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

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shaved head and stuff

so.  my hair.

hair today....

i shaved it allllll off yeah i did!!

here’s the deal.  my hair was coming out in handfuls since my second chemo treatment, and i have an obsessive personality, to a point.

so, hair loss + a bit of o.c.d = me constantly raking my hands through my hair, wondering how MUCH would fall out the next time i shampooed.  then, when i actually DID shower i would wash and re-wash my hair until the water ran cold, watching my hair clog the drain.  i’d clean that mess up, and move on to blow-drying my hair, which took longer than usual, because i’d have to stop and clean out the sink full of hair.  fun times.

gross hair nest

5 days.  that’s all i could take.   it was juuuuuuust long enough to make me snap.  i called the hubby into our bathroom and held out my hands filled with a nest of hair, and said, “i’m ready to let this go.”

my heart was pounding, i was nauseated and jittery just thinking about what this statement MEANT.  i had been recovering from an unfortunate mullet for more than a year and had just grown my hair long enough to get it into tiny dog-ears.  i did NOT want to lose my hair.  i did NOT want to do this.

but, i hated the alternative even more– letting my hair loss become my focus.  letting the number of hair follicles on my head determine if i was happy or sad.  seriously, how lame is THAT.

i can get fixed on how i look very fast, homeskillets.

remember, i’m the girl that rocks a gimpy arm and leg.   i’m the girl that battles both acne and wrinkles on a month-to-month basis.   i have my issues, real or imagined, and i know my mind can become a place of nasty with a quickness.

i truly love who i am.  i love how God made me.  it’s taken me a long time to not operate out of a place of protection, and to not put my worth in other’s opinion of me.  so, i wasn’t gonna let hair or the lack of hair get me tangled up–(get it– hair/tangled?!  super cheesy perfection)– no matter how scary shaving my head seemed.

the hubby was on board, and we wanted to make sure we included thing 1 and thing 2.  i explained that the cancer-fighting medicine was working really well, one of the ways we could tell was because my hair was coming out, and since it was happening anyway, i had decided to shave my head.

i could tell this was a lot to take in.  so,  i said,

“the enemy can use a simple thing like hair to distract me from what God has done– we found the tumor early, i had it removed, and He has brought so many people around us while we walk through this step.  i can either focus on the loss of my hair or focus on God’s goodness and provision.  i choose God. “

i don’t know if they fully understood, but i pray years from now, when life hits hard, they’ll l have this moment to help them decide to choose God, too.

through sickness and in health...

it was time.  the clippers were ready.  and, there was no turning back.  i was soooooooo scared.  thankfully, an awesome ‘skillet brought a cupcake and a bottle of wine.  she documented the event, and cheered me on.

my hubby was amazing. truly.  he was so sweet, so gentle, and very loving through the whole sheering process.  i love the picture of him working on my fade… awesome.  i didn’t realize how intimate a process it would be.  i’m so glad it was a quiet moment with a wonderful sista friend and my man.

the whole process took about 20 minutes.  more than a years worth of awkward hair stages– gone, in 20 minutes.

seriously.

i went to the bathroom and got the first glimpse of my melon.

my head felt so light i thought it might float right off my body.  i saw my brother’s face staring back at me, in drag.

it. was. freaky.

after the initial shock,  i felt totally rockin’.

hardcore. to. the. max.

sweet freedom

and, free.

free from the fear of what could happen.

free to focus on the GREAT moments and people all around me.

free to focus on the good days.

God has used a simple hairdo to give me more freedom and strength for the 10 more chemo treatments ahead–  which, for me,  has put a whole new spin on Philippians 4:13:

i can ‘do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

(get it– hairdo/’do?!  i kill me!!)

booyah

boy oh boy.

chemo is not fun.  my mouth tastes like metal, my tummy is upset, i’m completely nauseated, my hair is falling out.

but, i keep telling myself i get to choose whether the symptoms will win.

during the first week of chemo, i fought hard.  i had my sister to visit and breaking dawn to watch.  i could not be sick.  it was hard to fight, and it left me wasted.  now, i’m in my second session of chemo, and i decided i would just give in to the sickness.  this has been just as hard!  i don’t like feeling weak.

i.am.wasted.

so, do i get to choose?  i mean, really?  do i?  i fight or give in, and at the end of it all, i’m left spent.  God, i need help.  i obviously can’t do this in my own strength, but submitting entirely makes me feel so far away from You.   where’s the middle ground?

my hair is coming out– and, all i keep thinking is God knows EVERY hair on my head.  He knew this part of my story before the creation of the world.  so, do i get to choose?  God, i need help.  i know that You love me.  please show me Your love.

these are my thoughts today.  this is where my heart is.  and this is how God has answered me:

Sending a virtual “booty bump” your way. Just my way of saying Booyah, girl, you are on my mind!

Booyah baby!!!!

hopes his amazing wife spends the five hours she’s hooked up to that machine today remembering how very, very, very much she’s loved. And that this is but a season. 2nd round of chemo today. Let’s kick this week in the rear and move forward. Extra prayers, everyone?

Wearing my BOOYAH shirt today too! Every time I look down, I’ll say a prayer for my amazing friend.

these are just a handful of comments that have been left on a special facebook page set up by a friend.  i have had dinner delivered to my door every night since chemo.  i have had friends come and sit with me, drop by just to give me a hug,offer to get inked as a sign of solidarity, and send pictures of the word “booyah” on fishing tackle, and written on windows in china.

holla. this too shall pass...

so.  yes.

i DO get to choose– not the symptoms or if they’ll get the best of me, but my God.  the way i feel cannot limit God’s power and love–  each and every person who has loved on me or prayed for my family proves God is bigger than chemo.

i get to choose.

i get to choose if i’ll honor God through the struggle.  i get to choose if i’ll rest in the overwhelming love He’s shown me through my amazing homeskillets.

i.get.to.choose.

and, i choose booyah.

cancer, prison, and a tooth

so.  where do i begin???

i think i’ll begin with a great God moment, that always makes my day better.

to share this coolness, i have to start way back on september 21st.  this is the day i found out i had colon cancer.

yep.

cancer.

dude.  I KNOW. right??!!

so.  there i was all cancered up, when my sweet sister calls from prison.

yep.

prison.

dude. SERIOUSLY.  i know!

and, the conversation goes like this–

me:  “hi, boobah!!  i love you!  miss you!”

boobah:  “hey, sista love!  love and miss you more.  so…. what did you find out?”

me:  “i have cancer.”

boobah:  “really?? well, i lost my front tooth today.”

yep.  go ahead.  re-read it to take it ALL in.

the quick re-cap shows one cancerous sister and one gap-toothed jailbird, or “jail boobah”.

i guess it could be worse.  IT DEFINITELY COULD BE WORSE.

so, i tried consoling her.  i used the old, “well, in some cultures toothless-ness makes women more attractive.”

breakdown by tooth, yo

she wasn’t having any of it, and i realized boobah may not need me to make her feel better.  she may just need me to listen.  so, i asked her how she was feeling… and, this, sweet ‘skillets, is when boobah broke.  finally.  after more than a year of being super strong, my sister was stripped down by a tooth.

and the meltdown went something like this–

boobah:  “i’m pissed!  i’m pissed i got drunk and tried to drive home.  i’m pissed i hurt two other people.  i’m pissed i lost my job.  i’m pissed i’m in prison.  i’m pissed i lost my tooth, and i’m pissed you have cancer!”

me:  “well, then let’s pray… GOD, we’re pissed.  we’re pissed, and we know You’re big enough to hear our anger.  You’re big enough to take our broken hearts.   You promise that guilt and shame do NOT come from You.  So, we refuse to let those feelings stick.  we know You promise to work all things for our good.  so, we choose to trust You with prison, and cancer, and teeth.  we choose to see ourselves as You see us… we are beautiful children of God, and that beauty has nothing to do with how we look, what we’ve done,  where we are,  or what’s inside of us.  we choose hope and faith.  HOLLA!”

i know this might sound upside down, but it was actually GOOD to hear her confess her anger.  God promises confession will be met with mercy and forgiveness, and  i believe this.

sooooooooo, now we fast forward to my visit with boobah just last week–  the week marked my first chemo treatment, and put boobah 5 months away from her release date.

no tooth, no problem!

and, here’s the awesome truth– my sister bounced into the room with the biggest gap-toothed grin i’ve ever seen!!  i.love.this.girl.

to give the best mental picture i can, i have to break down my girl’s appearance:

  •     her hair is super, duper short with boy sideburns.  (picture kate gosselin, the prison version)
  •    her attire is equivalent to a gas station attendant minus the embroidered name tag
  •    her tooth– missing.

i share this just to show how amazing boobah’s spirit is–  she’s living day to day, making the best of her circumstances, without an ounce of femininity or softness in sight.

she. BOUNCED. into.the. room.with. a. HUGE GRIN!!!!

awesome.

as we visited, she asked me how i was–  the truth of it is, i was NOT good.  my first chemo treatment had hit me hard.  i was very sick, and could barely keep my eyes open from fatigue, but there was no way i was missing this visit.

so, i looked at her and said–

me:  “honestly, i don’t want to do this eleven more times.”

boobah: (holding my hand)  “i don’t want to do 5 more months, but we CAN and we WILL.”

gah!!!!!!  she kills me.  in the best way.  i’m so proud of her.

we had a great, awesomely-amazing two day visit–  full of laughing.  LAUGHING.  her smile, her light even brighter after being stripped down.  God is awesome.  He truly took her broken, angry heart and turned it into confidence in something more than how her hair is cut, what clothes she has to wear, or what she physically looks like.  her confidence and beauty come from her heart, and her heart is His.

holla!

this would be enough, but God likes to show off a bit, i think– just to remind me how BIG he is.

boobah has a very close ‘skillet she’s known since high school.  this sweet girl came to visit my sister as soon as the accident happened and calls me to check on boobah’s progress.  this girl also follows me on facebook, so she knows everything that i share there.  wellllll…. this friend, this girl that has been watching and praying from the sideline married a DENTIST.

and, her husband has offered to fix boobah’s tooth, no charge.

this girl is truly boobah’s toothfairy!

super cool 'skillet

yep.

free tooth, yo.

dude.  FO’ REALZ. i know!

that’s all i got.  i mean, i can’t follow a free tooth.

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.

how can i not?

bon jour, haiti!

the first glimpse of haiti was beautiful–  beach, mountains, gorgeous clouds.  the land looked untouched–  full of promise and potential.

port au prince

then the city was underneath us–  tents smushed together, scattered among very small plots of grassy area.  the poverty and NEED jumped right off the ground into my heart as i looked out my plane window.

how would i feel when i was living in it?

how do they feel living in it?

is God here?

these questions rolled in my head as the wheels of the plane hit the ground.  no turning back.  for better or for worse i was in haiti.

i said a short, silent prayer–  “Lord, help me see you.”

the airport was overwhelmingly hot, simple, dirty, unwelcoming.  my senses were on alert trying to take everything in. we walked through a narrow glass hallway that separates the outgoing flights from the incoming ones, down a broken escalator, past a few men with stony faces playing music for tips.  in that short walk i felt a million things–  fear of the unknown, sadness for the conditions, uneasiness because of the unwelcome looks i felt, embarrassment for the amount of STUFF i had with me.   my arm was actually aching from the carry-on i had with me and i still needed to pick up my luggage.

i said a short, silent (and a little more desperate) prayer–  “Lord, please let me see you.”

we made it through customs, gathered our things, and moved in groups of two or three outdoor to find our ride.  the heat and humidity hit me first, then the calling started–

“this way!! i’ll take your bags!!   it’s okay, it’s okay, come this way!!”

i can’t even lie– i was in sensory overload in about 2.1 seconds.

i didn’t know where to go, who to trust, or how to say “slow your roll” in creole.

i.was.vulnerable.

and, just like that.  with one short walk.

God began answering my prayers by stripping me down–  goodbye sense of security,  goodbye control, goodbye ability to communicate with just words!!!

by the time we made it to the bus, i realized God wasn’t gonna let me hide, homeskillets.

He wanted, and got, my FULL attention the entire trip.  i had nothing normal to cling to– i had ONLY  Him to rely on.

and He totally had my heart.

broken.

life goes on

i cannot put into words the heartbreak i experienced as we drove through port au prince.  no smiles, no laughter on the faces we passed–  just the mark of hard-fought life.  the people are beautiful, but their faces are as hard as stone.  they live surrounded by rotted food, crumbled buildings, human waste and extreme filth–  yet, there are babies and children there naked, playing, living.  God showed me LIFE continues and it has nothing to do with convenience or comfort and everything to do with love, perseverance, and hope.

i started in on the ugly cry flat out from the get go, and in that moment when God had my full attention and my heart was completely ripped to shreds ,  i knew my Lord HAD to be real because if He isn’t i couldn’t see this level of depravity and be able to bear it.  without a faith in His redeeming love…

… some may ask, “how can you go to Haiti and believe there is a God?”

to that– my heart’s only full response can be,

“HOW CAN I NOT!!”

perseverance and hope