Let me be completely honest with you…
Writing these introductory type thingies is the strangest and most difficult thing for me to write! They do nothing but cause me anxiety, but here we go…
I love my people.
I have been fortunate enough to be mom to my eccentric, insightful, sarcastic, and super cool daughter for 16 years. Parenting has been this fascinating paradox of wanting to give her the world while not raising an entitled brat, wanting to show her the true persons of God and Jesus while protecting her from the legalism and fundamentalism I grew up with in the church, wanting to tell her what to do instead of letting her think it through on her own. While sometimes I feel like I’m in a never-ending game of tug of war, the small, daily victories are constant reminders that we’ve got this.
My parents are snow birds, even though they hate that term! When they aren’t in the sunshine, they live in a mother-in-law apartment in our house–separated only by a joint laundry room and two locking doors! They were in a terrible motorcycle accident in 2009 that left my mom with a TBI and my dad with a lifelong commitment to caring for my mom. TBIs are no joke. Let me just be real–I wouldn’t wish a TBI on my worst enemy. My dad has had to be the epitome of patience while playing a very Job-esque role over and over again these last years. He’s pretty much a rockstar.
I just got married in September of 2022. We’re both divorced. We both have kids, although his are adults. We both have trauma and baggage and issues. While we had known of each other in high school and my mom happened to be his 5th grade teacher, we hadn’t seen each other in 30 years. It was a frigid January day. My best friend’s father in law had passed away unexpectedly in his home, where he lived with three giant dogs who didn’t like to go out to do their business. The house was in a state of disaster and chaos, and I was there to help declutter the chaos. I wasn’t supposed to be there. I had been there earlier in the week working, but I didn’t expect to get a call that morning asking for help again. I had just stepped off the treadmill. I didn’t shower. I hadn’t washed my hair in days. I was in my work clothes–a hoodie and flannel, paint-covered jeans, and old tennis shoes. I was a sight for sore eyes, giving off those homeless painter vibes according to my friends. In walks Russ. We reunite. He doesn’t remember me. I remember him because those dimples… We work all day in the cold, attempting to clean out this house and bring order to the chaos. I had zero intentions of impressing anyone that day. I wasn’t dating. I didn’t even know I was interested in dating again! So, imagine my shock when 30 seconds after I walked out the door, my best friend asked me what I thought of Russ. We’ve pretty much been inseparable since then. Everyday Russ shows me exactly what God intended a husband to be.
I wholeheartedly believe in grace.
I spent years feeling unworthy. Maybe you’re familiar with that feeling, and that’s what brought you here. I’ve realized that Satan has this extremely strategic and manipulative way of making me feel unworthy to do the things God consistently calls me to do. Lead a small group–nah, who’s going to listen to what YOU have to say? Write a book–who would read anything YOU’VE written? Write articles and studies–no one would subscribe to YOUR thoughts. Maybe you’ve heard those lies too? A few years ago, God assured me that if he was calling me to it, if I am following his will, then I have to set aside my own fear and shame and quit listening to Satan’s voice in my head. I needed to not only embrace God’s grace, but I needed to show myself grace. Sometimes, I think that grace for myself is even harder than believing in God’s grace for me. But, I made a commitment to keep that in the forefront of my mind and to allow God to lead me where He wants me, regardless of what my human mind tells me is possible. I started writing. I had a blog and a facebook page called “30 More Days of Grace.” You can find all those posts on this site as well because they are an important part of my journey. I stepped away from writing for a bit while I was going through our engagement and really processing where I was heading in life. This is what I learned during that time.
I have faith in hope.
I survived for years because of grace. It was only the grace of God and grace for myself that allowed me to get out of bed everyday, get dressed, put one foot in front of the other, and survive. Trauma does that. Shame does that. Grace, though, is bigger than trauma and shame. So, I sat in that. I reveled in that. I soaked it into my whole being. Grace was my theme song. Despite that, I finally realized something was missing. Hope. Grace without hope is like peanut butter without jelly. Can you eat a peanut butter sandwich? Sure. You can eat it, and you can become full and even nourished from it. Without jelly, though, that sweetness is missing. That’s how I feel about grace without hope. I could survive on grace. It was filling and nourishing. Without the hope, though, I was missing the sweetness. I was missing that other layer. I was missing the beauty of what was to come. When my sole focus was on grace for today, I couldn’t even see tomorrow. As I started to assess and process where I was, though, I realized that I needed grace for today, but I also needed hope for tomorrow. That became my anthem, and it will forever be my message to you. Give yourself grace today, but don’t forget to look ahead to the hope of tomorrow.
Restoration is for real.
This one is really hard for some people. Most people can get on board with grace and hope without much of a second thought, but when grace and hope mature into restoration, humanity has a tendency to twitch a little bit, maybe not always publicly, but most definitely privately. I don’t believe that restoration is reserved for the select few. I believe that it is available for anyone who is repentant and seeking God and his will. Anyone. Any sinner. Any saint turned sinner. Anyone. If you haven’t heard of six degrees of separation, it’s the theory that we’re all no more than six connections away from each other. I think that applies to disaster as well. In fact, I think that number could actually be less, maybe even two or three. We are all two or three connections or decisions away from disaster. The thing that scares me the most are the people who are shaking their heads right now thinking there is no way, that they could never make two or three wrong choices that could end in their own personal disaster. That was me at one time. I thought that. I thought I was above that. I wasn’t. I know, personally, the desperate need for repentance and the belief in God’s promise of restoration.
I have boundaries.
I once was the queen of codependency. The Queen. I spent my entire existence anticipating and meeting the unrealistic needs of everyone else. I was unfamiliar with how to utter the word “no.” It destroyed me. I learned the very hard way how quickly you get taken advantage of, used, dumped on, and exploited when you don’t set healthy boundaries and have healthy relationships in your home, at your work, and with your friends.
I have a love/hate relationship with the church.
Did you listen to the Christianity Today’s “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” podcast? I did. There have been several times in recent years that I’ve had those moments where I realize I’m not the only one. Reading Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans’s books cultivated those moments for me. Kristen Dumas’s “Jesus and John Wayne” made me breathe a giant sigh of relief. “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill,” though, just resonated with my entire being because I felt like I was listening to so many of my own challenging and traumatic experiences with the church of my youth and adolescence. Don’t get me wrong–I think the church can and should be a home and refuge, a safe place, a bastion of love and support. Too often, though, it isn’t. Too often, the church is a place of judgment, hurt, edicts, and tradition. Those were my experiences for many, many years. I am fortunate to be out of an abusive relationship with a church, but my scars are real. My triggers are real.
I hope you do more than read.
I’ve been leading small groups, writing for ministry/retreats, and participating in bible studies for many, many years. It occurred to me several years ago that one of the biggest struggles participants have is what to do with what they’ve read. I’ve found that I think more about what I’m studying when I respond to what I’m reading. I want to encourage you to do just that. In order to help you with that, I want to encourage you to grab a journal and write down your thoughts after you read and study. I’m trying to include a few questions for your journal on each of my new posts to help.
When we wrote our wedding vows, I sent them to my friend and pastor who was marrying us. His initial response was: “they’re a little wordy, but I’d expect nothing else”! That’s kind of the theme of my life. I’m always a little wordy (just ask my husband), and I feel like that about this page! If you’ve made it this far, thank you. I hope this gives you a better understanding of who I am and what I believe in. I hope, too, that this either welcomes you in and makes you feel at home or makes you run for the hills! I understand both responses!
Until we meet again,