That time I tried to love a Narcissist

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This one has surely been a much longer chapter in my “book of life” than I ever wished I  had allowed it to be. My only hope is that at least ONE PERSON reading this now is in the midst of the struggle and will glean some helpful insight and strength out of it to walk away from the narcissist in his/her life that is wreaking havoc on every part of your existence. For once you have loved, grieved and then fully closed the door on a narcissist, you will NEVER AGAIN allow one into your heart… but first YOU have to close the door. Because they never will.

Since that first moment I started to fall for the narcissist, the uncanny power he had over my emotions never really seemed to make sense to me. I was a smart, well-grounded woman who was strong, confident and able to sniff out an imposture from a mile away. I knew what I wanted, how I wanted it and was fully in control of doing whatever possible to obtain it. Yet just a few months in, I found myself tangled in the intricate web of a spider I couldn’t manage to smash. On the days I was too happy, I was annoying. On the days I was too sad, I was “debbie downer” and unfun to be around. And then, of course, there were the days when he did something wrong and somehow it always became my fault. “I’m sorry but I did ____ because you did _____.” It was never a genuine, I’m sorry, I was wrong and I apologize for hurting you. In some way, every reaction of his was caused by a callous and childish action of mine. Many of you might have felt the frustration from trying to love a person like this. You aren’t even angry by their actions, you are just so frustrated that they literally just can not EVER accept any blame. Their inability to see or find any fault in themselves pushes the blame onto others and you find yourself questioning everything you did/do because they have brainwashed you to believe you are the cause of every issue that arises. Narcissists are very retaliative if they believe another has achieved what they desire, exposed their insecurities, or refused to be under their control. It truly is all about control… over your emotions, your feelings, your heart (although they truly don’t want love and don’t even know what it is or how to feel it).

I remember the days I spent searching for all of the reasons why I was never good enough, but at the same time he wouldn’t leave me alone… wouldn’t go away and close the door. Somehow he always found ways to find out where I was, what I had been up to, whom I was dating… it was the “don’t want her but don’t want anyone else to have her” syndrome. Later on into the demise of what could ever be considered “dating,” it turned into a “friendship” that, of course, always had benefits to him. In a matter of an hour, a conversation could go from “how are things at work” to “I can’t wait until I get you in bed to (insert whatever verb you want here, but you get the point!). I was always incredibly confused as to how “a friend”- one who 97% of the time also had a “serious girlfriend”- could all of a sudden transform into someone who was SO into me – delving out compliments galore and wooing me with kind remarks and confidence builders like no other. But the second he got what he wanted and established that he still had control over me and could manipulate me, the game was over. Interest, compliments, kind words, hell even a “hope you made it home safely,” all went away. It was silence and shunning for at least a few days, often weeks… until he needed “the high” I/we provided again. Looking back on it will absolutely make you feel as insignificant as you are in the narcissist’s mind, so I don’t recommend that on your way to healing. It was never about you, or you NOT being enough… it was, is and always will be about power and control. While you are “under the spell” they can control your feelings, emotions and ability to walk away from the situation and close the door; but the second you show signs of defying them, they will cease communication and retreat away out of fear that their power over you might be fading and you have, in fact, seen the REAL person they are. Facing that and owning up to the wrongs they have done year after year will always be too much; instead, they will move on to another victim less strong-willed, less smart and less defiant.

Shannon Alder, psychologist and writer, describes it perfectly: “Narcissists are angry, spiteful takers that don’t have empathy, remorse or conscience. They are incapable of unconditional love. Love to them is giving only when it serves them. They gaslight their victims by minimizing the trauma they have caused by blaming others or stating you are too sensitive. They never feel responsible or will admit to what they did to you. They have disordered thinking that is concerned with their needs and ego. It is not uncommon for them to hack their targets, in order to gain information about them. They enjoy mind games and control. This is their dopamine high. The sooner you distance yourself the healthier you will become. Narcissism can’t be cured or prayed away. It is a mental disorder that turns the victims of its abuse into mental patients because it causes so much psychological manipulation.”

Like anything else in life, the more you study and sharpen your knowledge about a subject, the smarter you are about said subject. Narcissism is the exact same way. After reading tons of blogs, articles and even a few books (message me if you want to know the titles, they were all wonderfully helpful), I began to feel completely “at ease” that the pain, suffering and confusion I had suffered over the last 5 years was NOT just me. I hadn’t done anything wrong or not been enough for him… I was just not “controllable” and that indefinitely opted me out as a candidate. I used to remember telling him “i know all of your flaws, all of your bad sides and terrible secrets and wrongdoings.. your shortcomings and your complete failures.. and I still love you anyway,” never knowing that is EXACTLY what a narcissist DOESN’T want. Unconditional love is not something they know, want or strive to have. I remember several really bad arguments where words were exchanged and I left the conversation saying “you have been a terrible person to so many people in your life that were good to you and one day karma is going to kick your ass and put you nearly in the ground and you know who is going to be standing there at your bedside when no one else even cares because they all say “he deserves it”? ME! I will be the one standing there because I have seen you at your absolute worst and I still gave you my best.” Little did I know, that was nothing even close to what he wanted, nor was capable of accepting.

If you are walking down a path to escape a person like this in your life, or maybe you are still recovering from one who did irreparable damage to you and your heart and mind, I want you to pray this prayer with me: Heavenly Father, I know you hear the breaking of my heart. I know you feel the reverberations of pain and disgust that are echoing from my soul and it pains you to hear me questioning myself- YOUR perfect creation. Father, in these days and the ones ahead of me, please equip me with the strength, courage and grace to close my ears to the pain and lies told by the narcissist. Quiet his/her demeaning mouth and help me to completely close the door on someone and something that is not NEARLY what you had in mind for me. Your plan, Lord, would never include someone who would denounce your very creation and make them question their worth. Your plan DOES include unconditional love, genuine apologies, responsibility for each person’s actions and maturity to be dedicated to hearing and healing when things go awry. Lord, help me to see that this “ending” is just the beginning of a beautiful life of happiness you have planned for me. Help me to close my ears to the negative, bitter words of the narcissist telling me “you will never find someone like me and you’ll be single the rest of your life.” Lord help me to dig WAY DOWN DEEP and know that no one – not even a narcissist- has power over YOUR plan for me and my happiness. While I battle this road to recovery, keep close to my heart and my mind to protect me from the lashes out of anger or the sly words of seduction from the narcissist that beg me back into their tangled web. For I know the plans you have for me.. and they DO NOT include false, half-ass, unapologetic, irresponsible, conditional love from a narcissist. AMEN!

For those of you reading this whom have been lucky enough to find “the one” without having to suffer through the pain of a narcissist, congratulations. You are truly lucky. But I would be willing to bet there is someone in your tribe, a co-worker, a family member or even a stranger that could benefit from hearing these words… from continually, night after night, praying that prayer until they are able to shut & deadbolt the door to their narcissist. All I ask is that you share this with them… shed some light on the situation and help them understand that, though the narcissist may have them brainwashed to believe that THEY are the problem, there is absolutely nothing wrong with them and the sooner they can get away from said toxic human, the better their life will be. Not all of us have an easy love story… and some of us are still writing ours… but no one deserves to feel alone, alienated and mentally, psychologically and often emotionally abused by a person who has a REAL disorder – narcissistic personality disorder. Knowledge and enlightenment is power. Power to walk away and open your heart to the life God intended for you.

Love – No, The REAL Kind

A wise and prophetic writer, C.S. Lewis, once said “love is never wasted. For its value does not rest upon reciprocity.” Yet, daily, hourly… and sometimes even by the minute in our years of life, we waste love because it is not given from a true heart. Much like we often listen just to respond, we far too often love just to feel some form of it back. Unfortunately, when we don’t get the kind, frequency and depth we want back, we strip it away from the receiver like some dog toy left abandoned by an easily distracted pet.

There aren’t too many of us who don’t know Corinthians 13:4-8 – some of us even know it word for word. Perhaps it was read at your wedding, or is on a decorative item somewhere in your house. But in our sinful human nature to want everything back exactly like it is given and we miss the blessing. Like an ungrateful giver, we often miss the forest through the trees. Life lessons over the past 3 years have taught me something I would like to whole-heartedly and transparently share with you: love, much like can be ascertained from John 4:7-12, is the commitment to the well-being of others without conditions. Did you catch those last two words? Without conditions. Not, “well I love him, but..,”  “i would love him if only,” or, better yet, “i did love him but.” Ahhhh forgiveness. A word that literally strikes fear in so many of us. Is the first to forgive the weakest or the strongest? Do we forgive but not forget? Am I a bad Christian if I DON’T forgive someone? Let’s dissect forgiveness before we get back to how it plays so integrally into love.

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Forgiveness is, first and foremost, a choice. It has been often said that forgiving someone frees the offended and hurt person more than the perpetrator. Holding onto anger, resentment and bitterness can eat away at the soul of a person with a big heart. The sooner in life you learn to move on without the apology you never got, the better off you will be. Forgiving takes courage. It’s a leap of faith and trust that laying aside every ounce of your pride and righteousness will mend a situation or give you peace. Forgiveness doesn’t usually come easily, nor quickly – causing anguish and regret throughout the process of truly and completely forgiving someone for what they did – no matter how “big” the hurt was. Loving, much like forgiving, are tangible and visible signs that faith has transformed our hearts.

Let’s put this into a “real life” scenario for those of you who might be drifting, feeling uneasy about how many times love has been thrown out in just a short 400 words, or just struggling to feel connected to this blog and how it fits into your life. Ladies and gentlemen, the kind of love your heavenly Father has for you is something you, nor I, could ever replicate and, even if we try, we will fall short of daily. Divine love is exactly what we should all be striving for, yet so many of us can’t grasp that kind of love. It’s not the kind where you post pictures on social media and boastfully comment ‘#mcm.’ Love does not boast, remember? It’s not the kind of love where you get home from a long day of work and your wife has dinner on the stove, your favorite cocktail poured and tells you all the kids are in bed already so she wants to help you relax tonight. THAT kind of love is easy. It’s what 90% of us think all of our “committed” (be it married, engaged or seriously dating) friends’ lives are like. Yet, much like us falling short of being perfect daily, our version of love falls short of the kind of love God wants us to have. It’s nearly catastrophic to me and incredibly disheartening to hear that the divorce rate in American now hovers above 50%. Nearly HALF of all who commit their hearts, love and vows to their friends and family and God, bow out on those promises. Is it because we don’t actually UNDERSTAND the truly meaning of love that God set forth in His word and made the staple and command of marriage? Or is it just because divorce (breaking up) is easier than having to work at something that isn’t wine and roses daily? If God gave up on us through the trials and tribulations of our lives like so many give up on their partners, we’d surely be struggling to believe there was an eternity of happiness in a place far greater than this earthly world! We fail God daily… daily. “Yet,” like so many contemporary Christian artist lyrics say “his love for me remains.” Why when our spouse fails us by not having the dishes done when we get home or remembering to call us the second they leave work, do we jump to disown? Let me guess, forgiving someone for messing up over and over and over again makes you look dumb? Man, Jesus must be one huge idiot then! Forgiving us time and time again while we continue to fall short of His glory, question His plans and provisions and dishonor His name. Dear friends, I am not mindlessly instructing you to put blinders on and steamroll full speed ahead when things aren’t right with someone or they have hurt you. I am, however, reminding you that easy is good and good is easy. Love, need I remind you of our ol’ favorite Corinthians, “is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Always perserveres…. what a novel idea. Not a Harlequin romance novel. Not a Facebook status update novel. A BIBLICAL novel. The one where we remind ourselves that loving difficult people shouldn’t be all that hard; afterall, Jesus does it everyday for us. Loving people who have done us wrong isn’t something that makes us weak, stupid, spineless… unless of course we are calling Jesus those same things and are ok saying that with the same mouth that asks for blessings and provisions daily?

If you could pick just one “difficult” person to love, who would it be and why. Write it down. Take a moment to think through the feelings that made that person come to mind. Did he/she do you wrong in some way that you have deemed “unforgivable?” Or are they just a difficult person – rough around the edges, temperamental, negative, close-minded? God doesn’t always give you the people you want, He gives you the people you NEED! Those who will test you to the point of exhaustion so He can gauge your ability to forgive and love above all else. Now take a moment and write down some of the things that you love about that person… things they do or say, unique characteristics, memories you have shared with them. If you can find nothing to put on the “good” side – this is NOT your person. This is NOT the person that God wants to teach you the true meaning of love through. We all have one… the ex-boyfriend who just can’t seem to get it together but we just can’t seem to get him off our mind either. The co-worker who goes from bringing you donuts one day to talking ugly about you in the breakroom with other department heads. The friend who is always ready to jump on that paid flight to a fun destination but has never invited you to one outing or event. THESE are your “Jesus tests.” These are the people God has divinely placed in your path to see just how much you can embody the love He had for you when He gave His son on the cross to die for your sins. If the above exercise was healing and cathartic, do it with others in your life who you have found difficult to love but unable to forget.

As we always do, let’s end in prayer. Love is a tough one… it’s something we ALL struggle with and surely do imperfectly, carelessly, or just not fully enough. Talking about it makes some people cringe. Walls and barriers of trust create impenetrable spaces of confusion and fear. Let’s pray on exactly that… Father God, this “love” thing you have assigned to me to be better at sure is a tough one. How you did it for us with us and in spite of all of our flaws, marks and sins is beyond me. Today, and henceforward, speak life into the ugly, stubborn and selfish parts of me that keep me from loving others like you have so graciously loved us just because they haven’t acted exactly the way I feel like they should have or done the things I want them to. Lord help me to be daily mindful that I fall short of your grace and glory daily and you still extend your mercy and love, so why do I feel entitled enough to give anything less than love to others who fall short? I beg of you to come into my heart and make room for forgiveness for those who have wronged me, hurt me, scarred me, broken me, clipped my wings… Lord remind me that forgiveness is a gift – a release of a burden that weighs down my heart and gives it less energy and vigor to love. Remind me as well that it is not my job to judge those who have wronged me, for vengeance is thine. God teach me daily to love without the need for reciprocity; to give with the heart of a true giver- a joyful, honored, blessed giver. Bless me so in my walk with you so that I may be a proverbial candle… burning myself up to give others light.

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Letter to the Year of 36

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For the last 3-4 years, I have spent the days leading up to my birthday in silent reflection. From remembering the painful moments that scarred me to reliving the joyous moments that renewed and re-energized me, it was a way to cohesively package together the trials and tribulations of a long year of life after 30. Usually, after the Facebook birthday wishes stopped flying in and I had time to embrace that there was no fooling the hands of time and turning back my age to a smaller number, I would share these “words of wisdom” in a post that I somehow always got RAVING reviews for. From complete strangers to those who literally lived all of the joy and pain I had been through in that year with me, people were able to glean some insight from it; therefore, I have decided to make up for all of the slacking I have engaged in on my personal blog by closing out 36 with a very raw, truthful, reflective look back on this last year in the form of a letter to the life I learned to leave behind throughout 36…

“Before I start picking you apart for all of the things you did throughout most of 36 that were a complete waste of time and energy, let me first and foremost give you kudos for making it through another year of life. That was a tough one…  heartache, physical and emotional pain, the death of friendships, the birth of new dreams and goals, more work hours than you would ever care to have to claim… the good news is, you have made it through 100% of your worst days – and that’s a pretty damn good track record. The world can be an incredibly cruel place. From the self-righteous and entitled to the just downright unkind, society today will beat you to a pulp if you let it. I’m proud of you – you weathered the storm and you are here to tell about it. Now… on to dissecting all of the things you did in 2018 that were important only because they taught you what you DIDN’T want out of life. This could easily compose a small novel, but let’s recap the ones that pack the most punch in a series of succinct (yet incredibly powerful) “lies we learned to stop telling ourselves”:

  1. ‘If I was just skinnier, richer, smarter (insert said insecurity here) he would want me
  2. ‘I’m just cursed’
  3. ‘If I just give him one more chance he’ll change’
  4. ‘This is the last time I’m ever going on a date’
  5. ‘I’m never letting myself fall in love again’
  6. ‘Everyone has already given up on me, I might as well give up on myself too’
  7. ‘God’s punishing me for ____’
  8. ‘I’ll never get past this heartache’
  9. ‘It just wasn’t meant for me to have children I guess’
  10. ‘Everyone else’s life just seems so much more fun & fulfilling on social media’
  11. ‘I’m jealous of them- they have such a happy (marriage, relationship, life)’
  12. Expectations… all of them. They’re the root of your continued disappointment in the way YOU saw things happening and the reactions or actions you expected!

Instead of telling yourselves lies that will leave you exhausted, empty-handed and disappointed at the end of every day, replace them with affirmations of faith, grace, love, sanity… Here are just a few of our favorites that we have learned over the last few years of life. Some might resonate better or more profoundly with you than others, but each one will pass through your “life filter” at some point or the other and some will shake you more than others:

  • You’ll learn to gauge your strength of faith by how well you clean and dress the gaping wounds of others while you’re still bleeding yourself.
  • A bad day does not mean a bad life… but it can mean a bad week, month or year if you allow your pity party to take up residency.
  • Straightening someone else’s crown doesn’t diminish the glow of your own. It’s the kindest display of “pride to the side” you can engage in. Often times, in making someone else’s day, you will make your own. Don’t do it to “feel like a good person,” do it in genuine humility and honesty and don’t tell people about it. Just straighten it and keep on truckin.’
  • Often those that have the least, give the most. The sooner you learn that gifts FROM THE HEART will always take precedence for those people in life who appreciate the well-thought-out little things and are grateful, the better off you will be. Giving is done with trust that God will continue to provide and double your bounty with your servant-hearted faithful giving. There has never been a time I have given because I just had so much money to give that I felt the need to do it… I give small amounts, often, to causes and philanthropic organizations and foundations that I am vehemently passionate about, and when I don’t have funds to give, I give my time… my baking skills… my talents God blessed me with. Giving isn’t meant to be easy- it is meant to stretch your faith that God will bless you when you bless others.

In the event that you forget these incredibly powerful affirmations we taught ourselves and learned to live by, here’s your reminder of them. May they continue to be a part of your daily palette and offered up as small bits of infinite wisdom you share like a kind disciple to those who haven’t quite learned the ropes.

In the end, you have so much to show for this year. Yes, it’s most definitely included some less than brilliant moments you could probably have skipped, but never has “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” been a more heralding tagline than this year of 36. Tonight, when you put this year to bed and wake up with a refreshed, renewed, re-affirmed plan to conquer 37 and make it your best year yet, please be mindful that growth doesn’t come without pain; love doesn’t come without heartache; blessings don’t come without battles; success & victory don’t come without defeat. Chances are you’ll chalk up a few more loses in the friend category as you work your way up the ladder of success you’ve decided to embark on here in these last few years – that’s ok, they probably weren’t really your friends anyway. You’ll for sure tick more people off with your newfound strength of character and realization that you really are NOT everyone’s cup of tea – and that’s really ok at this point in life. Let’s also have a pretty decent heart to heart on how many more times you’re likely to hear “wow, you’re still single” during this year of 37. It’s going to happen… and definitely more than you want it to; but remember with me that at 36 you owned your “singleness,” turning the question back on the asker and affirming that “it’s not your plan, it’s God’s, so you are just going to stay the course and pray He has something wonderful up His sleeve.” It won’t get easier this year. One more notch up the ladder toward your “you’re too old for kids” status only means more questioners… more nay-sayers and people who equate your being single to a definite flaw with you and who you are and what you are “hiding.” May I take this moment to caution you to not let the voices inside your head eat you alive once that person who has just berated your “late-ness” moves on to the next victim in their path. Tread lightly on your own mind and heart- true strength shows itself when we aren’t just strong because of our pride, but because of our security when even a tinge of doubt attempts to uproot your reasoning. You’re not a failure because most of society’s measure of success is in marriage and children; you’re not a reject because your timeline of life doesn’t look like the rest of your graduating class. Marry your goals sweetheart. Fall in love with your dreams and passions. Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire (other than a man) and when (not if, but when) others question it, stand your ground and proudly remind them that there is no set schedule of life other than that which God has laid out for us.

Now, let’s confidently say this together before we close this chapter and start on a new one – You kicked ass 36. You hammered your goals and celebrated, often in silence and solidarity, because no one knew the hours behind your grind. You fought through the hardest battle of life that far too many will never allow themselves to gain personal victory in – being alone; truly waking up day after day and going to sleep night after night without a human voice, a text, any interaction other than your poor Boomer, who is actually an incredibly kind, head-turning listener! Hearing your own voice and seeing your own face in the mirror instead of placating your loneliness with half-assed “love” or someone who isn’t right but “will do.” Hear this loud and clear – that battle is one of the hardest you will ever fight, but its victory is timeless… never again will you have to worry about losing yourself in someone else filling you up, filling a void, or filling your bed. You’ve learned to love the sound of your own two feet walking away from anything not meant for you, knowing that what and who God intends to be in your life will never NOT be there. Let’s do this 37.

Pride & Comparison Are Thieves of Joy

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It had been a long, stressful week and I was most excited to get out of the office and away from my work for a night of live music and fun. I grabbed my first cocktail at the bar as the opening band began belting out their tunes, welcoming the weekend. I had noticed her from the bar – a very striking woman with shoulder-length blonde hair, huge “baby blue” eyes like George would say and a slim, well taken care of shape. She smiled and laughed with her friends and looked to be just a happy person. I grabbed my cocktail from the bartender and made my way back to the open area I had chosen to stand for the concert and on the way got stopped by a former Austin acquaintance. We exchanged “current life” stories and caught up on the happenings in and around us and as I turned to leave, there she was. She grabbed my arm and said “Jenny, right?”

“Yes,” I said, “ that is me, how are you?”

“Well, she said. Thanks for asking. I think I know you, you’re from Floresville, right?”

“No,” I said. You must have me mistaken for someone else. I am from Seguin.”

“But wait.. I know I know you… I just can’t place it. Did you DATE someone from Floresville? YES, that’s it,” she said… you are (__name withheld for privacy__)’s ex-girlfriend.” GREAAATT … here we go, I thought. (Insert face-palm GIF here). I was certain my hope for a fun drama-free night out was being crushed by the second as she “remembered” how she knew me. “Yes,” I said. “That is my ex-boyfriend from a long time ago. He is married with multiple children.” And then I stood there and braced myself for her to give me a piece of her mind. Instead, she gave me a piece of her heart. She grabbed my hand and held it and spoke words of life into me.

“You are just such an absolutely beautiful soul, Jenny. I know you don’t “know” me, per se, but we all know each other through our friend groups and I am good friends with so many of your friends and our paths have crossed a million times without you even knowing. I just want you to know what a beautiful person I think you are – inside and out- and how much I look up to you as a woman. You are an inspiration to me and so many others and I just love the person I know you are without even knowing you. You exude a heart of grace and love and it is just amazing. I’ve seen how you love and support your friends and the kind of women you are to others, even those who don’t deserve your kindness.”

Wow. As tears welled up in my eyes and I stood there speechless, I know she sensed it in my trembling hand and watering eyes. Every part of me wanted to grab this absolute stranger at the bar and hug her and just tell her thank you for being REAL! As I composed myself, the first thought on my mind was remorse that I didn’t have that “impromptu pep talk” recorded for one of the surely unconquerable days that were ahead. Words like that could pull ANYONE out of the doldrums of a horrible day into smiles and happiness. “Thank you… from the bottom of my heart. Not for the words you spoke, although those are absolutely beautiful and amazing and I will treasure them forever; but for having a heart of Jesus not to judge me by the actions or “stories” you heard, witnessed or were fed from the past that you knew me by and for speaking life into me with your open heart of grace. People like you are incredibly rare. And I will remember this very moment and this very day for a long time to come.” She walked off back to her group and me to my little spot I had dug in the crushed granite by myself to partake in the rest of the music and people-watching for the night, but the mood she ignited in me wouldn’t leave me for at least a few days. And here it re-surfaces again as the subject of this blog.

“Comparison is the thief of joy,” Theodore Roosevelt wrote. It’s a quote we all have heard and know well, but it is often something we all struggle with – myself included. As a society and gender we are barraged with images of perfection. Beautiful, pencil-thin supermodels airbrushed to flawless. Filters that can make ANY person have perfect skin, bigger eyes, whiter teeth… you name it, there’s an app for it. I would be casting stones if I didn’t say this life of comparison was/is something I don’t struggle with. Through age and faith, I have grown much stronger in fighting it, but it still creeps in when I am at my weakest. That week I feel fat.. or two ugly zits pop up on my face right before a big presentation. Recognizing your flaws and faults is 90% of the battle, they say, but unfortunately, so many in the world don’t even make it that far.

Pride. It’s something we as Texans have a lot of. Too much probably. It is the nagging little voice that tells us “you better not let that girl pass you,” while running our 5K. It’s the stubbornness reminding us NOT to text that ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, or even ex-friend, that we know is struggling like we are because then we would be “the weak one.” Most of all, it is the reason we, as a society, can’t lift others up – we just continue to compare and figure out what we are better at than the next human, and then velocify that over every inadequacy we have. “Great hair? Yea well she is dumber than a box of rocks.” Why must we judge someone we don’t even know because our thieve of joy tells us we might not be quite as good at said quality/feature/talent? Like the well-known quote says “A flower does not compete with the one next to it. It just blooms.” Yet we choose not to “bloom” or to mention/call out/glorify/speak life into other people’s talents because it would make us seem “less.” Wrong. In the moment that young lady stepped out in faith and grace and approached a complete stranger at a concert to tell her (me) amazing, complimentary, loving things, she kicked pride and comparison in the face and told it to go wash it’s face. Yet we don’t do that. We scroll through our comparison log we call Facebook and pit everyone’s highlight reel with our behind the scenes battles. We struggle to put on makeup for a day and done our best moo-moo to the grocery store only to make eyes at the perfectly put together Mom who just came from church dressed like a million bucks looking like straight fire. Women of Christ, sisters… we have GOT TO stop the madness. If there is any part of your mind that believes you are superior to another human, may I remind you of the existence of God…. And you are not Him. Judgment is reserved for Him and Him alone, and though we might reserve the right to CHOOSE whom we are friends with, hang out with, spend our valuable time with, etc, nowhere in the Bible does it say we are free to judge another human because they sin differently than us – and definitely not because they put on more MAC than us or wear clothes we think is highly inappropriate. Opinion versus judgment.

I think in closing it is paramount to point out the beauty and magnitude of speaking life into other humans… women or men. We are all so worried that giving another person a genuine compliment is robbing ourselves of some confidence we might need to save up for later. We hoard that confidence stuff like it is precious bits of gold meant to make our lives better, happier, more vivacious… when in reality, if we would just the girl at the bar, the true JOY we would feel from making someone’s day would be all the feel-good pill we needed. We don’t need MORE self-gratitude, we need more gifted joy. We don’t need more competition, we need more people speaking life into those who excel at something and humbly asking for tips on how to make themselves better at said gift. God doesn’t want perfection, he wants perfect confession of our brokenness, our inadequacies, our sins. Why do you think He created a world of humans NOTHING ALIKE and all lacking in something He gifted to another person who’s path they will cross? Perfection wasn’t part of the plan… competition wasn’t part of the plan. Learning and growing from others, speaking life into existence through compliments of love, grace, beauty, talent… THAT was part of the plan. How incredibly boring of a world would it be if we were all great swimmers? All great at perfectly shaped eyebrows? All runners? All talented fishermen or hunters? BOOORINNGG! Yet we are all joined together in this world to somehow co-exist until He calls us to be back with Him and we make each day brutally sinful and life-sucking by surfing “the highlight reel” and picking new people to dislike because of their perfect bodies, great teeth, abundant success? Don’t feel alone. In the last few days since that conversation I have gone over every “bitchy” thing I have done to another woman – every judgment I made on someone who turned out to be one of the coolest humans I knew once I put my pride on the table and opened my heart. She struck a cord in me that reminded me of something that doesn’t get addressed often. She excited a passion in me to talk to God MORE about this eternal battle we all face. She opened past wounds of pain from women (and men) who did me wrong and I have continued to use them as a basis for judgment of people “like them,” often without even giving the ‘offender’ a chance to be different. Now, whatever your personal battles with those who have personally wronged you or done things to you to make you form a decision or opinion of them – I am NOT here to change that. The battle to forgive someone who has wronged you is between you and God; but may I remind you that often the only person who truly suffers from housing anger and hostility from wrongdoings is not the offender, but the offended. The stronger person is always the one who can make peace with the apology they never received.

Now, as we always do, we will close in prayer. I invite you to read the one from my heart and then take a moment to form your own talk with God in a perfectly imperfect confession of what might be on your heart after reading this. Remember, He will NEVER judge you for the sins and confessions you bring to him with a thirst for forgiveness. After all, He exist solely because we could never make it without his perfection.

Lord, this is a tough world we are in today. I know you never envisioned it this way… a people hellbent on trying every bit of your existence by competing to no end, choosing words of hate and hurt instead of speaking love and life into each other. It must pain your heart to see your children hurling insults at each other instead of lifting one another up. God we realize that life is often troubled and we often feel “wronged” by others, but today and everyday please help us to realize that revenge is yours and our only job is to keep the peace and know that you will right all wrongs in your perfect timing. Lord helps us to understand that acknowledging our faults and inadequacies does not make us inferior or flawed beyond your perfect love or the love of the hearts you have designed to be part of our lives. May you enter our hearts and minds DAILY and meet our needs DAILY to remind us to act as you would in the situations that present themselves in our lives. Lord give us courage and strength to leave pride at the doorstep and bring only love and peace and grace into your house. Remind us, God, that the words we might be thinking, but afraid to say could be the difference in someone’s day, or, better yet, their life. Convince us with hearts full of love like your son Jesus, that we too should proliferate goodness and love and kindness – not competition and defensiveness and pride. As our worst days rise up to meet us, Lord, helps us to always remember that the world is a much better place when we give people a peace of our hearts instead of a piece of our minds.

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How I Learned To Love My Legs

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It’s hard to think there’s a woman anywhere on earth who doesn’t DIS-like some part of their body. From flabby arms to skinny legs, cellulite and everything in between, the world filled with picture-perfect cover models further perfected by master makeup and hair artists, tanning beds and posing angles makes us “common girls” feel like we’ll never measure up. Nevermind the hours of photoshop magic performed on the photos before they ever grace the cover of the magazines our boyfriends and husbands drool over while buying tampons and milk in the grocery store isle for their “common” girl at home! While the world sets a really unfair disadvantage on us, we set an even more unfair disadvantage on ourselves… and each other (more on that later).

One of the daughters of a former college athlete, I was the lucky one who got the “muscular build.” Born nearly 10 pounds, I entered the world busting out of newborn jammies and getting stuck in plastic backyard swings. Funny how you never notice anything “irregular” about yourself until you reach the age where children learn the ways of the cruel world around them and start pointing out others who don’t exactly match the mold. I imagine it was about then that I realized that most kindergarten girls don’t have to wear boys shorts to school. It was just the beginning of a beautiful love-hate relationship with my legs that would last several decades and cause more than a few scars along the way.

As humans we are taught that the closer we stay to “the norm” the less we will be noticed. We won’t be ridiculed for being an outcast if we just look and act like everyone else around us. Girls should wear bows and dresses and be gentle and feminine and boys should be rough and tough and strong and masculine. You see, the problem with that is that my father wanted a boy so badly. And the story just goes from there. Anyone who knows me well, knows I didn’t lead a life like most girls. There were few Barbies and even fewer pink ruffle dresses and ballet classes. I didn’t run off with the girls to the movies and make out with boys in the back row. I was too busy learning to clean deer, practicing being better at volleyball and ripping through “skinny leg” jeans (insert eyeroll). For having lived that “ungirl” life so fully, I’m actually quite proud of how feminine I turned out. I’m proud I like boys and makeup and spend 30 minutes putting creams and lotions and coconut oil on my face nightly. Praise Jesus some parts of my mother found their way through. But those legs of Dads… they just didn’t want to abandon me, even after I retired from college volleyball and working out 4-6 hours a day, every day.

In high school I always DREADED jean shopping. Mom and I would go into any department store and grab 87 pairs of jeans, knowing the poor sales lady would be sorely disappointed when we came out with only 2 pairs that actually fit to buy. I hated every minute of it; but I hated every minute of not being able to cover them up so others couldn’t catapult their crude remarks at me even more. I’m not sure whom the kid was in high school that gave me the nickname that would haunt me for decades after and rear its ugly head again just years ago as well; but he certainly never knew the impact his careless words had on me. Running from the locker room to the back girl’s gym for practice one day I passed him and his group of football buddies. Right at that age in middle school where you hated your zit-ridden face and doubted everything about this “woman” thing you were becoming, he threw it out there at me in front of the whole group … “hey Terminator!” And it just stuck. For 5 years he stayed at it, and so did everyone else it caught on to. Football pep rallies in high school, people signing my yearbook – “love you Terminator” – and me playing it off like it didn’t matter to me, like it was just some nickname that everyone gave me and I was ok with it. Fast forward to college when my Terminator legs got me a scholarship to go play volleyball at a major university. Finally recognized as an “athlete” with a body to match, I felt justified in walking around in volleyball bikers with these tree trunks because everyone knew I was a college athlete and, all of a sudden, I wasn’t some weird girl who had the body of a guy like in high school. I’ll never forget leaving Oklahoma that freshman year to come back and meet up with friends at a “pasture party” – old football player friends. Yea, you know where this is going, right? Miles of interstate 35 and a year of college behind us and I still couldn’t shake it. Walking into the party hearing it still sent chills down my spine. It was always noticed in college in Oklahoma too, it just felt less “uncool” because I was an athlete and I had a right of passage as one. Cool points were automatically assigned to me, even if I was anything but.

If I had to shorten this story it just wouldn’t have nearly as much power and authenticity, so hang in there with me, we are getting somewhere. Fast forward about 10 years to my early 30’s. Post college I still stayed very fit, worked out daily and even took up long-distance running. It thinned my legs out some, but there was still no denying whose legs WEREN’T fitting into skinny jeans under that dressing room door. Trust is a funny thing (que Josh Abbott Band lyrics), it gives you this false pretense that people in your life who have both told you and showed you they were in ‘the safe zone’ won’t do things to harm you or make you feel hurt or broken or anything but loved and cared about. So you open up, you share things that you wouldn’t with anyone else – memories, photos, life. Unfortunately, life teaches you that often the heart God gave you isn’t exactly the same as those you might have wrongly instilled trust in. “Gawd look at her legs… she’s like Chyna,” one said. “I know, that’s like a female body builder but without the steroids,” said another. Each time I slip into my running shorts and take off for a workout I can still see every word of the group text. “Innocent fun” shared between a person you trusted with your heart and feelings and a random group of his friends all unaware of the years of “terminator” talk that had haunted you all the years before. Let me be fully clear on one thing – once you have seen things that break both your moral code and your spirit, they are nearly impossible to erase. No matter how much grace you extend, forgiveness you expel or tears you shed… they still haunt you in your darkest moments when doubt sets in and you want to put on that short dress and shine, but you just can’t face the thought of even one person making some off-the-cuff comment about your legs.

Girls, even very close friends of mine, have admired and gushed over them for years … “oh gosh if I could only have your legs, I would trade them for my little skinny ones anyday,” or “oh you are so lucky to have such muscular legs, all mine are is cellulite.” How does that old adage go?… “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Truly, if we are living a grace and faith-filled life, God tells us we should never lust or desire what someone else has; but we all know we are born sinners thankfully saved by the son of God who gave his life so we could know sin and be forgiven for it. Therefore, we sin. We lust.  We see Victoria’s Secret magazines and wish we could look more like them. Let me be the first to tell you that the day I switched my focus from (get ready for it, here it comes) lusting after the things I thought were cool, to embracing the two healthy, strong legs God gave me and thanking him for giving me two, beautiful, functional ones…. THAT was the day I stopped hating them so much. Do I still cover them up when I can, wear conservative skirts and shorts and joke about my “thunder thighs” quite a bit – of course. The paramount shift comes when you embrace what is, let go of what you wanted or wished for and make the best of what will and can be. WILL I ever be a size 0 that can rock a pair of skinny jeans like no one’s business… no. Not just no, but hell no. But CAN I run 4-5 half marathons a year even after 4 knee surgeries on the same knee…. Hell yes! Without muscles strong enough to hold the broken parts and pieces of ligament, secured by way too much metal in my knees, I wouldn’t stand a chance making it 3 miles, much less 13. I don’t love them… I probably never will. But I don’t let the memory of Terminator and Chyna paralyze me anymore. When someone points them out, I simply shake my head and gracefully say “it’s a long story, but I have come to love them and be thankful for them.” Whatever might be haunting you in the mirror, nagging at you when you look at that new Elle or Vogue cover, or even reverberating daily when you bake cookies with your incredibly skinny and fit best friend, I challenge you to find a way to own it. To admit that it is an insecurity (hey, admitting something is at least 70% of the battle), grab a pen and paper and write down the 9000 other strengths you have that outweigh that one “weakness” that you have coined the end-all, be-all of your physical self and find a way to love it. Maybe it’s not cover-model worthy, but I bet Tyra Banks feels a lot better about herself now after making thousands of people laugh as a host of a VERY famous TV show than she did eating 1 carrot a day and knowing teenagers all across the world were forming insecurities because Carol was able to photoshop an inch off her stomach. We laugh, but it’s true. Yet still we lust after that photoshopped stomach every time we look in the mirror at ours. Say it with me before we end in prayer… “ambition is good, lust is bad.” It’s ok to seek improvement on the things we know have been better before or could be better with hard work, healthier nutrition, better quality of life. What is NOT ok is stabbing a knife right into the heart of God and hating His creation because someone or something along the way told you it was different… ugly… bad. Stop beating yourself up over body parts that serve no real purpose other than holding another body part on. When your heart starts getting called ugly . . . that’s when we have real problems, and that’s to be left for another blog.

Like I promised in my first blog and like I like to do after all of the personal journaling I do, I’d like to pray with you. Given that this subject is something probably on the hearts and minds of women (and men too) daily, we are going to leave some time at the end for you to insert the personal struggles you might be dealing with and we will cover them in prayer too. Follow along with me – Heavenly Father we are bringing a heavy load to you tonight Lord, so we ask that you meet us with your kindness, grace and guidance like only you can. Father we know that you knew us and loved us even before we were conceived, even before you brought us here to this often-cruel world of the flesh. Lord your word teaches us that we should love one another and treat one another with respect and kindness like you display to us, but we often fail miserably at that. We sharpen our sword instead of laying down our armor and praying for each other. We call names, hurt feelings, judge, admonish, and disgrace your very creation. We are all guilty of it and it is because of this we come to you to cleanse us with your pure love God. With hearts wide open and vulnerability like times we might not have ever known before Lord, we now, in the silence of our hearts ask for you to enter as we pour out the things that are personally troubling us – the insecurities and inadequacies that we face daily. Lord only YOU know the true beat of our heart and can love us completely for exactly who you created us to be; but tonight we ask you to instill in us a Heavenly Might to defend the beautiful creation you made in us- unique in its every facet and feature- and defy the harsh stereotypes of the world. Work miracles over the scars from names we have been called, unfairness and anguish we have suffered at the hands of sinners. Lord create in us not only a pure heart that realizes that no one else’s sin is greater than our own, but we often find clarity through pain and in those moments is when we learn better than ever to truly treat others the way we would want to be treated ourselves.

Don’t be fooled – the past haunts us all.

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We all know the old saying “the windshield is bigger than the rear-view mirror for a reason,” right? Strangely enough, I’ve come in contact with more people who have a hard time letting go of the past than ones who are persistently looking out the front window… myself included. I have never been one to call the kettle, but it’s often hard to ascertain just how much living in the past truly can paralyze your future.

I’ve always been one to enjoy nostalgia… those moments of looking back on fond memories, events, special moments and days that have left lasting impressions on our mind, and often our heart as well. Heck, we can’t even get on Facebook these days without the engine itself reminding us what we were doing at this time last year.. 3 years ago.. 6 years ago. Are those memories sometimes painful to you like they are to me? Why must things that we are trying to ‘put to bed’ consistently rear their ugly head in the form of a shared Facebook post, an acquaintance you haven’t seen in years who just happens to be on the frozen food isle of HEB on the day you were barely making it up to put your yoga pants on and buy yourself some frozen pizza for dinner? It seems the times that “the past” starts creeping in is not in those moments of excitement, bliss, bountiful joy and progress… it is on the days when getting the dirty clothes from the hamper into the washer seems like you are fighting a 900 lb. gorilla in wading boots.

I’m not certain who might be reading this that has something incredibly heavy on their heart. A “past” something that just won’t go away… won’t leave your heart and mind and go to a place far, far away so you can find peace and move forward; but should you be reading this in the midst of that exact struggle, I’d like to speak some words of “acquired” (might be better stated as “beat the hell out of until you learn the hardest of hard ways”) knowledge into you: if you don’t leave the past there – where it belongs, it will haunt your future for years to come. I’m not expecting anyone to read that and declare I am some kind of Socrates for having re-stated something that is prevalent in just about any self-help book, motivational video, quote website or blog you read. In fact, I, myself, have read that exact same thing over and over again until I am blue in the face and never truly listened. That is the problem… we often listen to respond, not to hear. Let me get to the “meat” of the story and perhaps it will speak more to your heart.

A year ago this past weekend, I was exhausted, physically, mentally and emotionally drained, hungover, sunburned and had blisters on my feet. Myself, along with an army of over 600 people, had successfully assembled, hosted and rocked one of the largest fundraising events in the state of Texas. With well over a million dollars given to help with the financial burdens of cancer treatment, this “benefit” was so much more than just a live and silent auction, raffle, food and drink. A little community of less than a couple thousand rallied together their resources, talents and tenacity to stand against cancer and firmly behind the family suffering through it. This morning (Sunday), a friend tagged me in one of those all-too-painful “a year ago today” posts. You know them all too well… the ones where you probably wouldn’t have remembered that such an emotional event happened on this exact day/weekend a year ago if Facebook hadn’t reminded you. My heart (and stomach) sank. It was one of those moments where you know letting your mind slip back into that moment a year ago.. the memories created a year ago… the tears you cried that day and for so many forward because of the cause of that weekend… was going to surely set the mood for the rest of your day. I wanted to be “nostalgically strong” and remember all of the good and blessings that came from that weekend a year ago, but instead I spiraled back into the past… the way it used to be, the events of the weekend, the things that had happened that weekend (for me) that so few people even knew about; and just like that, my day was ruined. I reminded myself that the past doesn’t have to hurt like this, it can serve simply as a reminder of events that happened that shaped my life; but that wasn’t what my brain wanted to let happen. Instead, it wanted to wander off into the place that we all know is a huge “danger zone.” One that should be marked with bright yellow “CAUTION” tape so as not to let anyone else fall into the horrible pit of remembrance. I wanted to tell myself “suck it up and be strong, move on, he is in a better place now and you are blessed to have been part of such an awesome event;” but somehow I couldn’t.  So I opened the Facebook post, commented exactly what my strong woman on the outside brain told me to say, and turned off my phone. I drove in silence for almost 3 hours mauling the thoughts around in my head. Living in the past, living in the events of that weekend that changed my life and so many others’ from then on…. agonizing that I let myself slip into the doom of the past instead of looking through that front windshield of my truck driving down IH-10. I prayed, I turned on a Joel Osteen sermon on my podcast, I stopped at Buc-ees and got chocolate, but I couldn’t get it all out of my head.

Why am I even sharing all of this with a group of random strangers reading some blog written by a crazy woman with not enough time on her hands, yet too much in her brain? Because I want anyone reading this to be reminded that no matter how strong, tenacious, goal-crushing, Superwoman we might be, the past is an inconquerable BEAST at times. From people who you don’t even quite know HOW you know, commenting on posts you were tagged in on Facebook to a world where kindness is an all-but-forgotten value, we tell ourselves that being strong is the right thing to do. Being vulnerable is for the weak and unaccomplished, not us “strong women” who can handle anything. May I share something from the heart and mind of someone who is probably looked at by MANY people as exactly that? My past ate me alive for the last year of my life. Literally, ate my lunch. Daily! Things I did wrong, people I let stay in my life for too long, friends I felt like I didn’t want to lose no matter how much they probably did nothing to try and stay. Yet daily I meet people who comment on how smart I am, how strong I am – “an intimidating woman who knows exactly what she wants and needs.” Although those words are so kind and flattering, I’d be lying if I told you I woke up everyday feeling like I could conquer the world with perfectly applied makeup, beautifully curled hair and an outfit to kill. In fact, most mornings I trip over my dog on the way to the bathroom, zit cream from the night before all over my face instead of just on the 12 zits I put it on before bed and unattractive sideboob like nobody’s business. My closet NEVER offers me up what I seem to think might look remotely professional that day, no matter how many items I added to it the week before, and my lack thereof perfect curls can be summed up in two words – It’s Texas! So before you go worshipping someone for their perfectly put together life (as seen from your perch high above it all), and thinking you are the only one who has a hard time finding enough hours in the day to pray the past away, remember this: the past is usually never real pretty; we don’t remember the pretty moments, we remember the ones that scarred us. The battle to let go of things, and, more importantly, PEOPLE who don’t belong in our lives any longer simply because forward progress is the only type of progress – that battle is the hardest battle you will EVER fight. And you aren’t alone. There isn’t a soul in the world (no matter how happily or vivaciously they live their life on Facebook) that hasn’t struggled with the past – letting it go, learning from it, leaving it there. God doesn’t give us foresight in the same amounts He gives us hindsight. Our past is never “clean” – it is evidence of a life of lessons, pain, growth, loss… evidence of LIFE! But it doesn’t have to haunt you. When you question why and how another door has not opened for you yet, don’t forget to look within and ask yourself the biggest question – have you closed the door to the past so you can reach forward instead of continuing to reach back for the doorknob?

As promised, and because it is something that has become common practice for me in my hand-written journaling prior to this blog, I would like the opportunity to close each and every blog in prayer. If that’s not your cup of tea or doesn’t sit well with you, welcome to America- what a blessing we have in that we enjoy the freedom of choice (now go thank a soldier for that). Should you wish to continue forward in closing in prayer with me, I only ask one thing:  when you get done reading and repeating this prayer to yourself, you take a moment of silence to quickly pray for a friend or neighbor that you know is struggling through something related to the message you hear in each blog. The power of prayer is something that we should NEVER take for granted nor dismiss… it is lifeblood to the foundation of all faiths and it honestly just feels really dang good to pray for someone who might have confided their struggles in you. So, if you will, pray with me . . . Heavenly Father, we come to you today with open hearts, open minds… ready and willing to receive the will YOU have laid out for us, Lord, not ours. If today we should stumble, make us humble and honest enough to pray for a better tomorrow knowing it is not a bad life, just a bad day when we believe in you and your plan. Lord I ask that you lift the burdens off those who might be reading this blog with a heart heavy with grief, loss, trouble, uncertainty, pain… Lord take that pain from them like only you can, and help them to remember that pain is only temporary and if you didn’t send us through the valleys, we wouldn’t know the coming joy of the mountaintops. May we never lose sight of the fact that your perfect will is far better than any plan we might have conjured up for ourselves. Help us not to put our hands in the mix and short-circuit your master wiring plan of our life and destiny by designing our own and then being angry when it doesn’t work out. Lord we promise to honor your word, your teachings and  your commandments and to be always-mindful that your door is always open for us to talk to you about anything – for we often forget that those things that trouble our hearts and minds are already on yours because we are your children and you are omniscient to our needs. Lord hear our prayers now as we spend a moment in silence lifting others up so that we may further glorify you!

Well . . . here we go

For this very first ‘blog’ I am going to keep it short and sweet as I am time strapped (p.s. this might be an often recurring theme!) and we want to save the “meat” of the matters for those who have already conscientiously made a decision to follow along knowing full well what they are getting themselves into.

So here’s what you can expect from me on these things – honesty, vulnerability, truth (even if it is painful), faith, grace, mercy and often a few curse words. I love Jesus but I cuss a little. At the end of each, I will offer a prayer for you to read along, out loud, with me. When we open our hearts to each other and the world by reading things that touch them, we often feel ‘vulnerable,’ exposed, even a little emotional… that’s ok. I invite you to let those feelings happen and to embrace them. Therefore; we will pray together as we exit each blog, reminding ourselves that God already heard those prayers on our heart, knows those desires in our mind and has set into action the things that we are wishing for.

Do me a favor through this “journey”… invite a friend. Share with a friend. Enlighten a friend. Spend a moment either discussing it with them or passing this URL or post along to them. Tag them on social media. Share on your own. Words are more powerful when there is action and change behind them. If you feel like what I discuss in these blogs might be helpful to someone in your life, I invite you to share.

Stay tuned… this is going to be good. I promise you! Continue reading “Well . . . here we go”