This is why I church.

This past week has been full of disappointments.

I am NOT happy with my appearance. At all. I’m not happy with my hair and skin. Something hormonal is going on to where my hair and skin are both very dry, which means my hair has been pretty unmanageable and my skin pretty itchy in inopportune places at inopportune times. And I’m still thirty pounds overweight. Mind you, I am aware that weight loss takes time. I have been steadily putting on pounds with each pregnancy, so it’s not like I expected the weight to fall off. I did expect to see better results than what I am seeing. I have been keeping track of my expended calories and steps with my FitBit and adjusting my food intake accordingly. Despite eating close to flipping nothing I still could not squeeze my thick dinosaur hamhock thighs and donkey butt into a pair of flipping size 15 shorts today when my husband was kind enough to cut me loose in the mall so I could find a few things to wear for our cruise in June. I almost cried in the fitting room. I did not, I repeat did NOT, want to go up a size, but I had no choice.  And it infuriated me.

I’m tired of watching my husband shovel in sweets and fast food and everything else on earth he wants to eat with no flipping consequences or repercussions. I’m tired of seeing women who’ve have kids that are able to lose the weight within months. Don’t even get me started on the women who have the luxury of avoiding stretch marks. I don’t even like looking in the mirror. I have no idea how I’m going to ever get rid of this disgusting stretchy flap of skin that now sits where my babies once sat while they were cooking. I hate that I have to give up things that give me pleasure so I won’t look like a big fat shapeless gelatinous brown blob with hair. I.LOVE.COOKIES!!! COOKIES GIVE ME LIFE. But what are cookies? Cookies are delicious empty calories. And I can’t stand water. Why can’t water taste like Pineapple Orange Faygo or Slurpees? If it did, I’d be the healthiest person on earth!

It angers me that I have to get serious about what I eat and really only stick to things with nutritional value. I guess I am going to have to forget about actually ENJOYING eating for awhile, because I am sick of being this fat. All I can wear are t-shirts and loose fitting pants and that is a crying shame considering how cute and fit I used to be.  I had a goal to be in my sexy jumpsuit by my husband’s birthday and there’s no way I’m going to be able to do it.

I’m sick of health issues. Yes, I know there are people who have it worse. Believe me, I do. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get frustrated. Apparently I am going through early menopause. Thirty-five flipping years old, and going through menopause (I have to see my doctor to confirm). So in addition to the undiagnosed illness I already have, now I get to deal with the delights of brutal hot flashes that add to the discomforts associated with the fact that I’m always hot anyway; hair growing in places that it shouldn’t on a female; the hair and skin problems mentioned above; and the fact that menopause can cause hormonal garbage that will make it even harder for me to lose weight. WOOPTEY-DOO, LIFE!

When I go out, I hope that I don’t run into people I know, because I know I look a hot frumpy mess. And that just depresses me. It does. Mind you, I am not upset with my FEATURES. I’m just not satisfied with the changes they are going through.

With that being said, I am very much looking forward to church. Every Sunday is like a revival, a chance for me to recommit myself, to refresh and reinvigorate myself in the Lord. Church is where I always feel welcomed and loved even if I look a frumpy mess. No one cares what I look like while I’m teaching kids the Word of God or helping in the kitchen or with the computer system.

Sunday is my day of rest. Rest from all things of the world. A day to simply bask in the goodness of God. I’ll try to keep my negative thoughts about myself to a minimum.

Until Monday, that is.

lumberg cookies

Because of this day, we have hope.

I fought the urge to respond to several memes floating around Facebook disparaging Easter Sunday. As usual, the memes were rife with misinformation. It confuses me as to how people who claim to be so educated don’t even bother to research their stupid memes before they post. Instead of responding to their garbage, because I have had such a good weekend, I posted correct information on my page that the misinformed, if they so choose, which they probably won’t, can read and digest at their leisure.

The first meme was embarrassingly stupid.

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SMH.

As I perused the comments associated with this image, it became painfully clear that people do not understand that Easter is a celebration of the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Apparently, they believe Easter is a prediction of when Jesus will come back.

The second one included some historical information that was a bit easier for me to understand in terms of HOW it came about.

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Actually, the meme itself isn’t inaccurate if we accept some of the evidence that has been publicized, but the comments were.

There are some Christians who believe that Easter is a pagan holiday that we should not celebrate. In a way, they are correct. We know that there is no mention of an Easter celebration in the Bible. I became interested in how this celebration came about, and how it ended up including bunnies and eggs. Basically, the combination of multiple pagan traditions resulted in what we call Easter today.

Ishtar was a goddess in ancient Mesopotamia associated with war, fertility and sex. Ishtar worship involved temple prostitution and animal sacrifice. It is thought that the early Catholic Church, in its attempt to Christianize hesitant converts, incorporated some aspects of pagan religious practices into their own. Their evidence is given in the fact that there is no scriptural basis for things such as Lent, for example. It is thought that the bunny and eggs were also incorporated from other cultures, since rabbits and eggs can be thought to symbolize fertility and new life (we all know how rabbits get it on). Other cultures don’t have a bunny. Some have foxes or birds. Apparently the bunny and eggs were brought here to America by Germans. There is also a subset that says eggs represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb.

HOWEVER…

The fact that “Easter” is not spelled out in the Bible and has pagan origins and influences does not change the fact that Jesus lived, suffered a horrible death for OUR sins, died on the cross and ROSE AGAIN. So the reason behind the celebration is absolutely valid.

he is risen

That’s why I rarely make comments on things before I’ve done my research. I take pride in not letting my biases make me look like a fool.

Hope everyone had a blessed Easter Sunday. And remember that we don’t have to wait until next Easter to celebrate His resurrection. We can thank our Heavenly Father each and every day for sending His Son to die for us, so that we might have hope… Hope in life, that if things don’t go the way we have planned, that God has something better in store for us, and hope in death–since we know we all leave that way, there is no need to be afraid of what is essentially simply us moving from this temporary, stressful, painful life with these decrepit bodies and their diminishing physical functioning (or maybe that’s just me LOL) to beautiful, peaceful, joyful eternity with Jesus.

Boys are from Neptune, Girls are from Jupiter

One of the funny and sometimes maddening aspects of having children of both sexes is that I get to see directly how different little boys and little girls can be.

These past few days have been exhausting. My children have been driving me nuts. Babygirl is still teething, and she is trying to chew on EVERYTHING. Remote controls, socks, her toys, Layla’s toys, Jayden’s toys, cell phones, cell phone cases… Anything that she can maneuver into her mouth. That means I have to spend extra time making sure that her toys are super clean and that my older kids haven’t carelessly left anything in her path that might make its way into her mouth and harm her. I have to keep reminding them not to leave pencils, crayons and buttons on the couches, because she will pull up on them and grab at anything within little fat arm’s reach.

With Jayla’s newfound and burgeoning mobility comes an increase in safety problems. Now I’m noticing all of the exposed outlets that I need to cover, the partially exposed nail holding down the piece of wood in the floor, the jumble of cords beside the television. She falls sometimes too, of course, so I have made the living room floor, where she spends the bulk of her exploration time, more comfortable by putting a big comforter down. When she falls, at least her landing is relatively soft.

As I’ve mentioned before, I found that 90% of motherhood involves repeating the same things over and over again. My son, lovable and sweet as he is, is super sloppy and absent-minded. He is asthmatic and has been on the same medicinal regimen for years now–two puffs of his inhaler morning and night, allergy medicine before bed. You would think after doing these things for seven years he would remember on his own, right? Nope, not at all. And there have been other things that I constantly get after him about that he is just not getting through his head–after he showers, I have to tell him to pick his dirty towel up from the bathroom floor. After dinner, I have to catch him before he wanders away from the table and tell him to clear his space. He takes things out of the refrigerator such as mustard or whipped cream and will forget to put them back. Whenever he does this I get angry, I’ll admit, because these are things I tell him ALL.THE.TIME. I ask him, in particular when he leaves a mess, “So who do you expect to clean this up?” He just gives me a sheepish look.

While my son doesn’t do enough, my five-year-old does TOO MUCH. Now, Layla is tidy. She makes up her little bed on her own and picks up her room when I tell her to. After dinner she clears her little space. She is also clean about her little body. I supervise her in the bathtub, but only to make sure she doesn’t get up and slip and fall. She knows how to wash herself and she does a good job.

In what seems to be, lately, efforts to get more positive attention and be more independent, as we know she is, she has been trying to do things she shouldn’t.  On a few occasions she has tried to be helpful in terms of clearing the entire table and has picked up glass items and, since she cannot reach the sink, stood on her tiptoes and dropped the items in, almost breaking them. A few times in the bathtub she has started to “clean” the bathtub using the washcloth she is supposed to wash herself with. Obviously these are things she has seen me do and is trying to help, so I just tell her what to do or not to do and why. For example, when she dropped the glass dishes in the sink, I told her I appreciated her helping me, but so she doesn’t hurt herself, I’ll let her know what she can help with. Then I told her about the time I broke glass and hurt myself on the shards. She likes when correction comes with anecdotes.

I’ve also been getting a bit agitated by my isolation. I have been looking forward to starting a remote job, but they have been having some technical issues (and possibly some organizational issues in terms of assigning work). I am tired of being so helpless, and I miss working. I miss regular interaction with adults. The company I will be working for is highly respected and I have worked for them before and loved it, so I was more than ready. Unfortunately, they weren’t. Last week I tried to log in and begin work each day at six p.m. to no avail. Now I’m anxiously awaiting an email from them letting me know the kinks have been worked out and I can begin. I was hoping to have a paycheck or two under my belt by my husband’s birthday.

In the meantime, I have found myself getting increasingly annoyed by the daily grind. It happens. Especially since my baby has been fussy and clingy, I’ve had ZERO time to myself. Even when I lay down at night, I am awakened multiple times by her, so I can’t even eke out a good dream. I am a person who is sociable but also loves regular solitude. And since I haven’t been getting it, I am a bit of a crab apple.

I was on the brink of explosion earlier. Jayla was super fussy and refused to sleep. I felt bad, because the hours I spent dealing with her, my other daughter was vying for my attention and I couldn’t properly give it to her. Also, the Internet was down at Mom’s house again (Comcast is NOT doing her any favors–terrible service) so she could not work on her  ABCMouse lessons. I got frustrated because the plans I had for myself and Layla–to work on her lessons, read some books with her, etc., were all derailed because my baby was in such a foul mood. I still had to consider what was for dinner, and then my son had to come home early because he had over-exerted himself during recess and was coughing his head off.

dinner meme

The day slowly got better once my husband woke up from his after-work slumber (he gets off around six a.m. every day). He went out with his best friend for about an hour, and we ordered food, so I got out of coming up with a meal. (I need to start meal planning and grocery shopping on the weekend. What I’m doing right now is not working). When he came back, I left the kids with him in the living room, went into our room and shut the door. I ended up falling asleep for about an hour. Not sleeping at night is catching up with me. According to my FitBit I only average around three hours of actual sleep at night (insert angry face here).

This is why I kind of think I am done having kids. Initially my husband and I both thought we wanted four, but it appears that I am going through early menopause. If that is the case, I am fine with that. People have suggested fertility treatments and adoption if I still want the fourth, but I am tired. I am tired and I don’t have any guarantees that my health isn’t going to continue to decline. I really feel I am too exhausted to do this again.

When I woke up, a story popped up in my news feed that put everything into perspective. When I saw it I felt ashamed for having been annoyed with my kids. It’s a heartbreaking story shared by a brave mom by the name of Ruth Scully. She lost her sweet four-year-old baby boy, Nolan, to a form of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma, in February–the same month that Layla turned five.

http://www.fox2detroit.com/news/us-and-world-news/247954714-story

The story and the accompanying photos had such an impact on me. My kids are no better than anyone else’s… this could be any one of them. I had to remind myself of that, and thank  God that it wasn’t, and pray for the strength of this grieving mother, who probably would give her right arm to have the opportunity to be “annoyed” by her son one last time. SMH at myself.

If you have Facebook, visit her page “NolanStrong”. I’m sure she would love a kind word.

 

Dealing with Unbelievers

Le sigh.

We as Christians know that God, the Bible, and all things Christian are not necessarily popular in today’s American society. We need to prepare ourselves each and every day as we head out into this Satan-filled, Satan-ruled world to deal with unbelievers (and I say that to mean people who don’t believe in Jesus, of course. They believe in SOMETHING, just not Jesus).

I am not employed outside the home, but when I do leave the house to go to the grocery store, drop my son off at school, go to church, etc., there are a few things I have tried to incorporate in my morning ritual with the full understanding that at any given point in the day I might come in contact with an unbeliever. The Bible tells us in Ephesians that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (6:12, NIV). Because of this, before we leave the house, we ought to make sure we are girded in the “full armor of Christ”: “so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (6:13-17).

Well, the day of evil has already arrived in a sense. We see the world is getting more wicked and the Word of Truth is being rejected and replaced by prosperity gospel and other feel-good false doctrine. The depravity of man knows no bounds. Each day I am more and more shocked by some of the videos I see (some I don’t watch, but I see thumbnails and descriptions of certain acts that are absolutely disgusting–fight videos, videos of abominable sexual acts, etc), and I have to pray right then not for myself, but for the world and my poor babies. I sometimes regret bringing them into this mess of a world.

I understand that there is more to this major apostasy than just the workings of the devil and his minions. Christian hypocrisy is staggering. I’ve heard people talk of walking into a church and being turned completely off by the people inside it. Either they were not met at the door with a friendly greeting, or were asked personal information such as how much they were giving for the offering, or they were subjected to an unsavory preacher. (Those are the reasons behind my writing. To expose Christian hypocrisy in the church so that we might get it right and get people inside).

So, as Christians we have our work cut out for us. We have Satan, who stays busy, and then we have other Christians bringing our reputation, and hence, our ability to witness, to curb-level. Dealing with unbelievers isn’t easy. Especially when they are within your family.

Historically, at least in terms of recent history, Black people have strongly identified as Christian. That is dropping (per a report prepared by the Pew Research Center, the number of individuals of ALL races who report being Christian is on the decline: http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/). Personally, I have encountered a significant number of young Black people, particularly men, who either claim to be Agnostic or are say they are Muslim (although the ones who claim to be Muslim seem to live by a very loose interpretation of the faith). When I interact with them, I find their beliefs and, more importantly, their ANGER against Christianity to be a hard walnut to crack.

Not saying I don’t understand. I do. These young people, like myself, feel BETRAYED when we grow up and then find out, after going from kindergarten to twelfth grade, that African-Americans did, in fact, contribute quite a bit to the landscape of America OTHER than just slavery, MLK, and Rosa Parks. I would like for White people to try to understand how disheartening it is to go through twelve full years of education being told subliminally that people who look like you haven’t accomplished ANYTHING notable, and those who did were just exceptional people. We get the shortest month of the year to study our rich history and even then, we are exposed only to certain individuals. MLK. Rosa Parks. Frederick Douglass. Sojourner Truth. Harriet Tubman.

Until I got to to college, taking a class I had to PAY for, did I begin to learn the full extent of our history. America would be content to have us all believe that before we were brought over here as slaves, we were barbarians and savages running naked around Africa mumbling monosyllabic utterances to each other. Not the case. African societies had structure. They had political systems. They were educated in mathematics and science. They were skilled at making items using the many natural resources stored by the African land. Egyptian society in particular was very progressive. We were not RESCUED from barbarianism like America would have us to believe. Yes, there were inter-tribal conflicts and wars, but the true barbarianism did not begin until a group of people decided they had the right to kidnap another group of people from their native land, separate them from their families thus destroying their societies, all for profit. THAT IS BARBARIC. Africans are typically depicted as wearing very little clothing. Umm, probably because it’s hot???????

That is step one in producing a generation of weary young Black people, but it is the most damaging. Why? Well, in addition to the studies that have confirmed over and over that Black students are treated differently than others–disciplined more harshly, labeled a disciplinary problem when there might be other issues, less likely to be pushed toward more challenging schoolwork–being told from a young age that you really don’t come from much and in hundreds of years your people haven’t come far is a bit of a dream-killer. Where is your pride going to come from? Then you have institutional racism in place to where even if you do make achievements they may be overlooked, or you have to be exceptional, beyond exceptional, to even be considered average? Do people understand how difficult that is? It gives you a poor start. It is difficult to undo beliefs that have been imparted in a person since childhood.

When we get older and find out the truth, yes it makes us angry. It makes us angry that people thought so little of us that they restricted our history not only from US, but from everyone. White people need to know Black history just as much as we do. If you wonder why, look NO further to how divided America is today. Our government has become masters of divisiveness. Black versus White, natural citizen versus foreign-born, rich versus poor. We don’t understand each other, and that is where the fear and hatred come in. But I digress.

A lot of these disillusioned young Black people circulate memes asking why Black people continue to worship the God of their oppressor. Often times those memes include a picture of White Jesus. I have multiple problems with that:

  1. I thought by now that the myth that Jesus had blond hair and blue eyes had been thoroughly debunked.
  2. Even if He did, I wouldn’t care. What He DID when HE died on the cross was more important to me than how He looked. But these people are against anything that has historically been used by White people to oppress. What could be more oppressing than having a White guy be the Lord of your life??
  3. Just because slavemasters used Christianity in the process of oppressing Black people, that does not mean that God intended for that to happen or condoned it. It is my belief that even if Black people had not been taught Christianity once we got to America, that God would have gotten it to us some other way–by missionaries, just like there were in every other corner of the world.

The problem is, even when I present these individuals with facts, they don’t listen. They argue. They ridicule. Here is an example of another meme (and why the heck are people so quick to believe MEMES over actual RESEARCH and EDUCATION???????) that I responded to. I may have posted this before, and I apologize in advance for the F bomb:

star-trek-wtf-how-the-fuck-did-jesus-find-guys-named-peter-john-james-matthew-andrew-phillip-thomas-

I informed the poster that those were NOT the disciples’ real names, that those were English translations, if you will, and that even Jesus’ name is not “Jesus” because there was no “J” sound. His name is actually Yeshua. As for the others:

Simon (Peter & the Zealot) = Shimon

John = Yochanon

James (brother of John, son of Zebedee & son of Alphaeus)= Yakov (Jacob)

Bartholomew = Bar-Talmai

Matthew = Maatiyahu

Thomas = Tau’ma

Thaddeus = Theudas or a variant of Yehuda

Andrew & Phillip = names are thought to have derived from Greek names Andreas & Filippos

Judas Iscariot = Yehuda

The poster responded within seconds, which let me know that he didn’t even bother to research my response. The response was one of disbelief and perhaps a trace of scorn.

After a few posts of back and forth I stopped responding, as I usually do in those cases. Why? Because the conversation was going absolutely nowhere. And it won’t. I have decided I am no longer going to entertain those types of posts. Here is what I think when it comes to dealing with unbelievers.

First, we have to realize that they are always going to be among us and that is a part of God’s plan. The Bible tells us all will not be a part of the elect, those of us who have been predestined to salvation. The entire concept of an elect is absolutely fascinating to me. God could have made us ALL a part of the elect, right? But why would He? That pesky free will comes into play here. God definitely could have designed us to love Him, just like a person can program a robot to do whatever he or she wants. But why would He do that? Do you want people to love you because they have to or because they want to?

Say you own a very profitable company. A quarter of your employees are hard-working and loyal, the other 75% are not. If you decide to reward your employees with an all-expenses paid trip to the best place in the world, are you going to take everyone or just the employees that were good to you? If you took the bad performers too, what would that tell the good ones?? That their good works were in vain? That they can act just like the bad performers and still reap the same rewards??

The concept of the elect is not an example of God being unjust. On the contrary, it is an example of Him doing what is fair and what is right.

In the Bible, whenever God executed judgment against people, a remnant always remained. These remnant were righteous people who were spared so that they might continue on in the Lord. The remnant were there to remind other survivors and future generations of what happened when a nation disobeyed God. The elect now have the responsibility to not only educate the world about God, but to SHOW God in our everyday lives. That’s why we have been elected. To witness to others.

These days, people often bristle at the very mention of Jesus. Witnessing has to be done prayerfully. Any time we are headed into Jesus territory with an unbeliever, we need to pray first. It is best if we find some common ground with the person first. As a matter of fact, let me back up a bit. Before we engage with ANYONE, we need to be secure and steadfast in our own faith. We have to have knowledge–that comes from Bible study and prayer. We can’t teach others what we don’t know. While none of us will ever be fully versed in all things Bible, there are some basic understandings we all ought to have. In addition to that, personal testimony is extremely effective. No one can take from you something you have personally experienced. If God brought you through addiction, for example, don’t be ashamed of having been a former addict. Rejoice in your triumph over addiction and rejoice in your newfound purpose: As a FORMER addict, you can now help people in their recovery process AND use your experience to bring others to Christ.

Despite how foolish another person’s beliefs may be to you, don’t be rude or condescending. If you make a person feel stupid, are they going to receive anything you say well? Nope. It also doesn’t help to try to pretend that you are perfect.

But at the end of the day, some people just won’t believe. It is only your job to present the Gospel to them. They make the decision whether or not to receive. Although the Bible tells us we are to choose our friends wisely, as we don’t want to open ourselves up to negative influences even if we are strong in the faith (although we can find common ground with people–meaning we might find an unbeliever who shares our passion for a particular hobby or sports team, for example, the Word says in 2 Corinthians 6:14 “what partnership does righteousness have with lawlessness?”), it is okay for us to have friendships with unbelievers. However, 2 Cor. 6:14 also says we should not become unequally yoked and develop intimate relationships with them. We should limit our time with them because they don’t have that “fruit of the Spirit” that we believers have.

fruit of the spirit

THAT is the impression I get when I deal with some of the unbelievers I come in contact with. They have treated me with impatience, disdain and self-control. They call me intolerant while refusing to give heed to my words, yet I am expected to listen to THEM as they malign MY beliefs.

thats not how this works

Do not argue with those who are steadfast in their disbelief. 1 Timothy 4:7a tells readers not to argue “over foolish ideas and silly myths and legends”. 2 Timothy 23-26 says “But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed fights. And the Lord’s slave must not be a fighter but kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth and they will come to their senses and escape the devil’s trap where they are held captive to do his will”.

Arguing solves nothing. Once a conversation has reached a fevered pitch, the parties are no longer LISTENING to each other–they are too busy trying to prove themselves right. The reason why I can argue no more is because after going back and forth with a brick wall, my gentleness begins to fade, and then the discussion heads toward a fight. Once I find my patience diminishing and my irritation skyrocketing, it is time to wrap it up. I have come plenty far in terms of my temper, but it’s definitely still there, and the On switch usually flips when someone insults Jesus or my intelligence. Before it gets there, I will be the bigger person and disengage. From then on, all I can do is pray for the person and hope that I have at least planted a seed and that in the future, that person may come out of spiritual blindness and accept Jesus.

So that is my take on dealing with unbelievers. First have yourself in order. Be prayed up and studied up. Understand that there is some background or context that has led to a person’s disbelief (for the young Black people I spoke of, their background is the anger toward having their history whitewashed. Other people might have come from a family that prescribed to a different religion).  Try to find some common ground with them. Be kind, but not too kind–don’t water down the Word to appease them. If you find that the person is not receiving your truth, end the discussion. Remove yourself from their company. Pray for them.

And thank God for your own spiritual enlightenment.

Triggers

You know why you never truly get over the loss of a loved one? Besides the huge void their departure leaves in your life and heart?

Because everywhere you go, there are triggers.

It’s working on almost two years since Dad died, but there are still things that can, without a moment’s notice, trigger a memory–either good or bad. On Friday morning my mom, husband, daughters and I traveled to Saginaw an hour and a half away to attend the funeral of Todd, one of our beloved church members (Saginaw is where he was originally from). I didn’t expect to have much difficulty. I’ve been to a few funerals since Dad passed away with little incidents. Today something else happened.

When I got up to the front where Todd lay in his casket, looking beyond peaceful and sharply dressed, I made the mistake of inhaling. The scent of the embalming chemicals got to me. Within an instant I was no longer looking down at Todd. I was seeing my Dad in his coffin. My knees buckled.

Later that evening, a familiar song came on the radio. It was one I hadn’t heard since I was a child. It immediately brought back great memories of my parents, sister and I riding in our Grand Am as we headed to Chi-Chi’s, one of our favorite restaurants. Every Friday night we’d eat out. That was our guaranteed family time. Then, Dad and I would typically drop my mom and sister off back at home and go hang out with his side of the family at my Gramma’s house. I LOVED those times. There was always so much hustle and bustle at Gramma Smith’s house–lots of happy (oftentimes drunk) people, Spades games, food cooking, music, aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends, you name it. It had already been a rough day, but that song, as upbeat as it was, brought back a fresh flood of emotions and I fell apart.

Sunday at church one of my Dad’s older sisters had a similar experience. Our organist and choir began singing a familiar song for devotion, which also happened to be one of my recently deceased uncle’s favorites, a song that had been played at his funeral last year when he died (my Uncle J.W. I wrote about him). It was the first time she heard the song since the funeral, and she immediately had an epic meltdown that consisted of tears, sobs and screams. I knew the feeling. I stayed with her until she was okay, and cheered her up by reminding her of how awesome our lives had been because of how large and fantastic our family was. When it was over, we were both laughing.

I had an interesting exchange with my husband that put me in deep thought. He is not close with his extended family at all. He has never experienced a family reunion. He is not close with his aunts, uncles, cousins or grandmothers. It had to be overwhelming coming into a family as large as mine–Dad was the youngest of twelve, Mom was one of eleven (only ten survived into adulthood. One of my aunts, Claudia, died in childhood). I’d say he has handled it well. But we both mused about whether it was easier to have never had the exposure to my family–like him–because of the emotional wreckage that occurs whenever one of my loved one dies. He can count on one hand the number of funerals he attended before he met me, and now we’re attending almost one funeral for a family member each year. Dad’s death undoubtedly took an emotional toll on my husband as well.

I really had to stop and ask myself would I have ever preferred or chosen NOT to have had a relationship with my great aunts and uncles, aunts and uncles, grandmothers, cousins, etc..? Certainly, it would alleviate the heartache that I feel whenever I lose one of them, but after awhile I realized the negative impact in my life had I NOT known those people would have been greater. It took me realizing that I have way too many good memories of my loved ones to be willing to sacrifice even a moment of time with them just to protect my feelings. I probably wouldn’t love to cook if I hadn’t spent time with my grandmothers. My cousins were my first true friends. All of my aunts and uncles have either spent time with me as a child baby-sitting me or in some way imparted some knowledge, wisdom or love in me somehow. Nah, I could never say that I’d have been better off not knowing them.

But it is difficult.

Enjoy your family while you have them.

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Top row, left to right: My Aunt Bessie, who has a birthday coming up; Aunt Betty Sue, died in 2012; Uncle J.W., died in 2016; Uncle Bobby, died in 1999

Middle row, left to right: Uncle Hollis; Aunt Linda, died in 2014; Aunt Ann; Aunt Imogene

Bottom row, left to right: Aunt Mary, Aunt Peggy, Aunt Kay, my Dad. Died August 11, 2015, 11:40 p.m., and my heart is still broken.

(Please ignore the incorrect caption of “La Famille” at the top. I recognize that a famille is porcelain but I could not remove it).

Despite their flaws, and all of them have them, one thing that is universal among my aunts and uncles is their acceptance of Jesus Christ. This brings me comfort, because I know that the Bible says that when one is absent from the body they are present with the Lord. When my aunt melted down at church the other day, I told her a technique that helps me. I told her that I have a picture in my mind of my Dad when he was at his most handsome and most healthy. It is the picture of him holding my son when he was firstborn. His hair looks perfect, his skin is smooth and shiny, and he is big. I told her to get a picture in her mind of Uncle J.W. when he was at his healthiest, and to remember that where he now resides, THAT is how he is. I picture my deceased loves ones shiny, joyful, and in absolute physical perfection. That helps me deal with the sting of their death. If you truly think about it, WE are the ones who are suffering. It’s those of us who are still HERE that have to deal with sickness, the evils of this corrupt world, instability, conflict, etc. We have to make sure we do what we have to–accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior–so that we can experience the perfect peace that our loved ones who died in Christ now enjoy.

 

 

 

One must be in a constant state of misery…

To be filled with so much hate.

I cannot imagine how it must feel to wake up every day and have my sole purpose in life to be to cause strife to someone else. I cannot imagine how mentally exhausting and time consuming it is to keep seeking out propaganda to fuel my hatred. Because that has to be what these people do–instead of educating ourselves about those we hate with face-to-face encounters, we instead search for resources and information that reinforce our beliefs. It is like many of the people I interface with on FaceBook, whose facts tend to come from right-leaning websites such as Breitbart. I too have perused Breitbart and when I came across articles that were flat-out trash, I pointed those out to the Breitbart subscribers, and their replies have been that every news source has a slant or bias. Number one, that is untrue, and number two, if you know for a fact that a news source that you frequent has a slant, why do you take everything on it as Gospel truth?

I guess it is baffling because I do not have the ability to hate within me. If I were going to hate anybody, I am sure it would be the dirtbag who raped me. But you know what I feel toward him? Pity. I pity him because mentally healthy people do not victimize other people. There is something terribly wrong with him. Yes, he temporarily ruined my life, and yes, it is still something that I occasionally struggle with–mainly the “what ifs”. But even right after it happened, I didn’t hate him. I hated myself first, but then I dealt with that.

What I cannot understand is pure unadulterated hatred toward an ENTIRE GROUP OF PEOPLE. Every race of people has its bad apples; each religion, even Christianity, has its extremists.But in each case, the vast majority of the people are decent folks. I unfortunately encounter a lot of individuals who, despite their claims to the contrary, are highly racist against Black people. The 2010 United States Census recorded almost 38 million Black people. If we want to expand that number to include Black people living in other countries, we’re into the billions. So can one honestly say that they know for a fact, 100% without a doubt, that BILLIONS of people are lazy, mooching criminals? In 2015, it was estimated that there were 3.3 million Muslims living in the USA. If they ALL were terrorists, don’t you think America would have been completely ablaze by now?

I obviously do not agree with Islam’s beliefs but I know that God has elected SOME, and those who are not elected were given a free will with which they are allowed to choose their own destiny. Of course I would hope for everyone to choose salvation through Jesus Christ, but my job is not to twist their arms, threaten them, or try to force the to do so under duress. Because if that is the case, is it truly received? No. The Bible commands the children of God to love thy neighbor. It doesn’t come with conditions.

With that being said, the attack in London bothered me, as do all the attacks. I am soooo sick of senseless violence. I do not understand how a person can do harm to someone they’ve never even met. How do you even work up that much anger?????????????

I say it to my kids in Sunday school ALL THE TIME. One cannot have the love of God within him and hatred at the same time. Those two extremes cannot coexist.

lost by praying