What the World has Discarded.

I used to have my own little business where I took old, discarded fabric and I upcycled it into fancy things that people wear. My business was called Piccadilly Rose (which was a nickname I had for my first daughter, Annalee, when she was just a precious little baby flower who needed absurd nicknames). The motto or tag line for Piccadilly Rose was this:

Unique. Recycled. Lovely.

Years ago, I was a vendor at a women's conference where Jill Kelly (wife of that famous football guy, but proverbial rock star in her own right) was the keynote speaker. At that conference, in addition to selling my wares, I was invited to lead a breakout session and incorporate a crafting demonstration.

That was going to be easy. I mean, the whole concept of my business was taking garbage and making it into something unique, repurposed and lovely... it's all about taking what has been discarded and giving it new life, making it useful, restoring it's inherent beauty and worth. That was easy for me to speak about because that notion was not just the concept of my business, it's the concept of my whole life.

When I hold someone's wedding gown in my hands, and I see the dirty smudges at the hemline I can imagine the blushing bride’s dress dirty from dancing and accidentally getting stepped on by her eager, well-wishing wedding guests. I know that the gown tells a story of a day filled with hope and expectation... but I know how that story ended. I know that the reason that gown is no longer being preserved in hopes of handing it down to the little girl is because that happy day and those high expectations ended with an affair and heartache and disappointed hopes.

 And the dress has been discarded.

When a young widow parts with the shirt and tie of her lost husband, knowing she will never see him dressed up in them again, I know the story of pain and parting that are held in those fibers. 

And the shirt has been released.

When I pull apart an old, tattered tutu, I know that once upon a time there was nothing that made some little girl feel more divine than twirling in all that fluffy tulle. Eventually that little girl outgrew her tutu, and maybe even outgrew twirling. And more than likely, somewhere along the line she stopped, altogether, feeling divine. 

And the tutu is forgotten.

What I do with the fabric is nothing special. I take that wedding gown and I cut and twist and singe and sew until something new emerges, something beautiful enough for a new bride.

 I take the Daddy's shirt and tie, and I cut and twist and singe and sew until a pretty flower emerges for his little girls. I adorn a mirror so that for as long as they live they can look at their reflection and remember how their daddy saw them. And I twist and sew until a teeny neck tie replica of that big guy's tie appears.

 I pull apart that useless tutu and I cut and twist and singe and sew it into something divine for the next little twirler. 

That business never made me a lot of money. It does not take much skill, in fact my demonstration at the conference proved that it is something just about anyone can do. And it is not an original idea. I created these things in response to my God who is the ultimate creator. He also happens to be in the business of taking what the world says is garbage and making it into something beautiful. 

This was the concept behind the business, but how much more has this been true in my life. I think of my own wedding dress, which was the size of a moderately large tent because when I walked down the aisle, I was 8 months pregnant, and not exactly feeling like the pure and beautiful bride. I think of the shirts I have that belonged to the one I loved and lost. I remember the tutus and dresses I twirled in, and I think of the invisible scars that were left on that little girl that made me stop twirling, and I think of when I stopped believing I was beautiful.

We all have these things though, don't we? We have all been told at one point or another that we are not enough, or that we are too much, that we don't have what it takes, that we are ugly, or stupid, or weak, that we are not worth protecting, that we are not worth fighting for. The world discards us, telling us that we cannot be used for good. We are not special, unique or lovely. There is nothing left. 

And then there is this God.

There is this God who adores us. Who pursues us as we are, who begs us for all of it - the past, the sins, the pregnancy out of wedlock, the shame, the divorce, the broken relationship, the lies, the loss, the grief, the insecurity, the affair, the fear, the crippling self-doubt, the secrets, the abandonment, the rejection, the failure... He wants every bit of it.

And he doesn't want it like the world wants it. The world wants it to consume, to devour and feed off like gossip for entertainment or to shame us, but He wants it for one. pure. motive: 

To redeem it. To redeem us.

He wants to take it, not to be consumed or used against us... But to be cut and twisted and singed and sewed into something much bigger and more beautiful than we could ever have imagined.

He wants to make all things new. He wants to make us new. 

What if we actually let him? 

This post was originally written on January 18, 2016 and has been lightly edited to reflect the passage of time.

New Year, Same Old Me

Yesterday, I went on my last run of 2018. It happened to also be my first run since my surgery as I was only recently cleared to resume running.  My doctors have encouraged me to start working back up to my previous exercise routine to boost my appetite and start rebuilding the muscle mass that I lost over the past few months. Suffice it to say, the run wasn’t pretty. I felt stronger than I expected, but I also threw up over the guardrail as cars slowly drove by. Between the vomit, the sore, aching muscles, and the bitter cold winter air burning deep in my lungs... I finished my run feeling more weak and shaky than triumphant.

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Metaphorically, it was a really great summary of 2018. In some ways, this year has brought challenges that have put a big fat magnifying glass over all my weaknesses and sin issues. Still, I have also discovered a courage and strength in me that I didn’t know was there. I have had conversations that made me want to throw up over a guard rail - and some of these high-stakes conversations actually DID cause me to throw up. Nevertheless, I spoke truths that would have been easier to continue hiding away in silence. I opened up places in myself that I have kept shut away since I was just a girl. I’ve allowed a small handful of people the horrible and sacred privilege of seeing into the deepest, darkest parts of my past and my soul for the very first time ever. It’s been excruciating honestly. It has been the hardest, most painful work of my life. Just like my run, I finished 2018 feeling more weak and shaky than triumphant.

In 2018 I narrowly escaped cancer, after having a mass inside of my body for over ten years without knowing it. I didn’t really “beat” cancer. I escaped it. I didn’t battle, I didn’t fight, I didn’t win… I was spared. It was simply discovered and removed. I wish that this were true of all cancer, for all people. And I wish that this were true of the deeply rooted sins in my heart that have been sitting in there - toxic and malignant - for much longer than that tumor. I wish that the selfishness, the fear, the woundedness, the pride, the desires - these cancers to my soul - would be just as easily discovered and removed. I wish they could be escaped.

Yet, that is not how it goes. At least not for me. These things must be fought and battled, these struggles must be overcome with work and study, with confession and forgiveness. I am doing that hard work and I am starting to run again, literally and figuratively.

I have always loved making New Year’s Resolutions. I love a fresh start, a new beginning, a clean slate. I have “all things new” tattooed on my wrist for goodness sake. I crave newness, the chance to be washed clean, redeemed, and begun anew. Still, I have never once kept my resolution through the entire year. Ever. I fail every single time. Yet, I keep trying. Because even if I don’t finish the run - or the year- the way I set out, I accomplish more, learn more and grow in ways that I wouldn’t if I weren’t willing to dare to try again each and every year.

So, this run, this year, is over. I finished. I was weak and shaky, but that’s okay because I made it. I have seen and experienced enough hardship in life to know that we will sometimes cross the finish line empowered and triumphant but perhaps just as often, we will just barely limp across the finish line because of grit and God’s grace alone. The gift that 2018 gave me, though, was the awareness that sometimes I can only cross the finish line at all because there is a small handful of people not simply cheering me on from the sidelines, but ready to throw an arm around my broken heart and atrophied body to prop me up as I stumble across that line. 2018 taught me that even if it takes a team of doctors, a great therapist and a few good friends to drag us over that line, it still counts as finishing the race. It’s a fragile, vulnerable, precarious victory… but it counts as a finish all the same.

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Happy New Year my beloved readers - may 2019 bring a family of people who will prop you up, drag you along, and carry you whenever it is needed.



Sorry, Not Sorry.

I have spent most of my life vacillating between “I’m sorry for who I am as a person” and “c’mon, just admit that I’m your favorite.” Admittedly, the latter is my playful way of overcompensating for wholeheartedly believing the former. In the past couple of months, I have been peeling back a lot of layers in my heart, and have made some surprising discoveries about what lies at the root of my need to self-deprecate and apologize for myself in perpetuity.

I have always felt “too” something. I once dated someone who told me I was too tall, and tried “requiring” that I exclusively wear flats. Those who know me well will likely find it hilarious that someone thought they could force me to do anything really, and that I would comply just to appease their delicate and inflated ego. Yeah, not gonna happen. In reality, my stubborn behind promptly switched to the tallest stilettos I could find because #yourenotthebossofme and also buh-bye, enjoy being single. While I proudly push back on these types of arbitrary expectations and “requirements” that people and society put on women in particular, there is still something in me that readily internalizes that sense of being too something. It has been suggested by various people along the way that I am too: smart for my own good, rough around the edges, stubborn, opinionated, feminist, open, feisty, passionate, talkative, disobedient, outspoken, difficult, complicated, independent, liberal, conservative, skinny, tall, strong, intense, loud, persistent, insecure, and too empathetic for my own good… among other things. This doesn’t even begin to include all the times I was told that I wasn’t something enough.

We all have lists like that, right? We all have those accusatory voices from our past that tell us we are used up, broken, empty, worthless. Some of us are haunted by those voices and experiences from our past. Some of us are haunted by voices that are currently in our life - people who claim to love us that take opportunities even now to remind us that we are defective in some way. That we are too this, and not enough that. And then people wonder why some of us are constantly apologizing for ourselves.

I want to tell you that I became aware of this issue, and that I am diligent in changing this pattern and am having great success. What is more accurate, sadly, is that I am becoming increasingly more aware of this issue, and I am trying to slowly uproot that which is lurking beneath the surface of my insecurity and constant apologies, but it’s not going great. It is going to be a long, arduous process. I figured that if I am going to do the hard work of making changes, I might as well track my progress here in the hopes that it helps someone else out there besides me. So, in the spirit of learning and growing together, here is what I have discovered so far.

  1. I’m not actually sorry every time I apologize. A lot of the time, I am apologizing for THEM, not necessarily for me. If I feel like I have frustrated them, annoyed them, burdened them in some way… I will apologize. In actuality, I think that is sometimes more their shortcoming than mine, and in my insecurity I apologize to alleviate whatever feeling they might be having. It’s the emotional equivalent of only wearing flats to make them feel taller. I was disheartened to realize this because it essentially means that many of my apologies are actually disingenuous. A better thing to say than “I’m sorry,” might be something like “Have I upset you?” I want to reserve my apologies for when I am sincerely sorry for doing something wrong.

  2. I often apologize when I should express gratitude. I say that I am sorry because I feel guilty for needing anything, when I could just as easily be thankful that a need has been met. Instead of saying “Thank you for helping me out,” I apologize because I feel guilty for needing help. When I should say “Thank you for waiting for me,” I apologize because I feel guilty for making someone wait. When I could just as easily say “Thank you for listening,” I say “I’m sorry I dumped that on you,” because I am convinced that sharing my life with others is too much of a burden - chaotic and stressful. Instead of people in my life feeling appreciated, they feel frustrated and maybe even resentful. When I sense their frustration, I feel worse and apologize more. It’s a super fun pattern!

  3. My apologies can be offensive because they are often filled with assumptions. I am assuming that the other person is bothered or burdened by me in some way. This may or may not be true, but I am definitely making an assumption about their feelings and then responding accordingly. I might be totally wrong, and I can easily project messages I have received from others onto someone who may, in fact, think I am the best. Which I am, so that would make a lot of sense. (See how this works, I can swing alllll the way to either extreme. It’s like a choose-your-own adventure book filled with all my baggage!)

  4. I apologize to give people an out. I only recently learned this about myself, but I learned it the hard way and at great personal cost. I am always expecting people I love to leave. Sometimes, when I really care, I even push them to leave. It’s very healthy of me. (Jk but I’m working on it or whatever.) So, the more I care, the more I apologize for myself, and I present all of my shortcomings on a platter and what my apologies really say is “See, look how awful and difficult I am. Leave, you know you wanna.” If you offer enough outs, people will take them. Like any dysfunctional self-fulfilling prophecy, their retreat proves me right, and deepens my insecurity and that pattern is further embedded into the way I operate.

Literally everyone loses when I do this. Perhaps nobody more so than I. So, I am committing to tracking my apologies, evaluating them, reframing and rephrasing whenever I catch myself erring on the side of being excessively apologetic. I am still in the observation stage. I am simply observing when I feel the instinct to apologize for who I am. It’s often and it’s not pretty.

Here’s the thing though. I am doing my best to lean into this knowledge that there is a perfect God out there and he is El Roi, which is my favorite name for God in the Bible. It means, the God who sees. He is the creator of the universe, and he not only sees me and KNOWS who I am, he actually made me this way. When I spend time apologizing for who I am, I am subtly accusing God of getting it wrong. I am apologizing for his handiwork. Even at the observation stage of this process I know enough to say that accusing God of failing is probably not the best plan I’ve ever had.

So that’s all. I am inviting you all into this with me. I am in process. I am still learning. I am doing my best. I am observing, tracking progress and I am trying really hard. I want to change, but I also know that I am helpless to do better apart from God. The only one who truly knows me, sees me, and created me, will be faithful to tweak things here and there as he sees fit. I will choose to wait on him, to believe even when I don’t feel it and I will not apologize for who I am, because if everything I claim to believe is actually true…

I am his beloved creation.