Baby Button Needs You To Stop Praying For Him Now

8 weeks ago, I wrote a story about the journey our baby was taking us on, and how we were praying that my body would survive being pregnant just 7 more weeks to give him the best chance. So many of you responded in love and prayers and genuine care.

I truly believe it worked because my body proceeded to need a total of 3 amniotic fluid drains, plus a dramatic 3 night stay in the hospital because I was having very real contractions every 5 minutes…and then suddenly everything stopped. I went home. Life has resumed at an almost-usual routine for the last 4 weeks. Baby Button has grown big and strong, we have a safety-approved place for him to sleep and travel, and my mom made it here without complication.

So now? I need y’all to stop praying. I turned the corner on 38 weeks yesterday, and I am done.

I know every third-trimester mother says that, but I don’t think you understand.

I am “answering questionnaires for concerned psychiatrists/sense of humor completely gone/collapsing into tears for no reason at least once a day” done.

I have survived the Apocalypse. I have lived in fear of the government and deportation. I have moved houses at least as many times as I’ve had birthdays. I’ve seen a childhood friend die right in front of me. I have endured losing a relationship with my father 2 months after it began. I have gotten lost in Europe, lost a baby, lost jobs, and been one paycheck ahead of financial disaster for years.

But 9 months of pregnancy, one of life’s greatest mysteries that I was looking forward to the most, is the straw that broke this camel’s back.

I feel sad. I feel angry. I feel needy. I feel weak.

And so I feel lost. My identity is shifting. I’m the girl who writes about all the crazy shit that happens to her, and still manages to make people smile. I’m the Chandler Bing, I’m the Spartan who keeps on trucking, I’m the one who has heard time and again, “Wow. Looking at you, listening to you, I would never have guessed that you survived all THAT. You’re amazing, and you should probably write a book.”

My shit has always been a little messy, but it was my mess, and it made me stronger.

Now? After being pregnant and sick and worried and unprepared for 267 days in a row (including being displaced from home for 60+ days in a cramped house with 4 animals and 4 in-laws out of that)?

All I want is to go to sleep, and wake up in my own bed with a fresh mani/pedi, a killer haircut, a multi-ethnic buffet, and an impossibly adorable baby who never cries longer than 5 minutes or makes me question whether I am mentally and emotionally capable of becoming a mother in the first place.

I feel gross for even admitting it. Because I can see all you ladies who have been moms for years, who are laughing at my innocence and thinking, “Just you wait, honey, it gets worse.” I can see all you ladies who have been thinking they’d like to get pregnant, and now I’ve just ruined it for you. I can see all you ladies who had magical unicorn pregnancies with babies made from Jesus’ eyelashes, and are secretly judging me for being so dramatic and non-sacrificial.

And honestly, I’m going to play the Pregnant Bitch card and say up front: I don’t need to hear from you right now.

The only thing that keeps me typing so vulnerably is the off-chance that maybe some lady will read this and think, Thank GOD I’m not alone. Maybe I’ll wait one more day before checking myself in to the closest institution. Hi, Carly. I’m your new messy mama friend. Let’s keep talking.

13 days or less…

 

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Sorry Mate, The Beatles Lied

 

I can see you clutching your pearls at my blasphemy now. But I stand firm in this realization, and will proceed to tell you why. 

All you need is love. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Too bad it’s utter bullshit. 

There are a lot of head-scratching Beatles songs.  And some of those were brought to amazing cinematic life via a little movie called Across the Universe.

 But those boys really sucked the blunt when they wrote All You Need Is Love. 

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done…

Yeah. 

Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung…

Okay, I can roll with that.

Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…

Mm-hmm. 

It’s easy…

LIES!

It isn’t easy. Life is NOT easy, and love is NOT all you need to navigate it successfully. 

  

And MONEY. 

Maybe I’m making things too complicated. Maybe I’m not being spiritual enough. But the last six months have been kind of the worst, and I’m tired of not admitting that. 

Before we made the 14 hour drive moving back to my hometown, life was pretty good. It wasn’t perfect – I mean, I would have liked a bathtub and a double sink to wash dishes in and a regular job, but hey #firstworldproblems. My husband had a great job laying floors with his dad, and I was finding enough work to get by. We always had enough. 

And then, things sorta crashed and burned. We lost our baby. I couldn’t take the city and its crowded loneliness anymore, so I persuaded Steve to leave the only home he’s known for mine. 

I got a job at Starbucks and lived in a friend’s basement while Steve packed up our bungalow and looked for places to live. That’s how little we planned our move. People said we were crazy, that we were running away from our problems, that we wouldn’t succeed. But we took a note from t-Swift about it, and shook those hay-hay-haters off. 

I was enjoying Starbucks immensely, and after 3 weeks of being separated, Steve and I moved into our new little home, complete with bathtub and double sink. And second bedroom. And closets, oh my.

 We were living the dream. We had plans; I would support us until Steve found work as a floor layer, we would pursue our music, we would heal from our wounds. 

It almost worked, too. 

Then a couple of weeks before Christmas, I unceremoniously lost my job. 

New Years rolled around, and we each made beautiful resolutions to start fresh, keep pounding the pavement for work, investing in our relationships with friends, family, each other. 

Less than a week later, Steve came down with the chicken pox. 

You heard me: my 36 year old husband caught the motherf’ing chicken pox. For 6 weeks. 

  

For 6 weeks, I waited hand and foot upon this man, 24/7. Getting him better was my job. With each day that passed, our money dwindled. And we became a tad…tetchy. 

Because, yes, we were in love. Yes, we had taken the leap of faith to make our dreams happen. Yes, we had enough to eat. We didn’t look broke. But the rent was due, and living 30 minutes out of town was burning fumes in our pockets. We hardly spoke or touched; when we did, we were ridged with tension. Dishes were tossed, doors were slammed. 

Had our haters been right?

One day, the landlord came over to plough our driveway, and I literally hid in the bathroom for 20 minutes so that he wouldn’t possibly be able to see that I was home instead of working. 

Every time I looked at our bank account, I saw the word homeless on our horizon. I embraced the panic and the shame of our failure. I doubted every decision we’d made. I blamed myself, because if I hadn’t been so weak, would we have made these decisions to begin with?

I began to reach out to people; I couldn’t help myself. It’s the most awkward thing in the world, sharing money problems. Being broke is relative, and how do you share your struggle without making your friends feel like you’re subtly asking for a handout? Which, you’re not, but you’re  at a totally vulnerable enough place where it wouldn’t even slightly rankle your pride to accept one?

People can say money is the root of all evil, that money doesn’t buy happiness, that it only corrupts. But it’s a lot easier to believe that when you have enough money. 

Through facebook and friends’ inquiries, I started picking up nannying jobs around town. Steve was getting stronger, and had become able to function on his own. 

And then, a miracle happened. 

We remembered our music. 

Because of our “down time”, we were able to start singing and playing instruments together again. People started asking us to play sets of 9 or 10 songs at art galleries and cafes around town. We might even play a big festival this summer. 

We are living the broke musician life, and while it’s not glamorous, it is fulfilling. 

Every single set, we include this particular song. It is our anthem. 

Because, while living an “all you need is love” kind of life would be nice, it’s not real. 

This? Most definitely, assuredly, and heartbreakingly is.

We made this video 2 years ago, just barely out of the marriage gate, having no idea some of the obstacles we would overcome. 

Carly & Steve: Living On A Prayer

Today, the snow is melting, the sun is shining, I’m a full-time nanny, and Steve has a brand new job starting tomorrow morning. (Send him a good thought, would you?)

Take my hand; we’ll make it, I swear. 

I Don’t Follow Jesus

He’s not a Facebook page or a 140-character hashtag or a “like this photo to give this child a cup of clean water.”

I don’t follow Him – not like that.

We’re not far removed from the people of his day – but instead of wanting dominance over the Romans, maybe we want the biggest church building and those uncomfortable sinners “fixed.”

Instead of a flashy miracle show, maybe we want the best parking spot and a short line-up at the coffee shop.

(Okay, admit it, maybe we slightly want flash and dominance as well.)

They were wrong then, and we are wrong now.

But across these generations, we’ve claimed that, yes, we are Jesus Followers.

What do I do when I’m following someone?

I look where they’re going.

I turn left when they go left, I turn right when they go right, I go in a damn figure 8 just for giggles sometimes, if they want me to.

He’s always said, “Follow me.”

Not “Say the Sinner’s Prayer.”

Follow me.

Where is he going?

I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s not about directions in a military style, but a way of life.

He is not a cause, a banner to be waved across battle fields, a dictator’s propaganda conquering the empire of Right (Wing) and Wrong (Wing) on the backs of his people from the comfort of his throne. He is a warrior, yes – not safe, but good. Like that Narnian lion.

He’s not a slick hair/suit/man, asking for your money. He doesn’t need money, or suits for the matter; he’s got the moon and stars.

He is Shackle-Breaker – for that alcoholic heart AND that sex slave sold over the Internet.

He is Daily Bread for the poor in the streets AND in the mansions, Justice for the mud-trodden foreigners.

He is Forgiveness and Grace extended for the 491st time and beyond.

He’s in the bars and brothels and bus stops – in East Hastings and West Africa.

A warm bed enveloping you after a long, hard day.

The orphanages full of those who believe they are unwanted.

A song you heard on the radio.

A sun-rayed backyard full of sprinklers and laughing children.

The tears in your eyes when a loved one receives bad news and all you can do is hold them wordlessly.

A peaceful protest that holds a watching world accountable for its actions.

He is King, He is Servant, He is Creator, He is Spirit, He is All, He is Friend Who Never Leaves.

Even when you’ve been a liar, afraid, depressed, filled with loss and anger, apathetic, insensitive, short-tempered, joyless, and hardened – he’ll take off your shoes and wash your feet.

THAT’S where He is going.

And thank GOD, that is where I want to go too.

One day, everything will be made right and true and good again. Maybe, if we follow Him to all of those places and start washing those impressively dirty feet, that day can get a head start.

That’s where I’m going.

You can come too, if you want.

Save-the-Day Shoes

A few months ago, I introduced my good friend and former roommate, Natalie, here at Growing Butterfly. She really could start her own blog if she wanted to *nudge nudge* but in the meantime, I am always honoured to share her deep and precious thoughts here.

Our community in Prince George has faced some turmoil this week, and this is Natalie’s response. (I also find it timely that my last post relied heavily on the theme of Community.) Thanks for reading.

————————————————————————————-

It’s been a tough week.

On Sunday night, I got a phone call from one of my best friends who recently moved away. The news she gave me was something I never would have expected.

One of her good friends (and her husband’s best friend of the past few years) passed away earlier that day, suddenly and without warning. She had wanted to let me know before I found out some other way.

In that moment, I was at a loss for words, as I felt my heart instantly ache and grieve not only for my two friends had known him so well, but for his wife and all of the lives he had touched in our community. It was a heavy blow, one that I wasn’t certain how to handle.

I did my best to comfort my friend – to tell her that I was there if she needed anything, and that I would be praying.

But I was still left with the question,

“What should I do?”

The next day, I was at work, surrounded by customers and fellow employees who had no idea what I was going through. I tried my best to just make it through the day while still thinking, praying and grieving over this sense of loss. I thought that I was doing okay until halfway through the day, when I got a text from another friend, telling me that her mom was in the hospital, going in for emergency surgery, asking for prayer.

Just when I thought my heart couldn’t take any more, I was almost brought to my knees as I prayed and hoped fervently that everything would be okay, that another one of my friends wouldn’t have to face another loss. And once again, as I tried to cope with what was happening, I was left wondering,

“What do I do now?”

In these moments, I believe that the hardest thing for me has been to know how to react. Having a protective personality, one of my first instincts is to rush to the side of whoever is in need or hurting, but then my doubt always hesitates and wonders,

“What if they don’t need me? What would I even do when I got to them? What would I say? Are words even enough?”

In a way, not knowing what to do has eaten me up inside, threatening to break my heart all throughout this week.

And then I was at work again, stewing with all of these feelings. I tried to grasp onto the good things around me, tried not to let my own thoughts defeat me. Working in retail, it can be hard enough to help people and serve them well on a good day – and in the past few days, it’s taken all I have to remain positive and not just start throwing shoes at people’s heads. (Sometimes, it just feels like they deserve it!) I think it’s safe to say that I will not getting Employee of the Month.

But after dealing with a few customers, I came back to help an older woman with her two granddaughters. They’d returned from earlier in the day to pick up some shoes and find another pair for the youngest girl.

Now this girl was, by no means, a sweet angel, but I found that her excitement to try on shoes was so contagious that I couldn’t help but smile. After I brought out the pair she wanted, she was so determined to shove her little feet into those shoes as quickly as possible that she didn’t even bother to sit down.

As she inevitably began to lose her balance, it was in that moment that I chose to make a fast decision and I quickly put out my hand for her to hold onto.

Now, normally, I make it a bit of a rule not to get too close to children that I don’t really know, and I would never admit to being a touchy-feely person. But as that little girl grabbed onto my hand, I felt instant relief in the fact that I knew she trusted me, that she knew she was going to be okay.

In that split second of a moment, when everything had seemed so uncertain and confusing, that simple fact was enough for me.

If there’s anything I’ve learned (or re-learned) from this week, it is that I need to be like that little girl and just trust. Trust that I know how to do the right thing, trust that other people will let me be there for them, trust that even when I hurry so much to put on my save-the-day shoes that I lose my balance – God and the people in my community are going to be there for me too. Above all, trust that everything will be okay.

It’s not always easy, and I know that sometimes I may have to risk exposing my heart to all kinds of unpleasant things, but I know now that for all the times I might reach out empty-handed…

…the second that someone chooses to take my hand and trust me is the only moment that matters.


(Source)

I Cried In Church Today

I cried in church today.

Not that I’ve never done that before. Anything can make me do that – a song, a prayer, a hug from an old friend.

Today I cried because I saw something I rarely see: community.

We gathered in a building behind the Tim Hortons – not just me and my people, but them and their people.

Multiple churches, multiple dialects of faith, all in one spot because it’s the end of the summer and this is what we do at least once. We pile in, we sing songs that we all know collectively, and someone chosen from the community speaks a message. We drink coffee together and we leave, feeling like real connection was made in that hour. Pastors, deacons, elders, middlers, young adults, teenagers, children, men and women – anyone who has a habit of going to the Church on a Sunday morning is there in equal measure.

Today, however, felt different.

The bodies were so close, the voices were so loud. I felt surrounded by a choir. My voice joined in, weakened by tears, strengthened by the words.

One pastor stands up, introduces the mayor and two female police officers. One of them is decked in the Mountie Red, another is on duty in black. They’re all asked to share why they are here today.

The mayor takes the microphone and smiles nervously: “I am here because I believe in the power of community. I am not a man of religion, by any means, but listening to you all sing just now – I felt the Spirit of God here. It’s undeniable. Smithers will benefit because of you.”

The woman in red takes the microphone. She’s young, new to town and new to the force. She’s a police officer, speaking publicly in a church building; she is practically a modern miracle. And why shouldn’t she be?

“I came here as a police officer because I want to help people. I know everyone says that, but it’s really true for me.”

The woman in black takes the mike from her. She starts to say something, but then she pauses, putting her finger to her ear. We sit in silence, wondering. After a moment, she says, “10-4, on my way” or something similar. Then she tells us, “I’m going to make this really quick.”

A laugh ripples across the crowd.

“I am here representing Cops for Cancer. We bike across the province every year to raise money for pediatric research. And if you don’t think pediatric research is relevant here – we all know of a little boy who is in Vancouver fighting for his life right now.”

We nod, and tears fill my eyes again. One of our own, a 10 year old boy who hadn’t been feeling well lately, had discovered his body was made more of cancer than blood and flesh and bone. Just a few days ago.

She tells us what we can do to help, and then she runs down the aisle of the sanctuary and disappears, because that’s her job. Any time, all the time.

We take up an offering. I pray that it goes directly where it is needed.

And then a man from the Salvation Army comes and speaks to us. He shows us a picture of this sculpture that is sitting in Toronto at this very moment.

 

 

It’s called “Jesus the Homeless.” He is lying on a bench in a shroud, and the only way to know that it’s him, is to see his nail-pierced feet peeking out. He speaks volumes.

We are led all over the Scripture, reading portions of passages where Jesus did nothing but reach out and spend his time with the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the unclean, the addicted, the outcast and the sinner – and the religious leaders did nothing but condemn him for it.

These passages are called The Gospel, or “Good News.”

Except it’s not news.

It’s not news that Jesus was a bit of a rebel, that he broke a lot of rules, made a lot of people angry with his all-surrounding compassion for just anyone.

It’s not news that Jesus would rather have dinner with a prostitute or a tax collector than a religious hypocrite.

It’s not news that Jesus never avoided anyone for the sake of his reputation.

It’s not news that he didn’t notice skin colour or background or age or gender.

So why do we act like it is?

I wept when I saw that homeless Jesus. I’ve seen him before.

I’ve also seen the poor Jesus, the aboriginal Jesus, the sick Jesus, the hungry Jesus, the black Jesus, the addicted Jesus, the gay Jesus, the mentally ill Jesus, the prostitute Jesus, the angry Jesus, the bitter Jesus, the strung-out Jesus, the imprisoned Jesus, the orphaned, abandoned, helpless, overlooked Jesus.

And I have not loved him.

I cried in church today, because we were all there. We all heard it, we all saw it. Even the mayor knows it now.

He’s right there, shrouded in the form of our community, just waiting to be picked up, dusted off, and taken in. It’s not too late.

Because once we’ve seen, we cannot unsee.
Because maybe, if we’re more like Jesus, then more people will want to become like us.
Because we all have a story, and we are all more than our labels, our backgrounds, our denominations or our mistakes. This is not news.

I cried in church today, and I think maybe God did too.

 

The Immortal Mermaid

jessica

This is Jessica.

She is Cayce’s older sister, who was one of my childhood friends & fellow classmates. She was 3 whole years older than me, but she didn’t seem to know that when it came to friendship.

She (and her glorious hair) became my object of worship. I loved that girl; she was second only to Ariel as the mermaid queen of my heart.

She was only 10 years old the day she died; I’m the only one who saw it happen.

August 18, 1995 — 19 years ago today. With Cayce’s permission, this is our story.*

—————–

Summer was drawing to a close in Whitefish, Montana. I was soaking up all the lake days with my friends that I could, but there was one particular, special, day that I was looking forward to.

Swimming Pool on the Mountain Day.

My mom was planning on attending a Big Adult Conference of some kind, along with Cayce & Jessica’s mom. The hotel (?) that was hosting the event was at the ski resort on Big Mountain, and had its own pool. It was one of the fanciest things I could think of, and Jessica was going to spend the whole afternoon swimming with me there. I don’t remember what Cayce’s plans were; I just remember being sad she couldn’t come.

The only thing I noticed when we entered the pool area: we were literally the only people there. No guests, no lifeguards. But we were strong swimmers, and having a whole pool AND hot tub to ourselves was the stuff of dreams.

We played and splashed and laughed for hours, alternating between the big pool and the hot tub. I never wanted the afternoon to end. I kept my eye on the clock, knowing how many minutes were cruelly creeping by until our moms picked us up.

Our skin was starting to wrinkle and I was getting cold.

“Let’s go in the hot tub one last time to warm up!” she said.

“Okay! Wanna play the hold-your-breath game?” I replied.

She smiled. It was a competition we’d been duelling at all afternoon. One turn at a time, dunking under, the other person watching the clock to count the seconds. We averaged between 30 and 40 seconds each time; one minute was the winner we’d never achieved.

She dunked, and then I did. She dunked again, and then I did. She was determined to beat me the third time. I counted the seconds on the clock. When she passed 35 seconds, I knew she would win. 40…45…was she going to seize the one-minute winner-takes-all goal?

People often say, when a life-changing trauma occurs, that “everything happened so fast.” For me, it was the exact opposite. The seconds crawled by like snails, and she was still under the bubbles. Despite a pit in my stomach that said something was wrong, I laughed and said, “Okay, okay, you win! You can come up now.”

Maybe she didn’t hear me. Almost two minutes. I reached into the water to tap on her head.

Nothing.

I grabbed her shoulder and started shaking her.

She was stuck.

“Jessica! JESSICA!” I started screaming and glancing around. As had been the case all afternoon, no one was there.

Suddenly, her body bobbed to the surface, but her head was still down in the water, and I couldn’t. pull. her. out.

I don’t understand. What is happening. Why won’t she come back?

I fled the hot tub, determined to find help. I reached the door, opened it and stopped in my tracks.

Carpet. Nice, clean, fancy carpet. And there I was dripping wet, remembering that someone had told me to never step on anyone’s carpet when I was wet. Mold would grow underneath, and the carpet would be ruined.

This thought kept me from running any further. So I stood at the doorway, calling out over and over, even though I could see no one.

In desperation, I ran back into the hot tub, and tried with all my strength to remove Jessica from it. Screams echoed off the tiles.

It felt like hours. It felt like being abandoned. It felt like all my fault. But there was a tiny part of me that was sure she was going to pop out of the water like a fish any second now with a smile on her face, declaring herself the winner of the game for all time.

SLAM! The door burst open, and a man ran in, like a guardian angel who’d gotten caught in traffic.

“What happened?” He had dark hair and a strong build, but even he strained to free her.

I froze, my words pouring out slowly. “We were playing…a game…she was holding her breath…and…she never came up.” Would this angel blame me?

“Okay, honey. I’m gonna go get some help. Are you okay here for a minute?”

I nodded. What was one more minute?

I never left her side. I had started to shake. I thought I was cold, but now I know it was probably something else.

The door opened again, this time with 6 big, too-late guardian angels to help me. I sat on the edge of the hot tub, curled up with my arms wrapped around my knees as they suctioned to the bodice of my swimsuit.

I had no concept of the time anymore.

It took all 6 of them to finally bring her limp body out of the water. Her princess hair covered her face, and as they laid her down on the concrete, one of them began CPR, sweeping the hair away. She was a light blue.

That’s when I started to cry.

——————-

Every time I recall that day, it feels like a dream. I’m certain that I blocked some memories in self-preservation; what 7 year old wouldn’t? I remember the helicopter that took her away, the gravel that bit my wrinkled feet as I walked across the parking lot, covered in a blanket.
Later, at the hospital, they wouldn’t let me see her, just told me what I already knew. Her hair, that I’d wanted so badly, had gotten sucked into a filter at the bottom of the tub. We’d never seen it coming.

Nobody asked me what happened. Not the hospital, not my mom, not a pastor or a therapist. I was never asked, so I never said anything. I just tried to forget, and kept my hair short, avoiding hot tubs at all costs.**

I didn’t see Cayce much*** after that; I was pulled out of school to begin homeschooling less than a year later. 

But this I do know: Jessica was a piece of goodness and kindness and gentleness that the absolute senselessness of Life elected to take out before she could spread her beauty beyond her corner of the world.

I hate that, and I hate the part that I played in it. That will never be taken away from me, from her family. This is a scar we will always share, as though she had been the blood and bone joining us together until we were ripped apart.

But I have absolutely no doubt that we will see her again one day.

I can picture her now, swimming towards me, laughing and splashing, saying, “THERE you are! I’ve been swimming all day waiting for you, silly! Hey, did you know we can be mermaids here if we want? Come on, I’ll show you!”

And when I jump in the water, all the pain and fear and confusion of that day will be washed away in the waves. The sun will never set, and skin will never wrinkle from swimming too long; lungs will be more than lungs and we will be more than girls. Finally. Forever.

* Some location and timeline details may have changed due to my faulty memory. Apologies.
** I can say that I love hot tubs again, and that, this year, I’ve let my hair grow the longest it’s ever been.
*** We are now reconnected through the lovely Internet, and all has been restored, thank God.

Behbeh Love Part 3

**Trigger Warning: talk about possible miscarriage, and all the feelings within that.**

Sohry aboot that cliffhanger, eh?

Part One    Part Two

Last Wednesday, I parked at Valley Imaging Clinic, 10 minutes before I was supposed to check in for my ultrasound. I sat in my car. I waited, I listened to music, I cried. I had been bleeding off and on for 5 days now, and I was still waiting for my blood hormone results, and I just…I needed to know if my baby was okay. Every minute felt like an eternity.

…I will call upon your name, and keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace
For I am yours, and you are mine…

So why was everything so quiet?

I laid on the table in a dimly lit room, trying to just keep breathing, trying to keep the cushion from sliding out underneath my hips while the stone-faced tech ran a wand over my jellied belly. Searching, searching, searching…

She said I had a very full bladder. A little too full, perhaps. She told me to go empty it so that she could do a vaginal ultrasound. I was prepared for this possibility. I saw Jennifer Lopez’s The Back-up Plan. Whatever would give me that heartbeat.

More cold gel…an aching probe…this will be worth it, this will be worth it, this will be worth it…

So why was everything so quiet?

“When’s your estimated due date again?”

“February 20th. I should be almost 8 weeks now.”

“You’ll need to go back and confer with your doctor. What I’m seeing does not indicate 8 weeks.”

I tried to keep the tears back. “Okay? So..nothing’s wrong, though? It could just be too early to get a heartbeat, right?”

“Just make sure you talk to your doctor. You can clean yourself up now.”

…Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,
Let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me…

It took 7 minutes. To go in and come out. Really, though, it was 7 years.

I sat in my car again, and decided to call the walk-in clinic, hoping they would have my blood hormone results.

“Your first test showed your hormones at around 13,000. Now they’re over 18,000, so everything looks good. Dr. Aspinall will be in at 1:30pm today if you’d like to talk to him.”

I nearly cried again with relief. “Thank you. I’ll be in at 1:30.”

For the next 2 hours, I distracted myself with food and the superfluous lives of celebrities in magazines at the Library. I gave a brief update on Facebook, then answered the flood of caring texts and comments.

I arrived at the walk-in clinic exactly at 1:30. The clinic was empty, and I rejoiced. When Dr. Aspinall heard that my blood hormones were still going up, he rejoiced.


(Source)

 Not even kidding. He did the double-fist pump. I officially loved him after that.

He had the ultrasound report faxed over (yes, faxed) and we looked at it together.

Not only had there not been a heartbeat, there hadn’t even really been a baby to see. They base it by seeing what they call a “yolk sac” and “fetal pole”, which is kind of a fancy word for the spine. Therefore, it could not be called a “viable fetus” yet. Either something was wrong, and I would miscarry – or it was simply too early to tell.

Dr. Aspinall gave me another requisition to take back to Valley so that I could book another ultrasound in a couple of weeks, as well as a Bio Med form to have more blood taken later in the week.

It was 4pm by the time I got home. Steve got home not long after that, and we collapsed into a hug for awhile. The kind with no words, only touch and requited feeling.

Steve: “We’ll keep trusting the blood and the size of your boobs. Cause, honey, those things are still growing.”

 

 

People have been amazing. Texts, calls, private messages, stopping by the house to chat. Laurie even went so far as to order me cupcakes from my favourite shop. Oh yeah, and she’s approximately 2,000 miles away from me. So she’s pretty amazing.

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Days passed. I stopped bleeding and started puking. Hope returned, and every time a wave of nausea washed over me, I smiled. Baby Button is still here, and they want me to know it.

My in-laws opened their swimming pool, like an oasis in the desert. I used to give the Israelites a hard time for all their Old Testament complaining, but now I know better. I’m not even IN desert heat, I have food and water at my disposal constantly, and now I have a swimming pool. I would have been the bitchiest bitch of all those Israelites. Like, open-up-the-earth-and-swallow-me-whole-God-cause-at-least-it’ll-be-cooler-down-there-thanks.

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Not that you really wanted to know, but swimming really helps with my bowel movements.

 

Yesterday, Steve and I went to the hospital for my very first Maternity Clinic appointment. All of my walk-in clinic and blood hormone and ultrasound info had been sent over to them, so they wanted to create a Health History on the both of us. It went pretty well. Dr. Hansen told me to get my blood hormone done again that day, and that he’d get me an ultrasound earlier than the 31st. It all sounded awesome to me.

Until.

“Receptionist So-and-So, can you call over to Valley and tell them to get us an ultrasound this week? Chance of miscarriage is very high with her.”

“Of course, Doctor.” *beep boop beep* “Okay, Carly, you now have an ultrasound on Wednesday. Take your blood test today, and call us on Friday with all your results.”

Something in me went numb after that.

I had my blood taken, and was told I could check my online results that evening.

I went home and slept for 3 1/2 hours. I didn’t realize it then, but I was done. Giving up. Letting it get to me. I was back in the wilderness of my earlier years, the mindset of hoping for the best yet preparing for the worst. I forgot to trust the blood and the boobs like Steve told me to.

Even reading my results later didn’t phase me. Oh awesome, my hormones are up from 18,000 to over 28,000. Doesn’t matter. I must have done something wrong; now it’s over.

 

Last night, we lay in bed and talked. Well, more like I had a breakdown and Steve held me. Then we talked. I poured out all my fears, not even realizing that I was talking about this miscarriage as though it was a “when,” not an “if.”

What if I’m home alone when it happens? What if I can see our baby? What do you DO with a miscarried baby? I’m scared of the pain, but I’m even more scared of the After. I’m scared I’ll just fall apart and never get out of bed again. You deserve more than that. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I want to be strong. I want to be brave. But holding it in makes me dissolve, and what if holding that stress in is bad for the baby? But what if letting it out like this is bad for the baby too? I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

And then he cried, and spoke, and I was shaken out of my fearful stupor.

“I’m not even thinking that way right now. Our baby is still alive and growing in there, and I still believe in it! Do YOU? Whatever happens, you are loved and we WILL get through this TOGETHER. You will NEVER be a burden or a disappointment to me, got it?” He rubbed and kissed my belly over and over, whispering prayers into our child’s unformed ears.

 

Tomorrow is my next ultrasound. I feel like a broken record. But I’m STILL not bleeding, and my hormones are STILL going up, and my stripper cans are STILL getting bigger every day. And my Father has a plan that I WILL be able to walk in.

When I look into your eyes, it’s like watching the night sky
Or a beautiful sunrise – well, there’s so much they hold.
And just like them old stars, I see that you’ve come so far
To be right where you are; How old is your soul?

Well, I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough,
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up.

And when you’re needing your space to do some navigating
I’ll be here patiently waiting to see what you find.

Cause even the stars, they burn
Some even fall to the earth;
We’ve got a lot to learn, God knows we’re worth it.

I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I’m here to stay and make the difference that I can make.
Our differences do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got, yeah we got a lot at stake.
And in the end, you’re still my friend
At least we did intend for us to work,
We didn’t break, we didn’t burn, we had to learn
How to bend without the world caving in.
I had to learn what I’ve got and what I’m not and who I am.

I won’t give up on us, God knows I’m tough enough.
We’ve got a lot to learn, God knows we’re worth it.
No, I won’t give up. I’m still looking up.

(Jason Mraz, I Won’t Give Up On Us)

 

 Part Four

Liar, Liar. (Family Matters Part 3)

Part 1 and Part 2 are here for you.

“What have you been told about me?”

I had no idea how loaded of a question this was, coming from her side of the story. For a few more days, hours, I would be on Cloud 9, reveling in the joy that I had found my sister at last. I was a child at the county fair for the first time, wide-eyed and wondrous, having no idea that I was about to watch my balloon float aimlessly into the abyss while I retched on the pavement.

With sparkly eyes, I typed furiously : “I mean, not much, just that my dad and my mom were close friends, and mom really wanted a baby, so she asked dad to try to give her one. They knew it would be wrong, but they decided to try it one time, and luckily, it worked. And then we moved away when I was really little so I never actually got to meet any of you. I’m so happy I found you!”

There was silence on the other end for awhile. I waited anxiously where I was house-sitting…playing with the dog, coming back to the computer. Channeling nervous energy into Bugle consumption, back to the computer. Completely alone with 10,000 of my thoughts rushing through me at once.

Where is she? Did I say something wrong? She’s probably just eating lunch too. What if she hates me? She’s a mom of 3 girls, she’s busy, calm your shit. What if everything is about to change?

Finally! A message.

Cassie: I know a very different story, and I’m hesitant to tell you because I don’t want to hurt you or jeopardize our relationship so quickly.

Me: I want to know the truth. Please tell me whenever you can.

An hour later, the crushing pressure that had been building inside my chest all morning spilled out in sobs and muffled curses. I was glad to be alone, although the dog was concerned. As the pup licked my tears away, I felt like she was the only one I trusted in the world.

How could my mother have done this to me, to US? How could she have lied about this for nearly 20 years to my face?

An affair. Of course it was. Nobody just “has a married guy friend who decided to give the gift of a baby to a desperate single woman.”

You ignorant homeschooled hick.

It got worse. Oh, it got worse.

My dad had been a pastor, his wife the church office manager, his mistress the worship leader.

For three years. Before I was even thought of.

When mom got pregnant, she told everyone that she’d “finally” decided to go to the sperm bank cause, after all, she wasn’t gettin’ any younger! The church, friends and family rejoiced.

Cassie had been ecstatic. Mom was like an adopted aunt to her, and they would go on lunch-and-movie dates all the time. When I was born, Cassie babysat me multiple times. SHE F***ING BABYSAT ME, AND SHE HAD NO F***ING CLUE THAT I WAS HER BABY SISTER.

Oh, but our dad. He knew. He probably looked out into his congregation every Sunday and saw his dimply, brown-eyed bastard smiling right back at him.

A little over a year later, his wife finally figured it out.

Everything blew up, within his family, within his church – so my mom took off with me and little else. She’s been on the run ever since.

All those years I never knew why we couldn’t settle down, why we were always moving, why she never had time or desire to play with me as I grew bigger.

Now everything made sense. She had been in love with him, and every time she looked at me, she was reminded of the face she would probably never see again.

I will admit that, at first, most of my anger was self-righteous. I was already sick and tired of hearing about pastors’ infidelities, and now my parents were just another statistic, with seemingly no guilt – only owning up to their secret when they were caught. Yeah, they sound like real Christians to me. Hypocrites; nothing worse than a couple of those.

But then I realized something: nobody is perfect. Nobody is immune to loneliness or desperation or even rationalization when something feels so right it can’t be wrong. Sure, we hold Christians to a higher standard and can be eager to kick them when they fall off the pedestal. But maybe they were never meant to be put on a pedestal in the first place.

Once my high horse became more of a pony, I only felt sadness and hurt for everyone who experienced the ripple effect. My sister was 14 when she learned of the betrayal of those closest to her; it changed her, sent her down a path that would do more harm than good. I’m thankful that she was able to work through her (rightful) emotions and become the counselor for young people that she is today.
My dad’s wife endured the betrayal, the anger, the pain – and she stayed. She’s still with my dad to this day. I can’t speak specifically to the tenderness of their current relationship, but she keeps showing up. I know nothing of my brothers.

Little did I know, at that point, that this chapter of my life was not closed, even though I had made peace with everything – even to the point where I forgave my mom in the silence by never bringing up her past that was now known.

A year later, I would become driven by the need to find my dad and to speak to him for myself. And what do you do when all you have is his name, the field he works in, and a sister not willing to share more?

You hire a hacker, that’s what.

To be continued…

 Skyfall (Family Matters Part 4)

 

 

 

 

How I Conquered the Ghosts of Assbutts Past (Without Opening a Hell Portal or Losing My Ever-Loving Mind)

Every once in a while, during winter, Steve and I do this thing where we find a show on Netflix and just go nuts with it. We did this with Breaking Bad a couple of months ago – we had our time of recounting its best moments and grieving its departure, and now we’re super-late-to-the-party-but-making-up-for-lost-time-and-lost-feels with Supernatural. I mean, it’s only been around 9 years now. It was bound to happen eventually.

We’ve never been people who enjoy seeing horror or gore or just general stuff of nightmares on our TV. However (so far), SPN has brilliantly managed to blend suspense, humour, intrigue, folklore, urban legend, campfire-style ghost stories, a heart-wrenching brother relationship, classic rock music and vintage cars into one glorious pile. Out of 8 available seasons online, we’re on #4, and they’ve started exploring the Book of Revelations, the Apocalypse, God and Angels and Demons, redemption – and of course, pie.
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So yeah, this show was pretty much made for us?

Anyhow, as with any TV show and my gets-attached-easily heart/brain, I am always needing to check in with myself to make sure I know that this is not reality. I think it’s a little easier to make that distinction here because ghosts. Which I don’t really believe in, in the supernatural sense, anyways. I do, however, believe in the ghosts of memories. I can attest to the fact of feeling “haunted” by someone’s words or actions towards me, or mine towards them. I don’t hold grudges, but I’m oh so good at holding onto what if and what could have been and maybe if I’d just done that instead, everything would be different. Regret and re-calling follows me like a Hellhound, and I’m only just now realizing it. Some nights, sleep eludes me because my brain just. won’t. stop. And these people I’m obsessing about? Probably haven’t given their possibly-negative encounters with me a second thought. To them, I’m a chapter in their history book now closed, while they’ve started another book. Why would I keep reading the old books, with an eraser in hand, looking for any sign of a pencil mark I can eradicate when everything is clearly written in pen? Why am I not okay with this?

Anyway, as crazy as it sounds, I’m slowly waking up to the fact that life is too short to do this anymore. I’m no longer okay with waking up feeling like crap after having a dream that involved a ghost of my past. If I manage to live a long, healthy, outrageous life, I’m probably going to make a few more ghosts, and pretty soon, I’ll have a closetful. And I’ve got better things to do with my time than waste another decade (DECADE?! Oof da.) wishing I could start over. As my boy Eminem says, “You don’t get another chance, life is no Nintendo game.”

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So I’m gonna take a lead from the Winchester boys: face the ghost, find its bones, apply salt (the purest mineral on earth, apparently – which I’ll call “telling the truth” here), burn it up and say goodbye. Complete with Dean and Sam and the angel Castiel to help me tell the story. And then, I might eat some pie.

The Ghooooosts of Asssssbutttttssss Paaaaaasssst

I may have briefly mentioned here before that, from ages 8-12, I was sexually abused in some form or fashion, by both genders, peers and strangers, young and old. I tried to tell my mom what was going on a few different times, but with my peers, I think she thought it was just a weird  phase or game that all kids do. And as for the pervy old man, well, let’s just avoid him and hope he goes away. Either way, I didn’t feel quite believed or validated or worthy of the RIGHT kind of attention, for a long time. It’s taken some therapy, a real Jesus and a good husband to reclaim and reassure me of my worth, my rights and my believability.

But it was a long road to get there, and I met plenty of Assbutts along the way, including myself. I am about to reveal to you Hurricane Carly and the trail of guys (maybe a gal too?) she left in her wake from 1999 to 2011.

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The year was 1999. I was 12, on the brink of puberty and insanity as I waited for the approaching doom of Y2K. And that summer, at camp, I met someone who I’ll call Mr. McDonald’s. He was a short little cutie with tanned skin, brown hair that had blonde highlights, and when he smiled – ooh them dimples! We spent our days reading Calvin & Hobbes to each other, driving quads through the woods, praying…it was a match made in Heaven.

Until one day, I realized this cute little shit is lazy as f***.

I was accustomed to the farm life, lifting hay bales and gathering water, chopping wood and chopping chickens, while Mr. McDonald’s could barely be bothered to lift a finger. I tell you what, when the Apocalypse drops, ain’t nobody got time for that!
The fateful day came when his mom asked us to weed a bit of her garden for her, and while I was enjoying the chore together, he was grumbling about how unfair everything was, and he just wanted to go see the new James Bond movie. Trying to be persuasive in a friendly manner, I said, “Well, it’s good practice…for some day…when you have your own family to take care of…”

And he goes, “Nah. I think it would be a pretty sweet set-up for my wife to work all the time, and I’ll take the kids to McDonald’s all day. Or she can cook for us, whatever.”

And that’s when I dropped him like a hot potato. (To be fair, I sort of didn’t help matters by calling him a shithead and an asshole in the days to come, without explaining why I was actually angry, but I’m a better person now.)

Not long after that, I got acquainted with another boy I’ll call the Swiss Mister. He was beautiful. Like, related-to-Elizabeth-Taylor beautiful. Jet black hair, eyes like pure chocolate, surrounded by eyelashes longer than mine. Also on the shorter side. (I think that was part of my problem. They distracted me from their real selves because I just wanted to put them in my pocket and take them home with me.) We played card games, watched movies at his house, had sleepovers (Uhh yeah! But NOT in the same bed, okay? Jeez.), baked bread and drove snowmobiles and found excuses to hug each other, like, all the time.

And then, one day without warning, he stopped talking to me. Just completely turned off the tap that made him the lovable Swiss Mister, and I was mystified. It took me a couple weeks to hear from one of his sisters that he was now hanging out with another girl because he randomly decided he wanted to give blondes a try.

I’mma get you, Swiss Mister!

To this day, we have not spoken. (Not for my lack of trying…believe me…if there’s anything I know how to do, it’s try.)

The next one was a little weirder. I was 13, going on 14, and Y2K’s arrival date had come and gone with a big, fat nothing. Mom and I were just hanging out in the wilderness, waiting for the ball to drop, surviving each of the challenges that living on a farm in the middle of nowhere with no electricity brings.

And then one day, we got neighbours. A family actually moved in as caretakers for a tourist ranch about 10 minutes away from us. Previously, there hadn’t really been anyone there, so this changed our world quite a bit. It was even more of a surprise and delight to discover that they were ALSO waiting out the End of All the Things AND they had a 16-year-old son.

Could it be? Had I finally found my Prince who would protect and provide and love me through the Apocalypse?

Eh. Turns out that I actually found Mr. Touchy-Feely. Which, I mean, he WAS a 16-year-old boy, so I don’t know what I was expecting. But after a couple of months, I started feeling guilty – not just because I let him be touchy-feely with me, but because I was starting to want to be touchy-feely back. And I was pretty sure that a 13 year old and 16 year old shouldn’t be getting to know each other that well, quite yet.

So I told him I wanted to take a step back in our relationship. And he, like the candy-bereaved baby, refused to be my friend or talk to me again.

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Which is great when he’s the only neighbour you have in the middle of nowhere, and your parents are still dreaming up scenarios like Braveheart-themed secret weddings and Apocalypse-survivor babies.

Ahhh, age 15. I am now out of the wilderness and ready to re-join civilization in the worst way. Unfortunately, it was 2002, and some things had changed without my knowledge or permission.

So when I joined the youth group at my local church, I was eager to make friends, but had no idea how to do it – and yet had no clue that I had no idea how to do it. I was completely oblivious to my awkward and companionship-leeching ways. So when I met Michael W. Smith Jr., I was all over that.

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Because, hello!!? My childhood Christian music heartthrob?

Again, he was littler. (I was steadily becoming aware that, at my age, there was a good chance that I was going to be taller than most of the boys I came into contact with.) But he had the fiercest blue eyes I’d ever seen (at that point in time) and an already deep, gentle voice. Best of all, he was nice to me. My poor little starved heart took it and ran wild.

And by “ran wild”, I do mean that I started a xanga blog. Oh Lord, XANGA. Does anyone even do that anymore? So yeah, I took non-existent social skills and a monstrous crush to the interwebs. I poured out my heart. How I felt about him, how much he meant to me, how nice he and his family were, and how badly I wished I could just be a part of it.

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It went on for a fairly long time. I don’t remember exactly. I do know that I wasn’t quite stupid enough to make my xanga public, but that I was stupid enough to log onto it while I was at Michael W. Smith Jr’s house one night.

Now what happened next and how it did so was never made quite clear to me. Which is the worst.

One entire month later, I got an upset email from his parents saying that they’d found the blog and they were not okay with it and could I please delete it. They’d always been warm and friendly with me, but somehow, even through written text, I could tell that their tone had completely changed. I was beyond mortified when I learned that MWSJr. had read every single word of that damn xanga.

So, maybe I was an assbutt and forgot to log out (which I always double-checked out of paranoia) and his parents found it on their once-a-month History search cleanse later. But an entire month later? It would be locked down again, for certain. So either they discovered it right away but didn’t tell me immediately OR Michael W. Smith Jr. did some assbutt hacking and and read it for an entire month before his parents found it. Either way, I’m pretty sure it took us all at least 4 years to feel comfortable with each other again. Or maybe that was me. Yeah, probably just me.
Honestly, out of everything I’ve shared so far, I think this is the ghost I regret the most. (lolz) But now, 10 years later, I can say that I am actually STILL friends with this fine fellow, and I totally helped him find the girl of his dreams. His family is my family. So there’s that.

A few years went by and I remained pretty unscathed by the traps of cutie pie boys.  The whole xanga fiasco really put me in my place until around 2007. That summer, I started traveling to Burns Lake to be a counselor at a kid’s camp for a couple weeks at a time. It was a good change, and I still have people in my life that I consider friends who came from that camp. There was, however, one embarrassing lesson that I learned my second summer counseling there.
Coming back for a second time was great because I was reunited with all of the former people I’d gotten to know the summer before. Including the camp director, Mr. Flag-Capturer. (What? He was really good at it.)
I mention Mr. Flag-Capturer not so much because I think he’s an assbutt (he’s not), but mostly because what happened is kind of too good not to share.

So, after hanging out for two summers together, I took the plunge the following Spring and sent him an email. After all, he lived a good two hours away and I missed talking to him. So, I started the conversation and it continued throughout the summer until we saw each other at camp again. Now, we had already established that we liked each other, that we were getting to know each other better “with the possibility of more than friendship in the future”, and that after camp was over, we were going to drive back to Smithers together in his truck so that he could meet some of my friends and family. They were even planning a big “Meet Mr. Flag Capturer BBQ.” This was the first time something had ever felt real and grown-up to me. I was 21, never been on a date in my life – I was pumped.

And then we actually hung out at camp again…and it was really awkward…and we couldn’t get past it…and I couldn’t figure out why? So finally, the night before camp ended, he started the conversation, saying that he believed we were better off as friends and he was sorry he’d gotten my hopes up. It was a little devastating, but here’s the best part:

“But don’t worry, I’ll still give you a ride back home tomorrow like I said I would.”

So, the day after I had my hopes dashed, I had to sit in a truck for 3 hours with the hope-dasher. Alone. Pretending like I didn’t want to just curl up into the fetal position all day. You better believe the AC/DC was blasting the whole way. And then he dropped me off at home, and I had to explain to the awaiting group why  I was alone.

The following summer (2010) was probably one of the worst times of my life. Through a series of unfortunate events that included hacking, snacking and tears, I was blissfully reunited and then jerkingly torn apart from my dad in a matter of 9 weeks. (Fear not, really good things can happen in 9 weeks as well.) One week after this episode of Jerry Springer, I went on a hike/camping trip with a group of friends.

I was not okay with anything in my life at all.

At this point, Michael W. Smith Jr. was going to university in Prince George, but he came back to Smithers for the hike, bringing two friends, one named Mr. Missionary and one named Mr. Confused.

I was friends with Mr. Confused and the GIRLFRIEND of Mr. Missionary within a week of that trip. Somehow, we both just connected really well and were attracted to each other on some…level. He was my first rebound-and-eff-you-to-my-dad boyfriend, I was his first girlfriend – it was pandemonium, folks. But he was also going back to university in Prince George when the summer ended.

What’s a girl to do?

Follow the boy, of course.

Our 5-month relationship was nothing short of a gong show. He was completely head-over-heels for me (yeah, sounds terrible, right?) and I thought that I loved him back. I thought it was normal to never “go out” with him, or feel nothing when he kissed me, or to decide overnight that – yes, dropping my life and marrying a guy who’s calling is to go to Africa as a missionary for life was a great way to deal with all of my familial problems.

Hint: I was numb and depressed and I used Mr. Missionary most abhorrently, to stall my path and band-aid a giant knife-shaped hole in my back. In the end, I knew it had to be me that broke his heart; I could not let him propose, could not keep up the pretense of being in love when it had only been a crush, could not keep lying by omission. It was a gray, cold November day when I told him, and I remember walking home feeling crushed but also…like the hard thing had been the right thing, and despite all the layers of dirt I would still need to dig through in the coming months, I had been strong enough to do that one right thing. And it was through this experience that I reached full closure with Mr. Flag-Capturer, since I had now traded places with him and walked in his shoes. I later thanked him for being so kind to me in his rejection, and he received this gratefully.

Six months later, I found myself flitting and fluttering around Mr. Confused. One way to describe him is: that’s one year I’ll never get back. It was like riding a roller coaster of emotions and I felt like screaming more than once, never from exhilaration. He was my “texting till midnight, catching long stares across the room, introducing me to his family and having them say, ‘Oh, so THIS is Carly. You look even prettier in person!’, going for walks and sharing life struggles no one else knew about”, and then “I don’t know how I made you think this, but I don’t like you like that.” boy.

We had somehow created a fantasy of intimacy that only existed to myself and my imagination. So, in an attempt to break the fantasy, I gave him some distance. After a couple of months, we were friends again. And then the roller coaster ride was back in service, ending with another declaration of “I think we’re better off as friends, somehow you keep misunderstanding me.” So that time, I asked for a lot of space. He wasn’t very good at giving it.

Finally, one day, I got my Sassy Pants on, and played a game of Apples to Apples with him, and a bunch of other people. We played the version where whoever’s turn it is, you give them a card that YOU think describes them. It can be serious or joking, they just have to pick the one they like the most and if they pick yours, you win the point.
So, whenever it was Mr. Confused’s turn, I didn’t hold back. I gave him cards like “hypocrite,” and “self-involved” and “two-faced”. So when he read them all out loud, of course having no idea who gave each card, he ALWAYS CHOSE MINE because everyone else’s were “so nice” and “not realistic” and “too flattering”, according to him. That’s called a self-therapy win.

 

And while that did feel awesome, true closure didn’t actually come until over a year later, when I re-visited Prince George with my brand new husband. Mr. Confused met him, shook his hand, said he was a lucky guy, and then hugged me, saying “I’m really happy that you’ve found such a good guy. You deserve it.”

And now, for my final ghost.

She is someone who has been there, in the background of all these stories, who has faded significantly in the past two years. Her name is Pretty Pretty Princess. Growing up, she was my closest in-person bestie. (L’oreal, you know you’ve always been my far-away bestie!) I’m pretty sure we re-defined the term “sleepover”, as we had them practically every weekend, all weekend long. We choreographed dances to our favourite songs, we played the Game of Life, naming our husbands according to our current crushes, and children according to our favourite names. We’ve laughed together, cried together, prayed together. We did buckets of things, together.

But somewhere along the way, Life intervened. We’ve misunderstood each other, been angry and hurt, said things we regretted but couldn’t admit it. Lost touch and made choices that took us further and further apart.

We were going to be in each other’s weddings. In reality, we didn’t even attend each other’s weddings.

We vowed we were going to jog together pushing strollers so we could regain our tight figures. In reality, she’s having a baby this summer, and my tight figure has already been vacationing down south for awhile now.

Maybe things would have ended up this way anyway, regardless of geography and time. I don’t know. But I do know that I dream about her at least once a week. I dream that either we are hanging out together laughing like we always used to, or that she hates my guts and isn’t afraid to tell me so. Either way, I wake up mourning and regretful, all the while knowing that she’s probably carrying on just fine, not missing me at all.

But I have hope. Hope that someday, the air will be clear and the fellowship will roll on into sweet intimacy again. We’ve had these seasons before; it could just be another one, or it could be time to let go. That scares me a little. I am such a golden retriever of loyalty when it comes to my relationships. And deep down, I have this feeling that when push really comes to shove, we’ll find each other again because there is so much history we can fall back on and be safe within. I just can’t stop hoping that things will change.
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And…that’s it. It’s 1:45 in the morning, and I’ve been telling my ghost stories for roughly 12 hours now. A blogging record, for sure. Maybe nobody will actually care, or maybe someone will only read this for the Supernatural commentary, but you know what? I don’t mind. I feel so free right now. Secret-telling has always been incredibly liberating to me, and now I’m ready to burn these bones and walk away. Every time I’m tempted to beat myself up again for the eighty-two-thousandth time, I’m going to tell myself, “Now now, girl. That’s over. It’s out in the world,  you are a forgiven and attempted peace-maker, and it’s okay. This is a new day.”

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Because it’s true. Those demons no longer have any say. I’ve ganked them good.

Today, I win.

Hoping your yoke is easy and your burden is light,

Carly xo

How I Became a Jesus Feminist Without Really Trying

ImageSome of you may have seen this photo on my Facebook and Instagram feed yesterday, and I can almost hear the collective nods across the interwebs that affirm, “Yes, I know exactly what and who you’re talking about!” but I’m betting there are still more going, “Huh?”

I’ll start from the beginning.

Last June, my best and longest friend Laurie was here for a visit. When we’re apart, we’re constantly sharing things on each other’s walls, things that we just know the other person will love because we love it and it’s awesome. (Our adventures on Bitstrips are our newest obsession.) And when we’re together, like we were for a week this summer, we spend mornings drinking our warm cuppa’s while browsing the sites that we love so much, sharing them together.

One morning, she started mentioning a name. Sarah Bessey.

“Who’s that?” I said.

“You don’t know who Sarah Bessey is?! She lives practically down the street from you! OMG I have so many blogs to show you!”

Thus began my journey that would lead me here, to this newly found Jesus Feminism. Since that fateful June day, I have been reading all of Sarah’s updates faithfully and laughing or crying or pumping my fist with each one of them. She’s like a literary soul mate. The fact that we do live literally only an hour away from each other is both amazing and heartbreaking. So close and yet still so far!

Anyhow, through my reading of her, I’ve learned that for the past while, she’s been writing a book called Jesus Feminist. And it just released yesterday. As you might imagine, in certain circles, the title would be a little hair-raising. But to a mischievous person such as myself, it intrigues me.

Now before I can fully relate why I KNOW I’m a Jesus Feminist, I must share a sad little story.

In the excitement of this book release, I made that above photo, knowing and believing that TODAY I was going to possibly meet Sarah Bessey. Her first stop in her book release tour is at Relate Church in Surrey, a mere 20 minutes from my house. I looked it up and dropped a pin on it. The only thing I couldn’t find was what time it started. I looked all over Sarah’s page, the Relate Church website, and found nothing. As soon as I could, which was only this morning because I HAVE BEEN SO CONSUMED WITH LUSH TRAINING LATELY AND NOTHING ELSE, I phoned the church office to see if they knew anything.

They did. And when I called, it was just starting, ending at 11:30am, which at the time I wrote this, was one minute ago.

I don’t know why I assumed it would be an evening event, but I did. So I didn’t insure my car or try to find a bus route or call a friend. I was totally unprepared and now my dream is derailed. Sometimes, being an adult is hard.

So, to ease the pain and self-pity, I’ve put Ed Sheeran’s “+” album on in the background, and now I’m excited to share my heart on this touchy issue.

Why am I a Jesus Feminist?

Because I believe that Jesus loves women. And girls and ladies and LGs and chicks and broads and crones and dames and housewives and powersuits and singles and everything in between.

Because I don’t believe that I have to choose between being a Christian or being a feminist.

Because I am a woman and I love Jesus and I think women are one of the most beautiful creations I’ve ever laid my eyes on and God created them and how can that not be connected?

It’s really that simple.

However, I also believe that the words feminism and feminist have been slightly corrupted.

When I call myself a feminist, I am not calling men inferior. I am not hating men.

I am merely saying that, in my way of thinking, men and women are equal, in beauty and strength and skills and wonder and words and power. And I think Jesus and Sarah Bessey would say the same thing.

How dare do I presume to speak for Jesus, right?

Allow me to introduce 3 women to you that I just adore, possibly because they so mirror image my own life and I’m biased that way — and I think you’ll find that my presumption is actually proof.

1. Jael, housewife, Old Testament.

If you read the Bible enough times, you’ll start to discover a pattern – at least, in the Old Testament. It goes like this: people are enslaved or warred upon, they cry out, God saves them, they serve him for awhile, they forget what he did, they start breaking his laws and serving other gods, slavery and war and crying out and saving starts all over again.
So Israel’s got a lot of armies and strong men going off to fight these wars on a pretty regular basis. But two particular villains named King Jabin and his Captain Sisera had everyone shaking in their boots, including the Israelite’s army leader guy named Barak. (Judges 4)

A woman named Deborah (who is also pretty awesome in my opinion) was a prophetess in the land. She was revered and listened to the world over. When I picture her in my head, I kinda think Galadriel from Lord of the Rings. Beautiful, majestic, all-knowing, and you don’t really wanna mess with her.

Deborah goes to Barak and says, “Hey, I know King Jabin and Captain Sisera are a royal pain in the ass, but God has told me that if you go into battle against them, you will win. It’s a guarantee, so don’t be afraid. See ya.”
But Barak was like, “No way dude. I’ll go into battle but not without you by my side, kay? Thanks.”
Deborah, gracious and mighty woman that she is, says, “Okay. I’ll go with you. But because you refused to take God’s promise, your victory will be given to the hands of a woman.”

Oh snap.

So the battle happens, and somehow Captain Sisera escapes the battlefield! He goes into hiding, choosing a certain tent for refuge. It was the tent of Jael, whose husband was away fighting the war WITH King Jabin and Captain Sisera. Sisera thought he would be welcomed there, right?

Big mish-take.

Jael, secretly sympathetic to the oppression of Israel, is going about her daily housework, but turns on the charm and welcomes the Captain into her tent. He asks for water to refresh himself. She gives him milk. Why? Because he’s an honoured guest! He deserves milk! And also…

It will make him sleepy.

Sure enough, when he’s crashed out on the ground, Jael very calmly picks up a tent peg and a mallet and pounds it into his fricken head, killing him instantly. Can you imagine? Talk about a not-clean death. In this day, something like that would make the news and would portray Jael as a psychopath of Dexter-like proportions. Lock that woman away so we can all sleep better, please. But Barak and Deborah and all of Israel wrote songs about her.

I think Jael was just tired. She’d been seeing an innocent Israel be oppressed and enslaved for 20 odd years by her own evil people, and I believe God moved her heart and she decided to get shit done. That battle went down in history with not Barak or even Deborah as the victor, but Jael.

When I think of my picture that says I am an immigrant; I am a survivor, I think of Jael. In my very own special way, I got tired. Tired of living in fear, being oppressed, having no future. And one day, I decided to take a stand and make my case against the powers-that-be and I won. I am an immigrant, I am a survivor and I am a Jesus Feminist.

2. Mary, the mother of Jesus, New Testament.

This one’s kind of obvious. Mary has had a pretty prominent pedestal for the past 2000 years, but sometimes I think we forget that realistically, she was probably only about 13 or 14 years old. Having a baby. In a cold, shitty barn with a man she’d barely met — get this, with a man that she was expected to spend the rest of her life with, who had not impregnated her. She skipped all of that! Considered a woman, yet still very much a girl. (Luke 2)

I know plenty of 14 year old girls, and the thought of them experiencing what Mary did gives me shivers. The doula-heart in me breaks for the agony and ecstasy of birth that she lived through with Joseph the stranger, who was probably very helpful in his own way, I imagine. But this life was not inflicted upon her. She chose it. She said yes when God asked her permission, and her life was never the same.

A number of years ago, I wrote a song called Hail Mary, relating how her life and my life are so different and yet they are the same in so many ways. Here are some of the words.

In this world, it’s so hard to be faithful. In this world, it’s so hard to be strong. In this world, I can’t compete with what’s required of me, how much simpler would it be…In your world, the future was so fragile. In your world, deliverance seemed so far. In your world, all you had was strength and faith unseen in a lost society. Did you pray for the Saviour to come to a world that was undone? Did you know you were the one? And did you cry when you realized the truth that the Lord had chosen you to bear the one we all needed? I tell you, girl, if that was me, I would have run away. I guess he knew what you were made of when he came to you that day…So here I sit in my content little world, and I have my doubts and my complaints. I don’t really know what my future holds and I struggle with that every day. And there you were at such a tender age with your entire life before you, and when it fell apart, you said, “Let it be. Let it be. Let it be.”

So when I say I am a doula, I think of Mary. I think of the power and nourishment that women possess to not only grow a child within themselves, but also to get it out. And my heart breaks and prays for those who have struggled their whole lives to know what any of that miracle feels like. I hope you know that whether you are a mother of earthside babies or heavenside babies or no babies at all, that God holds you close to his heart. Your worth to him is not held in what you can or can’t create, but in what you already are.  I am a doula, one day I hope to be a mother, and I am a Jesus Feminist.

Now for my favourite woman of all.

3. Unknown, “unclean sinner”, New Testament.

I’m not a scholar in all of the Jewish culture, but from what I understand, every family that could afford it gave their daughters a box made of alabaster stone, filled with precious oils and perfumes. It was to be kept unopened until the girl was married, and then she would give it to her new husband, as a dowry of sorts.

So one night, Jesus and his followers were eating a meal together at someone’s house, as they often did. Now these followers were all outcasts of society to some degree or other. Jesus was famous for spending time with people who didn’t fit the status quo of the perfectly-righteous-on-the-outside. In this setting, I’m pretty sure it was Jesus who first said, “Haters gonna hate.”

So they’re hanging out eating, and suddenly this woman comes in, approaching Jesus and everyone else starts freaking out. “What is she doing? She’s touching Jesus? JESUS IS LETTING HER TOUCH HIM. She’s crying and pouring perfume all over his head, wasting such a costly thing, she’s so unclean and is trying to drag him down with her, we’ve got to stop this.”

But they barely get a word out against her before Jesus rebukes them, telling them to leave her alone, and that she’s committing a beautiful act of sacrifice and worship.

We have a few blanks to fill in about who this woman was and why she did what she did. I would imagine that judging by the crowd’s reaction that she had probably been a prostitute in the past. Perhaps she knew that she would never find anyone to marry her, so she took that precious alabaster box and gave it to Jesus instead as thanks and worship to him for forgiving her past and making her new again. Never mind the bravery it took to even enter that room to begin with. To hear the scolding of all these other men and maybe women, casting judgment on her even though they weren’t exactly saints themselves. (Luke 7:36-50)

So when I say I am a wife, I think of this unknown woman. She had no hope of becoming a wife, but she gave all that she valued to Jesus anyway. And Jesus did not turn her away or look down on her or see her as a woman and therefore inferior – he blessed her, he forgave her, he thanked her, he loved her.
And even though he has given me a husband who loves me and forgives me and blesses me and thanks me every day, I still need to give my heart, my valuables, my precious possessions to him, even if it’s painful or embarrassing or hard. He created me to be in a relationship with me, and I will do everything I can to say yes every day.

It’s funny…all of these accounts I shared have varying degrees of sexism in them, did you notice?
Jael, Mary and Little Miss Unknown and others like Esther, Ruth, Rahab, Miriam and even more were bound by a culture that considered them to be not much more than property. I think that’s where some people misread God’s heart towards women. What they don’t realize is that God didn’t create that culture, other people and laws from generation upon generation did. And he used each one of those women to go ABOVE and BEYOND the culture they were in, to be scandalously noticed, to be holy troublemakers, to be brave and soft and able to do hard things with his heart inside of them. I see myself in each one of them, and I want to see myself in each one of them.

So for all of my 26 years, I have believed this about women and the Bible and Jesus. But yesterday, I became something a little more. I joined a community of women AND men who are brave enough to say “I am a Jesus Feminist, ask me why!” And so I thank Sarah Bessey for giving us a voice, a place, a cause and a name. The nations will rise up and call you blessed.

Warrior-ing on,

Carly xo