The Velveteen Marriage

We all have that childhood friend…our homie…our ride or die…our best friend through the storms…often irreplaceable, can’t live without companion…that’s right friends, I’m talking about your lovie.

Maybe your lovie was a blanket or a bear. Mine was a hardcore, bedraggled, used to be yellow {I think?} rabbit blanket, known only by one name – Rabbie. It’s been so long since Rabbie was new {we’re talking 30 years here, people} that I can barely remember what he looked like at first. I’m fairly certain he started off life with 2 ears, 2 eyes, 2 felt pink cheeks. Definitely no holes. Smooth satiny edges all the way around. Now that I think about it, he was definitely yellow and white. Fast forward through life’s adventures and poor Rabbie is down to one droopy ear and some scraps of satin, still left from when I would rub it to soothe myself to sleep as a little girl. Rabbie has been, well… well loved.

When I was a little girl, I loved stories. Books were my magical escape into past worlds bigger and more beautiful than I could imagine. Rabbie went on many a reading adventure with me. Then there’s always those special books – books that you could read over and over again that still strike your heart with timeless affection. Books that, by the very words on the page, send you reminiscing to where you were and who you were the first time you read them. For me, one of those books was the story of the Velveteen Rabbit – the story of a sweet velveteen bunny given to a little boy. The boy had loved and played with his bunny, had snuggled him when sick and the Velveteen Rabbit had stuck by his side through the worst of fevers. The boy loved his rabbit so much that he often wished he was real. And the Velveteen Rabbit wished the same with all his heart.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit. 

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ 

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ 

rr1‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” 

The hard part about becoming “real” is that you have to go through a bit of a Mess first to get there.

As time went on, Rabbie found his way into a box somewhere – and was replaced by someone much better to snuggle with. My husband.

I was looking at him this morning and thinking about all the ways life has “rubbed the fur” off us lately. There are certainly parts of me that are not where they were when we started this journey of life together. {All the praise hands for SPANX!} Parts of him that have gotten softer with time. We have been broken and repaired and even though life threatened to toss us out, we have survived by each other’s side. Even with some “fur rubbed off”, I can’t imagine loving him more.

We are entering into our 13th year together – 11 being married. Life has a crazy way of playing itself out. There are some years that have been complete cakewalks – like the boy and his velveteen rabbit, simply playing their games endlessly in the field, dreaming big dreams and enjoying one another’s company. There are others we faced that rock us to our core – sometimes altogether paralyzing us – much like the boy in the story when he faced the scarlet fever. The velveteen rabbit stayed by his side – even when nurses wanted to throw him out. When I look back on our history as a couple and on other couples who have walked with us – my heart hurts for their struggles. Some couple friends we have known have not been so fortunate and have seen their love burn up in the fever, get tossed out, as a worn toy that someone could no longer bear to keep. Others have endured their pain, allowed their “fur” to be rubbed off, allowed their joints to get loose and as partners, embraced the “shabby” – the hard parts of life that make us “real”.

But for my husband and I, I feel like we are stepping into our season of “real”. I’m certain there are days when I would look at myself and say “whew…that’s the best it’s going to get.” – He takes my shoulders and tells me he loves me. When he feels anxious or discouraged, I wrap my arms around him and remind him of how courageous he is in my eyes. The fur has been rubbed off – the sharp edges smoothed.

If you are struggling in your marriage, please take heart and hear the wisdom that only comes once life has worn down my new edges. Allow the fur to be rubbed off. Draw close to each other when parts become broken and worn down. Endure the “fever” closer together and not farther apart. {I know it’s hot. I know it’s uncomfortable. I know it hurts.} Seek repairs when things aren’t functioning as they should. Don’t let any “well-intending nurses” to tell you to toss old things by the wayside to make way for the bright and shiny new.

rr2A broken, well worn love is not as pretty as a bright, shiny new toy… but being “Real?” That’s a rare and messy treasure.

The Champion Unaware

What comes to mind when you read the word CHAMPION?

For many of you, I’m sure you can already hear the “Eye of the Tiger” playing in your minds (and now all day – you’re welcome.) You can see Rocky in his “Italian Stallion” robe hopping out to the ring, punching and warming up. For many of us – that’s the image of a champion. The one who knocks out the bad guy and wins the round.

When I do coaching professionally, however, the word Champion takes on a totally different meaning. In the professional world, a champion is “one who fights FOR you.” When you are working towards goals, overcoming a situation, moving past a crisis, heading in a new direction, your Champion is most often your Leader – the one who goes on ahead of you, clears the path from obstruction, guides your steps, gives encouragement, shows direction, mentors you when you fall. Your Champion is the guy in your corner, fighting for you and with you, so you can take on the larger battle within yourself. Your champion, to use the Rocky illustration, is your “Mick”. The guy in the corner who has worked and coached, pushed and driven, learned and shared, all so you could be successful. champion2

Over the course of our 11 year marriage, there’s 8 words my husband shudders to hear. “Babe, I’m going to start a new diet.” He is filled with angst, because he already knows he’s my guy in the corner. He’s my Champion. He knows I need his support and encouragement if I will be successful. He also knows he’s going to have to do the hard part – telling me no. Reminding me of my bigger goals. Finding tasty alternatives to my old favorites. Encouraging the visit to the gym and taking over parenting duties so I can do it without the “Mom Guilt”. Making me eat the vegetables. (I literally still make faces. Yes, it’s embarrassing. Watch me eat a pea sometime – you’ll love it.) But he knows that is what I need to overcome my temptations and win the battles I face. In the battle for my health, my husband is my Mick – my Champion – clearing the path so I have a shot at being successful.

But have you ever realized you can be a Champion without knowing it?

There are often battles we face that we are very public with. Usually they tend to be pinterest-worthy, facebook centric proclaimations. We enjoy making them public, because we enjoy having a network of champions to cheer us on. Then there are others – loss, grief, pain, frustration, marital strife, family discord,  – the heartbreak we don’t share and hold close because we fear that 1. Nobody will understand, 2. It’s too painful to speak or 3. We’ve already spoken them so much, everyone else has moved on. They don’t want to hear about it now. And we hide the fact that we are still healing wounds. We still feel pain in our battle scars.

If you’ve been a reader of “The Mess” for a while, you may remember that I clung to the word BRAVE for most of 2017, after my dad’s accident and passing. I prayed over it, studied it, and learned so much about what it truly means to be brave. And yet, BRAVE is also my trigger – just talking about it places me central in that battle within my heart. You know, the one I don’t talk about as much anymore because of my fears. And yet, my Heavenly Father always knows. This part paralyzes me every time…

“As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You made a way for all to enter in

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way…”

He is our Champion – He has made a way. Fears, get out of here – your tail has already been kicked. We can go forward because LOVE has already cleared our path.

But how does LOVE become tangent and clear my path every time? Through the Champion Unaware.

As we were singing this yesterday in our worship service – much like times before – my heart wanted to sing. I could literally feel the words sitting in my throat wanting to come out, but I was frozen by the pain of my battle scars. Then the most beautiful thing happened.

As I stood there, the Father rolled up his sleeves and readied himself for the fight. Behind me was the most beautiful voice – a sweet girl, my dear friend’s daughter, who has been incredibly gifted – sang out loud and pure and strong the words my heart longed to sing. I closed my eyes and sat in that moment – this young lady, taking on the role of my Champion through her own worship. Her love of Jesus strong and clear, impassioned in every note she sang. When my own voice froze, she brought me to the feet of Jesus.

Next to me, another friend who knew my struggle wordlessly wrapped her arms around me in a hug. No drama, no huge display – she whispered that she loved me and allowed me to sit in that moment. She became another Champion.

Through love, I became unlocked. I could face my fear. I could overcome my momentary pain.

championFriends, my glorious mess moment for you today is this. If you feel called to sing out – sing out. If you feel called to encourage – encourage. If you feel led to send a supportive message – send it. If you feel led to pray over someone – stretch out your hand and pray. In that moment, you become the Champion Unaware. You clear the path so others can experience or do exactly what they need to do. You sit in their corner, so they can fight the greater battle, and become exactly as Christ has called them to be.

 

The Mom Face and the Frivolous Prayer

Have you ever spent time with the Lord, praying a frivolous prayer? I know I have.

“Lord, if I could just win the lottery…”

“Lord, if I could just lose 50 pounds this month, that would be great, mmmkay?”

“Father, if you could just let me buy that dream house, it would really show your power in my life…”

Then the Lord and I have a good giggle together and we move on…

But sometimes, genuine, authentic selfish desires fill my heart and it’s a real knock-down, drag out, battle of wills between me and the Lord.

Our family is blessed {and sometimes, slightly cursed} to live in a very affluent area. Many of our friends families have luxuries in their lives that, still to this day, I only dream of ever owning or doing. The struggle of jealousy and the battle of the comparison monster is hard to fight, especially when entitlement whispers in your ear that “you deserve those things too!”

Recently, I walked through a season like this with the Lord.

My family loves vacationing together. We shut down, get away and unplug, and it is simply the best. Just the 4 of us, making memories and spending time together. Like a euphoric drug, I crave it – trying to carve out vacation-like memories and moments at every opportunity. {I could give Olaf a run for his money with my passionate love of summer, and sun, and all things hot…oh, and warm hugs! but I digress…}

A sweet little deal to one of our absolute favorite family getaways landed across my screen and I jumped! Literally, made a mad dash for the Visa and put an unplanned, un-thought out deposit down on that baby instantly! I ran the idea by my husband, who is often the more level headed of us, but who I infected with my vacation intoxication, and we began the planning for this  secret vacation at the end of the summer – excited to surprise our kids.

As the weeks passed, however, it was becoming more and more apparent that this idea was not realistic. Not without ridiculous amounts of unnecessary sacrifice. I could hear a crazy voice whisper things like “Sure, you could not eat out all summer…it’s FIIIIINE! The kids LOVE Ramen Noodles…” or “if I just manage to save {insert absurd amount here} dollars each week, we can DO this!” {Pretty sure it was Entitlement again and she was off her rocker, as she usually is.}

Fairly quickly into the planning process, my husband began to see through the cotton candy-esque cloud of vacation intoxication I had surrounded him with and had the realistic conversation with me. Could we do it? Probably. Was it worth it to our peace and sanity and budget and credit cards… Not in the least. Logic and reason eventually won out and, like a child, I pouted and called and cancelled the deposit.

For the days that followed, I kept scouring the site – maybe, just maybe it could still work. Hope turned to desperation, desperation to anger, anger to resentment, until the Enemy had turned my love of the blessing of a family vacation into a nice little spiritual cancer, growing tentacles of darkness all around my heart. I had prayed for this! This time last year, we would have had the funds! Where were all my funds! Why was God not providing the funds this year, as he was last year? Like a petulant child, my prayers were filled with why’s and whinings. I wouldn’t have blamed Him if He tuned me out for a bit.

Then, in His usual way, He revealed his heart to mine…

This past weekend, we took our kiddos to see the new Solo movie – we’re kinda Star Wars nerds. {Even my littlest can make her own Chewbacca noises} We had graciously caved on our usual nutritional rules, allowing them to have popcorn, an icee with refills and candy. Somehow, during the movie, our kids lost all reason. Candy was opened, scarfed and begged for more. Icee refills started happening during every scene. Popcorn consumed at a blinding rate. I had to ask myself – were they really even enjoying the treats provided for them, or just consuming them at the rate of entitlement?!

The last straw came as, on our way out the theater, my son asked for one last Icee refill. Against my better judgement, I agreed. When I turned to usher him out the door, I saw the largest, most overflowing Icee you had ever seen. Full to the brim, pouring out the top and down the sides and my son with a grin of childish glee – turned quickly to “oops” once my rage-filled mom eyes landed on him. Needless to say, that Icee hit the trash.

We got in the car and as soon as I could form words between seething teeth, I asked my son “Why did you do that? You knew that was too much. You KNEW that was a bad idea, right? After everything you’ve already enjoyed today, you had to know you didn’t need that, right?”

“Not until I saw your face, Mom…”

Whoa…

I kept coming back to that phrase over the weekend, and the Lord began to gently apply it to my own, selfish heart.

How many blessings do I have in my life on a daily basis? How many experiences and moments has my family enjoyed together, already in this year, that some families only DREAM about? How much have I been given, and yet I feel entitled to more, without thoroughly enjoying the moments I am in?

How full does MY Icee cup have to be before I realize how loved I am?

…and me, the grown up… I didn’t realize all this, until I stopped myself and saw HIS face.

This all brings me back to the prayers we pray… “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things YOU DO NOT KNOW…” – Jeremiah 33:3Jeremiah 33*

As my pastor shared this week – thank goodness for Jesus, our intercessor, who sits at the feet of the father, taking my stinky prayers and interceding on my behalf –

“Here, Father, is what Lindsey would have prayed for, had she been able to see what You can see in her life…”

Oh man, you guys…my prayers have been the stinkiest. Like, blue cheese meets gym sock with a side of junior high boy armpit stinky…

But we don’t realize these things when we are blinded by our entitlement…our selfishness…our wants. Sometimes, we need to just open lines of communication and dialogue with the Lord, so his Spirit can lead our hearts to the places it needs to go.

If you’re feeling frustrated in prayer this week, try flipping it on it’s head. Instead of praying for the things you have not, thank Him for the things you have. Instead of focusing on all you are not, thank Him for all that you are. Instead of deciding for your self what will be, seek His will on what could be.

This is not a time for the nots. This is a time for the opening, offering and remaking. This is a time for the humbling, the available. For acknowledging His goodness and that it may not always look like everyone else’s in life, because He has designed that goodness for you alone, for the life He has in store for you.

Unpack Your Sh!t

*Please don’t let the title scare you…You’ll want to stick around for this, trust me…*

Mother Hustler. Road Warrior. Traveling Mama. Boss Lady on the Go.

At some point in the last 3 months, due to my travel schedule at the day job, I have been defined by one {or all} of these…and to be honest, I LOVE it. The freedom of no 4 walls, the fun of traveling, the excitement of meeting with and developing hundreds of new leaders….and of course, the absolute joy of getting to go to the bathroom alone and uninterrupted! {Can I get an amen, mamas of littles? All the praise Jesus hands!}

But at some point, the journey ends, the calendar clears, and I find myself in the new chapter of returning to home life {much to the joy of my rockstar husband who has become a master at running soccer practices and perfecting a ponytail on a 4 year old wiggleworm with very curly hair!}.

And it happens every time… the Unpacking.Open suitcase on bed

Ugh… I can’t lie, I avoid it as long as humanly possible. I’ve even started a habit of just leaving the suitcase in the car, until I absolutely need the shoes or makeup bag. Then, with a great sigh, I heave the giant red monster that is my constant traveling companion out of the car and wheel it into the house, flopping it into the corner of my bedroom where I plan to just slowly live out of it until it eventually empties. I mean, that’s logical, right?

It’s annoying. It’s inconvenient. It’s a hassle. And certainly, it’s a mess of the most un-glorious kind. Such a mess, friends. The frustration starts to kick in the back of my mind – “JUST UNPACK YOUR SH!T. Why are you living life this way?! Don’t you want the freedom and space back in your room again? Why are you forcing yourself to go digging through the depths of Big Red just to find that one missing shoe?! Where is that hairdryer?!” This is an actual argument I have with myself on the regular for about a week after my trips.

Facing my inevitable adulting, I take a deep breath, roll up my sleeves and get it unpacked. Taking a look at dirty laundry, processing, organizing, re-counting supplies, and just taking a breath to get my life back together again.

It brings freedom. It brings release. I have clarity around my life and  belongings once I have a handle on getting things to their proper balance again. “Big Red” is emptied out and back in it’s spot in the closet, awaiting our next journey. It’s a fresh start and a move forward. I ALWAYS feel better afterwards.

So, why the stall?

Then I realized, I do the same thing with life. Especially my spiritual life. And I know I can’t possibly be alone in this.

We carry our baggage around with us everywhere we go. Rather than take the time to process, unpack, air out the “dirty laundry” of our hearts, we keep stuffing into our spiritual suitcases. We would rather do anything possible to keep it in, each of us rolling around our own baggage, pretending we’re perfectly fine with lugging that monster around behind us. It’s safer that way, right? No one has to know, no one will be able to judge me. I can handle the face I give to the world. We’ve got our pain on lockdown – a mismanagement of epic proportions. Then, the inevitable happens…

Our baggage can only hold so much…it bursts…zippers break, seams burst, handles snap…and before you know it, all your heart’s “unmentionables” are left blowing in the breeze. Usually, if you’re like me, at the most inopportune moments. You suddenly find your heart exposed, exploding and bursting out with all your feels that you tried so desperately to drag like a weight on your heart rather than face the processing and release. It’s exhausting!

And those “unmentionables”… oh the unmentionables…Some of you may have been turned off at the use of language in the title. I have to say this was a choice I made on purpose.

As my great-grandfather, a sweet Southern Baptist Jesus Loving all-his-life man, used to say “If you have a mouthful of sh!t, spit it out and be done with it!” This is our constant battle. We falsely define to ourselves and others just exactly how we are doing and what our struggle truly is.

Sometimes, in our Christian walk, we carry “stuff”…we carry “things”…we carry “meh”. Other times, we would be lying to ourselves and others if we don’t admit that we have also been carrying Sh!t. Giant, heaping, dirty loads of it. The hard stuff…the tough stuff. The stuff we build up and bury so deep in the depths of our baggage – the most unmentionable of unmentionables. We feel safe with it buried, locked away and hidden from the world. Yet, when we burst {and we all will}, it all comes flying out anyway. Why do we try to fool ourselves with these false senses of security that if we keep our pain stuffed down deep, everything is ok?

Here is the truth friends. Unpacking your baggage takes courage. Airing your “laundry” and setting life right again is no easy task. Sometimes it takes more time than we realize. We process and clean, we heal and renew. We find our balance again. It takes conversation, prayer, counsel – intimate moments with Jesus, by whose sacrifice and grace our “unmentionables” are made FULLY MENTIONABLE. Jesus looks at us and pleads “Share that story. Lean into that pain. I promise you, I’m waiting on the other side with arms wide open and a reckless love of healing”.

I recently have fallen head over heels in love with the song Reckless Love by Cory Asbury. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sc6SSHuZvQE )

I encourage you, dear friend, as you process the baggage in your own life, listen to this song… let the lyrics sink in. Experience the freedom in letting your baggage sit empty in your closet where it belongs. You have been chased after, pursued, loved.

Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me
And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me”
Let’s do some unpacking this week, shall we, friends? Some of the heart and, as for me, some of the actual. I promise, it’s ALWAYS worth it.

#YouToo?!

Movements are an interesting thing. In our society recently, the #metoo movement has taken off like wildfire. Survivors coming out of the woodwork to share their stories in trepidation, only to find closure and peace in the arms and solidarity of family, friends and other like-warriors who have come out bruised and battle-scarred on the other side of telling their stories, the fiercest of survivors.

Movements are empowering. They grant freedom from fear, they provide a safe place to share your story, and they allow many individuals to turn from a place of paralyzing shame and guilt to a healing space of community and renaissance of life.

Shame and Guilt are strange, though, aren’t they? Two emotions, like a pair of playground bullies, the bigger and stronger we think they are, the more they lock us down, forcing us to take their punches, absorb their blows, and believe the lies they whisper to our broken innermost parts. Shame and Guilt tell us, in their sneering, snarling, angry, hatred voices of villainy, to “keep your secrets in…don’t tell anyone you’re struggling…you are the ONLY one who is facing this giant…what will THEY think of you…who do you want them to think you are?…if you share this, they will never look at you the same again…” and yet, movements are empowering.

Among Christians, I think we struggle so greatly with this issue. The issue of sharing what is truly wrong. We plaster our social media with glimpses of an incredible, yet unrealistically attainable 24/7 life, and then we try to force ourselves and those around us to fall into the misaligned belief that this is the standard to attain, when let’s be honest…none of us are attaining it ourselves. I think if we were really going to have an impact, our movement would look something like this.

#YOUTOO

Meaning, you struggle with this too? and it’s ok? and we can be real and share this and grow together in healing and freedom? YES…

I have a Mess…#YOUTOO?! YES…

youtoo2What does my truth look like? Here’s a taste of my truth. The honest to goodness, hope no one ever actually sees this, crumbling facade of truth.

I’m scared to death. Literally, every day. Every morning, I rise early, bury my fears in coffee, shroud my uncertainty in positivity, and send my kids out the door to be the best versions of themselves they can possibly be – my tiny human world changers – and yet on the inside, when the coffee fades and the pep disperses, fear creeps in. Anxiety is my playground bully and she’s been hanging out with Shame and Guilt like a clique of mean girls who only wear pink on Wednesdays. Her voice whispers to my soul, louder and darker and deeper, seeking to drown out the beauty around me.

She asks me, in her seething valley girl tones (because how else would an enemy whisper?!)  “How will you fail them today? Which of your many juggling balls will you drop? Which of your best laid plans will fail? How will you let your sweet husband down?”

Of course, rather than share this story and my #YOUTOO moment with others who can either raise me up or walk through it together with me, I listen to that ill-gotten advice of my Anxiety bully and allow myself to implode. Rather than allow the rubble of my struggle to touch anyone else, I retreat deeper into my fears and by closing off, I cause others to explode regardless.

The Anxiety monster becomes so great, that it can overpower me, raising it’s ugly head and causing physical distress – migraines and short-temperedness and just wanting to disengage entirely. Sorrows find themselves drowned in the aforementioned social media escape, only to meet the 4th playground bully, Comparison.

It was in the midst of one of these messy seasons, that I experienced a true #YOUTOO moment. I began sharing my story with friends and ladies at church. I began seeking out specifically in my devotional time about anxiety, and was gifted with an incredible visual.

“For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear, I will help you…” – Isaiah 41:13

Oh friends…the comfort this visual gives me. Much like I do with my 4 year old daughter, after a bad dream. I crouch by her bedside, reminding her that I am here, I love her, I will fight for her…Reminding her what is truth and what is a lie from the enemy to her heart.

Our Father does the same for us, slowing me down,  unclenching my fingers wrapped so tightly together in worry around my job, my house for sale, my kids, my husband, my future and he takes my hand in His. His voice is quiet, but loving and strong. He leads me, little by little, asking me to trust…and in His tenderness and quiet strength, shutting up my anxiety. He brings me peace.

Sweet peace.

Friends, how can we keep healing like that to ourselves?

It is when we allow ourselves to share all of the Glorious Mess of our #YOUTOO stories, that the narrative can change. In the midst of telling our #YOUTOO story, we remember who we are and the entire game changes…

We let go and lift up our house, our job, our health and weight, our “enoughness”, our future, our comparisons, our insecurities, our anxieties and entitlements, our futures.

We find joy, peace, patience, authenticity, identity, strength, renewal, hope, endurance and health.

youtoo

So, my #YOUTOO Story? Trade your worry for worship and watch your Father make the mountain of Anxiety bow to Him.

What is your #YOUTOO story? Don’t hide in shame and guilt any longer. Share your story and watch God take hold of this movement in your life.

A Girl, a Wizard, a Lion and a Word

As a new year dawns, I always like to take some time for reflection. Reflecting on what God has shown me in the last year, how He has grown me over the last 365, more times than not a pouty, willful, kicking and screaming petulant child. Yet, I am always surprised by His patience, His grace and the sweet whispers of His voice in my life, even watching my internal tantrums… again.

That’s right – this composed, professional, {mostly, sometimes, kinda} polished adult on the outside…nothing more than whiny little kid on the inside. Now you know the truth…judge away. 🙂

I know this has become kind of trendy, but I love the practice of choosing a word to pray over each year…a word that God has laid on your heart that you hold on to, through times of good, bad and in-between.

For me, last year, the word was BRAVE. Walking through life during and after the passing of my father – it fell on me to be nothing less. In families we each have our roles that we naturally gravitate towards. My father was a leader, in many ways, and after his passing, among our friends and family, I feel like there was a lot of that mantle I had to {figuratively} take on, if not actually take on just by my personality. Conversations and advice that would bounce to him, came bouncing my way and I guess you could say we were a lot alike, because I could see the same comfort he had brought others now coming from me. There were a lot of decisions and interactions and things that I had to face, regardless of my overwhelming desire to throw on my softest pair of jammies and run headlong under the covers, zoning out on Netflix and Gilmore Girls. {and thankful for a husband who allowed me that release many times!} I wasn’t the only one hurting – I had children to consider who had just lost their Papa, a mother to consider who had just lost her 40 year love, family who were just exhausted from months of carrying each other. The role of True North fell unwittingly on my shoulders. Day by day, it was holding that word tight that reminded me God was walking me through.

Brave was my 2017. Walking roads I didn’t know how to walk, using strength I didn’t know I had, making decisions that were ridiculously hard to make. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m entering into a year completely blind and I have no idea what direction it will take. So, because of Brave in 2017, I now claim COURAGE in 2018. Because courage only comes after walking in bravery. 

For many of us, when we hear the word Courage, our minds are instantly zapped to a girl, bedecked in a gingham blue dress with fabulous shoeswizard-oz, traveling a road she had no idea how to travel, with companions of tin, straw and fur – each believing the were missing something, and yet, learning along their journey that the very component they thought they were missing was inside of them all along. The Tin Man’s compassion proved he had a heart, the Scarecrow needed no diploma to actually prove he had a brain, and as for our friend Lion – His courage awaited him all along. He simply had to be BRAVE enough to use it. He could only tap into his courage after being brave enough to take the first step.

As I look at 2018, I feel like, for the first time, I’m walking into a year blindly. What I mean by that is, no one can tell the future, but I usually have an idea as a year starts, how a few things will play out. As a family, we have lots of “balls in the air”. We are juggling a lot of things – personally, professionally, emotionally – and I have no idea where many of them will land. What I do know is that, as I am being called to step out in Courage this year, I could not have done so without learning the lessons of being BRAVE in last year. I take each step, rooting deeper in my faith, and knowing that, while I might not like the direction each step takes {see tantrum references above!}, I do know that each step prayerfully shapes our family for the next.

When I live my life with my eyes wide open in that view, I can handle a little bit of fog on my own yellow brick road.

Call Me Elsa…

Seasons…

The come and go, the ebb and flow, the lessons learned, the hellos welcomed and the goodbyes said…the catch and the release of life. IMG_2413

And for a girl who loves a full calendar, who lives by her planner and controls her world with the power of a post-it note, just “letting things go…” is not what I would call my strongest suit.

I’ve been rolling this blog post around for months…thinking, would it be more impactful as a video? What would be best? Then, the more I thought on it, and felt bad each week for not writing it, the more I realized God was writing it in me. So, dear friends and readers, my apologies for the silence, but we were doing some editing in here…

We are in a season of life where a lot is being thrown at us…unexpected expectations, unanticipated costs, unintended confusion…and we had to make some difficult family choices to prioritize and balance things out. We’ve had to give our “best yes” and our “honest no” to activities and people that we truly love, if only out of self-preservation.I feel like if I stepped back and watched myself, I would see someone struggling to pull all the things towards her in a futile effort as other things just escaped…I am constantly trying to hold and manage all.the.things…

It struck me profoundly one day, as I sat in our church’s worship service. I have, what I would call, a protective posture of worship. I keep my burdens on lockdown, like I would hold weights in my hands. There is a moment for me, in every service, that I have to intentionally let go. The music begins, the emotions swell and I lift my voice…but not my hands…not right away. I can’t allow myself that freedom just yet… because there is too much I am still holding onto…to much I’ve brought with me…too much I am still carrying in my own hands. I have to physically and mentally walk through a list, as my voice walks through each note of the songs… Each item in my hand, a burden on my heart…

The job I have to do…

The house I have to sell…

The children we are raising…

The husband I am loving…

The hopes and dreams I have for them all…

The wonder of what God is asking of my life…

The money that is never there when I want it, but somehow is “just enough” when I need it…

The pain of loss I still bear…

I visualized each item being put into my hand and realized, until I intentionally accept the freedom that comes with letting them go and laying my hopes and fears at the foot of the cross, I am CLUTCHING my hands to myself during worship. My posture of worship is starts as one of protection and self-preservation until I let it go..Freedom is free, and freedom is found, but to be free, you have to let things go. You have to take each item in your anxiety filled grasp and turn it over to God. IMG_2412

I find myself praying over each fear, each item by name and laying it down. Finally unburdened I can lift my hands up…because I have finally emptied them of everything I’ve been carrying.

In the midst of the crazy, we have been gifted the beautiful freedom of slowing down. We have been offered a season of rest, and even though I arrived kicking and screaming, not wanting to give up control, my heart is finding more corners of life to trust, rest, heal and restore. And, like a good cup of coffee, we sip slowly and savor. We take more time for snuggles and laughs. We savor the richness of the season we are in, embracing the freedom of rest when we allow ourselves the vulnerability to relinquish control. There is no shame in the surrender.

If you are visual, like me, I want to challenge you to try this activity this week, in your personal or corporate worship setting. Take a list of everything that burdens your heart. Everything you are clutching and holding close. Imagine you are picking up each item and putting it into your hand. Look at how tightly you are clutching them. Sit in the weight of that moment. Then, pray over each item by name. Finally, lift each item up as you lift your now empty hands.

Freedom isn’t easy. Freedom is usually won after a long-fought battle…often multiple battles. It’s the intentional act of facing the battle and standing your ground, leaning into the struggle and anxiety, that will win you the freedom. Only this time, the battle is won for you.

Just let it go…

Secrets, Mama, Secrets?

As a working mom, I have to admit it. The struggle of Working Mom Guilt is real. Some days, I put on my big girl shoes and conquer it, being the stern voice of reason and upholding family law side by side with my husband, parental gavels in hand. Most days, though, I sigh and, to the chagrin of my husband, feel myself crumbling around the corners. Bedtime, you guys, is my weakness.

Bedtime, in our home, is a long standing tradition of stories, songs, silliness and prayers. It is quiet snuggles, belly tickles and “Harry Potter” (or, if you are my 4 year old, “Harry Powder”). It is endless recitations of BJ Novak’s “The Book with No Pictures” and belly laughs when the grown up reader feigns realization that the book is just one giant prank on them! It is poetry and Captain Hook voices, as we once again gather around Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends” to giggle our way through some silly poems about life, love and the pursuit of pancakes. In our home, and for this working mama, Bedtime is the one time of day where I have my children’s undivided attention and they know they have mine.

Each of our kiddos has their own tradition. For my son, it’s Ninja Kisses, where even after bedtime, Daddy sneaks back in “Ninja Style” for one last bedtime kiss, while my son giggles from the top bunk. He asks for one every night.

For my daughter, as is everything with this girl, she has paved her own path. My sweet girl and I are in a very special and sacred season of life right now. She sees me as not only Mommy, but also bestest girlfriend and coolest galpal in the history of ever! {Disclaimer: You guys, this season is a magical unicorn to me…I have no idea how long I’ll get this season for, but I’ll take it!}

As I tuck her in each night and she pulls me close for hugs and kisses, she grabs a handful of my hair to play with, turns my cheek close to hers  and says “Secrets, Mama? Secrets?” Based on how her day has gone, I almost always already know what her secrets will be. “I love Mama, and Daddy, and Bubba, and Mita and Chocolate!! Don’t Tell! Don’t Tell!” Then she turns and asks me, “What’s your secret, Mama?”, to which I typically respond ” I love coffee, and chocolate, and sleeping in! Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell!!”

I was reflecting on these special moments the other day and just praying one of those “Mama’s heart” kind of prayers – please, Father…Please let this girl always tell me her secrets. Please let her always keep her treasured feelings close with me and desire to keep me in her confidence. Today it’s who she loves and chocolate. In the days to come, I know her secrets may hold so much more than that. Please let her confidence in me and my advice to her be the words that help her grow in grace and knowledge of who you are!”

In that reflection, I was also reminded of how much our Father loves to hear our secrets. How much He must love it when we sit in the quiet with Him, when we draw ourselves nearer to Him and we whisper the precious depths of our hearts. Even as He knows them already, how much it must warm His heart that we still choose to draw Him close, look upon His face, and release our secrets to Him. How much more does He love it when we ask Him to share the secrets of His heart – What our Father holds closely – with us? How we crave not only for Him to know our secrets, but intimately seek out His? As cherished as these moments are between my daughter and I — how must he feel when I choose to share the same kind of moment with Him?

da192f9f481b89c8e2f6de403009cc6fMaybe you’re in a season of life with the Father where you share “secrets” all the time. Maybe it’s been a while since you allowed Him access to those dark corners of your heart, even though He knows you at your innermost anyway. Sometimes I find that sharing my secrets with my Heavenly Father, even when they are dark, dirty, or filled with the hurt and rage of just not understanding, allows me to see life more clearly. It means I’m not carrying this mess alone. It means there is a best friend to walk there beside me – on the days when it’s coffee and chocolate, and on the days when I’m scared.

What secrets have you put on lockdown? What have you been holding back sharing from the One who knows you most? Take a moment today, find your quiet space, and share some secrets with your Father. Seek His heart and listen to His voice share with you His own. Abide, rest and share the Mess.

What Meets Us On the Other Side of Grief

As a teenager and young adult I loved the theater…like, obsessively loved theater.

Besides being in a number of productions, I would often fall head over heels in love with a soundtrack, singing each song by heart, long before ever seeing the show. My roommates and I would embrace our inner Elphabas and belt out “Defying Gravity” from Wicked before my hands ever clasped that precious Playbill in nervous anticipation of the stage show. I would transform into Eponine and a Nubian queen while singing the entirety of the Les Mis and Aida soundtracks while driving to and from college for home visits. Even now, you can find me throwing down some Hamilton with a fervor that might make Lin-Manuel Miranda consider me for his next Angelica…or Peggy…I mean, whatever works.

I have always loved losing myself in a character; falling so deeply into being them that I could live another life, even just for a few hours. Not that my own life was so terrible that I needed an escape, but it was just fun to forget for a bit. As an adult, the ability to escape and be “someone else” has proved to be pretty valuable. I have adapted the mastery of the mask in situations where I just have to push the emotions down and get through, either for the sake of my own sanity or someone else. When I have learned that the consequences of giving into one emotion might unhinge the piece as an entirety, I transform for the greater good to get the job done.

While I love the art of the character, and the relief of the escape in hiding behind my “mask”, especially when pushing through a hard professional day, the same skill may be to my own detriment personally…Because in moments when it matters, the facade is not as strong as I have lead you to believe. Sometimes, much like the stage and backdrops of a theater production, we are only designed to hold up for so long, before we need to be struck down and rebuilt again. Our curtains fade, our paint becomes worn, our costumes threadbare and patched.

My Dad loved the theater. I think I inherited my love of it from him. As a little girl, I remember his dancing me around the house, singing to me songs from South Pacific and the Fantastiks; his deep baritone voice making each character come to life before my eyes. As I’m continuing on my journey of discovery and rebuilding my heart after the passing of my dad, I’m learning several critical lessons.

Sometimes when we feel things so deeply, so powerfully, so profoundly, we turn ourselves off. We run in fear and throw on the mask of the character that is way more fun to be…the person that is doing great, instead of the one that is still tending to the raw, real pain of heartbreak. We close ourselves off emotionally rather than letting ourselves experience the full weight of the emotion. We lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that if we shut it off, if we “just get through it”, we will be ok. We know that if we give the emotion it’s full weight, it’s full range of feeling, to be completely and holistically felt at it’s depths without limits -without any restraint- the weight of it may crush us completely. We would implode to rubble, completely wrecked.

We know what our person looks like now – how to define it, manage it, protect it. We have no idea what vulnerable, new creation of ourselves awaits us on the other side of our personal hell. Instead of leaning into the concept of a new creation, we continue bearing the weight of an emotion unfulfilled -lying to ourselves that “No matter how much this hurts, it’s got to be better than what awaits us on the other side of this pain and grief”.

The other character has become exhausting. It’s getting harder and harder to put on. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought about “being ok again…getting back to normal…getting back to me” in this whole messy process. And then it hit me…I am never going to get back to me again. That person is gone, forever changed in the aftermath of this experience. I haven’t shown the new person around much yet, because frankly, I’m afraid of her. As a student of theater, I loved learning each new character – what makes them tick. What little nuances would they say or do? I don’t understand this new character of ME yet. I’m still learning her vulnerabilities and her strengths…still learning what she is capable of.

What I am learning is, the more I allow myself to lean into everything I am feeling right now, what awaits me on the other side of grief is Grace. On the other side of Pain is Jesus. The new me is arising, like the phoenix through the fire…like beauty through the ashes, I am being made new, shaped and refined of stronger material than before. The less I portray the Me that is ok and the more I lean into the Me that is messy, the more I give God a chance to shape and heal my heart. I am open to relationships, conversations, and allowing myself moments of grace to both feel sad about what is no longer, but celebrate everything that was.

Vulnerability is scary…it’s certainly messy and it is no place I enjoy being. But, if I am going to continue healing through this Season of the Broken Crazy, I am going to have to be the hardest character I have ever been…I am going to have to be the authentic ME. I am going to have to allow myself to lean into these emotions I am feeling and discover the Grace that awaits me on the other side of grief.

An Honest Conversation About “How I’m Doing…”

I hate bad things. As one who is not good with dealing with negativity or confrontation, it’s pretty funny to watch me watch a movie or read a book. My husband will often make fun of me when the “bad things” happen in a movie we are watching – I cover my face with a blanket…I get up to get a snack…I suddenly have to go to the bathroom… I am not good at handling the bad things… the feelings of fear, worry and anxiety are so heavily embattled in the desire for good to win, even in fictional form.

As for myself, I have written and re-written this chapter of my life over and over again. Wishing I could change it. Wishing it was different. Wishing it was a different ending and that the “bad stuff” never happened…but it did… and I have had to deal with it…

I’ve spent the last 2 months processing some of the hardest, deepest, “bad stuff” i have ever had to process in my life…stuff I couldn’t just get up and get away from…stuff I have had to face head on, in a way that still leaves my head spinning.

A year ago, my dad was in an accident. He fought like a warrior to stay alive, to stay with us and to have some semblance of normal. I’m sorry to say that, on March 17th, he lost his battle.  It was, without a doubt, the single most vulnerable, most fragile and most messy chapter of my life’s story. 20160730_131951 - Copy

I remember the months we prayed so hard for healing. I remember the 2 steps forward he would take, only to be beaten down by ten steps backward. I remember the basic struggle for human normalcy on a regular basis – his entire independence lost in one accident. I remember his final days, spent by his bedside in anguish, watching him suffer and struggle and fight until the end. My dad was nothing if not a fighter.

I remember the night he passed as though an out of body experience, a dream I couldn’t escape from – so hard, so tragic and yet my soul begged to soak in every last moment with him. I remember him waking up in a panic, his mind gone but his eyes searching for loved ones to reassure him we were there. I remember holding his hand and singing to him the same song I sing to my children every night to put him to sleep, hoping it would bring him peace and comfort. If he no longer knew my name, maybe he would know my voice. He should…he was the first who taught it to sing.

I remember the drive home at 4 am after he passed. I had kept my radio on the local Christian station, desperately seeking some solace and comfort in the hope I had always known my entire life… and yet as I drove, hope could not break forth. As I pulled onto my {thankfully} empty exit, the song “Thy Will Be Done” came on the radio… and with a fury, the carefully constructed fortress of protection around my heart came crashing down. The facade of strength I had used to get my family through the last year crumbled around me… Tears of hot rage and anger came pouring down my face as I sat at that exit and screamed at my God.

Like a child, I raged against him, seething with every ounce of anger and confusion I felt, screaming and spiritually pounding my fists in his chest. The words spewed out of my soul before I could stop them…”Your WILL? YOUR WILL? If THIS is your will, I don’t want ANY of it. NOT ANYMORE. Your will was to remove a husband from his wife? a devoted Grandfather, who loved NOTHING more than being a grandfather, away from MY children who DESPERATELY loved him and needed him? You took a man who faithfully served you and and loved you his WHOLE life and you let him suffer and die this agonizing death. THIS IS YOUR WILL?! I….DONT…WANT… IT!”

I pulled into my driveway, still shaking with a mixture of rage and fear. Rage at the loss of my father. Fear of having to tell my 8 year old and my 3 year old that their beloved Papa was gone and he was never going to hug them again. I sat in the driveway of my house, while the arms of my heavenly Father wrapped around me, giving me the strength to walk through the front door.

In the days to come, the biggest question I received was “How are you doing?” and to be honest, I think I lied to a few of you…my apologies, but it was all I could do to get through the day. I should have shared my authentic heart with you, but for the protection of my heart, I couldn’t be that vulnerable. I wasn’t ready yet… I am now.

I am not OK. My heart is not OK. God and I are not OK.

It’s not that I’ve lost my faith or my belief in Him. I haven’t. I know who God is. I know what he is capable of. I know with all my heart and without a doubt that his Son came to die for me and save my soul. I know all of those core concepts.

I feel like I am in an argument  with my best friend and He has let me down.  I feel like there is a wall up between Him and I and we have to keep working at it from both sides to get it to come down.

Church has not been easy for me lately. If you know me, you know that singing and worshiping are how I connect with God. Music and lyrics and the spiritual connection of it all are some of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Leading worship and the expression of that experience has led me to some of the deepest connections I have felt with the Father.

Yet over the last two months, I opened my mouth to sing and nothing came out. I could feel a physical weight on my heart and body when I tried to sing. “You’re a good, good father?” I can’t sing that. “You’re the God of Miracles?” I must have missed that miraculous healing of my dad…the one that I prayed so hard for… All I could manage was to sit, and close my eyes, tears rolling down my face, and listen to the worship around me, my sweet husband giving me time, love and tissues, as I endured this process each week.

In the Sundays after Papa’s passing, I have literally dragged myself out the door, because I know that the last place I wanted to be was the one place I needed to be. I KNOW I’m in the wrong. I know God has a plan for this entire situation… but in my vulnerability and in my heart, I cannot see it. And I do not dare lift my voice to Him with praise that is not authentically in my heart. And I think He is OK with that… My God knows me better than that and I will not be fake with Him.

…and what does HE do? …He waits, ever so patiently, week after week. His Spirit, working away at my heart, whispering to my soul, reminding me of His love. Reminding me that, even though I have been “sucker punched by our fallen, Genesis 3 world” {to borrow a phrase from our pastor} He is still there, waiting for me in the quiet. He waits for me to forgive Him for breaking a promise that He never made to me…but one that my human heart holds Him fully responsible for.

I sang in church today for the first time in months. I don’t know how…but when we got to worship today, the weight on my chest was gone. It was as if his Spirit was just waiting for me to be ready…and so, with tears rolling, as they have for the weeks and weeks before, I finally let my walls crumble again and let Him back in. My voice trembled, small at first. My vocal chords hurt with a fire from lack of use…but the more I leaned into it, the more the pain faded and I could lose myself in worship again.

I looked out the window of my church on this gorgeous spring day, and I could almost picture my Papa smiling at me, leaning on his cane and saying “Welcome back baby girl. I knew you would find your way.”

So, how am I doing? My pain is not gone. My heart is not ok. But by leaning into it day by day, and remembering who I belong to, I will not be allowed to walk this chapter alone. I am holding my Father’s hand and I am finding my way again.