Twas the Night Before the Election…

I am so thankful that tomorrow is Election Day, and that, come Wednesday, most people will be able to move forward, online and IRL relationships will be (hopefully) restored and normalcy returned.

This election cycle has really taken a toll on me. I don’t know if it’s really been that much more vitriolic, or if I’m just feeling it because I’m seeing things through a different lens this time around (and I’ve been alienated by many who liked me because I once held similar views to them).

The, mostly misguided, anger, the nastiness and the nit-picking (all of which I have been guilty of) have been beyond belief for the last 4 years. I’ve judged people and I’ve been judged. And I’m ready for it to be over.

This morning I read “Election Day Is Not a Vote Between Hades and Paradise” over at Deeper Story. So many excellent points are made, but it was the title that I’ve really chewed around on all day, because I honestly believe that there are people who DO believe that it is a vote for just those things. I’ve heard them proclaim just as much.

This belief is what has been at the core of my discomfort with the direction of this election. As a Christian, I’ve long believed that, while it is my duty to vote, whether my candidate wins or loses, God is in control.

I’ve also been told for a long time to vote according to God’s will.

But this time around I’ve wondered what that meant… Is it providing a safety net to others so that they can get back on their feet after being laid-off? Or is it allowing the super wealthy to keep as much of their self-made wealth as possible, and believe enough will trickle down to the rest of us to allow us to think we can get there with enough hard work?

Rather than making changes in ourselves, we’ve railed, pointed fingers and hated on others, and tried to convince everyone that our candidate is more Godly. When we put all of our hopes in one person, they are going to fall short. We live in fear, of a God who rails and smites, rather than living in the full glory of a God who is full of grace, second chances and longs for us all to see Him in the actions of others:

The actions we take to help the scared unwed pregnant girl after she makes the brave choice to keep her baby.
The actions we take to provide a warm place to sleep and a comforting word to the family who has lost everything.
The actions we take to ensure that everyone can get major medical help without having to declare bankruptcy.

Because I have been each of those people.

I was the unwed pregnant girl, who, out of fear, aborted her baby.
I, along with my ex, lost everything, was briefly homeless and had to get food stamps to support us as we got back on our feet. (We, thankfully, had friends and family who helped us, but not everyone does.)
I was one of those who, after a divorce, could not afford dental or health care for herself or her children and had to rely on medicaid for a season.

I don’t believe that either candidate has all the answers. I don’t believe that God has a party favorite. I don’t believe that He wants us to vote for one candidate over another, because every four years, we are voting for one flawed person against another flawed person. What He wants is for us to change.

For us to be moved enough to fill in the gap that EVERY flawed administration creates. That, is what ultimately matters.

photo credit from flickr

(Just Write)

Faith, Hope and 41

I look smug about this birthday, don’t I?

Last October 7th, when I turned 40, I spent the day tending to my youngest, who was recovering from a, not-so-minor, out-patient procedure he had done that morning. While I would not recommend celebrating your own birthday in that way, I have to admit, it absolutely kept me from focusing on myself, and the fact that I had entered my FORTIES.

I’ve never been afraid of forty. But admittedly, it still stuns me, at times, that I am in this decade of my life.

At that time, I considered writing something about turning 40, but I stopped myself, because, let’s admit it, I was no expert on 40. All I knew was based on hearsay, and emotion, not, necessarily, reality. I was a mere baby in terms of what I knew and felt about it.  I suppose I still am, but I feel a bit more qualified to speak on it now that I’m ‘older and wiser’… *cough*. Or something.

The last several years have all been magical for many reasons, but this year, the year from 40 to 41, has helped me solidify my belief that I am stronger than I ever realized. It’s been a long, hard, winding road getting to this point, but I love going along it. Sometimes, I want to run ahead and know what’s around the next bend, other times, I want to straggle behind and linger in the moment. But I’m always – always – thankful for every moment of it.

Because, I know where I’ve been.

The week I turned 30, my baby girl turned one and we closed on our first home. While there were many cracks already showing, my 30s appeared, from the outside, to be off to a picture-perfect start.

Nearly everything changed from 30 to 40. So much was given and so much was taken away. Sometimes, I feel as though I lived 20 lifetimes in that decade. It was a difficult one, on many levels. I wrote about it a lot on this blog, before the bottom fell out (again), but if you were to go back and look for them, you might not know it. I white-washed much of it. I wanted to find meaning in all of the difficulties, and the suffering. I wanted, desperately, for it to have been for a reason. I needed to find that reason and know it. But, it’s not always easy to see or understand. Sometimes, it just takes faith.

My 30s were built on faith. That was all I had. My 40s are being built on hope.

I am realizing what is meant by older and wiser. I wish it came with a few less wrinkles and sags, but I am trying to embrace those as well.

There are countless variables in life, and I know that anything can happen, at any moment. I see it every day. And that is where the lessons of my 30s, those built on faith, become invaluable. If I didn’t have those, I would be living in fear, because I’ve seen too much happen, and I know what can happen.

But I also know the beauty that can come from those very things; when the wounds become scars.

A wound is messy and always susceptible to being reopened or infected. A scar is where it has healed; a reminder of what was and what is. It does not have to be a shameful reminder.

And that is what gives me hope.

Here’s to my forties.

(linked up with JustWrite)

Fall Down and Get Back Up

I’ve been thinking a lot about the struggles I’ve had in the past with panic attacks and depression, and while I’ve shared small snippets over the years, it wasn’t always easy to come clean about what I was in the midst of.

Now, a couple of years beyond it, I’m able to reflect back on them with some clarity (something that can feel sorely lacking in the midst of that cycle…)

Writing down my stories to share makes me feel vulnerable, and yet, I also feel driven by the sense that there are so many of us affected by these same struggles. Knowing I was not alone was one of the greatest things in the process and in taking steps in my recovery.

As I work through my stories, I struggle for words. I struggle with the memories of what it feels like to go back to that place. I see a person in paralyzing fear and anguish.

Yet, as I continue searching, and wipe the mud and muck from my view, I see someone who fought through it. Who found a Way to understand what was happening.

I no longer suffer from regular panic attacks.

Oh, I feel them knock on my door.
Whisper in my ear.
There are triggers, and I know them well.
They sit waiting for me to be overly tired or stressed.

But they no longer hold me captive.

And that is where I want this chapter of my story to begin.
Because it is worth celebrating.

But the past can’t be forgotten, because there are many others who have fallen and fear that it’s that last time before they can no longer get up.

Don’t believe it.
Don’t listen to those whispers.

_____________

linked up to Just Write

Processing a Disaster: restoration

One of the problems I keep encountering in my personal blogging is knowing where to write certain things. I’ve mentioned this dilemma before, and it frustrates me to admit that I am not one step closer to sorting it out than I was 5 months ago. (I’m still open to ideas, so feel free to weigh in)

Therefore, here I sit, attempting to write about my visit to Pleasant Grove, Alabama, three weeks after the fact.

Its taken about that long to begin to process what I saw.

As I’m sifting through it and trying to process it,  I am all over the board. On one level, I find myself racing to help. On another, I want to sit quietly and just pray. I recognize that people can only take so much before they shut it out completely, yet  I struggle with the desire to post every single article, photo and video I come across that pertains to the destruction and recovery.

Because in every way, this strikes something deep that ignites a fear. We long for control. For a sense of order. And nothing about this feels orderly.

While the entire state of Alabama and other parts of the Southeast continue to process this record-setting devastation and destruction, a fear that creeps in to our minds is that others will quickly forget and move on.

And there lies the trigger for my struggle for control.

What many are faced with every single day now is this:

Their lives and spirit broken and scattered in every direction.

From the outside, it has the appearance of  hopelessness. It’s scary; overwhelming.

I hear it so loudly in my head: How in the world can we pick up the pieces?

Until I find myself back in that spot where I recognize and acknowledge that I am not in control. I still have no answers for my children who ask why some were spared on one side of the street while the other side is gone. Who try to wrap their heads around whether or not God caused this…

I believe in a God who doesn’t cause the storms, but Who is with us through them.

(image credit: Church of the Highlands)

So even though I can’t hold and comfort every victim of this storm, nor wipe every tear that falls, I am seeing Him all around in the recovery and relief efforts. He is still here in the midst of it. And once again, I am reminded of how restoration works.

As love pours in…

Restoration takes place.

And pinned to the sleeve of a child’s shirt, I am spoken to:

Restoration will take place across the state and in our hearts.

To help those affected visit Magic City Post’s “Now It’s Time to Help” – many volunteer opportunities and lists of needs. Also included are ways that those not in the region can help directly.

For more related links, see my prior post “Pray for Alabama” and scroll to the bottom

Pray for Alabama

I was born in Alabama, and although I didn’t grown up here, I spent every Christmas and summer in Decatur and Florence with family. It’s a place I’ve always been connected to and have always felt a connection with.

When Mamaw passed away in December 2009, I was saddened to realize that I would no longer have a reason to be in Alabama. I didn’t know at the time that I’d be living there within 5 months. As I like to say, I’ve made it full circle. Not only am I back where I started, but I’ve made friends and once again, have family here.

It’s home.

And so, that is why yesterday, April 27th was a day that left me exhausted and heart-broken.

We knew it was coming and we knew it was going to be bad. Even before Wednesday, forecasters were speculating that it could be “historic” or “epic”, but there was no doubt it would be damaging.

It was such an odd day. Randy was out of town on business, and so I had several backup alarms set for getting the kids ready for school. Instead, I woke up to sirens and within minutes, I heard that initial crash of thunder – that moment that I visualize the warm and cold air finally collide. There was no rain or wind at that point.

Within minutes of that collision, the initial storm hit with rain and strong winds. I watched as my Twitter stream filled with reports of power outages and down trees and damage.

Schools were closed due to fallen trees and widespread power outages. Only 20 out of 55 schools in our system had power.

The rest of the afternoon was amazingly nice. Sunny and windy. But it was coming:

(screenshot of @Spann warning of the tornado on the ground headed toward Tuscaloosa)

Watching it, I felt helpless. I felt awe at the force of nature. I wanted to cry. Cullman had already been beaten up severely, as had many other towns and areas across the state. Seeing this, and knowing what it was doing to the city below it, shook me to my core.

(screenshot of the tornado passing thru Tuscaloosa)

We got into our safe spot as it headed towards Birmingham. Reports were that it could tag the airport, which is about 10 minutes from our home.

(watching the tornado on the ipad from our safe spot)

As it was bearing towards us, news of the destruction in Tuscaloosa and beyond was pouring in.

In the end, we were untouched, physically. But emotionally, we are hurting for so many. It’s almost unbearable to think about what others woke up to this morning. To imagine what they are facing and coping with. The losses that they have been blown. So much loss of life. The starting over.

(screen captures of Cullman destruction)

I’m fighting with that all-too-common survivors guilt. Vacillating between elation of being ok and anger that others can think about anything else. Worried that the hurts will be forgotten. Like any tragedy, we rally around it and all want to reach out. But within hours, we change the channel and speculate about what the Queen-To-Be will be wearing tomorrow.

(tornado debris: a divorce decree from Tuscaloosa County, nearly 80 miles away from us)

And yet, I’m thankful that so many can do that. That they are ok and momentarily carefree. I think we’d all lose our minds if we couldn’t relax our brains from the images.

But let’s not forget Alabama yet. It needs help. It needs prayer.

It’s going to be a long journey back for too many. They shouldn’t have to do it alone.

Governor Bentley pushed back against questions from reporters on Thursday about whether Alabama residents had failed to heed tornado warnings, thus pushing up the casualty toll. “We were very prepared … but it was just the force of the storms,” Bentley said. “When a [large tornado] hits a largely populated area like Tuscaloosa, you cannot move thousands of people in five minutes. When an F4 or F5 tornado hits, there’s not much you can do to change the outcome of that.”  – Christian Science Monitor (emphasis mine)

Additional Links:

137 Tornadoes Reported in the Deep South on Wednesday *(AL.com)
Alabama Tornadoes: How You Can Help Victims of the April 27, 2011 Deadly Storms (AL.com)
‘We’re Alive’: Survivors Recount Deadly Tornadoes (MSNBC)
April 27, 2011 Alabama Tornado Photo Stream (from ABC 33/40)
Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes (Facebook page set up to help people recover debris found in others yards)
Pray for the Tornado Victims of April 27, 2011 (Facebook page filled with thoughts and resources for helping)
Tornado Season Reaches Peak in “Dixie Alley” (Washington Post)

Videos:

http://youtu.be/kxWRS-aFBW8
http://youtu.be/5ohIVzIZLuQ
http://youtu.be/J9Oszy_dGJY*
Storm Aftermath Video Shows Nothing Left (CNN)

*Updated: links no longer available/online