Posted in January 2019, podcast

Twenty-fineteen: Everything’s Going to be Fine

Listen to the full episode here!

As we say goodbye to 2018, Matt and I reflect on some of what we learned over the Christmas holiday.

I learned that I’m a judgey, selfish, child who needs to learn to be thankful I get to sit at the feet of a Savior who loves me despite myself. (Yay for self-reflection.)

Matt is reminded of the incredible sacrifice that Jesus made simply by setting aside His Godhood to become a man in order to be with His people.

Clearly, we had different things going on.

After that conversation, we move into looking ahead to the new year and ways we hope to grow spiritually as we continue to seek after God.

Listen to the full episode here!

Special Announcement:
We will be taking the month of January off. Previously published episodes will be re-released during this time.

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Posted in December 2018, podcast

The Greatest Christmas Story Ever Told

Join us one more time by the fire as Matt reads the greatest Christmas story ever told!

This time, it comes straight from the Big Book, the Bible, Luke 2:1-19. Grab a warm drink, a cozy blankie and your loved ones and gather round to hear about the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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Special thanks to James Swanson for permission to use the KJV 401 Reader’s Edition. You can download your own through Amazon.

Special thanks also for the use of “Silent Night (Holy Night)” as our outro music: by Alexander Nakarada
https://www.serpentsoundstudios.com
Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com
Attribution 4.0 International (cc BY 4.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

Posted in December 2018, podcast

A Visit from St. Nicholas

This Christmas Eve, let’s tuck into a little classic and my own personal favorite, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” otherwise known as “T’was the Night Before Christmas.”

Grab a warm drink, a cozy blanket and someone you love and settle in for this little classic.

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Posted in December 2018, podcast

“Little Piccola” A Christmas Story

In and amongst all the hoopla for the holidays, we sometimes forget to simply be thankful for the small things.

This week Brandy reads “Little Piccola,” a short story about a little girl who’s been impoverished her whole life, until one Christmas morning when she wakes up to find the greatest gift she could have ever hoped for!

Listen to the “Little Piccola” here

One week til Christmas, you guys! What better time than the present to say thank you to our Father in Heaven for His endless gifts that He has lavishly showered upon us!

Posted in December 2018, podcast

“The Gift of the Magi” Christmas Story

In our second Christmas story for 2018, Matt reads O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.”

It’s a simple little tale of a young couple struggling to make ends meet, but who are determined to give the other a nice gift for Christmas. Each of their gifts comes at a great sacrifice, which often, the best gifts do.

This story was written in 1905 so the language is a bit “old-timey” but it’s a Christmas classic that all should hear.

Listen to the story here!

Posted in August 2018, podcast

Remembering God’s Faithfulness

For years I had, on our front door, a little sticky note that read, “Remember what God has already brought you through.” It was a quick visual for me to see each and every day reminding me of God’s faithfulness so that when I stepped out of the relative safety of my home, I would carry this one simple truth with me.

It did, in fact, become such a habit to look at that it lost its punch. I got very good at quoting that little phrase but somehow forgot how to apply its truth to my daily life.

It turns out, I’m not so different from the Israelites, after all. And chances are, neither are you.

Looking through the book of Exodus you will see scores of times that those folks just plumb forgot all the awe-inspiring things God did to provide for them. He made water gush out of a rock because they were thirsty. He dropped manna from the skies so they could eat. He appeared to Moses who proceeded to glow with God’s glory for over a month.

I know some pretty cool and highly talented people, but none of them can do anything even close to that, y’all. And God did this kind of thing on a regular basis.

But somehow, it never seemed to be enough to make a lasting impression on these guys.

Take, for example, chapter 14 in the book of Exodus, the time God led the Israelites through the Red Sea over dry land. Here, the Egyptians are in hot pursuit of the Israelites. I imagine the best car chase scene you’ve ever watched in a movie but with chariots. The Israelites pulled up to the sea’s edge and must have thought it was over. I mean, it’s not like they could just swim across the sea, ya know?

So, God, being God, works through Moses, who bangs down his staff and wah-la! The sea begins to dry up and the Israelites, looking back and forth at each other, shrug their shoulders and start to walk across the dry seabed.

They cross and meanwhile, the Egyptians get swallowed up by the raging waters that are coming back to life after the Israelites pass by. Boom! Mic drop.

God did a super big thing. Surely this is the event that is going to stick in their minds for the rest of their lives and they will never again complain to God about His timing, His provision, His purpose…whatever.

In fact, in chapter 15 of Exodus, following this Main Event, the Israelites write a song of praise and sing it to God.

          “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; this
          is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will extol Him. The
          Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name. Who is like You among the gods, O
          Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working
          wonders? You stretched out Your right hand, the earth swallowed them. In
          Your lovingkindness You have led the people who You have redeemed; in
          Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation.”
-Exodus 15: 2-3, 11-13

That’s beautiful! They get it! They recognize that God is far above all other gods, that He alone saves and redeems His people and that He is worthy of praise.

Until…

Man, they didn’t even wait for the next chapter before things go south.

In verse 22, directly after they have sung this beautiful song to the Lord who saved them, they come to a place where they are thirsty and there’s no sign of water. Granted, it had been three days. I imagine that’s got to be uncomfortable in ways I’ve never personally experienced. All the same, the grumbling begins.

How quickly they seem to have forgotten what God has already brought them through. How easily they have let that miraculous event fall to the back of their memory like some far off dream.

I look at that and I want to smack those foolish Israelites up-side the head and say, “Pull it together, man! Don’t you remember what happened three ding-dang days ago?” I get so exasperated as I read of the Israelite’s wanderings. They are a tiresome lot, aren’t they?

But then…ah, you knew it was coming…I think about all the times I forget about all that God has brought me through. I forget the times when he provided money just as the cupboards were running dry. I forget about the times that doctors have been willing to treat some very serious medical conditions even though I didn’t have a penny to pay them. I forget about the healing God has brought about in broken relationships, relationships that by worldly standards should never have been redeemed.

I forget.

But still, He is faithful.

Here’s my challenge…and I mean this. I don’t want you to just read this and think what a great idea it is and then fail to do it. I want you to take a few minutes and on sticky notes or notecards or scrap paper, write out the ways that God has been faithful in your life. One word or phrase per piece of paper; enough for you to be able to glance at and be reminded of God’s faithfulness in your past.

These are little memorials, guys. That’s all they are. Little markers that you can then post around your house, your car, your office to remind you that even in the midst of this current storm, you can be sure that God is with you because He’s been with you in the past.

It’ll take no more than 15 minutes. That’s less than the time it takes to watch a dumb sitcom. What are you waiting for?

Go make a memorial so you never forget that God is faithful even when we grumble.

Love, B.

 

Posted in July 2018, podcast

I Can’t Drive 55 (and it’s making me crazy)

Driving down the road, they’re everywhere.

At every stoplight, merge, on or off-ramp…everywhere. And I hate them. I get so easily angered by their lack of consideration, their downright ineptitude at doing what is really, so easy. They take up more room than necessary and shouldn’t even be allowed out, in my opinion. You know who I’m talking about. You may even be one of them. (I’m sorry, by the way, if you are).

They are…slow drivers.

Gah!!! I can’t tell you how often I feel like ripping off my very own face because the person in front of me in the passing lane is going 5 miles under the speed limit. Not to mention the yahoo in the right lane who is doing the same.

Or what about the people who are turning off, either into a parking lot, a road or an exit off the highway? They’re no better when they start applying the brakes well before it’s necessary, their blinker disengaged so that I’m not even sure what their intentions are.

Seriously. I have very little patience for most people who are behind the wheel. I’ve been known to say, more than once, “No one should even be allowed to drive when I’m driving because they’re all idiots.”

Listen, I know it isn’t nice. I know I need to work on my attitude. And I’m trying. Honest.

But I imagine, my thoughts and feelings toward ‘bad’ drivers aren’t a whole lot different from Jonah’s thoughts and feelings toward the Ninevites.

Think about it. The Ninevites were described by God in Jonah 1:1 as wicked. Jonah, on the other hand, was a prophet. He had been given a job by God, to take a message of repentance and redemption to the Ninevites, his enemies. And Jonah didn’t want to do it.

It’s easy for me to look at this story and think, ‘Come on, Jonah. Get up and preach this message of salvation to people who obviously need it.’ I mean, really…why can’t he show them a little bit of love and grace?

But then I remember my attitude when I drive. (Zoinks!) If I apply the same principles, I’m no better than Jonah. Sure, I’m not preaching the gospel as I drive, but I am still representing Christ, even if it isn’t blatant.

I think it’s easy to say and do all the right things when we know that people are aware of Who we belong to. But in the safety of my own car, where I have very intentionally not put up any Christian bumper stickers, I can feel pretty confident that no one is going to call me out on my lack of patience hollering, “What would Jesus do?”

Jonah didn’t want his enemies to have what he’d been given – a path to God. Likewise, I don’t want to extend to my ‘enemies’ the grace that I’ve been given. It’s really all the same, isn’t it?

God has called us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44). He’s called us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40). He has called us to do the greatest job of all, to go into ALL the world and make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20).

It’s hard, isn’t it, to want to give what we’ve been given to people we don’t think deserve it? Then again, God gave us grace and a message of repentance, hope, and redemption when we didn’t deserve it. So…who are we to say who’s worthy and who isn’t?

Who are your Ninevites? Who is it that God is calling you to share the good news with, or even just extend a little extra patience and grace? And what can you do today to start running toward the call that God has given you?

Now, excuse me while I go repent and please…don’t drive in the passing lane unless you’re passing.

-Brandy

Posted in July 2018, podcast

Living with Generalized Depression and Anxiety: One Christian’s Perspective

I really struggled with what to write about this week. Nothing was coming to me naturally and every time I tried to force something out on paper, it was just that, forced.  And then it occurred to me why: my anxiety is pretty high these days, which makes me want to “go ostrich” and bury my head in the sand. (Though, now that I’ve googled that particular phrase, I am well aware the way we use it is highly inaccurate. I trust you get my point.)

So…here I am. Anxious. My heart is racing. My blood pressure, I’m sure is up, though testing it seems like wasted energy. Depression levels are sinking. I’m overwhelmed, under-rested, and would rather be in bed with my favorite blanket and the remote control.

This isn’t terribly uncommon.

In fact, if you’ve ever suffered from depression or anxiety, chances are you can relate. Likewise, if you’re a Christian suffering from either of these or a whole host of other mental health issues, you’ve also been told all the reasons you shouldn’t ever be depressed or anxious.

You’ve heard it, too, I’m sure…

It seems to me, the most-oft quoted scripture I hear is Matthew 6:27, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” This is, of course within the context of a much larger portion of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus gave his magnum opus in the preaching world.

To be sure, there is great wisdom in that verse and the ones surrounding it in regards to trusting that the God who created us will also care for our needs. I dig that. A lot.

But here’s the thing: anxiety and depression have little to do with those concerns. When someone says they suffer from anxiety, they’re probably not talking about worrying about how the bills are going to get paid. That can certainly be a part of it, don’t get me wrong.

Anxiety vs. Worrying

Anxiety, though is less about ‘worrying’ about things and more about being paralyzed to do anything about what causes normal worry. At least, for me.

Most people, when they worry about bills getting paid, they find a way to increase their earnings, through a second job or selling some goods. Likewise, most people, when their homes start to get messy and cluttered, they take a day and whip things back in to shape.

Sometimes I can do those things, too. A lot of time, though, I become completely overwhelmed and unable to see what next step to take. That leads to frustration because I know I should know the answer. You know?

Instead, I pace the house, seeing clutter and mess all around and I can’t figure out how to make it go away. I get jittery and snappish with the people around me. Even if they try to help in one way or the other, odds are their help will feel threatening and they’ll still get snapped at, anyway. (It’s a barrel of laughs, yeah?)

Christians Suffer, Too

It’s just not enough to tell Christians that they shouldn’t suffer from these issues. It’s not fair to say that because we’re Christians we shouldn’t need medication or therapy and even then, continue to battle with it on an on-going basis. To suggest, in any way, that followers of Christ are supposed to somehow be happy and content at all times, is dangerous and needs to stop.

The fact is, we live in a fallen and broken world. If you turn on the news or look at social media for five seconds, it’s pretty clear just how broken and fallen we are. It’s easy to find 100 things that cause stress on a daily basis without even trying hard.

When we look through scripture, it is riddled with people of faith who suffered greatly and wrestled with their own falling societies and cultures. Moses, Gideon, Jonah, Ruth, David, Esther, Paul, Jesus himself. They all lived in times of serious upheaval and societal pressure. Only one of those listed (and the list is quite a bit larger, just read your Bible), was perfect. I imagine Jesus, though He grieved at the knowledge of what He was being asked to do in His final hours, didn’t succumb to worry or anxious thinking.

But I do. And so do lots of other people of faith. You might even be one of them. You’re not alone.

Stop the Stigma!

The more we address this very real and growing epidemic that is ravaging the people in our churches, the less stigma there is surrounding mental health care. We are bold to pray for healing for people with cancer, but mental disease is the modern-day plague of Biblical times and we run around crying, “Unclean! Unclean!” as though depression were highly contagious. (Hint: it’s not.)

So, here I sit with this anxiety weighing me down. I’m able to stave off an anxiety attack; I’ve learned pretty well how to fight those back. But the general sense of overwhelm and lack of motivation is a very real battle I fight almost daily.

Look, I know where my Hope is. I know who I am and to whom I belong. I know that God has my present and my future safely locked in His hands and my eternity is secure. But that kind of knowledge still won’t help me get my To-Do List done.

So, if you’re feeling like I am today, let this be our plan: one foot in front of the other. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Repeat as many times as needed. Take a nap if possible. Do the next thing.

And at the end of the day, find that cozy blanket and remote. You did amazing.

Love, B.

Posted in June 2018, podcast

When Panic Attacks

It came on suddenly and without any warning, in the middle of the local grocery store with my cart half-loaded.

I looked into the basket and couldn’t recognize any of the items resting at the bottom. My eyes seemed to glaze over as I tried to piece together where I was and what I was doing.

My heart was racing, I was getting hotter and hotter. Looking around, all I could see was a sea of people and it seemed like they were all crowding in. My defenses on high, my first instinct was to lash out at the women passing by with their own carts full of goods. I wanted to crash into them. To knock them over, out of my way.

What was I even doing here?

Coming into some sense of awareness I realized that I had to finish my grocery shopping and get home. But if I’d had a grocery list in my hand at one point, it certainly wasn’t there now. My brain kept shouting, “Just get the groceries and leave!”

With no ability to regulate my thinking, I simply started grabbing items from the shelves. All I knew for sure was that we had no food at home, we needed food, and this was the place to get it. What kind of food didn’t matter.

It took amazing effort, but I was able to convince myself that I had to wait at the check-out line and pay for my groceries. All I wanted to do was running, screaming,”Tawanda!” through the doors, but not in the funny ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ kind of way. More in the panicked, I-may-just-run-someone-over-spree-killer kind of way.

Groceries paid and bagged, now all I had to do was get to the car and navigate my way home. But even getting through the parking lot was an ordeal. Everyone seemed determined to hinder my progress. Meanwhile, my heart was still pounding loudly in my chest, my breathing was shallow, my vision was blurry and death seemed imminent.

I’m not sure the exact order of things after this point. I know I ended up at the University’s theater where Matt was working on the production of an upcoming show. Sitting at the light booth in the middle of the auditorium, he listened as I recalled my flash of crazy while grocery shopping.

I was beyond worried. Dad had died from a sudden heart attack just a couple months before. I didn’t know exactly what the symptoms were, but it seemed entirely possible that’s what I’d just experienced.

Later that week as I sat around the large oval cherry conference table, staring into the faces of others who’d also lost a loved one, I shared my tale with my grief group. Death. Loss. Sorrow. These were the only things we shared in common.

Our counselor listened intently as I recounted my experience then quietly assured me that what I’d had was not a heart attack, but in fact, a panic attack. She then proceeded to share different strategies for coping with the symptoms as they present themselves. She talked of deep breathing, visualization, and the simple mantra, ‘This won’t kill me.’

Years and countless panic attacks later, I think I understand better. They still come on sometimes. But now, rather than managing the symptoms, I am able to recognize their onset and head them off before they become crippling. Deep breathing, visualization, and mantras are still my most-trusted tools.

But why am I sharing this story?

Because on a regular basis I meet people who are dealing with anxiety and panic attacks and they don’t have any idea what’s going on. All they know is they feel like the fight, flight, and freeze responses have all kicked into high gear at once and it is terrifying. I honestly believe it is by God’s grace that I didn’t literally run people over with my car that day, 20-some years ago in the grocery store parking lot. Because everything in me felt like that would be my best course of action.

I’m sharing this because if you deal with these or similar feelings, I want you to know that you are NOT alone. You are NOT crazy. This does NOT have to overtake you. And for sure, this does not have to be something you suffer with alone or forever.

Please, if you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, depression or thoughts of suicide, seek help. We are created to ‘do life’ together. We’re not meant to go it alone.

If you see someone who is hurting, scared, isolated, anxious, depressed or any of the hundred other words we use to convey our burden, please reach out to them. Depression is rooted with fear. Fear keeps us paralyzed and unable to seek help from outside sources. Sometimes we need those outside sources to reach in and gently draw us out.

Friends, be well. You are too wonderful to lose. And you are never – not ever – alone.

Love, B.

Suicide Prevention Hotline
1-800-273-8255

Posted in June 2018, podcast

Picture (Im)perfect

It was a quiet conversation.

The two of us sat across the dining room table from one another, working on a jigsaw puzzle of a tiger lurking in the trees. Our voices were calm. We even laughed a little bit as we shared memories of our dating years and talked about where our relationship was currently: broken and on the edge of divorce.

We were less than 3 years into our marriage.

High school sweethearts, we’d met through our drama department our Junior year when Matt’s family relocated to our little town. We’d noticed each other immediately. His shaggy, bleach blond hair and dimpled cheeks shone like a beacon home for me.

It wasn’t until a year later that we’d begun dating and then, only after our friends Jimmy and Joy forced us to have a face-to-face conversation about how we liked each other instead of simply telling everyone else. It proved to be an off-again-on-again kind of relationship for a few years, but once we decided that we meant it when we said, ‘I love you,’ it stuck and wedding preparations were soon underway.

On June 24, 1995, before friends, family, God and one homeless lady who joined the festivities, we gave our vows and celebrated the start of our lives together. We danced, we toasted, we tossed the bouquet and garter. A week later, we loaded all my earthly possessions into the bed of a truck and the trailer we towed behind and drove the 12 hours to our first home together in Ogden, Utah.

wedding photo Matt and Brandy(Matt and I, exhausted from all the photos we took after the ceremony.
June 24, 1995. Welches, Oregon)

Pulling in well after dark, it was hard for me to really see what our new town looked like, but walking through the door of our little house-turned-tri-plex, I was overjoyed. It had great charm and it was OURS! Unpacking and decorating was a thrill. As a kid, I’d only ever lived in three homes and two of those were before I was 5, so I’d never known what it was like to actually move. It felt a little bit like playing house.

Our first 2 years in Ogden were full of college for Matt and work for me. We had little to no money but learned how to make the most of instant mashed potatoes, Kool-Aid, and pancakes. When time allowed, we’d pack a picnic basket and head to a local park. When time was tight or the weather didn’t cooperate, picnics happened on our living room floor. By working at the college’s theater, which also had touring companies coming through, we had the opportunity to see and be a part of some wonderful shows and performances, including Ballet West, Christopher Parkening, and Sundance Film Festival.

Matt and Brandy hiking(Me and Matt hiking in Ogden, Utah. circa 1996.)

It all seemed pretty good. We had our friends, we had our little nest. We had each other.
But lurking underneath was a dissatisfaction growing inside me.

Growing up, what I wanted most in life was to be a wife and mom. Here I was, on the path. Step 1: Get Married. Check. Step 2: Have babies. Not happening.

I’d wanted to get pregnant from the beginning. Matt wanted to wait until he was done with school. Tension was growing, while my belly was not. Health issues from earlier had me worried that fertility might be a problem. Meanwhile, I was seeing people everywhere both getting pregnant and also having abortions. It was heart-wrenching.

Then my world came crashing down in the most unexpected way. My dad, at the age of 48, died of a massive heart attack. He’d been my rock. We shared a love of oldies music, fly fishing and ‘puttering’. And suddenly, in the blink of an eye, everything changed.

Dad and I painting trailer(Me and my dad painting the trailer that carried all my belongings to
my new home and life with Matt. 1995)

The week or so that followed is a blur. Matt and I went back to Oregon, we buried and memorialized my dad. My mom, brother and I sat silently together, numb and unsure. Eventually, though, the regular flow of life had to return to normal. Matt returned to Utah, where he was chin-deep in school and work. I stayed behind with my mom, unwilling to leave her side.

Life was untethered and I didn’t know how we were going to survive.

When I finally returned to Utah – I’m not even sure how long I’d been gone – I was restless and anxious. I jumped everytime the phone rang. I couldn’t concentrate. I hated to hear about anyone else’s struggles or problems because it all seemed so petty. I lost any compassion I’d had. And I was angry at Matt.

He hadn’t ‘performed’ the way I wanted him to in the wake of my dad’s death. He shed few tears and in my mind, felt distant and emotionally unavailable. What I then saw as a character flaw, I now know to be a strength. Even though I wanted Matt to mourn with me, what I needed most was for him to be strong and hold me up. He did both. But he did them quietly. I was too lost in my own chaos to even recognize what was happening around me.

Within a few months, I got pregnant and soon thereafter, miscarried.

Devastation. Again.

I was at a complete loss. I didn’t want to be in Utah anymore. I wanted to be with my family and friends back home. I wanted my dad and my baby and I wanted my husband to do more than he was capable of doing for me.

So there we sat. A jigsaw puzzle between us. One thousand pieces of a perfectly destroyed image. And it was our task to put those pieces together, to recreate the picture on the front of the box, the picture that looked so seamless and perfect.

We worked for hours and as we worked, we talked. We reminisced about the day we first met. We laughed about our awkward beginning. We recalled our first kiss and so many kisses after. We talked about our fears and our hurts, our disappointments. We talked at length about the possibility of divorce.

As we talked, the pieces in our fingers began to come together. The edges were formed and soon, the inside picture grew, little by little.

We talked about how much we’d grown up with each other in the 10 years since we’d met. How we’d shared so much of ourselves with each other that we’d never shared with anyone else. We’d already invested so much of ourselves into one another, the thought of having to start over with someone else seemed daunting, at best. After all, despite the struggles we’d endured, we were best friends. We loved each other.

We always would.

Before we knew it, the final piece of the puzzle was set in place revealing not a seamless image, but a complete image. Where the pieces had been cut, there were crevasses as they joined together. It wasn’t smooth as a photograph. But it was whole. And together. What sat between us was a picture, not of a tiger stalking its prey, but a picture of how two separate people with their own brokenness can come together and form a beautiful union.

We weren’t perfect, but we were together.

 

[Wedding photos by Eileen Hunt]