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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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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To my husband on our anniversary

Hundreds of eyes staring at me as I walked down the aisle sounded gut wrenching. So, we opted for something less traditional. At this time, four years ago, we were just getting ready for our “first look.” Our day, our rules.

This was it. As I walked down a beautiful flight of stairs, you waited patiently for me. Little did you know that for the next four years and the rest of our life together you would be waiting for me. To make up my mind, to choose a career, to pick a meal. You wait for me to change my shirt a thousand times because my belly is just “bigger” that day. You wait for me to put gas in the car. You wait for me while I run inside to get my cell phone because I forgot it….again.

You’ve waited for me.

When we met, I was a mess. My soul was wrecked and my heart broken. I felt lost. You made me dig deep and fought for me. You waited while I changed my mind over and over. You waited while I was selfish. You waited while I grew. You never gave up on me.

I saw Jesus in your love. The kind that refuses to let me stay the same. The kind that calls me out when I settle for less. The kind that asks tough questions and challenges everything I know. The kind of love that makes you search.

Your integrity runs deep and your talents are unending. You fight for what is right and even though you seem grumpy, I know you just want the very best. Thank you for working hard and for letting me dream.

I want to search with you for as long as we can. Search for adventure, for answers, and for the purpose. We have a purpose together. You and I, my truest friend.
Happy Anniversary.

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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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For the Mother Who Dared to Dream

For the little girl who grew up in a family of 7 living in a two bedroom house. Who watched her barely speaking English mother struggle to provide for her babies because her alcoholic husbands were unable. For the little girl who worked in the fields to help pay bills but was treated like an insect sprayed with pesticides. For the little girl who grabbed a frying pan to hit her stepfather on the head to protect her mother from another clenched fist.

For this little girl who partied, used drugs, and barely made it through high school. Using sports as an outlet and was given an opportunity to earn a college scholarship. She took the chance and was finally free…until she received news of her big brother’s murder. Grief-stricken and once again burdened for her own mother, she returned home as the little girl who couldn’t catch a break.

This girl, expected to be a woman, carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. She met a man, got married, had 2 babies and lived her life. At the ten year mark, a divorce meant her cards were once again a bad deal.

With the weight of the world weighing her down instead of folding, was determined to spin it on her finger like a basketball. So she learned. Learned to fight for her children but for the first time, learned to fight for herself. It took the sacrifice of time, money and sanity. One day it would all pay off and she would walk across the stage not once, twice, but three times to earn her Doctorate’s Degree.

To this little girl who grew up and became my mother. Who is far from perfect but taught me what it means to dream. Who opened my eyes to understand what reality looks like. That life is hard, and people will fail you, but regardless of the cards one is dealt, the future is in the hand of the individual.

For every door slammed out of frustration, every word spoken back in anger, for every time I misunderstood how hard and for what you were working toward. For the moments we missed, for the moments I thought were lost. I now see were moments I was being taught the most valuable of lessons. I can do anything, I can be anything when I work to become whatever that is.

To mothers everywhere. Dream for yourself. I can see that it’s easy to get lost and overshadowed in the lives of your children. They become your whole heart. So wrapped and intertwined that you can no longer recognize where they begin and you end. Fight for yourself because they are watching and will one day use it as fuel for their own fight.

To all mothers, who are hard of themselves for the guilt they feel. Your children may not quite understand. They may be distant, say hurtful words and take you for granted. They may not have words of gratitude to speak yet, you may have a broken relationship but one day, all children see their mother’s for exactly what they are. Our rock, our foundation, our home.

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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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One Well of a Woman

Willing to share it with anyone willing to lie. To lie in her arms, to lie in her bed. Her well runs deep with love. Spilling every bit of herself, quenching the thirst of any man while dehydrating her own.

She avoided confrontation. The looks and stares, she got what she needed to survive in the heat of the day. Away from the other women who would indeed degrade.

But there was one man unwilling to lie. To allow her to lie to herself. A man who saw past the shallow response and committed to diving deep into her soul. Without a bucket, He got to the bottom of that well of lies she so effortlessly spilled. Drenched with shame, her well, remained dry.

He told her everything she ever did. Who is this man?

A man who needed to go to this place just to meet this woman right where she was, in hiding. This man who left His friends and their opinions behind to look into her eyes and tell her that she was worth more. Worth so much in fact that He would soon die for her.

The once harlot branded woman was let in on the secret. A secret she believed and was given permission to share. She went on to confront the men who accepted her lies and she told them the truth. That she was changed, that she was loved. Her newfound boldness dragged out of hiding and into the crowd, making her one well of a woman.

What kind of love is this? The kind that brings life to a thirsty soul. A love unconditional enough to change our condition.

Broken, ashamed, filled with regret, and blocked from a community with others. We hide out just like this woman. We exert more energy than necessary just to stay hidden. Avoiding the confrontation that could set us free.

But Jesus, the one who calls us deeper still and who meets us where we are. Who wants us to dig into our own well of lies. The ones we so easily shrug off as unimportant to mention. The decision is yours to make, to dig deep or to stay in hiding.

Want to dig deeper? Here are a few challenges to help get you started: 

Read  John 4 and take a few notes of what sticks out to you. 

What do your five husbands represent?

Make a list and write it out. If you are having a difficult time, ask Jesus to show you. This is a list to be shared between only you and Him. A list of things that you avoid and hide or that may be keeping you from having a community with others.    

Admit that you have been messing up

It may be keeping you from living a full life. Admit that you may have been wrong so you can do something about it.

Ask for forgiveness.

There is no right or wrong way to do this. Just be open and honest with Jesus as you talk to Him.

Accept His love

Part of truly knowing Jesus is knowing that He loves YOU. That He loves you so much that He won’t allow you to stay the same. He wants you to let go of the compromise and to accept a life full of freedom. Oh, and please know that just like this woman, Jesus died for you, too. There is no sin too great or too big for Him.

Step into community

Realize that NO one is perfect. The more open and honest you are with yourself and others the deeper friendships can go.

It will not be easy

Actually, it can prove to be really embarrassing and honestly hurts. No one likes to admit that they aren’t perfect. I promise you will be okay and you can get through this.

Repeat. There is always more that Jesus wants to bring out. It’s not fun but it is necessary if you want to know Him more and to live your life to the fullest. Never stop digging deep.

P.S. I love you and will be praying for YOU as you challenge yourself.

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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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To the Lesbian Who Cussed Me Out

The clicking of her high heeled shoes drew attention to a short skirt and low cut top she so arrogantly flaunted. I approached her and got a whiff of alcohol on her breath as she breathed out flames of disgust.

“This is a church, isn’t it?” the words slipped out of her smirking lips. A sly smile indicating mockery put me in defense. The nod of my head confirmed that she was in fact at the wrong place. Tension fogged up the room as people started to huddle around us. My thudding heart and sweaty palms preparing for battle.

She eased in slowly as if to test the waters. Small talk banter quickly ceased and then without hesitation she fired the first shot. Slurring words cut through the silence like a razor blade when she asked, “Where do you think gay people go when they die?”

It was the first time anyone ever asked me such an audacious question. I took a deep breath and prepared to fire a shot right back. Only looking into her empty eyes left me feeling the sting of her rapid fire. I was wounded.

Racing thoughts flooded my brain. Desperately searching for the answer that would satisfy my Christian conscience. You see, I know the Bible well and what it says but who am I to decide the fate of all the gays? So, I took a deep breath and uttered the only answer I felt to be true. “I am not God, who am I to decide where anyone goes?”

Choice words escaped her resentful undertone while making blanket accusations aimed at all Christians. Anger turned to a pain in a matter of seconds. The wound started to throb. Except for the wound I felt wasn’t from her at all. It was from whoever led her to believe that all Christians are full of hate. Led her to believe that having an opposing viewpoint meant intolerance. Led her to believe that being a Christian meant that we condemn.

To the Christians who hand out free tickets to hell. As though you are speaking truth. The God I know hasn’t given any human such boastful authority. I challenge you as a Christian to go back and reread the printed words. I urge you to be cautious in your presentation. Cautious of whom you are claiming to represent. Yes, stay true to your beliefs but they mean nothing without love.

To the LGBT community, I plead with you not to assume that we are all the same. Or that our disagreements equate to bigotry. I am capable of loving without sharing exact beliefs. I can be your friend without trying to change you.

Love to me is unconditional. Love to me is being able to tell my truth while having an open heart to listen to yours. Love means hurting because you feel pain and getting to know your story. I just ask that you please, don’t take away our rights to speak our minds.

I ask both parties to consider the humanity and to find similarities behind the passion we so desperately want the other side to understand. I ask that before trying to state our argument we first learn each other’s hearts. I promise both pump red.

Lastly, to the lesbian who cussed me out, let’s hang out.

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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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