worthy of love. worthy of light. worthy of saying no when something don’t feel right.

i had a panic attack last summer. i think one day it will end up being one of the best things to ever happen to me. what followed has taught me the sweetest, best lessons in self-talk, mental boundaries, and God’s true love for me.

it was your standard attack in the middle of the night. that thing where your mind races and it feels like you’ll never breathe a normal breath again and all you feel is the weight of the world and condemnation and you can’t make anything stop and it’s just one massive spiral. yay! FUN. HAPPY TIMES, YALL. i couldn’t tell you how long it lasted, but it couldn’t have been much more than a few awful minutes.

when the worst of it was over, i told my husband (as he literally fed me sips of water. that image still makes me cry.) that i couldn’t get three sentences out of my head. it was like the emotional earthquake i had just endured had unearthed them, and they were there, lying ugly on my earth, in plain sight. three lies. three sentences that i had never consciously thought but that had driven my subconscious for who knows how long. 

i have to. 

i’m not able to. 

i don’t have a choice. 

over and over. my entire brain was quietly repeating this condemning mantra. relieved it was finally out in the open. needing me to do something with them. what do you do with that kind of info? when something in you finally wakes up and says, “hello, hi, yes, please help.” and you feel both very awake and also like you’re dreaming.

the amazing part was that it was in response to something i said, post-panic. johnboy had the next day off, a very coveted and celebrated commodity in our home, and i was mad mad that i was gonna be all funky the next day. i can’t even remember my exact vent, but it was something like, “i’m so frustrated that i have to be all catatonic now. we had fun plans. now i have to be all withdrawn and shut down, and i don’t want to. it’s so frustrating. i just want to live life, and i don’t want to stay in bed all day or be miserable.” and that’s how my mind responded, by showing me the lie weeds. “heyyyyy, we actually don’t want to either! you just got these lies trapped in here that make it feel like we don’t have a choice about anything. can you take them for us? yeah? great! also, figure out why they’re there. sure no give it time! whenever you’re ready! we can actually figure out that part together later. but for now could we just stop watering them so they’ll quit growing? wonderful. oh! by the way, we’ve planted some great seeds in their place. gonna be beautiful come spring.” 

a pastor told me once that the voice of God will never push you down. it only draws you in. anything other than that voice is His enemy, condemning us and reminding us of what we’ve done and will never be able to do. as a loving Parent to a child, it will never be a voice that doesn’t love me wholly. so, with that knowledge in mind, i began to compare my thoughts and actions within the filter of these three lies. and i found repeated limiting beliefs that lined up with them. let me tell you, when you hold up your life’s work (picture rafiki holding baby simba for the full effect) to the light of Truth, (i DON’T have to! i DO have a choice! i AM able to!) what you find is both life-giving and lots of old grief. i hold space for both lots of days. there’s room within me for all of it. as i’m clearing out lies that don’t serve me or line up with God’s view of me, i find i have much more space than i used to. 

as for the lies themselves, i take it one day at a time and carefully measure where my thoughts are coming from. that’s something i’ve learned to do with time and really wonderful, productive therapy. i have to work, daily, to consciously believe some form of opposite of my old beliefs. some days that feels next to impossible. other days, i can feel my whole self gravitating there without effort. ultimately it is really healing and sweet to encourage my own mind to move forward into more and more love and peace and acceptance. when it comes down to it, i’ve just decided to treat myself the way i want to treat others. isn’t that beautifully backwards? we have been told for so long to treat others the way we want to be treated. somewhere along the way, we forgot to start inside ourselves.

when a new lie unearths, and it does, because i’m a constantly healing, growing human bean living in a messy world, i try to imagine my most beloveds feeling it instead. what would i say to them? i would want to hold them, if it was troubling and they felt like a hug. i would want to sit quietly and wait until they were ready to talk. and then i would probably say something akin to, “oh, my sweet friend, that doesn’t line up with your character. you have years and years of proof that this is who you are. that? that’s a lie to get you isolated and wounded and hopeless. that’s stale and boring. that’s how satan wants us because he knows there is healing strength in numbers. here is how God sees you. here is who you really are. this is what He calls you. this is what you were made to be” when i tell you that radical love is life-changing, i mean it is truly, truly life-changing. i now talk to myself like i matter. and i believe, deep in my heart, that i do matter.

i now see that God lives in my heart and helps orchestrate my mind like a symphony. when i speak to myself in love, i’m speaking of God’s creation with love. i know there are things that block that connection within me, and it’s a beautiful, painstaking job to mentally undo all that mess of grief and trauma. it’s all Him working. it’s all me working. it’s Emmanuel, God with us. revealed in us. i did not know that before. as more old, stale beliefs unearth and uproot, i am free to receive God’s love and share it with the people around me. that’s my job now. that’s how i make His name synonymous with love, in my own mind and in the minds of those i encounter. that’s how i help heal the brokenness in me. and i heal a little bit every day. 

because, actually, i can.

no matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.

i found out my local disney store is closing. it felt like a gut punch when i saw the sign. it’s the sweet store we took baby scouty to so many times. then when charlie boy came along, it was a joy to introduce him to our fun little NorthPark loop. it was a sweet place, a small dose of magic, a little emotional reprieve for the homesick Disnerds in all of us. to say i was surprised was an understatement. it was an instant sadness.

my first response was panic. full-on panic that didn’t even make a ton of sense to me. but i looked at my sweet mama and said, “i am panicking. i don’t know why. can you make sure Charlie stays okay?” i started to walk around for a second, and then i wanted to call my sister. (duh.) it was an entire flood of emotions all at once, and i could feel myself unraveling a little bit in the middle of a closing down disney store. my mask felt tighter than normal, and my head felt dizzy. everywhere i looked, the items were 20% off and all sales final when i wanted them to be full price and staying put. i really did just panic for a minute there. i DID call my sister and we talked for about 30 seconds, and then i said, “okay, i’m going to be with Charlie now.”

and here the tears come as i type this part. i knew i was going to miss this (suddenly numbered) time with him, otherwise. i really couldn’t fully unravel then and there. he didn’t know any of it. how could he? he can’t read. the music was happy and everything looked the same to him. at this age, his mood is 100% determined on what his people are feeling and projecting. he was just excited for a surprise trip to one of his favorite places. he ran in and out of the mirrors and looked at the toys and wished they were playing fun movies on their big projector. he was just happy and 4 and content with his mama and his nan. and i didn’t want to miss it. inside, for whatever reason, i was fully unraveling. but on the outside, i had a precious little life in front of me that was content and joyful, wearing a mask without complaint, thankful for the outing and quality time together.

i let him pick out new masks. he was so excited to see a darth vader one in his size. (“do you know what his theme song is, mama? THE IMPERIAL MARCH.”) i tried so hard to be excited as i choked back confusing tears. i tried and was thankful for my mama filling in the blanks for me. then, through tears i couldn’t hold back, i looked at her and said, “this is exactly what it feels like to have a young kid in a pandemic.” and something in me broke open and rejoiced to be heard and it all made a little more sense for me. we have tried to explain it many times before. how we have had to hold it together even when we’re falling apart inside. how the world shut down and dinner had to be eaten. how everything was falling apart in our world and we still had to convey, daily, “look at mama. do i look scared? it’s going to be okay.” and then we had to look to God so He could say, “Look at Me. Do I look scared? It’s going to be okay.” and nothing felt okay and still doesn’t most days. but we were, and all, a little okay.

and even now, as i type, the tears are free flowing. the store is closing, and that is tremendously sad on a silly, personal level. (and on a non-personal level as that many more cast members suddenly find themselves without an income.) for The Idiots, it will be okay, of course. we will make new memories and new routines and always, always reach for the joy or make it ourselves. our kiddos will be sad, and so will we. but we will be okay. but it somehow encompasses the weight of loss of these last 13 months. these life changes, these hits that make us say, “OH. OW. oh wow, i wasn’t expecting that. okay. give me a second, and i’ll adjust. wow. that was just not what i was thinking would happen.” we are called cowards if we turn off the news. or watch the wrong news. or repost something we believe in. or don’t repost if we disagree. religion, politics, ethics have blurred into 1 entity, and every day we wake up to something new in our face that says “THIS MATTERS THE MOST.” and it’s just the most overwhelming weight to feel all of it and still find a smile and a good morning and let’s make some breakfast and turn on the diffusers and the Epcot music loop on youtube. i read recently that a non-traumatic childhood isn’t one void of trauma. it’s one where children are able to freely process the trauma they’ve encountered. that gave me a flood of relief i didn’t know i needed. as long as we can keep making Mickey shaped waffles and talking about every feeling under the sun, it can still be okay for him. for them. for all of us.

we got in the car and turned on moonshadow by Cat Stevens and let the tears flow a little more freely. that felt good. charlie couldn’t understand why the two grownups in the car were quietly crying. and i told him that our disney store was going to eventually close. (he, like me, processes best knowing the gentle truth and talking about it openly.) i told him that mama was crying because mama is a big crybaby and i love that about myself and it’s how my brain chooses to process big feelings. i asked if he remembered when Bing Bong was sad after his rocket was thrown overboard on Inside Out. joy panicked and tried to make him laugh, but it didn’t work. he had lost something. sadness sat down next to him, so he wouldn’t be alone. he cried caramels and grieved the loss of his friend for a second. i asked charlie what happened next, and Becky Nan whispered, “i know this one! he died. he jumps off a moving rocket and dies.” okay, mama, you’re NOT wrong, but also not the answer i was looking for. thanks for the tears AND belly laugh though. Sadness sits with Bing Bong, listens to his grief, hugs him, and lets him cry. after a few seconds, he wipes his tears, and he looks at Joy and Sadness both and says, “i’m okay now. come on.”

as the year mark came and went, i find myself remembering what life was like this time last year. and i grieve for us all. for the fear and the uncertainty and the loneliness and the unity and the signs in windows and the neighborhood walks and the genuine concern for our fellow man. that was a painful time. that was a sweet time. that was a forever time, and i feel it deserves my tears now. soon, probably very soon, a tiny bit of numbness and resolve will kick in for me, and i will be completely on board with dinner and game night and dance parties and campfire cookouts. but for a little minute here, my heart and my mind and my whole being are going to be open to the weight of it all. and i’ll grieve in a closing disney store while still smiling happily at my sweet boy, giddy about his new darth vader mask.

Cause we made it through, i do believe, the longest year in history.

(here’s the story: i wrote this early morning on October 29th. it was a holiday symphony that wouldn’t leave my brain. i hit publish, i closed the app before it *actually* uploaded, and it disappeared into the internet void like that video of the poor raccoon that can’t find his cotton candy in a water puddle. i couldn’t find it anywhere, and i, too, became a puddle of sugar water and rabid raccoon. 

but! somehow! just now! here it is. so, please read the backdated words about why i believe this holiday season is the most important wonderful time in the longest year in history. big love from a little raccoon with an even bigger piece of cotton candy this go around.)

i cannot read that caption without my face crumpling and that all too familiar (but still so sweet) lumpy throat hitting me. i think i listened to it that song 10 times today. (The Thanksgiving Song by Ben Rector. you need it, too.)

i’ll start by saying that i love a holiday more than almost anything. gimme something to decorate and celebrate and play specific music, and i’m a content lady. fast forward to these days of living life with my Kind-Hearted Slytherin, and spooky season means a lot to us. a lot a lot. i have 100 hand-cut paper bats flying out of my chimney to prove it. we have coffee mugs featuring our favorite Disney villains and (as of this year) a full corner dedicated to our most beloved family member, The Headmuss Hurseman. i am fluent in Hocus Pocus and will fight annoyance that it’s a mainstream love now when i took the time to memorize the movie as i watched it on VHS every day of 3rd grade. it’s fine and i’m fine and it’s all just one big glooooorious morning that makes me sick.

last year we decorated on September 1st and turned everything around for Christmas by October 23. and you know what? i genuinely regretted it. i didn’t know i would. i missed those last bits of spooky fall excitement before the entire world turns red and gold and full of hope disguised as stress and stress disguised as hope. i vowed that i would not make that mistake again. i would not try to bend a calendar to fit my need for comfort and joy and control.

we added 100 spiders to our repertoire this year, and they’re exactly as wonderful and awful as you would think. we made our 2nd annual spider web, and nameless friend (COUGH KENZIE COUGH) told me in a FaceTime that i wouldn’t have them still up by Halloween.

y’all, i don’t know what kind of sorcery she put on my stubbornness, but those spiders are still up with a web that is hanging on by a literal thread. and even though that was the plan all along, i have somehow turned it into something that is entirely Kenzie’s fault. i haven’t taken one Halloween decoration down. out of sheer stubbornness, i have refused and my heart wants to so, so bad. you know why?

because of a Thrill of hope and a weary, rejoicing world and O Come O Come Emmanuel and free Your Captive Israel and ‘Tis the Season when the Saints can employ us to spread the news about Peace and to keep Love alive and Feed the World and let them know it’s Christmastime again and Linus telling us all about that blessed Angel of the Lord bringing tidings of great joy and His Law is Love and His Gospel is Peace and thank you very, very, very much and Enjoy the beauty of the joy and beauty that a Merry Christmas can bring you and welcome to our world and Merry Christmas you wonderful old savings and loan.

did your heart light up with any of that? i can feel it in my bones. under the weight of all of our massive dread and fear and depression and anxiety and stress and unease and tumult and unknown, there’s a tiny, tiny, tiny thimble thrill of hope waiting to be born. a Gift that has nothing to do with us and what we’ve done and everything to do with a Savior that dearly loves all of His children.

i love the bats, and you KNOW i love the candy. but i’m ready for a month full of gratitude and dog shows and butter and shortening. and then, so, so much more than that, i’m ready for the perspective and reset that comes with each Advent season. i’m ready for the tidings of great joy. i’m ready to comfortably miss my Grammy. and i’m ready for all of us to remember His hope again.

i am so very grateful to have waited this year. i’m thankful that all of our fun and silly Halloween traditions were readily available. (albeit tweaked bc 2020) it’s felt truly good to let my kid be a kid after such an exhausting year to be a kid. i’m thankful to make new memories in the coming weeks. and i can almost stretch my mind to make Kenz’s challenge into a deeply good thing for this season. almost.

God bless us everyone. and God bless the friends that see you fully and challenge you to wait past your comfort zone. but don’t tell her i said that. and don’t judge me when it’s 12:01am on November 1st, and i’m on my roof with Christmas lights. catch you on the flippity flip, Sanderson sisters. and haul. out. the. holly.

flashback to the time we brainstormed Halloween costumes and i almost had to sue my sisray for willful ignorance.

and no hard feelings.

12 For 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.

brace yourselves, lads. it’s about to get capital H heavy. and deep and real and honest. but i woke up at 3:30 and can’t sleep anymore and this all wants out of my brain and heart.

i’m gonna start by saying that in this day and age, a good, sound therapist is better than a Berkin bag. and if you’re on the fence or have tossed around the idea of talking to a professional because this year has been HARD, here is your sign that says “jump!” you won’t regret it. you deserve it. your family deserves it. your past self deserves it most. i am only sorry i waited this long to learn how to truly stop carrying things that never served me in the first place.

that being said, i want to try and share with you this incredible shift God has begun in my thinking. it started about a month ago. in one of my early therapy appointments, i asked if it would surprise him to learn that i can be…mean. especially when i fight. let me say up front that i am an excellent fighter. my ugly streak comes in fierce in any argument. my mind becomes more clear, i am more quick-witted and cutting, and it is the ugliest view of me. i tend to leave a string of people i love in my wake. it’s pretty awful. but i would easily describe one of my worst characteristics as simply “mean.”

and he told me that he actually doesn’t really believe in mean people. he only sees it as various degrees of fear. he described how his favorite cat would respond to being put in a kennel to be taken to the vet. this sweet, docile cat would back itself into a corner, hiss, scratch, bolt, yell, anything to try and break away from his owner. his daughter said to him once, “daddy, look at how mean he’s being to you! and he’s your favorite cat.” his response was, “he’s not being mean at all. he’s scared. he doesn’t understand that it’s going to be okay. he just doesn’t want to get in the kennel and go to the vet.”

first seed planted: it’s perfectly fine to believe people are not inherently mean.

fast forward several weeks, and a friend of mine posted about the song “Defender” by steffany gretzinger and francesca battistelli. a song i’d never heard before. she was talking specifically about the opening lines.

You go before I know
That You’ve even gone to win my war
You come back with the head of my enemy
You come back and You call it my victory.

to paraphrase, she was so thankful for that (graphic but amazing) image of Jesus carrying satan’s head. she said that any time she wanted to dwell on her past mistakes and sins and all the lies whispered to her, she was reminded that it had already been defeated by a God who loves her. a God who loves us. all of us. and He’s carrying the head of her enemy.

now i’m gonna flesh out part 2 because it’s heavy and makes my brain hurt a little bit. but it’s good. it’s so, so good, and i’m just grateful for a God that is patient and loving and gentle in teaching me things i have forgotten or ignored altogether.

when lacy was talking about this image of Jesus carrying the head of MY enemy, i realized something obvious. it would never be the head of someone i know. anyone i consider even remotely close to an enemy on this earth is still fully made in the image of God. He loves them completely as they are. i am not special in this Love. there would NEVER be anyone’s head but the actual enemy. the lower case e enemy (because i hate him) satan that is out to kill, steal, and destroy the lives of anyone in his path. the liar that can twist and manipulate and plant half-truths in our minds that ruin the very best of us.

and it hit me that, with that knowledge, i actually don’t have any enemies in my life. the only enemy i have ever had or WILL ever have is the actual enemy of this earth. when i filter that knowledge into any conflict i’ve ever had, it always comes back as two things: fear and satan. repeatedly. no question. the worst of any conflict i’ve encountered was still with someone made in the image of Christ. and somehow, incredibly on this earth, i suddenly find myself with no enemies.

WHUT.

now, i know i cannot speak on any part of your story. it’s yours and yours alone. but my heart can instantly hurt imagining who or what YOU are thinking about right now. it’s heavy. it’s too heavy and too much. know that i’m next to you with a mental glass of cold water and a banana right now. think samwise and frodo and elevenses and i can’t carry this for you but i can carry you and what not oh shoot spoiler alert sorry should’ve mentioned that moving on.

for me, as i have begun the gentle process of debriding past pain that hasn’t healed properly, i suddenly find fresh blood to the area. (sorry for my non-medical friends out there. oh SHOOT did you really just faint?) with this sudden knowledge that i have no enemies, i find tired, buried bitterness slowly shifting into, for now, maybe just a kind of indifference. and maybe that indifference will even turn into love. love for my neighbor. love for myself. if nothing else, it will turn into a deeper sense of forgiveness and healing. and that’s the direction i want to go.

i don’t know why i woke up at 3:30am the morning after debates i didn’t watch. but i caught the headlines and the posts and the general feeling of tumult and dread and opposites on all sides. and it was so deep in my bones that someone, somewhere might benefit in this patient, loving lesson my Creator is teaching me: the only real enemy we have on this earth has been defeated already. people that we feud with here are just as afraid about something as we are. and either way, rejoice, because anger is actually just fear. it won’t necessarily change your political party. but maybe it will remind you we are all image-bearers to Christ, and there’s a sweet freedom in that.

that’s all. a hearty, sleepy good morning. now go make some coffee or tea or warmed up Dr. Pepper and remember that we were made to show others the Good News today. remember who the real enemy is. big, tired, comforting love!

and we’ll all float on okay.

weekly-ish check-in! how’s everyone doing? who’s baked what? watcha watching these days? everyone drinking enough water? carbonated water? oh! okay, watered down coke? just regular coke? big gulps, ay? welp, see ya later.

i wanna start by saying that tonight my brother-in-law informed us we needed to “get caught up” on cobra kai episodes (a show we currently don’t watch) and i suggested we start a karate kid-themed brunch called “sweep the brie.” it went over okay, but not nearly to the caliber i think it deserves. and you know i mean that because i’m blogging about it now to make it canon. side note- i’ve been really itchy ever since because i can’t come up with another karate kid food pun. it’s fine. i’m over it now. i mean, i’m not. but i will be eventually.

today toddy asked me if i was going to cry when we go back to Disney World one day. and i got choked up answering yes. that’s not a good sign, eh? i also got choked up watching the first episode of dancing with the stars and the judges were sitting far apart. it’s a strange mix of pride and grief combined. grief at all the obvious. pride that even though everything feels different, humans have this incredible ability to maintain resilient, weird, wonderful defiant joy. we’ll have a drive-thru state fair, and the lines will be 4 hours long. we’ll still have the emmys with individual trophy holders outside each door. we’ll have sports with cardboard fans and giant teddy bears in the stands. and, yes, this football hating idiot will still cry when she sees football on TV for the first time. i didn’t know i how relieved i’d feel to see it.

really, you don’t really know how scared you were until you see hints of normalcy again. everyone is judging dancers 6 feet apart and honking through drive-thru birthday parties and hosting zoom bar mitzvahs, and you realize that we’re still, somehow, all a little okay. and then you get sad thinking back to march and april and may and wishing you could send your past self a little note of encouragement. “it gets worse, but you get better.”

growing up, i had dog for a half-second that we named george w. one day, george was outside playing with an empty coke can. it was loud, and he was running into everything making both noise and a mess. my dad walked outside and picked up the can. when he looked out the window, he noticed that george had found a leaf and was still crashing into everything on the patio, chasing this leaf. now as a social experiment, my dad went back outside and took the leaf. he watched through the window as george immediately began chasing his tail, repeatedly, crashing into everything and having a grand time. my daddy later tell us this story and say, “you know, sometimes you just have to chase your own tail.” no matter what was taken away, puppy Dubya was determined to have a good day anyway.

and we are, too.

it’s amazing how our bodies store these little pockets of grief and joy and trauma and indifference. i’m always surprised to uncover one. this season has done such a profound job of making all. this. crap. rise to the top. and while i’m deeply grateful for all the times to collectively talk about feeeeeeeeeliiiiiiiings. (4w5 ayooo!) my 5 self is thankfully learning to come running in with a “heyyyyy, let’s just take a mental break for, say, i dunno, 10, 11 years? who wants to make queso and rewatch stranger things? i’ll give $4 to the next person that stops me from steering all conversations back to heavy.” come on, man, that’s 4 whole dollars. that’s basically a Christmas bonus in stay-at-home mom world.

i don’t know how to end this. if we didn’t live in such an imperfect world, i would have a karate kid pun by now. you KNOW i’ve still been scanning my brain while i type. and even now, all i’m circling is something about Mister Mi-mosas. not terrible, but definitely, definitely not worthy of blog canonization. whatever. i don’t even care anymore. okay okAY OKAY WAIT EDITED CONTENT UPDATE. i have just been informed by my sisray that i’m not even quoting the movie right. i’m quoting kevin on the office misquoting it. and and AND i’m not even that upset seeing as she has provided us with an alternative brunch pun for the now corrected quote.

sweep the egg. BOOM.

okay, love you. bye. keep swinging for the fences and failing miserably and being fine anyway. can’t wait to cry with you next check-in about something nice i saw on the internet. (bows with both hands in prayer with a white bandana tied across my forehead and promptly goes in for a swift crane kick to your face.)

letter from the editor: i have since learned that you should watch Cobra Kai on vidangel or with the editing software of your choice and with no children around. apparently a few episodes are, and i quote, “a doozy.”