Every year before Oscar night I swear I’m going to watch all the movies.  This year I’ve come very close.

Yesterday I watched the movie Manchester by the Sea.  This movie is profoundly depressing.  The pain is palpable throughout the movie, but the acting is superb.  The interesting thing about this movie is how pain was portrayed without words.  This man who was profoundly depressed expressed his pain on the screen not with words but with the lack of them; with painful long periods of silence that the rest of us probably would have filled with words.  His pain was beyond what any word could convey so he didn’t even try.  Have you even had pain like that?  I have.

Then I watched Moonlight.  In this movie you watch a young boy, a blank slate get molded and shaped by the world around him.  He is shaped not only by what he experiences and sees but he is profoundly impacted by the words that are said to him.  He is called little, and soft.  Later he is called faggot.  You watch this child struggle and ponder these words that are splattered on him without regard like someone splattering paint.  These words stick to him.  Unfortunately this boy doesn’t get many kind or uplifting words splattered on him, they are few and far between.  Those that do impart positive words on him, also lead dark lives and it is the dark side of their lives that ultimately leave the most impact on him.

My head was spinning after that movie.  It brought me back to the power of words.  Dr. Phil often says that it takes 100 positive words to overcome one negative word.  That is some incredible power.  Our words, our negative words have the power to impact a person 100 times more intensely than our positive words.  If we could really wrap our minds around that would we be so careless with our words?  Would our 10 minutes of anger be worth the lifetime of impact that those words said in that moment affect?

I have been the victim of those negative words.  We all have.  I can still recite them all to you.  In school I was called, weird and fat.  At home I was called the “wild child.”  I was always told I was too much.  In my marriage I’ve been called fat, unattractive, not sexy enough, etc. In my business I was called a liar, a thief, and incompetent. My own mother has recently called me a thief.  Now I preface all of this by saying that no one said these words to me thinking they would stick with me forever.  They were said in anger or frustration, or in ignorance.  But they stuck.  They stuck with crazy glue.

Don’t get me wrong.  People have spoken affirming words over me too.  In school I was called cheerleader, friend, sweet, etc.  At home I was called “darlin”. In my marriage I’ve been called beautiful, and best friend.  In my business I was called helpful and caring.  But it was those ugly words that stuck.  It’s like they were covered in crazy glue!  I’ve worked for years to unstick them, but it hasn’t been easy.  They are the default of what I think about myself unfortunately.

Now this doesn’t even take into consideration the ugly words I’ve spoken over others.  I shutter to think what lasting negative impact I’ve had on the lives of others.  As I process through this it makes me think.  Are those ugly words worth it?  I may mean them for 2 minutes but they last a lifetime.  It’s time to really think about what I say.  Silence can convey a great deal.  I don’t always need to fill up the void with ugly words.  Sometimes silence truly is golden.  To quote one of my favorite movies, Bambi “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

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I Hate Valentine’s Day

I declared war on Valentines Day back in my twenties. You see I LOVED Valentine’s Day.  I mean I really LOVED it.  Red hearts, white paper doilies, the whole works.  I loved it.  Not just for Valentine’s Day but the whole year long.  I love hearts, flowers and naked baby angels.  In high school one poor dance date had to endure my outfit of a white blouse covered with red hearts, a red skirt and red pumps.  All I needed was a cupid hat!

I still love hearts, flowers and naked baby angles, but I HATE Valentines Day.  It all started back in my twenties when a young idealistic “the world is all hearts and flowers” Jeannie decided to get married on Valentines Day.  Oh I had it all planned.  Guess what my colors were?  You guess it!  Red and White!  Hearts on the invitations, hearts on everything!  It was all planned out. The only problem was idealistic Jeannie was so enthralled with her hearts and flowers she didn’t realize that her groom wasn’t quite so enthralled.  He ended up leaving a note on my car saying he just couldn’t do it.  Oh don’t be mad at him.  You should have met idealistic Jeannie.  She was something!  But that began my war on Valentine’s Day.

I went on to get married and have children, but Valentine’s Day after that never lived up to the hearts and flowers idealism in my head. I love that scene in the movie Valentine’s Day where they have the anti-Valentine’s Day party with a piñata! It was always more of a Hallmark holiday after that or something for the kids.  This year I was going to declare war on Valentine’s Day and boycott it all together, but then I was struck with a better idea.

For people in love, Valentine’s Day really should be celebrated all year long.  But for the single, and the widowed Valentine’s Day can be painful.  So instead of wallowing in my own idealistic self-pity I’m going to try to share some love with all of my single and widowed friends.  Won’t you join me?  Let’s make those who perhaps are shown love less often a little extra love on Valentine’s Day. Just a simple text or note on Facebook would be awesome. As for me, when I’m finished loving on my friends I’m going to go make a piñata!

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Welcome to the Club

Have you ever been somewhere you knew you didn’t belong?  Someplace maybe that was way out of your league.  I had that experience this past week when I walked into the Riviera Country Club.  I’m volunteering for a golf tournament despite the fact that I know nothing about golf.  I volunteered partly because this was a club I could never enter normally and I wanted to see it!

It’s beautiful.  Old money.  Grand doorways.  Beautiful chandeliers.  Marble floors.  Sprawling greens.  High ceilings. People open the door for you there.  I didn’t belong. You could practically smell the poverty on me.  When I stepped inside I felt underdressed.  Any time I visit a special place like this, I always have to check out the restroom.  That’s always the sign that this is not your normal place.  There are no “paper” towels in the bathroom.  Only the finest Egyptian cotton hand towels.  They also have complimentary sunscreen, toothbrushes, deodorant, mouthwash and shoe horns.  I’ve never used a shoe horn, but people with lots of money who play golf must need them. I’m sure I would need them if I knew how to play golf, had a lot of money and belonged to the Riviera Country Club.

My first instinct was take all the free stuff I could.  I would load up my purse!  Then maybe take a few selfie’s just to document the fact that I was in fact in this swanky Country Club that I didn’t belong to.  I tried to find the proshop to purchase a t-shirt or a hat so everyone would know that I was there….. once.  I can just imagine myself filling my purse with all the free goodies when and employee walked in, busts me, and explains that I don’t belong there and kicking me out.  I wasn’t kicked out, and I didn’t steal anything.  I cannot confirm or deny any selfie’s however.

There are not many places I feel like I don’t belong anymore.  I’ve learned to act cool for the most part, but there are times when I am just so out of my league.  You know what I mean? Places where the chandeliers cost more that the annual income of a small family. As I was leaving I had a thought. I wonder if heaven isn’t a little like the Riviera Country Club.  Beautiful, dazzling, sparkling and over the top. When I get there I can just imagine myself running to the restroom to fill my purse with all the freebies when Jesus walks in and says, “no need to fill you purse Jeannie.  Your home. It’s all yours.  Welcome to the club.  You can have a t-shirt and a hat – whatever you want.  You belong here.”

Then I begin to think of all my loved ones that have graduated to heaven.  I hope they are all wearing the hat, the t-shirt and the whole deal.  Perhaps the logo would simply be “You Belong.”

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I have a savior complex…

Oh yes, it’s true.  I freely admit it.  I have a savior complex.  I believe with enough love, I can save anyone and anything.

This most recently manifested in my life when I tried to rescue a business.  I put my heart and soul into it and I was sure that as long as I put everything I had into it I could save it.  Unfortunately despite all the love I put into it, the lack of funding was ultimately victorious.

Lately I’ve been struggling with one of my favorite verses, 1 Corinthians 13:8 “Love never fails.”  I had this verse posted above the door in my office.  I believed it, and yet ultimately it did fail.  My love failed.  Love does fails.  I have friends who have poured love into their marriages and children only to watch them fail. Love does fail.  It fails hard.  In my case, it fails epically.

Last night I attended #Reviveus2016 put on by Kirk Cameron.  Francis Chan put things into perfect perspective for me.  I will try to give justice to his words.  The man in amazing.  His love for the Lord is so inspiring.

He said that our relationship with God is about being KNOWN by God and about knowing God.  He explained that when we are KNOWN by God he lives inside us so we are a new creation.  (This part I knew). But he went on to explain that when God dwells in us we take on his attributes.  We love deeper, we have compassion, etc.  He explained that’s why we are driven by justice and love.  It’s why when we are holding a foster child it’s so easy to love them because God’s love is flowing through us.  It’s why when we see a homeless person we can see past the dirt and the smell to see their heart because of God dwelling in us.

You see God dwelling in me gives me that burning desire to save people.  God dwelling in me gives me a heart and a passion for the widow and the orphan.  God dwelling in me makes me long to seek justice.  That’s the natural part.  That’s the good part.  The part that I mess up is when I think it’s me who’s doing the saving.  It isn’t.  I could have never saved that business, or a homeless man, or a widow or an orphan. But God in me can.

God is sovereign.  He does as he pleases.  Psalm 135:6.  HIS love never fails.  My love fails a lot if I’m loving out of selfish ambition.  Sometimes God chooses to save.  Sometimes he even uses me to do it.  Sometimes he doesn’t.  Businesses fail, marriages fail, and my love fails, but He is sovereign and His love never fails.  The desire I have to save – that’s a God given desire.  It’s a good thing.  I just have to remember WHO does the saving.

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Where did Jeannie Go?

Where did Jeannie go?  Have you seen her?  She was just here.  I don’t know where she is.  I remember her though.  She was a faithful, loving, a devoted wife, mother and friend. Now all that’s left is an empty shell. 

That’s what happens when your world is devastated by a tragedy you never saw coming.  One day you are fine, living your life and the next day everything has changed.  I think when my tragedy came I forgot how to breathe for a while.  I was paralyzed with fear, and grief.  Everything I knew and counted on was gone.  That changes you.  I think many of us have experienced this and are left wondering, what happened to me?  Why did this happen?  Who am I now?

My terrorist attack was against my marriage.  One day I was going along as normal.  I had been married for 28 years, I had raised 4 successful kids and then out of nowhere a nuclear bomb exploded in the middle of my happy home.  I was left in shock, bewildered, even unclear where I was and how this was happening.  I felt unexplainable grief.  No matter who I spoke to, no one could fully comprehend the depth of my pain.  The pain was paralyzing.  I’ve never felt anything like it.  It is like the “unfair” type of grief you experience when someone is taken from you way too early and unexpectedly.  You keep grasping for answers to “why?” and there are no answers, just pain.  So many well-meaning friends tried to bring me comfort but there just is no comfort in these situations. 

I’m reading a book by Lysa Terkeurst called “Uninvited.”  If you haven’t read it I highly recommend it.  In it she deals with rejection.  She talks about how when we get rejected and internalize it,  and we start looking for it everywhere.  For me my first rejection was from my Mom.  She called me “wild child.”  That spoke to me that I was not acceptable.  I was “too much.”  I was “a handful.”  My Dad and I had a very close relationship, but when that was marred by childhood abuse I learned he didn’t love me for me, but he wanted something from me.  More rejection, deeper wound.  I went on to struggle with rejections from friends and boys, and eventually a fiancé.  Ouch.  It didn’t take a rocket scientist to build the theory that I was just not acceptable.  Something was wrong with me, and nothing I could do could make it right.

 I went on to marry a man who would reinforce that theory in very subtle ways.  I didn’t eat the right food.  I didn’t have the right body. I don’t exercise enough. There are so many things that he reminds me are not right about me.  As if I need the reminder.  I’d already decided years ago that I was unacceptable.  I walk into a room expecting to be rejected.  I think it’s why I’m so socially awkward. I walk into any social situation knowing that everyone there is prettier than I am, smarter than I am, and they are “worthy.”  You see to me, I’m not even “worthy.”  I’m not worthy of happiness, or love, or joy, or anything really.  The people in the social situation that I’m in usually smell the unworthiness one me and I’m just an awkward mess.

Right about now you may be reading this thinking, “this woman is a mess!  She needs help.”  Oh you are so right.  I do need help and I’ve been searching it out in lots of places like food, friends and therapists.  But as Lysa pointed out, the help I need is right in front of my face.  God’s word tells me exactly who I am.  It tells me I am made in his image.  It tells me I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  It tells me that my name is engraved on the palm of his hand.  I am a friend of Jesus.  I have been accepted by Christ.  In Christ I have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.  My body is a temple of the holy spirit.  I am holy, chosen and blameless before God.  I am God’s workmanship.  There’s so much more but you get the idea.

The problem is when I read those verses I think, “yes, that applies to everyone but me.”  That’s what rejection can do to you heart.  Rejection is the lie.  But the truth is when I say that, I’m calling God a liar.  Who in the world do I think I am to call God a liar?  And when I reject who He says I am but accept what the world says I am I’m essentially saying, “God, you are a liar, but my Mom, my Dad, my husband and all these other people are telling me the truth.”  Wow, I can almost hear God saying, “who in the world do you think you are miss prissy pants to call me a liar?!  Have you forgotten who I AM?”  I imagine his voice booming in my ear.  It’s frightening. 

I focus more on who the world says I am, than who God says I am.  I value the opinion of the world more than I value the opinion of God.  Ouch.  I have been living for 50 years as if God was a big liar.  What if for the next 50 I lived as though God’s words about me were true and the world was the big fat liar?  That would be awesome.  And I am going to do my best to do just that. 

The hard part is 50 years of old tapes are hard to erase.  I’m going to have to purposefully remind myself every day who I am so that when I hear a lie I’ll be able to shake it off.  Hmm…. I think I better put that Taylor Swift song on my iphone so every time I hear a lie and can hear Taylor reminding me to shake it off!

I’m a work in progress.  I’ve been on the potter’s wheel so long.  Even though I can’t always see it I have to remind myself that I am a masterpiece, and live that way.  But I need to do more than that.  I need to not join in the part of the world that rejects and tears other down.  With every opportunity I need to build others up and remind them of who they are. 

In the meantime, Jeannie’s still missing.  The old Jeannie just isn’t there anymore.  Perhaps the new one that rises out of the ashes will be stronger, more confident in who she is and with any luck at all, a little less socially awkward. P.S. This is not meant to bash my husband. He is working on his own identity. We are working to restore the damage from our terrorist attack.


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I can’t forget

My parents generation used to say “I remember exactly where I was when Kennedy was shot.”  I never understood quite why they said that until 9/11/2001.  On that day I laid in bed, my husband was getting ready for work.  It was early I turned on the news and saw the twin tower on fire.  I figured it was just a fire, but it was so much more.

I was 9 months pregnant with my 4th daughter and as I looked at the T.V. over my gigantic belly I watched a second plane crash into the second tower.  On that day, none of it made sense.  News coming in live thought maybe a pilot was on a suicide mission or a pilot error.  News coming in faster than my brain could comprehend what I was seeing.  Then more breaking news.  A plane crashed into the Pentagon.  My head was spinning.

This was all coming in in real time.  Playing out slowly over the course of the day.  The news showed people covered in white powder and rubble, bleeding and confused.  I sat helpless in my living room watching their horror.  I watch amazing acts of bravery.  I watched amazing acts of kindness, all in the midst of incredible evil. How? Why?

Those questions have never really been answered.  Sure we know the who and the how and maybe part of the why, but I don’t think we will ever really understand real evil. There is no explanation that makes evil understandable.  What I find so incredible is despite the events that unfolded that horrible day, evil didn’t win.  Evil was simply the impetus for amazing act of love, kindness and bravery.  I watched everyday people do extraordinary things.  I watched a nation come together to help each other.  I have watched the stories from 9/11 survivors and those that didn’t survive change lives.  My friend Leslie was in the Twin Towers when they fell.  Her story is gut wrenching. She now uses her story to help others.  Evil didn’t win that day, it simply provided a way for human goodness to shine even brighter.

We all have our own personal 9/11’s – those events in our life that completely turn our lives upside down.  In those moments we have our own accounts of people who stepped up to show love and bravery to us.  Yes, as the saying goes “We will never forget.”  For me that has a lot more meaning that one evil event.  We must never forget that in the end, evil loses bigtime.  Love wins because love never fails.

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Mrs. Olsen

I used to love watching Little House on the Prairie.  What a great show with such a contrast in characters.  Charles and Carolyn Ingalls are loving and hardworking and Mrs. Olsen and Nellie Olsen are mean, vindictive and entitled. Such great lessons in each show!

Recently I was reflecting on that show when I was thinking about forgiveness.  Over my lifetime I’ve had some people hurt me in ways that would be considered to the world “unforgiveable sins.”  You know the ones.  The big ones.  The ones that people say that once they carry out these unforgiveable sins they can never change.  Well that makes sense if there were no God, but in my world there is God and God is Love.  In fact I’ve heard it said that the entire bible can be summed up with the word love.  When all else fails Love.

Now I don’t mean doormat Love.  I don’t mean putting yourself in harms way over and over.  I mean God’s definition of love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it 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. Love never fails.”

It was that one sentence that made me realize I as Mrs. Olsen.  “It keeps no record of wrongs.”  Mrs. Olsen knew everything everyone had ever done and always used it against them.  I do the same thing.  I don’t think I use it against people, but I do guard my heart with it.  “They’ve done this before, they’ll do it again.” But God says I can’t keep a record of wrongs if I love.  I’ll never forget a bible study I did one time and we drew a picture of our image of the throne room of God.  Around his throne in Revelation 4: 6 was a sea of glass.  It reminded me of the “sea of forgetfulness” that God casts ours sins into.  The sea is ever before his throne because he’s always ready to cast our sins into them.  Is that me? Do I cast people sins including my own, into the sea of forgetfulness or like Mrs. Olsen do I keep a tally?

Well if I’m honest sometimes I keep a tally.  It’s hard not to.  I’m human.  In some of my deepest hours of pain and crying out to the Lord he reminded me that I know nothing of why people choose hurt me or what’s going on with them.  He also reminded me of his authority to forgive whoever he pleases.  That’s the grace we all want, I’m not sure as a church it’s the grace we all give.  I think as a church we have a formula.  “When they repent and turn, when they apologize, etc.”  But God calls us to love people in the midst of their sin.  “I know you are struggling with…. but I love you anyway.  I’m here for you.”  We see pastors who fall and they are presented to the church and they are repentant and the church forgives, but what if they weren’t repentant yet? Would we still treat them with the same love? What if our love is what can help them get to repentance?

I’m currently choosing to love a few people who have not repented.  They aren’t even sorry.  But I trust God to carry out his perfect will in their lives with the help of my love lavished on them that they don’t deserve.  After all, that’s what God does for us.  He lavishes love on us we don’t deserve.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not perfect.  There are also a couple of people that just aren’t safe for me and I have to keep at an arms distance to protect myself.  But I can still love them in my prayer life before the Lord hoping that someday they will see what they are doing.  Forgiveness looks different for all of us.  Forgiveness isn’t absolution.  It isn’t saying what they did was o.k. It’s simply saying that I am not going to keep a record of wrongs.  We do it with our children when they are small quite easily.  When they break something we are quick to forgive.  I’d like to learn how to be that forgiving all the time.

In the last year God has changed the way I look at forgiveness.  God calls us to forgive the unforgiveable because he’s forgiven us.  He doesn’t call us to “bring them to repentance, or make them apologize,” or anything else for that matter.  That’s His work.  Our work is to Love.  This world could sure use a whole lot more love and it’s got to start with me.




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