What Do You Do About Wounds That Won’t Go Away?

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Some scars hurt.

Thirty winters ago I stepped my right foot straight down on the upturned end of a wire hanger. The pain stuck around for nearly a month. After new skin finally covered the puncture wound, which rested in between the “piggy who went to market” and the “piggy who stayed home,” my foot felt perfectly fine. Day after day, I walked, ran, skipped and danced without remembering that wire hanger or the damage it had caused.

But here’s what happened. The metal so dug deep and wide into my flesh it left a gaping hole that required immediate repair. My body set off an alarm and my cells quickly took action to accomplish one critical task: stop the bleeding. Fibers and collagen bonded and filled the chasm until my foot was fixed. Today, three decades later, each and every time that skin is pressed — even the gentlest touch — I jump, yelp and pant for air.

Our emotions aren’t all that different from our bodies. Hearts bashed in still beat. Souls sliced up still sing. Spirits sucked all but dry still cry out for water. We hurt. We heal. We move on. For those of us who walk with Jesus, we often feel stronger after we survive a trial, because brokenness leads to wholeness.

Can one even truly be whole without first being broken? I don’t think so.

Read the rest of the story at (in)Courage.

Twelve Birthday Wishes for My Tween Daughter

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My precious daughter,

You were born strong. Pink, squalling, hungry, determined, and given a perfect score of 10 for newborn health, you seemed to know exactly who were were and what you wanted from life the second air brushed against your lungs. Holding you tight against my chest, I realized a new kind of brave burned inside my bones, the kind that would allow me to take on a mountain lion with my bare hands if you were in danger.

My repertoire in loving expands each day I mother you.

We’ve sorted through tantrums, danced in princess gowns and steadied ourselves against attacks from bullies. I watched you grow from a little girl who explored with Dora; prepared plastic meals from her toy kitchen; and memorized every song from all of the Barbie movies to an almost-woman who sings Adele’s Hello like she wrote it herself; loves making breakfast for the family on Saturday mornings; and blushes at the mention of Thor.

This year, you turned 12. That’s big. And we celebrated big with an ice skating party. I even ordered fancy–and delicious–cookies from a delightful little husband-and-wife-owned business in New York City. The owners, Gabe and Holly Valentino are a true team as they both manage separate careers while working together to run their shop Baked to Measure.

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We both love cookies and found these too perfect to resist, but I bought them for more reasons than they’d make extra-cute party favors. For starters, Holly reminds me of a grown up version of you. I don’t know her personally, but from her Instagram feed alone, you can tell she’s filled with spunk, creativity, compassion and courage. She’s the type of woman who isn’t afraid to grapple with risks to move toward her dreams and I see the same in you.

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The other driving reason for the skate-shaped confections? I wanted to remind you that whimsy is for girls of all ages. That even though you’re getting older, you’re allowed to get excited about your birthday and plan a party for the little girl within.

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As you squished your eyes tight to blow out your candles and make your birthday wish, several wishes of my own swirled inside my brain. In honor of your 12th birthday, here are my 12 wishes for you as your head to middle school and grow into a woman.

I Wish …

1. That you find beauty every time you glance in the mirror and every time you search inside your heart.

2. That you always rise above labels and never attach words like fat, ugly, dumb, skinny, or popular to your identity.

3. That you own your mistakes and learn from them, but never, ever allow them to define you.

4. That you refuse to numb your feelings. Your bitter ones. Your confused ones. Your jealous ones. Your sad ones. Your spitting-mad ones. Your happy ones that you might feel you don’t deserve. Instead, explore the emotions that toss you to your knees and the ones that raise your eyes toward the sun. When you own what you feel, you’ll be less likely to let your feelings own you.

5. That you always feel proud to be your daddy’s girl, even when you don’t find his jokes all that funny.

6. That you cling tight to a sense of wonder and never take the beauty of this world for granted.

7. That you keep singing.

8. That you slam the door on shame each time it knocks.

9. That you always know that you are loved and wanted just as you are. No matter what you choose or who you become, your father and I will forever love you.

10. That you keep your spunk and stand up for yourself and others.

11. That you forgive. Those who slight you. Those you betray you. Those who disappoint you. Those who slice your core with ugly words. Forgive them all, yourself included.

12. That you remember that were fearfully and wonderfully made by the One who felt that you were worth dying for.

Love,
Mommy

How to Not Fall Into the Pity Party Trap

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I’m a party girl. Not the rootin’ tootin’ dance on a table top, swing from a chandelier “girl-gone-wild” type. I’m more of the games, themed decorations, cutesy door prizes soiree socialite. What I enjoy even more than attending parties is planning them. In the past few decades I helped organize 11 weddings, more than 60 business events, 12 bridal showers, 22 baby showers, and at least 35 birthday bashes.Planning parties meshes so much of what I love –people, food, expressions of connection, and fun activities — into one afternoon or evening.

Sometimes I throw a different type of party all together. The pity party.

Please join me at (in)Courage for the rest of this sad story.

Finding Joy in Unlikely Places

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I am thrilled to share my space today with my dear friend Mary Carver. The message she shares is one of hope and perspective. It reminds us that a new beginning follows every ending and that joy is awaiting discovery during such moments of transition.

Over the past two years I’ve had the honor to work on a book, a compilation of blog posts and stories written by Sara Frankl, a friend and fellow blogger who passed away in 2011. Reading her words once again has challenged me to think about joy differently – and to seek it in different places than I might have before.

Today I invite you to read an excerpt of our book, where Sara tells the bittersweet story of saying goodbye to some favorite clothes – and the possibilities they represented, while saying hello to some unexpected joy that had been for her all along.

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Sometimes we get lucky and joy just knocks us upside the head. It’s cozy and comforting and we sometimes take for granted that it will always be available and waiting for us at the end of a hard day. But more often than not, joy is hidden in the cracks, in the unforeseen places God builds into our hardest times.

When I discovered that being homebound was going to be a permanent lifestyle for me, I gave away some things that I knew I wouldn’t ever use again, things like purses and coats and dresses. This summer, though, I looked at my summer clothes and realized what a waste it was to have them sitting in my dresser. They didn’t fit, but they also felt like a reminder of all the places I wore them, and all the places I would never go again. Sure, I could have saved them to wear around my house, but that thought didn’t bring me joy. It’s like all my past fun times of going out with friends in those cute clothes suddenly got confined to my house with me.

Reality is that life is different. And when I look at a closet of outfits that scream, “Wear me somewhere fun!” it causes me to long for something I’ll never do and places I’ll never go. In those moments, with something as simple as clothes in my closet, I find myself longing instead of living. Wishing for what was instead of what is. Fighting for a life that is no longer mine.

I didn’t want to do that – so I asked Susie to come over to go shopping. I could have just given her boxes of clothes and been done with it, but I honestly want to squeeze joy out of every little moment I can. I miss shopping, helping other people pick out clothes, figuring out what outfits they could put together from their closets. So I made Susie try on every single piece of clothing and we talked about them just like it was a shopping trip.

And I had fun. Giving brought me joy. Shopping in my own house for someone else brought me joy. Later, when Susie would tell me she wore something of mine out to dinner with friends, it brought me joy. It made me feel like a part of me was still there with her, still having fun, still participating.

That joy was sitting right there in my drawers. It could have brought me sadness and longing, but instead I chose joy. I put the work into something sad and made it happy.

It’s something for you to think about as you go through your day today. Stop and take in your moments. Look at them from another angle. Joy is sometimes in the most unlikely places. You just have to put in a little work before you can find it.

What unlikely place might be holding joy for you today?

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If you enjoyed this excerpt from Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts, you can learn more about the book and its authors at TheChooseJoyBook.com.

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Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She writes about her imperfect life with humor and honesty, encouraging women to give up on perfect and get on with life, at www.givinguponperfect.com. Mary is the co-author of a new book called, Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. Released by the Hachette Book Group in 2016, CHOOSE JOY is a must-have for those searching for meaning and beauty in a world full of tragedy. Sara’s words breathe with vitality and life, and her stories will inspire smiles, tears, and the desire to choose joy. To learn more about CHOOSE JOY, visit TheChooseJoyBook.com.