The physicality of sorrow—it’s healthy to feel it

A bomb. An anvil. A wounded gazelle. A straw and the camel’s back.

This is what sorrow felt like. It resembled heaviness. In one instant, everything I feared came true.

I had given everything I could give. I had run my race with maximum effort and I was running on steam. The tunnel vision was so bad by the time I gave up, dropped and hit the ground, that I had lost sight of the finish line. I was not even sure I crossed it.

I was in my car. The weight of the world was on my shoulders and it pressed me into my seat. I could no longer move. I was trapped. Stuck.

Present day, I can still feel the full weight of it all. Everything that had pent up over time—all the denial, all the sadness, all the fight—finally gave way.


That day will live in my memory forever.


It was a normal day—normal in that nothing had fully settled. The feeling was one I was well-acquainted with. It was the most normal the chaos had felt. But something was coming. I felt it. And I knew I was helpless to stop it. The night before I had finally begun to take deep breaths again—like I had been under water for too long and my head broke the surface, allowing a taste of fresh oxygen. But it still felt like I would go under again.

The bomb was still ticking down. The anvil had not dropped yet. The gazelle was still moving—limping. The final straw had not been placed on the camel’s back.

I was the bomb yet I holding my own detonator. I was the anvil yet I was holding the rope because I was under the anvil. I was the camel at the mercy of the hand laying the straws down.

I feared the detonation.

I feared the pain of the anvil dropping on me. That is why I had been working so valiantly to hold onto that rope.

Strength was waning, though.

I stood at church. It was a Sunday night. I had my dog Lottie with me, as I always do. A long drive home to San Diego was ahead of me, and I was going to have a big enough jump on time that I would be able to relax for a little while when I got home before going to bed. But as I stood there, I doubted I would make it home in one emotional piece.

I could feel the heat of sorrow and exhaustion as it started to burn in the deepest part of my heart, and then it spread to the rest of my chest cavity and on to the rest of my body.

I tried holding it together as I said goodbye to my parents and a few friends I calmly walked to my car with Lottie in tow. Curious, I wondered how long I would last. A mile later I peeled off the road, screeched diagonally into a gas station parking spot and slammed my car into “P.”

Eyes closed, head leaned all the way back on the headrest, my breaths came fast. I opened my eyes and scanned my surroundings. I was far enough away from all the pumps and the customers with their listening ears.

I leaned my head forward and rested it against the steering wheel, opened my mouth and released a gut-wrenching, blood-curdling scream.

The bomb had detonated. The anvil had dropped. The gazelle was down for the count. The final straw broke the back.


The bomb had detonated. The anvil had dropped. The gazelle was down for the count. The final straw broke the back.


Tears were streaming and I angrily wiped them away. I sadly realized I was catching my own tears. No one was there to catch those tears, offer words of comfort.

I was the bomb. And the only thing that was not decimated was me, as a bomb can never fully destroy itself. Instead, it remains in pieces on the floor, leaving the most sorrowful evidence of what just occurred.

But there was an odd sense of relief. The running was over. Running from the pain, exhaustion, the Holy Spirit and His love. It was done.

The bomb pieces could finally be picked up. The anvil would be removed from the ground. The gazelle and the camel would heal.

I was the wounded child, but God was the caregiver, scooping me up, carrying me to His sanctuary where He would take His time healing me, teaching me to trust again, letting all the wounds heal properly.

The wounds that radiated with pain that day had to have their moment. That screeching stop, that loud scream, that long drive home was their moment. And God lovingly met me there and accompanied me as I dried my tears, got on the road and drove home with my heart pounding.

Embracing discouragement—Finding strength to overcome

Discouragement feels like Murphy’s law. “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

This day was one of those days. It passed while I sat at my desk staring at the same piece of paper the majority of the day. When I looked up on occasion I would look at my computer screen or I would turn my head to the right to stare out the distant window. I yearned to see the outside world. To connect with something, anything outside of the physical corner I occupied at work.

When I looked at my computer screen, it displayed a familiar video that had always brought comfort. On this day it was only bringing restlessness. There is a beach city in San Diego called Coronado. It is a peninsula even though most people call it an island. And on this peninsula is one of the most historic hotels—Hotel del Coronado. In spite of its historic age and status, it offers restless souls like me a piece of happiness—a live video feed of the ocean view from the hotel.

I stared at that view for hours on this day. And as the clock struck 5:00 p.m. I knew what I had to do. I drove home, fed my dog, then promptly left. I endured some sadness over leaving Lottie at home so I could sit on the beach by myself for a couple hours.

Armed with my purple Knapbag, a quilt, my journal, a pen and my headphones, I drove the 25-minute route to Coronado. There was not much on my mind except the mission at hand: Get to the beach so you can breathe.

The clouds had rolled in since 5:00 p.m. Even though it was late August it was chilly. I trudged past the groups of high schoolers at the bonfire pits out celebrating the last days of summer freedom before school started again. I tried recalling a time when I felt as happy as they looked, especially at that age. I could not clock a specific moment.

I set up camp 15 feet from the tip of the tide as it rolled onto shore. Reclining in my Knapbag with my quilt snuggly wrapped around my shoulders and my left toes in the sand, I took what felt like my first real breath all day.

Not sure of the purpose I had at the beach that night, I just sat for a long time. Forced myself to slow down. Allowed the discouragement access to my heart. Denying it any longer had become impossible. A result or a way out was unknown. I just had to be there in the moment.

Unsure of what I could do beyond breathing, I took a tentative move toward my journal. Writing, journaling would be good because I could not seem to form adequate words in my thought prayers. Written prayers would suffice.

Everything felt heavy—my breath, my chest, my bones, my heart. It all bore a weight I was struggling to stand underneath. It felt as if I did not have a choice in how or what I was feeling. On the surface, what I felt was loss. I had put up a valiant effort and lost. And now I had to forfeit completely. But in the meantime, in the time it was taking me to get there, I did not understand the emotions rolling through me.

I opened my journal and I began to write. I wrote for a long time. I poured my heart out to God in my words, asking my questions and getting no answers. I stated the things I was struggling to understand, and I still struggled to leave them at His feet after I said them. I confessed how bad everything hurt, and I cried.

After a while, it felt like there was nothing left. I sat there and wondered if anything in any realm of life could get any worse. I wondered, Did I take the right first step? Or would I be doomed to flounder in discouragement forever?

As I deflated my Knapbag and grabbed up my stuff, I let my thoughts wander. The walk back to the car was steady, not fast or slow. The road that was filled with parked cars on both sides when I arrived had slowly emptied out. After unlocking the door and dumping my stuff on the front seat, I sat there.

I had taken the right first step. I ran to Jesus with the cries of my heart overflowing. And now I was left with some waiting. Waiting felt void, like it held no substance. I think I just had to be OK with where I was.

So in concrete terms, what does discouragement really feel like? Do you remember when you would swim as a kid, then get out of the pool and change back into regular clothes, then go swimming again later on it the day? Was your swimsuit still damp? Was your towel fully dry to be used for the second swim?

Discouragement feels like going for a second swim of the day after the temperature has dropped, then deciding to get out of the cold pool, endure the cold air with the hope that your towel is going to be warm and ready. But it is damp and cold. The towel never finished drying after the first swim. I imagine that’s what discouragement without Jesus might have felt like to me.

But discouragement with Jesus walking beside me feels like all the hope for that warm towel is valid. He is the warm towel. He will dry me off, He will warm me up, He will comfort me and shield me from the cold air.

Discouragement feels like Murphy’s law because as I left the beach that day, I got lost. My normal route was closed and Google Maps did not know where to send me. But discouragement with Jesus beside me felt like an opportunity to spend a few more uninterrupted moments with Him.

Getting lost was not going to ruin the progress my heart just made. Regardless of Murphy’s law and my cold towel of discouragement, I laid down my emotions at His feet and I knew, and still know, that He cares enough to pick them up and turn them around for me.

Should Christians have negative emotions?

It was drizzling as I walked to my car in the Target parking lot. It was the kind of drizzle that soaks you through if it has enough time. My cart was full of boxes containing unassembled furniture. With this purchase I had nothing left to do for the day except assembly which would not take long. Filled with the need to run, flee, I loaded my car with my bags and boxes and got on the freeway without a destination in mind.

As I drove, the destination came to my mind. I had always wanted to know what the beach looked like while it was raining. Mission Beach it would be.

The strip of concrete in Mission Beach—Ocean Front Walk it is called—is where I found myself after driving in silence for 25 minutes. There was no time of prayer, there was no music. It felt like life had stopped as the beach walkway waited for me. The deserted parking lot told me no one else had the desire to know what the sand and beach looked like while it was raining.

Wearing my New Balance flip flops and a hoodie, earbuds in my ears to ward off any conversation heard by the runners and joggers going by, I walked to the retaining wall, staring at the whitecapped waves being tossed before they hit shore. The clouds became grayer as my eyes tracked them from directly above to as far out as I could see. I felt like that color, as if I looked slightly harmless overhead but the farther out the more volatile my emotions would become. And I was out there alone.

How could I possibly explain these roiling emotions to someone when they felt unexplainable? It felt like there was no beginning and no known ending to the internal turmoil. Was there even a way for me to understand it?


It felt like there was no beginning and no known ending to the internal turmoil. Was there even a way for me to understand it?


I felt like those waves, being tossed, waiting for a pause in the tempest. Waiting for relief. I needed people to help me through this, but too often I heard other Christians, mature Christians, cautioning against emotion of any kind. How could I confide emotions if I cannot explain them, if they end up making me feel separate?

I stared at the waves long enough to be drenched by the rain. I got back in my car without a single clue as to how I could learn to articulate my emotions.

That day was nearly two years ago. I like to think I have learned a bit about emotions since then. Even more, I have learned that I myself am an emotional being. That is how God chose to create me. Looking back on the confusion and hopelessness and restlessness I have felt now leads me down a path of encouragement.


God taught me through a long season that emotions are not bad and they can be brought from the abstract side of life to the concrete side. And I can do this through words.


Last week as I opened my fridge on my lunch break, I thought about emotions, how at times they are the hardest things to explain, particularly the negative or difficult kind. There’s such a contrast here. It is difficult to explain what hopelessness feels like because it’s on the negative side of emotions. But can we explain what joy feels like? Anytime, any place. This sparked a desire in me to find a way through personal stories and experiences to relate what certain abstract emotions feel like. Maybe you are encountering these emotions right now and need a friend, maybe you need to know that emotions are not all bad, maybe you need the assurance that God will bring you through.

That is the purpose of this post and the following posts this month. I want you to understand that emotions can be felt and can be concrete rather than abstract. Then in the final post, I will conclude this series with a story of how I gained the confidence to articulate my emotions and gained knowledge of who God created me to be in spite of my emotional makeup being in turmoil at times.

Earlier this week I read a devo and a quote jumped out at me, making me believe even more in this mission. The devo is written as a personal letter in first person from God to one of His children (you):

“Pay attention to what I am doing in your heart—with your emotions, your thoughts. Ask me to help you decipher them. Ask me to show you why you feel the way you feel. But these emotions? Feel them. And show them to me. The open-hearted surrender of your emotions to me will help you see me in the storm, in the madness you feel when emotion is all you know and nothing else makes sense.”

Emotions are difficult, just as standing on the concrete walkway in Mission Beach was difficult. I left that moment believing answers would never come, believing I would be trapped by myself, in myself, forever. But just as the next day dawned with no rain (a change), soon my situation changed. And yours will too. In the meantime, my prayer is that you will be encouraged through these posts. You are not alone in your emotions.

The act of settling unsettles us

Settle is an active verb. It requires a choice, a conscious decision that must be made. The word implies taking only a fraction of what one believes is due.

Settling in relationships, all relationships, can be painful.

I have been in pain. I have walked miles trying to alleviate the pressure in my chest. Rain or shine, I wore a path around my work because it was the only time I felt I could release the tension. I have spent hours justifying making the wrong choices for myself and my long-term well-being. Through a cycle of seasons I had to prepare myself for the decision ahead. Leaves fell, clouds rolled in and out, the hour of the sunrise and sunset changed…I stayed the same—not ready.

I wanted things to be settled. But I could not find my way through it. If God wanted the absolute best for me in every category of life, how could I be OK with settling for less?

While the implication behind the word can easily mean compromise, a healthy compromise at that, it is not always the healthiest choice to settle. After devouring Scripture over the last year detailing God’s will for us (how much He desires for us to be happy and joyful and at peace) I can tell you with confidence that God does not want us to settle—at least not for unhealthy options.

Here are a few of the verses I have pondered—

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly,” John 10:10.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing…These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full,” John 15:5, 11.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage,” Galatians 5:1.

For me and for so many others, making tough relationship choice comes down to knowing that God wills for far more than what we will for ourselves. The feeling of knowing we can settle and supposedly be OK is like standing on the edge of a cliff knowing if you jump, you are likely to get injured and may not get another opportunity to do it safely. So, it comes down to this: If the pain you are enduring or the choices you are making are not leading to the life described in Scripture, then reevaluate.

If you continue to settle, here are some things I know from experience you will endure. I endured it. Some of my dearest friends have endured it as well. You are going to be OK. I just want you to know you are not alone.


The act of settling unsettles us.


Settling for those who are not going to treat you the way Christ does is unsettling. In settling, sacrifices will be made, beginning with your emotional and spiritual well-being. Your emotions will be rattled. Life will feel both chaotic and still, numb. You will question your own character, wondering what else you will find a way to justify.

The aftermath of settling is even more difficult to endure. If you are in the middle of it right now and you are rationalizing and struggling with doing what you know is right, I want you to consider the next couple of points:

  1. It will hinder future trustworthy relationships from forming. They will just be more difficult than they need to be. This could end up causing prolonged pain because trust has become difficult.
  2. You will always wonder if history is going to repeat itself, if you will find yourself in the same amount of pain for the same reasons again. This will zap your peace and your desire to move forward.

Those are a couple of the negatives. But because I tend to be the person who sees everything as being connected, I will tell you I have noticed two long-term positives from a season of settling:

  1. It has built determination to know the difference between healthy compromise within a healthy relationship and unhealthy settlement in an unhealthy relationship.
  2. It has strengthened me to stand up and not settle for anything less than what God wants for me, and as an extension what I want for myself.

At the end of these posts, I always have to ask myself, Where do I go from here? What does this leave me with?

Other than the verses I listed above, I am going to give you a person in Scripture I like to study. He is a kind, generous, compassionate, strong man of God who acted as a friend to everyone. He is an example I aspire to regardless of his gender. It is Boaz.

When I read a devo about him, I read these words—

In the example of Boaz, we see nine aspects of safe people:

Safe people understand the Father heart of God.

Safe people care about our safety.

Safe people introduce us to other safe people.

Safe people enforce good boundaries.

Safe people are generous.

Safe people encourage our character.

Safe people pray we would flourish.

Safe people provide comfort and kindness.

Safe people point us to God as our safe place.

If your relationships do not strive to this standard and you know God has better for you, trust Him. While I do not regret anything as it is always being worked out and redeemed, I do wish I would have been less fearful and perhaps not worn such a divot into the pathway around work.


Safe people point us to God as our safe place.


Be encouraged. You deserve the abundant like God has planned for you, the life He wants for you. Do not settle for less than what He wants, what He has. I am cheering for you.

How to enjoy the relationships meant for you

I sat at one of the picnic tables at work. It was hot outside. A heat wave had settled in the region and I was feeling it. But I was excited. I was going to catch up with a friend for a few minutes.

She excitedly hugged me before we sat down together, and quickly the conversation turned lighthearted as we recapped our weekends. Then it went deeper and what came out was a time of connecting, and we walked away with more common ground than we already had. But keep in mind, this person is not exactly like me. Looking at our personalities, we are opposites. But seeing that we can connect over a common desire and common lessons we are learning is encouraging.

Our lessons seem to be about relationships. And this is slightly where our differing personalities come into play: While she is fearful her people will leave her, I fear I am undeserving of my people, the relationships I have. Both stem from fear and both result in the potential to lose people who matter to us, yet the process we go through between the starting point and the destination is different.

The conclusion to our conversation was the reality that we are meant to be in relationships with others because we are meant to be in relationship with Christ first. And in the moments when our relationship with an invisible God is in jeopardy, it is the human relationships He uses to bring us back to Him.

A short part of my story has to do with isolation. During a turbulent time for me, I retreated from most interaction because everything caused pain. At times the pain was like an exposed nerve ending. Other times it was a dull ache. Still pain nonetheless. Coming out of that time of isolation made me feel as if my relationships could not survive much longer. How could they when I was holding myself back so fiercely?


Isolation made me think I did not deserve good and healthy relationships.


This was in complete stark contrast to the life I envisioned for myself as a young girl. Always knowing there was a cry in my heart for deep connections, I desired people from all walks of life to populate my life, my heart. I wanted to give myself to my people because that is what I wanted in return. But with age, the process of forming strong relationships seemed unclear. What worked for one relationship did not work for another. Nothing about connection seemed easy or wanted. Where did this leave me? Where was I supposed to go from here if I wanted that little-girl vision of full relationships to come true?

It has been a learning process. The past year has been spent relearning healthy relationship habits, reprogramming my thoughts and heart to trust and realizing relationships can be great, just as I always imagined.

Healthy relationships, in my experience, can just happen. But they take work to stay that way. When a relationship takes an unhealthy turn, it infects different parts of your life. Think of a habit you have, one you are not proud of. If you were to lay down that habit right now to replace it with a better habit, a healthy habit, do you know there would be a time of relearning healthy habits? You will need time to get rid of what was unhealthy to take on what is healthy. The same goes for unhealthy relationships. Be patient as you relearn what a healthy relationship is meant to resemble.

One part of my relationship struggle has been realizing that I find more reasons to keep my heart safe than I do to trust it to someone else. Broken relationships have been characters in the last five years of my life, and each one convinced me (in the moment of its breakdown) that trust is not something I want to do again. Earlier this year, I was so convinced trusting people was not worth it that it invaded my relationship with Christ. I could not even say I trusted Christ with my heart. But while it was scary for me to think about trusting again, it was even scarier to think of the alternative—an ever-hardening heart because I would not let anyone come in and change things. I could not live like that. So, I reprogrammed my thoughts and heart to determine it was OK to take a chance and trust. It has been a day-by-day journey, but God has not let me down; neither have my people.


So, I reprogrammed my thoughts and heart to determine it was OK to take a chance and trust.


What came next was a lesson about my community. While I would gladly step off a ledge for any of them or hunt them down in a burning building to pull them out or vow to protect them and take care of them to the best of my abilities, not all communities are perfect. They never will be. But that little-girl dream to have a group of loving, fearless, funny, inspiring, encouraging people to accompany me through life…that community can be real, even if not perfect.

All this to say that no amount of relationship struggles will ever kill my desire to have great relationships. If nothing else I am a fighter for my relationships because I know this one thing: I was made—we all were made—to be in relationship with Christ, and that is meant to extend to relationships with others. But here is the thing: The enemy wants me to think relationships are not worth it, or rather I am not worth being in relationship with. This is a lie. A lie I have to fight against every day. And this fight takes on three facets I am going to share with you and I hope it encourages you.

  1. Be the fighter God created you to be. Take up your belt of truth. The truth is God created you to be in relationships and has many precious plans and promises for you, for us. When we stand on that, we are fighting.
  2. Be confident in the relationships you have and the relationships you are working on. Each is accomplishing something in you, making you into who God created you to be.
  3. Enjoy them. A wise man once told me that connections with people are intoxicating. It is true. I enjoy my relationships with the hope they will all last a lifetime. I pray you have the same enjoyment.

Kindred Spirits in Honest Agony

At multiple times in life, every one of you reading this will be in agony. The circumstances for each of you may be different, but the feeling will be the same.

I speak from experience.

In agonizing moments, it seems there is nothing that can seemingly offer relief. You feel as if you are falling into a dark abyss and you’re not sure there’s anything or anyone at the bottom who will catch you. If you are a Christian, you probably have it stored in your memory that God is going to catch you because that’s just who God is. But this doesn’t offer immediate peace and tranquility.

The last thing you or I want to feel in these moments is absence—of family, of friends, of love, of community, of a good distraction. But loneliness, and enduring it, dominates everything. You have an entire schedule planned for your day, your weekend, and a wrench is thrown. Now suddenly going to the beach doesn’t sound so fun; instead you’re just going to take a nap (because that’s all you have the energy for) and hope that when your eyes open you have a text message or an Instagram notification. Now, instead of making something delicious and healthy to eat, you choose to find and consume every ounce of chocolate in your kitchen. And it goes on. Your actions are skewed and distracted because your thoughts aren’t following a singular track anymore. Your day no longer consists of trying to get from point A to point B. It’s more about just trying to get to a point even if it’s point Q. And trying to follow the squiggly and circling lines on the map that don’t make sense in order to get there.

Am I painting a picture of chaos? That’s the goal. Because that’s what it feels like to endure agony alone.

I am a huge advocate for community, a strong one at that. One who makes an effort to know you, asks you the tough questions, helps you grow. But I’ve learned and observed something new.

My generation is very into feelings behind actions—doing what feels right, getting a job that feels right, making choices that feel right, enduring changes that feel right, maintaining relationships because they feel right. And it’s also very into the reality that life throws curve balls that mess with us on deep levels—our identities, our morals, our values, our goals, our faith. We’ve learned much about mental health and every professional who has any experience or background in this topic knows experiences must be processed. So if someone is coming out of a traumatic experience, it’s important for that person to let the pain be felt in order to process it and heal from it.

But is this idea of allowing pain and agony and anger to be felt biblical? And if it is, how is it meant to comfort us when we already have strong communities around us comprised of real, living people instead of simple words they left behind for us to read?

I live alone. My closest family members are over an hour away. My best friend is also over an hour away. I have a small number of people I will go to when I’m in internal chaos. They’re the people I’m comfortable around, the ones who have fearlessly broken through every wall I defensively put up, the ones I trust, the ones who are my kindred spirits. Having those people who are similar to me makes the chaos bearable.

But when those people are unavailable, what am I supposed to do? Their lives don’t stop when mine is in chaos. Yes, I have my heavenly Father; I can talk to Him, but when in chaos my thoughts aren’t focused. So I find something one-track to stay my mind on.

I read my Bible.

I have kindred souls in the Bible, books I can read that assure me what I’m feeling is not new, as these writers (Ruth, David, Jeremiah) also experienced the same thing. And they never held back in their conversations with God. Which gives me even more assurance that God wants me to be honest with Him. This means that all the mental health professionals are right who encourage people to feel the full weight of everything traumatic that has happened to them. And even more important, it’s biblical to do so; if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have the honesty found in Psalms and Lamentations.

Both books are filled with agony and pain and sadness and desperation. David, multiple times, cried out to God wanting and demanding to know where He was! David felt alone, and the One whom he thought would be near felt miles and miles away. So he cried out!

Never once does the Bible record God being fed up with David’s shifting emotions, Jeremiah’s mournful laments, Ruth’s grief and desperation. If anything, it brings Him joy to know that His children are being honest about how they feel, what they’re going through. Yes, He already knows and understands your pain (Hebrews 4:15), but He wants your honesty. And when you can’t form the words to tell Him, He has given you His Word filled with accounts from people who encountered the same pain.

So when you’re in chaos as I am on occasion (it seems to happen too often) be comforted in knowing you’re allowed to feel the full weight of your circumstances. And even more important than that, you have a Savior who wants to comfort you and kindred spirits in His Word who have already gone before you. There should never be any shame when the fire is intense and we feel left to bear it alone. Cry out! He’s listening! Don’t be ashamed to ask for someone to listen to you!

To My First Friend…

There is a quote that goes around on Facebook sometimes and it goes something like this: “Cherish your cousins because they were the first friends you ever had.”

While I have cousins and I believe this quote is true for many people, it is not true for me. The first friends I ever made were the two people who accepted me as their new little sister, albeit grudgingly on occasion. My siblings, Matthew and Chelsea, welcomed me with open arms, and sometimes it felt like we were the only ones we had.

But this post is about just one of them, as today, August 6, is her birthday.

Chelsea was my first friend in this entire world, and throughout the 23 years we have known each other our relationship has gone through peaks and valleys, and there were more than a few years where all we did was scream at each other—but she will never be replaced as my first friend and one of my best friends.

Chels, do you remember when we would be in the car for hours on end going all over Riverside and Redlands and Loma Linda and every other city in most of Riverside County for our paper routes? And remember how we would always have the radio on a country station? (You know, back when country was actually country and really good?) There was one song that we both really liked by Reba McEntire called “My Sister.” Whenever that song came on we would both get quiet and you would turn the radio up (even though Mom never liked the radio to go past a three on the volume scale) and we would listen to it. And my mind would go years into the future, imagining what we would be like and where we would live and what our relationship would look like.

The song tells the story of one sister calling another and leaving a voicemail. Honestly it is the type of voicemail I would leave you just to annoy you a little bit because I would intentionally just keep going on and on about random things. But at the end of the song, the last few lines reflect what our relationship looks like:

“It’s late and I should go,
But I can’t hang up the phone
Until I tell you what I don’t tell you enough
Even though at times it seemed
We were more like enemies
I’d do it all again
My sister, my friend”

These lines sum up our 23 years perfectly. There are times I feel like I could make way more of an effort and I fail, and there were days when I would pray that we could make it through just one day without fighting, but I would never change anything and I would gladly live my childhood and my teen years all over again.

So, you may be asking yourself why I am writing a long and (maybe a little) sappy post for your birthday. Well, first, because I am not there with you no matter how much I wish I was; second, I think words are powerful. To answer your question: I am writing because I hope to make you feel the depth of love and amount of respect I have for you, on this day, your 27th birthday.

Chelsea, you are the definition of a great sister. You are so gracious, so strong, so encouraging and so patient. I remember when I was afraid to talk to you when I was a teenager because I knew how smart and strong you were (and still are) and I did not want you to be disappointed in me about anything. If I was ever nervous to talk to you it was because I did not want you to think poorly of me or hear how stupid I was for doing or thinking something. Even though those words never left your mouth, your intelligence was always highly respected by me. You saw things and people in such a special and unique way, and it intimidated me. But I grew from having you as my sister, and you are easily the one person who has taught me way more than I thought was humanly possible.

Through your strength you taught me how to not only stand for something but to remain standing for it.

Through your love for people you taught me how to fight for them.

Through your humor you taught me how to have a good time and find humor in pretty much anything. (My friends now know that I will find something to laugh at when we watch movies…even if the movie is far from comedy.)

Through your determination and leadership you taught me that it is more valuable to be an example by being different than it is to simply be like everyone else.

Through your resilience you taught me that even a crippling disease should not and cannot keep you down for too long.

Through your intelligence you taught me that some people will not always know how to act or speak around you but that is nothing to be ashamed of.

Through your respectability you taught what a respectable life looks like.

Through your confidence you taught me how to be a confident woman even in moments of crisis and freaking out about the unpredictability of life, especially life as an adult.

Through your fearlessness you taught me that it is okay to take a leap of faith even when you do not know what is waiting for you when you land.

As you have gotten older, you have grown so much emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I have always looked up to you, but I think in recent years we have learned to look at each other as equals, a sort of looking to the side instead of looking up. I am proud to be your sister, and there are a billion other things about you that I appreciate. You have always been the epitome of what it means to live a determined yet quiet and respectable life even when it does not suit the people around you. And I appreciate how constant and consistent you have been as Chelsea, my sister.

God knew what He was doing when He created us to be complete opposites, which makes sense considering how long it took to figure each other out. But like the song goes, I would do it all over again—I would live every bit of our childhood all over again, as long as you were by my side.

You are and will always be my first friend.

I love you, sissy. Happy birthday!

Oh, Mom…

There is a song I like to listen to. It is called “Love Remains.”

If you listen to country music, you know who Lady Antebellum is. And if you know the names of the members, you know that Hilary Scott released a worship album with her family, and it is composed of old and new hymns and worship songs. And, you guessed it, “Love Remains” is on this album.

It makes me think of my family, the love my parents show me every day. But it also makes me think of my mom. The song begins by talking about how we are all born, and our parents react to seeing us for the first time: “Momma smiles, and Daddy cries.” The song goes on and talks about how a boy will grow up and take a bride: “She stands faithful, by his side.”

When I think about my 23 years on this earth and the constant presence of my mom, I can say I saw her do primarily two things: She smiled (at us and because of us) and she stood faithful (by my dad’s side and by our side).

Over the last couple of months, I thought of my dad a lot. He has so many characteristics and traits (hard working, loyal, sacrificial, consistent, loving, respectable, etc.) and he works hard to make sure his children possess those traits as well. But my mom…I cannot begin to tell you how many of her traits are amazing and precious, and how I desire to have those same traits.

If I could use only one adjective to describe both of my parents, I would say this:

Dad is consistent, but Mom is steady.

I can honestly say that she has been a steady and faithful foundation my entire life. While Dad had to go make sacrifices and take care of the family outside of the home, Mom was with us, providing everything we needed. She is the picture of steady love.

At this point, I just want to write something personal to my mom so I am going to change up this post a little bit, but keep reading.

Mom, I am thankful for our relationship. I remember being a teenager, and if there was ever something bothering me it was rare that I talked to you about it. I was Dad’s girl no matter what. I remember you asked me about it one Sunday on our way home from church. I remember where we were on the freeway (driving under the Nuevo Rd. overpass). I remember what car we were in (the truck). I remember where we were going (Sam’s Club). I had a bad day at church, and I was beyond frustrated, and instead of talking to you about it I chose to sit in the passenger seat and cry. I stared straight ahead and refused to be talked to. You got frustrated because I think I told you I only wanted to talk to Dad about what was bothering me. You were quiet after that. It occurred to me that it did not make much sense that I was not taking advantage of your listening ears or your heart of love, and it hurt you every time I preferred Dad over you. Somewhere in my heart that day I made a commitment to start talking to you more. Our relationship grew from that point forward, and now I am just as close to you as I am to Dad.

And now that I live on my own, the lessons you poured into me have taken root in whole new ways. Dad worked tirelessly (and still works tirelessly) to teach me and Matthew and Chelsea how to work hard and respect people and earn respect in return and defend ourselves and fight for what is right and prioritize others over ourselves and how to make sacrifices and be smart and be wise. He always taught with the right amount of love and strength so we would get it. But your lessons were so soft and subtle that I did not really put much thought to them until recently.

You taught me how to use my time wisely. If there is something that needs to be done and you have a few minutes to do it, get it done. You always told me, “The things you love, you will make time for them.”

You taught me how to plan and how to be wise with the gifts I have been given. Whether that gift is financial stability or time spent with people, it takes a certain amount of organization and wisdom to use them.

You taught me how to be faithful. You have never let me question how much you love me and how deep your love for me runs. And even in those moments when I think I might have reached the bottom of the deep love you possess, you always assure me that there is more to be found.

You taught me how to be quiet and let things play out. I bet if anyone who does not know you could use one word to describe you, it would be “quiet.” You are quiet by choice. You choose the right moment to speak and the right moment to keep your words to yourself, and so much of that wisdom comes from how well you know me.

You taught me how to fight (in all aspects where a fight is needed or required). I still think of how hard you had to fight for me against insurance companies and doctor’s offices, and if you had not fought who knows what my life would have turned out to be.

You taught me how to love in small and detailed ways. Everything you have ever done for me, it has stemmed from the detailed love you show me. You know me well and you taught me to show that same love to others.

You taught me how to cling to the Lord every day of my life, and you taught me that He will communicate with me in a personal way, a way He does not use with anyone else. I am special to Him, and that will show in every part of my relationship with Him.

Most of all, you taught me how to put my characteristics into action. You taught me how to get to know myself, and surrender my gifts to God so He could use them the best way He sees fit.

Mom, the song “Love Remains” makes me think of our family. If there is anything more difficult than being a parent to a toddler, I would think it is being a parent to an adult child. But I think you and Dad have done a good job always showing us that love remains. So for that and so much more, thank you.