Dear Holly…

by Kari

skeeze / Pixabay

Three years ago
we took a step
FORWARD
TOGETHER

And I’m humbled to
GROW
with you

Ups and

D
O
W
N
S

Twists and turns
SURPRISES and
disappointments
have not rocked our journey
FORWARD
TOGETHER

Because
God
Knew
God knew we needed
EACH OTHER

…on that little tea hike in the woods
…on that crazy trip to Portland
…on the phone when I questioned cutting off my dreadlocks
…on countless occasions of tears and silence

You share my joys
Help carry my load
You see my heart
And help tune it towards
our Father’s

And so we
GROW
offer grace
unconditional love
in the mysterious places

W
I
T
H
I
N

Continually asking Christ to
accompany us in our
COMMITMENT
PARTNERSHIP
FRIENDSHIP

I thank you
SINCERELY
for holding this fort down
over these many months…
for believing in me,
being patient with me

You are a beautiful writer
INSPIRATIONAL
EFFECTIVE
CONNECTING
INSIGHTFUL
LOVING

Happy 3rd Blog Birthday Holly!

 

 

 

skeeze / Pixabay

How To Know What You Really Want (And Trust It)

By Holly

milivanily / Pixabay

We’re three French braids in to the Friday morning rush when she says it. Braiding my nine-year-old daughter’s hair started in the downstairs bathroom. Do’s, redo’s, teary eyes and a tight-fisted, straight armed stomp up the stairs followed. In her upstairs bathroom, we stand, defeated, in front of the mirror when she lets it out: “I don’t want to want perfect.”

The current and third braid isn’t perfect. I am no pro stylist, but as a mother of two girls who love to dance and act, I have a few skills when it comes to buns, braids and twists. In the School of Little Girl Locks, I consider the French braid entry-level. I have an inkling that her six words are about more than an imperfect hairdo.

In the mirror, she sees a girl defeated by perfectionism. I stand behind her – a head taller, a little further away- and I see the familiar female struggle: a skeptical, tumultuous relationship with desire.

I untwist the braid and scoop dark blonde waves into her signature high ponytail. As a faint smile emerges and her hair swings free, she says someone recently told her that her hair was frizzy. Now she strives for a tamed, smooth frame around her face, not a single escaping strand. But striving is not the same as wanting. What she really wants – even though she doesn’t know it – is something different: the freedom to be herself.

Wanting is complicated. Sneaky little shoulds insert themselves in front of our desires and act as if they have been there all along. Their mere presence changes everything. Is it, I want my hair to be perfectly smooth, or I should want my hair to be perfectly smooth? Do I want this career move? Or should I want it? Is this the kind of mom I want to be? Or is there a should or two in there? Both feel mostly true, so does it even matter if I want it vs. believing I should want it?

Yes.

Because here’s the thing about those sneaky shoulds: with them comes compromise.

A favorite artist-dreamer of mine, Elle Luna, puts it this way:
“Should is how other people want us to live our lives.  When we choose Should, we’re choosing to live our life for someone or something other than ourselves.  The journey to Should can be smooth, the rewards can seem clear, and the options are often plentiful.”

Wait. Clear rewards and plenty of options. That doesn’t sound like compromise. See how tricky this is?

Should can seem okay because it defends desire, in a tangible, explainable, Yes! That makes so much sense! way. If we dare to invite shoulds to the conversation, they are happy to join in and do what they do best: make a case for what we want. They tell us all the things a French braid will do for us – take away the frizz, free us from the worry about what someone else will think, and look better too. They present menus full of good options: one braid or two, regular or reverse, back or side.

In other words, shoulds take the straight and narrow path to “look over here.” They say nothing bad, untrue or hard to believe. They simply distract. They are so skilled at explaining that they don’t need to convince. In fact, they reassure.

And they make us compromise.

Because the thing shoulds don’t get is that our true desires are pure. They don’t need to be explained, analyzed or defended. They just are. If we don’t trust our desires for what they are and, instead, give in to trying to figure out why they are, we mutate them into plans of action that make a lot of sense but lead us away from ourselves.

When we start down the road of justifying what we want, the compromise begins. By coming up with reasons for our wanting, we change the wanting itself. And our path starts to turn, ever-so-slightly, until we find ourselves in front of the mirror, confused and defeated.

Let me give you a personal example. Ever since my love of reading began (which, sadly, was not until age twenty, thanks to high school required reading like Last of the Mohicans and Watership Down), I have collected passages from books that I love. That alone may sound somewhat normal for a writer, but when I tell you that I am not exactly picky about how many words I save from each book and that my library card number is one of three sets of digits I have memorized (along with my social security and credit card numbers), it may cause you to wonder. (Thank God for those colorful Post-It tabs and the Evernote!) Add to that the pre-laptop hours spent copying paragraphs into spiral bound notebooks and the detail that this habit of collecting words started nearly two decades before I even considered becoming a writer, and I start to wonder. What made me go to such great lengths to save other people’s words? I rarely, if ever, went back and looked at them. Why did I keep doing it?

My best answer: unquestioned desire.

If, over those twenty years, I had tried to explain why I spent my time this way or, worse, why I wanted to, I fear I would have stopped. Even now, looking back, I can’t come up with a why besides the clichéd “I did it because I couldn’t not do it.” From this seat, I can easily see the benefits to a writer that come from taking on the role of scribe for half of your life, but I can’t explain why I did what I did then.

I’m just glad I did.

At forty-two, this is what I know about pure, soul-born desire:  it doesn’t need or want justification. It just is. Acting on its behalf may seem weird or pointless, but trusting it leads us closer to our true selves.

So, tune into the things you can’t or don’t want to explain. And don’t.

But do them anyways.

We Don’t Have to See Eye-to-Eye

by Kari

445693 / Pixabay

For a few years now our church has taken VBS off-site to an underserved area of our town. It is privilege to learn, share and grow in this amazing community of people where there are many needs and many hands helping to bring light, love and hope.

I am sometimes at odd with myself as I lament how some of us who love this community used to walk hand-in-hand together only to part ways over reasons not always understood.  Now we fumble, bumble and stumble alongside one another in service instead of doing it in unison.

And guess what?

I’m okay with that. I am learning to celebrate the mystery and the love and the grace as we serve alongside one another and not necessarily hand-in-hand.

biancamentil / Pixabay

biancamentil / Pixabay

Is there a redeeming work
in Christ’s body
when we don’t see
eye to eye
yet work side by side?

Alleluia, yes.

Is there still a heart beat
when I feel cold
and maybe you do too
yet wordless glances
speak love?

Alleluia, yes.

Is there forgiveness
when walls are built
built, to protect
but does not love prove
to seep through the cracks?

Alleluia, yes.

Is there love written
in graffiti beautiful
because much is there
that cannot be understood
about our mysteries?

Alleluia, yes.

Is there our Jesus
with you, with me
and someday
we will be made whole
forever hand-in-hand?

Alleluia, yes.

Dear Friend, I Want to Know

By Holly

Olichel / Pixabay

Dear Friend,

I used to believe Facebook posts matched real life and everyone around me felt fulfilled, content and popular.  But vulnerability is more than a just a buzzword now, and we really do share the struggle.

We’re stressed out moms who are tryingtrying to be real, not perfect.  When you ask me how I am, I never say, “fine.” We left words like that back in our pre-vulnerable days.  Instead, I tell you how I really am with connecting sighs and worn-out eyes that say, “oh, you know how it is.”  Between sips of Oprah Chai, I wonder out loud if that sentence I uttered at breakfast this morning will be the very one that sends my daughter to therapy when she’s 30.  Unashamedly, you show up at book club toting bags of store-bought popcorn, I pay people to clean my house and we both own taboo statements like, “The PTA is not for me.”

We’ve progressed from wondering to asking.  I no longer look at your weedless yard, gourmet meals or toned arms and wonder how you did it.  I simply ask.  And you answer.

We come as we are.  Instead of showing up at church with my mascara just right, I come with eyes a certain shade of red, cheeks still damp.  And you hold out your arms.

I say the things that I was sure no one else even thought.  You say, “me too.”   We learn that we are not alone.

Long ago, we established that life is hard, marriage is harder, and there is a fine, fading line between motherhood and impossible.

You and I, we’re part of the collective shift toward authenticity, members of the tribe that slayed Superwoman.

We’re the movement that rejects all pretense; we stand up for the cause of Real.

You don’t hide your fears and failures.  I share my precise flavors of shame.  You invite me to sit in your unvacuumed rooms; we rummage through our junk drawers together.

I love this about us.

And.

There’s something else I want to know about you:  Your secret wins.

How proud did you feel when they chose you for the promotion?  Will you trust me with these feelings, too?

What does your excitement look like, untempered and uncontained?  I want to experience your thrill when your son hits another home run or your daughter wins the spelling bee.

When did you feel like the World’s Best Mom this week?  I want to hear how you amazed yourself because you turned a chaotic Tuesday morning into a tender one with just a few slow words and a hug.

What do you love about yourself when you take a long, hard look in the mirror?  What was your fleeting thought made you feel absolutely brilliant today?

I believe there is power in sharing our wins.

So, will you tell me what went on in your head the moment before you stood up for yourself, how victorious you felt afterwards and what you did – just yesterday – that made you feel brave?

What was it about the way you prayed last night that made you know God was there?   And what about the moment you felt more loved by your husband than you’ve felt in months, how you talked yourself out of that gummy bear binge and how you felt invincible holding that Warrior II pose?  I want to hear about these, too.

Can we share the stories that write our happy tears, the shapes of our inside smiles and what lies behind our fist-pumping yeses?

I want to hear you take credit.  I want to help you own your wins.   I want to share your joy.

Friend, I never want to stop struggling with you.

And.

Let’s triumph together, too.

When Facebook Makes You Jealous

By Holly

JESHOOTS / Pixabay

There must have been a dozen of them.  Unified by perfectly curved smiles that matched their 40-is-the-new-30 figures, the group of women I barely knew posed for their Girls Weekend photo.  I could almost hear them screaming, “Having the time of my (perfect!) life…with all of my (perfect!) best friends!”

My scrolling thumb froze midair as the particular brand of jealousy that only social media can induce rushed through me. Thinner.  Younger.  Prettier. Richer. Happier.

It all happened so fast.  One minute I was happily crawling into bed with my Lisa Jewell novel on a Friday night, and the next I was questioning everything from my appearance to the quality of my friendships.  Ridiculous.  I can’t really be jealous.  I hardly even know them.

Having mastered the art of saying no to what’s going on inside me and yes to what’s going on around me, my thumb scrolling resumed.  Surely I could find a jealousy antidote in another post – a photo of someone, somewhere that would catapult me into a state of “more than,” one that would make me say to myself, “At least I…”

But, miraculously, a new awareness within me won.  What am I doing?  I thought I was past sticking “At least I…” patches over my real feelings.  With a nervous inhale and upward thumb swipe, I went back to the photo and decided to get curious about my envy.  First, I gave myself permission to feel whatever I was feeling.  Next, I asked my jealousy some questions:  What are you trying to tell me?  What are you – really – made of?

When I made space for answers, it was as if the lid on a container holding all of the relational losses of my life.  Out spilled a messy heap of pain that tried to reorganize itself as jealousy to be slightly more presentable.  But, sorting through the pile, I saw faces.  BFF’s from my school years who are strangers now.  College friends cut off by thousands of miles, decades and demands of the adult years.  I held broken bits of my heart – the still-healing ones and the ones that haven’t started – that were the recipients of unexpected rejection.  And I felt the energy of sadness, the kind that comes from years spent living from an unhealthy desire to feel chosen instead of known.

As it turns out, my Facebook jealousy wasn’t about their appearances or my assumptions about their lives.  It wasn’t even about my less than perfect life.

And, surprisingly, instead of feeling ashamed of my initial surge of envy or critical of my own superficiality, my soul was nurtured by acknowledging truth without judgment.  Suddenly, all of the other times I felt that same sinking feeling when “perfect life” photos flashed in front of me made a lot more sense.

I breathed out relief, one of those slow exhales of understanding that clears the way for a new breath in.  And I saw that truth without self-judgment is a nudge toward freedom from our tangles of pain.  It is a tap that feels slight, but moves us far.