Faith

Faith

I used to pray for unshakeable faith. I wanted to be steadfast in belief that God would always come through, never doubting His goodness.

When things go right, when life is smooth… it’s easy to have faith. It’s like breathing, how easy and natural it is to shout His praises and share your good news and blessings.

You breathe in His presence and breathe out your testimony, like Aslan blowing life onto the statues in Narnia.

Our faith and testimony release life-giving encouragement to people in pain, the people in the midst of hardship and struggle. Seeing how mountains were moved for us unlocks their vision, they take heart that their mountains can move too.

But sometimes, we aren’t the Aslan in the story. We are the statue, hardened and in desperate need of the Life-Breath.

Suffering and difficulty swirl around like a funnel cloud of fury and deception. It clouds our judgement and all we see is pain, the Why’s and the When’s of our prayer requests being whipped about like shingles ripped from a storm-torn house.

At first we cling to our knowledge of a Sovereign Father, but as the winds continue to screech and fear rumbles in the distance we might begin to wonder… What if? Where is He?

Grief and bitterness choke us like smoke and our faith doesn’t feel so strong, instead we feel weak and wavering.

The adversary whispers lies, “do you even really believe? Where is God now? There’s nothing left. You can’t do this.”

The steadfastness comes when we dig in our heels. This house will not be uprooted by the storm, because the foundation is 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗴.

You might be clinging to your faith by the width of a hair, but all you need is a mustard seed.

“Go,” you whisper to the lies. And they flee. The storm might not be over, but you stand awaiting the victory.

Your faith may shake in the face of the tornado, but the House The Lord Built won’t fall, even if the siding creaks.

The storm passes and the statue comes back to life, your heart beats again and you breathe in deep.

Now it’s your turn, share the story of the storm and breathe the Life-Breath on the next person worn thin by grief and trial.

Steadfast in action, faith like potatoes.

If this piece resonated with you in any way, I’d love for you to share it! You never know who may need the encouragement.

Come follow along with me at my Instagram! I share daily musings on faith, Biblical womanhood, homeschooling, urban gardening, and critical thinking.
Fueled by Jesus, imperfectly learning and living lessons every step of the way!

Of Hopes And Dreams

Of Hopes And Dreams

I have wanted to be a writer as far back as I can remember. Poetry, investigative journalism, novels… I just wanted to write.

Books inspired me, grew me, and kept me alive. In my darkest and loneliest times I had Jesus and books.

I started writing books as a preteen when I learned that Christopher Paolini, who had also grown up homeschooled, wrote and published Eragon as a teenager.

Ever since, I have had big dreams of writing novels and speaking and changing lives. Life took some twists and turns (Good twists! Hard turns!) and writing took a backseat for a while. I have gotten married and worked and had babies and served in ministry and done XY&Z!

And I have never called myself a writer.

Through it all, though, I have never stopped writing. And every time I write something vulnerable, something big, something brave, something that makes me want to vomit as anxiety and imposter syndrome creeps in…

Every. Single. Time. That I doubt or am unsure, someone shares with me how much they needed what I wrote.

That’s when I realized… You don’t need to be published with a huge company behind you or have a million Instagram followers to be a writer.

So, I guess this is my announcement to the world that *gulp* I am a writer.

It’s my passion. It’s my God-imbued dream. I have brilliant, complex worlds of people and stories in my mind waiting to come out. I have been slowly working on writing and world building for my dream novel for years now, and it’s time to get the ball rolling.

This week I made an investment into my dream and joined hope*writers. I am a hope*writer!

I want to write books that inspire readers, like Narnia and LOTR did for me. I want to share and empower women to be everything they’re destined to be. I want people to know that there is hope and joy in this world, that life doesn’t have to be all sorrow and pain and despair.

This is why I write. This is why I keep going. I don’t have to have it all figured out right now, I just have to keep going!

Like I’ve told my kids, my youth, my friends: sometimes you have to do it afraid. So here I go!

When Shame Writes The Story

When Shame Writes The Story

If you’ve participated in a church community for any length of time, you’ve likely heard the story of the woman at the well. The beautiful story is found in John 4 and usually has these highlights:

Samaritan. Adulteress. Unworthy. Woman. Sinner. 

Shame. Shame. Shame. 

Anytime I hear or read the word “shame”, I get that scene from The Princess Bride in my mind of the old woman screaming “Boo! BOO!” at Buttercup as the sweet girl makes the best decision she knows how to make, even by betraying her one, true love.

As I was reading Without Rival by Lisa Bevere a few years ago, the story of the woman at the well was retold with more cultural context and with the lens of a loving, compassionate Savior.

Let’s dig into more of this story, exposing the traditional lens of shame it is recounted in, with a lens of love – and see what more important truths we can glean.

I’ve often thought it interesting that many teachers highlight that she was a Samaritan, without going into too much of what that would have meant to Jesus and his followers.

In the biblical setting, Samaria, also known as Palestine, and Israel were basically in a race war. The territory of Samaria is found in land allotted to the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim when the Israelites conquered the Promised Land (Joshua 16 &17). Samaria was the capital of Israel when the country split. 

The biggest issue evident in Jesus’ time in this century old conflict was they practiced their faith differently. Samaritans even went as far as to create their own version of the five books of Moses.

Israel, being way more judgey than they should be, looked down on the Samaritans for their overt mixing of Jewish practices and pagan, settling non-Jewish practicing people in their land and claiming that Mount Gerizim should be the home of The Temple instead of Jerusalem.

Unresolved conflict and removing love from interactions had caused generations to hate, literally HATE each other. The fact that Jesus marches directly into this region brings the utter surprise of the disciples into context and begs so many more questions of the later parable of the Good Samaritan. 

Different faith. Different culture. Different skin color. 

Shame. Shame. Shame.

The term “adulteress” frequently visits the retelling of this story from our modern-day pulpits. Why would this woman have had 5 husbands, the most recent she was living with but had not married?

In the first century Samarian culture a woman was unable to initiate divorce from her husband, since they practiced a version of Judaism. The insinuation that she was an adulteress woman is very likely far from true.

Laying down those lenses of condemnation and picking up the lens of Love, we can explore a few other possibilities that showcase Jesus’ heart in meeting this woman in an even greater way. 

First, she could have been widowed.

Since a woman’s worth in that time and place was only determined by who she was married to, can you close your eyes and imagine what that grief and fear would have been like to lose not only your husband, but your position in the village, the security of food and shelter, the very home you had established…four times over?!

Can you open your heart to the fear of being handed off again and again to the “next in line”, likely without your consent, the stigma of death following you everywhere you go in your village? 

Another possibility is that she was divorced or cast away by her husbands.

Causes for divorce in this time and culture could have been a physical defect, infertility, incurable physical or mental illness. When your only job in society is to marry, please your husband, care for your household and raise as many children as you can produce, I can not even begin to fathom the shame this situation would have produced in her heart. 

Some scholars have speculated this immense burden of shame is why she was at the well gathering her daily water in the middle of the day, when no one else was around. At the high heat of the day she wouldn’t have to worry about hearing all the hushed whispers or comments. She could just be alone. 

No good. Unworthy of love. Cast off. 

Shame. Shame. Shame. 

One undeniable aspect of this story is that Jesus was speaking to a woman. This part always makes me cry. Even now, as I write this I’m crying.

Growing up, as this woman did, in a culture where women were second rate citizens has immense impact on one’s heart and mind.

Knowing no matter what, your life is second thought. Your life is a negotiation chip of interests and property. The knowledge of how powerless you are to initiate change infuses every choice, every day. 

It is from this place of utter hopelessness, that the unfathomable beauty of the heart of our Father shines. It shows His heart to see each woman, just as He sees each man, different, yet equal.

Both powerful, with different strengths. 

I don’t believe for a moment that Jesus got a word of knowledge about how many husbands she had to provoke shame in her. He wasn’t trying to keep her in her place or remind her of her status. There was no desire to pour salt in the wounds of her broken heart.

He had no desire to see her turn red and hang her head. That is not how He operates. That is the voice of the Accuser of the Brethren.

I believe Jesus spoke the word of knowledge to her to let her know that even though she was a woman, from a conflicting racial heritage and her marital record was rough, He was speaking to her. Jesus saw her, knew her and wanted connection to her heart.

What happens next in the longest recorded dialogue between someone and Jesus in the New Testament blows me away. Jesus and this woman embark in a lengthy theological discussion! This would have been unheard of in their time.

Yet, this woman holds her own. She knows what her faith culture believes as well as Jesus’. In a day and age when women were separated from men in the temples, she knew her Scripture! 

In the progression of this theological debate, John 4:26, Jesus reveals Himself as the Messiah to this woman. Jesus’ profound compassion on her and His gently delivered prophetic word bring about transformational belief. She knew in her heart that what this man spoke, that the love and gentleness, the equality and patience He showed her set Him apart from any other rabbi.

She knew He was the Messiah. 

The woman is then catapulted by Love into the role of the first missionary we see in Scripture. No fancy schooling. No big ceremony.

Jesus trusted this woman to proclaim Him. She delivered a simple Gospel, “He saw me. Messiah has come.” 

Many in the town believed because of her testimony which exemplifies her as an apostle…all this before Jesus’ death and resurrection. He had yet to even reveal who He was to His 12 Disciples and only one of them actually figured it out (Matthew 16). 

The invitation of this story is not only to watch Jesus wipe out shame from a life but to watch Him rewrite the narrative. Shame is really great at telling us who we aren’t. Jesus is really, really incredible at reminding us who we are in Him.

We lose so much when we stop a story, just like we would lose so much if we stopped at the death of Jesus and never followed the story of His Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, etc. Continuing what we know of the story of this incredible mother of the faith is vital to grasping the glorious story of redemption and restoration.

So who did this famous “woman at the well” become?

Early church historians tell us she followed Jesus’ ministry through His death and resurrection and was one of those 3,000 baptized at Pentecost, along with 5 of her sisters and two sons. It was at this momentous occasion that she received the name Photini.

Photini was known for the boldness that she preached and eventually it gave her the opportunity to share the Gospel with the dreaded emperor Nero in Rome. After sharing the Gospel, Nero tried to severely torture her, hoping she would turn from Christ, but instead Photini succeeds in sharing the Gospel with Nero’s own daughter who choses to become a follower of Jesus. 

Nero ordered Photini to death by fire, which she survived for 7 days, then to death by poison, which she also survived. Her faith was supernatural. Her determination was evident. How can one meet Jesus face-to-face then deny Him existence?

Photini had been captivated by a Love stronger than life. She is revered as a martyr and in the eastern Church she is “equal-to-the-apostles”. 

Where does shame live in this story now?

So many times we let shame tell our story. Something terrible happens and we let that write the narrative of our life. We push back on invitations of healing or cover up the needs of our heart in the searing aloneness of the noonday sun.

Handing our power over to the loudest ridicule, we let the cycle of lies about us tell the story in our mind and weave madness about us in the minds of others.

Your race, faith, gender, marital status, don’t get to hold your value. Jesus does.

The Lover of your soul who sees it all and speaks to you. The Living Water who gave this woman a ravenous hope is not limited to one redemptive story.

Photini says in John 4:15 “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” I like to imagine her saying this, “Jesus, make it stop hurting. Nourish my heart and soul. Give me life. I don’t want to strive for existence anymore. I don’t want shame to write my story.” 

A hallmark of shame running the show is running and hiding. Adam and Eve did it in Eden (Genesis 3) and Jesus invites us into this incredible shame free life in John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The greek word for truth in this verse is alētheia and can be appropriately translated naked or transparent truth.

You can’t give true worship with a naked, transparent heart if you are wearing the dress of shame. 

Shame doesn’t get to write your story, my friend. Jesus died for that shame and in the words of Graham Cooke, “Quit taking that back for yourself. (Jesus) wants that back.” 

Be free, indeed.

SOURCES:

Without Rival by Lisa Bevere

History of Samaria

Women’s Ordination Online – The Samaritan Woman At The Well

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese

The Good Shepherd – St. Photini and her Almost-Forgotten Apostolic Family


Shannon is an incredible friend and wealth of wisdom. She is about to graduate ministry school, and is a powerhouse momma to four boys! You can find her here on Instagram!

Prisms and Purpose

Prisms and Purpose

I’ve got this prism that is eternally smudged.

I ordered it in hopes that it would somehow elevate our cluttered mess of a dining room into one of those Waldorf forest homeschools where kids keep all their Montessori materials sorted in rainbow colored sets and listen attentively to poetry as they finish watercoloring their nature journals.

Alas, it sits covered in sticky fingerprints on a dust covered windowsill next to an abandoned Captain American LEGO project that is missing a foot. Cap has been sidelined for the foreseeable future just like my dreams of a whimsical home in which to educate my children. 

The truth is that the prism brought us a lot of joy at the outset of the year, but has been shuffled aside under math workbooks and the flotsam and jetsam of four kids learning at home full time for the first time. The prism somehow got shifted aside as an afterthought because, if I’m honest, I’m not fully sure what I’m doing, I’m constantly doubting myself, and I never followed through on that light unit like I thought I would.

The prism hasn’t been shattered by my raging and screaming yet, so that’s a mercy. Turns out we’re not the quiet woodland family I had hoped we might be.

This morning as I lamented the wads of hair and dust that somehow always live on my stairs, and the shoddy job my children do of sweeping them, and the shoddy job I am clearly doing as a parent, I was struck by the prism. Its once pristine glass was noticeably clouded and foggy and I’m pretty sure it was handled by someone who had recently been eating cheese puffs.

But my breath caught as I watched a rainbow pour out of the dim prism onto the hair covered hardwood below.

None of this looks like I thought it would.

I haven’t managed to create a space that “measures up,” whatever that means. I live in a sea of uncertainty and often wonder what use my gifts actually are to the world.

It’s easy for me to dismiss my days as less than, to chalk them up to unfinished projects and problems unsolved. But when I consider the prism, I see more.

When I consider the miracle that a rainbow is at hand, that it dares to shine in the presence of my mess, that it is bold enough to shine onto my doubt and my fury and my fear, I am forced to stop. When I step back to take that in, I’m reminded that all is grace. All is gift. 

You see, the truth reflected in the prism is that the miracle cannot be stopped. The rainbow is somehow not dimmed by smudges or filthy fingerprints.

However manhandled and bunged up it may be, the prism still exists to turn light into rainbows. The purpose of the prism is to reveal invisible, but ever-present colors so that they may be seen by the naked eye.

The miracle cannot be stopped because the prism cannot deny its purpose.

As a woman I am uniquely called to die to myself that I might nurture and grow the souls of others. As a woman I am designed to gently steward the souls entrusted to my care.

As a woman I am specially created to hold all that in my heart, to birth beauty out of struggle, to give life out of groaning. 

We’ve all been manhandled and bunged up. None of us is the flawless crystal we might wish that we are.

Things don’t turn out like we plan or expect. People fail us, boundaries are crossed, our hearts are wounded in broad and intimate ways every day. Yet we are all capable of casting great beauty into the neglected corners of our world.

The miracle cannot be stopped because this is what we were created to do.

The only thing that can stop the miracle is if the prism is moved out of the light. If I shove my prism in a drawer, there’s no way for the light to touch it.

The same is true of our hearts, of course. If our hearts are hidden away, shoved in closets, shut down and shamed, it’s true that we won’t reflect much light. You can’t shine a rainbow from a shadow, it’s true.

And if I’m honest, seeking the light sometimes seems futile and foolish. It’s honestly kind of silly that I’ve kept my filthy prism on the windowsill through the gloom and clouds of the Cleveland winter.

To an outsider it seems like an exercise in futility but I believe the miracle. Even when there are days on end that I don’t catch a glimpse of rainbow, I have faith that the sun will come through the clouds and the cheese puff smudges.

I’ve seen it happen before and I have faith it will happen again. I’ve seen the rainbow on the stairs with my own eyes. I have witnessed the miracle. 

And I realize the same must be done for my heart. I think a lot about how the Psalmist reminds us not to harden our hearts. He may as well be saying, “Don’t retreat. Don’t build up walls and separate yourself from the light.”

And I know in order for me to achieve my purpose, like the prism, I must remain in the light. 

Every day I must claim the miracle. Every day I must accept my purpose as undeniable. Every day I must place myself in the light, smears and smudges fully exposed so that the miraculous love of the Father can penetrate my heart and cast His love onto the world through me.

It won’t work if I’m not in the light. It won’t work if I’m not reading scripture and attending Mass, receiving the Sacraments, praying with my friends. It won’t work if I believe the lies that I’m fed by the world, if I deny my belovedness, compare myself to others, or allow my heart to become hard. 

To be in the light, we must be in the truth. If we are women who claim resurrection, the truth that should spur us on is that nothing is irredeemable.

If we are women who claim the risen Christ, it is our duty to claim Him, to claim the miracle of resurrection in all we do. Our work is to set our hearts on the miracle, to seek it out, to draw our families and communities along with us as we encounter it.

Our calling is to claim the truth of the risen Jesus in ourselves, to speak it over our hurts and our pains, to repeat that truth to ourselves when we are at our weakest and to speak it over our sisters:

“You are redeemed. You are chosen. You are safe. You are loved.”

St. Josemaria Escriva said, “He did not say you would not be troubled, you would not be tempted, you would not be distressed, but He did say you would not be overcome.” 

My place here in my family is not to curate a perfect home or achieve some other lofty goal. My purpose is not to fit any sort of mold of womanhood that’s been manufactured by the world or the church or anyone in between.

My purpose is to shed light, to cast rainbows into darkened corners, to show up and love despite my dinginess and my bruises.

The rainbow is no less beautiful because my prism is smudged. My gifts are no less beautiful because they come from an imperfect source.

If each day is an offering to Christ, I am receiving His light. If each day is a claiming of truth, I am receiving Him.

And if I am receiving the light of Christ, just like the prism on my dusty windowsill, I can be nothing but a channel through which that light enters the world. 

Mary Susan is so dear to my heart! She creates a beautiful space of vulnerability, humor, and encouragement. She can be found at https://oh-bless-your-heart.com/ and here on Instagram.

Ten Years

Ten Years

While I was born in Ohio, I grew up in North Carolina. It will always be home to me, the place I spent my childhood and “grew up” and fell in love with Jesus.

I learned to drive there, I made lifelong friends, I experienced heartache and grief and joy and growth.

Ten years ago I celebrated my first birthday back in Ohio! A decade now of birthdays and life after coming back “home” to where I was born and growing up for real.

Celebrating my first birthday back in Ohio, learning “The Art of Being Happy.”

I’m turning 29! The last year of my twenties. I know that’s still really young to all the people who’ve lived a lot more of life than me, but the Lord has taught me a lot in these few years I have (and I know He has so much more to share).

In honor of my tenth Ohio birthday, I wanted to share ten lessons I’ve learned in my time here.

1. Crazy Faith Looks Like Crazy Obedience

I remember attending a youth conference when I first moved. During this season Crazy Love by Francis Chan was super popular, as well as the song Crazy Love by Hawk Nelson.

If you’ve ever attended a Christian conference you might know the “conference high” after you get refreshed and hyped for Jesus again.

We attend conferences and get amped up, on fire again after a stagnant season. We go home encouraged, ready to take on the world, spread the good news. Right?

But eventually that amped feeling fades. Because the conference high isn’t sustainable. What keeps the fire alive is intimate relationship with your Savior, not any certain speaker or worship singer.

Then, when God asks Crazy Love level stuff, we hesitate. We fear what people might think. We worry about the financial aspect. The “how.” Sometimes we don’t obey.

On the flip side, there are times we hear the call for crazy faith and we do step out. And “the world” doesn’t get it.

Nominal Christianity won’t get “it” either because it doesn’t make sense to human logic.

A friend once shared with our young adults group the time the Lord called her and her husband to tithe their entire paycheck.

If memory serves me correctly, they were paycheck to paycheck and in between jobs at the moment.

That sounds ludicrous and makes zero sense to the average human brain, right?

Yet they obeyed.

And God honored their faith and blessed their finances several times over that week; rent was paid for, her husband got a job, and they were blessed with an advanced check.

God asks some wild things of us sometimes… Give up an ivy league for the mission field. Donate your bonus to a homeless shelter.

My husband and I eloped at 20 + 19 years old and everyone thought we were nuts. Horrible things were said to us, I was almost pressured into signing an annulment by family, and it was a really rough beginning because of the opposition we faced.

Many people thought we made a really stupid decision, but we felt God led us to do so.

Was it always easy? No. But following God and obeying isn’t always easy. It’s often wild, crazy, and takes a lot of courage and hard work.

If we hadn’t stepped out in crazy faith we wouldn’t have the life we have now or be in the season we are now and I can’t even fathom it!

There’s been several crazy faith moments in my life but this one gave me everything I am so grateful for. Definitely worth it.

2. Romance Looks Different From What “They” Tell You

When Justin was pursuing me he took me to church, brought me medicine when I was sick, and made me laugh so much.

We had weekly date nights, went to the movies and geocaching, dinner out, all that good stuff.

But ten years in romance Looks different than the early puppy love. It looks like a husband that listens. It looks like learning what an anxiety attack and helping me through it with patience.

Romance is emergency take out dinners when he’s heard I’ve had a bad day, surprising me with my favorite pop, learning with me how to parent our kids well.

It’s brewing my coffee for me in the morning when the baby nursed all night. Setting firm boundaries to protect me. Hanging twinkle lights without complaint when I can’t reach.

Romance in the movies looks attractive (and sometimes unrealistic, honestly) and then marriages are so often portrayed as dry, loveless, and lacking.

With intentionality, purpose, and thorough communication romance doesn’t have to die off. It can shift and look different, but it gets better and better!

Love can age well.

Every year has been filled with more fun, more passion, more laughter, and more tenderness.

I still love surprise flowers and dinner dates. But I so love the quiet ways we get to love each other too.

Helping me through labor with our third 🧡

3. Boundaries Are Vital

I majorly struggle with people pleasing. I have had a hard time saying no to things, to people, because I don’t want people to dislike me.

In the past few years I’ve learned how unhealthy that is. My mental health is important because it directly impacts my life and family, and taking on too much affects it.

The health and well-being of my spouse and kids is top tier, and we can’t say yes to it all, or they suffer.

This can be anything from jobs, ministry, school opportunities, family, friends… You name it. Sometimes we have to say no. I can’t. We aren’t able to take that on.

Without excuses, without over explaining or justifying. If something isn’t serving you and your family, you don’t need permission or some grand circumstance to turn it down or say “this isn’t okay.”

You can’t speak to me like that. We can’t do that. No.

This isn’t always easy (what in life is). You will inevitably receive backlash, anger, and plenty of upset when you or every aspect of your family/time/finances etc aren’t readily accessible.

It’s always worth it to protect your family, your marriage, your mental health, your home, your budget, and your time.

4. I’m Worthy Of Good Things

I grew up thinking I was an inconvenience. It felt like I was a problem that ruined my mom’s life, that stole her freedom, and I wasn’t worth it (whatever “it” was in my little mind).

The burden sat heavily on my shoulders for far too long. It’s an inner voice I still have to ignore and fight off sometimes (aka way too often).

“The way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice” hits me hard. Because it’s so true.

But I’m not an inconvenience. I was designed by a Creator who fashioned me carefully, every detail for a reason. I was created with purpose for a purpose.

I’m not useless, I’m not an imbecile, I’m not worthless. These are not my identity.

My identity is beloved. Daughter. Redeemed. Worth dying for. Treasured, adored, fiery, lovely.

His voice is louder than all the rest, when I remember to listen.

I’m worthy of good things. I’m worthy of joy, love, laughter, and friendship.

I deserve people in my life who love me well, respect me, and don’t mistreat me. I don’t need to accept treatment that doesn’t align with that.

5. Feelings Aren’t Facts

I used to think if I felt something, it was true. This was before I learned that anxiety is a liar, that my inner dialogue can be abusive talk still ingrained in me, and that the heart can be deceptive.

We need to keep our thought life in check. We can hold space for hard feelings but we can’t keep holding on to them, lest they become bitterness taking root in our hearts.

I might feel ______ but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s truth. I might entertain ______ for so long and it’s fine, but then it spirals me into a bad place for my heart.

The what-if’s and the but if I‘s aren’t helpful. Intrusive thoughts aren’t reality. And assuming the worst doesn’t actually prepare me for anything.

I could feel like my husband is mad at me because his tone was off, assume the worst, and act out of that assumption and let it affect my mood and behavior towards him…

Or I can assume the best and turn those thoughts around, maybe he’s having a hard day, maybe he needed to burp and it came out funny (I speak from experience).

I can communicate with him and ask instead of assuming the worst.

Learning about feelings and the power of my thought life has been a game changer for me and my freedom and emotional regulation.

6. It’s Okay To Have Bad Days

I used to think if I had a bad day, and wasn’t cheerful all the time, or made a mistake/lost my temper/had an attitude that I was a bad Christian.

We have to be the salt of the earth! I have to be a witness. I need to be the light in the darkness and if I appear to be a human with emotions outside of joy ever than no one will want to know Jesus.

This is not healthy. God gave us emotions, and we can use them as tools to understand what’s going on in and around us.

Losing my temper with my kids after an exhausting day doesn’t make me a bad mom.

Sometimes I’m snarky because I haven’t eaten and my blood sugar is dropping! (Hello, fellow hangry people.)

It’s okay to have a day where things go wrong, or dinner gets burnt, or I yell or spill coffee.

A bad day doesn’t mean a bad life.

A bad day doesn’t mean I’m a failure. And it doesn’t mean I’m a bad Christian. I’m just a human with humanness, who happens to also live Jesus.

7. My Too-Muchness Isn’t For Everyone

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard “you’re too much.”

It’s been said in jest, in anger, in exasperation. It used to hurt a lot.

I don’t wear it as a wound anymore though. It’s a unique badge of honor that I wear proudly (sometimes… Haha).

See, I am a lot. I’m loud, all the time. I am loud in every color and emotion! I am passionate about many things.

There’s some weird stuff too, like sensory overload, stuttering, major fantasy adventure nerdom, ADHD behavior (I could write a whole novel on that topic alone)…

The whole package of *waves at all this* can be a lot for some people. And this really bothered me (recovering people pleaser that I am) for a very long time. I had to prove myself to them, and I was crushed when my Too-Muchness wasn’t their cup of tea.

Some people think I’m weird (I am, but they do in the “that’s a bad thing” way). Some people think I’m too loud. They don’t get it about how I am.

That’s okay. I don’t need to be everyone’s friend.

There are people that love all my Too-Muchness and adore it. My volume, my Lord of the Rings quotes, my passion about whatever soapbox I happen to be on. And I treasure them.

And I try not to hold it against the people who don’t like my Muchness haha.

8. I Am Resilient

My anxiety might like to lie and tell me otherwise, but dare I say – I am resilient. I’m going to toot my own horn here. (My husband inspired me to write this one so I have permission, I won’t be cocky I promise!)

I can do hard things. I have been through the RINGER and back, okay? It’s too much to even sum up in here.

As I mused what I should include here, my husband brought this up to me. That even in darkness and “the depths of despair” (if you’re my level of nerd you’ll get the quote) I don’t give up.

My faith has been through the ringer too, but it just goes deeper.

This lesson is 1000% God, not me. His grace alone has gotten me through suicidal seasons, miscarriages, backstabbing and so much more.

I am resilient because I cling hard to the hem of His garment. Sometimes I’m holding on by a thread, or the skin of my teeth! But guys, I’ve tasted and seen His goodness. It’s all that matters. It’s what’s kept me alive.

This one could take an entire series, a few paragraphs here won’t do it justice. It’s coffee date level. Jesus has brought me through it all, His strength is what makes me resilient.

9. Gratitude Is The Key

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:17‭-‬18

It’s easy to complain. It’s so easy to focus on the bad and not see the good. I got so stuck in that cycle, viewing life through the negativity lens.

It’s where my Finding Daily Delight project came from. I wanted to rewire myself to look for the little things to take delight in again and practice gratitude.

I could list countless scriptures about thankfulness and gratitude! It’s repeated so many times.

Think about it, if you are focusing on the negative only, it will affect your attitude. (Remember earlier when I mentioned thought life? Mindset matters!)

This isn’t about toxic positivity. This is about operating from a grateful heart space. Holding space for the both//and, where you can have both hard moments and joy, and not settling into despair.

Paul was able to worship and praise from a prison cell. David wrote Psalms crying out “where are you God?!” in one breath and worshipping Him in the next breath.

We can too. Both//and. Gratitude unlocks next-level joy and peace.

10. I Like Who I Am

It’s okay to be different and weird and like strange things. I used to despise that about myself.

Surely, I thought, if I just dress more normal or liked this type of music or hopped on that diet wagon or this fad I would come across as more normal and then people would like me.

This was before I discovered my Too-Muchness. Striving to be what people wanted me to be so I’d have their approval led to a lot of unhappiness on my end.

I’m loud, I am neurodiverse, my playlists on Spotify range from anthem worship to punk rock to folk and bluegrass.

I like who I am. I like the things I like because those things make my soul come alive.

Lake Erie might be a smelly mess to some people but it’s where I feel Jesus next to me in the car. I love that I love Lake Erie, I love that Jesus meets me there.

I like that I cry during Hallmark Christmas movies. I’m “sensitive” and feel all the things and Hallmark movies are a safe, cathartic release.

There is not box for me to fit into, my design is unique just as yours is. Quirks, dislikes, the things that make us laugh… Trying to change or fit into someone else’s peg is pointless.

I enjoy who I am growing into. I’m excited to see who I am in ten more years!

29th birthday selfie – 10 years after that Barnes and Noble date night

Here’s the thing about all of these lessons: I don’t have one of them mastered. God still works on these same lessons with me.

Even my birthday today. 90% of this post was already written. My morning was splendid, but by afternoon some stuff hit the fan. My birthday wasn’t sunshine and rainbows.

It could have ruined the rest of my night. I had to fight off those thoughts that I was a failure again. But as my oldest says, we had a restart! The rest of my birthday evening was redemptive and sweet.

Happy ten birthday, Ohio. I’m so glad to be home. When I celebrated my first birthday here I never imagined in a decade I’d be watching my daughters run around our front yard from my porch. This is what dreams are made of 🧡

Right Where You Are

Right Where You Are

This week I had a phone date with my “NC BFF,” who I am so blessed to still have in my life 11 years and 500 miles later. She’s known me since my early teen years and been by my side through a lot of pain and joy.

She remembers who I was before the life I have now, and as we chatted recently she mentioned how this *gestures broadly* was my dream.

18 year old Alyssa didn’t know if she could have kids. She didn’t think she could be a mom because of her upbringing.

She had grand ideas of producing movies and being a bestselling author, living a wild life to numb the pain she carried, never getting married because boys hurt her, but underneath it all was the dream to be a wife and mother.

I didn’t know how I’d ever achieve this dream, of a husband who loved me and kids and a home and joy.

Lo and behold… here I am with everything I prayed for and didn’t believe possible. A sweet husband, three beautiful girls, and a house I get to make into a cozy home.

I was thrilled. Those early years had their fair share of hardship, but it was everything I wanted. I’ll never forget the morning after my husband, baby, and I moved into our “big” apartment. I woke to sunlight streamed in, hitting our new yellow quilt and a smiley baby. For the first time I felt absolute contentment.

This was it! Hashtag wife life! Starting the day feeding my girlie oatmeal and fruit. The faraway dream was finally reality.

And yet, somewhere along the way something whispered to me. A lie crept in and deceived my heart.

This lie told me it just wasn’t enough. I was just a mom. I wasn’t there yet.

It stole some of my joy, and striving took it’s place.

If I do this then I’ll matter. If I do that, or serve here, or work there, or get a degree, or do ______ THEN it will be enough. When I finally get a house, when I work a “real” job, when we can afford _______.

I know moms aren’t alone in being fed this destructive lie. Women from all walks of life experience this!

I have ________ but I still need to get married and then I’ll be happier. I have the dream job but I still need to visit _________ or do ________ and then I will be accomplished. I need to take that class or have this certification and then things will fall into place.

I should be doing more. I can do it all. If I can’t do it all, there’s something wrong with me.

Let’s break that off right now. May I be bold?

You are enough right where you are.

You can still have goals, you can still walk the steps to get there! But listen to me right now: you matter, you are worthy, you are enough in this season. Before you get to the next one.

Don’t let the “hustle” lies tell you otherwise.

Whether you are a mom, or work at Subway, or are in law school or anywhere in between!

You are enough.

Comparison and striving steals our joy from the right-now moments.

You can have dreams, you don’t need to step into all of them right now. You deserve joy before you get there, on the way there, and when you arrive.

If you are an intern in this season of life, you get to be the best intern you can be. You have purpose. You can have joy!

If you are a mom in this season of life, you get to be the best mom you can be. You have purpose. You can have joy!

The same goes for pastors, counselors, students, graphic designers, artists, and farmers.

You don’t have to be married to be whole. Wanting a partner to do life with is absolutely valid, but you’re a still a whole person on your own.

Traveling the world is amazing! It’s okay if you start small and get to know the city you’re working in til you can afford bigger.

Wanting to be in ministry is an incredible goal! It’s okay if you can’t right now because your family is your first ministry and needs your time more.

Culture sells us “more” but so often we lose hold of what we already carry to grab hold of it. Where you are right now deserves your attention.

This past year has brought me back. 2020 was difficult on so many levels, but it forced me to slow down and reevaluate. To rewire some thinking and take charge in my mental health, boundaries, and growth.

I think the Lord set me free from that deception. The weight of that burden being gone… It makes me feel light as air sometimes (when life drama doesn’t remind me there other weighty things haha).

This picture I have framed on my hutch gave me pause as I perused Pinterest one day.

The little girls, the baby wearing mom with coffee in hand, fresh bread and a cooling pie. The windows open to show off a gorgeous sunset.

A little moment of my dream captured in folk art.

Of all the things inspiring me lately, giving me joy, helping me fall in love with life again… This little painting has stood out time and time again.

It’s the background on my phone now too, because it centers me to my most-importants. It reminds me of what used to be my dream, what I have now that’s so important.

Right here is pretty stinking awesome. I could live only looking forward, dissatisfied with what I’m missing, and pining for the future… but I’d really be missing out.

My season of life can be hard, but it’s still good. It’s where I am. I still have goals and dreams! But I am no less of a person whether I’m “just a mom” or an author too. This goes for you too, my friend.

Dreams are good. God gives us dreams! He has a calling for every one of us. But sometimes we try to rush future dreams into the right now. We can invest in the future and still hold space for what’s valuable right now.

If you can’t breathe because you’re so busy, if you have no time for rest because you’ve taken too much on, if you’re finding yourself unhappy and overburdened… Some things might need to shift.

Plan out your goals, that’s not unimportant, but live in the present. Give yourself room to breathe and time to rest here. Don’t pack it all in to get their faster, because burnout is REAL.

You don’t have to get there before you’re real or valid.

You already are.

Live in that freedom, friend. You are loved and important in every stage.