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"The Innkeeper..."

 Friday, December 22, 2017

 With the Christmas season comes the yearly reading of the Christmas story. For some reason this time when I read the story I couldn't help but to focus a little on the Innkeeper. The Innkeeper is seen as a bit of a bad guy. I’m quite certain that he never intended to be the bad guy. His hands were tied. His place was full. As much as he may have liked to help out that poor couple who just rode into town (especially since that girl was big pregnant!) he just couldn’t. He didn’t mean to be cruel or unsympathetic or impersonal… it was just business.

It was a busy time. Everybody was in town for the big census that the Romans were taking. Everybody’s inn was full… for miles around. People were everywhere. Too many people. Too many demands. Too many things to do. And all these people were wonderful for the money bag, but bad for the nerves… and his were frazzled.

That may have been why he was so abrupt with that poor couple from Nazareth. He didn’t really have the time for their story, or their hardship, or their pressing need. Babies are born all the time… even in times like this when everybody is needing and demanding something. Why should their need outweigh the needs of his other guests… who had already paid him for the night? He didn’t have any problem telling them that either. Maybe it was the nerves talking. Maybe it was just that he didn’t have the time (or the inclination) to care about the needs of two more needy people who had just wandered into town. No room meant NO room. No exceptions – even for the “expecting.” They would just have to find somewhere else to go… anywhere but here!
So “(Mary) gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

I wonder if that innkeeper had known who he was turning away (and Who it was that was being born outside his inn) would he have given up his own bed for the Savior of the world? Think of it… just a few paces away from his closed door, the most important Person to ever walk this earth, came into this world. And the innkeeper had no room (or time!) for him. He was so occupied with his occupation that he missed the opportunity of a lifetime… to see (maybe, hold?!) the Savior of the world. To have the Redeemer of all humanity be born under his roof. To have a small part in welcoming God’s Own Son to this planet. 

What do we learn from the innkeeper? 

We learn that being so busy can cause us to miss things that are really important. We learn that we can be so occupied with life (and living) that we can miss out on what life is all about. We learn that we can be so caught up with all the “pressing matters” that we can completely fail to see the miracles happening around us. And that we can be doing nothing really wrong and yet miss out on everything that is so right.

The innkeeper’s role could have been different. His role, in the story, could have been more heroic, rather than apathetic. But he is representative of so many people in this world who are so wrapped up in all their busyness that they miss out on the most important business of all. 

Ask yourself tonight.....Are you like the Innkeeper? 


"Invisible threads..."

 Sunday, October 1, 2017

I've  been thinking a lot about heart strings, invisible threads, and the ways in which people enter your story for a page or a chapter and change the entire ending. Regardless of whether people come into your life by fate or chance, I've always been the kind of person that believes our interactions result in a connection. and so by the end of our lives, we could have an infinite amount of threads linked to other people’s lives, memories, and stories. and although it’s been grudgingly so, i’ve come to accept that not all people are here to stay; i’ve learned that the lesson and impact they bring often requires an ending.
I've been thinking about all of the people that come into our lives for different lengths of stay. I like the idea of an invisible thread that links you to all of the people who shape who you become in this life. Perhaps it is a ball of tangled string- sometimes tied complicatedly in knots and sometimes loosely bound together- or an uncountable amount of strings that run parallel to one another. but mostly, i just like the idea of an invisible thread that links one person to another; like somehow, our individual life stories are now part of each other’s. And so i’ve been thinking about the people I am bound to. The thread that taught me not to attach my identity to another person.  The thread from high school that formed from an unlikely friendship between a group of teenagers in a church annex. The threads of kindness from people like the man who prayed with me in the middle of Winn Dixie or the gentlemen who left me $100.00 dollar tips when I waitressed at the BBQ house because they knew I was a single teenage mom. A thread that was a lesson in heartache from the boy who taught me about the strength it requires to put yourself back together.  The thread to the teacher who didn't give up on you....who knew you were capable of more than you thought. The thread to your father- the first person to show me what it meant to truly believe in myself. The thread to my mom....while our relationship may lack in a lot of areas....Ive learned from that. The thread to Gina....the person who taught me to be the mother I am. She taught me how to love another person more than I love myself. So many people run through my head....years upon years of invisible threads. Tied to one person....that person never knowing how much of an impact they have on your life. 
So maybe some people don’t come into your life to stay forever.  Maybe we will each go off and do a million separate things and maybe our life paths will never cross again, but the thing about threads is that you can’t undo what has already been formed.  I believe that people stay long enough- even if only for a moment- to impact your existence and to help write out your story. Like the strangers in the check-out line that teach you about patience or the ordinary people who do extraordinary things in the corner of their world that teach you about humility. The child in the classroom with an endless amount of questions that reminds you to wonder. The people you see on the street or wandering through the town that teach you about strength and acceptance.  And if life has taught me anything, it’s that some people’s stay will never be long enough. I don’t have the answer for that, I don’t know why it is that they sometimes leave before we are ready. All I know is that maybe you don’t get to decide how they leave, but you can choose which parts of them stay with you....and so on those days I remember how important it is to think about the people who have impacted us- both positively and negatively- and to be grateful for those lessons, those threads. We can only hope to experience this life in it’s entirety and so we take in the good and the bad and every little thing in between. Love intertwined with heartache.  Loss accompanied by strength, hope, and growth.  A million failed attempts and one moment of success. Endings that become beginnings. the people that teach you about self-discipline, motivation, and perseverance. A million words and one set of ears that will listen....and when you think about all of the threads that comprise the person that you are, think about the ways in which you have impacted the people around you. What lessons have you taught? What message did you send? And are your threads ones of love and kindness?
I can only hope that my thread to you has impacted you in a positive way. 
 What I know about invisible threads is that if you give people the chance, they will surprise you.  Connections are formed when you put your phone down and  lift your head up. When you offer a smile or change someone’s day. When you look someone in the eye on the elevator or really listen to what people have to say.  They are formed when you realize that at every given moment, your life is being changed by the people around you.  Invisible threads link us to unsuspecting people in the most beautiful of ways. You may not get to choose who comes into your life, when they leave, or what lesson they bring, but you do have a say in the way you link yourself to other people in this world.
 And with all of these words, I guess i’m trying to say that i’ve been thinking about how so many parts of my life are not mine alone-  and i’m comforted by the idea that so many parts of our lives are experienced together.
 And so this is for every person whom I have attached a thread to and to thank you for letting me be a part of your growth.....and for ultimately being a part of mine. 
I like where our stories meet.


 Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"We all have thorns in our flesh. All of us. Love is when we stay and help someone pluck out their thorns one-by-one and they do the same for us. Love is also when we pluck the thorns out of our own flesh, one-by-one. But today, the world teaches us that we shouldn’t even see those thorns, that we should only see the petals. As a result, we don’t know how to love ourselves and we don’t know how to love others. Stay with the darkness, and bring that darkness into the light. It’s there, look at it.

In hard times of our lives, in the darkness, we should surround ourselves with the light. We should surround ourselves with close friends and family who do not mind giving out a hug, a conversation or a smile. It’s important that we hold onto the good things when we feel shattered.

I often find comfort in writing first, because it can be hard for me to talk about my emotions directly to the people in my life, mostly because there are times when I do not understand my emotions myself and I do not know how to talk about them. But while writing helps … I always end up feeling a little isolated. I feel like I do not give myself a chance to be vulnerable with the people that I love, which in the end makes me hurt more, not less.

I’ve learned one very important thing. If you are surrounded by the right kind of people, they’ll understand the fact that you might feel confused. We have to be open with the people that we love and that love us, because only by having true conversations can we realize that other people are flawed and confused as well.

You shouldn’t fake a smile when you are hurting. You shouldn’t ignore your emotions. Focus on yourself, your mental health and embrace the fact that it’s OK not to be OK. We forget that so many times. We supress our anger, sadness, loneliness, because it feels “wrong” to feel dark. You should be able to feel the darkness, as long as you do not forget about the light.

As I sit here and type this, I can't help but to think about the fact that I should be planning a 3rd birthday party. I should be buying balloons and picking out the perfect birthday cake. I should be getting ready to celebrate another life. Often times, on these occasions....these monumental events...and I feel so overwhelmed with sadness....I feel silly for even trying to express it.  I miscaried at 13 weeks. I never held this sweet angel in my arms....I never got to kiss her forehead....I never got to whisper the words "I love you" in her perfect little ears and hold on for dear life to her tiny perfect fingers. This is an unspoken truth of so many miscarriages....we mourn and we don't speak of it again. We aren't supposed to feel sadness....because we never held our angel. But it hurts. She was my child. I dream of her sometimes.....and I really don't even know if she was a girl honestly.....but in a dream that God once blessed me with....she as the most perfect little girl in a pink dress I could have ever imagined. So this week, I mourn for the beautiful little life that ended to soon. I mourn for all the little moments that I won't get to celebrate. By sharing this… I hurt just a little less. I let myself feel the darkness … But I embraced the light in it. I need to mourn, yes. But I cannot let the darkness rule my life.

Maybe it feels unfair to you that I am describing this moment. There’s more darkness out there in other things, other people, other circumstances. But let’s not argue on that. Each and every darkness matters. Because if we start defining what’s “worth” of being defined as darkness, we will supress people’s feelings, which in the end isn’t fair to them. What matters is that whenever I feel dark inside myself, for whatever reason, I have to search for the light. And I encourage you all to do the same. We all have bad days, sometimes the sadness just overcomes you for different reasons … But you have to embrace whatever you’re feeling and say “It’s alright.” Even if it doesn’t feel like that and even if you do not quite understand it.

You need to have opened conversations. With the love of your life, your siblings, your parents, your friends, your kids … It’s OK to be flawed. Writing can be a resort, of course, but it won’t make you feel complete.

Tomorrow is another day … And there’s light in it.
“When life leaves us blind, love keeps us kind.” I’m learning to be vulnerable with the people that I love … I’m learning to stay kind.


"I bet you didn't think I could do that."

 Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Last summer, I was walking in a park and something very bizarre happened.
I had been sitting at a picnic table reading. It was a beautiful day — one of those days that brings a small smile to your face whether you notice it’s there or not.
After reading for some time, I decided to go for a walk around our walking trail behind the park before heading home. I stepped on the sidewalk near the picnic table and began walking through the park toward the trail. 
An old black man was on a stroll on the sidewalk about ten feet in front of me. He must have been in his upper 60’s or early 70’s. His shoulders bent forward naturally and he walked slowly. I found him interesting and as I often do, I wondered what his story was. 
I wasn’t in a hurry so we were walking at about the same pace. As the man walked, he glanced back and saw me casually walking behind him. He looked forward, took a few steps, then looked back again. A part of me was thinking, why does this guy keepl looking at me?  
Then he did something completely unexpected.
The old man stopped walking, put his hands above his head, then DID A CARTWHEEL on the sidewalk!
I was so taken aback I stopped walking and just stared at him. My small smile turned to a look of confusion as my brain was trying to put together what had just happened.
He stuck the landing, and we stared at each other for a brief moment, him with the small smile that had previously belonged to me and me with a look of bewilderment. After just staring at each other for a moment, he smugly broke the silence. All he said was:
"I bet you didn’t think I could do that.”
I didn’t know what to say. It was too strange. I was caught off guard. I managed to just say, “Nope. I sure didn’t.”
He gave a nod and a smile, then turned and continued walking. Within a minute or two, he turned to go a different direction and I finished my walk and then headed toward my car.
Have you ever been completely by yourself and laughed so hard you cried (then hoped no one was watching you)? This is what happened as soon as I closed my car door. I felt like the Chewbacca Lady video that had been floating around social media.  The encounter was so random, it just got the best of me.
To be honest with you, I just wanted to tell you this story because it was a little crazy and I don’t think it happens every day. But when I think about it, there are some cool takeaways that can be drawn from it.
I’m sure you could come up with some of your own, but my takeaways are these:
· You have the ability to brighten others’ days
· Age may not be a choice, but “Old” is a choice. Stay youthful!
· Random acts of joy may be just what we need now and then
I’m going to chalk this up as a bizarre, once-in-a-lifetime moment, but a part of me wants to believe that this old man spends his days walking around parks doing cartwheels for unsuspecting bystanders — bringing joy into the world one cartwheel at a time.
It’s not a likely scenario, but who knows? The world needs a few more cartwheels and maybe this old man knows it.
So if you happen to see an old man doing cartwheels in a park, please walk up to him with a small smile on your face and casually say, “I didn’t think you could do that,” then simply walk away.
(and also let me know because it would make my day).


"The Stand Upper..."

 Thursday, May 4, 2017

I dread the doctor’s office. I dread showing up on time and then sitting through the long wait. I dread the paper thin gown with the white strings in the back that inevitably rip off before I can tie them. I dread just about every last thing, but you do what you go to do.
So I showed up, I waited, I tied and I dreaded.
And inevitably accidentally eaves dropped on a conversation that was happening between two women that sat behind me…and when I say accidentally, you know what I mean. Ears are hard things to close.
The one was talking about a mutual friend and it was NOT pretty. “She this,” and “She that.” Had she known I was going to write about the whole thing, I am sure she would have changed her tune, but that’s ok because a helper was on the scene. She was sharing with one who I’ll just gloriously crown, “The Stand Upper.”
This other woman was amazing. It was like she paid the words of her friend no mind. She was rock solid, didn’t miss a beat and didn’t jaunt in defensively; to save or to fix, but rather meandered slowly but surely.
She was matter of fact.
She PRAISED the poor woman her friend was bashing till a wealth of treasure was bestowed upon the invisible woman’s feet. There was no face to the name, but I pictured her…
“Thats never been my experience of her. In fact, she is extremely dedicated and loyal. She has always been there for me when I needed her. She is incredibly encouraging. She has a full plate and manages the best she can.”l
I sat there, wanting to turn around and shake her hand. I wanted her autograph, a picture, anything…and if I could be 100% honest, I was so incredibly attracted TOher in all the right ways. This other woman had something I wanted to possess; her ability to stand up and stay steady rather than being swayed and staying silent drew me in.
She was a needed breath of fresh air.
I sat in my seat waiting for my name to be called and thought about all the times I have been a giver and a taker. Since I can only assume that I’ve been the recipient of someone else’s side conversations, I’ll share about my first hand knowledge of how I have dished out my fair share of negativity towards others unbeknownst to them and have felt validated in doing so. Yes, I have played innocent.
I can honestly say, EVERY TIME, it’s a sure tell sign the issue is mine.
Which can pretty much be summed up in one word, right?
So what are my issues then if I just sit back in my seat and refuse to stand up when someone begins to drudge another through the mud and the muck? Are the issues really that much different? I think not.
I think the woman who stood up today was confident in WHO she was. She wasn’t afraid to disappoint and wasn’t out to people please. Fear of man was not a forethought and if it was, she was secure enough to push through the trembling and the best part was…she didn’t do it in a way that was ballsy or brash. She was loving and kind and steered the ship into a peaceful harbor. I appreciate accidentally eavesdropping…so very much.
It made me wonder what I would look or sound like if FEAR were not an option. If I removed THAT…WHO would I be? I want to be ME, but I want in large parts to be the other woman too.
Stand Uppers are one of a kind, in fact they are one in a million. They cannot be swayed by your opinions and are not afraid to go against the grain and form their own. They are tried and true friends.
Everyone doesn’t just NEED one, they need to BE one.


"It's not about me...."

 Monday, April 17, 2017

I love stories.  About almost anything.  And almost all kinds of stories.
I love telling stories, even though I might not be the best at it.  I have the tendency to ramble, to add too much detail, to drag it out a little longer than I should.  But my friends listen to me anyway.  Bless you.
My favorite stories are the ones people tell about their lives.  Of family, childhood stories, testimonies.  Real stories–the good ones, the bad ones, the ugly ones, the messy ones.  All of them.  Because most of them usually have the best climax.
I’ll give you an example.  Here’s my story: I am a mess, but God picks up my mess.
Beginning to end in one sentence. Boom.  That is my story.  But the best part of that, to me, is that my story isn’t about me.  My life isn’t about me.
Sometimes I forget that.  I forget that this isn’t about me.  My goal in life is not to bring people to me.  My purpose in life isn’t to make ME known.  Why does anyone need to put a spotlight on a mess?
My purpose in life is to let people see the second part of my story.  I am a mess-got that.  But God fixes my mess.  Every day.  Every minute of the day, He is making me less and less of a mess.  He is tidying me up.  That is the story to be told.
I’ve been taking part in a daily prayer challenge. I pray out loud. I say all the things in my heart that I am afraid of. All my doubts. All my insecurities. I pray for my friends. My family.  I call them by name.  There is no better way to realize how big your mess is.  How much you cling to that isn’t Jesus.  How much of a mess you’ve been making of yourself instead of letting Him remove your clutter.
Today I cried.  I am not unaware of the fact that I am train wreck without Jesus.  But it really hit me hard this morning.  This week has been the toughest of the challenge.  I’ve been trying to believe more than I ever have.  Trying to hold on to the promises more than I ever have.  I lost sight of that somewhere along the past couple of days.  It felt like they were never coming.  That there wasn’t really anything else to believe in.
What a fool.  To not believe that the promises are on their way.  To not trust that His ways are so much higher than mine.  To not trust that everything has already been planned out, and that it is for my good.  To not believe that God has already gone before me and set everything out in its time.
Here’s a secret: He hears us.
I always knew that.  I’ve experienced it before now.  I’ve had it spoken to me, over me, drilled into me since I became a Christian.  But y’all.  How quickly we lose sight and grasp of the truth when things aren’t going according to OUR plans.  Do you know what happens when a mess of a person makes life plans?  More mess.  Bigger mess.  Catastrophe.
I can’t even imagine how horribly things would turn out if they went how I wanted them.  But God, thank you Jesus, knows what I need–not what I want.  He gives the things we need, I need, to make this story all about Him.
Because He is worthy of all the stories.  And then some.
I read an article about a football team that  had a theme for the season. The team walked around with shirts that had the letters “INAM” all over them.  INAM–it’s not about me.  The more I think about it, the more I want that be a summary of my story.  “My” story.
I want the story I get to tell be less about me and more about how He saves me, walks with me, guides me, hears me, answers my cry, delivers me, fights for me, frees me, etc.  The list will never end.

My prayer is that as my list gets longer, my praise is louder.  And that it drowns out the lies of insecurity, of insignificance, and of the need to keep it to myself.  And I pray that for you, too. 

Because every story where God is involved is a story that deserves to be told.  So let’s do just that.


"Adulting is hard....maybe I should buy a raincoat..."

 Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Let’s be honest, we’ve all laughed at a good adulting meme that so adequately describes the difficulties of trying to be a grown up and do the responsible thing.
I will be the first one to admit that the majority of the first half of my twenties has been a complete train wreck. I didn’t own a rain coat for most of it. A rain coat. Even small children own rain coats. I also literally did not understand the phrase take it with a grain of salt until like two weeks ago. Okay....maybe it was more than 2 weeks ago but I spent a good bit of time not really knowing what that phrase meant. You can also add "Dont count your chickens before they hatch" to that. So you know, there’s a lot that I have yet to master about adulthood.
But I have become so incredibly annoyed with a generation of people who keep complaining and making t-shirts about how hard it is to adult. Adult is not a verb. It is an adjective. It describes the stage of life that you are in and will continue to be in. You don’t get a choice about that, my friend. You are an adult. You will never be a child again and it is time that you just get past that fact and accept that this, in all its glory, is not a choice.

Your adulthood is just a fact.

When we treat adulthood like a choice we create a lifestyle of really horrible habits. We justify and make jokes about our really poor choices because adulting has become a thing we do or don’t do today.
I love you enough to tell you this because I was the person doing it like eight and half seconds ago. Eating doughnuts for breakfast every morning and watching Netflix until 2 PM in your bed when you’re in your twenties is not cute. It is not worthy of a “like” on Facebook or Instagram.
Being a human is hard sometimes, but the hard parts about it are not your laundry, making your bed, or taking a shower. Difficulty is not looking at your bank account and being sad that you can’t buy more Starbucks.
When we say it out loud, I think we can see how selfish it is: I’m feeding a culture that says life is hard because I want to be able to eat Oreos and not gain weight, or have the luxury of walking into Target and spending $200 on pointless crap. 
We are a product of our choices, the things we do and the things we say. If I keep telling myself that the struggle is real at Target and everyone spends this kind of money because adulting is hard and budgets are hard when I wake up without any money for my future, at least I can laugh about it. I can post about it on Instagram and get a few hundred nods of approval.
Those things are not the hard part about adulthood and if you actually believe that they are, you live in a very small world. You live in a bubble known as entitlement and it’s a really dangerous place to stay. It’s a dangerous thing to joke about. It feeds bad habits. It’s a bubble that I’ve known well and it has caused more grief in my adulthood than maybe anything else.
You know what I love about my grandmothers’ generation? Those women got out of bed every morning, got dressed, took on the world, and sometimes never left their own home to do it. They’d wrangle seven kids looking like they just stepped out of a magazine. I never understood it and I actually thought it was incredibly pointless. But throughout the years of listening to their stories when I wasn't younger.... I finally started to understand why.
They did it because getting out of bed, looking presentable, making breakfast, and getting things in order is good stewardship. It is being thankful. It is loving themselves and others well. It is taking care of what God gave them. It is living a lifestyle of worship, of having a grateful heart. It is saying to God: I love and cherish this sweet life that you’ve given me and it is way way more than I deserve. I’m going to take care of it, I’m going to treat it like the gold that it is.
That’s not to say that some of them didn’t have careers. Both of my Grandmothers worked. They showed up for themselves, their kids, their husbands, and worked outside of their homes. They kicked butt (am I allowed to say that about my grandmothers?). They were moms, wives, workers, church members, community members, and more. They were not adulting, they just accepted the fact that they were adults. Most of their generation accepted this a lot younger than I did.
The point of all of this is not to say that we have to be perfect. I will have times of rest. I will also still have some days where I wear sweatpants and watch a few hours of Really bad tv. . I will have times of eating pizza (every Friday) and wishing that it didn’t have so many calories. But that’s not an acceptable daily lifestyle and it’s not a culture that I want to encourage.
God handed me adulthood, sometimes it’s hard, in's really really hard. ....but the fact remains that I don’t get a choice. But how I honor this gift of life and how I choose to respond my God-given responsibilities is entirely up to me.

And In  true adulting fashion, I am writing this as I just handed my child a bowl of M&M's for breakfast, it's raining outside and I still don't own a raincoat at 33 years old. 


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