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Everything Changes

The more messed up this world gets, the more God makes sense.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Miss Emmy

Thursday, November 15, 2018
It's been almost a full year since I posted on this blog, but I am compelled to write as the last two weeks have been devastating. My 14-year-old great niece Emily passed away suddenly on November 3, 2018, and I want to tell you just a bit about her extraordinary life.

She was the captain of the cheer squad at school, she danced ballet, she authored two books that gained Young Author State recognition, she sang in the local Children's Choir, she and a friend have hosted lemonade stands for years to help people that were less fortunate, she modeled for Justice Girls Clothing, at 8-years-old she won a National t-shirt design contest sponsored by Crazy 8 with 50% of sales being donated to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital (her design was in memory of her sister Hope, who died at birth in 2007), she was voted Miss Congeniality in the 2017 Junior Miss Contest, she taught herself sign language, she mentored young girls in reading, and two months ago she started a fundraising campaign for cancer research as a result of her grandmother's recent diagnosis, which included asking her friends to donate instead of giving her birthday gifts last month.

And that is just some of the legacy Emily leaves behind. She truly was inspirational.

There are so many things in life that I will never understand, however, because Emily was a person of faith, I believe I will see her again one day. Yes, that gives me hope, but it does not change the heartbreak and loss that I feel. I think I have cried at least once every day over the last two weeks, and I am sure there are more tears where that came from.

For now, all I can do is tell Miss Emmy's story, and hope that you, too, are inspired to live life to the fullest.

The Sandwiches

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

While walking my dog Rusty last week he stopped near a large rock outside our yard and was sniffing intently. Usually I simply tell him to "Come on!" and we proceed with the walk. But that day was different. He was determined to uncover something beneath the pile of leaves that were gathered around the rock.

At first I assumed it was probably the aroma of a previous suitor that may have christened the rock by lifting a leg. As gross as that sounds, it is a very common dog occurrence. Probably fueled by the same need to sniff each other's backsides when meeting.

Then I thought, "Maybe Rusty has discovered a treasure buried in the leaves!" But no. It was sandwiches. Two, to be specific, both sealed in separate Ziploc sandwich bags. Strange. Sure, the rock is located on a common path used by children commuting to school, but why bury two sandwiches?

I didn't think much more about it as I decided to throw the sandwiches over the fence of my yard so I could discard them once our walk was complete.

Until the next day. Two more sandwiches, buried in the leaves! Who is doing this? And why don't they want their delicious looking lunch? Are they storing up for winter? Or just not wanting "mom" to discover that that didn't eat her labor of love at school!

So I threw away those sandwiches also. Only to find two more the next day! And after a weekend of NO sandwiches, I found a total of four additional sandwiches buried in the leaves over the last two days! This is getting crazy! And what am I to do? Set up a camera to catch the culprit? Notify the local public school? Go door-to-door and ask, "Did you make these sandwiches?"

Maybe they are manna from heaven. Probably not.

As of last evening I have discovered TEN sandwiches just over my fence, near the large rock surrounded by leaves, and I honestly don't know what to do about it.

List Maker

Friday, August 21, 2015

I'm a list maker. At least I used to be. Well, that's not exactly true. I used to be obsessed with list making, but not so much anymore. Grocery list? Yes. I still require that. But general lists are not as important these days.

I wrote lists primarily to remember things. Then someone told me that I should just trust that "if it's important, you'll remember it." They encouraged me to "put aside" my lists and find peace in knowing that it's okay to forget some things.

Perhaps I also wrote lists due to the fear of forgetting. I made the mistake of borrowing the movie Still Alice from the public library. Yes, Julianne Moore won the Oscar for her role, and yes, Rotten Tomatoes gave it an 89% rating, but it was a hard film to watch. Why? Because Alice, the main character, starts to forget words. Watching this happen is painful. I get that the diagnosis of Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease is a reality, but I simply don't ever want to forget things.

No, I don't have dementia. But my grandmother did, and my dad suffered from some moderate Parkinson's Dementia. But that's not why I make lists. I just don't want to forget certain things that seem important in my life.

According to research from the University of Illinois at Chicago, we wouldn't be able to learn new information if we didn't forget some things. What the what?! Ben Storm, one of the researchers, is quoted in the article Why Forgetting Is Good For Your Memory:
"Memory is difficult. Thinking is difficult. (Memories) could completely overrun our life and make it impossible to learn and retrieve new things if they were left alone, and could just overpower the rest of memory. In addition, people who are able to forget unnecessary information also seem to be good at problem solving and remembering important things (even when they're distracted)."

Forgetting unnecessary information. I think that might be my problem. In his research Ben goes on to say:
"Forgetting is a surprising and unintended consequence of remembering."

I realize that he is mostly talking about forgetting things behind us, from the past, and I totally get that. But what about that "thing" I'm supposed to do later with that "person" from "somewhere" that made "plans" to get together?

HuffPost blogger and clinical psychologist Cynthia R. Green, Ph.D. says:
"...if you get anxious about something you need to remember you are only getting in your own way. Relax!"

Easy for you to say. Think I'll go make a list.

Here I Go Again

Saturday, August 15, 2015
Yesterday I posted this on my Facebook account:
Well, this has been fun, but it's time to give up FB, once again. On March 21st I stepped away from FB and started posting again on July 18th. Although I "liked" a few things here and there I was pretty much off FB for 4 months. After coming back 4 weeks ago I'm back to spending way too much time on FB. I love you all, but FB is wasting too much of my time. Time I could be spending with real friends (no offense), in person. I'm still gonna post pics on Instagram if you want to keep in touch (@peej0e). Otherwise, if you need to contact me use Messenger or text. Godspeed Facebook.

The thing I DIDN'T mention in my post is that I have also been experiencing some moderate depression, which I contribute to my Facebook connection. Forbes.com posted an article earlier this year entitled New Study Links Facebook To Depression:
"...a new study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology finds that not only do Facebook and depressive symptoms go hand-in-hand, but the mediating factor seems to be a well-established psychological phenomenon: Social comparison.”

Honestly, I'm not sure that's why I've been depressed, but it is definitely worth considering. The article goes on to say:
"It turned out that people who used Facebook more tended to have more depressive symptoms – but social comparison was a mediating factor only for men."

I would say that I have a healthy self-esteem and rarely compare myself to others. However, I have been feeling depressed as a result of a higher than normal use of Facebook. I might even say that I have made up for my 4 month hiatus by excessively posting over the last 4 weeks.

Another study from the University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross argues that Facebook makes us feel sad and lonely. In her article How Facebook Makes Us Unhappy, Maria Konnikova highlights the study's findings and says, "Kross found that the more people used Facebook... the less happy they felt."

I'm still not sure where that leaves me, but one thing I know, I have been experiencing symptoms of depression, loneliness and sadness since returning to Facebook. Perhaps I need to explore this personal (and virtual) phenomenon further, but in the meantime I will bid Facebook a fine farewell.

Church, Exit Stage Left

Wednesday, August 12, 2015
I've been thinking about leaving the church (again). Hear me out. Abandoning my faith is not even an option. I am a Christian who believes in God and trusts in His Word, the Holy Bible. And I am part of God's body, the church. It's the institution that concerns me.

I keep thinking we've confused things within the walls of the church system. Does God want us to build cathedrals to "house" His presence? Didn't Jesus demolish those confining walls when he tore down the temple veil on the cross? [Matthew 27:51] After all, the Bible does says that "God who made the world and all that is in it, being Lord of both Heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands..." [Acts 17:24]

And what about what this guy has to say:
Men who want to sincerely follow Christ must wean themselves from worldly governments and churches. It is the height of absurdity for a Christian to attend and support the very institutions which are destroying his relationship with God. Those who voluntarily support man-made religious church systems, by believing and teaching that they are good in any way, or that they help us, or that we need them, are still living in a dream world of deception. The ecclesia system, with it's Theocratic government and individual responsibility, is capable of freeing us from the bodage of religion. True peace and liberty cannot be found outside of Christ. Christ's system is the ecclesia system. Freedom awaits all those who will break away from the religious slavery of church and become a humble bondslave of Jesus Christ. We must stop idolizing men in their religious hypocrisy and let Christ once and for all be our King! [THE CORRECT MEANING OF "CHURCH" AND "ECCLESIA"]

Yikes. Wrap your head around that!

Six years ago I left a part time position at a local church after I was told to "f*** off" by someone in leadership. Yeah. They actually used the "f" word. It was not easy to leave and I probably didn't exit in the best way. I defended myself to the remaining church leadership and challenged the leader's state of mind - not to mention how inappropriate their actions were. In turn, I was accused of all sorts of things, mainly insubordination: "defiance of authority; refusal to obey orders". When I look back at that situation I think that perhaps I WAS insubordinate! And for good reason! I don't want to follow man's ways and rules and legalistic systems. I want to follow God!

I think we have twisted God's Word to mean what we want to hear. I believe in spiritual authority, but won't stand for its abuse; I believe in church, but that means ME, not a building!

At that time I discovered Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman's book, So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore. Interestingly enough, the book is not about leaving your church. Although you might want to find a new one after you read it! It is more about discovering the principles of God's Word and "leaving" the principles of the institutional church system in order to experience true sacred community, fellowship and relationship.

I am re-reading the book this summer and finding it more compelling than ever. Perhaps because of the journey I've been on over the last six years that has included a short sabbatical from church ministry. The more time I spend away from the church, the closer I become to God and my friends who are believers. Seems ironic that the very institution that proclaims fellowship and communion with God is the very place that often hinders my relationship with the Lord. Not to mention the way it continues to hurt people. Another paradox. The institutional church is hurting the very people they think they are saving.
Cue the song Ironic by Alanis Morissette.

"The institution provides something more important than simply loving one another in the same way we've been loved. Once you build an institution together, you have to protect it and its assets to be good stewards. It confuses everything. Even 'love' gets redefined as that which protects the institution and 'unloving' as that which does not. It will turn some of the nicest people in the world into raging maniacs and they never stop to think that all the name-calling and accusations are the opposite of love." [p. 60 | So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore]

Honestly, I don't know what to do. I currently attend an amazing church filled with genuine believers that love God. Yet I still want to leave the institutional church. Or at minimum, I want my church to take the necessary measures to avoid the principles of the church system. So far we're doing pretty good, as we are a fellowship that is six years young.

And no, it wasn't started as a result of the church trauma I experienced, I simply found it on my way out.

Church Trauma, PTCD & Compassion Fatigue

Saturday, July 18, 2015
When I wrote Post Traumatic Church Disorder - Part One in April 2007 no one was really talking about this issue. At least not online. In November 2009 I combined my four part series into one post which still receives views and comments.

Today if you do a search on church trauma or PTCD you will find a myriad of blogs and articles - even support groups:

Do you have Post Traumatic Church Syndrome?

It’s Called Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome, and Yes It’s Real

Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS)

post-traumatic church syndrome is Real (and worthy of a capital letter)

My Take: 5 ways to survive 'post-traumatic church syndrome'

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome Facebook Group

During my personal journey with PTCD I have come to understand other issues that have accompanied my struggle - primarily compassion fatigue, sometimes referred to as vicarious trauma. Last month Relevant Magazine wrote an interesting article on this topic called 4 Ways to Overcome Compassion Fatigue:
Psychology Today describes compassion fatigue as a type of Secondary Post Traumatic Stress. Compassion fatigue is a somewhat common phenomenon that affects medical workers, social workers and even pastors. It stems from witnessing or hearing about traumatic experiences in the lives of other people, and feeling helpless because you can only do so much to help.

Although my journey will be different than yours, there is hope. And it begins by becoming aware of the root issues causing your stress and fatigue so you can heal and find rest.

I want to encourage you today to seek help through counseling and support. While online groups are great, there is no substitute for one-on-one counseling with a registered therapist who has been trained to understand these issues. And while some people do not have insurance to cover the expense of a counselor, some communities now have health centers that offer free walk-in counseling. Definitely something I would encourage you to explore.

There are also many books that can challenge you on your path to healing. One that I plan to re-read this summer was very significant to me back in 2009: So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore by Jake Colsen. This book is free to read online through the book's website and also includes free PDF or PDA downloads.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
~ Jesus [Matthew 11:28-30 | The Message]
"...He leads me beside the still and restful waters. He refreshes and restores my life (my self)..."
[Psalm 23:2b-3a | Amplified]
"Let be and be still..."
[Psalm 46:10a | Amplified]