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I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING

I usually write songs…or grocery lists or checks for school field trips. But lately, I don’t know…it’s just time to start blogging. I feel it.  I love encouraging people, I love writing and I love (hate) being 81% melancholy.  I love crying when I listen to music and getting in touch with all those feels that people are always telling you to get out of. I crave authenticity, real relationships, truth, justice, chocolate and donuts. I love my children, my “people”, coffee, a stylish wardrobe, good music, Joanna Gaines and Jesus. I hope when you visit here you can laugh and cry and relate and feel a safe sense of belonging.  I hope you enjoy real-life stories and deep conversations with a little bit of lame and ridiculous mixed in. If you do, you’re in the right place.  I have no idea what I’m doing, but come on in and grab a seat.  Epic story coming soon…

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SANTA CLAUSE, BABY JESUS AND RICKY BOBBY

Ahh…all the pretty Christmas lights. Some are as beautiful as a bride on her wedding day. Others…straight up ratchet. You know who you are.  I’ll never have to buy a ticket to the side show again for the rest of my life if you’ll just keep ’em lit year round. Good grief, this is better than seeing Cirque du Soleil live in Vegas. Could you run in the house and make me a funnel cake while I just sit here and watch? It’s mesmerizing. I don’t wanna miss a thing. Hey kids, forget Disney. We’re coming to the Jones’ house every night for a week. It’s way better than the Parade of Lights.

You know what really tips the scale for me this year? Giant Snoopy in a snow globe? No. The drive-thru nativity? Nope. The light-up Santa Clause leaning over baby Jesus in the manger. WHAT, EVEN?!?!?  I am absolutely awestruck by this holy wonder! I recently saw one of these monstrosities in someone’s yard and had to just stop and gawk. They probably thought I was casing their house, but I could not peel my eyes away. My brain is fairly demented so here’s how the conversation went with myself in my head:

What is he saying? What is Santa saying to baby Jesus right now? Is he welcoming Him into the world? You know Jesus was here first, right, Santa? I mean, you’re not even real. Are you asking Him what He wants for Christmas?

“Dear 8 pound 6 ounce newborn infant Jesus…”  Are you asking Him if He’s been naughty or nice? You know He’s not naughty, right? He’s Jesus.

And what is Jesus saying back? If I was baby Jesus I would say something like this:

“Look, Ricky Bobby. I may only be five minutes old, lying here in my golden fleece diaper, but you know I’ve been around awhile, right? God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? You’ve heard of me. Ok, great. So first, I’m gonna need you to back up out of my personal space. And secondly, I’m gonna need you to quit stealing my thunder. It’s my birthday, not yours. Please and thank you. Goodbye. Also, please leave me something besides gold, frankincense and myrrh in my stocking. That’s getting old.”

This whole conversation is disturbing. I know. I’m so sorry. So scary… Anyway, all that nonsense led me to start thinking about some of the ridiculousness that I, myself, bring to Jesus. Now, He loves me. He’s Jesus – patient, kind, loving Jesus. But I wonder if He gets tired of my cynical, self-centered requests? I wonder if He gets tired of my talking to Him like He’s a genie in a bottle? Of course, He never gets tired of us. But we do it sometimes, don’t we?

“Lord, I know you’re busy with real problems and lots of other broken things to fix, but if you could please miraculously change the attitude of my teenager by Friday I would be most appreciative. I will give extra in the offering on Sunday and I will look for one extra person to tell about You in the line at the grocery store. Yours truly…Tired Mom”

“Jesus, look. Here’s the deal. Tennessee football is really struggling this year. If you could help us out, we would sure be obliged. Signed, Volunteer For Life.”

“Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for all Thy many blessings. While You’re up there blessing folks, would you mind causing my sister-in-law, Irma, to come down with the stomach bug so we can just have a peaceful Christmas for once? I know you love her, but Lord…well…we don’t. So, please find it in Yourself to grant me this one wish. If You do, I will never cuss again. Signed, Desperate”

How often do we bring our requests to Jesus as though He is up there with a notepad – “You want what? Hang on and let me grab a pen…. Ok! Got it!” Or, how often do we come timid and afraid?

God wants to give us good gifts. He is our Father. To this day, my earthly father still loves to give me gifts – to see my happy. He gets tears in his eyes when He sees me light up about something that brings me true joy and fulfillment. How much more does our Heavenly Father delight in giving us good gifts!

We don’t have to come to Him like He is the granter of three wishes and only three. There is no having to choose wisely your wishes. There is no tip-toeing. There is no bargaining or bribing. There is no tit-for-tat with Jesus. There’s no fear. Make your requests known to God. He sees and hears. And He knows what we need before we do. We do not have to panic, nor do we have to tread softly. We come like a child to a father – boldly and with confidence that He wants to give us beauty in it’s time. We come trusting that He knows best (the struggle is real). We come to God, our Father – giver of wonderful things. His gifts are so much better than Santa’s (but I don’t know how anybody’s prayer could beat Ricky Bobby’s…)

JOY IN THE UPSET

Ahh…the good ole 30 Day Thankfulness Challenge. Let’s see just how much “thankfulness” we can publicly cram into a single month’s worth of Facebook statuses. I actually love reading these posts. While some folks are as sincere as the day is long, there are some folks who run out of thanks fairly early and start praising Jesus for ridiculousness somewhere around Day 4. That, or they turn their “thankfulness” into passive aggressive ways to air their dirty laundry.

“I’m thankful today that my baby daddy got arrested. He got exactly what he deserved.”
That’s a little extra, but you get the point.

Sometimes our view of gratitude and all it encompasses gets a little skewed. Ann Voskamp challenged me a few years ago as I read her book, One Thousand Gifts, to dig deep for the gratitude. It’s not always in the obvious.

Early on in life I set out for the American dream – the perfect (dysfunctional) family, the white picket (chain-link) fence , two perfect (nothing funny here-my kids are perfect😉) kids, a (slobbery, allergy-proned) dog, a nice (extremely used) car and a (lean) 401K that was being built while I stood back and did all the things I loved – raising babies, making music and making a home.

Absolute perfection (fiction).

My years of pursuit actually lended themselves to some form of that delusion, so my thankfulness looked something like this:

Thank you for this beautiful life you’ve given me. Everything looks exactly like I saw it going in my dreams (minus the happiness and the fence). I really appreciate that. Also, I would greatly appreciate you keeping it this way from here on out until I enter into Your gates with thanksgiving and into Your courts with praise. P.S. – You’re doing a great job, Lord! Keep up the good work!”

Being completely ignorant in and of my idealistic life (that was not really idealistic at all), this sounded completely acceptable in my head. It’s all I knew. Thank Him for the obvious (even if you are failing miserably and sustaining a disguise). Make everybody think you’ve got it all together, Heather. Pretend. And while you’re at it, throw some “thankfulness” in during the month of November for good measure. After all, it’s not called Thanksgiving for nothing.

I guess somewhere along the way, in the Lord’s fabulous sense of humor, He decided to call my bluff. “Thanks for the yearly shout-out, sweet girl. (This is Jesus talking for all you slow learners). Some not-so-holly jolly Christmases are headed your way. Let’s see what you got…”

Years of perfecting the facade – it was a pretty good run, don’t you think? I mean, the diligence, y’all… Little did I know the real Thankfulness Challenge was on it’s way. Straight out of divorce, I was faced with something nightmares are made of – no home, no money, no job, no direction, no stability. I was over a thousand miles from my hometown. All I had was all the homemade crap I had conjured up with burlap, buttons and a glue gun over the years (which was a lot), but that wasn’t gonna do me much good right then.

What would we do? Where would we live? Would we be ok? Would we survive?

Would this hurt forever?

Life was about to get messier than I ever imagined. One day I will sit down and tell you all the crazy, amazing stories that you just can’t make up – all the things the Lord did along the way. For now just let me say this:

He used all of those things that were stripped away to show me all the “things” that actually mattered. As my journey progressed, my mindset changed from “Thanks for all the stuff, God”, to:

“Thank you that I get to hold my babies every night. Thank you that we are ok. Thank you for friends who gave us a place to stay. Thank you for peace in the middle of turmoil. Thank you for support – people who didn’t leave when things got messy – who gave me a job and money and a U-Haul and a listening ear…even Christmas.  Thank you that we are surviving. And most importantly, thank you for the hurt that has lead me back to the cross. Thank you for the loss so that I could know what true wealth really looks like. Thank you for the mess and the uncertainty and the not-knowing so that I could watch You work and move and lead and do what You do best. Thank you loving me more than I ever thought possible. And thank you for the broken things, because I would’ve never known just how beautifully you can put them all back together.”

And I meant it – every word. I remember on more than one occasion saying, “God, if this is what it takes for me to feel close to you, I’ll stay in this place forever.” I’m really grateful He didn’t listen to me on that one.

Life has it’s way, doesn’t it, of bringing out the worst and the best – the blame or the gratitude? Trust me when I say, I’ve had my days full of anger and self-pity. But I also found Jesus while I was at the bottom, and I hung onto Him for dear life. He showed me the beauty in the ugly and brought me more joy in the upset than I ever knew possible.  He took my 30 Day Thankfulness Challenge and turned that sucker into a minute-by-minute practicality.  He has given me more good comedic material through all my bad choices and life experiences than I could’ve ever hoped or dreamed. (Sometimes we have to laugh or we’ll cry. Am I right?) He taken the chaos and turn it into delight. And for that, Lord, I am forever grateful. Perspective is everything, isn’t it?

Life is full of hard seasons. Know that it is ok to be where you are in your season – unashamed, unapologetically. Just know that somewhere in all that wreckage, there is a little piece of treasure begging to be held up and recognized as beautiful. Beautiful wreckage.                                                                                                                   It’s there, in whatever situation you are facing, and I just bet you won’t have to dig too deep to find it.  I challenge us all to let the 30 Day Thankfulness Challenge turn into a routine benediction. And if you’re the one with the baby daddy in prison and that’s the best you can come up with, then you go girl. You gotta start somewhere….

MARTYRDOM AND DONUT HOLES

Well, here it is – another beautiful, ugly transitional time in my life. Am I being punked? It’s like I pulled up to the drive-thru window of life and ordered a #2 with a side of instability and mind-numbing fear. And super-size it, please. I wanna make sure I’m really good and full on all this upheaval I’m about to consume. Please don’t leave me wanting. Thanks so much. Lucky for me they put in an extra order of uncertainty and anxiety for the win. YES!!! Thanks, Lord.

Fear and anxiety. Don’t you just love when those two come-a-knocking. They always visit together. They’re sweet like that.

But let me just tell you, the Lord is so kind and good. The truth is that lately, I have been experiencing a sweet season. And I mean, finally!! Good grief, Lord! It’s about time! Most of my transitional times consist of  me stepping off into a big pile of dog crap. I’m just keeping it real.This season is rainbows and butterflies if I’m comparing.

But then there it is. That thing that holds me hostage. Fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the forward movement and the things I can’t control.

Isn’t it funny how the Lord can lay the most beautiful thing in front of us, but we just don’t know how to embrace it. Maybe it’s just me…
I’m finding that, sadly, I don’t always know how to enjoy life, even in the sweet spot.
Enjoy life… ? What is that, even?
Is that allowed?
How do I do that? Can I love life and be a single mom?
Can I relax?
Can I let go of the control?
Can I just…gulp…be?

I can’t, God. I don’t know how. I need to be needed and I need to hold the reins and have the answers. I must be a co-dependent and a martyr. Yes, that’s it! I am a martyr. I am forever a martyr and a victim of circumstance and I have to be forever responsible for everyone and everything and all of life, and I cannot take a break from being all the things to all the people. I cannot enjoy life. Count me out.

I’m exhausted just typing that.
But it’s how I’ve lived for as long as I can remember. And it’s too much for one person to carry.

Here’s what I’m learning in this season of life. I don’t know how to give myself permission to mentally unwind and drop the guard and the fear. Sometimes ! just don’t know how to let Jesus lighten my load. I don’t know how to relax. I don’t know how to just be.
There. I said it.
I carry the junk from the old season straight on into the new.
I carry that backpack full of weight and co-dependency and control and anxiety. And why? It’s not even required!!
And now that I can see the wide-open space to drop that sucker and run free I stand by the fence and hold it tight like it’s the last donut hole I’ll ever get to eat. (Also, why am I constantly comparing everything to food? So disturbing.)

I watch everybody else enjoy life and I stand to the side because I feel undeserving or I feel the responsibility of the thing – whatever it is. I crawl up on that cross day after day and crucify myself and try to do a job that’s already been done.

See, I’m not a victim and I’m not a martyr, but I sure do act like one. I get up on that cross and sacrifice everything I’ve got because it’s what I’ve always done. I act like everything will fall apart if I don’t have all the answers. And when that self-inflicted weight gets too heavy to carry I fall apart.
I forget how to enjoy life. I forget to see the beauty that’s right in front of my face sometimes. I forget that I don’t have to have all the answers and all the control. It’s ok to say, “You know what, I don’t know what’s coming next, but God does. And that enough.”

I see transition, but he sees promise.
I see fear of the unknown. He sees fun and excitement.
I see difficulty. He sees another opportunity to show me His faithfulness. 

Sometimes we have to just drop the backpack and run the field.

I’m learning.

Stop.
Enjoy life.
Go play.

If we don’t, we might be missing the greatest game ever.
I don’t wanna miss the fun, y’all.
I wanna walk in the joy and the goodness and run in the freedom that comes with trusting God.
We belong to Jesus. We don’t have all the answers but He does.
So drop your backpack, finish your donut hole and go enjoy life.
Relax.
Trust.
And for goodness’ sake, get down off that cross.
Somebody needs the wood.

DEATH BY HUMIDITY 

Can you die of humidity? Is that a thing (yes)? Because if it is then I’ve got one foot in the grave. It’s enough to make me wanna quit life. In Colorado, everyday was a good hair day. I woke up looking like a rockstar every single morning for four years. If you ever saw a bad picture of me while I lived there it HAD to be the angle. But the minute I moved to Tennessee, any bit of cute I had went right out the window – right along with any cool breeze that ever thought about blowing my way.  I forgot how stinkin’ hot it is here, and I wish I could forget again.
And what season is it anyway? I mean, it snows 10 months out of the year in the 719, but at least you know what you’re getting – a foot of snow with zero humidity and lots of sunshine. I go to bed in the 731 asking Jesus to keep us safe from whatever kind of tsunami, avalanche, ice storm, tornado or heat wave might be headed our way. Who ever knows. Mother Nature either hates our guts or is experiencing some early onset menopause. I’m done with her.
I guess the one thing we can say for any season – it will inevitably change. Sometimes once a quarter, sometimes by the minute.  For those of us who like a little spice of life, it’s a welcomed break. For those of us who like predictability, this may pose a problem.

Life is ever-changing too, is it not? As much as we would love to have a peek at the master blue prints, our maker holds them under lock and key. I’m pretty sure He knows that if He ever let me have a look I would be making some major changes. Hence, the suspense. Things have not exactly gone like I had planned. I’ve experienced a lot of hurt in my life – a lot of humidity followed by some pretty harsh winters.
If I had it my way, I would skip all the bad parts and we would all walk around in our happy place 24/7. I would be skinny and be able to eat whatever I want. My children would never smart-mouth me and my house would clean itself. We would live in a perpetual state of fall slash winter from here to eternity. Christmas lights and college-football would stay on year-round. Pumpkin spice lattes would never go away and my hair would look fly on the daily. Summer wouldn’t even be a thing. What is summer?
See, I pride myself on having these brilliant (lame) ideas. Mapping it all out – no room for error. I’ve got this. This is how I want it to go, God. Please and thank you. But the Lord has taught me as of late, that there is only one good and perfect way and it’s His. I make some mighty good plans (and some mighty bad ones), but He orders my steps.
The truth is, I don’t really want to know which season is coming next, anyway. I don’t know if I could handle it. I’m just grateful that the crappy ones don’t last forever. Aren’t you? Good grief.
And while I’m in those tough seasons, those rough waters, I’m glad to know who calms my seas. I know who tells the winds and waves to obey. I’ve watched Him do it in my life time and time again. I don’t need to see too far ahead. I just need to hold the hand of the One who knows what’s coming. He’s got me. He makes better decisions than I do. He knows what I need when I need it. And He knows what you need too.

Do we trust Him? Do we trust enough to let Him lead? We can go kicking and screaming (done it) or we can go in peace – having all faith in the One who knows and loves us best. It’s our choice, and sometimes it’s a tough one. But I’ve watched Him, and He does good work. I’m confident in His ability to orchestrate and arrange my life, and yours, far better than we ever dreamed.

Friends, He sees what we cannot see. We only know part of the story, but one day we will be able to ask Him all the “why’s” we can think of. Until then, will we choose to rest and be content following the day-to-day path He has set in front of us? Sometimes the choice may come easy. Sometimes it may be a moment-by-moment YES. However we choose to get there, l promise to try to embrace the season if you will…humidity and all.

GOD BLESS FRED

TAX FREE WEEKEND!! Did you guys go shopping?  That’s what I’m talking about!!  Just kidding.  I would rather die a thousand deaths than step foot inside a commercial establishment on tax free weekend.   I know…I’m in the minority. Most of my girlfriends were all giddy at the possibility of saving $5.32 at checkout. I would rather lose a limb (truth) and give up sugar for a year (lies) than to brave the retail elements on this annual nightmare weekend. I WOULD RATHER PAY THE TAX than to fight you over that last pack of #2 pencils. You can have em, lady. No, really. You go right ahead. Because I can promise you by the look on your face, they mean more to you than they ever will to me. My kids will live with one pack of 25. I’m willing to risk them being publicly shamed and humiliated in front of their peers on the first day of school so that you can walk away the victor. Actually, I need to thank you for knocking a whopping $4 off my already $312 shopping bill. Go and be blessed. 

Y’all. Seriously. I cannot even deal. It’s like the day after Thanksgiving minus the sweater weather and all the feels. I need to be holding a Starbucks and listening to Christmas music on the loud speaker if I’m gonna go through all this nonsense. I could ALMOST MAYBE go to blows with you over that last three-ring binder if we weren’t both dripping sweat and exhausted from all 7 of your children who, for some reason unbeknownst to me, you bring with you shopping on the worst weekend of the year.  Explain yourself…

I mean, you know you’re miserable. It’s written all over your face (in 8 dry erase markers and 24 colored pencils). I’m miserable, too. Your kids are making me miserable for the both of us. And you’re about to snap. I see you eyeing that pharmacy. You’re about to go grab something to take the edge off.  Do it.  I’ll watch the kids.  And we haven’t even made it to checkout where, mark my words, we WILL get the sweet little lady who talks about every single purchase we’re making today. 

“I heard these are great folders. Very durable.” 

“Are these avocados ripe? I don’t think so.”

“Have you tried this gum? Let me just check the sugar content on it. My husband, Fred, is a diabetic but I bet he could chew this.”                                                                                        

Jesus, take the wheel. By the time it’s over I’m about ready to throw in a box of Marlboro and a 3 pack of lighters for the win. I’ll learn on the way home. 

But then there it is. (Ugh! Please stop, Lord). I always feel it. Well, not always – sometimes I feel rage – but often I feel it. And when I don’t feel it, the truth is, I ask Him for it. Conviction. And Grace. And eyes to see. The Lord has such a sweet way about Him. A voice that says, “You don’t know what she goes through, Heather. You don’t know what kind of day she’s had. Ask her. Ask about Fred (please God, no). Maybe you’re the first person who has smiled at her today. Ask the mom of all these many children how she does it. Tell her she’s amazing. Tell her somebody sees her. Tell her I see her.” 

Noooo!!!! Jesus, please leave me alone and just let me roll my eyes and huff so the people across the street can hear me.  I’ll feel so much better. 

Oh, it’s not about me? 

Right…I forget. 

One of my closest friends is a nurse. She is genuinely one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known. Last week, one of her patients threw her bedpan in the floor and laughed as my friend had to clean it up. Now look, my girl is human, ok? She wasn’t particularly thrilled with having to wipe up this lady’s disgusting bodily fluids as she was being mocked. She went to The School of Sarcasm like some of the rest of us, and if I know her, she was having to lock it down. But you know what? Her love for Jesus and for this lady overruled any frustration she was feeling.  And she would do it all over again just to get to show that lady the love of Christ, which is what she did. Because it’s what she’s called to do.  It’s what we’re all called to do.                                                                                                 Now, I‘m not suggesting we be doormats all in the name of Christianity. Sometimes we have to stand up and speak out and say, “Do you mind NOT throwing your (extremely full) bedpan at me? Many thanks.” Hopefully, we’ll have grace to know the when’s and how’s.  It is so hard. I know…

I forget sometimes that there are people all around me who are doing hard things in life and who are sick and grieving and crying on the inside. I forget that I’m not the only one who has issues. I forget that sometimes our troubles make us angry and cranky and that nobody gets THAT upset over pencils. We act out of character sometimes when life pins us up against the wall. I know first hand. There is always more to the story. Am I gonna lay aside my frustrations long enough to listen and to love? Sometimes I miss the mark, but I’m trying really hard to be salt and light. I’m trying to relate and understand and show mercy and let go of my death grip on the pencils and to ask about Fred. Because I can guarantee you I’ve had my fair share of days when I wasn’t so nice to the mom who got the last pack of graph paper (which I can never find). I’ve cried my way through the aisles of Target more times than I can count, dealing with what life and the precious people in it were throwing my way. I know what it’s like to need the smile. I know what it’s like to be struggling and have somebody be mean to you at Walmart. Don’t think for one second that I don’t want to ram my buggy into their un-manicured heels. It crosses my mind. My inside chatter says, “I don’t want to have to be the bigger person here!  I’m struggling today!! I’ve been done wrong, too!!”  But the thing is – I have Jesus and I have hope. And when I can, it’s my job to give it. 

God, help me to get outside of myself and be an extension of You. Help me to represent well. Help me to see the good in people and to love the hurting. And please have mercy on me, because I actually have to go shopping tonight (help, Lord). Please let everybody just be sweet and share the pencils. Thank you. 

And God Bless Fred. 

In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

PUMPKIN SPICE EVERYTHING

 COFFEE PICIt’s FALL, y’all! Supposedly. I mean, it’s still a million degrees in my beloved hometown, but whatever. It’s my favorite time of year! I can’t even deal. I’m pretty much done with summer and showing the world my arms, so I’m just gonna move it right along. I love everything about Fall – pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice teas, pumpkin spice candles, pumpkin spice breads, vegetables, body wash…you name it. Just kidding. Not really…but kinda (I draw the line at pumpkin spice deodorant). But let’s get real – everything is laced with pumpkin and spice.  If they made pumpkin spice markers, I would sniff them.  Look, I’m just gonna say it. If you don’t love Fall and everything that comes with it (college football), I question your salvation. I’m pretty sure heaven smells like Fall. And I’m pretty sure that when Hobby Lobby puts their Fall and Christmas décor out for the masses, I’m checking out of real life.

One thing I’m not looking forward to, however, is my annual coughing-up-a-lung bronchitis/sinus infection/walking pneumonia trifecta. Last year I hung onto that triple-threat with all my might for a solid six months. SIX (6). Six months of getting swabbed and poked and x-rayed and rubbing essential oils on my big toe and and barking like a dog in the middle of church. I for real bruised my ribs, you guys.  But seriously, there has got to be a better way to see if I have strep or the flu than to stick that giant needle-of-a-Qtip up my nose and down my throat.  Not only do they literally take a piece of my sinuses, but they take a piece of my dignity every single time. Forever traumatized.

And is that not the longest 5 seconds of your life??
Last time I had it done, I actually went home, took a nap, baked a cake and recovered from all my sickly conditions while they were still swabbing me. Like, draw a gallon of blood, cut off my fingernails, water-board me, anything but the swab. And at least YouTube that junk so we can make some money off of it. Somebody should at least reap the benefits of this heinous procedure. Like, please make sure you grab a shot of me gagging as I’m white-knuckling the arm of my seat. Don’t leave that out. If they would only make a pumpkin spice nasal spray maybe, just maybe, I could make it through my physical dysfunction without hating life.  (Get on that, somebody. It’s all you.)

Fingers crossed this year is different. I don’t know if I can handle it again. Sickness and single-mom-life mix like eggs and ketchup (some of y’all need to quit doing that). See, when I’m down, it all goes down. Am I right? The house goes down, the kids go down, the laundry goes down, my work goes down – pretty much everything but my weight goes down. I seem to hang onto that like it’s the last bite of a death row meal.  And who’s got the time? Not me.
Although, and here’s the silver lining – every time I’m down for the count,  I’m forced to take care of myself – something I’m learning to do a little more frequently these days. I don’t always succeed, but I’m learning that if I don’t take care of me, I’m no good to anybody else. And I’m talking mind, body and soul. If we are depleted and exhausted mentally, physically, and spiritually – what can we give? A whole lot of not-much. I should know. I’ve learned the hard way. I tried it…and I went down in a blaze of glory.

My learning season followed a three year stretch of straight-up survival mode. I separated from my husband, moved four times, went through a divorce, got a full-time job, continued to do my music and all the while raising my children. Before that, I even tried homeschooling for a year (key word – TRIED). I was always last on my list. And it’s hard to find time to dedicate to ourselves – especially guilt-free. We are innately taught that complete self-sacrifice at the expense of our own well-being is the way to go, but after the time I’ve gone through, I’m anything but convinced.

I know that God wants me to be my whole self – the person He has created me to be. I know that He has put me on this earth to love people and pour into others, especially my children. But how can I do that if I am neglecting my own mind, my own heart, body, soul and spirit? How can I pour out if I’m not being filled up? The answer is, I can’t.
Until I find my rest and wholeness in the One who made me, I’m no good to anybody. I have to find my rest, joy and peace in Jesus.
Sometimes I have to just stop the stress.  I have to turn up the music while I’m cooking dinner. I have to drop everything and play my instruments and write. I have to read. I have to spend time with the Lord.  I have to be silly and dance with my kids.  I have to sit down sometimes and watch My 600 Pound Life (I mean…Joyce Meyer) and eat a spoonfull of pumpkin spice cookie dough (I mean…carrots and ranch) while I’m doing it. I have to go to bed at 9:00 sometimes (old).  I have to get in my soaker tub and say, “I love you more than the air I breathe, but I’m going to need for you to not say my name for a hot minute.  Mommy is pretending she’s in Europe at a 5-Star Hotel. Ok? Brilliant! I’ll be with you in a bit.”

I also have to spend time with people who are good for my mental health. Friends. Family. We talk deep but we act stupid and we go out to lunch and shop and laugh and talk about Jesus and mistakes and fashion and design. They are life to me and they are necessary for my thriving. They are a part of my recharging and renewal.

We have to do things and be with people that help us rejuvenate.  What works for me may not work for you. You may not feel one bit better after a 45 minute (2 1/2 hour) bath. You may need to go for a run (for sure no). You may need to sleep or draw or bake or work on your car or ride your bike or stare at the walls. And like the T-shirt says, “Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Eat the cake.” Whatever your God-given means of rest and rejuvenation is, do it.
I’m committed in this new season of my life to being the best version of myself I can be (but I’m still gonna eat donuts sometimes). I’m dedicated to loving myself enough to regroup and slow down and find my center. I’m weak. I just cannot do it on my own. And neither can you. You’re not a superhero (sometimes you are). But God is the ultimate superhero, and even HE rested…

We need Jesus. We need Him to fill us up so we can keep going and giving. Sometimes we need to stop so we can go. Receive so we can give. I’m so grateful that when I’m a fragile piece-of-meltdown, He’s my strength and foundation. And I’m thanking Him today for His Word that empowers me to find my rest, joy and peace in Him. Nothing else offers it like Jesus (but my soaker tub is a really close second). 😉

I’LL JUST HAVE A SALAD

 

Can we talk today? And can you not judge me? This is gonna be a tough one for me. And I’m not talking “tough” like I feel guilty for eating a whole can of cinnamon rolls by myself (maybe). That’s not it.

What if I told you I’m not perfect? Oh! You already knew? Well, evidently I didn’t. There’s a perfectionism gene that gets passed down from my dad’s side of the family that is alive and well and living in me. It runs deep in my (varicose) veins.
I’ve strived for internal, heart-n-soul perfection my whole life and have felt sorry for all you other pitiful individuals who just couldn’t quite get it together on the inside. Joking…but kinda not. Forgive me.
I’ve always loved people, but somewhere deep down I’ve judged and I’ve speculated and I’ve shaken my head at the thought of how in the world you, you wretched soul, could claim to love Jesus but still make the mistakes you were making (Gasps. Hangs head in shame on your behalf).

Until…..

Yep.
It happened.
I fell from my seat next to the throne of Jesus.
And y’all, I didn’t just trip like that one time when I was 10 months pregnant and fell over the speaker while I was leading worship. It was worse than that. Because this was my choice. I chose to give up for a hot minute and dive head-first into some things that I knew were damaging to my soul. I chose to turn away from what I knew in my knower to be good and right. I turned a blind-eye to injustice that on any “normal” day I would’ve gone down swinging for. I didn’t even recognize myself. And I still can’t even believe it sometimes.
I cry writing this…

Actively.
Willingly.
Consciously.
Morally.
Spiritually.

Give me a minute to get a grip…

It was a short run compared to the rest of my life, but it felt like it lasted an eternity. It has changed me for an eternity – I promise you that. I gave up on almost everything but my wardrobe. And I hated myself and my life and I hated the consequences my choices were creating. But I couldn’t seem to walk away. All I wanted was for somebody to come and dig me out of my hole, but at the same time all I wanted was for everybody to just leave me alone. I was gloriously happy and completely miserable in my mess. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about.  And the shame – it had me by the throat and wouldn’t let go.

Now, all the juicy details are not important. Trust me. You can guess and wonder and draw your own conclusion. All you really need to know is this one thing…

Shame is real, but grace is realer. (Yes, I know what I just said.)

Shame almost kept me from even writing this. I said to myself, “You haven’t been out of it long enough. It was too recent. You’re a hypocrite. You haven’t paid penance long enough to share your shame story.  What if you make another mistake?”

Sound familiar? Not only did shame almost keep me from writing this, shame almost kept me from living! But the grace, y’all. The grace from Jesus and from people who love me. It overwhelms me. And it overwhelms the shame.

And Hebrews 10:1-25 (whenever you get a minute) – this scripture overwhelms me too.  I’m a hot mess reading it today…

Now, sit down. Are you ready? The real shame is not only in the thing – the act, but the shame is in the not repenting, and in the secret-keeping. Brene’ Brown, my new favorite author (and pretend-best-friend) says in her book THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION, that shame metastasizes in the dark. Shame grows when you keep the lights off. Luckily, I’m not good at hiding my life issues very well. I have some really great people in my life who, not only could tell I was on the struggle bus, but weren’t willing to watch me keep riding on it. A few of them threatened to throat-punch me and choke me out while helping me through my process, but they never left me. I will love them forever. Even though I willingly chose to walk through this dark place, they still didn’t leave. And once again, neither did Jesus.  I finally decided I had enough and walked away…then went back in…then walked away. It was a process. But I finally had a gut-full, and this time I never looked back.
Bye.

Y’all, we are gonna make mistakes. Who knew!?! In the words of one of my sweet friends who has also made her fair share of choices she would like to forget, “It is what I did, but it is not who I am.” Look, we are gonna do the thing and say the words and have the attitude and eat the whole pizza by ourselves in one sitting (never) at some point along the way. It may be tomorrow. It may!!!
And here’s the deal, if you’re eating that whole pizza by yourself everyday and living in the dark about it and you don’t care and you’re not gonna change for nobody, no way, no how, then this particular story may not be for you. We’ll chat another day.
I’m talking to the one who is saying “Look. I love pizza. I love eating it when nobody is looking (because it didn’t really happen if nobody saw you eat it). I love (hate) how it makes me feel. But I know it’s wrong and I don’t want to be about that life. I don’t want to be that person who eats the whole pizza. I want to be the person who eats the salad.” I’m talking to you, pizza/salad-eater. EAT THE SALAD!! You can do it!! I believe in you!!

If you’re waiting to feel worthy before you eat the salad, or sing the song or write the blog or say you’re sorry or make the change, you may as well wait forever. Let me ask you something. Do you wait till you’re having the best hair day ever to go get your hair done? No!! You let that mess get funky and near-rotten till you are on the verge of partial ownership in your favorite dry shampoo company. I promise you this, your hairdresser thinks you are anything but worthy. But you go anyway – nappy head and all. And she loves you (but she’s afraid to touch you) and she makes you beautiful again.
Look, you may never FEEL worthy. But you are, because of Jesus. Christ in you makes you worthy. You’re also what we call…human. And Jesus is what we call…forgiving.

He loves us. He knows us. He made us. He’s full of grace, mercy and loving-kindness. He offers it to anybody who will accept it. What’s even better is, it starts over brand new every single day.

So, get up. Cry it out. Say your “I’m sorry’s” (even to yourself). Be brave. Admit the mistakes. You can’t skip this one. And I hear you – “Give me a cotton-pickin’ break!! That’s the worst part!!” I know.  But the truth is, it’s the best part, because that’s where the freedom comes! The freedom comes with the repentance.

So accept the grace. Right the wrongs. And don’t you dare let the nay-sayers and the haters keep you from moving on.  Some people will walk away. Some people will be too disappointed by your mistakes to hang in there with you. Some may even glory in your situation because it takes the spotlight off of their own mistakes. Maybe they don’t understand your ability to repent and walk in freedom. For whatever reason they just don’t seem to want you to recover. That’s a hard pill to swallow, I know. But it’s ok. Wish them well and keep it moving. Find the ones who will stay and forgive and hold your hand and not let go. Walk in your purpose, because YOU HAVE ONE!!! And hey, when you mess up again (like you will and like I have), read this again and repeat. Cuz that’s exactly what I’m gonna do – read this thing AGAIN, on the days I’m not feeling worthy, until I believe that I am! Because I am. And so are you.

He is. Christ in us.

Now let’s tear up that coupon for a large one-topping and go eat that salad (and for the love, could you just TRY to buy organic this time?) And hey, if you wanna have yours with a big ole glass of sweet tea and a hot fudge sundae for dessert, well… there’s no judgment here.  😉
Baby steps…