Everything is Important.”

— Walter Tirey Jr.

"I write because there are some stories
it would be a crime not to tell."

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You Are Not the Only One 

 

I am a writer who connects through words that I am currently struggling to find. 

So here it comes — the hard truth. 

I often write about vulnerability and the power of a story, and even still, it is far from easy to be transparent enough to tell you that I'm currently in one of the darkest seasons of my life. I feel like I am trying to pour from reserves that are below the empty line. I am battling lies that I hear in my head about my present and my future, and there are days when my only prayer is to help me make it through the next hour. 

I have been in the pit of depression before. God and I have been through some things, to hell and back, or so it seemed at the time. Always together, since He so willingly lowers Himself into my darkest night, making His bed there until I've found the strength to hope again. 

I have a lot of questions, and I don't know for the life of me why some things happen. I don't understand why God seems so late to arrive at times, even though He is aware of how pressing our need is. And I think admitting that or confessing that I feel like I'm drowning over here is one of the hardest things for those in public arenas of writing, speaking, or leadership to admit. 

There is a fear of being judged since humans have this tendency to make unfair judgements based on fragmented pieces we see of a partial picture. There is the fear of being too messy, of appearing weak, or less spiritual, or less mature, or less whatever. All of which are lies that keep us in the suffering of silence and drive us further into the darkness and disconnection from the very people who help bring healing. 

The longing for some answers isn't going to be fully satisfied on this side of eternity. I only know that I can relate to Mary in John, chapter 11 when she hears that Jesus has finally arrived four days after she sent for Him and four days too late, and instead of going out to greet Him, she stays in the house. 

Was she bitter? Maybe. Confused? Probably. Depressed and apathetic? The One she trusted with everything seems indifferent to her need. Who wouldn't be? 

I am Mary, sitting in the house with my questions and whatever emotions feel more consuming than my ability to handle. 

But I also know something Mary didn't at the moment. I know the end of that story. I know that Jesus finally does arrive and not too late. I know that he asks for Mary by name because He noticed her absence. I know that He understood how she was feeling and the intricate web of the why's and He cared deeply. I know that He arrived and breathed life into death and grief and so much sorrow, the way that He always does. 

Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to admit that you are not okay, or that you have doubt and that your faith feels fragile right now. 

"and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out." Isaiah 42:3 (NIV) 

It's okay to feel weak sometimes. It's okay to feel like you are a smoldering flame and one more slight blow might be the one that snuffs you out. You are not alone in that struggle. You are not more broken than the rest of us. There is not some inherent defect in you that makes you unusable, unlikable or less than. 

Reach out. Talk to someone who loves you and is a safe person for you. If you don't have that someone, write to me. 

Know that Jesus asked for Mary by name. And He's asking for me and He's asking for youEven still. No matter what you are sitting in the house with today.

A Love Story Written for You 

 

Shame has a way of spreading through the soul like mold spreads through a house. Shame is different than guilt. It isn’t just feeling remorse or regret about an event in your life, like when our internal moral compass tells us we are in the wrong and indicates a course correction should take place. Shame is the feeling that you are bad and that there is something inherently wrong with you.  

My husband encountered a recent disaster on the job site of a large and beautiful home in which he was working. There was a knob that broke off of a sink, followed by substantial volumes of water sprayed at high pressure. Picture a fire hose opened at full throttle in your Pinterest version of a refinished laundry room. The water damage was extensive, leaking through to the ceiling of a finished basement and requiring the ceiling to be ripped out and dried for hours upon hours with industrial fans. Without going to the length of ripping out the ceiling, there was a strong likelihood that mold would spread quickly in the dark and concealed spaces beneath it. 

I have come face to face with shame in my own life and have fought my way through the trenches of rediscovering my worth. I had to take a painful look at what was growing beneath the ceiling of my heart. It has been a long journey, and through that process, I have learned to identify shame in the lives of others because pain recognizes pain.  

If you’ve been following our journey this past year, then you know that my husband and I launched a church and a coffee house (coming soon) called “The Fringe.” There were several names on the table as possibilities when we were trying to decide. We chose that name because our hearts burn for those who feel on the fringe of society and life. 

One time after we first announced the launch, someone said something to my husband that I will never forget. He said this: 

“You may be called to the fringe, but you are not the fringe. I don’t see you that way.” 

I want to be a person who makes people feel like even though they may feel on the fringe, they are not the fringe. I want to be a person who leaves the light on for people who are wandering in the dark. Like when you’ve been driving for miles and miles in the middle of nowhere and there are no signs of life and finally, a gas station and a sigh of relief. For that person who has lost their way in life. For that person who feels like they don’t belong anywhere. For that person drenched in shame and regret, I want to be a person that the light and love of a Father who never gives up shines through. 

I want to be that reminding voice that even though you have made some mistakes in life, you are not a mistake.  

In Luke chapter 15, we see the story of the prodigal son who has left home and disgraced his family. When he comes to his senses and returns home, his father sees him coming from a long way off and pulls up his robe and runs to him. The father knew that if someone else were to get to his son first, they might beat him, send him away, or publicly humiliate him. He ran to his son to spare him the shame.   

We have a father who runs to us. We have a father who will stop at nothing to restore you to your position as the beloved. He tears down ceilings and runs to get to you first. May we be people who do the same to those we encounter in life. May we love so radically that it heals and transforms and silences the shame. May our lives tell this love story written with each of us in mind. 

A Voice on the Earth 

 

My phone rang while I scrolled the timeline, trying to avoid the awkwardness of standing elbow to elbow in line at the BMV at two p.m. on a Friday. Her voice was apologetic on the other end, regretting to be the bearer of bad news. She was calling to tell me that one of my sons had gotten in trouble. It was a little thing that could become a big thing. It was a path that if not diverted, could lead to a trajectory for his life that seized my heart with fear at the thought.  

I sat heavy in my seat on the ride home where I knew he was waiting for me and dreading my arrival at the same time. I started out the window and tried to find words as I fumbled my way through best attempts at a prayer for help in navigating the situation. When I walked into our home, I found him sitting in the kitchen with his elbows resting on his knees, and his head hung low. I sat across from him and allowed our eyes to meet in silence for a moment before asking him what happened.  And when the tears pooled in the corners of his eyes, I had to fight the urge to be the rescuer.  

What I have learned in going through that situation is this: Discipline is more painful for me as his parent than for him as the recipient. Not because he asked numerous times over the next week for his phone privileges back. Not because he fatigued my ears and my will asking "how long?" It's painful for me to inflict punishment because I know that it doesn't feel kind to him. I know this as he sits on the edge of his bed the following Saturday and pleads to go to an event he had been looking forward to all week with all of his peers and social circle. It hurts my heart because I know how important it is to him.  

So while it's the hard thing to say, "No. I'm sorry, but I can't let you do that," I remind myself that love without discipline is not loving at all. If I save him and don't allow him to experience the burn of touching the stove, he will likely continue on a path that will hurt him more in the future.  He will not learn the crucial lesson at hand. The hard thing is the loving thing. My heart feels the soberness of this wrecking truth: If I in all of my best efforts at being a good parent feel this pain, how much more does God when we are suffering because of our own choices? Does he feel that ache in His heart when His children that He loves more than life experience the discomfort?  

"Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the LORD. And he could bear Israel's misery no longer." Judges 16:10 (NIV) 

I would say He most certainly does. 

There was never a single moment in the aftermath of it all that I didn't want to draw near to my son. Truth is, that car ride home was painfully long. I couldn't get to him soon enough, and not because I wanted to scold him. I think about this as we walk through a crowded field a few days later at an independence day event. He lagged behind, much like my non-celebratory mood. My heart still felt heavy from the week we had faced, and from the concern, I felt over him. Yet, even in the moment of receiving the phone call and even when I was listening to him make excuses to justify his actions and avoid punishment, I only wanted to be near him. In spite of it all, I only wanted his presence and his smile and his humor.  

Perhaps our incorrect view of God causes us more misery than anything. Maybe our tendency to hide when we've screwed up is where we get it all wrong. We tend to withdraw and to isolate and to cover ourselves by checking out and distancing ourselves. But we have a Father who only wants us to come closer. He can't get to us soon enough. He is the One who pursued us first. He is the One who loved us even in spite of us. The One who searches us out in our fleeing and our hiding.  

My heart absorbs the moment, and the truth for my own life as my husband says this to our son. "You are made for so much more. You are meant to be a voice on the earth."  

That's what the Father does when we draw closer. Never shaming or condemning. He never reminds us of all of the ways we have failed or fallen short. Does He allow us to experience the pain of our choices? Absolutely, as a good Father should. But He also reminds us of who we are and what we are made for. Made for so much more. Meant to be a voice on the earth. 

Living in Your Prime 

Humidity.

 

I am returning home today after a few days away at the lake. A few days of respite from the busyness of life that we all experience where there are commitments and deadlines and loads of pressure. I have entered the much slower pace of life in the south, where my friend who is a southern native says the slower pace is because it's hotter in the south and people move slower to avoid sweating. We laugh when he says this and I think to myself whatever the reason, I'll take it in heaping doses. I'll accept the invitation to slow down and sit for a while on the porch with nowhere to be and good conversation while swatting away the mosquitoes. 

One of our conversations while floating with carefreeness in the lake involved the idea of being in your prime and what does that even mean? Society defines it as being at your best. Young, healthy, full of vigor, and ready to take on the world. 

I think about this for a moment as we are talking. I think about the elderly I have met who move slowly and have fewer years ahead of them than the younger generation, yet their perspective and zeal for life is palpable. 

I wrote once about aging with grace, and about an elderly woman, I had the pleasure of meeting. She wore a perfect shade of pink lipstick as she met us in her driveway with a smile and invited us into her home. The lines of time were etched on her face, but I would not have guessed her in her nineties. Time had been kind to her, or maybe she had learned to wear it well.   

Her eyes were young and danced in a way that held a lifetime of stories and a carefree spirit. We small talked while my daughter played on the floor by my feet, pulling vintage toys by a string with the contentment of her new found treasures. As the conversation evolved, I could hear the loneliness of being widowed in her words. "I don't understand why I had to be alone for so long," she said. It hung in the air for a moment. I thought to myself how our nagging questions don't discriminate who they haunt. They come to us all, and they don't always get answered with time. But she carried hers differently, and perhaps that's the reason she was able to play and dance with my daughter with a grace and agility that surprised me and made me want to get on the floor myself.   

I have also met young people whom time has not been kind to, and they have not learned yet how to wear it well. Young in years and ancient at heart. Aged before their time by bitterness with a resulting lack of longing for life, wonder, and adventure. 

So what does it really mean to be in your prime? And how do we measure it anyway when none of us really know how many days we are given in this life?  

"However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all " Ecclesiastes 11:8 (NIV) 

Maybe we have the whole thing backward. Maybe being in our prime is not measured by how many lines we have on our face, or how great or not great we look in our swimsuits (lifelong learning curve over here). Perhaps this realization will stop us from the lengths we are willing to go to preserve our youth. Maybe it will prevent us from wishing away the gift of added years to our life, from concealing our age when our birthday rolls around or resenting the effects of gravity and time that reveal themselves in the mirror.  

Maybe we will awaken to the realization that our quality of life is not measured by how great our life looks on social media. It's not determined by the likes a post receives, by the affirmation we get or don't get from the people we think we should. It's not dependent on someone else's stamp of approval or acknowledgment of our work. Did you know that Vincent Van Gogh only sold one piece of artwork while he was alive? But he kept painting anyway because it's what he loved to do. It wasn't until after his death that around 2,000 pieces of his art were discovered which are valued in millions today.  

I don't know what keeps you from living your best life right now. Maybe it's the worries of the day (all hands raised). Perhaps it's looking over your shoulder at the regret of yesterday. Or an area of healing that you need that interferes with your ability to show up and be fully present in the here and now. 

Whatever it is, I pray you will invite the Father into that space. Invite in healing and clarity to what keeps you from your best life. Truth is, you are in your prime today right in the here and now. There is no promise of tomorrow, and there is no return to yesterday. Being in your prime is being fully alive in whatever present moment you find yourself in, regardless of your age. It's taking whatever circumstance has been handed to you and choosing to live your best life in the midst of it. There is no better time than this moment to embrace your one and only life. 
  

 

The Journey Back to Joy 

 

There were smiling faces gathered on the front porch of that house on the corner as I drove by that day. The house long neglected, with peeling yellow paint, a missing screen door and the worn couch that sits outside on the bare dirt with patches of grass. It’s a neighborhood I pass through often, where poverty is generational, and hope seems out of town. The Christmas lights were strung across the porch, and the “Just Married,” sign caught my eye. A celebration, however simple and low budget it may have been, was underway, and something about it pierced my heart and made my eyes brim. The sun was shining on that spring day like it was invited to the party and accepted the invitation. 

It was a season of great difficulty in our lives. One where it seems like everything is coming against you and there is a conspiracy you are unaware of. I was starting to wonder if the hardship of the season had shown up to stay. Perhaps it had gone to the post office and changed its address to the same as mine. In the weariness of it all, I began to feel like joy was eluding me. Like the time I watched a yellow balloon slip from the chubby fingers of a little boy standing in front of me. Floating up and away as he stood on tiptoes and reached as high as he could. He added a little frustrated jump for extra measure, and although the balloon had only floated to the ceiling, that white string was still beyond his grasp. 

My life felt like an empty playground, where all the children have gone home, and the swing sits vacant with no one to swing. Where there are no sounds of laughter as little ones chase each other and squeal with delight. 

And deep within my heart, I knew it wasn’t supposed to be this way. I remembered the moments in my past when it felt like night would never end. I remembered the strength and peace I used to draw upon to help me get out of bed in the morning with the hopeful expectation of the day. A joy that was not dependent on my circumstances, and I wouldn’t settle until I found it again. 

What I am learning on my journey back to joy is this: Honesty is a really good place to start. There is nothing wrong with you because you are having a hard time experiencing joy right now. God knows the reasons, and He cares about those reasons deeply. Like when Jesus encountered the woman at the well in John 4 and told her all about herself. Not to shame her, but because she was thirsty and looking for water in all the wrong places and He knew her thirst could only be satisfied by the One who knew all her details and loved her still. Be honest with God about how you are feeling and invite Him into those spaces. 

Sometimes there is a ceiling to the level of joy you can experience because of an area of your life that still needs healing. Maybe it’s self-forgiveness and the inability to fully experience life in the present because you are still punishing yourself. Or perhaps it is someone else you need to forgive in order to set yourself free. Maybe it’s the need to surrender your unanswered questions of brokenness, anger, and pain to God, even if they don’t get answered on this side of time and eternity. 

I have also learned that joy is not a feeling, and if I wait for my emotions to show up to experience it, I might spend a lifetime waiting. 

“the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 NIV 

Not circumstances or destinations. Not determined by other people, or by how I am feeling in the moment. Everything I need to cultivate and experience joy is already inside of me. Like that person who sits there in the room smiling quietly because they know something I don’t. It’s an invitation that is waiting for my acceptance, to show up to that porch style wedding reception with the handmade sign and the lemonade that’s a tad too sweet and to drink freely and join the party. 

When I saw the balloon float away from the little boy in front of me that day, I grabbed the string and pulled it away from the ceiling and handed it back to him as I watched the light return to his eyes. Joy is not elusive. It hasn’t floated off to the ceiling. It hasn’t been carried away by the wind and beyond your ability to reach it or grasp it. It’s inside of you because “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  

It’s being handed back to you today. May you open your heart to receive it.

Robbing Others of the Gift 

 

We sat on the front porch of the house as the quiet hours of morning made their transition into midday, when the heat begins to rise, and you have to swat the mosquitoes away. I followed my son outside after realizing he had quietly withdrawn and exited the house, his emotions at that moment feeling larger than his ability to process or handle. There was a whirlwind of outdoor activity around us. A guy who was smoking outside of a small business next door. Cars that were buzzing to and from on our street and two people were standing on the sidewalk saying goodbyes as they got into separate vehicles. Even with life happening all around us, it felt like it was just him and I sitting there unpacking big emotions, because nothing mattered to me more at that time than understanding what was on his heart, and nothing mattered more to him than my wanting to hear it. 

It's much easier to speak up and reveal the vulnerable stuff in our hearts when we have the attention of someone who is listening. Not just hearing in the sense of perceiving sound. The way I can hear the garbage truck outside my house right now, while simultaneously hearing my dog snore softly from his kennel and a train blaring its horn from a distance. The type of hearing that happens whether I want it to or not, but listening by consciously choosing to concentrate on what is being said. 

Like that person who puts their elbows on the table and leans in to absorb your words as you speak. They turn their phone over and opt not to check it for a moment. They don't interrupt you with their own thoughts and opinions until you are done speaking. And if they've really mastered the art of listening, they can discern when to give space to what was said by not offering the "right" response. How much easier it is to speak up in those moments. 

Brené Brown describes vulnerability as "the courage to show up when you can't control the outcome." 

The hard truth is that it's easier for me to be vulnerable from behind a computer screen where I can process and choose my words with careful forethought and consideration than it is for me to engage one on one or in a large social group setting. And while that gives the illusion of safety, it also feels unauthentic, restrictive and leads to silent frustration and the inability to be me and offer what I have inside of me to the world. I began to probe for the reason and pray over the why. Why is this my tendency? What lie do I believe about myself? 

Somewhere along the way, I began to believe that my voice didn't matter. That no one wanted to hear what I had to say. That when I spoke up, and someone spoke over me, it was because what I was saying didn't have value and couldn't possibly have been because of someone else's inability to listen. 

So without conscious intention on my part, I began to remain silent and blamed it on my introvert tendencies because it felt more comfortable than facing the rejection of not being heard. 

I heard a hostage negotiator say once that what a captor wants more than anything is to be heard. It stuck with me, the extremes people will go to to be understood, and also because, at that time, my daily job involved listening to irate family members express their concerns regarding their loved ones or being called to help deescalate a behavior or talk someone off the edge of a wrong decision. 

What I learned over and over again in that season is how quickly a person's anger returns to a neutral and rational level when they feel they are being listened to.  

Eye level. Listen. Validate. "To be heard." 

And in that space of listening, you will often hear what is silently begging to be heard. You will hear what is holding the captor-captive, which is usually the feeling that no one is listening. A sense of disempowerment and that they are not worthy of being heard or understood. I learned that it's not always about having the right answer. It's about listening for the answer. 

It can feel disempowering to feel like you aren't being listened to. It whispers the lie that you what you have to say doesn't matter, and no one wants to hear it. It will steal your voice and your opinion and cause you to remain silent when you have something worthwhile to say. I don't know what may have happened in your life that tried to steal your voice. I don't know what lie knocked on the door of your heart, and you allowed to come in, but I urge you to take another look at it today. 

When we choose to ignore that nudge in our heart to speak life and truth, and what we've learned, we rob others of the gift of our unique perception and experiences. Don't deprive others of your voice. There is someone who needs your words and your story. May you find the courage to show up, even when you can't control the outcome, knowing that you have value whether or not someone else has the ability to recognize it.

Ten Cakes for Monte 

 

I looked over my left shoulder to watch my daughter as she clapped with exaggerated excitement from the backseat. Her smile reached both sides of her face at the level of joy that she felt, and I felt my own smile mirror hers. I’ll tell you why in a moment, but for now, know that these are frequent occurrences for her. Like when we pull into the local ice cream hang out spot. Her enthusiasm doesn’t diminish in the line of ten cars ahead of us. The scoop of vanilla with sprinkles on top is worth the wait. Worth clapping for. Worth celebrating. Or when she sees the slide as we approach the park. The slide she used to be afraid of, but now squeals with delight as she goes down and runs to do it again and commands me to watch.The simple things.The things we lose our childlike appreciation for as we age and the wonder of it all grows dim. 

The wonder is still there, buried somewhere beneath the lie we’ve believed that these everyday moments are somehow ordinary. It is discoverable in brief glimpses, able to be tapped into when we lay aside our adult status for a moment and decide to take a turn on the swing set. The memory of the carefreeness returns much like the memory of riding a bike. With much ease. As close as the wind on our face, no matter how long it has been. 

In recent weeks, I sat in the nosebleed section of an auditorium built to hold thousands while attending the college graduation of a friend. Statistically speaking and if his past had a vote, we shouldn’t have been sitting there watching the event unfold. By this point in his life, he had overcome addiction and homelessness and the winding and messy road to recovery. So when his name was called, and he crossed that stage, I literally could have jumped out of my skin. Just mop me up off the floor over there in row fourteen. Tears for days. A heart that was exploding with pride and the fleeting feeling that the world is as it should be. A moment worth celebrating. Wonder and awe at this life and its beauty. 

Waiting with anticipation to hear his name called. 

Or like the time that Monte’s mom said she was going to make him ten cakes for his birthday this year. One for every year that he was gone during his incarceration. One cake for every year that he felt like he had missed the mark in life big time. For every year that he felt the weight of shame and failure and an unknown future. I will light these candles on these ten cakes, and I will celebrate you. I will celebrate your existence. I will celebrate the fact that you are home again and that your life is worth it. Even then. Even still.  

I will tell you why my daughter clapped that night. We were listening to a musician as he competed for his place on a popular show. She heard him strumming his guitar and the smooth melody of his voice, and she listened to the audience erupt in applause at the conclusion. What she didn’t know was the backstory. That his journey included so much heartache, making the bitter more sweet in this full circle moment as he sat on that stool under the stage lights and with a captive audience. She simply responded to the celebration already taking place. 

She clapped wildly as if she understood that something extraordinary had just taken place. I thought about how, as adults, we subconsciously make the determination of who is worth celebrating and who is not. We grossly underestimate who is capable of change and who is a lost cause. Who to fight for and who to give up on. We don’t take the time to get to know others who have different views and who have walked a different road than we have. We decide who is right and who is wrong and fail miserably to see ourselves in the person we think is nothing like us. No wonder we so often lose our wonder.  

We are too busy making judgments that are not ours to make.  

I lost a pearl earring the other day. Not just any pearl, but one from a set that my husband bought me. He knew how much I loved them when he chose them for me and wrapped them in silver paper that Christmas. I felt sick when I couldn’t find it and was relieved when the pearl rolled out from its hiding place on the tray I placed it carefully in. 

Here’s the thing though. A pearl has worth, regardless of whether or not I recognize its value.  

Maybe the invitation to our lack of wonder is just to respond to the celebration already taking place. Maybe the birds with their morning harmony know something we don’t about the wonder of this creation they inhabit. Maybe children still remember the secret knowledge of their Father that created them and entrusted us with shaping and molding them into people who value the people he does.  

Maybe there should be more standing ovations. Yes, for the friend you know that has overcome. Be the one who shows up and stands to applaud and screams like that obnoxious friend in the nosebleed section. It’s a moment worth celebrating. Don’t miss it. But don’t forget to cheer on the friend who is still stuck in failure and repetitive cycles of brokenness and struggle. Cheer for them too, because more often than not, you are the only one who will and it may be the very thing that pulls them out. 

Bake the ten cakes. Make every flavor and light every candle and be sure to take a picture too. Because people need to know they are worth it. Even in spite of their past and their worst moment. People don’t need to be reminded of their screw-ups. More often than not, they are overly aware, and there are enough people doing the reminding.

I'm going to decide to clap wildly because God says that every person is worth it and that is enough for me. I'm going to clap because even at my lowest, there were people still standing on the sidelines clapping for me.  

Don't overcomplicate the invitation to love people. Let's be people who bake the ten cakes. And light the candles too. 
 

SOS: Lessons From Open Water 

 

When we set sail from shore, we had no idea how long our course would be. It was not a calculated risk. We saw the need in the margins and felt the weight of their despair as if it were our own. And once you have seen, you can’t unsee. There is no moving forward in your comfortable existence and ignoring the point of pain, not with peace anyway. So we glanced again at that red brick Colonial that is still vacant one street over and decided it was no longer an option. Or at least not one we wouldn’t regret. We set our compass to North, sailing away from the shoreline and the illusion of safety that we once knew and out into the open sea, our destination being a future opening date on a dream placed in our hearts. 

Here’s what I didn’t know when I was still sitting on the shoreline with my toes in the water. I had no idea how dark it can get on the open sea. That there are extended periods when you cannot see your hand in front of your face, let alone what the next day will hold. I had no idea how adrift and lost at sea I would feel like maybe our compass was off by just one degree that would eventually land us miles upon miles from our mark and nowhere that we wanted to be. I had no idea how shark infested the water would feel in the form of opposition against our family, our finances, and ultimately, our hearts. I had no idea that I would feel so depleted from the scorch of the sun and almost void of any hope of ever seeing the shoreline again. 

So the distress flares went up and my panic began to rise. But this I remembered and clung to on the days and long nights when all I could hear was the lapping of the water that was holding us. When God places something on your heart, he only asks you to go. He doesn’t ask you to figure out the next ten steps or ten years. He doesn’t ask you to determine if the cause is worthy, because if it involves loving people, it always is. He doesn’t ask you to consider all the hypothetical scenarios or what if’s. A calculated risk is not a risk at all. And the only risk really lies in what you’ll miss by choosing to play it safe. 

Maybe you need to be reminded today. Perhaps you feel the knock at your heart, but you’re still sitting at the shore waiting on the opportune moment which is now. Maybe you answered the call, but now you are second guessing yourself because all hell has broken loose in your life. Perhaps you are feeling the blisters on your skin and your heart, and you didn’t realize the cost would be so high. Maybe your cries for help are only met with silence, and it feels like God is holding out on you. Perhaps you feel adrift and lost at sea.  

Hold fast. 

What your weary eyes can’t see is that it will be worth stepping into the water. It will be worth climbing into that boat and heading into a destination that feels unknown. And it’s okay to go afraid, so long as you go. What your weary heart doesn’t know is that the opposition that threatens to overtake and overwhelm is actually a good sign that you are exactly on course.  

Stay in the boat. Don’t you dare give up. What you also don’t know is that the shoreline is just on the horizon.  

You are going to make it to shore, and when you do, you just might find that your only regret will be that you didn’t set sail sooner. 

The Small and Sacred 

 

“Everything is important,” he kept saying as he folded and unfolded the tissue with repetition and laser focus like it was the most important task at hand. Dementia set in a few years before, first revealing itself through forgetting the same route he took for decades and purchasing more of the lunchmeat he just bought the day before. Sometimes he would remember my name. And sometimes he would not. Sometimes he could recall his daughters and his siblings. And other times he needed us to remind him of the life he had lived. But I watched his hands marked with the effects of age and a life well lived as they folded that Kleenex and I hung on his every word, knowing he was saying something I needed to pay attention to. 

“Everything is important.”  

It wasn't lost on me. It replayed in my pensive mind as I left the hospital that night and walked to the car. As I settled into pajamas and my bed and when I awoke the next morning, still forefront in my mind. Not only his words but the intensity with which he said them.  

There are no small things. It’s all relevant. It all matters with a sacredness that we are often dismissive of or disregard. If the great curtain of time and eternity were unveiled before us, I think we would weep at what we miss in the very moments we are in that are unfolding right before our distracted eyes. 

Small things like the time I noticed a change in Jasmine’s handwriting. She handed her writing assignment to my husband and proceeded to talk as it laid upon a stack of others. One front sided page of pink colored ink. It seemed like a small thing really. The fact that I no longer needed a magnifying glass to read her handwriting. Always neatly printed and written with the skill of poetic flow and the ability to express her heart in a way that would bring an audience to their feet, but too small and required you to strain your eyes to see. 

“I can actually read your handwriting,” I said to her with surprise, but not really thinking much more about it at the moment. A corner of her mouth lifted as her eyes briefly met mine before glancing away. “I know,” she said. “I felt like my voice was too small before.” Before

Before processing the trauma and years of sexual abuse. Before bravely seeking healing for the memories she used to escape through anger, violence and toxic relationships that only left her more wounded. Who knew that her healing and growth would reveal itself through such a little thing as a change in her handwriting. I almost missed it. 

 

  

Truth is, I almost miss a lot of moments. Like the quiet in a coffee shop, we are waiting to open to the public. “Will we ever arrive?” my heart often asks. My daughter plays quietly on the blue velvet couch as I wait for the floor to dry after being mopped and the Cranberries play softly on Spotify in the background. In that soft lighting of that quiet sanctuary, I imagine the day when the room will be filled with people. Some working silently on laptops while others chase children or catch up with a friend or a book. I imagine the noise and traffic and exchange of conversation that will fill the place. This moment of waiting and stillness exchanged for something else that is good. I will miss this, I think to myself. So I sit and watch my daughter as she plays and I linger in it all. 

“Everything is important.” So I decided to give my blog that name. And today is not the anniversary of the launch or the 100th post or anything seemingly extraordinary like that. It’s just on my heart and I wanted to share. 

Life is handing us an invitation to live fully in every moment. Don't merely wait for the "big" moments and miss all the small and simple and beautiful ones in between. Notice what goes unnoticed. Practice the art of paying attention. Wake up to your one and only beautiful life. Even if it's not the one you thought you would be living.  

I not only heard you, grandpa. I listened. And you were so right. 

The Courage to Stand Up Again 

 

It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say. In fact, quite the opposite. I had a lot to say. It’s just that my words got stuck somewhere between my heart and my throat as the memory of the verbal attack hung thick in the air around me. As the words played on repeat between my ears like an annoying chorus to a song I wished I hadn't heard. The words were out there and couldn’t be retracted. Launched like a ballistic missile designed to create a nuclear war and the target was my heart

At the moment, I retreated to a safe place somewhere deep within, took a deep breath and straightened my face and my spine as I listened to the unfurling of what I knew to be untrue about myself. I am a person who writes about being vulnerable and the importance of sharing your story and the truth that once you’ve made peace with your story, it no longer matters what other people think. But in this unwelcome moment, my vulnerability was being used against me causing me to question what I knew to be true. 

So like an automatic setting, my mind began to rehearse all of those mental practices in my mind. I reminded myself of all the things I claim to believe and encourage my readers to embrace and live out. But as the days turned into weeks, my posture began to slump a little. I began to have increased trouble getting out of bed in the morning and looking in the mirror became more of a side glance that I would steal. I stopped writing. I became reclusive. I didn't want to talk, even to those that I love the most. I stopped allowing my words to circulate into the world that I have no control of. 

The nagging fear that I couldn’t silence was that if one person felt this way about me, maybe that is the perception that others have too. My mind became amnesic of responses I received in the past from readers who connected with my words and the story I never wanted. Forgotten were the moments when I stood with eyes locked with another as they thanked me for being vulnerable and for giving them the courage, to be honest with their own story. 

I will protect myself, I thought. I will sit here in silence until it feels safe to come out again, even if that means for the rest of life.  

And then the knock came from the One who knows this heart and cares more about my reputation and my story than I ever could. It came in the form of a phone call like His hand was being held out to me with an invitation to stand again, even if my legs felt shaky and weak.  

“You must get up because there is someone else who needs your story.” 

Listen to what I’m about to say.  

You are going to have critics and naysayers.   
You are going to have people who misinterpret your words and your heart. 
You are going to have people who hear you talk for five minutes and think they really know you. 
You are going to have people say things about you that are brutal. Even if just behind your back. 
It's not an “if,” but a “when.” It is guaranteed. 

Tell your story anyway. 

There is someone out there who needs your story. There is someone who needs to know that you survived and what you learned along the way and that they too are going to make it through to the other side. 

Get off the bench. Stand up again. Come out of the silence. Get back into the ring. 

You are the only one who has lived your story from your perspective, and the bravest thing you can do in this life is to find the courage to tell it.

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  • Margie David

    Margie David Hamilton, Oh

    Sarah keep writing. I went to junior high or high school with you, not sure which one. I've read the first page and can't stop. Your writing speaks to my soul and I'd almost swear we were walking through some if the same wasteland. Thank you so much for writing and sharing

    Sarah keep writing. I went to junior high or high school with you, not sure which one.

    I've read the first page and can't stop. Your writing speaks to my soul and I'd almost swear we were walking through some if the same wasteland.

    Thank you so much for writing and sharing

  • Sally Lyons

    Sally Lyons Liberty Township, Ohio

    Sarah, what beautiful writing. I just was reading this and it all just touched me in just such a way! I can’t even explain it but truly enjoyed all of it!! Thank you for sharing and please continue with your beautiful and thoughtful writing! It made my night 😀. Thank you again.

    Sarah, what beautiful writing. I just was reading this and it all just touched me in just such a way! I can’t even explain it but truly enjoyed all of it!! Thank you for sharing and please continue with your beautiful and thoughtful writing! It made my night 😀. Thank you again.

  • becki hernandez

    becki hernandez las vegas

    I never cry. I cried. So beautiful. Keep writing.

    I never cry. I cried. So beautiful. Keep writing.