When Friends Lift Each Other Up

A few weeks ago I was contacted by an editor of a local Houston magazine, Voyage Houston Magazine, and asked to participate in an interview. They told me they are talking to women around the city who are making positive moves and decisions and working on bringing love to the world around them. And someone gave them my name.

The idea of women being like fighting cats who hiss and scratch at each other is incredibly real, but only when it’s nurtured. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been in middle school and experienced girls cat-fighting for popularity and status. When that behavior works for them, they keep it up.

But I’ve found the opposite to be true as well. Women (and girls) can be loving and kind and nurturing and not at all competitive. We can build long and sturdy tables with room for everyone.

Jesus never excluded anyone from his teachings and everyone is invited to experience his presence and love. It seems to me that, if we are to love others well, we should follow the example Jesus gave us.

When we hold on tight to our compliments, our sharing, our wealth, or life, then it shrivels up and dies. When we open our hands wide enough to welcome others and offer to hold their hands, everything we have is magnified and grows.

Love grows.

I am so thankful for women in my life who lift me up and cheer me on. And I am so thankful for the opportunity to lift those women up and cheer them on. And today, I am thankful to Voyage Houston for celebrating both.

What I Wouldn’t Give To Be 16…

There’s a song by Thomas Rhett called “Sixteen” and the lyrics tell the story of a young man always waiting and wanting to be older. In his mind, the next milestone will be the one where life is really sweet. I feel like it’s a fairly common longing for most kids as they are growing up; at least it was for me and my friends. “Sixteen will be great because I can drive!” or “Eighteen is where it’s at because I’m an adult!” and “When I’m twenty-one I can drink legally!” Yet, when we get there, we always find it to be a little less sparkly than we expected and that there’s always more road ahead, tempting us to believe that “ahead” is where life will really start.

My daughter is sixteen today. It feels big and small at the same time. It feels big because she will soon have her driver’s license and be out in the world taking roads that I’m not on with her. I feels big because I can remember her first day of kindergarten in bright and vivid detail but I realize that in a little over two years she will head off to college. And yet it feels small because she’s still my baby girl who will snuggle on the couch with me and talk to me about friend drama and bake cookies with me. And it feels small because sometimes I feel like sixteen was only a moment ago for me. I have memories so clear and wonderful that it seems strange to think they took place so long ago.

My girl and a few of her friends celebrated her birthday over the weekend.

I texted a few of my life-long-friends this morning, thanking them for the old memories, but also noted that I wouldn’t do it again for anything. Sixteen is wild and fun and fast and full but also, sixteen is hard. I fell in love and had my heart broken at sixteen. I was learning the value of friendship and people who stuck by their word. I learned all sorts of lessons at sixteen that were necessary for the life God was preparing for me. And that life has also been wild and fun and fast and full.

And then, as if the universe was rolling along with my morning of nostalgia, the radio played the Florida-Georgia Line and Tim McGraw song “May We All.” It’s one of my favorites.

Every time I hear that song I tell my kids that it’s basically the story of how I grew up. It’s the musical version of every teenager’s life who was raised in Southern Illinois in the 1980s and ’90s. And every time I tell them this fact, I get a little misty-eyed thinking of how it feels like yesterday and also a million years ago.

I’ve said thousands and thousands of prayers for my girl as she has been growing up. I think my hopes and dreams for her are, for the most part, the same as those most parents have for their children. I have simple prayers for her that are based on faith and love.

I hope she always knows the love of her Savior, Jesus Christ. I want her to live a life full of blessings and to be grateful for the joys He has given her. I want her to be honest, kind, and generous with her love. I pray for her to chase the dreams God has planted in her heart.

I pray that if God has a husband planned for her, that he would know and love Jesus and want to lead their family in truth and love. And I pray that he would be loyal to her forever and ever and never break her heart.

I hope she is surrounded by friends and family who love her and celebrate all the beauty God has placed inside of her. And I hope those people bake her cakes and make celebratory toasts to her.

We celebrated with indoor s’mores roasting and the most fabulous birthday cake via GUD Sugar Bakery in Kingwood, TX. Jennifer took time to figure out exactly what we wanted and she even put tiny hidden roses on the cake in honor of my mom.

I pray for her to always believe and trust that God’s plan for her is far better than anything this world would ever have to offer and that she always listens for the still, quiet voice of His Spirit to lead her where her imagination could never take her. And I hope she will know in the deepest places of her soul that there is nothing ahead or down the road any more exciting or thrilling than where God will lead.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl. May we all have the opportunity to celebrate you for many years to come!

Broken Hearts and Broken Bones

The radius bone is one of the two large bones of the forearm, the other being the ulna. It extends from the lateral side of the elbow to the thumb side of the wrist and runs parallel to the ulna. The radius is shorter and smaller than the ulna.

The radius is part of two joints: the elbow and the wrist. At the elbow, it joins with the capitulum of the humerus, and in a separate region, with the ulna at the radial notch. At the wrist, the radius forms a joint with the ulna bone.

It’s at that joint with the ulna bone, at the wrist, where my son broke his radius bone this morning while bouncing on an inflatable at a youth group retreat. The hubs brought him home for a quick x-ray, splint, and meds, and then they raced back to camp.

In fairness to you, dear reader, you should know that the majority of the above explanation was copied from the World Wide Web. I am not a nurse. I did memorize all the bones in the body twice in my life – once in tenth-grade biology and once again during cosmetology school. At this point in life, however, I am lucky to remember how old I am, let alone the name of the short bone in the arm that connects the wrist. And frankly, I’m okay with that. I know a little bit about a lot of things and I can be okay without knowing all the things about all the things. I’m certain my brain does a regular dump of information it believes to be no longer useful to me; data that is wasting space. This is why I can remember all the words to every Garth Brooks song but not my driver’s license number. My brain has set my priorities and I’m fine with its system for making space.

A broken bone feels appropriate this month. Not that anyone would ever wish that on their child, but it’s been a heller couple of weeks and so when I say a broken bone feels appropriate, I mean it as, “Of course. Of course, it would happen this month.”

When Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area a little more than two years ago, my city of Kingwood was devastated by flooding. It was in part, due to the enormous amount of rain that came in such a short amount of time. It was in part, due to the ground already being saturated by previous storms with rain. It was in most, due to Lake Conroe being too full from the enormous amount of rain and the “Powers the Be” releasing an enormous amount of water in our direction in the middle of the night with zero warning. A lot of people flooded. People who shouldn’t have flooded because they weren’t in a flood zone. People who have never flooded because they aren’t near the river. People. People I know and love.

We often see flooding on the news and we see the people crying and we see the mud and the buildings destroyed and we think how terrible it all is. But once the news stops covering it, we vaguely remember the pictures of the damaged buildings and we sometimes remember the people crying, but because it’s not happening to us or to people we know and love, our brain doesn’t hold onto that information or try to make sense of the devastation that could really be there. We have to move on to things that are happening to us in our everyday lives because that is what is at hand and that is where we need to focus our time, energy, and brainpower.

It was not until I had experienced Hurricane Harvey, until I saw the devastation with my own two eyes, smelled the hot, wet, mildew with my own nose, tasted the mold in the air, and felt the mud and dust on my skin that I got it. I don’t think there is any way to get flooding on that level; to have your brain open up and wrap around the severity unless you experience it first hand.

We got it when we helped our friends and neighbors cut out their sheetrock and pull everything in their house below water level out to the curb. We got it when we washed sewer water stains off of their grandmother’s china. We got it when we sifted through soggy paperwork in smelly desk drawers to help them find their social security cards and their kids birth certificates and their mom’s hand-written recipe for pie crust.

We prayed and prayed for those who flooded. We held their hands and fed them casseroles. We poured wine and laughed when we could and cried when needed. And we all hoped beyond hope that it would never happen to our community again.

So earlier this year, back in May, when a storm blew in with flash flooding, everyone held their breath. Trees came down and bayous rose. Water ran through the streets and rose into our yards. The rain was coming at record speed and the drains couldn’t keep up. Schools release early, people were told to get off the streets, and then, beyond anyone’s wildest imagination, neighborhoods began to flood. As the water rose, so did the anxiety. Groups texts checking in on friends flew through the digital air as fast as the cell towers could keep up.

Friends who had flooded during Harvey mostly remained dry. This time, a neighborhood recently surrounded by another neighborhood, had water seeping through their cracks and under their door frames. In the name of progress, in the name of making room for everyone, drainage had been shifted and homes were flooded. People were evacuated by boats and everyone in our town felt that sickening lump in our throat again; that wave of nausea knowing what was to come for these friends.

But as communities do, everyone jumped in to help. The water went down, the sheetrock was cut out, the studs were cleaned and dried. Kitchens were rebuilt, but until they were, casseroles were delivered. Advice and help were in plenty by those who have learned so much due to and during Harvey. Lots of friends stepped in to show loved ones how to handle this and how to negotiate that.

As the days and weeks went by through the hot summer, one of the hottest Houston has had in years, homes were rebuilt and lives were restored. Families were moving back into their homes as school started, looking ahead to Thanksgivings filled with enormous gratitude and Christmas’ filled with the humbleness and kindness of being safe and giving back to those in our world suffering from other heartaches.

So when Tropical Storm Imelda began her descent onto our land, the cries came from far and wide, “Dear Jesus, not again!”

The same neighborhood that flooded in May flooded again this week. Several of our schools took a few inches of water again. And new houses flooded; friends who didn’t flood in May or in Harvey were hit by Imelda.

The “experts” say it was one of the heaviest and fastest rainfalls in Houston’s history with over 43 inches in less than 12 hours. That’s a lot of rain. That’s a lot of water. And that’s a lot of heartaches.

My own living room took water and thankfully, my son was home with me to help me attack with fans and towels to keep damage to a minimum. My church has a rescue response team in place since Harvey and fortunately (?) has a lot of the necessary equipment needed to remediate. I have had a dehumidifier running for the last 24-hours and I imagine it will run for a couple more days. The word is still out on what we will be able to salvage.

Some friends weren’t so fortunate. There are people I love dearly who took anywhere from 2-inches to 4-feet of water. If you’ve never experienced this, you may not understand. But even 2-inches means you are ripping out flooring and baseboards and sheetrock. Living in one of the most humid places in the United States means mold and mildew grow faster than you can say mold and mildew. Mold and mildew lead to sicknesses of all kinds but primarily lung diseases. Lung diseases, like I was diagnosed with two weeks ago, that have no cure but only treatments to keep symptoms at bay.

So what is one to do when it feels like broken bones and broken hearts are all there is to see and hear? Lots of people may question why God allows this sort of thing to happen and lots of people have lots of answers; from ones gained through scripture reading and faith to ones only summized from life experience. My answer is a mixture of the two.

It’s unfortunate that we live in a world tainted by sin. One of the most beautiful gifts God gave his creation is the gift of choice. He didn’t want his people to worship him only because they had been created like robots, programmed to do and say what he willed them to do and say. He gifted us with a choice.

And so when Satan entered the perfection of The Garden and offered Adam and Eve a choice, they took it. They broke the ONLY rule God had given them. One rule. That’s all they had was the one rule and they made a choice to break it. So sin entered the world and spread like wildfire and it has touched every single thing. Bad things happen. Suffering happens. Hurting happens.

We walk through this life and experience it in all sorts of ways. Sometimes God reaches down, nudges us out of danger, and we are none the wiser. And sometimes God allows us to walk through the fires and the floods because we will be so much wiser on the other side. Sometimes we will be humbled, more empathetic, made softer, made gentler, made kinder. There are times when the fires and floods work like sandpaper, smoothing our rough edges. And sometimes, and this is the really hard part, we see no use in the situation. We see how no good could ever possibly come from the heartache and brokeness we’ve gone through. It’s in those times when our faith is what keeps us afloat and we trust that God is with us, holding our hand, even when we don’t understand the circumstances around us.

God is a loving Father and his intentions for us are only for good, not harm. His desire for us is to grow in grace as we walk through this life. The broken bones and broken hearts hurt him as much, if not more than they hurt us. But we can have hope in his promises that this world, sinful as it is, is not our final destination. When we believe in him and trust that he is who he says he is, his kingdom is open to us both now and forevermore. And we can trust that there will be a day when we will cry no more tears, suffer no more broken bones, and endure no more heartache.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” -Isaiah 43:2

(To read more about the recent flooding in Kingwood, TX. Click here.)

Stepping Out of Denial…Again

I am no stranger to recovery. I have done group therapy, journey groups, grace groups, multiple 12-Step programs, and individual therapy over the last twenty-two-ish years. One might think I would have it all together by now.

One might be wrong.

I imagine that on this side of heaven, I will always be working on my hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Hopefully, I won’t always be working on the same ones, but I might. The Apostle Paul and I have something in common in that I too, desire to do what is good, but often I cannot carry it out. (See Romans 7:18)

Denial often leaves us feeling lonely and ashamed and causes us to isolate ourselves from others.

I started my fifth 12-Step Study today through Celebrate Recovery. I am a leader with a co-leader and that is both scary and comforting at the same time. But I know that God has an amazing plan for healing in my heart and in the hearts of the women in our group. I am truly excited to see what layers He pulls back in me. It’s rarely what I expect.

I walked into my first Step Study with a plan for God to heal particular habits in my life and, God being God, He showed me that I had many layers to peel back before we could even talk about addressing my plan. It turned out that I was in denial of so much more than I ever thought or imagined. That was ten years ago and God is still peeling back layers in me.

I believe it is fair to say my level of denial is nowhere as deep as it used to be. I can safely say that I am fully aware that I am flawed in many ways and in many places. I know that there are temptations in my life I will always need to be on guard against because they are areas that once had vice-grip like strongholds in my life. I also know there are places so awful that God snatched me from in order to set me on higher ground. I have experienced so much freedom and relief from those dark places that I will never have even the slightest inkling of a desire to go back.

When we face our denial, we learn that we can not ever receive healing by ignoring a wound or pretending it isn’t there. Stuffing feelings and resentments doesn’t make them go away. Stuffing anything into a tight space hardly ever ends well. Over-stuffed containers have a tendency to explode. It’s just science.

Denial:

Disables Our Feelings. When we stuff away and attempt to numb one feeling, we end up numbing all feelings. We become slaves to hiding them away and attempting to protect ourself from future harm.

Energy Lost. When we deny our feelings and attempt to numb them, we end up spending a lot of time worrying about the future and running from the past. We seek ways to avoid thinking about our life and waste a lot of energy worrying about future pain.

Negates Growth. There is a popular phrase in recovery that says, “We are as sick as our secrets.” When we try to keep our habits and our hurts hidden from the world we spend a lot of time doing a dance of denial. We wear ourselves out keeping our secrets hidden instead of living fully in grace and truth.

Isolates from God. 1 John 1: 5-7 reminds us, “God is light; in him, there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Alienates Us From Our Relationships. When we live in denial we think no one knows our secrets. We don’t open ourselves fully to those we love and we keep our true self locked away. Our life becomes a lie we live, thinking that others don’t see our pain.

Lengthens the Pain. We start to believe that stuffing our hurts away and not talking about our wounds is protecting us from pain. In reality, it only causes our wounds to fester. Just as you wouldn’t slap a bandage on a physical wound without cleaning it and treating it with medication, you can’t hide your emotional wounds without allowing God’s cleansing and healing love to wash them clean.

I know from experience that time does not heal all wounds. It is only when I am truthful about my life – my hurts, habits, and hang-ups – and work the steps of recovery, that I experience true peace. I have been longing for true peace my entire life! I have tried to find it on my own in so many ways. I have tried to shop my way there, eat my way there, drink my way there, sleep my way there. I’ve even tried to rely on the love of others to get me there. It’s all been a messy lie. When I work the steps of recovery and allow Jesus to take the wheel of my life, I don’t have to rely on my dysfunction, my compulsive behaviors, or my addictions to act as a temporary fix for my pain. When I allow Jesus to be in charge of my life, he covers me with healing peace.

If you would like to know more about Celebrate Recovery or would like to find a Christ-centered 12-Step program near you, I encourage you to visit the Celebrate Recovery website. If you are near me, know me, and would like to be a part of our Monday group, we are accepting new members. Contact me today and I’ll see about getting you connected.

No one gets through this life unscathed by sin. Jesus never promised us that following Him would be easy. In fact, he promised the opposite. But he does promise that we never have to walk the journey alone. He will hold our hand and light our path the entire way and all we have to do is follow. And he will bring people along side us to walk with us so we never, ever, ever have to feel alone.

(This post was written with information found in A Purpose Driven Recovery Resource- Stepping Out of Denial into God’s Grace, Participant’s Guide 1 by John Baker. It is a Celebrate Recovery Curriculum.)

Put Down the Phone and Let Steve Take the Picture

Monday morning, as I was driving my girl to school, the DJ’s on the radio were talking about a young woman named Holly , who recently died of cancer. She was a vibrant twenty-six-year-old and had so much life ahead of her.

The day after Holly died, her parents found a list she wrote of Facebook in the days before she passed. In the list, she ticks off things that won’t matter to you anymore when death comes knocking, and she suggests letting those things go long before then. She suggests ideas such as not letting traffic ruin your day, taking as much care of your mental and spiritual health as you do your physical health, and learning to be grateful. Her list isn’t that long but it’s chocked full of meaningful ideas, things she wishes she had done differently and moments she’s thankful for having.

As the DJ’s talked about the list, they began adding ideas of their own. The first one was to put the phone down and be present in every precious moment. One of them said we all need to stop trying to capture the best picture to post on social media so that the whole world knows how fabulous our life is and how much fun we have every day.

I started to cry.

This summer, I took a hiatus from all social media because I knew that pressure and was feeling it. I watched games and concerts from behind my phone screen so I could have a record of every moment. Taking a break allowed me to realize how much I was missing emotionally by viewing it through the lens of my camera.

But my tears were also for another reason. I knew that at that very moment, my dear friend Melise was sitting by her dad’s side as he nears the final moments of his life. Melise’s dad, Steve Smith, was THE photographer in my hometown. He owned a studio, and he had the contract on every school picture that went in every yearbook. He took every football team photo, every baseball team photo, every marching band photo. After I sat and thought about it, Steve most likely took every single professional photo of me between 1982 and 1995.

Steve Smith creating art behind the camera.

There isn’t a dance photo, prom photo, color guard photo, or school photo that can’t be traced back to Steve or his studio. In those days, we didn’t have smartphones. There was no such thing as a selfie. And film for snap and shoot cameras was a little pricey, so you didn’t waste it. If you wanted to remember an event, you needed to make sure it was memorable. If you wanted to look back at what you looked like your senior year, you looked at the portfolio Steve created for you.

Rabbit fur was an acceptable option in 1995.

Steve was hilarious when he did a photoshoot. He had a knack for bringing out the best smiles, the best smolders, the best of you. He would tell you how gorgeous you were and how your eyes sparkled and he would reach out to tilt your chin so his camera would actually catch that sparkle.

When my senior photo proofs came in my dad bought almost every shot because “I may never look this good again.”

He was probably right.

Homecoming Dance October 1992

I appear to be laughing in so many of my homecoming and prom photos and that’s because I probably was. Steve was at every dance, and he saw the way we all passed around dates from year to year. He would always joke about who we brought this time.

I don’t have many pictures from these events, other than a handful my uncle would come to take with his “good camera.” My memories come from the ones I created and what Steve Smith recorded on film.

I hope that in the coming days when Steve meets Jesus face to face, that someone in heaven takes their picture. I don’t know if they do that in heaven, but I’d like to think so. And I hope we can all take a snapshot from Steve’s life and learn to put down our phones and be in the moment. Let the professionals take photos because it’s their job. Our job is to hold the hand of our spouse, run and chase our kids, listen to the music at the concert, and snuggle on the couch with your family. I promise you that I won’t complain if you don’t post a picture of all the moments and I’m betting you won’t miss all the postings about mine. Give your loved ones a kiss, hold on to the hug, and make memories with them while you are able.

Monday Musings on a Tuesday

I had an idea. It was really a plan of sorts. I decided to start a thing on Mondays called “Monday Musings.” The idea was that I would share some mild musings. You know, funny things from my weekend, dreams, goals, or ideas for the week ahead, and, on occasion, makeup tutorials. It would live on Instagram and push through to my Facebook Page.

Yesterday, however, I woke up with a terrible stomach bug that altered all my plans. I was so disappointed because it was the first day of school, the first day back to regular schedules for everyone. I wanted to be the mom, dressed and ready, and I wanted to drive them to school to take pictures as they walked in. I wanted to jump into work with writing and planning and cleaning and bright and shiny offerings to the world.

The stomach bug knocked me out, and I was incredibly frustrated. But the frustration wasn’t only because my plans for the day were altered. And frankly, not just because no one likes to spend a day vomiting. My disappointment was because I have been battling my body all year. I’ve been fighting for years. This year has been extra rough, though. I have had a cough and wheeze for months that won’t go away. And in the last week, I’ve felt stronger. I’ve had more energy. I’ve been sleeping well and felt like the supplements I’m taking are making a difference. I was excited for the first day of school for my kids but also me. I spent the day sick but also throwing myself a pity party.

Today is a new day, though. I am resting, still afraid to eat, but mending. And I started thinking about how sometimes, our expectations can be so far from our reality, that we tumble into the chasm between the two. And sometimes, God slows us down for reasons we don’t understand.

I’m not saying God caused my stomach bug or my cough. But what I am saying is that God is capable and willing to work in my life regardless of what is going on. And he often uses the downtime, the time when my plans go awry, to remind me that his plan is always best.

This morning I read a devotion by Henri Nouwen and was reminded of the split between divinity and humanity inside my soul. The Holy Spirit lives within me; God is with me forever. And yet while I am on this earth, present in this human body affected by sin and darkness, I will always be torn. I will still be split between chasing my plans and my desires and in resting peacefully in the arms of Jesus, who says I never have to chase anything.

So maybe next Monday I’ll get around to Monday Musings and maybe not. But what I know for sure is that God’s will and God’s way are always filled with the utmost love for me. And I know his plans for me are good.

New Happenings on the Horizon

Taking a break from social media this summer was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I cannot recommend it enough for anyone who feels like their creativity has slowed or faded or stopped altogether.

I spent time reading, watching movies, listening to music and podcasts. I joined a bible study that I was zero percent in charge of and was like none I had ever done before. I began learning how to verse map the bible and discovered how to find the original Greek and Hebrew recordings of God’s Word. I felt like a window to my soul had been reopened!

During my time away I journaled and wrote prayers and talked to God about things I had never spoken before; I shared thoughts and feelings I didn’t know I had. I prayed for him to connect dots, open doors, and show me clarity on dreams I had stuffed into tiny play purses when I was just a little girl.

I’ve been trying to put together mix and match pieces of a few hopes and dreams for years. I kept believing that God had a door for me to open and that it was hidden somewhere. I thought it was just around the next corner, around the next bend, over the next hill. It turns out, however, that the answer was inside my heart all along. I don’t have to stop doing what I love and I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I will have to spend less time comparing myself and my life to other people out there in the world and on the web. And I will have to have faith that God, my Father, and Creator, will continue the good work he’s started in me.

I joined Mary Kay as an Independent Sales Representative. This is an extension of the dream started when I was a little girl and tagged along to a facial party with my mom. It was a dream that grew when my mom and I started making plans to open a salon together one day. The dream led to me going to cosmetology school and taking a special interest in cosmetics and helping women find confidence in their smile. I loved showing women how to accentuate what God had given them and to love their self. I still do.

That dream had to be put on the shelf when Mom died. It was in the back of my heart and had become all but silent until a couple of years ago when a dear friend started chasing a dream of her own. When she started building her photography business and asked me to start applying makeup to her models and clients, that old dream sparked. Adding Mary Kay to what I have already been doing in ministry with public speaking, teaching about recovery, and writing seemed like a natural progression. It’s one I would have missed had I not taken time for God to show me the next steps.

This means the ministry expands and the dream transforms. It means I now have more options and more opportunities to share God’s love and to talk to women about his healing. It means I can help women celebrate who God has created them to be.

What comes next? I started my business page on Facebook to promote public speaking, skincare, and makeup. I’m hoping to start a YouTube channel soon. I’m going to need help with that part because I am not so tech-savvy. I will keep studying God’s Word, praying for His guidance, and walking through the doors He opens. And I will continue writing and speaking and gluing on my eyelashes one strip at a time.

Heightened Senses

I have heard that when someone loses the ability to use one of their primary senses that the other senses step up their game and become heightened. For instance, if you lose your sight, your ability to hear becomes more significant, or your sense of smell is more perfected. I have no idea if that is true. I wonder if losing sight means you are forced to pay attention to your surroundings all the more. I wonder if not being able to see requires you to listen for clues around you and sniff out both dangerous and pleasurable surroundings.

A few months ago, had I been asked what I enjoy most about social media, I would have told you the pictures. I would have let you know that I was not worried by the arguing, nor did I feel a need to engage in rants. I would have said the marketing didn’t have much of an impact on me and that people who use it mainly to sell their wares don’t bother, neither do they tempt me.

However, having been on a social media break for a few weeks has shown me otherwise. I feel a lightness where the arguing used to be. I feel less anxiety because I’m not privy to anyone’s rants on the government or GMO’s or the weather. I’m less tempted to buy things I don’t need because I’m not watching the live videos about the flash sales or the latest version of the newest thing that I can’t live without.

Here’s what I miss: the pictures. The one thing I really enjoyed the most about social media is seeing pictures. I don’t miss seeing pictures of my friend’s dinner, but I do miss seeing that picture and knowing they went to a cool new restaurant. I miss seeing pictures of birthday parties and knowing that families from the church were celebrating their children. I miss finding out gender reveals and engagements and funerals.

I’m learning, or maybe I should say I am relearning, the value of personal interaction with friends. I’m relearning to pick up the phone and text or, get this, call people. The crazy thing is that social media is literally the only way some people communicate big news. Or any news. So I could see, if I never went back to social media, that there would be people I never hear from again. And truth be told, that might be okay.

In the absence of daily scrolling, I’m reading books I have wanted to read for a long time. I am watching movies I have always wanted to see. I’m noticing the birds in my back yard more. While waiting for my bathtub to fill last week, I watched a male and female cardinal share a white moth for dinner outside my window. Honestly, the way they fed each other was fascinating. I most likely would have missed that before. I would have been scrolling. I see the world around me with new eyes; eyes that aren’t as rushed and anxious. I hear music with fresh ears because I am focusing on the words and notes and not multi-tasking. I got a pedicure and shut my eyes during the leg massage, thanking God for the woman who was caring for my feet and legs so well — adding gratitude during this time that I used to scroll added immense pleasure to the entire experience. Taking away the scrolling has heightened all my senses.

I’m not sure how long this break will last but I am thoroughly enjoying the benefits. I know I will pick some aspects of social media back up; most likely before school starts because I don’t want to miss important information. But I am seriously considering my plan for when that day comes. I don’t want to be sucked back in to the daily, no, hourly temptation to numb the world around me with looking at various feeds. This awakening of my senses has been a delight for my creative soul and I am excited to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch what else God has in store for me.

We Were On A Break!

Whether you are a fan of Friends or not, you’ve probably heard this phrase screamed by someone in jest. Rachel suggested she and Ross take a break from the intensity of their relationship, Ross thought it was a break-up. He slept with the girl from the copy shop, she found out. His defense?

WE WERE ON A BREAK!!!!!

A week ago I decided to take a break from social media. All of it. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, GroupMe…I deleted all of them from my phone. Notice I didn’t delete my accounts. I’m not breaking up with them; I’m simply taking a break from the intensity of it all.

And intense it has become. Not for all the reasons you might think. Just about everyone everywhere is tired of the political rants, the all-or-nothing arguments, the my-way-or-the-highway attitudes. And we’ve all heard of the comparison effect social media often has on people. There is some truth to the idea that the majority of people only put their best face forward. We all tend to share the very best of our weekends and vacations, the best lit shots from the beach or the amusement park. We tend not to share the words shared between family members who are hot and sweaty and said through gritted teeth. We share the most romantic and most adventurous dates. We rarely share stories about the piles of laundry or the smell coming from the bathroom.

But none of this is new to any of us. These are the things strong women know to guard their hearts against, right? Or do we?

I took an online blogging course several years ago and made quite a few friends from the bunch. We were all there for different reasons; learning the art of blogging together. We all had different hopes and dreams and we all came from different backgrounds, families, and lives. We were all going in different directions. But a funny thing happened when we were all released into the world; we all did exactly what we said we wanted to do. Everyone followed their dreams and the path set before them.

And I became wildly jealous. And ashamed of my jealousy. You see, I didn’t know what my dream was. I had no idea what I wanted to do. Not only did I not know my path, I didn’t know even know if I had a path.

So I watched everyone else. And then I started watching others who seemed to be going places and doing things. Everyone seemed to have purpose and direction and they all were doing it with the best filters – and sponsors! And in all this watching I forgot that comparison is the thief of joy and that I have a completely different than the people I was comparing myself to. My family is made up of different people, my job looks different, my path is different. Anytime you compare yourself to anyone else, it is like comparing apples to oranges. None of us are the same and none of us are intended to walk the same path.

All of a sudden, I realized I wasn’t using social media as I claimed I was, for fun. So I took some more courses in social media and writing and promotions…maybe I could figure out how to use it to find my path. Or maybe my path would find me. It started to take up too much time and way too much energy. And it started to interfere with daily living.

I decided to take a break. The thing is, I have believed for some time that God has a very specific plan for my life and that writing and teaching and speaking are tied to that plan directly. But I still don’t know the plan. And if I want to know the plan I need to spend time with the plan maker.

I’m not sure how long the break will be; I imagine much of the summer. And I’m not sure what I’ll do with all the extra time, but I have a few ideas. I joined a bible study and an online book club. I want to spend time reading God’s Word and reading authors with big ideas. I also bought a book of prayers from a great theologian. And I purchased some books on creativity. I’ve blocked out time from work and time from commitments and I’m praying God will help me to be open to whatever he has in mind for me.

I suppose I’ll keep writing here; reporting how it’s going. I am trusting God to reveal great big glorious things to me this summer and I promise to keep you posted along the way.

Here’s to the Ones Who Made It

The end of the school year always brings a flurry of activity. Banquets, award ceremonies, concerts, school picnics, graduations, yearbooks…all of it full of excitement, anticipation, and cheers.

But for some kids (and parents), the end of year signals a huge sigh of relief. They don’t fly into June with flags waving but instead, they trip across the finish line with exhaustion. They aren’t the kids voted “Most Likely to Succeed,” although they are the exact picture of success. They aren’t voted “Most Popular” or “Most Outgoing,” because they sometimes shy away from the spotlight for fear of being shoved aside.

These kids don’t make it to the finish line along. They have caregivers – parents, grandparents, foster parents, nannies, youth leaders, counselors, tutors, and more- who have stood behind them, beside them, and walked hand in hand with them to get them where they are.

There have been late night tears, early morning frustrations, long days and sleepless nights to get them ahead. And it’s not like the kids who win all the awards don’t go through this, too, but these kids do it without recognition. Which means the caregivers do it without the recognition as well.

So consider this post a shout out to the ones who made it. You deserve a hug and a pat on the back. You deserve a ribbon or certificate or a page in the yearbook. You deserve a party with a cake with your face airbrushed across the top in icing. You did it! You made it to summer! Buy yourself a fun raft, a cool cup for a tropical drink, and head to the nearest pool or lake. Take some deep cleansing breaths and relax…because the next school year starts in two and a half months.