Friday, February 27, 2015

Double Knots

I live a double-knot life, and I'm ready for that to change. You know the old double knot routine from elementary school years. Tennis shoes can't be tied just once when you're doing strenuous activity; they have to be tied in a double knot so there's no risk of them coming untied and tripping you.

Those double knots are the story of my life. I, for 34 years and 11.5 months, have double knotted every aspect of my life. I have been the epitome of safe living. Always afraid of messing up or getting into trouble, I have done exactly what was expected and always what was safe. I'm not talking about just wearing my seat belt or driving below the speed limit; I'm talking about doing what I "should" because it involved no risk. I'm talking about doing what was safe and easy so I could avoid tripping myself.

When I was in school, I was every teacher's dream and my own worst nightmare. I studied nonstop, always did my work, and never questioned what I was being taught. Academics were the priority, even to the point of forfeiting fun. As a high school senior, I chose to attend college in my hometown and live at home because I was afraid of moving away from the familiar. My fear cost me a real college experience, and I've already told my children they will be forced to go away from home after high school. They will not be allowed to live so double-knotted that they miss what life has to offer. I have too much experience in that realm to allow it to become their reality.

I've learned that there's a huge difference between apprehension-induced inactivity and flat out fear-causing paralysis. Paralysis has been where I have lived, and I'm so over it.

Don't expect me to start sky-diving or driving a motorcycle. Those are risks I don't think I'll ever be willing to take - I'm just a scaredy-cat when it comes to those, and I'm ok with that. I do hope that in my 35th year, however, I will loosen the knots that have strangled the life out of me and will step outside of my comfortable boxed-in life. What will this look like? Nothing radical, probably, but it will (hopefully) radically impact my daily life.

First, more writing. I know that I have kept my words to myself for fear of how they'll be received, and it's absolutely ridiculous. God has called me to write, people have responded to my words, and it is what makes me fully alive. My husband literally just moments ago signed me up for a writing conference, and I have to submit my writing by Sunday. Does that make me sweat? Absolutely. But sweat won't kill you. Denying your purpose just might. 

Today I read these words from Anne Lamott about why writing matters: "Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life; they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship."

Yes! That's why I will write - I want to stop being squashed by the absurdity of life, instead singing during the terrible storm. This is why I will write, because this is what we were meant to do.

How else will I loosen the knots? I will be more vocal about what I think and what matters. For far too long, I have allowed my full mind to operate nonstop while keeping my voice silent. In groups, I listen and usually defer to others. No more. If I don't agree, I won't acquiesce. If I have an intelligent word on the topic, I will not be quiet just because I don't have a dominant personality. Dominance is just as much a sign of insecurity as silence, so there's no need for me to assume that people who try to steamroll others have any more insight than I do. They are just louder; they are not more right. 

I also want to stop being so darn afraid of making mistakes. I want to loosen my collar and kick up my feet every once in a while. I want to have more fun and be more carefree, less worried about imperfections being visible. Who cares if I'm not perfect? (Well, I always have, but that needs to change.) I'm one of those people in my Zumba fitness classes who legitimately cares if I mess up a step. Stupid. That's just stupid. The steps don't matter; the sweat does. The fun does. The steps really don't.

I also want to loosen the knots strangling me when it comes to relationships. 'Once burned, twice shy' is the old saying, and it's unfortunately true when it comes to being hurt by those once close to you. I have allowed past pain to prevent new connections, and there is nothing more dangerous to an introverted soul than unnecessary isolation. I'm tired of being scared to be the real me around people. Either they will like me or they won't. If they don't, oh well. It's not the end of the world. Someone else will.

Quite simply, I want to be a person willing to take more risks. Not unnecessary, foolish risks that endanger my life, but wise risks that open up a world to me that I always held at arm's length. I love this quote: "Take a risk. Be spontaneous. The suffering that might come from a mistake is usually less intense and less enduring than the suffering of asking 'what if?'"

You know what's pretty cool? That manuscript I'm sending Sunday is entitled "What If?"! I think it's a risk I'm willing to take!

Am I the only one living a double-knot life? How are you looking to loosen the knots?

Photo coursey of

Thursday, February 26, 2015

For You, Today, If You're Grieving

I recently spent time with a woman in the new hours of her worst tragedy. Her heart is still raw, the tears still flow freely, and the brain cannot yet absorb just what has happened. She asked me, knowing that my heart had once been torn, too, "How did you make it through?"

Oh, how I wish there were an easy formula, a 12 step plan for the life class of Grief 101. 'I didn't make it through', I wanted to tell her. 'I'm still trying. There is no finish line.'

Grief is not a stage of life that you go through and get over. The emotional suffering you experience through loss will never fully disappear, though in its midst, that's what you desire more than anything. You want the hurt to stop, but it won't. It  will never go away, although with time it will lessen in intensity.

Experts say there are stages to grief, a logical and almost scientific explanation for what you will experience. Different models vary slightly, but the basics are the same. You begin with a disbelief and denial that the event, whatever it is, can really be happening. You think and sometimes verbalize, "This can't be my life. This cannot be happening." Eventually, experts say, you will find yourself in the acceptance stage. This is where you learn that life goes on and you will, too.

For anyone who is grieving today, regardless of the reason, I want to give you my own advice. I want to tell you what the experts might not, and I want you to know that you will make it.


Stop trying to be so strong. What you experienced was horrific, and you don't need to pretend otherwise. If you don't allow yourself to fully express your pain now, it will come out later. (And even if you do deal with it now, it will still resurface in the future. This is normal, and although you will hate it, it is necessary for full healing. Feel it, allow it, and face it. Running from it will mean running from healing.) Allow yourself to cry, and when people ask how you are, be honest. Say you're struggling, say you're not sleeping, say you can't eat. Your honesty will give them permission to step in and help. Isolating yourself by denying the pain will begin a cycle of self-destruction that you never intended and cannot handle alone.

Next, and this is a hard one:

Stop expecting and wishing for life to be what it once was. It never will be again. Everything will look different forever, and there is nothing you can do to recreate the old. It will seem as if you are viewing life through a new pair of glasses, and at first, those lenses will be uncomfortable. You will want to throw them as far away as possible and hunt for your old, broken-in, comfortable pair. Friend, they are irreparably broken and irretrievable. You must wear the new. I promise that over time, they too will be wearable. Perhaps they will never be as comfortable or familiar as your originals, but they will eventually be a part of your life so normal that you forget they are there. The new lenses you see through will be different, of course, but they will also give you sight in areas you were blinded to before. This new sight will transform you in ways that your old lenses never would have allowed.

More (and I am writing this for myself, truthfully):

Do not, under any circumstances, compare your life to anyone else's. I know, I know. It's impossible not to do, especially in pain. You naturally look at others who are oblivious to the hurt that is your constant, and you begin the comparisons. You want their life, and you resent yours. Believe me when I tell you that the famous saying "Comparison is the thief of joy" is 100% true. Whatever joy is intended for you will disappear like morning fog when you compare your story to others'. It will be impossible to experience any contentment or happiness if you are looking around. Avoid this temptation.

A hard truth?

Anger is normal, anger is natural, and anger will engulf you in ways that shock you. It may come out of nowhere, and it may sneak up on you in the most unexpected ways. It may also be highly irrational. I remember one day, in the immediacy of my own grief, becoming irate that the trash bag would not come easily out of the trash can. I wrestled with it, became furious, and collapsed, crying, in a heap on the kitchen floor. Obviously, feelings of anger had been building, and in that moment they overflowed. The same may happen to you, and you may express yours to the environment around you, people who have not hurt you, or even the person who died and left you alone. Again, this is normal. Look for the root of the anger and find healthy ways of expressing the very physical side of your rage. Go for a run, beat a punching bag, yell into an empty house. Write out your feelings, vent to someone you can trust. Feel the feelings - don't suppress them.

Expect repetition:

Once you make your way through a stage, don't expect to be finished with it. You will cycle back through many of the stages over and over, and in many ways, this is healthy and makes sense. If you really loved someone or were emotionally attached to whatever you lost, you should grieve it. You should need time to come to terms with the loss, and you should not be able to easily forge through.

Believe this:

Life can be good again. No, life will never be the same; that expectation is unrealistic. However, in time, you will begin to enjoy activities and people again. You will feel permission to smile, and you will go through longer and longer stretches of time where your grief isn't in the forefront of your mind. You will learn how to exist in your new world, and you will discover how to go through your days purposefully. You will be happy again, I promise. You will love, and you will change. Your grief will change you for the good, if you allow it, and your life will be good again. It will. You have to believe it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


I cannot believe I am writing about Lady Gaga. I have never had much to say about her except, perhaps, that time she wore the meat dress. Meat? For real? The smell of uncooked meat makes me want to puke. Making hamburger patties sends me over the edge. Can you imagine wearing it? I guess sacrifices are necessary when it comes to fashion.

Now, though, I do have something to say. Sunday night at the Oscars, Lady Gaga sang a tribute to Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music, and it was incredible. Here - listen for yourself.

Sure, Lady Gaga has sold millions of albums and won Grammy Awards, but to be quite honest, I didn't know she was such a great singer. She's always just been (in my mind) a walking gimmick. She has been so well known for what she wears that how she sings has been secondary, at least to me. Truthfully, however, she has great talent. It is, to be spiritual, a God-given talent. So here's what I have to say: sometimes the gimmicks we hide behind and use to gain attention only detract from the real purpose God created us to fulfill.

There's no doubt in my mind that Lady Gaga was created to sing. With a voice like hers, her purpose must include music. But the meat dresses, bizarre shoes, and unusual attire for which she has gotten attention have overshadowed the talent God gave her to share (not to mention glorify Him).

It's easy to point this out about Lady Gaga since she's such a famous figure, but aren't we all guilty, too? Aren't we afraid that we aren't enough on our own, so we need to dress up and show out and get attention by any means necessary? What would happen if we stopped with the charades and just did what we were meant to do? There is some reason that each of us exists, some purpose that only we can fulfill. For some, it is to use obvious talents like singing to bring attention to the Lord. For others, it's to quietly serve behind the scenes where no one ever even knows our names. 

I read a great blog today by Lindsey Nobles called "Owning Our Gifts," and she just laid it all on the line. She said, "...this fall I started to forget who I am and the importance of my own voice and strengths. I started to believe that I wasn't enough. I started to diminish myself." I think we all diminish ourselves when we believe that our unique gifts do not compare to others' and we start artificially adding to them. We also diminish ourselves when we think that our gifts are just for ourselves, forgetting that they are meant to praise and edify the One who made us. I've been thinking about gifts a lot lately, mainly because I'm fighting with everything in me to use mine for Him, stripping everything away except what's true and raw and real. To be true and raw and real is to be vulnerable, and sometimes it's easier to cover vulnerability with a meat dress than it is to expose your stripped-down self and leave it open to criticism.

Lady Gaga, I'm speaking to you. Actually, I'm speaking to you, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, the woman who even needed to change her name. You are enough. Your talent is enough, your real self is enough, and it's time to stop the gimmicks. You wowed us all with your voice Sunday night, and nothing else was necessary. Your talent - your purpose in life - is enough.

I'm also speaking to you, dear reader. You are enough. Your talent is sufficient to be who you were meant to be. No more gimmicks, no more charades. Let's embrace the reality of who we are and run after our purposes with reckless abandon. Let's leave the meat dresses in the closet.

Photos courtesy of and

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

You're Not the Boss of Me

The world wants me to believe that I'm not a good mother, and it tells me in the most ridiculous ways.

These, for example.

Items similar to Disney clothes - baby, toddler, tween, adult t-shirt Minnie or Mickey Mouse personalized name applique sizes 12m - 16 adult XS - XXL on Etsy

All over Facebook and Instagram, I see friends who had precious matching shirts for every day of their Disney trip. You know who didn't? This girl. We were lucky enough to be able to afford a trip to Disney, much less have outfits coordinating with the parks and princesses we'd be seeing that day. My kids wore their in-closet Target bargain clothes, and the voice in my head wants me to feel badly about it. Sometimes I do, and then sometimes I remember that THEY GOT TO GO TO DISNEY WORLD. So never mind.

Don't forget these:

Monthly baby photo idea.  Great way to document baby's first year.  numbered monthly stickers are great for this!

I don't have monthly pictures of my babies' first year complete with stickers showing their age. It wasn't a thing back when they were born, and now I feel like they'll need years of therapy because they won't know how their six month pictures compare to their seven month pictures. Just what kind of mother am I? (One who's lucky to have pictures of her children at all, I think. Especially the second one - she did not sleep through the night for TWO YEARS, and her brother was only 15 months older than she was, so it's a wonder I even was cognizant enough to take pictures at all. Which I did. And those pictures exist somewhere in my house. I know they do. One day I'll organize them, like when I have grandchildren and retire.)

And let's not forget these:

Real women who rocked the bump in style.

Ah. Maternity pictures. Again, I was pregnant before these were a huge fad (thank goodness), and yet I feel like I've cheated my children somehow of seeing just how cute and stylish I was when they were in utero. (Or, as the case may be, how roly-poly I felt and how often I wore their father's pajama pants. But whatever.)

I don't have any of these either (yet another parenting fail):

Ashlee Kay Photography | New Mexico | Family, senior & Wedding Photographer  | Fresh 48 photography

Exquisite newborn photos taken at the hospital. How could I not have any of these? Oh yes. I remember. One, because my son's delivery turned into an unexpected C-section when he decided to come into the world rear-end first. Two, because I looked like a hippo with all of the fluids they pumped into me during surgery, and then I looked (and acted like) a crazy woman when I turned out to be allergic to the drugs they gave me. So, nah. Newborn pictures didn't need to happen in the hospital then.

What about the other time? Ah. Yes. The daughter who decided to be premature despite a day's worth of drugs trying to keep her in, followed by a repeat C-section, followed by her stay in the special care nursery because (bless her 5 pound body), she didn't know how to eat. And let's not forget that all of this happened at Christmas. Christmas, for goodness' sake, when I had to leave her at the hospital and go home to be Santa for her (sick at the time) brother. Newborn pictures at the hospital? They didn't happen then, either.

Let's keep going.

Snowman Breakfast.

Of course - a snowman breakfast. What's the use in having a snow day like today if you don't make a snowman breakfast, complete with snowman poop? It's a waste of a day, I guess. (Unless the roads are clear and you can take the kids to IHOP like I hypothetically might have done this morning. Pancakes still count, even if they're not shaped like snowmen and aren't wearing bacon scarves, right?)

Everywhere I look, the world shows me where I don't measure up, and it wants me to think I'm a failure as a mom. (Ok, on Pinterest. I look on Pinterest. And Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. But that's pretty much everywhere.) But you know what? I'm not. I'm not a failure as a mother. I love my kids and I give them everything they need (and deprive them of some of what they want. Saying no builds their character. I also make them put away laundry and eat vegetables that make them gag. Character. It builds character).

I try my best every single day to instill in them what matters. I give them rules, I require them to help with chores, and I tell them ad nauseam that I love them. ("We know, Mommy. You tell us all the time.") Isn't that what really matters in a mom? I know it is. So you know what Pinterest? Forget you and your taunts of my motherhood mediocrity. You're not the boss of me. (But you do have some really good recipes, so I'll see you later, ok? Just quit telling me what to do.)

Monday, February 23, 2015


I have a sign in the front of my classroom that simply says 'believe.' I want my students to believe that they can, believe that I care, and believe that this all matters for more than just a report card.

Today, though, this happened.

My 'believe' toppled to the floor, and I just stood there and stared. The sign on the floor was a sign for my life and a sign of the struggle I'm currently in. My belief is falling, and I'm afraid there will be a loud bang when, at any moment, it, too, hits the floor. I want to believe that I can, believe that someone cares, and believe that this all matters for more... But it's hard. It's hard, and I'm struggling.

The truth is that I'm in an incredibly hard season of life. I've been through worse, but the worse doesn't make this better. It's still hard. The details don't matter right now, but I bet someone out there is in a similar place. I'm sure that someone else is also seeing his belief fall. So let's talk about it.

My belief in God isn't what's falling. I still believe that He is good and that all of this matters, although to be very honest, I don't understand how it does.

I believe that one day I will be able to look back at this time and see it all make sense, see how it was necessary to move me forward. Again, though, my heart laid open before you, that hasn't begun just yet. I'm still in the "this doesn't make sense and I just want it to go away" stage. It's a stage that's been going on for years now. It's a stage that I, quite frankly, am tired of enduring.

No, my belief in my God isn't what's falling. It's my belief in everything else. It's the belief that I can hold up under the strain; it's the belief that I will come out better and stronger. It's the belief that I will ever be carefree and easygoing again. It's the belief that all of this will ever end. It's the belief that I will emerge, whenever the time of testing ends, as a woman who is not cynical or jaded but who still hopes and loves and believes the best. 

Sometimes believing is hard.

If you worship in a contemporary service or listen to contemporary Christian music, there is no doubt that you have heard the song "Oceans." Everyone loves it - they lose their minds when they hear it.

Girls in worship be like, "O.M.G. It's oceans!!!"... I have actually heard girls say this before.... 

The lyrics are all over Pinterest, if that tells you how popular the song is. People have canvases made of the words. Don't believe me? Just look.

DIY Chalkboard Art (+Free 8x10 print of "Oceans" lyrics from Hillsong United)

Love this quote from the song "Oceans" by Hillsong United - must have this in my home!

Oceans image with quote

It's a great song - don't get me wrong. But it's really hard for me to sing it. Why? Because I've lived it, and living it is infinitely harder than mindlessly singing the lyrics set to music. 

The lyrics say things like, "You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail."

The great unknown? Yes. I'm currently there. The great unknown is the story of my days, and my feet have both literally and metaphorically failed to hold me. (And it's not nearly as poetic as it sounds.)

The lyrics continue: "Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders; let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me." I distinctly remember praying this kind of prayer a few years ago. Written in a journal somewhere are the words, "Whatever it takes, Lord. Use me." When I wrote those words, I didn't know that the "whatever" would be what it has been. If I had known, I'm not sure I would have prayed the same way. "Whatever" sounds a lot better than saying, "even torture." But the two can be synonymous, if you want to know the truth. They have been for me.

More lyrics, further on: "Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander." Yes, again. He has. In fact, He has taken me so deep that at times I have wondered if I would drown. I haven't, so I know He'll be faithful to rescue again, but when the waves are crashing, it's so easy to wonder if they will consume. Waves are crashing now, and it's all I can do to "keep my eyes above the waves."

Yes, "Oceans" is a great song - if you don't stop and think about what you're singing. If you think it and live it and mean it, the words can wreck your life. A runaway hit song is great until you really have to live what it says.

One of my favorite verses in all of the Bible was spoken in Mark 9 by a father, and he was able to verbalize exactly how I feel. He was begging Jesus to help his demon-possessed son, saying, "If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." Jesus replied, "Everything is possible for one who believes."

Here's my favorite part: the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

I know exactly how he feels. I believe, but I need help believing. I believe with my head, but sometimes my heart needs some help. I believe it for others, but sometimes I need help believing it for myself. I believe in theory, but sometimes I need help believing it in reality.

Believe. I wish it were as simple as it sounds.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Because I'm Worth It

My daughter captured this picture of me today.

Flattering, huh?

Yep, that's me working out in my den, wiping the sweat dripping off the end of my nose. When I first saw the picture, I immediately (as all women would) critiqued it. I nearly deleted it, but something struck me. My daughter, the little brown-haired girl who copies my every move and is the spitting image of me, took that picture. She sat and watched me for the entire workout, jumping up and doing some of the moves with me at times. That little girl took my picture, and as she did, she wasn't critiquing my form or muscle tone. She was just watching her mom making a choice to take care of herself. So I didn't delete the picture, and I'm hoping that somebody reading this will remember that you, too, have somebody watching you, using you as a role model.

Being a mom is a super hard task, and being a mom who takes care of herself is even harder. I don't want to play the martyr here, but it's never easy to eat right and work out. It's so tempting to eat what's convenient and not exercise. It's so tempting to come home from work and just go comatose in front of the television with tasty junk food. It's tempting and it's convenient, but it's such a terrible model for my children. It shows them that my comfort is my priority and that my health doesn't matter. It shows them that I don't think I am worth taking care of, and that is a scary lesson for my kids.

Usually I don't work out at home. I'm part of an incredible group fitness studio, and I try to go at least 5 times a week. Sometimes that means dragging the kids with me when they'd rather stay home. Sometimes it means leaving them home with my husband. It always means sacrificing something in order to work out. But it's worth it, and I've finally realized that I'm worth it, too. Not only that, but the hour I spend exercising each day is 100% about me. That isn't selfish - it's necessary. That hour allows me to escape the stress and heartache and worries and troubles that plague me the other 23 hours.

I know that everyone is really busy, and I know that there are legitimate reasons we could all give for not taking care of ourselves. I've heard them all, and I've probably used a lot of them myself. But I also think that sometimes we make excuses and call them reasons to justify our laziness. (This isn't just true about our health, is it?)

The bottom line is this: you're worth it, and others are watching. Are you showing them that you matter or that you don't? You're showing them something, and it's completely up to you.