Why it’s not time to give up… yet.

Every time I sit down to write something, I stare at the blank page, with the cursor pulsing as if to say, “Well, what are you going to say?! Don’t just sit there!”

So I close the page and think to myself, “Maybe tomorrow?
And tomorrow comes and goes… without so much as a keystroke.

Today, while staring at the cursor, I began typing just to interrupt it’s rhythm.
I started writing to spite my cursor.

As the thoughts keep coming, it’s difficult to move my fingers quickly enough. Words are skipped and thoughts are gone before they can be noted, but there is always another one to take the last ones place.

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looking back, I’m really glad Chris took this pic.

Last week, I gave up hope.
I was sicker than I have ever been in my life.

An infection that started in one area of my body quickly spread to my throat and sinus’, making it difficult to breathe and threatening to grow new abscess’, pushing on the two large arteries in the sides of my neck. My words were muffled and I couldn’t speak above a whisper. My mind hurt as my head throbbed and the sound of my heart beating in my ears was a constant companion.

My eyes cried tears of grief on and off for 7 days even though my body had given up.

I thought I was going to die.
I decided it was okay to die.
I processed everything that would happen to my children… the celebrations and milestones I would miss.
I would never again laugh with Chris or kiss his mouth…
My niece would grow up only hearing stories about me, never knowing me…

It was, by far, one of the deepest, darkest, pits I have ever fallen into and the more I lay with my face against the cold ground, the deeper I sank into the abyss.

As I type, the logical part of my brain (which is small and rarely speaks up) is telling me to shut up. The more I type, the louder it gets. This is deeply personal and one of you needs to read this today… in this moment. You are contemplating giving up hope and what you do not realize is that your miracle is only a few breaths away.

I began to understand and embrace the meaning of the phrase, “My soul aches.

It’s as if, with one long exhale, my desire to exist was extinguished and I released my children, my lover, my best friends, my family, my memories, my future plans… everything went dark and the world became still.

I didn’t beg God for life, bargain for more time, or recount any regrets.
I simply closed my eyes and went to sleep with the thought that if I didn’t wake up on that bed in the ER, that’s what was supposed to happen and I didn’t have the strength or desire to fight it.

For several months now, I have been praying this prayer,
“God, break my heart for what breaks yours. Stretch me far from my place of comfort and lead me to the cross… into the center of other people’s pain. Teach me how to trust you, sitting quietly in your presence, even when it’s uncomfortable..”

I want to know Christ in a deeply personal way. As I began asking God what exactly that meant, the prayer above is what came into my spirit as clear as if someone spoke it audibly to me in conversation. I don’t know why I thought intimacy with my Savior could ever be attained without suffering.

So to sum this up…
I had to sit in the moments of desolation.
I had to trust that God still held me closely in His will.
I had to believe that He wouldn’t leave me where He had led me.
I had to call out the hollow, hopeless feeling for what it was… a feeling, that no matter how “real” it felt, would eventually pass.
I had to claim life.

I receive the gifts that came from a season of dwelling in the darkness.
One might argue that a couple of weeks does not a season make. I would have to disagree.

My Friend, if you are learning how to walk in the dark, without fear of being swallowed up, keep going, the other side is well worth the journey.

What Does It Mean To Be Truly Free?

I avoid writing this post.
I tell myself that you will think I’m ridiculous.
I convince myself that you will make assumptions and judge me.
Every time this insecurity surfaces I shove it back down in attempts to choke out its message.

Why do I invalidate those things that make me feel small.
Why do I continually dismiss my feelings?
What if someone else feels the exact same way and by my admission knows they are not alone?
Social Media sites
So, here it is…
There are times when I allow social media to determine, not only my mood, but my self worth.

As I scrolled through my “feed” this morning, I found myself becoming more and more hurt by the fact that someone I was once closer to than I am now, had not invited me to attend one of the most important days in her life.

The more pictures I saw from the event, the more upset I became.
What is wrong with me?! I thought.
I wouldn’t have been able to attend anyway.
Why is this such a big deal?

It goes back to the fact that I’m a people pleaser. I want you to like me even if I don’t like you.
I want everyone to want me to be at everything, even if I can’t be there.
I want the opportunity to decline.

I realize how this sounds, believe me.
I would understand if you stopped reading now.

However, it’s very important that I bring this hideous character defect into the light.
It’s crucial (for my own development) that I’m brutally honest with myself. Not mean. Honest. They are two different things though at times people confuse one for the other.

Here is what I’m discovering…
This all points back to my need for approval.
I’m an affirmation junkie.
The more I get, the more I want.
I become absolutely drunk on the approval of others.

And then, when I’m alone, I’m terrified that I cannot live up to my own expectations. Fear will make decisions for me if I allow it to. I will be spiritually paralyzed if I don’t act quickly and thoroughly.

The problem with this is that I want my life to glorify God. I want my spirit to reflect that of the Creator. I want to make Him known to everyone who comes in contact with me. And I’ve been in recovery long enough to know that, as long as I’m keeping a secret, I can’t do that effectively. As long as I’m hiding from a reality that affects my life and the way I interact with others, I can’t be useful. Not the way I want to be anyway. Not the way that’s relatable to others in different seasons.

So, here I am. Standing before you. Admitting weakness. Acknowledging feelings that I know will change. Emotions that I will probably not even have tomorrow. I’m feeling exposed and “found out.” because I am willingly admitting that most of the time I feel completely inadequate all while exhibiting confidence.

I may be mortified tomorrow at having posted this. But for today, I say to the woman reading this, feeling like I’m telling your story, “I understand. You’re not alone. You don’t have to be afraid. You just have to be willing to recognize the affliction (whatever it may be) and take positive actions steps forward.

When Beauty is a Beast

Psalm139Some days… when standing before my reflection, stripped of everything… motives, guilt, expectations, past images, I can honestly look at my body and speak the words of Psalm 139 with great certainty.

I do well most of the time, but when the body image monster sneaks up on me, it does so with a vengeance. I go from being comfortable in my skin to feeling like the reflection in a fun-house mirror. I wonder whose body I’m trapped in and when the merger occurred. I see my curves as too curvy. My hair appears dull. My laugh lines are deep and obvious. My image is distorted.

It’s no secret that my relationship with food and exercise is less than ideal.

(I’m honored to be writing for Leading and Loving It today. Will you join me over there and read the rest of this post?)

Fear vs. Faith

I’ve heard it said that where there is fear, faith cannot exist. I don’t believe that to be true. The further into recovery I go, I find that the only real test of my faith is when fear is present.

Andy Stanley just finished the second week of the new series Starting Over. I cannot take photo 2notes fast enough to absorb everything he is saying, which is why I watch his talks multiple times.

He highlighted several incredible affirmations in this last message. One that really got me thinking and led to this post was, “You only make peace with your past by owning your piece of the past.” Isn’t that profound and yet simple. Owning my piece of the past.

We all want peace in our lives. There is no better peace than that of reconciling the past. I never thought those two words (peace and past) could be used in the same sentence. BB

When I first stepped into recovery the thought of facing some of the unthinkable things I had done in my past was too much and almost kept me from ever getting sober. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. And I had every excuse known to man not to complete this task… “What if someone finds this notebook with these things in writing and uses it against me?”
“What if I die before I can go through this process with my sponsor and this is how people remember me?”
“What if my fiancé finds this and realizes I’m ‘damaged goods’?”

Fear. Fear had kept me bound for too long. Fear had kept me sick and spiritually paralyzed for years. Fear was keeping me addicted, drunk and compromised.

Faith showed up. Not in the absence of fear, rather in the midst of it. Six months after starting cleanup on the wreckage of my past, I sat down with Lia, my sponsor and 5 hours later we set those pages on fire and watched them turn to ashes. That was on a Fall California day in 2002.

I remember feeling the ash between my fingers. I couldn’t see what was next. I couldn’t see myself functioning as a productive member of society. I couldn’t see the plans that had already been laid out for me. Then God

He sent Lia into my life to save me from self inflicted doom. I could have missed the many ways he was protecting and guiding me. She knew what I didn’t know at the time, that everything really was going to be alright. I wonder if she knew just how much better than alright they would be? Andy says, “When you own it, you dethrone it.” He’s right, ya know.

So now, today, in this moment, I ask God to replace my fear with faith. I ask him to direct my thinking and use my story for his glory. I ask him to continue to make beauty from those ashes that I rubbed between my fingers all those years ago.

Don’t underestimate the Creator of the Universe. He has a plan and it’s always better, bigger, and brighter than mine.

What do you think? Can faith and fear coexist or is the one who is fearful lacking faith?

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Screaming through closed lips

I have the answer to the question all of us wrestle in the depths of our soul. I’m walking around with the key to eternal life. I have the ability to provide hope to the hopeless and shine light in the darkness. How can I not tell absolutely everyone I meet about Jesus? How can I not share that this week symbolizes the entire purpose of my life as a follower of Christ? How can I not be joyful always?

IMG_1946May I be honest with you? Today…I wasn’t joyful. Today, I didn’t emanate the light of the world. Today, I kept to myself, annoyed by most everyone whom I felt got in my way. Today, I made excuses and rationalized my weaknesses.

Jeff Henderson made a statement in his message on Sunday that will forever stay with me, hopefully at the forefront of my mind. He said,
God is not your punisher, He’s your rescuer.
Don’t miss this. Read it out loud.

God is not your punisher
,
He’s your rescuer.

IMG_7819He went on to say, “If more people knew this truth not only would they not drift away from church or from Jesus, they would run to Jesus. They would run to their rescuer.”

Isn’t that a powerful word picture? Who came to mind when you pictured someone running into the shelter of the Savior?

This is big. Understanding of this one thing could change absolutely everything.

If I believe this, can I honestly look into the eyes of the postal worker stamping “certified mail” on my state tax return and not tell him about the peace that passes all understanding? When seeing the downcast demeanor of the girl behind the check out counter, how could I not tell her about my Jesus who rescued me from myself?

I keep within me this overwhelming gratitude for what my Savior did for me. Sometimes it’s so powerful I cannot contain it. I have to lift my hands or close my tear filled eyes and say out loud, “Thank you. Jesus. Thank you for saving me. I was lost, but now I’m found. Thank you for grace that saved a wretch like me.”

If grouped into categories, I would be with the worst kind of sinners. There are “Christians” I know who would not be associated with me in an effort to protect and promote their own reputation. And yet, the Savior of the world calls me by name and reminds me that I am his chosen one. Was I the only human being in need of saving, still he would have died the most gruesome of deaths to rescue me from eternal darkness.

It’s almost too much for my brain to comprehend. It certainly isn’t deserved or earned. I want everyone to know this God…the God of my rescue.

What if, just this week, we viewed him this way?
What if, just this week, we approached the throne of grace with a new-found hope and praise on our lips.
What if, just this week, we embraced the sacrifice and acknowledged that the maker of heaven and earth paid the ultimate price for our freedom because…He thinks we’re worth it.

The King has paid my ransom and by his wounds…I am healed.Face and Cross

To listen to Jeff’s message click HERE
To check out the entire series #WhyInTheWorld click HERE

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I turned around and he was gone

JCP-8406We had just enjoyed a delicious dinner on the most beautiful day you’ve ever seen.

Realizing we needed a few things at the store, Chris said that he would go and I could take the boys to the car. I gladly accepted as the grocery store triggers my OCD like nothing else.

One minute both boys were with me and the next, I turned around and didn’t see my oldest son anywhere.

He loves to hide and scare me when I walk by so thinking that’s what he was doing, I handed everything to my sister-in-law and walked a few steps down the sidewalk expecting to see him behind the big column.

Saying his name as I turned the corner, I braced myself for the “BOO!” I was in for, but he wasn’t there. I said his name again, only this time with more emotion. I looked down the alley to the right and in front of me. I scanned the parking lot for creepy vans with no windows and scary looking people.

My heart was pounding as I headed towards the grocery store entrance, it was crowded and I pushed my way through mumbling, “I’m looking for my son. Please…excuse me…I can’t find my son. What the hell is wrong with everyone? Get out of my way!

The thoughts flooded my mind. You know, the horrible thoughts that no mother ever wants to think could happen to her child. The ones that make your stomach twist into knots and send the acid up into your throat until you taste it on the back of your tongue.

Just then I looked to my right and saw Chris standing in the check out line. As I moved a step closer, there he was. He turned and met my eyes and I was furious and scared. I leaned down, holding onto his shoulder and in a not so loving way I said, “Don’t you EVER do that to me again! You scared me! You. scared. me! Don’t you see what a nervous wreck I am?!” (At this point, now that I knew he was safe, it became all about me.) Then came the tears…for both of us.

Chris knew not to say I was overreacting. Instead he was consoling our son saying, “It’s okay. Mommy was scared. She didn’t know where you were.” I responded with, “He should cry! He scared me!”

The adrenaline was pumping and I wasn’t calming down anytime soon. The lady in front of us was now looking at our son with concern in her eyes. I wanted to tell her to mind her own business. She didn’t understand the torment endured over the course of the last 3 minutes.

The three of us walked out of the store together and climbed into the car.

I was relieved and angry, sad and grateful all at the same time.

The car ride home was quiet. When we got back to the house, unloaded the car and walked to the front door, my little boy turned around to me and said, “I’m sorry I scared you mom. I didn’t mean to.”
“I know you didn’t darling. I’m sorry I made you cry.”

And that was that. I think I will have calmed down by tomorrow. Sheesh.

Talk to me. Tell me you would overreact if this happened to you. Or has it happened to you? How did you handle it? Did you use your meanest mommy voice like I did?

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How to have Children without ruining your Marriage

This Man 1.) Speak the truth in love. Your spouse can’t read your mind. Honesty, spoken kindly, leads to intimacy. I am convinced of that. I have lived it.

My beautiful man2.) Create a “What I need from ___________ (insert partners name)” list. Encourage your spouse to do the same.
Keep it short and concise.
Use bullet points.
Print it out.
Place it where your significant other will see it… every day.

3.) Rest when you can. This used to really piss me off when someone who had raised children would say, “Sleep when the baby sleeps!
Seriously? You don’t understand how much I have to do while the baby’s sleeping.
Turns out she was right… When I am exhausted I am ineffective. And it is such a short season. Soon you’ll be back to the laundry, house cleaning, cooking and all of those things you thought you needed to rush back to.
Remember… Exhaustion = Ineffectiveness

4.) Ask yourself if you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. I realize this sounds hokey to many people, but it works. Grab your lipstick, eyeliner, dry erase marker, chalkboard marker… whatever will wash off and write H A L T on your mirror. Why? Because this will be hard to remember when you’re sleep deprived, so have it handy.

DSC08219Before having any discussions, before making any decisions, before making any assumptions, ask yourself if you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired. You may be a combination of all 4. Or a bit of 2. And then be honest with your partner about what you’re feeling. There have been many times when I’m hangry (hungry and angry). When I can’t think logically before I’ve had something to eat which then calms me down. Usually chocolate…

This is the most important one. I cannot stress it enough.

5.) Have a friend, who (really) knows you and will speak truth into your heart. It is crucial. I had to learn, that my husband is not my girlfriend. There are some things I am not going to take to him to process through, because he can’t fix them and they are stemming from emotions anyway. Emotions change. That’s why we don’t ever make permanent decisions based on temporary emotions.IMG_3685

I have learned this lesson the hard way. However, I have a wonderful friend who has known me my entire life and on the days when I needed to put my boys in their car seats, drive around until they fell asleep, call her and do the ugly cry, she was invaluable.

You may not be a Jesus freak like I am, calling out to God every other minute to guide my thinking. You may not be someone who prays out loud in their car not caring that the person next to them at the stoplight thinks they’re crazy… like I do.
That’s okay.
There has to be someone you can cry out to in times of uncertainty.

I had to make sure that I had (and still have) a support system. Whether it was 1 other woman or 5, I had to build a community of women who were either in my stage of life or had been there. Who wouldn’t judge me. And who would give me sound, applicable guidance on how to journey through this season without losing my mind or suffocating my husband in his sleep.photoI’m not going to lie… Having young children was one of the most difficult things that Chris and I have ever done. We had to decide and still do, that we are on the same team. It is not you fighting your significant other. You’re not going to agree on everything. That’s a given. You must know how to say “I’m sorry” and do it quickly even if you don’t think you were wrong.IMG_4482

I had to remember that Chris is a little boy with long legs. He went from being the center of my universe to having this miniature person consuming all of my quality time, many times leaving him with left overs. He deserves the very best of me. He came first. Without him, I wouldn’t have my children.

Believe me, I know how hard it is to show affection after being pulled on all day by our little ones. Again, this season is just that, a season. Sandra Stanley described it so beautifully when she said, “The days are long, but the years are short.
Your husband will be the one there when your children no longer require your attention for their every need.

There is so much more to talk about here. Let’s make it a two-part post.

Share your thoughts in the comments of what else we should discuss that will encourage moms who are in the trenches and I will use those to build part 2 of our discussion. Men are welcome to share their experience as well.

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