Brightness

You are me when the light dims.

You are me when the light shines bright

We are one. We are whole!

Who knew?!?

If tomorrow were another moment in the realm of eternity, would we notice the light?

How bright can we shine NOW?!?

If we aren’t light, who are we?

Reach for light!

Thunder

I was a human once.

I lived, I breathed, I knew who I was.

It was somewhere between where husband number one left me a puddle on the floor and husband number two decided I wasn’t enough.

Maybe I’m not.

Maybe they’re not.

I’m not qualified to say.

Tonight, I’m thinking I am beyond expectations and they are the fault.

Regardless, I’m here with the pieces.

Pieces are a funny thing. They fall in random intervals. They collide with ideals. They stick themselves in places you didn’t see coming.

But you hang on, groping for tomorrow because maybe it will be better and maybe peace can be found.

Maybe, instead of the ideal that someone will rescue me, I can find solace in me and my faith and the promise of tomorrow. I am tired.

I’m tired of picking up pieces and expecting gold.

Still, I am an optimist. I believe in tomorrow.

But today is real and I need to feel it to gather the gold.

So I struggle and rest in the same breath.

I am me and for tonight, that is enough. Tomorrow may be another story.

Shine when the darkness covers.

Shine when you can’t find light.

Today is a day gone…tomorrow is eternity, so live!!!!

Random thoughts from the lost and tired.

Be you!

Bring the thunder and the light will follow…at least that’s the hope.

Feminism, Covid, and Reality

I consider myself a strong woman. I do what needs to be done. If I don’t know how, I figure it out. If I can’t figure it out, I figure that out.

I’m in a mood tonight. I’m sure it’s primarily caused by the fact that I tested positive for Covid yesterday. I’m fine. It’s a mild case and will pass in no time, hopefully. Still, it is hard for me, as a mother, to sit in bed and rest and leave the heavy lifting to my husband.

I appreciate his willingness to help. I truly do. Still, one day in, and he seems frustrated. The kids and dinner, and lunch packing, and laundry, are apparently too much for him. He’s complaining and my house is a disaster. Yet, these things are my reality, after I work a full time job.

So I’m stuck between frustration that I can’t do all I do and annoyance that all of these things fall to me everyday and my husband can’t handle it for a day.

So where does my inner feminist stand on this issue? Is it okay with me that I do it all? Is it okay that it’s expected of me yet looked at with sympathy when he has to do it?

Is it okay that I, a strong woman, feel like crap, not because I literally feel like crap, but because, I can’t do it all? Why do I have to do it all? When did feminism become the ideal that women do everything? Why is it okay for me to feel bad because I feel bad?

I realize I may sound ungrateful and I don’t mean it that way. This isn’t even about my husband. It’s about me. I’ve become so ingrained in my role as mom and homemaker that despite the fact that I’m the primary breadwinner in my household, I still feel guilty if it isn’t all perfect.

This week, I cannot make it perfect. I’m isolated to my bedroom to keep from contaminating my family and I feel like my world will end because my kitchen is a mess and I can’t go clean it! It’s torture. Part of me would rather we all catch Covid than allow my kids’ bathroom to go without being cleaned and that is on me.

Or maybe society or whatever ridiculous norms are expected of us mothers and women trying to do it all. Feminism was made for equal rights yet it’s become unequivocal.

Why can’t a man work and scrub the dishes? Why can’t a man work and clean a toilet? Why do I feel so guilty because I’m sick?

I blame Covid for the mood but not entirely…it’s probably been brewing for awhile. Still, this week is testing my patience. But soon, I will feel better and take it all with grace.

Another day, another virus, another annoyance, another reason for me to question the system we’ve created.

It is what it is…

Thighs, noise, and neurosis

The 40’s have been good to me…overall. Despite, the crazy weight gain and hormones going crazy and the stress of my personal life (a story for another day). I’ve gained weight, lost weight. Adjusted to the new “normal” and feel, overall, comfortable, in my new skin. For the most part…

Then today, I wore a pair of pants I’ve worn a million times. Yet, in the eerie, quiet, of my office, I realized that every time I walk, my pants make noise. You know that “thigh rub serenade” that accompanies movement in the realm of the real? I don’t know why I never noticed before. Up until 40, I was that size 0, thigh gap girl you rarely meet in reality. But I have transitioned to “normal” and haven’t quite come to terms with it.

Still, I can’t help but wonder, when “normal” become subpar?

I walked around my office today, for the first time aware, that when I walk, my pants make noise. What is that?!?

Then I came to the safety of my home and realized, the noise isn’t gone because I’m safe. I’m still in my work clothes and my thighs and pants still make noise when I walk and I wonder if I’m the only one neurotically listening to the sound deafening to me…the noise of fabric and friction.

I realize this sounds stupid. But it’s the “real” of my life so I’m sharing.

How do you navigate the moment you are young and whatever size, and transition to normal adulthood without feeling the sting? I thought of burning my pants but the truth is, my thighs are the likely culprit, so no amount of flame will kill the ill.

But why is that an issue? Good Lord ladies, we are born of dust into a world of rust and lust, and suddenly, we are not enough?

Who sets these standards? And why do we care?

I, neurotically, navigate a world of “beauty”, when the whole time, I am beauty. Do we need size X to be happy? Or can we be real?

I am in my 40’s. I’ve had 5 children. I am the average woman walking down the street. Yet I am obsessing about the sound of polyester striking polyester?!? There’s something profoundly wrong there!

I am officially calling it bull! I can rock my polyester, not so amazing, work pants…serenade and all without thinking of my “thigh gap”. I can be me and feel amazing without being 20 again!

Listen closely if you dare, and you may hear the sound of my thighs rubbing together while I conquer the world! And God grant me the serenity to be okay with the melody!

Sincerely,

Me

Don’t Waste the Chains

I’ve been through a lot in my lifetime. I used to feel a little sorry for myself if I’m being honest. I can remember sad, pitiful, moments when I whined at God because “He must love everyone else more than me since life was so unfair”, blah blah blah. I’m ashamed to admit that, but it’s the truth. I’ve long since adjusted my attitude towards suffering, hardship, and trials. I can either allow the hardships of my life to break me, or I can allow them to build me. I choose the latter.

It’s been through some of the hardest times of my life, that I’ve found what it means to truly live. It’s in the suffering that I’ve learned to find true joy. It’s in the anxious moments, that I’ve learned what it means to have peace and to lean in and trust more than I thought possible. It’s in pain, I’ve learned empathy. It’s in rejection, I’ve learned love. For all of these things, I am truly, honestly, not just throwing out a cliché, grateful!

Paul learned this as well. Philippians 1:12 NLT “I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News” He was in prison when he wrote those words. Yet, he used even his chains to further the Gospel! Nothing is wasted.

We live in a culture, particularly in the church, where we rail against suffering. We don’t want it! We don’t believe it should happen to us despite the fact that Jesus said in John 16:33 NLT, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.“. We’ve created entire doctrines based on the avoidance of pain, sickness, and suffering. Ultimately, we want to control things. We feel if we were better, we’d get better things. If we are good enough, we will be blessed. We’ve missed the point. We ARE blessed but not because bad things don’t happen to us and around us. We are blessed because He has overcome the world! (also in John 16:33) We are blessed because in the worst moments, He is there to strengthen us, give us peace, and we will come through it stronger and better! Remember in Philippians 1:21, Paul says, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”

In the worst moments of my life, not only do I have the opportunity to grow, but I have an opportunity to shine. When nothing and no one can hold me back from doing what God called me to do, those around me get the benefit. They can not only see Christ strengthening me, but I’m able to love better…to show them the love of Christ better. Sometimes, it’s in the midst of the chains, that we can spread the most freedom. Like Paul said, “Everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the good news.

Don’t waste your chains! Use them! Fight! Hold on tight and trust that nothing can stop you! Grow! Most importantly, learn to love deeply, trust without limits, and spread the love of God like you’ve never thought possible! You are a warrior! Don’t ever forget it.

Do you ever sit and stare?

It’s been a week! I got sick, probably just a severe cold or flu, but it banned me from humanity in the current Covid climate, despite my negative test results. So I tried to rest, amidst my endless household to do list and everything I fight for and against on the daily. I often wonder if anyone could possibly know what the machinations of my daily life are…then I settle into a firm, “no” and go to bed.

So a week home of sickness, from work, has brought WAY too much time for watching home improvement shows and realizing my inadequacies. Maybe my organization style is actually, “modern mother seeking to survive life with chaos”? Who knows, but I don’t think I fit the mold. So I await the HGTV genie crew to come in and save me from myself and make my house a palace, but I think I’ll be waiting a long time.

And at the end of the day, it’s me….it rests on my shoulders to make light from darkness and order from chaos. I don’t think that I’m equipped and I know I won’t be gracing the world with appearances on (insert home show here.com), but I know that this is my life…this is my rodeo and I will fight to make it beautiful!

We can strive for HGTV “perfect” or we can rest in “our best” and if I have to choose, my instinct goes to “perfect” while my reality goes to “just breathe”. I may not be perfect, but God gave me these kids and He knows best. So I need to learn to suck it up and deal and fight another day. I am me. I am trying. I am who I’m meant to be this is me. (Okay got carried away and quoted a song, but somewhere someone was singing it! Or maybe that was just me) Either way, we are human, trying to get through the daily. We are warriors. Represent! Or am I the only one staring blankly at the end of the night? I hope I’m not alone! I sit and stare at the clock until it swallows me whole and then regret knowing the definition of time.

Identity

My kids teach me something everyday. Life with children is certainly an adventure. Last night as I was giving my last round of snuggles to my five-year old and tucking him in for the night, I said the words I so often say to him. “Goodnight mighty man of God. Do you know you will change the world someday?” His response was a simple, sleepy, “Uh huh”. It made me smile. There’s a sweetness to the simplicity of their honest responses. He simply said, “Uh huh,” and closed his eyes.

I began to realize something as I thought about our exchange throughout the rest of the evening. Every night I tell him he was designed with a purpose and a destiny and that he will do great things. It’s become our bedtime mantra. The thing is, he has come to believe it. I’ve spoken it over his life so many times that it’s not even something he questions or longs to understand. It’s just the truth…his truth.

How many things have I spoken of myself that I’ve come to believe as truth? How many lies have I told myself over the years that, though in my head are known for what they are, in my heart have played on repeat defining who I am? When will I become fed up enough and know who I am? The answer to that one is NOW!

I was created with purpose and destiny. I am enough. I am loved. I am beautiful. I am strong. I am forgiven. I will change the world. I am changing the world everyday. I am uniquely, fearfully, wonderfully made. And so are you!

I am honest enough to reveal these things about myself because I know I’m not alone. I know so many who seem so totally put together on the outside, but inside, are filled with doubts. We doubt so much about our greatness. We doubt it’s okay to even admit that we are destined for greatness. Our successes and failures play out like a Netflix original series, all the while, we hide the reality of who we are behind the approval of the crowd.

We crouch and minimize our achievements so we aren’t embarrassed by the criticism of others. Or we amplify and scream them to the masses in an attempt to prove that we are actually capable and worthy. Both are the same. Both are our insecurities blaring like trumpets that we are unsure.

I think the truth, the real truth, is in the ability to rest…in the ability to stop and settle once and for all that who we are is who we are meant to be. This spot in our journey is exactly the spot where we will learn what we need for the next mile. We may not have attained the goals we are working towards yet, but that doesn’t have to mean we won’t. Sure, we need to continue to grow. That’s part of the beauty and if we can rest and be at peace, and finally silence that inner voice who’s lying to us, then man, will it be beautiful. Don’t listen to the crowd. Listen to the one who calmed the seas, who hung the stars, who created you with purpose and destiny.

You were created for greatness! You will change the world! It’s up to you to decide how. It’s up to you to decide to live, I mean really LIVE, your life. It’s up to you. You are more than enough. Can I get an “Uh huh”?

 

I Had an Unplanned Pregnancy and I Gave My Baby Away

I was 18 years old and had a brief crisis of faith. I’d been raised in church and had served God faithfully the majority of my life. Life is still “life” and sometimes hits us with curve balls we don’t expect. It just so happened for me that all those curve balls knocked me flat. I found myself suffering from a broken heart and things just weren’t working out as I’d planned. I vividly remember the day I told The Lord “I’ve served you my whole life and done everything right and look where it’s gotten me. From now on, I’m doing the opposite.” I’d decided to go the other way and try to find happiness on my own. It wasn’t my finest moment.

A couple of months later, I’d lost my virginity to a man I barely knew and found myself staring at a line on a stick. My friend and I examined it again and again.

“I think that’s a line.”

“Do you see a line?”

“It’s very faint does that mean anything?”

“Maybe it’s a mistake.”

“Surely my period will come any day.”

It didn’t.

A couple of weeks past, and I took another test, and it was DEFINITELY a line. I was pregnant.

Timing could not have been worse! I’d been kicked out of my parents house and was living with friends. Actually, I slept on the floor in my best friend’s bedroom. I’d planned on going to a Christian college to study music but seriously doubted they’d accept me now that I was an unwed mother. I worked at Wal-Mart and didn’t exactly have a grand salary. The “father” didn’t want anything to do with being involved. He already had a child for whom he was paying child support and he made it clear that he had no intention of paying for another child.

I had never known fear and hopelessness like I did then. There was no way I could tell my parents. So I hid it. Only my closest friends and my boyfriend knew what was going on. So I decided to run.

What I saw as an opportunity presented itself in another state so I moved. My best friend moved with me and we kept the secret to ourselves. I broke up with the boyfriend and didn’t even tell him where I was going. I would have nightmares of him coming after me, showing up in the middle of the night to take care of the problem and get rid of both me and my baby. The only thing I knew was that I needed to make a good life for my child.

I ended up working at Wendy’s making $4.75 per hour. When I told my boss about the pregnancy, she cut my hours. Things went from bad to worse, until one night I found myself in a puddle on the living room floor of my apartment crying out to God. I decided to come back home. I was 8 months pregnant, and I moved back in with mommy. Something I swore I’d never do.

My mother was a godly woman and she showed me grace instead of condemnation. She welcomed me home like the prodigal, arms open and willing to help. Not everyone was so supportive. I received a lot of negative reactions as well from people who were supposed to love me and that was heartbreaking. It’s funny how some sins are looked at differently than others. People who had admittedly had promiscuous pasts looked down on me as if I were a leper. It drastically changed my perspective on how to love others and I strive to show others unconditional love now regardless of the messes they find themselves in, but I digress.

God took my ashes and made beauty. I looked into the eyes of my daughter for the first time that summer. I found a love I never knew existed. She was my world. Raising her alone would be hard. I worked hard! I enrolled in college and took on a full-time class load while working full-time and mothering full-time. It wasn’t easy but it was SO worth it. The truth is that God is faithful. He knew exactly what my wayward, aching heart needed to draw me back to him. He gave me exactly what was best for me, my precious girl. She changed me in more ways than I can list. I have never regretted having her. I’ve never thought I messed up my life. Sure it changed my plans a bit but ultimately, it just brought me new plans.

A few weeks ago, I walked my girl down the aisle in my backyard on her wedding day and gave her away to a wonderful man. She was brightness embodied, the most beautiful bride I’d ever seen. She has grown to become everything I could have hoped for and more. A high school graduate, now a wife and a college student, she’s beginning her own life. She’s serving the Lord.

I know firsthand the fear and confusion surrounding an unplanned pregnancy. I know the anxiousness of wondering how on earth you could ever provide for a child when you can barely provide for yourself. I know aloneness and what it’s like to be in a bad relationship or be carrying a child whose other parent wants nothing to do with you. I lived it. I’m not here to pass judgment on “choices”. But I want to offer this, often what we feel is the end is really the beginning. Sometimes the “bad” things we go through are really God’s perfect plan to bring us to something better and propel us towards his purpose.

I hear so many debates these days about abortion. I am fundamentally opposed to abortion but I understand the emotions that would draw someone to a place of such desperation. It breaks my heart. Some rant about “rights” as though they are talking about getting highlights or changing dentists. We spout overpopulation arguments or talk about how no one should bring a child into a situation where the parent can’t provide for it. That would be unloving so elimination is a somehow more humane decision. We could be advocating to prevent unwanted pregnancy in the first place rather than using abortion as a means of birth control, but somehow such arguments are deemed hateful and unrealistic. I’m often appalled by the callousness of the human heart when it comes to this topic.

So rather than argue about those things, I offer you this, my experience. I chose to have my baby and it was the best decision I ever made. What felt at the time to be overwhelming and impossible turned out to be such amazing grace! God knows what we need better than we do. He proves it all the time. My girl was the best gift he could have given me. I want to encourage you to look beyond your circumstance whatever it may be and find the hope that is hiding in it. It’s there somewhere even when you have to dig for it. And when it comes to abortion, don’t forget that you’re talking about more than ideology. You’re talking babies and mothers and fear, hopelessness, desperation, anxiousness, and the desire to do the right thing for everyone in the face of the most monumental situation. Don’t forget to be kind! But never negate the possibility that there is a purpose for that child and that it might just be the miracle you’ve been hoping for.

I chose life and I got to give away beauty to the world. You’re welcome!

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Image by Kaitey Brawley Photography

Image by Kaity Brawley Photography

The Problem with Church

church clip

I have been in church most of my life. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. If you’ve been around church people long enough, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “I’ve been hurt by the church” or “I’ve been hurt in church” at least once. It’s almost epidemic. The church, the place where people should flock to feel loved and welcomed, appreciated, needed, and safe, often times has become a source of pain or contention. This was never God’s intention. Yet , we are mere mortals and churches, though good intentioned, cease to be perfect the moment we walk through the door. Church was never intended to be a showroom full of the perfect and sinless. Church is a gathering place for the wounded. Church is a hospital for the broken. Fallible, imperfect men and women, join together as one body, with one united purpose, to glorify the Lord and draw closer to Him.

This morning I was thinking about King Josiah. His story is recorded in the Bible in the book of II Chronicles and also in II Kings. Josiah was 8 years old when he became king and at that young age he began to seek after the Lord. The real turning point for him happened 18 years later when one of the priests found the Book of the Law and read it to him. He saw himself there in the words. He realized the only hope for his nation and his people was change and he decided to act. Here’s the thing, Josiah had faithfully been serving God for 18 years by this time. Our current system of belief so often states that we are to follow after God ourselves and let others deal with themselves. Up to this point, that’s pretty much what Josiah had been doing. We cannot change anyone and we shouldn’t butt into anyone’s business. It sounds so good. But we are missing the point entirely. Our faith isn’t just about us. It never has been. Our faith is about serving others and helping them to reach the fullness of the life that God intended for them as well. In our self-absorbed culture, this seems so contrary but I contend that it’s just fundamental.

Josiah “set the priests in their duties and encouraged them for the service of the house of the Lord.” (II Chron. 35:2. Then later in verse 6 he tells the priests to “prepare them [the Passover offerings] for your brethren that they may do the according to the word of the Lord.” After they had served each other, they were encouraged to prepare for themselves. Verse 7 says that his leaders gave willingly to the people. You see, Josiah found that the key to leadership was equipping and encouraging others to operate in the fullness of their calling. In Verse 16, the Bible says the singers were in their places. So here they all were, in their place of utility ready to serve each other: a gathering of people focused on the person next to them rather than on themselves.

Maybe if we as a church would spend more time focusing on the person next to us than we do on our own problems or even on what we think we have to offer, things might be different. Maybe if we quit waiting on the Pastor or church leadership to do all the work and instead we step up and fill in the gaps, the ministry would be more effective.

Josiah found himself in the book of the law that day and it changed him. It caused him to realize his utility was not just as a ruler, but as an encourager. He led a nation to repentance through service. Perhaps it’s time we follow his example. So often, we’ve looked at all of the things we think exclude others from ministry rather than finding their gifting and encouraging them in it. As we encourage and equip them, they draw closer to Christ and the negatives often fall away.

We all have rough edges that need to be sanded down over time. Let’s stop focusing on the edges so much and start advocating for the heart. Let’s stop condoning sinfulness in church while casting stones at the folks outside. Let’s restore true worship again where we lose ourselves in wonder at a God who sees us, broken and fallible, and adores us anyway. Let’s follow his lead and radically love those we deem despicable. Maybe we can begin to see their hearts instead of their actions. Maybe we can find the person, whom God loves unconditionally, instead of focusing on the outside appearance. We believe God saves us through faith and not through our works, yet we judge the works of those who haven’t yet come to know Him and forget to love.

If you want to change the world, do it…one word of encouragement at a time.