Several years ago a few of us girls got together to play games, eat a ton of food, and hang out. My friend lived pretty far, about 45 minutes on the outskirts of town. It was such a cute place, and in an area, I had never been to. There were rows and rows of orchards and almond trees that were just starting to bloom.

It was well past midnight when I left. I pulled out of the driveway and confidently made my turn as I drove out of this unfamiliar neighborhood. I started to realize that I had been driving for a long time and still couldn’t make out the main road. Normally, it wouldn’t be a problem except that my phone had died and there were no lights.

Suddenly, the rows seemed longer and the night grew darker. The roads were dirt…literally no pavement. What kind of neighborhood doesn’t have lights?! Oh, yeah, the kind I thought was really cute during the day, with horses and other farm animals.

I could feel myself starting to panic. I pulled over to the side and conveniently every horror movie I had ever watched came to mind. The Hills Have Eyes, The Ring, Texas Chainsaw Massacre… I wish this wasn’t so dramatic but I swear I was in complete freak out mode.

There I was, without a phone, GPS, or any sense of direction. Lost, in the middle of a beautiful and somewhat creepy orchard. The lines and rows of trees all looked the same. I had been here before. Not in this exact place but, lost. I felt like I was going in circles.

Maybe so have you. You feel stuck and like you aren’t getting anywhere in life. Maybe that relationship you hoped for left you feeling rejected, or the job you were promised fell through. Maybe you feel like you should be further ahead in life but can’t seem to find your path?

It genuinely stinks that there isn’t a roadmap or GPS that leads to our purpose. I wish I had answers for you but, instead, I have this story. It’s clear that I made it out alive. I wasn’t chased by a giant, mask-wearing creep and I actually learned a few things from this experience.

1. Find something familiar.
I had to make a U-turn and drive a while but, found something I recognized. On the way to the house, I remembered a fence because it had a cute little rooster on it. So, I followed it. When you find yourself lost, stop going in the wrong direction. Go back a few steps and then move forward.

2. Everyone gets lost.
Some more than others but, no one knows where they are going all of the time. If this were true, GPS wouldn’t have been invented and even then, there is a re-routing setting because we all make wrong turns and sometimes outright ignore the plan because we want to stop for coffee.

3. There are several roads to take.
Most destinations aren’t a straight shot. In fact, there are back roads and side roads, main roads, highways, and even alleys in some cases. The point is, take the path that is right for you. We get so caught up on how someone else reached their destination quicker and end up missing the point. Maybe yours is the scenic route? So stop and enjoy the view.

My friend, don’t allow this “lost” feeling overwhelm you. If there is anything I can say- it is to keep trying. So what if you end up somewhere unplanned? Life is meant to be explored and maybe, just maybe, you’ll actually like where you end up?

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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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When Grace Meets Consequence

We preach love and grace but often forget to explain the harsh reality that may come along with the actions of a person’s decisions. Almost giving the false notion that “grace” exempts us from judgment and often harsh consequences. It is a dangerous and in my opinion, false way of viewing the gospel of Jesus.

Throughout His word, He warns us and challenges and sometimes commands morality. Not because He wants a dull life. On the contrary, because He doesn’t want us to have to deal with all that comes with choosing sin. I say choose because yes, it is a choice. I am not ignorant enough to know that sometimes things are out of our control BUT we know when we fail on purpose. He wants a life lived well and lived abundantly. Free from guilt, shame and the self-inflicted weight that sin brings.

There is a fine line. I encourage you to walk it with caution. Never underestimating His grace and his power to forgive. Equally never overlooking the pain that comes simultaneously with the web of lies, deceit, and immorality. The weight of sin is not a joke and not meant to take lightly. Christ suffered and gave His life to cover it. But it is our responsibility to work out our salvation. Not to earn but to appreciate and value the gift that was given.

As a cliché example, having sex outside of marriage is common. Many of my friends are single moms and dads because they chose not to wait. There was no commitment. Just sex. Just sex is never simple. We commit with our bodies, and souls meet. Intimate moments and naked bodies ingrained into our memories. Lust, desires, envy, shame, guilt, pain, jealousy, all brought on from CHOOSING to have sex outside of marriage. Do you want to know how I can say that? Because it happened to me. I will tell you the truth because of how it has affected not only myself but others around me.

Choosing to gossip tarnishes your character, breaking the law ruins reputation, taking drugs or getting drunk may do both as well as possibly taking your life. We say and do things out of emotion and carelessness but lack the mindset that our choice may cause a lasting effect on ourselves or others.

A character is earned and shouldn’t be given automatically just because we say we are forgiven and Christian. It should do just the opposite. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard because of who we represent.

I encourage you today, to ask for forgiveness and to appreciate the weight that was lifted when you chose to become a Christian. I also encourage you, to tell the truth of what sin can do. Don’t settle for allowing the enemy to make light of how truly detrimental one decision can do to change your life forever. It is because of LOVE that this truth has to be said. It is because of LOVE that I never want you to live less than a whole, I love you enough to not want you to remain broken.

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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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Wrinkles-Learning to live life on purpose

 Salt and peppered eyebrows burrow as he squints to find a reflection through the fogged mirror. With a frail hand, he wipes away the steam. Each crease on his face tells untold tales of a life well lived. Many of us sadly, will never have the privilege to earn such wrinkles.

It was 6:00 a.m when I got the call. The shaking, monotone voice on the other end shared devastating news. There had been an accident and PJ, along with another, didn’t make it. This name may be insignificant to you, but to many, he was a well-liked individual who could make anyone’s day. A life so full of talent and possibilities, all of which he never saw. At just twenty years of age, he had barely begun to live.

It is incredible how one incident can change your soul. The accident happened years ago but still, I think of him when a milestone occurs. Things that seem as though they should be a right of passage like living on my own for the first time, making the mistake of having a credit card, or using an iPhone. The joy of getting married, getting my first real job or finally buying a home. Endless experiences he never had.

People die every day. We can all think of someone who’s life was cut too short. It was on that early morning when I realized the power of death and even more so, the significance of life. I started to evaluate relationships I had with my parents, friends, coworkers and random strangers I encountered.

Death shows no prejudice. It reaches the young, old, rich, poor, and famous. It will eventually make its way to the prestigious diplomat and the lowly beggar. It finds its way to every corner of the earth and leaves a hollow mark. One day death will come for me, too. I want to be satisfied when it does.

I’ve wasted far too many days living in regret, in fear, and indebted to everyone else. I have hoped for and dreamed but have given up as soon as it got too difficult. As soon as the critics left their opinions, I shriveled in defeat.

I do not know if I will ever look in the mirror one day to see a wrinkled face. I do not know if I will ever have children, meet the president, or go on the Ellen Show. These are all uncertain dreams I have no control over. I do however have control over how I live each day. I choose to live on purpose. I choose to live with intention. I choose to live in order to change the world around me.

We are unique but somehow tied to the same moon and seconds allotted per day. What will you choose to do with yours? Whatever living life to the fullest looks like to you, I hope you live. Your passions are there for a reason. The things you think about that no one else seems to care for are meant for you to pursue.

Choose to live life on purpose. Wrinkles are guaranteed to none.

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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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I watch the wind tremble through each blade of grass like fingers wrapped in my hair. Silence takes over as I feel the tightness in my throat left over from a deafening scream. How could you? A statement echoed one too many times.

One step forward, three back, and eighteen sidestepped. An intended right turned so very wrong. Somehow I ended up here, a broken mess. Unable to speak a word of what happened to anyone.

As I drive away, I no longer recognize the big brown eyes staring back at me. Each drop of rain somehow in sync with tears falling slowly down my cheek. Jolted back to reality with the thud of windshield wipers; I am forced to accept what I had just done.

A haunting past keeps me up at night. Nights turned weeks and eventually years. Years cemented to the past I cannot forgive. All the while wearing a porcelain smile. One more nice word spoken to me and I just might break. How can I accept love when I have knowingly betrayed the love of my life. My own tongue—a dagger gashing my entire being. Worthless. Unforgivable.

Have you been here? With the extra weight of your mistakes leaving you unfit for your calling? Welcome to being human, you are not alone anymore. Using what seems like a safety pin I am slowly chipping away at my cemented heart and hold onto a verse found in Ezekiel 36:26, “ I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you, your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

I encourage you, just as I am, to face your past head on. To accept it, ask for forgiveness and accept the unconditional love that only Jesus can give. To Him you are worth it, to Him, you are everything.

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