What a ham, Santa and a girl from Pakistan taught me about Christmas

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When I was younger my grandfather was Santa. No lie. He was. Every year at midnight mass Silent night would begin to play and from the back of church “Santa” would silently walk down the aisle. He would remove his red and white hat and with one knee bent kneel before the manger. I tear up now just thinking about it. How beautiful and precious that was. I know theologically it wasn’t perhaps right. But for the reverence it displayed it was exactly what Christmas is supposed to be.

I mess up Christmas every year. Flat on my face mess up. I do. I get anxious about not having enough money. Or no money at all. I get overwhelmed with schedules that seem to double three weeks before the magical day. I am paralyzed with the amount of people around me all the time. Talking and wanting me to respond. I am exhausted with trying to be enough for everyone moment of every day. And like today I am hiding in my house with tea and books surrounding me because my soul knows that I am getting it all wrong.

And when I am getting it wrong I missing the manger. I am filling it with bigger presents. And louder music and bigger productions. And saying yes to everything that is “Christmasy”. I am spending money on more things instead on things that matter. I am forgetting who I am and what I believe.

I believe that Jesus came simple. He came as a baby. Quiet. Bloodied in a manger with animals and dirt and hay. There was no big production. He did not come with crowned jewels on his head. He came a bloodied mess and left the earth the same way. And when we turn Christmas into a big production we miss him. I miss Him.

And so He needs to remind me. He needs to quiet my soul again and whisper “I am here”.

Every morning we pick up a little girl from Pakistan to go to school. She has been in the US for a few months now. It is just she and her parents. She doesn’t answer when I ask her about other family still in Pakistan. I have learned there are subjects and conversations I need to earn. And so I will wait. A few weeks ago we were waiting for her outside of her apartment building and I was feeling rushed. My entitled self-had no time to wait. I had things to do that day that I am sure were extremely important. Except for the life of me I can’t remember what they were now. I turned around to see what was taking her so long to walk to the car and there she stood. Perfectly still, in the middle of the courtyard not moving towards the car.

Mouth open.

Tongue out.

Catching snowflakes.

I had to catch my breathe.

This was Christmas. This was silent night.

In the simple. In the snowflakes on the tongue of the little girl from the Middle East who had never seen snow before.

And then just last night. I needed to be reminded again. By a nine year old neighbor boy from across the street. Standing at my door with a ham and boxed mashed potatoes in a torn plastic bag. He said that his mother did not know what to give us for Christmas so she gave us this ham. The ham from the food pantry that she stood in line for hours before to feed her family. The ham that was their best. And they gave. They gave everything they had.

This is Christmas. This is silent night.

 

I just stood there and cried whispering “thank you’s…”

I needed to be reminded of what my soul craves. What your soul really craves. It is not the more and better. It is the enough. It is the hard conversations. It is the folding of the laundry. It is for the ringing of the bell. It is for the red bucket. It is the paying for someone’s gas. It is for the cookies we never bake. It is for the sister we drive hundreds of miles to comfort. It is for the letter that we need to write. It is for the forgiving we need to receive. It is for the hot cocoa we need to sip with our children. It is for the groceries we help carry in. It is for the asking questions. It is for the slower mornings. It is for the saying no to really good things. It is for the grace that we lavishly give. It is for the prayers that we pray over those in our homes. It is for hearing when our friend says she is overwhelmed and not leaving her alone. It is for the games that we play on the floor.

It is for the quiet and the simple.

The here and the now.

The snowflakes and the ham.

It is the midnight mass with candles. It is the one knee bent to our savior.

This is Christmas. This is silent night

Gerbils and Golden Grahams – When we realize what we are slaves to.

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I opened up Pandora’s box last night and now I am regretting I ever did it. I am sitting here and my stomach is turning.

I should eat something.

I should eat cereal. Boxes of it. Cause boxes of cereal will make everything ok.

I asked a few of my people to give me some feedback. I asked them to help me with a writing project I thought I was working on. And so I put it out there.

And then….crickets.

Crickets. And so I will eat a box of cereal and make it all better.

I will stuff my anxiety with golden goodness of Golden Grahams.

Because somehow me consuming thousands of calories will show them.

I did not expect this.

I did not expect my anxiety to reel its ugly head over this. I walk back and forth to the computer checking it like 745 times just to make sure that it is still working. I turn my phone on and off to see if I still have a connection. And then I think oh crap they are all talking behind my back and wondering how to break it to me that I am just a mess. Wait? They are talking behind my back? I hate that. I hate being talked about and not to. I hate that more than anything. Like way more than I hate cats. SO if they are talking about me and deciding that I am a mess then when are they going to confront me? Are they going to do it in person or gang up on me?

Do you see how logical I am being?

But I did this. I opened the box. I asked for feedback. I asked for help. And now I feel like a gerbil on a spinning wheel. And I really don’t like gerbils either. ( I mean really? A tiny squirrel in your house?)

And then it hits me. I am a slave. I wake up every morning and carefully put the chains back on my wrists. I make sure that I have locked them around my ankles and try to walk through the day. I am a slave every day to what controls me. And today. Today I choose to let approval control me. I decided that I needed the approval of my people to continue my day.

Yesterday I woke up and decided that I would be ruled by jealousy. It reeled its ugly head when a friend got amazing news and all of a sudden instead of rejoicing with her I decided that it wasn’t fair. That I work so hard. That I don’t have all the benefits that she does. That somehow the “kingdom of I” was not being served and my self -righteous attitude was justified.

Some days I decide to be a slave to multiple things. Anger, fear, anxiety, food, my past, and the list could go on and on.

And I put myself on the gerbil wheel again. But I knowingly placed myself there. It has nothing to do with my friends and how quickly they get back to me. It has nothing even with the words that they will say. It has to do with where my eyes are focused. My eyes are focused on me.

And when my eyes are focused on me I forget whose Kingdom I am living in.

Because my kingdom is exhausting. It’s exhausting to carry around the chains every day and expect others to know and unlock those them.

In my kingdom I just sit with my chains and eat Golden Grahams. And Golden Grahams are not going to break anything.

When I lift my eyes and focus on the Creator all else goes away. The chains are broken. HE does not put them on me. HE breaks them. It is me who decides to solder them back together.

And with patience He reminds me I am free. Free from the slavery of sin. Free from the slavery of acceptance. Free from jealousy. Free from anger. Free from anxiety.

I am free.

SO today.

Right now.

I choose. I choose to get off the gerbil wheel. I choose to accept what comes to me.

I choose to walk away from the Golden Grahams and be free.

Leggings & Superheroes – hills not to die on moms

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When I was younger. Much younger. Like I had a crush on Richard Marx younger, I shaved my head. Not my whole head cause that wouldn’t be cool. But only half of my head because apparently that was way cooler. I decided one day that I would feel better about myself if not only I had bleached blonde hair but I also willing took half of my hair away. Now don’t go thinking I went all crazy. I was conservative enough to only shave underneath all the bleach blonde Drew Barrymore hair. Yes, in my eyes I was fitting in. I was edgy. If I even knew what edgy was. Because when you grow up in Catholic schools it can be considered edgy if you hike your plaid skirt above the knees some days.

So when my second oldest decided that she wanted half of her gorgeous hair shaved off or when my youngest decided that he wanted The Flash symbol into the side of his head I said okay. But I didn’t say okay because I had done it before. Lord knows if I said okay to everything I did when I was younger I would basically be running a juvenile detention center. And since I don’t really look good in orange I do have some boundaries. Yet I have learned after being a mom for 17 years I choose to not die on every hill.

When I was a very young and new mom my girls dressed alike and always matched. They also always had brand new clothes. The staff at baby GAP knew me by name. I had retail issues. I admit it. I equated dressing perfectly with good parenting. I honestly thought when seeing other moms that this is what we did. We played dress up with our kids, went to story time, provided crafts for every moment, and made sure they only ate organic cookies. Well many years and children later I figured out that if I can just get them to brush their teeth a few times a week and actually change their underwear I am hitting it out of the park. I decided that I was not going to argue with a seven year old why she could not wear the same sweatpants every day. It was more important for me to connect than me to correct fashion choices. I decided that I was not going to live under the rule of Gymboree but by the peace in my home.

As my children have gotten older I have begun to hear that if I let my teenage daughters wear leggings then I am letting her look like a streetwalker. Um. Seriously? I am just wondering how we got from comfy leggings to streetwalker in the matter of one clothing change. This too is not a hill I am going to die on. My girls have extremely long legs and they are growing at rapid speed. Jeans are expensive. Jeans are uncomfortable for them. And let’s just face it leggings are so comfy. Yes they cover themselves and no I do not let them walk the streets. I have some standards. But I have chosen to not die on the hill of leggings.

I choose to die on the hill of character, and honesty, and strength, and family, and loyalty, and health, and laughter, and kindness, and empathy, and courage, and faith. I choose to die on hills that matter not hills that others think determine our worth.

I choose to decide to be a mom who cares about what is going on in my children’s hearts and souls. I choose to discover the reasoning behind their fashion and hair choices. I choose to be a mom of superheros and leggings.

 

Eggs and Rice- living the truth of who you are

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When I was younger I remember my mom making scrambled eggs and rice with cinnamon on it a few times a month. It was usually when my dad was late at work or out of town. At least that is what I told myself. Yet as I have gotten older and become a mom to five hungry mouths every night I realize that may have not been the truth. The truth of which I believed is not the truth at that dinner table. The truth was more likely that these items were all that was left in the cupboards by the end of the pay period. The truth was is that it was easy to make and quite filling for a table full of athletes. The truth was is that she may have been so exhausted from working third shift as a nurse, driving all of us to school, sleeping a few hours every day and then picking us all up from school and to our events later that this was the best she could do. The truth was is that we were excited when it was “eggs and rice night” because we thought it was a treat.

Lately I have had this memory in my head and continually poking at my heart. What is my eggs and rice? What is my truth?

When is the moment when we decide to live truth filled lives? To embrace and stand in who or what we are?

I can count many times that I was asked out for coffee or a meal with someone and the whole time there my stomach would be turning because I couldn’t afford to be there. I had no right to even except the invitation. I knew that I would have to make the last fifty dollars in our bank account last until the end of the week not knowing how that was going to happen. Yet I was more concerned about saying no and looking foolish then living the truth of where I was financially.

This is an issue that comes up many times for me. I have friends who are let’s say a “bit better off in their bank accounts” than we are. My pride seems to creep in when I see them asking how they should decorate their houses on Facebook when all I can think about it how we are ever going to pay the heating bill or put food on the table next week. Yet when I choose to live and claim my “eggs and rice” and am honest with God. He shows up. In countless stories of “this could only be God” in our lives.

My “eggs and rice” weaves its way into every area of my life. For example my kids conferences at school were not Facebook worthy. In fact they were hard. To sit across from the teacher trying to figure out how we can intervene and help my sweet girls. I left in tears and called my best friend feeling defeated. My truth is that my child is not perfect and will never measure up to yours. My “ eggs and rice “ is that my teenagers are hard. I mess up with them all the time. I have given them more reasons to go to therapy than not to. My truth is that marriage is more than I can handle most days. I like to be alone and hate to be touched. My truth is that I made the mistake of loving my friends more and better than my husband for years. My truth is that I have an ugly jealous heart that needs to apologize regularly for not leading with grace. My truth is that I feared my father more than God in my life. My truth is that I went for years not apologizing to my sister and lost so many moments of memories because of my justified self- righteous attitude. My truth is that asking for forgiveness is so hard for me. My truth is that my PTSD kept me in bondage of fears that I could never utter out loud. My truth is that I feel overwhelmed with my daughter’s future. My truth is that I have a difficult time forgiving myself for my past that plays in my head all the time. My truth is that I sometimes hide when my kids come home from school because it’s just so hard. My truth is that I live in fear of my eating disorder rearing its ugly head again. My truth is that I don’t talk about international adoption because of the horrible things that I saw. My truth is I grieve daily that I can’t have any more kids because of my post-partum depression.

My truth is that my “eggs and rice” are messy. Yet I know this. God can take my “eggs and rice” and weave them into something beautiful and redemptive. He always does.

Before you leave home- a letter to my daughter

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Before you leave…..

Sweet one you graduate in 19 months from high school. Although that means you are home for another year and half. It means you are only home for another year and half and this mama’s heart just needs to let you know some things.

I’ve had a check list of things I’ve wanted you to know before you left. Now while this list seem trivial to some I believe that they are important life skills to know.

-Mow a lawn because you will not make enough money to have someone mow your lawn when you leave this house. Also we never made enough money to have someone mow our lawn as educators. Plus it’s very therapeutic.

-Cook more than noodles. Well because you need to eat more than just carbs for the rest of your life. There is nothing like making someone’s belly happy with a great meal that you created with your own two hands.

-Clean the house. Again defer to the amount of money you will most likely make. And I really believe that if God allows to live in a home that you should count that as a blessing and treat it as such. I know I am not the best housekeeper but when my in-laws come I know how to clean it.

– Fail. I know this seems harsh but I don’t want you to do this for the first time when you are not with me. I want to be able to walk you through this. Life is not fair. And many times you are not going to understand why. I don’t. But when you fail, and you will, I want to be able to talk you through it and watch you try again and again.

-Tell the truth. To be honest this one is hard for me. I have struggled with this one my whole life. To be honest with who you are. What your past was. And who you are now. I want you to live a truthful life. A life that screams the reality of who you are and not who others need you to be.

-Clean the toilet. I am not trying to make you a Cinderella but for the love know how to clean up your own messes. And I am not ashamed that I have given this as one of your chores.

– Wash your clothes. You will shrink clothes. But I want you to learn it here and not on the first week you are married and your sweet husband now needs to fit into Barbie sized clothing because I never taught you the correct way to actually do laundry.

– Ask for help. Please. Do not try to get through life alone. Your dad and I should be in your top three people to ask for help. Know that we always will. We always will help and ask questions later. I don’t know what I would have done without my village. You will need a village of help and love.

– Forgive. It took me many years to figure this out. I hope the day you graduate, if not sooner you have learned to forgive. Forgive the friend that doesn’t act the way you think they should. Forgive your sibling that keeps “borrowing” your clothes. Forgive your parents. We did the best we could. If you hang on to the unforgiveness it is only hurting you. It is chaining you to expectations that will never be met. Grace sweet one. Pour out grace.

-Respect your elders. I see the opposite of this so much it hurts me. When kids and adults have no respect for those that are older or in authority. Those that teach you, go before you, are around you are there to protect and love you. Look closely and you can see little glimpses of who you are going to be. How you treat others is a direct window into what is inside your heart.

– Laugh at yourself and have friends that laugh with you. Have friends who think you are funny. I know you don’t think I am “Sarah Braverman” but my friends do and that is just fine with me. Laughing cleans out the hardness that likes to make its way into our hearts. Deep belly laughs frees the spirit to sour.

-Get a job, with a boss- I started working when I was 15. Because my parents said if I wanted extra things I needed to earn it. I also thought it would be cool to fry up burgers. (not so much) But I want you to earn your own money. I want you to answer to someone other than your parents. I want you to manage your own schedule and money. I think there is so much value in actually working outside of the home and not relying on gifts of money that you receive.

-Know Jesus. Really know Him. Look for Him everywhere. He is here. He is walking right beside you every day. And on days when it is so dark and so much evil clouds your vision He is fighting the battle to keep your heart. I want you to own your faith. To claim it as your own. Ask questions. Seek answers. I want you to stand firm in your own faith not ours. He needs to work redemption out for you and I need to let you experience it.

Sweet one, as I am writing this list I realize I could go on and on at the things I hope you have learned. I realize though all the things you have taught me. You have taught me to fight for those I love. You have taught me that I love you when I just show up. You have taught me that all you ever wanted was my time. You taught me that you are grateful that your dad and I fought to stay together even though I wanted out so many times. You have taught me that all God wanted for me was to return. You have taught me there is healing when I admit my wrongs. You have taught me that late night giggles are best if not interrupted. You have taught me that I made the best decision by never walking into that clinic seventeen years ago. You taught me that second chances are moments we need to be awake for. You have taught me that each day I have a chance to do better. You have taught me that family is more than blood.

Even if you have only learned one thing. Know this. You have been loved so deeply and fiercely wanted from the day I learned of your beating heart.

Now go change the world sweet baby girl…..

love you to the moon and back.

mom

Yes, I will marry you….but first I need therapy. #FreedomFriday

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For a while now I have thought about giving guest bloggers and authors a chance to share their voice here. There is nothing more empowering than to know that you are not alone in this journey. That you are not the only one in the struggle and fighting for freedom. As many of you that have followed my journey know that I have wrestled with my fair share of demons. You also know though that I have done hard work and found freedom in entering into the pain, I still have so much work to do. But I know that I continue to fight every day. When you are in the trenches or walking around them (as I did for years) you are drawn to others who are actually authentic and truthful in their struggles. Who call you out and want nothing more than to help you break the chains you continue to carry around.

Kaelyn Benham is just that. She is what many would call a warrior. She continually enters into the pain of her past and present and is learning to not run. This beautiful woman has embraced her struggles with motherhood, love, marriage, pregnancy, truth and transformed it into power. She has left her pain at the feet of Jesus and trusted that He would use it for good. Through years of uncovering lies and experiencing freedom she helps others discover their true self through Life Coaching. She is a person that sees into your soul and calls out the love that so many of us bury under years of pain we become comfortable with. Her stories of freedom are inspiring and filled with hope.

So for our first ever #FreedomFriday I am grateful to share with you part of her courageous story……

Scott and I had been intentionally dating for about 3 months when we started to talk about getting married. Though neither of us had been in this kind of relationship before, we both sensed in our own ways that this relationship would be the one we would commit to forever. And though that sense was a part of me, every day it was a choice for me to act accordingly. My fear drove me to act in ways that were completely contradictory of this “sense” I had. I would avoid him. I would get easily irritated by him and things he would do. All in an effort to remain in control and keep my heart positioned safely.

 

At one point, Scott said something to me more seriously about getting married. Through our discussion we even loosely talked through timing of when this forever union would begin. Up to that point, unlike most girls, I had done zero planning in my mind about my wedding. All I knew was I had a love for October and so I imagined it would be a good time to walk down a leafy isle. I felt this race of excitement in my heart about the plans starting to be made, but also this impending heaviness about what those plans implied.

 

Although I had not put much time contemplating colors, flowers, dresses or cakes for my wedding, I had spent a HUGE amount of time thinking about my marriage. The problem was I had spent so much time thinking about what I did NOT want my marriage to look like, but not much time learning how to make it look like what I wanted. And so when Scott suggested that we get married that October, just 5 months later, my response was very romantically, “okay, but I have to go to therapy.” To this day I wonder what about that response did not make him run for the hills, but am thankful every day that he didn’t. Without even knowing it at the time he was showing me that whatever I brought to the table he was ready to accept.

 

That was the start of a new way of brave living for both of us. This blank slate that said, I am going to “show up” for you and I am going to trust that you are going to “show up” for me. Neither of us had been in any relationship that had that sort of bravery and commitment attached to it. Both of us knew that it was going to be hard to bridge all the gaps that past pains had caused, but we were willing to be all in with each other.

 

That day when I laid all my pain out on the table in front of me, I fully expected Scott to run. He didn’t. In fact he was patient and let me do my work from the inside out. He allowed me to bring him parts of my healing as they happened. As I would do that he would reveal his own wounds and how they were impacting the way he was thinking about things.

Unknowingly at this time we formed a silent pact that said, “We are FOR each other”. This is what we wanted our marriage to be about. Bravely living FOR each other through Christ. This was what we started planning and practicing.

 

How do I trust you that you are always “for” me no matter what?

 

How do I lay down my defenses to protect myself trusting you are going to have my best interest in mind?

 

How am I patient while you learn what my best interest even is?

 

How do I know what yours is?

 

How do we handle each other’s hearts when we have done something that might have broken it a bit?

 

What does it feel like to have God between us always pulling us towards Him and so towards each other?

 

What do I do when I want to run?

 

What do I do when I realize I want to stay?

 

What do I do when I don’t know how I feel? Or when I fear how you feel?

 

This process is hard and painful, but so worth it. It allows you access to a part of you and your spouse that people rarely experience. All under the umbrella of God’s love which you are able to experience in a new way as more of Him is revealed in each of you and in this sacred space of your marriage.

 

Brave living is choosing to move forward THROUGH the pain, the discomfort, or the uncertainty. It is saying I know that I can’t stay here, wherever “here” is, and taking steps to grow

Always, remembering, as a follower of Christ, the end has already been determined.

 

You are safe.

 

Christ wins!

 

When I live with this perspective then I know that my current circumstance will ultimately give way to a win if I choose brave living.

If you have a story about finding freedom and would like to share your story I would love to have you tell it here. Just submit your story to shelim9@gmail.com and with #FreedomFriday in the subject line. I will link it to your author page or your blog. Remember there is such freedom in telling your story and knowing you are not alone.

Dear Moms, Do you know what beautiful is?

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Dear Moms, Do you know what beautiful is?

Earlier this week I wrote a post to my daughters about what beautiful is.

This got me to thinking. Do WE  actually know what beautiful is?

Someone had asked me recently to do a photo session with the hubs. I would love to say that I was excited and elated to have our pictures taken by an amazing photographer. But the first thing that went through my mind was give me a month until I can lose a few more pounds….and then I’ll be ready.

How many of our beautiful moments are wasted on waiting? On being ready….

And if we are waiting than what are we teaching our daughters? What are we teaching ourselves?

I will be beautiful when I find the man to love me.

I will be beautiful when I can walk down the aisle in a gorgeous white gown.

I will be beautiful when I lose all of this baby weight.

I will be beautiful when I am a size 8 again. ( who am I kidding I’d like a size 10 these days)

I will be beautiful when I cover the grey in my hair.

I will be beautiful when I can wear a bathing suit.

I will be beautiful when I spend hundreds of dollars to drink shakes.

I will be beautiful when I stop trying so hard.

I will be beautiful when I can fit into last summer’s clothes.

I will be beautiful when I have a chest like hers.

I will be beautiful when my hips don’t stick out so far.

I will be beautiful when my arms don’t sag.

I will be beautiful when he notices me.

I will be beautiful when I have the job I worked for.

I will be beautiful when my husband pays attention to me.

I will be beautiful when my stomach is hard.

I will be beautiful when I have all my makeup on.

I will be beautiful when someone notices me.

I will be beautiful when I am loved.

I will be beautiful when I my life looks like yours.

I will be beautiful when I am as thin as I was in college.

I will be beautiful when someone wants me.

 I will be beautiful when I see my reflection and not be repulsed.

I will be beautiful when others tell me I am.

So we wait. You wait. I wait. We waste our lives waiting. Waiting to beautiful.

All the while trying to raise daughters to know that they are beautiful.

They are beautiful now.

YOU are beautiful now.

YOU are beautiful now because you have stood up for a friend. YOU are beautiful now because you fought for your marriage. YOU are beautiful now because you walked away from toxic relationships. YOU are beautiful now because you forgave. YOU are beautiful now because you received grace. YOU are beautiful now because you fed those around your table. YOU are beautiful now because you chose the harder road. YOU are beautiful now because you so said no. YOU are beautiful now because you survived. YOU are beautiful now because you were a voice for those who could not speak. YOU are beautiful now because you chose children over chores. YOU are beautiful now because you gave when no else would. YOU are beautiful now because you stayed when others walked away. YOU are beautiful now because you live in truth. YOU are beautiful now because you are using your gifts. YOU are beautiful now because you put down your phone and paid attention to what you were missing. YOU are beautiful now because you are stronger today than yesterday.

It’s time to stop waiting my friends. Waiting to take the pictures.

Today. In this moment. YOU are beautiful.

 

Are you a marriage warrior? A story of a marriage that shouldn’t have lasted.

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I feel like every day I hear of another marriage ending. When I was in Uganda two years ago my best friend called to tell me that someone that I had put on a pedestal for so long had left her kids and marriage. I was overwhelmed. I remember falling to my knees in heaping mess. I needed her to stay on the pedestal I had her on. I needed her to be a constant. I needed her example of gentle selfless love to be true. But it wasn’t. It was ugly. It was going to get even uglier and I was stuck on the other side of the world. Feeling helpless and sad. And if I told the truth, I saw the end coming for a long time. But did nothing. I stood by and said “it’s none of my business”.

Those of us that have been married for a while we all know that divorce doesn’t just happen. We don’t just wake up one day and decide to “uncouple” or walk away on a Tuesday. Well maybe some do, but I know this is not true of myself or those around me.

Sixteen years ago I walked down the aisle as a scared little girl. We were young, stupid, selfish, scared and had no idea what we were headed into. We started off with a three month old as cute as a button but that sure was not enough to keep the regret from smothering us. I was naïve enough to think that marriage would be a lot like registering for your wedding gifts. Sure there would be a few disagreements as to how many servings of silverware you needed, but eventually all was ended with a kiss and a great list from Crate and Barrel.

Our marriage from the beginning was lacking. In support. In truth. We had lost all of our friends at the time. They were in med school or grad school hundreds of miles away and here we were trying to just make it through the day. And the only truth I was seeing was the daytime shows that filled my day. Those around me were trying their best to “give us space”. We didn’t need space. We needed help. So everything we were just manifested in socially acceptable behaviors.

I was jealous that he got to go to work. He was resentful that he was no longer the soccer star. I was angry that we had to move so far away from my family. He was confused as to why family was even important to me. I was frustrated that I had lost who I was. He was pushing to reclaim what he had lost. I was bitter that he got to go back to grad school. He was exhausted working and going to school. I was lonely and filled my world with friends and causes that gave me value. He was lonely and the silence had become deafening. We were both trying to make ourselves feel better, look better, be better but in the process were lost as to who we were really supposed to be.

Eleven years ago and we found our way into a church that would turn our “it’s all about my happiness” world upside. There we met people who called out truth in us. Who got in our face, sometimes with grace and sometimes with reality to call out the ugliness. We had people who prayed fervently for our marriage. That our pride, anger, resentment, and fear would be washed away. We had people that showed up on our doorstep without being asked. We had people who were not watching from the outside but entering in and pealing back the layers. We had people who when we fell, just picked us up. We had people that told us that divorce was not an option. We had people that we were not called to be happy, we were called to be holy. We had people that were not afraid to get messy with our filth but just looked for the next mess to dig through.

To those of you that are “our people” you know who you are. We are. I am. He is. Eternally grateful. I am crying as I am writing this. I see your faces and can’t imagine our lives without you. Some have been with us for years and a few just in this past year.
Thank you. Thank you for not just talking about us behind our backs or putting us on a prayer chain but for entering in and telling the truth. Thank you to those that didn’t just stand by and watch it happen. Thank you for never claiming “well it’s none of my business” as your excuse. Thank you to those that knew it was your business. That when someone around you is hurting you don’t politely stay quiet. You got loud. You showed up. You listened. You cried with us. You encouraged us. You laughed with us. You called out the good in us. You let us see that it wasn’t about us, it was all about God. You were gentle with us. You were grace filled. You told us your stories of pain and defeat. You showed us that authenticity is healing. And healing will make us whole.

Thank you. Thank you for not giving up on us. Thank you for believing that God could wreck us only to piece us back together.

Thank you for not being done with us. For knowing that we still need help. For calling us out when you see old patterns emerge. For wanting us to be better. For knowing that we can be. Thank you.

So on this anniversary of 16 years I wish I could hug each of you. Each of you for being marriage warriors. Truth tellers. Grace givers. God seekers.

Thank you….all my love…..Sheli

Bumper Sticker Christian – She Shares Truth

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I have always wondered if anyone came to Christ from a bumper sticker? If they were riding along on their way to Trader Joe’s and had a ”come to Jesus” moment while at a stop sign. While sitting at red light, all of a sudden seeing a fish sticker or “choosy moms chose Jesus”   made one make a highway conversion to Christianity. If anything bumper stickers make me more uncomfortable as a Christian than inspired. While I understand and am sure some have the purest of intentions with sticker evangelism, I am wondering if we are as bold outside of our vehicles. If Jesus called us to go and make disciples I am not sure that hiding safe in our cars with a latte  all the while “being bold” on our bumpers is what He envisioned.

 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,f baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,g20 and teachingh them to obey everything I have commanded you.  Matthew 28:19 -20a

I am the first to admit that I have no problem telling my story of redemption through the stories I tell or the words I write. But get me on the other side of my computer screen and I hover back into my introvert self.  To look someone in the eye and tell them how broken I have been and the only complete healing I have found is in the blood of Christ poured over me, makes my break out in hives.

 I wonder too if we are as bold inside the car as we are outside of it. That if we have it on our souls to reach across the seat and hold the hand of our teenager silent with secrets. If we can look our spouse in the eye and confess that we are as scared as he is. If we can ignore the traffic around us long enough to tell our sons that Jesus changed our lives. I wonder if we let our lives tell the story of redemption without ever crawling into the darkest crevices of pain around us, if we are really making disciples or just living our own story?

I not only want my life to scream brokenness and redemption but I want my words to point to the only One who saved me. For there to be no doubt for those around me to know who I belong to and how I came to believe it.  I ache for the courage to tell the truth and not rely on a sticker to tell my story. To tell His story.

. And surely I am with youi always, to the very end of the age.”j Matthew 28:20b

#SheReadsTruth

stories in a plaid skirt

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I am a storyteller.

Since I was in third grade and got called into the office for being a  liar “storyteller” , I knew what I could do well. The Catholic school teachers had no time or patience for those with imagination. Or in my case survival. They had no room in between Mass and penmanship to focus on the little girl in her plaid skirt telling stories again. Consequences needed to be given. Punishment in the form of penance was the only reasonable result of an over active mind. Hail Mary’s were a sure cure for such a thing.

 I continued. Continued to tell stories. Whether true or not, stories were my protection. My voice. If you would listen close enough you could hear me. Hear me trying to tell you. Tell you I needed to be heard. I needed you to know that I needed….

So here I am years later realizing that I have continued to tell stories to myself. Stories that I believed were true.

My clothes are getting a little tight lately…..

The story: I am out of control. I will always struggle with my weight. I need to starve myself. I need to binge. I need to purge. I will never be attractive. I will never be enough.

The truth: I have been digging into some trauma in my life. Weight is my protection. Food is how I have protected myself. I am getting healthier from the inside out and the weight will come off again. My husband still loves me. Jeans come in bigger sizes.

My marriage is harder than ever…..

The story: It will never be saved. I just don’t know how to be a wife. He married a girl with U-haul of baggage. He deserves someone better than me.

The truth: We all have issues. We are working through them. We are getting help. We are facing our crap. God has us together for a reason. He is not leaving. I am not leaving. We will walk through any fire together. For the love….He prays over me while I sleep….

I need to say yes to you and to anyone that asks….

The story: This is how to make everyone happy. I don’t like people mad at me. I want to be the one to make you smile. I have the creativity and will power to accomplish this. I want to feel loved. I want to feel needed.

The truth: When I say yes I am saying no to the people in my home. I was not called to be a martyr I was called to be a wife and a mom. I am dishonoring my family by being so busy. It is not healthy to be busy. It is so much better for all of us if I say no. I have kids at such difficult stages and I need to lean into them.

My kids don’t want me around…..

The story: I have failed as a mom. I am too busy with other projects. I have lost my chance to connect. I will do better with the younger ones.

The truth: I have pulled away. I have not been present for a while now. I have a difficult time connecting emotionally. I am getting help. I am taking that next step. One moment at a time. Guilt is a useless feeling it does nothing to change a behavior.

The stories that I have told myself, the stories that have carried me are being let go. One by one they are being asked to leave. Being released. Filtered. With gratitude being sent away.

Stories have protected me.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Cor 3:17

 It’s time for the truth. Truth is safe for me now. Truth is where I need to remain.

Remain and heal.