Wednesday, September 26, 2018

LikDepUnrec

The title of this post doesn’t make sense, does it? I had three different ideas for titles and decided to just smush them together:

Like an animal
Depression... again
Unrecognizable

So, LikDepUnrec. (My version of clickbait.)

Right now, my life doesn’t make much sense, either.




The other day, I weighed myself for the first time in a long time and discovered that I’m just under 160 pounds. I believe this is the lowest I’ve weighed in all of my adult life. (When I was borderline anorexic in college, I think I weighed 170.) I saw myself in the mirror later that day and didn’t recognize myself. For months, my clothes have been very baggy on me, and I’ve had to wear my belt on a tighter notch. Clothes in my closet that were too tight for me are suddenly wearable.

This is all good news, and people tell me that I look good; except if you’ve been following my blog lately, you know that I’ve lost weight due to poverty. (I’ve kept it off with exercise and more poverty.) But looking good isn’t a bad thing. As a 42-year-old woman, I think it’s cool that God has renewed my youth Psalm-103-style so that I feel like I’m in my 20s again.

I feel healthy, but not all the time.

A few weeks ago, I had a strange health scare. For several days in a row, the limbs on the right side of my body felt tingly and numb, as if they were falling asleep. At first, I thought maybe I was having a heart attack or a stroke. Then I wondered if it was a version of restless leg syndrome due to high blood pressure.

Whatever it was, it was uncomfortable and scary, and it almost felt like I was becoming paralyzed. It affected how I walked, typed, and gripped my pen to write. I didn’t visit a doctor due to lack of applicable health insurance, but I am 100% better now.

While I was going through it and praying for myself, I felt like God said that I was stressed and tired (due to a ridiculously crazy schedule at the time), so I treated myself by resting. God also told me something profound: “You can’t expect to live through what you’ve lived through and it not to affect you physically.”

Indeed. I think it’s affected me emotionally as well.

“Thus my heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind. I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.” (Psalm 73:21-22)

Lately, I’ve often felt more like an animal than a human being. As I’ve struggled to just make it and survive, I feel triumphant, and yet I don’t really feel like I’m living much differently than a stray animal in the street. I feel like with each passing month, I have to find something new to live without just to make ends meet. (For example: For a period of time this summer, instead of eating a sandwich for lunch with bologna and bread, I ate a sandwich/taco thing with part of a Slim Jim and one or more corn tortillas. I do not recommend the latter unless you are otherwise starving.)

But I’m amazed at how simple acts of humanity can suck the animalistic-ness out of me. All it takes is one thoughtful friend to say something like, “Hey, I’m trying to get rid of some extra food, and I know you could use some,” and I feel human again.

So, I don’t think its a mystery as to why I’ve been dealing with depression... again.

I’m REALLY glad I’ve overcome depression in the past, because I know how to fight it. And I know how to deal with it when I feel too weak to fight it. For me, I know that it isn’t a formula. Sometimes it’s spiritual warfare, and I ask God to inflict the same punishment on them that they intended for me. (They’re demons. There’s no need to be nice to them.) Sometimes I listen to praise/worship music. One night, I felt like I needed a very deep cry, so I dug out my journal (which I rarely write in anymore) and I wrote in it as a way of pouring out my heart to God.

Incidentally, pouring out my heart to God is how I usually end up getting out of a depression. It’s a way to untangle the internal knots, and it’s a way to connect with God... which is what the devil tries to prevent us from doing in the first place.

Sometime last year, God told me something else that was profound: “When you have a bad day and you don’t talk to Me about it, it insults Me.” The tone in His voice wasn’t condemning or shaming. He was just talking to me like a concerned Friend or Father, maybe whose feelings I had accidentally hurt, as if He were saying something like, “Hey, I heard you were in trouble. Why didn’t you call Me? I would have helped you.”

I’ve remembered that. So, if I’m struggling during my day with depressed, angry, hopeless, or just otherwise crazy-bad thoughts, I won’t vent on Facebook or text a friend like I used to do. I’ll try to remember to talk to God about it first. Then we’ll work through it together. Sometimes He’ll speak something profound right away, and I’ll feel better quickly. Other times, I’ll spend a large portion of the day venting to Him, maybe whining like a little girl; He’ll listen, correct me, listen some more, and speak some wisdom that I desperately need in my situation. We’ll bond. We’ll build relationship. We’ll enjoy some intimate time together. And THEN, if I feel like it, I’ll talk about it to a friend or maybe write about it on social media (including this site right here). But that’s just my new process.

The classic definition of depression is “anger turned inward.” If I keep the angry stuff that’s been churning inside me just on the inside, it can fester and become depression. Or if I’m constantly discouraged, it can become depression. Either way, it’s important to keep the flow going -- pouring out my heart to God, especially the anger -- or I’m in trouble.

The other day, I was fighting suicidal thoughts... again. I thought I was done with that crap. But the way that it hit me and suddenly spiraled downward reminded me of another time that I was fighting similar thoughts. I think it has something to do with my financial situation and the feeling of hopelessness attached to it.

I don’t mean to dishonor anyone when I talk about this, but just to be honest -- I also think perhaps these particular suicidal thoughts are rooted in at least one conversation that occurred while I was in my mother’s womb. It involved a certain impoverished couple who were faced with the news that they were expecting a baby, and an idea was presented to them that the pregnancy could possibly be terminated. I wonder if perhaps this couple did not dismiss this idea appropriately. I wonder if perhaps a certain impoverished college student considered his offspring to be an inconvenient financial burden. And I wonder if perhaps a certain part of my soul has believed the lie that the termination of life would be a convenient way to solve the problem of poverty.

That is why I need psychotherapy... again. I’m looking forward to getting some professional help sorting through this kind of thing.

Over the past several months, I’ve felt anger and bitterness churning inside me, and they would bubble out in ways that would embarrass me and hurt people. They still have been, and I’ve been working through that. But it looks like now is another time in my life to intensely work through something that just needs to be taken care of. You can’t sweep stuff like this under the rug. If you do, it’ll just balloon out of control, and the next thing you know, you’ve got a huge monster that’ll threaten to eat you alive. Along with everyone else around you.

Overcoming depression. Let’s do this... again.

This time around has been interesting so far. I’ve noticed things about myself that this year of brazenness has created in me. I think I’m fiercer than I’ve ever been in my entire life. For example, I’ve caught myself killing bugs with my bare hands, like a cat would. Why reach for a Kleenex or a napkin? Just aim your hand at the intruder and THWACK, all gone. (I sort of do spiritual warfare like that, too. Maybe that’s one reason why the devil hates me?)

I feel the need to talk about something obvious. I’m on a worship team where they point a camera at me while I sing into a microphone. I smile, I dance, I praise God, and I encourage everyone in the room to join me. How could I possibly be depressed if I look so happy? Well, I think the Bible says it best...

“In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

I really AM happy when I’m on the worship platform. I’m in God’s presence. I also feel right at home. The way I see it, God is my Father; if church is His house, then the worship platform is like His living room. We host guests, we enjoy His company, and we bond over special moments. I’m in His family, so I belong there. I’m at peace there, even in the midst of the battle.

And one reason why I’ve broadcast all of this personal information on here is, of course, because I like to slice my soul open from time to time and let you have a looksee. (Not to mention, mental health has been in the news a lot this year, so I don’t think it hurts to share my two cents about it.) Another reason is because the worship platform is a crazy-interesting place where you get to show people what it’s like to live out a dream. When you’re in the congregation, it’s easy to think that the people who are singing into the microphones have perfect lives. Um, no. Far from it. I think maybe one reason why God lets us hold microphones is to show the devil, “Hey, remember her? You tried to take her out, but she’s still here.”

I think maybe another reason why God puts people like me on a platform is so that He can gently nudge somebody and say, “See? If she can do it -- if that crazy woman who’s going through psychotherapy for the third time can put herself out there and worship Me with every fiber of her being -- so can you.”

Because He’s worthy... always.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

When life is a big question mark

A lot of rain fell in my area recently. We had stormy weather, and the power went out in my apartment a couple of times. The first time was on Friday night after my dishes were washed and my laundry was clean. The second time was on Saturday morning, almost afternoon, after I had eaten lunch. So, both times happened when it wasn’t a tragedy for me to be without electricity. On Friday night, I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed in the dark -- which went surprisingly smoothly, I guess because I know my way around my teeth quite well -- and on Saturday, I was tired and decided to just take a nap.

 
And both times, as soon as the electricity went off, one of my smoke alarms beeped and freaked out MeepMeep. On Friday night, she hid under my bed; on Saturday, she hid under the old chair in my living room. (This photo is edited for brightness.) I guess you could say our responses to a sudden trial were different. MeepMeep’s response was to rush to a safe place. My response was basically, “Eh, I can’t really do anything, so I may as well just rest.”

Not that either of our responses was wrong.

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.” (Psalm 37:3)

About two weeks ago, the event I had been waiting for finally came: The non-compete agreement that I signed with my previous employer expired, suddenly enabling me to seek employment with their clients. I am out of the wilderness and finally in my promised land, so to speak. Free at last!

But what’s surprised me about this new season is how much of an emotional roller coaster it’s been so far. I’m thankful to still have my temp job, although I don’t know how much longer it will last. I’m relieved to be able to look for a better job, although it doesn’t look like I’m as hot of a job candidate as I thought I was. So far, no one really seems interested. And so, I wait.

I guess that season of waiting that I just came out of basically prepared me for more waiting.

And some interesting things have been happening while I’ve been waiting. God told me very recently, “Youre more important than finding a job.” I’ve noticed that certain other non-job-related things in my life have been falling into place much faster than job-related stuff. For instance, I’m going to start psychotherapy again soon. Long story short, I’m going to get some professional help for some mental/emotional stuff for the third time in my life. (The first time was after I got out of the psych hospital in 2000, and the second time was in 2014, which I blogged about on this site.) I’ve been blessed with a cool opportunity, and I’m going to run with it.

So, this new season has started out crazy, but I guess in a way, each season is really supposed to build on previous seasons. I just came through one of the craziest seasons of my life, and I think I ended up learning/honing some important skills that are going to serve me well in this new season.

Perhaps I over-romanticized it in my head, but I’m not exactly sure why I thought I would suddenly step into a rose garden a couple of weeks ago. Even the Israelites didn’t suddenly start enjoying their promised land as soon as they set foot on it. I’m intrigued by their story in the Book of Joshua. Possessing their promised land was a process. They sent out spies, conquered Jericho, worked through some internal issues, and had to get rid of some giants on their new turf. Even God knew that Joshua may have been a little freaked out by the importance of his new task, as He told him multiple times in Joshua chapter 1, “Be strong and courageous.” Don’t be scared, man. Be chazaq.

And, as usual, God doesn’t really seem to be in a hurry. I’ve realized that He’s probably the only Employer I’ve had who hasn’t demanded that I work faster. (Technically, if I’m called to the ministry, God is my Employer, no matter whose payroll I’m on.) Anytime a boss has a complaint about my work, it’s usually that I’m not working fast enough. But God isn’t like that. He Himself doesn’t seem to be in a hurry whatsoever. I think that, in and of itself, is very healing for me.

 

I was recently encouraged to check out Psalm 37, which is a Bible passage that I’ve meditated on a lot over the years. This time around, verse 3 has jumped out at me -- “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.” I think the imagery here is an agrarian one; I think of animals grazing. Cue MeepMeep, who happened to be hanging out near my leg after I came home one day.

Sometimes when I wonder if I’m doing something right, or if I’m missing anything, or if I’m pleasing God in whatever I’m doing, He’ll bring my cat to mind. (Or whichever cats are living with me at the time. If you’ve followed my blog over the past several years, you know that God taught me a lot through Macho and Choochie.) He might ask me something like, “Does she ask you if she’s doing all her cat things the right way?” And, knowing where He’s going with that line of questioning, I’ll reply sheepishly, “No.” And He might gently but firmly ask rhetorically, “Well, then?”

He’s right, of course. MeepMeep is a cat; therefore, she already knows exactly how to be a cat. She knows how to meow, how to groom herself, how to hide from potential danger, how to purr, how to request/demand food from her caretaker, how to play, how to snuggle, etc. If she were to suddenly become insecure and ask me if she were doing the whole feline experience correctly, well... I wouldn’t dismiss her concerns, and I wouldn’t refuse to answer her. But it would be slightly ridiculous of her to ask me something like that. I’d probably be like, “I love you; just be yourself.”

Bingo.

I’m a sheep, and I belong to my Shepherd; therefore, I know His voice. There’s a certain direction that I feel like He’s led me in, so I’ve been following Him there. It’s dark and confusing in this place, but there’s no need to freak out. I already know what to do. I just need to trust in Him and do good; I just need to dwell here and feed on the fact that He is faithful.

So, when life is a big question mark, you trust God. It isn’t always easy, but if you’re where He wants you, you’re more than likely going to be safe. And why wouldn’t you be? God takes care of His own. It wouldn’t glorify Him to do otherwise.

So, until the lights come back on, so to speak, I’m going to keep doing what I already know to do. I’m going to take life one day at a time. I’m going to keep asking Him to provide for me, because I know He can, and because I’ve seen Him do it in some really cool ways. I’m going to keep hoping for the next big opportunities to come along, because I know they’re coming. I’m going to kill some giants, cuz they ain’t got no business being on my new turf. And I’m going to rest, because I really need to. (Seriously, I’ve been exhausted, and it hasn’t been very healthy.)

Speaking of lights...

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1a)

... would you believe God led me to Psalm 27 on the night that the power went out? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but it was pretty funny. Just another example of how He knows exactly where I am and exactly what I need. He knows about the question mark, and He knows how to answer it.

And He’s always going to be brighter than any stupid darkness.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Numbers, numbers everywhere

I recently noticed that the mileage on my car was 120,666. I humorously freaked out ever so slightly. (Because of the number 666.) But God was like, “You’ll never see numbers as being unlucky ever again.” 

Earlier that day, I balanced my checkbook and discovered that I had just barely over $13 until my next paycheck (which is more than I thought I would have). God showed me that I would never see the number 13 the same way again.

He’s right. 13 is a mighty blessed number indeed.

“But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5-6)

About a decade ago, I had a crush on a guy in my Sunday School class. What made this guy different is that he actually liked me back – a rarity indeed! (I’ve probably mentioned him before here on my blog.) However, the deal-breaker – besides the facts that 1) he was a smoker and 2) he didn’t like to sit in the worship services – was that he had been involved in the occult off and on, and he didn’t really seem all that serious about leaving that lifestyle. 

But he said something that stuck with me: He would always see something that reminded him of the pagan-y lifestyle anytime he would see numbers. In other words, whenever he would notice numbers in everyday life (e.g., on his alarm clock), I guess he had difficulty in not seeing some type of divination potential or occult-y connection of some sort.

I don’t know about all that, but I do know one thing: God created numbers. And regardless of how the devil may have tried to steal them, God can always redeem them.

There are Bible scholars who can explain what certain numbers mean in Scripture (e.g., 5 means grace, 10 means testing), so I won’t go into all that here. But I think it’s cool how God has been highlighting certain numbers in my life lately and showing what they mean to me.

This year, the number 911 has been sticking out to me. It hasn’t been uncommon that my eyes will just happen to be looking at a clock whenever it’s 9:11. At first, I thought maybe it was God’s way of telling me to pray/intercede for somebody/something. But then He showed me that He was just trying to speak to me in my language.

Of course, in my culture, 911 is the number that we use to call for help. (Which I’m sure the terrorists were acutely aware of back in 2001.) So, this year whenever I’ve seen 9:11 on a clock somewhere, it was God’s way of saying that He sees me. It was like His way of saying Hi. But I think He’s taken it a step further.

The other day while I was driving to work, I noticed that the clock on my car said 7:47. I felt like God told me that I’ve been noticing 911 this year, but now I would start to notice 747 (like the jet). All year long, He’s heard my cry for help. And now, He’s going to respond like a 747 jet.

Can you guess how much I had after I balanced my checkbook this morning? $7.47, of course.

I’ve been in trouble. And He’s coming to help.

“Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people.” (Psalm 9:11)

So, here I am again at that time of the month where I’ve breathed a sigh of relief because I’ve been able to pay my rent, but I’ve begun to worry because I’ve crunched the numbers and am not 100% sure how I’m going to pay next month’s rent. And buy gas. And buy food.

But why should I worry? In Matthew 6:34, Jesus said to just take it one day at a time. That’s an important lesson I’ve been learning in this crazy season.

He’s brought me this far. Why would He quit now?

 

He’s provided a way for me to take care of this little one. He’s provided a way for her to eat, drink water, and have a litterbox like a civilized house cat.

He’s provided a way for me to eat, drink water, drive a car, earn a living, and exist in this world like a civilized human being. I’ve been eking out my existence in ways that I never dreamed were possible, but I’ve been making it.

Because God has been helping me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to make it at all. I need Him. I depend on Him.

These are lessons that I’ll be able to carry with me into the next season... whether it begins in 3 weeks, 3 months, or 3 years.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Desert reflections


“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8)

When I went through a round of psychotherapy about four years ago, my therapist instructed me to journal. I ended up doing so in a spiral notebook for a month and a half. I had forgotten about it until I found the notebook in a box recently. WOW. I was a psycho nut job. There were a couple of pages where I had had a terrible day at work and vented in my journal with a ton of profanity. The issues I was working through at the time were loneliness, rejection, abandonment, and neglect. Um, sound familiar? (No worries, I know why I deal with those, and now I know when they flare up.) I’ve been working through these recently again, probably at a different level/layer, probably at a different intensity.

Perhaps the fact that I’ve been working through them yet again is actually an answer to my own prayer at the end of that spiral-notebook journal: “Thank You for my issues. Help me to work through them completely, and help me to use them to catapult me into Your arms.”

That’s true, you know. Sometimes a crisis drives you to the Word, or drives you to seek God’s face more intensely than you’ve ever sought it before. Because you’re desperate. You need answers. You need freedom. You need peace. You need Him, and you can’t rest until you find Him.

And sometimes we just carry stuff inside us that we don’t know is there. The safest place to squeeze/pour it out is in God’s presence. And sometimes God takes us to a special place where we can do just that.

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her.” (Hosea 2:14)

“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.” (Psalm 33:18-19)

I think I might be ripping off a flagship Bible verse of a local ministry, but Hosea 2:14 can describe what happens when God pulls us aside for a brief season and lets us work through stuff privately.

Today while I was talking through some worries/concerns/stuff with God, He reminded me that a desert is SUPPOSED TO be hard. It’s supposed to have extreme conditions – cold at night, unbearably hot during the day, no water, cacti that contain their own water sources just so that they can survive there. Why would a loving God create places like this? I believe it’s to remind us of what a hard season is like.

From what I understand, even Jesus went through a desert. Matthew chapter 4 says that he was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. When we talk about this passage, we usually focus on what happened AFTER He spent 40 days in the wilderness: The devil tempted Him, and He overcame those temptations. But what about during those 40 days when He was fasting? Did He work through some emotional stuff? Did He kick and scream? The Bible doesn’t say. (Regardless, He made it through that rough patch without sinning.) Jesus is God, but He’s also human, and I think maybe even He needed some privacy for 40 days. And when it was over, He began His ministry. I guess you could say He entered His “promised land.”

As you probably know, I’m nearing the end of a hard season financially. I’ve dropped a full pants size (at least) because I can’t afford to buy as much food as I used to. I’ve lost so much weight that I’ve discovered bones on my skeleton that I didn’t know I had. I’m incredibly behind on several of my credit accounts, and I’ve been praying that they won’t sue me. The best news I had today was that my current electric bill, after that huge heat wave that we experienced in my area, is only $69 and some change.

But, speaking of change, I feel that it’s coming my way soon. I felt God’s pleasure over me today as He said, “You’ve had enough.” I also felt like He reminded me of how we’re always surrounded by so much harvest during the fall season (which is just around the corner). I felt like He said that I would see a “bumper crop.”

That would rock my world.

But meanwhile – as crazy as this may sound – I’m content here in the desert, where I haven’t gone hungry, I haven’t been without appropriate clothing, I haven’t lost my mind, and I haven’t died. (Or, hopefully, only my “self” has died.) And – as crazier as this may sound – I might even miss it after I leave.

 

MeepMeep is in heat (again) as I write this, so her feline expressions are currently intensified. Her emotions are more aggressive than usual. And her separation anxiety is pretty acute. When she freaks out, calming her down isn’t a formula, so I have to see what kind of mood she’s in to see what will work. In this photo, she joined me on the couch after I whistled at her. See how relaxed and adorable she is here?

I feel like she’s gotten to know my character during her little crises. She knows I’ll never leave her, she knows I want what’s best for her, she knows I won’t give up on her just because she’s going a little crazy, she knows I’m patient and gentle with her... and she knows I’ll put my foot down if I need to. (I mean, Mama needs to sleep, right?)

I’m sure you know where I’m going with this analogy.

It’s in the hard, rough, dry places that we get to experience the parts of God’s character that we may have never experienced before. When we’re dealing with our mess, and when He rolls up His sleeves and comes alongside us to help us clean it up, we bond with Him. Then after we make it through our rough patch, we won’t want to leave His side, because we know we can’t make it through life without Him.

The trials, the rough places, the deserts – they eventually end up catapulting us into the arms of God.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Brazen reflections

God told me that I would look back on this season someday and laugh. I think I’ve already been laughing at the crazy situations I’ve found myself in. I guess that’s just the nature of survival.

One day, I took a bag full of change to the grocery store and bought a week’s worth of food for $1.88. Another time, I sold a huge stack of books to a bookstore for 78 cents. I’ve been popping popcorn to eat with my lunches because it’s cheaper than buying potato chips. I discovered that you can buy a bag of 100 corn tortillas for $1.99, so I’ve been buying those and making my own tostadas. A few of my creditors have been relentless with me, and I’ve continued to brazenly communicate to them that I can only afford to send them a tiny little amount every month right now.

I think I’ve mastered the arts of coasting and using cruise control to save gas. One time, I dug through a box in my closet and fished out a couple of old sewing kits so that I could mend a pair of pants (instead of buying a new one). During this really hot summer we’ve been having, I’ve gotten used to keeping my apartment’s thermostat set to 81 while I’m gone during the day and anywhere from 78 to 83 while I’m here; I’ve sat in the dark so that I wouldn’t have to turn any lights on; my cat doesn’t seem to mind, and my electricity is free between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. (I mean, you gotta do what you gotta do.)

 

But one day, I chopped up a Slim Jim and turned it into chilaquiles. And the other day, I drove nearly half a mile on a flat tire, on purpose, because I thought maybe my car could make it to the tire store. (I really don’t recommend doing anything that I mentioned in this paragraph. Kids, don’t try this at home.)

And I recently started writing sci-fi and fantasy stories, just because they’re genres that actually pay money. (THAT came out of left field. I’m pretty sure it’s God’s idea, because He likes to keep stuff like that up His sleeve.) I haven’t finished, submitted, or sold anything in these genres just yet; but when I do, I think the magazines are going to be dealing with a brazenly seasoned writer, rather than the timid little amateur that I was a couple of decades ago.

I’ve turned down job opportunities because 1) they would have violated an agreement that I made with my previous employer, or 2) the work could have made me stumble, or 3) the hours would have completely conflicted with my church commitments. I’ve been honest with people, I’ve been assertive with people, I’ve tried to be careful with people, and I’ve been in the process of forgiving people. I’ve waited and waited and waited and waited and waited. And I’ve been just plain crazy.

But I don’t think I’m the only crazy one.

“Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, like a mighty man who shouts because of wine. And He beat back His enemies; He put them to a perpetual reproach.” (Psalm 78:65-66)

I think God is proud of the way that He’s been taking care of me during this crazy season. The day that He provided a way for me to buy a couple of new tires, I saw a picture of Him proudly standing over me. I was a little bit frightened until He leaned down and asked, “Who’s your Daddy?”

I knew where He was going with this. “You’re my Daddy,” I replied sheepishly.

If I remember correctly, our “Who’s your Daddy, You’re my Daddy” exchange continued in my spirit for a while that day.

I don’t remember the exact words of our conversation, but think I also asked Him, “Life requires money. Can I please have some money?” His reply was basically, “So you ARE worth it.” He reminded me of previous conversations we’ve had where He’s impressed on my heart, “Don’t regret living your life.” In other words, don’t regret spending (or borrowing) money when you needed to. Because you were just living your life. If you regret living your life, well... then you could end up in a psych hospital. (Kids, for real, don’t try this at home.)

As I look back on these past 11 months, I’m amazed at how God has been carrying me through. He’s helped me avoid snakes and scorpions in this dangerously hot desert, just like He said He would. I’ve prayed for Him to multiply my resources, and when He does, I look at my bank account – or the food in my kitchen, or the toilet paper in my bathroom, or whatever it is that I was needing – and I’m like... Wow, You did it. And He’s like... Well, you asked Me to. He’s gotten in my face and insisted that He has a reputation to uphold.

Indeed, He does.

“He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3)

“He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me.” (Psalm 18:19)

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

I’m learning how to take things one day at a time. I’m learning how to be OK with keeping some things a mystery. I’ve had to make some attitude adjustments, I’ve had to make some health and lifestyle adjustments, I’ve had to make some entertainment adjustments, and I’ve had to make some relational adjustments. I’m confident that it’s because I’ve needed to change, and I think it’s also because God has needed to prepare me for the next step.

You’re almost there, Tirzah. Just a little more. Keep going. You can do it!!!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Validating, dancing, and leaning

I have a few different ideas swirling around in my head for this post, but I’ll try to combine them in a way that makes sense.

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of web-based cooking shows on YouTube (each video is usually around 5 to 10 minutes long or so). I’m not a foodie, honest; it’s just that watching rated-G cooking shows doesn’t make me stumble. Since I don’t have a mom anymore, it’s nice to get cooking ideas from other people. And I’ve always enjoyed watching teachers do their thang.

I stumbled on a few shows that are especially interesting: Great Depression Cooking, Trailer Park Cookin, and Simply Sara. When I first started watching these, I was like... whoa, they cook just like I do. They use what they have. They don’t have fancy ingredients, so they just make do. And they don’t get all hoity-toity like the foodies on cable TV shows do; they’re not ashamed to use the processed foods that you can buy at Dollar Tree.

The host of Trailer Park Cookin really went off during one of her episodes and was like... when you’re a single mom who has to feed her kids but makes too much money to qualify for food stamps, you have to either go to a food bank or buy stuff that’s extra cheap, and it’s going to be fattening comfort food, so don’t judge me. You go, trailer park lady. I ate a Slim Jim sandwich for lunch the other day, so I’m right there with ya.

So, these YouTube shows are entertaining and educational to watch, but frankly they’re just validating for me.

 

“The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me -- a prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:8)

MeepMeep has been in heat this past week, but I think I’ve gotten used to this process. And I think her overly potent hormones have been working their way out of her system. The way her condition has been manifesting itself has been more through separation anxiety and a skyrocketed energy, and less through her little exotic dance. She wakes me up in the middle of the night demanding affection, and during the day she demands that I play with her. Lately, her feet will stiffen, and I’ll play with her by twirling her around on the couch or the floor like a little feline pinwheel. And for those times when she absolutely needs to bust out in her little exotic dance, I gave her her own playlist on my phone. (The first song on the list is the “Macarena.” It’s OK to laugh.)

When she howls for me across the apartment (or even just a few feet away from me in the same room), I can often calm her down by whistling at her. She’ll usually trot over to where I am and sometimes sniff my lips (or playfully bite my chin). Trying to convince her that I’m a female human (rather than a boy cat) has been kind of a slow-going journey, but I’ve been learning how to handle her because I’ve spent time with her and have gotten to know her. I think she’s learning that she can trust me because I’ve been consistent with her. (And later this week when she gets back to normal, she’ll resume her regular routine and I’ll get to sleep through the night again.)

Of course, the way that God handles me always comes from Him knowing me, too.

The other day when I got off work and popped a CD into my car’s stereo, I felt like listening to “Hey,” a Julio Iglesias song from my childhood. I felt like God wanted me to shut up (rather than sing along) and pay attention to the first verse so that He could sing it to me. It goes something like... Hey, it’s wonderful to see you once again, to see you smile and hear you call My name; there is so much to say. I think I may have ended up singing the chorus to Him, which goes something like... It’s true; I’ve had so many other loves to share, but I could close my eyes and You’ll be there; no matter where I go, You are everywhere.

That was a beautiful car ride home, and God and I enjoyed a very nice evening together. He’s like my Father, my Husband, my Boyfriend, my Friend, and my God all wrapped in One.

During most of my “quiet times” at night, lately He’s shown me a specific psalm to read. He usually ends up sending me to a psalm or a verse/passage that described my day. During that particular Julio-Iglesias evening, He led me to Psalm 42 (which is significant to me because that’s my age), and verse 5 jumped out at me: “The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His SONG shall be with me.” Because He sang over me.

He knows exactly where I am. He knows exactly what I need. He knows me.

“Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?” (Song of Solomon 8:5a)

In these days as I’m wrapping up a season of sorts, my prayer is that I’ll come out of the wilderness leaning on my Beloved. I don’t want to leave this season bitterly. I don’t want to leave this season defensively. I don’t want to leave this season fearfully. I want to leave this season in love with and in awe of the One who has lovingly taken care of me every step of the way.

Wasn’t that the whole point of God taking the Israelites through the wilderness in the first place? So that they could worship Him? Maybe He wanted them to learn how to love Him. That’s what happens when you’re dependent on Someone to feed you your next meal or lead you to your next destination -- in a place where the conditions are so harsh that you would surely die otherwise.

You bond with them forever.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy for putting myself through all this. I wonder if I’m just being foolish or immature. But what if I actually heard God? What if I’m actually just obeying Him? What if I’m really just following Him? What if He’s actually leading me very meticulously through very rough terrain? And what if this is my one chance to get it right?

Knowing that other people have gone through similar rough patches helps me to validate my own. Seeing how I’ve grown to patiently interact with my little exotic dancer helps me to understand how God patiently interacts with me whenever I go a little crazy. Hearing God sing over me in the wilderness just makes it all worth it.

You gotta go through the wilderness to get to the promised land. Ain’t no way around that. Just hold tight to the One who knows the way.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Casserole5

There’s a Toys R Us store on my way home from church. As you probably know, that retailer filed for bankruptcy, so the store has had a going-out-of-business sale going on for quite a while. I stopped in last night just out of curiosity. What I saw was pretty sad. Most of the store had empty shelves, and we were only allowed to shop at the front part of the store which was cordoned off and lightly stocked with the last remaining items. I believe the sign on the front of the store said the sale would last for six more days.

What I saw last night wasn’t the Toys R Us that I grew up with. When I was a kid in the 80s, going to Toys R Us was always a magical, anticipated, epic treat. The store that we would go to was huge and was stocked with every toy you could imagine. (Or maybe it seemed so huge because I was so little.) The sale items, marked with yellow or red price tags, were always a welcome sight -- especially when your dad was out of work and money was tight for everybody. When I got older, I used to shop more in the video game section (for our Atari), but I always thoroughly enjoyed my visit to that store (and I’m glad I bought what I did, because I was able to sell most of it on eBay years later).

But last night, it seemed like they had been emptying out the dark corners of their warehouse. There was a huge shelf full of plastic troll figurines, a display of personalized cheap-looking plastic Christmas ornaments (that were supposed to light up but didn’t seem to work), maybe like two or three Star Wars action figures, and dozens of C batteries (which, even at 60% off, would still be a better deal at Dollar Tree). There were also still some Babies R Us items for sale. I was kind of hoping to find some candy at the checkout lines -- which is a pretty standard sight at almost any retailer nowadays -- but there wasn’t any. (Purchasing a cheap little refreshment on my way out is sometimes my way of saying, “Thanks for letting me browse.”) Unless they already sold it all.

As I drove away without buying anything, I thought about how my favorite childhood toy store was probably yet another dead retailer that failed to change with the times. I mean, if you sell toys in close proximity to breastfeeding accessories, who are you catering to? Stay-at-home moms. And how do they shop? As cheaply as possible. Where? Online, of course, because you can buy used stuff there without having to lug your family around to any garage sales. And if they bring their kids to shop with them at your actual store, it would be retail suicide to not stock your checkout lanes with candy.

Rest in peace, Geoffrey. I’m glad I was a Toys R Us kid.

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Last night and this morning, MeepMeep has been displaying some signs of going into heat yet again -- separation anxiety, insatiable appetite for affection, nestling her head towards her chest. (This photo is completely unrelated to this phenomenon.) I’m hoping her hormones have just been petering out each time she gets like this, but I’m still prepared for anything. (And hopefully all of her current behavior is just a false alarm.)

And yesterday morning as I was trying to fall back to sleep, she scratched my eyelid. I think it was a playful act, considering that the sight of my closed eye peering out from underneath the covers was probably something that stimulated her feline curiosity. But for the rest of the day, I wondered if perhaps I should plot to trim her nails. (Macho and Choochie used to let me do that once a month, but MeepMeep hasn’t been as, er, submitted to my household leadership in this particular area.) And she’s kneading her long claws into my arm while I’m typing the remainder of this paragraph. Ow.

And yet, I wouldn’t change her for anything. Her tremendous energy, strength, and appetite for affection all contribute to who she is. There is a taming process that needs to be ongoing, but I don’t regret that she is who she is. In fact, I like her that way. And the more I get to know her, the more I like her.

I daresay God feels the same way about me. Maybe that’s why He hasn’t spiritually declawed me or given me some kind of lobotomy. He’s given me the Holy Spirit to help me walk in self-control, and then He instructs me to go get ’em, tiger. Rawr.

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I don’t want to start any political arguments with this ingredient in the casserole; I just want to be honest about how I feel. I’m half-Mexican, and I think I should weigh in on the current hot-button issue of children being separated from their parents at the border. I have mixed feelings about it. At the risk of sounding insensitive, I’ll say it in Spanish: Muchos mexicanos son muy maƱosos. That means many Mexicans are very naughty.

I’ll say it another way: Mexican people can be very lawless if they’re not careful.

Here’s what I mean. Mexican people are warriors. That’s who we are; that’s how God made us. We can be quite lazy, and that’s a stereotype, but I think that’s the devil robbing us of our steadfastness. God created us mexicanos to be a very sturdy bunch of people. Many of us are small, fast, and shrewd. (And we’re fiercely loyal, sometimes to a fault.) These are all qualities that are needed on a battlefield. If we use them the right way, we’re like ninjas.

But if we use these qualities the wrong way, we mexicanos can become a very deceitful, lawless bunch of folks who act more like animals than people. My birth mother was originally from Mexico, and she was a compulsive liar who taught us how to be like her, so I know what I’m talking about.

Perhaps you’ve seen news or documentary footage of illegal-immigrant families trying to live ordinary lives here in the United States. If they hear that immigration officers (la migra) will be in the area, they’ll lock themselves down in their own homes -- nobody will go to work, the children won’t go to school, the entire family will hold their breath until the coast is clear. What kind of a life is that? And what kind of lesson are you teaching your children?

I love this country, I’m glad I was born here, I’m glad the Mexican half of my family immigrated here legally, and I hope the folks who want to make my country their home will do so the right way. Have you seen the news lately? Lawlessness is already everywhere, and there’s no need for it to continue to spread.

At the same time, there’s no need to rip a child away from his or her parents -- whether they abide by the law or not. For myself personally, I’m not really sure which would have been worse: Being raised by a deceitful mother or being separated from her when I was a little girl. But there’s no need to put innocent children through that trauma. It looks like steps are slowly being taken to fix this terrible situation in our country. But in the meantime, I pray that those kids who have already been separated from their parents will be reunited with them as soon as possible.

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Remember those cartoons where a prisoner would keep track of how many days they’ve been incarcerated by putting a hash mark on the wall? The other day while I was at work, when I looked down at the paper that I use to keep track of my quota, the hash marks reminded me of that. I guess you could say that I’ve been in a prison for a while, and I guess you could say that I’ll be stuck here for another couple of months.

But I’m honestly extremely thankful for the paycheck, no matter how tiny it is. And I’m extremely thankful to have work, period, because, well...

“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

“When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.” (Psalm 128:2)

“Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18)

At my previous job, I dreaded and hated Fridays. It didn’t seem fair. Everyone around me was enjoying Friday and looking forward to the weekend. But those of us who worked in my department would have an overabundance of work. People would heap proofs on my desk, in preparation for the weekend, and expect me to finish it by the end of the day. If I stayed late to finish it all, whoever was locking the building at 6 p.m. that evening would pressure me to get out of there, and then I would have to explain to people later why I wasn’t able to finish their work. And if the other editor had taken the day off, it was often worse because I would have to cover for her. Oh, Friday was miserable.

Now that I’ve been working at what is basically a clerical factory, the workload doesn’t change from day to day, so I’ve begun to feel myself actually enjoying Fridays again. I get paid every Friday, so the highlight of my week has been shopping at the grocery store on my way home on Fridays. (Depending on the week, sometimes I’ll go on a Thursday or a Saturday instead.) Oh, it’s glorious! Yes, I only have enough money to buy essential items, but I can barely express to you how gratifying it is to labor for a week and then immediately enjoy the fruit of my labor. I think it’s a beautiful thing.

When I get a better job in the future, if my routine changes, I think I’m going to miss it. And I’ll always remember it with fondness.