Stranger in the Dark

He was maybe 26. He looked like he’d been through hell and learned to smile at the smoke. His name was Wayne and he saved me from a heap of trouble.

When I got in his car, instantly we found a connection. Though we’d never met, we had a lot in common. It’s something neither one of us addressed, but we both knew the other had lived life wrongly. We smiled… And the conversation went deep as we started on the trek of getting me back to safety.

He asked me if I was really a Christian. He went even deeper and reminded me that “going to a Christian college is a good smoke screen, but are you actually a Christian? New Testament, or what?”

I stepped out on a very sketchy ledge and replied with, “Yes, I am. But… you’re not.”
Instead of sardonic laughter and the “Yeah Baby, but I’ll take you for the ride of your life” answer I expected, his face went grim.
“Cassie… I’ll always tell my mom I love her, but I can’t believe in God. Good for you, but… I grew up in the EMT world. What god can I trust when I’ve stared at death all my life?”

*ooooooh Baby, you asked the wrong chick that rhetorical question.*

I gave this poor unsuspecting man the thirty second lowdown. 3 brain surgeries, half a brain left, pacemaker implant, uncontrollable seizures not withstanding and doctors that say there’s nothing left to be done.

Do I know Death? Heck yes.
Do I still believe in God? How can I not?

Wayne just stared at me. It took all my might not to break the thought process and be a smart alek. (There is a God who does miracles. That was proof.) He mumbled something about if I “believe in God nothing bad will happen” to me. I about puked at that thought. Told him so. He wasn’t amused. I didn’t care.

“Wayne. The verse you’re misquoting talked about how God will work all things for good to those who love him and for those called according to HIS purpose. Asking God to overlook my disobedience and give me a rose-garden when I’ve been an idiot is completely against everything moral, physical and spiritual…
Do I believe in forgiveness? Yes. Do I believe in sovereignty? Absolutely. Do I believe in Grace? Hallelujah. But don’t think I make the moves I make without knowing my worldly wisdom comes with a price. Sometimes that price is the silence of God in my life. Our purposes don’t always agree. On the days I don’t surrender… God let’s me play god for a day and I pay for it.”

Wayne smiled a smile I’ll never forget, said some choice words, sighed and gave me a high-five.

“You really are a Bible teacher (I am? Where’d he get that?) … Thanks for ruining my safety net. Keep smiling. It was good meeting you. No one’s as crazy as you and still a Christian. I like you.”

I’ve never been filled with so much despair and hope for a person at the same time like that.

At the Feet of My Elders

Yesterday, I sat in the office of someone I always saw as a theological legend. Though not much was said about him in my household while growing up, what was said made me love, honor and respect the man before me long before I knew him.

Upon our first true meeting several months ago, with tears in his eyes he shook my hand and whispered… “It’s you. Gary and Kris’ daughter. The child I prayed for. You’re here.”
I knew what many of you may not. He didn’t reverently whisper those words because of my presence. Tears sprang to his eyes out of reverence that God had heard his prayers. I was alive. The man wasn’t shocked… He just knew the tenderness of God involved in bringing me back to Indiana in the first place. We rejoiced in that.

My respect for him has grown in the past year as I’ve watched him lead in silence and speak with authority. God has seen fit to protected him from the all-encompassing pride that often comes with doctorates; let alone doctorates in theology. Seeing his wisdom first hand spurred me on to ask a question I never thought I’d voice to anyone.

If the gift of prophecy in the modern-age means forth-telling rather than foretelling, where does prophecy get spurred into action in a Church that gradually wants more comfort than truth? Even worse, for the women seemingly gifted with prophecy, how do they stand up & speak when men tell them to sit down and listen?

His answer shocked me, as I knew it would. With a glimmer in his eye he said, “Dear one, you made this issue gender-specific. It is not, nor should it ever be. For those given a prophetic voice in the Church it isn’t about gender. It’s about fearing God enough to speak Truth despite hatred of the brethren and being humble enough to stay teachable.”

Though this teacher spoke truth in regards to one subject, I realized his wisdom superseded any gift of the Body.

Without the fear of God and the humility to stay teachable, the Church as a Body will collapse.

Everything Defined

“Sounds like you’ve been through everything…” It’s not the first time a virtual stranger has given me that accolade. The poor man stepped on a land-mine with me when he unknowingly spurred on a random flashback. The two-minute explanation of my apparent street-smarts and physical oddities had the platoon sergeant shaking his head. At 33, he had his own share of unseen battles to fight. Being told by a man with his story that I’ve “been through everything” held a little too much weight.

He and I found camaraderie in the physical wounds we had in common. We knew immediately there was mutual support for the joys of flashbacks. We laughed together at the strange looks we got when we acknowledged our stories as completely different but “rather funny”. He said I’d been through everything. I’d been thinking the same thing for him.

As I headed home from that encounter, my pride began to swell. This guy’s praise was worthless in the eyes of eternity, but dang it, it felt good. There are days when you carry around unwanted memories (which we all have) that hearing a stranger’s instant respect just feels good.

I’ve been through everything, I smirked, cautiously acknowledging that Pride was becoming my identity. Everything. Dang, I’m good.

As I tried my hardest to spiritualize my pride, that still small voice spoke up. Everything, Beloved? Everything?

Instantly, the security blanket of my pride disappeared. No, I haven’t been through everything. I subconsciously touched the scar underneath my hairline, and the faces I knew from my days away from The Lord came to mind. It felt like everything, but it wasn’t.
It wasn’t death on a cross for a people that hated me.
It wasn’t anything like the scars and wounds Christ suffered for wretches such as myself.

My scars and my memories are there to make me like Christ, but they aren’t everything.

Sarcasm is My Worst Disorder

Sarcasm is my first language. Sign language my second (sort of). English is my third. Translation? When people misunderstand my medical dilemmas, I am not the one to gently explain ANYTHING.

As anyone who knows me well will tell you (after much free counseling, “Cassie’s a work in progress” conversations), I use sarcasm to hide. And dag gummit, I am super good at it.

I received some not-so-fun secondary information at the neurology office a couple weeks ago. It’s nothing to be concerned about because… It’s just life of an epileptic, Cerebral Palsy Victor, and Tzeitze Disorder recipient.
I called it secondary information for a reason. I’m still livable, so there’s nothing to worry about. However, after 24 years of living in this rockin’ awesome time-bomb of a body, I focus on the secondary concerns. I focus on them because my body seems to enjoy making those secondary concerns really, really, really fun. (Sarcasm. See???)

Going over my fears with a friend here at Grace College, I told him the news dripping with sarcasm, inside lingo, and a lot of hand motions. He took me seriously. Like, entirely seriously. He teared up, hugged me tight and asked me in the most sincerely scared voice ever, “Are you sure being away from your family is wise right now?”

Wait. Just wait. What? Why? … Oh. Oh. He… He took me seriously. I used death-bed confession lingo because I’m tired of hearing doctors tell me to “live (my) life and the medical staff will clean up when things stop working again.” I wanna be normal medically. Just once, I want doctors to look at me and tell me they see cases like this all the frikkin’ time & they have a Heaven-kissed solution. But, since I didn’t get that this time around, employ sarcasm to hide my anger, frustration and just down right fear.

… Nope. Poor man-friend did not get the neon sign flashing above my head that said, “Don’t listen. Too mad to shoot straight.” No, I’m not dying, Dude. Seriously. Promise. No, I wasn’t lying to you just then, I’m just incredibly ticked off. Probably shouldn’t use words that make it sound like I’ll have no mental capacity by the time I’m 40. Oops. Oops. Oops. Darn sarcasm.

After I cleaned up from my complete narcissistic debrief to the poor guy, two things occurred to me.
1. I hide because I don’t want to be seen as needy, scared or even vulnerable. Not okay. Not right. Not fair to the Family of my heart.
2. I would love 5 minutes with the Physician of all physicians to first, heal me of my need for all this bloody sarcasm and second… Tell me what’s actually happening in my body and which disorder is truly at fault.

Dang it. I want Jesus. I want Heaven. I want the ability to have no need for sarcasm. I want to go Home. At least I know Jesus will get my sarcasm!

Sacrifice the Option

Lord, you have my heart, and I will search for yours…

It’s been a week since I made one of the most frustrating and hard life decisions of my life. Before you decide this is me being dramatic yet again, (because we all know I have that capability) let me explain. No matter what “it” was, God told me to go one way and I wanted so badly to go the opposite way. All the sudden, that decision was all I could think about & truly all I agonized over.

After the decision was made, I was free. I was free from knowing I wasn’t honoring The Lord. I was not free from the captivity of over- analyzing everything and worrying about the people my decision effected. I was not free from reminding God that His will was, in fact, not in par with my own. Somehow, I felt as if that was God’s fault, not mine.
I was not free from missing everyone that I had walked away from. But I have an inexplainable confidence that despite the searing pain, God knows what He’s doing.

This morning, as my new reality hit me with clarity, I saw my heart differently. I’m not sure I liked it.

… Last time God moved mountains like this in my life, I went down a 6-month journey of holding God’s Will over His holy head. Somehow, I had felt as if my scalding anger towards the need for sacrifice would scare God into giving my sacrifice back to me. Seriously, sweetheart, it doesn’t work that way. Ever. When God calls you to obedience, obedience doesn’t come free. You can either cling to bitterness or remember your life is not your own. It’s up to you.

Through this current journey, my heart is pained, my eyes haven’t been dry much, and Lord knows- I’ve done my portion of second guessing. However, God has more presence in this “move” than the last one. But still, somewhere in the course of a year, God had become an option, and my life became wrapped up in something not God. You don’t change your heart from one thing to the next that dramatically overnight.

As I walked through town this morning, “Lord you have my heart, and I will search for yours kept playing over and over again in my mind. God’s quiet yet firm voice simply pointed out a very harsh truth. That sentiment is beautiful, but it’s not true.

God does hold my heart, but somewhere along the way, I stopped searching for His. I teared up as I saw the price that statement took from my Abba’s heart. Though I had inadvertently made Him an option along the way… I had never been an option for Him.

Slowly, I opened my mouth and reworded the chorus to speak volumes since my heart hurt too much:

Lord you hold my heart, teach me to search for yours.

I’m in love with my Lord, and I need my Abba. Heaven knows my journey towards being like Christ is not over, but searching for Him will always equal sacrifice.

Dichotomy of Obedience

My heart hurts today. Despite the looming deadlines for articles and projects, all I can do is sit and ponder. How can my heart be at peace while my heart quakes with dread?

God called me out to act on true obedience this week. In the course of being obedient, I left a broken heart in my wake. In the course of giving God the reigns and telling Him to “take over”, I heard a broken voice behind me whisper, “But wait. Where does that leave me?”

Despite popular belief, I was more than aware of what my choice to obey would do to the loved ones surrounding me. If I hadn’t been watching my loved one’s heart, my obedience would’ve been executed a long time ago. If I hadn’t clung to the thought that I was the only one that can rescue and protect broken hearts, the first time my Master called me to action, I would have acted. But I didn’t.

It doesn’t matter the specifics of my situation. If we claim we’re Believers in Christ, we’ve all been there. That moment when you are the only one called by your Master for a specific goal, and you hesitate because you’re guaranteeing pain for a loved one. You tell yourself you’ll just wait until they agree with your views of God’s calling. But many times, you wait… And wait… And pray until the cows come home, but nothing happens. You’re still sitting there, attempting to assure God that you’re still being obedient, but you have yet to lift a finger. You’re waiting. First, you want your loved ones to be on your side. In essence your prayer life becomes, “Yes Lord! I want you to be my everything. But first, I need to make sure _______________ is in spiritual agreement with me.” This is the dichotomy of obedience.

Because I’m not married, this became a very objective thing for me. Because I’ve never uttered, “Till death do us part”, God only had one question for me. “Why haven’t you done what I told you to do in the first place? I’m calling you. Now move!” My Master didn’t have to speak through my husband, my pastor or my father before I felt confirmation. He just called me. Then He pointed me to His Word.

I think so many times, we forget that God’s love does not stop with us. When I pause my ministry out of a desire to protect someone else, all I’m telling God is, “You don’t love this man/woman enough. You need me to protect them so they’ll love you.” No. Wrong. Obedience is obedience. You’re single? If God wants your significant other to walk with you, God will give that person the same spiritual desire as you. If you’re married, I guarantee you, it may be heart wrenching, but biblical marriage is not designed to split love and ministry. They go together.

Obedience hurts, but what’s worse? Obeying the God that loves deeper than you’ll ever imagine or obeying an emotion and a reality that is assuredly temporary? When God called me to action and I heard the pain in my loved one’s voice, I almost broke down. But for better or worse, God doesn’t call His followers to action by accident. Even when the sacrifice hurts.

Journey in Nameless Grace

Everyone has a desire to know his or her name. … Go ahead; smirk as you read that line again. It’s painstakingly obvious, almost stupidly so. Why is that even an issue worth discussing?

Because honestly, epileptics (at least this one) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury ) patients don’t have that “stupid” privilege all the time.

It’s been almost 9 years (wow.. 9? Really?) since my first brain surgeries, 8 years since my last. My seizures no longer hold my identity captive and I am truly blessed. However, there are still days where I wake up and I have to coax myself into remembering my full name, my birthdate, and my family. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but it still does.
* Side note: I assure you, my Daddy-given quick-wit and intensive analytical skills come in handy. I can trick just about anyone into saying my name without them having *much* clue.

I’ve come to appreciate those mornings. Eh, appreciate is too strong a word. .. I’ve come to embrace those mornings. I still roll my eyes when I check my ID card, trying to make it look like I’m just affirming I knew where the card was. It’s not a fun experience. I’m a college student, I’M A JOURNALISM MAJOR; my name should no longer be a shocking revelation to me.

However, I’ve embraced those mornings more and more as my life takes on an increasing amount of normalcy. Those are the mornings I’m required to only claim what I know as Truth.

I (apparently) can’t remember my name, but I know I go by the title “The King’s Daughter.”

I (apparently) can’t remember my name, but I know God doesn’t forget my name.

I (apparently) can’t remember who I am, but I know The I AM.

All of the sudden, my name no longer matters in the grand scheme of things. I am on this planet to worship and glorify God. I am on this planet to do His will, and become more like His Son Jesus in the process.

None of that requires a name. The only thing it requires is God’s Grace.

Hidden Truths, Broken Beauties

Cerebral Palsy is a pride-crusher.
There’s nothing more embarrassing than being in your mid-twenties and still have friends cut your meat for you.

There’s nothing more terrifying than seeing a friend’s pained expression when you shy away from holding her child because your arm is too spastic that day.

There’s nothing more frustrating than putting your schedule to the whim of a friend because you can’t drive.

There’s nothing more disturbing than finding out an acquaintance thinks you’re twistedly inappropriate because your C.P-effected hand had 20 seconds unsupervised… And it wanted to touch everything both moving & stationary in its path.

There’s nothing more annoying than understanding your two other life-interrupting disorders are only in existence because of your cerebral palsy.

I’m a prideful person… But cerebral palsy has been God’s vehicle to make sure I don’t cling to pride easily. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard God whisper, “Baby Girl, this wouldn’t be so hard if you’d just let go and laugh.

Only problem is, I rarely “hear” God say that until I’ve faked my way through the day and cried my hot, narcissistic tears of mortification.

My cerebral palsy is a life saver.
There’s nothing more humbling than realizing your childhood best friend was only given that position in the first place because you both shared a life of special needs.

There’s nothing more humbling than realizing your mother is your closest confidante because you spent a lifetime learning from her when other friends could leave their houses without their parents.

There’s nothing more precious than getting close to a young child because they announced, “You look funny, but you’re super cool. Can my hand be like yours?”

There’s nothing more humorous than experiencing genuine excitement that you carried an entire plate of food across the house and didn’t spill it once! .. You see life differently when you’re forced to take it slowly.

There’s nothing more modern-day praiseworthy than understanding that you can’t drive, which means technically, God saved you from a financial upheaval you’d never recover from.

There’s nothing more endearing, treasuring and moving than comprehending the only reason I chose to cling to my Savior was because of my pride-crushing, time-consuming, life-altering disorder.

It’s all in how you choose to look at it. As I sit here annoyed that my body is too tight to stand straight, look right or not be an initiator of all things anxiety, I only have one truth to cling to.

This messed up, broken, clicking time-bomb body made my Christ my desire above desires.

Confessions of a Ministry Kid

I walked away from a childhood of being in a missionary family with mixed feelings.

At times, I detested being in a ministry-family.
–I adored the people I met because of the ministry we never got away from.

I was frustrated with the fishbowl-effect missions gave my family.
— I was blessed because that “effect” is what brought so much support for my family when I became ill.

I was frustrated with the ever increasing dilemma my parents faced over spending more time with ministry needs rather than being completely wrapped up in us kids.
— I met lifetime friends that are only in my life because my parents were constantly in the middle of new “missionary-folks”.

I walked away from my childhood determined to never ever become a missionary or marry a missionary.
— Regardless of that resolve, I find myself seeking out ministry opportunities whether it’s my vocation or not; it’s something my parents taught me well.

My generation is stuck in this mindset of needing to blame something or someone for our unstable emotional outlook on life. Ministry kids (whether pastor or missionary) get stuck in that rut (it is a rut, by the way) more than any other group of people I’ve encountered.
Can my parents be blamed for my rebellion? Absolutely
Can my parents be blamed for my anger, distrust and annoyance towards ministry? Absolutely
Should they be? As God is my witness, NO!

I personally went through a time of hating anything vocationally ministry-minded. I hated the wounds that I felt ministry had inflicted on my family, I was confused by the way I felt towards God because of ministry. My parents knew of none of those reasons (that I know of). But did I blame them? Heck yes! When all else fails, blame the poor parents. It’s good for them, right?

No. Parents (usually) can’t be blamed. But then again, neither can missions be blamed. It’s our evil-natured “no-one’s-fault-but-our-own” distorted minds that can be blamed. The enemy (Satan) walks around like a roaring lion looking for those he can devour. (1 Peter 5:8) If he can use sacrifices made for ministry in order to turn kids (later young adults) against God, why not?! Two birds with one stone. Hallelujah. No pun intended.

I’m saying this to refute this new “movement” that ministry is traumatic to the kids and often the wives in ministry. Can it be? Yes. Was it for me? … Sometimes. But that doesn’t mean everything about that season was done wrongly. There was so much good done being brought up as a missionary kid.

Sure. I’m more cynical, more cautious of “believers” and a lot slower to say I agree with a ministry’s mission statement. But daggummit, none of that is actually a bad thing.

Overall, before jumping on the bandwagon that ministry is a horrible thing for a family or believing ministry is what “messed you up”; remember one thing. Remember that when you’ve bled that to death, satan will be looking for something else to use to make you bitter towards God. It doesn’t matter what that next “something” becomes. If you stay in bitterness, and focus on blaming someone for your wounds, there’s only one thing actively happening.

You’re stealing from yourself the blessing of being productive for your Savior. Which ultimately means you purposefully allowed Satan a victory.
Believe me, I know. I’ve done it.

Don’t deny that ministry was at times hard, wounding and harsh. If it was, you have my empathy and compassion. But seriously–

DON’T STAY THERE.

Unplanned Lessons

She would’ve made it sound as if she was creating a masterpiece. According to the two others in the kitchen, it was merely spreading cream-cheese on tortillas. Enchiladas are a big deal to this precious grandmother. Every stroke of the knife seemed to be a deliberate thought-out, slightly life-altering change. As she placed a cream-cheese covered tortilla in front of me so I could do my part, she painstakingly showed me the rip in the bread and proceeded to explain which way I needed to roll the tortilla to “hide” the rip. This was big stuff, Young’un.

I eyed the four packs of tortillas on the counter where her daughter – my friend- stood working and smiled to myself. This elderly Treasure had told me earlier that morning she thought she needed more tortillas because she couldn’t find any others. This was just one of those many times I knew her daughter had protected her from spending money on something not needed.

Dementia isn’t easy. As a guest in the homey farmhouse, it’s easy to see the care my friend takes in providing for her Parents. According to the grandmother in front of me, her house magically cleaned itself, her refrigerator mysteriously made the out-of-date food disappear, and life’s good. I know better, I know how much my friend strives to make her mother think things are like they’ve always been. Dementia isn’t easy.

As I sat at the table I observed old hands beautifully, yet painstakingly, doing a task that once upon a time was incredibly simple. Now though, she stops mid-stroke and whispers, “Is this right?” I’ve only known my friend’s parents over a year, but they quickly fortified themselves in my heart. Hearing the confusion is heart wrenching.

“Looks gorgeous, Lovely. You didn’t miss an inch!” I wanted to say. But I knew adding words to her thoughts would just make it worse. So I sat still but acted busy while she debated whether she could move on. She smiles at me, chuckles and mutters, “Oh well.”

After hours of preparing freezable enchiladas, listening to my friend read to her parents, and discussing a myriad of things as a group, I was overwhelmed with the gift God had given me. I was blessed not only by hearing snippets of wisdom from older generations. I’d seen a daughter who had done over and beyond in hopes of blessing parents who rarely comprehend what their children do for them.

As we walked out of the farmhouse, the precious grandmother kissed my cheek and said, “You’re like a daughter or great-grandchild to me. I love you. Have a good night.” I chuckled inwardly as I contemplated how she made me either 60 or 20 but nothing in between. As I returned the love, I quipped, “Hey! I get to spend even more time with this lady,” pointing to her daughter, “she’s pretty awesome.”

“Yes, yes she is.”

I turned my back as tears pricked my eyes. She knew. She knew she had a treasure of a daughter. Dementia had toyed with much of her memory, but she still knew her daughter loved her. I was struck with the revelation of how much little things like a parent’s affirmation probably felt like gold rather than routine.

Clinging to the little things… That is the preciously worthwhile price of Honoring your parents.