Stepping into the New Year

Today was our teacher work day ahead of the start of the spring semester. Honestly, last night, day one hadn’t even begun yet and I was already ready to quit. Just thinking about it made me tired, exhausted. So, today, I gave myself some very pointed instructions: take care of what absolutely must be done for Monday and Tuesday to flow as smoothly as you can manage. The rest can wait until later in the week. And I stuck to those self-imposed limitations for the most part. I stuck to it rather well, actually.

I’m not good that: sticking to limitations. I end up having arguments with myself that go rather like this.

Only go this far.

But—there’s so much to be done! Just a little more.

No, you’re going to get overwhelmed and freak out.

I’ll be…

You’re freaking out, aren’t you?


I am not good at sticking to limitations. I am not good at just taking one step. I feel the need to take several more, just to make sure. Just to make absolutely sure that everything that needs to be done is done, every possible preparation is made, every security I can manage put into place to assure that things go as closely to how they need to go (read: how I want them to go) as possible.

This year, the odds are good that there may come quite a few situations that I will feel overwhelmed by and thus be tempted to take extra steps to try control said situations. My challenge and journey this year will be in taking just the next step. Not running ahead, not taking a few extra steps “just in case”, but in taking just the next step that I feel God has led me to take. And then wait.

When I was a child, I attended a private church-school and, every morning, we said the pledge to the Bible. I pledge allegiance to the Bible: God’s Holy Word. I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

“A lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” If you know anything about lamps, then you know that their circle of light doesn’t go very far. It will light your feet for the next step but only the next step. One step at a time.

This year, I want to lean into taking just that next step. Just the next step that I feel led to take. Faith, patience, courage, trust…all of these things lead into this action. I want to be better at it, at them. That is my goal for this year, that is my lesson, my learning: to take just the next step. The very next step. That’s all.




Becoming One of Those Secrets




How often do we laud someone for what they do rather than who they are? Why do we call someone “great” because of their success, their accomplishments in business, their accolades, rather than the qualities that they exhibit throughout their lives? Why do we ooh and ahh and admonish people that they “just don’t know how beautiful they are”? Why do we not encourage them, “Do you know just how rare your level of empathy and kindness is? Keep that stuff up!”   When I was growing up, I heard what people said, even when I pretended not to. I was lauded for being a good Christian girl who listened to her parents, attended and participated at church, excelled in my school work, etc. Often, though, I questioned whether or not people would actually like me if they really knew me. Was who I was as important or as good as what I did? What if I no longer did all of those things, for one reason or another? Would I no longer be loved, no longer be considered a worthy of a good reputation?

How did you get so deeply conditioned as to not recognize our own God-given worth, the good of our actions, that we doubt the sincerity of others when they do? Why do we answer “I’m glad you think so” (or “I’m glad you think so”) when we are called wonderful, kind, compassionate, etc.? Yet we are trained to say a demure”thank you” when our looks, the attractiveness score we were born with and have grown into, is complimented? We don’t want to appear rude or self-centered, after all, do we?

How can we change this? How can we open up and share the amazingness of these people (and we are included in those people) who really are so epically marvelous, gentle, generous, courageous in love, selfless in action, and tireless in caring? What can we do to let these awe-inspiring secrets know that they are just that: awe-inspiring? How can we laud who they are?

I believe that one of the ways we can manage this is with specific thank-yous. Not just “thank you for being awesome”, but “thank you for sharing that encouragement with me; it was just what I needed in that moment”. Thank them for reaching out, for holding your soul and heart gently when you were having a rough spell. Thank them for the meal they sent over when you grandmother died. Thank them for the post that turned your tears into laughter. Thank them for the thought behind their actions. Thank them for their generosity in giving that surprise gift. Thank them for their courage when you know that it took a goodly amount of it for them to stand up and disagree with those around them.

As we progress through our generation and rear the next, I think that we might be able to agree that we want ourselves and our children to be known for our character, not merely our accomplishments. We want the actions we take that stem from character integrity and a desire to better the lives and the world around us to be a guiding force. We are more than our successes or failures, our triumphs or losses. We are who we are and, if we decide it, who we are can be beautiful. No, not every secret needs to be told, needs to be outed. But can we learn–and then teach–what it is to be one of those gentle-holding, best-kept secrets? To be the best who we can be, as well as acknowledging those who are doing the same. Because the world could definitely use more secrets of that type. I’m going to keep working at it; you are not alone in this endeavor, dear one.

Yes, Today is for You. (A Gentle Happy Mother’s Day)

It’s Mother’s Day. Yes, it’s for you, too.

It’s for those whose children who will bring you breakfast in bed.

It’s for those whose babies wake up screaming or whimpering in pain in their hospital bed.

It’s for those whose babies wake up screaming or whimpering in pain in their hospital bed.
It’s for those who are just getting off third shift to kiss your kiddos good morning.

It’s for those who are just getting off third shift to kiss your kiddos good morning.
It’s for those who will lay flowers at a headstone with dates all too close together.

It’s for those who will lay flowers at a headstone with dates all too close together.
It’s for those whose arms were so close to being full and whose tender hearts are slow to healing.

It’s for those whose arms were so close to being full and whose tender hearts are slow to healing.
It’s for those whose arms are still empty and whose full hearts ache.

It’s for those whose arms are still empty and whose full hearts ache.

It’s for those with no children of their own but who spend their days caring for and loving on those others.

It’s for those who take little ones not of their own blood into their homes and hearts. Yes, they are yours.

You are mothers, all of you. Today and every day, I salute you.

For those who have loved and mothered me throughout my life and who now love on and mother my child while I am at work, today and every day, I thank you.

For those who are sharply missing your mother, today and every day, I love you.


Finding My Glorious and Beauty Again

I turned thirty-four on Monday, and I found my beauty again yesterday morning. I stood before the mirror in the bathroom, going through my morning routine before work. Done with brushing my teeth and washing my face, on a whim, I then divested myself of every stitch of clothing before pulling down my hair to comb it out for the morning. As I did, I found something. A few somethings.

I found a sultry tilt to my head as I combed through my mahogany hair, now long again.

I found the seductive tumble and fall of my hair over my shoulders, falling  over the left side of my face like Jessica Rabbit’s famous red tresses.

I found the curve from my waist to my hip, not as sharp or hour-glassy as it used to be but still there.

I found the line of my jaw still strong, though I had sworn it was disappearing, much to my chagrin.

I was plainly surprised to find these things, these parts of me–to find me— beautiful, to think myself glorious after months of feeling utterly to the contrary. I was very surprised.

I saw my own beauty.

I found my glorious.

And I smiled at me.



Growing into My Bigness

I have written before about being small, about feeling like I need or am expected to hide myself, make myself less, be less. However, I was hit with something several weeks ago as I again sat thinking about it. Being small is not as sudden a thing for me as I thought it was. As I sit and think and reflect, I can actually see the different lessons and admonitions towards being small that I have been given all throughout my life, not just in the past decade. It’s not as recent a thing as I thought it was. I’m looking back over my life and finding points along the way where I was taught to be small, to take the blame for others’ dislike. I learned that I needed to be small, that if I were too big, too bright, too…whatever, it was my fault if people got upset or didn’t like me. It’s kind of jarring to realize that it’s not as recent an emotional/behavioral habit as I thought it was.

I was taught to be small as a child. On school awards nights, I was taught by my peers to feel embarrassed by rather than proud of my achievements. My classmates would turn to me as I returned to my seat and tell me, “You should just stay up there [on the platform]. You’re gonna get everything anyway.” I felt the snide remarks all the way down to my bones, whether to be snide intended or not.

In middle school, I was taught to be small by the cute boy who pretended to like me and be my boyfriend for an entire week. Then, mercifully(?), a “friend” outed the joke. And it really was a joke because, seriously, who could ever like a nerd like me?

As a teenager, I was taught to be small because my fashion style was dressier than other girls in my social sphere and it might make them look bad. I was taught to be small when classmates rolled their eyes and made fun of the books I read, that I took solace in, and when they grumbled because I could play my part in concert band, even though their inability was a result of their lack of practice and nothing on my part.

In my twenties, late bloomer that I am, I was taught to be small when I perceived that I could not shine or revel in my own beauty because it would make others feel less happy about themselves, even though I had absolutely no control over that. If I could just step back upstage a little, not be quite so much in the light, that’s it…right there on the edge, that’s good. I can see it in photos now, recognize it for exactly what it is, and it hurts.

There are people in my life who have taught me to be small with the same breath that they used to admonish me for not “seeing how beautiful I am”. I’m sure they never realized or considered that that was what they were doing but it was. It’s sometimes hard, very hard, to hear “you’re beautiful” at the same time as being told that you make others jealous or unhappy. Suddenly, “beautiful” becomes not quite such a good thing; “beautiful” becomes something that brings pain to others, to ones you care about, so, obviously, “beautiful” is something that I should try to be less of. Me is something that I should try to be less of.

Though I have made progress (and I do mean quite a bit of it), I still battle the perception that I need to be small, less, duller. I question, I temper, I demure, I stick myself in a corner and keep quiet. Being small became a habit, born out of a desire to never hurt anyone, to be the cause of hurt, or a bone of contention. And so, sometimes, I still fall into its trap. If you have been taught to be small, believe me: you’re not alone. But you know what? We can “grow into our bigness”, as a dear friend once put it. I am growing into my bigness, into my role in my own life. I can stand. I can shine. I can strut. I can star. It is okay to be big in our own lives. It’s okay to be comfortable in our skin and unapologetic for it, to be unapologetic for our selves in our unique beauty and us-ness. Sure, we have our cracks, our flaws, our problems. But those do not negate us or our humanity or our worth. They do not make us monsters or beings who can be nothing but less-than. All that makes us is human. Humans, men, women, who do not have to be small. We are who we are, made as we were, and we do have something worth being, worth giving. Bigness doesn’t happen all at once; it’s a growing, like when we were children. It’s a process. But we can get there, you and I. God made us for big things; things that only we can do or be or create or give.

Even though you and I might have been taught to be small, we don’t have to stay there. We don’t have to believe that we have to be small or less. We can grow into ourselves,  rise up into our bigness, and we need not fear it.


Hold But Gently

A year ago, I posted an article about seeing others and being seen by others and just what such a venture takes on either/both sides of the mirror. As I thought about that in the context of gentleness, I realized just how much that it [gentleness] is also a requirement of seeing and being seen.

In order to see others in their all, in their good and their bad, in their not enough and too much, we need to be willing to hold them gently, hold them loosely. We need to allow them to tremble and shudder but remain near. We need to not hold them too tightly but still stay close in their hard. Not to squeeze too firmly but to let them step back and breathe when they need to do so. To see someone, we must hold them gently and let them know that they are safe, un-judged, and free to be themselves, whatever that may mean.

Gentleness also goes hand-in-hand with being seen. In order to be seen, we need to be gentle with ourselves. We need to allow ourselves to believe that, yes, someone does in fact want to be a friend to our flawed self. Yes, someone does in fact care, and, no, we are not being a burden on their lives. They care about and love us and we can at least show ourselves enough gentleness to let them.

Being seen is frightening and dangerous. Let’s hold ourselves gently in our fear, reminding ourselves that rejection, though it will hurt if it happens, it will not be the end of us. We may be busted but we won’t be broken beyond repair. We may be hurt but not beyond healing. On the other side, we may find ourselves met with arms wide open and our heart cradled gently in loving hands. It is always the chance we take and the hope we harbor: being seen and accepted.


Fragile. Handle with Care: Being Gentle With Myself

I have been sick, quite sick, for the past month. Actually, I haven’t been able to shake this cold/sinus stuff since September (yay for teaching and a toddler starting preschool). Nevertheless, the New Year came and with it the time to start on my goals, one of the chiefest being to get back into a healthy routine of activity and exercise. This past semester has just shattered my momentum and I have lost a good deal of what I worked for two years to gain. So I start again. But, because of being sick (and because, you know, breathing is a thing), I am having to start back slowly. Too much activity will leave me wheezing and coughing, my throat sore and dry. So I am having to be extra gentle with myself, not something I am used to doing. I am used to pushing myself. I want to push, pull, work, strive, and mold myself back into that shape and tone that I was so proud of back in July. So, right now, it is proving hard to handle myself gently, but I have to or else I will hurt myself and ruin any chance of continuing towards my goal for the foreseeable future. I have to listen to when my body cries “Enough!” and believe that, for the nonce, it really is (and has to be) enough.

This year’s word of intention is gentleness and, ironically, here I am: at the beginning of the year, having to apply that gentleness to my own self. I am having to sit down when I come home from work. Perhaps the dishes go undone or the laundry unfolded of a night as I choose to lie on the couch instead, after Daughter has been put to bed, and I’m having to remind myself that doing just that is okay.  I have never been good at being gentle with myself, so I have found that I need reminders. The graphic below from Alia Joy – Writer‘s likewise-title article is now the lock screen graphic on my phone. I have a chalkboard that hangs in my kitchen and on it is the quote: “Be easier on yourself. If being hard on yourself worked, it would have worked by now.” These are reminders that I have to keep on repeat in my mind and in my heart. I find it ever so much easier to say them to others, admonish gentleness with themselves, and believe their truth than I do when I am the one in need of the reminder. But I do need it. I need gentleness, too! Particularly from myself.

So, while it is frustrating and a bit galling to have to slow down and just concentrate on the small things in my goals for now, it is what I need. I need to hold myself softly and gently for, right now, no matter how I may feel mentally, I am physically a bit fragile, so I have to let my ability catch up to my determination.

It is okay for you to be gentle with yourself, too. If you think you need permission, you have it. There are times when we all are fragile and need handling with care. So, as we continue on into the second week of this new year, let’s check in on how we are handling ourselves, how we are treating ourselves. Could you use a little gentleness, a little lightening of the goals, of the have-to’s? If so, do it. Be gentle with yourself. I know it’s hard and I know the fear of falling behind/failing/losing our place/etc. is always there, but know that you aren’t alone. We all could a little gentleness from ourselves now and then and it’s worth it to learn to give it. And I’m learning to believe that.



Graphic from and belonging to Alia Joy’s post on