In Which I Tell You That You Are Amazing On Mother's Day

{because you need to believe it}

I wasn't going to write anything for Mother's Day.

I look away, down, anywhere but straight ahead, scroll past, ignore the posts, try not to read stories that remind me too much of my failings as a mother and how I don't measure up. I try to stop the hemorrhaging, plug up the giant mother-sized hole bleeding out from so much pain and guilt. The past two years have been the hardest years yet for me as a mother.

Mother's Day could just be another day, and I would be fine with that, I tell myself.

It would be easier than facing the guilty feelings for all I haven't done right, for the ways I put myself down, tell myself I'm not enough.

Isn't that usually the way with mothers? And guilt and anger over what we deserve or don't deserve always lend to shame. It's a vicious cycle.

Honestly, I've had enough of feeling not good enough. I've had enough of the lies and the fears and the torment in my belly that keeps me awake at night, crying into my pillow when no one sees.

I've all but decided that constantly shoving in a diet of filthy rags in the sight of God mentality is not good for my happiness, or my spiritual growth.

I sort of think that for some of us, who struggle with pride, maybe it's good for us to remember that we cannot do things on our own but we need God.

But for others of us, who struggle with insecurity more than we do feeling great about ourselves and our talents,

maybe we just need to be told weareamazing.


You. Yes, you. Beautiful, tear-streaked face, hair in knots, pajama-wearing, you.

This is for all of us. For those of us who don't feel beautiful or appreciated or enough in anyone's eyes.

For the women and mothers that can feel a little neglected as they bend, break, wipe up vomit and then try to cuddle up to their man and feel sexy.

It's not easy, is it? I know.

Depression can bring you down to such an ugly place, and postpartum can do a mom in, and sometimes I wonder why the world has to be the way it is, why Eve had to take that fruit off of that tree, why I have to be so much like her.

I know what you're thinking right now--this is wrong. How can we say we aren't filthy rags in the sight of God, because the bible clearly states in scripture that we are.

Oh, yes, I know. Believe me, I know, because I grieved and I lamented, and I lived in a perpetual state of my "I'm not good enough" theology for years. Yes, that's how the story begins.

But it isn't how it ends.

That's the beauty of the blood-stained, wrecked, holy, scandalous gospel.

We were, we are and always will be filthy rags. In and of ourselves.

But listen to this and listen close. Grasp it, and once you do, never let go:

Christ came and changed all of that. Forever, for you and I. We are no longer prisoners to our filthy rags, we don't have to walk around in sack and ash-cloth, mourning our bane existence in the presence of a Holy, angry God. He poured out grace thick when the blood coursed warm out of his body and ran cold. 

He gave you freedom, like a slave set free and told he can leave his master's land. Forever. Free to make his own choices, free to live without worry and fear.

We're not a slave to the law, to our dirty sinful hearts, or even to our fears, but if we are a slave, we are a slave only to grace. We are married to freedom now.

We've been bought with a blood that is tied to no strings, our ransom has been paid, and we've been let go.

Do you see it? Grasp it? Know it deep in your marrow?

He loves you. He loves me. He loves the whole messed up lot of us.

And that is why I know, know, know that he doesn't want us mothers feeling guilty on this Mother's Day weekend. Do you hope for a card and think, maybe once again this year, it will be forgotten? That is just being human.

Do you get disappointed? Maybe slightly angry, even? GREAT! That means you're human! Jesus understands when we're angry, yes? All he asks, is that we don't sin in that anger. We give grace, we forgive, we try to understand, we try, once again, to live selflessly. And we patiently ask that next year, they might try to remember a card, or a letter. Something that would help you remember they love and appreciate you, because you need to hear it. Sometimes, admitting what we need from others is the hardest thing of all. Because then we open our hearts fully. And we shouldn't feel guilty for needing, because God made us this way!

He doesn't want us strapping the law to our backs, lamenting our sin, totin' a sign that says "I'm not good enough", waving a guilt banner in people's faces and pulling them into our religious nightmare because the ones who carry the law heavy need someone to help them bear it. And we all drag one another down.

The gospel, this one life He's given us to live, the whole of creation and reason for existence is about way more than just filthy rags, sinners in the hand of an angry God, and lamenting that there is no good in us, and only He is the reason at all that we can do anything good, mother half-well, be a serving lover to our husbands, or live with any decent purpose at all.

No, let's not box up a Holy God, a limitless God to such finite ideas. Let's stop believing the lie that we can only be nothing in ourselves and maybe half-worth something for the kingdom of heaven if we grit our teeth, bear the law hard, and submit to a God who rules over us.

He is the mighty Creator, and it doesn't serve Him well or do His wonders justice for us to wear heavy cloaks of humility that weigh us downbut it boasts His power and waves a banner of glory when we are happy in who He made us. 

I give you permission right now to stop believing the lie, to shirk off the heavy cloak of shame, to wash off the foul stench of fear and guilt and begin rejoicing in who God has made you.

Because God? He rejoices over you. He spins happy and He watches you take in sacred breaths in early morning light, and He smiles down on you, Beloved Daughter, as you hug your daughter or son, as you cry and as you yell, and as you bravely say sorry and rise again each morning even though the days are hard and wear you thin.

God gets it--He knows you. He knows how hard you struggle and He catches each tear, and your intercessor, Christ, He prays for you to the Father as He sees you fall to your knees in exasperation once again, no words on your lips, groans the only thing escaping.

He loves you, daughter, infinitely and wondrously.

He sees your struggle, your pain.

He sees the beauty in your heart, the desires that are deeply hidden and entombed there.

He sees the potential of what He made you to be, and He sees who you are now, right where you are, just how you are--weak, fragile, each breath you breathe a sacred one,

And He says it. is. good. 

                                                        *an edited re-post from archives

{This post shared with The Weekend Brew}

This is what I'm asking for on Mother's Day weekend--as a family, we will give to this project! I'm a little excited!! You can go here (ß- click on the highlighted word) to give just a $5 donation to the Esther Initiative, a project that Ann is apart of to bring hope to girls and women all over the world. It is a project to empower women, something I think you’d be proud to be apart of, as am I. Isn’t this a perfect gift—right here at Mother’s Day weekend, when we’re celebrating women, and birth, and life itself? Will you give with me? I’m asking my husband to make this my gift. Let’s stand together. Let’s make our voice heard. Let’s let our sisters across the sea and right here at home hear our roar—we care and we will not stop, until this stops. We give you our yes, Father. Use me, Jesus, to sit beside someone in chains. 

You can learn more at that link above, about the project-- and you can go here, to my post from yesterday, to learn how YOU can help in small ways that matter, and also share some ideas you may have! 


Join Me In Sending The Plague Back To Hell


In the golden bright sun, cross-legged on my porch swing, I read Ann Voskamp's post on my phone, the swing lazily drifting back and forth. The words startled me. Because I thought I would read about girls from Nigeria. 234 girls still missing. Girls that were studying in a school to become doctors and lawyers in a place where getting an education can get you killed. I thought I'd read about these brave ones, these heroes.

Instead, I saw myself in her words.

I saw myself in the words, mistreated, dismissed, misunderstood and misplaced.

Yes, that's been me. I am that Nigerian girl. She is me. Woman.

I've had boys spread things about me at school, calling me a "trick", because I didn't know how to say no to a boy who kissed me. I had been invited to his house for a super bowl party, and I didn't know how to say no without wounding his ego, disrespecting the generous invitation. He grabbed me before I processed how I could retreat. I was on his turf, and he knew it. This is the conundrum so many women face. We are submissive by nature and it's taken advantage of and then we are the ones blamed.

When will this stop?

Ann talks about a four year old little girl that was taken from her home in the village, and they searched, and found her in the jungle. She had been raped, lying there, crying. I know horror stories like these.

I lived them.

I hear of these girls on the other side of the world, how they are mangled, beaten to death, raped, taken from over and over. And over again. No right to human decency. No value. They don't know what it's like to feel they mean something. That they are something of worth.

I was out with some girlfriends in college, having a drink, dancing. I rode with a boy who promised to take me to a friend's house. He told me he had to stop by a friend's of his and pick up something first. But he kept driving, and city lights began to fade. We were headed in the wrong direction. My heart pounded in my chest, then my throat. I asked over and over, as trees began to get thicker, why are you driving so far away from town? Where are we going? The night got darker, the country without city lights, and I implored, pulse hammering, Can you please turn around and take me back? We're not doing what you said--you promised to take me to my friend's house. 

He told me no, to be quiet, that we were almost there.

We ended up out in the middle of nowhere, in the woods. The road was long and winding, with trees so thick and tall and wild, taking us away from the interstate. He pulled up in the drive. There was a log cabin. I refused to get out. Said I would wait there until he took me to my friend's house. He demanded I get out of the truck, pulled me inside the house, where unspeakable things were playing on the big screen television, several couples gathered around. He continued to pull me up the stairs, and I could not walk, the drink making me heavy and foggy, not really knowing what was happening. So he dragged me. To the bed.

Later I asked him, once again, to please just take me home, to my friend's house, now. But he refused, said he was sleepy, so I had to stay the night, in the bed with my rapist. I never made it to my friend's house until the next morning. I didn't even have time for a shower.

I drove straight to church, in a purple dress I had packed. And I was late. My parents were furious.

I sat down in the pew, on the front row, feeling every bit like the whore he had made me into as my father began to preach his Sunday morning sermon. I felt so dirty. And I didn't know it then, but Jesus was right beside me. Because in a room long ago? I've written about that day when He made himself scandalous in a room full of religious leaders by allowing a known whore to kneel at his feet, to touch his feet with her hands and with her hair, a moment so intimate it seems inappropriate, sinful even. Was this woman trying to evoke desire? But Jesus saw her. He really saw her soul when he looked in her eyes, and when she kneeled at his feet, her perfume and her hair, an offering of the truest worship. He welcomed her intimate worship fully. And it was holy and good.

I have more stories, and not all of them were just one-time, unpleasant encounters. Some of them were long-term relationships where boundaries were crossed against my will. My face was grabbed forcefully. I was coerced and used, trying to say no, but my voice wasn't heard. It was silenced. I was caged.

I hear these stories, stories unlike mine, and yet the same-- stories of women being trafficked, even in our own backyard here in America, and it makes me cringe, makes me want to turn away, makes me want to shrink back in terror.

It's hard to wrap my mind around the fact that as civilized as we are in this day, that young girl's and women's bodies are still being shackled for the entertainment of men, that they are being shot for getting an education, that they are being beaten to death for finding love elsewhere when there is none at home.

The foulness of it, the stench of bodies used and bruised and mutilated-- it fills my nostrils and I am disgusted and angered. I want to do something--but they are so far away. I am an American stay-at-home-wife, with very little gas in my car, and no cash in my wallet at the moment.

So the question--what can I do?

What. Can. I. Do? THAT is the question

No more excuses. No more I'm barely keeping my own head above water, so how can I help someone else? 

Because do you see? If I don't do something, then I'm inviting it to my back door as well. I'm welcoming abuse in to be lashed out on my girls, too. Because those girls over there and around our country? They are my girls. They are your girls.

The brave, beautiful ones in dark skin, and all the colors of God's glorious rainbow, shining all around the world, they. are. real.

Let's not buy the lie that because they aren't here and we can't see them, that they aren't real and there is nothing we can do.

That is false, straight from the Greatest Liar himself. His lies are hellish, and keep all our girls in chains.

A very wise man said this~

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. ~Martin Luther King

If I sit back in comfort here and do nothing about what is going on there, then what I'm really saying? Is that it doesn't touch me. It doesn't bother me. It doesn't move me enough to initiate action.

I'm complacent. Apathetic. The very opposite of love.

The thing is? It does touch me. This is not a problem just across expansive waters. This is not a problem we can fix by installing a well in Africa. This is not something we have figured out, because it's in our own neighborhoods, our churches, our sporting events, the back seats of our daughters' boyfriends' cars, and in the alleys where young college students walk home from work.

We'd like to think we have it under control, but we haven't gained the monopoly to a resolution for this epidemic that is turning into a landslide, because it's. still. happening. We don't have the patent on the solution to this problem, we haven't commandeered this ship, because the problem is right here, all around us. It's very close, as close as the hairs on the back of your neck when a man lets out a wolf-whistle and a snide remark as you pass him in the stair-well. And it's also world-wide.

It's all of us women. It's you, it's me, it's Nigeria and it's Nepal. It's the extremist Islam countries, and it's anywhere else we've been taught women are not human, that they are less-than, not equal. That they are a thing to be used, and not a soul that has eternal value. To God, that soul has so much value, it should make us quake in our shoes. But we've grown desensitized.

You may have heard this phrase (I have unfortunately been on the receiving end of it), a course joke, uttered in mixed circles--it goes something a little like this:

 This kind of thinking is like a dark plague, a disease that slowly, deceptively trickles in over time. You don't notice the adverse symptoms all at once. It's a slow decay.

This belief system is what has caused our world to be what it is: a world where women are forgotten, misused, abused, treated as trash to be taken out back.

I am a housewife, a preacher's daughter. I have a white picket fence, and I live in a fairly safe neighborhood. I drive a nice SUV, carry pepper spray in my purse, and have conveniences at my disposal everyday. There is a policeman just about on every street corner willing to risk his life for my safety. It is a fine palace we live in, called the grand US of A. And these stories--they still happened to me. How much more, those who aren't safe, those girls out there, living on the edge of the jungle, where government soldiers are afraid of extremist groups--how much more do they need our help?

I am only a housewife. And yet, I am so much more. I can do something. There is no end to the lasting ripple effect that will go out and out and out, if only I am brave.

I may not have much, by some standards, but let's pull together our not-much, let's be brave, and let's stop this disease.

Let's tell this plague it can go back to hell.

Let's Bring Our Girls Home.

Linking with friends, Emily, Kelli, and Jennifer

You can go here (ß- click on the highlighted word) to give just a $5 donation to the Esther Initiative, a project that Ann is apart of to bring hope to girls and women all over the world. It is a project to empower women, something I think you’d be proud to be apart of, as am I. Isn’t this a perfect gift—right here at Mother’s Day weekend, when we’re celebrating women, and birth, and life itself? Will you give with me? I’m asking my husband to make this my gift. Let’s stand together. Let’s make our voice heard. Let’s let our sisters across the sea and right here at home hear our roar—we care and we will not stop, until this stops. We give you our yes, Father. Use me, Jesus, to sit beside someone in chains. 

What else can we do? Here is a small start: (baby steps, right?) 

1. Use this hashtag on social media--facebook and twitter. #BringBackOurGirls The story of the missing Nigerian girls wasn't being covered until some angered women began using this hashtag on social media and making some noise. 

2. If you're a blogger, write about it. 

3. Here is a link where you can sign the official Whitehouse petition: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/work-un-and-nigerian-government-bring-home-girls-kidnapped-boko-haram/fFcLj7s2  
 It seems the U.S. is springing into action, but the Nigerian government hasn't shown much interest, due to the extremist groups-- so this petition on the official US Whitehouse website is important. 

4. I'm considering finding a #BringBackOurGirls pic and making it my profile picture. Would you consider that, too? 

5. If you have any ideas, would you put it in the comments? Thanks! (If someone would like to make a picture for us to use for profiles, that'd be awesome. I'm no good at that!)


Word-Paint: The Inside-Outside Conundrum {A Featured Story by Amber Cadenas}

I am so pleased to announce that we've chosen a story to be featured, a beautiful word-painting by Amber Cadenas. Kelli introduces her friend (and my *new* friend) below::

Amber Cadenas is a fellow sojourner with a penchant for all things creative, gentle, and transcendent. She calls her blog Beautiful Rubbish with a subtitle that could not fit any better: the everyday art of learning to see. Her writing is luminous and often reflects the bite of starlight in which it was conceived. Please welcome her voice as the final contribution to this series: The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging. ~Kelli Woodford

                                 photo credit 

"Can you be inside and outside at the same time?
I think this is where I live.
I think this is where most women live.
I think this is where writers live.
Inside to write. Outside to glean."
~ Terry Tempest Williams*

Paint me a picture, I say to myself, of this tension of inside-outside living. So my pen becomes a paintbrush and I dip it in the colors of memory, splashing across a canvas of blank white page.
I am inside and outside, a woman on both sides of the looking glass.
* * * * *
I call myself a writer, most of the time, with varying degrees of confident assurance. I have a blog, where I air my words and my heart, one to three times a week. I surround myself with good books that inspire me in the craft. I have a group of writer friends who make me believe, at times I can soar on the wings of their prose, and maybe even on the wings of my own.
I am inside.
I hold my tongue, refuse to say this is who I am, because I am just not convinced. Maybe I got it all wrong. Maybe this is the last remaining, tattered shred of youthful idealism I'm clinging to and I need to let it go. How could I ever think I'm a writer?
I am outside.
* * * * *
I am inside the church where we worship on Sundays. Where we stand, sit, kneel, sing, speak, listen and hold the silence of liturgy. I am surrounded by people, many whom I don't know, some whom I call "community." We feast together at the table of communion, we share the same creeds of faith. We love the same Jesus.
I am inside.

I look up at the landscape of the front of the church sanctuary. Men leading us in worship through instruments and song. Men serving the bread and the wine. Men praying the prayers. Men preaching the sacred word. I feel silenced, disappearing in the pew.
I am outside.
* * * * *
I wear a wedding band, possess a certificate of marriage. We share the same address, the same car, the same bed, the same last name. We're gradually crossing over for each other without losing sight of ourselves. He's immersed in my culture and I in his.
I am inside.
We coexist, side by side. We give affection and we withhold. We sleep with a wall of fear, of silence, of weariness, of distant longing between us. I inhabit a place of hope deferred.
I am outside.

* * * * * 
I wrap arms around her and she buries tears in my shoulder. Our hearts are locked together in the ache of sorrow. She has walked through valleys of loss with me, and now, I set out with her. I would do anything to take this pain away.
I am inside.
I am not a mother. I've never conceived life, never waited through months of expectancy, nor delivered life into this world. I've never seen my body stretch to make room for another. I've never grieved a womb that was inhabited, now empty. I do not know this agony.
I am outside.
* * * * * 
I am breathing in rain-soaked air, heavy with cherry blossom fragrance. I am walking, running, standing still, listening to the songs of birds and the symphony of life that arises in my silent wonder. I am drinking in sunsets. I am inhabiting moments of beauty, moments of bravery, moments of failure, moments of being known, moments of loneliness.
I am outside.
I come inside, close the door, and set my hand to write, transferring words from head to hand, my paint across the canvas.

* * * * * 

Amber Cadenas is a people-loving introvert, who pulls espresso shots by day and writes the trail of glory-crumbs that is her story on her blog, Beautiful Rubbish. She is wild about nature, creatures of all kinds, books and spicy foods, and considers herself Mexican at heart, thanks to her husband. Her biggest ambition in life is to know Jesus and become someone who loves well.  

linking with friends, MichelleHolleyEmilyJennifer 

**This here is the final wrap-up of a series on writing--the last week! Let's all gather around the table in the comments and discuss and show Amber some love! I will still be writing about once a week (hopefully) about the issues we face as writers, and I'll be encouraging you to be brave in your writing journey!

--Other posts in this series below  

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table --Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own -- a guest post from Kelli Woodford

A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth --a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace -- Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough --Nacole Simmons

In The End, Three Things Remain --a guest post from Holly Grantham

What I Want You to Know About Mental Illness, Social Media, and Community --Nacole Simmons

On Vulnerability and Boundaries --a guest post from Diana Trautwein 

Walking With Christ Online :: thoughts on faith, calling, and diversity --a guest post from Lisha Epperson

Brokenness, A Grace-Bathed Thread -- by Kelli Woodford and Nacole Simmons


Brokenness, A Grace-Bathed Thread

{The Conundrums of Writing and Blogging: A Series}

I am delighted to have my friend, Kelli Woodford, at the blog today, who has collaborated with me on this post. We are both sharing our voices and stories with you today of how we met. This is a bold move, we know--and we hope you enjoy it. 

More than that, we hope you can see one golden, grace-bathed thread through the entire thing--how God opens our eyes to see the souls beneath human skin, broken and beautiful skin we all share-- and that you will maybe walk away with a renewed sense of sisterhood/brotherhood and what it means to be at the table together. Much love to our readers and thank you for being with us on the writing series journey~ 

The airport bustled as I pulled the car curbside. Flipping down the visor, I checked my hair and applied chapstick. The radio station desperately needed adjusting and oh for the love, where could that water bottle have gone? And it was there, hand jammed under the passenger's seat with great angst written across my brow, that I recognized it: Fidgeting, yes, I was fidgeting.

Because nervousness? It always drives me to do.

She texted from inside the building. Only a few moments and we would meet for the first time. Only a few moments till the hopes and dreams of the person we had known through words on screens and a smattering of facebook photos would shake hands with stark reality. We would stand before one another in the flesh - for better or worse - in all our devastating human nakedness. Without the comfort of photoshop's charms or a hearty following behind us. Without smartly punctuated witticisms or cleverly sculpted reputations. We would brush skin and hear joints pop and perhaps waft the warmth of the other's signature scent. I wrapped my coat around me against the wind, took a deep breath, and let my feet find the pavement. Brave feet, I thought, keep walking.

I looked up at the sound of my name.

She was prettier than I expected her to be. Slender and blond. Her idyllic smile rivaled Denzel's for shine and luster, teeth straight as a manicured picket fence. Intimidation crept up my neck and flushed my cheeks with scarlet. We chatted about her flight and about the weather. We sneakily studied one another's faces when we thought it wouldn't be noticed. I listened to the slow, thick drawl of the south on her tongue, and I imagine she heard the nasal whine so common to midwesterners in my voice. It was strange and wonderful, this stark reality. It was a bit like stepping into Narnia, finding more than you ever thought possible inside a wardrobe in the spare room.

Because aren't we, all of us, more than screens can ever tell?

The weekend unfolded in gentle, halting exhale. Moments both sacred and scared laced our days. We revealed parts of our lives to each other, but not without a good bit of trembling. Intimidation faded like a fall flower in the honest light of brokenness shared. And then it came time for goodbyes. We parted alongside the very same curb where I'd exhorted my audacious feet. This time, there was a knowing in our voices. We didn't hear the differences that took up so much space at first. We only heard the heart. For you see, we had taken time to listen.

And perhaps that is what many internet relationships need - this listening. Because it's so easy to see a photoshopped profile picture and make assumptions, isn't it? So easy to comfortably settle into a one-dimensional assessment of an individual instead of pushing deeper, believing for more, digging into the back of the wardrobe?

Now, I realize it's not always possible to quell these misgivings by face-to-face meetings. I get it. But this mining for gold no matter what rubble lies on the surface - this is more than that. It’s a perspective. This is what it means to invite all to the table. This is where we feel the hand in our own. This is what it means to honor not only the stories that we uniquely represent, but even the opinions and convictions that result from the narrative being scripted. This is respecting each other's process. And it is how community can form, even in as unlikely a place as these screens permit.

~by Kelli Woodford


When she stepped out of the car at the airport, her big baby blues startled me. They were much more exquisite in real life than in any picture. I had never before seen eyes like that.

As we began trying to load my luggage into the car, I looked down and noticed dainty feet in the cutest flats. How hip, I thought. I should've brought shoes like that. I also noticed her energy and her determination to help. She wasn't the stander-by type. She was hands-on. I liked her already, because I'm the type who's always a little lost, needing help.

I had come that weekend, with so much hesitation. I don't handle large social crowds well, and I refused to be sick and have an anxiety attack while I was there. I knew I'd be okay with her by my side, because though we only knew one another through a screen, something in me trusted her. She had such unassuming grace.

Oh, how I tried to be strong, but all the grace in the world could not keep the inevitable powerful attack at bay. We walked into a bustling lunch room, bloggers and writers chatting, the noise blinding me, and I felt so disconnected, that I didn't belong. A couple of friends tried to talk to me, but I didn't want to be the center of attention. I went outside to cry and to call my husband.

When I came back in, she met me in the hallway and asked how she could help. Did I need my food brought outside to me? I wiped my eyes, gathered all of my courage and strength, and told her I'd walk back in with her so she could finish her lunch. Then we went back to the hotel so I could swallow down the calm my body so desperately needed and she and I just took a break.

I did not want her or anyone to have to care for me in that way, but my human brokenness left me with no choice. She saw me--fully human and fully broken, the pieces scattered everywhere.

And those pieces scattered over that weekend, were the fragments that bonded us forever, like a quilt made with love, from many left over scraps. The Master Sewer, He wove us together over those days and nights. We sat in her car until the wee hours of the morning sharing stories too sacred to mention here. We laughed hysterically over teenage adventures and how we sometimes still feel like we're at that age of angst, and yet, we're more fully ourselves. We cried. We listened intently. We were on holy ground. But to get to that place of holy? We had to be brave, oh, so brave. We had to let all pretenses go.

May I suggest something to you? Perhaps this is a concrete and poignant example of what it is to pull up a chair at the table with others, let the facades go, let our presumptions go of what we expect others to be, and try to see ourselves through their lens? Perhaps there really is another soul, right there next to us, hidden and disguised beneath pretty clothes and fashionable shoes, just begging to be loved, not with piety, but with true warmth, the kind that prays for you in the middle of the night, the kind that would leave a conference to take you to the hospital if need be, knowing this is the reason they were there that weekend--to meet another soul, broken, right where they are, to care for them, as Jesus would.

At the table, together.

And might I suggest something else? That we are not ordained by God to decide who gets to be at the table? Because it's not just for believers, for those with a strong faith in God, the ones sure of themselves and their calling and purpose. It isn't just for the ones mentally well, the ones who do social circles just right, and always know the right thing to say.

But perhaps instead, God has designed the table so that the atheist can pull up a chair beside us, that we can sup together, to share battle-worn life-stories, to really see one another-- a beautiful, mysterious creation--yes, one very beautiful face of God.

And perhaps it is for the awkward ones, too-- the ones who say all the wrong things at the table that leave people gasping and uncomfortable. Jesus made everyone gasp. They were uncomfortable in his presence. And so, I have become more comfortable with my awkward self, and I feel more at home around ones who say the wrong things. They have a place amongst us, too.

And perhaps the chair next to us is just as much for the homosexual who is confused, or determined in their lifestyle. Maybe just maybe-- have we considered that God loves them no less than us, and in our separation we have shown a poor example of that? And maybe they are not as lost as we think-- perhaps they are trying to find their way--floundering and very human like the rest of us. And perhaps, if we weren't so uncomfortable around them, and pulled out a chair, said sit here, we would find they have some battle-worn stories too. And we would find another human being just begging to be loved, a soul crying for help. Isn't that what Jesus was all about? Isn't it why He came?

And just maybe, when we look around at our table, and see no one different from us outwardly, we should re-think that. Because yes, there are many different faces of God, and he has made some lovely skin to stretch taut over sisters and brothers all around us. When we plan our bible studies, and our place-settings, might I suggest we think of the black neighbor down the street, or the Asian sister who greets us with a smile everyday at our local fill-up station, maybe the Mexican sister or brother who attends our homeschool functions, but we notice they are always quiet?

Let's not isolate ourselves from the ones who need our brave words, our bold love, our audacious grace-- the most.

And let's remember--they need it no more or no less, than we do. Let's make this a table that is wide and large--let's make room for everyone.

Don't hide your love. Don't hide your words. Forget about trying to please the masses with your words and your art. Forget about writing what you think is the politically correct or religiously correct term.

Write it real and write it true. That is what we want to hear. We are weary of sugar-coated religious platitudes.

Sister and brothers, listen up: Tell us YOUR story. Give us something real, brave, bold. God has designed you to make a mark. Let your light burn brightly, and light up the dark sky. Just let the words fall out, friend.

There is room at the table for broken, brave, beautiful you.

~by Nacole Simmons

Please watch the video-- how beautiful --what encouragement--Y'all --I want to SEE YOU BE BRAVE!

Kelli Woodford considers curiosity a serious expedition and is rarely satisfied with anything remotely status quo. She collects friendships with people as different as they can be and feels all the richer for it, but never experiences "home" so much as when she is with her best friend--who also happens to be her husband. They make their abode in Love, but also in the Midwest with thier seven blue-eyed children. You can read more of her tantalizing words here at her blog, where she chronicles grace in everyday life, or find her hanging our here on Twitter  and Facebook . 

linking with friends, MichelleHolleyEmilyJennifer and Outside the City Gate

**This here is the wrap-up of a series on writing--the last week! Let's all gather around the table in the comments and discussKelli and I will choose one *amazing* story on Tuesday morning, the 22nd, {the link-up is available until 8 am Tues} from the link-up below to feature on both of our blogs next week, on Wednesday, the 23rd!! And we'll share on social media, too. So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? What has your own writing/blogging journey looked like? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you'd like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us! If you're featured, be prepared to provide a photo and a short author bio!

**{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. "Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." Proverbs 17:9}

--Other posts in this series below  

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table --Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own -- a guest post from Kelli Woodford

A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth --a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace -- Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough --Nacole Simmons

In The End, Three Things Remain --a guest post from Holly Grantham

What I Want You to Know About Mental Illness, Social Media, and Community --Nacole Simmons

On Vulnerability and Boundaries --a guest post from Diana Trautwein 

Walking With Christ Online :: thoughts on faith, calling, and diversity --a guest post from Lisha Epperson

**Announcing the winner from the book giveaway last week! Beth Stiff, you've been hand-picked. Kelli chose a number between 1 and 3-- and your # was chosen!! WOOT! Please leave a comment or message me with your address, friend!


Take Hold Of the Promise {An Abstraction on Bloom}, An Announcement and A Giveaway!!

**Trigger warning: This post talks about marriage and contains the words divorce and separation--if those are hard things for you to read about because of a fresh wound or experience, please consider that before you read. All my love and warm wishes your way....

I meet him at the door, his arms heavy with groceries and other leftovers from a long commute. He stares at me, puzzled by the look on my face. What is it? he asks.

Just--what a weary day, huh?

He exhales. Yes, a knowing in his eyes. We exchange a somber look of understanding.

I give him as much of a hug as I can with all the stuff in between us, and kids yelling with delight-- Daddy! and I walk into the kitchen and begin unpacking everything. I smile to myself secretly --

He got all the things I like, the things that aren't important to him, but are important to me--and he remembered. I feel so loved by this--this thoughtfulness.

I wasn't always so easily pleased. There have been times early on in our marriage that I had to have things my way, because I was so afraid of being taken advantage of. The root of fear was so violent inside--God is slowly whittling that away. It took me several years to learn that love gives, and when love gives and is not afraid, there is this most odd dynamic that doesn't make sense to us humans--we are fulfilled. And that kind of love only grows stronger. It has made my man love and protect and care for me even more--which is what I always wanted anyway.

Love always, always wins. Every time.

Four years ago I became very sick. Last year I was hospitalized for anorexia and other health issues. I was flailing, barely surviving. I was alive, but it felt like all of me was dead. When I got sick, I shut down. I disconnected emotionally from everyone in my life--even my sweet family. My mama said it was my body trying to preserve itself. Every day was a hard battle just to live. I'd lost the will.

There were times my husband had to take pills from my hands. We've been through a lot together in almost fourteen years-- from a job that separated us early in the first year of marriage, through grieving over the loss of two babies, to dealing with addiction and illness together, even enduring the spiritual wilderness together and surviving marital separation.

Sometimes I feel like we've seen and done it all as a couple. But I know that life, and God, has so much more in store for us still. The days will be long, and the years will be short.

It has been a long journey, and there is still some mountain left to climb, but today I feel blessed.

I know what it feels like to want to live. I know what it feels like to fight tooth and nail to rise early in the morning to care for my children. I know what if feels like to carry around a heavy burden of fear that it will all end in divorce, only for God to speak a promise to me--

Every good thing I begin, I bring to completion.

And I have stood back and watched Him heal and make my marriage stronger than it's ever been. I had begun to doubt that I loved this man, thinking God had somehow made a mistake with my life. And then a miracle happened.

He opened my heart wide to compassion and forgiveness and grace, and I know something for sure, as sure as I know my heart beats and there is breath in my lungs--

I absolutely love this man more than the day I married him.

I am on my way. I'm carrying on. I have a vision He gave. I'm being healed little by little every day. Even though in the last weeks I have not felt Him, have not heard Him speaking, He reminds me about the dreams-- He's been speaking to me through dreams--and it just took some time to see it.

He is always here. Emmanuel. What a loving Father He is, to get my attention in so many different ways. And being the proud Father He is, who wants the best for me, when I call on Him in absolute desperation, He is not angry or condemning that I didn't come til now. Like the Good Father that he is, he is always happy to see me. This is a choice that I make, but He initiates, He prods. How lost I would be without that if it was all up to me.

And every day is a choice to keep moving in the right direction, to be awake to Him, to have my eyes open, to see Him in my life all around me--in the breath I breathe, in the pulsing heartbeat of child's purple veins in her neck as she sleeps, in the wind, and sun, and rainy dark afternoon--

in bedtime kisses and stories, in make-shift gifts a four-year-old wraps up in a UPS box and presents to Daddy, in flowers brought in to me by chubby hands and placed on the sill in the light, in folded warm towels on top of the drier, in worship music soothing my soul as I clean, and rock and roll our beat as we roll down the highway toward the gym.

It's a new day. I proclaim it. Sisters, listen up: Take hold of that promise.



Lying there in the dark, he is asleep but something makes me come to a full stop. I'm so amazed at the marvelous miracle of love, that I reach up and gently trace the outline of wrinkles around his eyes, drop gentle kisses all over. I stare at him, and I am shocked at the overwhelming love that I feel for this flawed human being lying next to me. I love him, I love him, I LOVE him!

The tidal wave of realization and emotion washes over me. Memories, all the hard ones and all the good ones-- 15 years-- they all crash into one moment of mysterious miracle that only God could have performed.

And, I think, lying there-- this must be what it feels like, not selfish love-- the kind that drives us to look for someone to do life with and to make our own, no-- selfless love-- the kind that withstands all and keeps going and finds something deeper, surer.

I think--this must be what it's like to bloom wide open into all I was designed to be.

linking with friends, MichelleLaura, Jennifer, Emily, and Heather

***Will you do this with me, friends? Let's explore the practice of Awakening to God--this still ties into listening! This week, before you write, take a walk, in the woods, at the lake or park, down your neighborhood road, ride a bike, play tag, listen for the wind, watch the trees, the sky, pay attention to the small, seemingly unnecessary details of your day. It is here you will find wholeness, here you will find strength, beauty, brokenness, goodness, joy, pain... Here you will find God. THEN write about it--Let's not choose to only see Him on Sunday mornings-let's not confine Him to a sermon or a prayer or a devotional, but let's see Him in everything. Our prompt is Bloom (next week's is below), but our focus is on the practice of listening, awakening to God, and then writing. Excited? We'll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #listeningtoyourlife and of course as always, #concretewords. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends--invite them?
What this link-up is about: We "write out spirit" by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going "what in the world is a concrete word?!"--this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what's around us--concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber's take on this. It was very helpful to me--I think it will be beneficial for you, too.

A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words--
                                             and the prompt--Please no entries with how-to's, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords--
                                               please share so others can join!

Today's prompt is Bloom. GO!

{**This link-up will run until next Thursday, the 17th at 11:59 pm, giving you plenty of time to write and link up. Sometime between now and then, I will read your stories and try to highlight one of them on social media! Next week, the prompt will be Path.} 

**An Announcement about the Writing Series: Kelli Woodford and I invited you here today for the wrap-up of the series and a link-up, but she had to go out of town this week for Faith & Writer's Festival--lucky girl! So, we ask you to forgive us for postponing, and in the place of the link-up, we're doing a giveaway! AND you are invited back here next week, on Wednesday, the 16th, when Kelli Woodford and I will be wrapping up the series with a collaborated post, and a link-up for all of you to share your writing journey! Be thinking of what you'd like to write and get your stories ready! We'll highlight our favorite and feature it on our blogs!!

GIVEAWAY TIME!! WOOT! To win this book, just leave a comment and share this post on facebook or twitter! That's all!! A winner will be chosen randomly.

What would cause an eighteen-year-old senior class president and homecoming queen from Nashville, Tennessee, to disobey and disappoint her parents by forgoing college, break her little brother’s heart, lose all but a handful of her friends (because they think she has gone off the deep end), and break up with the love of her life, all so she could move to Uganda, where she knew only one person and didn’t even speak the language? 

A passion to follow Jesus. 

Katie Davis left over Christmas break of her senior year for a short mission trip to Uganda and her life was turned completely inside out. She found herself so moved by the people of Uganda and the needs she saw that she knew her calling was to return and care for them. Katie, a charismatic and articulate young woman, is in the process of adopting thirteen children in Uganda and has established a ministry, Amazima, that feeds and sends hundreds more to school while teaching them the Word of Jesus Christ.

Kisses from Katie invites readers on a journey of radical love down the red dirt roads of Uganda. You’ll laugh and cry with Katie as she follows Jesus into the impossible and finds joy and beauty beneath the dust. Katie and her children delight in saying yes to the people God places in front of them and challenge readers to do the same, changing the world one person at a time.


Walking with Christ Online :: thoughts on faith, calling and diversity

{The Conundrums of Writing and Blogging: A Series}

I am so very pleased to introduce to you my new friend, and who I can tell will be a forever-friend, Lisha Epperson. We’ve already gotten the hard stuff out of the way—this is a woman whom I already admire for her courage, her heart, and how she shows that she is so very human. She is audacious in her words here, and they challenge and inspire me. 

Mine and Lisha’s heart beat for the same thing: real change. We ache for it. Please listen to her story with a wide-open heart, and show her some love in the comments. I have gotten to know Lisha and I know where she is coming from here—from love, the kind that Jesus poured out and you couldn’t help but be changed. That is what is present here today. I pray we are all challenged and changed by her words.

                                                                photo credit--Flickr CC gollygforce 

I call myself an accidental writer.
Suffocating in my minivan one summer, the summer my youngest turned 1, midlife motherhood wrecked and wrung me….left me stranded in the loneliest season of my life. God whispered the idea. “Write” he said, an unexpected answer to my desperate question. As I watched my mommy friends dash off for coffee again, without me, I wondered.. “How can I make this time useful? What can I do?”
I’d drop off the tweens and find my self stuck – in sandmans’ land with the littlest Lovelies. Fiddling around on Facebook led to twinklings on Twitter and the next thing you know…I had a blog.
A year in, and I’m still in love, still excited by the shaping of words like so many dancers in the beautiful synchronicity of choreography. But for a while fear was part of the journey…and expectation and comparison, and doubt. The initial rush and sweaty palms developed into a rapidly beating heart. I got scared.
That first post was thrilling in that jumping tandem way. I took the leap with God and felt confident of his presence. Sending my words out in cyberspace was a blast. But I lacked focus . I walked the unfamiliar halls of the blogging world glancing back at every sound. To break through the web of cries and catcalls for attention I had to hear His heartbeat. Respond only…to echoes of His voice.
So I developed a mantra…
1,2,3 Jesus. I count and let his name escape my lips. My rhythmical ritual, my soft silent prayer before posting. Every word is important and every offering good in a God way. I’m at a point in this relationship where what I thought was a fling feels like forever. It’s bigger and more important and I pray for the confidence commitment brings.
I’m still trying to find my voice. And beyond encouragement, struggle to write anything tangibly resourceful. I don’t know if I have a niche and wonder how one monetizes a ministry of words. Is it possible I’ve stumbled into my calling? In literally oceans of talent have I found my wave?
And then there’s this…I wonder if it’s too late and if there’s room.  Christians haven’t escaped the polarized packaged perfection of the typical Western experience. By and large, it’s the same old, same old. With few exceptions it’s segregated…by age and race. The subtle maybe even subliminal message for women my age and ethnicity is “prepare for landing” or “this” is not for you. The words may never be spoken…but they’re implied. When I walk into a room of 500 and see only a handful of people of color…I feel it. It’s what I think when I see a conference line up features only one face of color or platforms only thirty somethings.
As for race, Dr. King highlighted the sad fact of our separation as Christians. And too much of its broken truth is part of our online world today. Our continued division perpetuates the worlds narrative about people of color and the value of older women. We have to intentionally do better. Everything about our walk with Christ has to be intentional…especially if our goal is unification of the body.
And who’s doing the planning anyway? And is there really only room for one? One woman of color? One fabulously silver saint? It’s hard to say this because I know there’s grace for growth on all sides but it’s something we have to address. These words, from Holly Gerth and Brene Brown, inspired me to to push the envelope a little bit further today. Maybe cause a conversation. Incite a beautiful revolution. Take a stab at true diversity.

Fear will always tell you to keep quiet.
But love will always ask you to speak up.
And we need your story.
– Holly Gerth
Is there anything braver than asking for what we need and owning our story? I don’t think so.  - Brene Brown
And so I pose the question. I prayerfully voice my concerns as a new blogger. I’m taking in the landscape and I’m looking for level ground. Ground we’ve worn down with love…together. And I want to see me…standing…with you. Because this experience has birthed new sisters and I’m grateful for open doors and opportunities. I love ya’ll.
Still….Every woman of color might not express it but I know she’s thinking it. And every woman over 45 wonders if she’ll be the oldest woman in the conference hall. Our eyes meet between sessions and we laugh nervously about which of us is the oldest. Or we share a knowing glance or nod of solidarity. Your story, my story is part of the universal canvas. We can’t do this walk…in love….in the name of Christ…without each other.


I want to attend Christian conferences for women. We may be in different seasons but we all benefit when we stretch and shift our minds to accommodate the perspective of another. Lets not perpetuate the problem by pushing ourselves into corners with our “own” clubs.
Here’s the deal.. honestly, it hurts to attend events where the only other faces of color are onscreen….when slides from a missions trip are run. I want to attend a Christian conference. If I’m “the only” , and others are "the only" where they are, then we need to all ask ourselves this question: is this true community? And without true community, I can’t receive the breadth of Christ’s provision…which is offered for all.
I’m a Titus 2 woman circling the sun in brown skin. I’m living the concrete beauty of a human experience. My life is full. Things you have to live to know? I know. But for me age is only a number and I understand the universality of many experiences. Is there a limit or line to cross to know the split wide Red Sea drama of motherhood, or the soul crush of NO in answer to your greatest wish. Or to know waiting.
No. Does He have a word for everyone but people of color? Middle-aged mamas/women?Did He not pour out his love, creativity, compassion, grace, peace, wisdom on all?
God is on the move. We’re living in an amazing era with an unprecedented capacity to reach people for Christ. We can’t limit him by caging his plans with barriers based on our minuscule vision of what He Can Do. A myopic gathering will not serve the nations and I can’t sit back and let this wave of goodness wash over without engaging in the beauty of its baptism. I should be in the water. I can show you what it looks like to believe because faith taught me to swim.
So we write anyway, don’t we? Because He says so and pray this experience of platforms and tweets is indeed a sacred offering. A place to wash the feet of others as he strips us bare. Every blogger I’ve connected with shares a story of the breakdown before birth. The breakthrough happens after an avalanche of truth. We won’t make it without authenticity. Because this is holy hard work and we don’t want to just be the next one. We have to be called of The One.
I told a friend whats happening to me online is a mirroring of what God is doing in my life spiritually. Its a holy integration of life and faith, head and heart. This journey takes place in real time. It’s holy and holistic.
Above all else we have to be found in his presence…before the throne and digging in hard. Planting feet, soul, heart…deep. Listening. Wholly immersed and grounded in His magnificent all inclusive plan. This is the forever I’ve been searching for. It’s eternal. An offering of words for such a time as this… I’ll keep writing. Will you?
p.s. Deidra Riggs did a fabulous job of highlighting conferences that are making an effort to do the hard work of diversity.  You can read that here.

View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allumeheadshots

Lisha Epperson writes the stories of her life on the couch, in the car or at the kitchen table. Scratching out bits and pieces of grace while homeschooling 4 of the 5 children she affectionately calls the Lovelies. ….. you’ll usually find her with a  cold cup of coffee nearby, dreaming about the beautiful choreography of words. It isn’t easy to carve out a modern Christian lifestyle in NYC but that’s what she’s doing. Lisha is passionate about marriage, motherhood, nutrition and her Christian faith. She makes room for her journey through infertility and adoption and shares a warrior song about this experience as an encouragement to women at www.lishaepperson.com  God has opened doors for her to participate in loving dialogue on race in the Christian community. She hopes you’ll join her in those discussions. In other travels, Lisha                                                                 was a ballet dancer and clothing designer.

linking with friends, MichelleHolleyEmilyJennifer and Outside the City Gate

{**Have you seen Kelli Woodford's series: Brave Words? 
                 It'sback again! And I wrote there yesterday, in case you missed it! This whole series is delicious. Please stop over there today and give her some loveClick here.}

**This here is a series on writing--Let's all gather around the table in the comments and discuss! Next week, on Thursday, the 10th, to wrap up the series, Kelli Woodford and I are writing a collaborated post, and hosting a link-up here for you to share your own stories of your writing and blogging journey. Kelli and I will choose one *amazing* story from the link-up to feature on both of our blogs! So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you'd like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us!

**{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. "Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." Proverbs 17:9}

--Other posts in this series below 

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table --Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own -- a guest post from Kelli Woodford

A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth --a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace -- Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough --Nacole Simmons

In The End, Three Things Remain --a guest post from Holly Grantham

What I Want You to Know About Mental Illness, Social Media, and Community --Nacole Simmons

On Vulnerability and Boundaries --a guest post from Diana Trautwein


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