What it Really Means to See Each Other

I was pulling out of a parking space, when she caught my eye.

Her tired frown told the story. Kids packed tight in her minivan. Groceries loaded. With shoulders slumped, she pushed the cart to the side of the vehicle. Her shoulders sagged and her face cast toward the ground.

She wore exhaustion like jeans a smidge too tight or threadbare sweats worn from over-wear.

It was just a glimpse—as snapshot of her life. But still a story I knew well. 

You know it, too.

Because we’re over-worn and filled to the brim with worry and noise.

I wanted to reach out, take both of her shoulders, look straight into her worn-out eyes and tell her—I see you.

Because I did. I saw her tired. I saw her stress. I saw her story. Because, Momma? I’m her story. You’re her story, too. We write the collective narrative of motherhood. And it’s everything we ever wanted and everything we never did.

We see each other, or at least we should.

Can we spend some time just seeing? Some moments remembering we are never, ever alone?

We see you, Momma, on the days you never once take a breath and you work and work and work and yet your house resembles Mother Nature’s worst.

We see you beside the hospital bed, clutching hope with white-tight knuckles. In the middle of the night when a slumber party ends in missing momma. In the doctor’s office certain something is wrong, but no one will listen. After all—You’re just the mom.

We see you fighting for the accommodations you know your son needs. Or watching your littlest walk into the school—without you. And he’s your last. Or spending hours on Khan Academy just so you can help your girl have a chance in math this year.

We see you making lunches. And washing that soccer shirt you found stuffed in a duffle bag the night before the big game. And checking take-home folders. And chewing your lip raw as you wonder if those SAT scores will ever be what he needs for his dream college. And is college even the right choice for her?

We see you when your teen suddenly withdraws—silent and no longer full of the day’s stories. When the list for the basketball team appears and your son’s name is missing. Or when the part she’s practiced for months goes to another. Or when summer dreams are crushed because a bone broke.

We see you.

We see you wondering if you will ever get it right. (You will.) Wondering if your kids will ever stop fighting and just be kind. Wondering if you are just an enforcer or a life-changer. Because you really, really want to be a life-changer.

We see you questioning every action you take. Are you doing enough? Are you scarring them for life? Are you present? Are you invested enough? Are you making a difference? Are you who they need you to be? Are you doing anything right?

We see you. Because we ask the same questions. They often go unanswered for us, too.

And because we ask the same questions, fear the same fears, we need to spend more time seeing. Seeing our momma-sisters in the same trenches, fighting the same battles.

We need each other.

Say those words again. With me. Maybe whisper them, under your breath.

We needeach other.

Say it again. Louder. Collectively.

We. Need. Each. Other.

We need encouragement.

The word encourage is stunning and complex. From the French, it literally means “to put courage into.” If one goes back further? To the Greek? The word translates parakaleo, meaning “to call to one’s side, call for, summon.”

Let those meanings steep just for a bit. 

Encourage doesn’t mean we pat each other gently on the back with some light cheerful words.

No. Encourage is so. much. more.

Scripture teaches us to encourage each other and build each other up, just as we are already doing.Encourage is a call. It is a call for us to stand beside—to put courage intoeach other.

This is more than cheering from the sidelines. More than a one-and-done text of solidarity. More than a blog post. 

To encourage each other means getting dirty. It means digging in the trenches beside our momma-sisters. It means to pour into. You have to move close to pour.It means a commitment to see each other. Again and again and again. Over and over and over.

It’s a ride-or-die kind of fervor that should drive us to pound courage into each other.

Because motherhood is a sacred calling. Failure is not an option—little lives are the territory we are fighting for. We fight against the tide of culture. We fight against the darkness ready to extinguish their lights. We cannot fail.

And we can’t do it alone.

When last did you stand by another mom? Hunched in prayer, knee deep in the muck of her pain? It’s exhausting. I know. I know because I so often get it wrong. I sometimes see an island of a momma and think about how difficult it will be for me to get to her—to bring her a lifeline of hope and courage.

But we can’t let the hard work of standing with one another scare us off. The prize is worth the weariness, the good-tired. Our children and their tiny souls are worth the struggle to encourage.

It’s not easy. I know.

But. The choice not to stand with each other? It costs too much.

So. 

We must see each other. See the battles. And willingly take up arms beside the mommas in our circle. Then we must widen our circle. Despite how difficult and exhausting it may be.

This. This is what it means to encourage one another.

We see you, Momma.

We’re coming.

We are the courage pounders.

We’re coming to pound some courage into your heart.

We’re coming to your side.

We refuse to let you stand alone.

Posted in Friendship, Motherhood, Struggles | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Going to Church can be Hard for Me

Sundays are hard.

The alarm goes off, and I snooze for far too long.

I don’t want to get up.

Not because I’m tired (I am). Not because I love sleep (I really don’t.) Not because my bed is warm and cozy (it is.)

I don’t want to get up because I don’t want to go to church.

There.

I said it.

Shame leaks out and guilt wells up.

This Jesus-girl just shared one of the dark slivers of her heart.

Because don’t all Jesus-people want to go to church on Sunday? Isn’t it supposed to be the best part of our week? The culmination of six days of struggle and then a day to rest in God’s love and grace?

Yet.

I don’t want to go.

I love my church, but more often than not, I don’t want to be there.

Stay with me.

This isn’t a piece telling you not to go to church. Or not to spend Sundays worshiping with fellow believers. It’s not a piece written to give a reason to stay away from the community of fellow faith-followers.

It’s none of those thoughts because I believe with my whole heart in the importance of a faith community – the importance of church. It’s vital in my Christian walk.

Instead, I’m writing what I’m scared to write because I want you to know what depression and anxiety can do. I’m writing because if you struggle like me, I want you to know I. see. you.

Because even though I am walking-well with clinical depression and anxiety, even though I am in a healthy place and have an amazing net of support, even though most days I can rise above…

It’s still a struggle.

A struggle I face every. single. Sunday when my anxiety and depression rear up with angry vengeance.

And yes. I know it’s a spiritual battle because if there’s a day of the week the evil one wants to keep me home? It’s the Sabbath. The Holy day.

I know this.

But my battle is also mental and physical. It’s more than just “praying my way through.”

You see—church isn’t the struggle. I adore my faith community. Instead, it’s my disease.

There’s a deep desire to stay home, alone, and disconnect from everyone. It’s an unexplainable urge to withdraw inside myself and stay there.

I can’t make sense of it for you. I’m sure it’s difficult for you to understand if you’ve never experienced the irrational thoughts that come with anxiety and depression. Especially since it’s so hard to understand myself.

The desire to stay home is more than just a choice to get up and go. More than muscling through. It’s so easy for others to think and wonder and question why? If you loved Jesus more, just prayed more, had more faith…you wouldn’t struggle.

But those thoughts only bring me guilt and shame. On the surface it may seem I’m just not trying hard enough…

Especially since my church family of Jesus-followers is pretty spectacular. The community I belong to loves unconditionally and demonstrates deep compassion. It’s not a place of judgment. I feel safe and accepted.

Yet every Sunday, when it would make sense for me to want to be with my tribe, I want nothing more than to withdraw.

And that’s the part of anxiety and depression I’ll never understand.

The disease locks us away from the parts of life that bring joy. It makes me wish, like a lunatic, that I had a migraine every Sunday so Prince Charming could explain away my frequent absences.

Because telling friends I have chronic migraines (which I actually do) is far less stigmatized than walking in and telling everyone I couldn’t face the world last week.

Hi. My name’s Heather. I belong to this tribe but I’ll be in and out. Not really committed because depression strangles me on Sunday mornings.

It’s not how I want to start any conversation. Because right or wrong, it makes me feel weak. I assume the thoughts of others. Careful with that one. She breaks. I wonder if the world would begin treating me as if I was fragile.

Because really? I’m not.

I’ve waited years to write this post because if I show up next Sunday morning, the last thing I want are knowing eyes filled with pity, with people thinking she must be having a good day.

I don’t want people to treat me differently or to feel sorry for my struggles. In the grand scheme of pain in this world, depression and anxiety don’t seem like heavy weights to bear.

But they are my weights.

So on Sundays I fight. I fight weekly battles in my war against mental illness. They are battles I often win.

Because I desperately want to want to worship with my community of believers. They’re important to me. They’re vital to my faith journey.

I fight because I know it’s right.

There are some Sundays I lose. Honestly, there are times I lose many days during the week–not just Sunday. But I don’t stop fighting because this is a battle worth winning.

Because when we’re in the dark, we must always choose to seek His light. The light of my Jesus is worth clawing my way out of the dark. It’s worth grabbing hold of the tiniest flicker of hope and refusing to let go.

So sisters in the fight? I see you.

I see you show up with your smile that’s real, even if it doesn’t quite reach your eyes. I see you white-knuckling hope and refusing to let go.

I see you.

And I see you when you don’t show up. I see the grace you need to extinguish the flames shame brings from the guilt you feel. I know it. I get it.

You are not alone.

I can’t promise I’ll be in the worship service next week.

But I promise I’ll fight to get there.

Posted in Anxiety, Depression, Relationship with God, Struggles | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Choosing to Trust God When I Don’t Want to

The rain falls softly this Sunday morning. I didn’t go to church. I couldn’t wear a fake smile and dress in fake laughter. I’m not ready to share my grief in person. 

But here? In this space, I can hide and bare all at the same time. This space that allows me to process a life that is sometimes impossible to understand.

Two days ago, my sweet cousin experienced a soul-shattering loss. Her precious nine-year-old Carter died after a boating accident.

We are shaken. We are crushed.

My family has four boys the same age. Second cousins. The sons of sister-cousins. They were going to grow up together. We would watch them play and dream of the years to come.

Now there are only three. 

And I can’t type those words without my chest caving in. The milestones of joy we imagined together will always carry a shadow of grief.

Death is hard enough to face without it wearing the face of a child.

How do we make sense of death? How can the world keep turning when my cousin, her husband, and their other two children no longer live in a world with Carter? How?

And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t angry. These last two days I’ve shot arrows of angry questions to heaven. Because why? Why do children have to die? Why did God allow the death of our sweet Carter with his eyes so blue and his future so bright?

The question that haunts humanity sits deep in my chest. Why?

I know the theology. I truly know God has a plan I do not see. I know that in order for humans to have choice—to be something other than puppets—evil and darkness must exist. I know God loves us beyond our comprehension and understanding. I know He controls our future and only desires our good. I know He suffers with us—shares our grief. I know these truths. I believe them. I’m not attempting to convince myself.

But still, I fling my accusations and hurt and questions to heaven.

Sometimes the easiest reaction to confusion, hurt, and pain is to question.

As I sit in this loss, knowing my heart knows nothing of the crushing weight my cousin feels, I am left with this—

God is big enough for my questions.

So I will make a leap. One, if I’m honest, I don’t know that I want to make. Because bitterness can sometimes look like the easier path to travel. Yet, a bitter heart is stone, and I don’t want the hardness that refuses to let Light inside.

To escape the ease of bitterness, I will choose the difficult. I will choose to trust. In my anger, in my doubt, in my grief. I will trust the God of all the heavens and the earth.

Even if I don’t want to.

I will choose this road because trust and doubt can be held in the same hand. A paradox of life. I can trust God in the same way I can trust my husband implicitly while questioning his decisions. Michael’s love for me hasn’t changed. My love for him hasn’t changed.

Trust and doubt. They’re not mutually exclusive.

God loves Carter more than I ever could. God loves my cousin and her family more than my humanity can love anything. 

And so I will trust Him—despite my questions.

Because I choose trust, I can welcome His comfort even in my doubt. 

Some may say it’s a sign of ignorance to trust in a God that allows such tragedy and devastation. 

I call it Hope.

Hope in a Jesus who ensures I haven’t seen Carter for the last time. Hope in a Jesus who promises heaven for those who believe in Him. Hope in a Jesus who is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit.

Hope is far easier to carry than despair.

Blessed are those who

morn, or they shall be

comforted.

Matthew 5:4

I don’t know that I will ever think of our Carter without the rush of sorrow—the heartsickness. I won’t ever be without the questions. But that’s okay. Because I love a Jesus that allows me to question. I can choose to Trust and Hope in the midst of those questions and tears.

Our family will always feel this loss. Grief won’t leave us in this life. But neither will the God of comfort—the One who provides peace in the pain and confusion. Peace that surpasses what our hearts can understand. God will always walk with us.

I hear the rain. I curl into my grief.

And with every sobbing breath, I choose to trust.

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Is God Still Good?

Our ballerina girl was diagnosed with scoliosis. Her spine curved with each centimeter she grew. Back pain became part of her every day. In a tutu-filled world of pointe shoes and buns, posture is everything and a spine growing wonky-like spells disaster.

Questions haunted me, chasing with their taunts. Would her dreams crumble before my eyes? Would she face crushed dreams? Why would this happen to her?

She was still so young and growth plates stood wide open. She wasn’t done stretching her height towards the sky. The prognosis looked bleak because scoliosis doesn’t reverse—it gets worse.

But God.

This summer Ella’s most recent visit to the orthopedic revealed a back without a curve. Wait. What? Her spine was straight. Head-scratching, miracle-making straight.

My girl—a walking miracle. God’s healing touch.

My social media story of the news was filled with comments and cheers. Each with the same theme.

God is good.

So good.

But if I’m honest, soul-bearing honest with you, sometimes I question His goodness. Because life isn’t always filled with unicorn miracles and pots of gold.

Sometimes dreams shatter.

And even with her miracle, our ballerina girl faced a devastating blow in June.

It happened just one week into five weeks of summer intensives. She had worked a full year and auditioned, trained, planned, and all the things to be accepted into the two programs she was attending.

She bubbled with excitement, and we burst with pride.

Until.

A freak accident. A broken toe. A shattered dream.

Only one week of dancing, and my girl was benched for the duration. No more summer intensives. No more training. No more skill growth. She would begin the ballet season behind.

Our hearts were broken.

Was God still good?

I ached for my daughter’s heart. She bravely squared her shoulders while I quietly slumped mine and wept. I couldn’t understand why. Why would a good God allow her to face such adversity? Why would He bring her to the edge of her summer dreams, only to allow them to be ripped back?

Oh, I was an angry momma. Because, honestly? There are times I just don’t understand God. I love Him, my friends. But I don’t get His ways.

I struggled deep as I waited for my girl to fly home—alone—away from her dreams.

I struggled with understanding. I struggled with God’s goodness. In reality, I know Ella’s circumstances weren’t that terrible in the grand picture of life-tragedies. But the pain was still there. And I struggled.

I struggled until I remembered a story my friend told me a while ago. Her boys were in a horrific car accident, but they came away only a bit bumped and bruised. She spoke about how everyone kept telling her that God was so good to their family.

Then she shared the questions she asked herself.

“Would I still be able to say God is good if my boys had been severely injured? Or worse, had died? Would God still have been good then?”

Her answer?

“Yes. God would still have been good.”

I sat with her answer and felt a shift in my world. Could I say the same? Could I believe God is good? All the time? Every moment of every day?

Yes. I could believe it. I do believe it.

But, friends, that truth can be difficult to hold onto. It isn’t easy—this holding faith and questions in the same hand.

Because bad things, terrible things happen. Hurricanes demolish shorelines and wash away homes. Spouses die and marriages fail. Children get cancer and are abused in horrific ways.

Circumstances and events take place that I cannot explain—I cannot pretend to understand. Tragedies occur that leave me shaking my fist toward heaven, questioning why my Creator allows the pain evil causes.

Suffering can’t be explained. Pain so intense, so overwhelming, so consuming we’re left suffocating in our own sorrow. And the why eludes us.

Yet.

I know God’s character is good. And I know His character does not change.

If I loved a God whose character changed on a whim, in who could I trust? If God could be both good and bad, how could He be holy? Perfect? And if I knew all the answers to all of my questions, why would I need anyone other than myself?

I don’t know all the answers.

I don’t know why all the bad happens.

But I know, so often, there is a deep purpose in our pain. I know that God is good. And I’m learning how to say and believe that Truth no matter what.

Because He is the God who sees our pain and our suffering and aches with us.

We are not alone in our suffering. We have a refuge—a haven. A harbor of peace is promised even as suffering rages in our ears and our hearts.

Our Creator may not choose to remove our pain, but He does promise to calm the chaos of our souls in the midst of our trials and struggles.

He is our refuge. Our strength. Our help.

He is good.

He promises the shelter of His arms. Allow him to comfort your pain, to calm your heart, to banish your fear, to dry your tears.

He’s there, dear friends. And He is Good. Hide in His warm embrace.

And my Ella? She’s still twirling on her toes. But even if her dancing was only in her heart?

God would still be good.







Posted in Beautiful Life, Motherhood, Relationship with God, Struggles | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Dear Momma on the First Day of School,

I see you.

You’re clutching your second cup of coffee as you yawn sleep away.

You meant to make cute signs and put together Pinterest gifts for the teachers. You meant to get all those clothes organized and laid out before this morning. You promised yourself you wouldn’t hit snooze.

But life.

And instead, you’re shoulders deep in the dryer looking for a matching sock and yelling “brush your teeth” for the tenth time. Your eyes roll so far back you see your brain smoking as you remember you don’t have enough time for those pictures everyone else will post before the day’s end.

Maybe you do have enough time for that picture, but the moment you pull out of your driveway, your second grader remembers her lunch. On the kitchen counter.

Maybe you mourn the end of summer. Or maybe you’re celebrating the end of constant sibling bickering.

I see you.

You watch as the baby you held in your arms just a few years ago holds your hand as she walks into kindergarten with her head held high and bows in her hair. She squeezes tight with one last hug before you walk out the door wondering how you got here.

Or maybe your seventh grader, with his cool hair and anxious eyes, asked you to drop him off just a little bit farther back in the line, and your heart breaks just a bit because this is normal. But you weren’t ready for adolescent distance. Not yet.

Or maybe your head is spinning as you watch your senior get in his car for his last first day of school. And you’re just trying to breathe, gulping air but you can’t because your heart is in your throat.

I see you.

Questions swirl in your heart, regardless of their ages. Will she make friends? Will kids be kind this year? Will his teacher show grace? Will she learn?

As mothers, we’re constant in our wondering. Wondering if our children will be safe, loved, and supported. Wondering how long we should wait before we rescue. Wondering if we’ve done all we can.

I see you.

Your hand reaches out to brush his hair from his eyes but he ducks his head. You beg for one decent photo, knowing they hate this part, but you want to clutch this memory forever.

You think all day about them. Did they like their lunch? Were the supplies you bought the right ones? Did they think about you? Did teachers take the time to see your kid? Really see him?

You ask a bazillion questions when you see them at the end of their day. The answers you get? Not ever enough. Ever. Because you want to know ALL THE THINGS.

But I see you.

Because the real struggle we share on this day each year is the passing of time. We find ourselves in the knowing. We feel just how fleeting each moment is, but we also find ourselves wishing some days away because they can be so dang hard.

And we’re caught in this paradox. We want to hold tight to times that were always meant to disappear. Our children were never mean to stay little. We yearn to fix the shirt or tie the shoe of the very humans that are, one day, no longer supposed to need us.

We worry. We fret. We celebrate. We cheer.

This first day of school crashes with waves of doubt and excitement. What will their future be? Who will our children become? What if I screw up?

I see you, Momma.

And here’s the thing you need to remember. No one on this planet will champion your babies quite like you. So if today is a crazy-mixed up mess of happy-sad emotions? You need to know.

It’s okay.

Because being Mom means there is not a right way to feel. You’re allowed to cheer your babies on as they walk into another school year, while quietly mourning the loss of one more summer.

You’re allowed to not shed a tear or feel one single bit of sadness. You’re also allowed to show up to the school parking lot with a box of tissues, puffy eyes, and a red nose.

There is no right way for moms to do the First Day of School.

So as you muddle through with a tender heart, know I see you. You’re not alone. Don’t compare how you feel, how you think, or how you act to a single soul. No.

Be you, Momma.

Be the warrior-mom I see standing as she sends her babies to the classroom. Because she’s beautiful. She’s amazing. She’s a mom who survived this day.

And Momma? You’re doing a fantastic job.

With all the love of a fellow Momma,

Heather







Posted in Beautiful Life, Motherhood, Teaching | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Dear First Day of School

Dear First Day of School,

We need to talk.

I don’t want to hate you. I really don’t. Shall we maybe work together to package the day in a way we all come home with smiles?

I have a few requests. Just a few. If you could find it in your heart to accommodate my small, itty-bitty expectations, I think I could love you.

If not? Well, I already said I don’t want to hate you. Really, it’s your choice.

Here we go:

  1. Can you begin just one hour later? You know—so I can have time to take pictures of my own kids, make last minute copies, and attempt to put on make-up.
  2. Just prior to the ring of the alarm clock, I need to be wide awake—like Saturday-morning-slept-over-12-hours awake. This may be difficult because I will have only had 4-5 hours of sleep. But remember, I want to love you.
  3. I need my coffee to be strong. STRONG. This is a non-negotiable.
  4. All clothing must look perfect, so multiple wardrobe changes are unnecessary.
  5. Children should wake up with a miraculous love for one another bringing a harmonious calm to the household. This may be your most difficult task, but I believe in you.
  6. The magical lunch-making unicorn should appear at some point overnight. Healthy choices are negotiable.
  7. All bags and kid backpacks have everything necessary already packed and beside the front door.
  8. Nothing can be forgotten. Nothing.
  9. The camera should be set outside prior to the kid photo shoot. Because you need to remember this is FLORIDA, and the moment I take my camera from the air-conditioned inside to the heat-blanketed outside condensation commences. You may view this as an opportunity for a science lesson for my kids. But one, my kids have science in school. And two, I’m an English teacher with zero time for science lessons.
  10. Traffic needs to be light. This isn’t asking for much. You must also make sure any one driving at or below the speed limit is behind me. Okay?
  11. The car must arrive in the school parking lot at least five minutes early. Yes. You heard me. Early. Stop laughing.
  12. My school bag should be reminiscent of the one carried by Mary Poppins. I need to pull magic out of that bag. Magic that captivates even the most cynical student doubting my powers.
  13. Students need to believe my words are gold, like the shiny, valuable metal, like the 24-carat kind. This way they will gather my treasure and hold it close and remember where they put it.
  14. I should be able to whisper yet my voice should carry to the furthest corners of my room, allowing for a well-rested throat at day’s end.
  15. All student questions must be easy to answer.
  16. The last bell should ring, and I must be fully prepared for day two.
  17. Take a deep breath. This one’s tricky. Ready? I need to leave campus on time. Yep. On time. I promise this is no jest.
  18. Finally? My own two darlings need to declare the First Day of School as the BEST. DAY. EVERRRR! (If their arms are stretched wide and they’re spinning circles, I’m happy to award bonus points. I may even allow you to miss one request. Except for numbers 1-10, 11, and 12-18.)

So you see, this list of requests is fairly simple and straightforward. Nothing too difficult, and I’m sure you can manage.  Because I want to love you, I really do.

I understand my expectations are high. And well, the expectations of all mankind are high on this day. It’s a lot to live up to—you know—one day setting the tone for the entire year thing is a mite stressful. But I am confident you will rise to the challenge.

Sincerely Hopeful,

Heather—Loving Teacher, Mom, and Wife

P.S. Honestly? If you could help me remember no day is perfect, and my joy is not based on circumstances, that would actually be enough.

P.P.S. I really do love my job.

Happy First Day of School, Friends!
May we know we’re not alone, and
hard days have the power to strengthen our resolve
and teach us to persevere.







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On Weeding and Invitations of Grace

As a little girl, when given the choice, I was quick to volunteer for yard work chores over housework. If Mom and Dad both needed help, sure as shootin’ I’d be knee deep in mud and weeds before Mom could pull out the dust cloth.

My plan was brilliant. My baby sister hated yard work. I despised housework. Win-Win. It wasn’t that I loved weeding, I just preferred the task to toilets.

When learning to weed the flowerbeds of home, I would look for shortcuts—pulling the unwanted plant growth from their tip-tops. My dad could no longer see the weeds, and my work appeared done.

I had made everything look lovely and fresh on the surface.

But the deceit always caught up.

My cheating became obvious within days. Daddy would shake his head. The roots, Heather. You have to get to the roots, or the weeds will just come back. Let me show you. And we’d head back out to weed again. My Father always helping, always by my side.

Not much has changed.

I’d still rather work in the yard than wring a mop.

But yanking weeds from the dark earth is exhausting. Roots take hold, refusing to yield to my pulls and tugs. On my knees, humbled by the stubborn intruders, my fingers plunge deep into soil. I grasp to get rid of what chokes and crowds our beautiful plants and shrubs.

With back bent, stooped and low, I work. The sun’s rays beat down as I refuse to let the weeds beat me. And if I don’t keep up? If I don’t go back and pull those stubborn stragglers? They still come back.

They return in full force to choke and crowd.

And I sigh. Because though I may ask if I’m ever done, in reality I know I’m not—there will always be weeds.

In my yard. And in my soul.

These days weeding isn’t just an escape from dust bunnies and dirt-thick floors, it’s a strange invitation into grace.

I have a confession. Words I’ve carried far to long, alone.

I struggle daily, hour-by-hour, with an addiction to food.

These words lay my soul bare—scratched and raw from pulling at the weeds in my life. I haven’t wanted to share this struggle with you, so I’ve hidden them. I’ve hidden them because my food addiction causes me to feel ashamed.

You may role your eyes. You may wonder what’s the big deal?

Friends, food addiction has been a weed choking my life for as long as I can remember. And the heaviness and weight this addiction leaves on my body brings me shame. Not because I’m ashamed of how I look, but rather I’m ashamed of what my skin reveals. It reveals my very real choice of running to food, instead of my Jesus, for comfort.

Sin.

Not a word that’s very acceptable in this world of relative truth. But for me, my turn to food in times of stress, sadness, and anger in order to cope isn’t healthy for my body—or for my soul. For me, it’s sin.

So why tell you?

Because.

Because though every battle is different, our hidden shame can feel the same.

Because I want you to know I struggle. My addiction may seem benign. I mean, it’s just food, right? But the point isn’t to make a comparison. Rather the point is—everyone struggles.

Everyone has life-choking weeds. Everyone has shame stuffed into our closets so no one finds out we’re infested, our soul tangled by our individual battles.

We love to hide our darkness. Putting on masks of our inauthentic selves, the selves we think the world wants to see.

But we’re cheating.

The shame kept in the black of night will only crowd out our beauty, our joy, our light.

So now what? What is the way to weed out shame and sin? The way to pull through addiction and wrong choices? Oh, how I am desperate for healing, desperate to pull these weeds out by their roots—each and every one.

It’s hard—this weeding and pruning of our lives. But I have a Creator God, who leans down and whispers these words: Confess your sins to each other, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

Did you hear it?

Simple. Beautiful.

Healing comes when we refuse to hide our dark places from each other.

Confession heals the soul.

Confession rips out shame by its roots.

Confession brings accountability.

Confession makes room for grace.

Our confessions don’t require internet diatribes or gushing revelations. No tabloid headlines for sympathy are needed. Rather, we will know who and when we are to share our struggles with. It is simply that we share.

Because when we look at our own weaknesses, our own weeds and reveal them to the Light, we realize our mistakes cannot be held up to the shadows of comparison. Because I’m better than no one—not one.

We must tread gently in this healing vulnerability. And we mustn’t begin to wave our darkness around as if it’s brighter than another’s. No. A night absent of light is a night absent of light.

When humans attempt to rate morality, everyone suffers and hypocrisy reigns. When our choices are weeds—they will always choke out life. Always. The type of weed? It does not matter.

In our confessions that refuse comparison, we find Grace for ourselves. We find Grace abundant enough for humanity.

Because Grace rips weeds out by their roots.

Grace drowns out shame.

Grace leaves room for rest.

So no. My struggles may not be yours. But we’re no different. We struggle, both you and I.

I’m desperate for you to know you’re not alone in the life-drowning weeds.

Shall we pull weeds together? We can stoop side-by-side in the hot sun, with its rays pounding our backs while sweat stings our eyes.

For as long as it takes.

Because when we share? Our darkness is drowned by Light. When we weed out our wrongs together, we become meadows of rest beckoning others to find healing in our space. Spaces that offer hope and love—without judgment.

When we weed, we become lush gardens of grace.







Posted in Beautiful Life, Hope, Relationship with God, Struggles | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

When I Need to Step Off the Porch

A few weeks ago, during the last half of my spring break, I was at a teacher training. The nerd in me can’t get enough learning. Prince Charming Jokes I could be a professional student. He’s right.

The days filled my brain and my heart.

The training was intense, but meaningful—filled with affirmations of what I already do and equipping me to be even better. Good stuff.

So many nuggets of truth float in my brain from those few days.

But one Truth struck deep.

A fellow teacher spoke words of encouragement to another at the training. The teacher called the woman across the table a porch light.

A porch light.

Maybe you’ve heard the term or are familiar with the connotation.

It was new to me.

The teacher went on to explain how porch lights are those people who shine bright for others living in the dark shadows of their own personal nights. The porch light illuminates the path so the hurting and suffering can see their way to hope.

I’m reminded of my first days spent in the dark. Days when I really didn’t know who I was or why the shadows closed so tight. Lost and confused, I retreated deep into myself.

Withdrawn, I didn’t know where to begin looking for light.

A phone call came. A crack in my shield.

We’re worried about you. You’ve withdrawn. You’re not yourself.

We’re here.

Suddenly, with those words, I began to see flickers of light. Light in the distance waiting to warm my heart.

My friends were porch lights.

With them, I could be honest, transparent—myself. I could struggle in a place I wasn’t alone.

But here’s the thing about porch lights. If I had to walk down darkened street to glowing homes with their lights on, I’m not sure I would have made it.

I’m not one to reach out for help. I’m not one to beg for a life raft. I’m not one to walk to the porch with the brilliant glow. When you’ve been in the dark for too long, the light hurts. It hurt to get close and reaching out wasn’t something I could conceptualize.

So my friends stepped off.

They stepped off the porch and into the dark—bringing their torches with them. Then they held my hands, step-by-step, walking me their way. Their bright, radiant way.

In this world, we are called to be light for this great, big, scary world.

The Message version of the Scriptures brings this truth: “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

We are God’s light in the darkness.

But sometimes we have to step off our porches.

Is that not the mission of Christ on the cross? Did He not leave the Light of heaven? Did He not step down into our darkness, carrying His torch to the broken, the hurting, the shadow-dwellers?

We must welcome others with our porch lights. We must keep open our homes.

But.

I know in my depths I need to do more stepping off and reaching into the darkness with my torch. Because some people won’t come toward the bright—it hurts too much. No. Some are waiting. Waiting for us to remind them they are worthy of God’s great love.

It’s impossible for me to bear my torch into the dark places of every shadowed corner. Yet I can bring candles. Candles of hope in gestures of compassion.

A card. A meal. A phone call. A message. An errand. A balloon. A kind word. A hug.

I know this—Light shows up. It shows up and darkness cannot stay.

Friends, we don’t have to blaze an inferno. We can just show up with our candles. And sometimes we can show up with torches. The point is, we show up and we bring light.

The porch is a beautiful place, warm and inviting. A place for community and communing, rocking chairs and lemonade. A place of brilliant light.

But porches were never created as a space to stay forever. We can’t live on our porch.

Sometimes we need grab courage and step into the dark.

There is a world desperate for our lights—lights illuminating the path to Hope.







Posted in Beautiful Life, Easter, Hope, Joy, Struggles | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

For Our Daughters…A Celebration of Womanhood

Daughters of Ours,

Spring green has touched the tips of the trees, edging its way to leaf centers. Plum and pink Azaleas have yawned into March’s morning light.

Because Florida.

And before we can sneeze the oak pollen from our lungs, the temperatures will soar into the 90s. So relish these moments of newness. These moments of life awakening from winter’s sleep.

Because daughters, you are spring.

And I wonder if you know how to savor this beautiful time, if you know what a splendid bloom you are.

I wonder if you know you can show the world your stunning spring hues and your intelligence and your gifts, if you know you don’t have to hide who you really are.

I wonder if you know the glory of being born a woman?

Do you really?

Because sometimes we forget the distinct splendor of the feminine. We often hide from the beauty of being created woman.

We may all bemoan those days each month when our bodies seem to rebel and quake under the pressure of our design. But really? Our bodies are life bringers. Our turmoil and pain yields humankind.

Womanhood is not something to shrink from or deny. It is to be celebrated.

Celebrate the feminine. Celebrate the strong, the tender, the fierce. Celebrate them all because they all are the woman.

Don’t shrink, dear daughters.

I watch as you make apologizes for your intelligence and attempt to hid your strength. My heart beats sad when you play dumb for the boy in the next chair.

Listen close, Tender Flower ready to bloom.

A man who doesn’t want his woman strong and smart and brave is not a man I want for you. You are worthy of being loved as you are. The authentic self needs no glittery wrapping paper and jeweled bows to be loved.

Your worthy of so.much.more.

The man who loves the truest you? The one willing to pursue your truest heart? The one fighting your battles beside you?

That is the man you cling to—hold tight. Because he is the one it’s okay to need. Because he needs you, too.

I watch through the halls, and I see myself so many years ago. Wondering. What is it to be woman?

Maybe you love glamour and heels and shiny lips and dresses – all things girl. Maybe you would rather live in your flip-flops and jeans and t-shirts and ponytails. That’s okay, because on you? They’re all things girl, too.

One day you may want to be a stay-at-home mom. Or maybe you may want to have a career and be a CEO.

One day you may want to be both.

One day you may marry. Or maybe you won’t. And that’s okay, too.

One day you may decide you want ten children. Or maybe you may decide to have none.

Whatever you decide, don’t allow the world to shame your choices—your higher calling.

There are evils that use physical power to trap and chain women. Evils that lurk to strip the female of her security, her safety. Evils that pounce shouting shame into your thoughts. Evils that pound a hammer of fear to shatter your femininity—your identity.

Don’t be afraid to fight back. Know those evils are not your shame to bear. Those broken pieces you didn’t break? They can be part of your glorious stained-glass story.

Held up to the Light? You will always glimmer color and shimmer sun.

May we clutch to each other, welding metal, piecing together our stained stories. Because we’ve all been broken. Our cracks reveal our light. Our strength. Our dignity.

Many will shout into echo chambers that we’re less than. Less than because we have hips and curves and breasts. Less than because our emotions are a mystery. Less than because we nurture the broken and our minds never stop.

Don’t believe the lies.

Those lies are wrong.

Wrong, because God the Father created both male and female in His image. Both. In His image. Oh, daughters. The fingerprint of God is stamped into our very being. We are His created beauty.

You need to know we are His painted sunset—His final touch on all of creation. We have purpose. The Master Artist makes it so…

Be proud of your womanhood. Take hold of your feminine self.

Don’t be afraid to smile back at the mirror every morning.

You. Beautiful you.

You are God’s creation, too.

We Love You,

Your Sisters







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On Your Way to Work: The Teaching Paradigm

I hate the sound of my own voice. Anytime I hear myself on a recording or a video, I cringe. Do I really sound like that?

According to a friend, Christian, there’s for real scientific evidence about why our voices sound so strange to us when we hear them outside our own heads. It’s something about jaw vibrations and our inner ear and the way sound travels. My friend is super smart, so I’m taking him at his researched-word.

Not that it matters because I still shudder when I overhear my recorded voice.

Even so, I took part in my very first podcast this weekend. My friend, author and respected career mentor, Rick Whitted, is passionate about people. He is committed to helping others grow in their professional and personal lives. He has been a source of great encouragement for my own writing and teaching career.

I’m honored Rick invited me to join him in his podcast, On Your Way to Work. Today we discuss teaching and some of the current paradigms taking place in the culture of education. I’d love for you to listen into the discussion!

Please click one of the following options to join our conversation on “The Teaching Paradigm:”
iTunes, Stitcher, Live stream from website







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