For What It’s Worth

I’m going to take a jump off the deep end; a topic I rarely discuss…

My family has a love of politics. My dad was mayor for over a decade in our small, sleepy town. My mom was highly opinionated and vocal [on most everything]. My brother was well versed and I have cousins who are smart and articulate on the subject. It is likely however, they would not agree with each other, but would be respectful. And as for me, I couldn’t really give two shits about it. I know that is callous to say, but I can’t believe in something or someone, when I know it is all a carnival and the politicians are just puppets and clowns. 

That being said, this rambling isn’t really about politics, but humanity. I’ve written many pages about life in a small town. I don’t believe my small town was all that unique, for its time. Yes, I’m that curmudgeon that reminisces about the “good old days”, but small town living in the 70’s is a land far-far away from life today. Believe me, I’m no June Cleaver, but I guess I’m far more traditional than my radical exterior. Yes, I am the old broad that bitches about the music today. No one is going to be singing Justin Bieber tunes 44 years from now! <reference: Stevie Wonder, Superstition, 1972> Look to the current movie trends, remakes of comic book heroes and cheesy movies like Point Break. (for real). But then there is the really dark side… 

We have become a society that glamorizes excess, lack of morality and just plain old stupidity. How in the world did the Kardashians become a thing? WTF is their purpose in our life? They aren’t real, they are a manufactured commodity that intends to sell us a shit show. We covet their glamorous life, younger and younger girls are seeking out lip injections. They are spokespeople for hair tools, makeup and other things that are intended to make we, the paupers, be like them while we flat iron our hair. News flash, they don’t do their own hair!!!

We have become a nation that is debating, making laws and creating hate over where someone pees!!! Seriously?!? As if struggling to identify who they are at their core isn’t tough enough, lets search them upon entry to see what they’re packin’ so that WE may decide where they pee. It’s a bathroom!!! C’mon, stop the witch hunts. Predators come in every shape, size and gender. It may even be someone in your own family or your kids’ coach. Stop. Just stop. 

We have become a people that criticizes, judges and condemns things that go against our beliefs. We must label every thing we do not understand. That Muslim in line at Target, must be a radical terrorist. Sorry, she is actually Hindu. We condemn anyone that isn’t like us or our beliefs. Stop. Please. 

I recently visited a women’s  federal prison facility in West Virginia. Half dozen women spent a week building relationships, showing love and digging deep within ourselves to find a place of compassion and grace. We quickly connected, felt love, empathy and a sense of protection of our new spiritual daughters. Yet, I’m met with the attitude and judgement of “what’s the point, they’ll just end up there again”. If I have any say in the matter, I will stand in the gap for any one of those girls and cheer her on. Maybe with someone who actually cares and believes the best about her, she may find peace and a new way of doing things. 

We are all one bad decision away from devastating consequences. 

We all have a God-shaped hole in our heart. That place of purpose and longing. A place to feel safe and loved. Sadly, we stuff it full of garbage. Buying things we can’t afford. Living to impress others. Dumping our own identity so that we can be like someone else. Stuffing the hole with excess, drugs, bad relationships – all in the name of being connected or belonging to a community. 

So, my circle back to politics…

The current presidential candidates, I think we deserve them. They embody all that is wrong in our nation. We created them. Lying, bigotry, deals and bargains to stomp on people to get ahead, changing our views and vocabulary to make people think more highly of us. Name calling and finger pointing as an attack to create chaos and outrage. We believe that they are real, authentic and genuine; about as authentic as the Kardashians. 

I am heartsick over the condition of our nation; our greedy, phony, sad and desperate land. Search that God-shaped hole in your own heart, kick out the garbage. Seek out the things that speak life. Speak truth. Live love. 

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}

 

 

 

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!!

Pink About It

I LOVE the color pink. Some might even say, it’s my signature color. But I don’t actively support Pinktober. Now, before you decide to lynch me, allow me to explain..

I lost my mother to Breast Cancer, she was diagnosed January 2001 and died the following January. I was one of her primary caretakers and advocate with doctors and surgeons. I asked the questions and challenged their ‘opinions’. HER aunt (my great-aunt) was diagnosed and I’ve had my own scare. (Benign tumor removed in 1998) So, I am up close and personal with this bitch of a cancer.

I am a cheerleader for those who have fought valiantly, and will wave their flag any/every day. While I believe there needs to be an awareness raised and a cure found, I don’t believe all pink ribbons are created equal. So many manufacturers rely on the fact that we, as consumers, will buy pink ribbon EVERYTHING! ANY company can put a pink ribbon on items and never donate a dime. Many companies will make a one time donation per campaign, no matter how much revenue that pink ribbon item generates. Meanwhile, a disclaimer is placed on an item…“A portion of the proceeds from this item will be donated to help fight breast cancer.” It is not clear what breast cancer organizations would benefit, how much money they would receive, and what programs or work would be funded by the donation. I know of one particular organization who refused a donation from a BIG fundraiser, simply because it came from a “motorcycle club”. Heaven forbid they be associated with such generous riff-raff.

I have been a hairstylist for nearly 30 years, I have seen the changes with in our industry with pollutants and VOC restrictions. But I’m still boggled to see pink cans of hairspray in October. A product that has known toxins and chemicals being pimped out for a well-meaning consumer!

And let’s talk ta-ta’s… The definition of a woman does not lie in her boobs! Cheers to the brave who have posted, “why keep them, they tried to kill me!” And going braless for a day in the name of awareness is a huge slap in the face to women who have undergone mastectomies. Free-boobing and nipple popping  reminds survivors that they have lost something. It sends the message that they aren’t as “sexy” as all the luscious Instagram photos. Not to mention the pain that may be associated with a survivor going braless. I’d much rather see a bad-ass survivor celebrating her scars with tattoos and a fist raised in victory!

You really want to make a difference? Be a voice for someone who is fighting. Drive a patient to their chemo appointment and sit with them while the poison is pumped through their body. Volunteer to babysit for a patient so they can rest. Prepare a meal, better yet, organize a meal train for a week of meals for a patient. Pray diligently for a family struggling through the financial trainwreck the ‘cure’ has cost them. Host a fundraiser where the funds go directly to the family for expenses.

As I said before, I will be your biggest fan and cheerleader for your personal victory against Breast Cancer. I will always love pink and celebrate the fighters! I will continue to pray for a quick end to this bitch of a cancer; of ALL cancers!!