On the Ethics of Buying (and Farming)

As usual, another book has fallen into my life right when it was supposed to, and it has been so revolutionary and validating to me that I had to really give thought how to best share it with you, my friends. It has been so precious to me that no blasé post like “Heyyy, you should read this” would cut it. No Facebook Live video could adequately endorse it.

Are you ready?


Yes. The most life changing book of the year so far is entitled “The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs”, a most perfect title to be laughed off or dismissed. But truly, do not judge a book by its cover. Joel Salatin drops some major truth bombs on his readers. It is a non-secular look at farming practices juxtaposed with modern-day corporate greed, and why (especially as Christians) we are called to something more dignified.

Why has this affected me so profoundly? Firstly because I have already radically altered my diet, at the recommendation of psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Brogan, to no longer include genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides, synthetic hormones, antibiotics, dyes or preservatives. For someone battling anxiety and depression, these things in our food products will exacerbate the problem. And, on top of that, so will sugar and gluten (and sometimes dairy). I wasn’t about to argue with her about why, although she makes the reasoning perfectly clear in her book A Mind of Your Own. I was just going to take her advice and have faith that it would all work out. Every page in the Marvelous Pigness of Pigs reinforces this decision, and even uses scripture to say ‘hey, all that weird crap was not God’s original intention when he made plants and animals available for our use’.

Luckily my mom raised me on organic crop shares before that was a thing. Like, pre-Whole Foods and health-fad days. We weren’t allowed to buy Doritos and Gushers (although, I’m not going to lie, as a kid I would raid my friends pantries for these gems). So knew the inherent value in making these switches. But even then, when I was pregnant in my second trimester and facing gestational diabetes, and my midwife said I could control this with diet and to immediately cut out sugar, dairy, and wheat, I remember that feeling of panic and profound loss. I literally had tears in my eyes. I was pregnant and in love with ice cream. What she was asking of me was a gargantuan feat… but it was ultimately to protect the health of not only myself but that of my unborn child. I made the adjustments and had zero further gestational diabetes scare. We had a healthy homebirth where our beautiful, 10lb. healthy baby boy arrived.

But as soon as possible I went back to eating crap. Because change is hard and the way I went about it was unsustainable. I was just holding out for the day I could devour baked goods again. This really took a toll on my postpartum body, which had amassed an extra 70lbs. The weight wasn’t coming off, I was still reliant on antidepressants, and not at 100% due to a lack of real nutrition and exercise. It was unsustainable because the way I viewed the things I put in and on my body didn’t change.

When I became seriously convicted to heal my body and recover from antidepressant reliance, that’s when the paradigm shifted. It wasn’t about cheat days. I now respected my body and my mission so much that food no longer had power or persuasion over me. It felt like a religious conviction. I will no longer defile the temple of God with adulterated personal care products, food items, makeup… all of the things we have long never even considered the quality of.

Cue Joel Salatin and his wonderfully validating book on exactly what I was feeling. We are called to something higher. My intuition knew that. Our current model, our current culture of consumption, is not working for us. It is ruining our health and happiness. It is enslaving us. God created us to be free. He also told us to protect what is Holy, and we as His children, fall under that category.

Because, Beyoncé. 

Along with my dietary changes Kelly Brogan pointed out all of the toxicants in our everyday products, from over-the-counter pain relievers and antacids to kitchen utensils (non-stick pans, anyone?) to cleaning products to hair and skin products… she said everything that we use on, in or around our bodies had the opportunity to support our body systems or disrupt them. And most of them manufactured to us today fall in the latter category. So I threw all of it away.

I needed something to replace these products, however, because everyday ailments still happen: indigestion, headaches, skin irritation, cuts and scrapes, acne, etc. I mean, the products were created to fill a need after all. I’m just no longer willing to tolerate their unintended side effects. Instead, I tapped into the multifaceted world of essential oils, a beautiful bounty that God created for us from the get-go to use, and immediately learned everything I could about maximizing their benefits. I had a few good friends from a homebirth group that I really looked up to for their family’s wellness, ethics and the way they lived their lives who already used Young Living. So after three days of badgering one of them (Sara, bless her heart, put up with all of my ignorance and aggressive skepticism) I finally bit the bullet and went all in. I haven’t looked back since.

Not only did I find products to reinforce my wellness goals — to stay off of my antidepressants, stave off regression, build up my immune system, support my body holistically — but I found an amazing body of people who believe in the same things I do: integrity, transparency, honesty, empowerment, helping one another, building community, financial independence. PLUS Copaiba for teething. Do I even need to say more? What tired mom doesn’t want the safest product possible to help with teething woes? I was so all-in, I couldn’t get more all-in.

By the way, a happy unintended consequence of doing all of these things has been dramatic weight loss. My jeans are falling off of me. But for the first time in my life it really doesn’t matter that much to me because vanity wasn’t my goal. Wellness was.

Reading The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs reinforced my decision to become brand-loyal to Young Living, to remove all toxicants from my house, to support ethical farmers, my local farming network, and to do what I can as a farmer myself. It was just seemingly written for this exact moment in my life. I just marveled at every page as I read. Which, by the way, he supports all of his theories with scripture.


Here’s the thing. There are so many cross-references between being a rose farmer and working with Young Living… because whether you’re aiming to grow the best rose bush possible or bottle the highest quality essential oils, or provide the healthiest, happiest cut of meat for families to nourish themselves with, farming is farming. That’s why Joel’s message spans my entire personal ethos right now.

As steward’s of God’s creations, mankind has a pretty awful track record. We often forget that we are called to be caretakers, and the bottom line begins to encroach on the original mission statement. As a farmer-entrepreneur I know this precarious dance well. You must make money in order to stay open, to provide your talents and treasures to your market. It can’t be a purely altruistic endeavor. But at the same time if you are so tunnel-visioned on profit that any responsibility to your client goes out the window for the sake of your own gain, it’s a lose-lose. I find that mode spiritually unsustainable. You might rake in the money, but at the end of each day you have to lie in the bed you’ve made. I’ll take hard work over money riddled with guilt any day.

When I was researching essential oils, the ethics of Gary Young as a fellow farmer immediately spoke to me. Just like in my horticultural industry, where there is no standard for “best and highest performing rose bush”, there is no across the board standard for therapeutic essential oils. The only quality promise is that from the company manufacturing the products themselves; their ethics and protocols.

That can lead to a big quality control problem in a capitalistic society. Where in the words Joel Salatin in The Pigness of Pigs, where “amoral science and pure capitalism exists, caretaking and nurturing do not.”

So where you are using your almighty dollar to purchase your products supports the morality and ethos of the company you are investing in.

Caretaking and nurturing are high on my list of qualities I want to see in my famers, whether they’re farming roses, essential oils, fruits & veggies, meat or cheese. These are all coming from living creations. They are not and were not ever meant to be manufactured on a conveyor belt, crammed into warehouses and forced to overproduce. These creatures — even something as “simple” as a plant — are phenomenally complex, with so many invisible, behind-the-stream ecosystems working that if you really stopped and thought about it, it would blow your mind. In fact, Joel goes into more depth about just how mindblowing these systems are, just to drive home the point that EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THE PIGNESS OF PIGS (okay, I’ll stop).

I’m just saying, there’s a reason shepherds — the caretakers of the precious animals these communities depended upon — were at the birth of Jesus.

The way these plants are genetically selected, planted, harvested and ultimately distilled really matters. On my farm, the quality of soil, the quality of the water, the hands-on techniques, the fertilizer, even the enclosure that my roses are grown in all matter. My clients trust me to deliver what I say I will — a quality product. They are all welcome to tour my greenhouse and grill me on how we get these results because we have embraced a business culture of transparency. We are just the custodians of our client’s roses. They deserve to know why they’re the best, if they truly want the answer.

A picture in our greenhouse at Roses Inc. Check out more pics of our family farm on our Facebook page, Roses Inc. Green Country.

But let’s be honest. Most people aren’t interested in a 101 course on horticulture, and they also don’t know the difference between Lowe’s or Walmart’s roses and mine aside from cost. They’ll see it in how the perform, but often only after they’ve invested time, money and hard work. I try to spare them any disappointment by delivering what they’re actually looking for: the highest quality, performance-oriented rose bushes that appeals to their specific needs. Some smell good, some are disease resistant, some climb, others create award winning vase-worthy roses. All will do well in this climate, and all adhere to my standards of quality. No governing body imposes these standards on my nursery. I created and imposed them upon myself based off of a “do unto others” mentality. That, and, anything worth doing is worth doing well.

As my client’s go-to authority, that is my responsibility. If I do my job well, it ends up paying off financially, but the financial incentive is not my first priority. It is a pleasant consequence of hard work. As an entrepreneur I do focus on my margins and how to improve them without compromising quality. But as a farmer, a friend, and a responsible Christian, quality will always come first.

People will either trust this about my business or they won’t. They’ll either take a chance or they won’t. And the fruits of my labor are self-evident. This is our fifth year in business, with excellent customer retention, beautiful time-tested roses in our client’s gardens and a happy staff with a low turnover rate. But I can’t convince anyone that I’m not swindling them. And I’m not going to spend copious amounts of time defending myself in that way.

I see these same things circulating around Young Living and what Gary and Mary Young have professed to believe in and do. He said from the get-go, his intention was “to make a product for a purpose and not a profit”. Again, the fruits of hard work (and an awesome product) is profit. There is no shame in making money. And the way that he has structured his company has created tremendous bounty for all within in, from corporate and customer service employees, to independent distributors like myself. He treats his people well, and the fact that they have been the global leader in essential oils for 30 years pays homage to that fact. Just like my farm couldn’t operate with a sub-par product or an unhappy staff, Young Living understands this concept as well.


So let’s talk Seed to Seal quality. I haven’t come up with a pithy slogan like that to represent the quality assurance my farm undertakes. Maybe it should be “Bareroot to Bucket”. In any case, this is YL’s promise that they will do what it takes to yield the highest possible maximum chemical constituency within their essential oils. That means therapeutic grade oils across the board with zero exceptions. Just like if there’s a poor performer in my greenhouse, it won’t go out to market, it will be “culled” and thrown away. YL’s oils are grown, harvested, distilled, tested and packaged all on site. Nothing leaves that place without it meeting Gary’s standards.

Why is any of this important? Because if you care about the quality of plants going into your garden, how much more should you care about the products you are using in, on and around you family? What about the food or supplements you’re ingesting? Make no mistake, these things DO matter. They effect so much more than you are aware of at the forefront of your mind. Your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellness relies upon the foundation of safe, sound products. Our government has absolutely failed us when it comes to the protection of our families in this area. We must be our own front line. I am now the gatekeeper of my home. This goes so much deeper than just hanging in there on a crash diet, waiting for a cheat day. This is my vocation as a mother and wife. I take it very seriously.

So lastly, let’s finish with an example. Cypress essential oil. Hemostatic and wonderful for the circulatory system, rubbing a few drops over the heart promotes good blood flow. It is also known to detox the lymphatic system, and may help reduce water retention. What does hemostatic mean? Let’s just say if you have some rough and tumble kiddos you may want to keep a bottle of cypress in your pocket, especially as they play outside in shorts. Look up “styptic” essential oils. Cypress is just one of many.

But here’s the thing: if Cypress is over- or under-distilled even for an hour, you can lose a massive percentage of the chemical constituents that make it therapeutic. Which means everything I just wrote in the last paragraph is now null and void if the manufacturer doesn’t respect the plants or the process, and do what it takes to make a truly quality batch of oil. Distillation is a complicated technique, by the way — that’s why I don’t manufacture rose oil at my rose farm, a suggestion I am often given!


I would also go as far to say that if you’re buying from a company that has made their profits off of the hard work of other people, that bad juju extends around whatever they offer. I cannot, in good faith, support organizations that have done or still do bad things. Supporting immorality, even with your buying power, is still supporting immorality. As a business owner who has been betrayed by partners before, I cannot, in good conscience, support businesses who have paved their way in that manner, no matter how good the products are.

If you’re interested in learning more about Young Living, trying the products or getting involved, don’t let fear hold you back. You don’t have to come out of your oily closet just yet, but reach out to me or whoever planted that seed in your heart, and ask them about it. Begin the journey. You can always turn around if you find that it doesn’t suit you, but I have yet to meet that person on the oily endeavor. If you want to bypass any awkward encounters with me, here’s my link to see the starter kits for yourself.

So, yes, when you buy essential oils through me my family benefits financially, just like when you buy whatever from Target or Walmart, their corporation benefits. Your buying power has a direct effect and a wide ripple effect on everyone involved. I implore you to be more intentional about who gets your money and why. Not everyone truly deserves it.

Sending much love and positive vibes to you this day. Now go invest in “The Pigness of Pigs”!!!

Sidenote: The guy in the featured photo of the header is Gary Young on one of his global farms. You can more often than not find him at his distilleries or in the fields with his workers instead of jetsetting and fraternizing with celebrities, even though his income certainly allows for it.

Voyeurism & Dignity

This is not my first experience with putting it all out there for the world — friends, enemies and strangers alike. This is the first time that I’ve done so at the disregard of others, namely my husband and my infant son.

A lot has changed within the past thirty days. I’m not sure what exactly to contribute it to, but my instinct says that it is a highly layered combination of divine grace and finally letting go of my antidepressants. The resources that have been provided in this short and highly impressionable amount of time cannot be attributed to simple coincidence. I genuinely believe that I have strived to accomplish God’s will in my life; wherever He asked has asked me to follow, I have done my utmost to not only follow but to do so without doubt, complaint, or asking why. I’ve decided that information does not have to make perfect sense in my highest intellect to be true. Take intuition, for example. You can’t justify or explain why something is pulling on your heart, but you know that you should listen to it.

To try to explain all of the beautiful things that are being revealed to me has been an overwhelming thought. Where do I even begin? I feel like a completely different person.

Maybe I should begin with where I felt like my antidepressants were keeping me: in this altered state of constant “up”. High energy, heightened happy moods, high optimism. You would think at first glance that this is a positive. Who doesn’t want to be constantly happy? But in hindsight this not only kept me from growing as a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister and a friend… but it kept me from truly experiencing and participating in reality.

In Beyonce’s new album there is a song called “Daddy Lessons”. As I was meditating on some of the lyrics I realized that for the past however long I didn’t perceive real threats. Every stranger was automatically a friend. To make things worse I believe people at their word and I am a very literal person. When someone says they love me, I believe them in all of what “loving someone” entails.  If someone says I’m “like family” to them, I expect to not be abandoned, to have a special place in their lives, at their table, in their hearts, no matter what foolish mistakes I make. It never occurred to me that people throw these phrases around so casually and don’t actually mean what they’re saying. Or maybe they do, but they don’t actually know the implications of what they’re saying. 

I was even on the arguing side of protecting home intruders because they were just poor lost souls and didn’t mean to do anyone harm. But the problem with this thinking is two fold: one, they absolutely do mean to do harm. And two, I am a guardian of my house, my family and my heart. With letting just anybody in I left myself and the people I love most in a very vulnerable predicament. My antidepressants and/or my worldview kept me naive and gullible. Beyonce’s father, as she explains in this song, called a spade a spade. He points out when his daughter is being played. He says when bad men come around, don’t ponder their intentions, don’t wait and see what might happen, he said shoot.

Naivety is frowned upon in the Bible, by the way, lest you think I’m being harsh. We are called toward sensibility and prudence. Naivety is “foolishness”, and prudence is “knowledge”. No matter how much we wish there wasn’t death, destruction and enemies in the world, the fact is they do exist. We are told to put away childish things once we are adults, and to fully embrace Truth. I have enjoyed keeping my mind childlike and simple. I have lived off of the protection, care and support of those around me for too long. I am a twenty-six-year-old woman, mother and wife. It’s time I grow up and see the world for what it is.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel bitterness or resentment or cynicism. This isn’t like a neurotic “coming to awareness” thing. I see that it might look like I have swung from one side of the pendulum — unabashed exposure of myself, my family and my life, including my thoughts, moods, emotions, and growth experiences to sudden hermit-like privacy and silence — but it is not out of fear. These decisions are coming from a place of strength, in knowing myself and what I want for my family. Also, as a wife, I have placed the longings of my husband on the back burner for far too long. Every time he would cringe when someone would say “Oh, I know you from Facebook!” I would laugh sheepishly instead of correcting the problem. I am called to protect, love and serve him, not entertain the others in my life with the content of my personal life.

Let’s talk about the misleading words used on social media platforms like Facebook, for example. I have 800-someodd “friends”. These people are people of good will. I know them from many different walks of life: professionally, socially, from business conferences, from family vacations, from very intimate friend circles and church, to random internet people whose public photos I enjoyed. They are all suddenly classified as the same status: friend. I am a very literal person and haven’t ever given much consideration to who merits the descriptions of “friend”. I am a lover of all people, and welcome anyone with open arms, even people who wish me ill. You could call this a form of recklessness. As a couple of women and I discussed this during Bible study today, my spiritual guide who I have talked about many times in this blog, Allie, said “Ohhh! This is in today’s reading! Hold on, I must read it to you!”

Sidenote: The Catholic Church has daily scriptural readings. Which is kind of funny, because I hear we’re often painted by those that don’t know us as people who never read the Bible and unthinkingly just follow along with weird cultish religious rites. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every Mass is inundated with Scripture, not to mention the first reading (usually Old Testament), the psalm, the second reading (usually New Testament) and then the Gospel, straight from Christ’s teaching. We revere these words to the point that we have specific gestures, such as standing, kneeling, praying, genuflecting, speaking in unison, etc. to outwardly show their inward significance. The greatest thing about having daily readings is that the Church is universal. It’s not my specific priest, or my daily devotional that I picked up at Hobby Lobby that makes these verses only applicable to me or my parish alone. It’s the entire universal Church, worldwide, reading, meditating and praying together in unison over these specific passages. If only we could calibrate how much global energy is surging when we unite together in this way!

Back to friendship. Here is what Sirach 6:5-17 says (which, by the way, if you’ve never heard of Sirach, that is because Martin Luther removed it from the Bible when he separated from the Catholic Church way back when. So if you are a practicing Protestant, your Bible won’t have this amazing passage within it):

A kind mouth multiplies friends and appeases enemies,
and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.
Let your acquaintances be many,
but one in a thousand your confidant.
When you gain a friend, first test him,
and be not too ready to trust him.
For one sort is a friend when it suits him,
but he will not be with you in time of distress.
Another is a friend who becomes an enemy,
and tells of the quarrel to your shame.
Another is a friend, a boon companion,
who will not be with you when sorrow comes.
When things go well, he is your other self,
and lords it over your servants;
But if you are brought low, he turns against you
and avoids meeting you.
Keep away from your enemies;
be on your guard with your friends.
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds;
For he who fears God behaves accordingly,
and his friend will be like himself.

Is this not just the most appropriate Bible passage of the year for me?! It has come at such a beautiful, impressionable time! When I decided to end my Facebook Live saga, the decision began with frustration. I just couldn’t seem to articulate the profound, powerful ideas and emotions and experiences that had recently come into my life. There was just no way to convey what it all meant to me, and how absolutely precious it was. The last video I did, before making this decision, was fraught with frazzled, frantic energy as I grappled with words and apologized for my in-articulation. But it has turned into something so much more than the culmination of my frustration. It has really given me a lot to ponder and helped me make difficult decisions about why I have put myself out there the way I have. 

As these things go, a friend gave me a book about something seemingly completely unrelated that perfectly expressed the inarticulation I felt. Here’s the short story: I was going to chop off all of my hair. I felt like I needed something outwardly to express the inner everything — we’ll call it growth — I was experiencing. Except the last time I did that, when I dyed my hair red, I was left completely dissatisfied. I thought that it would convey the passion I felt internally, that red seemed so much more electrified and energetic than my boring, sleepy blonde. But surprise, it ended up just being hair. Blonde hair, red hair, blah blah hair. It was just hair. So when I talked to a good friend of mine who is from Venezuela and very to the point, she suggested that I might be cutting my hair all off because I wanted to be more masculine. Her husband suggested that I was in crisis with my true feminine nature… and when he said that, lest all of you feminists be appalled, my soul jumped for joy and I said “THAT SENTENCE! REPEAT IT, I NEED TO WRITE IT DOWN!”. And then we had a thirty minute discussion about why that may be. Why did that resonate with me? Where’s the crisis? What really needs to be solved? Because, let’s be honest, a haircut — no matter how dramatic — wasn’t the solution. And my husband had already voiced his opinion on the matter, that, to him, long hair represented beauty and femininity. It was his quiet way of screaming at me “PLEASE DON’T DO IT!” which incited anger and rebellion in me. I was ready to literally grab his electric razor that night and shave it all off. Be done with it. That would be the third time in my life I’d had a Britney Spears moment. But this time I knew better. I stopped and questioned that thinking, those emotions. I recognized them as impulsive and primal. What does my deeper self need? My Venezuelan friend’s husband, a historian buff, said “You know, back in the olden days women who were disgraced would have their hair publicly cut off… so why do you want to disgrace yourself?”

There are many layers, so I’m not saying it’s as cut and dry as a woman wanting to cut her hair short is a woman yearning to disgrace herself publicly. Life’s situations are too complicated to paint with one big, broad brush. But for me these questions really hit home.

To make the matter more complicated, this haircut came under the guise of self-improvement and power. I wanted to come off powerful. I wanted to convey my feminine strength. I wanted to honor my mother, who wore her hair short when she was inducted in to the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame. I wanted to reclaim my natural hair color that I had abandoned to pretend to be a redhead. This came as everything our culture would stand behind. “GET IT GIRL!” I hear my contemporaries yell. But when I unpacked it, it was a facade. I was small, weak, wanting to flex and pretend my vulnerabilities didn’t exist. That I wasn’t defenseless. I’ve got this. I’m strong, I’ve got muscles, don’t fuck with me. Look at this hair. This is “don’t fuck with me” hair. That’s not being true to myself, y’all. Thank God for my friends who helped me find what was really happening at the core… and thank God for temperance, for the self-control to not act on my impulses like I have previously always done.

“Wanting to pay homage to my beautiful, influential mother” sounds good, but wasn’t my real motive.

And, although this may be countercultural, my body does belong to my husband. And his body belongs to mine. Together, we make decisions. Together we moved forward in life. To make myself beautiful and desirable to him is written on my heart. To move away from him and intentionally make myself undesirable is a red flag. This has little to do with subordination or patriarchal dominance and brainwashing. This is my personal longing, my heart singing her heart song. I want to please him. I want to love him the best I can. I want to respect him. When I do something he has blatantly told me he does not like, I am not respecting him. I am following my own will, my own selfishness… and in the words of Beyonce “when you hurt me, you hurt yourself. Don’t hurt yourself.” We are one.

But back to the book. My Venezuelan friend gave me this book to get me through this winding, changing, uncharted territory in my life:


It really astounds me that it was written from the talks made to a girls school during a three-day spiritual retreat, meant to challenge them to reflect on the meaning of their lives, and on questions about character formation and the development of the personal talents. I picture 15- to 17-year-old girls reading this heady, weighty, existential book, internalizing it and applying it to their worldview. I imagine that strength they derive from being reaffirmed in their mission and purpose, in who they were created to be. How much more could I have been if I had this in my hands during my teenage years?

Ha, just kidding. I would’ve totally thrown this book out the window because I was ignorant and self-righteous and angry and angsty. These girls must be cut from some pretty fantastic spiritual, or genetic material. I just was not on their level at that age.

Anyway, lest you think this book told me not to cut my hair because that’s not what women do, I haven’t gotten to that part yet. It just equips you to make your own decisions. Every woman will derive something different from the eternal truths that are presented in this book. It came to me exactly when I needed it. And if I ever have a daughter, my mission will be to instill these truths in her heart before the world has a chance to whisper any lies to her. Because that’s what mama’s are called to do: we are protecters of the most sacred, of future generations, of our children’s hearts, of chivalry and morality.

Let’s get back to “friends” and my decision to reclaim my privacy. As I was scrolling through ten months of posts to change any picture of my husband and/or son to “private”, I couldn’t believe what precious moments I had put out there for anyone and everyone to appreciate. These moments just didn’t belong to them. Not that it cheapened the moment itself to share — although, it does, because suddenly you’re taking a picture of your beautiful child specifically for the purpose to post on Facebook, for a faceless audience that uses emoji buttons to tell you how much they approve of whatever you have posted — but it just wasn’t right to share it in the first place. I saw the face of my weeks-old baby staring confused into a phone camera. “What is this thing, and why is my mama showing it to me? It must be something good because she would never give me something bad.” My heart broke. Because now, at ten months, he is well conditioned about what to do when a phone camera turns his way. He smiles at the faceless audience. Mama applauds him when he does so. This is what I’ve taught my child. Instead of protecting him or teaching him to protect himself — to guard what is most precious for those who truly deserve it — I have given in to our culture that says “Go ahead! There’s no risk! What’s yours is everyone’s.” What a shame.

I didn’t have parents that taught me to be guarded. My mom was busy running a corporation. My father left when I was nine. That’s not to say I am ungrateful for the amazing time and talents they did bestow upon me. I look back on weekends at horseshows with fond memories of both of my parents teaching me the importance of winning, of trying hard, of believing in myself. There are just some key life lessons I kind of missed out on; many of us in this generation have because of the sky-high divorce rates. I don’t want my son to go on believing what I did, that every stranger, every waitress, every online audience is a “friend”. That is a truly precious word. He deserves to know the truth.

I could go on and on, and I’m sure I will. This conversation is not over. But said ten-month-old is now awake and intent on rummaging through every single thing in this office, so I have to retire the keyboard for now. My true vocation calls (in such a real, unglamorous way)!



I forgot where my brain goes when the antidepressants aren’t steering it. Suddenly everything that is real, and is truly sad, is so sad that it distracts me from living life. When the antidepressants are full steam they convince my brain that these realities are inconsequential. I smooth them over dismissively, replace the sadness with optimism and am obnoxiously perky about the whole situation. I forget that when the antidepressants are gone, those thoughts and emotions are still real. And they deserve to be given validation. 

When I was younger any time I that I felt any extreme emotion my mother would inevitably roll out this whopper: “Have you taken your meds today?” I wasn’t allowed to cry, or get angry, or ponder life’s injustices without it being attributed to whatever mental illness I had most recently been diagnosed with by “the professionals”. What started as a diagnosis of  ADD soon morphed to Depression which was changed to Bipolar which was changed to Borderline Personalty Disorder. From age 4+ I had to disown my innately passionate nature and attribute it to some inherent flaw. 

I think what is saddest about this warped perspective is that I learned to see myself as a broken victim of circumstance and biology. Anytime I failed, or made someone mad, I would shrug and say “Sorry, I forgot to take my meds today”. It infuriated my older sister who felt like I could get away with murder by using this excuse. And my mom always acquiesced when I’d pull this card. I was never held accountable for my thoughts, feelings or behaviors. They were always excused because of my “special circumstances”. 

It reminds me of that old movie about Helen Keller, where, out of misguided pity her family allowed her to act feral because of her circumstances. When Anne came to the house to work with and teach Helen she refused to let her continue treating people like crap. She refused to let Helen live at that low standard. Basically, she refused to let Helen’s entire life be victimized by her incapacities. And we all have incapacities.  Mine weren’t as drastic as being born blind or deaf, thank God, but they were extreme character flaws that went incorrected and excused away. 

The thing is when you’re young your parents can advocate for you and explain those excuses. They can move you from school to school as your run into problems with authority. They can blame other parents and teachers for their own incompetencies. But when you’re an adult, no one cares what the excuses are and you are the only one stuck with the consequences of your thoughts feelings and behaviors. 

Actually, that’s not true. When you’re an adult, no one cares about the excuses and the consequences of your thoughts, feelings and behaviors have a wide ripple effect. You can either keep commitments, or you can’t. You’re either good company, or you’re not. You must learn to overcome the adversities within yourself or you will fail because the laws of the world don’t bow to your capabilities. You either prosper or you flounder. And meanwhile the people around you — friends, family, bosses, coworkers– will either enjoy your company, rely upon you and you will reap the fruits of healthy relationships  OR they will tolerate you, try to help you find your way or eventually abandon you to your own decisions. 

So at age 25 I started to grasp that. There was no more self-pity of “well I was never taught that” or “this happened to me so that’s why I am the way I am”. If you never got taught a lesson it’s time to start teaching yourself. Catch up. The world won’t wait. Your character flaws CAN be overcome with diligence and intentionality. And if you don’t pursue that, you will suffer for it — in your relationships, career, happiness and quality of life, financially. The hard work and change was no longer as intimidating as the thought of living a life of unhappy mediocrity. 

Coming back to today’s revelation, I now recognize my tendency to ruminate on the deeper complexities of life as just a part of who I am. The passage of time, the horrible mistakes I have made, the people I’ve hurt, the opportunities I screwed up, the injustices of the world, the suffering.. they plague me. Instead of jabbering nonstop about trivial cultural garbage — like the latest fashion trends, or what new app is popular — or numbing my mind with TV, games, movies, books, food or constant activity, I sit quietly in the company in my husband and we share silence. And instead of pushing the feelings that inevitably surface away, I embrace and acknowledge their rightful place. It’s a different kind of peace. Somber, quiet, mature and heavy. 

This peace, however is not despair. If I didn’t refuse to succumb to it, despair would come easy to me. I have to work hard at stoking the kindling flame of faith and hope. I refuse to become bitter or cynical. I force myself, for every minute I focus on what is wrong in the world, to pray with deep gratitude for what is going right. I make myself focus on the people who, like me, are working hard to overcome evil, instead of focusing on the people who intentionally commit evil. 

And you know what? The passage of time — loss, as a whole — is sad. But it’s not just sad. It’s complex. It’s not black or white. Sometimes I feel like the wiring in my head is so jumbled that I really can’t attribute words to what I’m feeling, because the big ball of “feeling” is so vast and so multifaceted that one word or even five, fifty or 300 words, can’t encompass it. This used to make me want to explode. I hate not being able to communicate effectively. But now I see it for what it is and I give myself space to process. I allow myself to be the sky, with its various clouds passing through like visitors. The sky itself remains unchanged and peaceful. Sometimes silence can convey that vast multitude of feelings better than words can. 

Or sometimes art. Or music. 

What is most interesting is that our culture doesn’t acknowledge that feelings can manifest physically, as pain or illness… especially repressed emotions that we don’t allow ourselves to experience or express. Or that someone has invalidated for so long you feel ashamed for feeling. 

When my first step-father died I was thirteen. I had to be a strong pillar for my mom. I didn’t know how to process grief. I certainly didn’t know about the repercussions of not handling it in a healthy way. I also didn’t have any friends or a supportive community or family network. As I sunk further into depression, unbeknownst to me, my body manifested these emotions as mononucleosis. Yes, the mono strain was introduced to my body via germs. But the point is I was so run down, all of my body systems became wholly susceptible to disease and illness that an otherwise healthy and robust 13-year-old immune system could have fended off. My mom had to literally wake me up to get me to eat, and I missed months of school. 

I bring this up because now, as I begin to exhume repressed thoughts and emotions that my antidepressants staved off, or that I was made to feel small for feeling, I have had to find new avenues to release them. I have noticed that when my emotional and mental faculties are depleted, if I have a weakened body system — i.e. my GI tract, my liver, my endocrine system, etc. — it is more subject to attack than when I’m feeling and thinking 100%. Each body system will manifest these weaknesses in different ways. Do you follow me? 

So, say emotions surrounding a family death have put a lot of strain on me emotionally, mentally and spiritually. If my GI tract is already weakened because of a poor diet with little nutrition, this emotional strain might manifest as upset stomach, or I might become more susceptible to the flu. I will become sensitive to foods that normally don’t phase me. When I’m in tune with my body it will intuively tell me to stay away from sugar, dairy, heavy meals and meat. I’ll crave simple soups and lots of veggies, maybe eggs. 
I will not be able to be this attuned to my body, mind or emotions if I am stuffing my schedule full of activities, back-to-back meetings, hours of loud, hyper stimulating TV shows or zombie-fying myself on Instagram or game apps. 

So here is how this has all manifested for me, which is what led to this blog post:

 Recently my son whacked me in the left eye, leaving it half bloodied. You know, when a blood vessel bursts? This now physically weakened or compromised my eye, which, having struggled with vision problems since I was young was already a weak area for me. Still today I have a -7.00 nearsightedness. If I was listening to my body I would have stayed away from contacts and choose glasses, or forewent mascara. But I wanted what I wanted — mainly to “look beautiful”– and went against what I should have done, which was to let my eye rest and heal. I kept my schedule busy and I’ve also let my meal planning go astray so my nutrition — you know, the energy and sustenance required to help us combat injury — was also awry. 

That might not have been a big deal if I wasn’t simultaneously under immense emotional duress from coming off of my antidepressants, during which repressed emotions are being exhumed… plus marital struggles (nothing like Valentine’s Day to remind you of those) plus, you know, the general state of the world. I have also been under mental duress trying to run two businesses, and manage my household responsibilities. Which eventually translates into spiritual duress because I’m not doing what I should be doing and I know it. Which was to let my mind rest and heal. Offload stuff from my schedule. Say “no”. 

So first I got painful, small ingrown hairs on my left eyebrow and along my lash line. I thought it was weird but didn’t think much else. I didn’t change my lifestyle afterward. One dinner we ate a burger and fries meal at 9pm; I kept running of fumes over the next couple of days, just neglecting that calling toward healthy, simple and nutritious food, easy days, little company, and good sleep. I focused on house projects, entertained guests, hustled for work. 

Then, after eating a slice of Dulce de Lèche cheesecake as a Valentine’s Day “indulgence”, I got a massive headache around my eyes, which has never happened to me before. I know better than to eat sugar. It really doesn’t agree with me… but I did anyway. Again! I didn’t do what I should. And then, to top it all off, as all of this really manifested into a physical maladie, I got conjunctivitis in my left eye only. Which hasn’t happened since I was thirteen. 

It really made me stop and think, as illness should. 

Luckily, with a lot of Lavender and Frankincense around my left eye, I am nearly back to normal (yes it really works). Which is pretty miraculous because the times I’ve had pink eye it is something out of a horror movie for at least a week — pus, swollen eye, transfers to both eyes, etc. — until I get prescription drops that kills the bacteria. But, under my new commitment to myself and using former go-to remedies, I literally stood over my diffuser with lavender blasting my eye last night and have religiously smeared Frank and Lavender all around it since the first symptoms appeared. 

I have also allowed myself to really rest today with Jackson (who has also become much more agitated since I began this taper) while processing these thoughts and feelings (thus this blog post). Jackson and I are intimately in this together as we share my physical, emotional and mental state through our nursing relationship. Did you know that cortisol can be transferred through breath milk? If I am in a flustered, stressed out and upset state, that will literally be conveyed to my son not only atmospherically but in his nutrition that my body makes. 

My husband is in this with me too. And my employees and friends. This is t easy on anyone, but it will pass. The best thing any of us can do is nourish our bodies and minds and rest, rest, rest. Especially J and me as we deal with the physicality of antidepressant withdrawal. The detox is real. 

As I rested and contemplated I was just really reminded today just how inextricably linked our bodies, minds and souls are. You can imagine after neglecting any of these complex systems over years how they can manifest as autoimmune disorders, chronic pain or illness, even cancer. And our culture that keeps us from being attuned with ourselves, really listening to the “shoulds”, makes it even worse. 

The first step is self-awareness. Then comes acceptance. Then comes intentionality and strategy. And then change. I refuse to betray my body and mind anymore. 

Faith Surrounded Me

Today I am spending time at my mom’s house while my husband does some honeydo items she’s tasked him with. My mom has been twice widowed and my hubs is always generous with helping out family, a quality I greatly admire in him. 

While watching the babe I did a FB live broadcast of my teenage bedroom, which although much has changed in it, still houses many memories and relics from my past, the most telling of which being the art on the walls. 

Sometimes I get down on my mom for how much freedom she gave me as a child and teenager. I could’ve used a lot more direction, moral instruction and discipline. But it’s times like these where my heart overflows with gratitude. She was (and still is) a very generous and loving mother, always encouraging me to seek out new avenues of learning and self-expression. When I told her my vision for how I wanted my room painted she didn’t flinch or protest, but hired the painters, even though it resulted in this hideous blemish right above the stairwell:

In my defense, the original sketch didn’t look like this. Thirteen-year-old Karen sketched shapeless figues with x’s for eyes, the outer two with anatomical hearts, the middle a symbolic heart. Keep in mind this was 2003 when I worshipped Maynard James Keenan and shopped at Hot Topic. Anyway, the painter decided to give my shapeless figures his masculine silhouette so now this wretched painting looks like something out of a vampiric gay bar.

She celebrated my innate talents. She always looked for opportunities of growth, to expand my horizons. She wasn’t a helicopter mom, which, with my personality would have created a lot of resentment. She was my perfect mom, given that vocation from God. No one could’ve done it better. 

That said, as I painted on my walls, I surrounded myself with phrases and images that I knew were profound but that I didn’t yet grasp. I wanted so desperately to be a child prodigy, to be an underage mensch who wowed people with prowess, wisdom and maturity. I learned how to fake grasping dense concepts at an early age. This served me well when studying at NYU, writing essays about Felix Guattari and Loren Eiseley, or even before then at age 17 when pursuing my International Baccalaureate, pontificating about absurdity, existentialism, Sartre, Camus and Emerson. It impressed everyone around me, got me good marks and left me feeling wholly dissatisfied and empty. Could no one see that I was bullshitting my entire life away? 

Today, as I was nursing Jackson on the big red amazing chair, I stared over at my wall where I had painted the world religions symbols. Underneath it, in large capital letters, I painted the word “FAITH”. 

The concept of faith intriguing me has peppered my life, now that I think about it. When my nuclear family wasn’t yet divorced we “church shopped” as families do, as for my mom a church home meant social inclusion less than theology or worship. She never really found the right ‘tribe’ that fit. I remember trying a unitarian church, where we celebrated my sister’s first marriage. She, my sister who is 9 years older than me, recalls trying Baptist and Methodist and everything-in-between churches. I remember a Lutheran church. The latter really appealed to me. 

While we attended the Lutheran church I asked my dad to be baptized. My reasons now escape me at age 26, but I’m sure I had some good ones in my child mind. I loved singing in their choir, watching Veggie Tales while helping out in the nursery (ohhh wheeerrree is my hairbrush?!, amirite) and the community dinners of Wednesday nights. It seemed like a good bed of soil to plant a seed. But as my family broke apart we discontinued attending any church services. My religious and moral instruction ended around age eight. 

At age 16 I was able to study for a summer at Cambridge University in England and my two subjects of choice were Biomedical Ethics and World Religions. Unlike some of the other more philosophical pandering at that age, this pursuit was not bullshit but genuine interest. I thought I would someday be a neonatologist (I have always loved science and medicine, although I scored horribly on tests in chemistry during the IB and abandoned my dreams of medicine) and religiosity very much intrigued me. I thought the World Religions teacher very curious in her efforts to be reverent. For example, she wouldn’t write God but instead G-d out of respect for people’s traditions. Once again no one religion spoke to me as we learned about them that summer, but she as a person stuck in my mind. Her gentle, mature, well-reasoned nature; her respect for anthropology and the deeply ingrained world views of others. I didn’t know that her religion — most likely Anglicanism — would later come to be the foundation of my Christianity. 

But I’m skipping ahead. I stared at the word “FAITH” scrawled with paint in my 16-year-old script. Did I really know what it meant? Why that word out of all the other words? I looked around at the rest of the painted walls, made to look like a cloudy blue starry sky. God surrounded me when I had a very little concept of Him. He met me where I was. He kept me safe and on the right track. He didn’t hurry me but respected my free will. Throughout the drugs and debauchery that would follow shortly after those paintings appeared… shaved heads and self-debasement… irreverent and ignorant atheism to suicidal destitution… through yoga and Shabbat, head coverings and public nudity, I searched and searched and always ended up empty handed. But His grace, and I dare say my guardian angels, perpetually surrounded me. 

This really struck me today because years later, after months of pure faith — really not understanding the readings or rituals in church but just believing in their ability to transform — lots of study and a lot of repentance, I just now stumbled upon the definition of that word that I had painted ten years before. And I didn’t so much stumble– God use His people (their time, talents and resources) and divine appointments to lead me exactly where I needed to go. I myself did very little aside from submit to His will. He did the rest, using the members of His church as His body to carry out his message and mission. It is startling and supernatural how it has all unraveled. 

It would take far too long to explain every intricate, seemingly unrelated yet highly “coincidental” occurrence that fell in line. All I can say is that through this journey my belief in the Lord and His abilities have become unshakeable. I have determined first-hand that He is the almighty and powerful Creator that He claims to be. It is a beautiful, comforting truth to rest within. Truly, peace abides there. 

And y’all. When I say that I repented, I mean that my heart broke. During the first sacrament of reconciliation, right before I became confirmed, I was super pregnant. I remember sitting in the church, feeling like no one could come with me this time when I arrived in front of God. My husband couldn’t come to advocate for me. Neither could my mom. I felt like a little kid, so nervous to admit to God that I broke His trust. This was solely  between me and Him. When I realized how unworthy I was, how deserving I was of every punishment He could inflict for the lifetime or poor decisions I had made, my heart absolutely broke open. That poor priest. I spent the entire time sobbing and blowing my nose (there was seriously snot everywhere), giving him 20+ years of my deepest, darkest secrets and repulsive decisions. He was so kind to me and reminded me of the amazing mercy God bestows on us. I was forgiven that day and walked taller and lighter. I would recommend it to ANYONE. Plus frequent check-ins (as often as you’d like) with your conscience helps to make sure that you are indeed on the right path. Confessing it with your mouth to someone else not only holds you accountable but allows for a person (acting with authority ‘In persona Christi’) to heal your heart and remind you that you’re human!  It’s not patriarchal or condescending or oppressive or whatever words people like to say confession is. It is simply a miraculous and sweet gift for our wellbeing. I LOVE the sacrament of reconciliation. 

Anyway, that was a tangent. Let’s continue. 

So here’s just one example of divine appointment and how these things unravel as they are revealed to us. I mentioned last blog post that my spiritual guru and best friend asked me to host a new Bible study which I humbly accepted. Our first meet up only one friend — out of six invited — showed up. But it was exactly the group it needed to be. We are doing a 4 week Blessed Is She study, each week focusing on one particular aspect about our relationship with Christ. This first week the focus was Faith. 

I had never heard of Hebrews in the Bible. I assumed it was an Old Testament book and was surprised to find it nearly at the end of the New Testament. In this book the author defines faith. All three of us in the study had different translations according the Bibles that we were reading from. The first translation seemed cryptic, and my two friends literally spent an hour trying to explain it to me. Trying to explain ONE SENTENCE. Bless their hearts for their unwavering patience and understanding. Their hard work paid off, however, because it urged me to continue on with Hebrews in my own studies. I was hooked and wanted more. 

 Y’all, part of this walk is acknowledging that you do not have all the answers. It’s humbling but also really fun to be open minded and willing to learn from others. 

Anyway. In my personal time with the Word I use my late father’s hand-me-down Lindsell Study Bible “The Living Bible” for sentimental reasons, and here is how faith is defined in it (much less cryptic):

“What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead.”-Hebrews 11:1

I am new to spending time in the Word and was challenged by my aforementioned friend to set aside 20 minutes a day to acquaint myself with God. Hebrews — just that one little passage — spoke to me, so I continued reading it during my own private time with Jackson. We begin by opening in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what we need to know. We ask to spend time with the Lord, to recenter ourselves around His peace. I anoint both of our foreheads with Frankincense in the shape of a cross, we take a couple of deep breaths and then I read. Often, Jackson nurses quietly and plays with the tabs on the spine. 

The quick-reference tabs Jackson enjoys fingering while I read aloud.
As a side note, did you know that your forehead has a high chemical absorption rate versus other areas of your body? For example, in a 24 hour period your hand can absorb 11.8% of chemicals into your body/blood stream. Your abdomen, 18.4%. But your forehead comes in at 36.3%. Anointing yourself with something like Frankincense which has powerful chemical constituents that react with your limbic system is not silly superstition. #Science, y’all. #Science. 

Anyway. Hebrews was absolutely beautiful. It instructed me in exactly what I needed as a baby Christian. It takes your hand and leads you through the fundamentals about salvation, faith, who Christ was and how He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. It talks about the danger of unbelief, the fruits of which we’re seeing in our evermore secular society. 

“So we must listen very carefully to the truths we have heard, or we may drift away from them.” -Hebrews 2:1

Drifted we have! 

As I’ve asked God to guide me to knowing Him and what He expects from me, He has not asked me to subscribe to anything radical or unattainable, or to become a saint overnight. In fact, He shows me more grace than I give myself!

Hebrews is relatively short, and as I was so drawn into it I think I finished it within two or three sit downs. Next I felt called to Romans, where once again a major topic is Faith. It also mentions that we all fall short of the glory of God. You know, when you put it that way it’s like “duh”. Something about that phrase is so much more easily digestible than being told “YOU ARE A SINNER!”  Of course we fall short of the glory of God. We are not God! It gave me so much more understanding and empathy toward His human creations and myself. How could we ever expect ourselves to be perfect or sinless? Why would we place such a heavy, impossible burden — the unachievable — on ourselves or our children? 

But! Romans gets pretty heavy about when the pendulum swings too far in the other direction. We are called to be as close to what God intends for us, and to follow His ways.  He asks us to pursue perfection, refining us in the crucible of time and experience, and does NOT expect us to give up because it is hard. It is not impossible — all things are possible in Christ. He asks us to not be distracted by the “glamour of sin” (Hebrews). And He makes it very clear that if you reject this pursuit, He will not be happy with you. 

“But God shows His anger from heaven against all sinful, evil men who push away the truth from them. For the truth about God is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts.” -Romans 1:18-19. 

He is saying man tends to know innately wrong from right. He gives us biology to help bolster certain truths. He gives us common sense. He gives us His followers who enjoy peace, prosperity, happiness and/or health to light the way. If you make the choice to reject what is “good and lovely”, your “foolish mind will become dark and confused” (Romans 1:21). 

We all know what it means, or have ourselves been, dark and confused. These aren’t obscure ideas. These are realities. And God is saying, by following His truths, that dark confusion is avoidable. Not only is it avoidable, but if you do not pursue it that you are liable to His wrath… Which I can wholly vouch for because when I was making poor decisions and living openly in sin, things didn’t go my way. When I have submitted to God, His truths and a childlike faith in Him, beauty has abounded. The route of sin just cannot lead us to the things that make us happy and fulfilled. And our culture consistently peddles that lie and then offers us bandaids to mask the symptoms of our decisions. It’s sickening. Our culture is broken. 

All of this to say: faith. It begins with faith. Believing that there is something better… that you are made for something better… that you can offer the world something better with your time here. You cannot do it in your own power. But if you ask God to show you the way, He will. Be prepared, because it might not unfold how you expect it to! But unfold it will. And if you hang in there faithfully, it will be unspeakably beautiful and rewarding. 

I have heard others talk about being drawn to a person, word or item relating to God for reasons unexplainable to them. They can’t articulate the attraction, but it is nearly palpable. Throughout their life, as the puzzle pieces fall in place, the significance of said interests becomes clearer… but still, not one of them can explain that first initial, seemingly coincidental, attraction. For me, as I stare at the word “faith” painted on the wall, I am bewildered and awestruck. Out of all of the BS, pseudo-intellectualism, noise and chaos of my then-life, like Romans promises, God put that knowledge in my heart. It wasn’t my brain or my ego working that day, but the core of my soul speaking and directing the ultimate path. The fullness of what it entailed was lost on 16-year-old me, but ten years later I find that that is an intrinsically integral part of the beauty of this big mystery. God reaches out to us in our weakness and helplessness. He leads the blind to sight. And I am a walking testimony of this visionary, healing walk with the Lord. All I long for is for others to embrace this supernatural, truly unique experience. Put your skepticism aside and believe. Have faith. It is so worth it. 

And, if like my mom, you feel like you haven’t yet found your tribe KEEP SEARCHING. He will not leave you empty handed. I have admitted to you all that I lacked deep, authentic friendship for a majority of my life, and now my heart overflows with it! My husband introduced me to the Catholic Church (slowly, very slowly), and I in turn introduced my mom. She is now in RCIA and headed toward confirmation in Easter. Much like most people who convert, she feels like she has found her home after years of searching. Because here’s the thing… it not really about a social tribe. It’s not about the individual people within the organization, their personal tastes or hobbies or what they look like… it’s the collective body of Christ and that Truth being lived out. It’s the genuine home of everything you’ve been promised and searched for. You can intuitively tell that you’ve finally found home!  That’s why Catholicism is universal. The relationships span age, gender, cultures, experiences, languages…  It is so beautiful! The clique culture is DEAD! 

My mom on the big, red, amazing chair, a staple in my teenage pad. My mom has, and will, always dislike this ridiculous chair.

We never know how this domino game will twist and turn. But through faith we can believe that it will always work for our Good. As we do the next right thing, we can profoundly affect those around us and then our community and then our society and then our world. And isn’t that what everyone’s been protesting about?! One small seemingly innocuous domino at a time. I have found that the most profound first domino is faith.

New Chapters, New Lessons

Things are changing around here as Jackson rounds the corner of being 9 months old. The Bible study that has been a cornerstone for me has moved locations because our babies outgrew the first space. We have very busy cruisers and walkers getting into all the toys; three of the mamas are expecting new babies. Life is continuing on! As we say goodbye to the beautiful, quiet days of infancy and journey forward together in motherhood it is kind of bittersweet. It all passed by so quickly. I really cherished 2016, with Jackson’s nine months in and nine months out. 

The host of this Bible study — a good friend and Godmother to my son — reminded us that anything good can become an idol, including our comfortable little group of friendships. We are called to move beyond our comfort, to seek out new and potentially struggling people and bring them to Christ. We are not called to settle for huddling together in comfort. She reminded us of the purpose of our Bible study: to foster deep transformation, authentic community, and spiritual multiplication. That last one means we must be attached to Jesus Christ, not attached to each other. 

When the Tulsa March For Life happened last month, I remember Bishop Konderla echoing something similar in his homily. He said that we have to choose Jesus Christ over unity, a pretty counter-cultural idea. Jesus is where everything begins. He is the True foundation. If we choose unity over Truth — if we choose to not ‘rock the boat’ in order to foster community or avoid disagreement, if we choose our comfort over what is right — everything True and moral will suffer for it and ultimately we as a people will fail. We first have to follow Him, and then pursue unity. Anything else would be well-intentioned but misguided idolatry. 

That said, as we moved forward, I had been asked to host another Bible study with new friends and acquaintances, which I agreed to with honor. Today was the first time we met. Another counter cultural idea was presented: questioning our access to convenience.  This really struck a chord with me as I had just done a Facebook Live video earlier in the day about our children urging us forward, inconveniently, because of their needs, and yet how it in turn benefits us. Today was one of those days that if it weren’t for Jackson i might have just moped around, ate ice cream, and binged on Netflix in bed. My brain, body, soul and emotions all would’ve suffered if I had conveniently had it my way. Instead, God knew what He was doing when He called me to motherhood. He is gently urging me, as He does, toward selflessness ultimately for my wellbeing. Because everything He leads us to is for our good, even if it doesn’t feel good. 

I have experienced the detriments of convenience from when I was living in NYC. Not only did I not have to work to pay my own way — I was a student and expected to focus on my studies — but I could have everything “conveniently” delivered to my door. Food, groceries, drugs, frozen yogurt, people. I never had to lift a finger or interact with anyone. This really played into my tendency toward seclusion and depression. It made those choices easy. The problem was everything that fed my soul was outside of my apartment and was inconvenient to seek out: sunshine and exercise, true friendships which require work and commitment, nourishing food which requires planning and grocery shopping… the list goes on and on. I didn’t realize that I was slowly dying on the inside, and I was the one killing myself! The culture of convenience of course enabled me to do so. As long as you had money they didn’t care what state your body, mind or soul was in. However I really underestimated the value of hard work, discomfort or inconvenience.. that the results might not be immediately satisfying, the but long term payoff makes it all worth while. This means I cannot take advice from our current culture. I must shuck the laissez-faire “I’ll just settle for this” attitude of all of the convenience fast food, fast friends, fast money blah blah blah offers us. I need to look at the bigger picture which is further out. I’ve never been too strategic of a person, so this is a big shift for me. But it’s possible, and its worth it. When you’ve realized you’ve hit a dead end, it’s not too late to turn around and follow new directions. 

As an adult, a mom, a wife, a business owner and a friend, I am finally starting to learn these lessons (thank you Jesus!). I want something better for my children, however. I don’t want them to struggle and suffer in the same way I did, learning these lessons so late in life. Which means I need to work hard right now to set the foundation for them to understand the value of hard work later. It means that I have to forgo instant gratification myself in order to teach them why the long term payoff is better. The “do as I say not as I do” routine will not be implemented in my house. This takes a lot of self-disclipline, intentionality and support. Lots of support. There’s a reason they say “it takes a village”. 

A friend gave a great example of all of the above today at Bible study. The weather here in Tulsa was absolutely gorgeous on Tuesday. Mid seventies. We were all outside. But my friend, who is VERY pregnant with her fifth child felt too tired, pained and unmotivated to take her kids to the park. It seemed like too much work with too little payout. Her sister is in town and was absolutely adamant that they all go outside (this is the village part). So my friend pulled her troupe together, went to the park, got some vitamin D and went home. Her kids were so thrilled with being outside that they actually begged her to stay in the backyard when they came home. She was able to doze on the couch as her littlest one napped. That was nearly three hours of undisturbed mama time which almost never happens! So, see, at first she didn’t see the big picture. How could she know that’s how it would turn out? But by shirking the convenience impulse and doing something that served her kids even when she didn’t feel like it, it not only benefitted them (in multiple ways) but it also benefitted her. 

There are tons of examples of hard work and discomfort paying off. Go to the gym, get fit. Eat healthy, enjoy wellness. But we forget this when all we are marketed is a instant gratification culture. There’s a pill for this, there’s an app for that, there’s “friendship” online. I’m not saying social media is evil or anything, but nothing compares to interacting with people face to face, which seems to be a dying art. 

We don’t know what we don’t know until we try. Just doing a liiiiittle bit more than we normally would can have huge impacts not only on ourselves but on those around us. And then the little bit can turn into a lot of a bit, because we see that it works, that it’s not that hard, that it’s extremely rewarding and that the other option not only does us harm but makes us feel like crap about ourselves and our lives. And life is far too precious to feel like crap about. 

So #MomOn, party people. It’s worth it. 

The Fear of Losing People

A professional acquaintance of mine reached out to me — much to my happy surprise– when I began the antidepressant tapering journey. She offered me words of support, and said that she would be there to talk through things as they arose if I needed someone. 

She couldn’t know that I had secretly looked up to her for years. Her and her husband are successful badasses in the horticultural industry, having bridged the pleasure of growing plants with the skill of entrepreneurship without losing themselves in the process. In the six years of working in this industry, only three people have ever taken the leap of letting down their professional facade to embrace non-professional friendship (you know, where you can speak your mind openly about polemic subjects without the fear of losing business or esteem). It takes a lot of courage and self-assurance. In fact, one of my other hort friends gave me the courage to start speaking my mind regardless of professional interests by his example. I’m grateful, because the pressure of always looking perfect and never revealing my true nature was kind of soul crushing. If I had continued down that path, I probably would have abandoned my career. 

Which is kind of silly, because out of many industries, the horticulture culture is very supportive and forgiving. We’re plant people. Plant people are just good people. But I digress. 

When this woman reached out to me in her sagesse (she’s about 30 years older than me) I admitted to her how lonely being the award-winning young professional was, but how I feared losing the respect of my peers by showing my true colors — flaws and all. 

“Oh, my guess is that you are likely empowering people with your courage, to be honest,” she said. “You hold on to that trait. And screw anybody who might think less of you; especially in the industry. If you ever encounter that behavior see it for what it is… somebody that is so damn insecure and in pain that your honesty is just too much to handle. You’re amazing.”

How cool was that?! I could’ve kissed her. So when insecurity hit hard yesterday, I took a chance on reaching out to her and once again was not disappointed. 

See, pursuing Young Living isn’t just about a residual income. It’s an entire lifestyle change. It’s hard to not talk about it all the time because the products — unlike any other retail purchase I’ve made that barely ever does anything to your soul — rocked my world, and continues to daily. But unfortunately due to ignorance and/or poor experiences with other MLM’s, when I came out of the oily closet it’s like all of my friends went silent. I felt misunderstood and lonely. 

The ironic thing is that I suggest books, makeup and skin products, doctors and chiropractors all day with my friends — hell, five people just bought the same tooth powder I use because I raved about it. So why is it different when I talk about essential oils? Why would they think I have any other motive than their wellbeing? It’s like people have stopped interacting with me on social media because they’re afraid I might target them next to hock my products onto. I thought they knew me — and trusted me — better than that. They sought out my counsel before, but now I’m just “another one of those people.” It hurts!

So, I went to my friend and dished about the insecurities… about being open with my friends about promoting healthy lifestyle changes, but feeling self-conscious that I’m projecting an image that topples me from the put-together pedestal my acquaintances once had me on. …That my true colors are disappointing, or worse, disgusting people. I’m taking their silence and non-participation as rejection. It hurts.

“Perhaps the friends you’re referring are just freaking because you’re making a shift,” she proposed. “Change is hard on everybody.” I immediately resonated with that.

 I think sometimes when you make big changes and start pursuing goals it can make people who know they should be doing something, but aren’t, painfully self-aware of the setbacks. It may even spur feelings of guilt, shame or jealousy…  which can all rear their heads as indignation, anger or dismissiveness. 

For whatever reason, instead of embracing their own power and ability, they resent yours. Maybe it’s not resentment, maybe it’s fear. I’ve definitely seen a lot of fear coming out of the woodworks recently and am amazed at how it controls people without them even realizing it. Because firstly I was amazed by how it controlled me without me even realizing it!

But that still-small voice in my head, even as I write this, says “or no, maybe you really are just obnoxious.” I suppose that is also possible. I haven’t yet refined myself or my message into the beautifully packaged, tactful, and articulate princess version that I long for it to be… but I can’t sit around and wait for that to happen before I begin. If that we’re the case I’d never get anywhere. I have to work with what I have for now, even if it is kind of sloppy, or non-strategic or obnoxious. 

You’d think that starting out with friends and family would be the easier route to learn from in this molding process — you know, starting with the raw clay to build yourself into a beautiful sculpture — but I think it’s really the more painful one. You discern who is willing to stick by your side even when you embarrass them; who is willing to help you grow; and who just wants to protect themselves and distance as far as possible from you and what you’re doing, even if what you’re doing doesn’t merit the distance  (I can understand healthy boundaries from toxic behaviors). 

My wise woman friend didn’t beat around the bush.

“My gut is telling me, however,  that the deeper you travel along this particular journey the more likely you may lose people along the way,” she professed. Deep in my own gut I know she is right. She gave one of my deepest fears a name: loss. 

As far back as I can remember I have never had fulfilling friendships like I do now. It has been so beautiful and heart warming. I am a naive, undiscerning friend collector and have been burned often by choosing the wrong people to call friends — the Bible passage “do not cast your pearls amongst swine” comes to mind. You would think that I would do anything to not rock the boat of this healthy friendship empire I have built — maybe even lie to myself, or deny the path I feel called to walk on. Hoard all the friends! But I have the same feeling I did when I was reticent about proclaiming Christ as my Lord and Savior for losing friends or my reputation: that it is the Truth, and that if I lose people for speaking that Truth, that God will not leave me abandoned… that I must always follow Him first, and not my own popularity, or my fear of being misperceived. 

The truth is that these essential oils have been vital to my health transformation, and that people deserve the opportunity to empower themselves by information that I can share. It would do my friends a disservice if I kept this to myself out of fear. Using oils is about shifting the health paradigm in our modern culture. It’s about preventative, holistic wellness. I could go on and on but this is not the right post for that. 

The truth is I kind of have this “no man left behind” mentality. I want everyone to jump on the personal growth train and claim the quality of life that they deserve. It’s out there, just waiting for them. I hate when fear and ignorance or unwillingness holds someone back. I can be almost aggressive in my coercion when I see someone struggling but refusing to accept help, advice, or resources. I won’t lie… I have, in the past, become angry about it and frustrated with them. That’s not exactly the peace that Christ promises. 

Because here’s another truth: none of that is in my control. I need to cultivate letting go. It’s hard. Surely God is using this method to refine in my soul patience and humility. Only God can open the doors of people’s hearts. My crowbar technique won’t get anyone anywhere. It’s not charitable. Even though I know this intellectually it’s difficult to stop employing the same method that I’ve used for 20+ years! I have to catch myself and bite my tongue in time, which I still fail to do more often than not. It turns people away from me, when really it’s my yearning for their good that got me there. The losses kill me. 

But again, if I waited until I was the perfect friend, I would never get anywhere. People will either understand my intentions and forgive me, or they will move on. Either way, it will eventually all be for our good because that is how He works. 

In the meantime, my friend reminded me that “it’s not about them, but about you and what works for you.” She continued, “you have to honor that and place focus there. Keep your eye on the ball. The people that need to be in your life will be so at the time in which they are needed. People always come and go. And it’s all good.”

Balm to my soul. It is all good. The Lord said be anxious for nothing. My mantra for now is “relax and release, relax and release” — ha, kind of like when I was giving birth! Maybe I’m giving birth to a new self. Loss happens. Growth happens. Fear happens, too. But I refuse to let that hold me back on this journey.