Made Pure

I used to be the girl who would do things she didn’t actually want to do just to be liked. Sometimes I would lay in the arms of a guy I was lukewarm about, or even barely knew, just for that split second of feeling like I mattered. I was also the girl who did things she wanted to do but knew she shouldn’t, and after years of ignoring that little voice, I became deaf to it and went about my merry way down a path of sin and self-indulgence that lead me to nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. I hated myself. My only value came in the way I looked, which I obsessed about to an unhealthy degree, eating only enough food to keep me alive and exercising like an actual athlete. And then one day before I could do the wise thing and walk away, I was pregnant with my first child. I had a choice, and for the first time since I was a sweet little girl, I chose someone other than myself. 

That was my first step toward God and I didn’t even know it yet. Through all the babies, all the ways out He gave me and all the times I stepped back in when I should have run screaming, He remained, and that little voice I had once ignored gained volume and called me home. Little by little I stepped off my path and on to the one He laid out for me. The steps were so small they seemed insignificant at the time. I was invited to go to church, so I went. It wasn’t the church God wanted for me, but it started a thinking process challenging me to consider how I wanted my children to be raised and spurred me on to find a church in which to raise my family. At the time that was the only consideration. It was purely a parental decision. But it was another step.

Suddenly my relationship with Christ, that I’d had since I accepted Him into my heart at age 7, became an actual relationship instead of a vague notion or a Sunday ritual. The people at this church didn’t judge me, or care about my past at all. They simply loved me. They took care of us, spiritually and physically.  In less than a year, my heart was so drastically different that my life would never be the same. Each day I surrendered to God’s will was another step toward all that He had for me. 

Fast-forward 20 years. I wish I could say it’s been easy; that I’ve never gone backwards or made mistakes. But once you enter into a relationship with Jesus, you really never are the same person. That’s a good thing, by the way. He allows us to be people it wouldn’t be possible to be without Him. So now, if people know me and think I’m good in any way, I give all the glory to God. When I am able to think beyond my immediate wants and sacrifice my desires for the benefit of others, it’s because of God. I’m nowhere near complete, but I’m certainly transformed beyond that WVU party girl in ways I would never have dreamed possible – every path I’ve taken, as misguided as some were, has led me directly to this moment. And let me tell you, it was worth. every. step.

There’s a lie out there that says you have to have it all together before you can come to God. The whole premise of that lie negates the very thesis of Christianity. Come now. Come in your mess. Come in your sin. Come angry. Come broken. Come skeptical. It’s ok. Because guess what? You won’t leave that way. It’s not my promise, it’s His. 

P.S. Babies are NEVER accidents. Never. No matter the circumstances. Someone needed to hear that. Every person is here because God created them for a purpose. 

Sister Sister

            Once upon a time there was a darling little girl whose daddy bought her a pony and whose mama read her stories; she was blissfully singular. Then along came Alyssa, a precious little usurper. When the firstborn realized this tiny, bald, wrinkled person was for keeps, she made it her life’s mission to form a unique, unbreakable bond with her and live happily ever after in sibling harmony. But first she had to be hazed.

            I really wasn’t that bad of a big sister. I may have occasionally broken something and blamed it on her. There could have been times I spit on her head from the top bunk, or told her she was impregnated with a watermelon after she ate a seed. There is a slight possibility I gave her a haircut that made her look like she was attacked by tiny lawnmowers. If she admits to an irrational fear of the Easter Bunny, it is definitely NOT because I hid outside the bathroom window and told her the Easter Bunny was actually an evil jackrabbit. (It made her cry and I got spanked – justice was served.) I’m sure I could go on with more heartwarming examples of sisterly love but suffice it to say it was a hit-and-miss relationship in its formative years.

            It was during those years that I attended Vacation Bible School and learned about Jesus. I decided to ask Him to be the Lord of my life (see John 3:16). From that time until this I sometimes feel like Jesus is hazing me. He wasn’t/isn’t. At least not with the “Let’s do this and see what happens” kind of attitude I had when I put my little brother in the dryer or locked him in the toy box. 

            It has been through these trials, many that are senseless, self-made disasters and some that are not, that God has attempted to raise me up. I have a desire to cooperate, but I fall short every day. I, too, have skeletons just like everyone else. But instead of hiding them, I am using them to build a ladder – every day I reach higher ground until building-sized pieces of the past look like ants as I survey life from the clouds. It’s amazing up here, and nothing short of Jesus Himself will make me step down the ladder, and since He Himself placed me here, I only go up from this point. 

            It’s no coincidence that Alyssa and I are sisters. God’s been knocking on the door of our hearts for years, urging us to tell our story. We have messed up, but that isn’t the end of the story; it’s the part that invites you in to experience the grace and forgiveness that’s waiting for you. Let’s all be sisters together. I promise I won’t come to your junior high school and demand you take off the shoes you stole from me. Hypothetically. (Sorry, Alyssa)


Alyssa and I have a horribly inappropriate line of Barbie and Ken dolls based on some very politically incorrect stereotypes. We began creating them about 10 years ago but decided not to market them because God wouldn’t think it was very nice. We have one called “Perfect Christian Barbie”. Her name is Joy-Ellen: she wears her hair in a bun with slacks, a button down shirt with puffed sleeves and sensible shoes. She doesn’t allow her children to say the word “fart”. Then there’s Donnell. He’s a skinny white guy who wears his pants below his butt and a flat brimmed hat that’s always sideways. He drives a pimped out 1999 Honda Civic with awesome rims and a kick-butt stereo but the hatch has to be closed with a bungee cord. The Civic is sold separately. 

Stuff like that shouldn’t enter my mind, probably, and here I am broadcasting it for the world (or 10 people) to see. I do have a reason, though, and it isn’t solely entertainment. Sometimes my lenses get fuzzy. While I should be loving people right where they are I’m busy inventing imaginary dolls based on what I think of them, or a composite of similar personalities. So to be fair, I thought I’d invent a Barbie based on myself. 

“Stressed Out Summer” comes dressed in jeans she’s worn for 4 days, boots she wears so often they may as well be part of her uniform and we don’t know if she even has a shirt on because her coat never comes off. If her shirt did come off it would reveal stretch marks covering her entire abdominal area. She has a realistic callous on her left hand from logging 3,000 miles per month driving to and from work and taking the children to activities. She only eats one full meal a day and comes with a bag full of Goldfish crackers, a 2-liter of Pepsi Max and an orange. Her crazed, glazed over eyes are bloodshot and her hair is frizzy. She used to have a van from a previous decade but now drives a 2002 Chevy Suburban that she no longer needs since most of her children drive.

“Stressed Out Summer” lives in a cute little farmhouse that is never fully clean for more than 10 minutes. The dining room table doubles as storage for folded clothes her children (all sold separately) seem to believe will put themselves away magically. The sink comes complete with dirty dishes, which have decreased in number since she started buying paper products (because it was either the environment or her sanity, people). Tiny dog can be purchased separately and is programmed never to die, even after she eats Silica gel, Brillo pads and chocolate. 

You get the idea. If I was a doll, no one would buy me. So it’s easy to assume that if people really knew me, they wouldn’t like me. Authenticity is difficult. It’s risky. I struggle with it every day. How do I become the person I’m called to be without offending someone? Guess what? I don’t. Does that mean I sit in judgment of others? Absolutely not – but that does mean I speak the truth in love. It is quite an impossible task without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who resides in those of us who have invited Him. I encourage you to let God, not status, body image, wealth, poverty, race, home life, life stage or anything else define you. Let us all put down our defenses and just be real. You aren’t alone. We are all imperfect. Even Barbie, who, if she was an actual person, would be 5’9”, have a 39” bust, an 18” waist, 33” hips, a size 3 shoe and weigh 110 pounds, putting her BMI at 16.24, which fits the weight criteria for anorexia. I’m not judging you, Barbie, but for the love of all that is holy, eat a cheeseburger, girl. 


Another blast from the past. As I read this, it occurred to me how much I miss the kids at this stage I thought would never end…

If I invented a car, it would come with soundproof pods for each passenger and an eject button. There’s almost nothing more irritating than a messy van packed to the gills with sports gear, plastic bags meant for recycling some day in the distant future, recently bought groceries that have to be shoved in the passenger areas because my hatch doesn’t work unless you hold it up (I opened it at hockey practice the other day and 2 bags full of leftover yard sale clothes fell out. Picture me picking clothes up with one hand and holding the hatch open with the other. If you’ve seen a green shirt sleeve hanging out the back, that’s why. I gave up.) Add to that 4 loud, obnoxious, quarrelsome kids fighting over candy and, well, it’s a recipe for complete insanity.

I tried at first to be calm and diplomatic, diffusing the tension and redirecting the conversation to less controversial topics. Like politics. Failure…

Aubrey: “It’s MY candy.”

Me: “You have enough candy for a year. You’re sharing with your brothers.”

Aubrey: “Fine. Then I will divide it.”

Ayden: (bending over to pick up Aubrey’s falling candy bag)

Aubrey (shrieking): “DON’T TOUCH THAT!” 

Meanwhile Addison, who “called” shotgun, was blasting the radio while Avery attempted to tell me a story. I turned it down, nonchalantly, so I could hear him from the “WAY back seat” among the bags. She immediately reached over and turned it back up. Apparently this person doesn’t get subtlety, so I gave her the “mom” look. You know it. And she values her phone, so she backed away from the volume. Peace reigned for exactly 28 seconds.

Did I mention that this was the ride home from our church’s AWANA Carnival? 

Honestly, if we were hamsters, they’d have met their Maker long ago. Diplomacy was pointless at this stage in their moods, so I pulled out the big guns. 

Me: “Listen, people. If you continue to fight and PISS ME OFF, the candy will be mine.”

I know, I know. Don’t judge. Desperation is that part of parenting when you do and say things you wished you hadn’t. I’ve gotten much better over the years, but there’s still room for improvement. The great part about my kids is that when they see that I’ve had enough, they generally respond by only being slightly irritating, or at least torturing each other more quietly. Hey, I’ll take what I can get. There’s not much you can do with a 7-year-old on a cotton candy sugar high except wait it out.

Desperation can lead us to bad places, but it can also bring us to exactly the place God wants us to be. When we are desperate for Him, He is automatically who we search after. He who seeks Him, will find Him. And He never gets angry with us for asking for help. He doesn’t have more important things to do than help you, or me. To Him, it is all important. Plus, He’s God, so He can totally handle all the chaos. 

My chaos threshold is higher than most, but even I have a breaking point. It’s when I get to that breaking point that I have a choice: pray and ask God to get me through it His way, or say bad words. I wish I could say I choose His way all the time, but then when I tell you the story about one of Aubrey’s first 20 words being “dammit”, you’d know I was lying. 

Broken Together

I used to spend a whole lot of time worrying about other people. What they thought, how they felt, what I could do to change and be what they wanted so everyone is happy. I think that’s called co-dependence, and I’m guilty to a certain degree. But as I grow I become less and less worried about that stuff and more focused on growing into the woman God has created me to be. I’m a work in progress, without a doubt. There are days when my choices and others’ choices have left me wondering if I’m good enough. Yesterday was one of those days. So if you’re offended by raw honesty, stop reading, because shit is about to get real.

Aubrey said some people in her class asked how many dads she was going to have. Ouch. I felt like someone had physically kicked my in the stomach. Teenagers are pointed. But it’s a natural question after your mom gets divorced for the 3rd time. I get it. I’d ask the same question. The answer, btw, is one. She has one dad. The sentiment is not lost on me though. What led me to make those decisions haunts me a little. Being free, however, makes the whole world a brighter place. And there’s no freedom without Christ. So if that offends you, stop reading. 

It’s time to bring authentic to a whole new level. Several months ago a stirring began in me that I couldn’t explain; as time went on it became clear the step I had to take and I took it. I had no idea where I would land, but it was clearly from God so I moved. If it hadn’t been for the past times I’ve heard and not moved, I don’t know that I would have been as obedient. Not knowing what’s next is one of the most difficult places to be, but am I ever glad I listened, because what was next I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams.

But it doesn’t come without its humiliation. There is no one on this planet who is has higher expectations from me than me. This was not the life I pictured, and I would change a whole lot of things if I could, but I can’t. There’s no hiding from reality, so here I am – here we ALL are. Everyone has made decisions, visible to the world or not, whose regret can cause us to get stuck in a trap laid out by Satan: codependence, promiscuity, domestic violence, excessive drinking, overeating, lying, cheating…to name a few. We all have a choice – keep moving forward or allow ourselves to stay imprisoned by regret. There’s only one way out, and His name is Jesus.

In every single place we lack, God fills us in and makes us whole. Trust me people, there are plenty of cracks in my armor. I’m not perfect. And I have made ridiculously stupid choices for reasons I don’t fully understand. But that beautiful day I fell to my knees and cried out to my God that I would submit my will to His, wholly and without reservation, my entire life changed. And as I move forward in this amazing grace, yesterday matters less and less. Through Christ ALL things are possible, but we have to start there. We have to let Him in. The Creator of the Universe wants to give us an abundant life, but we have to let him have access to the darkest corners of our heart, no strings attached. I allowed myself to submit to the King, be His princess and let Him to love me despite my shortcomings, and He is teaching me how to be the Queen I always knew I could be. 

After all, if God is for us, who could stand against us? 

Behind the Smile

I’m so righteous when I drive. I listen to Christian radio and sing along. Sometimes I even become emotionally moved by the words. I mean I need a halo or wings or something in recognition of my superior spirituality – until someone cuts me off or goes too slow. Then the halo goes flying off and the unholy words go flying out. Can you relate?

Sometimes I think if I listen to or read spiritual words somehow I’ll absorb holiness. If only it worked that way – I’d be Mother Teresa. It’s time for some transparency: I’ve paid attention to my thoughts hidden behind my “I’m ok – everything’s ok” exterior. For example, while driving with my kids one day, we got behind a car going 15 mph under the speed limit. I growled a little outwardly. Inwardly I said things like “Get the H*** out of my way.” I wasn’t even in a hurry. 

Driving is just one area in which I struggle with my thoughts. Sporting events are another. At my daughter’s cheer competitions you’d think that I’m calm and possibly even laid back. I sit back in my chair, smile, cheer and clap. But let there be an unfair score sheet and the inside of me ignites to full blown indignation. And, I hate to even admit this people, but a small part of me says “YES!” inside when our competitor’s team makes a mistake…I know…it’s a sickness…

What about our thoughts about our kids? Ooh. I’ll tread carefully here. Do you ever think your kids are ungrateful, entitled little monsters? Do you ever wonder what life would be like if you had bypassed parenting and just opted for goldfish? No? Good. Me either. Moving on…

My point is what we think about affects how we act. Every sin begins as a thought. Every single one. So I need to get back in the habit of taking every thought captive. It sounds difficult, and it is at first, but the more I recognize my thought pattern, the easier it will be to stop it in its tracks. It requires intentionality and purposeful decision-making, but I promise it helps to have those boundaries when temptation comes.

I’m trying to live as if every one of my thoughts could be heard by the masses. If I was exposed from the inside out, there certainly wouldn’t be perfection, but would it convey how much I truly love people, or would my toxic thoughts overshadow? I’m aiming for the former. I can’t promise I won’t make hollow death threats during sporting events, but I can promise I’ll recognize I’m crazy and tell myself to get a grip. 

Nucking Futs

August 25, 2013: Friday I had to take our dog and kitten to the vet. I thought it would be a great idea to just hold the kitten on my lap and drive there without a way to contain her. I had a box, but it was from a beer distributor. My other idea was a backpack, but then I worried someone might be offended if my backpack was meowing. In retrospect, I don’t particularly care what anyone may have thought. Holding an uncontained cat in your lap while driving in the rain borders on stupidity.

She was fine at first, but then it began to rain. So I turned on the windshield wipers and that was the beginning of the end. Apparently, windshield wipers are terrifying, because every time they wiped, she clawed her way further and further up my shirt until she was over my shoulder. The only part of her I had a grip on was her back hips. She dug in to my flesh with her tiny razor sharp claws and I ran off the road. If any of you were on the road while this was occurring, I apologize. I wasn’t drinking. Just bleeding. 

When I arrived at the vet’s office, I had to calculate how I would get both the cat and the dog successfully to the waiting room. Luckily for me, I still had Avery’s fall jacket in there from last year, so I opened the van door and captured the kitten, wrapping her up like a mummy while I grabbed the dog’s leash. When we got inside the cat had shimmied her way up my collarbone and the dog had walked around my legs three times rendering me immobile. I was slightly more than mildly irritated when the vet noticed how dumb I am, came to my rescue and loaned me a cat carrier. 

That one tool made the whole event go smoothly from that point forward. And it made me think. I can’t even successfully handle a dog and a cat without help. What makes me think parenting is any different? Sometimes I feel like I can handle it all myself. There are times when I’ve needed help and refused to ask. There have been times friends have offered to help but I like my way better, or I don’t want to seem needy (or worse…weak) so I refuse. Then something so far out of my plan happened and I had a choice: turn to my friends for help or sacrifice my kid’s best interest because I was terrified people would see my inadequacies.

We were not made to be afraid of authenticity – quite the opposite is true actually; we are made for relationship. Social media has the power to make everyone feel like complete failures, and there is a stigma to so many problems that makes being real very risky. But slinking away from an issue does not make it any less an issue. Many times the denial complicates the problem by refusing to address it at its core. 

So while I am certainly no expert in absolutely anything, one thing I know is that we are better together. The smiles on Facebook may not be a lie, but they do not tell a complete story. Everyone needs support. Literally everyone. I invite you to be part of my journey, where I will celebrate God, make fun of my children and maybe expose some of my deepest insufficiencies. Why? Because we are ALL inadequate and none of us is immune from adversity, but it is nucking futs to try to do this life alone.