A Five Second Prayer

I recently attended the (2nd) book launch for my pal, Tom Zuba. It was so horribly out of my comfort zone, to walk into an event by myself, but I did. I didn’t know a soul (besides Tom) and sent up the smallest of pop-up prayers and text my hubby that ‘I won’t be long, I don’t know anyone’.

A kind man, with a delightful British accent, approached and introduced himself and began to ask about how I knew Tom. I explained, a mutual friend connected us to help mentor me and be the kick-in-the-pants I needed during my book writing process. Accordingly, the conversation shifted to my book. I have forgotten my “elevator pitch” about Faith, Fat and Other F-Words. I hadn’t forgotten “f-words” but I have neglected it and it’s purpose. I thanked the chap as Tom approached and led me to a table of ”cool people”.

A table with a couple of chicks that were cool indeed. The conversation came easy. The connection made. Smiles aplenty. The conversation again came around to my book. Starting to remember the “baby” I birthed and speak with a bit more passion. A couple of photos with the cool chicks later, I thanked them and set off towards towards the one other human I recognize.

As I’m walking the 15 steps toward my friend, the Kind Brit’s wife approaches me and introduces herself. She’s stunning and articulate and I feel a little small. AGAIN, the conversation shifts to my book and the prospect of a second book. She cheered, “brilliant”! We spoke more and more about being a 50 year old, the life of a mom, and being a chick in general. I’m breathing deep and with a bit more confidence.

I eventually make my way to my friend and hug her ferociously. We chat briefly and walk out of the event together. As we are walking, a kind faced woman approached and asked if I was Annisa. I have a familiarity while looking at her, but cannot discern from where. As she hugs me, she whispers her name in my ear. She was my counselor during some really dark times. Her face shone bright and I am instantly at ease. I had such trauma and darkness in the season I spent with her, I had zero recall of her face. She spoke beautiful things over me and filled my soul.

As I’m walking out to the car, with my friend, I could practically skip I’m so filled with peace and joy. I hug her goodbye and promise to be in touch. It’s only when I get in my car do I realize what has just happened…

That little pop-up prayer was answered, but in His way. It may have been really easy to miss since it wasn’t the solution I asked for, not in the slightest. Many times when we ask Him for a solution, He sends people.

People who will feed your soul.

People who will speak kindness.

People who will cheer for you.

People who will remind you how far you’ve come.

Look around you, realize that the people around you are there for a reason.

They may be only there for a season.

They may be the solution.

They may be the lesson. (Ugh)

They may be the hand that leads you to your next step.

They just may remind you of your purpose.

Thank you God for not giving me what I asked for, but for giving me what I needed.

I’ve Been Slimed

 

The day after (the election) feels as though I’m in the  sequel to Ghostbusters. For those of you who are not familiar with Ghostbusters 2, allow me a moment to share the CliffNotes version of the storyline…

The ‘Ghostbsters’ find themselves bankrupt after a heap of lawsuits. Lawsuits that came about AFTER the citizens were spared from some big evil marshmallow dude. NYC  officials extend a restraining order so that no more ‘damage’ can happen to their city.

However, problems arise, as they always do, and the Ghostbusters are needed again. The people who cried out for their heads now need their help, [again]. It seems as though some evil is flowing through the veins of the community, infiltrating every crevice of life.

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It is discovered that it is indeed  flowing through the veins of the city. A pink ‘mood” slime is flowing and bubbling beneath NYC. A slime that feeds on negative emotions and anger. As fear and craziness ensues, the slime thrives…

Looking around social media today, I can’t help but feel slimed. Fear and panic, ugliness and broad sweeping beliefs that the sky is falling.  The vacant faces of news correspondents wondering how the heck we got here. Yes, the world has changed overnight. Finger pointing and hatred gets us nowhere.

I’m not one to give in to the panic, at least not today. I’m not sure if it’s having grown up in a politics loving family or the fact I’ve survived so much in my life that I refuse to give one faction that much control. I refuse to give in to knee-jerk reactions, fear and hateful speech.

I may be just one person, but I’m not going give another ‘one person’ that much power. [Unless it’s Jesus himself] I will not bury my head in the sand and hide. I won’t protect myself from impending doom and worry about ‘me’. As in the Ghostbusters movie, good vibes and unity can change the charge of the slime.

Hope is alive. Hope is universal. Hope is unifying. Maybe it’s a cheesy sing-along-song to unite us or maybe it’s the unity found in the  beloved Cubbies winning their first World Series in 108 years. 108 years y’all!!! For 107 years, the mantra has been “maybe next year”. This was the year!!!! But seven days later, the world is going to end.

I’m going to do my part to make a positive stamp on this life. We win, friends. The light always wins. A little flicker of a flame cancels out darkness. Always!

So here’s my a little ditty to get us connected….Love…Love keeps lifting me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today

Today I know I have Ankylosing Spondylitis

Today I will grieve the life I had planned
I will be sad,
For me
I will cry
And cry out
Why me?
But just for today
Today,
My body is broken
And waging war upon itself
Today,
I will be miserable and shout obscenities
I will be angry at no one in particular
Just because, today

Today my precious granddaughter turns three
Today,
Her smile will warm me
For a moment
Today,
I will cry
For her
She won’t know the fun loving
Sit on the floor
Putting puzzles together, Grandma
For very long
But today,
She has me
The grandma no different
From yesterday

Tomorrow,
Is not promised
In life or
In death
In joy or
In pain
Tomorrow is,
Unseen and unpredictable
The plans we make,
Can change in a heartbeat
We cannot escape tomorrow,
Wishing for yesterday

Yesterday,
Is gone
It wasn’t
Bad or
Great.
But yesterday,
I didn’t have AS
Yes,
Logical brain,
I did.
But I didn’t know,
Yesterday

Yesterday,
Sometimes,
Looks better in the rear view mirror
“Objects may not be as
shitty as you remember”
Yes,
Yesterday might have
really sucked, too
Everyone has a yesterday,
Not everyone,
Has a tomorrow
So today…

Today,
I will grieve
If I feel like eating
It will be
Ridiculously unhealthy
I just might,
Wash it down
With some wine
Today,
I will roll around
In self pity
For me
For everyone around me
But just for
Today

Only today…

 

Reasons Why I Am Not Blessed

Well, did that title make you sit up and take notice?
Did you think, she’s nuts!? (more nuts-er)
and… she’s off her meds, again!

Yes, I am nuts and medicated; but I am not blessed.  Well, not in this sense:

blessed

adjective bless·ed \ˈble-səd\

Simple Definition of blessed
: having a sacred nature : connected with God
: very welcome, pleasant, or appreciated
—used to make a statement more forceful

Watch out for your toes y’all… but this word has been so overused in Christianese. “How are you today?” “Oh I am just so blessed, thank you.”  I’m guilty, I’ll own it. But when I truly look at that phrase, while the intent is to give props to God, it has a certain arrogance about it. Forceful indeed!

Honestly, I don’t remember a time when God was not a part of me. As a kid, my parents would drop me at Sunday School and come back to retrieve me. I attended church and youth groups with friends, but I wasn’t raised in the church. My mom was a generational-cast-off-Catholic* and I think my dad and God had an agreement, “You don’t bother me, I won’t bother You.” I don’t really have a salvation story, it’s just always been. I have some great rescue stories and turn-around stories and Annisa-you’re-a-bonehead-stories to which God showed up in BIG ways. But to say I have a revelation, salvation story; no. I have a pretty shocking testimony, however… brace yourselves, it’s pretty deep… I AM STILL HERE!!!

I am still here, yep, sums it all up. Sexual assault survivor, teen mom, overachiever, striving spirit, depressed, anxious, medicated, suicidal, devastated, renewed – I am still here. Days I didn’t think I would be, days I didn’t want to be. Yet, here I am; but don’t call me blessed. The implications of being blessed points to God giving special favor. While I know that God has been my saving grace, I don’t consider myself in special, segregated favor.

People often tend to treat God as a Genie: 

One to bequeath gifts and health and finances and the perfect job, only in times of need on our part. We never speak to him, ONLY when we need him.

Some treat Him like the TV Infomercial Guy:

If I act in the next 15 minutes, You will get me out of this situation. But WAIT, there’s more! For just a nominal fee, (like going to church, once) You will restore ALL the dumb decisions I’ve made! Right? Act now, this offer expires soon!

And there’s my personal favorite, the Barterer:

Ok God, I’m going to give up chocolate IF you will just do this one thing for me! (anyone? anyone? thought so!)

[I personally believe] We don’t receive special blessings JUST because we believe. I know that will fly-in-the-face of some believers, but I’ve never been the docile type. Stay with me on the Crazy-Brain-Train…

There are believers all over the world; I have been to one of  the most underprivileged, desperate, no electricity, no running water, villages in Peru. I have hugged and kissed these little Grubkins, and found more joy and pure love in their hearts than any overindulged brat back home. So many of us would look at the two, side by side, and think, “oh, the American kid has so much more. So blessed.” and “Those poor unfortunate Grubkins, have nothing, how sad.” WRONG!!! Brown flag!!

 

To say that stuff makes you blessed is an insult to Grace

How can I say that God has ‘blessed’ me with things, and wealth and health, etc when children are living in poverty? Children are growing up in crack houses? Tsunamis and earthquakes happen to believers, too. I can’t view blessings as a reward for simply believing, not while so many suffer; cancer continues to ravage and kill,  a dumb-ass guy puts mouse poison on the salad bar at grocery stores, devastation all around. And Yet, I should have the arrogance to say, I am blessed.

I understand, know and believe that I am a Child of God, but I’m not the favorite kid. Yes, I also know that there is an opposing force to what God wills, and that we also have free-will. That still doesn’t make me blessed, special. I will admit, I used to correct people who would say that they’re ‘lucky’. Oh no, no, no….you are blessed! As I self analyze and [over]think my own words; this is what I actually said. “NO NO NO, you are wrong. Luck doesn’t exist. It’s because You are special. You got the goodies, oh favored kid!”

Yes, He is a good good father, and like any parent, God wants to see us succeed. He gives us free-will to choose a path, even if it’s the wrong one. He will wait on us, arms folded, to come back around. Inspire us to make better choices.  He is not the Genie, TV Infomercial Guy or Barterer, “Ok, Annisa, if you do this for Me, I will give you all your desires.” Nope, not how it works. God doesn’t discipline. He doesn’t punish, although many still live in that fear.  “Annisa, I saw that you partook of far too much wine yesternight, prepare ye for your smite.  {I know you read that in a Shakespeare-ish voice in your head}

Not even the pomp and self-glory of mission work, ‘ok Annisa, go to Peru or to a woman’s prison and reach out to those poor underprivileged, unfortunate souls. Show them how blessed you are” WRONG, again. “Annisa, go to these places. Have your heart broken, splintered into shards, and see that I love them too. Not more, not less. I love them, too. Humble yourself, you aren’t all that. What can you learn from them, Bonehead?” {yes, God calls me Bonehead}

God loves us, even when we are unlovable, even when we reject Him. Even, when we aren’t sure we believe IN Him, He believes in us. Picture in your mind, God gathering every believer in a row, linked arm in arm; He would look at each of us, and say the same thing, one by one;” I love YOU, I have such great plans for you, and you, and you…. ”

 

*MY definition of generational-cast-off-Catholic = Someone who’s parents divorced and could no longer attend Catholic Mass, only to marry a man who had been divorced, and not be able to attend Catholic Mass. {Thanks heavens, for the Catholics Come Home program}

 

 

 

Gone Baby Gone

I’ve come to the conclusion, I’m a curmudgeon. That old cranky broad that bitches about “this generation” and “you call that crap music”. Yes, I am she, but totally ok with it…
This generation will never understand the simple joys of growing up in a small-small town. Before the “nuke plant” came to town, when Super Value was the only grocery store and we didn’t have a stoplight. Gone are the days of the school kids painting the storefront windows (uptown) for Halloween. The quiet battle of getting to the shop owner first to claim your window. 

Gone are the days of going into Claire’s Crafts & Hobbies and actually see Claire, the small business owner minding the store. Where you can buy the model rocket kit you needed for Mr. Bradfords’s Science Class and poke at Taco the parrot, the store mascot. Not to mention, being a squealy girl watching the boa constrictor eat mice. 

Gone are the days of the “snake dance” through town for Homecoming. Where the town would turn out to join hands in a long pseudo-conga line to wind through the streets. It was often a crazy ride for which you would hang on for dear life. Many of us have battle scars to prove it. An event that would now have everyone sign a waiver, wrapped in bubble wrap and shin guards. Weenies!

Gone are the days of walking into Ma’s Place and seeing the same guys, sitting at the same table, having the same BS conversations, drinking lava like coffee, day after day. It was reassuring actually, you knew all was right with the world because it was being solved at the table in the middle. 

Gone are the days of pizza at Leombruni’s after the football game. We thought we were oh so cool. We were a rowdy group of punks!!! {{Please allow me a moment to apologize to Annette for being a little shit and lousy tipper.}} We didn’t really understand how people earned a living or how the world worked at that time. 

My heart is stirring with the memories of the old days; when we thought life was so complicated. The simple beliefs of honor and community were always revealed  on Good Friday. When all the stores uptown would close their business from noon to 3pm to honor the death of our crucified Lord. The hours He hung on a cross, dying. It was a proclamation of values of a small-small town. We celebrated faith. We expressed it outwardly. And yes, as a small-small town, everyone knew your business. The home-room-mom had likely called your mom to let her know you got in trouble at school and by the time you got home, even bigger trouble was standing in the doorway waiting for you! We also knew those same neighbors would be at your doorstep with a meal when a loved one died. They would be at your doorstep with a freshly crocheted afghan for your your new baby. 

Yes, this cranky broad misses her simple hometown life. But it ruminates within my heart, my soul and leads me forward. No, I don’t long to trade my iPhone I for the bright red teen-phone I had in my room, but I long to look at life through that filter of simplicity, community and values. A Good Friday indeed. 

This Ain’t Cupcakes and Kool-Aid

As a chunky girl, I can easily turn my focus to food, I can associate most everything back to a food product. I identify colors by food products (my current haircolor is cotton candy). And without a doubt, if an invitation focuses around food or wine, count me in!!!

The heart of the Easter story is widely associated with the Cross or the empty tomb. This year, I urge you to look towards the meal; the last meal. It is at the time of the Passover feast, and the disciples are planning to celebrate it with their rabbi. They had no clue what was playing out in the shadows of the preparation. The betrayal, the confusion, the denial, the approaching death of their beloved teacher. Even in the chaos, Jesus was making things ready for those He loved. He wanted to be sure they would understand the events in the most simple way possible.

The room is set and the the Feast of Unleavened Bread is awaiting them. Jesus knew the details and inner workings of His Father’s heart. He knew that this would be the last meal He shared with his chosen brothers. As they gather, He drops the bomb… one of you will betray me, one of you, here with me. Naturally, all the bros said “not me”. Jesus already knew what was to come. Duh, He knows the prophesies and promises of the Old Testament, not to mention He shares His Father’s heart.

While my focus is on the meal, it isn’t about the food set before them. I won’t get into deep theology about the sacraments ( thousands of scholars have debated it for thousands of years) My focus is on the heart of the meal. The Teacher, the Leader, The One who loved them deeply had one last opportunity to teach his brothers about God’s Heart.

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.(Matthew 14:22; NIV) 

Wait, whaaaa…where does it say anything about God’s Heart!? First, God made sure there was a a place waiting and prepared for them to have their meal. And then, of course the meal (sayeth the chunky girl!) The Heart is demonstrated in the order in which the gift is given. The Gift, the sacrifice of Jesus is represented in the meal, and He has an intentional order of things.

Jesus teaches in parables and metaphors. They are amazing word pictures that are easily identified by most everyone, even the Duh-ciples.

  1. He takes the bread – body, and presents it as an offering/sacrifice.
  2. Jesus then gives thanks. He knows He is about to be killed, and yet, He gives thanks to God. He is thankful? He knows His Father’s Heart, He shares the same heart, the same love. He IS thankful.
  3. This is where I get goosebumps, for oh so long, I totally missed this part… He broke it. Did you miss it too? His ‘body’ is intentionally broken for a purpose. It is broken in order for others to find hope. It is broken like the Heart of the Father. Woah, dude. Deep.
  4. And then, then..He gave it away! Boom! His brokenness, His Love, His everything. Gave it away. It doesn’t say anything in this passage about Jesus eating anything himself, which speaks even greater about His offering.

I think this single Scripture speaks volumes about our hearts, about our sufferings and how badly we have it jacked up and out of order. (And when I say we, I include ME!) When we are broken, when we are beaten and left empty, we wonder ‘why me’ and ‘why God, where were you!?’ We get angry at God or blame Him and can only be consumed with our own suffering. We find no purpose or hope in our despair. We just, uh…got nothing.

This is where the thump! happens…ready…

  1. Take the emptiness, take the hurt, the pain. Just take it.
  2. Be thankful! Get the focus off your misery and look for the greatness surrounding you! The people seated at your table. The love of those in your tribe. And look for the bounty in your brokenness. Thankful.
  3. Broken, yes, broken, not destroyed. Take the broken pieces, identify them, give them a name. My heartache, my abuse, my childhood. Mine, broken.
  4. And give it away! Don’t heap your brokenness on other people. Don’t make other people miserable in your misery. But take the brokenness, in gratitude, give it to your bros and sistahs! Lead, teach, share your heart. There is purpose in the broken pieces. It creates a masterpiece in a mosaic for others to appreciate and discover there is beauty in the brokenness.

As you gather at your Easter meal, whether it’s a big gathering or you’re alone, celebrate the brokenness. Be thankful for the journey, lean in and listen to the whispers of God’s own heart. And eat heartily and I hope there is cupcakes!!