Friday, May 11, 2018

I wasn't lost, I just took the wrong train

Last week in San Francisco I took the BART to meet some family for dinner... and then quickly realized I was on the wrong train going the wrong direction.

Before my trip I sat with a great friend who lived in San Francisco and she helped me map out my trip.  I told her I was planning to meet some family in Walnut Creek and they mentioned it would be about a 45 min BART ride. Me, a privileged South Texas girl who has never really needed to use public transit, felt a little nervous but knew it was figureoutable (that’s a word).  My knowledgeable San Fran friend explained it to me, showed me maps, and I felt confident I could tackle this venture. 

I found my way down the stairs, I got my clipper card, and down another set of stairs to where the train would stop.  There are two sides to the platform, I found the side with the destination Walnut Creek on the sign and I was ready! The train pulled up, I hopped on, and was on my way! It was also about 4:30pm so it was PACKED. All got dark for a bit as we went under the bay (which I had to just not really think about because WHAT THE HECK!? TERRIFYING.)  
I’m not sure what it was that triggered me…I am not familiar with California, the landmarks, or the stops on this trains path… but something told me I was not on the right train. I pulled up my map, and sure enough. NOPE. 

I immediately took a screen shot and sent it to my family and said, “I feel like I’m not going the right way…’’ They confirmed to which I simply responded “dammit.”
So, my stomach jumped just a bit, said a few bad words, laughed at myself, and got off the train immediately.

I realized my error, I was on the correct side of the platform, however there are multiple trains that take different paths, even though they’re initially headed in the same direction. Instead of waiting for the right one, I got on the first one in the right direction.

It was a beautiful day; the Athletics stadium and Oracle Arena were right next to me so I used the opportunity to take a moment of silence for my Spurs who were just knocked out of the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors days prior…I wouldn’t have seen that had I not made the mistake.
I didn’t just get in a cab and let it take me where I needed to be, they didn’t tell me to just stay put so they could come and get me. That would have taken way longer and would have robbed me of a life experience. I just felt the gentle jump in my gut of ‘yikes, this is so unfamiliar, I have no idea what I’m doing.’ I felt bad that I was running a little behind schedule. But they weren’t upset, they knew it was part of the journey. It was part of my experience. Even though my cousin gently poured salt on my Spurs shaped wound.

I wasn’t lost, I just took the wrong train. I got to see some cool stuff along the way. It took a little extra time to get where I was going, but it was all part of the experience. My family was texting helping me to get on the correct train, and then when it came, I still had to pay attention and double check to make another swap to get to the one that would eventually get me to my destination. They were helping me navigate, but it was still up to me to get on the right one.  I got to where I needed to be.  My family hugged me and we all laughed when I arrived.

I came across this photo of me from that day when I was waiting for the next right train to come.  At that moment the lighting was perfect, the wind was dancing about, and I felt so happy. I was in the wrong place, but I felt such joy.

Our job in life isn’t to rescue each other. Our job is to see people where they are, offer the help we can, and then know that they have to pay attention to get to where they’re going… and if they still miss the train? Well, there will always be another one to get back. They will get where they’re going eventually.

If I hadn’t made those mistakes, I wouldn’t have learned the BART and how to use it to get to the airport a couple days later. I learned something, I experienced life through that wrong train.

My people championed me. They didn’t rescue me, or get mad at me for the delay, or for the foul words. They just helped me from where they were, and they were there to pick me up when I finally arrived.

I wasn’t lost, I just took the wrong train.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

and a happy new year!

Oh, the difference a year can make. New Year's Eve is my favorite holiday. It's always made my spirit feel alive. Everyone is still high off the lingering Christmas Spirit, and just days after I enter a new year of age, we all turn the calendar to a new year. I know it's just another day, but it's 24 hours where most of this planet is celebrating, and when I take time to evaluate all that has happened the years prior, I get excited at the possibilities of the next.

A few years ago, when we were entering 2011, I sent out about 20 break up tweets to 2010. I had been laid off from my job, I was separated from my husband, I was in love and completely heartbroken, and was living life as the worst version of myself. Life was a mess, and I couldn't wait to see that year take a hike. Last year I wrote a piece and reflected on my 2016, its unexpected kindness, incredible life changes, and mostly joy.

As Christmas rapidly approaches, as well as my 32nd birthday, I've been reflecting on all that has been 2017. My family has struggled with a few losses and we have been watching my 89 year old grandmother’s memory disappear in front of our eyes. I had a few court dates that ended with mostly resolution and am now co-parenting very well. I made new friends that I believe will be everlasting as well as reunited with family that at one point I feared were forever lost. I believe this has been a year of coming into my own, as the author Brene Brown says, I've learned to “brave the wilderness” in many ways from politics, spirituality to personal development. I've left the comfort of what I've always been taught to be true and decided what I believe to be true. I've experienced an incredible amount of spiritual growth, deconstruction and reconstruction, which has been escorted in by self inventory & awareness. I've come to understand the differences between who I've been told I am, who I am not, and who I actually am...and the best part is I'm pretty happy with the result and continuing to work on the parts I'm not.

I heard recently that it takes a year to be comfortably single, and I think that's true. I've gone on over 25 first dates this year. Over 25 first date outfits. Over 25 times I gave the rundown on the new guy to my girlfriends and over 25 times I had to then say 'nevermind..." About 10 times I've told the longer version of my story and about 9 times they walked away from it, and 1 time that I did. All of these dates, only a handful of second dates, honestly very few bad dates, however none were never ending. Over 25 dates and for the first time the idea of being in a relationship is equally as terrifying as the idea of never being in one again.

So now here we are, 2018 peeking over the horizon, and while I won’t say I've made New Year resolutions, I will say I am posturing myself in a way to experience life as it comes; to stop chasing things other than development, joy and peacefulness.  Sure, I'd love to lose 12 lbs, and keep a cleaner house, and eat right, and read all of the books...but none of these things will make me a good human.

2018 will be about rolling with the punches with grace. It will be focused on intentional screen time rather than a knee jerk reaction to 1 second of un-busy.  This year will be less about dating, and more about letting love come to me when it's ready, meanwhile being a good steward of the relationships that sow into me so well. I always hope to stumble upon a lifelong love, however I have a guaranteed lifetime of me and need to be sure I honor it. This year I hope to understand my kids individualism more and love my family well.. I hope to take trips, maybe go on an adventure, but most of all just be as present as I can be with whatever greets me along the way. Cheers, my friends. I hope this year loves you well; be good humans this year.

you will find your way.
it is
in the
same place
your love.



(nayyirah waheed)


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Dear 2014 Me, Love 2017 Me

Dear 2014 Me,

I see you. I know right now everything, literally ev-er-y-thing- every breathe, every morning, every dollar spent, every text you get, every wake up, and every sleep- every.thing. is terrifying. All of it. I know. I'm sitting here remembering how life was petrifying and the tears are not stopping. I hate how quickly I can pick my current self up and place me back where you are and feel it all again.  I remember it all too well. And to be honest I'm still terrified about some things but, I also need you to know, that here I sit, somewhere a few chapters away and we made it. We're making it, and life is really beautiful.

I can promise the kick in your gut, you know the one that just been sitting there, where you cannot catch your breath for months?  That kick finally pulls back and you will be able to fill your lungs all the way up with air. You will breathe again.

That big hole in your chest where you heart feels it broke and crumbled and fell straight out of your person? Well, somewhere along the way these humans start to see you, and they hold you up when you're tired, and they cry with you when you're sad and when you're happy. They laugh, and talk, and they enjoy who you are. And one day without you even noticing,  you realize that these incredible humans had been picking up all those tiny pieces without even telling you they were doing it. And they don't attach strings to the pieces, they just start putting those pieces back where they belong. And after just enough hugs, tears, dancing, and laughing you realize that that hole is sewn shut, and all the pieces are put back together even better than they were before. I know it sounds insane, but I'm telling you its true.

I can tell you that you're going to feel like you missed a lot of time with your kids. I KNOW you're exhausted, and you're heartbroken, sad, scared, and you're so anxious, I'm pleading with you to STOP and play. I promise you-what just feels like tomorrow- you're going to wake up and your son will be 4 and your daughter will be 5 1/2 and you'll realize that you have children and not babies or toddlers. One of the hardest, meanest, lessons I've learned since I was you, is they wont ever go back to being little again. This is your one shot. So pause where you are and hug them, and play with them, and put your phone away, and just be there to experience it.

I want you to know that so far, you've made your goal. Your phone and your electric have NEVER been turned off. Not once. I want you to know you get to stay in your home for a couple of years-you actually grow out of your home because it's so full. And everything you have is YOURS. You go from absolutely nothing, to a home overflowing. You create a beautiful space that you want to be in and invite people into. When you write it won't it wont be on your phone, but you'll use a laptop, and sit at a desk, where you also get to work from home in the best job you could dream of. And there is a framed note above it that reads "she created a life she loved" and you'll weep and weep as you write a letter to you because you just cannot believe that this is your life. You're making it. And you'll buy Christmas presents, and you can take weekend trips with friends, and you're co-parenting, and although your life is different than you ever imagined, it's yours. And its beautiful.

I know you don't believe me now, I truly don't blame you. I know you cannot see past the impossible things in front of you, but I am you, and if you could only see you now...

Just keep getting up everyday. I promise, it'll be worth it.

2017 Me.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Big Love

“Big Love, -R”

This is my favorite way to sign letters and emails.  I don't mean it as a quick advertisement for an HBO show, but more to give a visual. I mean it to feel like a hug, to paint a picture of something larger than a 'love ya' and maybe less than "I love you", but I have BIG LOVE for you. We all have different types of relationships in our lives, they might all look a little different but the one thing that bonds people is dealing with hardship and struggle, and seeing it through to the other side. If there is a huge deadline at work, seeing teamwork and support for each other makes a workforce stronger. In a marriage, pushing through the fights and the really hard stuff bonds you together. Walking through the fire with friends and family, in whatever hell or struggle they're in, tightens that relationship and builds that trust. I believe that as humans we’re created for relationships.

I brag about my friends often, because they have been my life-line over the past two years. So, when it comes to my very best friends, I know I'm fiercely loved by them. I think of them as protectors, people who often see my value more than I do, keep me encircled, and keep me protected. They constantly remind me that I am to be treasured, and they will accept nothing less for me. They keep their arms locked in a circle around me, like an impossible game of Red Rover for anyone who tries to pursue. I treasure this circle of friends and the fierce love they provide me. 

In dating relationships I struggle terribly, on one hand, with not being in a hurry, and on the other, wanting to unleash this love I have stored away. I so badly want to share this love, but it's not just for anyone, and despite what's been suggested to me as of late, I am very much not desperate. The boy I dated last year could, in the same breath, make me feel absolutely treasured & adored as well as a complete after thought. It was truly quite a talent. We had our predictable weekly schedule and that's how it remained, Wednesday was date night and the occasional Friday or Saturday unless of course he had a family event, or football, a holiday, or was out of town... He kept me in my box, and I wasn't to peek over the top to try and see anything outside my calendar days. This relationship left me feeling like I was “rushing him,” but there is a difference between not moving too fast and not moving at all. One of my favorite lyrics is “my love’s too big for you, my love,” I’ll sing it over and over and over because; I tell you what, my loves too big to fit in a box.

The love I feel from God is that I am His favorite... the same way I think you are His favorite. The same way Collins is my favorite because she's so smart and hilarious and witty and so beautiful, and Austin is my favorite because he's tender hearted, and sensitive and cuddle and so stinkin' adorable. I don't know what God looks like, but I imagine him as a big burley kind of guy, nothing fancy or over the top in a white robe. I imagine He is enjoying observing my life as I would a toddler stumbling around trying to figure things out. I picture Him redirecting me at times, sneaking away dangers before I reach them or even see them coming… I think He enjoys me and adores me, sits with me in the darkness, links arms with me through the hard stuff, laughs when I dance, and more often than not, face palms when I'm totally getting it wrong. I think He loves me like I am His favorite. 

I’ve experienced contingent love, something that looks like love, but does not feel like love. From my experiences, mean people don’t bother me a bit; I keep them at bay. But mean people who disguise themselves as nice people bother me a lot. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced this most from people who say they follow Jesus.  They might follow Him, but they haven’t watched Him, learned from Him, and made any attempt to align themselves with His love. They twist and turn and make someone pure and beautiful into something very dirty and offensive. This is not my Jesus. Jesus was love.  He didn’t love people in spite of their struggle; he just loved them because they are people. This is BIG love. Nichole Nordemon’s song ‘Dear Me’ says, “and sit at all the tables, ‘cause Jesus eats with everyone.” This line makes me cry every time. This is Big love. This is the love I’m talking about.

I’m an introvert, so when I meet someone I struggle to let them in sometimes, and my resting bitch face does not help the situation. (I have friends to this day that say they thought I was such a bitch when we first met because, as one put it “your face is truly dreadful.”) But I feel love for people DEEP in my bones. The only way I know how to describe Big Love is as a mixture of all of these things. My love is big, but it has boundaries to keep it BIG. My love is Big, but it's mine to give away, not for you to take. My love is Big, as my heart breaks when other people’s breaks. My love is Big as I cry in celebration with candidates who take a sigh of relieve that they now have a job. My love is Big, when the kids and I hand out water bottles, food, an umbrella, a coat and anything else we have to give to the man on the corner of the road. My love is Big, so I sometimes leave kind notes on parked Police cars. My love is Big, and that’s why I can still seek love from a partner even though it's been taken advantage of before. My love is Big so I cheer for those who advance around me even when I disagree or feel envy. My love is Big so I can still believe that Jesus is good, even though people represent him so poorly. It's messy and it really doesn't make sense, it’s not fair or just, and I fail a lot of times... many times in my own home, and often when I'm speaking to myself.  This is Big Love, it cannot be contained in a box. I have Big Love because I’ve received Big Love, and Jesus’ love refused to stay in a box. 

Big Love, 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

You've Taught Me

Dear Mothers and teachers of my life,

This is to you... mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, yet to be mothers, moms of many, with partners and without, you've all taught me.

To my friends that became mothers years before me, when I couldn't relate. When all I could say was 'wow, that's great' but not understanding the totality of your life change. I know I observed from afar, but I saw a change in you. I knew you had grown and were different, it was beautiful to witness. You taught me.

To all my previous step mothers, you taught me. I learned resilience, I learned from your mistakes, your attempt to bring us in, to love us as best you could. I learned some what to do's as well as some what not to do's but I know your role wasn't simple. You taught me.

To my sweet oldest friend with the brand new baby. You're wonderful, and so incredible. You've been teaching me for over 20 years.

To my previous mom-in-love, you've taught me. You've taught me joy, so much laughter, persistence, a love for heavenly Father, but most importantly to have a thick skin, and soft heart. I miss you terribly, you've taught me.

To my wonderful Gram that my heart is often achy for. I wish you could see these grandbabies, you would be beside yourself, they're so wonderful. You taught me to hear the music and sing along as often as possible. And to my Grandma, you've shown me what it looks like to be committed and serve. They way you have served your husband, my PopPop, long after he's left this earth by continuing to serve his shipmates and play the role of a service members wife. You've both taught me.

To my great Aunt Dorthy, I weap as I write to you, because I'm sad you're soon to leave this side of heaven, but you have taught me to invest time in my kids and one day their kids. To show up. You have taught me the beauty in putting others first and our Christmas Eve's will never be the same. In the words of Collins, "you get to see GOLD!!!!!" We'll take care of the dogs. You taught me.

To my dearest of friends, you have taught me what it means to love and support no. matter. what. You have shown me what it means to be a friend, and a wife, and a mother, and to fight for what I deserve. You teach me everyday.

To my Aunt and Cousin, you have taught me what it means to laugh despite it all and that family is the only constant. You have taught me what it looks like to be a strong woman. You've laughed with me through the hardest of times and invested your energy into me, walking through the difficulties of the last few years. I've watched you love and support your husbands and how you make each other better. You've taught me the best of the best nights are laughing together, drinking good drinks, and eating delicious food. You teach me constantly.

To my kids step mom, you have taught me how to allow them to be fully loved by another. You have stepped up in grace, taught me kindness and humility and respect. I'm thankful for you, you're teaching me.

To my incredible friend and her wife with a grown son, you teach me constantly in work, in life, and in relationships. You teach me to laugh- a lot. You've taught me so much about what it looks like to support your child as they've grown into an adult, and life lessons after some of your mistakes when he was young. You're an incredible mother, and a wonderful teacher.

To my sisters, you're lovely. You've taught me each in your own ways. We've all had our ups and downs and all rounds, but at the end of the days, we're family. You're teaching me all the time.

To my beautiful friend's that have struggled with fertility, YOU are the fiercest of them all. Trying again and again, broken heart after broken heart. Pursing so bravely after so much defeat. I celebrate you as a mother and the strongest of them all. As someone who didn't plan either of my perfectly healthy children, you've taught me an incredible amount.

To my sister-in-law, who never planned your life as it's panned out, we adore you. You are a beautiful, flawless, humble, strong, fighter and protector, and do it all with such ease. Your passion to serve, protect, and empower my nephew is magical. You've taught me.

To my single mom friends, those who feel they're really living large when at the end of the week there's still $135 in their account. Those who were able to buy a full load of groceries and new underwear for the kids. Who don't get to tap out. Who are losing their minds with the missing socks, spilled milk, and car a/c going out because all of that means money that you just don't have. Those who snapped at your kids one too many times and feel like you're failing. Those who have had the courage to ask and accept help because there's just no other way around it. I see you, I am you, and you teach me in your massive amount of strength and persistence that no one will understand unless they've done it.

To my mom, You've taught me in ways I can never count. You've taught me to FIGHT. To succeed. you've taught me to serve my family. You've taught me to be humble. You've shown me an amount of unconditional love that I can't comprehend. You've taught me how to love my children, that crying is ok...even at commercials, you've taught me to laugh hard enough to pull the car over, how to two step, cook-although I haven't been the best student. You've taught me to sacrifice and to survive after emotional abuse. You've taught me to find adventure in whatever I'm doing.

As a mom, mothers day brings copious amounts of emotions. I could never express all of my gratitude in full to all of my teachers but I wouldn't have been able to do this life without each of you. You're my teachers, the ones I'm able to link arms with, to laugh and cry with. I am your biggest cheerleader, Go Mom's Go!

Big Love,

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Party Planner

The first time I remember writing was in the 4th grade at Parkside Elementary in LaVale, MD, a very tiny town snuggled away in the mountains of Western Maryland.  We were given hard back books with, a completely white cover and clean pages and were assigned to write a story along with illustrations and at the end of the assignment we were going to read them to another class. I wrote mine about breaking my arm and having to wear a cast-I'd never broken my arm before, so it was completely fictional. At the same time my parents were in the process of separating and my mom, brother and I were preparing to move to San Antonio. So the day came, and I was going to read my book to the class next door... until I was told I wasn't... and I SOBBED. I remember feeling so left out, heartbroken, not understanding why this was being taken away from me when other kids the days previous got to, but now I wasn't. And then my teacher explained to me the class was throwing me a surprise going away party- and I cried again. They all wrote notes in a journal for me- we had cake and I felt very loved and sad that I was leaving my friends... and I still got to read my book to the class later that day. There were things happening behind the scenes, things I didn't have planned, but it was bigger and better and way more important.

My daughter believes in God. She just does. She doesn't over think His existence or how that can be, or lose her faith when things don't go her way, or when she's trying to understand hard things.  Her faith is very simple. He just is. That is what 'faith like a child' looks like. Jumping in, all of you, believing that God created us each individually on purpose. If you as my daughter anything about why she is the way she is, "why are you so pretty?" "Why are you so sassy?" "Why are you..." fill in the blank with whatever good or bad, her response is "because God made me on purpose." This is having faith like a child. It's simple, beautiful, and pure. It just is.

When do we lose that? When does our faith in God's goodness become childish and contingent?  *gasp* 'My faith in God is NOT contingent on anything. I know God exists! And I know God is good!"... But, are you sure? I've heard more times than I can count lately "God is really working today!" because something is going in favor of what's desired. Does that mean that if things aren't going as planned, He's taking the day off? He's clicked the half moon 'do not disturb' button on his iphone? (assuming he's an apple guy anyway, I certainly hope so... and fyi, my DND is on more often than not...also while we're here, just text me, don't call.) 

My friend recently got married and her wedding day was the BEST weather anyone could ever imagine for on their wedding day. Is this something to give thanks for - yes - if it rained that day does it mean God cared about her less? Not even a little bit. Someone recently got a job they wanted and said "yeah, it's been great, God is really working." This sentence just really makes me very uncomfortable. I just cannot help but be concerned when I hear this that their life is in shambles feeling completely left in the desert when something doesn't go as planned, when they don't get to read their book to the class, because they don't see that God is planning a party.

'God is really working!' when we think things are going as planned or not. God is good regardless if the current desires of your heart are met-or not. I have SEEN the waters part in my life. I have seen Him pave the way for me and all things just divinely land perfectly better than I could have imagined- but I've experienced the pain of things not going as I planned, or Him never fix situations I desperately wanted him to. I've SCREAMED at the top of my lungs at God to fix a situation or physical healing and he hasn't. I've screamed at God, physically, at the top of my voice so loud my vocal chords ached, and held a pen in my fisted hand scratching into a journal to fix my marriage, to take away my psoriasis, to heal my son's breathing problems when he was an infant, in utter desperation...He didn't. I've been ANGRY with God, in my ignorance of what's happening...But God is still working, I just can't see it yet, the party was and is still in preparation. 

He hasn't always fixed it to what I think that should have looked like- God is still good. I'm currently struggling with a bit of anxiety and depression- God is still good and still working. I have to deal with other humans poor decisions- God is still good and is still at work. We're asking for healing over my nephew with PKD, He hasn't- God is still good. I've been passed up on a job I want THREE times- I know God is still working. I make poor choices-God is still good. Humans suck- God is still good. God's goodness isn't a reflection of our humanness. It doesn't mean he's not working, we just can’t see things as he can.

I know I reference Donald Miller too much, but he talks about how the story of the forest is bigger than the story of the tree. There is no forest without each individual tree, but the bigger story isn't about the tree, it's about the forest. We are all required in this life we're all living- but there is so much more going on that we don't see, more to this life than just ourselves. God is working on about 10,000 different things in our lives, but we're only aware of about 3.

I’m in the midst of this season of questioning a lot of things I’ve always been told about God, but I haven’t questioned his existence or his goodness. We have no idea the depth of the love the Father has for each of us individually, specifically, intentionally. My faith is becoming less childish and more like a child, it’s very simple. I don't always understand why I don't get my turn to read my book to the class, but I have to trust in the process that something bigger and better and way more important is coming, I just can't see it yet.

Monday, April 3, 2017

This Mess is Mine

Confession: A fear is that the car in front of me will put on their breaks and I'll run into them in the middle of a car wash." I posted this on Snapchat, along with a photo of my windshield completely covered in suds. The reply I received said, "100% impossible." I never said this was a rational fear... in fact, how often are our fears rational?  This irrational fear stems from the fact that I was in MANY fender benders in my early driving years. However, this hasn't crippled me from getting my car washed once every couple weeks, but I still think about it every single time I do it. There are many fears I have that haven't crippled me- yet. I love dogs, but I fear some, because I've been bitten a few times. I fear losing my job, because I've been the product of "restructuring" on more than one occasion. I fear escalators, this comes from when I was 8 yrs old seeing the insides of a little boys hand after it was about ripped off. I fear being divorced AGAIN, this comes from growing up around many failed marriages. I fear being too damaged, this comes from emotional abuse. I fear becoming too hard, which comes from being told I am too closed off not once but twice in the last few weeks. These are all factors of the mess that's mine. 

A sentence I'm tired of hearing is "whyyyyy are you single?!" Not only is this a rude comment, but its ignorant. It's akin to asking a married woman "whyyyyy haven't you had kids yet?" well, that's none of your damn business. Maybe she has a deep down in her gut desire to be a mom but it's not in the cards for her. Maybe she just doesn't want dirty, sticky hands everywhere and enjoys the freedom to travel as she pleases. Maybe she fears trying again because she's had two miscarriages before, and the heartache of losing another might just kill her. The point is, she doesn't have to tell you why.

When I'm told something like "you're so great, I just don't understand why you're single!" its slightly offensive. I'm aware that it's meant as a compliment, I really do, I know that's the heart behind it... but, I struggle to not respond with "that's a good question, did you have time to sit down and talk about how badly my heart desires a partner, but all I seem to come across are those who tell me that I'm 'so cute I make a baby deer look like a pile of shit?'  and why it is that my bar is set about 10,000ft due north of that kind of 'compliment? Or how I've been on a couple really really fantastic first dates, but not been pursued by any of them. Did you want to talk about that? Oh, I'm sorry have I made you uncomfortable in answering your question...?' 

I'm encouraging of everyone owning their stories, and I'm the first to publish my mess publically, obviously. But come sit on my patio and drink some coffee or a glass of wine and lets talk about desires of our hearts and our lives and the cards we've each been dealt. Please, please do. Don't just say this kind of comment on a whim, and please don't say it with such desperation in your voice, because instead of complimenting me what you're actually doing is confirming my fear that there MUST be something wrong with me for being single. When in fact there's nothing wrong with me. I'm willing to be open and vulnerable, but I'm certainly not desperate and won't force something to happen. I unapologetically wear my heart on my sleeve because I know the reward will be great and I have too much to lose to be anything but honest about the mess that's mine. Which means sometimes I’ll drive home drenched in tears after sharing parts of my heart with someone because I could see the bricks simultaneously stacking up around them with every word I spoke.

An M.O. of mine is to stumble across a song, fall in love with it and play the shit out of it until I'm utterly annoyed with it. Recently that has been a song called Mess Is Mine, by Vance Joy. There have been days at work that this is the only song I've listened to, on repeat, all day. Hours and hours and hours of playtime this song has received from just me alone. "This mess was yours, now your mess is mine...sorry for the mess. hey, I don't mind."  I have a few friends that have been a part of seeing this mess be created, they've seen me at my worst, then helped me find my feet. They know all my secrets, details of my stupid mistakes and things I will carry with my for the rest of my life. My friends that I can call and just say 'I need you to tell me nice things" or like Leslie Knope told her best friend, Ann, "I need you to text me every 30seconds and tell me everything is going to be okay" and they'll do it. They get it, but they've been a part of it all along the way.  These are my people, the ones who make me feel like my mess is theirs too, not just mine.

I'm messy, I get that. I have two children, very limited free time, some baby daddy drama, work-in-progress-credit, and a big ol' slew of scars on my heart. It’s a mess. My fear is that my mess is too large for someone new to come and claim, and this fear comes from having yet to see it happen.

Today is a day that I believe the fear that I am in fact a mess- and I am.  But some days I believe it more than others, sometimes people confirm it, and some days I burry myself under my mess. As I saw the bricks being stacked recently, I believed my mess was my identity. But it's not. I fear being closed off, because I've been told I am, and I fear being too open, because I know I can be. BUT, this mess IS mine, I do own it because I did my part in creating it. What I wont do, is continue to live in fear that this mess will always be only mine. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ugly Grace

Grace is not pretty. I feel like we hear the word ‘grace’ and we think of it written in pretty script with lots of loops and swoops in the lettering over an image of the beach and get a warm fuzzy feeling of this sweet term. But that’s not the grace I've always known. Grace is can be hard, ugly, often involves a person with a tear soaked, snot nosed, red face, with a stomach full of dying butterflies. That’s the grace I’ve experienced. It’s difficult and usually has to come from intention, without ease.

I’ve heard stories of people being persecuted for their ‘big’ sins within the church. The things that are considered the taboo and make people uncomfortable to even talk about like pre-marital sexual relationships, affairs, divorce, and some even just drinking… you know, normal life stuff that we have all been intertwined with at some point. I’ve had friends and seen people be shunned, and shamed, and treated as if they were nothing.

My divorce has been final for two years and I just experienced this for the first time and it fucking hurts.  I’ve been in a battle of my emotions and my hurt to not speak out and react, but rather breathing deep, staying centered and remembering the amount of grace I’ve accepted from my God. To accept shame from anyone at this point would be taking a step in the wrong direction, it would be the same as a prisoner that has been freed and released to a fresh new start, banging on the prison doors to be shackled again. 

I’ve read a lot on shame, I’ve written about shame and how no one has the ability to shame me more than myself. They’ve certainly tried, however my inner voice is loud and more cruel and honest than anyone else could attempt to be. But, grace. I’ve stepped out of the prison and am well on my way to the good life, arms and legs and heart unshackled and free to live. 

Here’s the thing, and I’m sad I feel like I have to say this, no one, not even you, has the authority or power to judge anyone’s life as sin.  When we attempt to shame someone for things they’ve ‘done’ we’re attempting to step into God’s role of judgment and delivering punishment. Like saying ‘hold on, God, I’ve got this one.’ But you, my co-human, are just not that powerful.  You don’t get to decide what my punishment should be and by attempting to you’re not teaching me anything about God and you’re not acting like the Christ you say you're just being an asshole. 

MY God, is loving, and kind, and his heart is BREAKING for things I’ve endured and decisions I’ve made.  My God, even in my ‘sin’, adores me and sits beside me, and invites me to sit at the table and break bread with Him. He’s seen my red faced, snot nosed, tear soaked face, and has taken the time to know why the butterflies are dying in my stomach.  He’s taken the time to know my heart, yet still calls me His favorite. Most importantly my relationship with the Lord is mine, it is deep, and intimate, and does not need to be explained. 

Hear me friends, I’m by no means saying there isn’t consequence to our choices. There is absolutely a cause and effect to all of the decisions we make, good and bad. Believe me two years out and I’m still feeling the ache and ripple effect of my divorce…but, there isn’t an ounce of regret and I truly don’t believe God is punishing me for it.

So now that I’ve been delivered a man made punishment for my divorce I will feel the hurt and process those emotions, but I will deliver grace in return. I will act in love, not out of spite but because I have felt the depth of what grace actually is and to not extend it would be the hypocritical churchy thing to do, and I’m determined to attempt to be like the Christ I say I follow. I have a natural conviction to believe that people are doing they best they can, but I also believe we all have a lot to learn. I cannot deliver punishment to my co-humans no more than I can accept shame from my co-humans, and I’ll never return to that prison again, my God told me so.

Monday, February 6, 2017

My Story, My blog-Smiling's my Favorite

I moved to San Antonio when I was in 4th grade. Many of these friendships I still have today and thankfully we never moved too far so I was able to grow up with many of them and collect more great friendships over the years. Thanks to social media I've been able to cheer them on in all their endeavors over the years. I've seen some of them be married, some divorced and so many babies born. One starting and thriving in her own business as a lady boss, one working for NASA and one opened a school in Africa for special needs children. Some chasing HUGE dreams, traveling the world, a professional fighter and an exotic dancer. So many serving our country, pastoring churches, becoming incredible musicians, the list goes on and on. I've read a lot about creating a great life story and what is your purpose in life and what kind of effect are you leaving in the world, but I think there's more than that. As incredible as all of these things are my friends have accomplished and dreams they're chasing, there is still so much more to each of them and still so much division between people. We all have stories of heartache and triumph, family ache, religion ache, physical and emotional ache. I feel like if we were all more honest about these aches, we will learn to be more compassionate with each other, and realize were all a lot more alike than we think.

Its no secret that I'm in the online dating world. It's terrible and hilarious and exhausting-but it is what it is. I have to have to give my story over and over, a quick synopsis- grew up in San Antonio, was married about fiveish years, divorced now 2. I have two babes and they're with me majority of the time. I have a great job, I'm very close with my friends and my family. I like to run, read and write although I don't give myself enough time for any of them. I like getting out when I can but home life is my jam." I basically say different versions of this same paragraph over and over. Those are the basics, but THERES SO MUCH MORE. We all have so much to our stories, the question is how much to we tell, when, and what parts do we keep to ourselves and which parts have we never told a soul? This surface level stuff doesn't make me vulnerable, sharing these details aren't scary. The people I connect with better and tend to end up talking with longer, eventually meeting are the ones that I get vulnerable with.  The ones that ask about my kids and their personalities or they ask about my marriage, my family, my dreams and goals. That's when a connection starts to occur, when I allow them into my life, I give them a peak at some of the more tender parts of my heart rather than just 'how's the week going?"...or other ridiculous and inappropriate things they've said...that's a whole other post that's in the works.

There is so much power in telling your story. It breaks walls between people, it breaks walls within ourselves. Freedom occurs as we share our hearts cries. Each word we speak it's another blow to the concrete wall we've barricaded behind until eventually there's nothing but dust in the air and as it settles we get to experience so much more, all the things that were on the other side of the wall that we weren't able to see with it in tact-usually its love.

The most common response in my previous writing is how vulnerable I am, how much I expose myself, and I've received an insane amount of feedback that it's encouraging to others that I bare my nakedness so freely. I just don't feel like I have an option. When I write it's to tell my story, its in attempt to not allow my past to control me, to not keep my life a secret. I want more than anything to be in relationship with people, but I can't do that if I keep myself behind walls. I have to accept my past in order to step into the future. Donald Miller wrote "sometimes our identities get distorted because people lie about us and scare us, and sometimes our identities get distorted because of things we've actually done. The result is the same, though. Isolation." And I refuse to stay in isolation. Yes, I'm an introvert, but total solitude and lack of relationships is something total different. I believe we're created to be in relationship with each other which comes with the risk of being turned away, judged, labled and discarded. It also comes with a lot of love, relief to some that they aren't alone, and deep relationships with real people who get it or are challenged with a new way of thinking if they haven't walked in these worn down shoes that I have.

Brenè Brown is a genius when it comes to vulnerability and she said "I believe that vulnerability-the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome-is the only path to more love, belonging, and joy....the downside? You're going to stumble, fall and get your ass kicked."

When I was first coming back to life, and really trying to figure out who I was and take control of things of my past I wrote "It's Time."  Sharing that was a wrecking ball to the Trump sized walls I'd built around my heart, sure to keep everyone out at a safe distance, ensuring no one knew shameful details and damage that had been done over the years prior. After I clicked 'publish' I felt completely naked and terrified as those walls were destroyed (queue Miley cirus.) The result? The boy I'd gone on a few dates with said he didn't feel we could see each other anymore. This was when I knew I was on the right track. He was kind and hilarious and probably the best first date I've ever been on to this day, but he couldn't see past my past and removed himself from any future. I'd love to say I wasn't phased and was onto the next but it did come with the feelings of being too damaged, shamed, and 'will anyone want to be with me?"

But then I realized the fact that this is me. I cant be anything less, I cannot change my past, and I cannot pretend that these things didn't happen. There's that scene from The Notebook when Allie shows up and Noah's house with her suitcases(baggage), lookin' a hot mess from all the tears and heartache and he sees her from the window and she just shrugs her shoulders, like "welp, here I am. I know I've made bad, hard choices, but here I am, choosing love."

This is a reintroduction to my blog. I'm not going to remove any of my previous posts because all of it, especially my writing the last 2 years, is part of my story(baggage) that's brought me to this point.

So this is my blog, Smiling is My Favorite. I promise to be nothing but honest and open. I promise to never be malicious, but I promise to be true and own my story. I can guarantee I'll be wrong sometimes and I promise to change my mind sometimes. I promise to be vulnerable, and I will support anyone who wants to take baby steps into owning their story-whatever that needs to look like to them. I promise not to judge. I promise to listen when needed and give feedback when asked. Lets start a bigger, real, honest, conversation in telling our stories. I'll start.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Living in Lala Land (a not so love story)

Tonight I experienced the movie LaLa Land. I had a smile on my face almost the entire movie. It’s an experience like no other. It's magic. It's perfect. I said goodnight to my friend, and I got in my car still on a high from all that LaLa Land was and dreaming of when I could see it again. I turned on Johnnyswim, my latest music obsession, and was homeward bound. As I was about to turn onto DeZavala Rd just a 1/2 mile from my home, my cheeks were drenched in tears before I even realized I was weeping.

I was so happy seconds ago, but my heart aches. I struggle to quiet the lies that have been spoken into my life as truth, declaring to me that I'm a failure, that I'm not smart enough, that I'm lazy, that I lack a backbone, and that I'll end up alone.

I've been reminded many times this week that I'm in a different season of life than those I'm surrounded by. I have a permanent weekly Skype date with my two best friends. One is married with two beautiful babies, and one is married and fighting a hard fight for children of her own. Another best friend recently married a wonderful man who loves her and her, now their, two boys and are in the process of buying a home together. Other dear friends of mine very much deserve and were hired into a job I desperately wanted for myself. I'm SO, deep down in my heart, over the moon for my friends and the amazing lives they've found themselves to be in. Yet, my heart aches, and I hear the false truths mocking me again, quietly announcing to me that I'm a failure, not smart enough, too lazy, and very much without a partner.

I know I am loved. The Lord has gently, and at times abruptly, placed people in my life along the way to reveal to me how much I am loved and cherished. My life is so good right now. I have a wonderful job, my kids are healthy, their dad and I are on good terms, I'm surrounded by great people, and I've created a wonderful home for my little family. We're doing good! But, I am being transparent that in ALL the overwhelming joy I have in my life, in all my celebrations, wonderful times, perfect-to-me  friends, and life I've created- my heart still aches for more. My life is far from perfect, and I certainly am not trying to live a façade that it is. This life is HARD. I take much pride in the life I've created, but it's definitely easy to fall into lala land and what if I had done things differently.  This isn't ever how I dreamed my life would look.

In my previous life I would often be asked, "What would you do if I wasn't here? What would you be doing? How would Rhonda make decisions if I didn't exist?" and my answer was, "I've lived my life in a way so that I didn't have to make these decisions or carry the weight of it all on my own."  I married the first man I loved, the first man I slept with. I tried to do things the right way. Yet, here I am, weeping on my computer, without my children in the next room, while I make people uncomfortable reading my diary and my battle stories of emotional abuse.

I'm a survivor. I am happy. Yet my heart aches and I hear the words again:

“'re scared, that's okay with me.' You're a failure. Your marriage failed. You're failing at work. You can't afford a vacation. You will never afford a house. You didn't get that job. You don't have a degree. You're not smart enough. You're lazy. You're a liar. Look at the weight you've gained. Look at what a mess your house is. You're a terrible cook. You'll certainly never finish school because you're so lazy. You don't have a backbone. Those guys at work have backbones. They got the job you wanted-as if you had any chance of that against them. You are alone. You want to be chased? lol I don't see anyone around. You're hard. You're damaged. You're too difficult. You're too dramatic. Way too revealing about your life. ‘it will hold strong. You cannot escape the truth’ You have no time. You're frumpy and awkward and boring. No wonder there are so many first dates and so few seconds and definitely no thirds. ‘With your bitterness, hatred, non conformance, pride and small mindedness haha, so glad I'm not with that for the rest of my life! Good lord, you're a special breed of crazy.”

The enemy uses these phrases to keep me in the darkness, to ensure dominance over my life. The enemy dances these words around me, disguising them as truth with tap shoes on that rat, tat, tat on my heart relentlessly on and on, leaving me defeated and weak. This is the lala land that emotional abuse has abandon me in.


"Don't you think I hear the whispers

those subtle lies, those angry pleas

They're just demons, demons

Wishing they were free like me."


The truth is I am enough. I know I deserve greatness. I've started an incredible career for myself and am the sole provider for my children, and we’re MAKING IT. The truth is I have a linen closet full of extra blankets, and we have clothes all over the damn place. We have a messy home because we have a home that we live and play in and are abundantly blessed to have filled. The truth is I'm kicking ass and the lies that were declared to me are in fact false. I'll continue to battle them with truth, I'll continue to learn, and fail, and cry and address the invisible scars I've collected like stamps in a passport as I’ve traveled back and forth to lala land. I'll continue to dance to the music of the truth that I am free and I am oh, so worthy of love.