Jesus and Mama Tears

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There is something extraordinarily healing and powerful that takes root inside of me knowing that Jesus wept.

The other night I had my head bowed in shame as I sat at the kitchen table. I had just overreacted to one of my boys climbing on the outside of the steps, resulting in a broken thrift store umbrella holder. After I cleaned up the mess, I sat there alone and began crying so hard that my tears dropped down onto the kitchen floor. I think it could have been classified as “weeping.” I mentally backed myself into a corner and beat myself up about all the ways I fail as a human being. As a mother. As a wife.

Because isn’t that we do? Beat ourselves up when we don’t have the strength to go grab a Kleenex or some toilet paper to soften the blow of our tears. And when the tears of guilt flow, they sure know how to awaken the dried up wells of inadequacy, loss and despair.

In my heightened emotional state, I texted my husband and a friend letting them know what an asshole I had been. They each kindly offered to help me out of the pit of doom. I thought it may be helpful if I created a hotline for parents, “1-800-ILOSTMYSHIT.” The operator could have a file folder ready to remind you of all the other times when you handled chaos better, a bit more gracefully. The kind person, probably a volunteer, on the line could perhaps console you and tell you about a time that they also overreacted to routine kid chaos.

The thing is that I usually can cry it out, apologize to my boys and hope and pray for their forgiveness and God’s strength to do better next time. Then, we move on. To the dog park or to a game of checkers. Or whatever. My boys, thankfully, have this crazy awesome ability to forgive me and love me through my guilt and shortcomings as a mother.

In hindsight, like a few days later, who really cares about a thrift store umbrella holder? Obviously not the person who donated it to the thrift store. I don’t want my boys to be wreckless and purposely break stuff, but if anyone should understand breaking stuff accidentally, it should be me. I realize that I had some built-up, constant mud and mess-cleaning up anger that I should have released at ripple glass therapy.

Sadly, and not so sadly, sometimes, those we love the most intensely get to see the yucky, jagged and broken sides of us. Inside of our homes. Our cars. Unfiltered, not touched-up, the raw ugly-cry moments. The moments when we feel exhausted, sad, hopeless, helpless and burdened by our own imperfections. The difficult and painful moments of growth, roots shifting or branches getting pruned.

As I did my Lenten sharpie marker art this morning, I realized just how grateful I am to cling to the belief that Jesus gets me the most. So, I am reminded to grab on tightly to the hope offered in the extra soft, aloe-infused Kleenex He hands me. Time and time again. Today, I’m humbled and gratefully aware that his grace daily protects, strengthens, and carries us.

Amen.

Freed

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It’s a bit of a frustrating process to get life insurance when you’ve got medical issues. Not huge ones, but chronic ones. It can feel like complete crap calling doctors offices to get diagnosis dates and other details that an underwriter needs for research to determine what an appropriate annual rate will be for someone with your history. Fixating on all of your body’s problems can be a real buzz kill. I understand though. I’m a hot mess on paper.  It’s a risk taking on someone like me. My husband says that my medical history can make me look pretty bad but in person, He’s like “Damn, girl.” I paraphrased him.

I don’t think the average person would listen to my medical history and current conditions and feel like I have been “healed.”

Here it goes….a clep blog version.

I had a benign hip tumor surgically removed in high school. Two reconstructive ACL surgeries in college. Total colectomy with ileo-anal pouch anastomosis the summer following my freshman year in college. Countless failed surgeries for fistula repairs. Guinea pig much? Three different states by three separate surgeons following college. The “best surgeons” in the field. Two of which did unethical things to my body, without my consent.

I have a micro tumor on my pituitary gland that can cause some real problems, despite its itty bitty millimeter size. I’ve got junked-up, scarred lungs that struggle to get mucous out on their own. There’s a disease for that: bronchiectasis. A tricky one to spell. My lungs need a little love from albuterol and the acapella valve from time to time. And no, it doesn’t sound like sweet non-instrumental music. I will take instruments, please, any day of the week. It sounds more like Darth Vader’s wife.

I don’t have my large intestine anymore. Yes, you can live without one. Unlike a lizard’s tail, mine has not magically grown back after being surgically removed for being straight-up diseased. Dead. Unresponsive to meds, beyond resuscitation. I do miss it from time to time, when I’m going to the bathroom ten or so times a day. Especially in the middle of the night during one of those rare good dreams that you want to hop back into. But ughhh, you can’t.

I guess, selfishly, I have hard time spiritually processing things when I hear of people being miraculously or momentarily “healed” or cured. In God’s name. I guess I get a bit pissy and confused because I’ve said about a million prayers. Not just for me. And I’m pretty sure those who love me have said more. It makes me feel pretty damn unimportant. And I think, “why not me?” Or why not the starving kids, abused kids or women being raped? Victims of brutal genocide. Especially the littlest ones. Cancer patients. Or the millions of other afflictions that just flat-out suck much more than mine.

Well, let’s analyze it. I’ve done my fair share of bad stuff. Rebellious stuff. Ungodly stuff. But still, I’ve never wavered in my faith in God. Or his love for me. I love Jesus. I get Him. He gets me. He knows my heart the best. He understands me. He searches me out and always finds me. Wherever I am, be it on the bathroom floor or next to the kitchen sink. In my closet. In a hospital room. In my car. He’s kind of like a crazy never ending Dr. Seuss book. I can’t escape him. He throws a crud-ton of grace down on me. Constantly. And forgives me all the time. I believe this.

I think he welcomes my doubts and fears and all of my hurts too. My humanities. He recognizes the many different kinds of tears that trickle, stream, sneak and flood down my face. Most importantly, he holds me accountable. Picks me up off of the bathroom floor, most times, in the form of my husband. He shows me a glimpse of my potential. He expects me to do more, persevere and grow. Love harder, and never settle for convenience, complacency or boredom. He instills an infinite supply of hope inside my heart. My mind. And my soul.

I’ve actually got an ongoing list of questions for God to answer. Not that God needs my list. But I do. One day, I hope he will answer all of my random ones, like “what’s up with moths eating all of our sweaters”, or “Why I am I wide awake after having sex but my husband falls into a coma-like sleep state?” There are the deeper, more complicated questions too, like “why do kids have to die? Ever.” Or “why did soooooo many of my surgeries fail?”

I often start deep sea thinking and praying like I do. When I’m vacuuming. Or driving. Or in the shower. I’m typically trying to work things out with God. Let it all out. Like a true intro-extrovert. Or maybe it’s God trying to soften my heart and strengthen my faith, despite human beings’ attempts to destroy it. I’m attempting to move outside of the anger. The sadness or resentment. And the unfairness and the hurt. Somehow, I’ve got to see through it, past it, over it or under it. But it’s a stumbling feeling. Awkward like my feet have fallen asleep. I can’t move. I’ve got to shake them out, wake them up, even perhaps crawl on to reach the hope.

The good.

The beautiful.

It’s there. I know it. It can be sneaky. Even hidden. But it’s always truly present. And although I may not be Steve Martin in “Leap of Faith” kind of healed, I think I’ve been freed of a lot of suffocating, life-stealing things.

I’ve been freed from the illusion of perfection. Nothing and nobody is perfect. My body will never be perfect. Ever. In a ton of ways. I will always have big feet, a big nose, freckles, and scars. A lot of scars. And if I want to be naked, totally naked, I will always look down and see the bright red flesh, the part of my small intestine that’s been pulled from the inside out of my lower abdomen. To save my life. It won’t go away. Ever. No matter how many prayers I could say for the regeneration of my colon, it’s not happening. Save your breath.

My diseased body will always present obstacles and physical limits. I’ve come to terms with this over the years. It’s hard to be different, but I am. I think we all are. I have had to worry about deep things most women don’t have to. And perhaps may never ever think about, especially not on a daily basis.

It’s not that I believe that God doesn’t possess the power to do mind blowing miraculous things. He could regenerate a healthy colon for me if he wanted to. Or heal my scarred lungs. But there’s bigger more important lessons I’ve learned through the pain, frustration, disappointments and failures. I believe he’s surrounded me with people who tell me they love me, despite my missing parts. So, I pray instead for God to change my thinking, change my eyes to more readily see those around me and make me proud of who I am and all that I’ve overcome. Through Him. Proud, not ashamed. I pray that God uses me and my experiences to encourage others in an honest, transparent and freeing way. And guess what? Miraculously, these prayers have been answered. Time and time again.

I’ve been truly honored and humbled and a little overwhelmed by the love. I’ve been grateful that friends will openly share their struggles and experiences with me too. The other day, one of my friends confided in me telling me that she pooped her pants In the night and I told her “That’s not a big deal. So what? You know how many times and places I’ve shit my pants?” She told me that she knew I would be a safe person to tell, that I wouldn’t judge her. (I would only blog about her. With her permission.)

It feels a lot better knowing that it’s ok to shit your pants. That somebody else has done it too, you know? I’m truly grateful for all of the hard things that I’ve felt in my life(that’s what she said…I couldn’t help it) They’ve given me the ability to truly feel and understand a little bit more of what others may be going through. Pain is pain. Physical, mental or emotional. Isolation is isolation. And loneliness is loneliness. Don’t even get me started on shame.

God has strangely and miraculously shown me and taught me so many more meaningful lessons through the awful and painful parts of my life than I’ve ever learned through the blue skies and rainbows. I feel like through all of the hard times, I’ve been humbled, dependent, and gratefully aware of what’s most important in life. I get this awesome privilege of experiencing the beautiful parts at an insanely heightened level. I constantly encounter these most inspiring, sacrificing, loving, and genuine people. The ones that doubt and fear, laugh and love radically, outside the norm. I get to meet people that don’t shy away from the hard places, the ones who put themselves out there knowing they will be affected, mocked, bruised, and knocked down a little or a lot by life’s hurts. And they will be changed. Transformed in a caterpillar to a butterfly kind of way. Once you grow wings, you don’t want to go back to squirming around on a tree branch.

I’ve been picked up by these best kinds of people time and time again. They matter the most. And they are who I want my kids to be like when they grow up.

They may or may not know it, but they are real-life people living out the type of love Jesus talked about. The sacrificial. Seemingly crazy. Hard. Relentless. Inconvenient. Inclusive. Sacred. Beautiful love. The kind of love that never, ever fails. His love never fails.

If I have had to experience hurt and pain to be hyper sensitive to the beauty and love that exist despite it, I will get up and experience it all over again. That’s how I’ve been healed.

I’ve been released. I’ve been freed.

You don’t need to ever pity me. I’ve come a long way in my journey. And you don’t need to feel sorry for me either, okay? Unless you feel sorry for butterflies too.

Good Friday

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I feel weird about showing up on Easter Sunday without having ever grieved the unfairness, the pain, the beautiful life and the awful death that Jesus endured. Without recounting his voluntary, beautiful, raw, bitter, and torturous last days and moments, I have a difficult time fully celebrating the joy and promise and hope of Easter, the resurrection.

I want my boys to know that Easter is not just about the happy frilly pastel colored Sunday service complete with egg hunting and Easter baskets. I want them to be aware of the reason, the pain, the loss, and the brokenness surrounding Jesus’s death. I want them to know why His resurrection changed the world. His hope. He lives.

After a crazy, busy week and solo Thursday night parenting, I knew I needed to improvise and stay home from Maundy Thursday service with our three young boys. I wanted to include and teach them about what Jesus’s death meant. I wanted them to have a visual, hands-on, concrete understanding. Teaching them the “why’s” the best I could meant more to me than going to Maundy Thursday service. I created an activity to help them understand.

I decided that popcorn kernels, toothpicks, macaroni noodles and marbles would represent the hurt, the brokenness, sickness, our shortcomings, “sins” or mess-ups, etc.

Our vacuum would represent Jesus.

At dinner, we prayed, then talked about Jesus’s life, the ways he cared for and showed love to others, why he died, how he died, and what that meant. I told them about the experiment we would do to show the power of Jesus’s love for us. One of the boys said, “isn’t that going to break the vacuum?” I hoped not. I didn’t do a practice run either. I let them each choose one of the three items: popcorn kernels representing the things that “get stuck in our teeth” or heart or mind and distract us from loving others and God, toothpicks represented physical and emotional hurt we cause others and the pain we experience from diseases, illness, death, etc. and macaroni noodles, well, they were all I could find as a third item. Three boys. I didn’t know how many marbles the vacuum could successfully suck up, if any. I gave a marble to each of my boys and myself. The marble represented the biggest, heaviest thing we struggle with. I should have taken all of the marbles for me.

We threw all of the items into a box representing the world and all of us in it. Each time they dropped an item in, we would share what it could represent. “Pushing somebody..” “Calling someone a name…” I wish I could remember all the things my older boys said. It was truly amazing.

Then, came the time to turn the vacuum on representing Jesus. One of my boys held it and began sucking up all of the popcorn kernels, macaroni noodles, up went the marbles and lastly, those rascally toothpicks which needed a little rearranging and then they disappeared too. The box was empty. Jesus also known as our hand-me down vacuum, had done his job. He cleaned up a mess that really wasn’t his to begin with. It was his box but not his mess.

My boys went back to playing with their cardboard box forts. I vacuumed the rug, to make sure it still worked.

It’s hard and painful to think about Jesus’s last days. The knowledge and power that he had, the stress, the exhaustion, the extreme emotional and physical pain he endured. The horrible mistreatment and details surrounding his torturous death. I think of all those who loved him there and the pain they must have felt and the pain he witnessed in their eyes and faces. I think about his mother, and nearly lose it, being a mother to these three beautiful boys. I know she had to be held up and carried by those who loved her. It’s all just excruciatingly heartbreaking and awful.

As a society, we tend to avoid the hurt of this world, when possible. Yet, that’s not what Jesus did. He submerged himself into the communities of isolated, the diseased, the broken, the mistreated, the wrongfully accused, the orphaned, the widowed, the outcasts, the poor, the selfish, the rich, and the grieving. He engaged with and loved people in a way that they had never been loved before. And he did it because he knew they needed and welcomed and sought out his love. They craved something they had never known. And he had an endless supply to give to those willing to receive it. And he still does.

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“So now I am giving you a new commandment, love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”-John 13:34

Jesus in the Hospital

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The thing is that even the most perfect looking, smartest acting, kindest-hearted person has weaknesses. Imperfections. Insecurities. Despite how camouflaged they may appear. Depending on the environment they are in, they exist. Hidden perhaps. Buried maybe. Tucked away in a cabinet or in the closet. On the surface even. You absolutely cannot be walking around this world perfect. So, why do we try so hard to look like we’ve got our acts together? Countless reasons.

I used to carry a sense of shame with having these most awful, disgusting things happen with my body. I was afraid to talk about them. Like I had any control over their path of destruction. You know if diseases were ranked upon their social accepted-ness, I’m quite certain that irritable bowel diseases would not be on the swimsuit cover of “Diseases Illustrated.” Seriously. Let’s just list some of the things I have experienced which in no way compare with what other IBDers are dealing with, specifically kids with Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. See what your natural reaction is to some of these: bloody, foul smelling diarrhea. Extra holes connecting one part of your body to a part that it shouldn’t. Think of your sewer pipe connecting to the water line of your shower.  Going on inside your body. Your small intestine coming out of your body. A daily reminder that your body will not ever be like most everyone else. Wounds opening up so wide that you need a vacuum to suck your skin back together. For weeks and weeks. Not eating for weeks. Tubes in your nose. Tubes in your abdomen, vagina, and butt. Completely raw broken down skin that hurts so badly you can’t leave your house. Not that you even wanted to. Just wanted the choice. Then there’s the worrying about going to some awesome new place because you don’t know if or where the bathroom will be.

I could go on and on. I don’t like to. I don’t think I need to. Though I don’t want anybody’s pity. Pity parties are so lame and never have quite the turn-out you expected. I don’t wan’t to be treated differently. Unless by differently you mean more encouragement, more understanding, more tolerance, more willingness to learn. I want to walk in confidence and know that I am loved for who I am. Not what I have. Not what I look like. Not even for what I have endured.

I was 18. And scared. And so close to dying. But my damn pride and stubborn immature self wouldn’t let the surgeons do what they needed to do to save my life. I had no quality of life. I was wasting away, bleeding so much that I needed transfusions. I  had not eaten in over a month. But, I was damn sure that I didn’t want to get an ostomy bag. People wanted to help. I didn’t want to listen. They couldn’t possibly know. “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do with a bag because you don’t know. You don’t have one.” That’s how I felt about every person that came into my hospital room with their pitch as to why I should get my entire colon removed.

Until one day. In walks a guy I babysat for. I loved him. He was hilarious and he was a real live person sitting across from me, telling me that he had an ostomy bag. He got sick when he was 18. He went to college, got married, and had these four amazing girls. And all of the sudden, I felt this enormous sense of relief. He knew what I was going through. He knew what I could do. Hell yeah, I could still play college basketball. He played college intramural football. And his nickname was “Bags.” Take that.

That’s what I love so much about Jesus. He came because we needed him. Desperately. A real live person. We are so hurt, broken, imperfect, dying. If we admit it. We are all missing pieces. And he came in the most radical way, as if to say, “I’m coming to the people who recognize they need me. The weak ones.” All of us. If you’ve got your shit so together, if you’re playing the role of ever strong, über dependent, got this life figured out, you don’t need Jesus. You don’t need grace. Or healing. Or forgiveness. Or love that is so powerful it comes to your hospital room when you’re mad at the world. It walks in and says, “hey. I’m like you. I get it. This world can really suck, but we can make it better. We can change it.” One hospital room at a time.

A little hope goes a long way. It’s easier to see Jesus in the hospital and to need him. But the thing is, I need him just as much at home. My pride just sneaks in again. And I think I got this. By myself. All alone. Hold up, pride. Sit down.

It takes a village. But not a village of people with their arms crossed, bitchy faces and pursed lips. Thinking they don’t need anyone. Especially not someone like you helping them, guiding them, showing them love. I want to go to the village of open arms and smiles and tears. We laugh together. We cry together. We live life together. Not hidden. Open. Exposed. But it’s kind of scary. And you have to be that really hard word to say, “vul-nur-uh-bul.” Why does it have to be such a hard word to say and an even harder thing to be? Vulnerable. Vulnerable. It doesn’t get easier if you say it or spell it a lot of times. However, it does get easier, kind of like apologizing, if it becomes a practice. A habit. If I could only be vulnerable as often as I bite my nails.

Actually, that might be going overboard.

The thing I’ve learned is that people have opened up and shared really hard, painful stuff with me. And I feel honored and inspired and more connected. Like we’re all experiencing some of the same things.  Like we are much more alike than we are different. It’s like our batteries are charged by each other. Like God created us for each other, to need each other. Help each other. Work our hardest to understand each other. And try our hardest, despite our selfish tendencies, to show love to one another.

I see Jesus people all the time. They don’t even know they’re doing these miracles. Tiny, dignity restoring, life-giving miracles. Miracles that connect us. Miracles that help us know of this insanely powerful love. A love so strong that it barges through the darkness and let’s light seep in. It’s here. I see it all the time. When I’m watching others help strangers with a love so passionate. You can feel it in your bones. And I see it the most when I’m down in the dumps. Feeling needy. Dependent. Not myself.

But slowly, the love pulls me out. Picks me up. And gives me a good nudge. The kind that makes me want to do more. Hope more. Feel more. And care for others more. I would like to think that we all carry this secret power. We just tap into at different moments in our lives. Sometimes intermittently.

This is why I get excited for Christmas. For the lights. Everywhere. Because of the enormous amount of love and sacrifice and forgiveness and grace that the humble babe born in a stable represents. He lives on in each of us. Here. Now. Really. If you start looking, you’ll soon notice there are Jesus people everywhere. In the places you would least expect them to be. Doing these beautiful powerful acts that have the abilty to change the world.

Christmas can be a time of hope, exhaustion, sadness, joy, and a sleigh packed full of many other emotions. It’s celebrated one day a year but the people that are the lights that represent Christmas continue to shine all year long.