Your Gift

free-printablesWe’re emotional creatures, we creative-types.

We don’t have to have mood swings or drama or crazy (though I probably have all three) to be ourselves… but we do have to feel in order to help others feel. And most of us came into the world feeling deeply.

We hurt for the girl with the tracks on her arms at Old Navy. We are physically affected by the thought of kids without homes. Some of us become emotionally paralyzed when our own grief hits, reflecting rather than doing.

{I would argue that taking a little longer to reflect is actually healthier than what American culture tells us… which is, move on without processing.}

I was twenty-one years old when someone told me, “There is nothing wrong with you. Deep feeling means deep caring.” I’d lived my whole life believing I was too sensitive. That somehow, some way, I would grow thicker skin and become “normal”. That eventually my compassion level would switch to average. A gift.

Dear creative friend, your ability to show compassion is a gift.

Your pain, your agony, even, is your gift to the world–one that says, I see your pain. I feel your suffering. You are not alone. Sound familiar? God with us… Emmanuel. His Spirit inside of you.

Keep being you today. Keep feeling. Keep loving. And keep knowing when it is time to hand it off to Him… the one who comforts us so that we can comfort others with that same comfort.

I love you, and so does the one who never ceases to be with us…

True love is when the dog is vomiting

wedding

Originally posted April 27, 2013.

Every now and then I walk past our wedding photo, and I see my dark tan and shockingly white teeth, and I barely recognize that girl.

Don’t get me wrong. I still take care of myself. But on weeks like this one–when the stomach bug runs through our house faster than a wild mustang stampede–time to sunbathe simultaneously with Advance White Vivid on my teeth is a little less available.

And yet… when my man pokes his head around the door at 5:00 and I’m still in my mismatched socks and snotted on blue jeans, his eyes light up. And he says, “You’re cute.” And all I can do is roll my eyes and wonder,

How deep does this guy’s love run?

True love is when the dog is vomiting, and the peas are on the wall, and the only action in bed that night is the noise of the keyboard going clickety-clackety (working on deadline for a new book idea).

True love is when the car payment’s due, and the grocery money’s gone, and the laundry’s piled higher than the kitchen table, but you sit down and watch a movie anyway, because you missed the smell of his skin all day.

True love is when you’re trying for a baby, and the artificial hormones leave you more bloated than a mama sperm whale, and your gums feel like they’ve been injected with Botox, but he still thinks you’re beautiful.

True love is pacing the floor at 4 a.m. with a squalling newborn when the artificial hormones work.

True love is forfeiting the motorcycle for Elmo because your wife has another column to write. True love is taking a four year pay-cut so she can work on her “voice” before even selling a book. True love is never wavering that the book sale will take place.

I am blessed to be truly loved.

These are my snapshots of true love… what are yours?

So You Wanna Be A Minimalist?

“Hell hath no fury like a woman bent on becoming minimalist.”

If hoarding is a disease, I’m pretty sure I’ve developed the opposite one.

Is there a name for throwing out everything you own? Oh, wait… I think it’s called “minimalism”.

So much more socially acceptable… and yet so much more disturbing.

Continue reading “So You Wanna Be A Minimalist?”

Why Kids Are Leaving Church

wh30-ways-toI get to decide where I’m safe.

No amount of guilt or shame will ever change that.

-Michelle Pendergrass

I sat in the church classroom, completely paralyzed. For ten years I’d loved these kids and others like them, watching each heart and each trial and each suicidal tendency… only to see these fragile stems become torn and beaten down by spiritual pressure.

The leaders, the ones I’d grown to love… didn’t see their admonishments as verbal abuse. They saw it as verbal encouragement to do the right thing.

Looking back, I realize that the “encouragement” of those days was a result of fear.

Fear that these kids would fail.

Fear of the tough questions.

Fear that they would make the same mistakes we did.

Fear that they would get hurt.

Fear that they would leave the church.

My youth leader friends had good hearts. They may have been in the right place, but the pressure they placed week after week on the kids to perform — to ignore the tough questions — to serve wholeheartedly when they were hurting — all of this pressure left everyone disappointed because it didn’t work.

At some point we have to stop caring more about results than people.

There were attempted suicides. Broken relationships. Agnosticism. Anger. And on that day, in that classroom where I could no longer bear to see so much heartbreak, I walked away from what I saw.  

if-they-did-notBecause on that day, I began to realize that I could make a bigger difference in these kids’ lives if they did not associate me with this church and the “God” who had no grace or room for brokenness.

(My relationships with the group deepened immensely when I walked away. They gathered in my house (with leaders’ permission), shared in my life, walked and talked and cared deep. We cried together. We laughed together. I moved on to serve in another church simultaneously.)

I left on good terms. I sat down with leadership, and we talked.

But it felt like I was speaking a foreign language… like when I used the words “spiritual abuse”, I was a hypochondriac diagnosing all of us with an imaginary disease.

Looking back, I wish I would have thought through it more. Explained my heart, explained the damage I saw, explained what I wanted to see happen for these kids.

Because here’s what I find again and again now that I’m older: people who are being spiritually abusive, or spiritually abused, don’t often recognize it until it’s too late.

And it will be too late. Because spiritual pressure–a focus on what Christianity looks like, rather than caring like Christ no matter the results–doesn’t work. It might yield the desired results for a time, but eventually people who buck up and conform without grace fail. I see it here and I see it here again. 

Pressure doesn’t work. Loving people does. We were never designed to be the Holy Spirit in anyone else’s life. 

***

This is the beginning of a series on Spiritual abuse and the damage it can create.

Your thoughts? Please share in the comments.

Fashion Series

Image courtesy of Fotolia
Courtesy of Fotolia

I began to hear whispers on Friday morning at camp. The boys had created the infallible Top Ten Hottest Girls List. I knew in my heart of hearts that I wouldn’t be at the top of that list…

But I wasn’t prepared that I wouldn’t be on it at all.

Y’all. There were eleven girls at camp. I didn’t make the list.

I don’t tell you this story to make you feel sorry for me. Oh trust me, I’m not hurting over here, now married to my hot swedish man… who clearly put me at the top of the list when we met a few years later.

I’m telling you this because I know what it’s like to be an ugly duckling. And I want you to know… it doesn’t have to last forever.

In fact, you can start making changes today. 

And I can help.

So stay tuned for my new series on fashion and How to Get on the Top 10 Hottest Girls List.

Or something like that.

Or maybe just how to love and accept yourself a little more… because… and this is a hint of things to come: confidence speaks louder than words.