Friends over Family

There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friend.

Why does the guy all about love, tell us in it’s greatest form, love lays down its life for a friend?

Not for their child.  Not for a parent.  Not for a sibling, cousin, or grandchild.

But for a friend.

Pop inside almost any church anywhere in the world and you’ll get an immediate impression of the importance of family.  In the Bible belt, they’ll even go a step further into “family values”.

We hold family high above our friendships.  Friends come and go through our lives like the passing seasons, while we stick like glue to family members we don’t even like. Family feels like the greatest love.  There’s a certain weight in our hearts, a natural instinct if you will, to sacrifice for and pledge loyalty to our family.

Yet, Jesus didn’t say the greatest love was to your own bloodline.  In fact, He’s the one who tells us to hate our father, mother, brothers and sisters in comparison to our love for him.  

Those twelve closest to him weren’t family.  They traveled with him, learned from him, and most of them ultimately died for him, and they weren’t related to him.  

They were his friends.  

This is why I believe He says the love of a friend is greatest.  

Friendship doesn’t come with a built in instinct to be on the same team, fully committed to not just lay down one’s life, but live one’s life alongside another.  It must be offered freely.  A risk must be taken to love a friend, for they may not love you back.  They may turn their back on you, abandoned you, or worst of all...sell you for thirty pieces of silver.

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Friends are an active choice.  You choose to be in the life of a friend.  You make conscious decisions to call, invite, and invest in their world.  

I’ve had many choose to come into mine...

The college friends who fought alongside me for my sisters.

The TV News friends who understood a few office tears falling.

The California friends who help me navigate this strange new dream.

And the best friend...who knows where all the bodies are buried.



 

 

 

A Child's Story

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I love J.R.R. Tolkien, yet I’ve never read a single one of his books.

If any one of the three Lord of the Rings movies airs on cable, I immediately stop all productivity in my day and curl up on the couch.  If they’re showing the entire trilogy, I lose a full day.  I’ll watch them over and over and over again, never getting enough.

Since my husband doesn’t share in this love, Sunday I went to the movie theater by myself and bought a single ticket.  I didn’t mind the solitude.  I finally saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and loved every second of the two hours and forty one minutes spent in my seat.

The purists out there would shame me for my lack of Tolkien literary knowledge.

I respect it.  They’ve taken great joy from a great imagination.  A book makes a story your own like nothing else.  I love books, all kinds of books.  I love to read.  I would love to read Tolkien.

But I can’t bring myself to.  

It would take something from me...a memory I’m not ready to alter.

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You see, when the spiders scream “It’s stings!”, it wasn’t the actor's voice in the movie I heard.  When Smaug bragged of his strength and stature, it wasn’t his dragon tone in my ears.  Even when Gollum talks so terrifyingly in the previous movies, I’d already heard his screeching done better.  It wasn’t Peter Jackson who first brought all these characters to life for me.

It was my dad.  

He loved Tolkien first.  And when I was little, he read The Hobbit to me and my brother every night before we went to bed.  We’d crawl into our bunks, my brother on the top, me on the bottom, and my dad would pull up a chair next us and make Tolkien’s words come alive.

Each page was better than the last.  When Bilbo first ran into Gollum and his ring, and the two begin a battle of riddle’s, my father’s fake british accent was at it’s best.  When Bilbo asks Gollum what he has in his pocket, my father shouted “HANDSEES!” as if he were a crazed creature in the dark.  

Gandalf was tall and mysterious.  The dwarves, ridiculous.  Smaug, awe inspiring.  

He spent night after night reading the whole 300 page book out loud, to two kids eagerly awaiting to hear what happened next.

When the final battle ended, the gold divided, and the book closed, this wonderful window of sobriety closed with it.

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My dad would talk about reading us the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and we watched the bad 70’s cartoon version together, but The Fellowship of the Ring was never cracked open.  I’d like to believe he never got around to them because they were written for adults, and The Hobbit was meant for children.

But the reality is always much harder.  Such is the cruelty of substance abuse.

Small moments of great love and attention, swallowed up in years of anger and ugliness.

The adult child in me now wants what it can’t have.  To share these new movies with him. To hear his Gollum voice again.  

Sitting there in my seat with a tub of overpriced popcorn in my lap, I was so lonely for man who’s still alive, but no longer exists.

So despite my love of Mr. Tolkien and his amazing works...I can’t read his books.

My own inner voice is but a shadow of the voice a little girl trusted, respected, loved...and then lost.

Parade of Details

I was in a parade on New Year’s Day.  

I didn’t have to sign up, rehearse, arrive early, or even let the organizers know I was arriving at all.  

The view of our parade route from the starting point.

The view of our parade route from the starting point.

All I had to do was park, get out of my car, and walk down to the end of a very well-manicured street.  As I approached, a little girl came up to me and gave me a triangle shaped piece of fabric to wrap around my dog’s neck.

“Here, put this on your dog and walk behind me,” she said.

I took the fabric, smiled, and said, “Sure.”

Within a few minutes a man with a bullhorn introduced the queen of the parade.  She was elderly and wearing a sequin shirt, silver hat, and shiny smile.  The man thanked everyone for coming, told us this was the 19th year of the parade, and explained how there really isn’t any organization to it...we just walk down to the end of the street. 

The distance appeared less than a city block.  Only balloons marked our path, for spectators aren’t allowed.  The man says it’s more fun to be in a parade than to watch one, so everyone is expected to participate.

“Alright! Let’s get going!” The man announces.

Bob Goff taking a picture of the parade after the fire truck arrived.

Bob Goff taking a picture of the parade after the fire truck arrived.

Halfway down, we’re stopped.  Apparently a fire truck was supposed to join, but only just arrived.  The man looks excited, thrilled even, and tells the firefighter driving to turn left, flash some lights and we’ll all follow in behind.  

The parade ends in front of the man’s house, where a small tent is set up with coffee, sandwiches, and donuts.  Everyone is invited to trample his front lawn.  His house looks like something straight out of Better Homes and Gardens, backed against San Diego bay and overlooking dozens of sailboats.  I briefly feel like I’ve party crashed someone’s family picnic in the Hamptons.

It was the most stupid fun I’ve had in years.  It made no sense.  There was no real purpose to it.  I didn’t make any new friends, even though I made plenty of small talk.  It didn’t raise money for charity, or an awareness for a cause.  It was simply walking down a street with my dog and a couple hundred balloons.

The man's name is Bob Goff.

He rose to fame when Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, mentioned him in his more recent book,Million Miles in a Thousand Years.  Since then, Bob has written his own bestseller, Love Does.  Based on the books, Bob is crazy.  In a good way.  He’s the person we all wish we could be, who saved thousands of kids from illegal incarceration in Uganda and then makes friends with the guy who invented the frappuccino for Starbucks.

He also started an annual parade 19 years ago because his kids were bored.

The tent of food.

The tent of food.

I know we’re not supposed to compare ourselves to other people, but reading about Bob’s life, you can’t help it.  He DOES things.  He loves on people in a way that seems exhausting and impossible to do.

Yet, attending his parade, I feel like I saw a glimpse at how he does it.

His parade wasn’t perfect.  

He didn’t stress, or seem to care at all how it went, who showed up, or if we even looked like a parade.  The only prep work involved seemed to be a city permit, a couple hundred balloons, and a small table of food.

When I throw parties or BBQs, I manage to suck all the fun out of it by worrying over the details and making sure everything is just so.  Perfection is lovely every once in a while, but the stress of it keeps me from doing more.  

Any time I think I want to host something, do something, or start something, a list of everything that something will entail fills my head, exhausts me, and talks me out of doing it.  My worry over the details stops me before I even get started.  

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If I’m going to do something, I want to do it right.  That’s what that say don’t they?  Anything worth doing is worth doing perfectly, is it not?

Maybe.  But maybe I’ve got what is right and perfect all wrong.  

Maybe right is making a way for people to come together and have fun.  Maybe perfect is people feeling loved simply because they’re invited.

Maybe it’s easier to make room for others, when we first make room for ourselves.

Bob didn’t seem to care if you thought his parade was an unorganized hot mess.  And since he didn’t care, I didn’t care.  

I simply put a scarf on my dog and enjoyed the view.

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The Best of No Beauty Queen 2013!

I know it's cliche' to spend this day looking back at the previous year, but I love it anyway.  That's what holidays are for.  To take a moment to mark those important moments.  

This year I started this blog not knowing what to expect, or how it would be received.  We launched in June, averaging a disappointing hundred hits for the month. But by November we had more than 3,000!  

I've kept my promise to myself to post twice a week, without fail, and only broke that promise once.  (And that was the week before Christmas so I'm blaming it on the holidays.)  While a true journalism snob, I've turned my nose down on the blogging world for years, and am now humbled by how much this little venture has taught me.

It's forced me into a vulnerability I wasn't capable of when I first sat down to write No Beauty Queen (the book) and is helping me release that vulnerability now into the rewrites.  Blogging has kept me honest.  It's difficult to lie to yourself about your feelings when you examine them so closely twice a week to create a post for your audience.  It's also showed me who I don't want to be.  And when building your own brand, it's equally important to know who you aren't, as who you are. 

I've learned my favorite posts are not necessarily your favorite posts.  My best posts are never the most popular.  And people like lists.  Seriously. People love clicking on anything with a list. 

For example, these three posts were half of my top six posts of the year for hits and comments.  Sometimes I love getting comments and feedback even more than a thousand hits because then I feel I touched something.  

7 Reasons Why I don't have Kids

10 Great Traits of a 30-Something Man

15 Things you need to Read, Watch, and Listen to

I've also enjoyed having people follow me along on the journey of writing and publishing this book.  When I launched the first sneak peek, I was overwhelmed with the response to it.  However, I should let you know now that even this sneak peek is being reworked ;)

No Beauty Queen - Sneak Peek

This next post was my first break into big web hits.  Probably because it was a direct comment to someone else's blog that had gone viral.  Trust me bloggers...commenting on someone else's popular blog will lead to way more hits on your own blog!  However, I struggled with this one since I hate the attack blogs, especially those arguing ugly church issues.  But after considering what I'd written, I decided I was defending one girl, and not so much participating in a mean-spirited attack on a blogger.

Sympathy for the Slutty Girl 

This final post has by far been my most searched and most viewed post ever.  It's the one about the very well-known Bible study teacher's daughter getting divorced.  In fact, I average 20 hits a day from people searching "Beth Moore's daughter divorced."  I'm not sure what this says about church society.  On one hand, everyone loves gossip.  Everyone.  On the other, people want to understand how these devout followers can have such bad things happen in their lives.

Not all Brokenness can be Prevented

So thank you!!!  Thank you for reading and sharing and commenting and being an overall tremendous support for this crazy dream of becoming an author!  I also want to thank my contributors: Jessica, Michelle, and Christy for adding their insights and sharing their own personal thoughts on this blog, even though they all have full-time jobs and lives of their own!

Here's to 2014!

 

The Puppy Proposal

On Christmas Eve a man got down on one knee for my sister Jessica, and asked her to marry him.  

Jessica holding the puppy in the stocking.

Jessica holding the puppy in the stocking.

She had no idea it was coming, even though the two have been dating since high school and she's been dropping not so subtle hints for months.

When she called to tell me the news, the excitement in her voice brought me to tears.  

I wish I could've been there. But she lives in Alabama and I'm in California.  

Fortunately, our other sister Michelle knew it was coming and got someone to take pictures and capture the moment on video.  Still, her fiancé's family and friends were there in full, along with Michelle, and distance kept me away from this beautiful moment.   

He bought a puppy and put in a stocking.  Each year his parents host a huge Christmas Eve party for family and friends.  During the party he made an announcement, telling the crowd he needed to go ahead and give Jessica one of her gifts.  When he walked out with a puppy, Jessica was so excited someone had to tell her to read the dog tag, which read, "Will you marry me?".  You can almost see her shaking in the video as he puts the ring on her finger. 

The ring! I love that it has a puppy hair already on it.

The ring! I love that it has a puppy hair already on it.

I'm so proud of my sister.  She's accomplished so much in her life and she will keep accomplishing so much more.  I'm happy she's found someone to share those accomplishments with.  

Congratulations Jessica!  I love you to the moon and back. 

(Just don't make me wear orange.  Or cowboy boots.  Definitely pulling matron of honor voiding privileges on cowboy boots.)

Click below to see the video of the puppy proposal!

 

Chains He Shall Break

Christmas Eve.  The most magical night of the year.  

Hearts throughout the world are filled with excitement, hope, and the promise of something wonderful in the morning to come.

Christmas Eve.  The most painful night of the year.

Hearts throughout the world are filled with dread, grief, and the broken pieces of what should’ve been and what shouldn't be in the morning to come.

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I’ve been both.  I am both.

Great loss sits next to great gain.

Family breaks, while another is created.

Love finds itself struggling to keep the hate quiet.

Grace dances right alongside inconceivable hurt.

Tears shed for memories past, and memories that will never be.

The same tears fall for moments of such breathtaking joy, the memories past no longer matter.

At least for a moment.

I was 16 when I heard my aunt sing on stage for the first time.  She invited my father, and his wife and kids, to her church’s version of The Christmas Carol.  She played the angel of Christmas present - and had a solo - “O’Holy Night”.  

I wish I had a picture of her wearing those huge white wings.  I wish I had paid better attention to the lyrics.

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Truly He taught us to love one another,

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.

And in His name all oppression shall cease.

The verse explains it all.

Loving one another is how loss turns into gain.  It’s how new families are created.  It’s why hate doesn’t get the last word. 

His law of love is the grace to comfort the hurt, while His gospel of peace calms the torrent of tears.

Those memories are chains He has broken.  

When the oppression ceased, joy broke through.

It’s Christmas Eve.  The most Holy night of the year.

May there be one person in your life to fill your heart with His love - who may not be able to glue those pieces together, but will hold them in their hands and say:

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“They’re beautiful. Every jagged piece is building a life of meaning beyond even what your heart can hope for.  There’s still hope in the dark night of Christmas Eve.”   

 

THE CHRISTMAS LETTER

Last week I told you about a thank-you letter I'd received from my pastor.  This week, I got one even better.  It's a Christmas letter from a 13-year old girl.

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In it, the girl tells me I’m a role model she can trust.  She tells me she loves spending time with me.  She says since I’ve come into her life, it’s been better.

These are words to bring a smile to anyone’s face, to brighten the day of anyone with a heartbeat.  But it’s more than what she wrote.  The feelings this letter bring up in me are about more than her kind words.  They’re about more than even her.

You see, I’ve never been a fan of children.  I don’t despise them, I’ve just never cared one way or the other for them.  In fact, most of the children I’ve attached to, are a result of being attached to their parents.  I love them, because I love their parents.  

Needless to say, earlier this year, when the opportunity came along to lead a small group of middle-school aged girls at church, I was less than enthused.  I tested the waters, not willing to fully commit until I was sure it would be something I could not only handle, but enjoy.

Then I slowly got to know eight unique twelve and thirteen year old girls.  And they won me over.

It's a pajama Christmas party!

It's a pajama Christmas party!

The last few months, they’ve blown me away with their kindness.  They rarely have a bad word to say about anyone.  Shocking, I know.  I will arrive at church on Wednesday nights, tired and cranky and one of them will come up and talk to me and I’ll fill the load lift, my mood lighten.  

They’re old enough to have semi-adult conversation, yet are still young enough to admit they don’t know everything.

I’m not their parent, which is awesome.  I don’t have to deal with all their drama, pay their bills, or help with homework.  I get a sneak peek in their lives for less than three hours, once a week.  It’s an easy thing, really.  I get to listen to a week’s worth of heartache, and then if they let me, I get to talk to them about it, offer advice, and pray for them.

They remind me if I was ever to be good at anything in this life, I wanted to be good at being the big sister.

I just never imagined they’d give so much back to me.

Overwhelmed in Love

Things are happening in my world.  Crazy things.  Crazy good things.

I volunteer about ten hours a week for one of our pastors at church.  Mainly, I'm helping him organize, but also building a system to make it easier for people to join small groups and classes within our church.  Recently, he wrote me this thank-you note...

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It's weird, because it feels like God really is on the move.  

Naturally, He never moves the way you expect...or sometimes wish.  

My book is no closer to being published than it was six months ago.  (Although, some may argue each time you re-write, you get one step closer.  As I stare the screen, type, stare, delete, and type again, I'm not so convinced.  I promised a friend I would be sending her chapters soon to re-read.  Instead, I deleted.  Again.)  

Yet - my world is moving.  There's blessings popping up of the kind I never even knew I wanted.

Like a pastor's note and the possibility of this volunteer gig, leading to a much bigger gig.

Like a new friend, who speaks so much simple wisdom into my life, I'm blown away by her ability to see the truth.

Like feeling like newlyweds again with my husband and watching his own career dreams take off.  

I've been so overwhelmed with the changes, I haven't been able to put them to words.  

I'm still not sure I have...

I just want to sit in some thanksgiving and try not to be afraid of the good things happening around me.

Justs FYI - the verse the pastor gave me is this:

"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."