Jonah and the WORM (Part 3 on Jonah)

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I’ve got to admit it: I’m in love with the book of Jonah! As my 8 week study on this short little book full of wisdom comes to and end I find myself missing him already. I see so much of myself in Jonah: trying to run form God’s plan for my life, saying I love everyone but not truly meaning it, getting upset when things go well for someone I don’t like, etc. A lot of times when you read a book it ends with a nice little bow. Everything is cleared up, the main character learns his lesson, and they all live happily ever after: the end! Sadly, that is not the way life works. So it makes me glad that the book of Jonah doesn’t end that way either!

So by the end of the book, Jonah has seen God do amazing things. He has saved not only Jonah from a huge storm (literally) and saved the sailors on board (spiritually), but He saw God show kindness and compassion on an entire city that repented of it’s sinful ways. You would think Jonah would be bursting at the seems with love for his God, but you would be wrong. Jonah is pissed! Pissed that God saved these people He said He would destroy. Pissed that he had to come all this way and go through all he went through. So he did what any grown adult would do: he went outside the city limits to pout.

God could have been DONE with Jonah. He could have just cut him off or given him his wish of just being killed. But what did our ever loving and patient God do? He appointed a plant to grow and give Jonah shade. God gives us opportunity after opportunity to get right with Him and see the err of our ways. Jonah enjoys the shade of the plant, but he is also watching Ninevah in hopes that they screw up. So God needs to continue to teach Jonah and mold his heart. So he sends in our little friend the worm! This little worm slithers right over and chews through the stem of the plant causing it to fall over and die.  As you can guess, Jonah did not take that very well!

I love the symbolism of something so tiny being able to ruin our lives if we let it. I think we can all relate to that on some level! God uses this to humble Jonah. Jonah is so mad at God for killing this plant that was giving him shade. God reminds Jonah that the plant was here and gone in a day and that Jonah himself had nothing to do with growing it yet it made him angry to lose it? But Jonah was totes ok with an entire city being destroyed? Ouch, right in the heart! We can be selfish like this at times as well and not even realize it. We think if things are going bad for us personally then it is just the worst thing in the entire world and we tend to forget the suffering of others. Not that it is some kind of sick contest, but just to remember that we are not the only people here and the only people hurting.

What can we take from this? What can we take from an entire book about a man of God who never really gets it time after time?

*God has infinite love and patience for us

*God gives us plenty of time to find our way to Him

*We should never be so confident as to think that because we are Christians that we know it all and are always right

*God uses our missteps to bring us as well as others to Him

*Our theology can be right on, but that doesn’t mean our heart is in the right place

I am SO glad I got the chance to study the book of Jonah. I had no idea there was so much crammed into those four little chapters and that is is so much more than just a story about a whale!

Anxiety, Depression, and Phobias! Oh, My!

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I fight this constant monster telling me I’m not good enough. Everyone else has it more together than I do. Everyone’s house is better kept than mine. Everyone else’s kids listen more than mine. Everyone else is happier than I am. Everyone else has a better marriage than I do. Everyone else is better with their money than I am. Everyone is more content and has all the answers. I want to get in bed and stay there, it’s overwhelming. And this is just what is right off the top of my head right this second…

The anxiety is real. I once had a minor (ok…major) freak out at the renaissance festival because I was just certain my toddler twins were going to fall to their death from these 3 foot tall bleachers. I was screaming and crying and had to get up a leave. I’m sure it sounds funny, and looking back now it kind of is, but at the time it was real and true. It was a reaction to what I was feeling. They were fine, they were safe, they were surrounded by adults in the family but my brain could not process that.

Phobias are crippling as well. I once had to drop a biology class in college because it was in a hallway filled with taxidermy heads. Yes, stuffed animal heads. It sounds absolutely ridiculous and I can’t explain it. All I know is that the deep down terror and dread they filled me with was so, so real. I would start shaking and crying uncontrollably and try to find a place to flee.  It wasn’t just being ‘scared’, it was a soul deep terror. Don’t even get me started on the panic attack I had in high school when we were at Sea World. I exaggerate not. A full blown panic attack.

My depression was so bad after I had my daughter that my husband and parents had an intervention: get help or go to the hospital. It’s hard though because you always think tomorrow will be different, tomorrow will be better. It finally got to the point where I realized it was NOT going t be different and it was NOT going to get better if I did not do something.  Medication has been a life saver for me. A true lifesaver. I am aware of feeling better and dealing with life on a more level headed plane. Some people can ‘get over it’ or deal with it by other means. But I, for one am thankful for Zoloft. It saved my life. It gave me my life back.

So the question remains: why did I decide to go cold turkey off my meds a month or so ago? The lasting effects of the meds lingered around in my system for a while but those are all gone now. I feel that fear, that anxiety, that depression creeping back in to every area of my life. My husband has pleaded with me, “Please, I love you. Please get back on your meds.” I need to, I know I do. It’s just scary to know your literal life depends on medication. Scary to know you physically cannot function in a normal way without it. But it is to the point where being off of the is more scary than going back on them.

 

 

The Parents of Riverdale

I started watching Riverdale this past week. I had heard about the show and thought it was a cool concept: the characters from the Archie comics set in modern times with a dark twist. (TV Guide, if you need a blurb writer, I’m your gal!) It popped up on Netflix so I started in. It’s great! I was hooked soon into the first episode. Then, I saw him: Luke Perry. He was playing Archie’s dad…old

Then Skeet Ulrich, then Lochlyn Monroe (look him up, you know him, trust me), and now Molly Ringwold ALLL playing parents! Um, excuse me! I’m still a young, fun, vibrant, care free person. My childhood heartthrobs cannot play PARENTS on a hip, cool, teenage show.  Then I come back to reality and realize I’m a parent and have been out of high school for 17 years and all these folks mentioned are nearing 50. Life is weird! How it just really and truly zooms right on by like that.

The passage of time is so strange to me. Will I always feel this way? Will I be 70 and be like, “Did you see that Neil Patrick Harris playing a corpse on that hot new show?”  I’m sure I will. I think one of the things that keeps my husband and I young though is that we do still feel young. So I’m going to keep watching Riverdale (because seriously, it’s a great show…check it out) and being weirded out about being old and that’s ok!

On Being Mortal

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One of the scariest things about having a chronic, degenerative disease is knowing that said disease or some complication of said disease is going to be what kills you. The medications I take and the way I take care of my body are only slowing down an inevitable process. That process could take decades, that process could take years: there is really no way of knowing. Yes, you could say that everyone is fighting against that same battle. We are all going to die of something at some point, duh! But to actually have a name to it and be face to face with it every day is a strange feeling.

I’ve been on chemotherapy shots for over a year now to treat my psoriatic arthritis. Aside from the nausea, fatigue, and bruising it seemed to be working! My joint’s didn’t swell as often, my pain was not constant, and my skin psoriasis cleared up. Hello, wonder drug! Don’t worry about the fact that I have a cytotoxic agent stored in my bathroom, a bucket full of used needles, and I have to be 110% cautious to not accidentally get pregnant as the effects to the fetus would be catastrophic. But, hey, minor details right?? Well, it’s not working anymore. My pain is back, my joints are swelling, and that stinkin’ little patch of psoriasis by my right eye has reared it’s ugly head again.

Luckily, there are other meds we can move on to and try. And I am so thankful to modern medicine that this is even an option. I have several more medications I can move through before it gets to the point where we have ‘tried everything’. Some people say this next drug I’m going on is a ‘wonder drug’: they felt great, they had good results, etc. That’s all fine and dandy but each person is different. I could try it and have terrible side effects. I could try it and it could not work for me. I could try it and it could only work for a few months before we have to move down the not very long list of meds to treat my disease.

It’s that unknown, that darn unknown, that always gets me. I’m a planner. It would be nice if I could be like: “Ok, methotrexate worked for a year. Now we are going to do Humira for 15 years before we move onto Otzela for a while then Remicade infusions and then I’ll happily die in my sleep at age 92.” But there is no way of knowing how my body will react to each med or how long it will work for me. I try not to dwell on it, but this is big stuff. Kind of hard to ignore that crippling, debilitating elephant in the room.

Capturing the Real Deal

I’ll admit it. I was that mom who bought all the Old Navy flag shirts for the kids, dutifully lined them up to snap a pic, and kept snapping until I got the one where they all looked angelic. Of course, it’s much easier to stuff a bunch of toddlers and preschoolers into a mold than it is a gangly teen and a couple of moody middle schoolers. I’m not sure who I was trying to impress with these highly posed pics (you? are you impressed?) or what message I was trying to send (see? see how I have it all together?) but in all honesty it stressed me the heck out!

I don’t know what changed or when exactly it changed, but I am 100% over all of that. Maybe it is having six kids, maybe it is the fact that their age range (14-5) doesn’t really lend well to that kind of thing, maybe it is because I’m an older more mature mom (ha!), or maybe I just got tired of putting on a show. It takes enough of my time and energy to make sure I’m being a good mom to them without working on the highly posed pics to post on social media.

Now when I post pics of my kids you will see mismatched clothes, dirty knees, unkempt hair, death stares, and grumpy faces. But you will also see genuine smiles, siblings bonding, and you see true memories being made.  I feel like I am capturing the real memories of their childhood. They will look back at these pics and share a laugh or a smile. “Oh, man! Remember how mad you were that day?” “Look how dirty our feet were. Wasn’t that an awesome day?” “That summer where we bummed around the yard for 2 months was amazing!” I’ll take real over staged any day!

But I do still make them allllllll dress alike for Easter because it’s just my thing now. I mean, you can’t have six kids without some good old fashioned matching outfits now and then! But I don’t stress about how it will all come across. Their personalities still shine through in their faces when I snap the pic and I don’t snap 100 to try and get a ‘perfect’ one. They are all perfect because they perfectly capture the moment.

When God Puts Us ‘In the Whale’ (Part 2 on Jonah)

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Ever felt like this?

So there’s Jonah, trying to flee from God. How desperate and out of his mind is he to think He could flee God’s presence? He was a man of God, he knew this was really not an option. So God needed to do something major, something drastic to get Jonah’s attention and snap him out of his selfishness. Enter ‘the whale’.

Now depending on your theology and your interpretation of the Bible, you may or may not believe that there was an actual, physical whale that swallowed Jonah. And honestly, I don’t really think it maters if you see it as real or symbolic when it comes to the purpose and meaning of the story.  (Side bar: my personal belief is that he was lost at sea for 3 days under a whale shaped constellation but anywho…) The point is that God needed to get Jonah’s attention in a major way. He needed him to be in a place where he was face to face with himself and with God to work it all out. Sound familiar? I think we have all had those situation.

I know in my life there has been times when God needed to do something drastic to pull me back in or help me to refocus on His plan for my life. One certain time that comes to mind is when I finally answered His call to become a nurse. He had placed it on my heart for several years and I kept making excuses and doubting myself. Still, that pull was always there. I made every excuse in the book not to pursue it. Then one November my husband lost his job. Ok God, got it!! And off to nursing school I went. It was hard, so hard, but it has been one of the biggest blessing in my life to be a nurse. And that job my husband lost? Nothing compared to what he is doing now. Dang it, God, you do always know what is best!! It’s our dang stubbornness that gets in the way. I feel like that was my ‘in the whale’ moment. God needed to do something big to get my attention and get me back on track just like He did with Jonah.

I’m sure we can all recall times when God has done something drastic like this. When He has put us in situations that make us stop, come to Him, and get back on track. At the time, it may seem like the worst thing in the world but when you trust in Him and go with it, you’ll look back you realize it all went the way it was supposed to.

I bet this meant Jonah was good to go and never screwed up or got it wrong again, right? Ha! Wrong. Just like us, this feeling of closeness to God and sense of purpose did not last. Seems like we drift back away and God has to reel us back in time after time.

We Are All Jonah (Part 1 on Jonah)

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“Seriously?? Nineveh???”

I’ve started this study on the book of Jonah. I’ve been a Christian my whole life and I’m embarrassed to admit this is the first time I’ve read the book in it’s entirety. When I came across this study I was like, “Blah, blah blah, 3 days in a fish (sure…), blah, blah, blah.” To me it was a kid book, a kid story. But something told me to watch the trailer for the study and he started talking about things like being a person of God yet not being loving (oh…), or only loving people that it is comfortable to love (eek…), and not having a true understanding of God’s love for us if we can judge who to love (oops…). Yeah, maybe this book was more than just a big fish story for kids.

Jonah was a prophet, he was a man of God. He probably quoted scripture and attended church regularly. But when God called him to go to Nineveh he was like, ‘Nah’. Nineveh was filled with people who loved war and who were sworn enemies of Jonah’s people. How many times have we done the same? ‘God, send me where you want me! Do with me what you need!” Then God calls us to do something even slightly uncomfortable and we are not so much into doing that whole ‘what God God called us to do’ thing anymore. Couldn’t I do your work in a place that I want with people that I am comfortable with? Seeing it written out like that is ugly!

One of the things Eric Mason (pastor and author of the study) says that I just can’t get out of my head is what if God loved us that way? What if He used our human system of judging and deeming who is and isn’t worthy of love. Ouch. I don’t want to live that way and I don’t want God to be that way. (Praise be that He is not!).  God loves us. Period. You, too. Right now. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, where ever you have been. When Jesus died on the cross it was for everyone, everywhere. Even if you curse His name until the day you die, He loves you.

It’s comforting for me to know that I am loved for who I am, right where I am. Imagine how we could make the whole world feel if we treated everyone that way? Anyone you meet, you can make them feel loved and valued. Not just the people who make it easy or comfortable: everyone. Try it. As you go about your day and interact with all different types of people, try to look at them like Go, does. Treat everyone as if they matter and are loved and have value because they do.

More to come about Jonah…..I could write a dang book!

 

On FOMO and Pushing Your Kids

My daughter decided not to do theatre camp this summer. No weeks of day long rehearsals, costume fittings, dress rehearsals, or final bows. All I can think is what if this was the play she needed to do to land a main stage show? What if this was the play that was going to ignite a real love of theatre? What if? What if? Girl is 8 years old and she could honestly not care less about any of these things. She has a busy summer with dance and she didn’t want to commit. Easy peasy. Decision made. It’s ME who is dwelling on the ‘what ifs’, not her.  I know in my own logical mind that her not playing an Oompa Loompa this summer in a kid’s musical is not really going to effect her future in any way, but my nonsense mom brain always kicks into over drive and I get a wicked case of FOMO: fear of missing out.

Parenting is hard. Yeah, I could just leave it at that. Or I could write 100 posts about 1,000 different ways it’s hard but this time  I want to talk about pushing your kids. It’s such a fine line.  On one hand, if you know your kids loves something and/or does well at it, you definitely want to encourage them to do that activity, On the other hand, pushing too hard and making them do too much could have the opposite effect and they could pull away from it. But then that begs to question, would that be such a bad thing? Is it really going to matter in the long run if they don’t take that 6th hour of dance during the week or get on that travel basketball team? Are you molding your kid into what you want them to be or are you  helping them to enjoy life and find things they love to do? Is your kid in piano lessons because you want them to go to Juilliard and be a world famous pianist? Or is it because you want them to do well at something they enjoy? It’s a tough call. Everyone thinks their own kid is amazing and in their own ways they are.  I think, as with all things in life, you need to look at your ‘why’. Why are you pushing?

So our summer will be just a touch more relaxed. I can mark one place off of all the running we do. My daughter will thrive in dance and not give a second thought to the summer theatre camp. I’m going to do my best to do the same. As parents, we should be trying to help our kids become the best people they can be and not trying to force them into a mold that we have created.

It’s Supposed to Be Hard

I can count on one….uh….finger the times I have literally, audibly heard God’s voice. I’ve been moved by Him, felt His presence,  and have had Him place ideas or thoughts on my heart but his actual voice? Once. And it was enough to shake me to my core. Honestly, it happened not that long ago during a time in my life where I was feeling quite pitiful about myself and my situation.  It was like God knew he needed to do something drastic to pull me out of it.

It was a perfect storm of life’s difficulties. My job as a Title 1 public school nurse was wearing on me. It’s hard to day in and day out see and hear some of the things that I do. You go from thinking you can save the world to thinking this world is a terrible place where bad things happen to good kids. Usually I am able to stay positive and know that I’m making at least a small difference but I was super down about all of it at this time. I was questioning how long I could subject myself to this.

Add to that my health. That elephant in the room that is just always there, looming, waiting to ruin everything. I was feeling annoyed about being sick. The medications I was taking for my psoriatic arthritis seemed to make me feel just as bad as not taking any at all. I hurt all the time, I was tired all the time, and I was quite frankly sick of being sick. I was questioning how I was going to spend the rest of my life feeling this way.

I was also feeling like a failure at home. My job was to pour myself into children all day so when I got home to my own I was short with them. I found myself getting annoyed at the smallest things they would do. My health made it nearly impossible for me to keep up with laundry and cleaning. I was annoyed that the house was a cluster and even more annoyed that I was physically unable to do anything about it.  Sure, the kids and the hubs helped but then I felt even worse for just lying around while they did everything.

As you can see, I was feeling pretty dang sorry for myself! I was at work one afternoon and decided to put on a clip of the new Bible study on Jonah I was going to be starting in a month or so. As I was listening to it and tidying up around my clinic I heard it. It was a voice as plain as day, as if it was from someone standing right in the room with me: “It’s supposed to be hard” is what He said. I felt every single hair on my body stand up and it felt like electricity was running through me. I knew it was God and I knew He was right. No where in the Bible does it ever say life is going to be peachy keen and easy. No where does it say that since I follow Jesus everything in my life is going to be amazing. What it does say though it that we have this hope that anchors our soul in Jesus. So I can cling to Him knowing that there is hope I am making a difference to these students of mine, there is hope that I will feel better one day, there is hope that I can get the laundry 8 people totally and completely caught up. He gave me these things in my life because He knew I could handle it. And when I lean on Him, I know I can.

 

A Picture Perfect Summer Break

It that’s what you are hear to read about or get ideas about, I suggest you move right along!

As a school nurse, having summers off with my kids is pretty dang awesome. No alarms to set, no sitters to find, no clothes to change out of pajamas into. Not going to lie, it rocks! The kids are confused as to why dad has to work all summer. To which he responds, “I’m an adult with a normal job.” Whatevs, dude! So am I!

I always have visions of bubble stations, library visits, fort building and the like. But what I usually get it yelling at dogs, fighting children, and all food in the house being eaten in one day. Where are the Pinterest posts about that?

I finally figured out that the reason I get frustrated is because I’m trying to force us into a mold that we are just never going to fit into. My home is a constant state of controlled chaos, there is no time for sidewalk chalk stencils! And you know what? That’s ok! We laugh, we play in the yard, we go to the gas station for drinks, the kids help me with my jewelry business, we sleep in, and we stay up late. It’s low key, it’s unorganized, and it’s fun. I honestly cherish these times I have with my kids where we are just lounging around the house being us.

To the moms and dads rocking the homemade popsicles and summer crafts: more power to you! If that is where you thrive and what you enjoy then keep on keepin’ on. But if you are like me and this post rings true for you, don’t feel bad. Your kids are going to remember having fun no matter what!