tis the season

Friday, December 14, 2012

How Will 2013 Be Different?

Christmas is right around the corner and soon to follow will be a new year, 2013. A new year. A fresh start. A time for opening new doors and giving a voice to what's in your heart.

I'm excited about 2013. I've got some new projects and some new things to share with you that I believe will make 2013 a year of changes and revelations....

My friend, author and fellow dreamer Holley Gerth explains it so well. I hope you'll link over to her site and find out more about our upcoming journey....

As Holley says, "What I really want for us in 2013 is to say 'yes' to a 'God-sized Dream'."

"It’s about discovering and pursuing the desires God has placed within you that perfectly fit your heart.

We all have those desires. Some are simple and others complicated. Some are about home and others about faraway places. Some happen quickly and others unfold over a lifetime.

But what they all have in common is this: Ignoring them means ignoring a core part of your purpose."

The first step in this journey for me is sprucing up my blog space (and I won't even go into the details of just how complicated that can be). I'm working hard on it and hope to have an 'open house' before the new year.
2013 can be really different for us in all the ways that matter most. And I'm so glad that we are sharing this journey together!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Patchwork Masterpiece

I love quilts! Love, love, love everything about them...

How each piece of fabric is beautiful on its own, with its unique pattern and colors that is different from each one around it.

How stitching those pieces together makes a something beautiful and unexpected come alive.

How the stitching is woven into each piece.

How it gets more comfortable and cozy with each wash over time.

As a body of people, we are much like quilts...

Each of us with our own strengths and beauty. And God, the Sewer of our stories, knows exactly where we will fit and which other pieces will compliment us and bring out our beauty.

Sometimes, I step back and try to see the work of art He is creating in all of us. And what I love the most is how He sees beauty where we can't and how the same strands woven in my story are woven into yours, too.

Lord, give me eyes to see what you see.

Teach me to look beyond myself and my needs and my feelings.

Show me glimpses of this patchwork masterpiece You are using us to create,

And help us to all see the brilliant colors in one another.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

This Is the Stuff...

Mornings are an event around my house. I stopped this morning, in the midst of the chaos, and just observed for 2 minutes (yeah, I timed myself).

Jonathan is hurrying from room to room gathering things he needs - books left on the table from last night's homework, his ID and lanyard, socks from the laundry room, etc. He leaves at 6:50 and it's now 6:53. (And I use the term "hurrying" very loosely.)

Sophia is calling to me from the bedroom. I can hear her expressing her thirst over the Mickey Mouse Club House theme music, Jonathan's mumbling and the cat's meows. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention Mr. Trouble, the cat? He is right in the mix with them, walking back and forth from his bowl in the kitchen to my feet in the dining room because he wants more food.

It is chaos. Complete, manageable, preventable chaos. How does this happen? We know the morning is coming. It comes every day. At the same time. Like clock work.... literally.

So, how does this happen? And what does it say about me, as a mother, that this household I am in charge of seems so out of sorts?

You don't spend enough time on the important things.

Your children are just reflecting your inadequacy as a mother.

If you were a good mother, your house would be clean and your children would want to get up in the mornings.

No, no, no.... I don't think so!

This morning ritual, in all of it's hysterics, doesn't say that I'm inadequate..... it says that I'm human. That we are human. That life happens.

The little things that drive you crazy - not being able to find your keys as you're walking out the door, having to ask someone to call your cell because you've lost it again, etc. - are a part of life. There will always be keys and cell phones to find, inconveniences that you can't prepare for or avoid. Don't let them steal your joy and cloud up your day.

"This is the stuff that drives me crazy
This is the stuff that's getting to me lately
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I'm blessed
This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I've gotta trust You know exactly what You're doing
Might not be what I would choose
But this the stuff You use"
Francesca Battistelli - "This Is The Stuff"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Negative Chatter

Unglued  - Chapter 10

Negative inside chatter.... yeah, I have plenty of that. We all do. Like so many things, it's what we do with it and how we handle it that matters.

You know what I'm talking about...

Nobody cares what you think.

You don't belong here.

You should've known you couldn't handle it.

You are invisible.

Everyone can see your inadequacies displayed in your children's behavior and failed relationships.

Those negative thoughts can easily morph into unhealthy realities. As Lysa points out, this toxic noise leaves no room for the truth to flourish in our souls.

Silencing that noise is hard at times. I certainly don't have the fail-proof way to do it. What I do know for sure is that you have to saturate yourself in the truth.

Like tuning the radio into a station that plays nothing but feel-good, uplifting music that makes you want to get up and dance!

Surround yourself with the truth...

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Make Time Stand Still

"How do I live without you?
I want to know. 
How do I breathe without you,
If you ever go?
How will I ever, ever survive?
How do I, How do I live?"

You were only a few weeks old when I first heard the song, "How Do I Live?" back in 1997. I sang it to you every time it came on the radio. What I didn't know then, but know all-to-well now, is that those words speak the truth of my heart for you.

The time has gone by so quickly. And it continues with no sign of slowing down. You are growing up. Beginning a life of your own outside of us.

I should be ok with that. I want to be ok with that. But I'm not. And I can now see that my tight, desperate grip is taking a toll on you. It's taking a toll on me.

Not just yet. I just need more time..... those are the words my heart is screaming out. I want to buy just one more Megazord. I want to read just one more book & tuck you in to bed. I want to hold you and rock you and sleep with you in my arms just one last time.

How can it be possible to simultaneously want something so much and, at the same time, not want it at all?

Reconciling that within myself leaves me a mess. And I know I have taken my childhood emotions of abandonment and allowed them to manifest in our relationship. I know it. I can see it. I recognize it. But how do I change it?

I long for us to be close again, and at the same time, I've built walls so high that I can't let you in. I am coming unglued at the thought of you leaving.

How can I explain that to you? How can I change it? I just don't know. It's like breathing - second nature, automatic. Something that runs so deep, I'm not sure I can scratch the surface of it to even begin healing.

And the cold, hard bottom line is that none of that, not one iota, is your fault. Yet, here I am, unleashing my fears onto you. With every passing year, it looks like things are falling into place for you, and it feels like they are falling apart for us.

I feel like one of the toys on "Toy Story 3". Just waiting for you to pick me up and show me that you still value me. It isn't important that you don't play with me anymore, but that I am here for you when you need me, right? I think that is what mothers do and say. But, to be honest, I'm just not quite sure.

"And when you finally fly away
I'll be hoping that I served you well
For all the wisdom of a lifetime
No one can ever tell

But whatever road you choose
I'm right behind you, win or lose
Forever Young."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Be the Tortoise

Day 15 - Thankful for moments.

Life is made of moments... portions of minutes, fleeting periods of time.

So often we look back at our days and weeks and reflect on them as a whole. In doing so, we lose the moments. You know, those small things that make a big difference...

A smile from a stranger when the world seems full of hate.

The beauty of a flower growing in the coldest places.

A pat on the back when you are silently doubting yourself.

The kindness that lifts you when you think no one sees you struggling.

An opportunity that shows up when you're feeling stuck.

God shows Himself in the everyday, ordinary things. He isn't all about the huge, show-stopping climax. He is in the details, the small things that we so easily overlook and take for granted. And the situations that are disguised as inconvenient can be the very place that He shows himself.

That night class at the end of a long day is a time to see how He is using you to teach others.

That looming bill that you don't have the money to pay is a chance to lean on Him.

That lingering red light is an opportunity to quiet your mind & hear His voice.

Slow down a bit. Those things fly right by when you're speeding down life's road.

I know there are places to be and people to see and deadlines to meet all in a day's time. Just be intentional about getting to those places one step at a time.

"Miracles come in moments. Be ready and willing." - Wayne Dyer

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Perfectly Imperfect

Day 14 - Thankful for imperfection.

There are times when things just don't go the way you plan.

You start out the day with good intentions... and then life happens.

Tasks you intended to complete remain undone at day's end.

Situations you intend to see with a new perspective look all too familiar.

Feelings of insecurity you intend to squash with affirmations get the best of you once again.

All of this indicates one very simple truth. You are human.

You will disappoint yourself from time to time.

You will fall short of expectations.

You will forget things.

You will overlook the feelings of another.

The good news is that you don't have to be perfect.

God is glorified through our weaknesses. He fills in the gap where we fall short.

Be present in every moment - He has a blessing, a lesson, a mission just for you.

The question is, will you slow down long enough to see it?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Community Thanks

Day 8 - Thankful for community.

Yesterday has been coined "Worn Out Wednesday". After Meltdown Monday (challenges at work not handled so well) and Toss Up Tuesday (the culmination of the presidential election), Wednesday found me ready to lay low and keep to myself.

And then a phone call came from my son's high school that knocked me off my feet. Without drowning you with details, I'll sum it up like this.... Houston, we have a problem. 

I fell apart. I could not find words to speak, literally. When the dust settled, I physically collapsed in a chair. God knew I didn't have the ability to handle this situation on my own. He carried me the entire way through. And He strategically placed friends and neighbors around me where He knew they could be most helpful.

He does that with each of us. He brings us into each other's paths at a time where we can help and be a blessing to one another.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Day 7 - Thankful for grace.

This morning is bitter sweet. The American Presidential election is over & I am happy with the results. However, I let climate of the situation get to me last night and said things that I'm not proud of.

Have you ever said or done something and instantly thought, "I shouldn't have done that"? I didn't say anything that wasn't true or that I would take back. But... you know how there is a time and place for everything? Well. it was simply not either of those.

The misconception that comes with writing about faith and being involved with a community like (in)courage is that I've got it all together. (Cue the laugh-out-loud sound effect. HA!) The reality couldn't be further from the truth!

My journey is a progression and every day I am further down the road than I was the day before. I'm not proud of my open-mouth-insert-foot moments. I am proud that I have the courage to recognize and acknowledge them.

You see, some days I still believe the lies.

"You don't belong here." 

"You aren't a writer." 

"You can't do this." 

"You don't belong." 

And some days, I play right into the Devil's hand - basing my actions and reactions on those lies.

The glory in all of this is that I am reminded of His grace and mercies. They are new every morning because I need them every day. And I know that He will use every one of my shortcomings to speak to the heart of another.

So, if you are beating yourself up today about something you've done or said - listen up! Lay down the boxing gloves and the guilt. Take responsibility. And let Him do the rest. His amazing grace is more than sufficient.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Make a Choice

Day 6 - Thankful for a choice.

After 2 long years of political back and forth, election day is finally here. We are so blessed to live in this great country. My prayer for today...

Heavenly Father, be with us today.

I praise you for allowing me to be born into such a great nation.

I thank you that I can make choices - about who to worship and who to lead this country.

So many others can't say the same.

May whomever wins this election lead with conviction.

May he remember his role, the government's role, in the lives of citizens.

I pray you give him ears to hear your voice and the courage to make the hard choices.

I pray that you will teach us how to embrace our differences rather than fighting them.

We will not always agree. May your love and gentleness smooth the bumps and fill in the gaps between us.

Open our ears and our hearts so that we can listen and learn from one another. 

Help us to put down our picket signs and hang up our boxing gloves.

Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers.

Break down the walls of judgement and hatred. 

We are neighbors. We are brothers and sisters.

Each of us is your child, precious in your eyes.

Teach us to treat one another that way.

Keep your ways at the forefront of our hearts.

Those in positions of leadership have responsibilities that we can not fathom.

As a citizen, we have responsibilities, too - to respect our fellow man & this land.

Let today, a day of choice, be the day that we choose to do things differently. Amen.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Little More Time

Day 5 - Thankful for a little more time.

I wake up at 5:30am .... or is it 6:30am? Daylight Savings Time has ended and isn't it amazing what just 60 extra minutes can do.

How many times have you said, "I just need more time"?

Time to prepare... for that hard talk, that important meeting, that next step.

Time to linger and take in a quiet moment.

Time to gather the courage to speak what your heart is saying.

Time to forgive and let it go.

Time to love and hold on tightly.

Today is made up of 24 hours, just like all the rest. But it feels like you've been given more time.

It has been rewound, in a way. Given you a chance to catch up. And isnt' that what really matters?

Take it. Make the most of it.

Call an old friend.

Take a walk with the Creator.

Color that picture and read just one more story.

Say just one more prayer.

Whatever you do, make it worthwhile. You are trading that moment of your life that you will never get back. Make it count.

What will you do with this gift of time?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What A Game!

You might not know this about me, but I love college football. It's more of a way of life down here in the South than a sport or recreation.

Yesterday was game day and two heavy-hitting, physical teams squared off in what proved to be the game of the year so far. And that was case for each team for different reasons...

LSU has fallen in the ranks. It is not seen as the power house to beat as it once was for so long. The team has faced adversity and loss. Alabama has been riding high. They have shown week after week why they are viewed as the top team in the country.

For those of you who aren't football followers, stay with me. You need to know, there is a lot of history between these two. Each is like a bad habit to the other. It comes around a few times each year - and just when you think you've kicked it for good and put it in it's place, it gets the best of you once again.

In the match up last night, what both teams experienced was a life lesson. One that we can all learn from....

LSU came to play. In their home among their legions of loyal, hungry fans.They got momentum early in the game and did not lose it. Their confidence rose with each play completed, each ball caught. Much like one of their standout players, the team as a whole was a giant powerhouse that would not be stopped. Against the odds and in spite of some careless mistakes, they were winning. Even though the scoreboard didn't always reflect it, they were winning big and they knew it!

Alabama was not itself. All of the coaches and players were in place, but something was just off. Slipped tackles and overthrown passes. Saban's well-oiled machine was experiencing some technical difficulties. And as the game went on and LSU rode that wave of momentum, Alabama's energy level weakened. But in the end (literally), when it counted the most, Alabama came back and drove the ball into the end zone destination for a win. Perseverance paid off once again.

Laying in bed thinking about this game last night, I had to chuckle to myself. I look back at the plays and see metaphors for life. (That is just so me!) God is so big that He is in everything I see, even a football game! I get the lessons and hear the messages in what transpired before me on television....

We all have days where, like A.J. McCarron (Alabama's quarterback and leader), the pressures of our situation get the best of us. They throw us off of our game. Things just aren't working. And it seems the harder we try, the worse things get.

And all the while, our Coach is on the sidelines saying, "Remember what I have taught you. Drown out the noise around you and listen to my voice."

Whatever the circumstance or situation that is throwing you off your game today, it isn't too big for God. He sees the bigger picture. He knows the plays that will lead you to victory. With Him, you will persevere. You will overcome.

*The picture comes from a post by Amber Haines at (in)courage.com... don't ya love it!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Enjoy the Ride

I know lots of you that are spending everyday in November being thankful. I think I'll join in, too. There's nothing like being late to a party! :-)

Day 3 - Thankful for the ride.

When I was a little girl, I spent every other weekend traveling up I-65 to Georgiana with my grandparents. I treasure those memories of the country, but 1 1/2 hours was a long time spent in the back seat of a car! I can still hear myself saying, "Are we there yet?"

Here we are - Friday, the end of another week. I am so happy to be here..... yet I know it's really just a checkpoint along the way. There is a part of me that sighs and whines like that 8 year old on a road trip because I know in two days we'll be doing it again.

And isn't that way with so many things in life?  We want to get to the place where we're happy. Where the struggles are over and we can peacefully settle in. Where we can look around and know this is it. We have arrived.

The truth, my friend, is that you and I will never have that..... not on this earth, anyway.

What you will have is plenty of rest stops along the way to your destination. They are the next steps that our Father has planned for us. That project. New relationships. Different destinations. Not the be-all-end-all that our soul's long for, but perhaps a step closer.

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm going to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. There is no heaven here on earth, so quit killing yourself trying to find it or create it. There is rest and relief knowing that I don't have to reach perfection along this road. He has more than enough grace for the trip.

No, we haven't reached the end of the road yet. But the experience of getting there is incredible. Don't be so focused on the destination that you miss the scenery.

Enjoy the ride!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Perfect Timing

What can I say? This chapter (which wasn't scheduled to be mine to post on) of this book (chosen at random simply based on the title) was meant for me at this exact time in my life.

Lysa's words about stuffing emotions, building barriers, and toxic relationships are God-given. Given to her to deliver to me. His timing overwhelms - every single time.

It may sound like a cliche, but it is timeless truth..... there are no coincidences.

Look around. Wherever you are, there is something for you.

Knowledge. Perspective. Opportunity.

Listen to that sound - the beating of your heart, the tugging at your spirit.

You were made for such a time as this.

Your skill. Your gift. Your strength. Your talent.

All placed with purpose in this moment, in this place.

Used in His perfect timing, you deliver His intentional impact every day.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Stuffers

"Unglued" Chapter 6

Have you ever had moments in your life where you finally got it?

You know, it. That something that has been staring you in the face, but you just didn't see or maybe couldn't. The thing that keeps you from reaching that goal, chasing that dream, or being the you that you're meant to be.

I gave a name to my "it" last night. Stuffing. I am a stuffer. A stuffer who builds barriers. That's me.

I can pinpoint the age I was when it all began. And today, I know why I stuff.... why I have always stuffed, rather than confront - people and emotions.

  • I don't feel safe enough to confront.
  • I don't want to be rejected.
  • I don't want to be left, abandoned.
  • I don't want to lose control.
  • I don't want to make things worse.

Does that sound familiar?

The past 3 years have been an awakening of sorts for me. I've done a really good job on cleaning out and sorting through my emotional clutter... all of the things I've stuffed for so long. What I failed to realize is that I was still stuffing, with food. The stuffing manifested itself in a different way. And I never saw it until now.

Reading through this chapter, I realize that I can build walls and barriers with the very best, but I have a lot of work to do on communicating boundaries. I talk things out and make reasonable boundaries but I don't communicate them with the other person (for the same reasons listed above, I'm sure).

That isn't fair. It isn't productive. It doesn't get me where I want to be in my relationships. It shuts down the communication and only serves to isolate us from one another. And, in all honesty, that is where I am most comfortable. I don't want that to be the case.

So, the question now is how do I change it? With acknowledgement comes the responsibility of action.

An invitation to imperfect progress...

*I hope you'll forgive me for changing up our Faith Without Borders book schedule once again. This chapter simply deserves more than one post, so I'll be following up again tomorrow.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'm A Little Teapot

I'm a little teapot, short and stout.
Here is my handle, here is my spout.
When I get all steamed up, hear me shout.
Tip me over and pour me out.

You no doubt have heard this story before. Every one has heard about it. But did you know there is more to the story?

I'm a little teapot, come see me.
Oh how I'd love your company.
Sitting on the stove top patiently.
I wait for someone to make some tea.

I'm a little teapot, and I'll show you.
All of the things that I'd love to do.
It's what I think of the whole day through.
Now let me share my dreams with you.

In the verses that follow, the teapot takes us to places she dreams of going and shares the adventures she dreams of having. Who knew that the teapot had so much that she longed to share?

Maybe it's that way for you too.

Maybe God has put a dream in your heart that you haven't given a voice to just yet. Like me.

People think they know your story because they've heard it so many times before,

But they don't really know the rest of the story. And, truth be told, neither do we.

The Author of our lives is still writing our story.

There are twists and turns, adventures and outcomes that we can't even think of.

He will take us to places and use us in ways that we never saw coming.

So remember, sweet friend, that there is more to your story.

You are more than the sum of your past mistakes.

You are meant for so much more than your mind can comprehend.

You are His masterpiece to share with the world.

The teapot pictured above is on clearance at  Dayspring for $8.49!

*"I'm a Little Teapot" as told by Iza Trapani.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Kind Are You?

"Unglued" - Chapter 4

This post was scheduled for Friday, 10/19/2012. Obviously, I didn't make my deadline. And I'm still trying to figure out why...

Life has been a little hectic lately. My daughter turned 4. There were special events at work. But that's not it. This chapter of "Unglued" hit too close for my comfort zone. I needed to read it - more than once. And I found every excuse to put it off.

I do that, you know. I allow myself to wander and be distracted when I'd rather not face something. And this chapter is a perfect example of that. Please tell me I'm not the only one...

What kind of unglued am I? Lysa identifies 4 categories of unglued reactions. I fit very well into two of those - exploders who shame themselves and stuffers who build barriers. Did you catch that? Two categories... I fit into two! Turns out that isn't unusual... and I feel better that Lysa admits she fits into all four of them.

I can start to give you real-life accounts of my unglued moments, but there are so many to choose from that I'd have a novel instead of a blog post by the time it's all said and done.

You see, "I know I will pay a cost for coming unglued. Somehow, I instinctively measure the cost and decide with whom and in what circumstance I can either explode and let it all rip or stuff it and pretend nothing is wrong." (Are there cameras somewhere? Is she living in my head?)

I have noticed that over the course of the past year or so, I am not so good at stuffing any more. My grandmother would say that I don't have a poker face and she'd be so right. I have gotten to the point in my life that I've given myself permission to feel whatever it is I'm feeling.... angry, frustrated, disappointed, hurt, betrayed. I can feel those emotions without losing control.

And having those feelings is not a sign of weakness. It turns out that big girls do cry. And I can think more clearly once the rawness of the emotion passes.... so I let it come. And I let it go.

It's a work in imperfect progress, as is everything. Now then, that wasn't has hard as I thought. Sometimes what you think you'll see in that mirror is much more scary than the person actually looking back at you. Lysa  said it beautifully.... "Refuse to wallow in the depressing angst condemnation brings. Embrace conviction. Condemnation defeats us. Conviction unlocks the potential for change."

When you face that girl in the mirror - approach her with grace and mercy. And pray for conviction.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It's All About the Experience

One of my job duties at work is conducting training classes for people that work with young children. Tonight was the first in a series of six meetings on children's language and literacy development called Care to Read.

This first workshop is full of information on language development that serves as a foundation for future learning. The series focuses specifically on listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.

The teachers had a lot of questions about the most effective method for teaching children to read. That is not surprising given the fact that there are so many schools of thought out there. My answer? Regardless of what curriculum and approach to learning you use, the most important element is the experience.

Is it a good experience for the child? Did he enjoy it? At the end of the day, it won't matter if you didn't finish a book or read it exactly word for word. What will matter most is the child's perception and feeling about the experience. If it's a positive one, he'll come back to it.

One the way home, I thought about how this same principle holds true in almost every other area of life and development as well. For example, if your experiences of learning how to drive are positive ones, you'll be more confident behind the wheel of car. On the other hand, if your experience isn't so good and is full of harsh criticisms from the trusted adult with you, then you are going to be less confident and likely second guess your abilities.

What really counts and sticks with us throughout life is the experience, the walk, the journey. The desired outcome isn't perfection, just growth. And even the lessons that come in the midst of struggles carry a special weight because of what you went through to learn them. The experience.

You don't have to pray with the most eloquent words or sing with the most beautiful voice. God sees and hears you regardless. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Holding On So You Can Let Go - "Unglued" Chapter 2

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

I've been clinging to that promise since I was 19 and pregnant. Scared, alone & ashamed, I left college to come home and have a baby. There goes my life, or so I thought. My grandmother (possibly the wisest woman I know) recited Romans 8:28 to me at least once a day, every day for 9 months.

And it turns out she was right. That was one of what would turn out to be many situations in which I have relied solely on that promise. I'd love to tell you that the peace it gave me preventing me from freaking out every time, but that's just not the truth.

I've cried myself to sleep more times than I can count. I have hurled anger and hurt at undeserving bystanders. I have freaked out more than my fair share. But each instance is a chance to learn and do things differently. And I can honestly say I've done that, too.

Bad things are going to happen. People will disappoint us. The rain will come. It's how you look at those situations that defines the outcome. As Lysa says so well, "I can face things that are out of my control, and not act out of control."

Raising my son has been challenging at times, especially since I don't know anything about being a boy. I don't really know anything about being a mom either. And because of that, I have taken a very transparent, honest approach to parenting. I do freak out from time to time. I also take responsibility for those actions and say so when I'm wrong. I've grown up along side of my son, and he knows that. That is huge part of who he is and he wouldn't be that if not for difficult, unfortunate circumstances that occurred in my life.

All things work for good....

I handle the things life tosses my way with confidence that God will work it out. There is so much release that comes when you figure out that you don't have to be in control and fix things, because He is already on it.

Even today, when I face adversity, I look at my son (now 15) and think of that scared 19 yr old I once was. I think back to the months that I cared for my dying mother, even though she abandoned me as a young child. I think back to the crumbling of my marriage and the divorce.

There isn't much life can bring my way that rattles me these days. My past reminds me that I've made it through some of the worst situations and come out better for it. And I know it's true, I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

31 Days of Finding Joy - Day 7

I have fallen off the wagon. Between a migraine and internet issues, I have missed days 4, 5, & 6 of writing about finding joy. The only thing to do now is get back on it. And so here we are...

Day 7. Joy is all around.

The cool air and fallen leaves blowing around in the sunshine. Beautiful.

A little girl's relentless quest to find some bugs. Adorable.

The man of the house (who is not so young any more) making coffee and cinnamon rolls before anyone else gets up. Thoughtful.

A gift from a someone I barely know. Heartwarming.

Opportunities to use my writing to reach and bless others. Humbling.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Coming Unglued

What a busy month October is turning out to be!

There are exciting changes at work with new opportunities to stretch my creative arms. I'm participating in Nester's 31 Days writing challenge on finding joy every day. I've also been chose to co-lead a wonderful community of women through (in)courage. My little princess Sophia has a birthday coming up and you all know how much she loves  party! I'm having to stay on top of my teenager a little more than usual these days, too.

Whew!.... I'm exhausted just talking about it. All of the above mentioned activities / situations, wonderful as they are, can leave my head spinning at times. And that is when it happens.... I come unglued.

Even the things you love and enjoy the most can overwhelm. I react without thinking. I come undone & unraveled. My emotions take over and I'm on a roller coaster of feelings.

That's why I was drawn to Lysa Terkeurst's new book, "Unglued: Making Wise Choices In the Midst of Raw Emotions". I had never heard of her and didn't know how vast her ministry is. I simply connected with the topic. And after I took a sneak peek on Amazon, I was sold!

Her words could have been mine. The "towel tirade" Lysa describes in Chapter 1 has happened in my house on more than one occasion.

"I know what it’s like to praise God one minute and in the next minute yell and scream at my child  —and then to feel both the burden of my destructive behavior and the shame of my powerlessness to stop it.

I also know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of unglued behavior and to experience that painful sting of disrespect that makes me want to hurt the one who hurt me. 

And the emotional demands keep on coming. Unrelenting insecurity. Wondering if anyone appreciates me. Feeling tired, stressed, hormonal."

Sound familiar? I'm a loving, caring woman, a loyal friend, a hard worker, a good mother. So how does this happen? Why does this happen? How do I change it? I am hoping that I'll get close to answering that question through reading this book.

You can read more about Lysa's book at the "Unglued" website. You'll find great freebies and resources there (along with the first 2 chapters). I'll also be creating and sharing some with you here.

If you are interested in joining the community of women that will be diving into this book and sharing our stories, we'd love to have you!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

31 Days of Finding Joy - Day 3

For the entire month of October, 31 days, I am intentionally focusing on the sweet stuff and finding joy in my life.

There is joy in my child's laugh.

It's like a serenade. Audible cotton candy.

High-pitched giggles and silly shampoo hair-dos remind me not to take myself so seriously.

Life is too short. These numbered days will slip by so quickly.

She replaces words in a song with other silly words that rhyme and laughs hysterically at how the phrase no longer makes sense.

Her silly songs tell me she's growing up and understanding more and more. I love seeing her light bulb go off!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

31 Days of Finding Joy - Day 2

There are some days in which finding joy is a challenge. Today was NOT one of those days!

In fact, today was a lesson in not losing the joy I have found.

It was a big day for me! (in)courage launched their community groups on their website, led by an amazing group of women they call (in)couragers. I am so privileged to be one!

We've been working for weeks. Planning and collaborating. Meeting deadlines and working out the details that would make our community groups easily accessible and of interest to women across the globe.

When the reveal hit the internet, it really hit! Within hours, thousands of women were reaching out, joining up, connecting. The world of social media was on overload and all of our hard work was paying off.

In the meantime, back in the my Alabama world, thing were not going so great. Let's just say that the devil has worked overtime in my life in the last 24 hours. But by lunch today, he had finally moved on.

There was no way I would let my gaze stray from what God was doing. There was no insecurity deep enough to make me doubt my place in it.

Today was filled with in-your-face, unmistakable joy! I love it when that happens!

Would you like to join or learn more about our community group, 
We'd love to have you!

Faith Without Borders Welcome!

Welcome to “Faith Without Borders: Everyday (In)couragement Wherever You Are”!

We’re so glad you’re here! :-)

Here are your next steps for joining up with us and assuring that you are connected to us in every way possible. Please be sure to complete each step and let us know if you encounter any challenges or have questions. This is new for us, too! We are here to help and want you to get connected with the greatest of ease.

  • Make a friend request to Jessica Stinson or Sarah Tummey on Facebook by clicking the link. From there, you will be added to a private group for “Faith Without Borders”.  If you have not used a private group on Facebook before, have no worries! It's very simple and we’ll all learn together as we go.

  • Once you are on the group page, please go to the "Notifications" bar, next to tools and help, and select 'all posts'. This way you won't miss out on anything. :)

  • Introduce yourself! This (in)courage community is focused on “Everyday Faith”. We hope to create a place where people from all walks of life come together. Tell us about yourself – feel free to share as much or little as you’re comfortable with. We are so excited to meet you!

This Facebook group page will be our meeting place. A virtual cozy coffee shop, if you will. So, pull up a chair and make yourself at home!

During our time together, we will also be reading & sharing Lysa TerKeurst’s book, “Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions”. We would love for you to read and share along with us, but if you don’t have the book that is O.K too!

If you are sincerely interested in reading along and purchasing the book is a hardship for you OR if you are interested in blessing a fellow group member with the purchase of a book, please send a private Facebook message or email to Jessica Stinson (myglasshalffull@outlook.com).

Each week, Sarah & I will be posting on our blogs from the book and linking those posts to the Facebook group page. You’ll find a schedule for the postings under the “File” tab.

We will use our personal blogs for in-depth chapter reviews each week. The Facebook group page is where the on-going, interactive “conversations” and daily (in)couragements will take place.

We pray that you will find (in)couragement, hope, & inspiration within this community – just as we have found with one another and our other fellow (in)couragers.

 - Jessica and Sarah


If you asked me to use 5 words to describe myself, "emotional" would definitely make the list.

I don't see that as a negative characteristic, although learning to manage the emotions continues to be a journey. It's what makes me care so much and be so passionate about certain things. It makes me sensitive and empathetic. It's the thing that connects me with others beyond a surface level.

But, just like every coin, being emotional has two sides. Those very characteristics that make me compassionate and empathetic are the very ones that get in the way when it comes to having to make logical decisions. My emotions are usually pretty raw and right on the surface. I do not bury things too deep and I definitely would not make it in the professional poker world. I've learned that I have to give myself at least a day or two to let things soak in and emotions settle before I can make a smart, sound decision where matters of the heart are concerned. Is that the case for you, too?

So, when I was asked by the gals at (in)courage to lead a group of people through a book study with a focus on everyday faith, "Unglued: Making Wise Decisions In the Midst of Raw Emotions" by Lysa TurKeurest seemed like a natural choice. And it's no coincidence that I could use this message in my personal life right about now as well!

The book study begins on October 2nd and goes through December 2nd. My new-found friend and co-leader, Sarah Tummey, and I will be reading and studying the book. Each week, Sarah and I will post about chapters on our personal blogs and facilitate discussion on a private Facebook group page.

We'd love for you to join us! Young or old, married or single, male or female - at the heart of us, we are all the same. "Faith Without Borders - (In)couragement Wherever You Are" is a group that will lift you up and focus on strengthening your everyday faith. You'll find a strand of your story woven into the stories of others.

Want to join us at "Faith Without Borders"? Come on over...

Monday, October 1, 2012

31 Days of Finding Joy - Day 1

What a day to start this project. I decided to participate in the 31 Days of writing and picked a topic weeks ago. I didn't realize that today, the first day of writing, would be the kind of day it has been.

Finding joy is just what I need to do. If you had watched this play out on TV, you'd be expecting me to say "Screw it. There isn't anything good about this day." And that is what I would have done at one point in my life. But not today.

Today, the disappointments and let downs of the day pale in comparison to the joy in my life. And that is all about the way I am choosing to see things. I am letting the wonderful, joyful things shine brightly and that is where my gaze is set.

My joy for today - genuine friendship, sincere connection.

People that are courageous enough to be vulnerable. A respect for the knowledge and perspective you bring. True collaborations that seek to foster community. Understanding that together we are more than we could ever be standing alone.

God has given me new perspectives on my relationships. I am changed. Some relationships have endured and changed too. Others, sadly, have not.

Today, I realize that to get where I am going some things have to be left behind... my pride, my need for approval from key people in my life, and some relationships.

I thank Him for every relationship and the lessons He has taught me through them. 

That is my joy for Day 1!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Five Minute Friday - Grasp

Grasp hold and don't let go. 

Those truths that your heart whispers - 

You have what it takes.

Formed by His hands. 

Dreamed up in His heart.

Put on this earth with a purpose.

Something that is good and right and true.

Grasp His hands that are reaching out to you and don't let go.

Go where He leads you.

Walk through the doors He opens.

When the days are long and the clouds settle in,

Grasp His promises and find shelter.

The most precious blessing about the rain is the time you'll spend under His umbrella

And the closeness that you otherwise would not have felt.

It's that time again - Five Minute Friday!
Take five minutes and give voice to your heart. No edits, no need to spell check.
Write with reckless abandon.
Upload your post at Lisa Jo's site.
The only rule - you must comment & encourage the person who posted before you.
That is, like, THE rule!
Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Coming Together

Bringing people together.... like most things in life, it's easier said than done.

In theory, it shouldn't be difficult to do, right? Coming together with a goal, a passion, a heart for the same purpose. It's a win-win for everyone. So why does it go so wrong so many times?

From the office to the fellowship hall, bringing women together always comes with some.... well, issues. Our personalities and characteristics play a role. Our fear and insecurities play an even bigger role.

I'm experiencing a coming together of people in my professional life and my personal life. And one is teaching me a lot about how to handle the other.

I've seen more than 60 women who have never met, come together to work on a common project. I've seen them express ideas & opinions, ask questions, and share their work with one another. What I haven't seen is competition, pride, or judgement.

The key to bringing people together, creating community, is your heart and how willing you are to be open and genuine. That's what people connect with. That's what we are drawn to and trust in.

Fear holds you back. Insecurities whisper lies. They won't like me. I won't be accepted. Everyone is talking about me. They don't think I can do this.

Listening to those lies keeps you from hearing what others are saying. And you can't connect, find common ground or relate to another without listening. All learning starts with listening.

Here's my challenge to you (and to myself)... "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If you want acceptance, be accepting of others. If you want to be heard, listen. If you want to be valued, show appreciation for others.

Just be the wonderfully, imperfect you that God created you to be.

The rest will fall into place.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Five Minute Friday - Wide

Wide is this distance between us. You are there and I am here, but in so many ways we are in the same place.

Wide is the storm's path. He blows through several times a year, leaving destruction and hurt in the wake. Next time I will recognize the warning signs and know when to board up and evacuate. I'm still in the aftermath and taking inventory.

Wide is the road ahead. So much room to sway to one side or another. So many choices to make. So many opportunities.

Wide are the rivers and valleys and oceans and plains that I would travel. There is no distance, literal or metaphorical, that I wouldn't go to be by your side when you need me.

Wide is the depth of my love for my precious little ones. It has no bottom, no end. It is always stretching into places I didn't know existed.

Wide is my Father's love for me. Wide is stretch of His arms around me.

It's Five Minute Friday - my favorite time of the week! Where writers and readers and other regular folks come together and share our hearts. We have one word to focus on and five minutes to write with reckless abandon. No edits, no search for perfection - just giving voice to our hearts. If you're not in on the fun, you really should be! Come on over!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Uncomfortable Zone

This post comes with an interesting story. It's a long one, so I'm going to do my best to give you the short version....

I have a beautiful daughter whose father is a lost soul. Mental illness, addiction, a painful past and a wounded spirit are among the struggles that plaque him. His family and I are attempting to come together for my daughter's sake and, as you might know, that is a sticky situation at best.

We sat down together and had a meeting that really didn't go the way I had hoped. A lot of anger. A lot of stones thrown. A lot of misunderstanding. A lot of hurt. That night I went home, prayed, wrote the following post and scheduled it to publish the next day.

When I got to work and read the (in)courage post by Deidra, I was floored. Her words and mine were eerily similar. And I knew that what I had written, what she had written, was a message that others needed to hear. I certainly needed it! Hope that it touches you too.... 

Today was messy. Messy. Messy. Messy. And speaking of messy, I am a mess in the aftermath - an ugly-cry, humidity-hair, walked-around-with-one-earring mess.

There are some situations in life that are hard to navigate. Let's just be honest, being hurt... well, it hurts. "Shake it off. Press on. Let it go." All the phrases we know so well play over in my mind and I have even said them out loud a few times to myself tonight. But, it isn't that easy, is it?

Having my pain dismissed and my mistakes replayed is an agonizing torture. Don't you know, I replay those mistakes and ugly moments in more vivid detail than your best attempt ever could. Nemo 3D can't compare to the vibrant colors of shame and regret in my memory.

I can relive my bad choices and be hurt behind my walls, thank you very much. I don't need you to do that. Curled up in my snuggie, alone with my pain, behind the walls with you at arms length away is where I am comfortable.

But, that's the challenge isn't it? To stay in the mess and not retreat. To feel the hurt so that you can leave it behind. Yes, the hard part is staying put. Remaining engaged. Continuing to offer your most genuine self. Forgiving you so that I can get on with living.

The truth is that people will hurt you. They will disappoint. Even at our best, we are fallible and flawed. And there aren't many hurts that can compare to the ones we women can inflict on one another. It's the mean girls dressed up in their Sunday best. It's a bite that stings like no other.

At the end of the day, we are just women trying to stay within the lines of life and sometimes we venture into one another's lanes causing bumps and fender benders. The greatest gift we can offer one another is to stay engaged and do the hard work of healing.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dear Me

Jessica -

Hey Girl! How are you? How are you really? I know you've had a rough week...

I came across some old photographs of you this week. You were so beautiful and looked so happy. I just had to laugh because it seems like worlds away from where we are today.

I remember those times. I know that you weren't truly happy. But you put on a good face. You were going through the motions and giving it a good try. It makes me sad to look at you back then and know that you could never see just how wonderful and valuable you were, and still are.

The main reason I'm writing this letter is because I owe you an apology. I haven't taken care of you in a long, long time. I have expected you to take blow after blow... take a licking and keep on ticking so to speak.

That isn't fair and it isn't right. You deserve to be loved and cared for. By not doing that, I've only validated what you've felt from so many other relationships - that you aren't good enough or valuable. And that just simply isn't true.

I haven't held on to you. I've used your mistakes against you over and over again. So many times you've wanted to run away - not walk away - but a sprinting run away from the struggle, but you haven't. Instead of recognizing your courage to break the pattern, I've criticized you for your thoughts of leaving in the first place. I have made this relationship of ours an unsafe place by using those thoughts and impulses against you and I'm so sorry for that.

Tomorrow is a new day. A time to start again and begin to fulfill my responsibilities to you. Tomorrow will be better than today. Putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. We'll get there together.

All My Love,

Friday, September 14, 2012

Coming Out of Hiding

Just be yourself. It sounds simple...

But what if you aren't sure that who you are is really okay? What if you've censored and adapted, become accustomed to guilt and regret, accepted that feeling less than as part of the norm?

That was 100% of who I was. When I gave myself permission to take the risk and put my writing out there for the world to see, everything changed.

What I expected was a sense of release. What I have found is that and so much more. Acceptance. Reassurance. Friendship. Thanks.

This online space brought me into a community that I would have otherwise not known. A place where God has shown me this common thread that runs through our lives as women. I hear my story and see myself reflected over and over again. These women are amazing. And through them, I can accept that He is showing me I am amazing too.

I can encourage others with my words easily. I listen and have sound advice to give. Why can I not apply those things to my life? Why can I so clearly see the worth and value of those around me, but struggle to see my own?

It all comes back to fear. I hesitated to start blogging because I was afraid of what people would think about me once it was all on display. I am afraid of failing. I am afraid of not being good enough.

But here's the thing, it really isn't about me. It's about God in me. It's about His blessings and His glory. Not my own. His mercies are new every day because I need them every day. And that's ok.

So, I'm stepping out into community and just being myself.... and the me today is better than the me I was yesterday.

"The thing I find most amazing about amazing grace is the chance to give it out. 
Isn't that what love is all about?"

Friday, September 7, 2012

Five Minute Friday - Graceful

I hear the word "graceful" and I immediately think of Grace Kelly, ballroom & ballet dancers, and Michelle Obama. Huh?

Maybe I caught you off guard with the last one. But it's true - at least in my eyes it is. Set politics and election year propaganda aside and just think about it (I hope you'll at least try)...

First and foremost, she is a woman. A mother. A wife. She has all of the emotions and instincts that you and I have.

She faces criticism and opinions about everything imaginable in her life on a scale that we can't possibly imagine. The whispers and conversations that stop when you walk in a room are nothing compared to what she endures. The father of her children, the man she loves, is publicly dissected, often lied about and openly hated every single day. Can we even comprehend what that must feel like or how to even begin to deal with it?

Trying to balance being a mother and raising daughters, which many of us know is challenging in normal circumstances, and living a public life in the political arena. I can't even wrap my mind around the massive toolbox of coping skills that she must have.

I know, I know - she has an arsenal of stylists, speech writers, nannies, and assistants. But having others at your disposal can only do so much. A nanny's attention can't replace a mother's love and affection. Those speech writers can lace words together beautifully, but they can't deliver them with a genuine spirit for you. As I watched and listened to her this week, on display for the entire world to see (literally), I was amazed. I have to be honest, I didn't hear most of what she was saying because I was taken with her poise and presence.

We have seen many other women stand in that place before her - all of them wives and mothers. But very few have navigated those waters with the class and grace that she has. She does not stay in the background or shy away from the critics. She faces them and meets their attacks with confidence and great tact. She is, without a doubt, a strong woman, and yet there is something soft and graceful about her. Those are not skills that can be taught - they inherently speak to who you are.

I have strong political opinions and convictions about our rights and responsibilities as American citizens. I won't speak to that here because that isn't what this is about - and watching Michelle helped me to realize that. In the way He always does, God used that moment to open my eyes. As I watch and listen to the candidates and the buzz this election year, I see and hear something different.

I don't see red or blue. Democrat or Republican. Left wing or right wing. Right or wrong. I see a woman. A mother. A wife. And I know that God is giving me eyes to see, just as I have prayed that He would.

Come on over to Lisa-Jo's for Five Minutes of the most Friday fun on the internet block!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Life Is a Game

I'm a Southern girl. And if you're familiar with the South, you know that football is more than a sport or pastime. Just like living with humidity and drinking sweet tea, it's a part of the southern lifestyle.

The University of Alabama has kicked off their first game of the season (Roll Tide!) and the nostalgia that accompanies the fall football season has officially returned!

Watching the Tide play tonight has me thinking.... there is a lot that can be taken from the football field and applied to life.

1. Never quit. Football is tough. The practices are long. The game itself is brutal. But play after play, hit after hit, the team returns to the field. It doesn't matter what the scoreboard says, they get back on the field for another play, another hit. Just like football, life is tough. When everything seems be crumbling around you and you've taken hit after hit and you want to give up, don't. Take a time out. And get back up for the next play.

2. The play is over when the whistle blows. These guys that are conditioned to oppose one another know when to stop. And they are penalized when they carry things too far. We need to learn to let things go. When the whistle has been blown on a situation or a relationship or a chapter in your life, get up and walk away.

3. There are 11 players on the field - a team. The quarterback, the linemen, the receivers, the ends, and the backs all have a role on the team. No single person wins the game - the team wins or loses. They rely on one another. They need each other. When one teammate is weak, the others must work harder to compensate and get the win. The same can be said of our communities, our families, our  relationships, our government. Every person in every position has a purpose. When we don't fulfill that responsibility, someone else has to pick up our slack.

4. Watch the films. Players and coaches spend hours and hours reviewing practice and game films. This is not only a great way to prepare for upcoming games, but it also promotes growth and accountability. We should all take a look at our choices, our actions, our words with an analyzing eye. Then we can better know why things played out the way they did and what we can do next time to better improve ourselves. When you do what you've always done, you get what you've always gotten. It's that simple.

5. Focus on the short term goals to ultimately achieve the victory. Achieving a win is the overall goal, but every win is made by setting and reaching smaller goals. Every possession should end with points on the board. This is a great analogy for parents. What we want in the end is for our children to grow up to become happy, productive, well-rounded adults that contribute to society. As parents, we nurture and teach them, setting and reaching many smaller goals along the way.... walking, talking, potty training, getting themselves dressed, etc.

6. The coach calls the shots. He knows the big picture that we can't see from the huddle. He calls the plays. He knows how to use each player to make the team stronger. God is our coach. He has given us the playbook to study and equip ourselves. If we'll follow His direction - run when He says, throw the ball to another player when He says - we will surely achieve the ultimate win!

And you know I just couldn't talk about football and end a blog post without saying 
"Roll Tide!" just one more time! :-)