read our Autism journeyAt age two, with no sign of verbal communication and other behaviors growing worse, our pediatrician referred us to a speech and occupational therapist.  Within a year, Samuel was speaking in sentences and running through the sprinkler.  Washing his hair at bath time no longer required two adults and he had almost completely stopped banging his head on things.  Over the years the therapists used hopeful phrases like “closing the gap” to describe his progress, and we looked forward to a day when we would soon be “past all this stuff.” Just before Samuel turned 5, we moved away and had to stop his sessions.

Screen shot 2013-12-11 at 10.11.39 PMThen: Kindergarten.

That first parent-teacher conference brought us back down to earth.

“Samuel is having a hard time in his overall understanding and I am concerned about some of his behaviors.  He doesn’t seem to grasp anything being taught.  He also doesn’t understand what ‘No’ means, but he can take direction from visual Que-cards.  If I tell him ‘Don’t draw on yourself with the markers’, he looks at me blankly, then continues to draw on his arm. But If I make a sign with a stick-figure drawing  on himself, then put a circle with a line through it, and set that card in front of Samuel, he stops drawing on his arm.”

SAMSUNGFirst grade proved to be even more telling.  Samuel struggled socially.  Samuel struggled academically.  Samuel just struggled.  It was this teacher that got the ball rolling by saying what I imagine had to be very difficult for her.  “Samuel is not meeting the standards, and I really don’t know if he is able to.  I know this is hard, but it may help you to have him evaluated by a psychiatrist.”

It was so discouraging.  We didn’t want a “Label” on our son, but we wanted answers.  We wanted to know how to help him, teach him, and communicate with him, but we didn’t want to give him a crutch, which we thought saying the word, “Aspergers” might do.  Home life was growing more and more difficult.  Samuel was easily aggravated by his siblings, schedule changes, loud noises, and usually responded with aggression.  We needed help, but getting answers was no easy process.

First, we had to visit the Ped, who referred us to our local community mental health organization, who referred us to the Gonzaga Autism Program, who sent us to the school district’s psychiatrist, who said they don’t diagnose, and only SAMSUNGevaluate students for academic purposes, not social or sensory reasons….. and months later we were back to the ped again.  Our second referral, now into his second-grade year, was to the Northwest Neurobehavioral  Institute, where after a 12 hour evaluation and testimonials completed by teachers, our ped, and my husband and I, we finally received a diagnosis:  High Functioning Autism. 

I don’t think that anything could have prepared me for that moment.  It was a mixture of great relief for finally having an answer, and mourning for the loss of the life that I had projected for him in my mind.  Then the questions:  What will this look like going forward? Will he ever get married? What kind of a dad would he be? Will we need to support him forever? Will he go to college? What next?  What I remember feeling the most at that time was alone.  I needed someone to lean on emotionally while I processed this, and not someone with little knowledge and big answers.

first day of schoolSamuel is now in 4th grade, and I would say that we’re really starting to learn how to navigate these waters.  Each challenge that presents itself tugs at our heartstrings, bringing with it the “What-ifs”.  The worst of those are the days, or even weeks, when we go challenge-free and tend to forget about Autism until something happens and it shows up in full force, and a little bit of that mourning for the non-existent made-up son comes back again.  Getting a diagnosis like this for your child can be heartbreaking, but it can also be an opportunity to fall in love with your child in a way that is amazing and unique.  Here’s a few lessons we’ve learned along the way:

Love your child for exactly who they are.  This part comes after acceptance and letting go.  Your child will be better for it, and your heart will be better for it.  “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” – Proverbs 16:9

Pick and choose your battles.  And oooooooooooooh, do you have battles with an autistic child!  We basically take each situation as it comes and put it into one of three categories:

  1. This is a behavior issue needing correction.
  2. This is an Autism issue that can be accommodated.
  3. This is an Autism issue that we need to help him overcome so he can be successful in life.

For example, eye-rolling when told it’s time to start our homework would be number one and would need a discipline.  Changing his shirt 4 times in a day because he gets a raindrop on it and doesn’t like the way it feels is inconvenient for me as the laundry doer, sure, but it’s not hurting him or anyone else and is really OK.  Not wanting to wear his seat belt because it makes him claustrophobic, however,  falls into number 3 (or as we call it, the ‘too damn bad’ category).

Tell your child.  Don’t make it license for them to do whatever they want, but don’t hide it either for the sake of protecting them from the dreaded label.  If your child is very high-functioning like ours, he knows that he doesn’t fit in.  Hiding it from him will always make him wonder why.  There can be freedom in an answer.

Tell their siblings.  Samuel’s autism has forced some maturity on our other children.  They understand why Samuel has some different standards than they do (like not being required to make eye contact when talking to an adult), and it wouldn’t be fair to them to not explain why that is.  It gives them compassion for his meltdowns and, for us, has been a great opportunity to teach the kids how to pray for each other.

For God’s sake, laugh about it!  Yes!  It IS OK to find the humor in the quirky things they do.  Sometimes I will refer to Samuel as Mr. Spock, or have a good laugh over stories shared with other moms who have children on the spectrum.  It’s very therapeutic.

Praise their strengths!  Children, and adults, with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism often beat themselves up for their failures.  They’re usually extremely good at some things, and extremely bad at other things.  Praise them for the things they are very good at, and offer help to them for the things they aren’t so great at.

Be their advocate.  Go to any length to get them the help they need.  Early intervention and therapy can make a HUGE difference in the life of an autistic child.  Research.  Get a 504 plan or an IEP.  If you suspect your child needs to be evaluated, annoy the bajeezers out of your doctor until you get it.  Stand up for them.  Don’t be afraid to “educate” people who are treating them unfairly.  I am a pretty passive person, and I have had to grow some serious mama bear claws when it comes to dealing with others who interact with my son.  Lastly,

Love them some more.  Everything about him takes my breath away.  And everything about him is perfect.

autism-ribbon

Just One Chapter In My Favorite Love Story

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“Mercy and wrath met at the cross, and both walked away victorious”

A Princess in peril, an enemy, a valiant Prince who, driven by radical love, risks life and limb to save her.   Before these familiar love story themes were ever prefaced by “Once upon a time”, the world already knew them.  They resonate so deeply within us because they come from the very heart of God, finding their roots in the story He has been writing since creation.  One of my favorite chapters in this epic romance comes from John 8:1-11, in what’s known as “The woman caught in adultery”.

“Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”  They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When thewoman-caught-in-adultery accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.  And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”’

What a beautiful picture of  a Holy God’s extravagant love for His creation.  Line by line of this woman’s encounter with Jesus, you can see it:  The undeserved, nonsensical, radical love He has for us.

“All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” – Jesus levels the field for her.  Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  There is no class system for sin.  Abortion or drunkenness, gossip or adultery, sin is sin, and not one of her accusers was without it.  Jesus makes it clear that The ground at the foot of the cross is level.

“When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman” – Jesus stayed with her when everyone else left.  Jesus remains, even in the midst of our sin.  He will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

“Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’  ‘No, Lord,’ she said.”  Jesus didn’t force His reality on her.  He didn’t say, “Look around, no one is condemning you, so you should feel better now.”  But He, being the perfect counselor, gently led her through good questions to a realization of the truth on her own.  Time spent conversing with Jesus will illuminate the truth in our own hearts.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I.” – The only one there who was actually qualified to throw a stone at her extended a hand of grace.  Many people judge, condemn, and mistreat us, but Christ, the only Holy one, without sin, pursues us in love, picks us up off the ground, and holds us in His arms.  Grace is unmerited favor.  That’s what makes it amazing.

“Go and sin no more.”  – Anyone who would stop this story at “Neither do I”  for the sake not wanting to “ruin” the grace part just prior is missing out on one of the best elements of the story!  “Go and sin no more” is not a call to ‘follow all the rules or else’, It’s not a ‘I forgive you this time, but you’d better straighten up now.”  When Jesus told her this, He believed in and affirmed her ability to have His best life for herself.  He set her free to see herself living in a way she never thought possible.  It is a command to have a full, abundant life.  It is a command to stay close to grace and let Jesus in to the deepest recesses of your heart to refine you along the way.  Within these two sentences lies an important balance.  Grace meets the father-heart of God that longs to see His child happy and whole.  We can’t neglect this part.  It is made possible only because of the work of the Cross.

A lot of factors could have kept Jesus from responding to her the way He did, and are often the same ones that keep us, His people, from responding to others the way He did:  Cultural pressure and the low regard for a woman in her situation, being interrupted in His teaching, protecting His reputation, and intense scrutiny from the crowd.  But Jesus, the valiant Prince, risked it all to demonstrate the real heart of God.

How, in my life,  have I been the woman caught in adultery, and what can I learn about God’s heart toward me from this story?

How, in my life, have I been the accusing crowd, and what can I learn about God’s heart towards others from this story?

How, in my life, have I given into the pressures around me and not responded in extravagant love toward others, and how can I learn to respond the way He did?

“What Would Jesus Do?”  is speculation.  “What DID Jesus Do” is no mystery.  It’s written throughout scripture, in the greatest love story ever written.

Grace For The Journey

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“God will fix a fix to fix ya”, Pastor Phil Harris said, as we sat with them in their living room.  He was referring to someone else at the time, but it stuck with me because I thought it was deep and catchy.  A few years later, God fixed me a good fix, in an area of my heart I didn’t know needed fixing.

I sat on the edge of my bed with a few glasses of wine in me and a safety pin in my hand.  I was listening for the kids, making sure they were distracted with their movie with no chance of one of them walking in on what I was about to do.  Then a thought occurred, “What if this gets infected?  How am I going to explain this away to a doctor, especially when I work for a ministry?”  So I took out a lighter and held the pin in the flame to clean it, then pressed the tip into the skin on my arm just far enough for it to look like a cat scratch, and pulled the pin all the way down my arm.  I was desperate for escape, but couldn’t go through with going all the way, though that was an option I dwelt on frequently.  I still have the letters I wrote to my kids, just in case I couldn’t handle the darkness anymore.  “How did I get here?  How did I get here?’

It was the perfect storm, really.  A constant pain in my side from cysts that lasted for weeks and weeks.  Some days, I couldn’t stand up straight for a whole day.  I started taking Vicoden to help with the pain.  When that stopped helping, I was upgraded to Percocet, round the clock.  I had surgery to remove one ovary, and when that didn’t help, I had another surgery to remove the last one.  I remember coming home from that procedure, and as if someone had flipped a light switch, I was drowning in inexplicable sorrow. I should have been so happy that my pain was finally gone, but instead I couldn’t stop sobbing.  I was coming off a painkiller addiction while transitioning from my natural hormones to synthetic ones.  And while hormonal issues may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, God wanted to use that time to bring to the surface deeply rooted troubles in my heart, and I fought Him tooth and nail.

I am a bit of a rules girl.  It’s just common sense, really.  Obey the rules, avoid the consequences.  In hindsight, there has been a part of me that applied that principal to walking with Jesus.  I would read of Job’s trials and listen to testimonies of people who walked through difficult seasons and the lessons they learned along the way, and none of that sounded appealing.  I didn’t really recognize it then, but I was too afraid of being hurt for the sake of spiritual growth to let God in to change my heart.  So I just came up with my own work-around:  Being the best Christian ever.

Follow the rules, no refining necessary.

I never missed church.  I read my bible.  I didn’t break the speed limit.  I went to small group.  I didn’t swear or drink (Oh, how times have changed).  I didn’t burn CDs or listen to seedy music.  I had to do everything right.

The problem?  That pesky old fallible human thing we all have.  It makes it kind of a drag when you’re trying to walk out your faith in your own strength.  I didn’t know just how badly I was hating on myself for falling short of perfection until it was highlighted by the emotionally dark place my medical circumstance had thrust me into.  And I needed that perfection to avoid the need for a possibly painful heart lesson.

Grace for salvation, I understood.  Grace for the journey, I didn’t.

And I didn’t want to understand it, because that meant letting go of control.  It meant really trusting the Lord to hold my heart.  It meant believing that, though the refining may be rough, the product at the end would be something beautiful.  And I didn’t know if I could really believe that.  It also meant surrendering the pride that built up from years of believing that my efforts made me spiritual.

Depression for me, as miserable of a feeling as it is, was a bit of a hiding place.  I  hated it, but it was familiar, comfortable, and allowing myself to wallow there never challenged me to face my problems.  I ran from God for a year on the inside, while trying to keep up the charade on the outside.  I didn’t want to be fixed, but I didn’t want to just walk away from 14 years of a faith I had given my life to, either, and I was tormented trying to decide on one or the other.  So I just stayed where I was: drinking, cutting, crying, look like I have it all together at work and church, repeat.

Then one night, last January, the Lord woke me up in the middle of the night and took me to John 13:3-9

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”  Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”  Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Then, I HEARD (like, with my actual ears), the voice of Jesus say to me, “Courtney, let me wash you”.

The King of Heaven was pursuing me, and my eyes were starting to become opened to see grace for the journey. 

“Let me wash you”

I did.  I cried and cried, and thanked God, and cried some more.  I asked Him to wash me, and felt His presence move in with a peace I had been missing for so long.  I remember waking up and looking at the world through new eyes, much like I did when I met Him.  Prayer was better, more real.  Worship was better, more awe of Him.  A rush of joy was only a God-thought away.  But I wasn’t completely out of the woods.  I don’t know that I will be until I am standing with Him in eternity.

It’s been two steps forward and one step back, and as time goes by, it’s become 3 or 4 steps forward.  I still struggle with depression, but it is no longer my life.  As each wave presents itself I have to make a choice:  Am I going to go to the dark place, or am I going to worship and let Jesus wash me?  Those are the times when I really, really, don’t feel like worshiping.  I’ll just be honest, I don’t chose right every time, but I’ve never been disappointed when I have.

I used to see this whole “grace for the journey” thing as someone trying to keep their balance on a fence, and on one side of the fence is sin and lawlessness, and on the other side of the fence is religion, works, and self-righteousness, and to do it right, one would have to always be checking themselves to make sure they’re not leaning too far to one side or the other.  It took these dark days for me to see that such grace is not a balancing act.  It’s a dance with Jesus. That makes it even more amazing.  Sara Young says it so beautifully in her devotional book, Jesus’ Calling:

“Because you are human, you will continue to make mistakes. Thinking that you should live an error-free life is symptomatic of pride.  Your failures can be a source of blessing, humbling you and giving you empathy for other people in their weaknesses. Best of all, failure highlights your dependence on Me.  I am able to bring beauty out of the morass of your mistakes. Trust Me, and watch to see what I will do.  Romans 8:28; Micah 7:7”

I am amazed by His love.  I am so thankful for what He’s brought me through.  I am so humbled to be pursued.  If that was what it took for me to learn all of that, it was worth it.  Now that I have tasted and seen for myself what the light at the end of the tunnel looks like, I can say with all confidence that the trail is worth it.  The refining is worth it.  If you are where I was two years ago and don’t believe me, you don’t have to take my word for it.  God will fix a fix to fix you.

I leave you with these lyrics from Kim Walker-Smith’s song, Unstoppable Love

Try to stop Your love and You would wage a war
Try to take the very thing You gave Your life for
You would come running
Tear down every wall
All the while You’re shouting
“My Love, you’re worth it all”.

God you pursue me with power and glory
Unstoppable Love that never ends
You’re unrelenting with passion and mercy
Unstoppable Love that never ends

You broke into the silence and sang your song of hope
A melody resounding in the deep of my soul
You have come running
You tore down every wall
All the while you’re shouting,
“My Love you’re worth it all”

No sin, no shame,
No past, no pain
Can separate me from Your love
No height, no depth,
No fear, no debt
Can separate me from Your love

Special thanks to my awesome Pastor, Lori, for her loving patience, and prayerful counsel during this time.

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