Friday, July 11, 2014

when drowning looks like swimming

My kids have spent literally 932 hours in their swimming pool this summer. Well, technically, it's a stock tank, not a swimming pool. Like for cows. And maybe goats. It works for tiny humans, too. We're fancy.

Several weeks ago, I was out running some errands and Chris was working beside the pool while the kids played in it. At one point, Cana started jumping up and down excitedly, "Dad! Dad! Look! RUBY RAE KNOWS HOW TO SWIM!!!" Chris stopped what he was doing and scrambled over to grab the gasping and frantic girl from beneath the surface of the water. What Cana had mistaken for an ability to hold her breath and kick her feet, was actually Ruby desperately trying to avoid sinking, after her tiny foot had slipped on the bottom of the pool. "No, Cana," Chris replied. "Ruby Rae was drowning." Later on that week, I saw a report on the news about how it's often difficult to tell if someone is in distress in the water. Sometimes the shrieks and splashes just look like a mighty good time.

And oh my word, isn't that how it works when we are grown-ups, too?

This past year has been bad. Can I use the word shitty even? This past year has been shitty. We've been walking through some non-fun stuff in our marriage, and this past winter, I dealt with pretty debilitating depression. I was unable to function. Unable to get off the couch. Unable to deal with the needs of my children and my home. I tried all sorts of alternative treatments--essential oils and niacin and exercise and blah blah-- and in the end, went to the doctor and got some antidepressants.

Ugh. This is the part where I decide that I am probably just going to write this all out and then delete it. Just like in junior high youth group when you wrote a letter to the people who had wronged you, then nailed it to the cross and let the sweet baby Jesus have all your bitterness. Writing in a somewhat public forum is the social equivalent of me walking into the Starbucks and asking a complete stranger to assess the severity of the cellulite situation on my thighs. Vulnerable and hopeful that maybe people will still like me after they see all my jubbily bits.

I stopped taking the antidepressants about a month ago. They were ok, and took the edge off a little bit. But I gained 20 lbs in 2 months. And for someone who is constantly struggling to keep my weight in check, this is for sure a no-go. I slowly weaned myself off them and felt great! I was all, "See! It was just seasonal depression! I don't need that poison in my body anymore! I just needed sunshine!"

Except that things feel shitty again. I feel like I can't get off the couch or deal with the needs of my children or my home.

I kind of feel like I am drowning. But you wouldn't know it, would you? I have got some fancy moves and some pretty words that make you think that I am doing some kind of impressive backstroke. But the reality is, just like Ruby Rae, I am gasping for air and trying to come up from under the surface. And all of you just think I am a mighty good swimmer.

The funny thing about the pool is that at any point, Ruby Rae could have just put her feet down and stood up. I feel like I should just be able to pull myself up and be OK. I wish someone would just be able to yank my bathing suit straps and say, "Melody, you're being ridiculous. Put your feet down." But it somehow doesn't feel that easy.

I am not sure where to go from here. The thought of going back on medicine and gaining more weight makes me seriously want to cry. I know it's superficial. Shut up.

I am trying to remind myself of truth.

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand."

Just like Chris was present to rescue Ruby Rae, I know that Jesus will rescue me. I know this is just a season and that I will know peace and joy and hope and skinny jeans again.

But for now, it just feels sucky.

I don't know why I am writing this. I am not asking for help or advice... maybe I am just trying not to drown so silently. Maybe I am writing it to encourage YOU not to drown so silently. Whatever the crap you're dealing with, whatever the loss, or the betrayal, or the misunderstanding-- don't put a brave face and try to convince the world that you've got it all together.

The filthy rag, the cracked jar of clay-- merely a vessel for redemption.

I will boast in my weaknesses-- what is my strength compared to the strong arm of my Savior?

Jesus only becomes greater when we become less.

I am waiting for new mercies in the morning, and trusting that tomorrow will maybe suck a little less.

Monday, June 23, 2014

someone to watch over me

I remember when I was single, I once got a flat on the highway. I sobbed and I sobbed like the world was ending. Or I would get an unexpected bill and flip out and have heart palpitations and feel like "OHMYGOSHMYLIFESUCKS!!! I might as well DIE right now!!!!" Everything was such a BIG, HORRIFIC, GIANT DEAL.

Once when Chris and I were dating, he drove me to the Philly airport after I had flown up for a visit. We arrived and found out that all the flights were delayed for hours and hours because of some sort of catastrophic computer glitch. I automatically started hyperventilating because, "I HAVE TO WORK TOMORROW!! THIS AIRPORT IS HUGE!!!!!! ALL THESE PEEEEEEOOOOPPPPPLLLLEEEE!!!!!" And Chris very matter-of-factly grabbed his cell phone, called the airline and informed them that they would be rescheduling my flight for tomorrow, but change the airport to Harrisburg instead of Philly thankyouverymuch. (He didn't ASK. He INFORMED. My 20 year old self didn't even know this was a thing.) And then he called my boss (HE CALLED MY BOSS, PEOPLE!) and calmly explained the situation and informed her that I wouldn't be into work the next day. (He didn't ASK. He INFORMED. My 20 year old self didn't know this was a thing.)

I think this was the first time that I knew that I really really loved Chris Strayer. Call me repressed, but it feels pretty stinking good to have someone take care of me. 10 years into this thing, and he's been there when the bills flood our mailbox, and when the ceiling opens up at 1 am and floods our bedroom. He's been there when my mom had cancer, and when we stood peering over the metal sides of our daughter's hospital bed, terrified at what the future would bring. And it wasn't quite so scary, because there was someone else to buffer life before it slammed into me.

Isn't this why the Bible says that marriage is an illustration of Christ and the Church? You're never alone. There is always someone with you to navigate it. Crap still happens, but it's first filtered through the hand of a loving God. And then filtered through the hand of a loving husband, who deals with the brunt of it as he covers his wife with his body, protecting her. We have these shade-cloths over the girls' little pool outside. They are triangular strips of fabric meant to give relief from the sun, but not completely block it. Because of the cloths, the sun is no longer hot and scorching and dangerous to the girls. It is warm and comfortable and fun. Chris is like our family's shade cloth-- he protects us from the worst of the elements, absorbing them onto his own back. He is our covering.

We have been through a lot of crap, Chris and I. Some of it has been my fault, some of it has been his. In fact, sometimes he's been a downright douche bag. But he's been HERE. He's been fielding the calls, and putting out fires before I even knew they had ignited. He faithfully goes out and battles the big world everyday, so that his girls can nestle into our safe little world at home.

Sometimes love looks like roses and champagne and romantic trips. But sometimes? Sometimes love looks an awful lot like someone calling the airline and rescheduling your flight for you. Don't miss it just because it doesn't look the way you expected it to.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

An Open Letter to the Woman who Filmed her Abortion on Youtube

Dear Emily,

You don't know me, but after your story popped up several times in my largely-Conservative-Christian Facebook feed, I feel compelled to add another voice of dissension to the mounting outcry.

I am sickened and saddened by what you have done. I grieve not only for your sweet baby, but for the myriad of babies who will die because you posted this on Youtube. You've created an avenue for scared young women to google the abortion procedure, see that you've made it look less painful than a dentist appointment, and choose death for their child instead of considering the other options. I'm glad it wasn't painful for you, Emily. But the same cannot be said for the average 16 week old baby, for whom it has been documented that the vaccuums and curettes and forceps ARE painful, and a much bigger deal than the root canal or mole removal that you make this out to be. You have said that this is a "positive" abortion story, that you feel super great about it. Awesome. But you're only half of the equation, Emily. You're not the only one who matters, you just happen to be the only one who has a voice. You also don't have the benefit of retrospect. You have not had to walk through the consequences of your decision long term; it's unfair and prejudicial for you to say that your abortion was a positive experience, when you don't know how you will feel about it in five years, or ten years, or when you're 90.

But here's the thing, Emily. You and me, we are cut of the same cloth. You see, I murdered my children this morning. All three of them, with little thought of consequence. They were irritating me and disobeying me and crippling me with all their needs and whimpers and stories and "watch me, Mommy!"'s. And just like your abortion doctor wielded his curette, I blindly slashed at my children with the sharpened sword of my words. And I mercilessly slaughtered them all.

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement." (Matthew 5:21-22)

Here's the thing, Emily. I can accuse you of murder, and be right. But you can also accuse me of murder, and you would also be right. Anger, murder-- to-may-to, to-mah-to, according to Jesus. We Christians are supremely good at compartmentalizing sin. But the truth is, we are all on level playing ground. We ALL have sinned, we ALL have fallen short of the glory of God. None of us is good. NOT EVEN ONE.

But that's not what we would have you believe, as we flood your inbox with hate mail and calls for repentance. We will call you a "slutty cunt", as you described in a recent interview. Because oh my word, Emily, if there's something that we Christians are good at, it is boycotts and judgements and throwing rocks. We will get on facebook and link to articles of "filthy baby-killers" like you, but we won't volunteer at the local teen pregnancy shelter. We will express how heartbroken we are about children stolen in Nigeria, but our heartbreak doesn't extend to any concrete actions to prevent future social injustices. We will copy and paste "if you're not ashamed of Jesus, repost!" status updates, but we are too ashamed to evangelize our neighbors. We see the hungry and homeless, and we slam the door in their faces, while smiling and encouraging them to keep warm and well-fed. With great humility, I soberly and whole-heartedly include myself in this group of well-intentioned Pharisees. Heck, I could be their leader.

You murdered your baby, Emily. And now we will turn around and murder you, all in the name of Jesus.

We have missed it.

It sounds almost too glib to post... but Jesus loves you, Emily. He really, desperately loves you. You could have ten more abortions, and Jesus would love you still. There is nothing that you can do that would make Him love you less. He is your creator, and He chose to give you life, in all your frailty and humanity. I am heartbroken by the followers of Christ that would have you believe anything less.

We have different view points on this. But I want you to know that your baby has worth. And Emily, you have worth. You are not defined by the worst of your actions. (This is a huge relief to me; if I was defined by the worst of my actions, I would have been burning in hell long ago.) I fervently hope that you come to realize the sanctity of life, that you come to realize how precious these little ones are to Jesus. He loves your baby, Emily. And though you only saw the "potential for life", I am confident that your baby IS alive, and is being held in the arms of Jesus.