13 reasons why NOT

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I typically stay away from hot topics in public forums but this one is pressing on my heart so much that I need to give it a lift. At first, I thought I would do a FB live video about it as if I had some special insight into the topic, but at the end of the day, I can’t keep my emotions at bay about this issue. So writing is my release of choice this time around.

I’m not a TV person. I prefer real life or a non-fiction book. I guess it’s the realist in me. But I heard about this trending Netflix series from several sources. A few mentioned it casually as they had shows like Walking Dead or Stranger Things in the past, therefore I dismissed it. But then I had a few messages sent to me from random people in my circles asking me to watch this series and then share my thoughts with them about it. They said it would intersect with the type of ministry I am in. I was told its message resonated with the issues my students and small group members are battling with and it would be a good resource for me to know more about what I am walking people through daily. While I didn’t run to my TV right then, I sat with the lingering possibility of watching it for awhile. During that time I saw multiple people posting about it on FB. Both sides of the issue being represented everywhere I turned and I found myself being drawn in by the conversation it had started.

So one night, I grabbed the remote and watched the first episode. To be honest I was hooked, intrigued and wanted to see the rest of the story play out which isn’t my typical response to shows. So I watched the next episode and the next and the next until I had completed the series. I didn’t binge watch it all at once, but I was definitely losing track of time as I became engulfed in a story that was too familiar to be comfortable and yet I couldn’t turn it off. So here are my reflections after the fact.

Are you glad you watched it? No. Why? Because the images of rape and suicide included in the story are burned into my brain and my heart hurts at the reality this story portrayed. The scenes play over and over in my head and only bring sadness and burden with them to darken my every day.

Do you think other people should watch it? No. Even if you are just doing research, this story is painful moment after painful moment until it ends in death. As a follower of Christ, I continue to want us all to fix our eyes and thoughts on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. This show was none of those things and the way it made me feel by the end was a direct result of fixing my attention on the opposites of those things for hours on end.

Do you think its realistic? Yes. The story is true, even though it’s not based on an actual person specifically. It is a universal story that I have encountered, experienced and seen exposed over my years in ministry that is too common to be acceptable.

Then don’t you think it’s a good show to have out there from the standpoint of bringing a dark reality into the light? If it were being used to bring light to people then yes. Many good conversations COULD have happened in the aftermath of this, but from what I am seeing, it is only continuing to cause harm. Based on the way the story is told, “pain wins” or at least gets the last laugh. Not only does a woman walk through some unimaginable hardships, she turns that pain into revenge and death which perpetuates the ugly cycle of darkness. It’s ‘pay it forward’ of the very worst kind. So while the potential might be tucked in there to do some good, it’s not close enough to the surface of the story that people are grasping it and leveraging it to help someone or to seek healing for them self. Instead, we have a massive group of, understandably so, wounded people exposing themselves to the harshness of this story. Instead of being led toward hope and help for their own broken places, they are left questioning the worth of their own lives. This show is triggering hurt not ushering in hope; perpetuating darkness not pointing towards Light. I believe we can do better than that.

So what, you think every story should end in happily ever after where everyone holds hands at the end and sings Kumbaya? Not at all. Real life is messy and hard. Like I said, the story shown in this series was not shocking to me. It should have been, but it wasn’t. I have seen and heard stories just like this one before. Some of the people in those stories have ended it all in death just the same as the show did, while others have chosen life and are still showing up for it day after day. What I think this series made sure to focus on was the 13 reasons why her life sucked. What it failed to do was develop the rest of the story, the full story, where we could also see the 13 reasons why her life did NOT suck. The show forced the viewer to only see the negative, which as a culture comes naturally to us, just look at the depression statistics right now. We honestly don’t need help figuring out that life sucks. We all know that. What we DESPERATELY need help figuring out is why life is worth showing up for. We are all dead men and women walking if we are trying to live without hope. We are desperate for light in this dark world and this show, though insanely and not surprisingly popular, offers none. (For example: In the show, we see her parents interact with her periodically. They were amazing and loved her well, but that relationship gets completely skimmed over while the story continued to develop only the negatives.)

So where does one go from here? Honestly, I think we need to go in and together. Instead of standing on pedestals and expressing our opinions we need to align ourselves side by side and walk this life thing out together. I know many of us are hurting. Yet what hurts the most is thinking we are alone. So as I have said before, we need people who stand up and say ME TOO. If more people start sharing their dark stories from places of healing and hope, we wouldn’t be seeing suicide as the number one cause of death amongst young people today. Pain is real and deep but pain cannot continue to get the victory. We need each other. So let me leave you with this:

13 Reasons Why NOT:

  1. You are NOT alone
  2. You are a masterpiece
  3. We want you here
  4. What has happened to you, does not define you
  5. Only you get to decide who you are- no one and nothing else gets a vote
  6. There is a gift inside of you that the world desperately needs
  7. You are loved
  8. Freedom is possible
  9. Pain is temporary
  10. Life is worth it
  11. Beauty is all around you
  12. Fear is a liar
  13. Death is not the end
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Wildly Imperfect in My Own Gorgeous Way

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I started writing this blog as my attempt at journaling. It then phased into my Facebook before Facebook. I used it for updating friends and family about our life and for sharing things I thought were important with those who were interested to know. Over the years it morphed into only conveying the spiritual lessons I was learning along the way which tended to make it more thought out and edited (because when it comes to a person’s theology, I do NOT want to lead anyone astray.) But with that new intention for posting came a sense of required eloquence and weight to deeply affect people with every post. Eventually, I didn’t have the brain power to maintain that kind of conversation with my blog followers regularly, so I just stopped “talking” (blogging). These days I post here and there but even as I sit here right now and type this, I feel the freedom to not impress, to not sound like a “wise sage” that has all of the answers. I admit, in the past I wanted people to think I was highly intellectual, I mean I did study the Bible for a college degree. But now I am comfortable sitting in the reality that I am smart without having to prove it to you, even when mom brain kicks in and deletes a word or two from my database. Ah, the joys of being in my thirties! Age has granted me permission to release carrying the weight of everyone else’s world on my shoulders and guided me to the importance of keeping my personal world healthy and strong. There are times I try to dabble in both realities still but I am hopeful by 40 I will allow myself the freedom to live without expectations that suffocate me.

So along that vein, I wanted to let you guys know that I am going to return to the original intention of this blog; me. It became about you over the course of the past decade or so and now I need it back. I need a place to ramble, to process and to record my reality. I know it will change, I know it will vary, I know some posts will have impact and others be a waste of your time but not mine. I need this blank canvas to click clack my keyboard at until what is in my head becomes a mirror for me to look into and learn, grow or just laugh. I want my outlet to be writing again and it may not entertain or impress you to read what comes out, but I am ok with that. This is for me to see me.

If you see yourself between the lines of these random postings then, by all means, engage in this adventure called life with me. I love how tethered two hearts can become when they can say, “ME TOO”! But if you don’t see yourself in the reflection of this mirror I am creating for myself, that’s ok too. Hopefully, it will give you some insight into how others might feel, live, think and therefore help you grow in understanding and compassion toward those unlike you.

Here you will get a peek into my beautifully crazy world folks. I hope you like it here, but I am ok if you don’t. You see I love it and wouldn’t want it any other way. Here is where I get to be my “wildly imperfect in my own gorgeous way” self. Hi, I’m Bethany. It’s good to see you again Bethany.

The necklace

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During the after school hustle yesterday my daughter brought me a necklace. In it’s present condition however, it looked more like a metallic ball of yarn than a piece of jewelry. It was twisted and matted together tightly but I remembered what it looked like before. I took a look at the clump of chain links and charms she placed in my hand and listened as she requested I “fix it.”

As I began the task I had carried out many times with many different childhood objects over the years, I quickly realized this was going to be way more involved than I had the time or attention to give at that moment. I explained to my daughter that I wasn’t going to be able to complete the task in time for her to wear it that evening and her heart began to pour out. She pleaded with me to “fix it” because the necklace was her favorite and it was ever so important to her. I could tell by the look in her eyes, this one mattered. I promised I would try again later, set it on my dresser and went on with our evening activities.

As I passed the necklace in approach of my bed for the night, I decided to pick it up and try again. For over an hour I wove the chain over, under, around and through but still could not “fix” the necklace. It seemed hopeless.

But something in me confirmed it was important so I placed it on my nightstand, turned off the light and went to sleep. All day, my eyes would catch glimpses of the necklace as I passed through the room and it practically called out to me from its position on the nightstand. Finally I sat down next to it and began to unravel the chain again.

As I did, this time, I heard the voice of Jesus:

“See what I am doing.” He invited. “I am working. When no one is watching, when no one is expecting and when no one knows even where to look … I am at work. I am untangling. I am restoring. I am moving. Trust me. It looks like a mess, I know, but it is important work. Don’t quit. It matters. Rest. Trust. I am at work here.”

As the way of untying the last knot became clear and the last link of chain loosed, the necklace unfolded and indeed, it WAS special to behold its designed form taking shape once again.

During this Advent season remember, He IS working. It looks like a mess, it looks hopeless, but the untangling has begun and when He is finished, only beauty remains.

We welcome your presence Jesus. Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel. Do your work in our lives. Amen.

All I do is this

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I want to do it all,

but all I do is this.

This means everything to some,

for me, its not enough.

 

Don’t tell me its a season.

Don’t say my time will come.

Ive been waiting. Ive been patient.

But what’s left of me is almost gone.

 

Not a life that’s either/ or,

Rather both/and.

We don’t have to cancel each other

Instead, let’s collaborate.

 

My voice is growing faint now

But sing with it, I must.

For if I don’t do something quick

My song will fade away.

 

Grant me the courage.

Show me the way.

Because the day is coming,

when regret will bring my death.

The Path of Vulnerability.

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Life is difficult. For some more than for others. I have seen my share of struggle but if we were to sit down together and share our stories, we may find my path less arduous than yours. The battles I have faced, am facing, and will face though, are specifically designed for me. Just like yours are for you. Let’s just agree here, that life is universally difficult (John 16:33).

For many, that reality drains hope. Because life is difficult, they see no purpose for joy. ‘Life is hard so I am hard,’ is the mantra. This belief is beyond familiar to me. I’ve worn the armor for so long its warmth is familiar and comfortable. Defensiveness carried me through many circumstances, serving me well time and time again. The walls being “up” kept me safe – the convincible lie.

Truth is, the gates intended to keep others out become prisons for our own soul; rooms for isolation. This is because when we stop caring and feeling, we lose our ability to connect.

What’s the alternative? Trust again? Be hurt again? Use your voice to express your heart again? Have promises broken again? Tell the truth again? Be lied to again? Yes!

True strength is on display when we are able to stay soft through the pain. It’s called vulnerability.

Brene Brown has done extensive research on vulnerability and defines it this way, “Vulnerability is the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of the outcome.” She goes on to say, “Vulnerability is the only path to more love, belonging, and joy.”

Vulnerability is not safe. It is, however, life giving and grace receiving. Vulnerability is not weakness. In fact, its our greatest measure of courage. Vulnerability is not isolating. It is choosing to stay connected and experience all life has to offer with our whole hearts. Vulnerability is the way of Jesus.

Despite the disbelief, hate, and violence experienced, Christ remained compassionate, loving and peaceful. Jesus did not exchange His heart for comfort and safety. Instead He walked the path laid before Him while remaining connected to the people around Him.

The path of vulnerability is enduring the struggle without picking up the armor. Soon vulnerability will feel warm, familiar and comfortable too… I just need to keep wearing it for awhile. I plan to start a new trend, wanna join me?

No more petting

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I have a jacket that is crazy soft and so comfy. Literally it feels like a warm blanket with arm holes but WAY better than a Snuggy. I LOVE this jacket. When I wear it around the house it is inevitable that my family will reach out and touch it. Once they do, they fall in love and find it hard to stop petting it. They love how it feels so much, when I am out of town they have been know to ask if they can sleep with it!

I also have a teal pillow on my over sized chair in the living room that if you ever visit my house, I will force you to touch. I am slightly embarrassed that I even spent $30 on a pillow but making people touch it helps me feel better about the indulgence b/c once they do, they will understand. Its life-changing.

Im telling you all of this to emphasize from the get go: I am a lover of all things soft. I too process feelings through the art of touch. In fact, my secondary love language is physical touch so if you’ve been around me you know I, like Olaf, love a good warm hug. Touch in and of itself is a beautiful way to connect with another human being.

But there are times when it would be most appropriate to ask permission to touch someone or something. For example, when I was pregnant, it took a little getting used to how people would approach my belly like a separate piece of my body and start petting it and talking to it. Some people don’t think twice but I would prefer it when people took my feelings into consideration and asked first.  Or if someone was walking with their dog, isn’t it common knowledge by now that you should always ask the owner IF you can pet the animal BEFORE reaching down your hand to do so? It just makes sense.

So here is the rub for me and I will say it as nicely and as plainly as I can…

Please stop petting my daughter.

I know Jaydn has beautifully soft skin (I do too- shameless plug for Rodan+Fields). But a smooth skin texture does not warrant the same form of touch as my comfy jacket or life-changing pillow does. It also doesn’t equate to how you would approach touch for a pregnant belly or an animal.

Think about this a little … Let’s say you give me a hug and notice that my skin is really soft (it is thanks to Rodan+Fields). I don’t know anyone who would spend the next 5-10 minutes rubbing their hand up and down my arm while we carried on in conversation. Yet that has happened on multiple occasions to my daughter.

Why?

Of course I have my speculations but I won’t project them onto anyone else unfairly. So for now I will just challenge YOU to ask yourself the question WHY? Is that appropriate? Would it be socially acceptable in any other circumstance? I am relatively sure you will conclude that it’s not

It seems preposterous to many that I am even having to address this issue but you have NO IDEA how often this comes up in regards to my daughter.

If you’d like to know where I got my jacket or pillow, I will be happy to pass along that information. I will even lend you one of my many soft blankets and let you pet my dog if you need to but my daughter is a different story entirely. So please, no more petting.

 

The hero within.

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Some people need a hero. A knight that swoops in and rescues. An oracle to make sense of all the shattered pieces. They only apply padded answers and cliche’s to the wounds. Put a pretty bow on this messy life and say it’s all going to be ok. Better yet, they just teach you how to pretend it is now and maybe someday it will be true. You can’t throw money at every problem and laughter doesn’t take away all the tears. They remain: buried maybe but not dead.

True healing comes when you break. When you stop hiding and start showing. When you stop preaching and start learning. When you stop searching for a hero and become the hero of your own story by utilizing the heroic spirit within you.

Real help comes from within the trench, not the sanitary edge where rose colored glasses are bought and sold by the master of ceremonies. The hand that truly provides can only do so when you aren’t so busy looking for the next handout.

I saw through your cape and I heard what you said under your breath when you thought no one was listening. I am no fool. I won’t play pretend. Continue your charade and gather up your puppets but I am not among them. No strings attached. No manipulating me.

Only the pierced hands can be near my need. Hands I can trust b/c they are dirty…like mine. Hands of the beaten, hated, invisible and bruised One: by me, for me, like me. Oh the treasure of a free gift. There is nothing so pure. I wish you all could know it too but you settle for the fix. The plug. The facade as you all recite your line, “Its all going to be ok. My external hero says so .”

He gives me the tools. He builds strength in me. He trains for the road I travel on. He doesn’t pretend its not there. He doesn’t say its going to be easy. He doesn’t swoop in and take away the process so that I only get the rewards. He shows me how. He walks it with me. He meets me step for step like a friend. He doesn’t enable, He equips!