7 Things Sunday

A couple of years ago on Superbowl Sunday, four words came out of my mouth that changed everything.

I moved back to Des Moines this weekend and in the process of packing up my belongings I found all my old journals. Which might need to be burned after they’ve lost their entertainment value. Do people really keep these forever? Anyway. As I saw everything laid out chronologically, things started clicking. Obviously everyone experiences that hindsight is 20/20. But oh man. I was cringing at the girl in those pages. I simultanesously know her intimately and not at all.

I saw something on one page that caught my eye. In the summer of 2013 I wrote an excerpt from a book I had been reading and it said, “Sometimes God delivers us from the furnace, sometimes he delivers us through the furnace.” Below that I wrote, “God, sometimes I wonder if you’re going to deliver me from divorce, or if you’re going to deliver me through divorce.” 9 months later, to the day, it was Superbowl Sunday. I didn’t even know what I was writing.

I don’t know if everything happens for a reason. I didn’t want to say those words or for this to happen. But if it hadn’t, I would probably still be writing sad, cringe-worthy journal entires. Here’s 7 things I would tell the girl in those pages:

One. You will be spending more time by yourself. This means you will spend countless moments racking your brain about what happened and why. You will write yourself a list of the reasons why the choice you made was the right one, and for awhile you’ll read it to yourself every day. Otherwise your heart will grow too soft and mushy. You should take the opportunity to explore what kind of person you are right now and what kind of person you want to be. There will be a long string of nights where you’ll roll over in bed, limbs reaching for your person, and the chill of empty sheets will consistently startle you. Eventually you will relish your days and nights alone, especially if you’re productive with them. Also, you’ll get a twin mattress.

Two. You will begin to push the limits of what you thought you were capable of. Day by day, you will conquer new challenges. Especially of the emotional and mental variety. Oh, you’ll also fail miserably at some of those challenges. Like, epically fail. But hey, sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. There is nothing more revealing than divorce. You will see exactly what you’re made of. But you’re still in the formative years of self-discovery. Make the most of them. Try to impress yourself.

Three. You will sit through some laughably terrible dates. You will be in awe at how self-absorbed some can be. You will do a fair amount of robotic head nodding. But you’ll also go on some great dates that remind you of what was missing in your marriage and if nothing else, give you a confidence booster. Mostly though, you’ll figure out that a lot of dudes are very confused about what they want. Which sucks, because you’re not so much. Having been both married and divorced at such a young age, you know exactly what you don’t want. Any desire to settle for good enough or to spend time investing in something that comes with a handful of doubts is pretty much squashed by fear of history repeating itself.

Four. Possibly the most important thing you, specifically, will learn from this is the art of choosing yourself. It sounds inherently selfish which is why it makes you squeamish. However, the decision to say no to what wasn’t serving you in any healthy way or choosing you in return, was the first of many decisions that involved sticking up for yourself. You will get better at unapologetically saying what you really think. You will recognize that what you need will change and fluctuate (different days will call for different boundaries) and that’s ok. You will start to raise your voice a little bit. You will trust yourself more and more. You will learn to never try to convince someone of why they should choose you because…well because everyone is on their own path, free will to exercise, etc…but also because if they don’t choose you, you’ll choose yourself. And you’re pretty really cool.

Five. Don’t give up on the notion that God is in the business of mind-blowing. In scriptures you read stories where there are these seemingly isolated, terrible events that happen and then later on you see there was purpose in them the entire time. It gets revealed that those events were used to restore people back to their God so they could experience this crazy, redemptive love and freedom. This gets reflected in your own life. When everything is going terribly, a little bit later you step back and see all that was being weaved together to teach you and bring you to the places and people that restore your hope and freedom. But you absolutely cannot see that from where you are now.

Six. Remember that true love is action and not passive acceptance. Being truly loving requires that you define and take a stand for what you believe to be important, regardless of the conflict it may cause. It doesn’t always make sense or come easily. It’s work, it’s messy, and you don’t need to justify it. Fear of what other people think or of upsetting anyone will prevent you from taking the steps that will ultimately bring you peace and fulfilment.

Seven. You will look back at this girl who is so insecure and unable to trust her intuition. This girl full of ambivalence, taking care of everything else but herself. Eventually you will feel like you’re contemplating an entirely different person, but this is only made possible with strength, initiative, self-awareness, and support of those who will listen to your broken record- none of which may have revealed itself if you hadn’t said those four words you hate so much.

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I’m sorry you didn’t get rescued from having a “worst day ever anniversary”. But I’m really thankful that you had the courage to get through the worst day ever and to discover that the worst is never really the worst. I’m proud of you for leaning in and walking through the furnace with all your questions, complaints, and doubts.


Strength & Weakness

Has anyone else ever become painfully aware that their greatest strength is also their most maddening weakness?

Someone recently commented on how much I give of myself to other people…and they said it (probably unintentionally) in a way that made me self-conscious about it.

In a way that implied, “Tay, you’re just a little bit crazy and it’s making me kind of uncomfortable.”

And for days after this, I internally mulled over whether this defining character feature of mine was, in fact, crazy…even just a little bit.

And I’ll admit it. There is a crazy element.

It’s crazy to try and be what someone else wants or needs. But I do this a lot. I put other people first. I meet them where they’re at. I think of them first. I try to make their day. I ask them questions. I over analyze all my words and actions so that I’m not being too much of this, but enough of that. I will be patient and understanding to a fault. I will listen well and ponder your thoughts in my heart. If you hurt me I might tell you, but you probably won’t feel any repercussions because I would rather love without reservation. And all of this honestly comes pretty effortlessly. Because this is me. This is how I am good at being. This is where I’m strong. And for the most part, it works. I have a beautiful existence full of amazing relationships and opportunities that make my life full.

I know how to use this strength and leverage it for the good of others. If I get asked to do something that will make you feel better and I can, it’s honestly great for us both. But here’s where the crazy becomes uncomfortable…I don’t like asking for anything and I don’t like having needs of my own. This doesn’t exactly work, because it isn’t realllllly human.

I’m 9 months in to my year of being fierce and still learning what that looks like, but I think this is part of it. I’m already fiercely loving and giving. That isn’t something I need to grow deeper in. This is where fierce becomes about expanding, adding, balancing. It’s about flexing those muscles I’m adverse to using. It’s hard to accept those challenges for myself. The challenge of being confrontational, self-focused in a way that makes my skin crawl, and bravely blunt.

I mean, if you play an instrument with only one string, it’s going to get really irritating and redundant after awhile, right? Adding a few strings will help you get farther.

I don’t mean for this to sound definitive, but for instance…

If you are really organized, you are probably inflexible. Adapt more.

If you are giving, you are probably not receiving. Take care of yourself more.

If you are a talker, you probably talk too much. Listen more.

If you are a creative, you are probably scatterbrained. Ask more questions.

If you are insanely busy, you are probably restless. Rest more.

If you are great at encouraging, people walk over you. Confront more.

We all need to push ourselves towards balance. I’m not naive enough to think that anyone, myself included, can just start doing this and voila- a whole new person. No, no, no.

One of my favourite authors, Rachel Held Evans, said it this way:

“You tend to come out of the big moments– the wedding, the book deal, the baptism, the trip, the death, the birth– the exact same person who went in, and perhaps the strangest surprise of life is it keeps on happening to the same ol’ you.”

We have game changing life moments, conversations, and prayers. I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever come out of them a whole different person. I’m still me. But something small changes and creates that tiny ripple effect that dictates what happens next: a slow but insanely amazing refining process. I know that for me, it started with acknowledging that my greatest strength makes me weak when I am motivated out of a place of doing or being for love or acceptance from other people. When it fails, I struggle to feel adequate enough. I get hurt. My confidence wavers. I let myself down. But if I am fierce in the refining process, my strength will go farther and hit deeper because I will be motivated out of a place of fully loving and accepting who I am and taking care of what I need before I give.

My best friend said to me, “…it’s like this. If you were to decide to renovate a house on your own as a project you wanted to do…you’d still be doing it with other people in mind. You’d probably make changes and designs for who ever you thought might take up that space. That’s a beautiful, incredible thing about you. But Tay, you have to make it yours first. It has to be tailor-made, you know? The only type of person who deserves what you give is the person who comes in and helps start painting the walls with you in mind. So, be you. 100%. Do your thing. Focus on making that house however you want it first and then the right people, the ones who truly belong in your life, will come in. They’ll come in and you won’t have to change anything. They’ll just decide to stay because they’ll feel at home in your tailor-made house.”

I think he’s right. Now I have to keep on living it out.

Ooft. Well, that was draining.

Speaking of draining…I would like to drain a whole bottle of wine into my mouth.

Ugggh. Whole30. Two more weeks. I can do this.



At the Moment

at the moment I am…

…feeling stronger. This is a first for me since I was never an athlete due to the whole lanky, awkward, shy thing I had going on as a kid. And a severe lack of competitiveness. I just don’t have it in me. I’d rather hand over the ball than run away with it. Anyway, so far I have completed 3 of the 10 weeks of Farrell’s. It feels great to open jars and kick the sh*t out of a bag (although, let’s be honest…I probably look about as tough as a baby rabbit doing so).

…Done with winter. Even my snow boots, which have been faithful to me the last four winters, are indicating resignation with their torn soles. I just want to get in bed and not have it feel like I slipped into an ice bath. I want to feel sunshine, eat fresh vegetables, see colors again and drink iced tea.

…Feeling like all I really want in life is a big front porch, a passport filled with stamps and a hypo-allergenic cat.

…Currently a big fan of the following things: Scandal (I haven’t been this obsessed with a show since Lost), anything with Curry, the #Notbuyingit App for the iPhone, and dark nail polish

…All torn up about the human traffiking happening all across the globe, but especially in my own home state. I went to a Human Traffiking Conference this week where specific cases from Iowa were shared. I’ll blog about what I learned this week. But in the meantime, pertaining to sex trafficking: Hey people (mainly dudes)- you’re the consumers! Therefore, you’re in control of how this plays out. Every time you purchase sex from a prostitute, purchase or look at porn, or visit a strip club you are supporting, endorsing, and increasing the demand for young women to be traffiked. Thanks.

…Getting baby-fever from spending all my time with a beautiful, snuggly, soft, infant. And then I switch to being with 2-4 year olds and the fever magically disappears 😉

…Missing my friends in far off lands.

photo 3.PNGLove,


Ask Yourself

The end of 2013 is just around the corner! Which means it is a great time to think back and ask yourself some questions about twenty-thirteen. I adored Emily’s New Year post . I may have to make my own. But I would encourage everyone to ask themselves the following 10 questions. It’ll do your soul some good.


1. When did I feel most alive this year?

During my selfish little escape to Los Angeles this summer. I’ve never traveled by myself for no good reason other than “because I want to”. And it ended up being exactly what I needed. I had QT time with friends, spent time alone, geeked out at art museums, soaked up the sun, explored, went to an epic concert, and then the second I landed back in Iowa I joined my family for a 4th of July week at the lake house. So. Good.

2. What am I most proud of accomplishing this year?

Graduating from college and getting accepted to graduate schools. Clayton and I are planning on going to Edinburgh in the fall of 2014! It’s been a dream just out of reach for so long. I hope it finally happens.

3. How can I improve my relationships?

It is hard to generalize this. I think of relationships on an individual basis. The ways I can improve my relationship with my sister are different than the ways I can improve my relationship with my neighbor. But I have always believed keys to happy, healthy relationships are presence, communication and thoughtfulness. As someone who has the tendency to be a bit too dependent on my relationships to feed me emotionally/mentally/spiritually, I think one way I can improve my relationships with others is by being more loving of and confident in myself…I realize that sounds backwards. Just trust me. It’s harder for me to be and easier for me to do.

4. What new habits do I want to cultivate?

Well, I start Farrell’s kickboxing in January. Emily and I are kicking sugar and I’m afraid to realize what affect hat will have on me haha. Clayton and I want to become super savers (in an effort to make the whole Scotland thing happen, but also because it’s a great idea in general. We’re definitely culprits of eating out too much (I always say this will change when I have a kitchen that isn’t the size of a peanut but that’s probably a lie).

5. What do I need to let go of?

Nagging doubts. Impulsive Target purchases. My art-making hiatus. Trying to do everything on my own.

6. What lessons did I learn?

Plenty of them, I’m sure. I had a lot of lessons in faith this year. I realized how at my core I really perceived God’s love as conditional. I think this comes with growing up in a rule/dogma/systematic-driven religion. I don’t say that with disdain. It just is what it is. I don’t believe anyone is trying to screw things up for other people. But I feel like a lot of church is people telling you what to know and not how to know. It was shocking to see how disconnected my head and heart could be. I knew that the world is very gray, but felt like there had to be a black and white answer. I knew that God loved me no matter what decisions I made in my life, but I felt like if I gave up on my broken relationship that He would love me a little less. I knew that I’m not big enough to ruin any plan of God’s, but I felt like I was messing with some sort of divine course. I was terrified of missing out on the healing and restoration that He promises, as if there is only one way that can or will happen. I felt intense guilt for something I hadn’t even done yet. I felt guilty for just entertaining the idea.  I had a friend tell me that I needed to stop seeing God as “either/or” and instead as “both/and”. Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. He never answered a question with “yes” or “no” and he never asked close-ended questions. The way he healed one person was completely different from another. This was really transformative for me. Someone can tell me I was wrong about this or that (sometimes that person is me), but at the end of the day God only knows. And I have to be ok with the mystery of Him, knowing that God and silence will be experienced simultaneously and even as the same thing.

“All saying must be balanced by unsaying, and knowing must be humbled by unknowing. Without this balance, religion invariably becomes arrogant, exclusionary, and even violent.”

“Praying takes away your anxiety about figuring it all out for yourself, or needing to be right about your formulations. At this point, God becomes more a verb than a noun, more a process than a conclusion, more an experience than a dogma, more a personal relationship than an idea. There is someone dancing with you and you aren’t afraid of making mistakes.”

“It is an amazing arrogance that allows Christians to so readily believe that their mental understanding of things is anywhere close to that of Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life.” I think the intended effect of that often misused line is this: If Jesus is the truth, then you probably aren’t.”

“God is everywhere and always. And He is scandalously found even in the failure of sin.”

“Honoring and allowing of mystery was consistently practiced by Jesus. So many of his sayings are so enigmatic and confusing…if he had been primarily concerned about perfect clarity from his side, and obvious understanding from our side, he surely didn’t do very well as a communicator, even in his lifetime. Protestants insisted on reading and studying scriptures, thank God, but then they were certain they had the one and only interpretation and ignored many of the others. This, even after Jesus so often (7 times in Matthew 13 alone) taught hat the ultimate reality (the Kingdom) is always like something- clearly a simile or a metaphor inviting further experience and journey, not an idea with definitions that could be checked true or false on an exam.”

Quotes from Richard Rohr’s book (mentioned below).

7. Am I passionate about my career or what I’m doing with my life?

I don’t necessarily have a “career” per se. I’m working towards one. But after the New Year I’ll be nanny once again for Miss Vivian and Miss Lola, who is pretty new to the world. I’m looking forward to spending my days with them. I love being around kids. They give me the chance to be creative. They invite me into their little worlds. They teach me. It’s really great.

8. How well did I take care of myself?

Pretty well, I think. It’s been a very self-reflective year.

9. What inspired me?

At the ChildVoice benefit auction I was inspired by how the organization is growing and the values they uphold. Their goodness and perseverance astound me. I am so lucky to have served them and I hope to do it again in the future.

The documentary Miss Representation inspired me to be cautious of the messages I am buying into as a woman.

These books really influenced my faith and inspired me to expand my mental horizons: The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See by Richard Rohr, The Benefit of Doubt by Gregory Boyd, and A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans.

The Enneagram! It’s a personality test, but more in depth. Is that really nerdy of me? I don’t care. It’s about self-development. It shows you your tendencies at every level from extremely unhealthy to healthy. It’s helped me to understand the lens through which I see things and to better understand the lens through which other types see things. You can take the classic test for free here and read an in depth description of your type(s) here.

And every year I am inspired by the people involved in the details of my every day life. They inspire me to reach my full potential and love me when I’m not there.

10. If I could sum up this year, what word would fit?