The Vote

Mary Poppins is one of my all-time favorite movies. I have it nearly memorized from beginning to end, both music and dialogue alike. It was a regular on repeat when I had sick days as a kid, and even now, when I’m not feeling well, it’s one of my comforting go-to movies. Fun fact: I once played a bird in the ballet version at my local dance studio, and it was a highlight of my stint as a ballerina. 

I was never really big into princesses. I was always more into the misfits—the misunderstood, the unlikely, the funny, the ones with a cause. This new era of Disney princess is mostly this kind of heroine, but back in my day, it was more about being the damsel in distress. Don’t get me wrong; I love those movies, too. But if I had a choice, I’d always pick something a little different—a story with a little more edge.

One of my favorite parts of Mary Poppins is one of the edgier plot lines (if you can even use the word “edgy” when talking about this movie). Mrs. Banks, the bumbling and seemingly unaware mother of the household, has passionately adopted the cause to bring women the right to vote. She make signs, wears sashes, and dedicates her time to protesting so that women in her day can have the right to vote. She even sings a songabout this very subject early in the film. 

As a kid, I loved that song mostly because I thought it was funny the way the maids and nannies joined her to dance around and look so silly. But as an adult, I love that part for so many more reasons. It’s about one of my favorite things: a woman’s right to vote. 

In case you missed it, we’re in the middle of an election season. I don’t know how you could miss this because the commercials, and the mailers, and the Facebook posts, and the phone calls are so much. Regardless of all the annoying noise surrounding it, voting season has always been one of my favorites. 

My parents used to take us with them to vote on Election Day. We’d wait in line at the local gym turned polling place before they’d take us into the booth with them and let us wear the sticker on the way out. I don’t think as a kid I fully appreciated what they were doing for us by bringing us with them. Honestly, they might have just brought us along because they didn’t have a choice! Whatever the reason, those many Tuesdays tagging along to the voting booth over the years gave me a healthy understanding and respect for my right to vote. 

I remember voting in my first election with excitement, mostly because it was a cool thing to do as an 18 year old. It was one of the only “adult” privileges I could participate in when I turned 18. I didn’t smoke, didn’t want a tattoo, and my state didn’t have the lottery at the time so voting was pretty much it.  

My senior year, I had a great English teacher who took the time to talk to us about voting. She encouraged us to look into the history of voting in our country so that we could really understand the right we were all coming into that year. She even gave us a brief assignment to research our potential candidates that year as a way to teach us the value of the vote. (Can we get a shout out for all the amazing teachers out there who are teaching life lessons alongside literature?)

The stuff I learned that year has really stuck with me. It wasn’t all that long ago that women in our country couldn’t vote. Like not at all, you guys! Why? Well, because they were women. That was literally the only reason. And in order to get that right given back to them, women had to take a hard stance. They had to make sacrifices, and put their necks out, and fight so that girls like me, nearly 100 years later, could walk into my public library and vote without worry. 

There are countries still today where women don’t have the right to speak into the people who lead and govern them. Simply because they’re women, they don’t get the choice to speak into who is going to lead and make laws that impact them directly. If that sounds crazy to you, it’s because it is!

In my parent’s lifetime, people had to take similar stances and make big sacrifices so that African Americans could have that same right to vote. To get where we are today—where everyone is supposed to have the right to use their voice to vote—was a bloody, bruising, and violent road. 

I follow John Lewis on Twitter. He is not only one of my elected representatives in Georgia, but he’s a leader in the Civil Rights movement. He’s one of the guys who made the sacrifices and took the hard road so that people just like him could vote. Last week as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed at a doctor’s appointment, I saw that he tweeted this:

I have been beaten, my skull fractured, and arrested more than forty times so that each and every person has the right to register and vote. Friends of my gave their lives. Do your part. Get out there and vote like you’ve never voted before. 

Can you even imagine that? 

So many people worked so hard so that I could wake up on a Friday morning in 2018, grab a latte, and go to my public library to vote early last week. The nerd in me got emotional thinking about it when I got back in the car after I was done. People literally gave up their lives at one point in history just so that I could have the freedom to vote. It took me all of six minutes to cast my ballot, but it took some people a lifetime to earn me that six minutes.  

That’s a sacrifice I don’t want to forget.

It’s a right I don’t want to take for granted. 

So here’s the PSA: Voting is one of the greatest tools we have. It’s one of my favorite freedoms to exercise. It’s an easy way to use our voices. But it didn’t come easy for so many of us. And for so many others, it’s still only an idea. 

So don’t miss it. Don’t take it for granted. Get your own latte, get to your library, and vote. Then, when you’re done, go home and watch Mary Poppins. Trust me, you won’t be sorry about either!

A Safe Place

I’m a news junkie.

I love to read what’s happening in and around the world everyday, and I think I come by it honestly. For as long as I can remember, my grandfather has been reading the local newspaper from cover to cover on a daily basis (though the sports section is his favorite, of course). My dad does the same. I vividly remember him reading the paper every morning while we got ready for school. And now as an adult, it’s become part of my own morning routine (though my newspaper is really just the other side of the computer screen). After coffee, and reading, and a little bit of prayer comes my daily peruse of the news. 

Now at this point if you’re asking yourself, How can you take that?, then you’re on to something. Because lately, the news is just a real downer. I mean, every single day the headlines and stories that follow seem worse than the ones the day before. It’s full of division, and hatred, and just plain darkness. 

I can’t imagine this is the first time someone reading the news has felt this way. My grandfather, who fought in World War II, and my father, who grew up in the politically embroiled sixties in the deep South, probably felt the same way many times. But for me, the word hopeless has come to mind a lot during my morning news readings in the last few months. (Expert tip: That’s why I pair it with the Bible. Hope for the hopeless, ya’ll!)

The news out of Washington this week has specifically left me in a place that’s hard to even articulate. I’m not going to get into the details about what’s been happening with the Supreme Court nominee and the subsequent hearings. I know opinions are differing, and polarizing, and strong, and the purpose of this blog isn’t to get into all of that. You can Google it. I think due process for both sides is part of what makes the American democracy and judicial systems fair, and I hope, as with all things, that the truth will rise to the surface. 

But more than anything, what’s left me so bothered is the familiar narratives that have played out alongside this story. 

The first?

Boys will be boys.

Excuse me while I get on my soapbox for just a second.

I can name you a ton of boys who have moved through high school, college, and well into their adult lives without engaging in sexually forceful behavior toward another person. My dad, my brother, my brother-in-law, my friends’ husbands, the men I work with everyday, the students I’ve gotten to know in my church’s high school ministry. That list goes on and on. So no, boys don’t just act that way. And when we brush off aggressive, and forceful, and inappropriate behavior that ignores consent and disrespects another person with the old “boys will be boys” adage, we’re doing the boys in this world a huge disservice. We’re setting a standard of behavior that is way too low for them and assumes the worst about them. Because no, that’s not what it means to be a boy. It’s certainly not what it means to be a man. 

Okay, soap box aside, the other narrative that’s taken over in the wake of this story seems to be this one: 

If this really happened, why didn’t she say anything all those years ago? 

Now in a moment of true transparency, let me tell you that, as a woman, this question crossed my mind, too. I initially wondered the same thing, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I think that has a lot to do with my background. Because I’m one of the lucky ones—one of the seemingly few women in the world who is fortunate enough to never have had to report anything. I’ve never walked through a moment like this in my life. I grew up surrounded by safe and trustworthy adults. My dad was even a social worker for a long time. His job was literally to help people feel safer. So not only is it hard for me to put myself in the place of someone who may have gone through something like this, it’s hard for me to imagine not feeling like I could tell the adults in my life without full assurance that they’d believe and support me. 

So as I’ve tried to do with a lot of things I don’t understand, I decided I was going to learn. Unfortunately, the list of women I know who did go through things like this and worse is long. And most of these women have grown up to be nothing short of amazing. They’re wives, mothers, and friends with careers and legacies that I admire. And with a lot of counseling and even more Jesus, they’re walking free from the pain of the things that were done to them in the past. They’re healed, and whole, and using their lives to help others be the same, in big and small ways. 

And in literally every single one of their stories—and I mean every single one—they waited a long time to speak up. They didn’t immediately tell anyone in authority (or anyone at all really) what happened to them. Some waited weeks, some months, some years. Some are still waiting. Some may wait forever. 

In an effort to understand what was going on in the hearts and minds of these women who I know, and love, and believe, I asked them if they’d share some of the reasons they struggled to come forward with their own stories. And with their permission, here’s what they said. 

People around me suspected it. I knew they did. But because they never said anything, I didn’t think I should either.

He was a family member, somebody that everyone else in my family really seemed to love. When I did tell one person in my family once—someone my age—they said, “No way, he wouldn’t do that. He’s so nice!”

There were other people there who saw it happen. They laughed when they talked about it at school the next Monday. It made me feel like I was making a bigger deal out of it than I should.

I did tell someone. And then I got removed from my home. My mom didn’t want me to stay there anymore. She chose him.

This other girl in my high school did speak up, and she got humiliated. Nobody talked to her, people wrote things on the bathroom wall about her, and eventually, she left the school. Nothing ever happened to the guy. I didn’t want the same thing to happen to me.

He was my father. Who was I going to tell?

The list goes on and on and on. 

Searching #WhyIDidn’tReport on Twitter is a great research tool to educate yourself with stories just like these, too. They’re hard to read and at times, even harder to believe. Not because I think those people are lying, but because I can’t imagine a scenario in which someone who was hurt in such a way would be met with such a lack of support and help. 

If you’re anything like me, that list is upsetting to you, too. As a woman, as a human, as a Christian. It makes me sad that there’s even a glimmer of doubt that the people in this world who have been victimized and vulnerable won’t be given the help they need to recover in a way that’s safe and supportive. 

So as I’ve been reading the news unfold and listening to my friends share so honestly about their own experiences, I’ve been asking myself a lot of question. And the one I land on over and over again is this one:

What can I do? 

I can’t solve the problems of politics. I can’t answer all of the painful and complex questions on sex, and abuse, and power, and time, and alcohol, and sex. But I can focus on myself. I can ask what I can do to make the needle move even just a little bit so that narratives like this don’t remain so commonplace. 

My grandmother (someone who sadly knew abuse in her own life) used to tell me that if I wanted to do something, I just needed to do it. I didn’t need to wait on anybody else to take action.  

“You have everything you need in you to do something about anything you care about,” she’d say. 

And while I can’t do anything about this narrative on a national or global or even political level other than use my voice and my vote, I can do something about myself. I can do whatever it is that I can do to make sure that everyone in my life sees me as a safe place. I can work to be the kind of person others know they can come to without fear. I can make sure I’m supporting those who do come to me by getting them the help they need. I can make sure I’m speaking truth about identity and confidence and boundaries to both the boys and girls in my life. I can do whatever it is within my power to make sure I’m never an adult that someone who is vulnerable feels afraid to come to because of worry over how they’ll be received. 

Because all of us deserves that much, don’t we? We need each other.

I honestly don’t know how to end this blog because I’m still turning over a lot of things about this in my own mind. I feel so strongly about the fact that this world needs to be a different place for boys and girls alike—a place where stories like this don’t continue to be the norm in my morning news headlines. I know that there are so many stances on what’s playing out on TV in the Senate even as I type.

But I also know that somewhere in there is the truth, and I think truth is something we all pray will always rise above the lies. 

On Movies

I love the movies.

If I had indispensable funds, I’d go to a movie every single day. As a writer by trade, I feel like this makes sense. I love a well-told, unique, beautiful story. And movies give me the chance to see those come to life. 

My all-time favorite? Dirty Dancing. And no, you can’t tell me otherwise because I’ll never change my stance on this. I was riveted this year during Get Out and The Quiet Place. The first place I drove when I got my driver’s license was to the movie theater in Knoxville with my sister to see The Skulls. I saw the midnight premieres for most of the Harry Potterfilms, The Hunger Games, and yes, even Twilight. On a sick day, there’s nothing I want to do more than let You’ve Got Mail, 10 Things I Hate About You, or Father of the Brideplay in the background. To this day I can barely even talk about what happens in Goodwill Hunting, or Steel Magnolias, or Beaches, or this one scene in Manchester by the Seawithout weeping. That last one shook me up so much that I had to do a lap around my neighborhood to dry it up! And don’t get even get me started on musicals. I could watch a musical all day long! Newsies, anything starrint Elvis (yes, you heard me!), La La Land, Singing in the Rain…that list goes on and on. 

You get the point. Movies are my thing. 

My friend Steph equally loves the movies (though musicals are where she typically draws a line). So when something new comes out or the list of Oscar nominations get announced, she is my go-to movie partner. 

A few weekends ago, I corralled Steph into seeing Crazy Rich Asianswith me. I’m a die-hard book over movie girl so I’d spent the week before reading the book as quickly as I could. And if I’m being honest, the book wasn’t my favorite. But since I’d put in the time to finish the book and the promise of popcorn was in my future, I still wanted to see the film

So Steph and I settled into the packed house theater and ot our candy and popcorn combos situation (because who goes to the movies without snacks?) as the opening titles began to roll. 

Within about ten minutes, I was in it! Like so much more than I thought I would be, you guys! And by the time the end credits rolled a few hours later, I was thinking, “Gosh, I have to tell everyone I know about this movie.”

And so, here I am. 

Of course, it was a great movie in genre alone. I mean, if you don’t love a romantic comedy, I don’t trust you. It’s as simple as that.

But what surprised me the most was just how moved I found myself sitting in the theater. At one point, Steph leaned over and whispered, “I’m getting choked up.” My reply? “I’m already crying.”

Of course, the scene that was playing at the time was particularly swoon worthy (don’t worry, I’m not going to give it away!). But honestly, I was more overcome by the movie as a whole. I’ve never seen a film so genuinely, and glamorously, and honestly celebrate its culture like this one. 

Truth be told, I’ve grown up watching people who look and talk just like me on the big screen. White, blonde, middle class girls? Ya’ll know they’re everywhere. The Reese Witherspoons, and Rachel McAdams, and Margot Robbies, and Meryl Streeps, and Diane Keatons, and Gwyneth Paltrows—leading ladies like these have never been hard to come by. And don’t get me wrong! I love me some Reese Witherspoon. I want to be her best friend. 

But my point is that for girls like me—girls who look like me—watching a major blockbuster movie is like looking in a mirror. We’re everywhere. But for people who don’t look like me, that’s a different story. In most mainstream films of my generation growing up, people of other races or ethnicities were often relegated to the supporting roles. The racially stereotypical joke. The best friend who comes in and out of the story. The side player. And if they were the lead, well, they were typically one of very few cast members in the film who weren’t… well, white. 

And if I’m being totally transparent, I’d tell you that I’ve never really given much thought to that reality. Full admission here: Some of this is my own fault. I could’ve done a better job of seeking out films with more cultural diversity. But I didn’t know what I didn't know. And what I didn’t know (or at least what I didn’t realize) until recently is that there is a need to see and celebrate stories that show us people who aren’t just like us. 

I think this is true now more than ever. I don’t know about you, but I feel like a lot of the narratives I see playing out in the media lately are about the things that divide us. They’re about the ways in which we’re different from one another. The things that separate us. The things that make us afraid of people who aren’t just like us. They’re the things designed to make us believe people really do fit into two categories: us and them.  

Here’s what I know to be true about my movie going experience last week. I was surrounded by people in that theater of all different ages, races, genders, and ethnicities. And we were all laughing, crying, and experiencing the film the same way. Pieces of the story were resonating with all of us. It didn’t matter that nobody on screen looked like me. In fact, it made me love the movie that much more. I had a student in my dance class tell me last week that she took her picture next to the movie’s poster outside the theater because “the girl in the picture looked like me.” (Insert tears!)

I’ve learned a lot over these last few years as a writer, but there’s one thing that stands out the most: Our stories connect us. I may not come from where you come from and I may never be able to fully understand or relate to your specific experience in this world. But when I hear your story, I can connect. I can empathize. I can learn. 

And I think we could all use a little less division and little more connection in our lives, am I right?

I now have a running list of films I want to watch about other cultures, featuring stories about things I don’t fully know or understand and people who don’t look just like me. First, because I want to put my money where my mouth is and actually support movies like this with my wallet (and we all now movies ain’t cheap!). But also because I want to be a student of the world me. And not just the world I can see in my mirror, or at my church, or in my backyard, or even in my friend group. I want to learn about people and places I may never meet or visit in my real life because even if I never encounter them, they exist. And they matter. Because the more you know, the more you can connect. And the more you connect, the more you understand. And the more you understand, the more you speak up and support and show kindness to others.

So if you’re still reading this, well, I honestly don’t know why! Drop everything, buy a ticket to this movie, and prepare to laugh and cry into your overpriced, delicious popcorn. 

My Tribe

Hello, my name is Sara, and I’m an Enneagram Two.

Now if you aren’t sure what that means, let me explain. The Enneagram is a personality test of sorts that’s basically taking over the world. Well, at least the Christian world. You see, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Christians over the last few years (other than that we love Jesus and a good potluck dinner of course) is that they love a personality test. 

Now of course this could be true of all people, but in my experience, there’s nobody that loves looking at a personality breakdown like a Christian. They love to know their gifts, their makeup, their strengths, their temperaments, and more. In the years I’ve worked with churches and ministries, I’ve taken just about a million and one different tests designed to tell me all of the above in a different way.  

I’m a blue. I’m an achiever. I’m high in responsibility. I’m an extrovert. I’m an encourager.

The list goes on and on and on. 

Now here’s the deal. Typically, tests like these get on my nerves. It’s not that I think there isn’t truth or value in them. It’s just that I think they tend to put us in a box. We take the test, get the results, and suddenly, that’s who we are. We’re defined by it. We’re that thing and only that thing.

And I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m a lot of things—sometimes one at a time and sometimes all at once. I don’t want to be boxed in. 

So while others tend to embrace the personality test phenomenon, I’ve typically shied away. But I have several very close friends right now who are all up in the Enneagram. They are reading about it, learning more about who they are, and straight up loving it. 

Last week, I found myself sitting in my living room with four of my closest friends. These are the people who have lived a lotof life beside me. They’re the people I’d call in a crisis, the people I’d choose to hang out with first, the people I think are the funniest in the world, and the people who would help me bury the body without question (yes, we’ve talked about that!). In short, they’re the people who know me best. 

And several of those people also happen to be my Enneagram-loving friends. So as the night was winding down, somehow we ended up scrolling through an Instagram account designed specifically to explain the ins and outs of each and every personality type on the test. 

Now of course, I’ve taken this test before (hello writing for Christian ministries… they loveit!). So when it came to me, I told the room my results. 

“I usually test between two types, but it’s more a Two than anything else. I don’t know what’s right.” 

The Enneagram ringleader in the room quickly took to Instagram to read aloud to me the qualities that make up life for an Enneagram Two.

You’re a helper by nature.

You’re everyone’s emergency contact. 

You’re highly empathetic

You want people to know that you love them.

You sacrifice for people.

You’re thoughtful and warm.

All of those are qualities I can get down with, you know? If that’s what it means to be a Two, then I’ll take it!

But then, the list went on. And there were those other qualities…

You’re controlling when you feel out of control.

You deflect attention from your own issues.

You get moody or irritable.

You’re deeply afraid of rejection.

Your motives aren’t always pure. 

Ugh, these things? Not so awesome.  

I was sitting on my sofa while that list—both good and bad—was being read aloud. And the people who know me so well were responding to each and every quality—both good and bad. They were nodding. They were telling me about the ways they’ve seen those things play out in my life. They were encouraging the good things they saw in me and helping me see where the not so good things showed up. 

If this sounds like a weird thing to reminiscence about on my blog, it’s because it is! I mean, who sits around on a Saturday night drinking wine and typing their friends on the Enneagram? Who FaceTimes one of those friend’s husbands to tell him that you’ve collectively figured out his type, too? (He’s a courageous Six, ya’ll). Who does all this soul-searching and sharing in front of one of those friend’s new boyfriends? (Side notes, he’s a strong Eight.)

Well, as it turns out, my weird friends and I do. You have to remember that I was sitting in a room full of personality test lovers. That’s how it all started!

But what you also need to know is that I was sitting in a room full of people who want what’s best for their friends. 

Here’s my takeaway from the evening. It’s not so much that I’m officially a Two (though ya’ll, I can’t deny the truth any longer!). No, above and beyond any possible personality test breakthroughs, what I thought about that evening as I went to bed was just how important it is to surround yourself with people who know you.

And I mean, really, really, really know you. 

The further along I go in this world, the more I realize how much I need to open my life up to people who can speak into it. It’s so important to have people in your life who love you, and it’s even more important to let those people speak truth to you. I need the people in my life who call out the qualities they love in me and the things they think really make me who I am. But it’s equally important to let those people draw attention to the ways those unhealthy parts of you show up. Not because they want to beat you down, but because ultimately, they want to build you up. 

I don’t know how I got so lucky to have these (and so many other!) girlfriends who will do that for me in a way that’s safe, and loving, and nurturing, and ultimately, empowering. But I did.

And since I’m a Two, I love it, because I love my people!

My encouragement to you would be to find those people for yourself. They aren’t always “yes” people. They aren’t going to tell you every decision is good, or every emotion is justified, or every part of you is healthy, or even that every outfit looks good on you (we all need that friend, right?). They’re going to give it to you straight.

But they’re going to do it out of love. 

I don’t know about you, but those are the people I want in my tribe.

(And yes, they really will help me hide the body, too. So don’t mess with us!).

Notes From A Failure

I’ve never really been a risk taker.

I’m not adventurous. I don’t want to jump out of an airplane, or swim with the sharks, or climb Mt. Everest, or do whatever trendy, crazy things risky, adventurous people typically do.

It’s just not me. 

I think some of that comes from the way I was raised. Admittedly, my mom was a little, shall we say, nervous about letting us try a lot of things. We laugh now about the seemingly simple things she wanted us to avoid back then, but at the time, she was serious. To this day, I still haven’t ridden a jet ski because my mom convinced me that it wasn’t to be done without a helmet. (I feel ya, Jay-Z.)

But I think my aversion to risk also comes from the way I’m wired. I’m an achiever at heart. I want do things, and I want to do them well.So if there’s even the slightest chance I’m going to fail at something, I’m just going to avoid it all together. And if there’s a chance I’m going to fail at it and somehow other people will know, then that’s a big HELL NO! I don’t even want to consider it.

If there’s a risk of failure of any kind, I won’t even attempt it. 

That’s what makes my current career path all the more interesting.

Three years ago today, I walked away from full-time employment to pursue a lifelong dream of being a writer. At the time, here’s how I pictured it: me, some modern day version of Meg Ryan, glamorously sitting at my computer in a cool New York City apartment (that I can totally afford) while inspired words just naturally flowed through me. As it turns out, here’s how it really looks: me, still in my pajamas for a long time most days, not wearing makeup and huddled in the corner of my bedroom that I’ve transformed into my “office” working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life. 

Meg Ryan, I am not.

But regardless, the choice to move into full-time, self-employment remains the biggest risk I’ve ever taken in my life. It’s scary, and humbling, and emotional, and fun, and really, really hard. And the worst part? In order to do it well, I have to talk about it. I have to draw attention to it. I have to tell people what I’m doing in order to keep growing and thriving in my work. And that means, if at any point I fail—if the risk doesn’t work out—then everyone will know. #myworstnightmare

Yet somehow, here we are three years down the line, and I think what I’ve learned the most about along the way actually has been failure. You see, I think my whole life I’ve been looking at failure all the wrong way.

I always saw failure as something based on an outcome. If I tried something and it didn’t work, that was failure. If I quit my job, tried to be a writer, and it didn’t work, then I would’ve failed. That’s how I used to see it.  

But what the last three years have taught me is that real failure happens way before the outcome is ever determined. The real failure wouldn’t have been to try my hand at making a living as a writer and fail miserably at it. No, the real failure would’ve been not to try at all. To disregard obedience for the sake of what felt safe.

My mentor once told me that it was much easier to steer a moving car than a parked one. Duh, right? Of course, she wasn’t talking about actual driving. She meant that God can much easier direct a life that’s in motion rather than one that’s frozen on the sidelines by the fear of failure.

And that’s totally true. In the last three years, God has moved and directed my life in ways I could’ve never imagined. I’ve met incredible people, done incredible work, and been given the chance to work on incredible projects.

Most importantly, I’ve tried a lot of new things. I’ve taken a lot of risks.

And failed. 

A lot. 

For a recovering risk-averse gal like myself, you’d think this last fact would’ve sent me running quickly back to the sidelines of life. It might’ve even sent me back to the life of traditional, full-time employment. And if I’m being straight up honest, at times it almost did. 

This year in particular has been marked with a lot of failure. 2018 hit and suddenly, so did all the “no’s” in my career.

No, that’s not a good idea. No, we don’t want to pay you for that. No, we don’t want yoru help anymore. No, we don’t think your work is good enough here. No, that’s not something we need right now. 

No. No. No. No. No.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I heard straight up, “No!” in just about every area of my life for about six months. It sucked. And I hated it. And I cried. A lot.

But here’s what I noticed: The old me would’ve taken the first no, hidden it away from everyone, and used it as a sign that I needed to throw in the towel and go back to what felt safe. I would’ve felt like a failure.  

But now, my inner-risk taker has woken up. And though, the no’s still sting when I hear them, they don’t stop me now. They don’t feel so much like failure as they do like freedom.

In the last month, I’ve had to do a lot of things outside of my zone, both personally and professionally. And since we’re all friends here, I think I can be honest and say I’ve still cried about each and every one of them. I even tried to find ways out of a few of them. But in spite of my best efforts to avoid a few risks, God said go. 

And so I went. I did the things. And guess what?

I survived. I came out better for it. And along the way, I even got a few “yes’s.” Not just little ones, but big ones. Some that I’m really proud of and almost can’t believe.

But you know what else? I still got some “no’s,” too. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine over here, ya’ll. For every one yes, there were probably ten other no’s waiting around the corner. 

And that’s okay.

Because the one “yes” is worth all the “no’s” in the world.

And the risk is worth the potential failure. Because without the risk, I would never be where I am, or who I am, right now. 

Now excuse me while I get back to my studies on deep-sea diving so I can cross “swim with sharks” off my new risk-taking bucket list.

Just kidding….

There’s still no chance I’m ever be doing that!

Home

Hi, my name is Sara, and I love to travel. 

If you know me, this confession probably isn’t all that shocking. 

I grew up in a family that didn’t really travel a lot. We weren’t big on vacations, both out of financial constraints and general lack of interest on my dad’s part. (He’s a real homebody, and we like him that way!) Almost every member of our extended family lived out of town so most of our travel time was spent trekking across the state of Tennessee for long-term visits. We looked forward to those trips every single summer and holiday season because it meant time with the people we loved. 

So all in all, I didn’t really know what I was missing in the world of travel until I actually set foot on a plane. I was 19 years old when that happened, and my first official trip was a big one: a mission trip in Africa. It was my first time out of the country, my first time on a plane, and my first real experience away from my family for an extended time. You would think I’d have been really nervous or even afraid at the thought of this new experience, but I wasn’t. Not in the least bit. I was truly and genuinely excited. 

And the trip didn’t disappoint. From a safari inside a crater in Tanzania to a visit to a Maasai village to new foods and new friends, that trip changed my life. It was the first time I saw the world for what it was: big and wide and ready to explore. Turns out, the world is a lot bigger than just my corner of the state of Tennessee. There’s so much more than just the people I know, or the perspective I have, or the culture I’ve experienced. And just like that, I wanted to experience it all—here, there, and everywhere. 

The travel bug officially bit me that summer, and I haven’t shaken it since. 

The next year, I hopped a plane with the same group of people on a mission trip to Bolivia. I’ve visited Estonia, Amsterdam, and the Philippines on similar type trips over the last decade, too. When my friend Mary lived a semester in Australia, I booked a ticket to take weeklong road trip down the coast with her. I tagged along with my friend Chelsea for a weekend in California. I’ve taken multiple trips to New York City (my favorite city in the world #iwishiwasmegryan). My mom and I take an annual beach trip every May to kick off the summer season. When I turned 30, I spent the week at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican with all my best girlfriends who were also turning 30. And two summers ago I made the last minute decision to meet up with two friends for only four days in Iceland. For many reasons, that trip remains the best one I’ve taken to date.

The point of all this isn’t to give you some cool list of places I’ve been so far. It’s to say that since I got back from that first trip to Africa when I was 19, much of my life has been spent looking ahead to when and where I’ll be on the road to next. 

I came home from another trip to New York this summer filled with good friends, good food, and good theater only to hop in the car a few days later for a week long beach vacation with a few of my favorite friends. (It was all fun and games until the stitches that week.) When that trip ended, I came back to Georgia, unpacked my borrowed suitcase, and got back to life as usual. 

But life as usual hasn’t been all that much fun. It’s been a lot of unexpected stress, and disappointments, and decisions—a bunch of adult stuff that sucks. And this week, when I looked at my calendar, my travel happy heart sunk further when I realized that for the first time in a long time, I have no travel plans on the horizon. No flights booked, no excursions planned, no vacation days taken, and no new places to see. Without the time, or the money, or the freedom from all that crappy adult stuff, it’s just life here in Georgia for me for the foreseeable future.

And for some reason, this reality has left me in a funk.

I’ve never been afraid to be in one place. I’ve lived here in Georgia for more than a decade now, and while I’ve moved homes (a lot!), I’ve been here consistently. And I love it. I love the way community and longevity build roots in a place. 

And I like having roots. 

But roots don’t always make you feel like you’re home. And weirdly, I think home is still sort of what I’m looking for. 

It’s a strange thing to be 34 and still looking for your place. It’s a strange thing to be building a life for yourself, by yourself. It’s hard to fully embrace a place or a season when you feel like this picture of home you have in your mind isn’t what your life looks like now. Though I’m rooted, I don’t necessarily feel like I’m home. 

I think that’s what makes this season of being settled and kept in one place for the time being feel a little scary. Because when home doesn’t feel like home—when it doesn’t look the way you thought it would—it makes you wonder if maybe home is somewhere out there still.  

Over the years, my counselor has taught me to do this exercise she calls, “Looking forward to…” It’s essentially just a list of things that I have on the horizon of life that keep me excited about pressing on when things feel stressful, or heavy, or hard. The more steps forward I take, the closer I get to the next thing I’m looking forward to on that list. For me, nine times out of ten, those things have been travel related. 

I was talking to her last week about how much I wish I had unlimited funds to book a trip somewhere and add to my “Looking forward to” list. I told her how I’m so travel-sick that I’ve been randomly searching flights to places I’d love to go just in case. And I told her how unsettled I’ve felt in this season—how I’m struggling to feel at home.

Her response?

“I mean, do you ever think you’ll feel at home here?” 

She didn’t mean Georgia. She and I both know that, despite the fact that life doesn’t look the way I thought it would, I do feel rooted and settled here. No, she meant here on Earth.

Don’t worry, this isn’t the part where I start talking aliens, and space, and other lives, and other worlds, and stuff like that. I’m just saying that, if you think about it, in some ways we’re all just wandering travelers here, looking for a place to call home. And just like Goldilocks and her three bears, there’s just something about life on Earth that will never quite fit. It just won’t feel like home.

And I don’t think it’s supposed to. We weren’t made for this world, and because of that, we’re always going to feel a little unsettled and out of place. 

So what do we do? Well, as my counselor says, we make the best of where we are. We stay when we’re called to stay. We go when we’re supposed to go. We experience and soak in what’s around us right where we are. We bloom where we’re planted, even if the garden looks a little different than we thought it would. We look forward to what’s ahead, but we also look forward to what’s around us in the here and now. 

We find home in who we are. 

On a whim, I bought new luggage this week. When it was delivered to my doorstep, I opened it with so much expectation. I hope it takes me to a lot of new places and faces and experiences this year. I hope it goes with me on adventures not even on the calendar yet. 

But I also know that it will fit just right in the corner of my closet when I unpack it where I am now.

Home. 

The Sound of Silence

I’ve never been great at silence.

I’m a natural born extrovert—friend and conversationalist to all. I’ve basically been talking since birth. I can talk to anyone, anywhere, about just about anything. 

In line at the checkout counter? The perfect time to start a conversation with the person behind the register. Waiting for your bags at the airport? An opportunity to make small talk with the people around you. I’ve befriended my pharmacist, my doctor, my massage therapist, the ladies at the nail salon, my barista at Starbucks, the teachers at my Pure Barre, all by talking to them every time I see them. It’s not that I’m some amazing conversationalist; it’s just that given the choice between silence and speaking up, I typically tend to start talking. 

You may have noticed some silence on this blog in the last month. Half of that is because May turned into an insanely busy month. It was filled with travel and sickenss and work and the general busyness of a life that took many unexpected turns in the last four weeks. Though nothing major, it was enough to add up and overwhelm. 

But if I’m honest, the silence on this blog has also been because I feel a little bit at a loss for words. I’ve been walking through a season of what feels like silence in the last few months. I can’t explain where it came from or understand what caused it. It just happened. I woke up one morning weighted down by it, and I haven’t been able to shake it since. I’m using all the tools at my disposal—all the prayer, all the counseling, all the mentoring, all the exercise, all the healthy choices—but it’s just stuck with me. At least for now, the silence remains. 

I know that sounds very Simon & Garfunkel-esque, but I don’t know what else to call it. It feels like a season of silence.

Though they didn’t have the classic “Sound of Silence” song lyrics to draw on, I wonder if this is what the Israelites felt all those years ago, wandering and wandering in the desert, believing they were moving toward the Promised Land but plagued by the seeming silence of God as they went. Or the people living in those 400 years between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament—the years before Jesus arrived on the scene. Were they weighted down by silence and wondering what to do with it? Or those people living in the days after Jesus died—the days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I’ve thought about those people in particular a lot as of late. Surely they must’ve wondered if their futures were going to be filled with the weight of this silence. It only lasted three days, but I’d argue they were the three longest, heaviest days of their lives. 

When I think about those stories, I have to stop and remember this: I live on the other side of the story. I know how the story ends. I know what the promises are. And so even in seasons that feel so weighted with a lot of heavy, unshakeable silence, I have the advantage of keeping my eyes on a promise that says the story will end well.  

And that helps… sometimes. I’d love to be that perfect Christian who just stands perfectly on the promises of God all the time, but I’m just not. Sorry, ya’ll—that’s just real talk. In fact, nothing shakes me up more than seasons like this that are filled with silence. It’s not that I don’t believe the promises aren’t true or aren’t coming; it just doesn’t always make me feel better.

When I say this to my counselor, she is always quick to remind me that my feelings lie to me; they aren’t a symbol of what’s real. Well, that’s great lady, but it sure doesn’t change the way I feel! But like most people, I just try to keep moving forward, eyes on the prize, even when it doesn’t make me feel better.

And it’s always then that some crazy, out of nowhere thing happens to remind me that it’s a prize and promise worth keeping my eyes on. 

A few weeks ago I had really exciting Tuesday night plans; I was going to see Hamilton here in Atlanta. Now if you don’t know what that is, stop and Google it immediately. I’ll wait….

Okay, now that you know, we can go on with the story. I love theater. I love musicals, and plays, and ballets, and concerts, and basically most forms of live entertainment. In another life I believe I was some Broadway star; in this life, I’m just a nerd in the audience!

I’d been looking forward to this night for months. I had purchased only one ticket (because they were expensive and hard to come by!), but I had a few friends going that night as well so we decided to make an evening of it. 

But then, the night came. And one by one in the hours leading up to the show, those friends dropped out. They had schedule conflicts. They needed to sell the ticket for money. They had a childcare mix-up. They didn’t want to fight the 5:00 Atlanta traffic. What started as a girls’ night ended up becoming a solo girl night.

And if I’m honest, I didn’t want to go. The thought of suddenly doing this whole evening by myself just wasn’t my idea of fun. But at this point, I was already in the car. I was already on the way. I’d already spent the money. So under the weight of the silence, I decided to buck up and go, no matter how much I didn’t want to do it alone. 

Dinner plans thwarted, I pulled into the drive-thru of my trusty Chick-Fil-A to grab a meal on the way. As I waited in the line, I literally prayed out loud. I told God how I felt like things weren’t turning out, how I felt freshly weighted down by silence, how I just wanted to feel a little less on my own in the world that day.

As I pulled up the window, I was greeted by a perky, teenage Chick-Fil-A employee (because aren’t they all so great?) who quickly informed me that the lady in front of me had decided to pay for my meal. And then, she said, “I just love when people do that! It makes you feel like somebody’s got your back, right? Like you’re a little less alone in the world or something.”

Ya’ll, I tell you this in total honesty: I started crying. Like right there as I took my food, I felt tears coming down my cheeks. Let’s just say that by the time I thanked her for the food, her typical, “My pleasure!” came out as more of a question than anything else. 

Sometimes the silence stays. Sometimes it feels heavy. Sometimes circumstances don’t change. Sometimes we feel it, and we can’t shake or explain it. Sometimes people don’t understand. And sometimes, it’s just a lot. 

And then, out of nowhere, God breaks through the silence with the swipe of a debit card from the stranger in line in front of you in the drive-thru to remind you that the silence isn’t forever. The promises are still there. They’re still coming and worth pressing on for. 

Sometimes they come in encouraging words, or random phone calls, or good news, or life changes. And sometimes they come in the form of a #4 with a diet lemonade and a sweet teenager in the drive-thru on your way to a play. 

Either way, I’ll take. 

 

 

 

Behind The Curtain

It’s no secret that I love Beth Moore. If you are a woman in a church of almost any kind, chances are you’ve done at least one of her Bible studies in your time. And if you’re a woman who works in the faith-based world of communications of any kind, you most definitely have Beth to thank for blazing your trail.

Last year I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be one of just a couple hundred women who attended a conference Beth put on designed specifically to pass on everything she’s learned in her years of ministry to the female writers, speakers, and teachers coming behind her. And that’s what I love about Beth. Not only is her career about helping people find freedom in Christ, it’s also about laying a foundation for the women coming behind her. 

In short, Beth’s my girl, ya’ll. 

Last Thursday I was drinking my morning coffee when I saw Beth posted this blog. And there at my desk in my room, I cried into my coffee as I read it.

Because as a woman who has spent the majority of her adult life working in some realm of ministry, it was as if Beth had pulled the curtain back on my experience. She did it with courage and clarity to paint an accurate picture of what it’s like to be a woman at work in that world. 

Her blog moved me so much that I did what I do with most things that I love: I read it aloud that night to my friend Steph. Poor Steph has listened to me read almost entire books to her because I’m so excited about them, and she graciously pretends to be as interested as I am in whatever it is I’m reading. 

When I finished reading Beth’s blog to her, I said, “This sort of makes me want to write about some of my own experiences like this on my blog. Not to bash anybody, but because I don’t think people know what it’s really like to be a woman in this world. But I feel like maybe I shouldn’t. I don’t know.”

Steph didn’t miss a beat. “I totally think you should. Maybe it would be helpful. You never know. Plus, Beth did it. Why wouldn’t you?”

So here we are. 

I worked for a specific ministry for about four years in my twenties. It was my first real job as a writer so I was really excited for the experience. My boss at the time was an amazing woman who I credit to this day for shaping me into a pretty decent writer (most of the time at least). She was simply amazing. And every single person on her team—man and woman—was amazing, too. Females were definitely a minority there, but the ones I got to know were great people. And the men who worked closesly with me on my team were great people, too. They never once in my four years made me feel anything other than encouraged, supported, and poured into as a writer. They gave me great feedback, opportunities, and friendship.

But they weren’t in charge. There was only so far their ship could sail in creating an overall tone for the workplace. My experience with the leadership was a different experience. That ship sailed on much choppier waters.

I never experienced the kind of abuse and such that so many other women are speaking about now. To my knowledge, nothing like that ever happened where I worked. But it was a culture that perpetuated misogyny to the highest level of leadership—a culture similar to so many other ministries and churches around the country. And in a culture where such underscored and accepted misogyny exists, it’s impossible to thrive if you’re a woman. 

I was single when I started that job and single when I left. It might actually kill some of them to know I’m still single now because singleness so “late in life” is almost unheard of in that world. (News flash: 34 is not “late in life.”) Your aspiration as a woman was to be a Godly wife, and if you aren’t focused solely on that, something is off. 

“Why are you still single? Not learned to cook yet?” 

“26 and not married? We’ve gotta figure out what’s scaring the guys off!” 

“You’ve got some catching up to do!”

From the outside in, phrases like that don’t seem like a big deal, but the implication is heavy: Something must be wrong with you as a woman. #ouch.

When my first boss left to take a new job in a new city, my new boss was also awesome. He worked hard to get me moved officially out of a cubicle and into an office as my position changed. I’ll never forget sitting in that office one day and hearing someone come by looking for me. When I wasn’t there, she asked the person nearby, “Does Sara not work here anymore?” When she was told I moved into an office, she responded, “Wow! Most women don’t get offices around here.”

Once after a particular frustrating day, I was in my office really upset. A male coworker came in and as I vented my frustration, he stopped and told me that I just needed to pray—right then and out loud with him in the office. I declined, telling him I wasn’t really comfortable to do that in the moment, but that I would take it up in prayer privately. His response? To tell me I had a disobedient spirit and needed to learn to submit. 

The list goes on and on. But the worst was a day that a company wide email was circulated from a VP in the organization. He sent it to the entire company by mistake, asking that I be removed from writing any stories about his area of ministry and instead he be assigned one of my male coworkers. His reasoning? “I’m just more comfortable with him doing it.”

It was humiliating. Literally every person in our office read that email. I had a meeting not twenty minutes after it was sent, and there in the meeting I sat silently while the male leadership around the table had a good laugh at my expense. It was straight up awful. And what happened? Well, no apologies were ever made, no acknowledgement of my embarrassment. And just like that, I was taken off his assignment just as he requested. I lost the opportunity (and a little bit of my dignity, too). 

By the time I left for a new job, I was questioning my abilities as a writer and a woman. It took a long time to remind myself that I was good at being both. I spent many hours telling my counselor about this job, and when I finally told her the name of the organization, she said, “Oh yes, you’re not the only woman I’ve seen from that ministry.”

Listen, I’m no shrinking violet, ya’ll. I’ve got a pretty strong personality and have never really been afraid to stand up for what I think is right. But that season of life did a number on me! I was single, 26 years old, and in my first job as a writer. I didn’t have anything to fall back on so I couldn’t just leave. I stayed until I just couldn’t take it anymore. And I left that job to move into a totally different field, afraid I’d never get any more opportunities to be a writer. 

Fortunately, we know how this story ends for me. But that same fear I felt both in that job and leaving it is why so many women don’t speak up. Do you think Beth Moore would be where she is today if she’d said something about the misogyny in her world thirty years ago? I’m gonna doubt it.

My point isn’t to bash this ministry, or make men feel bad, or to generalize it to the fact that all men in ministry are guilty of this. I would never make such blanket statements because they aren’t true. In fact, I can tell you the names of tons of great men who have paved a way, supported, and encouraged me in ministry and my career. Men like Stuart, Mack, Ben, Mike, Tobin, Joe, Adam, Reggie, Elliott, and more. Men like my dad, a pastor himself.

The point is that there is a real and strong undercurrent of misogyny in this Christian culture. And it’s dangerous. It slowly but surely plants seeds of privilege and superiority in young men. And as they grow up, so do those seeds. All those little comments, jokes, off-handed remarks, and beliefs that reek of misogyny—those things build up over time. And eventually, they become a worldview. A worldview that places women as less than. A worldview that makes it hard, and even scary at times, to be a woman in a culture like this.  A worldview that doesn’t let women thrive in any way.

Now I’m no theologian, but I do know this: That’s most definitely not the way Jesus treated women during His time on Earth. His is the example I’m trying to follow and fellas, I think you could take a tip from Him, too. 

If you wonder why more people in this country don’t want to come to church, well… this might be it. I often hesitate to talk about my experience in ministry as a woman outside of circles of faith because I don’t want my friends who don’t know otherwise to believe that this is what happens in the church world. I don’t want them to be put off by church or Christianity in general because of things like this. Because even though it’s pretty crappy, it’s most certainly the exception and not the rule. 

I’m so glad to go to a church that makes me feel seen, heard, and valued just the way I am. I’m so lucky to work with organizations where I am given the amazing opportunity to speak into, lead, write, and develop ideas. I sit in meetings all the time with men who champion and value me. The guys aren’t the enemy, ya’ll.

But there is an enemy.

He’s about lies and deceit and power. And I believe he’s real. I believe he’s the one whispering those lies into the ears of men in ministry (and elsewhere) that lead them to believe that women are something to be threatened by or overpowered or quieted in a corner. Not to get too spiritual (though it may be too late for that), but if we really want to see a change in this part of Christian culture, we have to quiet the voice of the enemy and replace it with the voice of truth. 

Because I also believe that he doesn’t get the last word. That my prayer for the girls and boys coming behind me in the world of ministry is—that the words and whispers of our enemy won’t ring louder than the truth. Because truth—real, solid truth—is what’s going to change a worldview for the better of allpeople. 

That and following Beth Moore on Twitter immediately, of course!

Just Right

Have you ever seen that Dove commercial where they ask women to describe themselves so that an artist can draw pictures of them? If you haven’t, let me give you the quick synopsis.

The women sit down with an artist who can’t see them and begin to describe themselves. As they do, this artist draws these women based solely on the way they talk about themselves. Then, he asks them to describe another woman in the room. And again, he draws that person based on the way the woman describes her. At the end, he places both sketches of each woman—the one he drew off her own description and the one he drew off of someone else’s description—side by side. And the contrast is shockingly noticeable. The portraits of the women drawn based off of someone else’s descriptions are nearly spot on. But the ones drawn based on the way the women described themselves? They’re sad, dark, and almost hollow looking—nothing like these women in real life. 

I love this commercial not because I love Dove products (though I do), but because it’s a creative, powerful way to show what it’s like to be a girl in this world. Because no matter how hard we try, there’s something about being a girl that leaves us unable to be comfortable in our own skin. We can’t see ourselves the way we really are, and even if we do, we have a hard time accepting and embracing that person. 

I don’t know if this is a uniquely female issue. I tend to think it is, but I’m a female so I may be a biased sample size for this little survey. But because I’m a woman, I can only speak to what I’ve learned in the last 34 years of life. And that is this: It’s hard being a girl, ya’ll. 

Like me, most women are wading their way through a constant internal struggle over who they how and how they were created. They’re battling between some version of being too much or not enough. Almost every girl I know at almost every age is constantly feeling the tug between these two extremes. For women, there seems to be no middle ground of confident, self-acceptance. Instead, you can only be one: too much or not enough.  

I know a lot of women who fall into the struggle of feeling not enough in a number of ways. They struggle with being not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not successful enough… just generally, not enough. I know that struggle is real because I’ve watched so many women I love (and who are most definitely more than enough I my opinion) fight it.  

I, however, have spent far too many hours on the couch of my counselor, crying in my car, and silently struggling with the other side of this coin—the too much. 

Too tall, too loud, too opinionated, too curvy, too outspoken, too strong, too emotional.

Too much. 

My life has been a constant struggle to tone down some part of myself in some way. Why? Because no one likes a woman who is too much. 

That’s the message the world sends women like me over and over and over again. If we don’t fit the perfect female mold—if we’re too much or not enough in some way—then people just won’t like us. And because we all want to be liked (or at least think we do), we do whatever we can to change whatever it is about ourselves that the world tells us needs to change. We do what we have to do so we won't be too much or not enough anymore. Instead, we’ll be “just right.” 

For me, one of the places in my life where my “too much” has always seemed to be waaaayyyy too much is the church. In the Christian circles of my life—the ones that are supposed to be about loving, accepting, and encouraging me to be the woman God made me to be—my "too much" is most definitely too much. 

That message of being too much has been the banner over my life as a female in the world of ministry for many years. I’ve gone to church since I was in high school, went to a Bible college, interned at a Christian organization, volunteered in ministry for years, and even worked in several faith-based organizations, and for some reason, it’s always been in those places where I’ve felt like way too much as a woman. 

For the most part, none of this has been deliberate on the part of people around me. In fact, very few people in those settings ever outright told me that something about me was “too much.” But the subtle, unspoken messages in those circles is just that. If you aren’t that Proverbs 31 woman (and ya’ll, is anybody really that woman?), then you simply aren’t fitting the mold. You aren’t the right kind of woman.

Strong women are having a moment in our culture right now. They’re loud and proud, owning their voices and who they are. And the best part? The world is embracing them wholeheartedly as the women they are right now—the messy, complicated, funny, smart, strong-willed, independent women they are. These women aren’t always likeable (because nobody is likeable 100% of the time), but they are always relatable. They are always real. And believe it or not, the world actually likes that realness. 

The church? Well, we’re taking a little longer to get there. We’re still grappling with the way we think women are supposed to be. We’re having a harder time shedding that ideal of the “just right” woman and instead, embracing the real woman. 

I am fortunate enough right now to write for an organization that lets me work alongside a lot of strong women. I get to sit next to them, listen to them, talk to them, and be a part of shaping the culture of the church with them. It’s a real privilege to have a seat as a woman at that table, and it’s one I don’t take for granted. 

Last week, I was at a conference for that organization where I got to see them champion men and women of all kinds from the stage. I got to sit up close and listen to each one share so many different stories from so many different perspectives. One that struck me more than most was from a woman named Danielle Strickland

Danielle is an incredible woman who has dedicated her life to teaching and writing to encourage people to be free in who they are. Her campaign, Brave, works to empower vulnerable girls in this world so that they can live better stories with brighter futures. And as she was sharing some of her heart behind the campaign, she said this:

“What would America be like if communities viewed the church as a place that empowered young girls?”

Whoa. Mic drop, righ?

What kind of world could we live in if the church wasn’t a place that made women feel cast aside? What kind of world could we live in if Christian circles stopped making women feel like they needed to either measure up or tone it down? What if instead, it was a place that empowered women in their strengths just as they are?

Whatever it is, whover you are, whatever version of a woman God made you to be, wouldn’t it be amazing if you felt like the church in your community was the place to not only embrace you, but empower you to live out your life as that woman? To stop trying to be some other version of a woman, but instead, to love who you are as that woman. 

I spend a lot of time watching women do this who are years ahead of me. I’m amazed by who they are. I’m amazed at the confidence they have to stand strong in who they are as women. They know they are "just right" simply because they know who they are in Christ. Whether they know it or not, they’re empowering me to try and do the same. 

And my prayer is that for the generation of girls coming behind me, the church will be a place that never makes them feel like too much or not enough. Instead, it makes them feel the way they’re supposed to feel—created and loved by God. Because of that, they are just right.

On Vulnerability

You haven’t read Brene Brown?”

This was the shocked question I was met with over lunch this week when I told a friend what I was reading. A fellow writer and the most avid reader I know, he is the ultimate guru of good books. And he was stunned when I told him that Daring Greatly is the first of writer Brene Brown’s many books that I’ve tackled. 

If you don’t know who Brene Brown is, you can check her out here. She’s smart, witty, and insightful and for several years now people have been talking all about her books. Admittedly, I have not been one of those people. Something in me tends to lean more toward fiction in my reading choices. I also tend to lean away from things that are super popular. It’s the inner skeptic in me, I guess. 

But when my sweet friend Blake sent me Brown’s book last week, I was intrigued. Blake is the kind of friend who encourages me in so many ways so when she texted me about the things she was learning from Daring Greatly and told me she’d ordered me a copy, I knew it would probably challenge me in the same ways. And when I was met with my friend’s shocked response at my lack of knowledge of Brown’s books, I knew it was officially time to jump on the train.

I got in bed last night to do a little reading and opened my copy of Daring Greatly. And within the first few pages, I was taken immediately in when I read this:

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity… To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation—that’s also vulnerability. 

If this isn’t the struggle of my life right now summed up in a few sentences, I don’t know what is! It’s the struggle of this blog really. Truth be told, I’ve grappled with the idea of having a blog for years now. And even though I finally am writing it on the regular, I still struggle to make it happen every single week. 

I could tell myself it’s about time—that I don’t have enough of it to write each week. Or I could say it’s about inspiration—that I struggle to write because I just haven’t found the right inspiration yet. I could tell myself it’s about finances—that I have to give my writing energy to work that’s paying me. And some weeks, it is about those things. 

But if I’m being honest, more often than not, it’s the idea of having to be vulnerable that stops me. It’s the idea that people will see me. It’s that they’ll actually read what I write more so than not. It’s the idea that I have to peel back even just one small layer of curtain in my life and write about it. It’s the idea of talking about it on the Internet (ugh!). It’s that people might know if I somehow fail.

I wrestle with that vulnerability every single time I sit down to write and even more when I sit down to actually post what I’ve written. It feels like a one woman wrestling match every single week. 

I was sharing this with a friend a few weeks ago and she asked me this: “Well, if it’s really that frustrating for you, why are you doing it then? Beyond just meeting a goal, if it’s really that hard for you, why do you keep doing it?”

I could answer her immediately: It’s about connection.

That’s what life is truly about for me—relationships with other people. I’m the most extroverted extrovert you’ll probably ever meet. There’s nothing that brings me greater joy than real, deep friendship. Connecting with other people leaves me energized. Learning from my differences with other people, finding a point of commonality with others, talking about their perspectives and experiences, walking alongside them in their own vulnerable moments, having fun with the people around me, doing life with other people—that is what I really love. 

I do that in my home with my roommates. I do it in my small group on Tuesday nights. I do it when I meet with students. I do it when I talk to my girlfriends (typically over chips and queso and margaritas, of course!). And maybe, just maybe, I do it with this blog. I do it with people I know and people I don’t know, with people I may never know. 

One of the companies I write for does a lot of studies on what the students they’re writing for are dealing with in each phase of their lives. And one word that’s come up a lot in those studies is disconnection. People are dealing with the weight of being disconnected from each other all the time. They’re facing the danger that comes with disconnection. Studies are showing over and over again that so many of life’s greatest hurts are rooted in disconnection. 

If what Brene Brown’s book says is true, then disconnection happens when vulnerability stops. So one of the answers to stopping some of the hurts so many of us are dealing with in life—the pain of disconnection—is vulnerability. 

I don’t want to be disconnected. That’s one of my worst fears! But if connection is what I want from my life, then I have to be vulnerable. As annoying and awkward and frustrating as it may be at times, I have to be real. I have to show up and allow myself to be seen and heard and known.  I have to open up in, over and over again, in order to connect.

Even if it means people will know things about me. Even if it means I have to talk about or draw attention to myself. Even if it means asking for help. Even if it means failing in front of others. Even if it means succeeding. 

I have to be vulnerable if I want to connect. 

Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going to ever become a place where I verbally vomit all of my deepest and darkest secrets. I think we can all agree that’s not very much fun for anyone to read! But it is going to be a place where I continue to strive for connection. It’s a place where I’m going to fight the good fight for vulnerability. 

Because if even just one person connects, then I’d say it’s a win. And who couldn't use a win every once in awhile?