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It feels good to be writing again after all the tragedy of the past few months. Today I’m honored to be featured over at themitchroush.com. His monthly series, “Music Changed Me” showcases people he knows and loves sharing the music that has impacted their lives. My piece focuses on disliking the word “secular” being used to label songs that are sacred to me, and the love song I have on repeat during this season of healing.

I’ve known Mitch for over 20 years, and oh the stories I could share about him. Ha! He’s an incredible man. Take some time to get to know him through his writing. He does an excellent job weaving faith and creativity throughout all he does.

It brings joy to my soul to hear him describe me this way: “Niki is one of the most eloquent feather-rufflers I know. An edgy soul, not out of attention, but out of a fierce love that has no other way of being expressed. She’s passionate and wants nothing more than for everyone to have a place at the table.”

Thank you, Mitch. That means a lot to me!

Here’s a teaser:

Music is one of my love languages.

If my inner 80’s child were to make you a mix tape and share with you the soundtrack of my life, you’d grin and possibly groan at the quirky variety of my musical tastes.  I bet you’d find something that suits your tastes too. Now and then, I get stuck on a song to help me through a particular season, repeating it until the music cleanses me or the season passes.

– See more at: http://www.themitchroush.com/music-changed-me-13-love-on-repeat

You’ve probably seen the headlines this week about Leelah Alcorn. The suicide note posted on Tumblr went viral in a matter of hours after **his/her death. It was shocking to watch social media blow up with this story and even more so to read the malicious, hateful comments about the grieving family left behind. Compelling as it is to call for better discussions about transgender issues, the media and most of the people commenting have taken away the liberty of Leelah’s family based solely on a letter written by a teen suffering from depression, and they’ve done so without having all the facts.

I get it. I’ve been there.

In 1999, I watched in horror as the news reported the shooting at Columbine High School. I knew a student there and practically shook with relief when we heard she was safe. It didn’t take long for the community and the media (and me) to cast stones at the shooter’s parents. What kind of parent would let their child have access to weapons? What kind of parent didn’t understand how sick their child was and get them help? What kind of parent would allow their child be bullied to the point where they decided to plan a massacre? Was there abuse in the home? Or neglect? Surely the parents held some (or most) of the blame. I watched as reporters swarmed their neighborhoods, trying to get a glimpse of the families or a few words from neighbors. There was a complete disregard for their privacy, and somewhere in my head, I justified it. We, the public, had a right to know, didn’t we?

I confess, as I grappled with that tragedy, I judged the parents pretty harshly. I judged the school for not stopping the bullying, and the students for being the bullies. Then I judged Eric and Dylan for being hateful people. I couldn’t see past my anger and fear. I was pregnant with my first child at the time and wept at the thought of bringing him into a world where kids are gunned down in school. I felt bad for Eric and Dylan’s families, but I didn’t understand what they were going through. Was there some part of me that thought they deserved the bad press and condemnation? Such ugly thoughts went through my head when I was desperate for answers. Have you been there too?

You know who I didn’t judge? The media. They terrified parents when they grossly over-reported the casualties based on incomplete information. They interviewed traumatized students who hadn’t reconnected with their parents yet. There was a lot of false and biased reporting going on, but that’s not what sticks out in my mind all these years later. They were just trying to do their jobs, right? I so easily forgave that, but held on to my judgments of everyone else. I am glad I know better now.

Last summer, a friend of ours went to prison. We watched as the media reported false information about him, including the basic details of the charges. Then a reporter and cameraman from Channel 7 decided they had the right to stand on our friend’s porch and put the camera right up to the window to shoot footage inside their home. They stopped neighbors and questioned them about our friend’s children – their names and ages, if they seemed distraught. When they got a glimpse of the girls, they tried to question them about their dad. Picture that with me, reporters aggressively pursuing children at their own home. Shame on them!

We are being marketed to. Bad news sells, and we buy it. We watch and listen to it on TV and read it in the newspaper or on social media, and we make our snap judgments based on data that may or may not be true. Shouldn’t we expect reliable details over sensationalism from our media? And what about the shocking lack of accountability? When they do get the facts wrong, we don’t hear the corrected version or apologies for rushing to be the first to report a story instead of verifying what they’re reporting is actually true. They cover their butts by using phrases like “alleged” and “reportedly”.  Retractions, when they do exist, get buried. They’re never headline worthy. In the meantime, lives are changed or destroyed and reputations ruined over shoddy reporting. Even if the truth is later revealed, by then it’s too late. The damage has been done.

Responsible reporting is a tough job. The story has to pique the interest of the people and it needs to be done quickly so it’s not scooped by someone else. Perhaps a little more time is all a reporter needs so they can check their facts before going public. It’s the media’s job to make us feel the news they’re reporting. If they can hook us emotionally, we’ll keep coming back for more.

Hear me! Tragedy or conviction of an individual does NOT remove the rights of their family. They still have a right to privacy, and to choose how or if they interact with the media. Oftentimes lawyers and law enforcement request that families refrain from speaking to the media at all, especially when there is an ongoing investigation. The typical response is to punish the family for their silence, using phrases like “refused to talk to us.” Families are treated as if their lack of interaction is a sign of having something to hide.

A friend of mine said we tend to process the news by either consuming it or condemning it. My guess is you and I have chosen both of those routes depending on what’s being reported and whether or not we agree. We are all guilty of assuming that a quick snapshot of a situation gives us the full picture. We assume, and from our vantage point, we’re sure we’re right even without knowing the whole story.

Words have tremendous power. With just a few clicks of a mouse and some carelessly chosen wording, we (the people on the internet) become judge and jury, and we’re bold about it because we’re holding court from behind a computer screen. We don’t have to see the pain in people’s eyes, or hear the sobs that wrack their bodies. We don’t have to form responses for questioning children who don’t understand the cruelty in the world. We proudly boast of freedom of speech until someone opposes our opinion and we don’t want to afford them the same freedom.

We don’t always consider the consequences of wielding our weapons of words. I don’t believe our hearts are evil, we just don’t always think before we speak or type. Notice WE is my chosen pronoun. I am guilty, but I want to do better. I want to BE better. Because of what I’ve experienced through my reaction to the Columbine tragedy, my friend’s conviction and now Leelah’s story, I’m choosing to step into a deeper level of maturity. I’m going to work on my discernment and how I respond to such things.

You see, Josh/Leelah is my family. His/her mom is my cousin. Carla is a good woman who loves all of her children. She is well-liked in her community, yet she’s being called a monster who rejected her son. One media source reported “years of abuse” based on the suicide note. It’s an unfounded claim, but no one seems to care. Because she’s a Christian and wouldn’t allow her child to undergo a sex change at the age of 16, she’s been labeled a homophobic, strict, hateful mother. There’s a bigger picture than the snapshot blowing up news feeds.

We, the public, have done it again – swallowed everything fed to us even though the investigation is ongoing and we have no idea what will come out of it in the end. Because Josh/Leelah struggled with her/his gender identity, there are many who are viewing this as if it were a hate crime perpetuated by the parents. THAT is what has gained global media attention. Josh/Leelah’s suicide does not give the media license to harass the family and report false and incomplete information. We need to expect more from them, and from each other.

After Josh/Leelah’s death, someone created a Leelah Alcorn Facebook profile, hacked Carla’s Facebook account and sent friend requests and messages to her entire friends list, and began posting hateful messages to her from her dead child. Carla is bearing the brunt of the blame for Josh/Leelah’s suicide as if it were her choice to lose her beloved child in this horrific manner. Merciless internet trolls posted her phone number on the web and encouraged people to harass them and make them pay for “killing their child.”

What we’re not seeing in the media are the reports of them having to call the police because of people peeking in windows, or news of all the hate mail they’re receiving, or anything about the group who plans to picket at the funeral. The LGBTQ community is leading the way in this “fight for justice” yet all we’re seeing is hateful vitriol. Isn’t there a better way to further the cause than to treat a grieving family with such callousness? Doesn’t the hate speech and encouragement of violent behavior coming from them contradict their mission? How is it any different than those who use the same tactics against them?

There’s a petition circulating to try to force Carla and Doug to use the name Leelah on the headstone instead of Joshua Ryan Alcorn, his birth name. As if that’s a decision that should be made by anyone other than the parents, especially the parents of a minor. That is not up for public debate or decision. Why on earth would we think it should be? None of us would want others to cross that line into our personal business like that.

A few of my friends posted the Leelah articles on their Facebook pages out of concern for the way transgender conversations are handled in the Christian community. I have no problem with that. I too am concerned and saddened by the lack of love shown in a lot of these situations. I have many friends who identify themselves as LGBTQ. I have always done my best to love everyone regardless of their gender identity or belief system, and I don’t withhold my love and affection based on a set of religious beliefs. In fact, my set of beliefs is the larger context for how I love others and there is no room for anyone to be left out of that. I prove that over and over, publicly and privately. There are lots of Christians out there who feel the same way I do but we are often labeled and rejected before given the chance to show it. I welcome respectful discussion on this and any other topic, but I’d like to get back to the point of my post.

I want to encourage you to have discernment when you read or watch the news, and to firmly grasp your humanity as you remember the humanity of others.

Please think before you speak or type.

I didn’t know Eric and Dylan’s families, but the Columbine tragedy and my reaction to it shaped me. I am sorry I jumped to harsh, unfair conclusions based on what I heard and read. I saw them as one-dimensional people as presented by the media and didn’t let their grief touch me.

My friend who is in prison? I miss him terribly. I love his wife and daughters and I am investing in their family, loving them through a tough time and speaking out on their behalf because they can’t. The media trashed them when they did nothing to deserve it. They were collateral damage. There have been no corrections or apologies and they don’t expect them. The media kicked them while they were already down.

PLEASE don’t do the same to my cousin and her family. They’re deeply grieving the loss of their child and being judged and crucified by people who know nothing about them. People who feel justified in their cruelty and want to make them pay. There are three other children missing their brother today. I wish I could protect them from the ugliness of those who don’t feel these kids are off-limits. Imagine yourself in their shoes and the terrible grief they’re experiencing. Let your heart ache for their loss, and don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Josh/Leelah left behind a gaping hole in our family. There was no hatred for him/her. He/she was and is deeply loved.

The media is selling you a snapshot before the larger picture has been developed.

Don’t buy it.

**I chose to use both gender pronouns to honor Josh/Leelah AND his/her parents. There is no malicious intent behind my decision though it will undoubtedly upset some of you.

angi

Angi Sanders Painter

Passed away. Left this earth. Went home to be with Jesus. Died.

Cancer sucks. That’s not news to anyone. All of those phrases fail me. There’s no sufficient way to convey the rending I’m experiencing losing my friend Angi so unexpectedly, but let me try.

There’s hemorrhaging in my heart and I can’t staunch the aching flow. My stomach is twisted and I yearn to curl up in my bed and cry myself out. My throat is clogged with unspoken words and questions…so many questions. I have phantom limbs burning to hug her once again. The pounding rhythm in my head cries out that life is not fair. It never was. It never will be.

Everything aches.

Outwardly, I’m placing one foot in front of the other, keeping my chin up, and plowing through my to-do list. I have a family to take care of, a conference to prepare for, and a life needing to be lived. I cannot change my circumstances this week and won’t be gathering with the rest of her loved ones (Oh, how she loved me, and I her) as they honor her life, so I’ll do that here, with my words.

She loved my words and never stopped telling me so, especially when I couldn’t seem to string them together in a coherent thought without chasing them down rabbit trails. My words are wild things I’m still learning to capture and contain, but she never stopped telling me I could do it. She always believed in me. I’m sure she still does.

We met fourteen years ago at my son’s first birthday party. We became great friends, though she told me later that I scared the crap out of her. She was on the quiet side while I only visit there occasionally. ;) She embraced me and my family and loved us well. We spent hours shopping, creating, sipping, laughing, and lounging. We helped each other pack and move, got lost in long theological arguments discussions, held each other during the painful parts of life, and when we no longer shared a city, made sure the phone lines between us worked properly.

Kyle and Angi

I can still see her blush as she told me about meeting Kyle and hoping he was “the one.” I can hear the laughter and conversation around our dinner tables as we spent time in each others homes after they were married. My mommy heart remembers the love I felt towards him as he hoisted my little Max into his fishing boat and handed him a wrench, setting him to “work” with him and calling him “little buddy”.

It was a Sunday morning when my friend Angela called to tell me Angi and Kyle were in a terrible car accident and Kyle was killed. I flew back to Indy as fast as I could to trudge through that nightmare with her. We slept a little and talked and cried a lot. We found ways to celebrate our togetherness while grieving such a terrible separation from him. It was horrible and beautiful. I remember lying next to her on their bed while she dialed his number over and over again just to listen to his voice mail message, tears streaming down both of our faces.

She held me through some terrible losses of my own, making sure my family was fed when I could barely function, gifting me with things I couldn’t buy for myself, speaking encouragement to me even when I didn’t want to hear it. Always loving me and thanking me for our friendship.

She was a teacher and amazing with children. She changed the lives of lots of little people and their families. When I decided to homeschool, she not only supported me but told me, “If anyone can do it, it’s you.” She helped me figure out my kid’s learning styles and gave me lots of recommendations. She called me to lament over some of her student’s home lives and wanting to take them all home with her. She had a big heart and a certain grace for parents even when she wanted to wring their necks for not seeing the treasure they had in their children. I loved that about her.

I’m good at a lot of things, but my kitchen skills? Not so fabulous. I’m a follow-the-recipe kind of girl, but Angi was one of those annoying people who throw things together and voila! It’s a gourmet meal. Angi taught me a few things about southern cooking and we had lots of crazy discussions about the way to a man’s heart. I teased her and made her blush when I told her us Yankee girls had our own suggestions on how to get that done. Ha! She patiently showed me how to make her Chicken and Dumplings, and it’s her mama’s sweet potato pie recipe that I’ll bake (with pumpkin) next week for Thanksgiving, as I do every year. I taught her how to make Beer Brats, so I think we’re even. Wait, that wasn’t me, that was my husband. Never mind.

Angi and Niki

Angi drove all the way to Oklahoma City to surprise me at a Ladies Retreat I was speaking at. On one of her trips to visit me in Colorado, she held my hand while I got my first tattoo, though no amount of cajoling could make her join me. She took me to a traveling Lord of the Rings exhibit and bought me a Galadriel ring, only making fun of my nerdery a little bit. She taught me how to make jewelry and I taught her how to get organized, something she told me she’d get around to someday. We started and failed in a business together. I shared my beloved mountains with her. She went to summer camp with me for several years as my nanny – the best one my kids ever had. She loved all of my children, but had a special bond with my Zoe. Maybe it was a girl thing. Maybe it was a Zoe/Angi thing. I loved watching them together.

When I started blogging back in 2004, Angi called me and said, “I just found you on the internet! Well, it’s not you, but this lady could be you, you’re so similar.” And that’s how I met my friend Pam, a kindred spirit on the other side of the country. Angi brought us together. She was good at that.

Angi and Toby

A few years ago, she called me and said, “Let me tell you about Toby!” I giggled as she gushed about this man she had met and how sweet he was. She felt so lucky to have found love again, something she had always doubted she would find in the first place. She was so happy to have such a great love and sang his praises about his care for her. Because life is complicated, I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him face to face, but I love that man for loving my friend! I wish they had been able to make the trip out to Colorado like they had repeatedly tried to plan.

Angi and Holden

Then there is Holden. What a beautiful little blessing he is! Angi was heartbroken over not being able to have children, but she and Toby began preparations for adopting that sweet little guy before he was even born. He changed everything. A lot of my current agony is for him. He’s got an amazing daddy and I trust that he’ll grow up hearing stories about his sweet mama and how much she loved him.

Painter Christmas

Back to the “C” word. The first time Angi told me she had ovarian cancer, it took me about 5 minutes to go through all the stages of grief. Then I became Warrior Niki. I prayed with her and for her. I told others to pray for her. I took on whatever role she needed me to take on while we talked. I became loving mother, encouraging friend, ass-kicker, and grieving sister. Many of our phone conversations took place while she was lying on a hospital bed with a tube in her arm, or in the middle of the night when she knew I’d be awake to talk with her through the nausea and insomnia. I tried to be there in spirit during the good days and bad. I didn’t get the chance to be there in person, but she never held that against me.

A few weeks ago she texted me:

Angi Text

I’m a writer. I can’t believe my last words to this woman I love were, “Awesome!!! :) I’m so glad!” I have so many other words I could have chosen, but I didn’t know. I thought we’d have several thousand more exchanges. I wish we had. By the time I found out she had been given two weeks to live, she was already gone. It was another shocking Sunday morning. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I’m terrible at goodbyes, but I would have found a way.

I am awed by her life and so very grateful she shared it with me. She was strong and weak and real and bursting with love and faced everything even when she wanted to run and hide. I am devastated by her death and healing will be slow, coming in waves, because that’s how I do things.

A well-meaning friend posted something on my Facebook page about not grieving because I know I’ll see her again. Yes, Angi and I shared our faith too. But friends, while I am confident that we will meet again someday, that sentiment doesn’t do me a bit of good today. It’s not comforting at all. My deep sorrow is not indicative of my level of faith, it’s a testimony of my overwhelming love and compassion, something gifted to me by my heavenly Father. This sucks, and I think God thinks so too.

Ang1

For those of you reading this that knew her too, I say grieve how you must, without guilt or platitudes or rushing through it. Now is the proper time for that, so do what you have to do. No matter where you are, be thankful for the ways Angi impacted your life. Speak or write the words you’re choking back as you relive the memories you made together. Honor her.

For those who didn’t know her, I hope I’ve given you a glimpse of who she was. She was a beautiful soul and she will be greatly missed.

It’s been a hard week, and it’s only Tuesday! My friend Heather called late last night and I shared a bit of my funk with her, but I still went to bed unable to escape the feeling of being crushed. People have failed me this week. I’ve failed myself. I’ve failed others, and it sucks. Like lava flowing through my veins, my anger has been an internal companion lately. I find myself getting irritated by things that wouldn’t bother me if I was feeling like myself, which I’m not.

Is this an identity crisis? Do I need to just pull up my big girl pants and get over myself?

I’m reading Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. I think she’d tell me I’m not being kind to myself. I wonder if I’m experiencing my mid-life unraveling? She describes it as a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re “supposed” to live. I’m doing heart and soul work and like Brene describing her own journey, it’s a bit like slogging through mud on my journey to living wholehearted.

I’ve been focusing on all the times I HAVEN’T kept my word, said or done the kind thing, loved someone well, served with compassion, finished what I started, and lived like I wanted to. I’m caught in the sinkhole of wanting what I won’t ever have and feeling sorry for myself. But it’s not just a pity party; it’s a deep grieving for an impossible relationship. Most of the time it’s emotionally manageable, but in my current state, it cements me in the bottom of the sinkhole. I need a rope.

I woke up this morning to a text from my friend Cherie. As we messaged back and forth, she made me laugh and I felt a little sun. I shared a bit more of my funk with her, and she spoke my name back to me, reminding me who I am. I lay in bed for a while, crying to God about my life and the uncertainty I’m feeling. Pete must have crawled in our bed after Benny left for school this morning because he was curled up asleep on Benny’s side. As I was wiping my eyes, his little voice said, “What’s wrong mommy?”

“I’m just sad right now and I’m talking to God about it.”

A minute later, my phone beeped. It was a Facebook message from an old high school friend. Stephen shared a video of his lesson from last Sunday, telling me that somewhere in the middle of his talk about Grace, he told the story of a time in high school when I called him out. It’s a story he has shared several times because for him it was a rooster’s crow…a call for a new beginning. A call to remember the grace we live in. He thanked me again for allowing God to use me to get through to him. I cried some more. The year I met and knew Stephen, my senior year, is one I’ve always referred to as my year from hell. But God used me in that hell and He gave me a few good friends. Stephen reminded me of that today of all days.

I guess that’s three rooster crows. Heather. Cherie. Stephen.

I’m still in my pajamas, and I may stay that way today. That’s okay. In my core, I know who I am. On the outside, sometimes I forget. My face is dry now, but my heart still hurts and I’m crying out to God. He’s the only one who hears the things I don’t feel safe enough to share with other people. He doesn’t hand me my big girl pants and tell me to snap out of it. He’s the one who sends three friends to speak life to me and remind me who I am, and then He holds me while I cry.

Watch the whole thing, but minutes 16-20 are about the rooster crowing. Good stuff! Here’s the link:

Undeniable Grace

P.S. My memory surrounding the letter I gave to Stephen is a bit hazy. I’m a wordy girl, so I’m sure the song lyrics weren’t the only thing I wrote, but I can’t remember what else I said. I only remember how nervous I was giving it to him, prepared for the possibility of it being the end of any friendship we did have. Lucky for both of us, we weren’t close enough friends for me to make him a whole guilt-inducing mix tape. Imagine slogging through that! ;)

And Stephen, if you read this, I’m humbled I’m part of your story. My heart is the same, but my methods have changed, and like you, I’m all about God’s grace! Thank you for messaging me today. Your timing was perfect.

I shared some thoughts a few months ago on Peter and the rooster crowing:  Jesus, Peter, Me, and the Number Three.

Catching you up on the photo challenge pics:

10-ArchitectureDay 9 “Architecture” – The Denver Central Public Library is a 540,000 square foot monstrosity of “public happiness.” Designed by world-renowned architect Michael Graves, the library opened its doors in 1995. The building is a work of art, but nothing compared to the beauty it houses. I took this photo on the top floor.

10-sign

Day 10 “Sign” – They missed one. ;)

11-StrangerDay 11 “Stranger” – Taking pictures of strangers isn’t that strange for me. I was coming out of the movie theater and saw this girl standing against the wall reading my friend Kim’s book. I was so excited, I asked if I could take a picture to send to Kim. She was gracious enough to let me. Strangers don’t scare me, but I might scare them.

12-View from your windowDay 12 “View from your window” – Greetings from inside the car wash.

13-reflectionDay 13 “Reflection” – See me twice? Try to look me in the eye.

14-treeDay 14 “Tree”

unnamedDay 15 “Vehicle” – Frontier Airlines flight into Kansas City, MO. My favorite transportation this week.

16-AnimalDay 16 “Animal” – This is a rescued sea turtle living at the Kansas City Sea Life Aquarium. You can’t see it in this photo, but he’s missing his front right flipper.

17-Itty BittyDay 17 “Itty Bitty” – How does anyone write in something so small? The second one is more my style.

18-musicDay 18 “Music” – Music moves me. I play several instruments poorly, but I play this one the best. She was a gift from my love. She spends way too much time in my closet these days.

 

The 47 Day Photo Challenge

My friend Don and I recently started another challenge. You can read all about it (and check out the great photos) on the blog I created for it: http://47dayphotochallenge.wordpress.com

It’s fun and creative, but I was most excited about practicing consistency, my lifelong pebble in my shoe. That’s why we call it a challenge. We have 30+ friends who’ve joined us so far. The majority of us are amateurs (me) using our smartphones and apps to capture our vision of the day’s subject. A few of us are using pretty sweet cameras and know a thing or two about lighting and composition. All of us are in it to have fun. At the end of each week, I’ll post my pics here too. You can click on each photo to enlarge it.

1-Love-Niki1-Love

2-Beverage-Niki2-Beverage

3-Something Blue-Niki3-Something Blue

4-Looking Up-Niki4-Looking Up

5-Workspace-Niki5-Workspace

6-Heart-Niki6-Heart

7-Laugh- Niki7-Makes you laugh

8-Texture-Niki8-Texture

Storyline-Conference-Single-Header

I am in Nashville, Tennessee for Donald Miller’s Storyline Conference this weekend. Let me tell you how it all came together.

My Texas friends Chris and Allen, and my Colorado friends Luke and Jason, all attended Storyline and came away changed men. They don’t know each other but they’re all men I hold in high esteem, and they know me well enough to know that I needed to attend Storyline, and they told me so. Though I was hopeful, I knew it would take tremendous finagling and a small miracle to make that happen. And it did.

Luke emailed me a few months ago to let me know for the conference in Nashville would have a “pay what you can afford” option, and encouraged me to register. He and his wife wanted to help make this happen for me.

When we got our tax refund, I got online and registered, paying money that wasn’t “extra” but trusting that God and my extended friends and family would help make this a reality.

Chris has wonderful parents who have a time-share in Nashville, so he arranged for me to stay at a beautiful resort this weekend as their guests.

My friend Cherie gave me vouchers for two free car rental days with Hertz.

Luke rallied some other friends and they chipped in to pay for my airfare. (I want to honor them but don’t know if I have permission to publicize who they are.)

I had to come up with money for registration, the other 2 days of car rental, gas, food, and the deposits required. I’m a part of an AMAZING group of people! They’re generous, encouraging, and challenge me to leap beyond what I think is doable. I’m not a very good dreamer and tend to settle for less, so I am incredibly grateful for my people who push me to dream and pursue. I’m here in Nashville…pursuing.

Several years ago I attended a National Youth Workers Convention where the late, great Mike Yaconelli told us we tend to wear ourselves out at these things. We succumb to the pressure of attending every workshop and activity offered, sucking the marrow out of the experience so it was worth our money. He gave us permission to grab a bottle of wine and hole up in our rooms if that is what our spirits need. My spirit need both focus and rest this weekend.

I fell asleep watching a terrible movie last night, and woke up to a text from Benny. The hours in between were spent wrapped in blankets with the ceiling fan on and lots of pillows cradling my body. No dog scratching at the door, no children waking me up in the middle of the night, no saggy mattress that hurts my back, and no list of things I must accomplish today to keep life moving along. Just a dark, quiet, peaceful, beautiful room holding promises of the kind of rest that comes with stepping away from my daily routine for a bit. I chose to skip the pre-conference blogger’s breakfast this morning and wake up leisurely. No guilt. No regrets.

I’m heading out to the university for pre-registration and to find some lunch, but felt the need to blog first. I’m redefining and refreshing some things this weekend. I started this blog in 2004 and it’s morphed into several things over the years, just like me. It’s changed with my needs, wants, and pressures to be something other than what it is, and yet it’s still me and my journey.

The Open Window 2

My blog is an online window into my life. Not everyone wants that view, and sometimes I close the curtains for a bit, but I’m still here and I’m welcoming you to join me on my journey.

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