Thursday, April 28, 2016

You might find…..

If you were to come over to my house right now, you would not find perfection.



You might find a porch that needs to be swept… again. There's flowers and pinestraw that blew over to gather around the welcome mat.





You might find a sink full of dishes. Cereal bowls full of leftover cereal milk, the remnants of late night scoops of ice cream, a saucepan with leftover enchilada filling, and a bunch of others waiting to be done.





You might find a bunch of throw pillows thrown everywhere but where they belong.





You might find bobby pins strewn about.





You might find unmade beds well into the afternoon.





You might find toothpaste crust in my son's sink.





You might find a suitcase that needed to be unpacked days ago and piles of laundry on the floor.





But do you know what else you'd find? Laughter. Joy. The squeals of delight coming from my 10 year old as I chase him around the house. Cuddles as we curl up with a bowl of popcorn watching movies. A kind husband who doesn't have expectations of perfection. A family stretched out on couches satisfied after a homemade meal. 



I don't completely let things go, but I have found contentment in my mess. I look around and I see evidence of a family who lives & loves. 



This was a response to a Facebook message from a reader asking how I do it all. As seen above, I do not.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Shamed By Someone Else's Sin

I am a child of divorce. I am a child of nasty divorce. I am a child of remarried parents who didn't find peace in their second marriages. I bounced back and forth between two households that made some happy memories, but overall weren't happy homes. In both homes, there was a lot of tension, a lot of drama, and a lot of all-out war. In both houses, I was the non-confrontational one that tried to make peace, but I also believed I was at fault for all the war that happened.



You see, shame isn't a neutral force. And shame isn't something people can just leave where someone else left it. Where someone does something shameful, if they aren't sorry, someone else will pick it up and tether themselves to it. Sin generates shame, and the person who carries the shame is often not the person who committed the sin to begin with.



Did I make some mistakes? Well, of course I did. I'm human. I'm not perfect. But was I at fault for EVERYONE ELSE'S problems around me? Well, of course not.



Was it my fault that my parents decided to enter into a custody battle that cost everyone two years and every penny they had and then some? No. But it sure felt like it. Especially when I received an itemized list of everything I had ever cost to one of the homes I lived in. It was made clear to me in both homes that I was the most expensive child, and therefore, the biggest inconvenience. I was everyone's obligation. I was constantly reminded in both homes how much I cost my family. I rarely felt like I was wanted or like I belonged. In both homes, I was a misfit. Not quite like either side. I was ridiculed & mocked a lot. I was made fun of way more than I was hugged. In both homes, I stayed in my room alone way more than I came out to be with my family. When I was alone in my room, all I did was drown in shame. I spent all that time hating myself. 



All this primed me to accept shame and ridicule from other people. In high school, I dated a guy who said he would stop cheating on me if I'd just get skinnier. I've struggled with weight all my life. I was born a chubby baby, I turned into a chubby child, and I didn't want to be a chubby teenager. That's the absolute worst time in the world to feel fat, because even the skinny girls complain about being fat. I wanted to be first in someone's heart, so I almost completely stopped eating. The only time I would eat something was when I felt like I was about to faint. One time I really pushed it and fainted in the middle of biology class, of all places. I told my family I ate at school and I told the school I ate at home. And I STILL wasn't as skinny as the other girls. Eventually, that boy & I broke up, but I kept getting involved with guys that treated me badly. I was drawn to bad treatment because it was what I was used to and therefore what I was comfortable with. I was drawn to or even addicted to shame, and in some ways I still can be.



I ended up marrying a guy who is better than good to me.









He gives me compliments that I still cannot accept. We've been together almost 12 years and I still cannot believe him when he tells me I'm pretty or smart or wonderful. I try, but I just can't see it.



That shame has grown heavier the longer I've carried it around. That shame has been harder to carry that the slap marks and bruises that boy I dated left on me. He slapped me with his hands, but he slapped me harder with shame.



I battle all this shame every day. I battle that inner self-loathing voice that says things to me like "you're bad" and "no one wants you" and "people are only nice to you because they HAVE to" and "you're ugly" and "you'll always be fat so why even try?"



Revelation refers to Satan not by his name, and not by "the enemy", but he is instead called "the accuser", {Revelation 12:10} and for good reason! The best trick in his arsenal is to make the victimized blame & shame themselves. He takes that sin committed against them and slaps them over & over with it until they accept the shame as their own. When we're pummeled by condemnation, rejection & shame enough, we eventually believe we deserved all of it. Not only that, we believe it was all our fault. It dims the hope we have in Christ, and therefore it dims the hope we have in ourselves. 



"I only hit you because you're a bad little girl who needs it" barks the abuser to the one being abused just for being a little girl.

"He'd still be alive if you'd come home sooner or sent him to rehab" he'll say through the inner voice of the one who lost their loved one to suicide.

"You're a whore who was asking for it" the rapist says to his victim who just went out for a night of dancing with her friends. 

"You could've saved your marriage if you were someone worth staying for" he'll whisper in the head of an abandoned wife.

"I wouldn't have to do it if you'd stop being such a bitch" the abusing husband says flippantly as his battered wife tries to conceal her black eye in the mirror. 



Over and over, Satan uses other people's sins to shame someone else who was a victim of these sins. For those of us in the situation where we have been victimized {usually by an authority figure or someone who otherwise dominates us}, we find ourselves slapped by that shame, bruised and broken. We're drowning in this shame rather than resting at the feet of Jesus. If we don't separate ourselves from that shame, it will rip us completely to shreds. Shame is a force of viciousness. It is a special kind of ruthlessness.



Shame will tell you that you aren't good enough.

Shame will tell you that you deserved what you got.

Shame will hush your voice. 

Shame will dull your sparkle.

Shame will tell you that you'll never reach your dream, so you should quit trying.

Shame will fester; it will sprout resentment & bitterness.

Shame breeds self hatred.

Shame will make you put walls up around yourself where no one can reach you.

Shame feels hopeless.



ALL of these are absolute crap. Lies! Absolute lies!




God would never, ever, EVER choose shame for the victimized. Shame like this is just aftershocks from acts of darkness. We were left bleeding and bruised, but in Christ we are no longer broken. Shame is not an act of God. Therefore, shame that was never yours to begin with cannot survive God's love for you. Jesus conquered sin & shame when He took on the world's brokenness on the cross. 



"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." ~Hebrews 12:1-3



You have been endowed by Your creator with His grace, so do not ever let someone else's shame disgrace you. Don't let the weight of that shame hold you back from running this race you're in. You just keep on running, and kick that shame back to hell where it belongs.




Sunday, April 17, 2016

Make A Statement… Necklace.

I am a self-professed necklace junkie. And I have no intentions of changing. I've never counted all my necklaces because it would just take too much time, but I'm guessing I have hundreds. I've added to my sparkles over the years, people have gifted me some, and I have taken them in like my children. In fact, when I see a new necklace I fall in love with, this accurate depicts my mood: 




For realz. It's a problem. A problem I won't seek help for. 



I'm always buying new necklaces and figuring out new ways to wear them. I have more necklaces that I have shirts, sweaters, dresses,  skirts, pants, shoes, and purses combined.


Sometimes I go long. 



And sometimes I go short. 




And sometimes I even put one on when I'm hanging around the house. 



And sometimes I like big and sparkly. 




Seriously. Unless I am wearing pajamas, I am ALWAYS wearing a necklace. 



Funny {but not so funny} story: One of my necklace racks {yes, I said "one of"… I have more…} was hung on drywall anchors that ALLEGEDLY hold 75 pounds on the wall. Uh huh. No way this necklace rack weighed 75 pounds… or that's my story anyway! My husband was in the bathroom shaving, he was trimming up his goatee and all the sudden…. CRASH!!! He definitely shaved off a big chunk of his goatee from the shock and ended up having to shave it all off. Oopsie! We now refer to it as the great necklace crash of 2015. Yes, we named it because all major historical events should have a name to be referenced. 





See the wreckage above. Tears! I broke out the gorilla glue & saved my babies. Fret not.


Anyway, I recently packed them all away {individually bubble wrapped of course} for the big move. And I'm on retail lockdown right now because it would be so beyond counterproductive to buy new stuff while I'm packing, so I wanted to live vicariously through my readers. I wanted to put together some necklaces I have my eye on right now so y'all can soak up all the retail glory I can't. Then maybe y'all can share the pictures of the goods with me so I can be jealous jump for joy for you! Here's my current list {admittedly it's  long list} of all the ones I'm currently crushin' on. Click on each image for more information on your favorite treasures. 









Some of my tips for necklace styling:

1) If you're going with a statement necklace, don't also wear statement earrings. You want to make ONE STATEMENT, not several.
2) If you feel your necklace isn't long enough, there are tons of cheap extenders you can buy on Amazon or Ebay that can help you out. 
3) Don't wear a busy top & a busy necklace at the same time. If your shirt is floral or some other pattern with a lot going on, keep your necklace choice simple.
4) You can wear your hair up or down. A ponytail looks just as cute with a statement necklace than perfect styled curls. In fact, if anything, it just makes a bigger statement. Just not a sweaty gym ponytail that needs to be washed, K?
5) Have fun with it! Life's too short for too many rules on anything, even fashion!



Friday, April 15, 2016

To The Rejected One

On my life's journey, I have come to believe that two things define the path of human experience above all others: 
1) Acceptance & 2) Rejection. 



Acceptance feels great. It feels like a high. It feels euphoric. Like triumph. Like victory. Like love, even. Man, what a rush!



Rejection. There are no words to describe what that can feel like except destruction. It shatters hopes, dreams, and hearts. It comes in like a wrecking ball and levels us. Plus, emotional pain is so much easier to remember & relive than physical pain, isn't it? If you try to remember a time when you physically hurt, you'll likely remember the emotional feeling of misery, and you won't relive the pain itself. But if you try to remember emotional pain, every last little drop of that mess will come flooding back. 



As humans, we need to belong. We were created for community, so feeling left behind can quite literally make you feel like you have no purpose. You don't fit in. You're standing on the outside. You feel not only alone, but absolutely like a freak of nature. Rejection can make us act out in ways that aren't good in an effort to find a way to self soothe. I believe this is reflected by the number of former foster kids who are currently in our prison systems right now. There are conflicting reports, but it's estimated that 80-90% of our nation's prisoner's were once in foster care. Rejection is a powerful, powerful force that causes dominos falling in any number of directions. Those dominos almost always fall someplace scary.



I don't know what rejection looks like in your life. Maybe you didn't get into the college program of your dreams. Maybe you didn't get that job, or you lost yours altogether. Maybe someone threw you under the bus. Maybe someone made fun of you behind your back. Maybe you just got dumped. Maybe you were cheated on. Maybe you were abandoned as a child. Maybe your husband left you and your children. Maybe your best friend who you just KNEW had your back… well, it turns out they didn't. Maybe you were betrayed. Or maybe you were even rejected by your church. No matter how you slice it, being rejected just plain sucks.







Boy, do I know the feeling. I've been rejected in my life. Like, A LOT. Professionally, personally, and even by family. It has felt bleak. It has felt isolating. At times, it has felt like my life itself was pointless. I have stared down at an open bottle of pills wondering how long it would take to put an end to it. Rejection has cut me that deep. It literally made me want to die. I don't even remember what stopped me. All I can say is that I'm lucky to be alive after the grip feelings of rejection have had on me.



I don't know what your specific situation is, but I do know this: REJECTION ISN'T REAL. Now, don't misunderstand me, rejection FEELS VERY REAL. But in the end, it is a trap. A lie. An illusion. You'll start thinking to yourself that you aren't good enough, or he wouldn't have cheated on you. You'll wonder what's wrong with you that you got abandoned. You'll try to figure out what you did to deserve such cruelty. You'll ask yourself why you are always in this harsh world alone. What did you do wrong that everyone else seems to have gotten right? Why is everyone else accepted and you are not? LIES. LIES. LIES!



"The Lord will not forsake His people; he will not abandon His heritage." ~Psalm 94:14



Though people fail you and reject you, your sweet Father in heaven never, EVER will! You may feel alone, but you are not. Even in the face of rejection and all the turmoil in its wake, He will care for you simply because you are His precious daughter. Don't be deceived as I was, sweet one. I was ready to wave the white flag, throw in the towel, and choose death over life. I just KNEW something was wrong with me. I was a defective model. Broken. Damaged beyond repair. I found myself in a cave like David was, hiding from those who rejected me, and I thought that list included God. I thought He had turned from me. Forgotten me. Forsaken me. WRONG! So, so wrong! What I accepted as fact was based on entirely on lies. God never told me He left me. Those emotions of rejection were so raw and deep and painful… they HELPED me to not only consider these lies, but to accept them as fact. But….



"If God is for us, who can be against us?" ~Romans 8:31



The world's treatment of you will never be a reflection of God's opinion of you. Your worth is not measured by acceptance and rejection, it just feels like it. And I get it. It's so, so hard to believe the promises He made to you. After all, you just don't feel like someone who deserves these kinds of promises. They seem unrealistic. Almost too good to be true.



You know? I was looking through and art book that contained Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam the other day. It's a genius thing he was able to capture… on a ceiling of all places! Check out the hands.








The hand on the left represents Adam. The hand on the right represents God. Look at how God is reaching out for Adam. Adam's hand is limp. Kind of reaching out, but not really. And so it is with us. It's so easy to lay there alone kind of reaching out for God's truth but not really, as if to say He isn't really there or what He says isn't actually true. But God is stretched out as far as He can without leaving heaven. He is reaching out for you. And you're going to have to work harder at reaching out for Him in the face of all this rejection. You're going to have to reach and dig deep into the word. You're going to have to stretch to watch a sunrise and listen to praise music. It's going to feel pointless. It's going to feel like work. You may even wonder if He's even out there. Do these things anyway. You're going to have to come out of that cave so He can reach you. You are going to have to arm yourself with His promises, regardless of whether or not they "feel" true to you. You have to act accepted by Him and treat this as fact, whether or not you feel it.



You are not alone. He sees you. He wants you to know that you are always accepted by Him. And I pray that one day soon you believe that you are.



XOXO,

S

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Paging All Empaths

"What's wrong mommy?" my 10 year old son asked me while I was stretched out on the couch with a pillow over my face. I responded: "Oh, mommy just has a headache. I'll be over it soon."



…a long pause went by before he said: "You sure do get a lot of headaches. I think it's because you have all the feelings and they stress you out. It's hard carrying all those feelings." I removed the pillow because I can't help but marvel at someone {anyone} that perceptive, let alone someone who happens to be my elementary aged child. 



I'll tell ya, the kid is completely dialed in to what's going on. I should know, he's just like me. We can both walk in to a crowded room and feel {with 98% accuracy} every emotion from every person before anyone even tells us what they're feeling. 



I never thought of the headache thing like that before, but the kid is so right. I've recently discovered that I am something called an empath, which makes me so feely that it also can cause me pain. The same goes for my kiddo. He gets it. We are both highly feely, loving, incredibly sensitive, moody, nurturing, perceptive, passionate, tender, empathetic beings. We feel things much more intensely than your average individual.



It is a blessing and a curse. We see things other people don't. We feel things other people don't. We spot things other people miss. We understand people more deeply than most. We also can be more vulnerable than most. We absorb feelings deeper than most. Other people's feelings become our own, and we can feel other people's sadness to the point that it causes actual physical pain. 



Suspect that you're an empath too? Here's my little long checklist:
  • People are always telling you "lighten up" or "you're too sensitive."
  • You feel more than you think.
  • You just know stuff, without being told. It's stronger than a hunch, because when you "just know", you're rarely {if ever} wrong.
  • You don't know where other people's emotions start and yours begin. You take on others' feelings and problems as your own.
  • To say you have a problem with boundaries is an understatement.
  • Watching violence or tragedy {or reading about it, or even discussing it} is unbearable. It feels like fingernails on a chalkboard to your soul. Watching the news is excruciating.
  • You "know" when someone isn't being honest with you. You feel lies like other people feel drops in temperature. It may not even be an outright lie, but you "know" when someone is saying one thing but feeling another. For example, if you have a grieving friend who is pretending to be OK because it was an expected death, you "know" they actually aren't. Their grief is palpable to you.
  • You get symptoms of illnesses of people you love. Think sympathy pains here. The struggle is very, very real.
  • You're drawn to the underdog. You can feel when someone is having a hard time or is being left out, and you have to look out for them.
  • People always unload their problems on you, even strangers! People sense that you are compassionate which causes them to come to you with their issues.
  • You're always tired. Sleep does nothing for your type of fatigue. Your lack of energy comes from constantly giving out healing energy to hurting people. 
  • You're creative. This doesn't have to mean you crank out Pinterest crafts on the reg, it can just mean you like watching movies, reading, dancing, cooking, etc. Even if you don't paint or write or cook, you have a deeper appreciation for those who do and you're drawn to creative activities. 
  • You have a need for solitude AND stimulation. You'll go nuts if you're too bored with nothing to do or no human contact, but you'll go equally nuts if you don't have some downtime to recharge from time to time.
  • It's impossible to do something you dislike. Just like you love deeply, you dislike just as deeply. So if filling out tax paperwork is annoying to someone who isn't an empath, it's excruciating for someone who is. Or going along with an activity someone else likes to do but the empath dislikes to do feel like a lie and is completely unbearable. 
  • Anything untruthful grates on your nerves and feels just plain wrong.
  • You're a free spirit who loves to explore the deeper meaning of life.
  • Smalltalk hurts. It physically hurts. You'd rather not talk at all than engage in meaningless smalltalk. 
  • Deep talks or entertaining talks are life-giving though. You could do this for days.
  • You're an excellent listener. You love to listen to people and people love talking to you.
  • You cannot tolerate egotistical people who think they're better than everyone else. People who put themselves first kill you inside. You will never understand.
  • You're a dreamer. You dream about solutions to the world's problems. You dream about getting the best out of life. People even call you na├»ve or unreasonable for thinking such ideas are possible.


I have fought against my bleeding heart my entire life. I've always thought I cried too much, felt too much, and hurt too much. I've spent almost 30 years wishing I could just turn it off. But you know what? I also love too much, hug too much, and give too much. And this is OK. Better than OK, this is a gift. I tried to fit in the mold my whole life, but then I realized that I just never will, and that is also better than OK. If you're anything like me, why try so hard to be rational and dial back your empath qualities when you were born to share them with the world?



I've been told over & over that I feel too much. I don't. 

I've been told over & over that what I feel isn't real. It is. 

I've been told over & over that being this way isn't rational or desirable. Wrong & wrong. If it weren't rational I wouldn't be right so often with these things I just "know"… and if it weren't desirable, strangers wouldn't cry with me over the bacon in the grocery store about their problems {believe me, things like this happen to me all the time.}



If you're like me, and you feel like you feel too much, you do not. Don't you dare let this rational, logical, pragmatic world tell you otherwise. Don't let other people's blindness eclipse your vision. You may feel misunderstood or broken, you are not. You are special, unique, and you have gifts that aren't as rewarded in our culture as others. 



Every day, I come in contact with people and I feel what they feel before they tell me. I feel things 1000% deeper than your average individual. Sadness feels devastating. Happiness feels like euphoria. Anger feels like rage. Boredom feels like imprisonment. Cold cuts me to be bone. How about you? Do you relate? What now? What you you do with yourself in a world that doesn't understand you? How do you fit your square peg of a personality in a world that only seems to accept round ones? 



YOU OWN IT




That's right. Don't fight it. Don't apologize for it. Don't shrink it. Don't hide it. You're all feelings, sweet one, so feel them. Use them. You honor how you feel. If you need to love people, love them. If you need to scale back and take time to yourself, do it. If you need to cry at the six o'clock news, let yourself wail. Most of all, CELEBRATE your sensitivity because IT. IS. A. GIFT! Not everyone has it, and while this world may make you feel like that is a negative thing, realize that it actually means that you are RARE! You are on this Earth to feel all the feelings and love like there's no tomorrow. That is not weakness, that is POWER! So stop hiding your bleeding heart. Let all that power in that bleeding heart be unleashed. The world needs it, baby.