I Get it From My Mama

MOM

If you’re from Birmingham, or are familiar with the city, you’ve probably been to The Summit. If not, let me enlighten you. It’s a large outdoor shopping area, with some of the nicest stores and restaurants in town. It’s built on a ledge so it feels like it overlooks the city. And lucky for me, I grew up living right behind it.

Fun Fact: my mom fought tooth and nail for it NOT to be built.

That’s right. Let that sink in Summit shoppers.

Delores did not want this huge “strip mall” to back up to a community she cared so deeply about. She went to zoning meetings and rallies in order to prove that this was not a good call. [To her defense, the builders did a lot of things they said they wouldn’t do. They ran over the some boundaries they originally set, and were pretty shady about a lot of things.]

And eventually, after all her work, they built it anyway.

In the weeks before it opened, there was a big sign out in front with the ‘countdown until open’ flashing. My mom wouldn’t even use the newly paved, cut through road to go home, so as not to march on enemy soil. The first week it opened, I remember our neighbors coming home with a big bag from Bed Bath and Beyond and saying “Delores, I don’t know how you’re going to not shop here.” Update – Mom now shops at the Summit.

My mom also fought hard to have our community annexed into a better district. She knew the value of our homes, our schools, and just our overall community would be better.

And she won that one.

I think in many ways, we grow up fighting the parts of our parents we don’t want.
We don’t want our kids to feel like we tell lame jokes. We promise to never make them feel bad for not cleaning their rooms. We vow to be a “Cool Mom” in a less-sketchy, Mean Girls kind of way.

And somewhere along the way, we can lose sight of all the ways they’ve shaped us into who we are.

I’ve gained some really great qualities from my mom over the years, who coined phrases like “some days are diamonds, and some days stones”. A mom who to this day won’t let us eat in the den, and who values painted toes over most anything. A mom who never loved to cook, but taught us that showing up to someone’s house empty handed was unacceptable. A mom who taught to value ourselves and what we could offer first, and then to look for the same in someone else.

And if my mom taught me anything, it was that some things are worth fighting for. Or fighting against. Some things are worth standing your ground and trying to make a change for the better.

You lose some.

You win some.

But in order to do either, you have to be brave enough to try.

I wrote an Instagram post a few years back describing my mom as someone who has given us roots and wings; someone who pushed us to try new things, but who’s always provided a safe place to call home.  She’s a mom to two children who left our hometown to move away and pursue other ambitions. I know she wishes we lived closer, but I also know she’s so dang proud of who we’ve become.

And there is something so special and impactful about a mom who believes in who you are.

The parts I got from my mom are woven so deeply inside me and are forever ingrained in who I am. And I don’t always take the time to recognize that.

In light of this Sunday, I hope we all take some time to appreciate the ways our moms have helped shape who we are today and remind them of the ways they’ve spurred us on to be better people.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

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heartbreak.

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“Because you’re one of my honest and authentic friends – is it normal that I still have days that I cry?”

My heart broke as I read those words from a friend who is on the tail end of heartbreak. Heartbreak is hard. Whether it’s relationships, friendships, or not getting something you’ve wanted; when you lose something that mattered, it hurts.

I think one of the worst realizations is that sometimes the people or things you’ve loved the most, won’t always travel with you the rest of your life. With time, it gets easier. But in the moment, this looming thought can terrorize you as you start to embrace a new normal.

In the beginning everyone is there for you. The intentional conversations, the coffee dates, and the words of comfort just roll in. But as the month’s pass, so does the intrigue. People forget or assume you’re doing okay. They try to draw your attention away from the hurt and onto newer, exciting things coming.

People stop asking questions and you can’t ride the coattails of their empathy anymore.

You know you should be over it, but you’re just not there yet. The tears are fewer and farther between, but there’s still a tenderness that hurts a little when you pass by a restaurant, or see a picture on Instagram.

In the story of Jonah – Jonah is left alone, afraid, and probably a little confused. I think it may be safe to say this is one of the lowest point of Jonah’s life? Sitting in the stomach of a whale? I don’t know though, just a guess.

In Jonah 2, Jonah has a “come to Jesus moment”, or whatever they called it before Jesus was around. He cried out to the Lord and in verse 2:7 says – “When my life was fainting away I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you..”

When we look back to some of the lowest points in our lives, we write, we pray, and we cry, our hardest. The tears are raw and the words, unedited. They aren’t smooth, or carefully crafted. Often times they are jumbled and broken and some of the most authentic words we’ve ever spoken.

But what we find in the season of heartbreak is that the Lord hasn’t left. He never went away. And no matter how far we feel, He’s doing everything in His power to get us back.

Even if it means sticking us in a season that hurts a little. Even if it means peeling back layers that aren’t good for us anymore. Even if it means taking a spotlight to the parts of our heart that we try so desperately to keep hidden from the world.

The basement of our very own whale floor is sometimes the platform the Lord uses to heal us. It’s not always pretty, or flashy (or clean), but its His way of guiding us, molding us, and getting back to where we should be.

I’m writing to a small number of you. Or possibly a larger number than I think. I’m writing to ones who don’t want to admit that something or someone mattered this much to them. I’m writing to the ones that are trapped in a secret. To the ones who put on a brave face, but still have the days when they crumble. To those who are reading and are searching for any light home.

He has you, He always had you, and He’s running after you with everything He’s got. 

holy ground.

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There’s a phrase that floated around camp this past summer: Holy Ground. It’s been beautifully written across t-shirts and captioned so poetically on Instagram posts. The story is when Truett and Jeannette Cathy came up to see this place on Berry College, Jeannette turned to her husband and said, “ I feel like I’m standing on Holy Ground.”

On the last night of camp this summer, I sat at the edge of retreat, laid down, and thought about life over the past few years here. I think I just needed to take a second to remember why it was called Holy Ground. And remember why it mattered to me. It wasn’t just a story I heard and continued to quote.

I needed to feel and remember how special it was.

Holy Ground in 2008 when I was new and green and didn’t know anything about how to be a camp counselor. I didn’t know a thing about how to handle homesick or sassy campers. That hobos actually weren’t homeless men and that learning a man cheer was one of the most bonding things you could do. WinShape was there standing as this new layer to my heart unfolded. On what it looked like to live life with people.  To become close with people who grew up differently than me, who’s faith journey didn’t start in a home with two believing parents. People who came to know Jesus because they had to and how He was real to them because they had searched and found. I learned what to say to campers who came from broken, broken homes. To parents who pulled me aside to tell me the heavy things going on in their worlds. I learned that I loved this. That I believed so much in camps and what they did for people and how pulling them away from their worlds, and my world, could really change us.

Holy Ground in 2010 when I came back, a little more sure in a few areas and a little more unsteady in others. When I made friends with 4 strangers who lived in my room for a week and a half while we tried to train for the summer. The night we sat a glow ball in the middle of the room and told stories of hurts and insecurities and although I had never actually been a part of an affirmation circle, this felt really close. That summer was hard and that summer was draining but I remember hearing “Something Beautiful” for the first time that summer and thinking through the lyrics:

It’s like I know where I need to be
But I can’t figure out, yeah I can’t figure out

Just how much air I will need to breathe
When your tide rushes over me
There’s only one way to figure out
Will you let me drown, will you let me drown

 I remember vividly believing for the first time in a long time that He wasn’t. He wasn’t going to let me drown. He was going to catch me no matter how fearful or fallen I was.

Holy Ground in 2011, after a summer where I never thought I would return, somehow I ended up back here. Honored at the request to lead a new Tribe. A Tribe that was focused on consistency, and figure out how to do that all while coming in after my world had just been rocked. I came in terrified, I came in unqualified, and came in determined not to let anyone know how broken I really was. But I did. In a nook on an upstairs hallway, walls came down. I began to meet people. People who weren’t perfect. People who also came in doing their best to hold it together. Somehow broken souls found broken souls and I realized a lot about myself that summer. I learned that I was a bit prideful, and that I was thought I was above sin in some ways. I realized that I could lead, that people liked me and that the scary moments I thought I’d have, ended up being less daunting than I imagined. I learned I was good with people, I was good at asking questions, I was good at knowing how people felt and how they were doing. I didn’t know I was good at those things before that summer. I also didn’t know what that summer was preparing me for.

Holy Ground in 2013 after a summer spent away, I came back. And when I came back, and put in charge of the “emotional and spiritual” well being of staff and campers. They told me I was the point person on a team of 5 and the direct supervisor of 6 leaders who were looking to me for instruction and guidance. Me. Someone who had just had a very confusing 2 years. Whose heart was broken and fragile, was now in charge of helping someone else get theirs back together. I wanted to run a lot of moments that summer. I wanted everyone who had placed me in this position to know they were crazy and just how unqualified and lost I was. Me and Jesus? Oh I knew him. I knew Him so well. But now? Here? After the year I had come out of? I didn’t know who I was anymore. But there I was. Powering through. And somewhere in the struggle, Jesus intervened. I stayed so busy that summer I didn’t have time to doubt. I didn’t have time to question whether I had it in me. I didn’t have time to do anything other than just do my job. Just show up and be there and hope I made it. And I did. And more than any other summer here, I look back and look at the moments that the Lord just held me. He held me up and he didn’t let me fall and just like in 2010, He didn’t let me drown. I didn’t know the whole path yet, but I had enough light to get me through the next few steps that summer.

Holy Ground in 2014, in big comfy chairs with a lavender marshmallow candle, the Lord’s redemption and healing weaved all throughout that summer. In my quest to be more honest, to be more open with my story, and to lead from a place that wasn’t from fear, the Lord took my small request and multiplied it ten fold. I heard “me too” for the first time that year and walked next to someone from the other side. I learned that owning and loving your story, your whole story, is one of the bravest things you can do. I learned that questions aren’t so hard to ask or answer when empathy is involved, and that when you know you’re loved, when you know you’re trusted, it makes all the difference. I still find myself remembering and learning things from that summer. I remember late night drives on the phone, and starting to plant roots in Atlanta. I remember for the first time knowing that my story mattered, and that it had purpose to spur other people on and that maybe it hadn’t all been in vain. All while working with | literally the best | team, crying real tears, and being in the presence of tangible community. And for the first time in a very long time, feeling whole again.

Holy Ground in 2015, when I walked into the summer, the person who I had looked to for the answers over the past two years was walking out. I walked in with the knowledge that I was going to be a little on my own. That I had support, but there would be moments that I’d have the freedom to make some decisions. I also made it a goal to stay connected to Atlanta that summer. To bridge the gap between coming back and starting over; to coming home and plugging in. I worked with leaders who loved their job, and loved WinShape and loved the age group and the role they were given. I learned how to balance life here and life there and how push myself from good to better. I recognized that I wasn’t sinking anymore. I was in the boat, paddling myself, and acknowledge to my own heart that I had something to offer to the people who were following.

Holy Ground in 2016, walking into a summer I knew in my heart would be my last and grateful to the Lord for giving me that perspective beforehand. To soak up every staff training session, every opening dance, every SSS and CFA FFFD. To not take for granted that I got to serve one more summer in this beautiful place. To recognize I wouldn’t always have these comfy lodge chairs to sit and reflect. A summer where I got to sit with the best people, ones that I could share my heart with, and others who just knew, for whatever the reason, I wanted to make this summer special. People who filled pages of memories and checked off item after item on bucket lists. People who sat and listened to me on golf cart rides and those who sat in a crammed office (twice!) to affirm each other, to cry over the depth of love and support they’ve felt from each other, and to confirm the importance of what people mean to them. A summer of evaluating and communicating what I’ve known and learned, and finding the bravery to process that parts that I still don’t. A summer of heartfelt chats and some really, really hard ones. A summer spanning all the emotions, all the feels, and a summer spent trying to breathe in every last second I could. A summer to recognize that while I’m closing out this chapter, I’m walking away changed. Forever.

7. Seven summers here.

They say that if you can stay friends with someone for 7 years, it’s almost guaranteed it will last a lifetime. And I think it maybe true here too. The lessons, the leadership, and the truth learned here will last the rest of life. The conversations had inside it’s borders mattered, and they healed and grew me.

I’m forever changed by this ground and people who’ve walked it with me.

Seven summers a place that taught me more about grace, hope, community, humility, and healing than any other place on earth. A place that forever has changed my view on people, leadership, and the world’s definition of where you should be.

This place is Holy Ground.

Days like this.

Mama Said

If 22 was miserable and magical, then 23 can sometimes feel a little less exciting and a little more realistic.

It seems to be the year of uncertain decisions, unpredictable seasons, and unexpected outcomes. It’s the year many of us think we’re finally free of all the things holding us back, and suddenly we’re thrust in a chapter that can be summed up as “figuring it all out”.

Maybe it’s not 23. Maybe it’s the year you graduated college or grad school. Maybe it’s the year you moved away from home to sit at a job you thought would be more appealing. Maybe you moved to a new town only to find that the vision of an exciting adventure was overshadowed by the struggle of change or complacency. Maybe your dream job didn’t work out and you’re living with the heartbreak and indecision of what’s next. Or maybe you’re still at home and that’s the confusing part. You should be graduated and free but now you’re feeling lost and confined to the same four walls you never thought you’d live in again.

Or maybe you switched your major, graduated a year after everyone else, spent a summer alone in your friend-deserted college town, and started 40 hour a week, unpaid internship. OKAY FINE. That last one was me.

Whatever the age, there’s a certain season after college that doesn’t always go according to plan. I’ve listened and seen many of you walk through this phase of life and are just getting tired. I’ve watched you start to burn out because you thought life would look different. This part wasn’t supposed to be so complicated and confusing. I feel like I hear story after story of how the year after college is just hard, and lonely, and all together not what they told you it would be.

College taught you how to manage the classroom, but they failed to mention how that applied when you ended up in a job where you sat at a desk all day. Professors gave you good grades on papers about theories and statistics, but they didn’t tell you how to build community in a city three times larger than the one you grew up in. Your parents taught you how to budget and save but it doesn’t seem very applicable when you’re barely making enough to pay rent.

I think somewhere along the way, we all believe the lies that tell us we should be better off and further along. That after all the schooling, we should feel and be more accomplished than we actually are. When we don’t get the dream job/car/life after college, then somehow we’ve failed.

But I hope in the mist of this season, you recognize that you’re not alone. And you’re not here by accident. This time is short and it won’t last forever. There’s a lot to gain in the backseat of the unknown. I hope you take time to smile through the misfortune. To laugh at the hiccups and the moments you didn’t see coming, because it’s where the best stories come from.  I hope you see this time as an adventure, even if it’s not the kind you planned for yourself.

You’re not missing out, but you will if you spend the whole time wishing it away.

This is my plea to you, don’t give up. Don’t stop feeling, don’t stop dreaming, and don’t stop believing the best in yourself. Don’t stop because we need you. We need your failures and flaws because that’s when you really learn about yourself. We need your heartbreaks and fears because you really learn how strong you are, and how much you can take. We need your mistakes because without some of them, you’d never know what it was like to be humble. We need the tears, the brokenness, the need for others because you learn what’s it’s like to be open, to be vulnerable, and to let others help carry the load.

And one day on the other side, you’ll get to tell someone else the stories of the struggle, and they’ll feel a little less alone too.

You’re just beginning. You’re just learning the ins and outs of  this #adulting thing. Keep going, because each step gets a little easier. Each breath becomes a little lighter. Don’t stop slipping and anchoring and falling and rising. You’ll make it out, I promise. And you’ll be wiser for it.

If you don’t hit all your goals right after graduation, it’s okay. You’re growing. Give yourself grace for that. It’s how you learn.

Heed the lessons, soak up the experience and rest assured you’re right where you need to be.

1989

This is the story of four girls who went to a Taylor Swift concert. Don’t stop reading. I already know what you’re thinking, a whole post about a Taylor Swift concert? I wouldn’t do that to you.

Okay, that’s exactly what this is but just hear me out.

Last Spring Taylor Swift started her 1989 World Tour. The Fall before, the tickets went on sale. And a lot of people bought tickets. Presale, on sale, in sale , ALL THE SALES until very quickly, it was sold out. And a lot of my friends were going to see the show. I had just planned a trip to Texas and wasn’t looking to spend any more money and honestly, it was a year away. Who even knows what I’m going to be doing in a year?  I was probably going to have another cruise lined up and wouldn’t even be in the states when this concert was happening.

Not to ruin the ending for anyone but that did not happen.

I honestly didn’t really think about it for a year. Then October rolled around and the T-Swift lovers rolled in. Everyone was going. People were driving from all over to see her. “You didn’t get a ticket and you live there?” judged, well, everyone.

So I came up with a plan and convinced a few friends to join. How hard could it be to buy tickets day of? Operation Taylor Swift was this: wait until just after the concert started, buy the cheapest tickets, and go join the fun.

Only one of those came true.

Saturday came and I had been watching the tickets on all the sites. We had all decided on price and agreed to not go over that number.

Another spoiler, we went over that number.

Anyway we all also agreed to grab dinner before because there’s really nothing that chips and queso can’t fix. We waited, and we laughed, and we watched as the ticket prices grew higher and higher, even after the concert started. Feeling a little discouraged, I read the ticket prices between salsa dips to see what everyone was thinking, until finally one girl said “let’s just do it”. I think we all looked at her like she was a little crazy but also like kids at Christmas. So we did it. After trying 3 different credit cards, somehow the tickets went through on mine. “Call an Uber” I mumbled as the tickets downloaded to my phone and the cash was whisked away from my checking account. In the car, we were all a lot excited and a little frantic. It all happened really fast, which yes, was the plan but also was a lot to take in. As I looked closer at my phone, my heart sank. “These Tickets Must Be Printed. No Tickets on a Mobile Device will be Accepted”. In case you didn’t catch it the first time: we are in a car, headed to the Georgia Dome and at this point in time, iPhone’s cannot print.

I started to panic. We tried calling everywhere. If it was close and we thought it had printer potential, we called. No one would let us print the tickets. Another thing to note is that while we are frantically calling, we also start to realize we aren’t moving. Traffic was backed up several blocks because of the concert. So we did what any normal person would do: we jumped out of the car and prepared ourselves to run 7+ blocks to a concert that at this point, we could not attend. Then the miracles started flooding in. We stepped into the BBQ store Twin Smokers BBQ (That’s right, the link is here so you can know them/eat there because they gave life to our crushed dreams, okay?). I’m still not sure if it was the distraught look on our faces or the fact that I looked like an asthmatic who had just run 3 blocks, but whatever the case she agreed to print the tickets. There’s a cute picture of me hugging my friend out of sheer excitement that I’ll post one day. And by cute I mean sad and by post it one day I mean it will never see social media, but it was a sweet moment. From there we ran the rest of the way only to see our fav singer belt her new album to a roaring crowd. And it was absolutely magical.

I tell this story to everyone, probably with a little more descriptions and a lot more hand gestures. Literally someone can be talking about a Swiffer and I’m like “DID YOU SAY TAYLOR SWIFT” and just launch into the whole thing.

I’m telling you this because on that day in Atlanta, four girls just needed a win. Life wasn’t hard for us, but that season felt a little jagged.  One of us was in the middle of planning a wedding and it wasn’t quite as fun as everyone said it would be.  One of us was trying to deal with job woes and navigating what this new season looked like. One of us had just agreed to a blind date and the reality that we were in our upper twenties and single was really sinking in. And one of us was  frustrated at life, frustrated with a boy and just needed to spend one night not thinking that life wasn’t exactly where we thought it would be.

We needed Taylor to sing Trouble so we could belt it from the top of our lungs and remember the thrill and the heartache of past mistakes. We needed her to tell us that we were beautiful and brave and clean. We needed her to sing Bad Blood and remind us that sometimes people don’t stay no matter how much you want them too. But in the same breath remind us the ones that do are worth the fight. We needed her to sing about moving to a new city and falling in love and that band aids just won’t fix some of the holes people have left on our hearts.

Because we knew this, but when a celebrity who turns her trials into Grammy’s tells you, it just means more.

One of the girl’s Venmo caption to me was this: Here’s to the best of night of our lives. It wasn’t the best night of any of our lives. But for four girls who were just trying to get through, it was the perfect ticket. Our route to seeing Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour was impulsive and awesome. But most of all, it was a night to bring back our sense of wonder. To have all the feels and dance for 3 hours to songs we knew every word to.

We got a little lost in Taylor’s Wonderland that night, and I think it helped us all get home.

Keep on putting our thoughts into words Taylor, because some of us really need it.

In my veins

Atlanta has been so good to me.

I moved here a month after graduating and after spending 5 ½ year in a place that you’re only supposed to spend 4, no one was more ready to get out of college than I was. Atlanta wasn’t my dream city, but anything that got me out of school, I was on board with.

I didn’t grow up coming here. Home was big enough to have all the big stores, and all the good restaurants. I didn’t have any family here, and I didn’t really know what to expect.  No one told me just how big Atlanta was. A friend of mine has this terrible video of me attempting to get on 285 coming home one weekend and getting berated by honks from a truck driver (it wasn’t my fault). Needless to say I didn’t have a lot of expectations moving here. I didn’t think it was the greatest city in the world or have my heart set on a particular part. I just packed up the small amount of furniture I had in my tiny Jetta and moved.

My first roommates in Atlanta were my sweet friends from Auburn ( I refer to them as the newlyweds, seeing as they had only been married 4 months before I moved in. Lucky them, or lucky me?). These friends let me live in their 2nd bedroom for the Spring while I adjusted here.

And I’ve realized several things while I was there:

I found my first true love in that apartment, garden tubs. Grace and Taylor’s 2nd bedroom apartment came with a huge bathroom, complete with a huge tub, that had enough space for computer, perfect for Netflix binges. I took a bath probably 5 of 7 nights.

I was terrified of every noise of anything ever. You think its bad now, you should have seen me the day Taylor locked himself out and was trying to get in the backdoor. I had 911 typed out on my phone and a can of wasp spray in my hand. I real robber would have just laughed at me.

But in that season, I mostly learned how sweet the Lord orchestrated my steps to live with them in that season. I would have loved to be living in some cool apartment in downtown with new friends .But the Lord knew what I really needed was someone to listen to me at the end of the day. I would have loved to have tons of plans those first few weekends, but instead we made dinners and walked their dog. In a new city and new job and well new everything, Grace knew me. She knew my mom, she knew my old friends, and she knew that I cry at movies, and songs, and hard days. And when you’re all alone in a big new city, it’s just in nice to have someone on your home team.

The other part about those first few months ( & that I would recommend to anyone) is that I drove everywhere. I went to stores that weren’t close, took the long ways home, and tried different coffee shops or restaurants when I could. I got to know places, even if I didn’t have any connection to them yet.

When I first moved here, people use to tell me Atlanta was laid out like a heart. I- 285 made one large circle that shaped the city and I-75/I-85/I-20 were like the arteries running through. Somehow that analogy helped as I navigated through this unknown city. Somehow I found comfort in the fact that 285 made one giant loop around the town. My 2nd bedroom with the garden tub was right off the interstate. Exit 18.  It was nice to know if I could just find 285, I could drive around in one giant circle until exit 18 directed me home.

It seems so silly now, but those signs seemed like lifelines to me then.

But in a bigger way, Atlanta was just good to my heart. Before I got here, I had spent several years running. And when I got here, I started to slow down.  I was out of breath, tired and hurt. I was in desperate need of change. It’s been almost 3 years here, and my time in Atlanta has pointed me deeper and deeper in the arms of my Savior.

The truth is Atlanta didn’t do any of that. Jesus did. I did.

I changed for the better when I moved here. I had to. I needed to. I spend time diving into to the most broken parts of my heart and casting light on the areas I had boarded up.

I’m still here, still learning new road and new routes. I don’t live close to the outer circle of Atlanta’s giant heart anymore. I’ve moved closer to the center and my time spent on 285 is almost non-existent.

But I think whatever season we’re in, we can all be thankful for the paths that light up the road home.

Dad.

My dad is the really best. I remember going to visit a friend before her prom and her dad was joking how he had to hide the candy jar so she could get into her dress. Her whole family, including her, laughed. I was traumatized. I’m also a bit more sensitive, and my dad has probably learned that jokes about weight are never funny.

My dad literally thinks I could do anything. Sometimes I’ll talk about the things I have on my plate or the conversations I’ve had to navigate. “You know most people don’t know how to phrase that don’t you? Do you know that most people never have to have that kind of conversation, ever? Did they train you on how to say that?” etc, etc.

Like I said, this is a huge confidence booster. I’m like you’re so right. How did I know how to do that? I’M SO GREAT. Then I remember I forgot to get my oil changed like a month ago which is why my car is making a weird noise and I come back down to earth real fast.

That’s the thing about my dad. He just believes I can do it. He doesn’t see the fear of failure or the flaws that hold me back because he sees this girl who he raised. He just has it in his head I can do whatever I really set my mind up to do.

Now because he’s my earthly father and not my Heavenly one, he is not perfect. Which is evidenced by my bedding that’s currently spread across I-285, but that’s a whole different story.

However, one thing my dad knows about me is that sometimes, I need a little push in the right direction. I need him to be loving and kind and encouraging to me, but in the moments where I just want to have a pity party, he refuses to let me stay there.

One memorable moment came in 2009 when I was trying to get into nursing school. Yes – for a good three years I tried desperately to be a nurse. Looking back I’m not sure why I didn’t at least shadow one before I wasted a large amount of time striving after it. Because I think if someone had just clearly explained to me what a bedpan was and that I would have to clean it, my parents could have saved a lot of money and I could have saved a lot of heartache.

So *spoiler alert* I am not a nurse.

I hadn’t been accepted into Auburn’s nursing program and I was trying to decide what my next plan was. My parents wanted me to go to a junior college in Auburn so that I could build up my GPA and apply to other schools. Something I should mention is while I was very committed to the scrubs and Danscos I would get to wear if I was a nurse, I was less committed to the actual go to class and make good grades thing. The library was more of a social activity and I could be found closer to the coffee shop than the study tables.

Anyway my mom, dad, and I started to walk through all my options when I started to get a little teary.  I should also let you know my dad usually starts off hard conversations like these with “Okay, we are just talking about this. No one needs to get upset, and no one needs to cry.” Because my mom and I have a tendency to well, get really upset and cry. This, in my defense, has gotten me pretty far in the past. I once convinced my chemistry teacher to switch my final grade from a D to C with just a few (hundred) tears. Hopefully you are starting to understanding why nursing school didn’t work out for me.

So I am trying to have this conversation with my parents and show them the true mature, 20 year old adult I am when my dad finally ask me what’s wrong. Through sobs I begin to inform him that if I go to this other school and then get into another nursing school and have to move, I may not have any friends at my new school and no one is thinking about how hard this will be for me.

As you can imagine this went over super well with my father, who was paying a lot of money only to find out his daughter was more concerned with her social life than what she was going to do with her actual life. #proud.

And while it wasn’t funny in the moment, we are able to laugh now about the time dad just snapped. I believe his exact words were “Rebecca, I will be happy if you don’t make another DANG friend in your life!!” ( Which he totally regrets saying now because the friends I went on to make friends have let me live in their apartments, moved me in and out of homes, helped with my grandparents, found him Auburn tickets, and much, much more. Seriously, he’s really grateful for y’all. Just in the moment he wasn’t super happy with me. Oh and also I can assume we all know that he used another four letter word right? Okay I thought so, y’all are smart.)

So while I was still recovery from my dad’s rant, it was also very clear to me just how important this was. I could and would make friends wherever I ended up. But I had to get my priorities straight, pick a major and decide what I would do.

A few months ago I landed myself in another pit of believing the lies that the enemy was telling me. That I wasn’t good enough. That things weren’t working out the way I’d planned. I played the comparison game and was losing. I didn’t mean to let it all out to my dad, but he started asking about my plans and it all just kind of came out. My dad is usually a safe person to cry to, seeing as he doesn’t really know what to do other than assure me that I’m awesome.

And I’m not sure what got into him but that day, he was not having it.

He told me I was too old (wow, thanks.) and too smart (okay, I’ll take that one) and had too much going for me to let this drag me down. I was jumping the gun and assuming things that weren’t really even true. And by the end I was crying harder, but the message was clear: I was far too capable to let these crazy ideas of what people thought of me get in the way of what I was called to do.

Sometimes I think our Heavenly Father is a lot like that. He so desperately wants us to hear “My sweet child, I have given you so much talent and passion and heart and purpose and it’s so disappointing when you only focus on this tiny crack in the window. “

Because the Lord views you through the lens of Christ. He doesn’t continue to see your failures and shame like you do, he sees His masterpiece designed for a specific purpose here on earth.

So if there’s a lie you get caught believing over and over  – consider this gentle push to let it go. To gain some perspective and to start to believe the Truth again.  Run, with perseverance, the race marked out for you. Throw off all the things that hinder you from using your talents to further His kingdom. Realize now that your life really is a vapor and we only get a short amount of time here.

And surround yourself with people along the way, who’ll remind you when you forget.

40 tips for the next 4 years

A collection of helpful hints from girls in their upper-twenties to their eighteen year old selves.

  1. As ready as you are to leave, nothing can replace the friends who know you now. Your world (and Instagram followers and Facebook friends) is about to explode, but there is nothing like the people who knew you in middle school. Don’t lose touch. There is something about the friends who know your mom.
  2. You won’t get the perfect schedule your freshman year. It’s okay. You’ll survive the 8 o’clock classes and may even learn a few things.
  3. Naps are your friend. You’re not above it. Take them when you need them.
  4. You are allowed to feel lonely your freshman year. Especially the first semester. Community and transition take time.
  5. You are about to meet the most interesting people. Some will turn into people who will become your best friends. Some you may never see again after the next class/semester. They all have something valuable to teach you.
  6. Give yourself 90 days to find a church. You could spend all four years church hopping; find one and get involved.
  7. If you go through Sorority Recruitment remember, the letters you receive during rush don’t define you. You’ll meet great people in your sorority and great people who aren’t. Don’t be crushed if your letters end up being different than you thought they’d be. God is not surprised by the outcome of Bid Day.
  8. Break up with the high school boyfriend. I have to be careful with this one because my best friend married her high school sweetheart. But you know the ones I am talking about. The ones who are not your future spouse, and you know it. Don’t drag yourself into this complicated back and forth drama.
  9. Chances are you won’t meet Prince Charming the first day of class. Don’t fall for the first guy you see.
  10. You have to love yourself before you can love other people. Show yourself the same amount of grace you show others.
  11. Find people who think like you: they’ll be your rock when you’re in middle of the craziness.
  12. Find people who think nothing like you: they will challenge you, what you believe, and force you to figure out exactly what you think.
  13. Surround yourself with people who ask you the hard questions. And don’t be offended when they do, there’s a reason why it stung.
  14. Buy T H I S and actually write in it. You won’t regret it.
  15. Pick a major where you will be able to get a job. Was that so very “Mom” of me? Let me rephrase: Have a dream, a destination, an end goal and then work towards a degree that will get you there. Nothing is worse than graduating and realizing you have a degree and no dream and that will take you nowhere fast.
  16. Call your parents, every week. Call your parents. Also tell them thank you every once in a while, for anything. They remember all the ways they messed up, it’s nice when they hear they’ve done something right.
  17. A loan is just that, a loan. Keep in mind every dollar you borrow, you’ll have to pay it back eventually.
  18. Don’t be stupid.
  19. Know what you believe, know your standards and don’t waver. When someone asks you why you believe what you believe, know how to defend it.
  20. Don’t be judge-y. It’s like horizontal stripes; it’s not flattering on anyone.
  21. Figure out how you process and make time to do it. The more you work to figure this out now, the better you will be in the long run.
  22. Don’t let anyone tell you they don’t believe in anything; everyone believes in something.
  23. Hurt people, hurt people. Remember this when you meet fragile souls. Show them grace, one day you’ll need someone to do the same to you.
  24. Nothing ruins a witness like hypocrisy.
  25. You are going to make mistakes; most of them won’t be fatal. Some can be though. One mistake can change the rest of your life. Just trust me on this one because learning the hard way isn’t easy.
  26. Don’t wait until you’re ready to do the big scary things. When you decide you really want something, jump right in. Eventually all the messy stuff will work itself out.
  27. Be bold enough to ask the Lord to use you as He’s planned. It won’t be your ways, but it will be worth it.
  28. You’re only a freshman once, soak it up. Do the cliché freshman things.
  29. Your prayers are a reflection of how much you trust the Lord. Start praying big, bold prayers now. The Lord is listening and molding your dreams, even when you don’t see it or feel it.
  30. Be a lamp, a lifeboat, and a ladder to everyone.
  31. There are people you will meet who refuse to be helped. Letting go is a huge part of growing up.
  32. Be adventurous. Only boring people get bored.
  33. Take ownership of your decisions. You never want to look back and realize that you’ve let other people live your life for you.
  34. Embrace change. You won’t leave the same person that started and that’s a good thing.
  35. Don’t waste time, energy and feelings on opinions from those who have no stake in your journey. Figure out the people you can trust and talk with them about the hard decisions.
  36. Watch THIS during finals. Or when you’re having a bad day. Or when you’re having a good day. Just save it for a rainy day.
  37. The chair analogy you learned in VBS is a real thing, y’all. Unhealthy people will pull you down much fast than you can bring them up. Be careful who you join hands with as you walk through college.
  38. Being open and vulnerable is one of the hardest and most rewarding things you can do. Give people a chance to love you, all of you, even the parts that you try really hard to hide.
  39. Lauren Conrad said it best “You don’t get that many people in your life you can tell just anything to” Don’t end friendships over spoiled milk. People aren’t perfect, friends included. Figure out if it’s something you can forgive and move on.
  40. This season will be one of the most freeing times in your life.  But don’t live the next four years thinking this is as good as it gets. College can be wonderful but it doesn’t have to be the best time of your life. Each chapter brings something new and exciting. Enjoy the seasons, enjoy the ride.

Those were the days and so are these.

A few years ago I was introduced to Affirmation Circles. If you’re not familiar with the term, let me explain: you sit in a circle and tell people what you like about them. Really complicated stuff. It’s a little (a lot) “Kumbaya” but I’ll be honest, I loved it. There’s nothing better than having people just tell you what they think you’re good at.

I’m not sure how, but four years ago my team sat in a silo and one by one we went around and gave everyone affirmation. Like really nice things. I ate it up. When it got to me, I could have cried at all the nice things they said. They talked about what a great person I was, and how nice I was, and I was different than they expected. How I made them feel warm and was inviting but was also honest.

People who had known me a few short months sat around a silo and told me how much they liked me. They were telling me what I wanted to hear and it was perfectly worded and crafted in such a way that it felt really good. And it took me a long time to realize that all the things they said were just this glimpse I was giving them. I wasn’t faking it. They just didn’t really know me then.

Honestly, I didn’t really know me then.

They said what they said because they had known me just long enough for me to appear to be all the things I wished I was.

A week ago I sat around a table with friends and ate cookie cake and we had a long over-do Affirmation Circle. Friends who knew me, knew my heart, knew my journey. And they told me a lot of things. It was all edifying and most of it was affirming, but it didn’t come in the pretty package like it did from the strangers in the silo. It was truth spoken in love and grace wrapped with warmth. It was real and it was hard, and I cried because my heart really needed to hear those things.

“When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life.” – Shauna Niequist

When we live life with people, it’s not wrapped with a pretty bow. It’s messy, but it’s worth it.

A few weeks ago Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao made headlines as they stepped into a ring for The Fight of the Century. Mayweather won (spoiler alert), but reports have now come out that Pacquiao was actually injured earlier this year. He never told anyone about his injury before the fight. But it didn’t take long for those old unhealed injuries to resurface (4 rounds to be exact. That’s right, I Skimm).

I think that’s how we all are. We all go into the ring with a beat up shoulder, a busted lip, or some sort of brokenness we didn’t have when we started. Sometimes life makes us hard and we don’t want anyone to know. We sign up anyway because we think it’s just healed enough for us to make it.

But staring into the faces of those friends it was clear that I wasn’t hiding my busted shoulder from them. They weren’t fooled by the big gloves I was putting up to block my heavy heart.

When we try to do it on our own, we realize pretty quickly we can’t. We’re in the ring, but we’re not winning. The Lord gives us people along the way who can stand in our corner and whisper the truths you need to hear because they’re watching your battle. They’re cheering so hard for you. And we need to start believing them. We have to fight for the people who’ll stand in our corner. We need to find the people who aren’t fazed by our glossy exterior. The ones who are on our team, who speak truth and life when the going gets tough.

Find those people and fight for them.