My Parents Really Messed Me Up

My parents really messed me up.

Throughout the years all of their good and bad,

Hopes and dreams,

Securities and insecurities,

Strengths and weaknesses,

All the things they could control and couldn’t control,

All the situations where they totally killed it as parents,

And the times they didn’t…

Somehow got barfed onto my existence and produced me. And just like every person in humanity, I was given the task of navigating through not only my own mess of wonderful and horrendous things about myself, but also theirs.

It’s one of the many reasons I’ve held off on having my own kids.

I’m going to mess them up.

I’m VERY critical, blunt, my resort to emotion is anger, I curse, have intense desires for a perfectly tidy home, selfish, and hopelessly in love with sleep...just for starters.

So as I’ve gotten older and the dream of having a crew of little Daltons has become more and more relevant, I’ve seriously evaluated what my parents did right and what my parents did wrong. As I’ve rolled it over in my head a million different times, I’ve come to realize,...my parents did not do everything right. Which has made me have to swallow that I’m not going to either.

But of the things my parents did do right, the one that made a lasting impression was their act of loving me. They might not have always done it well or the way I needed, but regardless of any of that, I’ve always known that my parents were in my corner and that they loved the shit out of me. Period. I’ve never questioned it. And I’ve questioned a lot of things in my days. But never that.

Not everyone can say that about their parents. Which a horrendous misfortune. To grow up having to question whether or not you are loved is one of the worst things that could ever happen to a person. It’s an injustice that I can’t rationalize how anyone would get over.

But the power of love is that the same love that some people have had to question if it even exists as a child, is the same love that covered all my parent’s mistakes and deficiencies. That’s love.

Always healing.

Always restoring.

Always filling in the gaps.

So yah, my parents messed me up. But in the best way. And yah, I’m going to mess up my kids. But I hope my kids can say I messed them up in the best way too.

I hope they can say what I can say about my parents:

They love the shit out of me, and that’s really all that matters.



 

MIDDLE FINGER APOLOGY

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To the boys in the park,

I’m sorry I flipped you off. I’m the adult and I didn’t act that way. I’m sorry.

I jogged back to the park to apologize in person, which is kind of a big deal because adding a mile to my run was torture, but you weren’t there.

You have to understand that what you did made me mad. I know you thought when you whistled at me while I was running that you were flattering me. Or being harmless goofballs. Or affirming my beauty.

But you see, when you whistle at a girl you are seeing her as a body and that’s just not okay.

I didn’t know that at your age. But I do now.

I’ve had scary things happen to me by men who were once boys like you, whistling at girls in parks. Men who should know better by now, but don’t. Men who should have been told what I’m telling you now, but weren’t. They have followed me for aisles in stores. They have looked at me like I was naked. They have stuck their hands in their pants while I walked by.

I know. It’s nasty and foul and seems like what you did was so innocent compared to what they did. But your whistles made me feel the same way. Like tits and an ass. Like Ciara the body and not Ciara person.  

I know it gets confusing, because women ARE beautiful. We spend time almost every day in front of a mirror applying creams and powders, curling hair, and finding the perfect outfit to emphasize that very fact.

But truthfully, we NEVER want to be seen or defined by just our bodies. Because we are SO MUCH MORE. We are passions, and immense talent, and achievements, and ripply laughs, and rich memories, and pulsing love, and overwhelming courage - for starters.   

Even though you are only young boys, surely you must know by now that it’s so freaking hard being a human in this world. For boys and girls alike, the world screams at us every morning that we are defined by our bodies. Not our passions. Not our courage. Not our pulsing love.  When you whistled at me, you became a part of that chorus.

Please, please, please, fight to be the boys and eventually men who see girls and  women as more than their bodies. Please, please, please see our passion, our courage, our love.

I'm sorry my anger got in the way of telling this to you in person.

I hope you accept my apology,

Ciara

 

THE CHURCH THING

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The church thing came up again. You know, “Are you going to church?”.

And I’m just confused why it hurts when people ask that. Why it still annoys me. Why I get that lump in my throat and my chest gets all tight. I usually respond with, “not right now.” or “we’ve been looking, but we haven’t found anything that felt like the right fit.”. But that’s just not the truth.  I continue to respond that way though because the space between me and the person asking just never seems to be enough. Enough for me to air out all my questions, discord, and devotion to the church.

I think it gets to me because I feel that through my answer I’m being defined, without being known. Faith is often defined by church attendance. I know I used to feel more faithful by just attending.

When I think about my childhood, it’s immersed in church services and Bible verses. Raised hands and elders. Church was the first place outside of my own home and family that I felt I belonged as a kid.

I would roll out of bed every Sunday morning and put on my scratchy tights. Mom would braid my hair and feed me cereal. Then we would all pile into our red minivan and somehow always manage to be a touch late as we rolled into the church parking lot. I didn’t question why we did it then. We did it because we believed and belonged. My family belonged. I belonged. The belonging  was the best part.

So how did I get here? Feeling like an outcast looking into stain glass windows?

I started asking questions.

Not hard ones really, just the question I’ve been asking my whole life:

WHY?

Why do we do it this way? Why do we still think this way is effective? Why do we prioritize this? Why do we only hear from those voices? Why? Why? Why?

Good ‘ole organized religion. It has to be, you know, organized.

It really got to me when I realized not everyone could come into our gathering and feel the belonging I was feeling.

It really got to me when I would look around at people falling asleep because they were bored.

It really got to me when I fell asleep because I was bored.

It really got to me when I felt like I was supposed to sacrifice honesty, so that I could be a poster-child of Jesus’ success.

It really got to me when the gathering of people were focused on funding a steeple, a salary, a trip but wasn’t focused on funding the needs of the community.

It really got to me that ministry looked like working for a church, playing guitar at a bible study, and volunteering in the nursery.

And the worst part was, things just kept getting to me.

It got really confusing. Because as I started to experience God more and more in my faith journey, I started experiencing him less and less in the walls of a service he had once been so present. The routine and rituals started making church attendance feel really small.

I started wondering if history was repeating itself. In Jesus’ first coming when he looked at the religious he was grieved and angry that his people (the Jews) had made faith about all the wrong things - the temple, the rules, making the temple a business for their own profit, the marking of who was in and who was out...to name a few.

Is it possible that somehow, over time, we got there again? Because it all feels really similar. Is it possible in Jesus’ second coming that we will realize we learned nothing from the stories of old.

Have we made it about all the wrong things again?

I’m mostly frustrated. For a long time I thought I was frustrated that we were doing it wrong. But over time I’ve come to realize I’m frustrated because I don’t know how to do it right.

I just can’t be a part of a people who are building walls. Marking who’s in and who’s out. Who needs to change their ways. Who’s right. Who gets to speak on the stage and who doesn’t. It’s not how I feel like I’m supposed to spend my time.

I want to spend my time being a part of the people who have devoted their lives to tearing down walls and building bridges. Ultimately, because I read about Jesus and see him taking every opportunity to show radical love and radical inclusion. Who didn’t spend his time by setting up a bunch of black and white rules for us other than, Love God and Love Others. Who leveled the playing field and said:

women-you’re in,

societal outcasts-you’re in,

demon possessed-you’re in

Poor, tired, broken, sick, elderly, addicted, whores, confused, intrigued, angry, messy, doubting, … You’re in.

Who does that? My Savior. That’s who.

I find peace in my crazy, radical God who in His infinite goodness uses the mess. The mess of the church. The mess of me. He’s my favorite. I don’t have to worry about what everyone else is doing, just me.

LESSONS

Some friends of ours recently got married and asked us for relationship advice. Good God save us all - I have no advice. 

But I do have some lessons I’m learning. As in, I started learning them when we started dating almost ten years ago, I’m still learning them now, and I’ll  continue to learn them for decades of years. They are lessons that have applied to all the relationships in my life, so you don't have to tap out if you're not in a relationship.  

- EVERYTHING -

Your partner cannot be your everything and will not fulfill your every desire and dream.

There is this misconception that once you find your life partner you will be happier, fulfilled, and more secure. That all your hopes, dreams, and desires can be found in this person's dedication and love for you.

Nope. Just nope.

Your partner will make you happy, your life more full, and you will find some security in their love...but if you’re not happy, fulfilled, and secure as a single person - you won’t be with your life partner either.

So you can stop.

I can stop.

Stop trying to milk dry the person we love the most for all our fulfillment, all our happiness, and all our support. They don’t deserve to feel bone dry and inadequate when we are coming to them for our everything.

>> I’m learning that my happiness, fulfillment, security, desires, and dreams can’t be satisfied through Bobby. He scratches the surface to be sure, but that whole long list of all my needs are only satisfied when I live in the LOVE reality that burns from the sky to my heart and I acknowledge the Living God who says His love for me is deeper, higher, and wider than I can even imagine. Any desire and dream I have had and will have is satisfied when in unity with His desires and dreams.

- YOUR CRAP IS MY CRAP -

Both Bob and me brought a lot of icky stuff to the relationship. Fears, depression, insecurities, lack of belief, and selfishness to name a few. And they all have fleshed out in some horrific nightmare of a time in our lives if not daily.

Life is just so lifey - ya know?

Our crap tries so hard to put walls between Bobby and me, so that we are incapable of being a part of the unity and love that we have for each other.   

>> I'm learning that all the nasty we brought to the relationship is no longer just ours as individuals, but ours together. Which in one way is really awesome and in one way really rough. I feel incredible love and devotion when Bobby has made my crap his crap and stood by me in my depression, or supported me in my decision to go to counseling, or refuted my fears in his overwhelming belief in me. I think all relationships at their core have to be just this - acknowledging the crap in each others life and choosing them all the same. We have each other and that makes our crap less crappy. 

-mediocre -

"just wait till your married" 

People would freak me the hell out when they would say this.

Why do people think it's appropriate to insinuate so many horrible things about how your relationship is going to go downhill when you finally commit? Whether it be about how you're gonna gain weight, or be too busy to have a healthy relationship when you have kids, or your sex life is going to go to shit, or whatever!

 I'm waving a big BS flag on this one. 

>>I'm learning that healthiness is something we have to fight for both individually and relationally.  Yah, there is some truth in getting comfortable physically, in gaining some weight because you're so secure in someones love for you, in taking relational sacrifices to invest in a growing family.

But I have to believe that settling for mediocre and then somehow sliding into not healthy is a choice.

That I have the power and discipline to fight for healthiness both personally and in my relationships. That I can save money and book a romantic trip, that I can budget in counseling, that my healthiness is worth going on a jog, that even when we are dripping with children we are going to have passion. Maybe not the rip your clothes off passion all the time, but the passion that's elbows deep in legos and is still looking me in the eyes and saying, "I fully know you, I fully love you, I fully want you to be mine for forever".

I believe a healthy me is worth fighting for. I believe healthy relationships are worth fighting for. Healthy isn't easy because it's uphill. But healthiness is never mediocre. 

- GIVING UP -

There’s going to be a point where it hurts.

A lot.

Where it feels like you don’t want to stay with this imperfect person who never fully understands you and rarely loves you the way you need to be loved.

You’re going to contemplate whether it hurts more to stay or to leave. Whether it would be easier to go down separate paths.

You’re going to get in your car and drive down some God-forsaken valley road and end up in the middle of nowhere bawling because you know that you are asking someone to understand you, when you don’t fully understand yourself.

And you’re asking someone to love you fully, when you feel like some days, most days, you can’t even love yourself.

Sometimes it going to feel like loving that person is bleeding out for them and you’re not sure if this love will give you life or kill you.

 >>I’m learning that love isn’t snuggles, fun getaways, kisses, romantic evenings, having a hand to hold, or Instagram worthy pictures. It’s bleeding out for someone you’re devoted to, much like Jesus bled out for me, and the paradox being it somehow brings me life.

 

I DONT KNOW WHY WE ARE HERE

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I've been struggling lately. You know, the kind of struggling where your close friends and family check in on you a little too often and start out the conversation with, "Sooooo,...how are you?". Trying to gage if today is an okay day or another day that has swallowed you up whole. 

I'm realizing that some seasons just swallow you up whole. You can put on your big girl panties and try to make the most of it. You can beat your warrior chest and try to fight off the sadness, darkness, and demons. You can be zen like and take good care of yourself, take deep breaths, and go on walks. But regardless, the season has swallowed you up whole and being a high functioning sad person is the new norm...for now at least. 

There is a lot of logic in the decisions that have got me here, unfortunately though, my emotions haven't followed my logic. I've rearranged my life in my head a million different ways with a million new situations and decisions, and still I find myself knowing that the logic that has led me to the swallowed up season is the path I'm supposed to be on. 

I got a crazy good massage recently, full of essential oils, dim lighting, and peaceful music. It was the kind of massage that makes you forget about time and space and somehow you're teleported to some other reality. Every time I let the masseuse do her magic and I forget she even exists, I ALWAYS think of creation. How Father God massaged and molded my soul, body, and mind into being like a potter massages and molds a lump of clay. How He took intricate detail while massaging into existence every fiber in me and how His hands continues to mold and shape me through every situation and circumstance. His hands are ever-present. Comforting. Guiding. Correcting. Shaping. And I just surrender in that moment and think,

"What are You doing?"

Because I don't get it - ever.

Which is eventually followed by,

"I trust You."

Even when I don't want to end up trusting a God who is letting this happen - I end up back there. I trust You. I've despised Him, I've blamed Him, I've thrown up my head and yelled "wtf are you doing up there?!", I've told Him I don't want to believe in a God who is letting everything go to shit, and I end up broken on some floor, bawling, and knowing regardless of how I can't get my head around everything, I'm heard. Which means someone, something, some God is listening. And I feel held. And those hands  around my lump of a life makes me feel somehow secure in a overall plan, regardless of whether it's the one that I want for my life or not. As I feel the masseuse rub out knots in my body I come to realize God's hands are rubbing out knots in my head, heart, and soul. That He's moving around old stagnant blood to bring back some movement to areas where fresh blood hasn't been for a long time. 

It's hard being honest about being in a season that has swallowed you up whole. Because we all have a lot to be thankful for, because we don't want to sound like we are complaining, because a lot of people have worse situations. Because, because, because,...

"I should be happy."

"Why am I not happy?"

I get it. We've done such a good job of staging our lives and having all the stuff and pushing for happiness and goodness that when something like feeling we have no purpose, or broken dreams, or tragedy starts to swallow us up - we fear how the honesty of our reality will be received by others.

And maybe I'm just a complete shit show and everyone else really is as happy as their Instagram story says they are. Maybe your dark days are just shallow caves compared to the black hole I've been sucked into.

But on the off chance that you're not, maybe you're like me.

Maybe you're feeling like being happy is an uphill battle. Maybe you're trying your hardest to make the most of your situation...and you're just tired of trying. Maybe you've tried to make sense of why the heck you're here and what the heck God is doing and you come up blank every time. Maybe you're grasping for straws of hope, purpose, and happiness and they dissolve in your hands the minute you get a hold of them. Maybe you have felt totally broken for awhile and are trying your best to hold all the broken pieces of your life together. Maybe you have trusted God with your life and look around at the situation and have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT GOD WANTS OR WHAT HE'S DOING. 

So if that's you, you should know, me too. I'm with you. I'm for you. I'm swallowed up in here too. If we bring our small flaming candles together we can make a campfire. I have marshmallows. We can talk,..or not. Maybe let's just hold hands.

I don't know why we are here.

But I'll sit here with you in the darkness, looking up to a starry sky and ask a Creator God,

"What are You doing?" 

and I hope together we can say eventually afterwards,

"I trust You."