what’s on your mind…

facebook-whats-on-your-mindi hate vague posts on facebook.  i really do.  in order to lay some things down i need to say something.  and,  the “what’s on your mind” status window on facebook wasn’t big enough for my heart.

okay. i’m only talking to the people who care about me now… the ones who WANT to invest in me, the ones who want to know me. if you don’t know me, or can’t hang, i fully understand. (i’m a ride, a total ride). the best thing may be to hit eject and unfriend me. i’ll understand. i live my life open, full of struggle and doubt.

maybe facebook is not the best venue to walk out my journey… but, guess what, that’s truly my burden to walk. i use bad language, and i’m a Christian. i struggle with unbelief in God in a world full of death, struggle and hate, but i don’t want to do life without Him.

I BATTLE.

out loud. openly.

sometimes i battle fear and it comes out sideways. my mind gets into ruts, and i can over think the smallest things. i battle with seeing the world in absolutes. i battle with control. the past decade living with the unknown of cancer, the known of cerebral palsy, and the constant pressure of a bank account with just enough has pushed my faith, grown my faith.

i haven’t always liked God. in fact, i’ve been angry at Him.

this is true, and i am still a Christian.follow-Christ-banner

a Christ FOLLOWER.

moving toward the goal.

despite being battle worn, i keep going.

pushing, asking, seeking for more.  

i ask, “how can i follow without losing all of me?” 

HE ANSWERS I CAN’T.

I BATTLE.

out loud. openly.

i battle with therapy. i battle by crying over coffee with trusted sisters in Christ that know me, know my heart, and are willing to hear and see the ugly parts of myself without leaving me, without trying to pray my God-given personality away like i’m broken. they say in the midst of the battle, “we lock shields with you, and trust God when you do not.”

sometimes the battle looks like funny curse-filled pictures that help me release the pressure, these bad words are not to hurt others, but to help me move through the anger, the pain. and, THIS is were i say again if you don’t walk this life with me, if you don’t particularly like me, maybe now would be the best time to hide me on social media, because let’s face it we’re not friends.

I BATTLE.

out loud. openly.

i’m really battling for the right to run my own life… the original battle.

BUT GOD NEVER LEAVES ME.

God ALWAYS stands firm on the battlefield armed with His holiness and confident my heart is His. He fights the lies and my pride with His truth and His grace. He shows His faithfulness when i am faithless. He reveals He can be trusted and allows me to return to Him.

FORGIVEN.

when i get really still and rest in His absolute goodness, He shows me that every struggle, every battle has His loving hand in it. i have been and will continue to be held. and, nothing i think or say can ever push me out of His loving arms.  my sanctification is completely His work.  my battle is the truth of His glory being written on my heart.

when i get really still i realize He’s carried me through the battle by reminding me of His love. He’s provided women who tell me truth. He’s provided a husband that loves me when i am stormy. He’s provided His word as a solid foundation to plant my feet on and lay my burdens down. He’s provided His son for my life, and He reminds me that He knew before the creation of the world THIS battle would come.

when i stop fighting, when i love Him more than myself…

THE BATTLE ENDS.mylife

i let my guard down.

He leads me into His peace.

He washes the battlefield clean as snow.

i am not left the same, and He is bigger than before.

thank you to those who love me fully during the battle and on the victory march. you are witnesses to His work in me, my struggle, His love for me.

He is not finished with me, yet.  i will battle again.  thankfully each time i’m wiser.  the battle is clearer.  the enemy of pride is easier to spot, and i lay my arms down quicker.

I CONFESS.

the struggle is exhausting.  i love God with all my heart, but this world is hard as hell sometimes.

THANK GOD THE WAR IS WON.header_Christ

freedom, boobah, and another lesson from haiti

bittersweet holiday

well.  another 4th of july without the boobah has come and gone.  this one was bittersweet. bitter because it was the 2nd july 4th celebration without my sister, but sweet because i know next year at this time she’ll be home!!

erin is on her 2nd year of a 2 year sentence for aggravated vehicular assault.  she caused an accident while driving drunk that seriously injured herself and 2 other people.  since she’s been in prison i’ve wondered how much boobah has allowed God to change her, i’ve wondered how much she’s allowed the reality that life is DIFFERENT now, sink into her heart, and i’ve wondered how often she’s sought God’s will for her life, after her sentence is complete.

this is how i’ve  thought about prison, God, and my sister before the Lord sent me to haiti.

now i know how limited and narrow these thoughts have been.

see.  while i was in Haiti i thought about boobah a lot.  she helped fund my trip by sending me a $25 money order from prison.  before i left for the trip, she sent me letters encouraging me to not be afraid.  she also called me the week before haiti, and the first thing she asked was,  “are you so excited about your trip??!”

how do i show enough gratitude for being loved like that?  how do i thank erin, who has no freedom,  for helping and encouraging me to take a chance–  to spread my wings?  i don’t know.

i just know she blows me away with her awesome heart.  so i thank God for giving it to her—  her heart, her unbreakable spirit, her amazing love. 

THANK YOU, GOD.

i’ll let you in on an obvious truth–  she’s the cooler sister.  i’ve known it for a long time.   and, that’s why i miss her sooooooooo much.

so. there i was in haiti thinking about my sister and how amazing she is to give me this chance to serve.  i mean, He used my boobah– in prison—  to get me where i needed to be.

God is amazing, homeskillets.  He truly is.

He used haiti  to help me see my sister, freedom, and His love in a new way.

FREEDOM. bound by Christ.

i now realize freedom is a very subjective thing.  i mean, is a person behind bars trapped or free?  is a person dropped into a new country, a new culture, with no skills  trapped or free?  God taught me in six days it all depends on Him.

see.  in haiti, i was led by the rules of the trip.  i woke up when i was told to wake up.  i ate breakfast when i was told breakfast was served.   i got on the bus and rode to the work site, walked the path to the site, and worked when i was told it was time to work.  i stopped for lunch and ate what was provided.  i packed up and went to the orphanage, when i was told it was time to go.  dinner came like clockwork every day, along with worship time, and time to reflect on the day’s events.  i didn’t get a shower until all of this was done.   i got to live 6 days putting myself last– after God had been fully served with all i could give.

and i’ve never felt freer.  i truly had no regrets for 6 days.  this is HUGE for me.  i have a tendency to over think ERRRTHING— and, i always think there’s room to be better.  so, to not want to change anything about how i spent my time for 6 straight days was a gift from God.

i thought about erin.  i thought how God was so kind to help me understand in some very small way what boobah must be experiencing in prison.  her days are not her own.  she can do nothing without permission.  her life is planned down to the millisecond everyday.  yet,  she has not let that break her sweet heart or her amazing spirit–  because God is at the center of it.  God is making beauty out of her mistake and showing her a freedom she never experienced before.   in prison, she’s finding freedom because she has finally submitted herself to Him.

i got to talk to erin on the 4th of july.  i apologized for my obnoxious worry that has been filled with her “choosing” change.  i told her i wasn’t worried about her future anymore or how she was processing everything that had happened–  because God taught me in haiti that He does all the work.  while on the trip, He used every moment and filled my days with service, obedience, humility, brokenness, and love.  i truly did nothing for myself until His work was finished for the day.

i thank God for using haiti and prison to teach me that in serving time with Him, whether just 6 days or 2 years,  there is freedom.

so limited

sweet haiti

it’s been two weeks since i went to haiti and it might as well be two years.

i miss it.

i miss the closeness i felt with God.  i miss waking up everyday knowing i would have no regrets when my head hit the pillow, because every fiber of my being was focused on seeking God’s will.  i miss the people of haiti and feeling a part of God’s bigger picture.

boy, do i miss it.

i can’t remember any other experience in my life that has stripped me so completely in such a short amount of time.  every day i was there God showed up in amazing ways.  He taught me a lot about myself and how He has made me–  uniquely flawed.  i feel like a kaleidoscope–  clear and able to take in God’s light, but my faults somehow shatter it.  the great thing is, God still makes rainbows out of my messiness.

before going to haiti i was lost.

motherhood had become an overwhelming task i couldn’t seem to get my hands around.  i was operating out of fear, instead of celebrating the opportunity to love these two great boys.  there was a day when i cried out to the Lord.  it was raw and desperate.

i couldn’t stand my own voice and behavior– so critical, so condescending.  i was so afraid i was “breaking” them.  i even started going to therapy again.  i was hoping this would help me understand the boys’ personalities–  if i could just understand them, i would be better.  ha!

i was quickly told i needed to search my heart and re-evaluate myself, before putting any of the pressure on my boys.  ouch.  that’s sounds about right.

i had to admit i was uncomfortable showing love to my guys.  i was totally able to fill their basic needs, but i was really limited when it came to filling their hearts.  i was so focused on correction, i was losing the joy in being a mom– their mom.

then, God sent me to haiti.

the first full day we were there we went to church, and then we went to the school area we’d be serving all week.  there were children around, and we had a chance to start building relationships.

i was uncomfortable.

so.  i prayed.

Lord, where should i start?  what do i have to offer?  what is my purpose here?

i’m usually very outgoing and feel comfortable around new people.  but this was different.

i couldn’t use my natural ability to make connection–  talking.  

surprise.  i like to talk.

but, the language barrier took me out of my comfort zone.

i felt limited.

so, i looked for ways to fit in.

negative to soccer, 'skillets

the first thing i spotted was a pick up game of soccer– uhmmmmmmmm yeah.  that would have just been wrong.  (me + any type of sporting equipment =  tears)

then one of the guys pulled out marbles and jacks for the kids to play with–  the kids grabbed the marbles, as fast as they could, and stuffed them in their pockets, as fast as they could.

they have nothing, and they’re not willing to share.  the need they live in every day has taught them to grab first and fast.   so, playing a game of jacks or marbles wasn’t going to happen.

too much to share

i felt limited.

how can i help or make a difference when all they know is survival?

i felt God saying–  love like ME.  seek MY will.  respond like ME.

but, i didn’t know how to love like Christ.

i’m the one struggling to show love, remember Lord!!??  what can i do?

hands and hearts-- connecting

then the girls started playing patty-cake games– wow.  there was contact!  to watch a simple thing like patty-cake break down barriers is amazing.  simple acts make a big impact.   watching our girls playing with the children showed me the heart is seen very clearly when you let your guard down, look into someone’s eyes, and purposefully spend time with them.

again, i felt uncomfortable.

i felt my physical limitations—  because of my cerebral palsy, i have limited use of my right hand.

i can’t play patty-cake.

i felt limited.

so limited.

could God use me at all?  was i even needed on this trip?

i didn’t know, so i pulled back and watched.

and i felt God saying,

“you don’t have to be in the action to be changed by me.  it’s okay to be on the sidelines and be taught how to love.  that’s your purpose here–  learn how to love better.  watch.  really see how a simple touch can make a huge difference.  look at the joy in the eyes of a child when you really spend time looking at them.  learn from those with you, that love easily and well.  you are mine and i want you to see.”

simply. love.

and, just like that, homeskillets–  God’s light poured into me, and i knew His love COULD be reflected through my flaws.  i just had to be willing to be teachable.  to be changed. 

the ahhhhh-mazing teenagers on this trip opened my eyes.  they were my teachers.  they lived out love.  and, i thank them for that.

i also thank the LORD.

“thank you for knowing me, creating me, orchestrating this trip for me to see love.  thank you for showing me every detail of my life has a purpose.  i am meant to walk in this good work — for my family, for the hearts of my boys.  and, to see how much YOU love me.”

i am grateful God allowed me to see love lived out.   i am grateful i am limited.

i heart vampire diaries

elena and the boys

okay.  i have a slight love for a couple of brothers–  damon and stefan salvatore.  they are the awesome vampire duo from ‘the vampire diaries’.    these two guys have a hold on me fo’ sho’.  they’re cool, passionate, and fully devoted to the girl of their dreams, elena.

i know, i know–  VAMPIRES, again?!!  what is it with me and these guys?

i’ve been asking myself the same question.  a lot.

and, here’s where my thoughts have gone…

the salvatore brothers are tied to this world with no hope for anything more.  because they are vampires they’ve lost their souls–  drinking blood and avoiding the sun is as good as it’s gonna get.   the idea of living day in and day out, for centuries, with the only constant being that everything will change, drives most vampires on this show to switch their emotions off and just give in to the monsters they’ve become– but not my brothers.  they’re different.

they’re different because they’ve found something worth living for,  worth dying for, worth changing their entire lives for– LOVE.

both damon and stefan love elena gilbert with their entire being, but their response to that love is completely different.

stefan loves elena enough to deny his nature.   and this is HUGE.  he has super powers for heaven’s sake!!  he’s stronger, he’s faster, he can manipulate people’s thoughts–  he could easily swoop in and save the day at any moment, but he doesn’t.   instead he filters every thought and action through elena’s trust and love for him.  stefan has even said, “because elena trusted me first i choose to trust her. ”   this choice forces stefan to stand back and NOT immediately react when elena finds herself in danger.  this choice moves stefan to confide in her, to seek a relationship with her based on honesty.   ultimately, stefan’s decision to live a life denying his self draws he and elena closer and closer.

then there’s sweet, dysfunctional damon.  poor, poor boy LOVES his brother’s girl–  truly he does.  but, he responds to this love purely out of the fear of losing elena.  the thought is sooooooooooo heartbreaking for him he acts first and apologizes later.  his life is one emotionally-driven mistake after another.  damon can’t imagine a life without elena, but the way he pursues a relationship with her is filled with selfishness, manipulation, and a battle for control.  he knows elena deserves the best of him, but his emotions and fear continue to keep a true relationship with the girl he loves at arm’s length.  he moves two steps forward, two steps back all because he can’t surrender himself and trust.

and here, homeskillets, is why i love this show– these brothers, this love story, and how they pursue the thing worth living for reminds me of my walk with Christ.  i think vampire diaries is a beautiful, twisted picture of my sanctification.

i, just like my beloved salvatore brothers, have found someone worth living for, worth dying for, worth changing my life for.  i love my God with all my heart,  i long for a closer relationship with Him every day, and i can say, “because Christ loved me first, i love Him.”

now, here is where i wish i could write the words ‘i’m just like stefan’. 

i wish i could say the moment i gave my life to Christ i totally let go of my self and began filtering every thought and action through the ONLY relationship worthy of my surrender.  i wish i could say my life reflects the peace that comes from choosing NOT to live according to my nature.

of course, during my walk with the Lord there have been definite moments, days, weeks of beautiful surrender.

but on the whole……

uhmmmmmmmm.  yeah.  not.so.much.

poor, poor, dysfunctional ‘skillet. 

love worth changing for....

i love the Lord with all my heart– but, i’m a little more on the damon side of things most of the time.  i react out of my emotions INSTEAD out of the trust i have in Christ,  i definitely act first and apologize later (uhmmmm, crazy eyes anyone?), and most of the time–   my fear of losing control leads to making one mistake after another.

if this were it, i’d say i was in BIG trouble.  thankfully, my love story is not a fantasy based on mythical creatures.  my love story is fully based on Christ’s love for me– and He’s given me the gift of this life  to grow into a woman that reflects His love– which is DEFINITELY worth living, dying, and changing for.

love dare

i’m ready to move towards Christ a little more.

i’m ready for Him to change my heart and soul.

so this is what i’m gonna do–  i’m gonna give myself a thirty day challenge.

i’m gonna challenge myself to LOVE like Christ.

i’m asking the Lord to help me insert my name, my thoughts, my actions, my choices into this verse for one month.

at the end, i hope for a marked change–  in my heart, my mind, my spirit, my marriage, my home, my boys, my relationships–  that can only come from surrendering to the Lord.

please Lord, teach me your ways...

please pray, homeskillets.  i’ll need it! 

but, i TRULY trust the Lord to make my love dare AMAZING.

you’re a people, i’m a people

soooooooooooooo surprise, surprise–  life is hard.

and, i’ve finally figured out what makes it so hard– PEOPLE.

i am realizing more and more i have no control over the response of others.  i can not make ANYONE do ANYTHING.

darn it!

why won't anyone let me lead?!

this totally bugs me to no end because i think i’d make an awesome cruise director– like julie on the love boat.

i’d be all– “here are directions to the lido deck where you’ll find rest, relaxation, and scott baio making out with kristy mcnichol, but to get there you really need to walk through your junk first.  i know some excellent activities that can get you started such as, admitting you need help, communication, and being open to change– of course, most of these take place on the poop deck.”

are you ready to be a better passenger and enjoy your trip?   are you?   ARE YOU??  well then,  just listen to me okay… OKAY??!

(insert me in an awesome 80’s ensemble with a white-knuckle grip on my clipboard and crazy eyes)

me. with crazy eyes. holla.

i believe i can fix EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY–  i want to take action,  move toward change,  address messy issues head on.  unfortunately, PEOPLE get in my way.

darn it!

when this happens i’m left with frustration, anger, and out-of-control crazy eyes.

clearly, there is something wrong with this picture.  clearly, being in charge is not a good plan for me.  clearly.

i have to say–   God gave me an awesome set of crazy eyes as a clear indicator of my limited power.   whenever i get to feeling a little too big for my britches those eyes seem to pop out like a done turkey dinner.   HOLLA!

the most recent set of crazy eyes actually happened during my visit with boobah.  i was hoping for a certain type of visit.  i guess after a year of letters and missing her i had a few expectations some i was conscious of– and, some i had no clue i was feeling until the crazy eyes popped out and captain stubing was standing beside me welcoming the latest celebrity guest.

the obvious expectations were the tears that came as i rolled into marysville and saw the prison for the first time.  wow.  it’s a real place.  in the middle of nowhere.  and boobah is there–  with no freedom.

another feeling i expected was nervousness–  when we went through security and talked to the guard i said “yes, sir/ sorry, sir” like 3 million times in 2 minutes.

he finally said, “what are you sorry for?”

and, i was all, “i don’t know!  i’m just nervous and i want to get in there to her.”

(insert me in a slightly cool “mom”ensemble with fidgety hands and just a touch of crazy eyes)

note:  this behavior is NOT the best when entering the prison system– i’m pretty sure they flagged me and kept a close eye on me the entire visit.

i also knew i was gonna be excited to see boobah– i mean come on, it’s been a year– this is a no brainer.  i actually squeaked when she walked in.  i let out a loud, high-pitched squeak, and kinda did a spastic dance in my chair, and then we got to hug– it didn’t last nearly long enough.  ahhhhhhhhhh…. so good to see her face.

but, what came next really brought out my cruise director tendencies, and i truly didn’t see it coming.  boobah started talking about her hopes for her future–  where she would like to live once her time is served,  who she wants to be with, what she would like to do.  and, none of it looked like i wanted.

not.one.bit.

that’s when my insides started getting all antsy-like.  i could actually feel my, julie, cruise director, self start pulling out the clipboard.

clearly, boobah was WAY off track.

this was totally in my head

in my head the love boat theme started to play, and i was convinced she needed my guidance.  she just needed to listen to my directions and stay on my course and all would be right with the world.

i know.  i’m slightly not right.

i admit it was a HUGE internal struggle NOT to cruise direct.  i just listened and probably looked completely miserable, but i got through the visit just saying i wanted nothing but the absolute best for her future and i was here and committed to help her any way she needed.

this would be a happy ending IF i wasn’t so inclined to pull out the crazy eyes.

that’s right homeskillets, i blame it all on the eye balls–  i got home and wrote not 1, not 2 but 3 letters explaining how boobah should live her life the way i see it.  I KNOW — total crazy. complete loony.

thankfully God is FULL of grace and is working on my crazy-eyed, cruise directing ways, and i have sent apology letters and cards– i am nothing if not thorough in my nuttiness.

the beautiful thing about growing up in Christ is these fits don’t last quite as long as they used to, and i am quick to admit that the clipboard is just too much power for this ‘skillet.

seriously, who am i kidding?

once my crazy eyes have gone back to their natural state,  i UNDERSTAND boobah is in God’s hands– not mine.  i UNDERSTAND He has a plan that i cannot see.  i UNDERSTAND the Lord loves her more than i ever could.

I UNDERSTAND God is the ultimate cruise director.

sometimes i just forget– because i happen to be a PEOPLE too.

darn it!

repping “the what”

i have cerebral palsy.

it’s a fact i’ve lived with all my life.

i’ve never wanted cerebral palsy to define me, and i’ve work really hard to not let it be the what that makes me who i am.  but, last week i made a woman REALLY, REALLY happy BECAUSE of the what.

this is seriously how fast my feet were moving. seriously.

i was at the ymca with my killer-fit ‘skillet and had just finished her treadmill class (by “finished” i mean i hung on to the panic bars  for  dear life a total of 27. 5 minutes of a 30 minute run).

so.  i was nursing blisters on my right “baby” foot (as i call it) and was explaining how i battle blisters all the time because i have cerebral palsy and can’t flex my right foot–  when this complete stranger looks at me SOOOOO happy and says, “AWWWWW, can i give you a hug??!!”

i thought okay—  if the lack of flex feels like a “hug moment” for you–  we can hug it out.

after the hug–  this young mom explained she has an 8-year-old son with mild cerebral palsy and she’s never met anyone like him.  she’s been around families and children with more severe cases, but no one like her little boy.  in that moment we connected.  i understood.  we talked about how the word “disabled”  wasn’t in our vocabulary, how he/i could do anything we wanted.

ouch. that hurt.

this is not how i’ve always felt inside.  there have been moments in my life i’ve been deeply wounded by people who have seen, pointed out, and judged me only by my physical limitations.  each time it happened i vowed to work harder to hide the thing that made me different.

but, after experiencing the joy and love of this stranger– i began to wonder how much i had grieved the Lord all these years by avoiding, covering up, or ignoring how special He made me.

i used to call it “my cerebral palsy”–  like i was the ONLY ONE on the planet made differently (i’m sooooooo self-centered like that).  when i was young(er)  i held on to the cerebral palsy and pushed it away all at the same time.  i’d think about how i was going to enter a room, hold things, and function as normally as possible in each situation BEFORE i was actually in it–  to overcompensate or distract from my physical differences.  this push/pull was exhausting and wreaked havoc on my self-worth and my identity as a whole.

but, i’ve gotten better– SOOOOOO much better.

i see God in me

and what’s made me better, more complete, is seeing myself through my God goggles.

my God goggles allow me to see Christ in me.  i truly believe He lives in me and anything good reflected in me or through me comes from Him.  slowly and faithfully, God’s love has stopped the tug-of-war in my heart and i can say i love everything God’s blessed me with– even cerebral palsy.

when i look in the mirror–  i can say, “i am awesome.  i am beautiful.  I TOTALLY ROCK.”

because i am saying that about my Lord and what He is accomplishing IN me– through a baby leg, a skinny, un-stretchy arm, and a defective hand.

that's right lil' girl!

can i get a great-big-madea, “hallelujer!!”

my whole life i’ve worked really hard to push past my physical limitations and keep my heart on display–  NOT cerebral palsy.

but,  a sweet, encouraging stranger showed me if i want to see God’s work in me– then for better or worse my whole life (the what included) must be the focus.

God blessed me with this body.   and, if  i feel it’s anything less than AWESOME–  i miss an opportunity to rep for the Lord. holla!!