When The Case For Christ Isn’t Enough – Warning: Movie Spoiler Alert

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Silence gripped the theater, as those in the audience sat watching the depiction of Lee Strobel’s defiance of Christianity as his journey to uphold his views of atheism plays out. As Lee’s character set out to save his marriage and family from this cult like entity, from those who profess to know Christ and His saving grace. His journey took him to every avenue possible to discredit what he felt like was robbing him of his wife and family.

As Strobel set out to discredit and disprove Christianity, he found insurmountable evidence of the very core of Christianity: Jesus Christ’s death on a cross, and subsequent resurrection. Time and time again, he ran into proof beyond doubt that the historical accounting of this specific event was more than just overwhelming; it was undeniable. Lee Strobel could not discredit the event of the Christ crucifixion and resurrection. He simply could not find adequate (read: any) evidence against this historical event’s actual occurrence. There were concocted theories, but none that held water. His unbelief was met with facts. His inability to discredit or disprove it became his ability and allowance in giving God a chance.

As powerful and transformational as this movie is, my response might shock some.

Aside from a bit of confusion, I say “so what!?”  Lee Strobel was able to wrap his brain around something because he couldn’t disprove it’s existence. Good for him.

Here is my problem with it all. Not with the movie, and certainly not with Lee Strobel.  But I went to this movie hoping for something. Something that met my questions with answers, and met my disbelief with belief. Instead, I saw a somewhat emotional journey of a man finding faith in a God he desperately wanted to be proven not real. My issue is this. I do not struggle with the belief that Christ was real, and the depiction of His crucifixion, burial and resurrection being real. I simply have no problem with that. It’s history. It happened. Moving on.

My struggle is with relationship. Just because something is real, doesn’t mean it feels real. Just because Jesus was a real person, known as the Son of God – just because He was put to death as such, and the supernatural and miraculous happened – doesn’t make Him any more real to me in the here and now. Yes, He existed. Yes, He died and was entombed. Yes, he rose again from the dead. And? So what!? Don’t get me wrong; it was miraculous and awe inspiring.

I don’t, and never have denied that. It just doesn’t seem to add relevance to my story. So this dude, known as the Christ, died and rose again. That was more than two thousand years ago.  (I do want to say that I recognize that Jesus is more than just “some dude known as the Christ” but I say that because it makes a point.)

Back to the struggle with relationship. This same Jesus of the Bible that Strobel couldn’t discredit is said to be a loving and perfect entity – One who desires communication and relationship with me, and with you. He is said to love each and every one of us with a love undeniable. A love so present, that once encountered – a person is changed forever. Undeniable change.

I am at a place where Jesus being real and existing two thousand years ago doesn’t equate to me today. The God of the Bible is said to be unchanging. He is thought to be the same yesterday, today, and will remain the same tomorrow. He changes not. Again, with the “so what” mentality.

I think the painful part of my journey of faith, or sometimes the lack of faith, is that I want it all to be true. I want all the blind faith I followed from my youth to all be real. But, I cannot say that it is. Or that it isn’t. I can say that I am sometimes feeling pretty lost, confused, and overwhelmed. My faith isn’t what it once was, and I suppose I should be grateful. I want a faith that is authentic, and that is able to grow it’s own roots. I want to be able to own the beliefs I have, and know why I believe them. I’m just not sure I can do all that right now. Instead, I’m met with more questions than I realized. Yes, I understand that the very definition of faith is not having to have the tangible as proof. Faith is the evidence of the things unseen. I get that. I don’t NEED this proof that Strobel uncovers to have faith. But, I’m finding that I don’t have any idea what TO believe some days.

I want to believe that the same God I prayed to, to heal my daughter from cancer is the same God who didn’t heal her, this side of Heaven. I want to believe that He is still as good, and in control now (after her death) as He was then (when I was busy praying for her healing.) My faith does not hinge on my daughter’s life, or death. But, it did help me ask a bunch of hard questions. It made me realize that so much of what I believe is or was based on blind faith. I want to believe the things I once did, but I simply cannot believe those things in their entirety.

So, where does that leave me? I have no idea, if I’m being honest. I do want the faith that is unshakable. I want to believe that the God that created me and you, and all of creation loves me and wants relationship with me. I want to believe those who say that I am His child, and he delights in me — instead of my belief that God must see certain people and shake His head – wondering where he went wrong with THAT one. With me. I often feel as if I must be a disappointment to Him. Me with all my questions. Me with all my pain. I want to believe those that say His love for me is vast, even in the times where I struggle with my faith. It is said that God welcomes all, and has outstretched arms, asking us to come to Him. From exactly where we are. No matter where we come to Him from.

I want to believe all that. But, in the interim – when I struggle to see these things, I welcome those of you with this faith to believe it for me until hopefully a time I can wrap my brain and heart around it all again. I go back to the Bible, in Mark 9:24 where I also ask God to help me in my unbelief. So, if you believe these things – or any version of them, tell me about it. Don’t give up on me. Care enough to keep speaking what you feel is the truth, in love. But, understand that I am unsure of a lot right now. And, that I have to believe that’s okay for the time being. Guess it will have to be. But, I do welcome your prayers, love, and your encouragement. And your hugs. Always the hugs.

When Jesus Takes The Wheel

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Two days ago, I posted the above status picture – without further explanation, and had to process what happened. This is that story…

So, as I set out on my travels, it wasn’t storming. I’m a poster child for not being stupid, and staying safe in storms. I was driving down the road, and it was as if the heavens opened up, and explosions of thunder and rain poured down. It was really bad for a few moments. 

What I came to realize, though, is that I was about to drive into a situation I really did not like. Standing water on the highway. As quickly as it came, and as unavoidable as it was, I hit that water and be began hydroplaning. That was scary, as there was literally no control. None. 

My car, floating on its own, was heading directly to the wall that would separate someone from plunging over it into the eastbound traffic. I just said, “God, help.” It was as if the red sea parted. Suddenly, behind and in front of me were clear of all traffic. They were there, but not in the immediate vicinity of my now out of control floating car. At this point, my car made a right turn, and started to almost spin. It veered my car towards the center lanes, and I drifted over two lanes of what should be pretty full traffic. But there were no cars within collision distance. 

As my car is about to spin completely around, it was rectified, and put back on a forward motion path. I hit nothing, and nothing hit me. I was safe, and on my way – traveling slowly and attempting to see through the monsoon like downpour. My car was safe, and inside it – I was too. 

No matter whether you believe in sheer coincidence, or angels, or the hand of God – I know that something bigger than me was in control, and protected me from the elements, the concrete wall, any other drivers, or any other peril in that moment. That whole concept of “Jesus take the wheel” – it happened. 

When A Concert Is More Than Just Good Music

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I went to a concert last night. I didn’t have the money to get in the doors, but I still went. I wanted to be there, and I knew I needed to be there. Music is one of a few safe places in my life right now. There was an individual, my friend Dan (from DCA Events) who knew a bit of my story, and invited me in. I didn’t have the money, and he knew it. He said words that probably set the tone for the entire evening. He said this, “It’s not about a concert. It’s about Jesus.” I already had tears streaming down my face at this point, and he invited me into the concert and (without a seat at the time) I just stood at the back. I watched, and I cried. Concerts are also something my daughter and I very much enjoyed going to before she died last year. So, the emotions surrounding that also were fighting for their place. I think I cried more last night than I have, ever, in any concert. It was healing, but it also hurt.

This is a tour called Worship In The Round, and featured Building 429, Josh Wilson, and Chris August. I’ve seen Chris August a couple of times before, but never the others. There was also a guy, Adam Weber, who I’d later learn was the pastor of a church with multiple campuses out of state.

Something happened there though. In my heart. Sadly, I didn’t magically find all this hope that has seemingly gone on an extended vacation. But, what I did find was a safe place. Music is still that. I heard words and messages of hope. Of love. Of faith. Of Jesus. I heard all those things. The only dilemma I have right now, is finding the strength to keep holding onto those messages. I need them to be more than great words that exist in the here and now, but vanish like a vapor. At an intermission of sorts, I saw a friend from church. When she saw me, she made her way over to me, and she gave me a hug, and simply held me as I cried. And cried. That was kind, and so needed. I didn’t know how much it was needed until I just sat there in tears.

What happened after the show, more than any moment during the concert itself, is what sparked something in my heart. The guys were all out signing autographs. I took the time to make my way to each one, including the dude I came to realize was a pastor. The show itself was incredibly impactful, but what happened after became personal.

You see, I’ll start with him. Adam Weber. I actually ran into him before the show, or before I went in. In passing, he asked if I was okay. I didn’t lie. I told him I wasn’t and he said something about all having days like that. I had no idea who he was at that point, just some dude passing in the hallway. But, from the stage, he was talking about prayer. More than that, about how prayer was not some foreign language we have yet to learn. Instead, it’s carrying on a conversation with God, as if He is a friend sitting next to you. He shared a few thoughts, and I listened to every single one. My heart was open to the hope in his words. So, afterwards, I took a few moments and I talked to him. In a brief nutshell, I shared where I was with my daughter having died, with hopelessness in ways, and with my faith. Had I known he was a pastor, I am not sure I’d have said all that. But, it didn’t matter. I did. He wasn’t condescending, but his words were filled with love. He asked if I had told God all those things. More than that, he thanked me for sharing the things I did with him. He valued our conversation, and that was special.

Next, I had the opportunity to talk to Chris August. First, I showed him a silly picture of him and my son from 2011. He signed his forehead, and it was a fun, candy filled memory. (My son had every visible part of him – his face, neck, and his arms signed that evening.) He mentioned that he doesn’t always remember everything from all his shows, but that one still sticks in his memory banks. (It might or might not have anything to do with the fact that Timehop reminds me of these things, and so I share with him each year. haha) But, I was able to just be real. I showed him a picture of my sweet little girl, and shared the pain attached to her death. I talked to him briefly about my life, and what led me to where I was and some of the why. He took the time to listen, and to let me know that where I was, was okay. I was able to do something I’ve wanted to do for some time, simply say thank you to him. His heart is for and with people.

Then I had the opportunity as Jason, from Building 429 was about to walk out of the room – to talk to him. I felt bad, cause I knew he was getting ready to leave. But, I asked for a moment of his time. I wanted him to hear my words. Mostly my thanks. I didn’t have anything for him to sign. I told him thank you for doing what he does, and he asked what was going on with me. His fault. He took the time, and he asked. haha. So, there were the tears from the whole evening. Back again like a faithful friend. He asked if he could give me a hug, and briefly held me as I just cried. Poor guy. That was not my intention, but nor could it be prevented in that moment. I explained some of the why behind the pain, and where my hope was, or wasn’t. And, my faith too. It was a brief, but very transparent and I guess pretty vulnerable conversation. He asked about what support I had, and then he asked if he could pray with me right then. That was powerful, and the tears refused to not overflow. The prayer itself was powerful, sure, but that he simply took the time. He reminded me that I was not alone. He asked my name, and then shared that they’d pray for me on this tour. Tears aplenty.

After more of the crowd vanished, I saw the opportunity to also speak with Josh Wilson. For an odd change of pace, I was somewhat speechless. It was a fight with those tears. They wanted to be known too. All I could manage to say was thank you, for his music and for sharing his story. It wasn’t a star struck sort of speechless either. There were tears. It was an overwhelming feeling, hard to put into words, culminating from the entire evening. I was feeling some sort of stirring. Something in my heart. There were, again, tears that refused to not make their presence known. I did manage to share some of my struggles with him, even feelings not of suicide, but of wishing that I was already in Heaven. And, like the others, he listened. Mostly, he reminded me that it’s okay. Where I am right now, it’s okay. The pain I have, it’s okay. If my words forgot their filters, he wasn’t offended, and heard my heart, and pain. And, he also reminded me that God has broad shoulders, and can take it too. If I’m mad, it’s okay. If I hurt, if…any of those ifs…to talk to Him about it. I might or might not be at a place that I can do that right now. But, the point all boiled down to the fact that the things I felt, the emotions I had, they were okay. I’m not broken beyond repair, even though it often feels that way. He, again, reminded me that life is precious, and that I am too. That people need me, that I am here for a purpose, that I matter, and also that I’m not alone.

The one constant thing amongst conversation with all of them was this. They were unafraid of my tears and my pain. They didn’t run for the hills, and they didn’t hide. They saw me. It wasn’t a ton of time, but they took the time to just be with me in those moments. My seeming lack of faith didn’t make them look at me as less of a person. They were bold, encouraging, and they heard me. I can’t explain what that did in my heart, but it was undeniable. I was no longer alone in a giant crowd of people. They became the hands and feet of Jesus, in human form. They reminded me that, even if I couldn’t see beyond the pain, that it was okay. Ultimately, where I am right now is okay. In different ways, each one of them reminded me that life continues to be worth fighting, worth living, and that even if simply putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to walk was all I could do – that it was enough.

So, folks, that’s where I am right now. You can take a look at yesterday’s post and get a general feel for where I am in general, and why last night’s concert was as impactful as it was. If you pray, I welcome those. If you have hope, I welcome you to hope. Even during the moments I can’t…I ask you to hold onto those things for me cause maybe there will be a time they exist again in my life. Whatever you do, and wherever you are, I welcome you to join me. I know there is strength in community, and I know there is healing and hope also found there. I may not have a good grasp, or none at all, on some of these things right now, but if you do – please don’t let go.

And for any musician apt to play shows or concerts – this, friends, this is why what you matters. This is why a concert is so much more than just good music, or great music in this case. It’s more than entertainment. The simple gestures, hugs, moments in time that you offer or share – those change lives. Those share hope with the hopeless. What you do is life changing for some, life-giving for others, and even life-saving for some. Please know that music is a place where people can feel safe and seek refuge. I am that person. Music is a safe place. Thank you for that gift.

And, to DCA Events, thank you for playing your part in making concerts like these happen. To quote what Dan says of himself and DCA Events, “….As a believer and follower of Christ, it’s what we are called to do. Dca Events is here to bring Jesus to the hurting & lost, our concerts are about promoting positive influence thru music. That positive influence is Jesus.”  Dan, and DCA Events, thank you for the mission you have, and for doing it well. Like I mentioned before, this shows me who Jesus is, in human form.

I still have many questions, a lot of pain, and a faith and life with so many questions and concerns – but I am not the same person I walked into the concert as. I don’t know what that means, but I do know that I’m grateful to have had the experience, and for the safe place it provided.

I Can’t Find Hope Right Now

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If you’ve been around me for any real length of time, you’ve quite likely heard me talk about hope. I cannot count the times I’ve said that hope is real, or even that hope is still real. In certain things, and with some circumstances, I can still get behind that.

Right now, though, I cannot find mine. When hope feels like it’s on an extended vacation, I feel fairly lost and somewhat confused even. I have hope for some things, but fail to find it in places where it really matters. Take for instance this…I have lost hope that life will ever be okay again, let alone good. I legitimately can’t find the hope to believe that right now. And it scares me.

Just have faith.

If you’re tempted to share those three words with me, then go for it. But, right now, that’s another topic that I’m struggling with. I am overwhelmed, and I have no idea, right now, what exactly all I believe. No, no, I haven’t lost my faith. But, I haven’t found it either. I have the faith I’ve always had, but with lots more questions. I fear that many of the things I once held dear, really aren’t. I listened to a pretty incredible message this past weekend (more on that when I have the strength and wherewithal to finish that post) but I don’t know how to hold onto that message – it was one of joy, grace and hope. But, while they were great words, they’re gone – seemingly more than 500 miles away like the pastor of that little church now is. In another state, far away.

As you can tell, there is pain hidden (and not so hidden) in my words. I’ve mentioned before the removal of masks. I want to know others, and be known. I want to share my heart, and know that I’m heard. I long for the things others do – to love, and to be loved. I do have that. But, I also feel empty right now. I know, not all that much of a faith filled response. I get that. But, I’m also done hiding my thoughts and feelings. So, here they are. My heart in a post.

For those of you who have followed this blog for any length of time, or who know me at all – you probably also know I stand against the stigma revolving around mental health, mental illness and suicide. I mention those because they are struggles I face everyday. I struggle to hold onto my mental health while wrestling with mental illness…and fending off thoughts of suicide. Yes, I have those thoughts. Not, thoughts that I want to take my life though. Thoughts that I wish I weren’t here, or living through hell on earth. But, I am, and I will. I won’t lie – I have no idea, some days, how to keep doing this thing called life with a certain lack of hope. But, I will do what I know to do. Place one foot in front of the other. Taking one step, then the next. I’ll do those things, but right now, everything feels kinda empty. And, I don’t like that.

If you are the kind who believes in the power of prayer, I invite you to pray for me. Feel free to tell me you’re praying. Feel free to ask how I am. But, don’t believe me if I tell you I am good. Cause I’m not. Will I be again? I don’t know – I guess only time will tell. But, I can’t find the hope that reminds me of that. So, if you DO have that hope. and if you do pray – maybe you can believe it for me, during the times I seemingly can’t.

Throwback Writing: Fast As Lightning

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This is an essay I wrote. A short (timed) writing assignment – written by me, my senior year in high school. As I was browsing some of my older writing, a couple decades in the past, I wanted to share some of these writings with the world. I am changing nothing, and will type/print exactly as my writing on paper appeared.

Fast as lightning…what does this mean to me? There can be so many hidden meanings found. Cars can be referred to as going high rates of speed, like lightning. Another comparison I think accurately describes this cliche is LIFE. Life. Life is fast as lightning. It is like a vapor: Here one minute, and gone the next. Just as you can’t predict where lightning will strike next, neither can you predict when someones life may come to a screeching halt.

Back to the fastness of lightning. Lightning and life…they are both fleeting. Another thing that is fast as lightning is sound. I mean, you can say something, one second, and then the sound disappears. Lightning strikes, and then quickly it is gone. Sound comes, and quickly brings silence. 

Just as life is fleeting, so is time. I guess it is all of the brief, fleeting moments of time that make up life. So together, it can go by like lightning: fast! Part of time, life, and growing up is school. School can go by very fast. Kind of like, life is composed of a bunch of fast-as-lightnig fleeting moments.

Facing Life After Death – Walking Through Life’s Unbearable Moments

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This child. This courageous fighter embodied strength combined with love. She knew and showed compassion. Though she faced insurmountable odds, she gave the world so many gifts – love, hope, compassion, joy, and so many other beautiful things. She leaves a beautiful legacy of love.

Last night, I had the opportunity to spend time on the oncology floor at our Children’s hospital. If you know my story at all, you know that my daughter died (13 months ago today) from brain cancer. She spent a great deal of time on this very same oncology floor. So, to be admitted with her older brother – it was difficult. When I introduce this paragraph as this being an opportunity, I did so intentionally. I had the chance to feel things that needed feeling.

With regards to being on that floor again – it was quite a mixture of emotions. Each and every emotion you could have, I did. I was angry. I was happy. I was sad. I had joy. I knew deep pain. I knew incredible love. It hurt so much. But, there was so much beauty. I was able to see the love in those walls. Empathy and compassion on the faces of nurses who remember Janet, and who remember the love. I was stopped once, and asked if I was Janet’s mom. That was such a heartbreaking and more than that – heartwarming moment. She was there the night before Janet died, and she remembers. She’ll never forget my baby. I saw another nurse this morning that also knew Janet well. No magical words, but compassionate eyes. We did talk, and it did my heart good. They still care. They’ll never forget her either. My heart needed to feel the pain, but to also feel the love.
 
I kinda think each and every day, all of life, is this way as well. Think about it. As I have said so many times before – I KNOW that I feel the deep pain that I do because of deeply rooted love. If you look at ANY passion or emotion, look at the polar opposite emotion. Usually, you can find them attached at the hip. Weakness is attached to strength. Hope to hopeless. Broken to healing. Etc., etc., etc…
 
I want to encourage you guys with some encouragement that has been life – giving to me. As we all know I stand on the FACT that it is okay to not always be okay. More than that, it’s okay (make that vital) to feel what we need to feel. If we hurt, allow ourselves to feel. There’s that fine line, though, of not staying in that place forever.
 
If you need to know that you are not alone, allow me to be the voice that says, “me too.” No matter what you are walking through, know that you are walking THROUGH it. I know that you may be struggling with the most horrific pain you have ever experienced. Is it the same as my pain? No, not always? But, also, yes – perhaps. Either way, pain (like love) is a universal language. It speaks. Will you listen?? I will. Maybe you don’t need words. Maybe you just need someone to be willing to sit, even virtually, with you in your pain. That is a gift that has been offered to me, and it’s an outstretched arm I also offer.
 
I would also like to offer this tidbit. As a bereaved mother, I want you to know – any of you reading this, it is an honor to walk alongside you on your journey as well. Do I enjoy pain? No. But, there is great healing (for me) in doing life alongside other people. It gives me great purpose to be able to say, “I may not get exactly what you are going through, but it’s an honor to sit with you in this pain,” and mean it. I still consider it a distinct honor to walk alongside parents with children fighting cancer – at the beginning of their journey, or even in their final moments. Does it hurt? Absolutely. Is it hard? Without a doubt. Is it worth it? Absolutely, positively, without a doubt. I said all that to say this, PLEASE connect and reach out. Though I have walked through some very painful seasons, it gives me tremendous purpose to use our experience(s) to share hope, compassion and love with others.
 
So, in the event you ever need help, know that help exists. You aren’t alone, and you matter. You are valued and loved. Please give yourself the ability to feel what you need to feel, to be honest and to give your heart a voice. It is then, and only then, that healing can begin.
 
If you would like to talk to me, I am here. Reach out. If you have a friend who has a friend fighting cancer, don’t hesitate to reach out. We have a wealth of knowledge, and though it sucks, it’s an honor to share experience(s) with those walking through similar life experiences. If you’re just hurting, and your heart needs a voice, I’m here. A non-judgmental, listening ear.
 
To all who continue to surround our family with your thoughts and prayers – know that we are, and forever will be grateful. The love and encouragement you continue to share – there is so much strength found there. Thank you for, forever and always, for you reaching out and being able to #RememberTheLove. It brings me strength, and does my heart good.

Love Like Tomorrow Isn’t Promised 

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Love. 

I will quote one of the most inspiring people on earth, Jamie Tworkowski; founder of To Write Love On Her Arms. I’m grateful for Jamie’s heart, and for the worldwide Army of people loving people exactly where there at, that he has created and continues to help grow.  He recently shared these words (and clothing with this coined phrase) :

Love is still the most powerful force on the planet. 

I talk about love often. We all should. Why, you might ask? It’s simple. 

Love is the backbone of strength. 

Every human being needs and deserves to be loved. We all do. But, taking that a step further, we also need TO love. 

My daughter, unbeknownst to her, created #RememberTheLove. (Feel free to search Facebook with that hashtag) This is something that she lived and breathed. It’s something I strive to do more of every single day. Yes, in her honor and memory, but also to make an impact and love people well. 

Think about it. 

If we loved people in the same way we’re loved, or how we *should* be loved – we would strengthen ourselves, our relationships, families, communities, our Nation, and yes- the world. Dramatic? Sure. But it’s truth. Love (kinda right up there in connection with hugs) makes the world go round. 

My daughter was dying, and she knew she was going to die. She didn’t want everyone to be sad  (even though she knew they would be) when she went to Heaven – but, instead, she asked that we would #RememberTheLove. She GOT it. She understood.  Friends, at 7 years old, this sweet little girl knew more about love than many know in a lifetime. 

That is where strength comes in – at least for me. When the moments come, and they come often, that I am overwhelmed, and maybe feeling kinda hopeless – it is love that sustains me. It is grounding, and produces strength.  Love is this powerful force that gives strength unlike anything else possibly could.

So, yes, you’ll find that I talk a great deal about love. It’s because love is life changing, life giving, and even life saving. Will you join me in this journey of loving people well? Oh, and I should add – loving people well also includes YOU. Self care is vital. As you show yourself love, it’ll be easier to reach out with and in love. 

To all who read my words, who love my daughter and our family – thank you more than words can ever express (though, clearly it won’t be for lack of trying) for being strength for us every single day. I need you. Our family does. And, we are grateful for the continued love, thoughts and prayers, and support – in whatever form it takes. Love and hugs, all the way around.