New Year’s Resolutions – Part Deux

Ok, this one is tough to share.  Lol. What will you think of me?!  😉  Ironically, I am practicing my resolution today by sharing with you!


“This is your life.. are you who you want to be?”

This little phrase developed into an anthem for my life a few years ago taken from a 2003 Switchfoot song.  I began daily listening to it first thing in the morning as I brushed my teeth, combed my hair and stared at the getting-close-to-forty face looking back at me.

Am I who I want to be?  Or am I who I think everyone else thinks I should be?  Or am I stuck being someone I don’t want to be?  Or am I someone I don’t like, but seem to keep on being that person anyway?

You see sometimes in our life we grow up thinking that everything around us defines us.  People in our life, community, leaders, culture.. And, when we think that, guess what?  Our actions follow.  So, we allow those definitions to take root, and limit our actions to fit in the little box afforded us.

Oh, their family is just that way.  Oh, people with that color of skin are just that way.  Oh, women are just that way.  Oh, he’s always done things that way.  Oh, that temper just runs in her family. Oh, people that age just always think that way.  Oh, he won’t ever be anything else, he’s just not capable.

Oh, she just IS……

But, all that stuff doesn’t define me.  Nope.  It contributes to my life.  Like a recipe with a dash of this, and a tablespoon of that.. It all becomes part of who I am.  But, it doesn’t define ME.

Define:  To explain the meaning of : to show or describe something clearly and completely.  (Merriam-Webster).

There are things that we are so grateful for in life!  We are happy for their contribution, and glad it’s part of who we are!

But, here’s the thing.. there are things in our lives that we really don’t want to define us.  But, we feel restricted like they do. Trapped.  One of my very favorite songs right now is John Mayer’s “In The Blood.”  I cried the first time I heard it, because it reached deep into my soul, and straight to the lies that whisper to me that I am limited by my past to deter becoming who I want to be.  Maybe you can relate?  Mistakes we’ve made, failures, abuse from others, family struggles.. the list goes on and on.  “Could I change it if I wanted, can I rise above the flood?  Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?” (Mayer, 2017, In the Blood).

So, my resolution I’ll share with you is this!

Practice the courage to be myself.

Who do I want to be?

I guess the first step is us being intentional to think about it.  And, to realize we aren’t limited by that other stuff.  I’m not stuck… my Father made me free!

You aren’t stuck either.

I know these things:

1)      I am made in the image of God!  (WHOA!)

2)     I am a sinner that tries to find other things to fix my cravings.  I desire stuff that’s not for me, and sometimes I over-desire stuff that might be good in my life, but it still isn’t Him!  And, over-desiring that stuff still gets me off-balance because it’s temporary!  He is eternal!

3)     God’s grace is sufficient for yesterday, today and forever!  When I am one with Him, I am balanced and complete.  Seeking Him reveals more and more of my definition!


Some ways for me that help me practice….

-Being vulnerable, always truthful and sincere with my thoughts, but also kind and sensitive to the needs of others.

-Listening to others, and sharing with others in safety.  Staying away from gossip.

-Enjoying the moments of bliss I find!  For me often with music, (or other awe-inspiring gifts from God) that completely jive with who He made me.  You know the moments that you sing along with to the top of your lungs in the car.  Or, you listen to with tears. The moments were you have to just sit spellbound at scenery that doesn’t seem real.  And, then, for me that Beethoven symphony that leaves me with chill bumps and a sense of awe EVERY TIME?!

-Stopping to enjoy the sunset, or savor the coffee.  Giving myself the OK to rest, play, and create!

-Not stressing about what people want, need or try get from me… But give freely of the right things at the right time.  What’s on my plate?  Take care of those things step by step… and practice the word, “no” when it’s needed.  😊 Every time I say yes to something, I am also saying no to something else.  So, make sure my yes’s are the ones I want, and the no’s are the right ones for me.

-“Where ever I am, being all there.” ~Elisabeth Elliot.  Wholehearted living!

And, when I mess up (because I surely do and surely will…) getting back on the path and taking a step at a time back in the right direction!

Hey, remember as Dr Seuss says… “There’s no one you’er than you!” And that’s not a mistake… God shaped and fashioned you!

The practice of being ourselves takes courage, insight, and honesty.  Not just simply, well folks – this is me and this is what you get kinda courage… ‘cos honestly that can leaving us feeling very dissatisfied at the end of many days. Rather, the courage to be who we truly are. Who we are created to be!  And all with the flair of the individual ways He made you and me!  To practice shedding ourselves from lies of our image that weigh us down – hate, fear, insecurity, pain… and then practice putting on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and strong love for ourselves and others!

Bearers of the image of God

Here’s what is fascinating.. our God is a God of ubiquitous diversity!  Just take a look around, and then in the mirror!  I’ll leave you with this quote that I heard once in a lecture…

“Every man is in certain respects like all other men, like some other men,  like no other man.”

The same Switchfoot song also has this line.. “Don’t close your eyes.”  Ahhh.  That’s what I’d like to do some days.. lol.. but, courage isn’t always some big, bold hero with a cape and a big S on the chest… courage is taking the right steps today.  It’s opening our eyes to look at reality.  Steps.  One by one by one… Not always an easy road, but the one that brings harmony inside, no matter what we are walking through on the outside.



Emotions, Memes, and Three Treasures of Joy

screemI’m perusing Facebook, when BAM! There it is.  A cleverly worded meme, complete with lovely background image, and 782 previous shares telling us of its validity.  “You choose happiness today! You have no one to blame but yourself! Happiness is a daily choice!” You’ve probably seen them too, maybe even shared them, or created them in a loving attempt to encourage and recreate your journey to help others. But I’d like to share a perspective from my heart, and I hope it speaks to yours.

First, a thought on happiness.  Happiness is an emotion. A feeling. An instinctive God-given gift to us as a result of thinking patterns, hormones, core beliefs, and experiences.

Emotion is defined by Webster’s in this way: /əˈmōSH(ə)n/ “an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate or the like is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.”  

This tells me:

Emotions are real.  

Emotions are necessary.

Emotions are a natural response.

We can work to control our thoughts and help guide our emotions, but we cannot control our emotions themselves. They are a response, like pain receptors in our physical body that tell us when we touch the curling iron, “Watch out! That’s hot! It will burn you!” Our emotions work the same way. Anger, used in a good way, can help us allocate justice when things aren’t fair. Sadness helps us grieve when we’re lost in this tired, difficult world. Happiness helps us celebrate the good, wonderful things in our lives. Like it or not, all of our emotions are gifts that work for us. God gave us this marvelous way to guide us in our soul journeys.FullSizeRender (60)-001

Personally, when I see cleverly worded memes that tell me to “Choose Happy Today,” I’m brought back to some of my
darkest hours. Days that were rugged and broken, when legitimately sad things were happening. Days when, on top of the emotions I was experiencing, I added on shame. Shame that told me I wasn’t a good enough person, or that something was wrong when I couldn’t shake the sad feelings and trade them for the happy. I wore a smile, and tried to ignore the looming sadness. But I needed the sadness. I needed to allow myself to wash and splash some of the pain and loss down my face with cleansing tears. I needed the sadness to help me process the sad things I was experiencing so I could move forward. Through the support of loved ones, and God’s grace-filled guidance, that happened for me during those days.

Maybe today you’re in that place. Life can be such a struggle. Emotions surge high and crash low, and sometimes, if we battle against them instead of leaning into them, they seem to overtake us. And maybe like me, you’ve found yourself overwhelmed in the storm of struggle. As we identify and acknowledge the need to sort through our feelings, we can begin to look at what’s at the core. And yes, vulnerability and being real with oneself can take courage, but the freedom is glorious as we lay bare before our Father, sharing our deepest pains, our greatest fears, and even our happiest moments. We are created to “bear one another’s burdens,” (Galatians 6:2) so please reach out, my friend. You were not made to walk alone. Sometimes this process will show you the need for help from friends, family, counseling, mentoring, loving groups, and maybe medical professionals. Please don’t be ashamed! Support is one thing we all can share with one another. One of the most freeing things ever spoken to me was, “Just take the next right step. That’s all you need to do.”

sunsetcaymanHappiness is an emotion that is so pleasant to have. I mean, who doesn’t like good things felt and experienced? But even on days when I’m feeling the loss, fear, or hurt that some experiences afford, and happiness is far away, precious joy is always there. I’m so grateful that I can trade my shiney, “perfect” mask for vulnerable, honest, real me resting in each step found in my Saviour’s care.  Not me choosing to be happy…. Joy finding me.  Joy that helps me see these emotions as gifts, and offer them up to God to discover how I can grow as I acknowledge His design in emotions for me.  

Three special ways that joy has impacted me through my journeys:

1) Joy has given me tranquility.

A contentedness that sings to my soul, “All is well.” Storms come and go, that is assured, but His love is always with me. Where He has me today, I can be assured His grace is with me. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phillipians 4:11-13)

The waves can’t drown me, for He is holding me.  Even when I can’t feel it, He is there.

2) Joy has given me freedom from guilt and shame.

I fail, and I grow weak. Physically, emotionally, and mentally I can’t be all things at all times, and I have loads of limitations. And that’s ok.  Because, “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

Praise God, I don’t rely on me; my hope is in Him.

3) Joy has given me deep, deep delight, and pleasure indescribable.

The more I see His love for me, the more I rest in Him, and the more I experience His love in the most secret places of my heart, the more deeply I delight in every moment I have to know Him.  The darkest days are easier to face as I feel the close presence of my Saviour.  “And though you have not seen him, you love him, and though you do not see him now, but believe in him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

I can’t explain it all, but my heart knows well His Love.steppingstones

Friend, you are on my heart today.  Don’t let the weight of those cleverly worded memes, or your own fears keep you from reaching out and working through your experiences today.  Emotions are a gift, and a signal that attention is needed. Find the precious joy of steadfast tranquility, freedom from guilt, and deep, powerful pleasure as you embrace this journey.


All you have to do in this moment is take the next right step.  

If you are reading this, and need help right now, or have had thoughts of complete hopelessness, please reach out. Call a loved one, or one of the confidential contacts listed below. You are loved, and there are many who want to share your burdens, just as many of us have had our burdens shared.

To Write Love on Her Arms

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1 (800) 273-8255

National Child Abuse Hotline

1 (800) 442-4453

National Domestic Abuse Hotline

1 (800)799-7233

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network

1 (800)656-HOPE

cared for

plantTo be cared for:

“Having needed care and attention.”

Care is defined as “close attention or concern for another.”  Clear, nurturing, competent, affectionate, confident, intentional, specific.

What a concept!  What a need!  Of course we think muchly about caring for our physical selves through eating, exercising, not too much sun, plenty of water, the right supplements for my needs, and other things we deem necessities.  But, emotional care for our souls is a need, too. Maybe an overlooked need often, as we just busily make it from day to day..

So, for my lack of a better way to convey my understanding, the best description that helps me understand how to be cared for, is to think of what is not cared for: neglected, left alone, unattended.

I have a shameful confession.  I am terrible at caring for plants.  And, I LOVE plants.  I love gardens!  I love all things green! They are a gift that reminds me of life in such a vivid way.  Yet, sadly I don’t attend the needs in a consistent way, and my results are usually not good.  😦  Yep, I’m good at talking to my plants, but I forget the consistent things like how often to water, when to have sunlight exposure, etc. for each particular one.

I think caring for something, most importantly, takes consistency and understanding individually the needs.  Daily showing up. It’s truly loving in a way that is seeing who that individual is, and how to nurture their life helping them on their own journey.

What things make you feel cared for?

Deeply we feel this need, and we cry out sometimes, “Does anyone see me?  Does anyone hear me?”

I’ve looked into the eyes of the forgotten.  The ones who starve emotionally to know they are cared for.  Maybe you’ve looked into their eyes too.  Maybe even today you’ve looked into starving eyes as you peer into your mirror. I know I have at times, too.

Little ones.  Big ones.  Poor ones.  Wealthy ones.  Fast ones.  Slow ones. Sweet ones.  Salty ones. We’re all in this same boat together.  We all have this need.  We all long to be nurtured and cared for.

Can you reflect on a time that you felt cared for?

Maybe as your grandma cooked your favorite dish of chicken and dumplings when you came to visit?

Possibly when you were a child and your aunt for Christmas bought you a purple dress that you had been wanting?

A foot massage after a long day that expressed closeness and tenderness?

“I made you a special play-list of some songs I thought you would enjoy.”

Or, the fact that your girlfriend knows how much you like your quiet time, and even though she’s an extrovert she intentionally and freely encourages you to grab those moments?

A big “atta-boy” from a friend when you are successful in something you’ve worked hard to accomplish.

A cup of tea, someone running your bath, and taking care of some of your daily tasks to offer relief from a difficult day?

“You lost your phone again?  It’s ok.  I’ll help you search, I know you’re in a hurry… Don’t worry! We’re in this together!”

A time when your friend knows your down, and picks you a bouquet of your favorite, fresh flowers?

Clear, nurturing, competent, affectionate, confident, intentional, specific.mountain-climbing1

See, my bamboo needed less sunlight, and plenty of water, but my cactus needed less water, and more sunlight.  Neither one can thrive, and be truly cared for if I try to nurture them in the exact same way.  We are all uniquely, and wonderfully made.  I want to be known specifically, and I can’t be nurtured truly unless you find out who I am, and what’s needed to help me thrive.

Friends, let’s not be neglectful of one another. What a joy that I can contribute to your life, and receive the same gift from you!  We aren’t nurturing if we lump each other in a whole category together, or if we choose to only look through our own lenses at what each other’s needs might be!  Tender attentiveness is the key to truly learning how to care.

If you are someone reading this today, and you do feel starved and abandoned please know that you are not alone.  I encourage to reach out to someone that you think might can help you.  It takes courage, I know, to admit where we are, but someone is out there who can nurture and care for you.  I would love to hear from you, and know that you are on my heart! People do fail each other — this life is messy!  But, dear heart, God does not ever fail.  God cares so deeply for you, and this verse has helped me through many a night of tears, “The Lord your God is with you. He’s mighty to deliver. He takes great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love. He rejoices over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)  In my life, He has been with me through it all, and His delight in me has been my strength and joy.

flowers in the rain

PS:  Here are a couple of links if you are interested in thinking through a little more of who you are individually, or if you want to share concepts with others in your life.  I think it’s fun and helpful to be intentional to slow down some and think about our uniqueness!

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman helps us understand a little more of how individually we feel loved/cared for.

This personality test is based on the work of Briggs and Jung, and you can surf the internet and find more like it.  I like this one, and think it has a fairly accurate assessment for most people.


Center for Relational Care, MacMillan Dictionary (2015), Abraham Maslow, Robert McGee, John 13:34-35, Philippians 2:4, Galatians 6:2.

the gift of eyes to see

FullSizeRender (33) The past few weeks in southeast Texas it has been rainy (to say the very least..).  Foggy, drizzly, blustery, blurry, wet, showery, stormy…. Need I go on?

Lightning struck so loudly one early morning, it shook me to my core.

The colorful clouds are traded for gray.  Gray skies. Gray skies that trade the sounds of the singing birds for the fearful clashing of thunder.

One of my favorite things in this life are the clouds.  Poufy cushions of all my favorite hues. Soft, billowy floating pieces of peace to me.  Since I was a kid, I’ve watched them… imagining what it must be like to float on a cloud.  Excited to see the growing light peek above the cloud’s rim… gradually overtaking the cloud and beaming out.  A big smile of light!

We live through different seasons of life.. Mine has been a bit stormy and gray.  Some events surprise you like the spring thunderstorm that suddenly appears from no-where. Catching you off-guard out at the ball-park, you fuss at yourself for not being prepared.  Everyone scrambling for cover.  Then there are the storms you feel coming, long before they arrive… the clouds churning, rolling side to side.  You set your galoshes by the door, and buy a new polka-dot umbrella.

And, ready or not, the storms come.  Rain can make every task a little more difficult.  Sometimes you get soaked.  Mud seems to creep everywhere…  The rivers rise, and flow across the road, keeping you at times from a destination.morning_dew

The lightning storms are scary, making you unsure of what to expect next.  The fog and rain make visibility oh-so-difficult.  I drive slowly, windshield wipers whisking back and forth, while the rain pounds on the roof.  I squint, and lean forward.  Maybe that will help.

Give me eyes to see, I pray.

I didn’t see that coming.  I did see that coming.  I wish that I didn’t have to walk through this pain. And, I wish I didn’t have to see those around me experiencing such turbulence.  The tears fall around me.  The storms beckon those tears.  I feel those tears deep in my heart..

Sometimes the storms are so bad, that the world seems to stop for a bit.  The hurry-scurry of life slows down, you watch out the window as the rain pours, the gutters flood, and the lightning strikes.

And maybe, we can hope to see the gifts in our storms.  A gift of slowing down, and taking in the sounds of the rain. Attentiveness to where our life is today, and where we are headed.  Sometimes its hard to be intentional, with all the busy running to ‘n fro… So, maybe a gift in the storms, is to stop, or at least slow down, and reflect.

It’s certain that after the rainy storms, everything grows, right? Just like the line from my favorite musical, “..rain will make the flowers grow…”  I guess it’s not as pretty to say, yet true, that rain also makes the weeds grow. What’s in my garden that I want to grow? Never fail, it’s funny to me how after a good rain our yard’s grass shoots up at rapid rate!  Kinda like that rate which I might see growth in my heart through life storms.  It could be sprouts of bitterness, negativity, detachment, or hopelessness that spring up at a faster pace after my storms….

Or, it could be gifts of patience, resourcefulness, new changes, meaning, wisdom, creativity, and maybe even new gifts to give others.. such as true empathy.

I have to be careful, in my life it seems, the weeds can choke out the beautiful gifts that can grow from my storms.  For me, it takes work. Intentional work.  I have to tend my little heart garden.  Digging out the little sprouts that will cause me more pain, and clearing the way for the good things to have loads of room to flourish.

Give me eyes to see.313-800

I’m so grateful for those eyes.  The eyes that take me to a place of gratitude, a place of understanding… and sometimes, simply to a peace in the midst of that I don’t understand, or that which I can’t be grateful about in my life right now.

Eyes to see beyond my fears.  Eyes to see beyond my pain.  Eyes to look into a glimpse of the future joys.  Eyes to see the strength for the future struggles.  Eyes to see deep within my spirit His perfect love, a love that chases away all fear.

Eyes that can see beauty in the storm, and the purpose in the rain.  Eyes that see the lightning will pass, and that Mr Sunny-shine will smile again. 🙂  My days of poufy clouds to ride on will come.  And, yes, there is certain to be days of more storms, too.

….and, eyes to see the gift that we are not alone.

“For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live;
If dark hours about me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

It is well, it is well with my soul.”

~Horatio Spafford


“We do not want to merely “see” beauty–though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words–to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” -CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Hope.  It’s a word I’ve thought of much lately.  It’s a word that sometimes just feels like only a word.  Recently, I’ve even stared it in the face, and dared it to approach me.

Hope for good tomorrow.  Hope for new tomorrow.  Hope for only laughter, dancing, and maybe my disillusionment to disappear like a magical pouf in the wind….. maybe tomorrow.

I dare you to come near me, Hope.  I’ve sneered at it.  Leave me be in my pain.

Then I see tragedies everywhere.  I see beautiful, talented people being robbed of their life due to addictions that are relentless. I hear the sobs of those hurting with decisions that seem impossible to make. I see people judging one another harshly, and joking about things that are such painful subjects…. but we don’t understand… we don’t know how to cope…. so we laugh at one another.  We laugh because we don’t understand.  We judge, because deep down we struggle to make sure the world keeps seeing our shiney face.  We don’t listen to each other — we instead decide how we can fix each other.  And all our little petals in our flower closes in like it’s night.  We dare not expose our true selves to anyone else.  Oh, no, no.

And I whisper, Hope, why am I so afraid of you?  

Hope in Merriam-Webster is defined firstly as, “to cherish a desire with anticipation.” work.6895354.1.flat,550x550,075,f.brave-flowers-in-the-storm

Dare I cherish and anticipate a desire?

It’s easier sometimes to shrink back into my petals and not expect beauty.

But, hope urges me to look onward.  The hope burning in me doesn’t take no for an answer.  The hope that is given to me says, don’t shrink back.  Look to the Light!  Open your heart up to take a step each and every day.  When my petals are closed, I can’t feel the warmth of the sun….

Highs and lows are not what’s needed.  Just a daily, gentle walk.  A good friend reminded me recently to stop thinking about days and labeling them “bad” or “good,” but to simply walk in what’s given that day to walk out.

I’ve demanded of hope as a little, spoiled child, “give me highs and perfect days!  That’s what hope is ‘spost to do!”

Being demanding, rather than hoping for the beauty that is part of us to display every day.  The beauty that can bloom in the rain, and lift its face to the falling rain and drink of its healing cleanse.

It’s a ludicrous trust, when sometimes it doesn’t make sense to even dream.  Permission for my heart to soar, and the dare to look for beauty tomorrow.  Hope exists, so that we can thrive in our walk.

So today.  I dream.  I hope.  I walk.  I look for beauty.  But, in the right place.  Not in people, or things.  Not in the perfect day, or all the elements of my life being exactly what I think it ought to be.

My hope is in God.  My hope is in my slow and steady walk with Him.  My hope is in my Creator who makes all things new and beautiful in their time.  I rest.  I walk.  I breathe.  I dream.  I dare to hope.  

Feelings sometimes tell me to give up my hope.  Fact tells me my hope will not disappoint when it’s placed rightly.

And I say to you, don’t give up.  Don’t lose heart.  There is beauty.  Beauty that far exceeds our expectations, and hope that blooms in the rain.