The Thorns of Suffering

I snuggle up on my couch last night with my laptop in lap. My kids were doing homework, Charlie Lexow was reading, and I needed to edit a piece I’ve been working on that I will present in a few weeks. I had turned the television on, mostly for noise, but I tend to be particular about my noise. I searched the TV Guide, looking for an old movie that I’d seen enough times not to need to follow along but pleasant enough that I could look up occasionally and enjoy a scene. I stopped on The Green Mile.

The Green Mile is a movie released in 1999, based on a Stephen King novel, and is one of those movies you have to watch to understand. Michael Clarke Duncan (God Rest His Soul) plays John Coffey. He always says, “Like the drink but spelled different.” John is on death row for raping and killing two little girls, and while I certainly feel the window for spoiler alerts closes long before 20 years, I won’t tell you how it turns out. I will say, however, that John has a miraculous gift which he uses to change the prison guards who care for him, in addition to many others. When faced with what to do in the end, the guards are trying to offer John a way out.  He tells them this gift that is bringing so much beauty to others, but it is like glass in his head. He says the shards of glass cause him hurt and he’s ready to be done.

As I watched the scene last night, one I’ve seen a hundred times before, tears started to roll down my face. I understand what it feels like to want the pain to stop. I’ve been there, and I’ve fought that demon many times before.

I saw a post on Instagram this week about depression. September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day and as I was scrolling through all the posts encouraging us to reach out to the sad and hurting around us. I was caught by one post, in particular, that spoke an impressive amount of truth about depression. I wish I had saved it so I would know who to credit. I wish I had said it myself so I could take credit because the words are so on point. She said that when you see a commercial on television for anti-depressant medication, the general theme is about sadness. The people are sad, they hold up smiley faces to cover their frown, and they talk about an overwhelming sadness. For the general public, who might not understand depression, they think that if their friends don’t act sad, they aren’t suffering from depression. The truth is that most people suffering from depression do not show their sadness to the world. They may not show it to more than one or two people if any. This is why the suicides of Robin Williams and Kate Spade were so shocking to so many. They were people who appeared to have it all together; they were funny, bubbly, successful. We only learned after their deaths of the people who saw what they were hiding from the rest of the world.

Even when we know someone is battling depression, we may not know the extent of it or how it plays out in their life. The person posting on Instagram said that depression often looks like doing the next thing. You might want to insert the word “hard” to that description, but usually, the next thing isn’t something most would consider hard. For me, when I am in the throws of the battle and depression is wearing me down hard, the next thing might be as simple as getting in the shower. Or after a shower, the next thing might be putting on clothes for the day. Sometimes the next thing is putting a stamp on the envelope that needs mailing. It’s sitting on the counter and I have the stamp, I just can’t make myself do the thing. I might go to work all day and smile at my coworkers and be entirely productive but go home and not be able to do the dishes. It’s too much. I may be able to cook dinner for my kids and help them with homework but not be able to change out of my day clothes before falling into bed. It’s shaming for someone who can function so well in most areas of life to feel so paralyzed in other areas.

I realize this makes zero sense to you if you’ve never been on the front line with this demon. You might even be thinking, “No. This is when you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and do what needs to be done.” Oh, how I wish it was that simple. Depression can be suffocating and it can be paralyzing, and it’s way past time for us to stop hiding from the conversation. There are people in this world with gifts and talents so big and so grand that we think they would want to show the whole world when, in actuality, they feel like they have shards of glass in their head. And while medication and therapy are both great tools, they are tools that take time. Neither one is an overnight fix or solution. Depression is a disease. No one would expect a cancer cure in a week. No one would ask a person with diabetes why they can’t just feel better or smile more. When someone has suffered a significant trauma or illness and the chemicals in their brain are out of balance, depression happens. Is it curable? For some people. Can it be managed if not cured? For some people. Is the same treatment plan good for everyone? No way.

For me, when I am suffering, I feel like a hedge of thorns has surrounded me. In almost the same way the thorns rose around Sleeping Beauty’s castle when she fell into her sleep, I feel them begin to grow and rise. Sometimes I catch them quickly, and they don’t cover me. How do I do that? I have to be on alert at all times. I have to watch what I eat, how much alcohol I’m consuming, the music I’m listening to, the sleep I’m getting or not getting. And then I have to reach out to someone to hold me accountable for repenting. I call my sponsor, my therapist, and a tiny handful of trusted friends, all people who will not judge me but help talk me through the steps of recovery. And I have to take my medication consistently. That means never missing a dose. When I catch it, I like to imagine myself wielding a sharp sword, swiping my way through the thorns.

When I don’t catch it, I wake up and feel the thorns covering me; smothering me. I may lay under them for days before calling for help. But when I do, my people swarm around me with swords of truth. They bring the Word of God swiftly and unapologetically to help me battle the lies of Satan; the lies he whispers in my ears when I’m trapped.


God loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son. He promises that whoever believes in Him will not perish (John 3:16). I believe. I believe that depression is genuine and I believe that I serve a God is so much greater. He is the King who comes in the end with the gleaming sword and saves the whole world. He’s the one who will slice away the thorns and take me home to live with Him where there will be no more tears, no more shame, and no more disease. I long for that day so much. But until we get there, I will keep beating this drum and putting my words out there in hopes of helping one person. I will keep typing and talking and shouting for people to take notice and get help.

State Your Brave

When I was a little girl my mom made exquisite cakes. She made wedding cakes for almost every young couple in our church, only charging for ingredients and supplies. She made birthday cakes that would make your eyes roll back in your head with their sweet creaminess and goodness.

Many of her cakes were fancy. I recall driving all over Southern Illinois from craft stores to hobby stores to flower shops in search of a particular fountain. It was to go between the bottom and middle layers of a wedding cake and would run colored water through with a delightful trickling sound. This, of course, was pre-Amazon, pre-internet, and pre-express shipping days, so we drove around in the hopes of finding a shop with the exact fountain.

She made Sweet 16 cakes and character cakes and really, just about any cake that the Wilton Cake Book pictured. She bought the yearly guide with the pages of new pans and new options and I would pour over the pages for hours on end, dreaming of the occasions in my life when she would make me these cakes.

The funny thing is, I don ‘t remember ever having a character cake, a unique cake, or one that stood out at all. I have a picture of me with a Bert and Ernie cake, but if I didn’t have that picture, I would not have any recollection at all. No, my cakes were always white cake, with fresh strawberry filling, and buttercream icing. Buttercream was her specialty and she made the most beautiful buttercream roses. Mine were usually pink. They were beautiful and delicious and I love them, but they weren’t a castle cake.

I feel like had I ever, even once, asked my mom for a castle cake, she would have made it. I saw her make castle cakes for other girls who had requested one from their mothers. So what was it in me that felt like I couldn’t ask?

I wish I had an answer. But whatever it was, it was the same exact thing that kept me from asking for an American Girl doll. American Girl dolls came out when I was a little bit older, almost too old for dolls. But a couple friends received one for Christmas and I wanted one so desperately. But I never asked. I asked for all sorts of dolls my whole life and received almost every one I ever asked for. So what made me believe that the request for an American Girl Doll was out of line?

I asked for other things. I made wish lists for my birthday. I wrote to Santa for Christmas. I even left notes for the Easter Bunny. What was it that kept me from asking for my true heart’s desire? It’s something I’ve been working through in the past few months in my recovery work and with my therapist. You see, I have recently discovered that I do the same with God. I will ask him for the things I’m supposed to ask for – health, safety for my family, protection from evil, salvation for those who need it, wisdom…

I came to the recent realization that I often hold back asking God for the extravagant. I mean, really, he already gave me eternal salvation and life through his one and only son. How dare I ask him for more? It’s fine to ask for things relating to health and wellness, to my family, and to ministry…but to ask for something just for me? No way. That would be selfish. And selfish, I have learned, is a trigger word for me.

I’m not sure yet where that word entered my fear based thinking. I have a couple ideas, a few tender memories that stir some discomfort. But I haven’t pinpointed the exact origin. I might not ever figure it out completely and that’s okay. Whatever the reason, I am now trying to get rid of that thinking.

God loves me. He thinks I’m amazing. He looks at me and sees a prized creation; one he made in his very own image! God delights in me and he wants to see me delighted. So if I pray for ANYTHING that is on my heart and in his will, he will delight in answering me. The part about being in his will is the key. God isn’t going to start acting like a Santa in the sky who drops toys in my lap on holidays. But he does want to give me the desires of my heart when it matches his will.

There have been a handful of prayers I’ve been too timid to pray. Prayers that seemed frivolous and silly. Prayers that felt too self-serving, even if in the long term they would benefit many others. But this summer I read two books that changed my perspective on how to pray. I read “Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis and “Eat Cake. Be Brave” by Melissa Radke. I also re-read “Of Mess and Moxie” by Jen Hatmaker.

Please do not read any of these books and take every word to heart as Gospel or the theology that you should follow. I didn’t and I don’t. I don’t agree 100% with every word that each woman says. But that’s okay because we’re all a little different. (This is my disclaimer in case anyone wants to jump on me for anything. Don’t. I have no time or energy to argue with anyone about a book.) But what I did take from all of these books was a reminder that God sees so much more of me than bad choices I’ve made in the past. He doesn’t look at me and see the mistakes and mess ups. No, God looks at me and sees himself. He sees his one and only son who washed me in the forgiveness of his blood. He sees all the gifts and talents and abilities he has given me to reach out to the world in his name. So if I need to ask for help in managing those talents, if I need a boost in my abilities, or if I want to hone in on the craft of the gift he has placed in me, all I have to do is speak up! I am not selfish to ask for his guidance in this way. He delights in seeing me grow.  He has given me what he’s given me so that I might use it. If I need help with the instruction manual, he’s right there with me!

So, taking a bit of encouragement from all three authors above, and using the statement of boldness that Melissa claimed (I call her Melissa because I follow her in all the places and listened to her audiobook every morning last week while applying my makeup. It’s like we are already best friends), I am here to #statemybrave.

I am going to be brave this year. When I turned 39, I proclaimed I would be the best version of myself when I turned 40. I made a few improvements, but my best self? I don’t feel I made it. I broke a lot of promises to myself that year. So 40 came and went and then 41 arrived and I started spiraling. Who am I even? Who have I become and what am I supposed to do? I have all these dreams, desires in my heart that I’ve been too afraid to ask for help with. I have so many things I am fully capable of doing but I haven’t believed I was worthy of taking the first step.

No. Freaking. More. No more hiding. No more broken promises to myself. No more believing that I have to come last.

I’m going to be brave. I’m going to chase my dreams and follow my heart, as it leads me closer to God’s will. I am going to put myself out there and not shy away. I am strong because the God of the universe lives in me. Without him, I would be nothing. With him, I am a warrior.

I have enrolled in college. I’m starting over. I went to school for cosmetology right out of high school in 1995. I got my license and worked while I continued on, studying business. When my dad left and my mom committed suicide, I quit. I was only two months away from an Associates Degree. I have shamed myself for years over quitting. No more. I did what I did with the circumstances in my life. I was doing the best I could at the time. Now I’m doing the best I can with the way my life looks today. I’m choosing to be brave.

All my classes will be online with Concordia Portland and I can only take one or two classes at a time. One, I’m still a full-time church worker, full-time wife, and full-time mother. That makes room only for a part-time student. And two, college is expensive.  I’m receiving a little bit of assistance from my church body and I’m figuring the rest out. Some might say (and many have), “Is it wise to put money towards your own education at this stage in your life? Especially when you are on the cusp of having two teenage drivers who will need to pay for college in a few short years?”

Yes. Yes, it is wise. I want my son and daughter to see that it’s okay to believe in yourself. It’s perfectly normal to chase dreams God has placed in your heart. I want them to know that an education is valuable at any and every stage in life – no matter what you study! I want them to see that it’s never too late to make right a decision you regret and that there is no timetable for growth. I also want them to understand that God never leaves us. He never stops working in us. And he always calls us to be brave when the glory shines on him.

So, this is my brave. I’m accepting donations to fund my education. Just kidding. Actually, I’m not kidding. I would accept it. But I’ll figure it out regardless. And I’m also accepting meals. And math tutoring. I told my advisor that what I believed in high school was true and not once have I needed a quadratic equation in my adult life. I really think it’s silly that I need to take one more stinking math class. He laughed. He actually laughs a lot at me; in a good way. But whatever, sometimes being brave means doing things that are hard. Math is hard for me. So is balancing life. So I’ll also be accepting your prayers. Being brave is also scary. But what I’m learning is that having courage doesn’t mean you don’t get scared, it means moving forward when things are especially scary or don’t seem to make sense. I am worthy of this though. God placed all the stuff in me for a reason and I am worthy of asking for his help in making it come to fruition.

And for my 42nd birthday, I’m asking for a castle cake.

He Paints Beauty

Next month marks twenty years since the hubs and I embarked on a crazy adventure of leaving my hometown. Only he wasn’t my husband back then; we were engaged. And it wasn’t his hometown. He had lived all over the country; well, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Illinois. He’d never stayed in one place for more than a couple years and I had lived in my little universe for my whole life. My parents and I moved there when I was 9 months old and it was all I knew.

Suddenly, I found myself to be 21, my family had dissolved, the contract on my job was ending, and we decided to set out for a new life together. My whole world felt tumped upsidedown. I was scared, I was nervous, I was unsure of what was going to meet me down the road but I knew – we knew – that if I was going to live, we had to make a change. I was drowning in grief and didn’t know how to take a breath. I rarely recommend running from your problems and I don’t believe that’s what I was doing. Although some might disagree, for me, I needed a change of scenery.

Everywhere I looked there I saw darkness. Everything I saw was a reminder of the loss in my life. I was grieving my mom’s suicide. I was grieving my parents split. I was mourning the loss of what I had believed to be true and discovered was a lie. I was at a complete loss of the dreams I had built, the plans I had made, and what I thought my career would look like. My future didn’t look bright. It looked foggy and scary.

I used to hate when people would tell me that God had bigger plans; that he could make beauty from ashes. I was sitting in ashes. No, I was buried in ashes. I couldn’t see the sun for the ash cloud that was hanging over me. So we moved far away from where anyone knew me and I started fresh. I began the journey of allowing God to wash away my ash. I started the steps toward healing.

Twenty years allows a lot of perspectives. I can look down the path we started on when we left that town with a box truck and a car crammed with belongings. I can see all the side roads, the bunny trails, the hills, and the valleys we have walked through together. I can see how, even when we felt scared and alone, God never left our side. I can see the people God brought into my life to teach me and I can see the people he allowed me to keep, from my past, because he knew they would later be a great comfort for me.

I’ve traveled back to my hometown only a handful of times since that big departure twenty years ago. Each visit has brought more comfort, more healing. Last week we went up, stayed with friends, and watched the sunset every single night. We laughed and talked and laughed some more. We talked about heartaches both old and new. And God allowed my heart to break over the beauty of the sunsets that were there all along. When I was covered in ashes of grief I was unable to see the sun, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. He opened my eyes to his faithfulness and goodness.

My daughter walked past the treeline every evening and took a billion pictures of the sunset. She loved the way the light changed and how the clouds reflected colors that crayons and markers could never create. She took the picture below and it’s my absolute favorite. It looks like God opened his paint box and swept magnificence across the sky.

God really has painted beauty in my life. He has brought so much healing, and while I may always have scars, I know that he has never left me. And I know he’s not finished with the masterpiece he’s creating. And honestly, I am so excited to see the colors he paints in me on the road ahead.



But Who Will Prepare the Sandwiches?!?!

Expectations are funny things. If your expectations of someone or something are too high, you are likely to be let down. If you set your expectations too low you may never hold anyone around you accountable to greater things.

So it’s a tightrope walk.

My tendency is to set my expectations way too high. Way. Too. High. I know better. I’ve learned the danger in this the hard way.  My therapist has declared it to be the downfall of many of my relationships and goals in life. And yet I continue to toss expectations up to the rafters and hope for the best.

I especially do this with holidays. And birthdays. And special occasions. I want everything to be magical and sparkly and joyous and memorable; oh, do I ever want to make the memories! I make lists and plans and plot and organize and pile things up and stress myself to the max. Which frankly, is the exact opposite of my entire belief system. Or, at least what I claim to be my belief system. I want to be chill. I want things to be simplified. I want the soft days with the relaxed people. This truly is my heart song. But what I end up with is, most of the time, whack-a-do.

This year I was able to keep my Easter plans relaxed. Since most of the members of our life group are either paid church workers or highly committed volunteers, we all worked together to put a very easy meal on the table. Or the island. We tend to do buffet style anymore. See? Chill. One person brought a ham, one brought veggies and a roast, one brought two lamb cakes…because why just one? We are chill; not lazy. It all worked out beautifully and we drank wine and laughed and danced. The dancing came later in the day and might have mostly been me but whatever.

My expectations of this day were exactly what I knew it would be and exactly what it turned out to be – a great day with friends.

However, my girl is being confirmed this coming Sunday and my body is aching today with the expectations. I have a thousand plans in my head, I’ve already put too much on the schedule, I have shopping and cooking, and phone calls and a bounce house….scratch that. The bounce house would be too much. Look at me dialing back as I type. I even scheduled a visit with my therapist for the middle of all the fun because my expectation is that I will need someone to reel me in.

I want it all to be wonderful and magical and holy and beautiful and memorable for her and for me and for everyone involved. If I’m honest, I want people to say, “Look how effortlessly Tam can throw together a weekend of wonderful!” When in reality, it’s not thrown together at all but orchestrated to the smallest detail.

I know, I know. I need to stop and take a breath. That’s what I would tell you if you were rambling this crazy to me. I would say, “Friend, sit down and shut your eyes and feel your breath. Inhale peace from the Holy Spirit and exhale all your anxiety.” And then I’d pour you a drink. Just kidding. Sort of.

This is where the Mary and Martha of my soul go into hand to hand combat. The Mary knows that Shelby’s confirmation is about professing her faith in Jesus and all I need to do is praise God for the work he has done in her heart. The Martha says, “But where will the sandwiches come from if you don’t prepare them?!?!?!”

The Mary tells me to breathe and pray and rest, knowing that Shelby is loved by all the people, but most importantly by her Lord, and the sandwiches and tea and cakes don’t really matter. The Martha says, “But the people will be hungry and the bread needs to be fresh!!!!”

The Mary says to chillax and not worry about impending forecasts for rain. Having people together to celebrate God’s goodness will happen rain or shine. Martha is screaming, “You should plan some indoor activities just in case!!!”

Martha uses a lot of exclamation points.

I wonder about the expectations of the first Easter morning; the one before anyone knew it was Easter. When the women went to the tomb, fully expecting to dress Jesus’ body for burial, they had their expectations set for mourning. They knew the process, they had the supplies, and they all had assigned jobs. The shock of the empty tomb, if you notice in the bible, was not immediate joy. Even though they’d heard the promises and knew what Jesus had said would happen, that reality didn’t make sense to them because it’s not where their expectations lived. There was confusion, maybe a little bit of anger, and sadness.

Where is the body?!?!?!? It’s supposed to be here!!!!

I wonder if when the men came to check things out and then ran away, did the women yell, “Fine! Y’all go ahead and run home! We will stay here and solve this mystery! Because we are women and we handle all the things!!!”

Again, I feel like there were lots of exclamation points.

Meeting Jesus face to face is what it took for the ladies to settle into the truth of the moment. Hearing his voice is what turned the expectations from funeral to celebration. The plans they had made had to be changed in an instant. Did they drop the oils and herbs and dance with joy? I like to think so.

So maybe all I need is to sit down and listen for his voice. If I could put my expectations aside and simply ask him to show me how he’s moving through the weekend, I might be able to drop my anxieties, my plans of what should be, and dance in the joy of his presence.




The Children Are Watching


Friends, I think it’s time we sit down and have a chat. Maybe pour yourself a cup of coffee because I’d like this to be civil; maybe even light-hearted. The reality is we are long over due to say some things that need to be said.

There is a problem in our nation. We are not safe. WAIT! Before you turn away – this is not about guns. This is not about Democrats or Republicans or #metoo. This is about you and me and the generation of children watching us.

We have become an angry, rude bunch of people. We say things online we would never say to someone’s face. We scream and yell at our televisions and we watch “news” programs where people scream and yell.

The children are watching. They’re learning.

They are watching us shake our fists and scream profanity when we don’t agree with each other.

They are watching when we honk our horns at people in the car line at school.

They see us when we speed around the car stopped to let a child cross at a cross walk.

They hear the slander we utter under our breath about the family ahead of us in the grocery store check out.

They are listening when we gossip on our phones about the teen that got in trouble last weekend.

Our kids are paying attention and they are learning. That’s what kids do, you know. We like to joke and say, “Do as I say and not as I do” but it’s not a joke anymore. Our kids have learned from our behaviors and they are acting them out.

They act them out in the cafeteria when the boy ahead of them fumbles to pay for his lunch, dropping his quarters on the floor. They act them out in class when the girl next to them smells bad because there’s not a mom at home to teach her proper hygiene. They show what they’ve learned when they don’t go and sit by the lonely. They mimic our actions on the soccer field, the baseball diamond, the football field, the dance floor, the band room….everywhere they go.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you said something and thought, “Oh my word, I sound like my mother/father!”?

Our kids don’t even realize how much they sound like us. They are not old enough or mature enough to put it together yet but they do; they sound just like us.

So when we question how our nation has come to a place where kids could bully and ridicule and mock and kill, we need to take a long hard look in the mirror. If we want to be a community of kindness and love it has to start from within. We can’t say “those people” anymore. We have to say, “I will be the change.”

Listen, I get it. Some mornings are rough. Nothing goes according to plan, you are running late for work, you have bills piled up at home, and have no idea what you’re going to fix for dinner tonight. The stress of getting the kids to school with a mind load like that is immense. But honking at kids getting out of cars, speeding around vehicles letting teachers cross from the parking lot to the school sidewalk, flipping off parents you think aren’t going fast enough…it’s not okay.

I know know the cost of the private lessons and the time committed to make sure your kid is the best on the team. I know what’s involved in making sure they will stand out to college recruiters and coaches and directors. Yelling at the kid who isn’t “up to par” is not okay. Making fun of the ones who don’t run as fast, often fall down, play the wrong notes, miss the last step…it’s just mean.

I understand we are rushed in the grocery store. We have lists a mile long and we have to get dinner on the table and our kids to all their practices and lessons in the next two hours. But pretending you don’t know the mom you were home room mom with for three years is rude. It takes two seconds to smile and say hello. Being harsh with the checker because he’s not scanning fast enough isn’t acceptable.  Kindness takes very little time and it costs you nothing.

And the children are watching.

This is not written to shame and point fingers out at my community without pointing a finger back at myself. I have been guilty of heavy sighs and muttered comments. I have said snarky things about others in front of my kids. I’ve driven too fast in school zones and been inpatient in car line. This is not a you and yours problem – it’s an us problem.

Let’s start today with a deep breathe and a prayer. Let’s ask God to remind us of the grace and mercy he shows us every single day so that we might show grace and mercy to others. Let’s build each other up with kindness and smiles and gentle affirmations.

The children are watching.


It’s been so long since I’ve sat down to write. Like, to seriously write. I don’t think I’ve taken this long of a break since, well, ever. But honestly, last year wasn’t like any other year I’d ever experienced before so I suppose it makes sense. Sort of.

Harvey changed all of us last year. Even those of us who didn’t flood.

The reality is, even if your house was left in tact, nothing else in your world was. We had so many friends left homeless. So. Many. Friends. And that left a big opportunity for ministry and caring and reaching out and it took all we had to love them well. And yet we still failed so many times. And we’re still trying.

Our grocery stores flooded, our doctor offices flooded, our restaurants flooded…everything. When people say, “Why are you still talking about the flood?” I want to scream, “Because it’s still a thing!” Everyone is tired. People who flooded are tired of mess and dust and contractors and insurance adjusters and….this list is endless. People who didn’t flood are tired of not being able to fix things for the friends that we love. Everyone in our town needs a vacation to a beautiful cabin in the mountains.This could be why my word of the year for 2018 is Soft. I wrestle with choosing a word because I don’t stick with too many things for too long and one word for one year originally sounded very daunting to me. But for the past few years this process of praying about a word and rolling and wrestling with it for an entire year has shaped me in ways I never expected. It has opened doors to learning I wasn’t expecting.

To me, Soft represents a state of being. It means being quiet more and listening well. It means judging less and accepting others more. It means being grace-filled every day because I’ve sat at the feet of my heavenly father and been filled.

In the early days after I chose this word, a friend sent me a message about Hygge. Have you heard this word? I hadn’t before her message but now that I’ve seen it I realize it’s everywhere. I can’t seem to get away from it; which simply reinforces my choice of Soft for my word this year.

Simply put, Hygge is a Danish word that doesn’t translate easily to English. It’s pronounced HOO-gah, which is not at all how I would have said it had no one told me otherwise. Loosely, it means cozy, homey, soft. It can be a thing or it can be a description or it can be an action…the possibilities are endless.

Think of a cold night in December. The Christmas tree is lit, there’s a fire in the fireplace, and you’ve got a cinnamon candle burning. You are wearing your favorite soft pajamas and you are snuggled under a blanket with your spouse and little ones watching a Christmas movie.

That’s Hygge.

Imagine a sunny morning in March. There’s a breeze blowing and flowers are beginning to pop up and out in their brightest, fresh colors. Oh, they smell so sweet! You are sitting in a rocking chair next to a friend and sharing laughs over a cup of coffee.

That’s Hygge.

The thought of it and the desire for it has almost consumed me as of late. I’ve found myself retreating from places and situations that don’t fit the bill because my desire for Hygge has become so great. When a friend questioned me on it this week I had a brief moment of conviction; a feeling that ran through my head and heart that said, “Is this something I should even be thinking about?” It was that quick flash of guilt that made me question if I was being selfish. Or did it mean I was hiding from commitments? As a Christian, how can I share the love of Jesus and also be soft and comfy? As a church worker, aren’t we supposed to discourage “cozy?” Aren’t we supposed to encourage people to go into all the world?

But then I was reminded of Mary. Not mother of Jesus Mary but Martha’s sister Mary. Mary, the one who sat at the feet of Jesus while her sister, Martha, bustled around the kitchen. Mary, who listened to all Jesus had for her while her sister was cooking and cleaning. Mary, who was calm and allowed herself to be taught and loved.

I used to hear that story and think, “Well, someone had to do it! Those men showed up unannounced and were most likely hungry. Martha did right by making sure they were cared for. That’s exactly what I would do!”

In recent years, however, my thought process has changed. While I, too, used to freak out if guests showed up unannounced or was the one that planned and planned and planned for dinners with friends, I’ve found a better way.

I’ve learned to not worry about a little dust so much. I’ve learned that eating off of paper plates with friends is fine because then we have more time for visiting and less time for cleaning up. I’ve learned that having some soft blankets on hand is a gift for my guests and that delicious smelling candles hides the smell of dog but also adds a cozy feel to the room. The most important thing I’ve learned is that people don’t love you and want to spend time with you because of your house or the things in it. People love you and want to come over because you make them feel welcomed, loved, and well-cared for. And isn’t that exactly what Jesus did? He sat with the people no one else loved. He ate dinner with the outcasts. He fed the hungry.He offered healing to the sick. He listened well, he accepted all, and he offered grace upon grace upon grace.

That’s Hygge.

And that’s why Soft is my word to wrestle this year. It’s not about hiding or being selfish. Being soft is being like Jesus.





The Waters of Judgement and Comparison


If one wanted to make a chart of Kingwood, Texas right now, it would be a pretty basic block.

Those who flooded.

Those who didn’t.

I am filled with both gratitude and sorrow to be in the “didn’t” column. I am, of course, grateful and thankful that my home was safe from the raging, muddy waters that rushed through homes without a care of what was destroyed. I am breathing a sigh of relief that my air conditioning works because September in Houston is not very different from August in Houston. It ain’t fall. And I’m blessed to have a refrigerator full of food and I do not have to rely on the kindness of strangers to bring sandwiches.

But I cry. I sob for my friends who are scraping mud and muck from their homes, tossing their favorite chair and mattress to the curb. I cry when I see their wedding pictures and baby pictures spread over the lawn in hopes of drying out. I cried over every load of laundry I did for people on my street who lost everything while I sat three doors down safe. Every casserole I’ve baked, every sheet of cookies, every pot of pasta I boiled has had my tears nearby because I don’t understand the ways of the water and how it decided to flow.

I have cried for my friends who had no insurance and for the ones who did but are fighting for payment. I have cried for my friends who have already been turned down by FEMA and for the ones who don’t know how to send their kids to school tomorrow when they don’t have a safe home to come to afterward. I’ve held hands and given hugs and prayed and baked. And baked. And baked.

But if we go back to the chart, I’ve noticed another way to block it. Among the people who flooded I have started to hear comparisons.

“How much water did you get? Well, I got…”

“Did you have flood insurance? I did.” or “I didn’t.”

“Have you hired a contractor yet? Who did you get?”

Monday night I sat with a friend over dinner, listening to her story, and she shared some of these responses with me. She’s over it. And we are a week in. I imagine there will soon be comparison on how fast homes were repaired.


There are also comparisons among those who didn’t flood.

“Where did you serve today? I went to this place AND that place.”

“What have you given? You know they really need that at…”

“I organized this group to serve over there. What have you been up to? I haven’t seen you in any of the places I’ve been.”



There is so much good going on out there. So much healing and so much help. People are giving of themselves in both blocks. Everyone wants to do their best.

So what if we all moved forward with the assumption that we are doing our best? What if we started offering grace to each other and worked under the assumption that every single one of us is doing the very best we can?

It’s a question Brene Brown poses in her book, “Rising Strong” and one that I have been wrestling with for the last week. Do I believe that about people on an average, normal, non-flooded Wednesday? Do I now that we are in the middle of the biggest disaster our community has ever faced? Do I offer grace to others because I believe they are doing the best I can?

I have to say that most of the time, I don’t. I am quick to monitor a situation and judge that someone has a lower capacity than me and therefore is unreliable. I am quick to judge that someone is selfish with their time, money, resources, etc. and therefore not useful to me.

And truth be told, I am even quicker to take grace away from myself because I am comparing my self to others and judging that I don’t measure up. That person is a harder worker than me and therefore I am a failure. Those people have more time, money, resources than me so I am basically useless.

The lack of grace we offer ourselves and others usually stems from some sort of shame we are holding onto; a lie we are believing about ourselves. It often stems from a wound we experienced long ago that never healed properly.

I’ve had to ask myself many times this week, “What would it take for me to believe that person is doing the best they can?”

I’ve also had to ask,”What would I have to stop I believing about myself that is keeping me from receiving grace? And is that belief what God would say about me?”

James 4:6-8 says,”He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

James points out there is a very fine line between wise discernment and sinful judging. I have to ask myself, “which one am I doing?” before I let words flow from my mouth. I need to watch how I speak to others, but also how I speak to myself.

I know that God bases his judgement on truth. I also know that I rarely do. God alone knows the source of my mess. So I pray for healing and I pray for grace in such abundance that I can pour it over every person I meet – flooded or not flooded. I pray that I will fall deep into the flood waters of his goodness and drink it all in so I can bless others. And I pray that the eyes of my heart….all of ours….would be shielded from the lies of judgement and comparison.


Several years ago I got a tattoo on my back. It’s small, right in the center, and most people never see it. It’s the word “Love” and represents the millions of suicide survivors, who, like me, have had our lives turned upside down by the vicious and heartbreaking act. It’s a reminder to myself that even though my life was marked by the abandonment of suicide, I am lovable.

Last year the word “enough” started playing a big role in my life. As I wrapped up a step study I found myself wrestling with the idea of enough. I had spent my entire adult life feeling too big feelings related to my self worth. I was not enough for some and I was too much for others.

What if’s will plague a life if you allow them to. What if I had been enough to keep my parents together? What if their love for me was so great that they decided to work things out? What if I had been enough for my mom and her grief over my dad’s affair and leaving hadn’t overcome her? What if I had taken better care of myself sooner? Would I have still had so many miscarriages? What if I had loved my future babies enough? What if my personality hadn’t been too much? Would that friend still have left?

You see? What if’s can make you crazy. It’s why I’m learning to lay them down and walk away. They are a poison that I drank over and over, expecting to one day have the answer reveal itself. What if’s don’t work that way. They rarely bring you a peaceful truth.

So this year, as I’ve started the laborious work of laying down my self doubt I have realized that questioning how my worth relates to others is as tedious and useless. I have realized that I don’t just question my worth to others, I have been questioning my worth to God.

If friends can walk away then how do I trust Jesus, who says he is my friend?

If my parents could leave me, how do I trust God, who says he is my father?

The only answer I have come up with is faith. I wish I had something better to offer you, should you possible be wrestling with some of these same questions. I don’t have a bullet point list. I only have faith.

I have faith because when my dad left and my mom died, I didn’t die.

I have faith because when I moved a thousand miles from home and lost friendships over it, I didn’t die.

I have faith because when my husband and I lost 5 babies before holding our two miracles, I didn’t die.

I have faith because every time life has thrown a hard situation at me or my family, I didn’t die.

I felt like I would. I had grief that went deep into my bones. But every morning God filled my lungs with breath and I didn’t die.

So if God could love me enough to wake me up every morning to face a new day then maybe he thinks I have worth. And maybe, I’ve spent a lot of years trying to impress the wrong people. Maybe I’ve wasted an enormous amount of energy trying to be the end all, be all to people who will never see my worth. It’s possible, that if all this is true, I’ve been viewing my own life through the wrong lens.

When God looks at me, he doesn’t see a glass half full or half empty. He doesn’t use a measuring stick to see how I measure up. He doesn’t weigh me against others to decide how much love and care I receive today.

When God looks at me he sees the cross. He sees Jesus dying for me. He sees me washed and clean and lovable.

When God looks at me he sees enough.

So yesterday I decided to give myself a physical reminder of this revelation.

When I doubt myself and I’m tempted to fill up with the things of this world, the pleasures that never fill us, I’ll have this on my wrist to remind me that I am enough.

When I start thinking that any lens other than the cross are the ones I need to see myself through, I’ll have this reminder that because of Jesus I am enough.

When I feel like I’m not measuring up to people or that I’m too much, I’ll look down and remember that I’m just enough.

When You’re Tired of Holding it All Down

I remember playing a game in the swimming pool when I was a child where my friends and I would try to keep balls, beach balls, volleyballs, basketballs, etc. hidden under the water. We would sit on them, pushing them down, trying to keep our balance. We were young with strong abs and thighs so this was a fairly easy task for a while; until we would tire and the balls would pop to the surface, splashing our faces with surprise.

I tried this game with my son recently. He and I were the only ones outside and I was trying to keep a ball hidden from him, below the surface of the pool. I’m not sure if it’s my age or my lack of physical prowess but the task seemed much harder than I remembered. I struggled to keep my balance and the ball quickly popped up behind me, revealing my hiding place and splashing water over my head. My son laughed at me.

I started a new Step Study a couple weeks ago. The Celebrate Recovery ministry at our church runs Step Studies several times a year and this time they’re offering one for first timers and one for people who have been in recovery for a while. After our second class a friend texted and asked if she would feel drained throughout the whole study and I thought back to the beach ball I’d tried to keep under the water.

I think most of us spend a great deal of time trying to keep things under water. We want to look like the bathing beauty on a pin up calendar; so poised and calm, make-up fresh, hair coiffed. For a lot of us though, the reality is we are working really hard to keep some things down; to  hide what’s really going on under the surface. We want to appear like we are floating through life when under the surface we are paddling and wobbling and wearing ourselves out.

That’s both the beauty and the beast of recovery. We are able to let all the balls splash to the surface and it’s so freeing, yet we realize how exhausted we were from trying to keep them under water. And our mascara gets smeared.

I’ve had people say,”My childhood was pretty smooth. I’m not an alcoholic or a drug addict. I don’t really need recovery, but good for you.” And that’s fine. Maybe everyone doesn’t need recovery. Maybe I’m biased because I see the healing God has done in my life (and is continuing to do) through the 12-Steps. But the Bible tells us we are all sinners – every single one of us. And because we are sinners we hurt others…and ourselves…on a regular basis. We cause wounds and we receive wounds. And whoever says time heals all wounds is wrong. Time heals some wounds; not all wounds. Maybe your wounds don’t look like alcoholism or drug addiction. Mine didn’t either. Mine look more like control issues, anger issues, eating disorders…and others.

Working the steps has helped me step away from a mentality that allowed me to push blame and point fingers. It helps me (on a daily basis) to realize that, while I can’t control the choices other people make, I can control how I react and respond. I don’t have to allow the hurt and pain from my past control how I live today. It’s only when I openly admit my own faults that I can make room for Jesus to act as the healer in my life. Not admitting them is like trying to sit on a beach ball under the water and not let anyone see it. The reality is that most people can see it; I just look like a fool trying to hide it.

I love the community of my small group. It’s a bunch of women who will readily admit they don’t have it all together. We use scripture, biblical truth, to build each other up and help each other face life. We are supporting each other’s growth both emotionally and spiritually. It’s the accountability I need to step out of the pain of my past and into the healing Jesus wants for my future.

If I had to make a spiritual argument for recovery, I would make this one. One that James already made. (James 5)

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.


I don’t know how many balls you are trying to keep balanced and hidden under the waters of life. Maybe none. Maybe you’re doing a better job at authenticity than I. I hope so, for your sake. But if you are like me and find yourself tired, know there is a place for you. There is a group of people ready to walk beside you as you let the balls all come splashing to the surface.

I’m Thankful for The Teachers

My daughter started kindergarten at Shadow Forest Elementary in August of 2009 and my son started 2 years later. That means I’ve spent the last eight years driving back and forth to this school. This school that has held my children for more waking hours of the day than I have. This school that has become more than a school to them and more like a second home.

As my youngest is about to wrap up his last week of his last year in elementary school, I tried to think of words to say how much I appreciate Shadow Forest. It occurred to me around 3AM this morning that I will never have all the right words. So instead of all the right words, I decided to share the few I have.

I. Am. Thankful.

I am thankful to Mrs. Lackey for leading a team of teachers for all these years. She leads teachers who lead my kids on to be bigger thinkers with bigger hearts…and for that I am grateful.

I am thankful to Mrs. Grayson for always making sure the library was stocked with Titanic books when my daughter went through a 4 year Titanic obsession. I’m thankful she spoke words of kindness to me about Captain Underpants and Mindcraft books, assuring me that a boy reading these books was a boy reading. And that’s better than a boy not reading.

I’m thankful to computer teachers, art teachers, PE teachers, and music teachers…all have opened new doors of learning for my kids.

I’m thankful for Mrs. Clift, who was one of the early ones to gently turn my girl away from bossiness and towards leadership. In kindergarten. I am grateful.

I have so much gratitude for Mrs. Dolmage, who was one of the first in the line of many, who worked tirelessly to help my boy focus. She had to listen to him hum the theme song of Indiana Jones every time he wrote his name. All. Year.Long.

I love Mrs. Crain, who had both of my babies in 1st grade and treated them, and every other kid in her classes, like family. Because that’s what her class was. It was a family.

Mrs. Holderread taught me how to help my daughter with 2nd grade math. It was new and involved number lines and dots. I had no clue. I still don’t fully get it. But she tried.

Mrs. Carr will have a special place in heaven for walking me through ADHD and how to help my son. I was a mess and she was not. She listened to me cry and then rejoiced with me when his reading and math skills soared on treatment.

Mrs. Cole managed a class light on students but super full of boys, including mine, with so much grace that I was sure she was an angel. I’m so thankful for her peaceful way.

Ms. Moffett had both my kids and is always a name that comes up when we talk about fun teachers. She is one of the bubbliest, kindest, loving teachers…and she read my kids a book about a gorilla that made them both come home and cry. Books that make you feel that deeply are a gift. Thank you, Ms. Moffett.

Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. McClurg got us through 4th grade math. Can you tell that I have a TON of gratitude for math teachers? I do. And I always will.

Ms. Cape pushed both of my kids to be deeper thinkers and to write words that have meaning and feeling. That skill came much easier for one of my kids but she still pushed the other. Writing words, that’s also precious to me, so I’m forever thankful for the encouragement she gave my kids.

And then there is Mrs. Meskill, Mrs. Istre, and Mrs. McGrath. They were the ones tasked with readying my kids for middle school. The last of a long line of special teachers who built them up over the years, preparing them mentally and emotionally to take the next step. They are the momma birds who finally push them out of the nest and yell, “FLY! YOU KNOW HOW!” because they’ve been practicing all year.

I’ve been saying I wouldn’t be emotional at the end of 5th grade. I’ve been saying I’m ready to be done with elementary school. And that’s mostly true. But as I think back to the last 8 years and all the memories built in, I can’t help but tear up a bit. So much love, so much energy, so much time has been poured into my kids. These teachers have given the best of themselves so my kids could be the best of themselves.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.