Tuesday, March 29, 2016


One night a week, I hang out with middle schoolers (who are so super awesome). It doesn't seem like much on a calendar, but it's a lot on my heart. See, these kids draw upon a part of me I'm not even sure existed a year ago. Well, perhaps it did. But I got pretty great at hiding it.

For years, I've mentored high school students and newly minted college graduates. I have loved every part of walking the growing-into-an-adult journey with some incredible young women. And for the most part, I thought I was pretty vulnerable. Turns out, not so much.

Here's what I learned from a bunch of 13 year olds: it's easy to be vulnerable when you've got your life together. But what happens when it falls apart?

Last week, I emailed our youth leaders with an update. I shared the hard parts of the last year (yep - last blog post was June of 2015. #consistencyforthewin). I got real about what's going on. And I told them flat out: I will no longer be volunteering with youth group. I thought my reasoning was pretty stellar. "I need to simplify my life. I need to spend more time at home and less at work. I need to shave down the peripheral parts of life to focus on what matters." Really. Really?

Then I went to youth group...what I assumed would likely be one of the last few before the end of the school year and my time with the crew. I pulled up, closed my door, and made it about 20 feet before I heard "Parker Parker Parker Parker." Before I could prepare myself for a direct hit, 10 girls had me in a dog pile - not a single one of them having any idea what I'd shared with our leaders hours earlier. In that moment, I got it: love doesn't mean having it together. Quite the opposite, love means moving entirely outside of ourselves and into unwavering connection with and service of another. It requires nothing but a heartbeat....even if we have nothing physically or emotionally to give.

Vulnerability. When everything feels like it's falling apart. It's so raw. It's so real. And it is so healing.

At the end of that night, I stood in a gravel parking lot with the same people I'd emailed just that morning (oh - and one complete, and so patient, stranger-now-friend). In that moment, I felt more grounded and whole than I have in months - simply because I got honest on a level I didn't know was there. Here's what I told our team: I have lost time management and prioritization. I have said yes to things I cannot maintain. I believe that if I drop one thing, every other single thing I am holding is going to come crashing down. I feel responsible for people and things that are not my responsibility. 100%, I'm holding onto more than I can sustain, and my physical health shows it. I'm afraid to walk life with these kids, because - truthfully - I feel like I'm failing. At everything.

And then I said it concisely (shocking!): I've got nothing together, but I love these kids.

These girls. They could care less if I won or lost my next client pitch. They don't care if my start-up succeeds or fails. They don't know if my health is on point or off kilter unless I tell them. They aren't moved by the uncertainty of life's toughest questions. They don't care about the periphery. Sometimes all we need is some chocolate and a chat. Being right here - right now - that's enough for them.

It's enough for all of us.

(p.s. can't wait for 2016-2017 youth).

Monday, June 22, 2015

Ignorance is not bliss.

I've sat down to write out thoughts a few times over the last few days...to somehow rationalize and something so irrational, so horrific. And yet the words have escaped my lips, turning into tears from my eyes.

Yesterday, I sat in the middle pew of our church - a church that was supported by the generosity and grace of an AME church down the road. I wondered, what room do I have to speak in the midst of such tragedy? Can I truly empathize with my brothers and sisters directly affected by this unthinkable act? Can I really understand what it's like to experience persecution and hatred, simply based on differences? What do I say as I walk through the streets of downtown Charleston? When I meet a face on a street corner whose skin isn't the same as mine, do I apologize for decades of discord that still haven't ended? Do I shoulder the responsibility of hate crimes? How can I stand for unity when the world continues to point out differences among us? Just a few of the hundreds of questions swirling since Wednesday...

When I stood in the middle of this Holy City on Thursday, I felt a heaviness and shame for what evil permeated the place we call home. I somehow felt responsible. I still do. I grew up 10 miles from one of the last remaining gathering places for the Ku Klux Klan. Yes, the group we associate with historic b-roll on the news and movies highlighting the challenges of desegregation still continues its mission today. (So to every media outlet questioning the continued existence of racism - if Wednesday's events were not enough to confirm suspicions, take a drive to central North Carolina [or any one of these states]. Racism still exists. 150 years after the abolishment of slavery, it still exists). Despite proximity to that place, I consider my life sheltered from the reality of racism. I spent many Sundays in a local African American church with people who were family to me...individuals who are still my family. Friday night football games included members of our entire community, sitting together, cheering together...winning and losing together. My grandfather was raised in an orphanage that housed children of every race and religion. My parents brought us up to respect all individuals as human beings, made equal and with purpose by our Creator. Racism was never an issue, then or now...or so I thought.

When I take time to replay conversations of my past, I recall moments in a restaurant with the mutterings of ignorance behind me, strange looks from others as an interracial family walked uptown, and memories of friends unable to go to some places outside of our hometown for fear of violence. I said nothing. I did nothing. It wasn't really an issue, right? Desegregation took place in my parents' youth. Those troubles were long past. So of course, my inaction was justified. It wasn't me saying racial remarks. It wasn't me staring with question and judgement. It wasn't me committing acts of hate.

And yet when I pulled into downtown Charleston on Thursday, I felt the summation of years of inaction. I saw the brokenness that comes from sitting quietly instead of standing boldly. That one comment a neighbor makes...the one car in the parking lot with a seemingly harmless bumper sticker...the one photo of a child holding a burning American flag. For so long, I've stood in ignorance, allowing my small actions to make up for all the times I shrugged off "that one time." Well, no more. Because this alone I know: ignorance is not bliss.

Ignorance fosters indifference. It breeds silence in the face of moments that should beckon noise. It justifies hate and affirms disunity. It allows us to live in the dark, devoid of refining light and true, unadulterated joy. Ultimately, ignorance creates apathy...and in apathy, no true change will come.

A dear friend recently told me that all of our "differences" will remain differences until we no longer have to document gender, race, and religion. And she's right. Until we stop defining elements of our being as "differences," division will remain. My hope is that all of our commonalities will fuel the healing and change to come. With the same hearts to feel, the voices to share, and the hands to hold together in unity, may the reality of freedom come. May the power of forgiveness heal. May the darkness give way to Light. May the peace of our Creator - who made us human - rain down.

And may the world know that while hate let out a battle cry, love has won the war.

"Sins that go against our skin become blessings."
- "Glory," from the movie Selma

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hold on tight...and walk.

"Just trust."

It's an easy dash of encouragement to offer. It's much more difficult to follow. In trusting God's sovereignty over my life, I never know what He's going to ask of me....what He will bring me to...what we will face in this life to refocus total reliance on Him. Moreover, I wrestle with how to trust Him. (I'm the girl that wants a 10 step checklist and a very clear how-to guide!) While no one has handed me a guide, everyone insists on the same piece of advice when life throws a curve ball: trust Him.

The last several weeks, I've sensed a real stirring in my heart. I know - in the back of my mind - that He is preparing me for something. Of course, in my true nature that tends towards wanting all the control, I have desperately searched for what that something is. At one point, I became so lost in my thoughts, that while driving from one meeting to another, I ended up on the wrong highway - actually lost - on a highway I've traveled for years. And there - in my own inability to map a perfect course, He met me with the answer on how to trust Him, and painted a true picture of the walk I'm on.

I pulled into a gas station to fuel up, find my bearings, and get back on course. While waiting on a receipt from the cashier, a couple walking together caught my attention. I saw him first - hunched over, walking slowly and just barely moving his feet...no more than an inch at a time. She stood upright beside him, eyes fixed ahead with commitment, patience, and compassion. As the two drew near to the door, I noticed his eyes - glassy and pointed downward. He was completely blind. Noises from the highway and a busy parking lot swirled around us. A car honked, and he grew anxious. Yet, the woman leading the way walked steadfast and directed. He clung tightly to her arm, and she said nothing. She whispered quietly "one step up," and placed her hand on top of is..as if to say "we're here. Rest." His body language shifted and his demeanor relaxed. He was lead to safety, navigated by another through a myriad of obstacles he couldn't see. And yet he walked. Step by step, he trusted the guidance of another - someone who spoke rarely, but to whom he clung tightly.

In their walk to the doorway, I saw myself. Blind to the dangers that surround me, unaware of what tomorrow holds. And yet I dare not walk alone. My God needs not speak to me. Instead, I cling only to His name - to His strong hand that molded me, and leads me still. 

That is how I trust. That is how we trust. We hold on tight...and walk.

Monday, April 13, 2015

stop pushing. start living.

It’s been almost a year since I left a job with a company I adored. I believed in its mission. Its employees were my family. Its potential was my fuel. And yet, I carry some battle wounds from my time there. As my first job out of business school, I spent many months working hard for solid results. As that time progressed, my priorities shifted. My language changed. I said I loved things I didn’t. And eventually, I lost myself.

Somewhere between trying to convince myself something wasn’t right and sharing that knowledge with others, I burned out. I was tired of fighting to be heard and hearing in return that I was simply “too much.” After starting to dance to the beat of drums I didn’t know, I had a difficult time tuning into the desires of my heart. It was clear I needed a recalibration/retuning in listening. And so I stopped. I got still. I got real. And I got free – free from the expectations of myself, free from the judgment of others, and free from words I heard that became my truth.

My identity – for much of my life – has been wrapped in what I am doing as opposed to who I am being.  And so, for me, separating from a career I truly loved and where I was supposedly known was challenging. And, as I learned in this process, the space between ideation and action can be dark. For several months, I sought the affirmation of others to take a leap into a new opportunity. It seemed I consulted any human within a five-foot radius. Looking back, I recognize I was relying on the advice of colleagues who had spoken into my hardest days…and it makes sense. They were the ones I trusted. They were the ones that knew me. And they stood for me, not with me…there is a big difference. But even with the heartfelt encouragement and support of those amazing people, the choice was still my own.

Perhaps the above sounds drastic to you – and it could be. Sure. For where I was (and am) in my life, my job was everything. My goals centered around its potential. Our moves to different cities were based on my dreams. And that’s where I found release – in recognizing what was driving our choices. Me. I was angry when I didn’t get my way. I was frustrated when things got difficult. And I got resentful as I realized my life was not my own. Yet I kept pushing harder. Ultimately, I recognized the pitfalls of trying to “create a life” and instead opened my eyes to the life I’ve already been given. Because it is enough…it’s more than enough.

In whatever season you find yourself, at its core is an element of disbelief: disbelief in the possible, disbelief in your own courage, disbelief in the providence and provision of your Creator. It is an earthly response to a divine indwelling. Each of us is created on purpose, and rising up from the ashes of disbelief and rejection to reach for that purpose is daunting, arduous, and AWESOME. 

Live into the awesome part.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

giving up the fight | the war on eating disorders

This post was written as a guest contribution to a dear friend of The House of Hatton. It is a reflection on my own journey and a prayer for all of those living in the shadows of an eating disorder. May you find hope in His truth and release in His grace. #NEDAwareness

I’ve sat down to write out these words several times now – each moment feeling more difficult than the one before. I tried to pinpoint the hold up on my heart, and this morning – of course while having a food-centered moment over my coconut flour pancakes – it dawned on me. How many people really know the details of my journey? How many times was I told, “You don’t have a problem,” “It’s really not that bad,” or “It’s just a phase?” While I’m transparent with almost every part of my life, the depths of my heart hold tight to the anguish surrounding my body. The battle for those corners of my spirit raged on, during the so called “best years of my life,” until I finally gave up the war and surrendered to the only One big enough to win it for me.

I feel like a lot of folks who journey an interesting road qualify their story with the phrase “I grew up in a stable and loving home,” as though an ideal setting precludes us from challenge. Well, news flash…the enemy has no favorites. Every heart has equal accessibility to trial. The minute I turned inward for control, my heart was primed for a takeover.

Between the ages of 15 and 29, my relationship with food was tumultuous at best. As soon as I thought I’d reached a healthy balance, I would find myself staring back into the face of the enemy I’d spent so much energy willing myself away from.  I would mark events in my life (college graduation, family events, our wedding, our first house) by “skinny time” or “fat time.” The memories illustrated in the photo would fade behind the noisy thoughts in my head criticizing every square inch of my body. Focused solely on myself, the shame attached to my pride only compounded the heartache.

My journey is full of marked moments of desperation. Between bottles of pills used to “balance” my food intake during college and extreme workouts that landed me in back surgery by age 23, I did everything to my body in pursuit of perfection. The breakdown? I allowed nothing for my body.

Let me pause here for a moment and ask you a question: Why should we care so much about this subject? Personally, why does physical health matter so intensely to me? One word answer for both questions: freedom. I longed for the emotional, physical, and spiritual space to love others, give radically, and live freely. My yo-yo years with nutritional and physical health have taken up so much space, in my head and heart. For a while, it was centered on dropping pounds and losing inches. Ultimately, as my heart began to heal, it was about finding consistency in one area of my life to build the foundation for growth and impact in all parts of my life.  

When we counsel others through eating disorders, we often hear “this will always be a part of your journey.” Or my other favorite, “this will always be your fight.” Living within that supposed truth kept me in bondage to this enemy for nearly half of my life. All I could find was temporary relief clouded by the harsh reality that this nemesis would show its face again. My story – the one that began with “this will always be your fight” – became my truth. It was my life banner, until my Creator intervened on my behalf to repaint that banner with His heart for me. In His grace, He rewrote my story. He gave me a new heartsong.

Here are the two truths of eating disorders: They are not preventable. They are curable. We are a community within a fallen world – crippled by sin and seemingly overpowered by societal norms. We cannot control what others around us see and hear. However, we can choose who we are for our community. We can be a soft landing for a hurting soul. We can speak in transparency and love. We can call the enemy for who he is and what he is – naming the lie and claiming the truth. And more than all of those combined, we can call on a Risen Savior. Christ needs not to fight the battle for us, because by His life, death, and resurrection…the war is already won.

In His victory is our freedom.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

50 Shades of Heartbreak

I once heard it said that our checkbook and calendar highlight our priorities. What do we glorify as a society? What are we prioritizing today?

I've engaged in numerous discussions the last several months around the roles of men and women in a relationship. I've had some hard conversations about our human desire to fill in the gaps of our marriage with things of this world. I've listened to the heartbreak that comes from our own brokenness. I've seen the power that develops from vulnerability and truth. And I am thankful to be a part of the community of women committed to the pursuit of grace. Because we come from diverse backgrounds and unique teachings, these conversations encourage growth in my personal life and refinement in my marriage. The longer I press on for truth, the more I uncover God's intent for relationships and witness Him mend what is torn and tattered by our human nature.

Today...today, human nature is making a bold proclamation. And my heart aches at the sound.

I'll qualify before I start rambling.

I haven't read the book.
I haven't seen the movie.
I don't plan on either....

Despite the above, I have a pretty decent idea of what's held within the pages of 50 Shades of Grey. A woman who longs to be loved. A man who makes demands in order to maintain that love. And a relationship fraught with brokenness. Sure, it might look alluring on the outside, but is there fulfillment and goodness and unconditional love within? From what I can tell, the film/book illustrate a lot of our humanness. We are relational beings who pursue acceptance, community, stability, consistency, and true unconditional love. But at what cost?

So now, let's talk facts:
1 in 5 women will be raped in their lifetime.
1 in 4 women will be victims of domestic violence.
Half of all marriages end in divorce.
The number one cause of divorce: lack of communication.

Sure, we can all debate what constitutes what within a relationship.  I am of the opinion that, whether or not a person is in a relationship, if he or she says "no," that's enough. Anything to the contrary is a violation of dignity and safety.  Now suppose that individual so desperately longs for love that communication is silent. What then? The lack of openness to share anything indicates a new level of control and abuse exemplified by an individual's inability to speak freely without consequence.

An LA Times op-ed highlights the already growing trend of "acceptance" for poorly written prose and highly questionable film making. (Let's be honest, here. 10 years ago, this book and movie would have been relegated to one source...not mainstream media). Not so surprising, the lead actors didn't even enjoy the work. During their press tour, Jamie Dornan (Christian,) said "I had to do stuff to her that I'd never choose to do to a woman." If the actors are requesting their families avoid the movie, is it worth the rest of society sitting down to see it?

Sure, you can discount everything I've said because a) I haven't read the book and b) these are all personal opinions. And yet, I think it's worth discussing.

I sign off with this: once something is seen, it is etched in our minds and cannot be unseen. If your marriage is hurting, if your heart is aching, if you're searching for something...a spark, a newness, anything...you will not find it in Hollywood. You will sit down hopeful. You will walk out empty.

Find wholeness in grace. Find healing in promise. Find fulfillment in the Water. Be in the reality of your life - it can be beautiful.

Friday, January 16, 2015

progress over perfection.

My heart is fluttering as I type - so forgive any typos not automatically caught by my trusty spell check. I talk about being vulnerable. I even have the majority of folks pretty sure I open up about every detail of my life. However, there are a few things I hold pretty close to the vest.

In May of last year, I opened up got real about my journey with food and fitness. I shared where I was, where I'd been, where I fell short, and where I found peace. Exploring my relationship with nutrition and fitness - really analyzing the roller coaster ride, if I'm being truthful - revealed some hard truths about my heart. At the root of the madness was my human desire for ultimate perfection...a perfection centered on performance - never for myself, but for others.

As relational beings, we strive for connection, affirmation, inclusion, acceptance...you name it, we want it (at least I do).  As I started to write down my daily activities and nutrition, alongside what happened for me in that day, I noticed that my own roller coaster moved with my choices. If I chose perseverance, wholeness, love, etc. it showed up in my day. If I allowed my "happenings" to choose me, it definitely showed up in my day....and not in a healthy way.

I searched for the silver bullet fix to the back and forth and my tendency to quell emotions with food. Fad diets. Extreme measures. Disappointment. Failure. Exhaustion. Get up and try something new. Excuses. Inconsistencies. Disappointment. Failure. Exhaustion. You get the cycle. Statistics say you've probably lived pieces of the cycle yourself. So, when does the roller coaster stop? And how? Digging for the answer brought me to a breaking point shortly after I wrote about my past history with nutrition (or lack thereof). The roller coaster doesn't stop. We're surrounded by trends. We're inundated with standards we didn't choose for ourselves. And slowly but surely, we lose even footing and fall prey to the pursuit of perfection, all the while leaving our progress in the dust.

In the Summer of last year, I had another night of full pizza...and all I sensed was failure. I didn't know if I had gained weight or lost it (we don't keep scales in the house), but I didn't care. I was unhappy. I was tired. I was fragmented. I couldn't find a steady place to center my gaze and rest my heart long enough to find a fresh start. I could sense God calling me to a big dose of newness, but in the midst of my own mire I just couldn't find the path towards it...if that makes sense. Praise the Lord for His precious attention to detail. He works that way, because He created us that way. He knows what it takes to get our attention and He knows how to shift the gravitational pull on our hearts, because He MADE our hearts. He used some really incredible individuals who reached out when I needed it most, and walked with me in the process of renewal. I found a heaping dose of grace and an authentic community of women who recognize that while the roller coaster continues, we have the option to shred our tickets and walk the beach instead.

Before I sign off from you, my friend, let me say one thing: health is not about a bikini ready body. I'm not rocking a six-pack. I'm not modeling for Victoria's Secret. (and I don't want to). However, my outsides are starting to match my insides. I needed to wrestle down my pride, ego, and self-centered tendencies in nutrition and ask for some blank space to start over.  For me, that looks like a version of myself I may not see in the mirror (my mind still often twists that reflection). I've been given a new vision for myself: whole. strong. fierce. passionate. and made on purpose.

Why do I care so much about this journey? Why does physical health matter so intensely to me? One word: freedom. I longed for the emotional, physical, and spiritual space to love others, give radically, and live freely. My yo-yo years with nutritional and physical health have taken up so much space, in my head and heart. For me, it was never about dropping pounds and losing inches. It was about finding consistency in one area of my life to build the foundation for growth and impact in all parts of my life. Our nutritional choices are a reflection of our heart. Does that mean I steer clear of pizza because my heart is "oh so pure?" Absolutely not. I practice mindfulness. And that shows up, sometimes, as a total blast evening with friends at a football game that ends with pizza. 100%. The difference between that night today and that night a year ago: I consciously chose. And that shows up as two pieces instead of six (true story). Additionally, when I falter and find myself knee deep in chocolate after receiving some tough news (also a true story), I have accountability. I have a mega dose of love. I walk in some pretty fantastic grace. And I wake up the next morning, with a new day ahead.

Today, I encourage you to stop. Rest. And release.  We don't need a new year for a new slate. We have today. And FYI - it's a NEW day. Train your heart for the pursuit of daily momentum, not ultimate success. Train your eyes for progress. You are not alone. Walking with you......

You don't have to try.