When Balance and Writing Don’t Co-exist

There are those days. There are those days you cling to the edge with white-tight knuckles and you email a friend just so she can keep you afloat. Today is one of those days.

Because we try to balance everything, but I’m just not sure balance exists in the way I would hope. So then there are those days I have to remember to breathe.

But God breathes for us. Our souls still in the silent, in-between spaces.

I’m honored to be sharing some of my story with the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference blog this afternoon. Words I wrote weeks ago, but words I needed to hear again as God whispers quietly that He is my breath. He is my air. He is my stillness.

The following is an excerpt, but I’d be ever-so grateful if you’d click on over?

The house where I grew up had steps leading down to our backyard gate. It was my hiding place. Quiet and cool under the willow shade that made Momma shake her finger at Daddy for planting it so close to the house.

I loved it.

In that space I would dream. I would write. Stories of girlish dreams—teenage angsty things. But never once did I allow the dream of author to seep into my soul.

Even as a writing major at Florida State, I never considered writing as something I would actually do. I chose the major because it was the end of my junior year and an advisor said—PICK SOMETHING.

So I did….

continue reading here

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When We Attempt to Groom Perfect Children

Flawless hair. Big colorful bows. Smocked dresses from Etsy for each holiday.

For the first several years of life, my sweet Ella-girl always looked perfectly put together. Every hair on her cute little head in place. Outfits coordinated for each event and ribbons to match.

Because what would other mommas think?

Hair messed up from the playground? Let me fix that before you slide again. Dress stained from the jelly dripping down her chin? Oops. We need to change before we go into Target. Shoes brown and scuffed? Only wear those in the backyard.

I had it wrong. Dangerously wrong.

Don’t misunderstand. Teaching our children to take care of themselves and to dress appropriate for a given occasion is important. But teaching our children they must look perfect wherever and whenever they go begins to instill a self-worth steeped in appearance.

Just a few years ago Ella and I were with another young girl and her mom. We were headed to an event, but before we left the mom primped and fixed her daughter repeatedly.

In that moment, I was faced with my failings as a mother. I was looking into my own cracked mirror as I watched the face of my friend’s daughter. Defeat and shame spread thick over her young shoulders.

I wondered. How often had I done the same to my own beautiful girl?

How frequently had I “fixed” what she might have already deemed perfect? How many times did I teach her to care about her looks instead of her heart? How habitual were my lessons in looking pretty when she never needed to notice pretty in the first place?

That night I gulped shame so dense it wouldn’t stay down.

I had asked my girl to hold my self-esteem in her tiny hands. I cared more about how she reflected my parenting than I cared about her emotional security.

How dare I?

When our own self-esteem is rooted in the perfect appearance of our children, we heep soul-crushing pressure on their backs.

Mommas. Can I talk the difficult with you? Can I just be real?

We have to stop.

We have to stop forcing our children to carry the weight of our self-esteem—their own esteem is already fragile, splitting under our power. We have to stop forcing our daughters to shoulder the burden of our identity—they have their own to discover. We have to stop our incessant worry over what society might think of our sons—they worry enough about their own peers’ assessment.

Perfectly dressed children do not make perfect children.

No. This isn’t a rant on smocked dresses and beautiful hair bows. I still love them, and if I could get my tween Ella-girl to go for them, I would. No. This is about protecting our daughters and our sons from the burden of carrying our adult self-esteems in their childhood hands.

It’s about telling society – Yes. That’s my son crawling onto the Target shelves in his Kool-aide (gasp) stained shirt and clay-marked shoes. You should see his heart. You should see the way he picks up dropped items for strangers and helps me unload the groceries.

I don’t have the answers. I’m not perfect.

I am one flawed momma doing her best to raise flawed children.

I once bought into the mistake of displaying my daughter for the world to see so I would appear the put-together momma. But no more. Because if my two joy-carriers can’t see me be real and flawed, how can they ever understand authentic living?

Our children do reflect us as parents. That’s a reality. But what image do I want my children to bear?

In me, I am clinging to the hope they will see a reflection of my Jesus’ grace and acceptance of them. Because that’s what I see when I look at Him. He opens His arms of love to my dirt-smudged soul.

The heart of our children. This should be our most expensive investment. This should be what we fight for, sacrifice for. Their hearts should be the beautiful we take pictures of. Their hearts should be the beautiful we display.

Not because it makes us good parents. But because their hearts will be what lead our world before we can blink. Dresses and bows and suits and ties never fed a hungry soul. But hearts? They take care of humanity.

These days? My Ella-girl walks out the door with wet hair.

And I smile big.

Mountain Selfie 3

Not a perfect picture but a picture of perfect joy. This is the real. And it’s beautiful.

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To the Young Woman Looking for Prince Charming

I know you. I’ve been you. Your heart aches to share your life with the one. The one who will hold your hand, calm your soul, capture your heart.

I’ve so many things I want you to hear. So many things I want you to know—deep down, where our secrets lay buried.

No. A husband won’t complete you. He won’t make you whole. You don’t need a man to survive. But you already know these things because you’re beautifully intelligent and passionately created.

Yet your heart still yearns to share your life with Prince Charming.

Don’t let anyone tell you that’s not okay. Because wanting a husband? There’s not a single thing wrong with that desire.

But marrying the wrong husband, just because you’re scared to live a life on your own? You’ll cleave your heart to the hammer pounding you into a million shattered pieces.

I watch you. In my classroom. In my life. In the world. I watch you willingly give yourselves to less than you’re worth. And my soul squeezes tight for the tears you will shed.

Marriage is beautiful and ugly, tender and fierce, and if you were my daughter, there would be some quiet things I’d want you to hear.

Will you lean close?

Because I have the whispered questions your heart needs to ask of any man you choose. Questions that draw a chasm between just any guy and a man who could be your Prince Charming. Questions that may be painful to answer true. Questions worth the asking because your life is worth the answers.

Does he see you? He won’t understand all of you. Not like your best girls do. Women are created to be stunning mysteries full of wonder. It’s why he’s drawn to you. But does he really see you? Or is he trying to change you into something he wants you to be?

Can you twirl and spin and be your most authentic self when you’re with him? Because forever is a long time to live as someone you were never meant to be.

Does he help you be your best self? Do you regret the things you do or say in his presence? Or does he lovingly help you with the wise choices. Choices that empower and strengthen you.

Does he make you feel beautiful? All the time? Even when you’re sweaty or have a messy bun or a face without paint. Even when you can barely acknowledge your beauty to yourself. Does he say you’re stunning? Because you are. And if he only ever points out flaws, you will never stop spinning to achieve a nonexistent definition of beauty.

Does he make you laugh? Gut-busting, belly-laughing giggles. A marriage without laughter is no marriage. It’s a prison.

Would he be a good father? Because you don’t have to want children to ask this question. Because a man who can love children, is a tender man that will hold your heart with gentle hands.

Does he appreciate how strong you are? Or is he intimidated, taking every moment to make you feel smaller because you’re a woman?

Is grace a word he understands? Because mistakes will always be made. Meals will be burnt. Important things will be forgotten. Feelings will be crushed.

Can you trust him? I mean right now. Can you trust him? Trust can be built, but it’s a tall mountain to climb. Are you both willing? And if the same trust is broken again and again and again, a ring on your finger doesn’t suddenly keep him honest.

Does he protect you? Your emotions. Your worth. Your heart. Your body. Do you know if your every part is safe in his hands?

Does he know how to wipe your tears? Or does he just laugh and call you emotional?

Do you share the same beliefs? Does he love Jesus like you do? Faith doesn’t promise a strong marriage. But unless he shares your faith, there will be an entire piece of your soul he will never understand. And that will always hurt.

Are you a team? Because now that you’ve asked these questions of him, can he ask them of you?

No man is perfect. And no couple is guaranteed a marriage of bliss.

The hard work of partnering for life? It only just begins with I do. But saying those two words to a man who doesn’t understand that love is a choice? That love is always a verb? My heart aches that you would consider yourself worthy of anything less.

Because you are worthy of a Prince Charming.


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What it Means to Show Up

She was too young. Too young for cancer to steal her last breath, but that’s what cancer does. It steals time, money, life.

The mother of my daughter’s friend is gone. She joined Jesus early this summer, and we were left reeling. Heartbroken. Floundering.

Beyond the ache in my heart, I wondered how to help my daughter, Ella. How would I help her help her friend? At 11 years old, Ella is sensitive and aware. But this was a first for us.

Turns out I didn’t need to teach my daughter anything. Instead, she taught me the beauty and grace of pressing in…

I’m just thrilled to the tips of my toes to be sharing with my friend, Michelle Cox, over at her beautiful blog, Just 18 Summers. Please click on over and hear how my sweet Ella-girl taught me a most precious lesson.

(Two blogs back to back-to-back friends!?! What is this craziness? Don’t get too excited. It will probably be another week before I come up for air again. The mom life. You know what I’m talking about. Sending love to you from my very-unlike-fall Florida. Someone send me some cooler temps. Pretty please, with a pumpkin spice latte on top?)

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Don’t You Know You Belong to Each Other?

The class laughed. They laughed at him.

Not an I’m-laughing-with-you-laugh, but a you’re-an-idiot-and-no-one-likes-you laugh.

His mouth turned down. His eyes stared at the ground. His shoulders sagged under the weight of ridicule. His heart pieces fell to the floor.

My fury boiled hot anger for this broken boy. One of my students. One of mine hurt by those who were also mine.

And I knew how he felt.

Sitting silent at my desk later, the haunting memories of my own teenage years hung like a cloud. Times I felt unconnected tramped across my consciousness.

Times I didn’t belong.

We each have a deep ache in our souls to be accepted, to be known. Drifting on the outskirts of belonging, we attempt acts of desperation. We change our hair, our nails, our clothes, our weight, our interests, our demeanor, our activities, our values, our beliefs just to be welcomed into the fold.

And if we’re not? If we somehow don’t fit the rules of society? We hunker down behind walls of bitterness, all the time praying someone would just reach a hand in our direction.

That’s what we should be doing—reaching our hands to the outstretched fingertips of those looking to belong. Because they already do. They already belong.

In my classroom that day, as my heart burned and ached all in one breath, I wanted to take each student by the shoulders, look deep, and ask one thing:

Don’t you know? Don’t you know you belong to each other?

We love a Jesus asking the same question. Can you hear Him? Can you hear his voice echoing in your heart? He’s looking deep. Asking:

Don’t you know? Don’t you know you belong to each other?

Two thousand years ago Peter sat with the risen Savior at the water’s edge. With toes in sand, our Jesus told Peter three times, “Feed my sheep.” The Shepherd casting a vision for His flock. The Shepherd making the family responsible for one another.

We are the keepers. We are the tenders. We are the shielders.

Yet. How well do we love the unlovely?

I’ve stood on the fringes looking in, but I’ve sat comfortably on the inside too. I have to wonder if I really understand we all belong to each other—if I take care to reach my hand out to those who don’t know they already belong.

My mind drifts to a woman I knew. She wasn’t so good with people. She was loud, overbearing, and didn’t recognize social cues. I struggled hard to love her. I’m embarrassed to admit I would sigh deep inside when she came my way.

We belonged to each other, but I didn’t take care of her the way I needed to—the way she needed me to.

It’s not just the hard to love at work. But the ones we can never agree with and who hate our positions with narrowed eyes. And the ones on the street, clothes stained and torn with grit creased into haggard wrinkles. And even those in our world who may bring fear to our hearts with their need seeping from worn souls.

Do I love the unlovely? Do I know we belong to each other? Do I realize God asks me to live out family with humanity? Do I understand, really own, that the cross was for the world as much as it was for me?

Christ did not suffer His crown of thorns or nail-split hands more for my lost soul than any other human.


The belonging we crave? The acceptance we long for? It’s our responsibility to extend the same to all we meet. A responsibility to say you are welcome here.

I’m desperate for my students to learn what it means to welcome each other with open arms. I’m desperate for my own eyes to see humanity through the lens of the Creator. Because His call is a whisper echoing loud in my soul.

Don’t you know you belong to each other?


Posted in Beautiful Life, Relationship with God, Struggles | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

When We Need Our Children to See Ourselves

The Caleb is our family extrovert. Our Court Jester. He never wants to be more than a few feet away. If he could have one hand on you at all times, he would be a happy boy. He doesn’t know how to be alone.

And he never stops talking. Ever.

Let’s put it this way. On a four-hour car trip, Prince Charming, Princess Ella, and I would be fine if we only ten words were uttered between us. Really. But not our little bottle of sunshine. He can talk the whole.way.anywhere. And never take a breath. Or run out of things to say.

I wish I was exaggerating. But I’ve talked to other moms with kids like Caleb. They know…I mean, they KNOW what I’m saying is true.

A few days ago a friend and I were commiserating together—this introverting mother of an extroverting child thing. (Because it is a thing)

Facing an empty nest sooner than later, she said words that struck deep, “I’m grateful though. Once she leaves home, I’m going to miss the way she pulls me from my introverted shell.”

I’ve written words and words and words about how we mommas were created to be the exact mommas our children need. And we were.

But have you stopped to think, even just once, that our children were created to be exactly what we needed too?

Our children.

They push us to the edge of sanity—to the brink.

But we pull ourselves back and we learn. We learn to breath. We learn to be brave. We learn to cook mac-n-cheese while emptying a dishwasher, helping with homework, and catching a fly ball in the kitchen.

All at the same time.

My Ella-girl, with sweetness in her eyes and tenderness in her heart. Through her gentle-spirit, my biting sarcasm is shifting to kind encouragement. My definition of courage broadens as she has struggled through her own story. And I know what it means to dance deep in the soul by watching her.

My Caleb-boy, with fierceness in his eyes and passion in his heart. Through his independence, my temper is shifting to patience. My definition of conviction widens as he stands his ground. And I know what it means to laugh deep in the soul by watching him.

My children reveal my very best and my very worst pieces—pieces I see like a mirror when I find the secrets in their eyes.

Our children can teach us about ourselves. They can help mold us into better humans.

Don’t hear me wrong—you don’t have to have children to shift into a better person. Not at all. God allows us to rub shoulders all the time with those who can teach us, shape us. If didn’t have children to point out my broken places, there would have been others (and have been others.)

But my children have shown me some of my darkest issues, some of my ugliest conditions. I may be the momma they need, but they are also the exact two babies I have needed.

Every one of their struggles, their victories, their talents, their heartaches has taught me about who I am—who I can be. I can choose to stay the same or I can choose to grow.

In my children? I see my potential.

Even if that means I have to answer ten thousand questions every time I get in the car with the Court Jester.



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Busting the Busy Mom Myth

A few weekends ago chaos peaked. All four members of my household dove into the dirty clothes to pull out something they needed. My family walked around Saturday in stinky socks, pants, and shirts which cancels out the clean clothes they did wear.

Sunday I ignored my three favorite people, skipped church, and graded papers all day long. By the time dinner rolled around, hotdogs and tater tots are all I could muster onto paper plates. And actually, the kids ate chicken nuggets because neither likes hotdogs. (Whose kids are they anyway?) (And yes I cooked two dinners. #notashamed)

Sunday night I was awake until 11:30, squinting my way through the sewing of ribbons onto my girl’s pointe shoes for class Monday afternoon. Then I found out Monday afternoon class didn’t begin until the next week…

Yeah. So I definitely don’t have it all together. Hanging out over at one of my favorite places today. I’d love to have you click on over to Orlando Moms Blog and read more about just being real. Because we can use some real, right? Love and blessings, friends!

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Because Our Echoes and Voices Matter

Have you ever stood at the edge of a cliff and shouted just to hear the echo reverb, bouncing back to your ears?

My childhood best friend, knower of my teenage heart, and I share a memory of echoes. There was an expansive hillside field with a lake nestled at the bottom beside my home. Perfect for shouting at the top of our lungs.

So one evening filled with the burnt oranges of dusk, we did.

Running through the field, gathering flowers for our hair, we turned circles shouting that the hills were alive. Then we began to yell in a cadence the names of our secret loves. We belted the words “I LOVE SO AND SO” again and again and again.

(What? I can’t tell you their names! Nope. Not going to do it…)

We giggled and ran and skipped. And when we got home? My mom let us know we also told our entire town, or at least those in the two mile radius around the lake, the secrets of our hearts.

She had heard the echoes.

I’ve been pondering echoes lately. Letting the idea bounce back and forth through my thoughts. My classroom theme this year even uses the quote, “Be a voice, not an echo.”

What if we’re all just echoes? Reverbs bouncing off the walls of space and time.

The real question is who are we echoing?

If my echo is an imitation of standards the world has set, or a copycat version of have-it-all-together women, or a second-rate version of an original…

Then I have no voice.

Yet we were created to be distinct. Our Creator formed us, shaped us as individuals.

We were never meant to echo one another.

When I attempt to imitate other women, conform to their rules of beauty and ideals, I only become a distorted version of the original. A version that never truly reflects who I am.

But there is one voice we are created to echo, and because I’m made in His image, I’m my best self when imitating Him—the Creator-God.

Imagine a world where believers actually echoed their Jesus. Imagine the symphony of voices coming together.

I want to be a voice in this world. A voice that echoes the Jesus who loves without condition. A voice that reverberates the light of Christ through the darkness and shuts out hatred and bitterness.

I want to be part of the collective voice of millions resounding love together as we open our arms to the broken and the hurting and the lost. As we see the world, its suffering, its refugees and refuse to turn our backs but instead echo loudly you are welcome here.

When we echo Jesus, His love reverberates, and we become our best selves.

In truth? My echo of Christ is often distorted and shabby—a distant reverb.

So I dig in closer to my Jesus and keep singing His love from the hillside.



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When the Journey is Far From Easy

I’m always a little late in the game. This is pretty standard for my life. Late for work. Late for events. Late for life. And I’m always funny—just five minutes late. Which means I’m not really funny at all.

About a week ago, my husband and I finished watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy. For the first time. See? Late. Like over 10 years late.

I am no Tolkien expert. But as my husband and I watched the movies, I was struck most by Frodo Baggins, the brave little hobbit, and his transformation across the films.

His story begins when the great wizard, Gandalf, sends him on a perilous quest. Frodo’s life isn’t guaranteed, but he accepts the journey.

Gandalf’s task for the hobbit takes its toll.

By the end, both the movies and the books depict a Frodo that is beaten and bloodied by the path his life takes. He is not defeated, but he is crushed.

In this life we may not be called to save Middle Earth, but we all have a journey God calls us too.

And in that journey? God never promises the easy.

In fact, there are times when we say yes to His journey, and we find ourselves tossed and squeezed, beaten and bloodied.

This year our sweet Ella-girl began a new school. She breathed deep and walked in brave without knowing anyone in her grade.

In the weeks leading to our girl’s new life we talked. A lot.

Prince Charming and I knew the school was exactly where God wanted her. But I had to look into her scared, doe-eyes and tell her God’s call didn’t promise amazing. He didn’t promise popularity. He didn’t promise comfort. He didn’t promise countless new friends.

We were asking our daughter to walk a difficult road because we knew it was the road God laid before her. My momma heart ached at the possible realities a new school could bring my baby girl.

We often face a difficult road ahead.

We can be called to a journey of trials and struggles.

We sometimes say yes to a God-journey that doesn’t turn out all sunshine and roses.

There are those who tell us if we say yes to God, give Him our everything, life will be perfect, without struggles or painBut I don’t know a person in the Bible who walked a road of ease and comfort. And I don’t know a person today without battles.

God never promises easy.

Maybe your job isn’t a dream. Maybe you battle poverty on the mission field. Maybe you’re raising a child with special needs. Maybe you love Jesus with you’re entire being, and life is just hard.

God never promises easy.


He promises Life.

A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:10-11

He promises His presence.

Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

He promises Hope.

We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Following the God-plan for our lives can be messy. It can be difficult.

But it’s also beautiful.

Like Frodo, we can become part of a story greater than ourselves—a God-story pulling together our stained-glass lives into a patchwork masterpiece.

So keep hiking your journey, brave momma.

Let’s hold hands and walk together through our hard God-callings.

We will be stronger, we will be wiser, we will be braver.

The road is ahead.

fix-you (2)Linking up with the beautiful Suzie Eller today and #livefreeThursday. Join us over on her beautiful blog for more words of encouragement. Today’s blog: There’s a Fixer Who Lives Inside of Me


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Being Real is Always Beautiful

How can two weeks go by so quickly? I wish the speed of my days might just slow, just slip into a pace I can manage. But no.

I realized as last week shuddered and sputtered to its end, I failed to hit post on a single blog.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t thought of you. You are my people. My tribe. I don’t ever stop thinking of you, wondering how life is taking you through. Are you riding on waves or slumping and soldiering through quicksand?

One phrase, one thought has driven me wild over the last two weeks. Wild with fear. Wild with purpose. Maybe it’s why I’ve hesitated to touch the keys and stamp out words.

I just don’t know how to write this one…

Maybe if I just start, it will come?

The wild and unruly sentence? Short and sweet: If you think I’m perfect, I have failed.

See? I don’t know how to frame this thought. Because with that one statement I’m making the assumption you think I have it all together.

Maybe you know better. I’m relieved if you do. I hope you do.

But maybe you hold me up on a pedestal. I promise I will topple off.

My biggest fear as a blogger, a writer, as someone who deeply desires to minister to the hurt places of your soul?

That you would believe my life is somehow perfect or brighter than yours. That my marriage is fantastic all the time or my children are always so obedient.

If you think I’m perfect, I’ve failed you. I’ve failed myself.

Because this faith journey is never about perfection and mostly I’m held together with scotch tape, paper clips, and prayers.

And perfection is a façade. It’s fake. An illusion.

Perfection isn’t real.

I sat in church this morning cutting my daughter with my words as we received the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion. While remembering the brokenness and blood of the cross, I was slashing words out of the corner of my mouth.

And with that I know I need the Grace offered, am desperate to breathe it in deep. Sweet girl, forgive me I whisper with the touch of my hand smoothing back her hair.

I go to church, not because I’ve got my life together, but because I’m desperate to know how to get it together.

I sometimes get life right. More often I get it wrong.

In our world of social media, with our highlights on display for everyone, mine included, we are left comparing our shredded, barely held-together existence with the sparkling glitter of filtered images on our smart phones.

I don’t believe we should stop sharing our triumphs. No. Joy is in the celebration of our put-together moments.

But what if we started sharing real our struggles as well? Could we, would we find joy there too?

What if we put on brave and no longer displayed a façade to the world, but the realities of broken lives teeming with triumphs and failures?

I want to walk this road together—with you. And more than that, I want us to be real. Not because we can suture the split places of each other’s souls, and maybe sometimes we can, but rather because I want to touch the real in each other.

The mask of perfection only ever hides our true beauty.

Margery Williams paints this image of Real in The Velveteen Rabbit:

‘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.

Once Youre Real

I want this space to be a sacred dwelling where we can love each other fiercely enough we can be Real. Where our love is so strong we soften the sharp edges and refuse to break each other with our criticisms.

Let’s understand our sisters so we may see the beauty of our souls.

Do you want to live free? Stop trying to live up to your perceived perfections of others.

Start being you. Start living up to the expectations of a Jesus who freely loves and who only asks wide-flung love in return. His expectations are far more attainable than those of our Pinterest-perfect society.

Start believing grace applies to you.

Perfect lives do not exist. But real lives full of clutter and sin and grace and beauty do. We are sisters who get life wrong. The only part we ever need to get right?

Love Jesus. Love each other.

Let’s love each other real.

May you never see me as perfect. May you only ever see me as real.

“And once you are Real, you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Posted in Beautiful Life, Joy, Struggles | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments