And…We’re Done! {31 Days of My People}

Whew! What a month! I’m so excited to have completed my first full #Write31Days Challenge! It was a lot of work but I enjoyed every second of it. My only regret is that I couldn’t squeeze more of My Amazing People into this 31 day timeframe! :(

Thank you again to everyone who read, commented on, and shared these posts. Your feedback has been so kind and encouraging. I hope this series made y’all smile and inspired you to go tell Your People how much you love and appreciate them.

If you missed any part of the 31 Days of My People series, Here is the archive of each post for the entire month.


1-Introduction: 31 Days of…


3-Betty Jo



6-Tuesday People Tips #1: Reach Out


8-My Kiddos





13-Tuesday People Tips #2: The Logistics



16-My Sista

17-Jay & April



20-Tuesday People Tips #3: The Golden Rules


22-The Jujus

23-The Target Lady



26-Jamie Mack

27-Tuesday People Tips#4: Toxic People

28-Greg & Tiff

29-THAT Girl

30-My Man


31 Days of My People: Jesus {31/31}

Thank you so much, readers. This 31 Days of My People series has been so wonderful for me. It has given me a chance to reflect on some of the many incredible people I have in my life, and remember that every moment we have here on this earth counts. I so appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. You can find the entire series here if you missed any of the days and would like to catch up.

This is our final day in this series, and I have saved the very best Person in my life for last.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:38-39


It was always You. I know that now. I used to think people were completely crazy for believing in any God. I thought folks must be pretty pathetic if they needed a bunch of fairy tales about a kind, benevolent man to get them through life. No thank you. I’ll just think some happy thoughts about Abraham Lincoln and call it good.

But somewhere underneath everything there was this tiny shred of something that always made me wonder: What if there is something bigger than us? There has to be. This whole world has no point otherwise. At some point I began my conscious journey toward finding out. Right in the middle of life, where all along I actually thought I’d been doing some living.

I can look back and see it now. How You were inching me toward You a little every day. You left me so many breadcrumbs along the way so I could find You. Looking back from this side, I can see everything around me as a gift You personally gave me, each one bringing me a bit closer, like little mile markers along the trail.

You gave me Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, which made me think for the first time that You could be more than just some old, angry scorekeeper in the sky. That You were pursuing me.

You gave me that professor, the one who invited me to his church. I got to see people enjoying worship. Really meeting you there. And then that professor tried to get me to sleep with him. But that whole experience helped open my eyes to a couple of things: First, that church has a purpose–worship has a purpose. And that people who claim to love You will still mess up in a million ways. So it’s not them I should look to, it’s only You.

You sent me those songs that rang true with me…SO many songs… because You knew this was a language I could understand. You kept them reverberating in my ears when I got scared, or doubted myself. Or doubted Your goodness.

I looked for You in

the fire and the wind…

But You weren’t there as far as I could see

I thought I’d hear You shout

but then I figured out

that all along You’re whispering to me

You gave me such a sense of wonder, and You made sure it got put to good use. Your creation is so amazing. The way oranges are pre-packaged and sectioned perfectly for sharing. Way to go, thinking of that one. The patterns You built into plants and seashells and our DNA? Just completely amazing. And flamingos? And a praying mantis? What are those even for? They seem to serve no purpose whatsoever other than to be admired by us. That’s so You.

And can I just say how brilliant it is that every single person has their own special fingerprints? Our little hidden reminder that although we’re all built out of the same stuff, we are uniquely formed and not one is exactly like the other. Not one. Not even the fingerprints of identical twins are the same! (And also, there is such a thing as identical twins! What?!?) I will forever be in awe of everything You have made.

I believe everything You say, Jesus. It makes me so sad when very loud people take Your words and turn them into hateful things. How can anyone think that’s even a thing? There was never any hatefulness in You. I just wish everyone could understand how that wastes Your love when we do that junk. There’s an unending supply of Your love, enough to go around for everyone, and here we are trying our best to squander it by making it sound like hate. I don’t know everything, but I know that’s not Your way. There’s just nothing for us to be scared of by loving each other like You did. Nothing at all.

Jesus, I think about The Narrow Way a lot. I just don’t feel like it’s what a lot of people have said it is. I think it might have something to do with how You always hung out with the folks that were outcast, despised, and desperate. I think The Narrow Way looks a whole lot like pulling up a chair next to those exact people and putting our arms around them. I think The Narrow Way has something to do with how uncomfortably close we need to be to one another on our way toward You. We just have to get that close in order to really see into each other’s lives and earn the right to speak into them with Your love. I might be wrong, but everything You did and said seemed uncomfortably close and personal like that.

I’m actually really glad You allowed me to grow up for the first part of my life outside of a relationship with You. I know that sounds weird, but I feel like You let me learn some things the hard way, and now I get to use those experiences to help others and point them toward You. So I don’t count any of it as a waste. You are the very best recycler in the universe. All we have to do is hand You our used up junk, and You turn it into something more beautiful than any of us could imagine.

Your commands seem kind of simple to me. Hard to do sometimes, but pretty simple to understand. Love You first. Love people. ALL the people. Not just white, straight Republicans. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly, with You guiding us. That’s about it.

Why aren’t those simple guidelines enough for us sometimes, Jesus? Why are we always trying to inflate some sins while ignoring others (usually the ones we like to keep doing) to make an US and THEM situation? I think that goes right along with our need to belong. To be a part of something bigger than ourselves. But we twist it up so badly. We could just keep it simple and see that it’s really just about YOU and US and no THEMs at all.

You are by far the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I love a lot of the things You’ve given me and allowed me to be a part of, but all of it is worthless without You. I don’t get all this stuff right. I doubt many of us do. But I do know that when You come back, I want you to find me scooted up close next to the folks everyone else looks down upon. I want You to find me listening to them as they tell about their hopes and fears. I want You to find me wiping tears and feeding stomachs and exchanging smiles. And I don’t think you particularly mind who I do those things with, because we are all Yours, whether we know it yet or not.

You are incredible, Jesus. And I’m so thankful for You in my life.


You are the finest thing that I could live for

and I pray You are the thing for which I die

You’re hard to know, but so easy to approach

and after all, what else is there to life?

-from “You Can” by Ross King



31 Days of My People: My Man {30/31}

Dear Todd,

I could have married someone else, you know. In fact, that was kind of the plan. Back when I was too young and foolish to be planning anything, for seven years, I was mapping it all out. Remember how I told you I’d named all 4 of my kids and everything? Yep. Could’ve gone that way. But that’s not where I was meant to be.

I was meant to be in that little church fellowship hall on Easter morning, when I saw you take off your glasses for a quick second and rub your eyes. Then you looked up, and you looked right at me. I’d seen you several times before that, and we’d even talked as acquaintances. But this time, I really saw you. And I’m pretty sure you saw me too.

Sometime later when we went on our first date, which wasn’t even technically a date, I still can’t believe you talked for two hours straight and let your dinner get cold while you told me everything about your life. Like, everything. I was so shocked at the fact you had no idea that was kind of against the “rules,” but it was so refreshing to realize you didn’t even know what the rules were.

I don’t know what it was about you. We didn’t even make sense. Nothing in common really, but I just wanted to be around you. You had this thing. This quiet strength about you. You had manners, and you didn’t even know that was rare.

I can’t believe you asked me to marry you in the parking lot of the movie theater. I’d been waiting for days, making sure I looked extra pretty every time I saw you that weekend, thinking each time would be the time and you’d pop the question. When three days had gone by without a peep, I thought maybe my vibes were all off. Maybe my feeling had been all wrong. Or maybe you were just going to do it some other time because it was too close to my birthday. Then, the one day I wore no makeup and a big floppy sweatshirt in the rain to the movies, you asked me. Of course you did. That’s just so you to do something weird like that. It was perfect. Thank you for that fun memory.

Our whole wedding thing was a freakish disaster wasn’t it? I’m so mad that we had to go through that. It sucked. I know you didn’t care about the actual wedding as much as I did, but I know it kind of bummed you out that I never got to have my fancy day. There was one part I really loved though. I got to marry you sooner. Remember? We were planning on May and we got to tie the knot in March. (March is our real, actual anniversary. I know it’s hard to remember with all the dates we had. You’re kind of off the hook for that one.)

I love that we picked Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 for your wedding ring. It really turned out to be perfect for us, didn’t it?? I mean, who would have known that the whole “two can stand back-to-back and conquer” part would be so eerily accurate for our life? We really did run right out of the gate and start fighting things, didn’t we? Remember how we used to always talk about how we’d been through more in our first few years of marriage than most people ever go through? And how we’d say “us against the world” all the time? You know, I never got worried during any of those times. They always made us stronger. I knew everything would be alright because we were fighting back-to-back, together. Always together.

So many good memories came in the years following, and they just flew by so fast. All our vacations to Mexico. All those little SHMILY moments. You graduated. I graduated. I graduated again. We paid off our debt. ALL OF IT. We visited Dave Ramsey. That was a fun weekend. I’ll never forget how we both cried a little when we screamed WE’RE DEBT FREEEEEE!!! on the radio. Don’t even try to play, it was both of us. Remember when I won that award and we got to go to the hockey game for free with Greg & Tiff, and I was on the Jumbotron? And the Ohio Lottery paid for all of it? Hilarious! Remember when we drove up to Myles Pizza in Bowling Green for no real reason other than to hang out with our peeps? Tiny clown car situation, right there.

I still can’t believe we went to India. I can’t believe we ate goat meat in preparation for visiting India. I could not be more thankful that we got to experience all that together (India, not the goat meat.) You were so gracious and kind to all the people, and everyone loved you.  I know how uncomfortable you were, like the whole entire time. But you did so great, baby. You were amazing and I felt so safe. Pastor Stephen loved you so much. I so wish we could have all spent more time together.

There are so many little things I love about you. I notice things, a lot of them. I notice how you make the bed sometimes just for me. I notice that little curl of hair on the front of your head when it’s about time for a haircut. So cute. I love how you have great table manners, you eat so neatly and fold your napkin every single time you use it. I don’t know why I love that so much but I do. And I love to watch you shave for some reason. It just gets to me, and you smell SO amazing.

You are so freakin’ smart. Seriously, when you get to tellin’ a story about something that went on at work, and how you had to fix a flux capacitor or some such thing, I have no idea what you are talking about. But I can see how you are totally in your jam. You are so good at what you do. You’re just the best. But you’re the best at everything you do.

Which reminds me… You are a Level 4 Krav Master. (I know that’s not an official title but I’m going with that.) You are so badass. I mean seriously, you’ve not even been doing this stuff very long, and you are running circles around dudes nearly half your age. You are amazing. But that’s just what you do. You set out to do something and you just become the very best you can be at it. I admire that so much about you. I wish I was more like you in that way.

And oh my gosh, you are the funniest person alive! I could never have married a man that didn’t have a sense of humor. You crack me up. You crack everyone up. I probably shouldn’t be encouraging this, but you are the most quick-witted person I know. You think of hilarious things to say and you think of them fast. I love how we laugh (almost) every single day and how you get me to snort-laugh at least once a week. I could never live without that. You’re the best.

And man, you are SO strong. And I don’t even mean physically, although those muscles you have sure are nice, babe. Whew. But you are so strong inside. You have been a fighter your whole dang life. Most people would have folded a long time ago if they’d gone through half of what you have. You’re a walking miracle. I know you don’t believe that. But for the rest of my life it is my job to help you see it.

You are a warrior. Don’t shake your head. You are. You have been a fighter from the very beginning and you are still standing. Yeah, you have some scars. You’ve been knocked down a few times, and a couple times you’ve even laid right down in the dirt and almost given up. But you’re here. You’re standing again and you’re still in the fight. You are a warrior, and nothing will ever change that. You’re fighting for me, for us, for your own heart, for our kids. Warrior on, my prince. Warrior on.

I want to take a second to say I’m sorry. We’re both humans and by default we screw stuff up. Because we’re married that means we sometimes screw each other up. So I’m sorry for my part. However big or little, forgive me. I forgive you for the parts you mess up. It’s the deal. If God can give up his only Son to forgive us for the ways we have been unloving or selfish or outright awful, then I’m pretty sure we can ask for and accept an apology. Every time we do, we get a clean slate. And we’re gonna keep being all about second chances, just like our God is.

We are so very imperfect. Clearly. We sure are at an interesting place in our lives, aren’t we? But can you see it? Can you see how God is fitting all those mismatched pieces together? He’s making all things new again, again. We aren’t the best at fixing things, but He’s really, really good at it. I’m so thankful for the ways you are letting Him work in you and encouraging me to do the same so we can change together and become even better.

So yeah, I could have married someone else. But I married you. And I love being married to you. There is no Plan B. We’ll get all the details figured out. We’ve got to iron out some wrinkles. But we have burned the ships, so we are doing this thing, making this life. Our Joel 2:25 repayment isn’t done quite yet. I just have a feeling we are on the verge of something great.

I love you, my prince. You have always been My People, and you always will be.

Much love,


PS: Thank you for the ways you’ve been so extra encouraging to me lately. This writing project has taken a lot of time and energy this month, and you’ve been doing lots of things to allow me to make space for it. I’m sure that’s been annoying sometimes, but thank you. I’m so grateful for how you always encourage me to keep dreaming.

31 Days of My People: THAT Girl. {29/31)

It has been so enjoyable taking time this month to write about some of the many special people that I love. New friends and long time friends, acquaintances and folks I would love to spend more time with. They’re all special in their own unique ways.

But I have to admit there’s one person I’d been thinking of writing about, but didn’t really want to. She’s definitely My People, but I have mixed feelings about her.

The best way I can describe her is with the word hybrid. I’ve used that word to talk about her so many times throughout the long years I’ve known her. Although she seems like a complete extrovert, she’s got an almost equal introvert part to her personality. I’ve only recently come to understand that there is a term for that (ambivert) but I just call it a hybrid. She’s usually bubbly and cheerful so people are surprised when they find out she works hard to fight off depression several times a year. I don’t call that by it’s proper name either. I refer to it as “ the funk” or “the grey cloud” because that’s just what it’s like for her.

She’s also a hybrid when it comes to getting things done. Some things she tackles head on, breaking them into small, manageable steps to get whatever it is taken care of efficiently. I’ve noticed that usually happens more when she’s working with a group of other folks. She’s kind of a natural leader, which she doesn’t really love, but it seems like she finds herself in those places anyway. She tries not to be bossy, but she’s pretty sure she can come across that way.

Now when it comes to personal things, procrastination is definitely her game. She really hesitates to even call it procrastination though, because honestly, she just works a whole lot better under a really tight deadline. Her creativity flows better that way. I’ve seen her pull off some of her very best work after an all-nighter many times. A six-month-long window is no kind of deadline to her at all. May as well be a prison sentence for her creative juices.

So yeah, she can be a pretty frustrating gal. Like how she eats super healthy and loves to cook whole, natural foods, right in between eating greasy take-out Chinese food and cupcakes from a box. I don’t get her. That girl has got some issues to work out when it comes to food. There’s something all tangled up in her head about that. It’s kind of how she was taught to love people. Feed them delicious things and you’ll make them happy. That was kind of the unspoken lesson she learned.

This girl does love people. For the most part anyway. She’s super thankful that God has given her the ability to see past what’s on the outside with a lot of folks. It’s helped her understand that age or skin color or clothing are terrible yardsticks with which to measure people. But seeing right into folks? That’s also kind of tough to manage. She can get disappointed easily because people don’t always know their lines in her script. So, there’s that.

She’s gone on ahead and diagnosed herself with adult ADD. I guess that works. I mean, why bother going to a doctor anyway when she has no intention of taking medicine, and besides…how could that many free, online Adult ADD Checklists possibly be wrong? At least knowing this is her deal helps her cope with frustrations about herself. Like how she can get hyperfocused on certain things and block everything else out for hours. Or how she has to say tape measure, tape measure, tape measure over and over again all the way to the kitchen drawer if she’s to have any hope of remembering why she opened the drawer when she gets there. It’s like Rain Man up in here with all that.

Girl’s also got some big feelings. A lot of her life is lived in exclamation points. She doesn’t understand people who don’t get outwardly excited about fun things, or those who don’t cry at the sad parts in a movie. She doesn’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to have a party for their birthday. Seriously, she doesn’t get that one bit. Must be the extrovert part.

She’s late for stuff more often than not. She’s not trying to be inconsiderate, she’s just usually trying to check one more thing off the to-do list before she heads out. But still. She doesn’t like that about herself at all. She’s a classic over-committer, but she’s getting better at that. She’s learned the value of the word “no” over the past few years and her heart is healthier for it.

She’s got some serious quirks, but she’s not all bad, I guess. She doesn’t always get it right, but she tries really hard to remember people’s birthdays and important stuff. She loves making gifts and watching people’s faces light up when they open them. That’s one of her very favorite things in the whole wide world. She also likes when puppies wag their tails. She always wished you could tell a person’s feelings as easily. She’s a big fan of taking long, windows-down drives in the spring with music cranked up loud. And there’s just no telling who you’ll find on her iPod playlist. Just when you think you know what’s coming up next, here comes a Pantera or Lauren Hill or Etta James song to keep you guessing.

Yeah, she’s kind of complicated when I think about it, but she really wants to be more simple. She’s been working hard on letting her yes be yes and her no be no. She’s trying to unlearn some false stuff about herself, distinguishing between what people tell her and who she really is. She’s reframing her dreams into what they could look like in this new normal of hers that she’s living in. She’s trying to see past the immediate into the future and keep up the hope.

That girl gets in my head a lot, and sometimes in my way. When she really gets going it would be so easy just to lump her into my list of toxic people, and say forget about it. It would be a lot easier to walk away from her if she didn’t also live in my body. She can be frustrating, but I have to figure out ways to deal with her.

She’s the real me. The one I have to live with all the time. The one who can’t help but be one of My People, like it or not. But I’m learning to like her a bit more all the time. Mostly because I’ve learned that to love My People well, I have to start with That Girl. Jesus helps me with that. He reminds me of her real identity when it seems like she’s just a person who goes to a job and does laundry and says some stuff here and there. He reminds me to give her some grace too.

When I love her better, accept the difficult parts of her personality, and gently nudge her toward becoming the best version of who she was made to be, then I start to do the same for all of My People. And that makes putting up with her worth it.

31 Days of My People: Greg & Tiff {28/31)


Brain surgery.


Elementary school.


Tin crosses.

Jiu Jitsu.

Myles Pizza.

Social work.

Air conditioning.

Post-it notes.



What in the universe could these things possibly have in common with one another?

Nothing at all. They have absolutely nothing to do with each other except for the fact that they’re all part of our life with our BFFs, Greg & Tiffany.

When my husband Todd and I began attending our church, it was like a breath of fresh air. The faith-space we’d been in prior to that felt stuffy and restrictive, and Jesus is anything but. So we knew when we found a fellowship of folks interested in authenticity, we’d found a home. We spent our first year taking every class available and tried to really sink into the community.

Little did we know, while we had been busy diving into classes and studying and getting the lay of the land, a couple of folks had their eyes on us. Greg and Tiffany had been at the church for a while and had settled in, but were looking for a friend-couple to hang with. Up until that point they hadn’t found one couple that they both seemed to click with.

Somehow we popped up on their radar, and they began stalking us. (In a friendly, not-very-creepy-at-all sort of way.) That’s actually how it happened. They basically became our little secret fan club and talked to each about how they thought we might be The Ones. They seem pretty cool. They’re really plugging in here at church. They seem to be about our age. They’re kind of funny. I think we all might get along.

Greg & Tiffany are a couple of bikers. They found Jesus in a super unconventional way, and I love every second of their story. None of us can seem to remember our first date together, but we know it didn’t take long before we were hooked on each other as friends. We knew we were each other’s People. We joke about what a weird mix we are. Two bikers, partnered up with an elementary school teacher and a hard-workin’, ex-Navy man. They’re black leather and tattoos. We’re jeans and flip flops. (And just a couple tattoos.) They shop at Wal-mart. We refuse. They would have 3,487 pets if you let them. We don’t even have one.

Black leather & tattoos

Black leather & tattoos

But all that stuff is just stuff. It’s fun to notice but it’s not what makes someone Your People.

Everything that made Greg & Tiff Our People happened without any effort. Every time we were together we laughed so hard. We intuitively knew that we could talk to them about anything. We all had a lot to be thankful for, including lives that really painted a picture of what it meant to be new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17.)

Hang-outs with Greg & Tiff turned into more regular get-togethers. We realized our personalities are opposite: Mine is more like Greg’s, Todd’s more like Tiffany. Greg would write stuff down on Post-it notes that he wanted to remember to talk about, and we’d talk for hours, solving all the world’s problems from one of our living rooms. Our opinions of things turned into recommendations to each other, which turned into us having the same chair, coffee maker, Vitamix, and television in our homes. We all blame each other. We started babysitting their Chihuahuas when they went on vacation. Their family became our family.






They drove 30 minutes just to visit me after I had my wisdom teeth out on this day. They brought lots of movies.

Our BFFs have BIG hearts. They lead the biker ministry at our church and just have a vision to see people freed up to live life. They vacation in Mexico nearly every year, and each time, they pack a suitcase full of items to donate to a local church there in Zihuatanejo. One year they even disassembled a special kind of wheelchair and packed that sucker up to take with them in order to deliver it to a child in need of it. We were in love with their determination. That wheelchair made it there, of course.

Selfies from Mexico

Selfies from Mexico

Greg carries these tiny tin crosses in his pocket. I don’t even know where he gets them. But he leaves them everywhere he goes, gives them away. Whenever they’ve been at our house, I’ll find a few over the course of the next few weeks. Under the soap dispenser. In the flower pot. Behind a picture frame. Just a little reminder that we’re loved by God and by Our People.

Tiffany has this uncanny ability to see both sides of things. When talking about a situation, she can throw in a good well another thing that could be is… or have you ever thought maybe… and helps me see things in another light. She helps me hash out the stuff I’m thinking about, then we high-five for being so awesome together. :)

And as we all know, life has a way of testing us and Our People. Things happen along the way. Road blocks pop up and detours can’t be helped. This is when you find out who is planning to stick around. Who is really Your People.


Family drama. Surgery. Death of a parent. Near-death of a child. Redemption. Weddings. Turning 40. Turning 45. Finding our callings. Questioning our callings. More surgery. New endeavors. Insecurities. Moving. Disappointments. Ministry. Failures. Celebrations. Prayer for everything. All seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy.

We’ve been through it all together. It’s been about a decade now. None of us seem to be going anywhere. When Greg had brain surgery, (Who actually has brain surgery?) I sat at the hospital and emailed their whole family regular updates so Tiff didn’t have to worry about it. When our son was in the height of his addiction, they prayed us all through it and helped him through recovery. When my momma died, they were right there. When our world started crumbling, Greg was the only person we would even let in our front door.

Someday when we’re much older, and we can’t even tell what all of Greg’s expertly-done tattoos are anymore, I imagine we’ll sit around and talk about how life turned out. Todd will have a Stella in hand, I’ll be sipping a half-sweet tea. Tiff will be cupping her coffee with two hands and Greg will drink water to somehow balance out eating his Doritos. We’ll talk about what the grandbabies are doing while we pet their fur-babies. Maybe Todd will have even grown to love their pet snakes. (Don’t anybody hold your breath on that one.)

We will have seen each other through a few more surgeries, most likely. We’ll talk about how awesome our 60th birthday parties were (except they’ll still be planning mine because I’m way younger than all those jokers!) We’ll be talking about where to go in a couple summers to celebrate my retirement. 30 years of teaching is long enough.

But we’ll be there. Together. Watching somewhat disturbing shows and having long conversations. We’ll say stuff like: Man, life is good and God really came through, didn’t He? The dudes will wander out onto the back porch and get their own conversation going. That’s when Tiff and I will look at them, then look at each other. We’ll let out a big sigh, and say, for the millionth time…

I love us.

i love us

31 Days of My People: Tuesday People Tips {27/31}

Today is the final Tuesday People Tips in this series. I’ve been spending some time each Tuesday talking to you about how to foster great relationships with Your People. Today will be a bit different. Today I’d like to talk to you about the other people in your life. The ones who are basically the opposite of Your People. Those Toxic People, or TPs.

Now folks, let me start by saying that I don’t want to come across as harsh. Toxic people are people too. They are worthy of basic respect and love simply because they are made in God’s image, as we all are. I don’t advocate treating someone badly. But there are relationships in our lives that are, for whatever reason, just difficult, and we have to figure out how to navigate those.

God knew this would be so. He gave us many verses in the bible about how to deal with difficult situations with people. Two of the most notable are found in Matthew 18 and Romans 12.

The first, Matthew 18, instructs us how to deal with a brother or sister who has sinned against us. Obviously it’s in here because God knew it would happen and we’d need a little help to figure out what to do. There are a few steps in verses 15-17 that tell us exactly what to do. They involve a series of discussions where the end goal is always reconciliation. Only after we have done everything in our power and the person still refuses to listen, then a time comes to distance ourselves.

Which brings me to our other verse:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. -Romans 12:18

As far as it depends on you. That must mean that sometimes there will be instances where it doesn’t depend on us. Something past our personal ability to reach, offer, help the way we’d like to. We are to do everything in our power to live at peace with everyone. But there will be times when peace isn’t happening, because it depends on someone else doing their part as well.

Folks, I have some difficult people in my life. But difficult doesn’t equal toxic. So for these difficult folks, I live at peace with them as far as it depends on me. I am cordial, not rude. I wouldn’t purposely do or say anything disrespectful to them, but we don’t have to be BFFs. I pray for them and try as much as humanly possible to understand their perspectives and why they act the way they do. What the heck makes them so difficult in the first place?

For most folks, we tend become difficult when we’ve been hurt somehow. We all walk around carrying wounds of one kind or another. Some folks just live from their wounds and relate to others from behind the walls they’ve built because of their wounds, and that’s what makes them difficult.
But a Toxic Person goes beyond difficult. This is a person who goes out of their way to belittle others, blame others, humiliate others, or simply drain the joy out of every situation. A revolving door of drama, these folks cause dissension in your life at every turn, do things to harm you emotionally, and the entire “relationship” is a one-way street… where they basically drive a Mack truck of their drama into your house over and over and over.

These folks, my friends, are TPs. And what they bring to the table does not depend on you. Sometimes we just need to understand that it’s okay to put distance between ourselves and a TP for the sake of our families or our our own hearts. We can set boundaries without taking away a person’s dignity. We can tell them what we will or will not do without thinking we can control what they do or say. For example:

If you need food I will gladly cook a meal for you. But because you have taken money from the family without permission in the past, I will no longer give you cash.

I want to keep in touch with you. But I don’t wish to be yelled and cursed at. I would love to talk to you but if you begin to raise your voice or curse at me, I will hang up the phone.

These types of boundary statements say what we will or will not tolerate, and what we will do if a line is crossed. They allow us to protect ourselves without disrespecting the other person as a human being. As much as it depends on you, you’re keeping the peace.

Friends, I am not encouraging you to hop on Facebook and unfriend every person you know. I’m not suggesting you call annoying Aunt Erma and tell her she’s off the Thanksgiving invite list because Krysten said she’s a TP and you don’t have to deal with all that. No. Nice try.

Take your difficult people to God. Ask Him to give you eyes to see why they are that way. Ask Him if they’ve crossed the line into becoming a toxic person that you need to distance yourself from. Ask Him how to best go about that and to give you the words to say if you need to go that route. Ask Him how to live out the command to live at peace with everyone as much as it depends on us.

Understanding that we are not responsible for a toxic person’s behavior is a good first step. Living at peace with everyone, as much as it depends on us, frees us to have the energy and awareness to love Our People well.

Y’all, I’m praying for you on this one. It’s one of the hardest things we have to deal with in life. We are called to love, but when that’s hard to do, something feels off. I’m with you. But we can do this. God gave us a heart and a mind and He expects us to use them together to deal with difficult things. And we can. 

31 Days of My People: Jamie {26/31}

She’s in another state this weekend celebrating her youngest daughter’s second birthday with family. She still took the time last night to send me a message answering some questions of mine. Then she spent a little more time chatting with me about some stuff I’ve been dealing with. Even from two states away, she’s showing up for me.

My friend Jamie (not this Jamie) and I have known each other for a few years now. She’s one of my divas. She and her husband Josh began hosting our home group a couple of years ago and it didn’t take very long to realize they were Our People, for sure.

Jamie is an amazing lady. Like most of My People, she would probably scoff at me saying that. But just take one look at her life and it’s pretty darn obvious. Not because she’s perfect–she doesn’t even pretend to be. She’s wise enough to know that is completely useless.

It's pretty simple.

It’s pretty simple.

Basically she just does what this simple sign says. And anything beyond that, she leaves up to God to figure out. And that’s about the best plan I can think of.

Jamie is a pediatrician. She works with two of the most amazing hospitals in the country, which just happen to be right here in our town. While she’s clearly a wonderful pediatrician, I don’t think anything can top what are, in my opinion, her best accomplishments of all time: Her two daughters.

She and her hubs sure do make some fine babies, y’all. Let me just tell you if they ever get tired of their kids, I will gladly take them. When I first met their family (back when they still had only one little one) I immediately fell in love with the way parented. I know everyone has their own style, and the wide variety of parenting styles is necessary, but there’s nothing I love more than mommas and daddies who keep it real with their kids.

When Jamie’s daughter asks a question, she doesn’t make a huge deal out of whatever it is, even if the topic is somewhat sensitive or potentially embarrassing. She just talks to her gently about it and moves along. Jamie gets that kids don’t need a dissertation to have their questions answered. What they’re really trying to figure out is if the people who love them can help them navigate the world, and that’s about it. She and her husband are patient and kind to their kiddos, firm when they need to be, and they don’t try to shelter them from every little thing in the universe. It’s just my favorite kind of parenting, and I watch them do this stuff all the time. Thank you, Josh and Jamie, for helping to add to the population of well-rounded human beings on this planet!

Jamie and I share a love for Indian food (possibly an addiction to it!) and we won’t turn away from a good wine & cheese situation. All of us ladies were just sitting around the other day talking about how if you put Jamie in a kitchen for a few minutes, something wonderful will be happening as a result. When it’s diva night, she makes us beautiful things like brie topped with homemade apple butter or some new salad creation that makes us all groan at how delicious it is. Good, beautiful food is a delight to all the senses, and she has an appreciation for that. She knows how preparing something wonderful for a person can make them feel special and cared for. She’s a natural at the hospitality thing.

We had known Jamie and her husband Josh for some time before we found out something about them that made us see them in a completely new light. We knew they were great people who shared our faith in Jesus, but we also discovered that they’d survived a tragic, life-altering experience together. In fact, one of the most devastating events in our nation’s history is forever part of their personal history.

Ten years ago, she and her husband survived Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Jamie and her husband were newlyweds back in 2005 when Katrina made land. She says they learned a lot about themselves and life in general from that storm. I’m so thankful to her for sharing these thoughts about what they learned from the experience of surviving this natural disaster:

1.) Be thankful for what you have when you have it–because it could all be gone the next day. And it was for us. And I don’t necessarily mean material possessions–although that was the case for us as well. More about life circumstances in general. Katrina happened at the beginning of my fourth year of medical school. The fourth year is the last one, the one everyone looks forward to in medical school. All of the hard, required rotations are typically in the years prior to that. Not a lot of studying happens in the fourth year–it is used instead to travel, both on vacations and to potential residency locations, to relax, to hang out with friends, and just to re-enter normal life after the rigors of the first three years of school. Josh and I had looked forward to my last year as well–we were going to take a vacation (likely a cruise) at the end of it and had saved for that, hanging out with friends we hadn’t gotten a lot of time to hang with before, explore some areas of the city that we hadn’t gotten to. We had plans….. And then, in a short 24-hour period on August 29, 2005, our plans were gone, just like our house, most of our possessions, our church, the hospitals I trained in, my school itself–all underwater. The friends we were going to hang with–all spread across the country, some permanently re-located. The places in the city we were going to explore–most damaged or closed. Our cruise–never happened–we spent the money on new dishes or sheets or something like that. It was only after we made it through all of it that we looked back and realized that our life was pretty awesome even before my fourth year of medical school, even in the craziness of those prior years. I wish I would have appreciated them more at the time.

2.) We learned how to be gracious receivers. Up until Katrina, we were givers–our time (what we had with medical school), our talents, our money (the little spare we had). After Katrina–we were the ones in need–and it wasn’t a great feeling. We prayed to God, repeatedly, to provide for us–but it was a really bitter pill to swallow to learn how to actually deal with that. It took a few months to be able to sit back and trust God and other people when they gave us money, household items, prayers, etc.–when we had nothing to give back. Definitely still applies when He gives us blessings that we don’t plan on or think we need.

Wow. I cannot even imagine tomorrow waking up to everything I know being utterly destroyed. Having to start over and go with a completely new plan (or no plan whatsoever.) Every bone in my control-freak body wants to scream just thinking of it. I’m learning how to be a gracious receiver in my own life at the moment, and I see how hard it is proving to be.

Although I am sure none of us would voluntarily sign up to have our lives destroyed by a hurricane, I know now that Jamie and her husband wouldn’t trade who they’ve become because of it. We all go through things that seem impossible, things that humble us–even take us to the point of humiliation, and things that seem unfair and random. But I’m reminded by my friend Jamie that circumstances—all of our circumstances—can change at any time, but we still remain. And if our hope is in the right place, rooted in God rather than in what we have or what we can do, then our faith and resolve will remain as well.

Each time I hear this song, I will forever think of Jamie and her husband and all they’ve learned (and taught me.) It’s so perfect, whether you’ve actually had your life flipped upside down by a hurricane or not. It’s a beautiful illustration of how nothing on this earth can break us if we choose to bend under God’s grace in every situation.

He is jealous for me,

Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,

Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.

When all of a sudden,

I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,

And I realize just how beautiful You are,

And how great Your affections are for me.

(If you’ve never heard this song before, I encourage you to watch a video of it here. David Crowder does a pretty good job. But I promise you, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Jamie’s husband Josh singing this about God and to Him as part of his worship set at church. It’s a beautiful hallelujah.)

Jamie, I couldn’t be more thankful that God saw fit to make us each other’s People. You teach me all the time, friend. Todd and I love you, Josh, and the girls so very much!