Forgive and Get

So there was this dude from back in the day. He’d gotten himself into some pretty serious debt (the equivalent of millions of dollars) by borrowing from the king of his land, and on budget-balancing day, the king decided he wanted everything settled up. As you’d guess, the guy didn’t have the funds to pay it back. So, as was the custom of the day, the king ordered that everything this man had be sold so the man could make good on his promise of repaying the debt. This included the man and his whole family being sold into servitude to settle the account.

The man in debt, clearly distraught over this, fell to his knees and begged the king:

“Please master, Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.”

The king, even though he had every right to demand repayment, was filled with compassion toward this man, and made a decision. He decided to let the man go free, not just to have more time to pay back the debt, but to be completely free. He released him and canceled his debt completely. The man’s debt had been erased. He owed nothing. He was free.

So, of course, this man lived a long and happy life, forever grateful for this freedom, and extended the same grace to others that had been extended to him, right?

Um, not so much.

That dude went right on out, came across a guy who owed him some money (the equivalent of a few thousand bucks) and grabbed him by the throat, demanding he pay back the money this instant. This man also couldn’t pay back the debt, so the dude had him thrown in debtor’s prison.

Some folks heard about this, and knowing he’d JUST been forgiven all his debts, went and told the king about it. The king was irritated to say the least. He summoned the forgiven man and asked him WHAT IS UP WITH THAT??!! He said “You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?”

You might recognize this as a parable that Jesus told, as recorded in Matthew 18. (Retold here in the Krysten paraphrase.) 

This parable was told in response to Peter asking Jesus “How many times should I forgive someone who has sinned against me? Up to seven times?”

Oh, Peter, you’re so adorable. You thought seven times was a lot. I’m with you. 

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”

Jesus said the Kingdom of God plays out like this parable. God is the king. We are the ones in debt to Him because of our state of sin. He has fully and completely forgiven us, no matter how much of a mess our credit history is. So when we go out into our world, He expects us to transfer that mercy to others. He expects us to remember our great debt that we couldn’t repay, and to offer the same forgiveness to others.

But there’s one thing this parable doesn’t tell us. It’s the part we figure out for ourselves when we put in to practice what Jesus said to do. It’s the hidden gem that we get from obedience to this practice of forgiving. When we free someone from their debt, we become free as well. In fact, the freeing is more for us than for them!  Unshackling someone from us by forgiving their betrayal, their insensitivity, their part in our abuse, their coldness, their poor parenting, their lack of love and understanding… Whatever the case may be. Releasing them in your heart and mind releases us as well. We get to live more freely and move forward with what God has in store for us.

Forgiving is no easy task. It’s not a one-time deal. It’s a choice we make over and over to extend freedom as it has been extended to us. It’s a process of renewing our minds to allow God’s truth about us and our situation to permeate every place in our lives, so we can really live. It doesn’t mean forgetting. It doesn’t mean acting like nothing every happened (in fact, the very act of forgiving someone means that there has to be an offense that needs forgiven in the first place.) It doesn’t even mean reconciliation with the person in every case. But it does mean freedom.

This week has been a tough one. I’ve been working through this process of forgiveness toward someone that, quite frankly, doesn’t really “deserve” my forgiveness. This person did something terrible to me, on purpose. They treated me in the worst way a person possibly could. And they’ve never once said they were sorry. They haven’t even acknowledged their wrongdoing. They’re just going about their everyday life as if nothing ever happened. And chances are, I will never hear an apology from this person as long as I live, even though I certainly am owed one, and much more.

My life has been changed by the way this person has done me wrong. It’s been devastating. Life-altering. It’s cost me hours and hours of distress and thousands of dollars in counseling. It’s created anxieties in me that I’ve never had before. It’s made me act like a person I’m not, on more than a few occasions.

And I am tired of living that way. Having a bitter undercurrent just below the surface of your life is no way to live. And honestly, nothing this person could ever do or say would really take away the hurt that has been imposed on me. It’s forever affected my world. 

So rather than waiting forever to get the apology I’m owed that will never come, (and wouldn’t really help much if it did) I’m working on being obedient to this command of my King. For my own sake. For freedom. 

I begin by recalling a debt that I owed, that I couldn’t repay. I remember how I have been forgiven of that massive debt. How I could never make it right even if I tried. And I decide to forgive my debtor as I have been forgiven. 

This doesn’t come easily. But with God’s help, I start by transforming the way I think of this person. In a very practical and tangible way, I write down everything I think about the person (everything—no holding back. God knows anyway.) And then I search the scriptures and  write down the truth about this person, as God sees them. As he sees all of us. 
Then, I say the things out loud. This is the hardest part.  My own thoughts first…filled with hurt, bitterness, pain:

______ is an awful person. _____ doesn’t deserve forgiveness for this. How could someone do that to me?  To anyone!?

Then the truth of God’s word, canceling out my unforgiving thoughts: 

______ is made in God’s image just like I am. _____ has fallen short of the glory of God just like we all have. _____ has sinned against me, but while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us all. (Genesis 1:27, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:6,8) 

I don’t have to like this right now. I don’t even have to believe 100% that these things are true about this person. Yet. But I will. Because God’s words ARE truth, and truth will win every time. I will continue reviewing these thoughts vs. God’s truth (and the many other pairs such as this that I’ve written down about this person I’m forgiving) and trust that I’ll be transformed by the renewing of my mind. 

I’ll make the decision to release them from this debt they owe me, because I want more freedom. And forgiveness is the way to go about getting it. 



Love: Join Together & Get Creative

I had the opportunity today to contribute to the #loveis series over on the Facebook page for Sweet to the Soul Ministries . So thankful to share alongside some lovely ladies who have taken time this month to consider what the scriptures say about this thing we call love. My focus was on Hebrews 10:24:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…

The entire book of Hebrews has something to prove. The author was worried that his audience was waffling in their faith. He implored them not to go back to the old, comfortable way they’d always known, approaching God by routinely making sacrifices, checking off a spiritual box. He went to great lengths to show that Jesus is our high priest and no other sacrifice is needed.

God is really really smart, y’all.

He knew that even when we came to understand that Jesus is our center, it would only be a starting point. Our faith is a lifelong process of trusting and learning to love like Jesus did. He knew we would get discouraged easily. He knew we, too, would waffle back and forth in our faith at times.

He knew we would need some strategies for sticking with it, for moving forward in our faith when life got harsh. For when it seemed too difficult to center our lives around a Savior who was all about showing love in practical ways.

So what did God give us as an answer to these difficulties? Two things stick out to me from Hebrews 10:24:

First, He gave us other believers. The verse says: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Us. We. One another. The words used here don’t signify any of us being an island. We need each other to keep the momentum of love & faith going. We need to encourage each other to put God’s love into action.

The second thing God gave us is creative minds. Other translations of Hebrews 10:24 tell us to “think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” and to “see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out”.

Oh, I love that. What a challenge! He wants to see just how out-of-the-box we can get in demonstrating love toward others.

So friends, let’s take on that challenge. Let’s just get all kinds of creative in how we show His love today. Forget about how we will be perceived because of it. And let’s not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by how difficult life may feel at the moment. God knew it would happen, and He’s given us one another to figure out how to creatively persevere in showing His love to all people.

I’d love to hear what you think about this. What comes to mind when you think about God asking us to be inventive and creative in love? Who is a person in your life who spurs you on toward love and good deeds? How do they do this? Tell me about all it! Your thoughts will spur even more of us on toward encouraging love and good deeds today.

Tell Somebody

I guess I’ve always been a writer.

Somewhere in elementary school (I think 3rd grade) there was an essay contest. The prize was the most famous Care Bear of all, Tenderheart Bear. The topic was something along the line of telling about someone who loves you a lot. That was a no-brainer.

tenderhart bear

Tenderheart Bear


I wrote about my mom. I wrote my essay about how she was simply the best mom ever. Not just really great like regular moms, but over-the-top great because she was both mom and dad to me. I told about how she did all the jobs of a mom and dad and she did them all well. I wish I had a copy of that essay now. Those written words are long gone, but the feelings behind them are exactly the same. She was the very best mom any girl could ask for. She raised 7 children, most of them with a not-super-helpful husband, and the rest of them without one at all, after he passed away when I was very young.

I remember the way the tears were perched precariously inside the rims of my teacher’s eyes when she explained that I had won the contest with my essay about my mom. In a matter-of-fact way I told her, “I knew I would win! I have the best mom ever. And now everyone knows it.”


My momma and birthday cake. What could be better?

I had my picture taken at school with that Tenderheart Bear. He’s gone somewhere now too. But I will never forget that day. I felt proud. I felt important. But not really because of my essay or because I won the contest. I felt proud that even though I didn’t have a mom and a dad, my mom by herself was super amazing. And I was getting the chance to tell somebody about it. Everybody.


Today, my amazing momma would be 80 years old. EIGHTY. It’s been exactly four years now that I got the sudden call telling me she was gone. Just like that. My amazing momma was no longer part of this world. No longer part of my world.

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Easter 1983. The only time I recall ever going to church with my mom.


It doesn’t matter at all that I am a grown-ass woman. I am a little girl every single time I think of my momma. Every year on this day—her birthday and the day she left us— I cry my ever lovin’ eyes out. I suppose it might always be that way.

I do cry because I miss her, but that’s not the main reason. I cry because I wanted to be a better daughter. I didn’t see it then, but looking back I really can’t think of that many times when I did something lovely just for her. For no other reason than to make her happy. I can’t think of many times that I just told her with words or deeds how awesome I really thought she was. She deserved to know. She deserved to actually hear it while she was still around to let it sink in. She deserved to hear the words I love you a billion times more than she ever did.

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Seven Kids. The first college graduate. That’s one proud momma. Big day for both of us.


I don’t feel like I talked about my mom very much when she was still around, either. I should have been telling someone–everyone– how amazing she was all the time, just because it was true.

I look around at kids treating their moms like complete crap, and I think, man, you will regret that so much when she’s gone.

I see husbands and wives ignoring each other in favor of their phones all the time. Like, ALL THE DAMN TIME. What the heck is so important that you can’t bother to even look at the person you are with? You’d rather stare at a screen and fake-talk to other people somewhere else?

Sometimes I go for several days without talking to a single one of my friends. In the course of a few days, can I truly not spare a few minutes just to call or email one of them to let them know how much they mean to me? Of course I could. This is simply a personal failure.

I want all those moments back that I wasted.  But I can’t ever, ever get them. I can’t go back and tell my momma how she’s the absolute best and how I would never be anything without her. I can’t go back and make her laugh anymore, or buy her some peach-pink roses for no reason. I can’t surprise her with gyros for her birthday lunch or help her peel way too many potatoes to mash ever again.

The best I can do is to tell somebody. Tell somebody how much I loved her and how wonderful she was. That’s a start.

But even better than that, I can tell somebody how wonderful they are. Somebody who is still here—right here with me on this earth, right now—what I see in them and how they affect my life. I can tell somebody else the great things I see in them.

And I can hope that by telling folks how much they mean to me, it will inspire them to do the same. Because believe me, no one wants to be thinking of a loved one on what would have been their 80th birthday, wishing they’d spoken more into that person’s heart while they still had the chance.

Do you love someone? Do you see something wonderful in a person?

Tell them. Tell somebody. Tell everybody. Today.

Hope & Joy, Coming Right Up

wreathI’m gonna get right to it. There are two things happening tomorrow that I am super excited about! One is an online devotion study centered around hope, and the other is a photo-a-day project that highlights joyful things. BOTH of them begin tomorrow. Hope-and-joy-focused awesomeness. Who doesn’t love that??

So, a bit of explanation:

There’s an online friend I met through a Facebook group for a writer’s conference we both attended this past summer. Her name is Stephanie Adams, and she has a site called R.E.A.L. Women (Relationships through Encouragement, Accountability, & Love.) Stephanie focuses on women being real with each other and themselves, centered around what God says about who we really are. She writes and hosts online bible studies encouraging women to dig into God’s word to gain wisdom on how to live real lives.

Not long ago, Stephanie opened up an invitation for women to contribute to writing companion articles to go along with a holiday-time devotion study. Since the theme of the study would be centered around hope, I jumped at the chance to participate. After submitting a writing sample, I was offered the chance to contribute alongside 13 other writers for this study. (Yay! Thanks, Stephanie!) I began working on what ended up being a very open, raw piece of writing for me. I hope y’all don’t hate it. It just came from the real that I’m living in right now.

The devotion study, Hope Is, begins tomorrow, December 1st. I can’t wait to see how all 14 ladies’ writings will mesh. None of us have seen each other’s articles, but Stephanie already said she could see them working together. God is so cool like that.

If you or a sister-friend you know would like to participate in the Hope Is devotion study, it’s not too late to sign up! Click here to register. You’ll receive the daily devotion content Mon-Fri from Dec 1st through the 18th. You’ll also get access to a private Facebook group for the study, so you can discuss your thoughts with other readers and encourage each other along in finding hope in all the moments of this season. And of course, you’ll get the bonus articles that accompany each day of the study (Keep an eye out for one written by yours truly, entitled Giving on Empty.) So check it out, register ASAP, and spend the next few weeks focused on the best thing ever: Hope.

In a solid tie with hope for the Best Thing Ever award is another favorite concept of mine: Joy.

Have you ever met someone that just radiates joy? I don’t mean someone with a slap-happy smile plastered on their face. Not even a perky person. Those things aren’t the same as joy. Joy is something peaceful, something that makes the corner of your mouth curl up into a contented, relaxed smile. Joy is something small or something big that makes you feel complete just for a moment. It’s a kind of shalom. No matter what’s going on around us, we can savor small droplets of joy in every moment.

My friend Melissa knows all about those droplets of joy. Joy is her thing. She seeks it. Breathes it in. Savors it. Moments move more slowly when we can find joy in them. We can stay in them, draw them out, capture them, and return to them whenever we want to. Because joy is something that is within us and can’t be taken away.

Melissa has taken on many endeavors in the name of joy. As she does so, the joy spreads. (See what she did there?) A couple years back I started participating in one such project called 25 Days of Joy. Beginning December 1st, we snapped a photo of something that brought joy to us that day. We hashtagged that little photo #25daysofjoy and shared the heck out of it. Every day up through Christmas, we focused on joy. The whole process wasn’t fancy or time consuming. It was fun, easy, and just plain joyful.

Jump on the #25daysofjoy bandwagon! Check out the Facebook page here and post your photos to share with other participants if you’d like. Any way you choose to participate, I know it will do your heart good to see the joy in your everyday moments this season.

So, there you have it. A big ol’ dose of hope and joy, available to you right now! I hope you will participate in one or both of these opportunities to focus on hope and joy over the next few weeks.

Joining me for either of these?? Leave a comment to let me know!

Hope & joy to you this holiday season, lovely people!

And…We’re Done! {31 Days of My People}

Whew! What a month! I’m so excited to have completed my first full #Write31Days Challenge! It was a lot of work but I enjoyed every second of it. My only regret is that I couldn’t squeeze more of My Amazing People into this 31 day timeframe! 😦

Thank you again to everyone who read, commented on, and shared these posts. Your feedback has been so kind and encouraging. I hope this series made y’all smile and inspired you to go tell Your People how much you love and appreciate them.

If you missed any part of the 31 Days of My People series, scroll back or click on the “Go Back in Time” dropdown on the main page and select October 2015.


31 Days of My People: Jesus {31/31}

Thank you so much, readers. This 31 Days of My People series has been so wonderful for me. It has given me a chance to reflect on some of the many incredible people I have in my life, and remember that every moment we have here on this earth counts. I so appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. You can find the entire series here if you missed any of the days and would like to catch up.

This is our final day in this series, and I have saved the very best Person in my life for last.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:38-39


It was always You. I know that now. I used to think people were completely crazy for believing in any God. I thought folks must be pretty pathetic if they needed a bunch of fairy tales about a kind, benevolent man to get them through life. No thank you. I’ll just think some happy thoughts about Abraham Lincoln and call it good.

But somewhere underneath everything there was this tiny shred of something that always made me wonder: What if there is something bigger than us? There has to be. This whole world has no point otherwise. At some point I began my conscious journey toward finding out. Right in the middle of life, where all along I actually thought I’d been doing some living.

I can look back and see it now. How You were inching me toward You a little every day. You left me so many breadcrumbs along the way so I could find You. Looking back from this side, I can see everything around me as a gift You personally gave me, each one bringing me a bit closer, like little mile markers along the trail.

You gave me Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, which made me think for the first time that You could be more than just some old, angry scorekeeper in the sky. That You were pursuing me.

You gave me that professor, the one who invited me to his church. I got to see people enjoying worship. Really meeting you there. And then that professor tried to get me to sleep with him. But that whole experience helped open my eyes to a couple of things: First, that church has a purpose–worship has a purpose. And that people who claim to love You will still mess up in a million ways. So it’s not them I should look to, it’s only You.

You sent me those songs that rang true with me…SO many songs… because You knew this was a language I could understand. You kept them reverberating in my ears when I got scared, or doubted myself. Or doubted Your goodness.

I looked for You in

the fire and the wind…

But You weren’t there as far as I could see

I thought I’d hear You shout

but then I figured out

that all along You’re whispering to me

You gave me such a sense of wonder, and You made sure it got put to good use. Your creation is so amazing. The way oranges are pre-packaged and sectioned perfectly for sharing. Way to go, thinking of that one. The patterns You built into plants and seashells and our DNA? Just completely amazing. And flamingos? And a praying mantis? What are those even for? They seem to serve no purpose whatsoever other than to be admired by us. That’s so You.

And can I just say how brilliant it is that every single person has their own special fingerprints? Our little hidden reminder that although we’re all built out of the same stuff, we are uniquely formed and not one is exactly like the other. Not one. Not even the fingerprints of identical twins are the same! (And also, there is such a thing as identical twins! What?!?) I will forever be in awe of everything You have made.

I believe everything You say, Jesus. It makes me so sad when very loud people take Your words and turn them into hateful things. How can anyone think that’s even a thing? There was never any hatefulness in You. I just wish everyone could understand how that wastes Your love when we do that junk. There’s an unending supply of Your love, enough to go around for everyone, and here we are trying our best to squander it by making it sound like hate. I don’t know everything, but I know that’s not Your way. There’s just nothing for us to be scared of by loving each other like You did. Nothing at all.

Jesus, I think about The Narrow Way a lot. I just don’t feel like it’s what a lot of people have said it is. I think it might have something to do with how You always hung out with the folks that were outcast, despised, and desperate. I think The Narrow Way looks a whole lot like pulling up a chair next to those exact people and putting our arms around them. I think The Narrow Way has something to do with how uncomfortably close we need to be to one another on our way toward You. We just have to get that close in order to really see into each other’s lives and earn the right to speak into them with Your love. I might be wrong, but everything You did and said seemed uncomfortably close and personal like that.

I’m actually really glad You allowed me to grow up for the first part of my life outside of a relationship with You. I know that sounds weird, but I feel like You let me learn some things the hard way, and now I get to use those experiences to help others and point them toward You. So I don’t count any of it as a waste. You are the very best recycler in the universe. All we have to do is hand You our used up junk, and You turn it into something more beautiful than any of us could imagine.

Your commands seem kind of simple to me. Hard to do sometimes, but pretty simple to understand. Love You first. Love people. ALL the people. Not just white, straight Republicans. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly, with You guiding us. That’s about it.

Why aren’t those simple guidelines enough for us sometimes, Jesus? Why are we always trying to inflate some sins while ignoring others (usually the ones we like to keep doing) to make an US and THEM situation? I think that goes right along with our need to belong. To be a part of something bigger than ourselves. But we twist it up so badly. We could just keep it simple and see that it’s really just about YOU and US and no THEMs at all.

You are by far the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I love a lot of the things You’ve given me and allowed me to be a part of, but all of it is worthless without You. I don’t get all this stuff right. I doubt many of us do. But I do know that when You come back, I want you to find me scooted up close next to the folks everyone else looks down upon. I want You to find me listening to them as they tell about their hopes and fears. I want You to find me wiping tears and feeding stomachs and exchanging smiles. And I don’t think you particularly mind who I do those things with, because we are all Yours, whether we know it yet or not.

You are incredible, Jesus. And I’m so thankful for You in my life.


You are the finest thing that I could live for

and I pray You are the thing for which I die

You’re hard to know, but so easy to approach

and after all, what else is there to life?

-from “You Can” by Ross King



31 Days of My People: My Man {30/31}

Dear Todd,

I could have married someone else, you know. In fact, that was kind of the plan. Back when I was too young and foolish to be planning anything, for seven years, I was mapping it all out. Remember how I told you I’d named all 4 of my kids and everything? Yep. Could’ve gone that way. But that’s not where I was meant to be.

I was meant to be in that little church fellowship hall on Easter morning, when I saw you take off your glasses for a quick second and rub your eyes. Then you looked up, and you looked right at me. I’d seen you several times before that, and we’d even talked as acquaintances. But this time, I really saw you. And I’m pretty sure you saw me too.

Sometime later when we went on our first date, which wasn’t even technically a date, I still can’t believe you talked for two hours straight and let your dinner get cold while you told me everything about your life. Like, everything. I was so shocked at the fact you had no idea that was kind of against the “rules,” but it was so refreshing to realize you didn’t even know what the rules were.

I don’t know what it was about you. We didn’t even make sense. Nothing in common really, but I just wanted to be around you. You had this thing. This quiet strength about you. You had manners, and you didn’t even know that was rare.

I can’t believe you asked me to marry you in the parking lot of the movie theater. I’d been waiting for days, making sure I looked extra pretty every time I saw you that weekend, thinking each time would be the time and you’d pop the question. When three days had gone by without a peep, I thought maybe my vibes were all off. Maybe my feeling had been all wrong. Or maybe you were just going to do it some other time because it was too close to my birthday. Then, the one day I wore no makeup and a big floppy sweatshirt in the rain to the movies, you asked me. Of course you did. That’s just so you to do something weird like that. It was perfect. Thank you for that fun memory.

Our whole wedding thing was a freakish disaster wasn’t it? I’m so mad that we had to go through that. It sucked. I know you didn’t care about the actual wedding as much as I did, but I know it kind of bummed you out that I never got to have my fancy day. There was one part I really loved though. I got to marry you sooner. Remember? We were planning on May and we got to tie the knot in March. (March is our real, actual anniversary. I know it’s hard to remember with all the dates we had. You’re kind of off the hook for that one.)

I love that we picked Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 for your wedding ring. It really turned out to be perfect for us, didn’t it?? I mean, who would have known that the whole “two can stand back-to-back and conquer” part would be so eerily accurate for our life? We really did run right out of the gate and start fighting things, didn’t we? Remember how we used to always talk about how we’d been through more in our first few years of marriage than most people ever go through? And how we’d say “us against the world” all the time? You know, I never got worried during any of those times. They always made us stronger. I knew everything would be alright because we were fighting back-to-back, together. Always together.

So many good memories came in the years following, and they just flew by so fast. All our vacations to Mexico. All those little SHMILY moments. You graduated. I graduated. I graduated again. We paid off our debt. ALL OF IT. We visited Dave Ramsey. That was a fun weekend. I’ll never forget how we both cried a little when we screamed WE’RE DEBT FREEEEEE!!! on the radio. Don’t even try to play, it was both of us. Remember when I won that award and we got to go to the hockey game for free with Greg & Tiff, and I was on the Jumbotron? And the Ohio Lottery paid for all of it? Hilarious! Remember when we drove up to Myles Pizza in Bowling Green for no real reason other than to hang out with our peeps? Tiny clown car situation, right there.

I still can’t believe we went to India. I can’t believe we ate goat meat in preparation for visiting India. I could not be more thankful that we got to experience all that together (India, not the goat meat.) You were so gracious and kind to all the people, and everyone loved you.  I know how uncomfortable you were, like the whole entire time. But you did so great, baby. You were amazing and I felt so safe. Pastor Stephen loved you so much. I so wish we could have all spent more time together.

There are so many little things I love about you. I notice things, a lot of them. I notice how you make the bed sometimes just for me. I notice that little curl of hair on the front of your head when it’s about time for a haircut. So cute. I love how you have great table manners, you eat so neatly and fold your napkin every single time you use it. I don’t know why I love that so much but I do. And I love to watch you shave for some reason. It just gets to me, and you smell SO amazing.

You are so freakin’ smart. Seriously, when you get to tellin’ a story about something that went on at work, and how you had to fix a flux capacitor or some such thing, I have no idea what you are talking about. But I can see how you are totally in your jam. You are so good at what you do. You’re just the best. But you’re the best at everything you do.

Which reminds me… You are a Level 4 Krav Master. (I know that’s not an official title but I’m going with that.) You are so badass. I mean seriously, you’ve not even been doing this stuff very long, and you are running circles around dudes nearly half your age. You are amazing. But that’s just what you do. You set out to do something and you just become the very best you can be at it. I admire that so much about you. I wish I was more like you in that way.

And oh my gosh, you are the funniest person alive! I could never have married a man that didn’t have a sense of humor. You crack me up. You crack everyone up. I probably shouldn’t be encouraging this, but you are the most quick-witted person I know. You think of hilarious things to say and you think of them fast. I love how we laugh (almost) every single day and how you get me to snort-laugh at least once a week. I could never live without that. You’re the best.

And man, you are SO strong. And I don’t even mean physically, although those muscles you have sure are nice, babe. Whew. But you are so strong inside. You have been a fighter your whole dang life. Most people would have folded a long time ago if they’d gone through half of what you have. You’re a walking miracle. I know you don’t believe that. But for the rest of my life it is my job to help you see it.

You are a warrior. Don’t shake your head. You are. You have been a fighter from the very beginning and you are still standing. Yeah, you have some scars. You’ve been knocked down a few times, and a couple times you’ve even laid right down in the dirt and almost given up. But you’re here. You’re standing again and you’re still in the fight. You are a warrior, and nothing will ever change that. You’re fighting for me, for us, for your own heart, for our kids. Warrior on, my prince. Warrior on.

I want to take a second to say I’m sorry. We’re both humans and by default we screw stuff up. Because we’re married that means we sometimes screw each other up. So I’m sorry for my part. However big or little, forgive me. I forgive you for the parts you mess up. It’s the deal. If God can give up his only Son to forgive us for the ways we have been unloving or selfish or outright awful, then I’m pretty sure we can ask for and accept an apology. Every time we do, we get a clean slate. And we’re gonna keep being all about second chances, just like our God is.

We are so very imperfect. Clearly. We sure are at an interesting place in our lives, aren’t we? But can you see it? Can you see how God is fitting all those mismatched pieces together? He’s making all things new again, again. We aren’t the best at fixing things, but He’s really, really good at it. I’m so thankful for the ways you are letting Him work in you and encouraging me to do the same so we can change together and become even better.

So yeah, I could have married someone else. But I married you. And I love being married to you. There is no Plan B. We’ll get all the details figured out. We’ve got to iron out some wrinkles. But we have burned the ships, so we are doing this thing, making this life. Our Joel 2:25 repayment isn’t done quite yet. I just have a feeling we are on the verge of something great.

I love you, my prince. You have always been My People, and you always will be.

Much love,


PS: Thank you for the ways you’ve been so extra encouraging to me lately. This writing project has taken a lot of time and energy this month, and you’ve been doing lots of things to allow me to make space for it. I’m sure that’s been annoying sometimes, but thank you. I’m so grateful for how you always encourage me to keep dreaming.

31 Days of My People: THAT Girl. {29/31)

It has been so enjoyable taking time this month to write about some of the many special people that I love. New friends and long time friends, acquaintances and folks I would love to spend more time with. They’re all special in their own unique ways.

But I have to admit there’s one person I’d been thinking of writing about, but didn’t really want to. She’s definitely My People, but I have mixed feelings about her.

The best way I can describe her is with the word hybrid. I’ve used that word to talk about her so many times throughout the long years I’ve known her. Although she seems like a complete extrovert, she’s got an almost equal introvert part to her personality. I’ve only recently come to understand that there is a term for that (ambivert) but I just call it a hybrid. She’s usually bubbly and cheerful so people are surprised when they find out she works hard to fight off depression several times a year. I don’t call that by it’s proper name either. I refer to it as “ the funk” or “the grey cloud” because that’s just what it’s like for her.

She’s also a hybrid when it comes to getting things done. Some things she tackles head on, breaking them into small, manageable steps to get whatever it is taken care of efficiently. I’ve noticed that usually happens more when she’s working with a group of other folks. She’s kind of a natural leader, which she doesn’t really love, but it seems like she finds herself in those places anyway. She tries not to be bossy, but she’s pretty sure she can come across that way.

Now when it comes to personal things, procrastination is definitely her game. She really hesitates to even call it procrastination though, because honestly, she just works a whole lot better under a really tight deadline. Her creativity flows better that way. I’ve seen her pull off some of her very best work after an all-nighter many times. A six-month-long window is no kind of deadline to her at all. May as well be a prison sentence for her creative juices.

So yeah, she can be a pretty frustrating gal. Like how she eats super healthy and loves to cook whole, natural foods, right in between eating greasy take-out Chinese food and cupcakes from a box. I don’t get her. That girl has got some issues to work out when it comes to food. There’s something all tangled up in her head about that. It’s kind of how she was taught to love people. Feed them delicious things and you’ll make them happy. That was kind of the unspoken lesson she learned.

This girl does love people. For the most part anyway. She’s super thankful that God has given her the ability to see past what’s on the outside with a lot of folks. It’s helped her understand that age or skin color or clothing are terrible yardsticks with which to measure people. But seeing right into folks? That’s also kind of tough to manage. She can get disappointed easily because people don’t always know their lines in her script. So, there’s that.

She’s gone on ahead and diagnosed herself with adult ADD. I guess that works. I mean, why bother going to a doctor anyway when she has no intention of taking medicine, and besides…how could that many free, online Adult ADD Checklists possibly be wrong? At least knowing this is her deal helps her cope with frustrations about herself. Like how she can get hyperfocused on certain things and block everything else out for hours. Or how she has to say tape measure, tape measure, tape measure over and over again all the way to the kitchen drawer if she’s to have any hope of remembering why she opened the drawer when she gets there. It’s like Rain Man up in here with all that.

Girl’s also got some big feelings. A lot of her life is lived in exclamation points. She doesn’t understand people who don’t get outwardly excited about fun things, or those who don’t cry at the sad parts in a movie. She doesn’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to have a party for their birthday. Seriously, she doesn’t get that one bit. Must be the extrovert part.

She’s late for stuff more often than not. She’s not trying to be inconsiderate, she’s just usually trying to check one more thing off the to-do list before she heads out. But still. She doesn’t like that about herself at all. She’s a classic over-committer, but she’s getting better at that. She’s learned the value of the word “no” over the past few years and her heart is healthier for it.

She’s got some serious quirks, but she’s not all bad, I guess. She doesn’t always get it right, but she tries really hard to remember people’s birthdays and important stuff. She loves making gifts and watching people’s faces light up when they open them. That’s one of her very favorite things in the whole wide world. She also likes when puppies wag their tails. She always wished you could tell a person’s feelings as easily. She’s a big fan of taking long, windows-down drives in the spring with music cranked up loud. And there’s just no telling who you’ll find on her iPod playlist. Just when you think you know what’s coming up next, here comes a Pantera or Lauren Hill or Etta James song to keep you guessing.

Yeah, she’s kind of complicated when I think about it, but she really wants to be more simple. She’s been working hard on letting her yes be yes and her no be no. She’s trying to unlearn some false stuff about herself, distinguishing between what people tell her and who she really is. She’s reframing her dreams into what they could look like in this new normal of hers that she’s living in. She’s trying to see past the immediate into the future and keep up the hope.

That girl gets in my head a lot, and sometimes in my way. When she really gets going it would be so easy just to lump her into my list of toxic people, and say forget about it. It would be a lot easier to walk away from her if she didn’t also live in my body. She can be frustrating, but I have to figure out ways to deal with her.

She’s the real me. The one I have to live with all the time. The one who can’t help but be one of My People, like it or not. But I’m learning to like her a bit more all the time. Mostly because I’ve learned that to love My People well, I have to start with That Girl. Jesus helps me with that. He reminds me of her real identity when it seems like she’s just a person who goes to a job and does laundry and says some stuff here and there. He reminds me to give her some grace too.

When I love her better, accept the difficult parts of her personality, and gently nudge her toward becoming the best version of who she was made to be, then I start to do the same for all of My People. And that makes putting up with her worth it.

31 Days of My People: Greg & Tiff {28/31)


Brain surgery.


Elementary school.


Tin crosses.

Jiu Jitsu.

Myles Pizza.

Social work.

Air conditioning.

Post-it notes.



What in the universe could these things possibly have in common with one another?

Nothing at all. They have absolutely nothing to do with each other except for the fact that they’re all part of our life with our BFFs, Greg & Tiffany.

When my husband Todd and I began attending our church, it was like a breath of fresh air. The faith-space we’d been in prior to that felt stuffy and restrictive, and Jesus is anything but. So we knew when we found a fellowship of folks interested in authenticity, we’d found a home. We spent our first year taking every class available and tried to really sink into the community.

Little did we know, while we had been busy diving into classes and studying and getting the lay of the land, a couple of folks had their eyes on us. Greg and Tiffany had been at the church for a while and had settled in, but were looking for a friend-couple to hang with. Up until that point they hadn’t found one couple that they both seemed to click with.

Somehow we popped up on their radar, and they began stalking us. (In a friendly, not-very-creepy-at-all sort of way.) That’s actually how it happened. They basically became our little secret fan club and talked to each about how they thought we might be The Ones. They seem pretty cool. They’re really plugging in here at church. They seem to be about our age. They’re kind of funny. I think we all might get along.

Greg & Tiffany are a couple of bikers. They found Jesus in a super unconventional way, and I love every second of their story. None of us can seem to remember our first date together, but we know it didn’t take long before we were hooked on each other as friends. We knew we were each other’s People. We joke about what a weird mix we are. Two bikers, partnered up with an elementary school teacher and a hard-workin’, ex-Navy man. They’re black leather and tattoos. We’re jeans and flip flops. (And just a couple tattoos.) They shop at Wal-mart. We refuse. They would have 3,487 pets if you let them. We don’t even have one.

Black leather & tattoos

Black leather & tattoos

But all that stuff is just stuff. It’s fun to notice but it’s not what makes someone Your People.

Everything that made Greg & Tiff Our People happened without any effort. Every time we were together we laughed so hard. We intuitively knew that we could talk to them about anything. We all had a lot to be thankful for, including lives that really painted a picture of what it meant to be new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17.)

Hang-outs with Greg & Tiff turned into more regular get-togethers. We realized our personalities are opposite: Mine is more like Greg’s, Todd’s more like Tiffany. Greg would write stuff down on Post-it notes that he wanted to remember to talk about, and we’d talk for hours, solving all the world’s problems from one of our living rooms. Our opinions of things turned into recommendations to each other, which turned into us having the same chair, coffee maker, Vitamix, and television in our homes. We all blame each other. We started babysitting their Chihuahuas when they went on vacation. Their family became our family.






They drove 30 minutes just to visit me after I had my wisdom teeth out on this day. They brought lots of movies.

Our BFFs have BIG hearts. They lead the biker ministry at our church and just have a vision to see people freed up to live life. They vacation in Mexico nearly every year, and each time, they pack a suitcase full of items to donate to a local church there in Zihuatanejo. One year they even disassembled a special kind of wheelchair and packed that sucker up to take with them in order to deliver it to a child in need of it. We were in love with their determination. That wheelchair made it there, of course.

Selfies from Mexico

Selfies from Mexico

Greg carries these tiny tin crosses in his pocket. I don’t even know where he gets them. But he leaves them everywhere he goes, gives them away. Whenever they’ve been at our house, I’ll find a few over the course of the next few weeks. Under the soap dispenser. In the flower pot. Behind a picture frame. Just a little reminder that we’re loved by God and by Our People.

Tiffany has this uncanny ability to see both sides of things. When talking about a situation, she can throw in a good well another thing that could be is… or have you ever thought maybe… and helps me see things in another light. She helps me hash out the stuff I’m thinking about, then we high-five for being so awesome together. 🙂

And as we all know, life has a way of testing us and Our People. Things happen along the way. Road blocks pop up and detours can’t be helped. This is when you find out who is planning to stick around. Who is really Your People.


Family drama. Surgery. Death of a parent. Near-death of a child. Redemption. Weddings. Turning 40. Turning 45. Finding our callings. Questioning our callings. More surgery. New endeavors. Insecurities. Moving. Disappointments. Ministry. Failures. Celebrations. Prayer for everything. All seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy.

We’ve been through it all together. It’s been about a decade now. None of us seem to be going anywhere. When Greg had brain surgery, (Who actually has brain surgery?) I sat at the hospital and emailed their whole family regular updates so Tiff didn’t have to worry about it. When our son was in the height of his addiction, they prayed us all through it and helped him through recovery. When my momma died, they were right there. When our world started crumbling, Greg was the only person we would even let in our front door.

Someday when we’re much older, and we can’t even tell what all of Greg’s expertly-done tattoos are anymore, I imagine we’ll sit around and talk about how life turned out. Todd will have a Stella in hand, I’ll be sipping a half-sweet tea. Tiff will be cupping her coffee with two hands and Greg will drink water to somehow balance out eating his Doritos. We’ll talk about what the grandbabies are doing while we pet their fur-babies. Maybe Todd will have even grown to love their pet snakes. (Don’t anybody hold your breath on that one.)

We will have seen each other through a few more surgeries, most likely. We’ll talk about how awesome our 60th birthday parties were (except they’ll still be planning mine because I’m way younger than all those jokers!) We’ll be talking about where to go in a couple summers to celebrate my retirement. 30 years of teaching is long enough.

But we’ll be there. Together. Watching somewhat disturbing shows and having long conversations. We’ll say stuff like: Man, life is good and God really came through, didn’t He? The dudes will wander out onto the back porch and get their own conversation going. That’s when Tiff and I will look at them, then look at each other. We’ll let out a big sigh, and say, for the millionth time…

I love us.

i love us

31 Days of My People: Tuesday People Tips {27/31}

Today is the final Tuesday People Tips in this series. I’ve been spending some time each Tuesday talking to you about how to foster great relationships with Your People. Today will be a bit different. Today I’d like to talk to you about the other people in your life. The ones who are basically the opposite of Your People. Those Toxic People, or TPs.

Now folks, let me start by saying that I don’t want to come across as harsh. Toxic people are people too. They are worthy of basic respect and love simply because they are made in God’s image, as we all are. I don’t advocate treating someone badly. But there are relationships in our lives that are, for whatever reason, just difficult, and we have to figure out how to navigate those.

God knew this would be so. He gave us many verses in the bible about how to deal with difficult situations with people. Two of the most notable are found in Matthew 18 and Romans 12.

The first, Matthew 18, instructs us how to deal with a brother or sister who has sinned against us. Obviously it’s in here because God knew it would happen and we’d need a little help to figure out what to do. There are a few steps in verses 15-17 that tell us exactly what to do. They involve a series of discussions where the end goal is always reconciliation. Only after we have done everything in our power and the person still refuses to listen, then a time comes to distance ourselves.

Which brings me to our other verse:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. -Romans 12:18

As far as it depends on you. That must mean that sometimes there will be instances where it doesn’t depend on us. Something past our personal ability to reach, offer, help the way we’d like to. We are to do everything in our power to live at peace with everyone. But there will be times when peace isn’t happening, because it depends on someone else doing their part as well.

Folks, I have some difficult people in my life. But difficult doesn’t equal toxic. So for these difficult folks, I live at peace with them as far as it depends on me. I am cordial, not rude. I wouldn’t purposely do or say anything disrespectful to them, but we don’t have to be BFFs. I pray for them and try as much as humanly possible to understand their perspectives and why they act the way they do. What the heck makes them so difficult in the first place?

For most folks, we tend become difficult when we’ve been hurt somehow. We all walk around carrying wounds of one kind or another. Some folks just live from their wounds and relate to others from behind the walls they’ve built because of their wounds, and that’s what makes them difficult.
But a Toxic Person goes beyond difficult. This is a person who goes out of their way to belittle others, blame others, humiliate others, or simply drain the joy out of every situation. A revolving door of drama, these folks cause dissension in your life at every turn, do things to harm you emotionally, and the entire “relationship” is a one-way street… where they basically drive a Mack truck of their drama into your house over and over and over.

These folks, my friends, are TPs. And what they bring to the table does not depend on you. Sometimes we just need to understand that it’s okay to put distance between ourselves and a TP for the sake of our families or our our own hearts. We can set boundaries without taking away a person’s dignity. We can tell them what we will or will not do without thinking we can control what they do or say. For example:

If you need food I will gladly cook a meal for you. But because you have taken money from the family without permission in the past, I will no longer give you cash.

I want to keep in touch with you. But I don’t wish to be yelled and cursed at. I would love to talk to you but if you begin to raise your voice or curse at me, I will hang up the phone.

These types of boundary statements say what we will or will not tolerate, and what we will do if a line is crossed. They allow us to protect ourselves without disrespecting the other person as a human being. As much as it depends on you, you’re keeping the peace.

Friends, I am not encouraging you to hop on Facebook and unfriend every person you know. I’m not suggesting you call annoying Aunt Erma and tell her she’s off the Thanksgiving invite list because Krysten said she’s a TP and you don’t have to deal with all that. No. Nice try.

Take your difficult people to God. Ask Him to give you eyes to see why they are that way. Ask Him if they’ve crossed the line into becoming a toxic person that you need to distance yourself from. Ask Him how to best go about that and to give you the words to say if you need to go that route. Ask Him how to live out the command to live at peace with everyone as much as it depends on us.

Understanding that we are not responsible for a toxic person’s behavior is a good first step. Living at peace with everyone, as much as it depends on us, frees us to have the energy and awareness to love Our People well.

Y’all, I’m praying for you on this one. It’s one of the hardest things we have to deal with in life. We are called to love, but when that’s hard to do, something feels off. I’m with you. But we can do this. God gave us a heart and a mind and He expects us to use them together to deal with difficult things. And we can.