3 girls in a hardware store

I need you to imagine a beautiful Christmas tree. Picture strategically placed ornaments, twinkling lights, branches flocked with snow and glistening diamonds reflecting off the tree. Now imagine the majestic pine toppling over.

From the other room, a friend and I watched as one guy repeatedly lifted the tree like one would pluck a turnip from the ground. After several times, we finally decided to investigate. A closer look led us to a full-blown operation. Two guys under the tree and my little friend delivering orders. Apparently, the tree stand broke sending her creation into the wall.

Three of us girls rallied up and headed to purchase a new stand. My very determined friend spotted them right away. We collectively decided that the most expensive one was the only way to go. Besides, it came with a “limited lifetime warranty.” Whatever that means.

She proceeded to tell us that she also wanted to prop up the tree to make room for presents. All she kept saying was, “we need wood, the kind that’s stacked.” Absolutely stumped, we brought in two poor unsuspecting lumber guys. With our five minds attempting to decode what she wanted, we finally came to the realization that she wanted a pallet.

A few laughs and head scratches later we found some. Only they were way too big and would cost an additional $15. The guys must have been bored or felt pity because they mentioned a smaller pallet size usually thrown away but a manager needed to be paged.

Without hesitation, the words slipped out, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always, no.” A phrase my step-dad would often share. They got a small bout of inspiration and decided to ask on our behalf.

So we waited. Half expecting rejection but to our surprise, the manager said, yes! There we were… three happy girls strutting down the aisles with our shiny new stand and 2 FREE pallets.

I share this story because my friend is tenacious in everything she does. I admire that about her. She puts her mind to something and makes it happen. I think that’s what gave me the boldness to speak up. Watching her relentless pursuit of getting what she wanted, left me with no choice but to be on her side.

How often do we just give up or settle? How many times do we pay the extra $15 for something we didn’t even really want? Friend, we have got to stop folding and start persisting. Did we bug some of the employees? Probably. Did we look silly and open ourselves to rejection? Definitely. But we also ended the evening re-decorating an elevated tree.

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Dirty Little Secrets

I’ll always give you just enough of my story but never the rigid details. I’d love to take a nail file to smooth out the sharp edges but it would take years to sleek. The parts that still sting when touched. So when you ask, I quickly answer with something superficial just to get you off my back.

How much do we really let others in? When people ask how we are, an automated reply slips through our lips before we actually give it thought. Because giving an honest answer could crack open a dungeon of paraphernalia. Once exposed, debris of information just might get into the wrong hands.

Does anyone know that you cry yourself to sleep?
Does anyone know you had an abortion?
Does anyone know you were abused?
Does anyone know you lost the love of your life?
Does anyone know you throw up your meals?
Does anyone know how much you hate your reflection?
Does anyone know you want to die?
Does anyone know about the bottle of pills you have, just in case?
Does anyone know you are gay?
Does anyone know you can’t remember the name of the person you had sex with?

Yeah. Let’s go there. Let’s talk about that.

You see my friend, you aren’t as alone as you think. These questions have all been answered yes many times before because incredible people have shared their stories with me.

As honored as I am to have been trusted with such information, I can’t help any of them. Yes, I listened. Yes, I love them. Yes, I care and cry and hurt with them. However, I cannot take any of their pain away any more than I can smooth the edges of my jagged past.

That’s just it, though. None of us are meant to fill voids in another’s life. So, I nudge you toward the only one who can, Jesus.

I know His people get a bad wrap. They are called hypocrites, liars, they can be extremely judgmental and rude. I only know because I am one of them. As much as I try, I just can’t seem to get it right all of the time.

I risk introducing you to all of this because Jesus isn’t the problem. He isn’t any of those things. He is loving, forgiving, intentional and direct. He loves you so much that He doesn’t want you to live in that scary dungeon anymore.

It isn’t easy. In fact, that door just might feel like it weighs 704 pounds and you cannot do it alone. Find some people who care. When that still isn’t enough, look to see that Jesus is there waiting to rip that door right off its hinges. Not ready to expose and laugh, but to expose and cover you with love and compassion only He can give.

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Let’s Talk About Porn

I was exposed to porn in sixth grade at a friend’s house. It stirred up curiosity as I wondered if every person’s body part looked like that. I wondered if every woman was supposed to express like that, to have big boobs, and blonde hair. I compared her perfectly plastic shape to my pre-pubescent cardboard chest.

So at 12 years old when I should be worrying about homework, I became concerned with the work it would take to look like her. Perfect timing because when a boy pointed out that my legs were just as hairy as his, I was already aware. Only in my house, shaving my legs wasn’t allowed yet. I went home and begged my mom to let me; she didn’t. A different boy ran up and grabbed my butt so I punched him. He said he was sorry and that it was a dare. He must’ve been in a struggle, too. Knowing it was wrong but fighting a battle of his own. Boys will be boys.

Only those boys become men. Whos sexual appetites grow. So women shouldn’t wear things to entice men? Should women be modest? Okay, fine but I also think men should be taught to control their urges.

There was a time in my life when I hated strippers and porn stars. In my mind, they were the problem. Until I learned about pimps and the sex slave industry. Then I grew to hate the men who could and would participate in degrading women. Then, I just hated sex altogether. It was everywhere and ruining everything!

For those of you who don’t know, the enemy is winning. He has taken something God created to be beautiful and turned it into a world of hidden masturbation and guilt. He has taken our innate desires and turned them into something used to control us.

The devil is a liar. Just because it is common, doesn’t make it standard. I have to challenge you to do something. Tell someone. Someone you can trust. You can be free. You can look at women the way God intended. You women, can look at yourself and see beauty. What a better way to keep us enslaved then to keep us in isolation?

Let’s talk about porn.

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9 Tips to Ease the awkwardness of Dating

Dating can be tough. We often create rituals in hopes to get a clear sign of who our “soul-mate” is. So we strategically pick flower petals and hope they will tell us if we are loved? The romantic world is confusing and frustrating but it doesn’t have to be. I want to give you a few things to consider when dating in hopes to make it a tad easier.

1. Find Yourself First
We are always evolving but there comes a point when we become grounded in who we are. Finding your own value system, belief system and what you want is critical. How can you expect to find “the one” if you don’t know what you need or want?

2. They Should Not Complete You
I hope you never have to experience either but life happens. Divorce happens and sadly, sometimes death happens. If you give the other person power to complete you, you risk being incomplete if they are gone. Learn to complement, sharpen and challenge one another. Find yourself improved because of them but don’t expect them to fulfill what you lack.

3. Set Boundaries
Setting both physical and emotional boundaries is a must when dating. Enter every relationship knowing your limits. You are valuable. Not just anyone should be trusted with your secrets or your body. Remember that you are in control of how much you are willing to give. Never let anyone make you feel guilty for this.

4. State Clear Expectations
If you are dating with the intention to marry, it should be made clear. Now, you don’t want to scare the person. If after a few dates you both find a common interest and it could be something more than friendship, then intentions should be discussed.

5. Don’t String People Along
It may be unintentional or on purpose but truth is, it feels nice to be wanted. It is also very selfish. If the other person is more interested in a future, it’s unfair to limit their chance of finding someone who will value them. Your character is at stake and lets’ face it, no one wants to be labeled the “ tease” or to be known for stringing people along.

6. Learn When to Let Go
We might start with certain intentions but somewhere along the way, it changes. Don’t stay stuck out of obligation or pity. It will be uncomfortable but being upfront with the other person is always best. If you notice more fighting, less communicating or are wanting completely different things out of life, it might be time to move on. Instead of trying to force something or change the other person reevaluate the situation.

7. Be Picky
Annoyances and frustrations are a given. Make sure your values line up. Discuss and find that your goals and ambitions for the future will work out. You wouldn’t want to get into a marriage only to find out that you will be hindering each others growth. It is healthy to be a little selfish in this area. You better be darn sure that at the end of the day you will be able to work through the hard times. Also, it is a must to be attracted to one another. I mean, sex is a big part of it all.

8. Stop Looking For Perfection
We all have flaws. One day, you will meet someone whose flaws you are willing to accept.

9. Enjoy Being Single
This is the really hard part. The waiting, wishing, hoping and longing. The lonely nights and often mundane days. It is ok to want a spouse to love and be loved by. However, you will never get these single days back. Marriage is fun and amazing but singleness can be, too.

My friend, you are wonderful. Quirks, talents, and interests make you unique. Never change for anyone unwilling to accept you. Consider the tips mentioned so when the time comes, it will be that much sweeter.

Simply live your life to the fullest and one day, you will find another who has been waiting for you, too.

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Several succulents, cacti, and other beautiful plants were given as gifts on my birthday. I was thrilled with my new little collection because they made my counter so much happier!

Not too long after, the petals wilted, the succulents started to dry up and the cactus even leaned over! I knew nothing about how to take care of them. I mean seriously, who kills a cactus? Poor little guys had no chance.

It wasn’t until someone educated me about the right amount of water, proper soil and perfect exposure to sunlight. Each needed to create the perfect conditions for thriving plants.

Much like these plants, we need the right conditions to grow, too. We go through life trying to survive— my dear you were made for so much more. Learn to thrive! Here are two questions to get you started.

1)How is your soil?

The environment we plant ourselves into does matter. We so often overlook this critical aspect and are confused as to why we aren’t thriving.

Sometimes we find ourselves wilted, dry or overwatered. In the event that any or all of these things happen, we become diseased or even worse, dead. There isn’t much help for a dead plant, except to reseed and replant. Start over. This time, with more knowledge.

You, my friend, have a purpose. Plant yourself and learn what it takes to help you grow to your fullest potential. Maybe it looks like finishing school, getting a certificate, finishing a project, beginning something new, learning to fail or maybe you need to step out of the sunlight for a moment and rest in the cool of the shade. Whatever the perfect conditions are for personal growth, learn and apply them.

2) Who is pruning you?

Pruning is a process in which the “gardener” will trim (a tree, shrub, or bush) by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth. Yet another important aspect of healthy plants I was ignorant to.

We all have areas that need to be trimmed. Maybe we spend too much time on social media or in the mirror, in front of the TV or on your phone? Maybe you complain too much, are lazy or say too many negative things about yourself? All areas that might need pruning.

I ask who is pruning you because we can allow others to prune us too much. We give them the power to cut us down until there is nothing left. Or are we doing it to ourselves? Pruning is intended to help growth and fruitfulness, not to uproot and destroy!

My friend, plants are beautiful and have so much purpose. They breathe in the negative and exhale life. I challenge you to learn more about yourself so you can grow and reach your best! Not only for yourself but so others can enjoy, too!

Happy Planting.

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Learning the Art of Friendship

“Life sucks sometimes.”

That’s all I could say when a friend shared something really difficult she was going through. There isn’t a special guide book leading us to the right answer for the toughest questions.

She felt judged. She felt alone, and most of all, she felt guilty. For the way, she was feeling, for choices made, for the way people looked at and treated her.

I wanted to protect her. Her tears make me sad and mad. Mad at him, mad at them, mad at people who couldn’t care less. I want to cover up her pain and stop her from feeling hurt but I can’t. Because….life just sucks sometimes.

We look for hidden meanings, truths, try to explain and reason with the “why” and “what if’s” but, what if we never find out? There are consequences to actions and reactions to choices.

Here’s the deal. No one knows the truth except for the people going through “it.” Sure, we all judge and let’s be real, we make assumptions BUT leave those thoughts in your own head. Unless you are willing to confront and comfort then it really isn’t any of your business.

Death happens, divorce happens, sickness happens, bad choices happen. Regardless of whose fault it is, it isn’t your job to rub their faces in the mess. As a friend- as a human being- we should be standing with, kneeling by or just doing nothing if that’s where they are at.

My heart is often rude, judgmental, and calloused. I find myself gossiping when I should be listening. Then, listening when I should be defending. Human, yes, but that shouldn’t be an excuse.

I want to be a better friend. I want to be better and much more than the accepted standard. I challenge you to do the same. It can be inconvenient, emotionally and mentally exhausting, and honestly, there isn’t much in it for you. That’s what love is though. Giving of self, sacrificing with one another and standing by someone during their worst.

Maybe we need to re-learn what it means to be a true friend. I know I can use more of them right now. I know that a lot of us can. The kind that accepts my ugly cry and breathless rants. The kind who call me out on my lies and don’t settle when I say, “I’m fine.” Let’s dig deep and plant roots with one another. Let’s be more than acquaintances.

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8 Ways My Parent’s Divorce Changed My Perspective On Life

Divorce can wreck a person, especially when you are the child who’s world is falling apart. As an adult, I have since been able to process and learn more about the person I became as a result of a difficult situation.

Life Goes On
I half expected it to stop as a six-year-old but the world did, in fact, keep spinning. I was angry, sad, and hurt but life went on in spite of my new reality. It showed me that the world doesn’t revolve around me.

My Parents are People Too
As a child, you expect your parents to know everything. Anger and resentment grew when I put the expectation of perfection upon them. They shouldn’t this or that because they are my parents. In reality, they are humans too with their very own sets of issues and insecurities. My parents were raised in far tougher situations than I but chose to make a better life for me. The moment I shifted my view, I was able to become closer and more open with each of them.

The Power of Empathy
I vividly remember the day my parents let me know the news. I remember how I felt, what my dad looked like and the smell of shaving cream because he had just got out of the shower. I remember it so well that it puts a pit in my stomach. Even though I don’t dwell on it, I choose to remember because it helps me better understand another’s pain. I am able to put myself in their situation because I know what it feels like to feel confused, let down and crushed.

How to Keep Secrets
People talk crap. I’ll never forget the day I heard someone say something negative about one of my parents. It was highly inappropriate and rude. Regardless of whether it was true or not, it was no one’s business to spread around. I learned the importance of being trustworthy with sensitive information. I would never want to cause anyone hurt the way I felt in that way.

Families are Abstract
The older I get, the more I realize that every family has their issues. Some are more open and dramatized and others choose to suppress the dirt. From this situation, I gained a new step mom and step dad. When many people have no parents, I was blessed with two sets!! I also gained step-siblings and an entire slew of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Family comes in all shapes and sizes, mine just happens to be gigantic now.

No One is Perfect
Divorce is ugly no matter who was at fault. Both sides have their reasons but in the end, neither or both are right. The lines blur when people are hurt. Truth is, no one is perfect.

Put Feelings Aside
I was fortunate. My parents worked together so that I had the opportunity to have relationships with both of my parents. They were always cordial toward each other (at least in front of my brother and me) and were equally respectful toward their new spouses. I learned the importance of putting feelings aside for the better of all involved.

Make Your Own Path
Both of my parents were raised in addicted homes. Although they both struggled with it at one point, they made a decision to walk away from that life and make a new path. Yes, they divorced but they chose to move on and are both living happy lives. I don’t have to make the same mistakes. I am not my parents and don’t have to divorce, in fact, I have learned from their situation. We often get stuck in the mindset that we are victims. Yes, bad things happen but they don’t have to run our lives.

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Loves me not- for anyone feeling unwanted

For hours at a time, you wonder how different things could’ve, should’ve or would’ve been; if only:

If only I were better looking. If only I didn’t make as many mistakes. If only I tried harder, made more money or was skinnier. If only I weren’t, me. Maybe I would be happier. Maybe I wouldn’t still be alone. Maybe, but maybe not.

Let’s be real. Dating is awkward. You meet someone through mutual friends, similar lifestyles or a promising dating site. Then much like a job interview, you rehearse every move. Certain to reveal only the very best self at all cost.

Inevitably, mistakes will be made. Your best outfit won’t always be clean. Your makeup-less face will be exposed. The quirks will come out. Oh, and I hate to spoil it for you but everyone farts.

The perfect individual you put forth so much effort into becoming will eventually grow tired. All of the dating advice you took will go out the window the second they decide that you “just aren’t what I’m looking for.”

Sounds fun, right? Well, it can be but we are doing it wrong.

Instead of trying to be perfect, why don’t you try being yourself? The you that you are without an audience. Whether you are a silly weirdo, a nerd, or actually the coolest person to walk the earth. Whatever you are, be it one hundred percent. One hundred percent of the time.

If you are desperately trying to alter your personality into what you think someone else wants, you will be disappointed, and so will they. At some point, you will either get sick of living the lie, or they will fall in love with a fraud. You might even grow resentment toward something you chose to do.

You might have experienced being cheated on or were the unfaithful one. Maybe you have never been given a chance, yet somehow feel the bitterness of feeling unwanted. Regardless of how it shattered, few things are worse than a broken heart.

I won’t pretend to have answers, but I do know one thing. You are enough. You are incredible and in spite of your flaws, one day someone will take notice. In hindsight, my worst heartbreak was my fault. Not because it didn’t work out but because I wasted so much time trying to get the attention of “the one.” Guess what? NONE of them were it.

In fact, my husband was off living life without me. When we met, I was rolling on the floor laughing at who knows what. He thought I was the weirdest person and maybe I am but I’ve learned to own it.

While you wait, I hope you learn to live life without a significant other. I hope you explore new places, earn the degree, save for a house, meet new friends, create beautiful things and eat a ton of good food. If only you took a chance on yourself. One day, you’ll be so in love with, YOU,  that the “one” will simply be an added bonus.

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Secret Handshake

I’ve been told we met when I was just three years old. Introduced by my parents, some would say it was arranged. You became everything to me. Secret handshakes and hip-hop dances were shared between us.

As I got older, I started to move on. Instead of dancing with you, I danced with my other friends. Since they didn’t think you were cool or fun, I would leave you out. I ignored your calls and learned to live without you.

When I was 16, I officially gave my heart to someone new. Someone more popular, someone who introduced me to things I had never known. I would see you at parties in the back, waiting for me to talk to you, but I was too drunk to care.

Drinks became heavier, the nights longer, and pictures posted of the fun I was having. New friends, old friends. Beach trips. Pool parties. Halloween costumes. Unafraid to show off my perfect twenty-year-old body. On top of the world.

You always answered when I called and never made me feel bad for leaving you out. Until one day when you said that I could no longer only call when I needed you. That you deserved to be either everything or nothing at all. So, I thought long and hard and chose nothing. I was wanted, popular, adored and wasn’t willing to give that up.

Somewhere in between all of the attention, my once bright smile began to fade. In a crowded room, I felt alone. Who am I without you?

I ran as fast as I could. My heart racing. I knocked and knocked but you weren’t home. I had been so caught up that I didn’t even realize you had moved away. None of my new friends knew who you were because I hadn’t bothered to introduce you.

I tried to move on. To find someone new, each attempt worse than the last. No one knew me like you did. No one knew the steps to our dance. No one knew our secrets. I finally decided to give you one last call. Then there you were. I didn’t have words to speak so I said nothing at all. I sat in silence like a fool.

I had missed my chance.

It was morning and a flowered box fell from my closet as I went to grab a shirt. Inside was a love letter you had written. A poem that read, “Neither depth nor height can separate me from you.” I looked up and knew in that moment that you had never left. I did. You had never changed, I had. Jesus, I am forever Yours.

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