An Intro…

This is a story, my story, as true and honest as I can recall it. For as long as I can remember, I have existed in two worlds. The first, reality. My actual life, as I experienced, lived, loved and hated it. And then, the world inside my mind. The swirling, ever-changing ball of thought and story-line, of magical places and underground mazes, of made-up heroes and heroins and characterized versions of people I loved, and people I didn’t. Hours and hours I have spent there, hiding and creating, writing on the storyboard of my mind.

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The year is 1985. There is a surge of activity in the hallway of our sweet, little house. It is a brick home, perfectly square to a four-year old. The front room, my favorite room, had a wall of mirrors that stretched from the ceiling to the ground, making the room feel bigger than it should, and green shag carpet that I pretended would swallow me whole if I lingered too long in one spot. There was a large family room, converted from a garage, where the washer and dryer had been installed. They were loud, and looked like monsters. Angry, hungry monsters that were never satisfied with the clothes we fed them. Outside, a beautiful back yard complete with a shed for my Dad’s things and a swing set. At the time my Dad enjoyed mornings in a tree stand, and spent the hours after work dispatching an arrow from his bow, aimed at a large hay bail with a target attached. So many times I heard a warning in his words, “stand behind me Chele while I am shooting. Get behind me Chele. Don’t run behind the hay bail Chele.” Excited but equally scared that a rogue arrow would find my frame, I jumped and spun, and ran, and did cartwheels behind him, watching every release of the arrow, imagining that he were Robin Hood competing for the heart of the fair Maid Marian. My mother.

Chele. That was my name. A shortened version of my middle name, Michele. That was the spinning girl’s name. Chele.

On the afternoon of Easter Sunday in April of 1985, the Easter Bunny brought me a baby sister. The bump that had been my mother’s belly was now a wiggling, bright-eyed, baby girl. Jacqueline. She had been named after her great grandfather and grandfather, both named Jack, and soon became the object of my adoration and curiosity. I had so many questions, including why she had lived in my mother’s belly, and why her hair was so blonde, unlike the brown that lay over my shoulders. Finally, I decided that she must have lived in the clouds on the wall of my bedroom before becoming my sister, and that only four-year olds had brown hair.

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The light is on in the hallway. It wakes me, as it has so many nights before, and shadowy figures walk up and down, rubbing their eyes, mumbling echos and exhaustion, returning with hopes that the crying will cease shortly. It is my baby sister. Something is off, she doesn’t feel well, and hasn’t for months. Doctors have given answers, but the answers were wrong. The crying continues, and sleep hides from Robin Hood and Maid Marian.

One of my favorite books as a child was The Princess And The Pea. The story is about a Prince, who longed for a Princess. His mother, the Queen, decided to hide a pea under 20 feather mattresses, stating that only a true Princess had delicate enough skin to feel the pea under the mattresses. Many suitors came, and in the end it was the most unsuspecting of the them who turned out to be a real Princess.

I look at the wall of clouds. At the time, I don’t know it is wallpaper. At the time, it is magic. I wonder if my sister misses sleeping on the clouds. I wonder if she is a real Princess, and can feel the pea under her mattress. I wonder myself back to sleep, as I will continue to do my entire life, wondering if I could feel a pea under my own mattress.

Wonder, curiosity, questions, and then a story to answer the questions; this will be my way. This is how I will see the world.

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My way of understanding things, that started so long ago in the clouds, kept me from smoothly transitioning into different stages of life. Instead of easing into my middle school, high school, college and then adult years, I tumbled. Head over feet, often times comically, without grace for or understanding of ANY concepts of my changing body or the pack mentality of pubescent females. I knew nothing. So I told stories, to myself, about everything and everyone, and tried, awkwardly, (and sometimes successfully) to fit in. Those stories, and that awkwardness, will be the Chronicles Of A Late Bloomer.

And my sister. My beautiful, baby sister. Well, she really was a Princess. It wasn’t a pea that was bothering her, instead it was her tonsils. My mother must have found the right doctor in the kingdom, because as soon as her tonsils were removed, the light in the hallway remained off and sleep came out of it’s refuge.

Even in the dark, I watched the moon dance across the clouds on my wall, a new story beginning. This story beginning.

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When You Are The Other Girl

Hey sister. Let’s get this one thing out of the way. I need you to lock this truth deep down in your heart. Tuck this one in tight. Put it in the spot you return to when you need to remind yourself that you are okay, magnificent in fact. Here it is-

YOU ARE NO-ONE’S ‘OTHER’.

I can vaguely remember the butterflies that flipped and flopped in my stomach riding in his car. He a senior, I a sophomore, everything about him was exciting. It was also equally terrifying. I had no idea how to BE around a boy. My nerves reminded me of the awkwardness of my body, and my know-how. I knew nothing. As many young crushes do, we drove up and down the strip of my hometown. Up and down, and with each pass of the red-light that marked the spot to turn around, I felt more comfortable. Sometime in that car ride he reached over to hold my hand and I knew it then; I knew I HAD ARRIVED.

The trouble with my arrival was that this boy of excitement and mystery had an on-again, off-again girlfriend. They were more on than off, but this night, I was the girl. I WAS ON. For like five minutes.

So began my first role call as “the other girl.” I knew when he and she were having problems, because I would get a phone call. I had been waiting for the phone call, waiting for her to exit stage left and my lines to begin. Waiting for the seat I sat in on those drives up and down the strip to once again be mine. Waiting to catch his gaze in the hallway at school. Waiting for him to choose me as the leading role. Waiting. Always waiting. That was one of the first times I remember letting a guy define my lovability. Even though I didn’t know I was giving him that power. It wouldn’t be the last.

He was such a good guy. That is the problem sometimes with the guys. Some really are good guys. He graduated, and moved on, and the years to follow I had two other significant relationships before meeting my husband.

In between those relationships, I took the belief that I was loved when (enter name) loved me. I believed that my value, my worth, my happiness was directly linked to the tenacity and certainty in which those guys wanted and loved me. I positioned myself in ways to win their affections over other girls. Girls who were just like me. Girls that I hated. Girls that in another situation, would probably be my good friends. Girls, like me. During those days I figured out how to start pretending to be what someone wanted me to be in order to win their love. And when I didn’t succeed, my identity would fall apart. Crisis after crisis. Again and again. I was loosely held together by lies and make-believe, so my constant unraveling was par for the course.

And then, there was my husband. I was not the ‘other’ girl for him, but one of many girls trying to lock-him up. I followed suit however with my old patterns. Be what he wants. Compete. Out perform the other girls. Get what you want.

It worked. So I thought. Until during our first year of marriage, when he knew with clarity that the girl he dated was not the chic he married. For the past 10 years, we have been undoing the damage of those early days.

So here is the thing, beautiful girl, you are no one’s ‘other’ girl. If you are pining away waiting for a text or phone call so you can breathe and know you are okay, stop waiting. If you are pulling out your psycho, (cause every girl can dig it up) to be seen or noticed by a guy who isn’t feeling it, stop trying. If he is a smooth talking, woman loving, romeo-rico-suave-bruno-mars-sweet talking piece of something else that is talking up and whispering in the ears of a group of girls, step yourself out of the group. If you are strictly the ‘other’ girl, the side piece, the back-up plan, and all the other degrading and repulsive names for that role, YOU-YOU PICK ANOTHER NAME FOR YOURSELF.

Here are a few to choose from to get you started. Mighty. Talented. Eccentric. Funny. SMART. BEAUTIFUL. WANTED. LOVED. OKAY. CONFIDENT. SEEN. VALUABLE.

You are not someone’s other choice. You make your own choices. You love yourself. You value yourself. You create your own happiness. You know your worth. You re-write the story-line that girls have been chained in for centuries, the story that we matter when someone says we matter. That we are as good as those who choose us.

YOU, AMAZING GIRL, ARE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. Let that sink in.

When you get a hold of this, and know this, the love you want will find you. You will be irresistible. You will give other people permission to be free in their skin. You will no longer be waiting to be found, you will be expectant and excited to love from a place of already being found.

And that seat, in his car, well, it stays open.

And your marriage, one day, starts from a place of honesty.

And you know, you have always been, good enough.

You are love. You are good enough. You are enough.

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In The Pie.

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Three years ago I felt an unshakeable urge to gather Thanksgiving groceries for families who may need them. Urges don’t come with money, resources or need. So I tossed the idea on FB to see if anyone else felt a push to help. They did. 20 something total strangers put together a feast for three families. As the holiday approached the past two years, I did the same. I put a call on FB and many answered back.

A few nights ago a friend of ours who suggested a lady and her family this year pulled me aside to tell me a story. He gives her rides, and had recently chatted with her during a ride to one of her doctor’s appointments. With tearful eyes he told me what the food donation meant to her. She and her mother have had a strained relationship since her father died, and had not spoken to each other in over a year. With one of the pies in hand, and a decent amount of courage, she went to visit her mother and share the dessert. Since then, they had spent time together every day.

If you have read my blog before, you know I am a big fan of Jesus. So when I feel “an urge” I almost always know who is urging me. It’s God.

This is were I am going with all this. In my personal life things are changing, people are changing, ideas are being looked at closer, conversations are starting. I have noticed this ugly, nasty fear surfacing in my close and extended Christian community when others no longer conform, believe as they do, ask questions, or share when they are “wrestling” with their faith, as we are clearly asked to do in scripture. Fear that leads to panic, gossip, assumptions, and hurtful words. A fear that marches us right up to an I KNOW IT ALL AND YOU KNOW NOTHING OR WHAT YOU KNOW IS WRONG soap box. The fear brushes the box off and allows us to make complete fools of ourselves. All of this causing me to call a hard time out and step back and step out.

Last night another status on FB propagating this mess of using Christ in a decisive way, dug in deep, reminding me of why I was taking an intentional break from daily FB checking.  On my drive to my Advent study I began to cry. Mostly grieve. So I prayed, or talked it out aloud, knowing what God was saying and moving in me.

It’s this. WE ARE MISSING THE WHOLE THING. God is in the pies. HE IS IN THE PIES. He is in all of the small things that we overlook arguing who is and isn’t going to Heaven. While we continue mouthing, and assuming and fearing for people’s condition after death, He is busy restoring a daughter and mother who haven’t spoken in a year over a pie. As we pray for revival, or healing of our land, or hearts to change, He sends in the most unassuming, unusual suspects to do his work. Those who aren’t busy with who gets in and who doesn’t. He is already answering those prayers. We just aren’t looking in the right places.

I cried even more thinking of how unsuspected and radical it was that He sent Jesus as a baby FIRST. The prophecies could have read differently, that Jesus would be a man that just showed up to start this huge, loud campaign of change. And yet, He sends an infant who lives a life that is underwhelming, upsetting and questioned by many.

Friends, God is urging us to do big and little things. Urging us to actually practice the fruit of the spirit which is love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, long suffering, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23) Urging us to SHOW PEOPLE His character, instead of argue over His character. Urging us to gather our people, Christian or not, to do healing things.

If you want to know what’s going on with me, I will tell you. I don’t care what church you attend, how you worship, what you wear, what denomination you feel is best or how you pray. If you tell me you are a Christian, then I am looking for Christ in you. He is pretty easy to spot. I will be looking for love. And since He came for the imperfect He shows up the brightest in the honest and imperfect. I am with you. You are who I want to follow this man with. It’s a beautiful thing that we get to do such amazing work. And if you tell me you aren’t Christian, I am still with you. I hope you see Jesus in me, and my life anyway. One pie at a time. One conversation at at time. One person at a time. One family at a time. One story at a time.

Don’t miss this. Don’t miss Him. Immanuel. God with us. Right now. Let’s get to work. Shout-out to the group that was able to give this Thanksgiving season! We are the stones that are tossed into everyday things to ripple it with kindness!

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Merry Christmas to you amazing readers. So much love. You are welcome here always.

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The Hot Chick And Her Bottled Water

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The man and I just got home from a week in Florida. A week. Just the two of us. You can imagine how wonderful it was. It was also a bit awkward just being ALONE with him without our usual distractions. I mean in order for me to get some play around here I have to set up a few episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, hand out snacks, lock doors, etc. Parents you know what I am talking about…good grief..and I actually have no idea where I was going with that but nonetheless the trip was awesome.

The last day, well, we slept through our flight. Just snoozed right through it. So our final day was spent trying to remember that we still loved each other because nothing triggers moody people quite like missing a flight. We found a flight out, at a different airport, on a different airline, ate the cost of two new tickets, and settled in at our gate four hours early. We weren’t missing that second one.

Those next several hours I sat and did one of my favorite things to do. I people watched. Creeper style. Full-staring engaged. I did keep my face gentle and smiled often as to not scare the ones I was silently dissecting and judging. I watched families casually settling in at gates, and families running to catch planes. I watched kids drive their parents crazy and people argue at airline counters. I watched business professionals and snow-birds. Young hands and aged-hands holding each other. Tan-skin leaving and pale-skin arriving. People hugging, people hustling, people laughing, people sleeping, people stressing.

I watched about 20 people decide to eat a piece of delicious, greasy, Sbarro pizza-which made me join them in that horrible decision making. There really is no attractive way to eat pizza. I kept looking for it and we all just look like animals eating it. And while standing in line to buy the pizza I envied over everything the girl in front of me was wearing, her luggage, her beautiful care-free hair; she was buying a water. Of course, just a water. At a pizza joint. But then I remembered she probably looked like an animal eating pizza, so that made me feel better and worse all at the same time. JUST GET A PIECE OF PIZZA! I KNOW YOU ARE HUNGRY! But she probably didn’t want to get that perfect shoulder shawl saucy. I get it.

And so it carried on. Me watching people. (The man was intensely engaged in his work-cause he was supposed to be at work. Missed flight and all.) At one point I remember closing my eyes and putting my head in my hands and thought “God, there are SO MANY PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD, and I am supposed to believe that you know, and love them all. All of them. And this is just one corner gate, in one airport, in one spot on the planet. There are so many people HERE. So many people.”

I think-and stay-in my head so long I wonder some days if I will ever get out of the maze. But I thought a lot that morning. And I noticed that people are starkly different. Just different. Our outward differences are obvious-the color of our skin, the shapes of our bodies, the way we sit and walk and carry ourselves. The way we engage our neighbor, and the way we move towards the people we love. Even the way we wash our hands in the bathroom. We just are and do things differently.

I also noticed that we are starkly alike. That all the things we do differently are just details. That the blueprint from the beginning of time hasn’t changed. Our skin is different, but we are covered with skin. Our faces have the same functioning parts, just the details vary. We all (mostly) walk, sit, talk, stand the same way. There are variations to this of course, but the majority are a carbon copy of motor movement. We all also universally feel things. We feel sadness, we feel happiness, we know belonging and we know isolation. We know failure and we know victory. We know when love is real and when it is fake. We know what physical pain feels like and we know what emotional pain feels like. This may be the greatest unifying thread among us all. We can’t escape feeling the world as we experience it. How we handle all of that-well like I said. Details.

We are all people hustling, laughing, sleeping, and stressing.

And it is impossible to look attractive eating pizza.

I felt it sharp-knowing that I separate myself from people. I do it. I choose. I judge. I expect. I see what I want to see and hear what I want to hear. I protect myself. I know this is what we do. I know we, even more than ever, separate ourselves into camps of safe people. To camps of people who will not challenge our beliefs or argue with the safety of our theological perimeters. We buddy up with parents who parent the way we do and soap box on the same soap boxes we carry. We stay safe. The other side requires us to feel too much-to question too much-to love too deep.

The other side requires me to give the chick buying water a break. And recognize that the two of us are, from creation, more alike than different.

I think this is why God can see and love us all. He never intended for the us to be so vastly different, as we are not to him. If you remove all the details, his workmanship looks alike over and over.

I have had people in our circle preach fear. The end times. All that mess that scares people who hear it out of context. I have had many people call me naive for pushing kindness in my posts, for looking past our differences to really LISTEN AND HEAR the person on the other side of an argument or disagreement. I have been accused of watering-down the good word and giving people the benefit of the doubt. Hear me when I say, I know no other way.

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The Jesus who lives in me years ago took this heart of mine and infused it deeply with a love for the oppressed, the voiceless, the overlooked, the judged, the categorized, the ones our churches invite on marquees but shun with body language outside the church doors. I’ve tried not to rally for these people. I have tried. So many times. But I must. And when I flip the coin and do something like wrongly judge a chick in a line, I feel it. Deeply. If you were to know me 10-15 years ago, then you would know this makes no sense. I wasn’t bubbling over with acceptance and kindness. Then He does stuff like stick me in an airport to remind me of all this.

And if, if the worst comes and my extension of love ends in a way that I am harmed or my family is harmed, then I will stand before Jesus and know I did exactly as he had instructed me to do-as he prompted me to do. I will die teaching my children and preaching kindness, love, love that does not have strings attached, and that we are more alike than different. So we can rest in that. And to fear not-because the God that loves us so well did not give us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. I will die preaching the goodness of King Jesus, of his kindness, and of his unrelenting ability to hang in there with us as we feel and experience the nasty, hurtful, crazy stuff of this life.

And now you know. I will not fear God’s creation. The only thing I have left is to perfect trying to love them. All of them. As well as I can, as God leads.

All of this, from missing a flight.

I hope you read this blog and feel encouraged. I’ve said before, it is crazy to me the amount of people who read my writing. This will be what I write about. I hope you stay. I hope you look at a stranger today and notice your similarities. I hope you smile at them. I hope you recall what a wreck you were, or are, before Jesus got a hold of you. I hope you let go of fear. Or at the very least, I hope you think about all this stuff.

Strength for being reckless with our (your) kindness and love.

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For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. ~2 Timothy 1:7~

I have to write this because I know someone will challenge me. I know there are evil people in the world. Terrible, evil, extreme, and downright mean people. I know this. I know there are extremely dangerous places, situations, and again-people. I have the common sense, wisdom, etc not to actively engage or provoke these individuals to do harm to those I love, or myself. What I am talking about above is choosing to let go of our fear of everyone because of the few, or of choosing to classify everyone because of a few. And still, in the very rare event I lose my life or get hurt for opening myself up, so be it. Jesus lost his life over it. Gave it for messed up people. For people who would still be bad. Reckless, crazy behavior. Reckless, crazy love.

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If I Want A Man, Then I’m Gonna Get A Man

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“My name is no, my sign is no, my number is no..you need to let it go” (this song is so catchy. You are welcome for it being stuck in your head)

My children were playing after school on the playground yesterday. It didn’t take long for a game of tag to begin, little ones dodging and lunging around the kid that was ‘it’. My second-born was ‘it’ for awhile. Awhile considering he was the youngest in the bunch and his older brother and his friends were naturally quicker.

Soon he grew tired of the game and walked away to find my youngest son. The dreaded role of ‘it’ was now open. I thought the game would disperse, but just as it was ending someone decided that a little girl who had just joined to play would now commence as the one chasing everyone else. She was noticeably smaller than the boys she was chasing, four or five by my guess, giving it all she could to catch the boys giggling, yelling, and running away from her.

I watched for awhile, then decided to call my oldest over to give him the “let her tag you” speech. His friend came along and I told them there was no way she could catch any of the boys, and to give her reprieve if only for a minute. He listened and said “but mom, she wants to be it.” His friend agreed. “No one wants to be it” I said, to which they both shook their heads and repeated that she indeed wanted to be it, and when she caught one of them THEN they had to be her husband.

“I don’t want to be her husband mom” Beckett said. “Guess what, I’m not dressed for a wedding and she has to ask my permission anyway, so don’t worry you won’t be her husband today.” I said. And off they ran to re-join the game.

I don’t have a daughter, but as I watched I wondered if it really did start that early, the chasing of a man. I watched her run around the huddled up laughing boys. Watched her flail her arms at each one, almost reaching them, almost tagging them. I couldn’t remember if I chased boys at that age. Maybe I did. Maybe that’s what we do as women. Chase things.

The when, then stuck with me though.

‘WHEN she catches us, THEN we have to be her husband.’

That is what we are chasing as women, as anyone I guess, the WHEN, THEN. When I catch the thing I am flailing around trying to catch, then I will make it have value. Then I will have value. 

I thought about my own when, then(S) in my life, thought about why they mattered. Thought about the lies I believe in my when, then(s).

When the kids are all in school, then I can really focus on my mental health and career.

When Josh and I are out of debt, then we can give like I want to.

When Josh and I make more money, then of course we can give like we want to.

When I am older, and more experienced, then I can be a writer.

When I have more time, then I can exercise.

When Josh changes, then I will change. 

When we sale our house, then we can have a competitive down payment on the house I really want. (yeah, so that’s not a lie. I need to sale our current house, come look at it.-you feel me?)

Thought about other when, then(s) that people I love deal with …..

When we have a baby, then our marriage will be okay.

When we get through this or that or whatever then I will love my spouse.

When I find a man, then I will have purpose. Value. Self-respect. I will be fulfilled. Same as for when I find a woman. 

When I loose weight, then I will love my body.

When I get the promotion, or title, then I will be respected.

When we deal with our major family issues, then we will have peace. 

When I stop drinking, then I will start dealing with the reasons why I drink.

When, then, when, then, when, then….

I feel winded.

So I had to check myself. Because what about NOW? Because now I have issues that need to be dealt with. Now I need to wake up and choose my husband. Now I need to – above all things – take care of my mental health. Now I need to focus on my small business. Now I need to write. Now I need to give. Today. Right now. Not when, then.

But I stall. It is scary on the other side of the cliff. Our when, then(s) partner with fear, because ain’t nobody got time to dig in and do the work required on themselves. It is so vulnerable there. And if we are attaching self-worth, respect, ownership, dreams, goals, healing, to the other side of our when, then(s)-then we gotta get to the other side.

Friends, your marriage will not get better when kids come along. Your marriage will get better with tried and true hard work and change. You will not truly love the skin the good Lord gave you when you start eating healthy and exercising if you don’t first love it enough to take care of it now. Your spouse, man, woman, will never fill the void you want them to fill if you first don’t explore the space yourself. No promotion, title, pay raise, or recognition will hold the respect you need if you first don’t understand the importance of respecting yourself as is. Today. You won’t give more when you have more, because you didn’t give little when you had little. And peace…peace in families comes from those who are peacemakers. Not side-line observers.

All this NOW stuff is big heart issue stuff. It’s looking in the mirror stuff. It’s pulling back the rug stuff. It’s white elephant in the room asked to take a bow stuff. Sweet Jesus it is hard, brutal emotional stuff. Uncomfortable stuff.

But I know, after watching that sweet girl chase and chase today, that their is no peace in when, then(s). Only exhaustion and frustration.

NOW-we figure out what we are chasing.


I’m digging in with you, trying to figure out what I am chasing that will satisfy this longing for success and respect. Why is it so important? Why do other people’s opinions matter?

I know to whom I belong , and by whom I am loved. Both here and in Heaven. Why is this not enough?

I hope you ask yourself some questions. I hope you find a safe person to talk to. I hope you stop flailing. I hope you rest your weary legs and stop chasing worth in something or someone.

I am pretty tired myself.

And ladies, “If I want a man, then I’m gonna get a man. But it’s never my priority.” Head down, only running in your lane, not worried about what other people have going on. Check off your bucket list, and know who you are. I promise the man you are looking for will find you when you are looking away. And he will LOVE how much you LOVE and RESPECT yourself. It is so very attractive.

If he doesn’t, run away as fast as you can. Just run. But don’t be the girl who is “it”. You are swatting at emptiness.

Strength to rest and re-evaluate what we are chasing. Strength to identify our when, then(s) that are shutting us down. Strength for it all. Carpe Diem.

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So if you have followed the blog long, you know I am a Christ-follower. Can I tell you something great? There is no when,then with Jesus. It’s a when-right now. When you choose Jesus-he chooses you. Right away. He chooses you. He’s been waiting for you. No when you choose me, then you get your life together, then I choose you. No when you love me, then you stop sinning, then I love you. He is a present lover of you. Sometimes he is too big for me to think about, his love too wide open, his mercy too freely given, his forgiveness too unending. Sometimes He is overwhelming. But even still, He doesn’t put me in a situation that I need to perform to understand how He works. And HE still came for us, for me,-when we were sinners-and ended all the rat racing with his death on the cross. He came for you.

~We love, because HE first loved us.~ I love, because He showed me what love is.

Romans 5:8, 1st John 4:19.

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Above is a nod to Meghan Trainor’s NO-but video not ok for little eyes- Song is groovy though! Plus I found a reason to name this post something goofy…

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Why You Running Your Mouth??

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Awhile ago I had a miscommunication with someone close to me. It was a mis-everything actually. Misunderstanding, miscommunication, misheard, mis-mess-hurt feelings throw down. Good ole’ fashion she said he said. It was brutal. And I hadn’t had a situation like this in years.

This ego of mine, maybe even my pride, drew a line in the sand and rallied the troops. The troops being my stubbornness, sarcasm, sharp tongue and my husband. Step one-get him on my side.

This particular conflict was messing with me because the truth was, the truth is, I wasn’t in the wrong. Like, really. I tend to believe I live in a world that I am never wrong, and often if not always that world of mine implodes. I find that I am wrong, that I can be wrong, that being wrong won’t kill me and that people actually prefer when I admit I am wrong over reigning supreme as the queen of Never Wrongville. Because let’s be honest. Those people are the worst. Just the worst. So, I’ve been working on that.

BUT!!! For once, I really wasn’t in the wrong! I know this because my husband said so! And that man is so full of integrity that I want to punch him frequently because he puts me in my place all the time. This time, he said-“YOU ARE RIGHT. I DON’T KNOW WHERE THIS IS COMING FROM.”

The “this” he was referring to was the hurtful, untrue, obnoxious things that were said to me and about me. They stung. They worked themselves into what I believed about myself. The words found themselves on ears of close friends. Of people who loved me. Of people who knew me.

For a person like myself, a person that tells herself damning things anyway, a person who fights her mind every morning, a person who deep down knows her worth, but has to spend time aligning her mind and heart-words are the scales of life and death. They just are.

Knowing this about me, and knowing the things being said were stone cold lies, I called my mentor. My mentor is different from my therapist. Everyone needs both. To talk words with. Words that are killing you and words that are healing you.

My mentor listened. Listened without asking questions. This is important. He listened and let me finish. At the end, he gave me a scripture to think about. It went like this:

~But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who ask you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscious, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.~ 1st Peter 3:15-16

So I pondered on the above for a little bit.

This is what I know, and what he was trying to tell me. It doesn’t matter what crap people have heard and are sifting through about you. WHAT MATTERS IS THE WAY YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE. And if you live a life loving and learning from Jesus, and/or a life of kindness and gentleness, then your life will do ALL THE TALKING NEEDED without uttering a word. Your life will put the slander to shame.

I honestly believe this is equally freeing and terrifying. Because this truth could swing either way. Regardless, WHO WE ARE will do all the talking, every time.

He told me to pray about it. He told me to forgive. He told me to shake it off. That was that.

Friends, if you are currently on the receiving end of some bull, if what is being said about you is unfair, untrue, unprovoked or hurtful, I am sorry. It sucks. I will say the same to you. Pray about it. Shake it off. Practice forgiveness. (God knows that is a skill-so practice needed) and live your life so the slander is put to shame.

Friends, if you are currently the one spewing the bull, then stop. Just stop. Even if you feel validated in the spewing. If you have to whisper to say it, don’t say it. If you have to check yourself before saying it, don’t say it. There is no power greater in the universe than harmful and healing words.  We get to choose which ones we use. Choose healing. Choose kindness. Choose life-giving.

There isn’t a truer statement than the picture below. What Susie says of Sally says more of Susie than of Sally. Yes, and Amen. Preach. Get it. If you are talking trash-it is a reflection on YOU. No one else. Trash-talking is a symptom of something else. A cry to yourself that something is going on. Back to the therapist thing-get one. Dig in and do some hard work and find out why gossiping feeds you. I know-that I know-that outward expressions are reflections of inward happenings. Whatever is going on the inside will find its way out. Good, bad and ugly.

susie.

If you have read this far, I am sure this is old news. We all know this right? We know how damaging words can be. Both saying them and being pelted by them. And yet, we still engage. We still whisper. We still stretch the truth. Why? Well because we are messed up human beings. So messed up. It is much easier to focus on and spread someone else’s crap than our own. Looking at our stuff…yeah that is hard. Looking at it and dealing with it…even harder. Looking at it and admitting where we were wrong, hardest ever. It has to be done.

I’ve stated before that I write these blogs to myself. Lord have mercy I need to check myself. I am growing, I am learning. I can do better.

Strength to speak words that are good, kind and whole today. Strength to live our lives differently so nasty words are put to shame. Strength to notice our blind spots and weaknesses. Strength to shut our mouths. Strength to shake sheez off. I am with you.

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How important is all of this to Jesus? Kinda important. As in very important. This is what the good book has to say about slander and language of it’s kind:

~Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit~ Psalm 34:13

~The power of the tongue is life and death-those who love to talk will eat what it produces~ Proverbs 18:21

The greatest commandment Jesus gives to his followers is to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Hard to love our neighbor when running our mouths. We can do better.

Much love.

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When You Are In Love With Yourself

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So this picture. This picture I took with a Kodak disposable camera that I cranked after shooting. This is what I respectfully refer to as “the hotness.” My hotness was so on point that day that I had to get it on film. My selfie game was strong, even before the game even existed. (looking at the pic now I don’t know why I am so serious, but I digress. Also-shout out to the bathroom in the home I grew up in!)

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Somewhere around the age of 17 my unfortunate stent in the awkward stage finally started to let up. You know the one. Those school pictures don’t find frames very often. Over a course of a summer my body and my face finally figured out where they were going, and with new found attention from boys and a few pageant wins under my belt-I became obsessed with, well, ME.

Finding and perfecting the hotness became a quest. Had selfies been a thing during these years-I am convinced I would have broke the lens of my camera. My phone would have been so tired of looking at me it just would have given up.

I never grew tired of looking at myself though. If there was a mirror around, I was in it. If I went out, I was in the bathroom on the regular making sure I still looked good. It was my thing. And many people saw my self-respect, love, whatever as confidence. Nah. I wasn’t confident.

I was a bonafide vain-junkie. I was addicted to myself. And being beautiful.

While looking through pictures of the hotness I forgot how often I used my chest to get free drinks. You know-using the goods God gave me. For free drinks. No big deal. It was exhausting being that girl. But I didn’t know it then.

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There is trouble in being addicted to yourself, and to the game of being beautiful. Nasty, unnerving trouble.

Plus, all the work of achieving outer beauty is really work at fixing something on the inside.

Here is how things went down. The hotness ran it’s course for a solid 8-9 years, peaking somewhere after Josh and I got married. (How else would I have landed him?) And then, like a freight train, the last 10 years hit me. In it’s wake, I don’t look in mirrors quiet as often. And I sure don’t like taking pictures. Because beautiful just doesn’t have the same definition anymore. It’s not the face I look at in the mirror.

(For new readers-I had two children back to back and what carrying a child and exhaustion does to a body, both physically and mentally; there are just some things you can’t cover up with make-up. You feel me?)

~Now let me pause here before my amazing readers battle cry “but you are beautiful!” I had a very defined, very external view of beauty for a very long time. My beauty. I knew what I needed to do and look like to be beautiful. That, my friends, is what ran it’s course.~

This is what happens when someone addicted to the way they look looses their grip on the way they look. They feel like they are dying. Just like a junkie needing a fix. They draw into themselves, become envious and rooted in jealousy, and find that the insecurity that drove the obsession in the first place is the only thing left to look at. 

Me. This is what happened.

I started dismissing compliments (still do), believed that I was indeed ugly, just as I had always known and tried to fix, just as I was trying to tell the man I married. The man I married-who I no longer felt comfortable undressing in front of-who I pulled away from when he reached for me.

And my sweet blue-eyed boys. Those boys. When you are a vain-junkie you can find yourself resenting the things that steal your beauty. Those beautiful little boys.

All this nasty and unnerving trouble. It was also exhausting work.

In the fall off my pedestal of grandeur and defined beauty I learned something that was worth every moment of my coming undone. I learned that for so long, I knew nothing of beauty. Nothing. The girl in the pictures above had some amazing experiences. Travel, love, family gatherings, college, nights out with the best of friends. My memories of those times are blurry because I missed it. (and well, alcohol.) I missed the beauty in the things right in front of me. I couldn’t see it; I was the only thing in my line of sight. I missed it all.

Don’t miss it all.

Now, I know that beauty can’t reign externally. It should reign planted and abundantly growing internally. Inside us. Deep inside of us. Where we can only feel it, and then it makes us see our lives differently, outwardly. It helps us see beauty in other people. Beauty is impossible to see in other people when our eyes are fixed on our own.

This is an issue of the heart. And I follow a Jesus that tackles, and heals, issues of the heart. I was reminded of this yesterday in counseling. (go-you have to go.) Our good friend said “you know, I think the Pharisees were people who were always talking about ideas. They were idea people. Fixing ideas and problems. Jesus, Jesus was after the heart. He wanted the heart issues.”

Yeah. Over the past several years of letting go of my idea of beauty, I have seen the most beautiful of things. I have never before been so in awe of beauty. And Jesus works on this heart of mine, and these troubling feelings of despair and loss over the hotness, one patch at a time, telling me to look out of myself and to look again for what I am missing.

My husband is one of the most beautiful men I have ever looked at, largely because of his character. The stuff on the inside. I miss it all the time. Because you know, he threw his clothes at the top of the closet, again.

My children. Sweet Taco Tuesday they are beautiful. The stuff on their insides is so innocent and goofy and exciting and a little strong-willed. Some days, I just don’t see it. Because I am lost, somewhere inside of my head, trying to look out.

And as for me, well I am working on knowing I am beautiful on the outside. I believe it is important for women (everyone) to feel amazing in their skin, and beautiful. As long as their definition of beautiful is a healthy one.

I also know that the beauty rooting itself deep inside of me is the best I have to offer. I want, more than ever, to feel complete on the inside first. The girl showing up in pictures these days looks a little tired, is the biggest she has ever been, and doesn’t get ready as often as she used to. But she is on the way to being HEALTHY. Mentally healthy. Heart issues healthy. Love healthy. I appreciate that about her.

As for you-I wish I could say “you are beautiful just the way you are.” But I have never been a fan of that sentiment. Sometimes, just the way we are, is a mess. And we don’t feel beautiful. And we aren’t healthy. And we are stress eating three bags of Cheetos (shhh.) And no matter how many people tell us we are beautiful or blessed, well, we just don’t feel it.

So to you I say “There is beauty deep inside of you. Beautiful things that want to come out. Kindness, love, gentleness, compassion, a sound mind. They are in there. That is what you will feel. That is when you will feel beautiful. When it comes out. Then as you look outward, you will see it. Beautiful things. You will be one of the things.”

There is the most awe-inspiring beauty inside of you. I know it.

It is the Holiday Season friends, turn the camera outward, find the beauty inside. Then you will see everything you have been looking for.

Strength for today.

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~Court.

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~But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.~ 1st Samuel 16:7

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About Done.

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‘I’m about done.’

‘I’m sorry. Can you get time away? Time to refocus?’

‘Yeah, it’s more than that though. This (beep) is way too hard for me right now.’

‘I have zero help.’

The abruptness of the text message made me pause. About done. Someone that I love so much, buckling under the pressure of day to day with a household of small, very small people. A dear friend, loosing the hope in her marriage. Another mom feeling marooned on an island. No help.

I understood the words she had sent on a level that was acutely familiar.

I wanted to send encouragement, to find words that would giver her hope or wisdom or whatever it is that we need when we find ourselves about done.

All I had was ‘I understand.’

Because I understood that about done was a hard, difficult place.

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Hey Friends,

I haven’t written anything in six weeks. Largely because my life started to teeter along the about done line, so I stepped back and called a time-out. Many, many moving factors contributed to the overload of life, all of those needing to be separated, looked at and re-prioritized.

The only way I have found to preserve my sanity during the day-to-day grind is to find humor in the chaos. Occasionally that humor and chaos is the subject of my facebook statuses or blog posts, these statuses and posts suggesting that raising three small children can be difficult. Very difficult.

I have found that people who love me, who care for me, gently remind me to be thankful for these crazy days with my beautiful boys. To be thankful for my life.

They gently remind me that this time is fleeting.

I get it.

What I don’t understand though is our need to remind people we love or know to be thankful when they are brave enough to admit they are getting the wind knocked out of them by life. 

How does admitting something is hard suggest  that someone is unappreciative of their life? Can they (we) not feel both, thankful and tested?

I have tried to change my perspective with thankfulness. Tried starting each morning with praise for my children.

It didn’t work. They were still tough.

Being thankful didn’t take the tough out of my life.

Jude Crying

This is the thing-there is no room in my heart to love my children more than I do. It is a maxed out, full, fierce, protective, emotional, enduring love that will never be questioned or replaced. I am also overflowing with thankfulness for their health, their life, their personalities, THEIR EXISTENCE.  My nightly conversation with Jesus always starts with a thankful heart for my family. Man I love them.

But that thankfulness has not replaced the reality that raising them is HARD. Some days it physically hurts. Having two toddlers (three boys) has infiltrated my mind, my checkbook, my marriage, my body, my belongings-everything. It has changed everything. Some days they move me to the about done camp.

And yet, I still go to bed thankful for them.

This is what I have learned :: It is completely possible to feel IT ALL. To feel overwhelming joy and love alongside frustration and mayhem. To love someone and still want to kill them. In motherhood I have felt things I didn’t know existed; frustration and hopelessness in dark levels, happiness and thankfulness that overflows.

It has all been there.

And unlike the moments that I am constantly reminded are fleeting, all of the feelings I have are not. They always return – day in and day out- each day experiencing my life differently.

The past four years have been very difficult. And I am very thankful.

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This is what is left-this is how we love people who are standing on soapboxes declaring their life is difficult ::

WE LISTEN. We respond with I UNDERSTAND. If we don’t understand we dig down and look for empathy inside of us and say I DON’T UNDERSTAND BUT I AM HERE. We hold our declarations of their need for thankfulness until we understand their difficult. They know what to be thankful for. Some days the difficult is stronger, when we help with the difficult thankfulness peeps through brighter.

When your friend is declaring the tough of life help her pull the tough apart.

When your friend is mourning a deep loss, mourn with her. When she is thankful for the time spent with her loved one, be thankful with her.

When your friend is struggling as a parent pour out empathy. When he/she rejoices and delights in their children, rejoice with them.

When your friend is struggling at work, listen first.

When your friend is in the middle of an identity crisis, sift through it with her. Listen first and then help, help her find the way back to herself.

When your friend is giving up on marriage-validate how hard marriage is. Listen closely to the ache in his/her words because marriage is tough. After listening-then help. Help in a way that your friend needs.

Before interuppting someone’s difficult with a list of ‘should be thankful for’-interupt it with kindness and understanding and lead them back to the things they already know they are thankful for. It’s dark in the difficult. Be the light.

Time and time again, the people who have listened and helped me with my tough have lead me back to the road of thankfulness. Lead me back to myself. Lead me back to my family. Lead me back to Jesus. Without suggesting a single thing.

And as I said before, I am thankful. And I am learning.

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There is a scripture in James that I have a love-hate relationship with that leans in on the idea of thankfulness and joy being present in difficult times.

~Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.~ James 1:2-4

This has always been a nudging reminder that life is gonna be hard. This is actually promised a few times in the good book. In the difficult it is possible to also feel joy, and thankfulness. Cause we are letting our endurance grow, right?

So here’s to our endurance friends, may it grow and grow, and in the end,

may we be in need of nothing. AMEN.

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