Why Change is So Gut-Wrenchingly Hard

I recently had a horrible fight with my teenage son and called him a word which begins with an a and ends with an e. The mom who writes about Jesus and has an inflated puffy head because she doesn’t “cuss” in front of her kids. I was horrified. Then I had to ask myself, “Am I horrified because of the word I said or because I don’t want anyone to know the anger issues I still struggle with?” Really my ego and pride are quite nauseating at times. I’ve been asking Jesus for seventeen years how to get well. He always tells me the first step and I still hate the answer. So, of course my two-year old tantrum self eats ten bags of potato chips, buys new throw pillows, then posts about the new pillows on Facebook to get the thumbs up that everything is indeed splendid. In the Bible it’s called sanctification, in twelve step groups it’s called recovery. Either way, the first step to wellness is getting brutally honest with yourself about yourself. And hello — who willingly signs up for that? None of us want to peer under the covers of our hearts and see what dark, creepy issues may be there. And guess what? We all have them. Welcome to the club: no one is exempt. Even your aunt who goes to church three times a week, wears flowery dresses, says words sweet as a honeycomb and makes the best gingersnaps has some probs. Or the friend or relative who would do anything for those she loves, but still gossips incessantly. Or the woman who serves...

Fear, Dying, and Fighting for Your Dreams

Something peculiar happens when you watch a loved one die, especially a parent. You realize something HUGE. You are smacked right in the face with your own mortality. It’s really quite mind-boggling. All of a sudden you realize, oh wow this will be me someday. And after months of taking my dad to the U of M Cancer center and seeing many young people very ill, I also realized there is no guarantee any of us will live to an old age. I will never forget the day we got the news that dad’s cancer was back and there was nothing more they could do. It not only scared the you know what out of me, it devastated me to no end, my life was forever changed. But honestly, it also did something life altering for me in a good way. It awakened my soul. Suddenly all of my fears seemed very small compared to this realization: You get one chance at this thing called life, one chance to pursue the dream God has placed inside of you. And this was the question I was asking myself: Will you be brave and do it? My father told me over and over again that God had put me on this earth to be a writer. At the time I was really struggling to believe that. And if he was right, I was not really happy with the choice God made. A writer? Um, aren’t those the people who work their tails off, without much reward and are poor? No, thank you. I wanted God to change my calling. I wanted it...

Why God’s Plan for Friendships is Way Cooler

As I comb out her beautiful white hair she reminds me to take her hearing aids out before I spray it. She has family coming in from out-of-town so she wants to look her best. She asks me to find her favorite pearl necklace out of her jewelry box and as I hang the pearls around her neck my mind goes back over the last eleven years of our friendship. We have joked for years asking, “What did God think an eighty-two year old Italian Catholic would have in common with a thirty-one year old hillbilly Bible thumper? I met Landi eleven years ago when I moved in next door to her. When we first met she’d pop over unannounced, tap on the door, walk in and call out my name. I remember the first time it happened I was making my bed and thought to myself: “Did she really just walk in?” I was a little ruffled by it, I mean in our generation we just don’t do that. We have our privacy walls and fences for a reason, amen? I remember one day in particular when she came by, she asked, “Would you like to come over for a glass of my husband’s homemade wine?” I politely declined being I’m not a drinker and she looked up at me inquisitively asking, “Why is it because you’re Baptist?” I chuckled and right away I was taken in by her eager desire to get to know someone and knew I was going to love her. From that day on we have been inseparable. She always tells everyone, “We just took to one other.”...

Why I Stopped Dating Jesus

I was in my early twenties. I would hear about those Bible thumpers that went to church every Sunday and it somewhat intrigued me but I also knew I was not one of them. First of all, I was not going to give up my cigarettes. Secondly, I was not going to stop cussing. And thirdly, when I would visit my dad’s Baptist church, it scared me. Dad would always lean over and say to me: “If you want to go the altar, I’ll go with you.” (He had this obsession with the altar like it was the only place you could meet Jesus.) I would shake my head no and pray that the preacher man was not standing at the door shaking hands after the service. And if he was, please God, let me him not see me. God never answered my prayer. Preacher man was always standing there with his smile and outstretched hand, and I would shake it, hoping to God he couldn’t read my mind, knowing the last sins I just committed. I remember walking outside the doors feeling free, like I could breathe again. That conviction stuff and dealing with your sin was heavy. I liked my relationship with God just the way it was. I liked Him, He liked me. We’d hang out once in a while, chat here and there, I’d ask for forgiveness on Easter and Christmas. Everything seemed to be working out just fine. Until everything was not fine. September eleventh happened. I was a young mother, married only a couple of years, struggling with depression, anxiety, and was having...

When Your Deepest Pain and Purpose Collide

We want to change the world and do something big. We want to know our lives, pain, and tears on this earth matter. Searching for our purpose, we read books, say thousands of prayers, and beg God to answer the question: “What in the world are we here for?” We get glimpses, but it still looks hazy. We see other people doing great things and wonder if they have some secret hotline to heaven we know nothing about. I read this scripture a few weeks ago and I’m still digging for all the treasures found here. Psalms 126:5-6  They who sow in tears shall reap with joyful singing. He goes back and forth weeping, carrying his bag of seed {for planting}, will indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing sheaves with him. Oh friend, we have made this way more difficult than it needed to be. And way bigger in our minds than it needed to be. Our culture tells us that our purpose has to be this “big thing” we must strive for, when God is saying, “It’s right in front of you. Look at those around you who are in need.”  What I’ve discovered about people who have done great things is that it always started with small things done with great love. (Mother Teresa). There is a quote that says, “Show me a man’s wounds and I’ll show you his purpose.”  Think of your deepest pain: the things in your life which have hurt you and cut you so deeply that they just about did you in. Now, ask yourself these questions: Who is out...

Blessings Don’t Always Feel Good

We were sitting in Applebee’s when he said it. It was over steak, potatoes and salad with too much ranch dressing. “My cancer saved me, Holly.” That was the last thing I expected to come from my father’s mouth. The cancer had plagued him, kept him awake in the middle of the night due to debilitating pain and intense fear. The cancer  had robbed him of his physical health and made him look like a concentration camp victim. (he always joked he was trying out for the next Holocaust film) How in the world had cancer saved him? He continued, “Before I got cancer, I was so consumed with me. There were things I was holding onto that I would not fully give to God, until the cancer. I am at a place with God now like I’ve never been. I have peace and feel Him with me like never before.”  That day as I sat looking at him, I saw a different man before me. He didn’t look the same — his outer appearance was fading — but his inner spirit that dwelt with Christ was gleaming. Oh friends, we look at blessings so incorrectly sometimes. We always equate them with good health, prosperity, and warm, fuzzy feelings. We say, “I had a blessed Christmas” because we got a lot of things and gorged on yummy food. True, these are blessings, but what about the person in the hospital whose body is wracked in pain and feels alone? Are they not blessed? I was studying the word blessed today and the Greek meaning. When Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor...

Teaching Our Kids Not to Mask Their Pain

I answered the phone and on the other end was a dear friend sobbing. She was going through a debilitating depression and was making the decision whether to get on medication or not. She has teenagers like myself and I asked her if the kids knew. I could barely hear her whisper on the other end of the line: “No, and I don’t want them to know.” Oh, I knew the feeling all too well. I had just experienced the same thing and had to sit my kids down and explain I had depression and was taking medication. But I too had hidden it from them for quite a while out of shame. We chatted for a while and in the following days we both wrestled with these questions back and forth to each other: “How will we teach our kids the path to wellness if we don’t show them? “How do we explain to them that it’s okay to sometimes not be okay? “What if they someday go through depression like us. Are we teaching them to hide? To run? To be ashamed?” I was taught from an early age how to cope with my pain. My father was a severe alcoholic/addict and I learned early on how to numb it by stuffing it down with a substance or food, or to run from it altogether. My dad ended up getting sober when I was eighteen and was clean for twenty-two years before he passed away two years ago. Through watching him in active recovery all those years and watching him come out of hiding, God began leading me...