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

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The Reasons We Teach

My classroom is ready.

I’m not.

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The laundry list swirls. I didn’t organize my files as planned. My summer reading list is still the list I started with. Those closet shelves never got installed. The fence wasn’t built. My summer of kayaking ended without an oar tipped in water.

And can’t I have just two more weeks with my own children?

What did I do this summer!?!

Oh yeah.

There were the curriculum guides I created. The student letters of recommendation I wrote. The novels I did get to read in preparation for my AP courses. The school board meeting I had to organize my presentation for.

And the Pinterest pinning. And the thinking. And the mental planning—always an inch from every thought.

Granted. All done from the comfort of my pajamas on my couch. Still…

Maybe it’s so difficult for us to go back into our classrooms because we never left.

But we’re teachers. That’s what we do. While the world may see this as a list of complaints, you and I know it’s just reality.

Because nothing can stop us from our unpaid summer work. Even if Pinterest suddenly crashed, all the workshops were cancelled, and the school board gave us bonus eight-week vacations to Tahiti (ha!)—we never leave the classroom.

It’s what we do.

Yet, when summer ends and school begins, I find my heels scrapping deep into the concrete of my front drive.

I don’t wanna.

Until I count the reasons. The reasons I teach—the reasons we teach.

Can we begin with new school supplies? Because there’s just something about a brand new package of crayons and newly sharpened pencils. We can wander the school supply aisle at Target unaware an hour just went by. And the smell of fresh copies? Swoon.

Did this just get weird?

There’s our ode to coffee and chocolate—an endless supply. Or maybe, if you’re my best friend, it’s Mountain Dew and peeps. Whatever floats the collective teacher boat, caffeine and sugar play a part.

We also never stop learning. Teachers are nerds grown up, and now we have a paid-for reason to geek-out over knowledge. We hoard it, packing it away into corners of our minds for no other reason than to win any trivia game we play. And to use with our students, of course.

Every day is different. We’re not office people. It’s not how we function. We need Johnny to bounce off walls one day and sit quietly the next. We need Suzie to name every dinosaur that ever existed and still have to bend down to help tie her shoes. We thrive on not knowing what our students will say and do one day to the next.

We can’t explain it. Don’t ask us to.

Our colleagues keep us sane. We’re a band of brothers. A camaraderie. We get each other. Our minds may work differently, but with one look during a faculty meeting we know we’re thinking the same thing—if one more person asks a question…

And then?

There are our students.

As teachers we won’t invent the technology to ease suffering. We won’t cure cancer. We won’t run for political office. We won’t perform life-saving surgery. We won’t fix or invent ozone-saving cars. We won’t manage stores. We won’t become music stars. We won’t change global hunger or poverty. There are a million things we won’t ever do.

But we teach the students who will.

The reason we teach? We get to change the world—one student at a time.

And that is enough.

It’s enough for us to walk through our classroom doors on the first day of school, excited and nervous. It’s enough for us to work endless hours all year long. It’s enough for us to keep pushing our students and ourselves toward excellence.

Our students. They’re enough to keep us going.

Teaching is what we’re called to do. There’s no other option. It’s who we are. And we can’t be ourselves without our students.

We need someone to teach like we need oxygen in our blood.

So dear teacher friends, if you dread the end of summer as I do, count your reasons. They will be enough for you to turn your key, open your classroom door, breathe deeply, and smile.

“Good morning class. Welcome to a new year.”

I’m so excited.

 

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Raising Giant Killers

She walked the polished tile each day to my classroom door. Bright smile. Tired eyes. Working her way through my AP Language class as a junior, M’Kaila would graduate a year early.

Impressive.

But what if I told you M’Kaila faced giants on her journey?

What if I told you she’d been homeless the year before, bouncing from one friend’s couch to another as her parents slept in their car?

What if I told you M’Kaila’s parents were hearing impaired–deaf?

What if I told you she’s now a college student?

It was hard. But she never gave up. Instead, she leveled her gaze into the eyes of her giants and slung her stones.

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I am in awe of this beautiful young woman’s perseverance. M’kaila amazes me with her spirit—her ability to rise above adversity.

She reminds me of David. A boy who shepherded sheep alone in the wilderness, killed lions and bears, and faced the ridicule of his brothers and doubt of a king. A boy who stared down a giant with some rocks and a slingshot. A boy who trusted God with his life.

Perseverance.

M’Kaila and King David inspire me to be a woman who perseveres. They inspire me to raise children who persevere.

But how? How do I teach my children to defeat their giants and keep moving forward? To get back up when they’ve been hurt or experienced failure?

I swallow hard the answer I don’t want to hear bubbling up from the depths. My hands press tight over my ears, shutting out what I know to be true because I only want to protect my children.

The answer I don’t want to hear? I must watch my children struggle.

Because sometimes our protective shields keep our children from forming their own battle-ready armor. If I want to teach perseverance, I must encourage my children to do hard things—regardless the outcome.

Several years ago, my daughter, Ella, was riding her bike down a steep driveway. She took her bike as fast as she could down the hill again and again.

Until she fell.

Tears rolled down her round cheeks, but no a bandage was needed. She was scared and a bit shaken, but otherwise okay.

So my husband and I did the hard.

We plopped her back on the bike at the top of the hill and encouraged her to go again. We clapped and cheered louder than our hearts hurt. Everything in me wanted to scoop my baby girl into my arms and take her inside—to protect her.

But if I had done the easy and shielded her from fear, Ella wouldn’t have felt the freedom of flying down the hill again that morning. And who knows how long it might have been before she climbed back on her bike?

Instead, my girl pedaled her feet one more time as tears continued to quietly fall. When she glided safely to the bottom where her daddy and I waited, tears turned to laughter.

The way to raise a David? A M’Kaila?

Allow our children to do the hard. Sometimes we must walk them through the pain, teaching them to trust their Heavenly Father as they go instead of shielding them from heartache or disappointment.

There are certainly times we must protect and shelter our babies. It is part of our parent job description. But too often, in order to keep them from pain, we forget that if we guide them through the difficult, they will learn the tools they need to cope with suffering later in life.

The thing about perseverance? It takes practice. Instead of allowing our children to give up, we need to teach them to go on—to move forward and trudge through.

God doesn’t call us to the easy. Following His footsteps can lead us into shepherding sheep in fields filled with bears and lions and giants. We must be ready. So must our children.

If we are to teach our children to sling stones to kill their giants, they must practice perseverance. It will hurt our hearts to watch. But their struggle is worth their triumph.

Let’s walk our children through the hard instead of around. Ours will be the children prepared to take on the giants of a broken world. Ready to stand strong in conviction. Equipped to share the light of Christ.

Take a deep breath. We can do this.

We must do this.

 

(It’s so good to be back, my friends. Oh, how I’ve missed you! But I’ve been praying for you this summer. Life is hard, but life is sweet…)

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Fighting for Happily Ever After

The week before our wedding was, well, far from the fairy tale.

Tensions were already tight as my family bared the intense pressure cooker of a wedding.

The Mother-of-the-Bride was sick, missing one of my showers hosted by her best friends. My Grandfather was in the hospital. My chairman-of-deacons Daddy was hosing down church flames of controversy. Michael was in a car accident on his way to my hometown.

And I was a brat.

Much of my wedding day is a blur. Dog-eared edges of faded photographs—snapshots of a memory. Out of order, jumbled together as I grasp one moment and then another.

Beautiful moments. Imperfect moments.

Attempting liquid eyeliner for the first time and my baby sister coming to the rescue. My bridesmaids—my dearest sister-friends—gorgeous and wearing horrid shoes they still remain bitter about.

My Aunt’s veil. My Grandma’s handkerchief. The impatient limo driver. White roses and a late-90s hairstyle. Selfishly telling Dad he couldn’t cry. The comforting faces of family and the sweetness of vows on my lips.

An ice sculpture I demanded and never saw. A piece of chocolate wedding cake I dreamed of and never tasted. Friends from far-away places I never hugged.

But one memory? One picture clear and true?

Prince Charming taking my face in gentle hands as he kissed his bride.

KIss the BrideA wedding of beautiful chaos that mirrors the marriage my Prince Charming and I have walked through for 17 years.

From the beginning of our marriage, Michael and I faced hardship.

The week we returned from our honeymoon, my new husband discovered he wasn’t offered a job we believed he already had. I was a missionary for a year only making a couple hundred a month—a month.

As we drove from my parent’s home four hours north to our new beginning, my car’s engine blew up. Literally. Sold it for parts while my husband’s car remained in the shop from the pre-wedding accident.

Eight days into marriage with no income and no transportation. We were living the dream. Yep.

Michael’s car eventually did make it out of the shop, and he was able to secure a job teaching out of his subject area by late September. But financial worries are something we’ve understood since day one.

My Grandfather tragically died after falling from a bike in November. We faced death together that first year.

My groom, the PE teacher, slipped on wet grass during a softball game one evening and tore his ACL. Surgery, rehab, and two flights of stairs held our first spring together.

There were sweet times too, but they were away tempered with the difficult.

Yet, I’m grateful.

I’m grateful because from the very first edges of our marriage Michael and I had to choose the holding tight. To grip each other and refuse the letting go.

We didn’t survive because we met halfway. We came through because we chose to meet all the way—together. Every step.

We’ve argued. We’ve stared at silence with our lips held tight, refusing to utter the first apology. When we did speak, hateful, bitter words sometimes bubbled up from our hearts tumbling out of our mouths.

Mistakes still follow us around, snapping at our heels.

How has our marriage lasted 17 years? And how can the relationships you’re in now stand strong in the battles life flings our way?

By understanding we’re never safe.

Because no marriage is safe.

Safe from temptation. Safe from argument. Safe from hurt. And how long can anyone face danger without a defense?

The first shield? Standing firm in the vow.

Then you fight harder than hell for the marriage you have, the one right now. Harder than hell because hell’s laughing like mad to see you struggle—to see you crumble.

And facing hell? That requires the Jesus who’s already defeated the master of the dark pits. The Jesus who claimed victory with arms stretched bloody across splintered wood.

But even with Jesus the battle isn’t easy. Because no one survives a fight-to-the-death clash without scars and broken pieces. And no fight for marriage is won with just Jesus swinging His sword.

No. Michael and I must fight too. Both. With our Jesus. If only one of us stands firm, we will waiver, and we just may fall. So with everything in us, we battle—together. Even when we may not want to. Because that happens too.

Our love, our life, our marriage has always been a choice. We chose to say yes August 1st, 1998. We must continue to choose our yes.

Prince Charming and I? We were never promised perfect. It doesn’t exist.

But the imperfectly perfect?

That’s a fairy tale worth fighting for.

Posted in Beautiful Life, Love, Marriage | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Making the Difference for Just One

Yesterday marked the beginning of the end of my summer. With two weeks to go until preplanning, I’m in the make-it-count days of July. I’ll be back with weekly posts the first week of August and I. can’t. wait!

You are my people, and you are incredible.

I have missed you these two months. I have a notebook full of things I can’t wait to tell you. Just two more weeks, friends. Have I said I’m excited yet? Because I am.

But before then…I am sharing bits and pieces of my heart with the Orlando Moms Blog today. I’d love to have you click on over there to read about opportunities you have to make a difference for even just one.

See you soon friends!

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When We’re Staring at Fear

Dear friends…a break from my break, so to speak. This happened yesterday and God wouldn’t let me go until I shared what I learned. Maybe some of you need to hear Him as I did?

Caleb and I followed the x-ray tech down the clinical hall. My Court Jester needed a CT scan to see if his chronic sinus infections are the result of golf ball-sized adenoids.

I’d prepped my baby boy for the test as much as I could and made sure he knew it wouldn’t hurt.

The tech lacked serious kid skills if you catch my meaning. No explaining and quick movements, he treated my sweet boy like just another tedious x-ray. Without any assurances or compassion, he adjusted Caleb on the table, prodding and shifting his head into just the right position.

My hackles were beginning to stand on end.

And before I knew what was happening, the tech quickly ushered me out the door and shut it in my face leaving my little baby in a big, cold room with a huge machine all alone.

Y’all.

I stood there in shock. And then I heard the tech loudly telling my Court Jester to “be still!”

Um? No.

Momma Bear emerged and I was quickly led back into the room—radiation exposure be danged!

As I stood over Caleb and smoothed back his hair, his little eyes filled with tears. Fear looked back at me, and my heart ached.

He had been scared and alone.

Over the next few minutes, as the tech adjusted his bedside manner, I never stopped talking to my boy. I told him over and over again how brave he was and how strong he was. By the time the scan was finished, the Court Jester was back to himself. He hopped off the table and led the way out.

He just needed to know I was there.

Our lives are filled with big, scary moments. Times we face uncaring people or unknown tests. Days when the uncertainty of tomorrow overwhelms every fiber of our being. Fear crawls up our spines and clutches our hearts. We feel alone in the dark.

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But allow me to tell you—our Jesus isn’t standing behind some locked door. No. He’s never left the room. He’s right there whispering, “Be strong and courageous. I am with you wherever you go.” Again and again and again.

Four times God tells Joshua of the Israelites to “be strong and courageous.” Three times God promises Joshua, “I will be with you.” And that is just in the first chapter of the book titled Joshua.

You see, Joshua was about to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land and into battle. Not a job I would consider fun. Fear could have consumed Joshua.

But God.

God made sure Joshua knew strength and courage were required, but God would never leave him. The Creator of the heavens and earth was always going to be right there—walking beside the Israelite leader.

When staring at our fears, we sometimes just need to be reminded our Jesus is standing right there too—standing there cheering us on. Reminding us to be brave. Reminding us we’re strong. Reminding us He’s never left our side.

Are you walking through a season of fear? Do you need more courage than you believe is possible?

Know God never left the room.

He’s whispering those same Joshua-words into your heart. Let them sink in. Allow them to bring hope. Soak in their peace.

You are never alone.

Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

Posted in Beautiful Life, Relationship with God, Struggles | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Raising Our Sons to be Fathers

A few days ago I received a gift. My five-year-old son, Caleb, fell asleep in the car. Woo Hoo! Because silence is golden. But wait. There’s more.

When we arrived home I lifted his lankiness from the car seat expecting him to wake up. He didn’t. Instead?

He nestled his sweet face into the space between my shoulder and chin. I could have walked him to his bed and laid him down.

I didn’t. Instead?

I sat in our rocker and held him for the next hour. Because at five, it could be my last time to rock him as he slept. It could always be the last time he lets me. So I rocked and stared at his long lashes and soaked in the gift.

As I gently swayed back and forth, breathing in his precious face, my mind began to wander. What do I do with this little boy? How do I raise this member of the wild and untamed male species?

Today I’m sharing over at Orlando Mom’s Blog. I’d be honored if you click on over to continue reading. Because raising children is hard. And raising our sons to be fathers in today’s world can be scary.

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10 Rules for a Not Bummer Summer

Today kicks off the first day of summer for the kids and me. Prince Charming joins us mid-week next week. Yesterday we celebrated my girl’s 5th Grade Promotion ceremony. A milestone. One that has me a bit reminiscent and unexpectedly teary.

I’m looking forward to the quiet spaces this summer, my friends. Digging deep. Praying to be aware of His still small voice.

Just a few days ago I ran across a beautiful truth I couldn’t wait until August to share with you. It’s from Deuteronomy 2:3. “You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north…”

Do you struggle with a vicious cycle of defeat in your life? Can I remind you, that you were made for more? Turn north with me, friends! We have circled the mountain of defeat long enough! This verse is now sprinkled throughout my home giving me just the encouragement I need.

Finally, friends, in continuing my partnership with the Orlando Moms Blog, I’m sharing there today. The following is just a snippet of what’s been on my heart:

“Eighteen.

The number of emails I might receive in an hour. Or the loads of laundry I finish in a week. Or the times I pick up Legos off my floor in a day. Or the sweet kisses I get from my son each night.

Or.

The number of summers I have with each of my children.

Eighteen summers. That’s it. And those aren’t even guaranteed…”

I’d love for you to click on over to OMB. I love being a part of the shared space with some incredible women.

I miss you friends. I can’t wait to share with you what my Jesus whispers to me over the next few months. See you in August!

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A Summer of Rest

It happened so quickly. Like walking around a corner and smacking into someone with hot coffee in hand, the liquid spilling, burning your skin as it seeps deep. Nobody meaning for it to happen.

My student’s actions and words cut sharp into my being a few days ago. It was unintentional. He never meant to hurt my feelings. But pain can happen by accident when you’re not looking.

I stood there with an undone heart and a smile on my face. He didn’t need to know how his actions ripped my teacher core. How the fabric of my insecurities clinched tight. How questions of worth and significance weaved their way into my heart.

The questions of whether I could ever do enough, be enough rose to the surface. The always striving. The needing to do more, more, more.

Because then I will be loved.

Right?

The biggest lie I believe?

That I can work hard enough to gain acceptance, to gain love. That if I keep doing, I will be loved more.

It’s the lie I believe about people.

It’s the lie I believe about God.

I know it’s a lie. Because there are those who love me with abandon and without reservation. And there is a God who loves me no matter what.

No matter what.

Yet, there are times I can’t seem to escape the darkness the lie brings. Conditional love does that. When we’re only loved for what we do and not who we are, we travel a scary road of insecurity. We’re left to spin our hamster wheels of doing, trying, go-getting.

I know all about the doing. I think you might too.

It’s exhausting.

Summer is winking at me from a close horizon. I can lift my weary head and see the sun glimmer through the trees. My Florida beaches and their salty waves call out. School will end for me in just two short weeks. I will be free (despite the list 10 books deep of classical literature I will be reading in preparation for August.)

While I yearn for two weeks from now, today I sat buried under papers and summer reading lists. But from under the stacks, I heard the call of my Jesus more than the call of the ocean.

The call to just be.

The breathing deep begins with those two words: Just Be.

Do you know what I want more of this summer? More than a slowing, I want a knowing. I want to sit at the feet of my Jesus over the next few months and be reminded His love for me does not increase or decrease by what I do.

No. His love is unchanging and does not hinge on my actions.

Life is full of seasons. Sometimes full and teaming with activity. Then other times God calls us to rest.

This is the call resounding deep in my soul.

Of course there will be responsibilities. Of course life will still be crazy with kids. Of course work will continue to be done even in summer months.

But there will also be rest. Not physical so much, but mental, spiritual, emotional rest.

And so, dear friends, I will not be blogging weekly this summer. Though there may be a few posts that come through from time to time as I honor commitments made to other sites, I will be breathing deep and refocusing on knowing the One who called me to write and minister in the first place.

I love this space, and I love you. I’m often overwhelmed by your steadfast commitment to these carved out petals of Joy in cyberspace. You are so important to me. You are.

I’m choking down fear even as I type these words. God asking me to take a break for a few months is paralyzing for this doer. Yet, even as I stare at the blinking cursor on the screen, I feel His peace and freedom.

And so I will see you in August, my sweet sisters. Until then, know I will be praying for those of you who, like me, need to sink into an unchanging love of a Savior who asks us to be still and know He is God.

Maybe there’s an area of doing He’s asking you to hand over to Him for a time? A handing over in order to be reminded you can never work your way into His love.

Sit with me at His feet this summer?

Love and Joy,

Heather

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A Mom Like Me

My hair tortured me for decades. High Florida humidity + not quite curly hair = disaster. On a regular basis.

I can’t tell you the hours I spent wishing I had been born with different hair.

Middle school was a horrific combination of pubescent awkwardness with a brushed-out perm. Granted, it was the 80s but I don’t think French poodle was the look I was after. I’ve sworn off perms since.

High school managed to offer a slight improvement. No more perms and a hair dryer managed to tame the wild beast a bit. Until I walked outside and met the blanket of wet air resting on my state 90% of the year.

If you want to know what my adolescent hair has to do with Motherhood, join me as I share my heart at Moms Magazine today

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