Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Blog

I'm now blogging at Caffeine, Jesus, and Pontification

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Being A Christian Is Hard

There are a few things I'm really good at.
Making people laugh, for example.
Writing, for another.
Brewing a pot of really strong coffee, most of all.
I am not, apparently, good at being a Christian.

Being a Christian is hard. If you're a stand-up comedian, the only thing you're expected to do is crack people up while they eat their mozzarella sticks, and you sip your beer. If you're a newspaper reporter, it's your job to report the facts. If you're a Christian, though, you have to not just play the role but live the part.

Some people are genuinely good at it, and some people fake their way through. Some folks radiate joy and peace, and others have a make believe smile slapped across their face. Most people can tell the difference and are turned off by the latter.

There there are people like me - rough around the edges, with a good heart, and still very much a work in progress. There are things we struggle to keep in check - for me it's my temper and my knee-jerk reaction to perceived hurt, and they usually go hand-in-hand. I've always been very open about this fact.

Sometimes I feel like being a Christian is a lot like an inmate going before the parole board. Yes, I know that's going to be a very unpopular view and I'll probably get flack for it, but allow me the luxury of being brutally honest for a moment. You may have robbed a bank at gunpoint one day in your life 15 years ago, but then you went through a jail house conversion, started a jail house ministry, started counseling other inmates with drug problems, and you became an exemplary inmate. But when you sit there before the parole board, the positive changes you made in your life are forgotten. All that matters is that you robbed a bank 15 years ago, and even though people say you're being judged on your more recent good deeds, the truth is, you can sense you're really being judged as a bank robber.

And so, welcome to faith. It can seem that way sometimes. You say the wrong thing, respond the wrong way, react out of anger, etc., etc. You sinned, you screwed up, and people called you to the carpet about it. But then, after working on yourself and more importantly allowing the Lord to re-shape your heart, you are still being judged according to the past sins.

It's frustrating. People believe whatever they want to believe, and no amount of pleading or whining will changes their minds. Actually, that usually makes it worse.

For me, I have spent over a year strongly desiring to work with a specific ministry. I screwed up months and months ago. I reacted to something inappropriately. I apologized, I tried to make it right, they told me they still thought I was "perfect" for their ministry, and wanted my help.
The months went by and I checked in from time to time, to see if they needed me.
They put me off. And put me off. And put me off.
Until one day this week I finally confronted them and they told me, in so many words, that they didn't feel comfortable working with me.
No specifics as to why - no, I have to wait a week to hear about that.

I'm tearing my hair out because I really had my heart set on working with that ministry, I don't know what changed over the months, or why they didn't have the courtesy to be upfront with me, and I once again feel like the inmate before the parole board.
I am not Christian enough.
Mature enough.
Calm enough.
Whatever enough.
I'm sure they prayed about it and "felt" that it wasn't right.
My sentence: they move on without me.

And for all of the emotions that have been swirling around my head these past 2 days, I can only say that I'm thankful to have a God who forgives and moves on, who doesn't hold our screw-ups over our heads and use them to judge us later. We are white as snow and He knows sincerity when He sees it. We screw up, He teaches us, if we are open we learn and grow, and we move forward.

No parole board. No judge or jury. Just forgiveness with a hope and a future. We move forward, we are never rejected, we are never turned away. Our God deals with us directly. He doesn't string us along only to let us down in the end.

God is a lot cooler than Christians, which is why I keep trying to follow Him - despite my repeated flubs - and not His followers. We're all trying to figure this life out. None of us has any hard, fast answers. The only answers we have lie in Him. We make mistakes, judge people, act immaturely. I do it, you do it.

But our God never does. One person in this entire universe and beyond never screws up, and that's why I get up and give it another shot.

Nobody else in this world is really worth the effort.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008



When I was a kid, I saw all sorts of sad things. Tragic things. Crap you couldn't explain and felt moronic even questioning. Forget my life - it's not exactly a newsflash that I was sexually abused and grew up around alcoholics. Sometimes I don't know what damaged me more, what I personally went through, or what I saw other people go through. Alzheimers and car wrecks, plane crashes and friends' homes that were far more abusive than anything I could ever imagine, mental illness, and crippling physical illnesses. Everything left an imprint. I learned two things at a very young age:
1. Life is not fair.
2. Being a Christian does not grant you immunity.

So when you see others going through tragedy, while enduring your own at the same time, you begin to take mental notes. You learn things, whether you want to learn them or not.
Me, I spent a lot of time on my knees begging for miracles. Dear God, please find Craig's plane. Find Craig IN the plane, ALIVE. Dear God, just take Grandma before she loses any more of her mind. Dear God, take away my memories of being molested. Make the kids stop bullying me, make the kids like me, make me cooler. Make my family stop drinking - make us normal!
Fix it, delete it, make it right, make it THE WAY I SEE FIT.

I didn't get most of the miracles I asked for. I couldn't understand how anyone could endure tragedy beyond my capacity for understanding, and look me in the eye and say, "God is taking care of me."
I wanted to scream, "HOW?!? HOW IS GOD TAKING CARE OF YOU? YOUR LIFE IS RUINED!" It frustrated me, and angered me. I didn't get it. God was a big meany. I wanted nothing to do with just another bully.

God has not never a Lord of miracles, He was a grim disappointment. I didn't dare trust Him, because I knew it was pointless. As kids go, I wasn't Dad's favorite. Some people win the lottery, I won Bipolar Disorder. Now, try having joy with a worldview like that.

But then things really came crashing down. Jay - my beloved cousin and friend - was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease. The man who humbly told a 12-year-old girl about Jesus. Not a day has passed in those two years that I don't spend great amounts of time thinking about him. I remember the athlete, I smile at the man, now almost entirely paralyzed, who still has a sharp sense of humor and a handsome smile. I grieve on so many levels. Sometimes certain songs reduce me to tears. I cry for his wife and four daughters. For the beautiful singing voice I'll never hear again, or the hug I'll never feel again. Lots of things have rocked my world, but nothing has ever rocked it the way Jay's disease has.

Like I said, being a Christian does not grant you immunity.

So I started out the way I always had - praying for miracles. Praying for complete healing, praying for the doctors to be wrong, praying the new treatment would work.
But none of that happened.

So I prayed that God would take care of the whole family.
That DID happen. Big time. Beyond what I imagined when I first prayed that prayer.

And yet, the miraculous stuff I was searching for hasn't happened.

I fought God on this one. I was furious. We had it out. I yelled, I cried, I even threw stuff at the celing. Then I gave up, because I was just tired. Completely exhausted. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. I was done.

But this crazy thing happened to me. I felt peace. I read the Bible, took time to think things through, and I realized that God was giving me peace even though I didn't get it, and knew I never would in this life. And I realized that if I could feel it, then my cousin and his family could feel it, and ANYONE could feel it.

It was the first time I was ever able to point to a miracle in my life. I know there were others, but this was the first one that my eyes were opened clearly enough to see. I had the realization that, no matter where we are in life, or what we're dealing with, Jesus is the same. He's always good, always forgiving, always raining grace and mercy down on us. Whether we are sick, grieving, doubtful, or angry... the nature of God and the heart of Jesus Christ is unchanging.

God IS taking care of us.

He always has.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Chaos

Easter Chaos

Another Easter has come and gone, and I'm relieved to say my family is still intact. How was your holiday?
My parents sold the house I grew up in when I was 19, and moved into a 3-bedroom apartment a couple of miles away. It's not small by any means, but when you add me, my husband, my brothers, their better halves, a barking Miniature Schnauzzer, and my 6-year-old nephew and 17-month-old niece... ah, it's amazing how the living room magically seems to shrink.
Did I mention it's chaotic?
My nephew is wrestling with his Uncle Greg, my sis-in-law is yelling at them to stop, my niece is chasing the dog and grabbing at my parents' fireplace tools, my mother is hollering at my father to put down his cigarette and come carve the ham, and nobody can figure out my parents' new microwave.

Whenever I go see my parents, they have a new technology need for me to rememdy. My dad did something -- not sure what -- to kill the computer, and they asked me for help, but I declared it a lost cause. My oldest brother came in and saved the day on that one. Scott and I got them a DVD player for Christmas, and they said they couldn't see the remote, so they went out and bought a remote the size of a cookie sheet. If my mother can't see those numbers, she has something else wrong with her besides a cataract. FYI, they still haven't rented or watched a DVD. My parents rode the technology train right up to cassette tapes and VHS, but that's where they jumped off.

My family is not particularly religious. I'm the weirdo Christian, after all.
When my mother suggested we "say a blessing" before the meal, my father raised fork and declared, "THANK GOD IT'S TIME TO EAT!" And when my brother announced that the computer was fixed, without thinking, I automatically said, "It is risen!"

You remember when "The Osbournes" were on MTV? Yeah, they always seemed really normal to me.

Happy Easter, everybody.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Quit Whining!My friend Randy Thomas blazes the trail against negativity, God love 'im. Tired of reading/watching/listening to nothing but whining, complaints, and personal attacks? Good, me too. LET'S DO THIS.

Come up with 10 things to be grateful for, it's as simple as that. You'll be amazed at how many good things do exist. (Despite what Simon Cowell has to say.) Mine are in no particular order.

- Snuggling up against Scott in bed on a Sunday afternoon, with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and plenty of passion.
- Amy Grant music. Enough said.
- I live in a country where I can say anything I please, and not get arrested or tortured for it.
- Dear friends who laugh with you and stick by you when you can do nothing but cry
- Nieces and nephews
- Kicking back on the deck with a good book and a cup of coffee
- Appliances!!! (namely the washer & dryer, and dishwasher!)
- Christmas
- The colors of fall
- Belonging to a God who always forgives and always loves

Your turn!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle

Two weeks ago, some friends of mine were in town, so I met them for dinner, and after dinner we stopped by Barnes & Noble for coffee and conversation. As it turned out, there wasn't so much as a free pillow for any of us to sit on, so we wandered around for a bit and headed for an ice cream joint. But while we were at B&N, my friends convinced me to buy a book called The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I had never heard of Jeannette Walls before, but I did a little research on her when I got home, and she has written for some pretty big publications, but is most notable for being the main gossip columnist at for eight years, before leaving in 2007.
I got a little bit nervous, because I don't consider gossip true journalism. I hate shows like "Entertainment Tonight" and I don't have any reason to watch E! (where Walls was a gossip correspondent). Celebrities are bizarre and I don't share the same values as most of them, so I don't give a damn who marries who, who impregnates who, or who got sent to the psychiatric unit recently.

Even so, I kicked back with my new read and it wasn't long before I was hooked. It is an amazing story. For two decades, Walls hid her own background of neglect and severe poverty. Raised by a shiftless drunk of a father, to quote Walls, and a teacher turned artist, neither of whom could be bothered to work, Walls grew up moving from obscure town to obscure town to avoid bill collectors and law enforcement. She dug through the trash and stole food from friends' houses to survive. The title of the book refers to a glass house her father promised to build the family for years, always promising to invent something spectacular and make them rich. Walls' parents eventually choose a life of homelessness, even though their kids had begun to flourish.

I walked away from the book (which I finished while waiting for my husband to get out of surgery on Monday) absolutely dying to meet Jeannette Walls, because The Glass Castle has inspired me to go back to school for journalism, and to write my story in earnest, and not worry about publishing it right now. If Jeannette Walls can be an educated, successful adult after a piss-poor childhood filled with pain, then I really have no excuse. I can do it.

If you read only one book this year, read this one. It will open your eyes to the plight of underpriviledged children, the homeless, and will inspire you to become better at whatever you do.

Jeanette, if you ever read this... girlfriend, you rocked my world.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Not All Mentally Ill People Are Killers, But...

Not All Mentally Ill People Are Killers, But...

For the past several days, I have been waiting with baited breath to hear what NIU shooter Steve Kazmierczak's diagnosis was. Every time someone with Bipolar Disorder goes on a killing spree, I more than cringe. How do mentally ill people cross the threshold between right and wrong, and turn into murderers? I don't think anyone fully knows the answer. Obviously, an unwillingness or failure to take one's medication has a lot to do with it, and yet I lived my life as a Bipolar sufferer for years without proper medication, and I never dreamed up plans to off people. All this to say - nobody really knows.

But as I was reading this article about Kazmierczak yesterday, one sentence jumped out and slapped in the face, and as I write this book on mental illness, I will return to the article for future notes.
Apparently, right after high school, Kazmierczak's parents sent him to a group home because he was "unruly" and refused to take his medication. The former house manager had this to say about him:
"He never wanted to identify with being mentally ill," she said. "That was part of the problem."

If you don't suffer with a mental illness, don't know someone who does (openly, anyway), or you don't work in the mental health field, then it's easy to miss the enormous implications in such a short, simple sentence.
I worked in the mental health field for a few years, prior to my own diagnosis. (I had been diagnosed with depression, but nothing else.) The people I worked with were great people who deeply cared about those we served, and their intentions were always good. However, one thing that was constantly drilled into my head was that we were NOT to call any of the employees at the workshop "mentally ill people." They were to be called "individuals with mental illness."
The idea was that our employees ought to be identified as individuals, not as a disease, and I understand the mentality, and bought into it the entire time I worked there, and beyond.

But now, a few years removed from that job, with a deeper diagnosis of my own, I see things in a new light.
Lucky me, I have inherited a number of things from my mother's side of the family. Diabetes and high blood pressure, just to name a couple.
In doctor's offices, magazines, in the media, among medical professionals, I am referred to as:

I am called these things, and never insulted by them, nor do I define myself by them. It is a reality in my life, that I have these things, that they play a big role in my daily living, and if I don't keep up with them, they will eventually kill me.
I am rarely called "mentally ill" in a formal setting. It's as though mental illness is weirder and scarier than other illnesses. And yet, if you were to imply that to a doctor or a mental health professional, they would lambaste you for thinking such a thing.
Is anyone else confused?

Can somebody tell me why my mental illness should be considered any different?

If the idea is to make the mentally ill feel more normal, forget it, we're failing miserably. Instead of helping them to define themselves by a means apart from their diagnoses, we are inadvertantly telling them -- AND the world -- that mental illness is NOT an illness, but a sentence, or a negative personality trait. By addressing it abnormally, we are, in turn, making it more and more abnormal to society.
Look at this quote again:
"He never wanted to identify with being mentally ill," she said. "That was part of the problem."

Mental illness is an illness of the brain, just like Diabetes is a disease of the pancreas, and Heart Disease is a disease of the heart, and Polycystic Kidney Disease is a disease of the kidneys. And the main thing they all have in common is that if individuals don't identify with them -- in other words, make them their own and acknowledge it not only exists but has to be tackled -- they will eventually kill them.
And, unfortunately, in the case of brain illness... it could potentially kill others.

We need to stop doing the world a disservice by trying to pretend that mental illness is somehow set apart, and make it part of the norm.
Take your heart pills. Take your brain pills. Test your blood sugar. Do what you have to do.
Such a disease can only define you if you constantly run from it, and sink further and further into sickness as a result.

We need to grow up and claim what is ours.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008



Everyone needs good friends -- people who rally around you, people who are always in your corner, people who love you no matter how stupid you act. I have a number of friends, but Shaunti and Linda are in a league of their own.

Shaunti is like a big sister, and Linda (who works for Shaunti -- and is sort of my manager when I do contract work for Shaunti) is old enough to be my mom... if she had me as a senior in high school, anyway. They are too good for me. In a sense, they each have an arm around my shoulders. I love my family, but we had all sorts of turmoil going on in my family when I was a kid. I basically raised myself (pity my future children!) and I didn't feel loved most of the time. I suppose I knew deep down that I was loved, but I rarely felt it, and it was rarely shown.

In my relationship with God, I have always struggled to hang onto my faith when I don't "feel" God. I go astray. I start to doubt. I suppose I am learning that the reason that is such a struggle for me is because I didn't feel loved growing up. Surely, God wants to make us feel loved, right?

Well, yes. But not always.

Mature faith understands that sometimes God pulls back those feelings in order to cause us to draw closer to Him, too seek Him with our whole hearts, to reach the end of ourselves and awaken to the fact that without Him, we're like a child's lost balloon floating across an endless blue sky -- no direction, no destination, blown wherever the wind takes us.

When I "feel" God's love, I absorb it like a sponge. I cannot take it for granted, because I have spent my life desiring it. I feel loved by God in many ways, but mostly through my earthly relationships. I have an amazing group of friends. God has used Shaunti and Linda and my sweet husband, in particular, to bring about that feeling.

I look around at the people He has put in my life and they way He has used to them to fill the void in my heart... and how He has used them to show me, in a very tangible way, what His love looks like, and one word comes to mind: ADOPTION.

I spent the evening with a friend tonight -- another older woman assigned by God to help guide me through this life -- and when I came home, I got out of my car and couldn't help but notice how bright the moon was, and how perfect the stars were, and I truly understood the phrase, "adopted into the family of God."

If that doesn't amaze you, let me put it another way. The King has thrown open the gates to His kingdom, and has sent out an open invitation EVERYONE. Doesn't matter if you show up in a ball gown or tattered rags. Doesn't matter if you drive a Jaguar or a Ford, if you're a rock star or a waitress. Come one, come all, and COME AS YOU ARE.


Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm A Loyal Fan -- Sickeningly Loyal

I'm A Loyal Fan -- Sickeningly Loyal

People keep asking me why I don't blog more. I used to be a blogging fiend, but it has been hard to muster up the interest lately. Writing used to be cathartic to me. Now that I do it professionally, it's not so cathartic anymore. It is my skill, that thing I do best. I still love it, but I find it hard to sit down and write for nothing but pleasure anymore. And I don't have a direct purpose in blogging anymore, either. I used to blog politics -- I campaigned for GWB during the '04 election that way. Some people blog because they're angry at the world and enjoy pretending to have a hardcore personality, or get off on taking pot shots at the people they don't like. That doesn't interest me, either. I left that kind of writing behind in the 4th grade. Pathetic, weak. No thanks.

So I'll write about random stuff. I seem to recall that's how I start blogging to begin with. Let's start with something that really got my training bra in a twist.

THE ultimate boy band -- before N'Stink, Backstreet Boys, and 98 Degrees... there was the New Kids On The Block. I was 10 years old when I fell in love with them. A fifth-grader smitten for the first time. I learned to kiss on a life-size band poster on my bedroom door. (Thanks, Jon.) Eventually, Jordan would become by guilty pleasure. I bought Big Bop Magazine and Tiger Beat, ripped out all the pictures, and stuck them on my wall. My brothers listened to Rush and the Grateful Dead and called MY band "New Sissies On The Corner" but there's just something special about planning your wedding to a boy band star. Who ever planned their wedding to Jerry Garcia? Gross!

And now... THEY'RE BACK. Or. Um. At least supposedly. They're kinda wrinkled and winded, but they're still mine. Jon is almost 40 now, but I'll bet he can still kiss as well as his old poster.

Upon reading this news, I immediately emailed my college friend, Reba, to spread the love. There was much rejoicing on her part, as well. (See, she blogged about it, too.) I'm pretty sure if we had been in the same room, there would have been a good bit jumping up and down, and screaming, followed by acting out the entire video for "You Got It (The Right Stuff.)" Which, in case you're wondering, looks something like this:

Welcome back, my sexies. The hysterical elementary school student in me has missed you desperately.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

You Thought I Dropped Off the Earth, Didn't You?I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaack. Thought I was gone for good, huh? Well, I'm back until my new website is up. (Yes, it's coming.)
So, for now, a brief update.

Life has its ups and downs. I have been focusing a lot of time and energy on mental illness, Bipolar Disorder in general. The longer I live, the more I realize how little the Church understands mental illness, or how to minister to the mentally ill. It's not because they don't care, or they are against these folks -- though, admittedly, a large segment of the Church is set in its ways and is unlikely to listen to science OR reason -- but for the most part the discrimination is based on ignorance. I cannot expect Christians to understand mental illness when mentally ill Christians won't talk about it.

I'm going to talk about it.

I used to work with mentally ill people, and I am mentally ill myself. There are a myriad of topics to cover. Expect to find me ruminating about them here from time to time. Actually, a lot more often than that.

At the moment, the new marriage book is being shopped to a major Christian publisher. Sheri and I are hoping to hear something soon. In the meantime, I have been working for Shaunti Feldhahn as a ghost writer. I've been writing radio spots for Moody Radio and Focus On The Family Radio. I am also freelancing, as well. I just finished up a piece on modesty for Living With Teenagers Magazine (Lifeway). It was a ton of fun to write. I love teenagers, and I loved being able to write something about a topic that is near and dear to me. Saving kids' integrity is a big deal.

Healthwise... I've been so-so. I had a really rough period of depression from about September through early December, and required a med increase. I'm feeling much better now, but I have my down times. It's all a part of the disease.

Christmas was wonderful. We had our family over on Christmas Eve, and then my mother had our side of the family over for dinner Christmas Day. I always feel sad for my hubby -- he has no parents now. Christmas Eve is something he always looks forward to -- the nieces and nephews snooping around under the tree, the Christmas music... the TONS of food. I love the season, and I'm always sad to see it go... but a little bit relieved, too.

That's it for now. Hope you had a great Christmas, and I hope you have an awesome 2008.

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