3…2…1…Hope

When it’s time for me to write, I light a candle. It was a suggestion from Bob Goff’s book Dream Big, not specifically (he puts a hat on), but a piece of writerly advice to signal the brain that it’s time to write. I love it because it also reminds me of why I write. To be light, and through my writing, give light (hope) to others.

It’s only a small single flame. Not much light at all- especially during the day. But interestingly enough, if I were to take my candle into my closet and surround it with complete darkness the flame wouldn’t dull. In fact- and you know this- it would be brighter.

Because darkness can’t eliminate the light when it’s shining. It can only accentuate it.

New Years Eve was so different this year. The images of New York with masked MC’s and people in spaced out pens reminded all of us watching that 2020 has been a shared experience that no one will ever forget.

But even with the evident changes in celebration the overall spirit of welcoming the New Year seemed palpable- especially this year. The sentiment seems collective: Good riddance 2020! We’re counting on you 2021!

Hope.

It is necessary for survival.

I have ALWAYS loved New Years Day. A New Beginning. A New opportunity to choose again. A fresh page on a new planner. A new HOPE that THIS year will be better than the last. (They should probably sell 2021 planners a month a time with all the “pivoting” going on. 😉 Maybe the “month of the month club”?)

But there was a part of my spirit that was hesitant. A tiny thought that maybe 2021 won’t be better than 2020. What if things don’t change? What if they get worse? I quickly silenced that voice. They have to.

The truth is, I’m not sure what the future holds for the New Year. But I do know, that we have to HOPE.

“Had to have high, high hopes for a living…” – Panic at the Disco

I’ve heard depression defined as the feeling that current circumstances will never change. And as someone who has experienced clinical depression in the past, I concur. Hopelessness is a rabbit hole of mental-ill health and honestly, that has been one of my greatest concerns during this Covid crisis. I worry about people with no hope. And I understand the desperation for a cure, a champion and a solution to our current problems.

Hope comes through each other. It ebbs and flows from person to person and we need to cling to hope even if its source doesn’t come from within us. Especially when it doesn’t. We need others to see and find the hope, he light in the darkness, and pull us toward it collectively when individually we don’t have the vision or the strength.

The good news is: You only need a little. Like my candle in the closet, a little light is enough to show the way out of the darkness. Hope lives on, no matter how small.

If you are a Jesus follower than you have Hope even if you don’t feel it. It is there. Maybe you need to surround yourself with more light-givers. People who will light your path and fan the small flame of Hope in your heart.

Hope.

It is necessary for survival.

Be the Light.

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:4-5

What star? THAT star?

In December, I had notifications pop up on my phone and social media posts telling me about a rare and natural phenomena that was to occur the week of Christmas. They called it “The Christmas Star” because much like in the story of Jesus’ birth, multiple planets in our solar system would cross paths and appear to almost intersect in the sky forming a larger than normal “star”.

The rarity of event coupled with it happening around Christmas seemed so magical to me, and my heart was filled with joy and anticipation leading up to that week. I reposted, shared and told just about everyone I could to look to the sky when the time came. I felt in my soul this was a gift from God for ALL mankind and just on time as we said goodbye to a difficult and uncertain year.

And then the night came.

My mom came over and I forced the kids into the car to chase down the BEST view of the Christmas Star. I checked the weather channel (and FaceBook) for the time and coordinates, parked the car in a Waffle House parking lot and looked up. There were stars. And a couple of brighter ones. But nothing impressive. Maybe two that were close? I texted an equally excited neighbor and he assured me I was indeed looking I the correct direction. I looked again and asked my kids and mom, “Do you see anything?” “That looks like two stars.” “Is that IT?”

Surely not.

I pulled out my phone to check FaceBook again, and opened my eyes one a time, in an attempt to delay the realization that I was dreading: THAT WAS IT. Friends and happy-neighbor-guy were posting pictures of the same dang thing I saw in the sky: two unimpressive, nearly touching, one bigger-than the other stars that if you crossed your eyes for a moment they may appear as one, but there was certainly nothing magical about it. “Mooooom, is THAT it?” Ugh. “I think that’s it guys.”

Every Christmas movie that I had ever seen had got it wrong.

I was completely underwhelmed and little pissed off if I’m being honest. (Just me?) I was disappointed in the star and also at my reaction to it. I read a few posts from others who were “amazed” and “moved to tears” witnessing such a glorious sight in the skies. They quoted scripture and praised the heavens. What is wrong with me? Did I miss something? That was not at all what I expected or hoped. I was looking for something BIG. Something meaningful. I rolled my eyes, switched off my phone and went home to bake cookies for Santa with the kids- at least that will be exciting.

I kept all these thoughts to myself (because I was ashamed of my bad attitude) but as Christmas came, I wondered if the actual Christmas Star on the night of Jesus’ birth didn’t blow up the night sky like in the movies. I mean, why wasn’t everyone following this star instead of just three men? Maybe because it was lame-o. (Please Lord don’t strike me.) Maybe if the actual Christmas Star was MGM Fabulous EVERYONE near Bethlehem would have noticed (and followed) and Herod wouldn’t have had to ask the Wise Men to clarify the location of the New King/Baby.

And that’s another thing. His people were on the lookout for a Savior. Mighty. Powerful. Someone impressive. A Warrior perhaps. A baby?

Surely not.  

The details of the Christmas story are so familiar to us and glamorized, that we forget how utterly underwhelming it must have been in reality. The King of Glory was coming to earth to save his people and that was it?

No one anticipated a baby.

No one was looking in feed stalls. (gross)

No one imagined smelly animal witnesses.

No one expected dirty shepherds to be the first ones notified.

And only three men were wise enough to follow that sort-of-maybe-brighter-than-the-rest star that night. But unlike the rest of the sleepy town, they had eyes to see and hearts that could hold the message. So they followed.

The Weather Channel, happy-neighbor-guy (and I’m assuming you) were right. The “Christmas Star” of 2020 was a unique and rare sight to behold. (One that won’t show up again until I’m 101). And I’m grateful to have witnessed it, not because it blew my mind. It did not. But because it opened my eyes to see that God rarely shows up in the way we want him to.

But he consistently shows up in the small things of life. The unassuming and the ordinary.

I can only hope to grow in wisdom that I can also see and appreciate the significance of seemingly insignificant things. The grandeur in the grand scheme of everyday life. I don’t want to miss out on any divine appointments just because they don’t live up to my larger-than-life expectations.

I pray that I will be a noticer of small things…

With ears to hear, eyes to see and a heart wide-open to receive the magnitude of each moment.

The Most Romantic Thing

I’ve always referred to Keenan as my most favorite way God loves me. And it’s not because we see eye to eye (we don’t) or are alike in many ways (we’re not). It’s because of the way he has loved me in and through each season of our marriage- unconditionally.

It wasn’t his fault that within the first year of wedded bliss I was depressed, drinking heavily and gaining weight.

Our first anniversary

I was a huge season of change-  fresh out of college, newly married in a new home with my new handsome husband. We were coming off that honeymoon high and like many newlyweds we got comfortable. I enjoyed making comfort food dinners and drinking every night with my man. The drinking made it easier to forget that I wasn’t happy (with myself) and despite what I had hoped, marriage wasn’t the magical fix I needed. Despite my history of physical fitness, I let it all go and slipped into a state (actually un-)ease. To this day I jokingly refer to that season of life of being “fat and effed up.” The calories were adding up but I was too drunk to care. Eventually it caught up to me.  

I was overweight that compounded the fact that I was clinically depressed. (My lucky husband!) I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes so I stayed ( and worked) in forgiving workout gear. (What I needed to do was lay of the booze and ACTUALLY workout- physically & mentally) But whenever I started to feel depressed I just postponed the feelings with alcohol.

Anyway- one day Keenan and were invited to a friend’s birthday party in the neighborhood and I broke. I did NOT want to go anywhere and be seen by anyone- while I looked and felt like I did. I was ashamed of gaining weight and I wanted to hide from the world. I told my husband so. I told him through tears that I had NOTHING to wear and I was NOT GOING. The End.

He didn’t say another word.

The weekend rolled around and when I came home that evening from work to drink the day away I found FOUR complete outfits in a size I had never worn, laid out side by side on the edge of our bed. I was confused but processing. They were stylish- matching tops and bottoms in beautiful prints and colors. And they were all…big. Bigger than I was used to anyway. But they fit. Keenan came in the room and said, “Pick something to wear- I’m taking my beautiful wife to a party.

I have never felt more completely loved in my life. Here I was- a former fitness trainer/ bodybuilder lost in season of depression and numbing the pain with alcohol. Standing in front of a man who loved me anyway and would go out if his way to show me and SHOW UP. (Looking back I realize that this was some next-level newly wed wisdom from my young husband!) I sobbed in his arms. Arms that I knew would never let me go. I was at the bottom and he was still here loving me.

I couldn’t believe that everything he picked out actually fit! I asked him how he knew what size I wore (because even I didn’t know!) and he held out his hands as if he was holding a Bonnie-sized waist. I was overwhelmed. He knew what would fit because he knew (as only he could) how I felt in his arms. He’s held me in “thickness and in health.” He’s held me. And that’s how he knows what would fit- what would cover me. What I needed to feel safe and beautiful.

Our marriage is so strong and beautiful because of what we’ve been through over the years, and Keenan has done many thoughtful things throughout our marriage to show his love, but I will never forget his gesture of pure kindness in buying those outfits for me to choose from so he could take his “beautiful wife” to the party. He was loving me like Christ loves His bride. In every season and situation (and in every size)…

He knows what we need because He’s held us, He’s still holding us, and He will never let go.

I wore a blue checkered skirt, a white flowy top and straw wedge sandals to the party. Bigger than I wanted to be with struggles ahead…but hand in hand with a man that I knew would love me regardless. And that was the foundation I needed to begin my healing. It just fit.

Blooming where you are planted.

On my run this morning I passed a neighborhood with an iron bar gate and just as I got to the edge of it, something behind the black bars caught my eye.

It was a bright magenta flower that stood in stark contrast to the dull gate. I turned my head to get a better view and saw dozens of the same flower behind the gate. It was a gorgeous sight and yet I suddenly felt sad that these flowers were hidden from human view. Someone like me would have to accidently discover them and then intentionally stop to appreciate their contribution to world.

My own thought surprised me.

Those bold flowers weren’t looking for pity. They weren’t even looking for lookers. They were just being bright and bold and beautiful right were they were planted. On task. Fulfilling their mission. Quietly bringing beauty in the world and joy to their Creator.

Maybe they didn’t get a gorgeous hill from which to display their gift.

Maybe only one or 2 lucky ones would ever enjoy the vibrant magenta petals smiling behind the harsh dark bars.

Maybe no one would see.

I smiled and received the subtle gift from the blooms: Love and joy and real beauty are just behind hard things.

Sometimes we have to seek them out, and sometimes they will just find us, but never are you overlooked by the One who knows exactly where you are planted.  

He sees.

Stupid Sad Snowman

When I got married in 2003 I decided I would buy a “family” ornament each year at Christmas. Our first Christmas I bought a beautiful glass heart ornament engraved with the words “Our First Christmas Keenan and Bonnie 2003”. Unfortunately, the very next year, I spiraled into a depression. My poor newly married husband! I was struggling so deep in an identity crisis. Things I had buried and tried to ignore were surfacing and I thought that marrying the man of my dreams would fix it. It had nothing to do with Keenan. I had not entered into the brokenness of my spirit. I was drinking and eating to numb. Losing my mind and gaining weight. But Christmas was coming, so I went to Kohl’s and looked for an ornament to put on the tree.

The Christmas spirit was everywhere but in my heart. I scanned the selection, finally deciding on a simple snowman. I pulled it from the display tree, bought it, took it home and scribbled 2004 on the bottom of his rump in black sharpie. Box checked. It was a rough start to wedded bliss but eventually through prayer, counseling, medication and a committed husband I began to see the light again. Slowly I emerged from the darkness. I would buy many more personalized Christmas ornaments: Parents to Be, baby’s first Christmas, Our First Home, Family of 3, Baby’s First Christmas, Big Brother, Family of 4, Baby’s First Christmas, Family of 5 etc. Every year I enjoy pulling out each individual ornament and savoring the memory associated with it. But when I get to the little snowman ornament, it’s always the same reaction year after year- I grimace. Sadness. Anger. Pain. What an awful time. An awful memory.

Stupid snowman ornament. (As if he was to blame)

But somehow this year I missed him- probably because my kids like to “help” decorate the tree and the jog down memory lane quickly turns into a sprint. I didn’t see the little guy- or think about him until I started taking down the decorations after the New Year. I was carefully pulling special ornaments off the tree and gently placing them in a sectioned storage box to put in the basement until next year. And when I reached around to the back of the tree, I found him. Tucked away on an odd branch that one of my children must have chosen. I pulled him off and was shocked by my own reaction.

I smiled.

I held this hard piece of plastic- this reminder of a hard time, and I felt… JOY. Deep overwhelming joy. I realized that this tiny little snowman showed up for me in the darkest night with an ever so small light of hope. The hope that in total darkness you can still see a single light. In the middle of sadness and depression he brought me a moment of joy in the aisle of a department store. I was suddenly filled with gratitude. And then I heard my own voice say, “thank you.” It was like in an instant my perspective changed and I saw this sweet snowman in a different light. Not a reminder of pain but a promise of hope. He was a life line during a time that I was drowning. He gave me enough light to see through that year.  Enough light to hold on until the next Christmas when the light would be brighter. Just enough light to hold onto until I could fan the flame into something bigger and until the bright light of friends and family could join with mine. And for that stupid sweet snowman, I am thankful.

Darkness can never fully extinguish a single light.

It may be small, but as long as you’re breathing, it is there. Just hold on. Walk in the light you are given until the path is illuminated and you can walk into the brightness of the dawn. Full of hope and light to share with others who are struggling in the dark.

Team Clark

It’s that time of year when Keenan and I get real competitive! 😉
 
I had this sign made for him as a Christmas present early in our marriage. It may seem that it is a knock on him, but in actuality, Keenan paid off my student loan debt. And with his GED and innate leadership skills, he has successfully grown the family business to take care of our family. I think he expected me to make a lot of money with my degree and now he says it is confirmed that I am the smart one- since somehow I managed to get out of “working”. (Yes, of course he knows that staying home with his three children has been in fact- work.) Anyway… getting a business degree from Georgia Tech and in effect not using it has been a part of my story that I have until now NOT been able to integrate with who I am today.
 
We were at the pool the other day when my youngest asked, “Do you HAVE to go to college or can you just skip straight to being an adult?” I always cringe a little when people overhear our educational conversations with our kids. I feel like they probably don’t happen the way they happen in most families… The answer is “No, you DON’T have to go to college necessarily.” AND “There is no skipping the process of BECOMING an adult.” (That varies in length of time based on YOUR choices.) For me, the college part of it took SIX YEARS because I took a detour by way of drugs (alcohol included) and distractions.
 
I went to Georgia Tech because I wanted to live in Atlanta, and I chose business management because that seemed like the right path to choose when you don’t want to be an engineer. I immediately felt like a small dumb fish in a big smart pond. Writing wasn’t on my radar as a career choice in college, but it kept me company. My favorite class at Georgia Tech was a writing class based on the plays of Shakespeare. Eventually this creative outlet would make its way out of the shadows and onto the page, but first I had to grow up and learn a thing or two about life…maybe so I would actually have something to write about.
 
During my freshman year, I met Keenan and got derailed. That is its own story that I won’t go into here, but the short version is this: I got swept up in a lifestyle that didn’t mix very well with pursuing a degree from a university known for its academics. Soon, I flunked out of Georgia Tech. The reality of what I had done shook me a little, but I was getting pretty good at numbing my emotions. Still, something inside me knew that I couldn’t do NOTHING, so I enrolled at Kennesaw and limped (high) through a couple of semesters. Gradually Keenan and I would stop making so many bad choices and begin moving back (thank the Lord and our praying mommas) in a positive direction. (More good stories there for another day!)
 
At some point I looked hard at the decisions I was making, and then I made an important one. I decided that I wanted to go back to Georgia Tech. I wanted to finish what I started there. I had learned some lessons the hard way and I wanted to prove to myself that I was not a quitter. And to prove that I deserved to be at Georgia Tech and get my degree. I re-applied. I asked a friend who was a former football player and alumni from Georgia Tech to write a letter on my behalf vouching for my character and change of heart. I wasn’t sure this sort of thing even happened, but THEY LET ME BACK IN!
 
I graduated from Georgia Tech in 2003 (the 50th class of female graduates!) with a BS in Management and a certificate in Marketing and earned mostly A’s my Senior year. I did it. I chose to grow up. During this time, I stopped most drugs (alcohol would hang around for a while) AND Keenan and I moved apart to maintain a celibate engagement. (I told ya’ll there were some good stories in here!) I took responsibility for my own actions. I owned up to my “failure” and I set things right in my eyes. FOR MY OWN DAMN SELF. This was one of my defining moments.
 
But now what? I remember walking through a career fair just before graduating. I bought a pant suit and printed out copies of my resume. I walked the halls filled with various company booths and eager representatives ready to hire the newest crop of business graduates. I didn’t hand out a single resume. I walked past every booth, politely smiled and after about a half hour I whispered to myself, “Well, crap.” None of it was appealing. Did I choose wrong? I have a piece of paper from a prestigious school and I’m not sure what to do with it. Make a paper airplane? It was the beginning of my Quarter-life crisis.
 
Life kept moving. I got a job with a side of depression sprinkled with anxiety. My smart husband started working hard on his business one good choice at a time. He was building our future. We struggled with infertility and then had one, two, three kids in a row. I was officially over-educated and under-qualified for my current position of stay-at-mother of three kids ages 3, 1 and infant.
 
Our story has been messy and beautiful, broken and redemptive. Writing is now my career. And I have lots to write about- but I’ve always felt like Georgia Tech was a waste of time. I got a diploma that SAYS I know stuff, and my husband has a GED and a successful business that PROVES he knows stuff. I’ve struggled to own that piece of life. I’ve “hustled for my worth” to live up to being a Georgia Tech grad when I have really felt like an imposter. I told Vikki (my life coach) that I was just a good memorizer and regurgitator of information and that’s how I graduated and she said, “You ain’t that smart.” 🙂
 
Vikki suggested I sit with my thoughts about all of this, to ask God to help me integrate this part of my story. So I did. What was the purpose? Why did I go to college at all? Why Georgia Tech? Why a business degree? (why not writing?) Why the detour? Why SIX YEARS?
 
The answer came in STILLNESS…
 
The purpose was not the paper. It was never the paper. The purpose was in the process- who I became during those six years. Who I was when I entered Georgia Tech was not the same Bonnie that graduated from Georgia Tech. I needed that process. I needed THAT school at THAT time with THAT experience to become who I am today. It was not wasted.
 
Nothing is wasted in the BECOMING of who we are.
 
I see it now. I’m grateful for the lessons learned. Not the ones in the classroom, but the ones I learned about myself. Based on our experiences, what Keenan and I hope to communicate to our children in terms of education is this: “We don’t care about college prep as much as we care about LIFE prep.” And that looks different for every person. (Worst case scenario ALL of our kids go to college- LOL!)  Currently Selah wants to be a surgeon and that’s A LOT of school, but maybe they choose a different path. Maybe they join the AMAZING hair industry (no college required). Maybe it’s music. Maybe it’s writing. Whatever they choose, we will encourage them to KNOW who they are, to SHOW up to life (make a plan + get a mentor) and to GROW up (take responsibility for your choices). And then the hard part: We will trust (gulp) that there is a Master plan (detours included) for each of them written by the Great Storyteller.
 
GO TEAM CLARK! House Divided

1 Year: medicine free!

Today is my ONE YEAR anniversary of being completely off anxiety medication!

I am celebrating, because my EXPERIENCE with anxiety (not MY anxiety) has been a pivotal part of my story.
For two seasons of my life, I have suffered with debilitating panic. The first time over a decade ago I was also struggling with depression, infertility, loss of identity and alcohol abuse. (My poor newly married young husband!) I didn’t want to live this way. I barely wanted to live at all. But with the recommendation of a trusted therapist I chose medication. And I believe it saved my life.
BUT I also WORKED ON ME. I went THROUGH the brokenness of losing my singing voice to steroids. I went through the brokenness of not knowing if I would ever be a mother. I put down the most destructive drug on the planet- alcohol. I got my life back. I made the CHOICE to come off medication, because I didn’t want to be on it forever, AND I told myself that I would never experience panic and anxiety as long as I was SOBER. Oh the power of the mind! I believed that SO deeply that it became my reality- or so I thought. I see now that I still experienced anxiety, but I had conditioned my mind to reconceptualize it as something else. I thought I was in control.
But it came back. When I was minding my own damn business. When I was doing what I needed to do. Being a good wife. Homeschooling my three young kids. I was freakin’ SOBER for God sake!!!
It blind-sided me.
It engulfed me. I couldn’t leave my house. I would wakeup and immediately every cell in my body began to vibrate. I’d lie on the couch praying to escape my body. The walls of sobriety that were supposed to keep me safe came crashing down and then disappeared. I realized they were never really there to begin with. I was exposed to the threat of myself and my genetic predisposition to mental chaos.
I was angry. Why did I have to go through this shit again?I had three kids depending on me and I couldn’t get my head above water. I wasted NO time calling my doctor. Once again, I got on medication and it helped. I don’t regret it. (But the weight gain sucks.)
By divine intervention I came across Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book Switch on Your Brain and my jaw dropped when I read the back cover: “You are not a victim of your biology!” This is the opposite of what I heard from doctors.
Once again, I GOT TO WORK on me. My life coach says that there are only a few lessons in life, but we learn them over and over, deeper and deeper. This time, I did not fight, I surrendered and I accepted the gift of anxiety. I detoxed my brain from the negative patterns that had resurfaced. It was a process, but I took back my thought life. And healing came. After intentional brain self-therapy with the wisdom of Dr. Leaf and the guidance of the Holy Spirit I started my taper off the medicine. I took natural supplements, took care of my body and I did it S-L-O-W-L-Y under the supervision of my doctor.
It hasn’t been easy. And I tried to sabotage myself by adding alcohol BACK into my life, but that was another lesson I had to learn yet again…
Today I am one-year medication free and full of hope for the future. I got my life back. I’m telling the story I want to tell. I am embracing the lessons I needed to learn AGAIN and I am grateful for the journey.

The Great Miami Re-do

In March I posted about The Great Shi**y Trip to Miami. You can read all about that here. But since then I got take my re-do trip to Miami so I thought I’d fill you guys in on how that went. But first I turned 40…

On May 17th, my actual birthday, my husband threw me the most AMAZING birthday party ever! We had the entire outside lawn and patio at Nuevos Amigos Mexican Restaurant and it was decorated in black and gold with a huge “Bonnie” banner across the outside stage. Our long-time friend DJ’d so I could dance all night to ALL my favorite music. (my kids will need therapy from some of my moves)

IMG_2271

Almost everyone I love was there. Family, Friends and Book worlds colliding. It was perfect. From the hugs and laughs and insanely gorgeous sunset, I was hyper-aware of all of the love I received that night. Keenan thought of everything. Even a “blowy guy” wind dancer that I may or may not have dropped a not-so-subtle hint about inviting. There was photo booth, endless food, gifts and the margaritas flowed. (Just because I’m sober doesn’t mean I want you to be. Ya’ll funny.)

20190517_195715

 

And the cake. The cake of all cakes that was designed by my husband and made by my niece. It was just for me. No, literally we forgot to cut it and it came home with me. (We ate as much as we could) Every detail of the evening was well thought out and executed. He even hired “sexy” acrobats as entertainment! One of the acrobats happens to be my cousin! (Did I mention the talent that runs through my family in various creative outlets?) And yes, they brought a pole as a prop so you can insert inappropriate jokes about the ex-stripper who was present and hosting here_______. 🙂

Screenshot_20190518-214145_Facebook

 

I was completely sober. Can’t say that about my 30th. Wide awake and feeling everything about the night. And then the speeches. Family and friends saying things that made me laugh and cry and thank God that I was here in this moment surrounded by so much love. One friend said “everyone should have a Bonnie.” and Keenan took the mic and said, “Snagging you was my greatest achievement.” Wow. It’s a beautiful thing to be loved…and known so well. I wish everyone could have that feeling just once in their life. I received it all with an open heart. Fully present.

20190517_202944

I didn’t want the night to end, but we had to get home and get some rest…we had a plane to catch! To Miami…

We don’t get out much so we pretty much stink at travelling and almost missed our plane. But thankfully we made it. I brought my b-day cards on the plane so I could take my time reading each one and so I could be distracted. Flying is not my favorite. I looked through pictures of the party and stopped every few to kiss Keenan on the cheek and say “Thank you.” I probably thanked him hundreds of times during the weekend. Mostly with words. 🙂

Screenshot_20190805-133649_Instagram

 

Miami was the same place, but I was a different Bonnie. Last year I was detoxing off my anxiety medication and unwisely adding alcohol back in. I was a mess. I couldn’t enjoy the scenery or my favorite person because my body and mind were at war. But after I came home and processed the trip, I received the gift. I chose differently this time and I was able to (finally) enjoy every moment. Starting with our awesome boutique hotel: COMO Metropolotian and the chocolate birthday cake that welcomed us in our room.

August 14th is my one year anniversary of being completely off my anxiety medication. A decision I made for myself that wasn’t easy during the process but has been a blessing in my mental health journey. I still experience anxiety from time to time, but I have learned so much about myself and the power of the mind that I know I am equipped to feel all the feelings and live the life I WANT without mind numbing pharmaceuticals. FOR ME (I say that because my journey is my own) it was the best decision.

August 17th of this year I will celebrate 200 days of sobriety. Another decision I’m proud of. This time in Miami, this Bonnie was sober. Alcohol does not serve me and I don’t like the person I become when I’m drinking. Moderation doesn’t work for me. It requires too much mental energy. SO I was wide awake to enjoy each sensation with complete awareness and joy. The sunshine, the sand, the books, the FOOD! I could barely eat last time because I was sick and trying to make myself worse. This trip I got jacked up on espresso every morning and switched to freshly cut coconut water in the afternoon. I savored every drop like it was liquid gold. Servers would bring me sandwiches and iced tea until I would pass out on the beach in a food coma. I would wake up and thank Keenan for the umpteenth time for everything- the party, the trip, the “right now” that I would never forget.

Screenshot_20190805-133605_Instagram

We connected on so many levels. We flirted like we were on our honeymoon. We laughed at all the prime people watching that is Miami South Beach and we talked. We talked about our life. Our history. Our amazing kids. And our future. The future we get to build together one truth at a time. Because truth-telling comes with a clear conscience and real intimacy and never a hang-over. I completely get the whole “two become one flesh” because when Keenan isn’t with me- he’s missing. My most favorite way God loves me.

Every part of that trip was a gift that I will keep in my heart for the rest of my life.

You could say my re-do trip turned into redeemed.

Thank you Keenan.
Thank you God.
Thank you Bonnie- for showing up to your own life.

Screenshot_20190805-133832_Instagram

Choices: Participation

DAY 9: I choose to PARTICIPATE in life.

A few months ago I DID something that I had TALKED about for years. I took my kids to a local nursing home to visit. I’m not telling you this to brag. In all honesty I am sad that we didn’t do it sooner. I didn’t post about it on FB or IG because of the whole “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” thing in the Bible about doing acts of charity for the wrong cause- applause. And here I am telling you guys…

But this is why I’m telling you. Visiting the nursing home every month with my kids has opened my eyes to what it means to “love in action and deed.” The first visit we were all nervous. They asked all sorts of questions. “What is wrong with that man?” “Can that lady hear me?” “What is that smell?” We walked in, and smiled at all the faces that had assembled in the “party room”. We introduced ourselves not sure who was coherent.

Andre sat down at the piano and started to play… Music filled the room- Happy Birthday, Amazing Grace, Elvis Presley…smiles slowly spread out across the faces at the tables. Some people were dancing in their seats! The girls worked up the courage to go around giving out hugs and asking questions like, “What did you like to do when you were my age?”

I was overwhelmed by what was happening. My kids were participating in bringing Heaven to earth. I told them so later. There is nothing more important than using your gifts and time to love others. That is true religion.

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other, let us show the truth by our actions.” – 1 John 3:18

I recalled a conversation with one of our kids when they were smaller, asking about why we follow Jesus and I was disappointed in my “Sunday school” answer, “Jesus came and died for our sins so we can go to heaven one day.” The words didn’t sound right as they were coming out of my mouth. Really? That’s it?

My own answer didn’t sit well with me. Is it true that I follow Jesus is so I can GO to a ANOTHER place one day? We get to BE with him later, AFTER we LIVE through all the HELL down here?! That’s the gospel? No wonder people reject Christianity.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” – Jesus

“The Son of Man did not come to destroy life, but to bring life to the EARTH.” – Luke 9:55

He came to give us life NOW. Later yes, but also NOW. Right now.

Right NOW healing and freedom are available.
Right NOW joy is possible.

And he’s invited us on the journey.

If Jesus went to prepare a place for us, and then immediately set up camp in our hearts then doesn’t it make sense that we are to ALSO prepare a place for us? For others? For heaven on the NEW EARTH? He intended to use US, the vessels carrying His image & Spirit to prepare a place. He wants US to participate in taking care of His creation and His most prized creation in all eternity: His people.

We can create hell on earth for ourselves and everyone around us, OR we can be image bearers. Encouraging others with our words. Doing for others who are not capable. Feeding the hungry. Sitting with the lonely in the nursing home. Using our hands and feet to be the hands and feet of Christ.

I don’t love Jesus because he promises me a room one day in the clouds. I follow Jesus because he has given me NEW life TODAY. He came to set us free. And he calls us to participate. In our OWN healing and then in the healing of others. Because when we do for others we are bringing Heaven to earth…

to comfort widows,
to free men from the chains of pornography addiction.
to give women clarity from the fog of alcohol.
to give husbands eyes for their wives and the ability to love them well.
to give wives the wisdom to not ridicule or reject their husbands- in private and in public.
to relieve young people of debilitating anxiety.
to give hope to the depressed so they can see the light through the darkness.
to get strippers off the pole.
to heal children from divorce and abandonment.
Free from the hurt of a distracted mother and a distant father.
Free from opioids.
Free from shame.
Free from panic attacks.
Free from the scars of sexual abuse.

He came to write a new story on each of our hearts. To rescue us from ourselves and our propensity towards destruction. And He uses us. He put on skin to show us how its done and he gives us free will to choose Him, to choose LIFE and life to the FULL. (real life!) We have the power of life and death in our thoughts, words and actions. We are co-creators with our Creator.

That is a much better reason to follow Jesus than the one I gave my kids. The promise of Heaven ONE day? I’ll take Heaven TODAY. I will participate in my own healing and I will reach out to others. I will bring heaven to earth to someone who needs it by DOING the next right thing instead of talking about it.

We aren’t some cruel human experiment with a harp for a prize at the end. I think “Well done my good and faithful servant is reserved for those who PARTICIPATE in THIS life for His glory forever.

All three of my kids wouldn’t dream of missing our monthly visit to the nursing home. We know that Ms. Betty will dance in her chair, Ms. Francis will show us her new craft, that Ms. Brenda will have on a different baseball hat, that Ms. Sharon loves Mickey Mouse, and that Ms. Donna will cry when you hug her. We know that there will be heaven in that room.

I choose to PARTICIPATE in life.