To Teachers on the Last Night of Summer

FullSizeRender 5

It’s almost midnight. Preplanning begins tomorrow.

And I don’t wanna.

Summer has been glorious. Filled with unexpected wandering and brilliant laughter. I don’t want it to end but it fades as quickly as the sun slipping beyond the horizon.

Every year it seems to be the same story. The night before I go back to work, I live in denial that the alarm will begin again after it’s summer hiatus.


Tomorrow will come.

Summer always begins with plans of formulating new organizational strategies and influential books to read and stronger lessons to consider. I think to myself every first week of June: This will be the summer I go into school ready!

Prepared for better discipline. Prepared for all my students. Prepared for my yearly focused theme. Prepared for clearer strategies.

Really? I just want to be prepared.

And every August? I feel inadequate. I stare into the new school year feeling like a girl scout without all her badges. What happens if I get lost?

And this year? I feel like a girl scout without her badges, her hunting knife, and her fire starter kit.

How will I survive?

What if I told you I still have to finish reading a book I assigned for summer reading? What if I said I haven’t figured out which novels I will be teaching this year? What if I whispered I haven’t scoured Pinterest for all the best new teacher ideas?

If you’re not a teacher, maybe those question don’t illicit a single stress bubble. But if you are a teacher? You know the kind of stomach-clenching tension this might cause.

The anxiety has begun.

A million different things will run through my head over the next week of preplanning.

These are just tonight’s scattered ashes:

  • How do I want to change the English III syllabus?
  • I need to buy the supplies for the icebreakers. What is my icebreaker?
  • I have to remember to ask the bookkeeper to renew the NHS membership.
  • Don’t forget to review my roster and make copies.
  • The emergency substitute plans need to be in the office before Friday.
  • The new bell schedules have to be retyped and printed.
  • I have to write the joint lesson plans for the high school summer reading novel.
  • The lessons for the first couple of weeks will have to be penciled out.
  • The new homework policy must be tweaked and finalized.
  • Make sure to run by Office Depot on my way home to buy more black border to match the bulletin boards already in place.
  • Candy still needs to be purchased.
  • Expo markers! I can’t forget to buy those! Wait. I wonder if I asked the office for them in last year’s order?
  • Are there any new school rules I will have to be aware of?
  • Gah! Cell phones! A teacher’s discipline nightmare to be sure.
  • Ella still needs a few pair of shorts and Caleb will have to have a first day of school outfit.
  • When did I last get to the grocery store?
  • I can’t forget to bring the classroom plants back in the morning.

And oh. my. goodness! Can I just go to sleep!?!?

This will be my 15th year in the classroom. A mile-marker to be sure. And yet?

There is not a single first day of school that my stomach isn’t tied into knots. Jitters and nerves clenching my insides tight.

Will my students like me? Will I like them?

Am I going to be able to teach them all they need to know? Or will I be lazy and slack off some days? Will I be what they need me to be?

The root of all my worries? Of my feet-dragging-not-ready-to-go-back?


Fear of the time my job will take away from my family. Fear of the hard, hard work. Fear not being enough. Fear of wanting more for my students than they want for themselves. Fear of the days I will fail. Fear of the days when students will fail me. Fear of the heartbreak teaching brings.

But fear never breeds success.

So tonight? Tonight, I resolve to cast away the spirit of fear. Because fear lives in the dark, and I want to be in the Light of the One who called me to teach.

Because this calling we have? This collective role we play to edify and pour into the lives of others? This privilege we’ve been given to educate and bring knowledge to children?

It shines a light into the darkness.

And the dark? It wants to keep good teachers away from the classroom.

If our role, our calling, our job wasn’t so important? I don’t know that it would be so hard. The same is true for all jobs-all hard work in our country.

The important is difficult. It is an upward climb.

And it’s worth it.

It’s worth letting go of the fear and saying yes to another year of difficult days. It’s worth the hours awake, dreaming of new ways to reach our students.

And it’s always worth the joy. Because friends? There is joy.

This afternoon, while taking my children bowling in a place I had never been, I heard a whispered “Mrs. Iseminger” in the background.

I turned to see two men, because that’s what they are now, headed in my direction. Two former students that had been just tiny 8th graders the first time I met them. Two bear hugs with lit-up faces giving me a faint glimpse of the 13-year-olds they used to be.

What delight to see them doing well.

I know parents and teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites. And I’m not sure I do. But there are those students with personalities that click with mine. Students who deeply impact me. Students that seem to dig themselves deep into the crevices of my teacher heart.

There, in the most random of places today, stood two students who have done just that. My heart filled with joy as I stood smiling back at them.

And I wonder tonight.

What if I had given in to fear and darkness the year I taught them?

Answer? I would have missed the joy today—joy that came almost a decade later.

That’s the thing about teaching. We fight the daily fear to witness the future.

The future is nourished in our classrooms.

And so tomorrow I will bring courage to fight the fear. Because I don’t want to miss the joy the future brings.

Tomorrow is a new year, so tonight I will kiss summer good-bye with a grin on my face.

Because I refuse to let fear win.

Posted in Joy, Summertime, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Because We’re All A Little Bit Castaway

The salty, warm air of the ocean wrapped me in its embrace this week. Our family tasted the ebb and flow of a vacation with no plans. A week of togetherness. A week to breathe.

Sanibel Island.

Not only stunning, but it’s known to be a shelling mecca. A place to hunt for conchs and cockles and tulips and whelks like buried treasure.

My best friend of 35 years, Kelly, is the shell-whisperer and great shell-hunt teacher. Our vacations crossed paths this year, and I was able to bask in the glow of her “Get the Isemingers Some Shells” campaign.

We spent a few days and evenings together with shovels, nets, masks, and snorkels stooping and bending and searching for the treasures of the sea—our families along for the ride.

It was heaven. Each perfect shell brought the satisfaction of a find, and we giggled like school girls.

My Court Jester joined in the hunt as his little toes dug into the sand and every shell became a prize. And I mean, every shell.

FullSizeRender FullSizeRender 2 IMG_6349 FullSizeRender 3 FullSizeRender 4

Broken shards. Holes bored through. Beaten down and grungy. My Caleb picked up them all.

Though I would praise his finds and cheer him on, I inwardly cringed as the imperfect found its way into my bag of treasures.

One evening, much to my parenting shame, I even suggested he look for the shells that were whole. And while he attempted to accommodate, he would bring me whole shells with holes…Because. Court Jester.

A few nights ago, as Kelly and I plunged our hands deep into the sand of the shore line and brought perfect banded tulips and rose murexes to the dusky light, Caleb walked, head down along the shallows—hunting.

Among the treasures we were finding, we would pull up the fragments. We would shake our heads at the what-would-have-beens and lament their brokenness. Then, over our shoulders castaway shells would fly, as we tossed the pieces behind—forgetting them, pressing on towards our search for perfection.

“Mommy! Aunt Kelly! Look what I found!” The tiny voice of my sweet, seven-year-old would call from behind. What did he have in his hands?

Our broken castaways.

Kelly looked at me and smile with knowing and a grin.

“Gorgeous!” I exclaimed, and the fragments I had tossed away would go into my bag with a sigh.

But as I spent my week with sand jammed under my nails, God whispered deep.

Because here is what I know to be true—God never tosses aside the broken.

My son showed me the face of our Creator as he saw beauty in every fragment and shard I passed over and threw away.

Nothing is beyond God’s ability to redeem.

No one is beyond God’s ability to recover.

Like Hagar, tossed into the wilderness by Abraham, broken and scared, there is a God who sees us. And really? We’re all a bit of a broken mess.

He sees us in the shallows, having been fiercely pounded against the shore, tattered with missing pieces. I imagine He picks us up, turns us slowly in His careful hands—examining. And to all who will hear? He gives a shout of joy.

Look at this beautiful one! What color! The Light shines through in all the magnificent places. This hole here?  I know just how I can make it into something stunning. And this piece here? I’ve been looking for one just like it to fit into my newest mosaic of ministry.

While perfect shells can be found, and I continue to love hunting them, no unbroken person exists. And today, my friend? I want you to know our Jesus sees the beauty of your broken.

He spends His time in the shallows, looking for our fragments. He wants only to take us home, to expose our beauty because we are broken.

There are treasure seekers in this world who attempt to define perfection and only find importance in those who match the man-made ideal.

But not God.

He’s walking the shallows behind those treasure seekers, picking up their castaways and declaring their definitions wrong.

Because He’s found the beautiful you.

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

Momma? Don’t Wish Your Summer Away

So. I’m a week into summer. And I can’t get enough of my kiddos.

I have something I’d like to talk about. Something that’s kinda bugged me for years. Basically since I had to step back into the classroom and leave my babies to the care of others.

Would you mind, if just for a moment, step up onto the proverbial soapbox?

Please? Like pretty please with sugar and a cherry on top?

IMG_0885 IMG_0927 IMG_0951 IMG_3523Please don’t joke about how you can’t wait for the summer to end so you can send your children back to school.

I promise. I get it.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Around the clock. Day in and day out. God forbid it rains for days. Legos from the front door to the back door. Arts and crafts glued to the table. The Mt. Everest of summer laundry. And good grief the sibling arguments reach their pinnacle in the July for sure!

I really do understand.

Our kids can drive us literally in sane. Or at least to Target for chocolate and retail therapy. I know. I’ve experienced both.

Summer can be hard. Because kids don’t come with an easy button.

The monotony of the days, tied together with the heat and loosened structure can be difficult for anyone.


There are mommas out there that would give all they had to spend a summer with their children. There are also momma’s, like me, who teach ten months out of the year when all I really want to do is stay at home.

And let’s be clear—for an incredible number of mommas—work is not a choice.

And even though it’s not a choice, I do love my job.


I can’t wait for summer.

Yes, there’s the break from work. But really? It’s the time with my children I can’t wait for.

And my heart hurts a little when I hear you trying to get rid of yours after only a few days into the summer.

We all need a break from our kids sometimes. We really do. And in no way am I suggesting that to want some time off from mothering wrong.

But semantics matter.

You can talk about the hard. You can talk about the crazy. You can talk about the very worst parts of summertime. But please don’t wish for your children to walk too quickly back into the classroom.

We only have them for so long.

My Ella girl? She’s 13. I have six summers left. Six before high school ends. And each one slips faster through my fingers like water rushing toward rapids.

I can’t hold on. It’s impossible.

So I’m trying to enjoy, to delight.

I’m not here to tell you to savor every moment or some crazy-talk like that. I’m not about to savor tantrums and sass and exhaustion.

I am here to remind you to list the grateful.

The recognition of moments we get to have with our children.

To realize the blessing of days spent in pajamas and mornings spent at the park. To know there is a workforce of moms that dropped their little ones off at summer camp this morning, desperately yearning for summer days at home.

I’m learning when I am purposeful in my thanks, I discover the deep joy hidden beneath the chaos and the sticky floors. When I take time for gratitude, I remember the beauty my children bring to this life.

So when you step on your last Lego and curse the day those tiny plastics from hell were made and your day rivals Alexandar’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, take a few moments to thank.

Sneak into your little tornado’s bedroom, pull the blanket close around his chubby chin, and breathe him in deep. Watch his peace with wonder and thank God you were chosen for this moment.

You will find yourself no longer wishing the day away, but rather desperate to keep the moment forever.

Summer days can be hard days.

But soldier on, warrior mom.

Because these days are also the fading days.

Posted in Beautiful Life, Gratitude, Motherhood, Summertime | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Because Parenting Lists Make Me Twitch

pencil-1891732_1920By the time I reached the seventh grade, my parents took one look at my hormonal rages and fights with homework and said something the changed my life.

You know you want to go to college. You know what that will take. It’s your responsibility to get there.

Wait. You mean no more fights? No more battle of wills? Yes. Please and thank you.

It worked. I took ownership, and I ran.

And Daddy packed my lunch every day until I graduated high school.

I fought my way into honors classes after starting at the bottom my freshman year of high school.

Momma made sure laundry was done. (But we all chipped in when we could.)

I filled out all my own college applications and scholarships, research included.

I didn’t pay for my own gas, and I wasn’t required to get a job.

I was editor of my high school yearbook, in student government, and involved in numerous other activities that required responsibility and hard work.

And Daddy packed my lunch every day. And Momma woke me up every morning.

Every now and then I get sucked into the Internet vortex. And if I’m especially vulnerable I can even find myself clicking on articles that only ever feed on my inadequacies as a parent.

When I was in the throws of early motherhood I read articles that listed all the feats my baby should be able to scale by 12 months old. And then each year after.

And when my kiddos missed the target? Angst and worries.


There was the breastfeeding nightmare that was my son and all the lists of ten thousand reasons he wouldn’t be as smart as the next kid if he never nursed. He never did. But at two, I knew he was smarter than I was. Don’t tell him I said that. Like ever.


My Ella-girl’s entrance into kindergarten had me tied in knots. Because this was the year she would learn to read. All the lists said so. But first grade held her magical reading card-trick.

And recently? There are these lists of things my teenager should be doing on her own. By now. Already. And she’s not. Lists that tell me she’s not responsible enough because she doesn’t measure up to the items requiring a check.


Come close, dear friends.

Those lists? With all of their expectations? Their comparisons?

They’re ridiculous.

Yeah. Because I know this—every kid is different, every family is different, every parent is different. No list can magically ensure your child grows into a responsible member of society.

My Ella? Prince Charming packs her lunch (and mine), and we still tuck her in with whispered prayers and kisses goodnight. She doesn’t fill-out her own forms. But she does have her own bank account and wakes herself up with an alarm every morning. She has chores and responsibilities.

I could make a list. But it would be her list. Our list.

Not yours.

Oh, friends. It’s one thing to share with each other the ways we instill values into our children. It’s important to have milestone markers as checks and balances for growth. It’s vital for doctors to have guidelines to determine the health of our children.

It’s a tragedy when we place a checklist in front of another parent and silently yell, measure up.

Sometimes I feel so caught up and tangled in lines drawn and score cards to be filled out. Parenting was never meant to be a checklist, a measuring stick, a way to bludgeon one another.

None of us want to raise entitled hellions.

None of us want to raise bullies.

None of us want to raise lazy, society-sucking adults.

Nope. We don’t.

Instead of listing should’s, maybe a guide of help’s. It’s semantics, I know. But semantics matter.

Words lift up or they break down. And parenting checklists?

They break down.

We must learn to look at one another and the children we lead with grace. We can’t expect another family to teach values and responsibilities and morals in the exact same way we teach those same ideals.

My parenting list? It might look something like this:

  • Pray for wisdom. All the time.
  • Seek the counsel of those with grounded kids.
  • Stop reading the checklists that make you feel less than.
  • Look other parents in the eye and tell them they’re amazing.
  • Pray for wisdom. All the time.

And finally? Know you’re not alone. Know there is no perfect child. Know you’re a good mom. Know your kids are blessed to have you.

Know the lists that make you twitch? They don’t know your family the way you do.

So roll your eyes, stop twitching, and tell another mom she’s awesome.

Because we were never meant to swallow the bitter pill of comparison.

Posted in Motherhood | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Climbing Mountains and Trudging Valleys and Maundy Thursday

Ella was four. All knobs and knees and chubby cheeks. Cute as a button and bouncy as her pigtails. We were visiting her aunt in Atlanta—doing the tourist thing.

There’s a mountain in Atlanta. Mount Kennesaw.

Granted, it can’t compare to the snowcaps of the Rocky’s or even the Blue Ridge cliffs and peaks. But it was bigger than a hill. And the National Park Service deemed it a mountain so a mountain it must be. All rocks and clay and trees pressed tight together out of the valleys to create steep inclines and wooded trails.

Prince Charming and I decided our little Ella-girl was capable of moving mountains, so she must have been able to hike this one. Right?

Climbing mountains aren’t easy.

Ella held her own for a while until she didn’t. She got tired as we neared the peak. But we were almost there. To close to stop; too big to carry.

My Prince and I walked with her, encouraged her, cheered for her.

She was determined. Still is determined…

We reached the summit tired but proud. The trees cleared and the boulders gave our bodies rest. What had been a blanket of humid air through the trails became the cool breeze of spring at the top.

The climb was difficult, but Ella did it. She climbed the mountain.

DSC_0206 DSC_0304 DSC_0310 1909974_60718113367_8394_n

Later that afternoon we slid into the car, weary and dirty. Mud had grabbed the crevices of our soled sneakers and stained our jeans. You can’t stay clean when you’re climbing to the peaks.

The dirt stays with you.

This trudging out of valleys and up to mountain tops? It’s our life.

While the aches and pains and despair cling to our souls in the low sunken places, climbing out of the mire and up the incline isn’t easy either.

Our climbs in life can steal our energy and take our breath away.

We hike the valleys and cliffs to seek the hope of clearing trees and calming winds.

Today is Maundy Thursday.

Only in recent years have I begun to frame its meaning. To understand Christ’s last meal, last words, last moments without the torture his death would be.

To realize it’s okay to not be okay.

Because less than a day would pass and the disciples would watch their Jesus, bloodied and beaten, climb a hill towards crucifixion. The place His arms would stretch across splintered wood and thorns would press deep into his brow.

The followers of Christ wept and mourned and broke over the pain and suffering of their leader. They must have watched stunned, without understanding.

This was the Christ.

Why was He dying the humiliating death of a criminal?

Maundy Thursday.

Jesus knew what tomorrow would bring. He knew the mountain He would have to stagger up, ripped and torn from the battle with evil. He knew his followers would tremble with confused despair.

He knew nothing would seem okay.

Maundy Thursday marked the beginning of the climb to Calvary. And on His way? Jesus encouraged, served, loved, and taught his disciples. He prepared them. Even though they felt so very unprepared.

He whispered in their ears.

You can walk this. These valleys for you to trudge? These mountains for you to climb? I’m with you. I will never leave you. I love you. Let me show you how I love…

This was Maundy Thursday.

As Jesus and his disciples walked to the Garden of Gethsemane, He left them with words of hope, words of love, words of joy.

Before going alone to pray, Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.John 16:33

He knew the tormented mountain He would climb only hours later. He knew the despair his followers would feel. He knows the torments and despairs of your journeys, of your valleys and mountains.

It’s as if the Creator of the heavens and of earth knew. He knew in our darkest hours and our bleakest moments we would need to know it’s okay to not be okay—you will have trouble echoes in our darkness.

But there’s hope. The climb will one day be over.  But take heart! I have overcome the world reminds us light is stronger than dark.

We will reach our mountain tops and look over our climbs and see our valleys.

We will see the journey we’ve come through.

Because we are the resurrection people. And our glimpse beyond the mountaintop is heavenward.

Because Christ didn’t stay dead on the rough-hewn beams of a cross.

Because Christ didn’t stay dead in the darkness of a rock-hewn tomb.

Because Christ didn’t stay dead.

And while the mountains we climb and the valleys we face may leave scars on our souls, the dirt and grime aren’t with us forever.

It’s okay to not be okay.

Because we have hope.

Because the story of Jesus doesn’t end on Maundy Thursday.


His story—our story—has only just begun.

Because Resurrection Sunday has overcome the world.

Posted in Easter, Hope, Joy, Struggles | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Parents of Strong Willed Children Want You to Know


Metal. Unyielding. Strong. Life-giving.

Our bodies need iron to live. To create healthy red blood cells pumping through our vessels carrying oxygen straight into the heart.

Pump. Pump. Pump.


Without the iron? Life is less.

My son has an iron will pumping life straight into my soul.

He turns seven in a week. Seven years and nine months I’ve held him. Even now, on occasional evenings when glory fills my arms, he will fall asleep against my chest.

His name is Caleb. And it means loyal.

He is named for the Caleb of the Bible. The one who stood his ground, refused to give into fear or peer pressure, and firmly trusted that his God was big enough to keep promises.

My Caleb? He’s amazing.

I want you to know how amazing because sometimes I wonder if you see it. I mean, how can you when you only see snapshots of outbursts—blips on the screen when he’s forgotten his manners or when his passion overwhelms him.


Caleb has a will of steel.

Sometimes it leaves even me, his momma, flailing and certain every parenting book under the sun has never parented my son.

A while back ago in front of a group of friends, my Caleb was bouncing off walls, forgetting his manners, excited about life. One adult made an off-hand comment about “that’s why we teach our son how to act.”

I know the heart of this friend. I know this friend truly loves my son. And I know the intent was not to diminish my parenting.

But still the comment stung. It bit into my heart because I know my husband and I have taught good behavior until we’re breathless and exhausted. We’ve taught it over and over and over again.

That’s a thing about strong willed kids. A thing you need to know.

You can teach and discipline and love and correct all the live-long day.

And you will often still be ignored.

My Caleb?

He knows how to stand his ground. Over the years he’s fired me. He’s hollered and screamed and yelled and stomped his feet.

I have a trashcan full with moments like that.

But I’m not here to recount my son’s bad moments. I’m here to tell you that he is amazing. How so many children just like him are incredible.

Caleb, my Court Jester, is full of passion. He is sensitive and easily frustrated. He is intelligent and one of the funniest kids I know. He will still curl into our laps and dances with the kind of zero rhythm you can’t help but cherish.

Every night he requests the same three things: Pray. Kiss. And Love. Every night.

He is fantastic.

He isn’t perfect, but he was created by a perfect God.

God didn’t make a mistake when He gifted my son with strong determination. My role as momma is to take that gift and steer it, guide it, mold it in a direction that will allow him to lead.

Children with an iron will? They steel themselves against the grain. They are created with less bend, and if we try too hard to curve that solid will, they could just break.

And I’m not here to break my child.

My role is not to extinguish his strong will. Because there will be times in his future when I want him to stand his ground, stay true to his convictions, never back down.

The strong will? It’s a powerful gift if used correctly.

Those of us who are blessed to parent the steel-strong babies? We want you to know we’re grateful for who they will become—despite the hard days of now.

We want you to know we’re good parents doing all the right things, but we’re raising independent children who sometimes choose the wrong things.

We want you to know the moments you witness don’t tell the true story of our child.

We want you to know we’re doing the best we can.

We want you to know support means the world, but while you mean well with your suggestions, we’ve most likely already tried those sticker charts and time-outs and a thousand other ideas just like yours.

We want you to see the beauty in our babes.

We want you to know our children. Really know them.

We want you to remember iron brings life—even the iron will.

We know they’re not perfect. No one is. Not one.

We are desperate for your grace.

We covet your prayers.

Because all parents of all children are raising the future. And that is a holy task.File Mar 22

Posted in Hope, Motherhood | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Finding Shelter in the Shade

I’ve lived in Florida my entire life.

The Sunshine State.

In my born-and-bred-here opinion? It needs another name. Maybe something like the Frizzy Hair State? Or the Sweaty State? Possibly the Hotter than the Fiery Pits of Hell State?

It’s 82 degrees in February.

I mean. Come on!

I realize some of you disagree, but 82 is just too dang high for the month of hearts.

It’s not that I want to live in snow, but I would like a season or two. Some fall foliage? Maybe even a chance to wear my winter clothes for more than three weeks out of the entire year?

I’ve already asked God if He’s forgotten it’s still winter in Florida.

He assures me He knows. He said I could ask Job about trials and tribulations, but I have decided against the idea.

I know I’m being a bit whiney. But unless I am exercising on purpose, I hate to sweat. I just do.

Yet, there are aspects of Florida I adore.

Almost every pair of shoes I own is some version of a flip-flop or sandal. I’m an hour from one of God’s most majestic creations—the ocean. And you can just about spit any direction in my hometown and hit in a lake.

It’s a short list, but there are benefits.

On the flip side, the heat melts my very being. I feel like a pat of butter in the pan. I’m not normally given to exaggeration…still.

If you’ve read my words in the last year, you know I’ve had my challenges. The Florida sun has matched the scorching power of anxiety in my life, leaving me with the ashes of depression.

That’s the thing about mental illness—it takes what would be an ordinary, unsuspecting day and leaves you burned.

Over the summer, my family took a vacation to the beach. My skin is pasty, pale and an easy victim for the UV rays. It was our first day out. We lathered on the sunscreen and reapplied all day.

Despite my best efforts, I still fried up like bacon in a skillet. With flaming red flesh, I checked the sunscreen bottle.

It was expired.

I had tried to do the right thing. Instead, my good intentions resulted in spend $40 bucks—exorbitant money for our budget—on a special sun shirt I wore the rest of the week.

When I think about the anxiety and depression that has plagued me, I feel like the woman who did her best not to get burned but still ended up on fire. Sometimes I put all the right safety nets in place, but they’re expired. Frayed. Brittle. And I’m spiraling out of control.

By the end of our trip, and after layers of essential oil, my skin was healing.

Like my skin, I’m healing, friends.

The right combination of medication has been life giving. But there has been more to my healing than modern medicine.

Over the weekend I attended the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference. On Saturday morning the sun was already blazing. I dodged the heat by stepping into pockets of shade.

The conference center shares its space with majestic trees. As I followed the path to my different meetings, I lingered a bit in the shadows of the ancient Spanish Oaks.

I walked slower. Breathed deeper.

Their arms stretched toward the sky with roots planted in solid ground. Cool breezes fluttered their leaves. Resurrection ferns crept along the strong trunks and over the branches.

I was drawn to their shade. Their cool shelter from the sun.

DSC_0170 (1)DSC_0180 DSC_0188DSC_0279

DSC_0205Did you know resurrection ferns curl up into brown, dry fragments of themselves when they haven’t received enough water? Yet they don’t die. Their roots dig deep into the pulp and splinters of wood, hanging tight.

They wait.

When the rains come. When they’re cooled by the shelter of the shade. They resurrect. Their leaves unfurl into green, tender shoots, and they stretch their beauty for all of nature to see.

Friends. My shade is, and has been for as long as I can remember, the sheltering arms of my Savior.

Over the last year I have been the dried and withered fern. Clinging tight, refusing to let go despite the scorching sun. Because in the Shade of Jesus I knew I would not die.

Hope found me clinging to the Canopy of Leaves.

When we plunge our roots into the Shade tree? When we grip the Hope of our Jesus and refuse to let go? When we do those things?

We find our cool breeze.

We discover the air in our lungs.

And healing begins.

Posted in Hope, Relationship with God, Struggles | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

To the Broken Girl on Valentine’s Day

person-409127I watch you post pictures and memes. I scroll down and stare at your hurt—my heart aching. Your desire to be loved, accepted, known sprawled on my screen with angry words and revealing poses.

A longing for affection in your pleading eyes and skimpy shirts.

You step up to the auctioning block with a soul dying to be loved.

I want to reach through glass, put my arms around your neck, and whisper that a man-made prince will not save you.

But I’m afraid that thought will shatter what’s left of your soul.

And I get angry. Because I know. I’ve been there. I’ve been the one thinking I’m only worthy if some boy somewhere finds me lovely. Yeah. It may have been two decades ago.

But I remember.

Why do we believe we are worth diamonds only if they’re showered upon us? What makes us think a million red roses means we are valued? Cherished? What causes us to see our worth through the eyes of men only looking for one thing?

We’re broken, you and I.

Broken by the society that shows us storybook weddings and happy endings without a picture of the day after. Broken by men with lust we mistake for love. Broken by the lie that we must have a partner to be important.

We can be deceived into believing cat-calls define our worth and followers make us valuable. We crave acceptance in a world that leaves us unfulfilled and only found worthy one snapshot at a time.

We live in a day when likes are sold for the price of purity and sexy is traded for comments that bid with moments of esteem.

And my breath catches in my throat.

Because I knew you when.

When you believed you were strong.

When you believed you were lovely.

When you believed you were worthy.

When you weren’t up for auction.

But now you don’t believe those words could ever describe you, define you. Yet, those words are still true. You are still strong. You are still lovely. You are still worthy.

I see it in you. I see past the haunted eyes and too-much-skin. I see the broken you, yearning to be whole. I see the one that can rise from the mire with her dignity and brilliance.

I know you’re lonely.

I’ve been there—the girl with no Valentine. The girl without flowers or chocolates or gifts. And it can make you feel so small. So tiny and invisible.

But you’re not. You’re not small or invisible. You’re not unlovable. You’re not unlovely.

And if you believe those ideas about yourself, then evil has won the day.

Because I see you.

Loneliness wants to keep you, chain you.

Loneliness wants you to believe a man will save you. That a man’s attention makes you worthy and his kisses and affection restore you.

Don’t give into the loneliness. The cycle of defeat will rob you, strip you, leave you crumbled in despair.

The cure for wanting a man to place the price tag on our hearts? Knowing the auction has already been purchased by the highest bidder.

There is only One who saves us from the self-pity, the self-doubt, the self-loathing. His life is a love letter written to mend our broken souls. Written to tell us we are worthy of creation, we are worthy of love unfathomable, worthy of a King’s attention.

Christ died to purchase your heart. Only He can make you whole. His life marked you priceless. Your worth is not up for auction. Your value is not decided by man.

Is wholeness easy? No.

Restoration is never without pain. Healing always comes with hurt.

So, my sweet broken girl. The one I watch from a distance. The one with pain etched in her face. You need to know some things that are true after listening to the bidding lies of this world.

Valentine’s Day is just a day.

A day when you will put one foot in front of the other. A day when you will love on the friends close to you. A day when you can show the world your kindness, generosity, grace, and beauty.

A day when you can meditate on the One who sacrificed His life for you. And if it had only been you? Jesus would have still staggered to the cross.

You’re not alone.
You’re already worth more than all the diamonds in all the world.
You’re already noticed.
You’re already accepted.
You’re already loved.

And your saving? It’s through the blood-stained grace of a King.

Posted in Hope, Love, Struggles | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

So. There’s This Thing Called Hope


Over the last week anger, division, and hate have fueled the newsfeeds. As millions feel the sun has slipped below the horizon covering their lives with darkness, millions of others see a sunrise bringing light to their shadows.

And I wonder, pushing down despair, if the hate will end?

Maybe? Maybe not…

I look into the arguments as different and varied as the humans who hold them, and I see the logic and reason and the ignorance and bias all wrapped up into one. I see so much right in all the sides.

And so much wrong.

I find myself stuck somewhere in the middle of everything matters and nothing matters.

All at the same time.

And so on the newsfeeds I’m loving the babies and puppies and unicorns and flowers and rainbows.

Not because I’m scared to stand up for what I believe is true or right or just. But because I want to look deep into the eyes of those who disagree with me. Deep so they know I love them. Deep so they may hear my heart, even if they never hear my ideology.

I can’t do that on a screen.

The words of the broken matter. The broken beautiful collection of humanity. Each and every one of us. I cannot agree with all of the words. But I can hear them. I can try to hear the hearts, understand the starting points.

So I’m trying to listen.

And in my quiet weeks typing on again and off again, I find Hope. Hope that my Jesus carries on the wind, breathing life into my soul.

This afternoon, I looked deep into the eyes of a sweet baby girl. New and fragile. Tiny and strong.

She has her Daddy’s skin and her Momma’s chin. She coos and wriggles and smiles and cries. She is cherished and loved.

She is Hope.

Yes. She’s breathing in a broken world. But this life? Even in it’s shattered pieces?

It’s beautiful.

And maybe tonight you’re heart is seeing the sun slip below the horizon. Your pain and sadness, your worries and fears are not minimized here.

And maybe tonight you’re seeing the day break open. Your joy and singing, your relief and support are not minimized here.

Because Hope has countless faces.

Hope is for every broken soul. It’s the spilled-out, shimmering glitter spread across the surface waiting for the light to hit, for us to see it clinging tight. Even when we try to brush it off, it sticks—sparkling and reminding us we are never alone.

Because we don’t have to agree to hold one another. We don’t have see the world the same to grasp the hands of those across the street. We can come from separate worlds and still find the beauty of each human soul.

Because Hope has a way of removing the bitterness. It has a way of reminding us that the world and its people can shine brilliance into each other.

Because Hope is waiting to be seen.

Hope is Jesus, leaning in close, taking your hand whispering, Come with me. I’ll hold your hand. Yes. The road is long. The road is broken. The road is not what you expected. But I will walk with you. And when you feel like one more step is impossible? I will carry you.

Because Hope is worth living for.

Posted in Hope, Relationship with God, Struggles, World Issues | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When Christmas Sees Us

One after the other. Page after page. I read their answers to my question. It was a simple question.

Who really sees you?

Their answers?

  • Nobody really sees me.
  • I don’t have any true friends that would come to my birthday party.
  • I used to be happy and laughed all the time.
  • I guess no one really sees me because I don’t think I even like who I am.

Oh, their hearts. Fragile, tissue paper hearts, worn thin by invisibility. These high school students with their souls laid bare for me to see. I wondered how to respond, how to mend their broken and torn places.

Because haven’t we all wondered if we are seen? Is there really a person in this great, wide earth who knows us—our every part? And when we’re seen, known, understood—will we be loved?

Almost every morning on my way to school I see her.

The mother and her two boys, waiting for the bus. One of those mornings I saw the bus was ahead. Early. Carrying a backpack flapping at her side, she was running. Her two boys were racing beside her—one with a distinct limp and an arm curled into his chest.

My heart clenched as I silently cheered her on. She was so close.

I sighed deep relief when I watched her boys reach the bus’s steps in time. The momma helped one with the backpack and kissed them goodbye. She smiled and waved back and forth as the boys took their seats.

When the bus pulled away, I looked back at her. The smile faded. Her shoulders sagged as she took a weary breath—exhaustion etched in her face.

I wanted to yell out the window “I see you! I see you, Momma! I see how hard you try every live-long day to be the best you can be!” I should have done it. But I didn’t.

We long to be seen. To be known.

Hagar. Slave of the Bible’s Abraham and Sarah. Mother of Abraham’s first son, Ishmael. Victim of jealous abuses. Because no one is perfect and the men and women of the Bible demonstrate their humanity. Because all humans are capable of the vile and the revolting.

Hagar flees to the wilderness, and she is met by God—a God who sees her devastation, her fears, her pain, her brokenness.

During those moments in a Middle Eastern desert land, Hagar proclaims God to be El Roi.

El Roi. The God who sees.

Those words? A sweet fragrance for my soul.

In a life that causes us to wonder if anyone sees us for who we are, we can know there is at least one. The God who met Hagar in the thirsty, parched sands is the same God who meets us in our deserts.

He is the same God who saw mankind’s deepest need and joined his children in their humanity on a winter night 2,000 years ago.

Emmanuel. God with us.

We are never hidden from the Father’s eyes. In truth, He is the only one who ever really sees all the fragments and pieces of our soul. Because the walls of our human hearts don’t exist in the realms of Heaven.

Aside from Mary and Joseph, do you know the first to worship at the feet of the newborn King? The first to witness Emmanuel?

Shepherds. They weren’t the elite. They were the unseen. The workers who labored and slept in fields to watch their flocks. They looked for dangers, for the lost, for the sick and abandoned.

They were the watchers. And they were often alone.

I wonder what it must have been to be a shepherd witnessing the Christ child that starry night. Too look into the eyes of an infant knowing they peered into the face of God.

The unseen looking into the eyes of El Roi—the God who sees.

The holiness of the moment stills my soul.

Because God calls to the unknown, the unseen, the invisible. He beckons us close to the manger to peer quietly over the edge. To witness Love nestled in a bed of warm hay.

And while I can’t fix the broken hearts of teenage students or tired mommas or broken friends, I can lead them to a manger. A manger of Hope.

He calls us close to whisper into our hearts.

I see you, he says.

I know you, he says.

I am with you, he says.

I have come for you, he says.

I love you, he says.


Posted in Christmas, Hope, Relationship with God | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments