Thursday, April 6, 2017

The one with the rooster crow

April 13, 2014. I remember the day well. It was a gorgeous Sunday morning; spring had finally come to our city. 

I was wearing a navy and coral colored dress with sandals. My hair was done, my makeup on point, and church was being held at the 9:30 club for the first time. Church in a club. What!

I walked in, found a seat on the right side of the room, about four rows back from the platform. 

There were some special events taking place that morning. A photographer was there as well as people with balloons and donuts. 

KP was leading worship, Susan Manchester was singing alongside him wearing the cutest skirt and top. 

And I was completely unaware that I would be changed that day. 

I'll come back to this portion of the story in a bit. But keep reading if you'd like.

Three years have passed and today I was reminded of this particular day when an image showed up in my Facebook feed. Facebook has a way of reminding us of some not so great moments, right? 

This photo appeared and my heart felt a strange mix of emotion upon looking at it. 

You see, three years ago, I'd been invited to take a barre class with my friend Lynette who was becoming a certified instructor. I did not want to go. ZERO part of me wanted to go. But my friend needed 5 people to show up for this class to be considered part of her training requirements. 

I wasn't a fan of group fitness. In my mind, group fitness was a fantastic way of putting people on display to show just how terrible they are. I'm a competitive person and like to win, but when it comes to fitness, I've always felt that's an area I never win at. Ever. I workout, I eat healthy, I get good rest, I say no to sweets 98% of the time, all while watching people do NONE of those things and still managing to be skinnier than me. We shall file that under "Things that are not fair." 

But I had been invited to attend this free class with several of my new DC friends. And because I love my friend, I went. The day before, I was trying to figure out what workout clothes to wear and found myself sobbing (I know. It sounds dramatic). I didn't want anyone to see me in workout clothes. I felt workout clothes highlighted all my worst features. And we do such a great job of hiding our worst features, don't we?

Feeling nauseated, I went to class, participated, and called it a day. It wasn't terrible and I didn't die. But I did want to crawl in a hole after. 

The next morning I woke up and, while journaling for a bit, received a text message from Sarah who had also been a part of the class. She asked about hanging out some time. 

Here's the big ugly admission: I stared at my phone in amazement and thought, "She still wants to be my friend? After seeing me workout?"

And immediately after thinking that, I wept. I wept for myself. I wept at how terrible that sounded. I wept for the girl inside of me who felt so much shame in regards to her body. I don't think I had realized just how much of a stronghold the devil had in that area of my life. I didn't want to live that way. 

Six days later, I am walking into church. With that navy and coral dress on. And my pastor begins to preach a message titled "The Rooster's Crow."

He talked about how Peter must have felt after having denied Jesus three times as had been foretold. That rooster crowed and Peter was immediately reminded that Jesus had told him "You will deny me three times." 

But the thing is.... from that point on. Every time Peter heard a rooster, did he think about his failure? Did he think about letting Jesus down? Did he think about his shortcoming? Back in that day, living where they did, Peter probably heard a rooster crow every.single.morning. How does one get past that? How does one face your sin every day? He couldn't escape it. 

But Jesus. 

Jesus came and spoke to Peter. He asked him, three times, "Peter, do you love me?" Each time, Peter responded with a resounding "Yes." Each time, redeeming Peter's earlier denial. 

He began redeeming and continued to redeem Peter's failure.

That Sunday morning, Pastor Mark said many of us have our own version of a 'rooster' in our lives. Reminding us of our lack, our failure, our weakness. He told us, just as Jesus redeemed that rooster's crow for Peter, he could do the same for us. 

I knew immediately what my 'rooster's crow' was. 

It was my mirror. 

Every.Single.Morning I was faced with looking at myself--- at what I saw as my weakness, as my area of failure. I couldn't escape it. I needed Jesus to reset that area of my brain. To see me as HE sees me. To stop living under such shame. For far too long I'd been trying to reset that on my own. By working out harder. By eating less. But it was something I couldn't achieve on my own. 

That Sunday. I felt a reset button had been hit on my heart. 

Three years later, it's amazing the change I've seen. I won't tell you it's been smooth sailing since then. I still have days. And there are often LOTS of them. But the shame I felt has loosened its grip on me. I can breathe again. 

And while my body isn't close to perfect, it's my body. And it's the one I do my best to take care of. That's all I can do. And that's what I'll continue to do. 

What's the rooster crow in your life? Might be time for a reset.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Not so Goody. Not so ouchless.

Hello, old friend.

It's been a while.

And unfortunately, the reason I'm back today is not for reasons I'm thrilled about.

I have a complaint. A large one. And I try not to publicly complain about things or companies online unless it's a big deal to me. That whole "pick your battles' thing usually rings true. But friends, this is a battle I'm willing to pick.

What is it, you ask? What is SO important that it would bring me out of my six month blog  hiatus?

A ponytail. Yup. You read that right.

For more than 7 years, I've been using the Goody's brand of ponytail holders. I've RAVED about them. I've bought them for other people. I've sung their praises. I've been a huge fan of these. Most people see them and think, "There's no way that will work." But people.  You've seen my hair. I have a lot of it. And it's really long. These have worked MAGIC. These elastic bands have stood the test of time through 5 half marathons, spin classes, and all other aspects of life.
I use only the ones in bottom
compartment as they are the
larger bands. 

Until recently.

I was on my last band and purchased a new pack. I opened it up to find these bands were MUCH different than the previous packages I'd ordered. They were thinner and felt much different. I tried to put one in my hair and it snapped and broke immediately. So I tried another one. Same thing. This happened three times.

I thought maybe I'd purchased a faulty package, so I ordered another pack online. They came in the mail and I found them to be exactly the same as the faulty pack. WHAT IS THE DEAL!

Did the product change altogether? WHY! After more than 7 years of something working SO PERFECTLY would you change  your product?!?!

I don't know what to do at this point. I've not found anything else that works. People. Help a girl out before I just decide to chop all my hair off.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

The one where she called out the good

At 2pm yesterday, I had an unexpected surprise. A dear friend of mine from Texas let me know her schedule had shifted a little and she was in DC, free for the evening, and wanted to see if I was free.

Was. I. Ever.

I made a quick reservation at Founding Farmers (always proof God loves you when you get a last minute reservation at this place) and finished up my work day.

I met Rachel at the restaurant, got the best Texas-sized hug, and sat down at our table. I looked across at her and said "We are talking about ALL THE THINGS. So much to catch up on. Are you ready for this?"

Five years prior- almost to the very day- Rachel had come to my apartment in Texas, coffee in hand at 9pm, and helped me pack up before I left the next day for my new job in Florida. Since then, we've talked a few times, we've met up a few times when I've been in Texas, but for the most part- we had a LOT to catch up on.

After dinner, we did a nighttime stroll through the memorials (my favorite thing to do in DC with out of town friends) and I can't even tell you how encouraged I was by this evening.

When I got home, I washed my face, crawled in bed, and felt a couple tears stream down my face. Rachel encouraged me in ways I've been missing for quite some time. She spoke words of life over me; she called out the good in me. She didn't say these things to flatter me; she said them because she believed them to be true.

Who is calling out the good in you? I think we do a good enough job of calling out the bad in ourselves. We need someone to join forces with and call out the good.

Rachel, I'm grateful for you.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The one about a pastor's role

When you grow up as a pastor's kid, the idea of a 'pastor' looks a little different to you.

When you grow up as a pastor's kid in the middle of East Texas, it looks a lot different to you.

Growing up, I attended a church where everyone knew everyone. We knew all the people, knew their families, knew their jobs, knew their lives. When life was hard, we rallied. When life was good, we celebrated. No one was excluded from this circle. There was no one in our congregation that didn't have full access to my family. And I loved that. We were a community of about 150 people. And it was good.

For my first church experience in college, I hoped to find and recreate something similar.  I didn't mind a big church. That only meant I got to know more people. I babysat for pastor's and their kids. I found myself in their homes for family dinners. I easily found my way into the lives of my pastors and their families. But then again, when your dad is a pastor- the pastor's family never feels as though it should be off limits- especially when your home was never off limits. It feels natural and RIGHT to want to be a part of their lives.

When I transitioned out of this college church (of about 800 people), I found myself attending Gateway Church with about 10,000 other people. Everyone thought of it as a big church, but I never did. I never considered that a mega church. I just saw it as an opportunity for more people to know, more to be involved in, and more opportunities to serve.

Within the first 6 months of attending Gateway, I again found myself in the homes of different pastors and their families. Babysitting, watching movies, grabbing coffee, feeling supported. My pastor growing up was my dad, which means I looked to my pastor for more than just a weekend message. I looked to him for advice, counsel, support. I found that at Gateway. Pastor Preston Morrison, Pastor Jan, Pastors Randy and Cheri, Pastor Zach, Pastors Marcus and Lexa, Pastor Lynda....the list could go on. Sure, I was involved in other ministries (worship, small groups, etc) but my pastoral care came from these families. The church now has a weekly attendance of about 30,000 people. And still, there are several of these friends I could call at the drop of a hat and I know they'd be around.

What is your experience with the role of a pastor? Maybe not a senior pastor- but pastors within your church... Are they someone you only see on a weekend? Are they someone you can call or email without getting an automated response? Do they know anything about your life? What do you think a pastor's relationship with members of a congregation should look like?

Just posing some questions.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The one with the closed chapter

Today will close one of the most exciting and rewarding chapters in my life.

Five years ago I came to the Foundation bright-eyed and very green.

I didn’t know much about ‪#‎EdReform‬ but I knew social media. Jaryn saw that as an asset and gave me a chance to make it in the big leagues.

I left my home and all the people I loved in Texas and moved to Tallahassee Florida to take a chance on a social media gig with an education reform organization I didn’t know much about.

The Tallahassee team made me feel welcomed, loved, and appreciated. They didn’t just make sure I knew EdReform, they made sure I had things to do, people to see, and places to visit. Mary Laura took me out one weekend with her daughter to the ‘Tallahassee Zoo’…. Jaryn invited me to watch the World Series (Go Rangers!) with her family, Alexis became my running partner, Erin Price hosted an Oscars party, Clare Crowson helped me find the best diet Dr Pepper close the office. You get the point. The ExcelinEd team invited me into their world.

Cari Miller, Joanna Hassel, and Mary Laura Bragg would sit with me for as long as I needed as I learned the intricacies of our ExcelinEd policies.

2012 was quite the year. First with the RNC and all the crazy that came along with that (oh the stories to be told), the new additions to our team (We gained a DC office that year with John B, Adam P, Dave M, Josh V!), Neil Ruddock, my girl ALLISON, and then….

The summit. That first morning. Summit was about to begin and I received the 5am phone call letting me know my apartment was in flames.

The way they rallied around me in that season will never be forgotten. Whenever I tell the story of the fire, their names will always come up. Joanna breaking the news to me that in fact my apartment WAS considered a total loss, Dave Myslinski feeling uncomfortable with my tears and doing the only thing he knew to do: get the girl a diet dr pepper!, Sarah Powell holding me as I sobbed (and subsequently pressing the button on the walkie talkie I was wearing so that EVERYONE could hear my sobs…cool), Joanna coming back later with a photo showing me that all my journals had been saved from the fire, and how the entire team helped me pull it together so we could pull off the biggest event of the year. (I think there were a lot of drinks to be had that night as well. Erin Price and Nadia kept my glass full.)

The team even pulled together gift cards for me upon my return home so I could get some of the necessities taken care of while I figured out what I’d be doing.

2013 marked the year of DC. After the fire, I opted NOT to sign a lease in the same apartment complex and moved about 14 hours north to the DC office where the Screaming Eagles welcomed me with much gusto. Food truck lunches, the search and move to a new office space, and the addition of Jess Langhaim to the team (memorable NOT just because she brought ME iced coffee on the first day.) DC life became the new normal and we continued to grow in numbers, policies, strategies, and grants. Just shy of my 5 year anniversary, the time has come for me to move on from the #EdReform world.

As I prepare to sign off of our social media channels this afternoon, so many of these memories are flooding back. So many memorable moments.

More than anything, I am grateful. Thanks to the @ExcelinEd for being a part of my life, for taking a chance on me, for helping me grow professionally and personally.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The one about Phase 10

I played Phase 10 with friends this weekend. If you are not familiar with the game, here's a little insight.

It is a card game and there are 10 phases. For every round, each person individually has an opportunity to advance to the next phase. You play until one person reaches phase 10 and conquers it.

While playing, some people might be on phase 1 while others are on advanced phases. There are additional cards to be used… A wild, and a skip card. When using the skip card, the person playing the card can choose who they want to skip. Typically the skip card is used on the person who is on the highest level, or the person who is about to win the round. Other times, it is used out of spite.

While playing this weekend, I used the skip card on a person who was on phase 1, while others were more advanced. It did not make sense to anyone. But once I explained, I think they understood a little more. One person had just been skipped, one person I had previously used the card on earlier, and one person hated the game and I didn't want to skip him and make him hate it anymore. I wanted him to enjoy the game. So I ended up using the skip card on someone who was just trying to advance even one level!

As with most things in my life, I immediately applied that to my personal life. So many of my friends are in phases that are much more advanced than mine. Weddings, babies, promotions, more babies, new homes... All the while, it feels as though I am still on phase 1, and continually being skipped. It doesn't make sense and sometimes we just want God to explain His reasoning!

Imagine playing a game with friends and being skipped every single turn. That game becomes no fun. Often times you want to quit and find a new game altogether. The game is more fun when you are surrounded by people who are in similar phases.

Who are you surrounding yourself with? Are you playing phase 10 with people who are on phase 8 while you're on phase 2?

I am grateful for the weekend I just had. I was surrounded by people who are on the same phase as I am. We can challenge each other and encourage one another in a way that people in other phases can't do.

Thanks for a great weekend, friends. Grateful to play Phase10 with you all.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The one with the cheer squad

Five years ago I ran my first half marathon in San Diego. My uncle had called me in January of 2012 and told me he was planing to run the full marathon and if I wanted to run the half, he would pay for my airfare out to Cali. That seemed like a pretty sweet deal, although it was a VERY tough decision. I don't make decisions lightly and I don't go back on my word. So if I was going to say yes, there would be no backing out. I really WOULD be running 13.1 miles. California seemed great, but the running part was going to be tricky. I found a training plan that seemed doable, talked myself into it, and said "yes!"

I will never forget that moment, crossing the finish line. Actually, I will never forget each mile of that race. Remembering how I felt, how nervous I was to see if I would actually be able to do it. I had only trained up to 10 miles and that race would be the first time my body had ever gone 13.1 miles.

This weekend, almost to the exact day, I ran my 5th half marathon. With each race, my goals have changed.

1.) San Diego 2012: finish, and finish without walking.
2.) Washington DC 2013: finish, and have fun.
3.) Virginia Beach 2014: bring a friend, finish, and set a new PR.
4.) Philadelphia 2015: Finish strong & new PR.
5.) Brooklyn 2016: Finish.

I had some major knee issues the last few months and quite honestly, I wanted to finish. I was worried I might have to drop out of the race if my knees didn't pull it together and cooperate. I felt like I'd been set back, going back to square one of having a goal to just finish.

For San Diego, I was so focused. I never missed a training run. I may have been a little obsessive about it, but I knew if I was going to make it- I had to do EXACTLY what I was told. I had to follow the directions I was given. Did not swerve to the right or to the left. I trained. If someone suggested an idea that wasn't on the training plan, I said no. I couldn't mess with the plan. (I laugh as I write this remembering how uptight I was. Gosh.)

For Washington, DC, I had just moved to a new city, my apartment had burned down a few months prior and I needed a goal to look forward to. Running in a new city helps you gather your bearings, and when it was suggested, I agreed to run. I walked quite a bit during that race but I finished and enjoyed it! There was SO much less pressure. This time, I knew I could do it. I knew I was physically capable of finishing.

For Virginia Beach, I was first going down to watch and cheer for a friend when plans changed and I decided to run with! I recruited two others to come along as well and we turned it into one big beach weekend party. I had started cross-training in prep for this race and I knew I could beat my time. So I decided to go for it, set the goal, and make it happen.

For Philly, I wanted to finish strong. I trained, I cross-trained, I wanted to finish and not feel like I was going to die after :) I knew the course, I knew the elevations, I knew what parts could be troublesome. But I was going to finish and finish strong.

For Brooklyn, my original goal was to finish, have fun, and enjoy the route. It was going to be a no pressure run. It was going to be a "run because I like running" run. Seven weeks in and it turned into a "oh gosh. This might be my last half marathon" kind of run. My knees were aching. After every run I had to come home, ice them, take meds, and rest. Going up and down stairs at my apartment was painful. I began mentally planning for my final race. I wouldn't stop running altogether, but I would not be running long distances anymore. I had friends praying for my knees. That they would be strong and help me cross the finish line.

Two weeks before the race, I found out I would have a cheering squad on the sidelines. Several friends from DC were coming to NYC for the weekend and changed their plans a bit to make time to come cheer for me. The pressure was on. I HAD to finish. My friends were coming. To cheer for ME! I had to finish the race.

Saturday morning comes and my friend Leticia and I arrive at the start line with every intent of running our own race. That's the beauty of running. You run your own race- at your own pace. We said goodbye and knew we would meet up at the finish.

I had decided to slow things down and listen to my body. I repeated to myself more than a dozen times "you don't have to be a hero. If you need to stop, do it. This is your race. Run your own race." At mile six I felt good. At mile seven my knee buckled. I stopped, massaged it out, and walked a bit. I attempted running again and it felt OK. I kept going. At mile 10. Oooooh at mile ten. The most beautiful site. For the first time in any race I'd ever run, I saw a sign. "GO MINDA." And I saw six beautiful faces of friends who sacrificed their cozy and restful morning to come cheer. There was nothing in it for them. They received no medal at the end. They didn't get the free shirt. They just came to cheer me on. I tear up even typing this out. Guys. Having friends cheer for you is the best. I stopped for a selfie, some high fives, and finished my race. I felt strong, I felt energized, and I felt ready to tackle those final three miles.

I crossed the finish line, got my medal, visited the medical tent for some ice and had them wrap my knee, and went to find Leticia.

Five half marathons complete.

I'm not sure what my next race will be. I will most likely visit a doctor to have my knees checked out. I will keep running. But my next goal is to find someone to cheer for.

Who are you cheering for? In life... Who is cheering you on? Who shows up for the big events? Who are the people that you say "it's a non negotiable- I'm gonna be there."?

Weddings and babies aren't the only times we should be showing up and cheering for people. We are really good at celebrating those things. We like celebrating those so much we even created things called "gender reveal" parties and engagement parties. Those are big things, yes. But there are other big things happening in people's lives.

Go show up and cheer for someone this week. Find a reason to celebrate them. Especially if it means there is nothing in it for you. You will make their day/week/month/year. I promise.