No Longer Beautiful?

As an epileptic teen, I had a body that made the models jealous. When you have a seizure 20 times a day for 5 years, fat doesn’t have time to accumulate on your frame. My parents tried everything. There was a season where my daily diet included potato chips and a large strawberry milkshake. (To this day, my mother harkens back to how bad of an idea that was because she had to get a milkshake, too.)

No luck, though. I was 18 years old, 85-90 pounds and I had muscle in places that made people talk. I loved it, to be honest. I thought it was funny. In secret, it became my identity — My claim to fame outside of the doctors and blood draws.

 Now though, in my mid-twenties and relatively healthy, I read off those stats and I get that beautiful glance that says, “It’s not polite to tell you you’re lying, but there’s no way you… Yeah, no.” Whereas once upon a time I felt as if I could lift anything, now I’m thankful when my arms are free of anything.

I cried when I put on a size 2 jeans my freshman year of college at 19 years old. Cried. As in, oh my word, my world is over. I’m a frikkin’ size 2. I was always told my size made me beautiful. Maybe the well-intentioned souls that uttered those words meant it made me more beautiful. Who knows. That sentiment ends depending on the number of your jeans and the letter in your shirt, apparently?

When I put on a size 6 at 22, I’m fairly certain I had the fleeting (not acted upon) thought, “Jesus, 5 seizures will make me lose a size; whatdya say?” Needless to say, I never got my wish (halle-frikkin’-lujah). A size 6, to be fair, would be heavenly these days. Just sayin’. 

I hate to admit it, but after 18 years of not having to work at turning heads, there are days it’s all-consuming to realize I’m not someone who stands out in a crowd. Americans have completely re-written the definition to “beautiful.” 

I’m not saying it’s wrong to work towards being healthy. By all means, dang it, do it. But someday soon, can we stop only reserving the word beautiful for the women and men that look like they belong in a fashion show?

 As Christians, it’s very easy to see what the world has done to beauty and stand around critiquing the critique of the critique. Why do what we can to change things when we can just put our 2-cents in and walk away without any responsibility in changing what’s wrong with our world?

I challenge you, I challenge myself, to live with the Biblical definition of beauty written on our minds.

Love for others and love for God. That’s it. That’s all beauty really is.

Don’t Touch My Butt

Though humorous, the question is never easy for me to answer.

“Why’dya touch/hit/grab my butt?!” I’ve heard that question a million times. If I didn’t like being alive so much, I’d answer sarcastically just to hide my blush and/or deep desire to laugh and cry simultaneously.

I tell people not to scare me. It used to be because my epilepsy was a ticking bomb and scaring me made the bomb go off sooner. But I can’t blame this one on my epilepsy. I wish I could. “Sorry, Dude, before I have a seizure, I have to touch someone’s butt.” I’m not a creeper.

Unfortunately, it’s due to the joys of having hyper-tension spastic cerebral palsy. Basically, all that means is the verse that says, “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing” is quite Biblical in my li’l body. Yep. 

The tension/spasticity  gets worse when I get scared and don’t have time to literally talk my limbs out of moving. I sound like an idiot, but there are days when a siren scares me to death and I can be heard mumbling, “No, no, no. Stay where I put you…” If you ever hear that, just ignore me.

Some days, I think I’ve conquered the whole “be humble and filled with the Holy Spirit” thing. Then I’m reminded by my disobedient limbs that I still have a ways to go. 

It’s moments where the “butt question” is raised where my pride is hurt but my heart is shouting, “Jesus! I don’t want this to be about me… Please. (Make me disappear for 30 seconds).” Being humble is a constant pursuit. For whatever reason, my Creator decided I needed my very own, permanently attached reminder.

But I’ve also learned that when all else fails, breathing deep and laughing anyway works better than attempting to explain it away. 

Heck, what else am I gonna do?

Invaluable…?

3 brain surgeries and a “pacemaker” (VNS) should’ve killed my desire to live.   

Honestly, I’ve  heard countless times someone else’s opinion that, “there’s no way [they] could survive all that.” But I did… Every trauma became a story to tell and a reason to value joy. 

I grew up getting used to being “friends” with people who loved being around me as long as my parents or siblings were there to catch me when the seizures hit. Not once did I question my value in life. I constantly questioned my purpose… But I kept going. I knew someone thought I was valuable enough to withstand the heartache. 

This past week, I think I’ve gotten my brain around why God allowed so much to happen to me when I was young. Life hadn’t hit me yet, singing Jesus Loves Me still made me smile and gave me hope. His verbal reminder of His grace, power and sovereignty convinced me the first time. 

I rarely shouted at the Heavens for proof. I rarely had fears that I was believing in the wrong thing. 

Now, as an adult, the smallest test of my faith sends my heart into over drive and my tearducts into over time. “What if” becomes thrown at the Heavens with a bitter taste of resentment and absolute fear that I’m just a pawn in a Deity’s game. 

I have no reason to doubt God, but my life has given me lies of other things to view as powerful. Those other things have limitations, but my fear of their impending impact often leaves me unable to see the weakness in their power. 

I’m not proud of my doubts. I can very quickly identify with Thomas and Peter of the Bible as one more test looms close. All I hear God whisper is, “Baby Girl, trust Me.” … Instead of running into His arms to find comfort, I respond with:

“But Jesus! You’ve forgotten what I’ve done. You’ve forgotten who I am. Are you sure you’re bigger than this new fear? Can I trust you?!

And then, I remember the one thing that quiets my heart immediately. I remember where the battle for relationship first began and my value was first declared. 

The Sacrifice of the Son on the Cross spoke my value and future before I ever had a reason to prove Jehovah wrong. Over 2,000 years ago, He saw this timid, terrified girl-within-a-woman and allowed His son to die for me anyway. 

I may have “grown up” enough to make Child-like faith an option rather than a necessity, but this little girl will always need the Father who gave her value in the first place. 

I Dread Nothing

I took one look at my right hand this morning and choked back a sob. Its presence is small, almost unnoticeable, but it exists. It’s only one, but it’s a scratch mark. They’re back. 

Memories of my right hand riddled with scars from night seizures filled my mind. It’s been at least six years since my hand was marked with scratch scars. I never knew the arrival of one scab could fill my heart with such dread. 

I’m 98% positive the scab is from a bug bite I had just scratched absent mindedly through the night. But it’s the possibilities, the fears, the what-ifs of the remaining 2% that held my heart captive. 

I’ve learned not to beg God for a revelation of the future. The few times I could actually say I “saw something coming” were never for personal gain. But just the memories of a terrifying past filled with medical mysteries make my tongue ache with a desire to scream at the Heavens: 

“What?! What next?! Am I… When will I… Can I…? What’s my future, Jehovah?!”

Quietly, the reality of a bug bite flooded my mind. The fear of unconscious seizures gently slipped into the category of “imagination” & I felt my Heavenly Father-Daddy wrap His arms around my quaking shoulders. 

Child… Trust Me. Your future is filled with dread because you rely on fear to feel in control. Trust Me. Learn what it means to smile at the future simply because your past and your future share one thing: Me. 

Warped Healing

Just about every disabled person has a “healing” story. To be quite honest, disabled Christians can very easily sit around and crack jokes about “that one time I got prayed over.” Well, some of us crack jokes. Most of us cry while we try to joke because there’s nothing else we can do.

Asking God for healing for a disabled loved one is a beautiful thing. I’ve done it myself. There’s something amazing about realizing you’re entering into the Presence of the God who has the power to heal. I believe physical healing still happens today. But, Americans especially, have skewed the Biblical meaning of healing quite well.

I was six years old and the church we attended was my favorite place to be. Everyone knew my disabilities and everyone, for the most part, accepted me despite the fact that I “looked funny.” A darling, godly, older woman approached me one Sunday, took hold of my hand and said, “If you have faith I know that what I’m about to pray will heal you. If you don’t have enough faith to capture that healing, I believe I have enough faith to stand in the balance.”

What I heard?  (Remember, I was six) “Cassie, it’s all your fault if you don’t wake up in the morning without Cerebral Palsy. But I have this magic trick we’ll praise God for that will totally heal you because God is love.” I woke up the next morning and my Cerebral Palsy wasn’t gone. … I spent the next while doing my best to not be alone with the well-intentioned woman because I didn’t want to have to look her in the eye and ask her if she thought my child-like faith just wasn’t enough. I was afraid of the answer.

It had nothing to do with my “faith-level” and it had nothing to do with my friend’s ability to “perform healing” well. Nothing. It had everything to do with the fact that healing me was not to benefit God’s glory nor was it actively proclaiming His presence to anyone that needed that proof. 

I’m going to say something that may get my fellow comrades ready to kill me. The reality is, God has “shown up” for more nonbelievers by keeping me in this wretched body than He probably could have by giving me a story that sounds very much like a “once upon a time, you’ll never believe it, but…”

At the same time, God has come into more conversations because people quickly figure out I don’t form my hand in that uncomfortable position because it’s “fun.” If I didn’t have my body and seizures as a prop, I’m seriously convinced God would rarely come up in conversation. People say I’m outgoing and bold. The only successful vehicle God has used to make me that way is my deformed body. Why would He make something obsolete that He’s using so well?

Don’t stop praying for healing for those God has laid on your heart to pray for. But don’t be surprised if you feel as if His answer is a loving, yet firm, “no.” Healing is often prayed for out of convenience yet we promise God we’ll “praise Him forever if…” That is not the original intention of the miracle and gift of healing. 

What it boils down to? When you pray for healing, God’s greatest, eternal gift may be the healing of a broken, bitter and confused heart.

A Warrior’s Worry

“Don’t step up if you can’t keep up.”

At first, that phrase was cute and teasing. After several months, though, that phrase was said as the man cracked a beer, lit a cigarette and proceeded to belittle every thought and insight I had which didn’t leave him feeling in control. In not so many words, he was reminding me I was worthless without him. I couldn’t think without him. I couldn’t do anything without him or without his permission. 

Don’t step up if you can’t keep up. 

I was his puppet on a string; only there for his entertainment. The day God finally gave me the strength to step up to His standards and not this man’s standards both scared and freed me. 

It didn’t matter how I felt, though. The lie had been trampled and I was no longer worthless. 

Recently, I was faced with a mind-numbing situation where for several moments, I heard Satan cackle, “Don’t step up if you can’t keep up, you worthless warrior of God. Warrior? More like roach. Jehovah has called you to fight for Him in battle and you’re not strong, wise or ready enough. Let me remind you who you really are. Don’t ever step up again, you little wretch. You’ll never be able to keep up.”

With more authority than I felt, I smiled at my Enemy’s words. My heart raced, my skin grew cold, but I smiled anyway. I was being called to fight a spiritual battle I did not feel prepared for, and that petrified me. When my fear was just about ready to kill me, I heard my heart whisper back,

“No. Don’t step up if you can’t keep up. Jesus — I may not be able to step up, but He can. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

I learned a valuable lesson that night. When my value faulters, my God remains strong. When my ability to fight disappears, my God hides me in His wings. I am nothing when Satan calls me out for a fight. The Lord within me is everything.

Deep Truths

It’s a viral clip on Buzzfeed. Blind-folded children find their respective mothers by ‘feeling’ for them. It’s beautiful. It brings back memories of when it didn’t work between myself and my own mother.

During one particular seizure, I was convinced my mother was a total stranger. Being afraid of her, I sunk deep into the arms of a nurse I had never met. My brain was confused. I don’t remember much.

I do remember one thing, though. The nurse hugged me tightly, knowing it was her job to adopt my false reality in order to make the seizure end. The woman hugged me and I calmed down, but I calmed down for a weird reason. My brain registered the nurse’s hug and somehow I knew it wasn’t my mother hugging me.

The realization made my brain find reason and the seizure was over.

Those types of seizures are impossible for me now, but through them, I learned how to find value in the smallest parts of my reality. Nowadays, I don’t do reality checks because of seizures. I do reality checks for what  I know of the character of God within the torrents of life.

When my heart hurts, when my friends betray me, when I’m so stressed out I can’t tell the difference between upside down and right side up… I’ve learned to look for the Heart of my King. 

Even when I can’t identify the big truths, the little truths lead to the Ultimate Truth Himself. During that season of heartwrenching seizures, I learned to identify Jesus by the “little truths.” 

The reality is, though, even when I can’t identify Him, He identifies me. That is enough.