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.

What do you see? What do you notice?

Truth be told, when I outlined this post about a month ago I had a slightly different lead in mind. I was going to talk about how we all want deeper connections, we all want what’s important to us to matter to everyone else. But I reject the idea that everyone can be categorized this way. Not everyone wants the same things out of their relationships.

I want to be understood by my people. I do not necessarily need them to agree; just make an effort to understand why something is important to me. This is my priority yet I understand others are different. Example: My mom is cut from a different cloth than me; we have different personalities; we have different desires. Where I want to be noticed and understood to foster community, she is happy to be in the background as a lone wolf.

I addressed my last post to people who are like me, who want their people to encourage and support them and simply try to understand something foreign to them. Likewise, this post is for you. We are not the same as everyone else, and what we want is not going to be the same as everyone else.

We want to be noticed. Not the surface stuff. With us, everything goes past the skin. It is more important our people notice a mark on our hearts rather than a new pimple on our foreheads. We want not only our jobs, hobbies, opinions, beliefs to be noticed; we want the reasons why behind those jobs, hobbies, opinions, beliefs to be noticed.


We want to be noticed. Not the surface stuff. With us, everything goes past the skin.


I have stated before that often the only thing my thoughts revolve around are relationships. Whether what I am working on at any point in time is focused on relationships or not, something I am seeing or hearing or noticing is relating back to relationships. I will admit not all of my relationships have been successful. I have had heartbreaks, I have had seasons of frustration and losing desire to put forth effort. But both the successes and the failures have taught me lessons I would not have otherwise learned.

Those lessons I will now state—

  • I have learned that you must first notice things about yourself if you want someone else to notice them. What special things about yourself do you enjoy, do you appreciate, do you value? For example: If you are a kind person, people should be able to see that in the way you treat others. And if you value that trait, then others should be able to value it as well.

While I want my whole personality and all my traits to be noticed by people who matter—for the sake of giving a full picture of myself—there are some I want noticed more than others.

Above all, I want my sincerity, kindness, determination, adaptability and love to be noticed. If I am being honest I also want my humor to show as well. In order to make these things noticeable to other people, I have to be willing to put them on display without allowing fear a foothold. But how can I do it in a way that feels natural, not forced, not awkward? Because trust me when I say I have my awkward moments, and I cringe for weeks afterward.

I have found an answer for myself. It makes the difference in showcasing who I am. I have to work hard at it every day. Somedays are much easier than others. Other days I go to sleep feeling defeated. But I keep pushing.

  • Here is my answer: I have to maintain the truth in my own head and heart that tells me, in this moment, I am exactly who God created me to be. When my confidence is founded on my identity being in Christ, I can actually feel my sincerity making a difference, my joy and humor being appreciated, because it’s making a personal connection with me. It matters to me. I appreciate those things.

Sometimes all I feel is frustration with myself, thinking I am an inconvenience of some kind to another. This does nothing but hold me back. I do not want to be held back; I want to move forward, always. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am loving and kind and considerate, and for the first time in my life I am secure because I know that is who God made me to be—everyone else’s feelings on the matter are inconsequential.

Now that I notice these lessons and learned these things about myself, and you hopefully have begun to notice your own special things, how can we become more proficient in observing special things in another?


Most people want what they give to be reciprocated. If you notice things about yourself that you want others to notice, there is a vice versa paradigm occurring.


What can we notice about others that will reveal their God-given gifts? What noticeable peculiarities can lead to deeper relationships? I work on my relationships using the following four points:

  1. Look and be willing to patiently dig to find their characteristics. Not everyone is generous right off the bat. It takes time to show that. Be patient.
  2. Seek and try to find complementary interests and experiences with another person. If you enjoy discussing culture, find people who also enjoy it.
  3. Ask questions about and observe someone else’s needs. It will reveal much more about their needs than you initially think.
  4. Last, observe their existing relationships. You learn a great amount about people by noticing who they maintain and pursue relationships with.

Without a doubt, we want to be noticed, but we also want to notice others. And the best way to do this is by knowing who we are in Christ. As you bookend your day with your relationships, you must know who you are and who God created you to be. When you work every single day to build your confidence and your knowledge on who He is and all He does, it makes everything else in your life—especially your relationships—align with His love and His purpose and His will.

Pursue Him, and in pursuing Him, don’t forget to pursue others. You were created to be in relationships, so cultivate them fearlessly.

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.

Love in Action

Quick note about the picture above: I found a place of peace. A Japanese friendship garden. You could say it helped inspire me to write today.

Let’s get to it.

This one is going to be raw and vulnerable, pretty much a #honestyhour for me.

One thing I always notice about my writing—it is present in my personality and comes across in my relationships too—I can be quick to offer advice or wisdom or an opinion about something, but when it comes to living it out I fall short. I lack the application of my own two cents to my life and situations. Since this topic has been on my heart for about a week now I plan on writing a more in-depth post about it, but right now I want to simply share about myself.

Three separate times this week I was told that I intimidate people. I am generally a quiet person around people I do not know well. This does not necessarily mean I have nothing to say or I have nothing going on in my head; likely, the opposite is true. I take my time with everything, especially people and relationships. My natural desire is to know a person well by observing their actions. What are they doing? What do they believe? How does that faith come across in their relationships and interactions with others? with me? How do they spend their time when they do not have a schedule? Are they more laid back or are they more structured? Do they like to be in control or are they more suited to take the backseat and yield control to everyone else? And how do I better relate to each of those characteristics?

These are only a few of the questions I ask myself when I am around people, whether it be for the first time or the 100th time. They are important questions for me to have answers to because they determine how much I will be able to give of myself.

I give 100 percent, and most times I give even more than that, to the people who matter most to me. I pursue connection—deep, uninhibited, vulnerable, real connection—with people. It is who I am. But I find myself in a season of growth and reflection, a season where all I have is time to lay my heart bear at Jesus’s feet to ask Him examine it. I yearn to hear His voice, I yearn to know His reasons, I yearn to know how to please Him as an individual first and as someone special to another person second. This season is hard, and it is lonely. But it is in my loneliness where God meets me and wraps His arms around me and tells me everything is going to work out exactly how He wants it.

In this season, there is an opportunity to respond, to improve, to be better, to be stronger, to have an even softer heart. This is where the application comes in. The application is an opportunity to commit myself to a set of standards that are pleasing to the Lord. The application is an opportunity to take action and make improvements.

Where do I begin, where do I set my “Start” line? I think the apostle Paul had the right idea:

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men (bold added), that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

I want to focus in on verse 22. Paul says he became “all things to all men.” In context, he is speaking about how he had to get down on the levels of all the people he talked to and formed friendships with in order that they would be saved, they would be won for Christ. What an example of love and selflessness!

(Normally I write my posts—an extension of my thoughts and content of my heart—in direct-address form, using the word “you.” This post is an even bigger part of my thoughts and heart right now, so I am writing in the form of a journal entry, simply writing about my life. It is part of the application step of life.)

When was the last time I could truly say I even tried to be all things to all people? The people I rely on most in this world, the small circle it is, do they feel I am all things to them? When they need a listener, not an advisor, is that what I give? When they need a hug, not a smack in the head, is that what I give? Do their hearts trust me? Do they feel closer to Christ when they are around me? Or do I pull them away from our precious Savior? Do I intimidate them into giving me what I want or need? Am I too selfish toward them?

If I asked myself these questions a year ago, two years ago, I would have said with probably a bit too much confidence (maybe a little sass) that even if I failed at doing this, I know I tried my hardest every single day. At the present moment, I do not have that same confidence. I can easily allow myself to spend a good amount of time on my high horse without evaluating my own actions, and there were a few good reasons why I stopped trying so fiercely to love those closest to me. It seemed like every day was an uphill battle and at the end of every day I was happy to simply lay in my bed and close my eyes. But the pain and the frustration turned my heart away from people. I ceased being all things to all people, or at least doing it to the best of my abilities and with the strength I know God lends.

The ultimate question: How can I get better? How can I commit to unconditionally loving all people in my life regardless of if it is given back to me?

First, I commit to relearning how to be a prayer warrior. Instead of being the first to have an opinion or a sassy remark, I will pray. If God tells me it is my place to speak, then I will speak.

Second, I commit to finding what someone truly needs and do my best to fulfill that need the way they deserve to have it fulfilled…not the way I see fit. For the ones in my life who are a bit more vocal, I will be their listener. For the ones in my life who are seeking counsel or wisdom or encouragement, I will do my best to offer those things. For the ones who want partnership, need someone to walk beside them through a storm, I will walk faithfully with them. For those who wish to reciprocate my efforts and be all things for me, I will graciously receive them.

Third, I vow to love as selflessly as I can. For love without action is not much in the grand scheme of things. People hold onto actions. When someone looks back on their life, they likely remember the actions done to them, not the words spoken. I hold onto actions. I will ask myself at the end of every day if my love for others was shown, not simply spoken. When they reflect back, will my actions be something they hold onto, will they state how much they appreciated it?

Fourth, I will give God control of all things, knowing He is sovereign and with Him there are absolutely no coincidences. Everything is for a reason.

I challenge you, my reader, to love selflessly. Evaluate and reflect. Are there areas in your life that need change, improvement, better effort? What small effort can you make for someone else today? Even if it seems impossible, and you think the action might go completely unnoticed, do it anyway. God sees it, sees you, sees your effort. He will honor your choice to love people and to be “all things to all men.” God has your back. Those small acts will pay off. And remember: There is something precious and amazing about someone who reaches across personality quirks and differences to better love another.

Just Be You

Disney movies are powerful. Yes, they can have negative effects at times, but if you look close enough you can find many hidden gems about relationships, individuality, strength and much more. I recently saw two Disney movies. The stories are on opposite ends of the Disney spectrum, but both spoke to me in the same manner about the same thing.

What is that thing? It is the power that comes when you are yourself and no one else. Individuality.

Back in December, I took my 4-year-old niece to see “Moana.” I like to think I have simple taste when it comes to movies, and most of the time I like watching kids’ movies more than a movie for my age group. As I sat in the small theatre in Texas, Moana’s story scrolled across the screen and pulled me in. I felt as if I was in Polynesia. As Moana struggled to find her own way and figure out what she was willing to risk in order to ensure her people’s survival, I realized I am a bit like her. She is brave and adventurous. She wants to make her family proud, but she feels torn between them and what she truly wants to do. She looked at her island dying around her and the food running out, she looked inside herself and heard the call to go find a way to help her island. (Yes, this is where the mysticism and magic components of almost all Disney stories come into play, but the gist of the movie remains the same.) She decides to set off, but she encounters the opinions and instructions and cultural standards and every other obstacle that could have come her way. Yet at the end of the day, she had to stay true to what she felt in her heart was right. She had to go and take a risk, a chance at success. Otherwise she would always be looking back, wondering what would have happened if she had listened to what she knew and believed to be true rather than what everyone wanted for her. (I will shamelessly admit I teared up quite a few times when I was watching this movie; it is somewhat emotional.) She was herself no matter the cost.

This past Sunday I saw another Disney movie, this time with my roommate. “Beauty and the Beast” is one of those classic Disney movies I had not watched when I was a child, and people always seemed genuinely shocked when I would divulge that little detail. (I did not grow up as a Disney kid, sue me. There are many other classic Disney movies I still have not seen, and I am not ashamed.) However, “Beauty and the Beast” is somewhat special because although I do not quite favor the old cartoon, I did love the stage version. When I was a sophomore in college, my best friend and I got dressed up and drove to Hollywood to see “Beauty and the Beast” live on stage, and it was amazing. So obviously I wanted to watch it in theatres since it was made into a live-action film. As soon as I saw the trailer however many months ago I added the movie to my list; I wanted to see it. And then it came out (no pun intended) that the film would have scenes depicting a homosexual lifestyle. Well, I decided to see it anyway; I am glad I did. Belle is portrayed as a fiercely loyal and loving woman, one who would much rather venture out into the world than settle down the way everyone thought she should. She desires more for herself than what everyone in her village was pursuing. She loves her father and sacrifices herself so he can be free in his old age. She is intelligent and loves to read. Even though she is living with the Beast, she never lets his horrible moods and cruel actions determine how she is going to feel or what she is going to do. She is also greatly misunderstood by the people who do not bother to look deeper into who she really is. But she never lets their opinions or criticisms stop her from being herself and doing what is right.

As I sat in this huge theatre on Sunday, watching Belle’s story play out on the equally huge screen, it struck me: People are drawn to Disney movies because almost every story line has a moment where the main character realizes they cannot do anything unless they are true to who they are. You can say these princesses were self-aware (the fancy term people use when they are amazed at how well you can evaluate yourself and your own life). Translated to the Christian life: You cannot do anything if you are not true to the person God created you to be.

Translating this into the present moment, why was I driven to write about this particular topic? Because it is important to know who you are as a person. I am not simply talking about knowing what you like and do not like (movies, music, values, hobbies, jobs, interests, political views and on and on and on). No, I am talking about the reasons behind each of those things. Okay, you like this genre of music and not another; why? You have this political view; why? What are the reasons, the deep reasons, you hold things in your heart? If you have a strong opinion about something, what is the reason?

Without knowing who you are, life is difficult. Without knowing the person Christ created you to be, you wander through jobs, relationships, churches looking for something or someone that is going to give you a purpose, make you feel fulfilled, make you feel on top of the world. And when you cannot find those things, you too easily move on without truly engaging.

Knowing who you are gives you wisdom. I could (and probably will) write an entire post just about wisdom in the future, but right now I will try to keep it basic.

Wisdom is security, wisdom is strength, wisdom is determination, wisdom is faith, wisdom is time. Operating with wisdom at the forefront of your thoughts and words and actions yields nothing but godly results. Wisdom can decide how a situation plays out, how your life plays out.

But what is wisdom’s opposite? Foolishness. I will give you some examples: when foolishness says to act harshly toward your friend who forgot to call you back and forgot about your plans, wisdom says to give them a chance to explain and forgive them; when foolishness says to give up when something gets difficult, wisdom says there is something bigger going on and control needs to be given to God alone; when foolishness says to make a spur-of-the-moment decision, wisdom says take your time.

In my last post, “Lasting Friendship,” I talked about selflessness, how all lasting friendships consist of two selfless people committed to looking out for the other person more than themselves. A huge amount of selflessness, though, can be attributed to knowing who you are and having the courage to simply be yourself. Moana and Belle both had joy in their lives because they knew at the end of the day they did what most people would never have the courage to do: They stayed true to who they knew they were.

Too often in this world we find reasons to compromise. We compromise on our ethics, values, beliefs, opinions, feelings because we encounter people and situations who tell us that what we believe, what we are pursuing, what we want, what we are praying for is not worth it. We take jobs we do not truly desire, we maintain friendships and relationships that only grate on our nerves, we decide to stay home when we do not have anyone to do anything with when really all we want is to be out. Knowing who we are gives us wisdom, which in turn gives us an expanded tool belt when working on lasting friendships. Knowing yourself also lends much self-respect and helps you respect others better. When you respect yourself, others will respect you.

There is something powerful and enchanting about someone who lives their life while staying true to who they are. (Maybe the magic in Disney movies is not anything mystical, rather the way they inspire viewers to simply be themselves.) They exhibit strength and determination different from the world around them. They have peace. They have hope for things everyone else fails to understand. They are the steady people who will walk with you through your storms. They are the people you want beside you.

I am not usually one who encourages people to be like Disney princesses, but be inspired by Moana and Belle. Let their characteristics and knowledge of who they are encourage you to do the same. And remember: The ones who truly love you simply want you to be yourself.

Lasting Friendship

What creates a lasting friendship?

These are my parents. I love them dearly. When you see a couple you do not know well smiling in a photo, it is easy to assume they are happy and enjoying their time with each other. Otherwise, why would they be smiling, right? But when it is a couple you know intimately, a couple you have seen experience extreme highs and lows, you do not simply see just their smiles; you see everything. You see their story written on their faces, you see the struggles that have been overcome in how close they hold each other, you see many years of laughter in the fine wrinkles around their eyes. It is a special connection you have with them that gives you a glimpse into a world most may never see.

Today is my parents’ 32nd wedding anniversary. They have known each other since the sixth grade, when they were in the same class in small town Ohio. I realize I am blessed to be able to say my parents have stuck together through everything life could have thrown at them. Every time I get to tell someone how long my parents have been together, pride swells in my heart. It is rare to see people still in love after they see each other at their truly worst and truly best moments.

But there is something to learn here about friendship. Hence the reason why I am writing this. It is not necessarily a congratulatory letter of sorts to my parents on their anniversary. Rather It is about the many lessons I have learned about friendship from the 23 years of their marriage I have witnessed.

So I have a question: What creates a lasting friendship?

You likely already know that opposites tend to attract. There comes a time in your life when you really begin to evaluate yourself, you get to know yourself as a person. Understanding dawns when you realize what you are good at, what areas you need improvement, where you need accountability, where you need encouragement and what special characteristics you bring to the table. And as you see all of these things about yourself and they take deep root in your heart, the evaluation process begins again, this time of the people in your life. The characters in your family and friend group…suddenly their characteristics begin to show. And it becomes outrageously obvious: Everyone has at least one characteristic that is the opposite of what you have.

Differences tend to draw people together. There is something attractive, secure, impressive, amusing, frustrating, intriguing about the other side of a coin when you are used to your own side. Your side is familiar; it is what you know. So when you finally see the other side, it is refreshing.

But think for a second about the people in your life. There is likely a spectrum of people you interact with on a daily basis. Family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances. Usually in that pool of people there are those you get along with 99 percent of the time, and those you can only take in small doses. For those you can only take in small doses, there is a reason for that, perhaps even multiple reasons. And that is okay. But think about why your contrasts with some people are more disruptive with others.

Why does it seem like some people you click with, and some people there is nothing but conflict? If differences are supposed to draw you closer to people, and opposites are supposed to attract, why is it sometimes the hardest thing you can do to form a lasting friendship with those people?

It is at this point I would like to weigh in.

There is something to be said about selfless love. It takes a big amount of selflessness to be able to look at the differences you have with another person, and at the end of the day be able to say your affection for that person has not changed even though you do not agree with what they are doing. For the person who is my best friend, I want to know I can rely on them to love me even when they do not agree with me. I want to know even if I am a complicated person to understand they will still make a solid effort to understand me, and at the end of the day remind me that nothing I do will ever change how they feel about me.

I look at my closest friends and family members, and there are many I would say I am close to. They know me well, and when I do things that worry them or grieve them or make them proud, it never changes how they feel about me.

For example, on the surface and even deep down, my sister and I could not be more opposite. Yet we have a close relationship because we respect our differences and love each other anyway.

The same principles for friendship can be applied to marriage. Marriage is meant to be a friendship that lasts a lifetime. And it takes a huge ability and a certain measurable determination to be selfless—to constantly lay down what you want and need in order to take up what the other person wants and needs—to make a friendship last.

And the most amazing thing that happens when you choose to be selfless in your friendships? The ones who receive your selfless love are better able to return that selfless love back to you. When you truly look out for the other person more than you look out for yourself, it opens you up to the truest form of love that two humans can experience outside of the eternal love they receive from Christ.

So be selfless in your friendships. Listen to what people are saying. Love them for who they are, not what they do. And never let them doubt how much you love them. Christ set the example for friendship when He died on the cross. Follow His example, selflessly sacrificing out of love.

“Friendship without sacrifice is no friendship at all.” —David Jeremiah