PEOPLE OF THE INTERNET, YOU’VE BEEN HAD

People of Internet,

You’ve been had.

In the past couple years we’ve borne witness to an interesting set of trends. Various hashtags started gaining popularity that claimed to be celebrating the #authenticlife, but they were unusually ripe with photos of farm to table feasts on custom built farmhouse tables, cleverly staged journals with pristine latte art, and gorgeous minimalist home decor without a trace of evidence that real live people actually inhabited these homes. We saw an Instagram “celebrity” go viral for posting an extremely public breakup video to the very app that gave her a platform, only to start rapidly growing a following on her very well marketed (and highly monetized) site promoting her newfound position as a leading voice for being “real” online. Conferences and retreats have popped up left and right with speakers who market themselves brilliantly as experts and success stories of their supposed fields and vocations, but if you peek behind the curtain you discover the only job they actually hold is that very self marketing, speaking, and teaching. It’s a bit like when we find Dorothy pulling back the curtain to reveal that the Wizard of Oz is in fact a tiny little man pulling levers and dials, and its all been a cleverly designed trick all along.

People of Internet

There is no Wizard folks.

The internet doesn’t actually care about authenticity. Social media isn’t actually growing more appreciative of the vulnerable and exposed. Many of the biggest names who claim to have a way to sell you a path to success don’t actually have success in anything other than selling success.

Yeah… kind of Debbie Downer today, right?

But hear me out fellow citizens of this crazy online world. I am NOT advocating for cynicism or apathy. I’m in no way hoping to simply burst the bubble only to sit back and watch the damage. This isn’t just a case of “misery loves company.” Rather, I’m hoping we can all find a little Dorothy in ourselves right now and be brave enough to pull back that curtain, call out a clever con for exactly what it is, and put the illusion to bed in order to make way for something better to rise in its place.

The good news is this: the underlying reason for this trend’s success is that so many people ARE in fact craving a more authentic experience online. The bad news however is that its going to be much scarier to achieve than we hoped or expected. We like when we are seen as brave and vulnerable, but we’re not nearly as in love with the reality of living that out. It’s messy. It’s embarrassing. It’s anything but glamorous. It’s counter cultural in every way. And yet the only way we can hope to see a more authentic form of community online is to be willing to come to the table first, knowing full well we might be out there alone and exposed. It’s risky, but all the best things certainly are.

Can you imagine if we all stood up and saw the false hashtag #authenticity for what it really is and demanded something better? What if we stopped celebrating pseudo-vulnerability and held ourselves to a higher standard of bravery? What if we didn’t just share the carefully curated highlight reel that fit the persona we worked so diligently to cultivate, but opened our personal closets and admitted we aren’t any more on top of things than anyone else? What if instead of self promotion and viral marketing, we just put our work out there and let it speak for itself? …

SPEAK THEIR NAMES

SPEAK THEIR NAMES

I’ve had seven miscarriages.

It’s a sentence I’ve grown too comfortably numb repeating, despite the very real pain my heart still carries from the loss. I think when death comes in measures beyond what we can bear our brain tries to cope by focusing on the number itself rather than people behind it. We can’t fully get our head around the 6,000,000 Jews murdered in the holocaust, but we can’t hold back the tears when we’re shown the story of just one. Why is that?

I think it’s because there is holiness in personhood.

If we believe that we are truly made in God’s image, if we believe that each individual soul reflects a facet of the image of God Himself on earth, then there’s simply no denying the enormous loss of that divine presence when we lose someone in death. It’s like a piece of God himself becomes a little less clear to us on this side of eternity, as if obscured from view.

This year, with October as the national month of remembrance and awareness for these losses, I felt a pull to somehow connect myself deeper with the individual personhood of each one of the seven little ones I won’t meet until heaven. As part of my grieving process for each loss, I had been encouraged by a counselor to give each one of those babies a name. A name is one of the most powerful ways we can recognize personhood. These children don’t have a birth or death certificate, they don’t even have a birthday, but each one of them still has a name. And so much like the ceremonies held for September 11th or held at the Vietnam War memorial, this year I wanted to focus on those precious names – those 7 individual souls who each constitute an enormous loss in and of themselves. I wanted to speak each one out loud. I wanted to share those names with a world that might otherwise never know they exist at all.

I contacted a friend who is an incredibly talented calligraphy artist, who also has experienced the pain of miscarriage as well, and asked her if she could write out the names of each of those 7 babies for me together in one place, as well as their meanings (since the meanings were instrumental in the naming process for me.) When she eventually sent me the completed project I was surprised at how intense and almost tangible the grief was I felt in response. Something about seeing those names broke my heart wide open all over again. I could no longer hide behind the familiar numbness of grouping them all together as a number in a story I retell – they became tiny individuals to me all over again. I couldn’t help but picture that beautiful lettering on the cover of 7 baby books that will never exist. I saw their name’s written in frosting on birthday cakes. I saw their names sharpied on the tags inside their jackets for school, proudly scrawled out in crayon on top of their artwork, lettered across diplomas and wedding invitations, signed on the bottom of mother’s day cards they would send me someday when they were grown and maybe had children and families of their own. The reality of 7 different lives full of innumerable moments and details and memories that will never be came flooding in at once, and my grief became new.

Tonight from 7 to 8pm I will once again be participating in the #WaveOfLight, in which people all over the world light candles in …

WHEN DOCTORS HURT INSTEAD OF HEAL

whendoctorshurt

Far too often grappling with a chronic illness is a fight not only for your health but also for your dignity. Many times the medical community can unintentionally compound the pain of those suffering by minimizing their experience or even invalidating them entirely. It can take years or even decades for some patients to get an answer to what is plaguing them, and for some the diagnosis never comes at all. Here are some actual responses I have encountered from doctors in my 15 year journey to getting my diagnosis of Lyme disease.

“Is it possible you’re feeling depressed from all the weight you’ve put on this year?”

Earlier this year when my symptoms seemed to be worsening with greater intensity than ever before, I went back to the drawing board so to speak and decided to pursue fresh eyes on my case. One of the doctors I visited listened for a couple minutes as I described my worsening pain and fatigue and how totally disabling they had become, and offered this remark in response. I had mentioned when describing my concerns that I had put on 30 lbs in the course of 6 months, and I had intended to offer that as a symptom pointing to the seriousness of my worsening condition. For the rest of the appointment this doctor consistently circled back to my weight not as a symptom, but in his opinion the root cause of all of my health issues. When I asked about further testing for Lyme disease, I was met with questions about my diet. When I described my increased dependence on my cane, I was questioned about my exercise routine. I left the appointment with handouts on why this doctor believed most everyone should maintain a vegan diet (despite the fact my history of seizures requires a high protein diet to manage, as noted by my neurologist right there in my chart,) a referral to a nutritionist, and a prescription for antidepressants he said could help me “jumpstart” my efforts to get up and moving more. Sadly, this is a common story in medicine today. Patients with higher BMIs are often written off as inherently unhealthy, and their symptoms attributed simply to poor diet and lifestyle choices rather than considering their weight may itself be a symptom of a larger underlying problem. Because of the additional shame of feeling blamed not only for their weight management issues but their worsening health as well, overweight patients are more likely to stop pursuing answers entirely, as its easier to avoid the uncomfortable and fruitless appointments rather than continue to be subjected to the relentless suggestions their weight is the real problem.

“Sometimes miscarriages simply happen. It’s the body’s natural way of stopping a pregnancy that would likely not have been viable for one reason or another. When they happen early, there usually isn’t a real ’cause’ other than that.”

To date I have had a total of 7 miscarriages, most all of them in early pregnancy. I was eventually able to have a couple doctors consider more serious possible root causes, but only after that number began to climb, and more often than not my concerns were met with a regular insistence that “these things happen.” I’ve had more statistics about the commonality of miscarriage offered to me than I can possibly recount. Pregnancy loss is an emotional experience in and of itself, and having multiple unexplained miscarriages adds an additional dimension of confusion, guilt, and anxiety to grapple with. In the end my pregnancies were marked as “high risk” because of my history of …

31ST BIRTHDAY WISHLIST

Today is my birthday! So far today I’ve received the flu: sore throat, body aches, fever, fatigue… yeah. I don’t remember registering for this. At least it gives me an excuse to eat copious amounts of ice cream and watch all the old seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, right?

BIRTHDAY

So what IS on my birthday wish list this year? Check out some of my most coveted items from my Wishing and Swooning board on Pinterest these days.

1. BAGS: A girl cant ever really have too many great bags, can she? (My husband says “Oh yes she can,” but we wont listen to him now will we.) No matter how our size may fluctuate through the years, a great bag wont ever stop fitting 😉 These days I have my eyes on the chicest little leopard foldover clutch from Accessory Lane ($45.99). It’s the perfect pop of leopard print without being too overwhelming, and adds just the right touch of fun to a polished look. For future speaking engagements I’ve been eyeing this fantastic weekender bag from Sole Society. ($79.95.) Its the perfect size for a quick overnight getaway, and it even has a separate compartment on the bottom just for shoes!

2. BEAUTY: My amazing mama was in town this last week and actually surprised me with one of my most coveted beauty items! The gorgeous Everything Eyes Palette from Bobbi Brown (a Nordstrom exclusive item) has $139 of value at a $75 pricetag. I love that Bobbi has already coordinated the colors for perfect eyeshadow looks, and even included 4 amazing travel brushes that fit right IN the compact. I can throw this right into my bag and chance from day to evening on the go, or just touch up my look wherever I may be. Plus the colors are universally flattering and age appropriate for anyone, Bobbi’s signature when it comes to her cosmetic line. I’ve also been eyeing an amazing new lip line called Lip Sense, which seriously holds up to its claims of being smudgeproof all day color. Google for some videos from their sellers and you’ll see: these colors hold up to just about ANYTHING you can throw at them. For somebody who speaks on stage for part of her living? Im thinking a collection of their amazing colors might be in my future.

3. MUGS: I collect coffee mugs (much to my husbands dismay) and am always looking for great ones to add to my growing collection. Two of my most wanted right now? The fantastic “Stressed, Blessed, and Coffee Obsessed” travel mug from Be Still Clothing company is definitely my #1 must have ($18.00). It’s like they designed it just for me! I’m also eyeing this adorable “Coffee, Because Adulting is Hard” mug from Etsy, because lets face it, Adulting IS hard. ($13.00)

4.CREATIVITY: I’m always looking for ways to play with my creative side, and so this years list includes the amazing Minc foil applicator set from Heidi Swapp. This incredible little crafting device lets you make gold foil prints at home, and Heidi even sells a variety of other colored foils and accessories to let your creativity really shine. Im also coveting the amazing Lightroom editing collections from VSCO ($59.00.) I use the mobile editing application from VSCO, but Im dying to add their beautiful film style editing tools to my Lightroom suite.

5. CUTE COMFORT: When you are a #spoonie, you’re always looking for comfortable loungewear thats still chic enough to be seen in. This amazing “I Woke Up Like This #Tired” sweatshirt is pretty much my life story! ($42.00) …

WE HAVE A GRATITUDE PROBLEM

Dear Church, we have a gratitude problem, and it’s not what you think.

We seem to have conflated the concepts of gratitude and worship, and so much so that many of us can no longer tell the difference. When we think about what it means to worship God, all too often our focus is reflecting on all the ways God has been good to us and all the ways we’ve seen His faithfulness in the form of blessings and earthly provision. Even listening to some modern worship songs can often reveal just how much the focus has shifted from who God is to what God has done for us.

As I begin to get deeper into writing my upcoming book about suffering, I’ve had to stop and reflect on this question: why it is that the modern church seems to have lost its way in regards to suffering? Why is my generation genuinely struggling to cope with pain and affliction and still keep the faith? I think part of it has to do with this “gratitude problem.” When our focus drifts away from who God is and we fixate instead on looking for God’s faithfulness in what he does for us? We shift our perspective, and we’ll ultimately weight our understanding of God by our own circumstances and experiences.

It often starts innocently enough: we see God move in an incredible way to provide for us, or we hear a testimony of His power and faithfulness to a fellow believer, and we say to ourselves “See? God is so good.” There is of course truth in that statement, God is so good, but the problem is when we assign that goodness to Him only in light of the ways we see Him provide for us. We use our limited perspective of what we believe is good and just and fair in this life, and start to see that as a measuring stick for our understanding of God’s faithfulness. Sure, we know God is good when He gives the miracle baby to the faithful couple who have spent 10 years waiting and praying, but is that WHY we know He is good? Do we believe He is good when the couple that tries for 20 years never gets a miracle of their own? Do we believe He is good when cancer and disease take our loved ones seemingly too soon? Do we believe He is good when the deepest desires of our heart are the very things He says no to? Do we believe He is good when we don’t have such obvious “proof” to hold up to show it? When we begin to focus too much on the testimonies of the things God has given to us as the proof of God’s character, then it shouldn’t be surprising when hard times lead us to question our faith or even God’s love for us. After all, if God’s gifts to us are the evidence we look for to prove His love and ultimately His goodness, how can we be sure of Him when our prayer seemingly goes unanswered?

GRATITUDE

One of the ways I’ve tried to become more intentional about combating this issue is in prayer. We have used a very simple model in our home to teach our boys about prayer. Each night when we have bedtime prayers, the boys have followed the same pattern: first they thank God for at least three things, then they pray for at least three other people, then they can pray for themselves (which always includes an apology for sin and a request for forgiveness, …