Sunday, December 31, 2017

Joy is My Word of the Year for 2018

My Word of Year for 2018 is JOY--yes, again. While it is good to study as much about the Bible as possible, it is becoming more and more clear to me that my focus was, is, and always will be JOY. As I read back over that sentence, it sounds as if I'm complaining; I'm not! I love studying JOY as much as possible. I love noticing every possible way that JOY is used. Just yesterday, as we were driving home from church, I noticed this display in the window of one of our local florists:
It's almost as if they created that display just for me! LOL!

Some time in early 2008, I found this gorgeous purple planner for 2009 that had beautiful embellishments with a focus on JOY. That was the first year that JOY was my Word of the Year; I knew that well before 2008 came to an end. I remember talking with a young lady (a student) about how God plans things out and prepares us in ways we'll never know or understand and may not even understand afterward. 

It was in 2009 that the Lord first gave me Psalm 45:7: 
"You love justice and hate evil.
    Therefore God, your God, has anointed you,
    pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else." 
As I've shared previously, I knew immediately that He was speaking directly to me as I read those words: "You, Polly, love justice and hate evil. Therefore God, your God, Polly, has anointed you, Polly, pouring out the oil of joy on you, Polly, more than on anyone else." I wrote the verse in my journal and I remember weeping as I prayed and received the Lord's anointing--right here in my living room.

Little did I know that in November of 2009 I would be at death's door--literally. It took all the JOY I had in me and then some to make it through those days when my family and I thought I was going to die. Walking around with an ostomy bag is NOTHING to be JOYFUL about, let me tell you, whether you are in your late thirties as I was or older in life. Using the bathroom into a bag on your stomach while teaching makes finding JOY in the day-to-day livings was a struggle too difficult to put into words.

Add to that battle the fact that I have continued to struggle over the years with the losses of my babies. That burden has always weighed heavily on my heart and soul and made finding JOY more difficult than normal. But I clung to God's promise of His anointing oil of JOY--more than anyone else. If my God had promised it, He would fulfill it.

I may always struggle with finding and receiving the full JOY that God has for me--that He has anointed me with. But that's ok because as I struggle with finding JOY, I am seeking JOY--I am learning about JOY--I am receiving the fullness of JOY.

So I will continue to have JOY as my Word of the Year for 2018. It may be my Word of the Year forever and ever, amen and amen. Wouldn't that be wonderful?!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

I am Defined by...Part 2

I am Defined by...Part 1

I am Polly Anna. My parents named me perfectly. According to Eleanor H. Porter's Pollyanna, a Pollyanna is someone who looks for the good in life--someone who finds something to be Glad about even when it is difficult, if not impossible, to find something to be Glad about. Pollyanna is known for playing "The Glad Game." Yes, it is very high on my list of favorite book of all time.

According to the "Word Origin and History for Pollyanna": "n.
one who finds cause for gladness in the most difficult situations," 1921, a reference to Pollyanna Whittier, child heroine of U.S. novelist Eleanor Hodgman Porter's "Pollyanna" (1913) and "Pollyanna Grows Up" (1915), who was noted for keeping her chin up during disasters.

A few synonyms for a Pollyanna are: dreamer, hoper, positive thinker.

The American definition of Pollyanna is actually very offensive: "an excessively or blindly optimistic person." I do not identify with the American definition of Pollyanna in the slightest, but I will say that this is why I believe that so many people are so easily put off by me. Having the anointing oil of joy more than anyone else is a heavy responsibility. One of the most difficult reasons why it is a heavy responsibility is because it means that many are easily offended by my "excessive or blind optimism." But I can't answer for anyone but myself. I am who I am. I am who God made me, not just the name my parents gave me.

I am not only Polly Anna in name--on my birth certificate and in my signature, but I am a Polly Anna in every fiber of my being. I am one who finds cause for gladness in difficult situations. I am a dreamer, hoper, positive thinker. I do play the Glad Game. I do look for the good in people and situations. I live life enthusiastically and with JOY. I love to laugh. I love to make others laugh. I love to smile. I smile for no reason whatsoever. I love to sing just to sing because I'm happy!

"I sing because I'm happy! I sing because I'm free!"

I tend to be the one who gets a tad overly-excited about the little things--who squeals like a stuffed pig when I'm excited. A sweet friend took me with her to Washington, DC several years ago and, of course, we went to the National Zoo where we got to see my very favorite animal in the whole wide world: pandas! Yes, I screamed, squealed, cried, and screamed some more! My friend finally walked away and went to find a seat where she waited--patiently, I think--for me. She still teases me about it. When my husband took me to Zoo Atlanta a few years later, my reaction was similar. I think my screaming and crying for joy actually scared a few people. I honestly started screaming and hyperventilating before we even got to the Panda-paddock. My husband wasn't sure I'd even make it to see the pandas!

I try to go see movies in the theater during slower movie times because when I watch a movie, I WATCH a movie. I laugh loud. I cry--loud. If it's a musical, I sing--loud. (I even whisper loud.) Some people laugh along with me and get a kick out of my enjoyment of the film--and we all have a very good time. Others get really upset and tell me that I am ruining the movie for them and ask me to be quiet. I honestly don't mean to be rude or ruin their experience. I simply enjoy can't help it. Honest!

Yes, I am loud. That, too, is very much a part of Polly Anna. I do try. I really do. I respect those around me so very much who are able to speak quietly yet metaphorically carry a big stick. I think that is awesome. What an incredible power to wield! I speak very loudly and carry a toothpick. Seriously. And it's a blunt toothpick, not one of those sharp ones. Even my whispering is loud. When I was little, my Grandpa Keefer was always telling me, "Not so loud, Polly." Every so often, as an adult teacher, I've had teachers from the classroom next door come over and say, "Not so loud, Mrs. Watson." 

It does hurt my feelings, a lot, to be told over and over that I am too loud, especially when I do try not to be so loud. But even when I try to speak in a softer, quieter voice, it comes out loud and strong and clear. It simply bursts forth out of me--almost of its own volition.

And I talk a lot. A lot a lot. Throughout my school days, I always did very well and had very good reports to bring home to my parents. The only comment that was ever on my reports was, "Polly talks too much." The only reason I ever got in trouble in school was for talking. Teachers would try to move me across the room away from my friends, never realizing that I would just make friends with the new people--if I wasn't already friends with them. I talked to everyone: boys, girls, teachers, myself, my hairbrush. And I still do.

I am also a touchie-feelie kind of person. I like to stand close enough to be touching the person I am talking to, or sitting close. I will typically touch the person--on the hand, arm, shoulder, face, or head. If I am close to the person (a family member or very close friend, I may rub the underside of her upper arm or her back). And I hug--any and everyone who will let me hug him/her. I love hugs. My Grandpa Keefer was a hugger; everyone loved his hugs. When we were all sitting around after his death, everyone talked about how wonderful his hugs were. I want to be remembered for my hugs, too.

As I have gotten older, all of the previous characteristics have continued to define me. No matter how hard I have tried to dampen the ones that have gotten me into trouble, they continue to get me into trouble. Yet, I am Polly Anna and I love that part of who I am. It is my favorite part of myself. I truly wish that part of myself could and would always manifest itself--be manifested on a day-to-day basis.

But like Pollyanna in the story, my life has not been perfect. I almost wish that the worst thing that has ever happened to me would be to fall out of a tree and not be able to walk. (I don't mean that. I'm speaking metaphorically here.) Like Pollyanna Harrington, I have had many times in my life when it has been beyond difficult to play "The Glad Game"--to be Polly Anna. 

    In my twenties while my husband and I were living in Springfield, MO, I fell into a deep depression that I found it very difficult to come out of even after we had moved back to NC. I think I stayed in at least a state of mild depression until I got pregnant with our first son.
    During my pregnancy when we had the first ultrasound, it revealed a large mass on my left ovary. After a few weeks, they did another ultrasound and discovered that the mass had grown a centimeter for every week that had passed since the first ultrasound. The doctor decided that he needed to do a surgery right away--I was at 20 weeks--to remove the mass as well as my ovary and part of the fallopian tube. All was well with our baby boy.
    On March 16, 1999, I went to the OB for my regular weekly appointment, excited about the final weeks of my pregnancy. I was at 38 weeks. They couldn't find a heartbeat. James Isaac Watson was stillborn on March 17, 1999.
    Then on November 10, 1999, I miscarried: Panya Ruth Watson.
    Anna Rose Watson was miscarried while I was on campus at the college where I teach on November 22, 2005.
    I think depression is a given.
    My marriage went down the tubes.
    In November 2009, at death's door, I had to have an ostomy bag
for three months. In April 2010, it was reversed and the doctor removed eight inches of my colon.
    Then, in November of 2010, I had a uterine ablasion because of vaginal bleeding due to a polyp.
    I don't remember the year, but somewhere in there, I had a meltdown where I might have killed James if he hadn't left the house. 
    During that same time period, I had a boss who had it in for me and was determined to have me fired. 
    I began seeing a chiropractor and a massage therapist.
    I had my first official anxiety attack and began taking medicine specifically for anxiety.
    I also began taking medicine for depression--eventually going up to 100 mg.
    Migraines have been a consistent problem throughout all this time. I have been able to keep them managed--mostly--with Excedrine Migraine.
    In December of 2016, I had my gall bladder removed.
    Summer of 2017, I was officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
    I was written up at work in October 2017 and the very next day, I yelled at my boss.
    In December 2017, I was diagnosed with:
            Bipolar 2
            Adjustment Disorder

All of these things make Polly Anna who Polly Anna is. Do you have any idea what it's like to be a super social person but yet full of anxiety when you even think about social situations, so you more often than not cancel social functions? Most of the time, if I somehow or another get to the social event, I have a wonderful time; I enjoy myself very much and I think that the people who socialize are glad that I was there. 

But then there are the very few times when being amongst others is so overwhelming that I have literally run from the party, jumped in my car, and screamed the whole way home. 

There have been times when the negative comments about my exuberance or my loudness or my enthusiasm have hurt my feelings so badly that I have gone home, sat in my spot on the couch, and not moved for days, weeks, and even months except to go to work or church. And I did those with little to no enthusiasm or desire to be there. 

I have become so angry because of the hurtful comments that I took to saying things like "I'd like to punch [...] in the throat." I wrote several stories about serial killing. (Granted, I honestly they're actually pretty good stories about serial killing, but I used myself as the model for the serial killer in each story.) I was holding a baby once and when he grabbed my glasses off my face after slapping me, I was so close to hurting him, I put him down and ran away. 

I have terrible "temper tantrums." I have recently learned that these are part of the Bipolar diagnosis and are called "manic rages." They can come as quickly as they go and there is rarely a rhyme or a reason for them. I have mostly been able to keep them under control in public, especially at my work, but that has not been easy. If I am successful there, then the rage has to be released somewhere and that, sadly, tends to be at home on my husband and/or son.

Yet, through it all, I continue to seek JOY. I know that I still have the anointing oil of JOY on me more than anyone else. I still live life with enthusiasm. I still smile a lot, laugh a lot, sing a lot, hug a lot. Some of it is because it's still me--Polly Anna--underneath all the "stuff" that has happened over the past 30 years, but some of it is the mask I have created for when it is simply too difficult to BE me, but yet I need to be Polly Anna. Several years ago, around 2009, in fact, God gave me Psalm 45:7: 
I knew as soon as I read that verse that He meant it for me, as a special Word from Him to me, that His Holy Spirit was speaking directly to my very soul. In that moment, God anointed me, pouring out the oil of Joy on me more than on anyone else. It is a heavy responsibility that I do NOT take lightly or for granted.

Every single detail I have mentioned throughout here makes me who I am today--makes me the Polly Anna I am today, December 21, 2017, at 47 years old. A part of me wishes that none of the bad stuff had ever happened. But then I am reminded that God more often than not uses those who have struggled greatly. 1 Peter 1 says: "So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world." Almost every single Hero of the Faith whether in the Bible or someone we know historically experienced great trials, tribulations, and suffering. Paul talks about how he asked God three separate times to take the thorn of suffering from his side, but God refuses. Paul accepts the inevitable saying that he is glad, thankful for his weakness because it is in his weakness that he is made strong in Christ (2 Corinthians 12). 

Maybe, just maybe, like Paul, I have these thorns so that in my
weakness, I am only made strong through Jesus Christ my Savior.

And then we go back to 2 Corinthians which reminds us that: "God
is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us." In other words, not only do all my trials help define me, but they are also meant to be used to help comfort others. God HAS comforted me through all my trials; He continues to comfort me through them. My "job" (if you will allow me to use that term) is to comfort others who have experienced similar trials. 

Maybe, just maybe, others will see me--hear my story or ready my story and find comfort in it because, in spite of it all, because of it all, in it all, through it all, IT IS WELL.

It is well with my soul. I may have mental illnesses and physical disabilities and character traits that drive others crazy. I may be different from the vast majority of the people I know and come into contact with. You may not understand why I smile. You may not understand why I smile at you. 

That's ok.

Because I am Polly Anna. When I die, I hope it can and will be said of me: 
Polly Anna: She sure was!
Polly Anna

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

With great power comes great responsibility

It's difficult to find someone nowadays who has not heard "With great power comes great responsibility." My first memory of it is in the original Spiderman movie with Toby McGuire many moons ago. We actually have this quote on the wall just down from my office suite at school, so I see it every single day. We tend to attribute the meaning to superheroes, but it is a reality that it applies to everyday people.

We all have a certain individual power within us--a God-given gift (power) that we are to use for His glory. That power, that gift, scares the enemy something fierce because he knows that when we use our gift, we make a difference in the lives of those around us. Some even come to know Christ as their Savior as a result of us using our gifts.

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know
that I have received the anointing oil of JOY more than anyone else (Psalm 45:7 & Hebrews 1:9). How do I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that this anointing has been bestowed upon me? Because in spite of losing 3 babies, almost dying (literally), and dealing with depression, anxiety, and other mental health & health issues, I am still having to CHOOSE JOY--to FIND JOY--to BE JOY.

I want you to know that it is NOT easy carrying such a great power. I do not take it lightly. I have days where finding the JOY within me is more difficult than my ever eating peas (that will NEVER happen). I truly have to reach down deep and beg God to fill me with His JOY because I sure can't do it on my own. I may have an anointing oil of JOY more than anyone else, but that does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that being JOYFUL is easy. It is a responsibility I do not take lightly, I can promise you that.

Like Spiderman (Peter Parker), I have days when I am successful at being JOYFUL (fighting bad guys in Spiderman's case). Like him, I also have days when the weight of my responsibility bears down on me such that I wonder if it is all worth it; I wonder if I might be better off taking off this cloak of anointing--as Spiderman takes off his costume (for a time). 

But the truth is that when we have a great power (gift) that has been bestowed upon us by God Himself, we must continue wearing the cloak of responsibility regardless of the circumstances and regardless of how we may feel about it. 

Most days, I love that God has anointed me with the oil of JOY more than anyone else. I am a woman of JOY and I am very proud of that fact. JOY truly is my jam. I easily see JOY where others don't. I can pick out the word itself from a mile away! If my body could demonstrate this power, it would look like whatever JOY might look like to each person who sees me.

I love that. I thank God for this incredible gift He has bestowed upon me. I am wonderstruck by His love for me that He finds me special enough to anoint me with His oil of joy more than anyone else.

But the days when L.I.F.E. happens, I wish God would "take this cup from me." When it gets difficult to CHOOSE JOY, I have to dig down deep and pray that His will be done. 

So when you see me in what you might interpret as an overly enthusiastic state, I hope you know that such a state is a gift from God that I know is a great responsibility. 

PS: As I head into the possibility of being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I realize that a lot of my over-enthusiastic moments may be a part of such a mental disorder. Sometimes my exuberance scares me, too. I believe that God wants me to be JOYFUL--to spread JOY--and to BE JOY, but when my being such makes those around me back away uncomfortably, that is not the JOY He wants of me. I am to be a JOY that draws people to God instead of turning them away from Him. 

I always tell my students that we have to be careful that we don't overdo anything in our writings--that overdoing can be just as bad as underdoing. The same applies to the Gifts God has given each of us. What I write is meant to draw my reader in and make my reader WANT to read what I have written. What I do in JOY is meant to draw in those around me and make them WANT to be JOYFUL, too.

I desire with every fiber of my being to use my power (my gift of JOY) for God's glory which is why I am getting help and doing whatever is necessary to figure out how to be JOYFUL--how to use this power--responsibly. I am truly devastated when I use it irresponsibly. 

May I use my great power of JOY with great responsibility.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Varying Expectations

A thousand years ago when I was a senior in high school, I was raked over the coals by a well-respected teacher because my boyfriend and I shared a quick peck (kiss on the lips) before separating to go to our respective classes after lunch.

I was shocked that she reprimanded me as she did. I mean, come on! The kiss barely lasted a whole second and it was just lips! To top it off, my best friend at the time had been playing tonsil-hockey with every boyfriend she'd had since I had met her in 7th grade! In all those years, I had never once heard anyone reprimand her. Why in the world was I being chastised when it had only happened once and the kiss hadn't involved tongues or body-touching in any way, shape, form, or fashion?!

My amazing teacher, Mrs. Strickland, pointed out that as a vocal Believer, I had a responsibility to keep a good reputation. And kissing my boyfriend in the hallway for the whole world to see was not going to do anything for my integrity.

I was upset with Mrs. Strickland. I could not believe that she had reprimanded me for kissing when she had never once spoken to my friend.

But I respected Mrs. Strickland greatly, so in spite of being upset with her, Ricky and I did not kiss one another in school again. 

He and I broke up after just under a year of dating and we each moved on and married other people. 

When my husband and I were first dating, we were admonished by my parents and our pastor to be careful of things like sitting in his truck alone after church. Since I was in college an hour away, it was often the only time we had together all week. So, needless to say, we were beyond frustrated that we couldn't even sit in his truck and TALK without feeling as if we were being accused of fooling around.

Personally, I was frustrated and angry at being reprimanded for something so innocent. I couldn't believe that these people did not trust me--or my then-boyfriend.

Fast forward to the past year: earlier this year, I was lectured on being over-friendly with a man who was visiting our campus. While nothing untoward had happened between the man and me, because we had joked around all day with one another and made fast friends (ok, acquaintances), some people thought that when this man and I hugged at the end of the day that something inappropriate had happened. In spite of the fact that we were in a very public place with not only my boss standing just a few feet away, but so was his girlfriend. 

I couldn't believe that I was being accused being inappropriate with so many witnesses to prove that this man and I had shared an innocent hug. Yes, I think the man is very attractive, but that doesn't mean that I would ever jeopardize my marriage or my reputation--on purpose.

It didn't matter that there were so many witnesses or that the man agreed that it was just a hug. I was chastised.


Over the course of the past few months, I have, once again, been accused of being inappropriate even though I believe that the evidence refutes it. As do many of my friends and family who know about the situation.

But once again, it's all about APPEARANCES. Many years ago, someone told me that "I may be the only Bible others see." I know that my daily walk--my behavior, actions, words, etc.--is my most important, valuable witness. It determines my reputation and my integrity. If I want the people around me to believe that I am a woman who has been anointed by God with the oil of Joy more than anyone else, then I can't just talk the talk; I also have to walk the walk.

1 Corinthians 8:9: "But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble."

I may believe and know that I am not doing anything "wrong"--against what God wants of me, but if someone--anyone--believes that I am, that is enough for chastisement to be necessary. My job is to be a living witness for my Lord and Savior to the very best of my ability. When I do or say something that makes anyone question my faith, then I must accept the reprimand--whether I agree with it or not.

I don't like it. Not one tiny little bit. In fact, it tears me to pieces. In recent years, I have dealt with depression and anxiety and I am currently looking at an even more serious diagnosis which means that when the chastisement comes, I do not handle it well. I am not blaming my mental illness, mind you. I am simply saying that when we look at the whole package of what makes Polly Anna the Polly Anna she currently is, I am struggling with depression, anxiety, other mental health issues, as well as a variety of health issues. The whole work together to make any [false] accusations against me that much more challenging to accept, deal with, and, ultimately, to overcome.

But my God is reminding me that it is not about me and how I feel or even my own intentions. It is about the APPEARANCE of what I have said or done that has caused at least one person to devalue my faith--my integrity--my reputation. Thus, it is important that I understand that while my words and actions were completely unintentional in regards to being inappropriate, they were received as inappropriate. I must accept my chastisement, learn from it, apologize as necessary, and change accordingly.

“If one individual commits an unintentional sin, the guilty person must bring a one-year-old female goat for a sin offering."

I am not sure what substitutes as a "one-year-old female goat for a sin offering" in the 21st Century beyond asking God for forgiveness, but I do want to say that I have asked God for forgiveness and I am willing to whatever else it takes to demonstrate that I am truly, deeply, humbly sorry for my "unintentional sin." 

I pray that God shows me what to do and/or say to demonstrate that I do regret my actions and I will use this new chastisement as more of a learning experience than ever before. I also pray that those involved will forgive me as well.

"For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights."

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Desperate for Encouragement

I am going to use this post to be vulnerable and share with you that I am desperate for encouragement. 

My anxiety is through the roof. 

Since God sealed my cave almost 2 years ago (see previous entries), I have found a whole new cave that I have RUN into. The darkness has surrounded me again and I am not so sure that I want to come out ever again. I know my Jesus is at the entrance to my cave calling my name in love as He watches over and protects me. I just cannot bring myself to listen and respond. 

At this moment in time, with my anxiety level so high, it FEELS that there is more comfort to be found in the darkness than in my Savior's Light.

It's just TOO hard to go on CHOOSING JOY every day, every hour of every day, every second of every day. 

I am reading scripture; I am in the Word. I am speaking the Word. I am listening to and singing worship songs. I am reading and doing Bible Studies. But I am struggling.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month and I am 1 in 4.

Friday, September 1, 2017

You. ARE. S-E-E-N.

"Doesn't he see everything I do and every step I take?" Job 31:4, NLT

I am beginning to truly understand the truth that we all have an innate, deep-seated need to be SEEN. God makes it clear throughout His Word that HE sees us--each and every single one of us. He says that He has counted the very hairs on my head, even! 
Matthew 10:29-31, NLT: "29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows."

God SEES me in such a way that He even catches my tears and keeps them in a bottle: Psalm 56:8, NLT, "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book."

My God loves me so much that he has counted the very hairs on my head and He keeps track of all my sorrows, collecting my very tears in His bottle. And just in case we still wonder whether or not God SEES and loves us, He also sings over us with JOY: Zephaniah 3:17New Living Translation (NLT),
17 "For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.[a]
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Wow. Knowing how much God loves and SEES me is truly powerful. A game-changer. Comforting.

But. . . .

I still want to know that the people I am in contact with on a daily basis SEE me. Lord, please forgive me, but in spite of the fact that I KNOW YOU SEE me, I still need to know that others SEE me, too. I want to be noticed. I want to be affirmed. I want those around me to LOOK at ME--to SEE and KNOW the real ME. While I am truly scared for it to happen, I would love it if just one person would SEE my mask and know it for what it is. I need for someone--an earthly being--to stand with me and SEE me for who I really am--with and without the mask I wear, pretending to be someone I'm not, pretending to be "Peachie" when I'm not. . .Pretending.

If just one person would slow down long enough to LOOK at me, he/she would SEE the pain and sorrow that I struggle with on a daily, hour-by-hour basis. If just one person would slow down long enough to LOOK at me, he/she would SEE that I am silently screaming for attention, to be noticed. 

One of my favorite tv shows is the original CSI [Las Vegas]. Early in the show's career, they did an episode where a guy is killed on an airplane which means that someone on the plane killed him. They discovered that several of the passengers had beaten up on the guy because he had gone crazy and was trying to open the door while in mid-flight. What they discovered, though, was that the reason the guy had gone so wacko was because he was sick. He was suffering. But no one noticed that he was sick. Not one person noticed that he was sweating bullets in spite of the air blowing right on him. No one noticed that he was shaky and incoherent--without having had anything alcoholic to drink. The CSI team deduced that if just ONE PERSON had LOOKED at this guy, really and truly LOOKED at him and had SEEN him, his life could have been saved.

I think of that episode a lot. It comes to my mind more often than I can even explain. If just ONE person had SEEN....

There is a poem by Stevie Smith called "Not Waving but Drowning." The poem is about a guy who has died because when everyone thought he was waving, he was, in truth, drowning, so no one helped him. Everyone is too far out or just not paying enough attention to notice that he was in trouble. If just ONE person had noticed, had looked, had SEEN....

When I see someone acting out--making a scene, my heart breaks because that person simply wants to be SEEN.

Remember when we were kids--or if you have kids, do you remember them....shouting, "Mom! Look! Look, Mom! Watch me! Mom! Look at me! Watch what I can do!" And there was nothing for it but to watch. To look. To SEE. 

As we grow older and enter school, we are SEEN less and less. Our teachers have a classroom full of students--typically no fewer than 20 in any given classroom. When I was growing up, I remember there being no fewer than 30 in some of my classes. In college, the number was multiplied by at least 3 in many of my classes--especially my freshman classes. As students, we get lost in the sea of other students--all of us wanting to be SEEN.

As a teacher myself--I have been for just under 20 years, I can tell you that it is more than a challenge to ensure that each student is truly SEEN. No matter how hard I try, some students demand to be SEEN so much so that, in spite of my best efforts, the others are not. I want it to be different. I want each and every single student who sits in my class to be SEEN and to feel SEEN by me. 

I have such a desperate need to be SEEN. I know I cannot be--that I am not--the only one who feels this way. I would like to throw out the crazy idea that even the shyest among us just want to be SEEN. The shy might not want to be pointed out, spoken to, or made to speak in class, but they do still want to be SEEN--and to be allowed to be SHY without being made to feel as if they are doing something wrong or that there is something wrong with them because they are shy.

When I am honest with myself, I have to admit that sometimes I do certain things just because I am so very desperate to be SEEN. I know that it is impossible to give equal attention to all. That is a simple, but difficult, truth of the reality of life. It is the way it is. But even knowing that truth, it still hurts when others within my sphere get more attention, are SEEN, more than I am. When our boss acknowledges his/her good work on a project...when the higher ups give kudos to the guy down the hall because he gave a presentation at a conference...when students in my class tell me how much they love another professor....when....and the list goes on and on.

In my deepest place of knowing, I realize that I am not "overlooked"--at least, not on purpose. Sometimes it is perception rather than truth that I am overlooked. I may have received accolades the week before and now it's someone else's turn. Or maybe the other person is given kudos because it is the first time that he/she has ever done anything above and beyond the norm. When I take a step back and look at the big picture, I can acknowledge that no one person is being shown favoritism. It is just my perception because in that moment, I am not being SEEN.

Most of us have heard or even quoted the saying that we should be kind to all because we never know what the other person is going through. Almost every single person I have ever met in my 46 years is dealing with some issue that is making life difficult. If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I have experienced child loss 3 separate times and that I have dealt with severe health issues for many years. Not to mention the lack of self-esteem, the depression, anxiety, marriage problems, and just plain wondering if life was even worth living. I have my good days. I have my bad days. And on my good days, they can become bad days in the blink of an eye when I am not SEEN--when someone says or does something insensitive. My heart can break and I can go from "Peachie" to "Help me, Lord! I'm slipping!" (Psalm 94:18, NLT) in 0.0 seconds flat.

There are two lessons that we can learn here:

1. truly SEE the people around you--LOOK at them--PAY ATTENTION to your loved ones and SEE beyond the masks, SEE beyond the pretence that all is just "fine";


2. accept that those around you are not perfect and that they are NOT your enemy--you are NOT being ignored or forgotten--others are so busy trying to be SEEN that they are not aware of the fact that you want to be SEEN, too. So give others the benefit of the doubt and treat them the way you want to be treated: 

SEE them.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Words of Affirmation

Before I get into this, I just want to remind you that words of affirmation and words of encouragement are, essentially, the same thing. Affirming words/statements provide encouragement and encouraging words/statements are encouraging. It's virtually impossible to have one without the other, so when I say "words of affirmation," I'm using the phrase as a synonym to "words of encouragement."

The other day, I had a bad day. I know that everyone has a bad day every once a while. My bad days are probably no worse than anyone else's--except for the fact that I deal with depression. While God is in the very active process of completely removing my depression (healing me), it is a process for me. So on my bad days, like so many others who deal with severe depression, I think "those" thoughts--not just thoughts of how I'm useless and worthless I am and how no one respects or likes me and how I'm so pathetic that there's no way anyone could love me or even want to love me, but yes, also "those" thoughts.

I've even decided how I'd do it. The most painless way I can possibly think of. One time, on a bad day, I started driving towards a light pole, speeding faster and faster. I'm here, so obviously I slowed down and parked my car.

Now, don't panic or feel as if I need an intervention. I'm fine. But I will honestly tell you that my bad days are really bad. Everyone asks how someone like Robin Williams (and so many others) could kill himself. I KNOW how.

I share such a horrible secret with you because I want to get to this part: I am learning more and more with each and every bad day how to get through them with positivity and JOY. Of course, there are other methods I use to get through my bad days, but the one that helped me through my bad day the other day was words of affirmation.

Bless his heart, my poor husband was super-overwhelmed when I laid out everything I was thinking and feeling on him. He listened and he offered what words of comfort he could, but considering how intense I was, there really and truly, honestly was nothing he could say--or do--that would get me out of my funk. Just him listening did make a huge difference, but it simply wasn't enough.

After he went to bed, I was still struggling, so I found myself whispering words of affirmation from the Holy Spirit to myself over and over. When that failed, I grabbed a gorgeous metallic-pink Sharpie and wrote the words of affirmation on my arms: "I love you. You are Awesome" (left arm) & "You are my JOY Song" (right arm).
I didn't need to sign them or write that they were from the Holy Spirit in order to feel as if He was speaking them to me--to my heart--to my very deepest soul--every time I read those words over the course of the next two or three days. But that's exactly what they did: they spoke to my very inner being and helped me remember that my bad day was just that--ONE bad day.

And the thoughts I was thinking about being unloved and so on were not at all true; they were lies from the enemy who knew that I was having a bad day and he was having a field day with my heart.

Sometimes reading the Bible isn't enough. Sometimes praying isn't enough--whether it's prayer alone or with a personal prayer warrior. Sometimes talking to someone isn't enough--even when the someone is supportive and encouraging to the best of his/her ability. Sometimes worship isn't enough--even when it's a favorite worship song. Sometimes laughter isn't enough--not even when it's a Robin Williams movie. :(  

Sometimes....just sometimes, we need not only to hear or read the words of affirmation, but we need to see and feel them in our very being. Writing them on my body where I could see and read them ALL THE TIME helped. It just did. Maybe next time writing the words of affirmation on my arms won't help. 

The important thing for me and for everyone else dealing with bad days--whether we're struggling with depression or not--to remember is that we must FIND the words of affirmation we need and read them, write them, hear them, speak them, color them....whatever we need to do in order to feel the affirmations deep in our very souls so that we can allow the Holy Spirit to minister to the very deepest part of us.

The Bible tells us that "we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and the authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against the wicked spirits in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12, NLT). These are the forces that triumph, that feel victorious on our bad days, especially when we give in to the thoughts and feelings that are tearing us apart.

The wonderful good, amazing, extraordinary, super-fantastic news is that God Himself goes to battle for us! We don't have to battle the enemy who is putting "those" thoughts in our heads! We don't have to fight him. We don't have to fight the thoughts! The Bible tells us over and over and over and over again that God will fight for us. Our job is to put on our armor and STAND: "Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to STAND FIRM [emphasis mine] against all strategies and tricks of the devil" (Ephesians 6:10-11, NLT).

When I give in to the negative thoughts, feelings, and actions of my bad days, I'm allowing the enemy to win. And he and his minions are dancing with great glee because I am taking my eyes off God and putting them on self.

I have no desire to let the enemy win over my soul. There is NO WAY I am going to spend eternity in the fiery pits of hell. I can't stand the heat here on earth!!! ;)

I intend to go to heaven for eternity and spend it with my Lord and Savior in my gorgeously wonderful glorified body: "...we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing" (2 Corinthians 5: 2, NLT)!!! That means that one day, this chubby girl is going to have a body that will no longer be chubby or in pain! It means that this body will never again have to deal with depression or "those" thoughts or even bad days! 

I refuse to give up the HOPE of my eternal salvation just because I'm having a bad day! So when I have another bad day, I will remind myself of the words of affirmation from my Lord: "I love you. You are Awesome. You are MY JOY Song." I will read His Word. I will sing His praises. I will worship. I will bow down. I will pray. I will hear the words of Affirmation from His Holy Spirit deep within my very soul. And I WILL STAND FIRM in Him.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


Do you smile? A lot?
When you see someone looking at you? Even a stranger?
All the time?
Only when you're in public? 
Only when there is something worth smiling about?

Growing up, my mom was always telling me to Smile. I'd get up to do a performance of some sort (piano recitals, VBS presentations of what we'd learned throughout the week, church choir, church plays, various school activities, the list is endless) and mom would be in the audience smiling her huge smile. If I wasn't smiling, she'd make a smile motion with her finger to her mouth and I'd automatically smile.

Whether I want to smile or not, smiling is officially a huge part of who I am. I smile ALL the time. I almost got in a fight once when I was in high school because I was smiling. We were practicing for our band competition and the band director had us lined up across from one another. I was smiling at everyone on the opposite side of me when this one girl who I didn't know angrily asked me, "What are you smiling at?!" I grinned even wider and told her that I was just smiling! She took a step out of line towards me, but a friend standing close to me told the girl that I always smiled [like a goofball--I can't remember if he added that part or if I've added it to my memory ;)]. Needless to say, I'm pretty sure he saved my life. I have NO fighting skills, so she'd have beaten me to a pulp if she had decided to follow through!!

That experience didn't stop me from smiling one bit. It was too deeply ingrained in me by then. 

I might have smiled early on because my mom "made" me, but as the years went by, I smiled because I wanted to. I loved to smile and I certainly loved to laugh....a lot.

There have even been times when I've walked into my classroom and my students have said, "Toldja!" When I've asked what was up, I was told that they had bet one another on whether or not I would walk in with a smile on my face. I had no idea at the time that others noticed my smile--whether I smiled or not or even how often I smiled--or not. It was reassuring, I admit, to learn that when I was in public, I was always smiling.

Smiling has been one of my greatest blessings; I am truly thankful to my wonderful mom for making it so much a vital part of who I am.

I am sad to say, though, that smiling has also been my greatest curse. Since the first onset of my depression while my husband and I were living in Missouri, I have used my smile to hide behind--as a mask to cover up my sadness and deepest sorrows and anxieties. I have pretended that all is well when in reality I was not only battling depression, but I was also battling a desire to just die. I had come to hate my life in such a huge way. I had NO real friends while we lived in Missouri and I was simply miserable. I was so excited when we finally moved home; I just knew that my depression would end and I could quit pretending that all was well. I was out of "Misery" (my mom and I had started calling Missouri that) and I was back home with family and friends.

Then we learned that I was going to have a baby and my smile grew bigger, wider, and much more pronounced. I had thought that I smiled huge before that, but being pregnant was the greatest desire of my life and I was more JOYFUL than I'd ever thought it was possible to be. You couldn't wipe the smile off my face even while I was throwing up! And I threw up every single day of that pregnancy--until it was abruptly over.

James Isaac was stillborn on March 17, 1999. That is the day my smile died, as well. 

It is the day when the mask came back up and was permanently glued to my face. My smile was for the benefit of others. They grieved for me and hurt for me and I wanted to reassure them that I was ok--or that I would be ok--even though I wanted to be in the ground with my baby. 

I smiled because I didn't know what else to do. I smiled to reassure others. I smiled because it was too deeply a part of me not to. I smiled because I wanted to prove that I was strong--not only in body, but especially in my faith. I smiled. But I smiled only with my mouth. I have no idea if others noticed that I didn't smile with my whole being as I had done before. I've never asked because I hoped with every fiber of my being that my smile was good enough to make them feel better so they wouldn't worry about me...even though they should have been worried.

Over the next ten years, at least, my smile was plastered on, but it was fake--a mask--hiding severe depression, anxiety, and grief. I have recently learned that PTSD doesn't apply just to those in the military. I clearly was suffering from PTSD, but I pretended that I was the PollyAnna everyone expected me to be. I smiled because I was determined to be happy in spite of my pain and suffering, in spite of my grief. I smiled because I had read somewhere that some things we must do as a way of "faking it 'til we make it." Deep down, I hoped that if I kept smiling even though I didn't feel the smile that one day the mask would come unglued and my smile would be genuine--it would be the real me.

In a way, that was true. I smiled until my cheeks and my neck hurt. And one day, I realized that in order for my mask to be removed--for my smile to be real again, I would have to make A CHOICE to change. I would not become happy again just because I smiled until it happened. I would only become happy again when I CHOSE to make it happen. 

It was during that time that I discovered that I didn't want to just be happy, I wanted to be JOYFUL, full of the JOY of the Lord. That was when the Lord gave me the verse, "You love justice and hate
evil. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else" (Psalm 45:7 & Hebrews 1:9, NLT). I wept as I understood that God wanted to restore my JOY. But not only did He want to restore my Joy, but He wanted to anoint me with the oil of joy--more than anyone else.

I began studying everything I could about JOY, starting with every single verse in the Bible that mentions JOY--in every translation and in every definition of JOY. I began memorizing JOY verses and looking for JOY in everything around me.

My mask--my fake smile--did not come off quickly or easily. As I said, it was glued on. It came off in small pieces--slowly--one at a time. I would argue that there are still small pieces that refuse to come unstuck, but the wonderfulness of God is that my smile is real again--genuine. When I smile now, it's because I have the JOY of the Lord deep down in my heart and soul. He truly has anointed me with the oil of joy more than anyone else I know.

I do not take His gift lightly. So when I smile at you, know that I smile from a place of JOY. My smile is just one way I have of demonstrating that God has removed my depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and the painful mask I wore for so long.

And all I can do now is Praise Him with my Smile!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Fears after Child Loss

From the moment of hearing that our precious James Isaac no longer had a heartbeat, I have had two fears: 

1. that he would be forgotten
2. that he would be remembered

Let me explain the second fear first since I'm sure that seems strange to you. After the loss of a loved one, especially a child, hearing the loved one's name brings a feeling that is super difficult to explain. Those who have experienced it will know what I'm talking about. It's kind of like having butterflies in your stomach when you're nervous before a test or recital or the like, but yet it's MORE. 

My heart flutters, my stomach drops down into my toes, the butterflies fly en masse, my heart stops beating, my face goes red, my face blanches, I feel faint, I feel like running [away]. The feeling is even worse when someone I don't know or who never knew my James Isaac (or Panya Ruth or Anna Rose) says his name. Or when someone I'm not too terribly fond of says his (their) name.

It is difficult to hear the name of my beloved son and those of his sisters spoken out loud. In my grieving, I have found it super difficult to say their names myself. I went a long time not being able to write their names even. I still hesitate and have to remind myself to breathe when I say their names. 

Why? You may ask and it is a valid question--especially if you haven't experienced such loss. Because their names bring the memories to the forefront--again--flooding back to the surface like a tsunami, ready to drown me in sorrow once again. The pain of my losses is ALWAYS just below the surface as it is; it's always ready to explode at the slightest provocation, especially when someone speaks their name. Most of the time, I can smile and laugh and LIVE and function in as normal a manner as possible--living in the full JOY of the Lord. But it only takes one tiny thing, saying his name, to open the floodgates.

But I NEED to hear his name--their names. I NEED to know that they are remembered. I mean, come on. I carried James Isaac to term. I was at 38 weeks when we discovered his heart was no longer beating. And while Panya Ruth and Anna Rose were both gone by my 11th week, my heart had already fallen in love with them the same way it had for the one I carried full term. My babies LIVED. Just because the state of North Carolina never gave me a birth certificate doesn't mean that they didn't live. My heart, my body, and my very soul know that each one was just as alive and whole as the one son I have here with me, Samuel. (Samuel is my rainbow baby is just recently turned 16!)

So when I received the following note just a few weeks ago, the emotions that ran through me are next to impossible to describe:

My heart.

Ben's mom, Leslie, and I worked together at the same school and we were both pregnant at the same time. I was about two months further along than she was, but we were close enough that we developed and quick, easy, and strong relationship in our shared joy of pregnancy. We are close in age and have many similar interests and personality traits. It was a JOY to be pregnant together. (This picture is of us at Miami Beach when we took our Seniors on their Senior trip. That's Ben in her very pregnant belly.)

We often talked about the play dates our boys would have and how they would grow up together as the closest of friends, just like their moms. It is a treasured time in my life.

But then James Isaac was stillborn.

Leslie was there to hold my hand, to comfort, to pray with me, and to just BE with me. She was a true FRIEND in my hour of need and I will NEVER forget that she felt as if she had lost her child, too. It meant so much to me that she loved my Precious so very much. I was able to visit and hold and love on Ben soon after he was born and Leslie came to see us two years later when my Samuel was born.

But over the years, we both moved on to other jobs and we simply have not been able to hang out and do things together. We have managed to stay connected via Facebook, which has been wonderful!! We haven't actually seen each other in 16 years.

 And then Ben's note arrived in the mail. Distance doesn't matter in the slightest when a friend is real and true. Time doesn't matter in the slightest when a friend is real and true. Leslie is both. And to learn that she remembered my James Isaac to such a degree that she told her son Ben all about him and about our dreams for our boys made my heart do all kinds of crazy wonderful things. My heart was truly full to bursting. It messaged Leslie and told her that I would be at Ben's graduation--as would my husband James and my Samuel.

There are not words for the JOYFUL SORROW I have experienced over the past several weeks and especially as we watched Ben cross the stage last night at his high school graduation. All I can do is tell my precious friend, Leslie, and her wonderful son, Ben--THANK YOU. Thank you. Thank you.

I love you dearly and I always will.


And I can't help including a picture of Leslie and me with our students at their Senior Formal.