Pulled Hair

Remember how much it hurts to get your hair pulled (whether by accident or on purpose?) If not, go ahead give a piece of your hair a good tug. After that, try gripping the hair closest to your scalp and pulling from the end of that piece your holding. Does it hurt as much? Or at all? It doesn’t.

When I let the world make an opinion of me, when I let people around me decide who I am, it only leads to pain and insecurity. They tug you this way and that leading you to believe the labels they have placed on you. “Ugly.” “Fat.” “Too emotional.” “Nerd.” Those words and accusations sting. And they can tear us apart if we give them that power.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, I was in 5th grade. There was a new student in class and I offered to help be the person she could ask questions to if she was lost or anything. We became friends and trust was built the only way trust can be built between two 11 year old girls: “Tell me who you like. I promise I won’t tell anyone.” She asked me and I told her.

“Sam.”

A pinky promise later and I was feeling pretty good. The next day or so the new girl comes up to me and is holding a letter in her hand. she hands it to me and says “this is from Sam*”

Sam? THE SAM! He had written me a letter. A confession of undying love, no doubt. My heart pounded as I opened it right away. My eyes frantically skimmed the words. It was a hate letter. Well, a hate poem. He insulted me using rhymes. I’m 23 now and I can still remember a few phrases. “Your voice sounds like an alien” and “Your hair looks like hay.” He cleverly ended the note with “Hating you, Sam.” I didn’t cry or even feel like crying. I reported the letter to the principal and he had to sit out of recess for a day (Yay, justice system.) I can’t help but think that God was whispering to me as I read that letter. “That’s not true. That’s not true. I think you are beautiful, and funny and smart. Because I made You. I made You and I love you.” That letter didn’t destroy me or my self-esteem because my esteem is in Christ.

When I  believe that the only opinion that matters of me in the universe is God; when I grip the roots of love, the roots of truth, when people say mean stuff and do mean things. It might hurt, yeah, and that is okay. But it does not hurt near as bad as if we accept what others think about us to be true. Grip the roots today and see what a difference it makes.

But really, why?

It’s a New Year and many Christians will download the “Bible in a year” app on their phone with the thoughts of “Yes, this year I will read through the Bible. I will!” And then, if you’re like me, you do so well for a month and by February you forget a couple days and then decide you’re too far behind and will try again next year. I heard a sermon last Sunday all about the importance of reading your bible. I’ve heard it all before yet why do I still struggle to get in the word every day. It’s like Paul said: I don’t do the things I know I should and I do the things I know I shouldn’t do. (my own words) I know I should be reading the bible but I don’t. Instead, I read the whole Hunger games series in a week, or watch episode after episode of New girl. Or spend hours on youtube. I know I shouldn’t be spending so much time doing those things, but I do. So the question I am asking myself and am going to answer honestly is: Why? Why don’t I read the Bible?

I came up with several reasons why.  And maybe you can relate to a few.

I’m very emotionally-driven and so when I sit down and read the Bible I feel like there’s something wrong with me or my relationship with God if I’m not having this big emotional moment like so many Christians talk about. I’ve heard friends come up to me and say “Ya know Marlie, I was reading this passage yesterday and man God just flooded me with a peace and love.” Well, that’s great. But now I have this expectation that if I read that same passage, I too must be flooded with the same emotions.    It’s similar to the feeling of shame you get when you’re watching a movie and you know you should be crying because it’s sad. And all your friends told you they cried when they watched it. But, You watch it, don’t cry, and your friends ask you later about it and you lie and say “OH YEAH i WAS A WRECK. A BALL OF TEARS MAN.” Cause we didn’t want to be labeled as “cruel” or “heartless” or have someone ask us if we had seen what had happened. 

I’m scared to sit in silence or meditate on God’s word because I’m scared He won’t speak to me or that He will and I’ll miss it. I’m scared I’ll walk away from an experience with way more questions than answers. The world makes thing simple: love your friends, hate your enemies, be happy and be successful. Just basically do you cause you deserve it. You open up the Bible because you’re stuck in a tough situation with a friend and you realize that following Christ means forgiving that person, praying for them, loving them.  Cause let’s face it, following Christ is hard. Love our enemies? Pray for those who persecute us? All the while the Enemy and our sinful nature team up against us and tell us all sorts of lies. No, you deserve to be angry at that person. What they did was crossing the line. 

The world also makes things fast. I went through the drive-thru of a restaurant, it was lunch hour so there were tons of people. I ordered, paid and got my food in less than two minutes. It was almost creepy how fast it was. We’re all obsessed with our own schedules and we hate when something is late. Sometimes I find myself treating God the same way. “Oh hey God, I’m going to give you this 5-10 minutes to speak to me via my time in the Word, prayer or in meditation. So speak now or forever hold your peace.” And it’s wrong, so wrong for me to expect God to work in my time-frame. It leads to so much uneasiness on my part when He doesn’t speak in the timeframe I give him. The enemy has a field day in those moments when God (from my perspective) is not speaking.

And finally, I struggle with the why.     Why do we read the Bible? I know it’s God’s word. I believe that. Do we read it to better know God? To better understand His story? To change ourselves? To make ourselves feel better? I was pretty scarred once at a bible study when someone said something along the lines of only selfish terrible people look for comfort in the bible. it’s not about us.  the bible is only so we can know God better.  Do I believe what he said? Not at all. But does it still haunt me, yes.

These are some of the things that keep me from reading the Bible. Aside, from blatant rebellion, pride and laziness which I think are the more surface level issues. These are more of the issues that are beyond the surface. Hence the blog title. I long to be more honest and vulnerable because when you are, someone can say “Yeah, I feel that way too.” And suddenly, the shame and fear of being alone in a struggle is gone. My mom shared something with me on facebook today and I want to share it with you guys too.

“When we are going through difficulties and start to get discouraged, we often stop reading the Bible…and that is exactly what the enemy wants you to do. He wants you to lose hope and believe his lies that say God has abandoned you, that God doesn’t hear your prayers and that God doesn’t care about you. We are in spiritual battles and the Bible is the Sword of the Spirit…it is the offensive weapon we’ve been given to battle back against the doubts, fears and lies the enemy whispers to us. When you start to doubt God’s character and His promises, read your Bible. God’s word is truth and when you use it to fight back against anything that goes against what God has declared in His word, you will start to see mental and spiritual victories in your life.”–Debbie Kay

A Tale of many Tails (Part 1)

This is the story of how I lost one cat and gained three more:

I walked into the office at my school and found my mom holding a kitten.  She told me “Happy Birthday!” and I flipped out. Words cannot describe the joy I felt. It was my birthday and the one thing I had pleaded for was a kitten. We had one cat (Pepper) who didn’t do much but sleep and cough up hairballs.

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Here’s Pepper hydrating himself after all of his sleeping.

Since I couldn’t bring this new kitten to class, I left school with my mom for the day. I named her Maisy and her face melted my heart. She was playful and loving.

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THAT FACE. *Melt*

A few months passed and we took Maisy to the vet to get her fixed. It was then that we were told that Maisy was actually a boy. (I’ll leave this one up to you.) So, HE got fixed and now I was left to rename him. After a lot of thinking, I decided that the name Maisy had already stuck. So, I changed the spelling. Maisy (soo girly) to Mayzie (MANLY). Z’s are manly, right? Ah well. It worked for me. A year passed and Mayzie was growing fast. He also was a jerk. He hated being held or pet. An arrogant but beautiful cat. Nonetheless, I had cat and I was happy.

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His normal face.

Mayzie was an indoor/outdoor cat and one day he just didn’t come home. I had him for 4 years and suddenly he was gone. Mom and I walked around the neighborhood calling for him, we drove to the nearby neighborhood and called for him. We put up “Lost Cat” posters and our hearts jumped every time the phone rang.And our hearts sank every time because no one called to bring the words I so desperately wanted to hear. “Hey, I found your cat.” Pepper was pleased at the sudden absence of another feline but I couldn’t stand the thought of Mayzie being gone. I begged God to bring him back. I wanted him back.

A very long month had passed and still no sign of Mayzie. We decided to give the animal shelter a try. Maybe someone found him and turned him in. Things get pretty interesting here. We didn’t find Mayzie. But we did run into a lady who worked for a local cat rescue organization. She needed volunteers to foster kittens. We told her we needed something to fill the Mayzie shaped hole in our hearts.  It was perfect. We shook hands and  by Monday,we had our first group of kittens.

(Boring details: our job as foster owners, we raise the kittens until they are old enough to be fixed, once fixed we take them each Saturday to the local pet store and they are (hopefully) adopted! We take them each week until all are adopted. then, the cat rescue people find us more kittens to foster. Most shelters will not keep very young cats because they can’t be fixed until a certain age and they won’t waste the space waiting on the kittens to be old enough. This cat rescue organization takes the kittens from the animal shelter or ones found outside and places them in homes like ours)

Okay back to this first batch of kittens.

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Periwinkle, Oliver and Rizzo.

I got to play, love on and hang out with these sweet faces after a long day at school or work. Rizzo was adopted first and so we were left with Periwinkle and Oliver for another week. Fine by me. About half way through the week, a crazy thought occured. What if we adopted Oliver and Periwinkle. I had taken a special liking to Oliver and Oliver really liked Periwinkle so separating them would be totally cruel, right? Right. So, we welcomed Oliver and Periwinkle into our home (much to Pepper’s dismay)

Week of endless bliss passed as kittens came in and out of our homes. As if things couldn’t get any better, my mom got a call that a litter of newborn kittens were found in a bush with their mom. They asked if we’d be willing to foster them. UHHH YES!!!  Five 2-day old kittens and their beautiful mom moved in.  Eyes closed, ears closed, little balls of furr. I got to watch these kittens nurse, open their eyes, learn to walk and run.

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One by one they were adopted until only one kitten was left. All the cats were staying in the office (door closed) but we didn’t want to leave the last kitten in the office alone. So we let him have free roam of the house. Him and Oliver got a long really well and that thought occurred again. “What if we adopted this kitten?” So we did which brought our cat total to 4.  Our time as a foster home ended afterwards and we had saved 5-8 litters of kittens. AWESOME. And though Pepper has died, we still have Oliver, Periwinkle and Phantom.

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Lie: Love should always feel good.

The greatest act of love in human history was the Son of God being crucified on a cross. Crown of thorns on his head, nails in his hand, 40 lashes on his back, suffocation on a cross.

And we have the nerve to look someone in the face and say “I just don’t love them anymore. That feeling is gone.”

The  greatest act of love in human history did not revolve around feelings. Thorns, nails, whips, hanging on a cross till He suffocated? Sorry if I’m jesus-juking* everyone here, but the Cross didn’t feel good…at all. If we as Christians are to love like Jesus did, then with the pain of the Cross, we can conclude that perhaps Love is not about feelings. then what is it about? well let’s look at the Cross and the man who died on it:

Love is a choice: Jesus willingly came to Earth and willingly died. Every whip, every beating, every breath he struggled for, was him choosing to save you over himself.

Love is action: Jesus didn’t just waltz around the Earth talking the talk telling everyone He loved them. He proved it with his life and death.

Love is sacrifice: Jesus put the needs of others (reconciliation with God) over his own needs.

Love is submitting: Jesus submitted Himself to His father’s will, “Not your will but Mine” He said as he sweat so hard, that he sweat drops of blood.

Want more? please go to 1 Cornthians 13. replace the word love with God.

read it again and replace the word love with your own name. Did ya cringe, feel like you were lying at some parts? Congratulations welcome to the club. We’re self-serving, self-righteous, self-seeking human beings. But God loves us right where we are. I pray  that knowledge travels from our head to our heart., that we may grow in the understanding of the height and depth of our Father’s love for us.

Can love involve feelings? Of course. There’s nothing wrong with that. Do not use the words love and feelings interchangeably.  I heard a pastor say once “As I spent more and more time married to my wife, I realized love was not about my feelings, love was a choice. I had to wake up each morning and choose to love my wife that day no matter what. Because no matter what, God loved her. And who was I to say anything different?”

For God so loved the world…

And who are we to say anything different?

Love today.

(((***In case you are unaware of this term, this is an example of what the kids call being “Jesus-juked”: Boy 1: “these books are so heavy.” boy 2: “I bet Jesus wasn’t complaining when He carried the cross! Boom. Jesus-juked!”*)))

I spent almost a full year as a 13 year old pretty unscathed. Well, I guess we all spend a year being 13. But, I’ll never forget that year because it was the biggest wake up call of my life. Several things happened to me in about a four month span and they all hit me pretty hard. Some people get hit by actual buses, and others get hit by psychological buses. There must have been a parade of psychological buses cause I got hit multiple times.

I spent years begging my parents to get me a dog. We had one cat at the time, he was old though…not the most interesting creature. I wanted a dog, a best friend. Lo and behold,  when I was 9 my mom took me to the pound and we adopted one. Her name: Sweetie.  We learned through the years that that name applied to her on conditional terms. Sweetie was strange. She was a lhasa apso/shitzu mix, so she had that awesome tail.  she LOVED car rides, french fries and barking. BOY THIS DOG COULD BARK. She looked like a dog that would chirp or yelp. nope, she barked like a hound dog. Anyways, she was old when we got her (had back problems) and right around Christmas of 06′ her health started declining, and fast. I think we’ve all been there before. It’s so hard seeing the life drain out of an animal that had so much energy and personality. (Sweetie was a diva) In December, I walked into the Vet’s office with my dog in my arms (as she shook) and walked out that same door with nothing but memories. The house was very empty and quiet when I walked in that evening. I missed her so much, but she wasn’t in pain anymore. I learned a life lesson that Christmas: Sometimes the best gift you can give someone you love is to put their needs above your own desires.

February rolled around and so did some more rough news. My friend had invited me to her youth group since I had stopped going to the one at my old church. I had a blast the first time I went. Me, her and my other good friend went every Wednesday. The youth leaders were fantastic. They were hilarious and engaging as they brought the message each wednesday. By the time February ended, both youth pastors had left. One by choice and one by circumstance. At that age, you believe that everyone has it all together…especially adults… and hearing that one left because God called him somewhere but he doesn’t know where, and that the other was asked to resign…it was a pretty big moment where I realized “Hey…adults aren’t perfect. and they don’t have it all together.” I’m thankful for that lesson at an early age because it helps me feel okay when I didn’t have everything together (which is always)

March was the toughest, though. Without a doubt. I’m very confident that this part of my life has been used by God and will continue to be used by Him because otherwise…I just don’t have a clue why it had to happen. So, I met my best friends in Junior High. They had all gone to a different Elementary school in the district than me  ( they all had grown up together) and when I met them in band, they welcomed me into their circle right away. Bunch of personalities they were. We were always laughing, making jokes, being crazy hormonal acne covered teenagers. Invincible and the smartest things on earth, we trudged through classes…and spent the afternoons playing airsoft, watching TV and playing Halo 2. March rolled around and we all day-dreamed of Summer and tried to not pee ourselves with the reality of High school around the corner. There were 7 of us in  that tight knit group. And on March 22, there were 6. We all had 7th period together and didn’t think much of it when he wasn’t there that Thursday. That night my best friend’s mom called to talk to my mom. I didn’t think much of it when I handed the phone to my mom and ran up to my room to continue playing computer games. And when my mom called me downstairs and told me that he had committed suicide, I couldn’t stop thinking. My best friend came over that night with her mom. We all talked for a little bit, then my friend and I ran upstairs and sat on my bed, like we usually did on sleepovers, but instead of talking about boys and school, we talked about him and avoided the question we both were thinking: why?

I had no idea that people could reach such a low point in their lives. I knew people died, but  I didn’t know some people chose to. The six of us, with the floor taken out from underneath us, held on to each other; as we faced a world that remained silent to issues such as suicide and cutting. We held on to each other as we cried, laughed, did memorials, shared stories. When you love someone, tell them, even if you know they already know: hearing you say that you love them will give them something to hold on to when they reach low points in life. I don’t know who I would be today if  I hadn’t gone through this. I experienced some of my darkest nights that summer. I would not have made it without those six amazing, strong individuals who I will always have a very unique bond with because of those months. I lost touch with a few of them but they will always, always be in my heart. I would not have made it if my mom hadn’t taken me to counseling. I can’t stress it enough, you can’t do this alone. Get help. You are worth it.

March 22, 2007 (3/22/07) will always haunt me. A few months after it happened, I found  a verse in Lamentations, Chapter 3, verse 22.

“Because of the Lord’s great love; We are not consumed for his compassion never fail; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”

The verse before it says “Yet this call I to mind and therefore I have hope…”

Because God  loves me, I have not and will not be consumed by grief, sin, lust, depression, addiction or the world. His compassion for me never falters, never gives up. He loves me the same each morning, now that’s what faithfulness is. When dogs die, and pastors fail us, and friends die. God is the constant presence of hope and love. Not the kid on the ant hill, but the Father whose heart breaks for the sin and brokeness of the world. He takes the ashes, and creates beauty out of it.

“Lord you took up my case, you redeemed my life.” Lam 3:58

My time with Hollywood

His name was Hollywood. Well, Chris, but everyone who knew him called him Hollywood. He was a snare drummer in our band and after each rehearsal asked if anyone wanted to go to Taco Bueno with him. I remember he had asked me one time if I wanted to go and was surprised he even cared to ask me because I didn’t think we were that close of friends. I said no and blamed it on time and how I had a class at two. He was famous for giving the best bear hugs and lighting up any room he walked in with his larger than life personality.

Every year our band marches in a Veteran’s day parade. And according to the upperclassmen, the parade that happened on November 11, 2011 was the best one yet all because of Hollywood. It was one of those moments you had to be there for because writing it down just does not do it justice. You might ask “How does one guy make a parade so great?” To which all i can say is “You had to have known Hollywood.” After the parade one of my good friends Laura, a bass drummer, asked if I wanted to go to lunch with her and Michelle. I almost said no but agreed to go at the last minute.

They had decided on Chick-fil-a and once we arrived and I saw the rest of the percussion section sitting down, I got really nervous. I was a freshman and a trumpet player. I didn’t know any of the percussionists that well. This was going to be awkward, I had decided. I ordered my food and hesitantly walked to the table with all them. Hollywood was the the first to acknowledge me and said “Hey, come sit down!” A wave of relief washed over me. I was welcome. He asked what my major was and then started ranting about the Chick-fil-a sauce.

“Have you ever tried this stuff? It’s so good I could drink it with a straw. Here try some.”

He talked a mile a minute and quickly slid one of the 8 individual containers of chickfila sauce across the table to me. It was some of the best sauce I had ever had. I nodded in agreement, letting him know I liked it. He seemed happy to have been the one to introduce me to that delicious condiment.

Later on in the meal, we were going around the table asking each other “If (name) was an animal, what animal would they be?”  I silently listened and thought about each person. Dogs, flamingos, and other animals were passed around as ideas for the different people. When it was Hollywood’s turn, a hawk (or some other bird of prey) came to my mind. Nothing seemed to effect him. He had a wife, two kids, his school work, plus marching band and the band fraternity. Yet, he remained seamless and stable through it all. He spoke first.

“I kind of see myself as some stinking awesome bird of prey.” My mouth dropped. I spoke up.

“Me too! I would have to say a hawk. You seem to soar above everything, like nothing or no one can effect you.” I meant it as a compliment and he took it as one. The rest of the meal was a blur, but as we all got up to leave, Chris and some of the others stopped in line to get something else to eat. Michelle, Laura and I had walked out of the restaurant already. Laura stopped, turned around and  as she walked towards the restaurant said to us “I’m going to go say goodbye to them.”  We stood there and both murmured something along the lines of “We’ll see them tomorrow.”

It was a Friday and I had driven home for the weekend. I was on facebook late that night and saw a facebook status explaining that Chris had died.

“What.” I said out loud. “No, no no no no no. Not Chris. Has to be another Chris.”  I commented on the status asking for clarification.

Chris, the band’s Hollywood, had indeed died that night in motorcycle accident. I remember saying to myself over and over, “There’s no way. I just had lunch with him that day. There’s no way.”  He was gone.

Band rehearsal was weird, almost sickening, without Chris. It was still and quiet. The guy who could make all of us laugh without fail during band was gone. The room seemed darker, thicker without him. I had never met someone who had that much influence on the dynamic in a room, just by being there. We all expected and hoped that he would just burst through the band hall doors during rehearsal. Reality sunk in deeper and deeper as the door remained closed and his drums remained untouched.

To this day, I ask for chick-fil-a sauce every time I go there to eat.To this day, I have yet to meet someone who had the same enthusiasm for life and a love as deep as his for people, the drums and his family. I did not know Chris well, but I am so thankful for the time I had with him. Today I pray for his wife, three kids, his parents, and all of his friends who had shared many meals with Chris.

May God comfort them on this day.

Pursuit

A child is swinging at a park as the sun sets. His father calls to him and tells him to follow him home. He gets off the swing and begins to walk towards him but as he does he becomes distracted. The field to his right had a lot of kids running around and playing. They were chasing the fireflies. The child, being a child, wanted to too. So he did. He began to chase one, one second he was running full speed after a firefly the next his face was in dirt. He had tripped over a log. Children around him were still giggling as they chased their fireflies. The child had rolled over on his back, only to see a hand in front of him. The child continued to look up and realized it was his father, there to pick him up. The child accepted the hand and stood there in disbelief as his father picked him up and dusted him off. 

Our world is full of unsatisfying things to chase. We make gods out of money, our things and people. We enjoy the chase until it stops going our way. The money stops coming in, our car breaks down, or someone we love disappoints us. When things like this happen we face plant. We turn over on our backs looking for help, when the least expected thing happens. Our Father, Our God, offers His hand. 

We didn’t listen to him, we rejected him. He has every right to close the door, lock it and never look back. But, He does quite the opposite. He runs towards us, He forgives. He is everlasting, unchanging, the only constant light we have in our life.