Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I Will Always Eat Fries - Comparison

She should be able to put the door of her house on that side

It’s her house

He sighed

The teacher didn’t ask for a Tudor or a Split Level, she asked for a Halloween House. She should know it kills a person creativity to say, “oh, I wouldn’t have done that.”

{excerpt from last night’s dinner table discussion}

I don’t know how they teach kids to be themselves creatively in school - I really can’t recall. I do remember that the boy who sat behind in the second grade included boogers in his self portrait. And I remember being very proud of a book I wrote for the Young Author’s conference. It featured a cow, but could probably (most definitely) be considered plagiarism or a least a very strongly related version of Are You My Mother. 

I also remember comparing my book to my friends’  - though, I have to say, the fact that my sister was my illustrator and she helped me bind my 1985 Best Seller with combination of poster board and packing tape probably fueled some jealousy through the 3rd grade that year. 

I found my ability to communicate through writing at very young age, which has alway been helpful because I am , well, an awkward mess otherwise. Seriously, you should hear some of the things that fly out of my mouth when I leave the safety net of my backspace key. 

In my memories my abilities all paled in comparison to my sister’s artistic gifts. She is amazingly talented and her 8th grade art notebook left me awestruck. And pretty much that is what I remember of my sister growing up - she had the ability to touch something and be perfect at it. I, in the words of my junior high art teacher, “can’t draw a straight line with a ruler” - God rest her brutally honest soul (the art teacher, not my sister). 

Things seemed so easy for my sister. She didn’t just play the flute, she was first chair and was given the honor to play the piccolo (and, of course, played that perfectly too). She didn’t just play tennis, she was a varsity player during her freshman year of high school. I think I have written about the time I was inured playing Red Rover - I couldn’t even run. 

Let me pause for a moment because my sister isn’t happy reading this. The last thing that she wants to talk about is how much I compared myself to her - how much I underplayed my abilities because they were not the same as her’s. 

She wouldn’t want to hear it because it hurts. And it hurts not because of something she did or a way she acted or any childhood baggage that we have - it hurts because she loves me. 

This evening I felt the same hurt as my teenager went through the Instagram account of another student that she looks up to because “she is cute” and “she is talented”. And because, Shelby hasn’t fully grasped that you are only supposed to post the pretty stuff on Instagram - the unflattering pictures all go on SnapChat. As I sat next to her hearing, “I want hair like that”, “I want to look like that”, “I want a room like that”, “an outfit like that” and even “a dog that sits still like that” it hurt. 

It hurt because Shelby is so completely awesome and I want so badly for to see that. 

But then that hurt turned to Oh Crap! 

How in the world I am supposed to teach her that when I haven’t embraced it for myself. How do I kill the comparison curse in her when it is still alive and well in me? 

Disclaimer: I don’t compare my kids…crap…I may have compared one child’s progress in dance this week, to another child’s at the same age. Dang it! I do as best as I can to not compare my children to each other or to other children. And when Morgan would rather do a booty shake then a pirouette, I try my best to smile and applaud her ability to be different than the masses. 

But I, myself, am a comparison junky.

I just cannot stop!  And do a listen when my sister in-law pulls my hair after I say, “hold on I have to make myself not look fat standing next to you”? No, I analyze every inch of the photograph that is later posted to Facebook. 

This evening while frantically cleaning (read avoiding the subject) my living room I thought, “It must hurt Him.” 

Him being God and pretty much Sunday school simplicity that it hurts Him when his child thinks she is less than awesome. When she down plays her abilities because they don’t match the person next to her - or hell, the person who is three states over that she doesn’t know from Adam, but feels like her dining room sucks because of a picture that random person posted on Instagram. Seriously? Why do we still do this to ourselves? 

Shelby will put the door on that side of her house because that is the way she wants her house to look. And God made my torso longer than my legs because that is the way He wanted me to look. I can’t stand over his shoulder and say, “Oh, I wouldn’t have done that.” 

I need to practice what I preach. 

I need to show Shelby that uniqueness is good. And once you find the talent that God has given you, then embrace it, live it, love it! Don’t be ashamed of it - be you, 110%. 

ugh…that is such a hard sentence to type - it’s like typing that I will never eat french fries again. I am NOT READY!!!! 

Why can’t they identify the gene that causes comparison and cure it? When they do maybe they will find the gene that causes thick thighs (don’t be coy and say “well don’t eat fries”). 

Life is hard people. And God (and my mother) is laughing as I feel my way through raising a mini-me in so many ways. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Heavens to Betsy, this Election!

I am not skilled to understand
What God has willed, what God has planned
I only know at His right hand
Stands one who is my Savior 

I clung to these lyrics sung by Aaron Shust as I left experience my first moment of quiet since seeing for myself glimpses of the road our country will face after the elections are over. 

I don’t watch the news, I most of the time scroll past posts regarding the elections on facebook, but last night I felt I needed to watch. I told Matt, “I need to be informed, I need to know who I am voted for.” I watched until 8:05 pm CST, five minutes past the scheduled start of the debate and then I was DONE! I saw everything I needed to see in those five minutes. 

I saw enough to make me so anxious about what our nation will look like in a year. 

Angry and frightened are really the only emotions I can articulate at the moment. In that five minutes I was driven back to the feeling I have had twice before, the “how do I raise children in this world” feeling I had as I sat on my sofa 15 years ago and saw the second tower fall. The same feeling hit me last year when one of our local sherif deputies was gunned down in a neighborhood gas station. How do I raise children in this world? What will tomorrow, next month and the next four years look like for my family. 

I can only say, “I have no idea.” 

I have no idea…I am sure some people do have a good idea of what life will be like, those same people know exactly who they are voting for on November 8th. Me? Can I, seriously, do a write-in? Because I cannot, at all without being eaten alive by massive conviction, vote for anyone in this year’s presidency election. 

I cannot just vote my party and sleep at night, but then I cannot vote on the other side and live with myself. 

Matt always says that if you know the bible and history well enough you have seen these patterns before, this crap that we are sitting in isn’t new. I am not normally a negative nelly, but I feel the end is coming soon. Oh heavens to betsy that was dramatic as all get out. 

Can we just agree that all of this just blows? Both of these people do not deserve 5-minutes of television air time much less four years as the top rank of our nation. Is this really what we have come to? Is Mitt positive that he can’t jump back in at the last minute? 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bekah's 5th Birthday and Rainbow Dash Paty

Bekah turned five on Tuesday! Can you believe she's already five?

On her birthday she wore a bow the size of her head and got to hold the Texas flag during chapel. 

Then, on Saturday we threw a Rainbow Dash party!

I am so thankful my friend, Emily, was there to capture some amazing pictures!

Waiting for the Pinata! 

Pinky Pie

Excited Audience

Form ready!

Checking out their loot!

Poor Pinky Pie

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Lines in My Life

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. ~1 Timothy 1:15&16. 

This jumped off the page of my bible and spoke to me today. 

It’s very similar to a quote that circulated Facebook about 10 years ago: 

If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just be a horrible warning

Okay, I am not wallowing in my life, spending my days thinking about what an awful person I am, but I do know that I am stretching His immense patience with me. 

I’ve become Clairee Belcher, “Well, you know what they say: if you don't have anything nice to say about anybody, come sit by me!” 

That is a Steel Magnolias reference, only a select few will understand, for everyone else let me just say more tacky things have left my mouth lately then good things. Not towards one person, or one group or even about anyone, just about life. 

URGH! Blah! Have you ever been downright annoyed by yourself, your actions or lack of actions. Your lack of willpower, no your lack of commitment. 

Just to be clear - I am not cheating on my husband, I am not over eating….well that one isn’t always true, but I am being faithful to all of my commitments except, maybe, that of my calling. 

And in typical fashion I am two days into (and a week behind on homework) a Beth Moore study that is kicking my butt. And making me scream, “Why don’t you know this stuff already?!?” It takes me forever to decipher what Beth is talking about when I have to look up words like rumination, scalene, and sectarianism. Congratulations if you know all of those, you must of scored high on your SATs - I did not. I only slightly recall if I even took my SATs, I believe I did - I mean I did attend college, but you can’t tell that by this horrid rambling full of grammatical errors. 

I am a week past one of the biggest achievements in my career (not really sure you can call it a “career”, but it pays the bills - by bills I mean my shopping). I successfully wrapped a 3 day conference, I did it! Well, I had a really good team, but I made through without losing my mind. Actually, I learned so much, but not about how to run conferences. I was challenged by our speakers. I left torn - I left realizing that I live my life non longer in the grey, I have no squiggle to my line - it’s straight. I guess since more people than my husband read my blog and those you may not speak proficient “Dana” like he does I will elaborate. 

As I left my past life behind and started my new life, about seven years ago I drew a line (I mentally drew a line) or maybe a sliding scale. At one side is (usually on the left for some reason) is the out of control me, the life in shambles me, the drinking until I cannot remember what happened the night before me. For some reason that side always appears as white (you’ll understand in a minute). 
Then, no shocker, the right side I can only describe as my church lady side. Very strict, very ridged, these are the things I do and this is the dark black line to which I judge things - things being actual things and people. White is the lack of that line - nothing is judged, nothing is monitored - it’s just fun all the time! 

When things like going to a bar makes me feel like I am creeping towards the white I run, full speed in to the black, There is no grey, there is no middle.  I am fully aware that my color choices are so backwards.

I fight to find the middle, to take rest in the middle, to find the balance between the really awesome parts of me (both in the white and in the black). 

The same can be said for the squiggle, again, very visual. I feel safe in my life when I am straight, when I am serious, when there is no uniqueness showing - just a perfecting straight line. But at the same time I know that what attracts people to me resides in the squiggles, in my openness, in my freeness, in my take you just the way you are-ness (had to just throw that on there). 

Last week it become beyond apparent to both Matt and I that the grey and the squiggles send me into this anxiety ridden state that is beyond ridiculous. Ridiculously frustrating. My poor husband wants so badly to meet parts of my personality from eight years ago, probably not the part that spent the night in jail me, but the me that can strike up a conversation with a person in a bar and develop an amazing connection (mentally, not sexually - I know someone is thinking it - bar, drinking…you go there, it’s okay). Matt saw glimpses of that me during the conference. 

I have had the absolute privilege to truly get to know the speakers who agreed to be part of the conference this year. I had countless emails and many phone calls. I followed them on social media, I became a cheerleader to their projects and missions before even shaking their hands. And an amazing thing happened, I connected with them, just as I would have eight years ago. For a brief moment there was grey, I let down my guard and the line began to squiggle. 

I fought the church lady from taking over as I embraced Austin, forgetting briefly, even laughing about the naive me that almost joined a cult in that same city 20 years earlier. (read that story here)

I so want to remain in a grey squiggle filled life. I can see that me, she’s awesome. She comes from a place of love, not harsh judgement. She shows you the gospel and doesn’t beat you down with the law. She’s equal parts awkward and intelligent. She thrives when hearing other people’s stories and doesn’t bat an eyelash when talking about the serious stuff. She cries when she see her friends achieve amazing things and she cries for those that need to be lifted up. She oozes with creativity even outside of the craft room and she isn’t afraid of her own voice, but realizes when she may need to hit mute of a moment. 

I may be wrong, but there is someone who just read that and said, “umm, isn’t that already you?” Most of it, yes, but it takes a hell of a lot of effort to remain as her and that has got to change. I fight running to the black because that black line is safety. It is a dark extra large sharpie black line that I drew across my life when I decided to get straight (see the lines go together). I pray for the courage, to trust myself as much as God has trusted me with His gospel. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Lies and the Truth - Knowing the Difference

So, you may not have known that almost a month ago I did my first official “talk”. I shared my testimony while holding a microphone with lights shinning on me. Not my full story, but my healing from abortion (pretty much my last year and a half - if it’s even been that long). You can watch it here: Finding Hope in His Love After Living in the Shame of Abortion. 

I admit I have not watched all of it, I really don’t think I have watch more than what it took to edit it down from the Facebook live version that was captured with my cellphone. 

This was on the heals of an interview that I did about healing, you can view segments of it here, here and here. (click on the word “here” to got to the videos). 

There was something that happened during that interview and something that just multiplied while doing my talk - I know exactly what it was. I spoke - I listened to God, I did has he directed, I opened my mouth and He let the words flow. And those words lead to help and healing for other women. 

About four days ago when the last segment of my interview was posted on social media, I shared it saying this, “ when this interview aired live there was a women who needed to hear this portion and God's timing was absolutely amazing. You see, she listens to this station, but never on Sunday evening. On that Sunday, she decided to go grab a bite to eat and during her drive I was telling my story about the healing I received through Rachel's Vineyard. I spoke words that she needed to hear and I am overwhelming happy to say that she was in the next retreat held by New Heart of Texas Ministries and she has started her healing journey.”

As I spoke at Women of Hope, my words touched a woman in the audience and pray that after that evening, with the team from New Heart there, that she was able to start her healing process as well. 

These are two confirming, amazing things I’ve been able to be a part of because I let God speak through me, through my story. 

But do you want to know what I have learn, what I should have known would happen, but truly was not expecting? I truly believed that all the work I had done to this point would safeguard me from the devil (I am rolling my eyes as I type that). When you think the devil is done with you, watch out. 

I looked up a few weeks after my talk and realized I had lost my joy - it was gone. I could blame it on work, on financial strain, on being a mother of a teenager or even on the drivers in Houston, but I knew exactly where it was coming from. 

I’ve learned when my joy is lost the first thing I need to do is stop and identify the lies I am believing. Lies about myself, about my abilities, about my friends, about my family and about my God. Oh I wrote a really long post about the lies, but never published it because the biggest lie I was believing is that I had not made progress in my healing. And that lie carried to, “If you are not healed then you are failing at helping other women.” And you know were that leads? “You have failed, you cannot do this.” And that, my friends, is the devil’s favorite ammunition against me  - the I am not qualified, I am not able, and I am not good.

Oh I struggle with that so badly. I could read books and verses over and over again, but if I believe just a little of the devil’s lies then I go straight down that rabbit hole. 

So, what is the truth? 

Well, the truth is I am dealing with the ripple affects of my abortions and how they play a part in my relationships today - I still struggle with things like intimacy because of the life I have lived. There are wounds that will take a little more time than others, but it doesn’t mean that I am failing. I have come a long way. 

For example I had to drive to Austin, alone, recently for work. Now two years ago I would have worked myself into a full-on tizzy about driving for that distance alone. Two years ago, my anxiety was so bad I had panic attacks when asked to drive across Houston on a whim. Normally it would take me an entire week to work up my courage to take Shelby half way to North Texas. I lived in a world of fear, constantly. I believe God’s plan for my life was to take either my children or me from the earth as payment for what I had done. 

That may sound way dramatic to you, but that statement is so typical for a post abortive woman. A woman who has not embraced the grace given to her, a woman who has not seen the other side of healing. 

Fast forward to my road trip a month ago, I was perfectly calm, even excited about having two hours to drive to Austin. The stretch of highway from my house to Austin is the same path I take to get to the Farm House where I have experienced healing. I love that area of Texas. I drove up, no issues, had my meeting and headed home. 

I was driving through the lost pines area it started to rain and then I found myself driving in near blinding rain. Two years ago you would have found my van on the shoulder of the highway, hazard lights blinking and me curled in a ball crying, but not on this trip. Twenty minutes into the horrid downpour I thought, “oh wow, I am doing this and I am fine!” If it was not raining I would have so called someone to share this joy, but I knew better than to reach for my phone. 

It was absolutely amazing joy. 

I never believed I could live without fear - I thought it was my lot in life. Even now, a month later I am amazed. 

Things that like that - the loss of fear and anxiety - are a truth I need to hold onto when the devils is throwing attacks my way. The woman who just planned to grab a bite to eat, but wound up on a healing journey is what I need to hold onto when the devil whispers, “no one can hear you.” 

And I need to remember praise the Lord for these stories, my story and the stories that are coming from it. Praise the Lord that I no longer live in a world of fear. Praise the Lord for the healing I have been able to receive that has lead me to the truth about my God. 

With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever,
~Psalm 86:12~

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Living Through My Child and Proud of It!

I do the best I can to keep myself from living vicariously through Shelby. It’s not an easy task and I have done somethings like starting dance at a young age or letting her cheer that could be seen as me living through her, but I let her stop those activities when they no longer brought her joy. 

I say this, but I will tell the entire world that I will continue to relentlessly push my daughter to stay connected in youth group. That sentence brings back images from Sixteen Candles where a teenager is pushed into the dance by his parents and they hold the gym door shut to keep him in. I haven’t gone that far, but don’t let yourself think that I wouldn’t go to those lengths if I needed to. 


Why am I so insanely insistent on Shelby being involved in Youth Group?

Because I did not have this. 

Or this

And I never experienced anything like this. 

When I made the decision to accompany 18 teenager’s to the LCMS National Youth Gathering in New Orleans I thought that the memories of my high school years would probably flood my mind. I would have the same thoughts I did as I sat with Shelby’s theater group during the end of year banquet, comparing the 17 year old me to the 17 year old them. 

When you terminate a pregnancy at the age of 14, develop a drug addition by16 and walk the line of prostitution at 17, you don’t have the same high school experience as other children your age. You don’t have strong friendships and you definitely do not have a solid foundation in Jesus. 

I had to bite the inside of my mouth (something I do to prevent myself from lunging into full on tears) as a stood behind three beautiful friends one evening.We had just completed a fantastic Mass Event, one where chills ran through my body as I looked from my floor seats at the 20,000 plus participants in the seats surrounding us. We were able to keep our seats to watch Rend Collective in concert. As I watched these three friends (two girls and one boy) dance with silly, made up, but perfectly in synch moves I was in awe of their friendship - one that has lasted through years, one that we will see bloom even more as they walk through their senior year in high school. 

As my eyes panned through our group I saw my daughter dancing next to the daughter of one of my closest friends and my heart sped up, I could feel the knot in my throat and I just knew that I could ugly cry all over the floor of that arena. 

I didn’t have that. 

When I was 14 - When I was 18 - I didn’t have that. 

The ability to have amazingly healthy, true friendships. Friendships with strong foundations. 

So many times this week I found myself just in awe over these young men and women. 

I was amazed by the strength of their faith. 

I was amazed at their genuine love for each other. 

I was amazed at their willingness to help each other and to help a stranger without hesitation. 

When I said “yes” I would go with these kids to New Orleans, I never imagined in a million years that I would fall so in love with each of them. It is like having children - I love each one of them, but for different reasons. My heart grew tremendously this past week as got to know some of these young people for the first time. And my love just increased for the ones I have gotten the privilege to spend time with before this trip. I just thought I was going so we would have one more adult, to put my dear friend at ease while her child was there and to see David Crowder. 

They look so excited, huh?

I mean, when they announced that Crowder would be there that kind of sealed the deal. These amazing young people had the privilege (which they probably now regret due to sure embarrassment I am sure) to accompany me to the Crowder concert. 

Let me tell you while I am in the “I never imagined” section of this post. I never imagined what seeing David Crowder live right in front of me would do to me. If you are long time or semi-long time reader you know that I have attached a many David Crowder song to posts I’ve written. 

It’s true I cried! I had to explain to Shelby that that bearded man was my One Direction, my Beatles, my Jim Morrison (she had no clue who that was). I owe so much to that man’s music, that man’s lyrics. I know the entire group thought I was insane, but I did not care - I showed them how you worship! At one point they wound up sitting on the floor next to me (I told them to sit because they were being crazy and they sat right down on the floor) just looking up at me as I raised my hands, as I clapped with all my strength and as I sang at the top of my lungs. It was absolutely amazing. 

Back to my topic - Shelby’s involvement in youth group. 

Shelby’s faith is extremely important to me - not that it isn’t to her and I want it to be her faith, not mine-and I will go to the ends of the earth for her to continue what she has right now. I will fight tooth and nail for her to remain in this group, to strengthen these relationships. I will stand in the face of the Enemy when ever possible to keep her in this environment. 

I will push her in that dance and hold the door shut - I will! 

For this girl, hell, for all of them to be able to get what I never had I will do everything in my power and when that’s not enough I will ask God for more power. She is, they are, that important to me. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Honesty and Authenticity

Our words matter. The words we say, the words we write and even the words we type across a snap to a friend. They all matter. They all can effect someone or something. 

This past week I had the privilege to spend five days with 18 amazing teenagers in New Orleans. It was inspiring and eye-opening (and I have a whole other post about these kids and their awesomeness). 

Early on, like maybe the first or second day, I found myself saying “honesty and authenticity” to one of the girls. It was originally in jest as I called out her tall-tale, but it effected her. Those words mattered to her and by golly, that girl got what those words meant. 

The effect was long lasting as well (if you call about a week long lasting) because she used my own words to call me out last night, “Remember, Dana, Honesty and Authenticity.” She was even proud that she was able to spout out that mouth full of words with perfect pronunciation. 

If I had one word of advice for that group of 18 kids ranging in age from 14 to 19 it would be Honesty and Authenticity

Good ‘Ol Marriam Webster defines this words as

Honesty (Honest): good and truthful : not lying, stealing, or cheating

Authenticity (Authentic): real or genuine : not copied or false

I want them to know, I want that young girl to know that life is so much fuller when you embrace and live by these words, Honesty and Authenticity. 

Life is so so short to live in a world of deceit, to create a world that is false. Truth should be your baseline, your foundation. Be honest with your friends, but remember to be a friendly version of honest. I think that starts inward - be honest with yourself. You will find there are people you meet that are so easy to be friends with - it seems they were made for you. And there are people who are oil while you are vinegar - you just won’t mix. While, God has called you to love, that does not mean that that girl has to come over and do your hair every week. You should be nice (or as I say “be sweet”) to your fellow classmates, but it doesn’t mean that you have to be best friends with everyone. 

Oi Vey - where was I? Seems like I went on a tangent. 

I think we all get honesty, it’s something we are taught as toddlers, but we still struggle with as adults. I do, too. My “refreshingly honest” side doesn’t always come easily for me - I fight to remain honest, but little white lies are so easy somedays. 

Now, Authenticity, well, that is something that I could talk about for hours and hours. I was not authentic growing up - I chose to not be the person that God created me to be. I wanted nothing more than to change everything He had made.  

As Tammy Faye Bakker said, “God doesn’t make junk.” You were perfectly made to be absolutely, positively, perfectly you. Your build was no mistake, your eye color was no mistake, you laugh was no mistake - he pieced you together with his own hands. You are not a copy - you are authentically you - so share that with the world, with your friends. 

Can I tell you what has happened since I have become authentic with my friendships, with my life, with my love? Things are full, things are bright, relationships are rich! It’s not an on the surface kind of relationship. When you are authentic you let people see the core, what’s going on on the inside. 

Life is hard, sometimes. Circumstances suck, sometimes. We all mess up, we all need a do-over now and again. All of these are easier to walk through when you come from a place of honesty and authenticity.