Let’s Get Real

What Makes A Really Great Story?

I’m kind of in the process of writing a book. A novel.

I say kind of because it feels a little like playing house.

So no one hold their breath.

I’ve never considered myself a writer.Especially not a storyteller.

I have friends that weave stories in their daydreams and always seemed lost in plot. Haha. See what I did there? Imagining characters and creating their stories while they drive, sit at work or space out while you are talking. It’s in their DNA. Crafting stories.

It is definitely not in my DNA. I am a consumer of story. I love to read. I love fiction and real life stories. I am always amazed at people’s creativity. And God’s. He writes really beautiful stories. And empowers others to as well.

Well, when I decided to go to the Writer’s Conference with Andrea, I started praying for a story. Just one. That might someday turn into a book. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really expecting much. But then as I was taking out my trash one night, God whispered an idea in my ear. And I’ve been toying with it ever since.

At the conference, I met a lovely lady named Nancy. I was immediately drawn to her. She struck me as vivacious, inviting and wise.

The conference was very stressful for me.

From the moment I got in the van, I had to come to terms with the fact that I might possibly be a writer. And if I was willing to be honest with myself, that I have dreamed of writing since I was small. But the desire to write was so precious and fragile that I had locked it away in a treasure box in my soul. Tucked away safely. Where moth and rust and criticism and failure could not touch it.

And at the conference I felt like God was giving me a choice. To open the box and give the dream to Him. Or keep it safely tucked away.

I left the conference with it safely tucked away. I’m not a writer. I’m a blogger. And I love blogging.

But late at night, I would listen to the sessions from the conference on my phone. Laying safely in my bed, I listened to author after fiction author talk about their process. And I realized that I wanted to learn more. About writing. A Fiction. Book.

So I’ve started a program. With my new friend Nancy Rue. To learn the craft of storytelling. For those who don’t dream in stories. But feel like they might have a story to tell.

What hooked me was when she used this verse from Psalm 48 in her workshop.

Circle Zion, take her measure,
    count her fortress peaks,
Gaze long at her sloping bulwark,
    climb her citadel heights—
Then you can tell the next generation
    detail by detail the story of God,
Our God forever,
    who guides us till the end of time. 

So anyway.

I’ve started learning about what makes a really great story. And it is blowing my mind. The crazy thing is we all learned (and possibly forgot) this structure in school.

Every story starts with the hero/heroine living their everyday life.

Then, there is an inciting incident that propels the story into motion.

Here’s what I didn’t know.

There is a question that drives every story. It is hidden in the heart of every hero/heroine. That leads and guides every choice they make. And the question varies from story to story. Hero to heroine. But it must be answered for the story to find resolution.

Doesn’t that sound like life? We all having a driving need. A hidden question. That we ask God over and over and over. And I’m convinced it different for each of us. There are themes and similar desires. But the way we phrase it is so personal.

And our lives are a beautiful story where God graciously answers the question of our soul, over and over.

The other thing I’m learning in my class is that in order to have a really great story, your hero/heroine has to be flawed. And real. With hopes, dreams, desires and fears.

And in order to truly tell their story, they will have to face their fears. You have to put them in situations that bring them to their knees.

Well. All of this knowledge has been rocking my spiritual world.

Because in my youth, I thought the Christian life was about getting it “right”. Trying to make the right choices, do the right thing, follow God without error or deviance from his path/will. And I believed that if done “right”, you could live a life free of pain, sorrow or heartache. I now see how this contradicts scripture.

But at 22, if I were the author of my story, here is how I would have written it:

There once was a girl named Leslie. She grew up in a loving home and met Jesus at an early age. Her childhood was filled with love and laughter. She had lots of friends and they never had any conflict. She went to college where she discovered her life’s calling-sharing Jesus with kids through the mission of Young Life. She married a man who shared her life’s passion and together they served the Lord wholeheartedly. Leading people to the feet of Jesus.  They never fought, experienced zero heartache and no tragedy ever touched their world. They had four lovely children who all grew up, safe and sound. Their children all fell in love with Jesus at an early age and followed Him all the days of their lives. And everyone died peacefully at a ripe old age.

But that is not the story of my life.

And that used to bring me great sadness. And shame. And a sense that I had somehow failed God. Because how could this be the story he wanted my life to tell.

And yet, the more I learn about what makes really great stories, the more I see my life through a gracious lens. The lens of love. And my life tells a beautiful story.

I can see the inciting incidences that have shaped my journey.

-In middle school, when I felt like the world ended when my friends stopped talking to me

-In college, when I had a car accident with a Young Life girl in the car

-In ministry, when I didn’t know how to talk to men in authority so I bailed  instead of learning a new skill

-In marriage, when the person I loved chose not to love me

-In divorce, when the church I expected to bench me, invited me to partner with them in ministry

-In Young Life, when God sent key people to heal old wounds and invite me back to a ministry that is in my DNA.

-In teaching, where God called me to a job that is as challenging as it is fulfilling which is where I love to live.

Each one of these incidents, has forced me to face my fears. They have driven me to my knees. They have broken me. And forced me to cry out the same question over and over. Which comes from my hidden need. And God in his kindness, has answered it every time. Not always how I would have preferred. Because He sees the bigger picture. And has the greater story in mind.

I could write about this forever. But I have to stop somewhere.

One last thing that amazes me about our lives, is all the sub-plots. And how there are multiple stories that are being written as we live on this earth. And how God is actively at work in each one. And His timing is perfect.

Look at your life.

What have been inciting incidents?

Have you allowed them to drive you to your knees? Are you in a season where you need God to answer that driving question that rattles in your soul? Again? Is whatever you are walking through an opportunity to face your fears? Perhaps it isn’t a punishment or a result of failure. But perhaps the Author of Life wants to being you freedom. Resolution. Redemption. In that area of your life.

Something Wanda Beth said recently stuck with me,”Answered/unanswered prayer has absolutely nothing to do with God’s love for you and everything to do with his plans and purposes for your life.”

Still chewing on that one.

 

Love, Love, Love,

The Girl Who Lives in My Head

 

 

 

I am that girl. Embracing who you are.

I Am That Girl

When I was a little girl….and well into college, I used to pray that my life would not be normal. From an early age I wanted to serve God in a grand way.

Of course, I assumed that would include marriage and a family. Duh.

Growing up, there were always a handful of “older” single women in my life. I remember them as fun and dynamic. They were involved in ministry and poured into my life in some form or fashion. That’s why I knew them. And loved them.  But as much as I admired them, I did not want to be one of them.

I always thought marriage and a family was a given in life. Until it was not.

The other day I was in Target, walking down the aisles.

Thinking.

Daydreaming.

About life. God’s plans. My plans.

And in a moment of clarity, I realized I AM THAT GIRL!!!

I am the “older” single woman.

Who is fun and dynamic. Involved in ministry. Who still dreams of marriage but has accepted that it might not be in the cards. At least at this point in life. Who is going for it. Regardless. Living life to the full. No matter the season.

And the truth is… I really like being that girl. Her life is pretty great. 

What I judged in my youth, is actually a gift.

Getting ready this morning, I had a bit of a hangover. A vulnerability one. Because when I wrote about my year without romance, I opened up my heart a bit too much. I feel like I showed my guts to the world. And they spilled out a little.

 Because I’m 38 years old. A grown woman.

Friends my age are navigating life with teenagers. Mortgages. College funds and daycare. Parents who are sick. Possibly dying.

And my deepest struggled is still boys??? Are you kidding me???

But it is. I could lie and pretend it isn’t. But then I would be keeping a secret. And living from a lie. And lies destroy us. And then we eat our feelings. Or worse.

And I don’t think I am alone in this.

When I think about the people I care about,  I think there are plenty like me.

Who are living lives they never imagined. Or judged in their youth.

Maybe you are one of us. Maybe you are the mom where your life and family look like a crazy hot mess busy. And you always swore your kids would not act like that in a grocery store. Until they did. All the time. And maybe you realized life isn’t about being the perfect mom. It’s about being available. And messy. And it’s beautiful.

Or maybe you are that career gal. Sex in the City style. Or suburbs. Who is working her way up the ranks. You’re a leader. Shaping the future. Of a company. Of a planet. Of a generation. Getting to invest in people. Earning enough to give in ways you never imagined. You own your own home. You travel when you want. You do what you want. God is allowing you to use your gifts and talents and you are a person of influence. And while it wasn’t the life you dreamed of, it’s actually pretty great.

Or maybe you are that married lady. (Or single woman) Who is amazing. Whose life is blessed and beautiful. Whose relationships are fulfilling and job is awesome.

But.

You long for babies. And it creates an ache deep inside that won’t be silenced. That cries out to God. Over and Over. And over again. You have done everything you can. To make the dream come true. And then later, silence the cries. But it won’t work. The longing won’t fade. And so you live your life. Full and amazing. To the best of your ability. Trusting God is writing your story. All the while, hoping and praying. That maybe one day. You’ll get to see a flutter of a heartbeat grow to maturity. And you have learned to live with the pain, Maybe it has actually become a place of ministry. Of healing. Of hope for others. And even though you would you trade it all in tomorrow, you see God’s hand. And know that He is with you on the journey.

I think in some way, we are all “that girl.” The one living someone else’s life. Dreaming of a different one.

I just finished a book called “Looking for Lovely” by Annie Downs. It’s all about how she looks for God in everyday moments. To see and acknowledge His hand. In her life. If there are any chubby girls in the house-this book could be our manifesto. If you want to see your inner most thoughts on paper, she spills her guts in the first few chapters. To set up the story.

Brene Brown calls it Daring Greatly. A life of gratitude. Leads to wholehearted living.

Ann Voskamp wrote 1000 Gifts. Same idea. Finding joy by being thankful.Seeing the gifts amidst the pain.

If you are reading this and think you might be “that girl.” The one you loved but didn’t want to be. Or judged and prayed you never would become.

Embrace her. 

Take a moment and find the lovely.  The beauty. Be thankful for the good. Find the joy. 

It’s there.

Because our God is good. He writes beautiful stories. With plot twists. Climax. And denouement.

You might just be in the middle of a really powerful tale of God’s love and redemption. That seems to be His favorite theme.

 

Love, Love, Love,

The Girl Who Lives In My Head

okay

 

How to Not Eat Your Feelings | Hope for addiction | Learning to journal your feelings

How To Not Eat Your Feelings.

It’s Friday afternoon, I’m sitting at my desk and my insides are churning. Boiling. Overflowing. A student openly defied a rule and flagrantly walked away when he was held accountable. The phrase “hotter than a two dollar pistol” would be an apt description of my emotional state.

I can seriously feel myself unraveling!!! The ping pong ball is gathering steam. And if I don’t deal with it now, my poor 7th period is going to bear the consequences.

The moment I said I was going to write a post about how to not eat your feelings, I have had opportunity after opportunity to put my money where my mouth is. My journal is filled with “I feel___ because____” statements and prayers to the Lord about what to do with those feelings.

The truth is, it is not easy to settle your heart when your emotions are running wild.

I’m all like journaling out your feelings is easy. It makes everything better.

And it is.

And it does.

But when you are amped beyond measure. Charged. About to blow a gasket. That is when it is the hardest. And most necessary. Otherwise, those feeling come out sideways. And there will be shrapnel.

So when I get all straightened out, I’ll come back and finish this post…

Much better now.

My journey towards healing started with Celebrate Recovery. I didn’t have any deep dark struggle that I needed to work out. I just needed a safe place to land in order to heal. I was numb. And completely out of touch with my heart and my emotions. My biggest takeaway from my time in the anonymous world was the importance of processing out your feelings. We are only as sick as our secrets and I have found that clarity comes when I take the time to process out my emotions (and secrets) before the Lord.

In my inner world, thoughts and feelings can be very dangerous when left unchecked.

  • Usually someone will say something or an event will occur that triggers a negative reaction in my mind. (My student)

  • I picture a ping pong ball of emotion being released.

  • The longer that negative emotion is allowed to build, the faster the ping pong ball zips and dings around in my mind until finally it is whirling dervish that will escape.

  • Usually coming out sideways and often in a less than ideal manner.

  • And I end up kicking the cat. (Period 7)

    Kick the Cat | How to Not Eat Your Feelings | The Girl Who Lives In My Head

What has helped me tremendously in my journey towards healing and keeps things from coming out sideways is journaling out my feelings. I have found a process that works wonders for me and I’m sharing it with the hope it might help you.

How to Journal Your Feelings

Step One

Identify all the emotions you are feeling in this moment. Every single one. Good and Bad. I use this amazing Feelings Chart that takes feelings like happy, sad, tired etc and expounds upon all the nuances that go with each emotion.

This is especially helpful if you are at a point in life where you are so numb that tapping into your actual feelings seems impossible. Don’t worry. I was once there too. I lived three years of my life so numb that I would spend my time counting in order to avoid feeling anything because my reality was so painful that my mind kept itself busy to avoid any semblance of emotion. It takes work but there is such freedom in knowing what you feel.

Step Two

Connect a situation to each of those feelings.

I feel ___________ because

I feel ___________ because

I feel ___________ because

I feel ___________ because

What took me by surprise as I was learning this process is that you can be feeling pleasant and unpleasant feelings at the same time. I think that is why so many of us feel guilty. We have a negative reaction to something and think, “This shouldn’t be bothering me so much. Things are really good.” And they are good. In some areas. But you might have some really yucky things going on in another area. And you need to be honest about both the good and the bad in order to heal. To be whole.

The key is to identify what feeling goes with what situation.

Step Three

Take each of the situations and see if there is any lie that you might be believing. If so, write out the truth. Or, work through the worst case scenario.

_______________ is not true. It may feel true but the reality is…..

If ___________ happens, then…. (run out the worst case scenario to the very end)

Step Four

Take each of those feelings, situations and lies and journal it out to the Lord. If you know the truth, ask Him to help you believe it. If you don’t know the truth ask the Lord to reveal it you. Be super honest and humble when you cry out. Ask him for help and be prepared to be amazed. Often I will look back in three months and be blown away by the transformation that has taken place in that area.

He is such a great Father.

And he loves us so much. He gives his children such sweet gifts. It’s not always what you hope for but it always what you need most.

I pray that you find this helpful. I know this is very different from my usual posts but this method really has been the key to my healing. And hopefully yours.

 

Love, Love, Love,

The Girl Who Lives In My Head

Next weeks “Let’s Get Real” post: My Epic Fail.

 

Here is a copy of the Feelings Chart for you to print and use as a guide.

Why Men Look at Porn

True Confession: I am not allowed to buy Girl Scout Cookies. Specifically Samoas. I have no self-control when they are around. And in less than a day, the ENTIRE box is gone. One here, two there, a row later…

I have a theory.

I think men think about sex the way women think about food.

About 19 thoughts per day according to recent study. Men and sex that is.

And God created both food and sex to be thoroughly enjoyed right? Within reasonable limits. They were both created to meet a need. That the creator of the Universe instilled in us. By design.

The problem starts when we use sex (or food) to cope.

And what’s even trickier is that the scriptures make it very clear that sexual issues wreak havoc on people’s internal lives. More than other issues. Because of how God designed it. Sex is so much more than an act. It’s a uniting. Of souls. One flesh and all that jazz.

///

If you’ve ever eaten a row of Oreo’s after a bad day, you know that it really doesn’t have anything to do with the people around you. Yes. They may be driving you batty. But using food to find comfort probably started a long time ago.

  • Maybe growing up, food was used to celebrate. And comfort. And entertain.

  • Or somewhere along the line, when you made your own money (or allowance) you bought candy. Your siblings bought clothes. You bought sugar. You liked the taste. And how it made you feel.

  • Or perhaps you lived in a house where certain foods were denied, so you learned to sneak them.

Whatever happened, at some point in your journey, food became more than food. It became your friend. A place you could find solace. A moment’s peace in the middle of the storm. Or the crazy.

And now, even though you know it won’t solve your problems-you still go there for a few bites just so you don’t have to think about what’s really going on.

I recently made a new friend at the writers conference who told her teenage son,  “Dude, when you come across a woman eating ice-cream out of the carton, respect that moment. And slowly back away

 EatingIceCream

We laugh. Because we know it’s true.

And that is what it is like for men with porn.

It’s a coping method.

And it started long before he ever met you.

To not have to deal with his feelings. It’s an escape from life. Not from you.

And with it comes a cycle of shame that keeps him embroiled in a love/hate relationship that he knows, when he is radically honest with himself, is destroying him. From the inside out.

And just like a one doughnut escape can easily turn into a three doughnut escape-The longer he uses, the deeper it goes.

And left unchecked, it can go very, very dark.

The good and the bad of it is this.

There is nothing you can do to fix it. The issue.

Because it has nothing to do with you.

There’s no trick you can learn. Amount of weight you can lose. Outfit you can wear. Or scathing comment you can make.

That will make him stop.

Because it’s not your issue, It’s his.

And he is the one who has to see the problem. And he is the one who has to do the work. When he’s ready.

At its core, pornography and sexual addiction is not about sex. It’s about comfort. It’s about power. It’s about control. It’s something people use to cope to make it through their life. An escape.

Just like food.

Or shopping. Wine. Netflix. Chocolate. Exercise. Work. Pills. The list goes on and on.

When I told my mom I was writing this post, she asked me what made me an authority on the topic. I told her I’m not. But as someone whose life has been profoundly impacted by pornography, I have asked  a lot of questions. Of the men in my life. And they have been equally honest.

And I want people, who love people who are struggling,  to understand the real issue. Because when you make it about the sex, you miss the point. It’s a broken heart issue. That can only be healed by the Maker of the heart.

And I think when we equate it with food issues, it makes it easier to understand.

BUT Pornography and sexual addiction is  a different kind of animal. According to scripture. Science. Research.

And it’s a HUGE problem in our society-Especially among our children.

It wreaks major life altering havoc on people and those that love them. And yet it’s become common place. In media. In jokes. In homes. On phones.

It’s everywhere.

 

And we are becoming numb to it.

And that is just too dangerous for me to accept.

I will not go quietly.

While the enemy takes out the people I love, one broken heart at a time.

 

Love, Love, Love

The Girl Who Lives In My Head

Next week’s “Let’s Get Real” post: How to Not Eat Your Feelings.

 

Have you seen this? It is possible to break the shame cycle on any issue.

 

And here she is talking about how Shame is Lethal on Oprah of course. 

Click here if you or someone you love needs help with an addiction of any kind.

 

 

 

Holy Saturday. The Day In Between—

WARNING: This post has not been edited by anyone other than myself, it’s my stream of consciousness straight from the worn out pages of my journal and therefore there are surely improper comma usage and such, as is my default. I’ll tell you what, I could not live without a proper editor, but YOLO, am […]

via I Want to Freaking Know. —

The Day I Drove Away.


I still remember how my body hummed as I shoved the last box into the back of the Jeep. It’s funny what is important to you when you are leaving. Forever. For me it was all the holiday items I had gathered over the years. That’s all I took with me. Not even my KitchenAid.

I shut the hatch and drove away.

After five years of an abusive marriage, I had finally accepted that nothing was going to change with me in his life. I had turned myself inside and out, prayed every prayer, attended every bible study, trying to fix what was broken. So that maybe perhaps he might love me again.

The plan. I would drive from Colorado to my parents house in Tennessee. I would stay there a few weeks and begin my life in Maui. Again. I felt free. Free at last, free at last. The windows were down, the music was mine and there was an open road before me.

To say I was fragile would be an understatement. My body was still humming, something it had been doing constantly for over a year. On it’s own. I can’t quite explain it. I think it was something it had started doing in order to cope. I had finally become numb so that nothing would hurt me anymore.

I stopped at a Cracker Barrel somewhere in Kansas. To pick up a book on CD and indulge in some Southern fare. I was seated next to a lovely older couple enjoying a Sunday afternoon. I remember thinking that our tables were awfully close. Somehow, like in a movie, we started chatting. I don’t recall what we talked about, I don’t recall much from that season of life. I do know that I never said a word about what I was leaving behind.

The conversation came to a close.

They finished their meal and left. I lingered, savoring the sweet tea and freedom of never having to sit through another meal with him. Pretending.

As I went to pay, the cashier informed me that the sweet couple had payed for my meal, just like a movie. And standing in the middle of the Old Country Store, the humming stopped.

Their kindness broke me.

I kept it together as I bumbled from the restaurant. I made it to the car, shut the door and sobbed. Openly. Loudly. For all the years. The lost dreams. What could have been. What should have been. It was not pretty but it was beautiful. I remember saying, “Strangers were kinder to me than my own husband.” Over and Over. And over. Just like Dane Cook talks about in his bit on crying. “They were kinder to me than my husband.”

And as the tears poured down my face, the humming was replaced with hope. Because I knew, once again that I was making the right decision. And that I would be o.k.

You see, when someone is leaving an abusive marriage, no matter how much they know it is the right thing to do, the doubt and fear is debilitating. It’s why so few of us actually leave.

I had become a shell of the girl that I once was. I had learned to exist in the most non-offensive way possible as to not awaken the anger. To keep the peace. And it became my normal. Even though every fiber of my being knew it was not normal. Maybe that is what caused it. The humming. It was the fabric of my being rejecting this way of life.

And God allowed two lovely strangers  in a Cracker Barrel, somewhere in the middle of Kansas, to reset my normal with a simple act.  They reminded me what love and kindness felt like. And to them, I will always be grateful.

This month marks eight years since that road trip. And God has been faithful to me.

During what I call my five years of captivity, I really thought I had ruined my life. That it was over. I had made a huge mistake and now I just had to suffer the consequences. And I was willing to to do it. That is why, when God set me free, it was such a shock.

It was like I was a prisoner of war, jammed into a tiny bamboo cell. Eeeking out an existence. Accepting my fate. And then all of a sudden, a Black Hawk helicopter appeared in the sky. A rope ladder descended. And Jesus was there. To rescue me.

And He did. He rescued me out of a life of bondage. Of captivity. It was unexpected. Undeserving. And it was glorious.

Over the past eight years, he has truly given me a crown of beauty instead of ashes. And a stunning ball gown of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Because she who has been forgiven much, loves much. And she who has been forgiven much cannot keep her mouth shut because of how incredible God is. She wants everyone to know that freedom is available.

I write this blog, not for sympathy, but to give others hope. What might feel raw as you read it, has actually been healed at the Cross. It has taken time. And work. Because as my girl Wanda Beth says, “Time does not heal all wounds. God does. Time will tell.”

My prayer is that you would know, that no matter what you are going through, our God is a God of redemption. He can redeem anything. Nothing is wasted in Him. Not only that,  He can use the most random moments and people to heal you. To remind you that He is actively pursuing you. He loves you. And He is especially fond of you.

It is why he sent Jesus to rescue you. And me. I am living proof that even good girls need to be rescued.

Love, Love, Love

The Girl Who Lives In My Head

P.S. This whole post was inspired by this post. To the Strangers Who Surrounded Me in Whole Foods After News of My Father’s Death. At the bottom, the blog asks for submissions about strangers who showed kindness. And here we are.

P.P.S. If you are in an abusive situation, a website that really made a difference in my journey towards healing is called www.youarenotcrazy.com. I wrote about it here.

P.P.P.S I must say P.S. A LOT because my students ask me all the time what it means.