Monday, October 30, 2017

A letter to my former self

Dear Former Holly,

Three years from now, you're going to open Facebook and see a "memory" pop up from today. You'll look in shock and say to yourself, "Oh my gosh, look how FAT I was!". You'll initially hesitate to look further at the picture, but then you'll be intrigued, so you'll enlarge it-zoom in closer- to see just how many chins you had and how your eyes sunk into your chubby cheeks. Then you'll take a selfie and put those pics side by side to compare where you are today. Yep, you sure will! I know, I know, you hate pictures, but it's a thing you'll do in the future just to see how far you've come.
And then it will happen.

You will cry. And then you'll laugh. And then you'll cry a little more. And then you'll send those side-by-side pics to your husband and your mom and say, "Can you even believe this?".

So much is going to change about you. So much more than your fat face, let me assure you.

In the future, you aren't going to stand behind everyone in every. single. picture. ever. You aren't going to spend energy trying to hide behind someone or some object just so less of you shows up in a picture. Nope. In three years, you will ask people to pose with you so you can have a reminder of the day, the moment, the adventure. And you'll look at those pictures and smile instead of squirm.

In the future, you're going to walk confidently into a room, not worried that people are looking at how fat you are, but eagerly looking for people you know to talk to. You're not going to scope out a place for the seat that you can fit into or the widest area you can walk through. Nope. You'll be too busy enjoying LIFE to notice those things much anymore.

In the future, you'll get on an airplane and literally laugh OUT LOUD every time you buckle your seatbelt and have to cinch it tighter across your lap, remembering how you almost couldn't get it buckled once upon a time.

Three years from now, you will be the one begging your family to go hiking or for a walk. Heck, you'll even go by yourself to do those things! Girl, you will CLIMB A MOUNTAIN by yourself in the future. YES, you really will! And you'll be so proud when you stand at the top, looking down at how far you climbed, and in your spirit you'll feel true pride and know that you are whole and healed and free of so much baggage you carried for so long.

You need to know that in the future, it's ok for you to spend a little money on some new clothes. After all, you're going to need them. A girl can't walk around in pants that literally fall off of her. And it's ok for you to enjoy shopping again. It doesn't make you selfish to enjoy that you can try something on and feel beautiful. You'll bond with your daughter in the dressing rooms of many stores, and it will be grand.

You may also need to hear that you're worth the money, time and energy you've spent on making a healthier you. It's a good thing. It's ok to invest in yourself and your health. Stop feeling guilty if you want to go for that walk or run alone because not only is it good for the body, but it's good for your soul.

In the days ahead, you'll actually get on a stage to speak to people. Sometimes it will be about your book, and sometimes about your past hurts. Sometimes you'll teach from the Bible. Sometimes it will be talks about racial equality or other topics. But the thing is this: You'll actually enjoy being there! You'll come to love standing before people and sharing the things God has taught you and how He has loved you so well. I know it seems freaky, but trust me on this. You will love public speaking three years from now. Crazy, huh?

There will still be times in the future that you'll look into a mirror and see someone that's not good enough. I know; I wish I could tell you that goes away, but at least in three years, it still will be there, although not nearly as often. But I can tell you this: You'll be able to push those thoughts away much easier, and walk in confidence that you're enough just as you are.

You may think that losing weight won't change how you think or your personality. And while it won't change the core of you- your values and morals and hopes and dreams- it WILL change how you view life. It will be a catalyst for you to live life with more joy and less abandon. Losing weight will spur you to believe that if you can do this hard thing, then you can do other hard things. And you will do hard things! 

Three years from now, you're going to awaken as a woman who feels fierce and confident and loved and whole and free and joyful. And let me tell you; you ARE those things. You are loved by the greatest husband who will be your biggest encourager through this process (and forever!). And you have the best family in the world who will cheer you on.

I'm not one to rush through life, but in three years you are going to be feeling so full of joy and contentment. It's going to be good. No, it's not going to be perfect. You'll still see things you want to change about you (that's a good thing!), but you'll love who you are. Genuinely love who you are. And that is a very good thing, Holly.

Enjoy the ride. Life is sweet,

Your Future Self

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What the Church Can Learn from the Hardcore Scene

A couple months ago, Jeff and I attended a show that our son’s band was performing in. Now that may not sound so odd, but the story has just begun. You see, our son plays in a hardcore band. Hardcore (formerly called hardcore punk) is a subculture of music that originated in the late 1970's and has evolved into a faster, harder and more aggressive style of music.  We’re talking screaming, moshing, look-like-you’re-killing-your-best-friend music. It’s sometimes so loud that I fear my ears will literally explode (Sorry to my audiology friends out there). It’s sometimes so vulgar that I feel my heart will explode (true story!) It’s sometimes so chaotic that I fear my introverted Self may implode. And yet, I love my son and so I went happily to this show. Our son lives out of state, and we miss him! So when he told us he’d be playing at a show in Louisville, we definitely wanted to be there to hug his neck!

When I say that Jeff and I were a little out of place, I’m not exaggerating. We walked into a pizza parlor that serves as a music venue for hardcore bands. It’s underground, dark, a little smelly, and the concrete block walls serve as the perfect echoing mechanism for all the screaming that happened. When we first walked in, the guy selling concert tickets assumed we were just there to grab a pizza (I hear it’s delicious; I haven’t tried it myself). We assured him we were there for the show, and when we explained that our son was playing, he let us in without paying.

We walked into this crowded space filled with people from all walks of life. There were kids who couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13. There were college professors and middle aged moshers. There were folks with hair colored a dozen different colors, and those with no hair at all. There were those covered head to toe in tattoos, and a few girls with not much clothing on. There were gay couples, straight couples, transgendered people, wealthy folks, people who had almost nothing, people who had obviously just recently smoked a LOT of weed from the smell of things. And in the midst of this crowd, my son caught sight of us and ran to us, threw his arms around me and picked me up in a bear hug. He wasn’t at all embarrassed that his middle-aged (and slightly un-cool) parents were there. He proudly introduced us to his friends, all of whom were so kind and talkative and engaging.
We listened to 3 or 4 bands before Bryan's band played. I was told to "get up on the seat of the booth" while bands were playing to avoid being in the mosh pit. Believe me when I say I wanted no part of being in that pit! I watched as people threw punches in the air, kicked like bucking broncos, screaming in each other's faces with spit flying,  and swung their arms like helicopter rotors. It was complete chaos from the outside looking in. And yet, there was an order to it. Unbeknownst to me before that night, there are rules to the mosh pit. And if you don't follow those rules, you will be sent out of said pit. But that's another story for another time.
I stood in that little room, head thumping from the bass pounding, and it dawned on me that I was in a really cool place. And I was somewhere that maybe surprisingly, the Church could learn a few things from. Here's my takeaway from that night and from conversations with my son and others in the hardcore scene about what I believe the Church could learn from Hardcore.
1. How to be genuinely open to ALL. 
When I say that I stood amidst folks of all walks of life, I was serious. It's not often that I stand in a room with people that don't look, dress, act, believe, and express themselves much like me. It's our human nature to surround ourselves with people we connect with, who think like us and have our same set of values. Yet that night, I was surrounded with a true smorgasbord of people. Some of them are Christians- sold-out followers of Jesus. Some of them are atheist. Some are in between somewhere. Some were gay. Some were straight. Some were bi-sexual. Some believed that drugs are ok and acceptable. Some have pledged "straight edge", a commitment to not use drugs or alcohol at all. Some were vegan; some loved meat. Some showed tattoos depicting stories of their lives, and some had smooth skin with no marks at all. And EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM (Myself included) WERE TRULY WELCOME AND WANTED.
I sat in my church Sunday morning and looked around me. I saw one person with brightly colored hair, a few who showed tattoos, but for the most part we all looked and acted pretty much the same. And I wonder if that's how the Church is supposed to look. Somehow I don't think so. And what's more, I wonder if my gay or transgendered friends feel like they'd truly be welcome in our churches, or if they'd be stared at and judged before we even got to hear their stories. I'm not saying we back down from our convictions about biblical truth. That's not what this is about. I'm just saying, "are we truly open to ALL people from ALL walks of life?" The hardcore scene is sincere about this. I know because I was welcomed openly there. I've seen firsthand that the hardcore community doesn't just talk about acceptance; they practice it. They mean it when they say they are for everyone and want you there. 
2.  The people in the hardcore community take care of one another. 
The bible tells us in Galatians that we are to "bear one another's burdens", yet I look around my town, and I see people in need. I look around our world, and I see people literally dying from unclean water, poverty, acts of racism, and war, and I have to ask myself, "What am I doing about it, and what is the Church doing about it"?. With the hardcore community, when there is a need, it is met immediately. My son tells me of a person in their community who had a house fire. They raised enough money in a short time to replace everything lost. When my son had his wallet stolen while on tour, his money was replaced and tripled in just a few short hours once people heard. I've watched this community rally around someone whose child has cancer and was in need of money for medical treatment. I've watched them do a show to raise money for the homeless in communities. I've watched them give generously from their wallets for those in need, despite the fact that many of them live paycheck to paycheck themselves. They don't even seem to give a thought to the fact that they may need the money they are giving; they simply see a need and know they can meet it. So they do. 

Now, don't get me wrong. I know that there are some followers of Christ who are getting this right. I know there are churches who are meeting the needs of those in their communities well. Please don't hear me saying that no one in the Christian community is doing this. I'm just wondering if maybe we could be better at this. I'm thinking out loud here that maybe we could have more of a mindset that says "yes" to helping immediately. I see that in the hardcore community, and it's impressive. 

The people in the hardcore community are passionate people. You hear it in their voices, in the language they use (albeit foul), in the songs they write and scream sing. You see it in their faces. You read it on their t-shirts. They aren't shy about what they believe. They don't hold back even when they know those around them may disagree. They can hear other opinions, respect those opinions and never for a moment slack off in their own convictions. The Church could take a lesson here. We have the One Truth that is worth a passion like this, and sometimes I fear that we are hiding instead. When faced with the decision to speak up for the things of Christ or remain silent, too often we are remaining silent. You'll never spend any amount of time with someone connected to the hardcore community without knowing with absolute certainty what drives him or her. How well is the Church doing at that in our communities? 

The hardcore community gets a bad reputation often. I confess I've been guilty myself of judging them based solely on their screaming music and vulgar language. I don't condone the language, but after getting to know the people, I understand it. And that is possible. It's possible to get to know someone closely and to genuinely love them without condoning their choices in life. When we take the time to get to know someone, to HEAR THEIR STORY, it starts to make sense sometimes as to why they act the way they do. When we really get to know people, we are better able to love them. True love is in the knowing. True love says "I see your life, and I am still here, even if I don't believe the same way". True love says "I think you're worth my time and attention even if we aren't the same". I've seen that among the hardcore folks that I know and love. I see it in some of Christ's followers too, but I wonder if maybe, just maybe, we could all love a little harder?

So, mosh on all of my hardcore friends. I'm watching and celebrating you. And Church, let's Mosh on too! 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I cried today

I cried today. 
Maybe it was the realization of dreams that aren't fulfilled. 
Maybe it was the conversation with the woman who is about to lose her father. 
Maybe it was the sadness at events in our world, the knowing that people hate simply because there are differences among us. 

I cried today. 
Maybe it was because I looked up, and my son is a man already. And he lives far away. 
Maybe it was the way my daughter's face is morphing into a young lady rather than a little girl. 

I cried today. 
Maybe it was the joy of celebrating a friend's well-deserved vacation. 
Maybe it was looking across the table at work to see people I genuinely love in my life. 
Maybe it was the simple text my love sent to tell me he was thinking of me. 

I cried today. 
And yesterday. 
Chances are I will cry tomorrow. 
I seem to do this more and more at 44. 
Sometimes it's the simplicity of warm sunlight on my face that takes me back to lazy days on the beach. 
Sometimes it's a quiet sunset, reflecting a million different colors that remind me of the vastness of my Abba. 
Sometimes it's the sadness of questioning if I'm enough. 
Sometimes it's the knowing that I am. 

And I'm learning that all of it can exist together, in a single day, a single hour, a single moment. 
We humans are extravagant creations, made to reflect the Creator. 
We are capable of joy and sadness,   wonder and doubt, fear and fearlessness, freedom and bondage, worry and trust. All at once. 
What we do with those inconsistencies tells so much about who we are and whose we are. 

Oh, let me reflect the Glory of the One who is all. 
When I cry, let it be to Him. 

Let me cry freely and fully-for joy, for sorrow, for celebration, for fear. For life.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Thoughts on the 32nd day of Lent...

I don't usually practice Lent. I haven't participated in giving up anything during that time in the past, but instead just focused on reading scriptures about Jesus' life during the time leading up to his crucifixion. But this year, I felt compelled to do more. I began to pray about what I would give up, knowing that I was being called to do so. I considered a social media break, but knew that wasn't it. And then one afternoon while sipping my favorite cup of coffee (Shout out to Purdy's Coffee!!), I felt the Holy Spirit say "this is what I want from you. Give up your coffee".

To be honest, it seemed odd to me. I'm not the girl who wakes up and has to have coffee to get going for the caffeine. In fact, I rarely drink it right out of bed. However, I AM a coffee snob, and I love a great cup of coffee at the office while I'm doing my morning work. I relish in a nice warm sugar free vanilla latte in the coffeeshop after work, while doing my bible study or meeting with people. I really love a piping hot cup of coffee in the evenings after dinner, while watching the sun go down. I'm the girl that can drink the caffeine at pretty much any time and not have my sleep affected at all. I love the smell of coffee brewing and my brown butter chocolate chip  cookies in the oven because I know that means some college students are likely on their way over for Catan and fellowship.

Coffee to me means fellowship, conversation, relationships. It means Friday morning coffee dates with my husband, 1:1 time with ladies I get to meet with in a discipleship relationship, time with friends, laughter, chatting, deep discussions. Rarely do I associate coffee with quiet.

The first day of no coffee wasn't a big deal really. But then I found myself headed to the coffee shop to meet with someone and realized 'I can't get coffee!'. It felt awkward. I ordered tea I think. It wasn't the same. I found myself distracted. My first coffee date with Jeff didn't hold quite the same excitement as usual. I mean really... it's not really a coffee date without coffee, right? I sat sipping my tea or steamed milk and smelled his coffee and was a little sad.

It was about 10 days in when I realized why I was asked to give up coffee at all. It's two reasons really. One is this: I've been allowing the noise (and a lot of that is good stuff!) to take the place of quiet time alone with the Lord in my life. Giving up the coffee allowed me to see it in a way I'm not sure I would have before.  And the other is that I've made the mistake of placing more emphasis on what I'm doing and where rather than WHO I'm with. It's strange how a simple cup of coffee could remind me of my frailty and need for the Lord's Grace continually. But it has.

That's not the person I want to be. I'll be honest with you: I believe heaven will have coffee with the sweetest cream you ever imagined possible flowing freely. I believe I'll sip a cup and chat face to face with Jesus one day. But I don't think it will be the coffee that I'm enamored with. Heck, I don't even think it will be heaven itself that I'm so taken by. It will be Jesus. And if that's what eternity is going to look like, then why not start now?? Why not make Jesus more of my central focus here on earth, in every day, every conversation, every activity, every thought, every moment?

I want to be known as someone who is all in with others. I want my friends to know I'm available and interested and invested in them. I want my family to know I'm happy to sacrifice for them. I want my husband to know I'm daily trying to out-serve him. I want people to know that I'm really trying to be like Jesus- love like him, walk like him, serve like him. I'm spending my afternoons these days at home instead of in the coffee shop, so that I'm alone with the Lord. I'm sitting at my dining room table, talking with Him and hearing his voice in return. He is alive, I know for sure. I hear him so much more these days- not because he wasn't speaking before, but because I'd stopped listening as well.

This has been a good lesson for me so far. I'm leaning in close and listening to the Lord speak. I'm learning to truly relish the people I'm with more than the mug of joe in my hands. But on Easter, I'm looking forward to celebrating the Risen Lord while I savor every drop of a great cup of coffee. And I promise to not make that cup of java my focus. :)