Voice Lessons

“A new song for a new day rises up in me…” Psalm 40:3

Years ago I shared the story of how I lost my singing voice to steroids when I was young (and dumb). It was this self-inflicted wound that scarred me with depression, anxiety and loss of identity for years. And it was this same deep wound that would draw me into a deeper relationship with my Savior and ultimately be healed– not by human standards- but by a loving Heavenly Father who would whisper my true name and call me into his healing light.

Now I see the beauty in the pain and I can tell my story without sadness, but gratitude.

One way I know he has healed my heart is that music is JOY again. It speaks to me, it moves through me, and it has been regifted to me through my children who love music. I sing all time by myself, in the car, and at home with my family.

My voice is not the same. I cannot sing the same songs I used to. But lately I’ve wondered if that is the point: to grow and change and evolve and sing a new song entirely from when you began.

Amera started voice lessons this year, and it’s been surreal listening and observing. She has a beautiful singing voice. About a month ago her throat was hurting and so I texted her voice instructor to reschedule her lesson. And then out of nowhere, I sent another text: “Can I take Amera’s lesson?”

It was a quick response: “Absolutely!”

Then I panicked. What am I doing? I don’t sing anymore. Why would I put myself out there like that?

I emailed her instructor to share a little of my backstory. When it was time I had a major case of butterflies. I felt awkward and nervous but she was very encouraging and kind.

I told her that I had no agenda, I didn’t want to be a “singer” again, but that I was curious. Curious about this voice. My voice now. My voice that had been neglected for over 20 years because it was compared to a previous version. And held to the standard of my old songs.

I wanted to know.

And so I sang. I did warm-ups waaaaay out of my comfort zone and I apologized every time my voice cracked. (She told me to stop doing that.) And when she asked me to sing her a song, I chose Losing my Religion by Lauren Daigle and pushed play on the karaoke track…

I’ve been an actor on a stage
Playing a role I have to play
I’m getting tired to say the same
Living behind a masquerade

No more performing out of fear

I’m trying to keep my conscience clear
It all seems so insincere

I’d trade it all to meet You here

My voice cracked, but I kept going…

I’m losing my religion
I’m losing my religion…

Light a match and watch it burn
To Your heart, I will return
No one can love me like You do
So why would I want a substitute?

I’m losing my religion
I’m losing my religion
I’m losing my religion
I’m losing my religion
To find You

I’m losing my religion
In finding something new
‘Cause I need something different
And different looks like You

I couldn’t get through the song because the tears started falling.


Different is scary, but it’s also good. This different voice was coming from a different Bonnie than the one who sang 20 years ago. This new Bonnie had lived enough life to know who she was and who she wasn’t. She learned to sing with her whole life and wasn’t afraid of different. No, I can’t sing the old songs that I used to…but I don’t want to anymore. I have a new song. And I’m free to sing it- however it comes out.

I’ve had a few lessons now and I’m happy to report that I’ve been able to get through the songs without crying. I still have no agenda other that to feel the joy of singing again and honoring the voice I have today. And trusting that The Storyteller is still writing my story…

This week as I was looking for a family verse to draw on the chalkboard, He showed me this:

“The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come.” – Song of Solomon 2:12

Yes it has.

The Smudge

For about a month now, I’ve had a weird smudge on the outside glass of my writing room window. I can’t open the window and I can’t get to it from the outside without a very tall ladder. So, I’ve just been staring at it.

It’s streaky and I can’t figure out how it got there. I assume if it was water it would have evaporated or washed off by the rain? Maybe the kids threw something sticky at the window?

Anyway, it’s getting to be very distracting. When I sit in my chair in the mornings before the rest of the house is awake, the first beams of sunrise start to break through over my neighbors house and through the trees. Just as I am soaking in the pleasure of the light my eyes are drawn to it…the smudge.

The trees outside the window are threatening to bloom, but when I look to admire them…smudge.

I hear my kids playing outside and turn my head to witness their joy…smudge.

I need a break from my computer screen and glance up for earth’s inspiration…smudge.

I have GOT to get that cleaned off of the window!

The eyes are the window to the soul. Be careful then to keep the glass clean.

We were all designed to hold God’s glory and shine his Radiant Light out into the world, but if the glass is dirty all people will see is a smudge.

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

My bookshelves are filled with books from many authors who I admire and many who have let me down with their choices and their words. On one hand I have consumed and digested their wisdom. Like, food the substance of their life-giving words have nourished my soul and made me grow. But almost every one of those humans have eventually let me down and disappointed me.

I’m not talking about differences of opinions. No one shares the exact same values and opinions AND I would be blatantly wrong to seek out wisdom from a clone of myself. There is not learning or growth there. But when someone I admire falls from the pedestal I’ve put them on- it hurts. Should I throw out all of their words because their behavior? Probably not, but I’m human too and I’m tempted to have a book burning.  

My emotions remind me of TWO things:

  1. Jesus is the only ONE who will never let me down.
  2. I can take exactly what I need from others and graciously leave the rest behind.

And the deeper lesson for me is this: As I write to hopefully encourage others, I must remind myself to keep the glass clean. I’m sure there are lots of people who will disagree with my opinions, but I don’t want my poor choices/words or behavior to distract them from seeing the LIGHT in me. I need to work to keep the smudges off.

The idea sort of reminds me of the writer’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:2 the Bonnie paraphrase:

If I have incredible insight and knowledge and faith and impressive talents, but I don’t have love- so what?

A smudge can take you right on out of influence. It can distract others from Truth to the point that they turn away. Keep your eyes clean- filtering what goes in so that the bright light inside you can be seen- radiant and unblemished. You will be a bright hope for someone.

“Do not make it difficult for those who are turning to Christ.”

OR Don’t be a smudge.

Anxiety + Alcohol

This week marks my 2 year re-sober* anniversary. BUT I’ve decided to count ALL of the years. So… minus the brief affair that woke me back up, I am celebrating TEN years total. Bam. TEN!

*Although I prefer the term “alcohol- free” because sounds more like a choice that brings freedom. And it most definitely has.

TEN years of clarity.

TEN years of gift-giving to myself and the ones I love the most.

TEN years of an easy/difficult choice. Easy because I know myself better. Difficult because society doesn’t approve. But that doesn’t bother me anymore.

The gifts I’ve received in exchange for not drinking are numerous, but the “big one”, is my mental health. The anxiety that I used to suffer with daily is almost non-existent. And that is un-medicated and in the middle of a pandemic! Don’t get me wrong- there have been times that I’ve desired an escape. Fantasized about just one drink. But for me, there was never one drink.

And I know that if I were to start drinking again- even in moderation- anxiety would laugh and show up at my house. Uninvited, but sitting on the welcome mat, grinning by the door I left wide-ass-open.

Many women who struggle with alcohol also struggle with anxiety and depression, and I think there are many women who don’t see the correlation. Plus, alcohol is so mainstream in our society, it doesn’t seem like a negotiable option in living life. Many think that alcohol makes them feel better. For me, the first glass made me feel “better”. But I realize now that the first glass was just getting me back to a state of equilibrium that I had eroded over time with constant (albeit small) consumption.

When I decided to quit again, I reached out to two sober friends and they both recommended I read THIS NAKED MIND by Annie Grace. Wow. Such an eye-opener about the reality and truth about the substance and social acceptance of one of society’s most dangerous drugs. I finally understood that alcohol negatively affects me physically, mentally and spiritually, and I knew it had to go- again.

I love what Dr. Caroline Leaf says: Anxiety & depression are injuries not identities. They are injuries that flare up when you are not doing something right or when something around you is not right.

My mind, body and spirit all tried to tell me. Alcohol is not right for me. Anxiety (which leads to depression) flares up when I drink alcohol even in small quantities over time. My mental health is not worth the momentary escape of alcohol. The negative effects linger and erode who I am at my core.

I hit the ground running with “all of the things” I knew to do to get in a better mental space when anxiety showed up again in my life, but I believe that the most impactful, simple and yet difficult choice was giving up alcohol again. I had re-introduced it when I realized that a belief I had held on to was faulty: I thought that as long as I didn’t drink, I wouldn’t have panic attacks or debilitating anxiety.

When the structure I built that belief on in my mind crumbled and I started to experience panic again- completely sober, I made the poor choice to start drinking again. Why not? But the truth was this: while sobriety didn’t safeguard me from panic completely- it greatly reduced my anxiety for 8 years of my life. (now TEN!!!) Years that I’m positive would have been devastatingly different had I continued down the path I was on.

Believe it or not, I am not anti-alcohol. But I am anti-alcohol for me. Maybe it doesn’t effect you negatively. Like my wise Life Coach Vikki tells me at every one of our meetings, “If something I say resonates with you- sow it your heart. BUT if it doesn’t, throw that shit out the window when you leave.” I love her.

Maybe this isn’t for you. But maybe the hardest thing will be the simplest.

If you are struggling with anxiety and depression, maybe you should find out. Take a month off. Read This Naked Mind. You owe it to yourself to do whatever is in your power to maintain your mental health and positive well-being.

“When you know better, you do better.” – Maya Angelou

But you owe it to yourself to know.

Love and Light,



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!


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.


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.