Saturday, January 7, 2017

Fear Not

Luke 2:8-11 King James Version (KJV)
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD
"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing... There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me." 
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

While I would never be so bold as to argue with the genius of C.S. Lewis, I have to say that what he described in that excerpt sounds a lot like fear to me. Grief is not only about loss. Grief has been described as “becoming untethered. It’s about losing an identity. Losing a map and compass all at once.” It’s frightening. And the fear is not just about the untethering - it’s about not having the answers. The lack of answers leaves us feeling hopeless.
Like many of you, I am no stranger to grief. I have said goodbye to both of my parents, my only brother, and, just last year, one of my brothers-in-law...all of them because of disease.
In the Christmas movie, “The Polar Express”, a little blond-haired boy from the “other side of the tracks” explains that Santa has never stopped at his house. “Christmas just doesn’t work out for me,” Billy sadly states. Well, it seems that healing just doesn’t work out for my family. I know that God is Jehovah Rapha, I know that by Jesus’ stripes we are healed, but for whatever reason, God chose to impart the ultimate healing to my 33 yr old brother, as well as to my parents and my sister’s husband.

I don’t know why God heals some people and not others. I could stand here and tell you that I have never been angry with Him for this. I could proclaim that, because I know they are “in a better place”, I am happy. I could talk about how God must have needed another angel or rattle off another one of countless platitudes, but the truth of the matter is...it hurts. It hurts every single day. I still suffer.

We all suffer. 20th Century theologian, Henri de Lubac, writes in his Paradoxes of the Faith that there are two important truths to keep in mind when we encounter suffering. “All suffering is unique—and all suffering is common.” All of us...whether due to death, illness, broken relationships, or just everyday life things like disappointment, anxiety, financial woes, stress, loneliness, or fear...we are broken people living in a broken world. And it can be scary.
Somehow, the church culture has instilled in us a requirement for mandatory happiness. In an honest attempt to ease the heartache of our brothers & sisters, we tend to look for a silver lining or bright side of some of the darkest situations. Unfortunately, this often only “perpetuates pain and promotes dishonesty” (Tchillian). The Book of Ecclesiastes clearly states that there IS a time to weep. There IS a time to mourn.

After my brother’s death in 1993, someone gave me a little book about grief. While I cannot remember the title of the book, there is one quote that has stayed with me for 23 years: “God has created us with every emotion that we have...He fully expects us to use them!”
It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to mourn. Having emotions or feelings is a natural part of who God created us to be. We don’t really have any control over WHAT we feel. We do, however, have a choice about how we to RESPOND to those feelings. For instance, the writer of Ephesians tells us that it is acceptable to be angry, but we are not to let our anger cause us to sin. The prophet, Isaiah, says "To all who mourn... he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness." It’s up to us to accept these gifts...to choose beauty over ashes; joy over mourning; praise over heaviness.

And God clearly knows that we are going to be afraid, because the words “FEAR NOT” appear 63 times in the Bible. That is not to say that it is wrong or sinful for us to be afraid. But In every instance that the words “Fear not” are spoken, there is always at least an implied “for” or “because”.

The angel of the Lord knew the shepherds were terrified. They had every reason to be! They were just minding their own business (and their sheep) on a dark hillside when they were suddenly face-to-face with the glory of the Lord. And it shook them. The words “fear not” weren’t a reprimand, rather words intended to calm them...to reassure them that, in spite of the frightening circumstances, the presence of God was very nearby.

The death of my brother, Matt, shook me. Everything I had believed for my entire life was put to the test. Ours is a family of faith. My father preached for my entire life: with faith, all things are possible. Matt loved the Lord. He was a devoted youth pastor. My entire family was serving in ministry. We prayed all the right prayers, quoted all of the right scriptures, and mustered up every seed of faith we could...but, it wasn’t enough. The last time I saw him was Thanksgiving 1993. He was lying in a hospital bed in Atlanta, dying of cancer. I wish you all could have known him. He was, hands down, the funniest man who ever lived. He could literally make you laugh with no more than a look. That night, I walked into his room and I barely recognized him. I tried to act nonchalant as I approached his bedside, but I felt a lump rising in my throat when I saw that the chemotherapy had robbed him of all his hair, and left him swollen and his skin had turned purple. He was purple. “Hey, Matt!” I chirped, clearly pretending not to notice his appearance. Matt just looked up at me and began to sing, “I love you...you love me…” in his best Barney the Dinosaur voice. Our family spent our last Thanksgiving fully together in an ICU room in Grady Health Center. On our last day together, Matt called us each in one at a time to say goodbye. When my turn came, I stood by his hospital bed holding his hand and I said, “Matt, I don’t want you to go.” “I don’t want to go,” he said. “But, I’ve put my life in God’s hands, and whatever He does is the right thing.” Not the words I wanted to hear. I wanted him to tell me that he was going to fight and that he was going to beat cancer again and that he was going to LIVE! But, he said, “I’ve put my life in God’s hands, and whatever He does is the right thing.” Two days ago marked the 23rd anniversary of the day we buried him. As much as I wanted to be angry at God, I couldn’t get past Matt’s words. That was the greatest testimony of complete surrender to God that I had ever witnessed. Matt knew who God was and that was enough. But, I couldn’t understand why God didn’t heal him.

Several months before that, we began to notice some health issues with my father. Now, you have to understand, my dad had never had as much as a head cold as long as I could remember. And, while he was also a huge cut-up, he was a very private man. So...we just didn’t talk about what was happening to him. Matt was actually the one who finally convinced him to go to the doctor, where he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Daddy pretended like it was no big deal, which was typical of him, but we watched him slowly digress. Matt’s death seemed to exacerbate his symptoms, but he tried his best to continue pastoring for as long as he could. After a few years, he realized he had to retire and, in 2006, he joined Matt in Heaven. While I continue to miss him every single day, I rejoice in the fact that he is no longer wheelchair-bound and a slave to that debilitating disease, but I still don’t know why he had to get sick.

My mother was diagnosed in July 2009 with a disease none of us had ever heard of, Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. The word “idiopathic” means that they don’t know how or why she got it. She died three months later. That one sent me reeling. She was my best friend. My greatest fan. My true North. And she was just gone. No reason why.

There are many emotions that surrounded her death, but the thing that took me off guard the most was the feeling that I had lost my identity. I have never married. I have no children. I had just always been David & Louise Willetts’ daughter. When they were both gone, I no longer knew who I was. And I was terrified. I didn’t know what I was going to do.

So often, grief and suffering are surrounded by feelings of uncertainty, confusion, and fear. I will admit, I have had my share of fearful days. There have been times when I’ve wondered if God himself has forgotten or even abandoned me. Deep down inside, I know He has not...but, it certainly has FELT as though He has left me all alone. I have prayed prayers and wondered if they would even clear the insulation in my roof. I have lay face-down on my floor, staining the carpet with my tears. I have grieved and suffered...sometimes very loudly...but, you know what? God understands. He has never punished me for my cries. In fact, I believe God WANTS us to cry out to him.

In the midst of Jeremiah’s grieving over Jerusalem, God said ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ God actually instructed Jeremiah to call out to him in his time of grief. The word “call” is from the Hebrew word “kä·rä(h)'” which means to call, cry for help, utter a loud sound or even to summon.

In Job 1:20, we read that, when Job learned of the enormity of his loss, he fell down, rent his clothes and worshiped. First of all, the word “rent” is from the Hebrew word “kä·ra(t)'” ...which sounds an awful lot like the word for “call” in Jeremiah. In fact, it is a different word altogether...a homonym. But, I believe the word was intentionally used to bring to mind the idea of an embodied act of prayer. God sees our actions...our bent knees, our raised hands, our tear-streaked faces...just as much he hears our audible cries.

Secondly, though, the scripture says that Job WORSHIPED! He worshiped in his greatest moment of grief.

Tullian Tchividjian addresses this in his book Glorious Ruin:
“There is an assumption out there that worship can take place only when you’ve got a smile on your face. If that were true, two-thirds of the Psalms would be heretical. Instead, the Psalms are filled to the brim with words that lament failure, pain, betrayal, and human brokenness.The Bible teaches us that grief and worship are not opposed, that they actually go hand in hand. Grief can be heard as a cry for what once was, and one day will be again, a world without pain and disease and conflict, a world characterized by shalom. Grief acknowledges the catastrophic state of affairs east of Eden. God does not expect us to keep a stiff upper lip in times of trouble; He is not pleased with robotic attempts to exonerate Him in the midst of pain. We cry uncle so that we might cry Abba!”
Paul says in his letter to the Romans,
“8:15 the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
In verse 22, he writes: We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship…”
but, thankfully he goes on to say that
“...26 the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

HE INTERCEDES FOR US! Jesus PRAYS for us! When we cry out to God in our grief and our suffering and our fear, Jesus intercedes for us.

When we are suffering, when we are hurting, when we are frightened, the natural tendency is to look for answers...most often, to the question “WHY?” We somehow believe that, if we find that answer, it will help to ease the pain, to lessen our suffering, to soothe our grieving soul. The truth, however, is that we are really looking for HOPE. And, even if we have the answer to “WHY”, it won’t ultimately bring us the hope we so desperately need.

Job worshiped in his darkest hour...not because he had discovered all the answers. He didn’t know why these things had happened to him. He had done nothing to deserve the calamity he was facing. The Bible tells us that “He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.” Almost the entire book of Job is dedicated to the question, “why was this happening to him?? WHY??”

God’s response in Chapter 38 is not the answer to “WHY”. Instead, God’s answer is to reveal to Job WHO He is. And Job understands that the “WHO” of God is far more comforting, and brings far more hope than the answer to “WHY”. This is how Job was able to worship in his grief. “Job was comforted and encouraged by the promise that there is something (Someone) looming larger than the tragedy. A promise of hope for eternity.” (Tchividjian)

I don’t know why bad things happen to good people. It seems the past several weeks have been filled with tragedy and sadness. It feels as though our entire community, our nation, and even our world are grieving. I don’t know why so many seemingly senseless acts have occurred. But, I do know WHO is in control...and, if I put my life in His hands, whatever He does will be the right thing. That is where I find my hope.

Tchividjian writes,
"To grieve as a Christian is an act of worship …. because it is a statement of faith that one day things won't be this way …. Whether you realize it or not, there is a song underneath your grieving that cries out for Christ's return."

The Hebrew language has a word for life-long love that is richer and deeper than the English language can define: חֶסֶד or hesed (HEH-sed). Based in a covenantal relationship, hesed is a steadfast, rock-solid faithfulness that endures to eternity:
Isaiah 54:10 says, “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love (hesed) for you will not be shaken”

So then...

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ...

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k]neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Louie Giglio wrote, “In the midst of the fray and fury, keep your eyes on Jesus. He is fighting for you. Emmanuel [...GOD WITH US…] is near. —your hope is in the One who fights for you. You are safe in God’s love and in the power of His mighty name.”

Fear Not. For nothing can separate us from the love..the HESED...of God.

PRAYER

Father, in the middle of the storm I am setting my hope on You. You fight for me and You are greater than all my enemies. Nothing I face today is more powerful than You. You are the solid ground beneath my feet. Thank You for surrounding those who surround me. Give me peace in the presence of my enemies, knowing that You see me and defend me in Your [steadfast and unfailing HESED] love. Amen. (Giglio)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I Don't Make New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Day is a unique holiday. People typically do not decorate for the holiday or send New Year's cards or wear festive clothing (PJs don't count). And yet, it is a legal holiday. Banks, government offices, and many places of employment are closed.  There are parades.  There are even holiday specials, thanks to Rudolph and Charlie Brown. And there are traditions.  There are definitely traditions.  

For many, this is the day to, as my mother used to say, "take down Christmas".  In our house, this was an all-day job. (And, even then, we'd often find a remnant of Christmas past tucked in an obscure place several days later.)  I can remember many mornings dragging myself down the stairs on New Year's Day, after staying up far past my bedtime on New Year's Eve, only to find my mother standing in the living room next to a nearly naked and sad tree. It was one of the most heartbreaking and dreadful feelings to view the piles of greenery, tinsel, lights, and ornaments in every chair. The living room, which was rarely used during any other month of the year, and had been so full of warmth, love, and laughter just the day before, now seemed so cold.  So empty. So desolate.

One turn to the left, however, and I was on my way to the family room, where my father usually already had blazing fire in the fireplace, and the television chirped with sounds of a parade or an old movie.  And, of course, the kitchen table was loaded with leftover Christmas goodies: cookies, punch, cheese balls & crackers, and sausage balls. God bless sausage balls. And then there was football. Lots of football. These were part of our NYD traditions.

A popular, albeit somewhat southern, tradition for New Year's requires that black eyed peas and collard greens be eaten on the first day of the year. This iss supposed to symbolize good luck and prosperity for the year to come.  I loathe collard greens, so I never eat them...which may explain why I've rarely had more than two pennies to rub together in my life. But, that's another topic for another blog...

For me, New Year's Day is the day to take down all of my old calendars and hang new ones. I have four this year...and I could hardly wait to put them up. There is something very sacred about watching last year disappear and seeing a new, clean slate hanging on the wall.

But, perhaps the one tradition that is most practiced on New Year's Day is making resolutions. Much like my passion for hanging a new calendar, many like to view the year ahead as a blank slate, or a book with blank pages. Often, we will look back at the year behind us and realize all of the things we wish we had accomplished or done differently and vow to do them, or do them right, this year.  There is certainly nothing wrong with this tradition in and of itself. A resolution, by definition, is "a definite and serious decision to do something" (Merriam-Webster). The problem, however, lies in the fact that there is rarely a plan to help you actually accomplish said something. That's why I stopped making New Year's resolutions. Instead, I set goals...realistic goals...actionable goals.

Not sure what the difference is between a resolution and an actionable goal? Allow me to clarify.

Think about your current list of New Year's resolutions. Perhaps some of these are there:

I will start running
I will read more books
I will organize my home
I will get a new job
I will eat healthy
I will get out of debt
I will lose 30 lbs
I will start working out

While that sounds like a great list, the items are too broad; there is no actionability attached to the resolutions. Rather than simply stating WHAT you plan to do, consider determining HOW you will do it. Make a game plan or map out a path for achieving the desired result. Set small, measurable goals that will keep you on track. And make sure they are realistic, achievable goals lest you find yourself constantly feeling like a failure. Nothing breeds success like success. Reach a small goal this week, and you will be much more likely to reach the next one next week.

So, rather than saying, "I will organize my home" (which is a huge undertaking for some of us!), how about committing to clean out one drawer, box, cabinet, or closet per week? Or, instead of "I will lose 30 lbs," consider a more direct approach, like limiting your caloric intake to a set daily amount or eliminating processed foods from your diet. These are measurable, achievable, actionable goals. If you want to read more, commit to limiting your time online (ouch) and replacing some of those web-surfing hours (yeah...hours) with a book.  Not only can you hold yourself accountable for specific behaviors, but you will feel an instant thrill of success every time you achieve the desired goal. This will keep your focus on your daily activities, rather than the end of the year, thereby creating a lifestyle change.  And, isn't that really our aim?

Oh, and speaking of that...avoid using the word "start" in any of your goals.  Don't start eating healthy...which implies finishing...just eat healthy! Don't start running. RUN!  If you don't make these goals a lifestyle change, you will find yourself right back here next New Year's Day.

Write down your goals.  Keep a spreadsheet with daily/weekly/monthly mile markers. If you set your end date too far out, you'll wait all year long to get started (there's that word again). Do it now!  And, if you're reading this later on in the year, don't wait until next New Year's to do it.  DO IT NOW!  After all, every day is a clean slate. 

Have a happy, successful, and blessed 2015!

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb





Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Go Get It!

My personal motivation for today...and always:  figure out what you really want....and then go get it!

All too often, I have fallen into the rut of assessing my resources and then asking myself, "What can I get for this?"  I'm not only speaking of monetary holdings...this applies to personal, emotional, spiritual, and financial effects, en tout.  This mentality immediately limits my options, however, thereby limiting my result.  This is settling.  And settling is not acceptable.  Not for me, anyhow.

Why not switch the thought process?  Why not ask the question, "What do I really want?"  Only when that answer is realized can one determine what needs to be accomplished in order to achieve the desired outcome.

Figure it out.  Not just what (you think) you deserve or can afford (right now) or are are capable of (currently), but what you REALLY want.  And then go for it...and go hard.  Don't stay in the "baby steps" phase forever.  Take those first few steps with care, find your footing, and then take off.  Let nothing and no one stand in your way.  Set your sights on your goal, whatever it may be, and let your desire to achieve it motivate you. You are only limited by your decisions...or your lack thereof.

"What you have does not equal what you are worth!" ~ Melanie R. Willetts

Saturday, August 31, 2013

September Mourn...ing

(That title may be my only Neil Diamond reference in any blog I write.  Ever.)

Today is the last day of August.  While the date has very little significance on the average calendar, it has great meaning to me this year.  It marks the end of the summer...for which I am truly ready.

The month of August, for me, was quite exciting.  I celebrated my birthday...literally from the 1st through the 31st.  (I'm drinking coffee from my "Birthday Girl" cup today, because I wasn't home on my actual birthday.  And there may or may not be a birthday cupcake waiting for me on the kitchen counter.)  I also took the vacation of a lifetime, thanks to the generosity and hospitality of several dear friends, to locations such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, and (almost) all points between.  It was a truly fabulous ending to an otherwise less-than-pleasant summer.

Oddly enough, I thought this was going to be the greatest summer of my life.  But, life pointed in my face and yelled, "HA!!"  The jerk.

You see, exactly one week before Memorial Day, the unofficial official start of summer, I met....you guessed it....a man.  But, not just any man.  I met the man I had given up looking for; the man who would knock me off my feet; the man of my dreams; the man I didn't believe existed.  He was "it".  I was the happiest I had been in over ten years...perhaps in my entire life. He was perfect for me.  Handsome, intelligent, kind, affectionate, gentle, playful...the list was endless.

The only real problem was the fact that he lived 1800 miles away, in Arizona, and was headed back that week.  So, we had to stay in contact via technology...which we did faithfully.  (Hmmm....interesting choice of words..."faithfully"....)  He would greet me every morning, as soon as he woke up, with a text that made my heart sing.  We would text throughout the day about everything from what we were eating for lunch to what song on the radio made us think of each other.  We would talk on the phone every night before I went to sleep.  And we prayed for each other every day.  It was simple.  It was easy.  It was sweet.  And I was falling in love.

We immediately started making plans for when we could see each other again. As it turned out, I had a trip scheduled for a conference in Nashville a few weeks later...and he had a work-related trip there which he was able to schedule for the same timeframe.  (His job required him to travel all over the US.)  The countdown began and we were so excited that we would see each other again in just a few weeks.

In the meantime, however, a series of events took place in my life that were much less wonderful.  In fact, the night we met, I received word that a good friend of mine had passed away.  The next day, the child of some of my dear friends was tragically killed in a bizarre accident.  I was crushed to hear of both of these incidents.  That week was an emotional see-saw.  While I was grieving over the loss of these precious lives, this wonderful man in my life was courting me so beautifully that I couldn't help but be happy.  He told me each day that he was keeping me in his prayers...especially on the day of both funerals.  (I could only attend one, but my heart was with both families.)  I thanked God for him every morning and every night.

The following Monday was Memorial Day.  I had to work, so he kept me company by sending me lots of texts telling me how beautiful he thought I was and how much he wanted us to be together.  He called me that night and I mentioned how much I loved it when he called me beautiful.  I said something along the lines of, "I hope that doesn't make me sound vain."  He laughed and replied, "Well, you *are* a little vain, don't you think?"  I was surprised to hear him say that, and questioned why he thought it.  But, he assured me that I was only a little bit vain...and that it kinda went with the job of being a DeeVah.  I realized that he was probably right and laughed with him.

The next morning, I woke up with a searing pain just below my right ear.  Within a couple of hours, I realized that the right side of my face was paralyzed.  I had Bell's Palsy.  Of course, I playfully blamed "him" for calling me vain, but it did knock me down several notches.  For the next 3 weeks, I had no shred of vanity left in me.  I looked like a circus freak.  I couldn't eat or drink without food falling out of my mouth or my beverage running down my chin.  I had one eye that wouldn't close all the way, so I had to wear an eye patch for several hours a day.  I couldn't pronounce certain consonants very well, so my speech sounded like that of a drunken Elmer Fudd.  I felt like a hideous monster.

But, every day, "he" would tell me I was beautiful.

The Bell's Palsy episode caused me to re-evaluate my lifestyle.  The condition was brought on by stress.  Nothing else.  When I realized that I had allowed myself to be so overcome by the cares of life that it actually took a physical toll on me, I decided to do something about it.  I had to let some things go.  I took a break from several of my singing gigs (which were humiliating in my condition, anyhow!), I started getting up early each morning and taking some time to pray and meditate before taking on the day, and I really tried to focus on simplifying my life.  I knew I didn't want the paralysis to last any longer than it had to...not just because I am so vain (which I realized was so true!), but also because I didn't want any permanent nerve damage.  I was determined to beat it...and FAST!  Also, I knew I would see "him" in just over three weeks, and I certainly did NOT want to look like Two-Face from Batman.

Thankfully, by the end of the third week, I had regained about 95% of my facial movement.  In fact, most people said they couldn't even tell I had ever had Bell's Palsy.  I could still see a little bit of drooping in my right eye...especially in photos.  But, overall, I was fine.  I did have a bit of puffiness in my face as a result of the steroids I had been taking, but I knew that wouldn't last.  Still, I was a little nervous about seeing "him".  I wanted to look like I did the night we met.  He assured me, however, that he couldn't wait to see my face again...no matter what.  My heart melted a little more and I fell a little harder for him.

Finally, our reunion in Nashville arrived.  I was so very excited...so very sure that my life was about to change forever.  And, boy was I right.  I won't belabor the details, but the Reader's Digest version goes thusly:  He was a philandering, lying, cheater who had been in a relationship with another woman for two years.  (She called his cell repeatedly while we were together...the poor, oblivious soul.)  And, as if that wasn't enough, I observed him texting at least seven other women during our time together.  When I confronted him, all I got was, "I'm not involved with any of them the way I am with you.  This is special."  Ugh.  My decision was painful but quite simple...I walked away from him.  I called him out on it, told him that I respected myself far too much to be with a man who did not respect me enough to at least be discreet about his indiscretions, and I walked out.  He didn't even attempt to stop me.  It broke my heart in more ways than I can ever put into words...but, I had no choice.

Please, however, do not pat me on the back for being so strong.  While he may have seen a strong-willed, self-respecting woman walk away from him, I came home and curled up into a ball on my couch and cried for weeks.  Weeks, people.  Not days...but, WEEKS!  I felt as though I were dying.  In fact, I had moments when I wished I were dying.  Surely, that couldn't hurt as badly as what I was feeling.  This was the first time in over ten years that I allowed myself to love someone so deeply.  I was ready to be in love with him.  I was ready to move to Arizona or wherever we decided to live.  I was ready for my forever to begin.  And, then, in a matter of moments, it all vanished.  Everything I believed to be true was gone.  As if it had never happened.  It was like emotional whiplash.  I grieved as though someone had died.  I suppose, in essence, someone *had* died.  The man I believed him to be was gone.  It took me only a few hours to realize that he was not the same man who had been texting and calling me every single day for five weeks.  I know...five weeks seems like nothing...but, it was a lifetime for me.  Within a few brief moments, he showed himself to be a cruel, cold, self-absorbed man who didn't even feel the need to apologize to me, much less attempt to redeem himself or restore our relationship.  I was devastated, and not just because the relationship was over.  That was MY decision, not his.  What crushed me was the complete lack of remorse that he showed.  It was as though he said to himself, "Well, that was fun while it lasted.  NEXT?"

I spent the next several weeks questioning myself.  Isn't it strange that we allow someone else's bad behavior to make us wonder what we did to deserve it?  But, that's exactly what I did.  I also questioned my judgment.  How could I have fallen so hard for someone so horrible?  How did I not see that in him?  Is he really that good at hiding it, or am I just that stupid?  I heard someone on a TV show say, "I have never been so sure...and so wrong!"  That's exactly how I felt.  And I began to doubt that I will ever allow myself to trust my heart again.

I faced a few other personal struggles during that time, but I think I've been a Debbie Downer long enough, so let's move on to the happy ending.  I did learn a few good things through the experiences of this dark, dreaded summer.

First of all, I trust God.  Implicitly.  Through each of the situations I have described here, God was clearly present.  I may not have understood all (or any) of the outcomes, but I recognized his fingerprints on each of them.  I watched God move in miraculous ways in the lives of my friends who lost their loved ones so tragically.  I found a renewed peace and increased faith during my bout with Bell's Palsy.  And, even though the relationship failed miserably, I placed it in God's hands from the very beginning.  I can honestly say that I know I did nothing "wrong"...nothing to deserve the way I was treated.  The end result was all due to someone else's bad decisions.  And I am quite certain that God was just as displeased with the outcome as I.  It wasn't God's fault, either.  God did not let me down...not for a moment.

Secondly, I learned that I truly do have the most amazing friends and family in the universe.  The support and love and encouragement that I received during the Bell's Palsy episode kept me from losing my mind.  I cannot tell you how easy it would have been to sit and cry every day that I woke up and saw no change.  Believe me, I wanted to.  But, the people who loved me the most knew that I had to keep going...I had to beat it...I had to show Bell's Palsy who the DeeVah really was! Thank you for that.

Those same people recognized that I needed to do just the opposite after the break-up.  I needed to cry.  And I needed to cry hard.  I needed to feel what I was feeling...just not for too long.  Some sat and cried with me.  Others just respected my need to be alone at times.  But, all of them understood and allowed me to feel what I needed to feel.  Yeah, he was a dumb, stupid, cheating, lying, jerk-face...but, I wasn't ready to hear anyone say that just yet.  I still loved him.  I didn't really want him back...because he was a dumb, stupid, cheating, lying, jerk-face...but I didn't hate him either.  That's not how I roll.  When I love someone, I love them forever.  Those who know me best, know this about me.  And they let me grieve.

THEN, however, they drug my cry-baby butt out of my house and made me enjoy life again.  The entire month of August was just one big party...and it was all about ME!  (Well, okay...not ALL about me...but a lot!)  I heard myself laugh and sing again for the first time in several weeks.  And, it felt really good.

Lastly, I learned that I am capable of being in love again...and, to be perfectly honest, I had given up on that notion.  In fact, just a few weeks before I met "him" (you know...the dumb, stupid, cheating, lying, jerk-face), I told a friend that I had not been in love in 10 years and I really didn't believe I would ever be again.  I know what I want in a relationship and I will not settle for less (obviously), and I simply did not think there was anyone out there who could meet up to my standards.  Apparently, I was wrong.  Sure, he turned out to be a bonehead, but there was a whole lot about him that was quite wonderful.  I remember how I felt during those five, short weeks and, as much as it hurt when it ended, it was so incredibly beautiful while it lasted.  I would be a liar if I said I never wanted to be in love again.  Truthfully, right now, I have no interest in feeling that way any time soon.  But, I know how sneaky life is...and I suppose it can point its finger in my face again whenever it wants and yell, "HA!!"  So, bring it on.  (Just, please, no more dumb, stupid, cheating, lying, jerk-faces, mkay?)

Be blessed, my friends.  And remember...life may throw us a curveball now & then, but God is never taken off-guard.

~ Melanie  (the DeeVah)

P.S.  That birthday cupcake?  FAIL!  The excessive hot pink frosting not only stained EVERYTHING around it...including my favorite yellow monkey pjs...it tasted like medicine. And not the good kind.  You realize what this means, don't you?   It means I need to go buy another cupcake...from a different store...immediately.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sweating Icicles

Forget about global warming...this is how my morning has gone:

  • 3:30am - wake up sweating because the thermostat resets to 85 when the power goes off.
  • 5:15am - alarm quite rudely interrupts my slumber...now I'm freezing and have cocooned myself in my fleece monkey blanket...don't make me get up.
  • 6:10am - teach spin class in the 3rd level of Gehenna -- it's 400° in the room and now we have to pedal UPHILL!
  • 7:00am - drenched in sweat...time to hit the shower...last rinse-off with cool water in an attempt to lower body temperature.
  • 7:30am - previous attempt failed...even with 2 fans blowing on me, I'm sweating like the Friday night speaker at VA Campmeeting.
  • 7:40am - finally get my hair dried and "fixed", makeup on, time to head to my office. Sunnuvagrunt! I let Nancy take my car home, so now I have to hoof it across campus...in heels...schlepping my gym bag, spin shoes, laptop and purse...in about 85% humidity.
  • 7:45am - plop down at my desk and pray that the A/C kicks on soon before I sweat to death....why did I even bother blow-drying my hair??
  • 8:00am - still blotting my face and neck with the hand towel I swiped from the Rec Center.(I will return it...sheesh!)  Seriously...all I need is a polyester suit and someone on a B-3 and we could have CHURCH up in here.
  • 8:15am - finally, the A/C has come on and my face is no longer melting down my neck.
  • 8:25am - A/C is freezing me to blueness...turn on my space heater and wrap myself around a steamy cup of coffee in hopes of thawing out.

It's a wonder I don't have pneumonia.  I can hardly wait until I start having hot flashes...

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fly, Dummy, Fly

I am a singer.  (If this is news to you, then I am clearly a complete stranger to you.  Nice to meet you.)  While sight reading is one of my stronger talents, I positively loathe reading a new chart in front of an audience.  But, from time to time, a DeeVah's gotta do what a DeeVah's gotta do.  Last night was one of those times...sorta.  It was actually just at a rehearsal.  (But, I had a microphone...which means people could HEAR me!)

The song was an Alicia Keys tune entitled, "If I Ain't Got You", with which I was only vaguely familiar.  (In my world of music, I call it 'karaoke knowing' a song.  You know....when you just kind of hum along and bob your head until you get to the part that everyone knows, and then you sing that at the top of your lungs while making your best rockstar face.)  In fact, I didn't recognize the song at all until the chorus...and, even then, I realized I only actually knew the first line, "Some people want it all, but I don't want nothin' at all..."  <Insert rockstar face here>  From there on, I was flailing...eyes glued to the notes while trying to grab the lyrics in my peripheral vision...and I was hating it.  I'm the DeeVah.  I should know this song!  And, let's face it...attempting to chart out the actual notes & rhythms that Alicia actually sings is likely to yield about 70% accuracy, at best.  (Needless to say, what I was singing wasn't even that accurate.)  My main focus was on the notes, but I didn't know the lyrics, either...so, I just read what was written and tried not to judge Ms. Keys for writing the most ridiculous lyrics I had ever seen.  According to my chart, the chorus read thusly:

Some people want it all
But I don't want nothin' at all
If it ain't you baby
If I ain't got you baby
Some people want dummy wings
Some just want everything
But everything means nothing
If I ain't got you.


Wait.  Some people want dummy wings?  What the huh??  What are dummy wings?  And, why would someone want them?  I was bewildered, but too busy trying to learn the blasted song to worry about how utterly stupid that sounded, so I just cringed my way through it.  Until midway through the 2nd chorus on our 2nd run-through...when it dawned on me...it should have read "diamond rings".  Some people want diamond rings.  Yes.  That's more like it.

And then I laughed.  For the rest of the song, I laughed.

You see, the chart was arranged and transcribed by someone named Jesper Riis, whom I believe is Danish.  And I suspect that Mr. Riis does not speak English very well.  It appears to me that he just listened to Alicia sing the song, and then wrote down what he heard her say...or, what he thought she said.  And, he thought she said "dummy wings".  Dummy.  Wings.

On my drive to work this morning, as I was singing along with Ms. Keys on my iPhone, I smiled when I got to that line and giggled at the idea that I could possibly have sung those words, had I not realized the mistake.  Then I began to question what Mr. Riis may have thought that line meant when he wrote it.  How would that concept translate in the context of the song?  Why would some people want dummy wings in relation to things like fortune, fame, roses, and other desirable possessions?  What, exactly, are they?  And, if I had a pair of dummy wings, what would I do with them?

The answer was almost immediate:  They are wings...for dummies.  And, I would give them to some dummy in my life and tell them to fly away from me.

Wouldn't that be a valuable thing to have?  A pair of dummy wings that you could just slap onto the back of some idiot who makes your life less-than-fabulous and then shove them off of a high ledge or cliff.  Whether or not they had enough sense to flap them and actually fly away rather than crash into a worthless heap of stupidity would be completely up to them.  Either way, they'd be out of your life.  You'd could even wave and smile as they flew away while you celebrated the fact that you were free of the dummy for good.

I think I'm going to need more than one pair.

And, I'm glad Mr. Riis didn't write "dummy boomerangs".

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Unicorn

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who dreamed of someday having a unicorn. The little girl had always wanted a unicorn. (Who doesn't want a unicorn?) All her life, she wondered what it would be like to have a unicorn of her own...a strong, beautiful, magical unicorn...yes, that would make her life so fantastic! She spent countless hours imagining the fun they would have, dancing in meadows, playing on beaches, galloping through forests...oh, what a happy little girl she would be if she could just find her unicorn. "Surely," she mused, "my unicorn is out there somewhere...and I shall find him!"  And, so she searched.

In another village, across the river, there lived a jackass.  The jackass had always dreamed of someday being a unicorn.  He so wanted to be a unicorn. (Who doesn't want to be a unicorn?) All his life, he wondered what it would be like to be a unicorn...a strong, beautiful, magical unicorn...yes, that would make his life so fantastic!  He spent countless hours imagining the fun he would have, frolicking in meadows, playing on beaches, galloping through forests...all the while, hearing the villagers cry, "Oh! Look at the beautiful unicorn!"

One day, the jackass had a wonderful idea. "Say, why not make myself into a unicorn? Surely, it cannot be terribly difficult." So, the jackass began to dig through the garbage behind a local ice cream shop where he found a discarded waffle cone. "Voila!" he shouted as he tucked his long, floppy ears into his curly mane and promptly affixed the waffle cone to his forehead.  Then, the jackass doused himself with white paint and a sprinkling of glitter. "Behold!" he cried. "I am a unicorn, indeed!" and he began to prance about the shores of the river singing and dancing and looking very much like a unicorn.  And the villagers noticed him.

"Look at the unicorn!" they cheered. "He is such a handsome unicorn...we love the unicorn...we cannot get enough of him!" And the people began to follow the unicorn everywhere he went, hoping for the opportunity to meet the unicorn...to speak to him...perhaps, even, to touch him.  The unicorn loved their attention, so he began to do tricks for them. He pranced on his hind legs, waving his front hooves in the air; he sang songs about rainbows and sparkly things; he smiled and winked at the pretty girls, and high-hoofed the men...and the villagers adored him. They put him on stages to do his tricks and he became so popular that they eventually put him on television. After all, he was an extraordinary unicorn.

One day, the little girl saw the unicorn on television. "Oh! Look!" she squealed.  "It's a unicorn! A real, live unicorn! I must find him!"  And, she immediately went searching for the unicorn. She traveled to many villages wondering where she could catch a glimpse of this magnificent creature. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of searching, she found him. There he was...in all his unicornial glory...dancing, singing, prancing on the shore of the river. And her heart leapt in her chest. "Oh, he is beautiful," she thought. "But, he will never notice me. I am a mere mortal...just a girl...I'm not a unicorn." And so, she simply stood and admired him from a distance.

Until, suddenly, the unicorn noticed the girl. "Say...that girl is lovely," he thought. "Why haven't I noticed her before? I must make myself known to her. I always smile and wink at the pretty girls." And so, he smiled and winked at the girl.  And she swooned a little.  "He noticed me! The unicorn sees me!" And she smiled and waved to him.

Before long, the little girl and the unicorn had become friends. They would go for long walks and talk about everything from rainbows and sparkly things to religion and politics. And they laughed. They laughed, and they played. They frolicked in meadows, they played on beaches, they galloped through forests...oh what fun they had!

But then, it began to rain. Only lightly at first. Just a few sprinkles. The unicorn became a little agitated, which surprised the little girl. "It's okay, unicorn...it's just a little rain," she whispered as she stroked his curly mane. "Wait...what is this?" The little girl looked at her hand and saw that it was covered in a sparkly, white residue. "How odd," she thought to herself...but, she shrugged and pretended not to notice.

After a few minutes, as the rain continued, the inevitable started to happen. The unicorn's white paint began to wash away in a few spots.  "Hmm...," thought the little girl. "My unicorn looks a little bit like a jackass." But, she pretended not to notice and continued to play with the unicorn.

As they frolicked, however, the glue on the waffle cone began to lose it's stickiness and the cone started to slip.  "Hmm...," thought the little girl. "That unicorn looks a lot like a jackass!" And she frowned a little...because, she didn't like jackasses very much. But, she so wanted her unicorn to be a unicorn, so she pretended not to notice.

Just then, the rain came down hard. The unicorn panicked and began to snort and buck, which caused the waffle cone to completely fall off...and his long ears unfurled from beneath his curly mane.  All of the white paint and glitter washed to the ground and he stood there...completely exposed.

And the little girl looked at him, folded her arms, and sighed, "I knew it. He really is just a jackass."  So she shook her head in disgust and walked home.

And she lived happily ever after.

The moral of this story:  Focus on what is real. If you are looking for a unicorn, you will not find one.  They do not exist.  They are all just jackasses.  Jackasses with waffle cones stuck to their heads.