Saturday, November 1, 2014

I'm Not Ready.....


It has been quite a week. Lonely. Heart breaking. Enlightening. Gut wrenching. Life changing. Hectic. Grief stricken. Lost. Scary. Numbing. Angry. Searching. Fear facing. That pretty much sums it up. I have spent most of my week just trying to survive and endure.

I'm not even sure how to write this coherently. Forgive me as I muddle through this. Hopefully it will make sense in the end.

October was a month of intense struggle for me. I have been going through some very private things and I was exhausted. So, I was looking forward to a Missions Conference at the end of October. I knew I needed to go. It began last Sunday.

Sunday: I never checked any messages that day. I was so excited about Missions Conference that evening. During worship, my current world of bliss shattered. I was given the news that a dear friend had died.

There is so much I could say here about Shaun, but I won't. He had been a very important part of my life. And those who knew him, know how special he was.

I stayed at Missions Conference through Tuesday. The need to feel something besides grief was overwhelming. In the services, I felt as though I had been flayed wide open. There was no barrier. Nothing to protect me from pain. Suddenly I was vulnerable. Over and over, I kept saying, "I'm not ready." I wasn't even entirely sure what I "wasn't ready" for. So I ran.

Wednesday: I prepared myself for my friend's funeral. Each step I took in the funeral home became heavier and more difficult. Again, my chant began, "I'm not ready." I ran as the funeral was beginning. I wasn't ready to say goodbye.

Thursday: We had an outreach at my church for trick or treaters. So, I stayed busy. Running away from what I needed to deal with and believing, "I'm not ready."

Friday: My 36th birthday. I had a third grade class party that afternoon to prepare for. That morning, I pulled in to Wal-Mart parking lot.....and froze. I broke. Completely. There was no running. I couldn't move. There I was, sitting in my car, wailing. I was broken. For forty-five minutes, I sobbed and screamed and shook. Drained, I quieted down to silent tears running down my face, matching the rain falling on my windows. When had I lost my hope?

My phone was making all kinds of racket. Facebook notifications were blowing up. I opened it and saw all of the Birthday greetings.  My spirit got quiet, no longer twisted up in torment. And I heard the whisper, "You must say goodbye." I whispered back, "but I'm not ready." And the answer, "You don't want to be ready."

It was true. There were so much that I wasn't saying goodbye to that kept me from moving forward. I didn't want to say goodbye. I didn't want to say goodbye to a man who had been like a brother to me. I didn't want to say goodbye to some old relationships that were dragging me down. I didn't want to say goodbye to old dreams. I didn't want to say goodbye to comfortable ways of doing things.

I was frightened.

My phone, still in my hand, lit up. Looking down, I see a post from my wonderful, beautiful friend: "NO FEAR FRIDAY", followed by this verse -
And I could finally breathe again.

Thank you everyone who made me smile and laugh this week. And thank you to those who held me up when I started to fall. A simple "Happy Birthday" did so much more than you realize. I thank you with everything in me. Thank you.

I have an art piece in my kitchen that says, "you are my sunshine." It is and always has been one of my favorite songs. So many of you are a shining light to me - more than you know. Thank you.







Thursday, October 9, 2014

Just Smile

I was so excited to get back on here and blog every day again. Life doesn't always go as planned. And, I found myself in quite the predicament. I promised to always put all of myself out here on this blog. Yet, here I am unable to discuss some things that I have been hit with recently. Not because I don't want to, but because of how discussing those things affect others. So, I have remained quiet.

It has been amazing to me how much smiling I have been doing throughout all of this. The kind of smile that doesn't quite reach your eyes. That fragile shield between you and the world that can crumble under the scrutiny of those who know you best. That has been me lately. I am exhausted from the effort. And still....I smile.

I know what waits for me on the other side of this mountain that I must overcome. There is no fear. It's a lonely journey. That is the hard part.

Bri

Monday, September 22, 2014

This Is Not What I Planned On Writing This Morning


     We lost one of the great ones today. Her smiles. Her laughter. Her compassion. Her humor. Her love. Her light. Her light shone brightly. 
     I wanted to be her when I grew up. She was something I aspired to be. Her impact on me was eternal. 

    I will continue to think of her, as I often have over the years, with a smile on my face. 

    My love and prayers go out to her family and everyone who was blessed to have been touched by her. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pollyanna?


I was asked, today, if I always saw the good in people? To be honest, I didn't know how to answer that. I kept picturing Pollyanna in my mind, and I am certainly no Pollyanna. So, I looked over at my husband and he didn't seem to know how to answer the question either. Well, that certainly seemed to sway my answer toward the negative. I mean, if my own husband isn't sure.......

Tonight, I will watch some Pollyanna, take notes and play the Glad Game. And then grill my husband on what he really thinks of me. :)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Where Are Your Eyes?



This year has not been what I expected. It has been so much more. I have grown in ways that I didn't know were possible. I've witnessed miracles and blessings.....and love...so much love.

I have been striving this year to be known more for what I stand for than what I stand against. This has stretched me and challenged me greatly.

Every time I faced a storm, a question would rise on the inside of me. Where are your eyes? And I would realize, I was looking at those dark, swirling clouds. I felt the cold wind of fear and stinging rain of worry. My eyes were on the storm.

When I put my eyes on Jesus Christ, however, everything changed. I know longer saw darkness because I was looking directly into light. All I could feel was warmth and love and strength. The size of the storm had diminished to nothing. And I was no longer paralyzed in fear, I could walk on, closer and closer to the light, mine shining brighter and brighter.

It is amazing what all you can see once you have light to clear and illuminate your vision. I see more miracles now than ever. Why? Because my eyes are always drawn the light now.

I know there are terrible things going on in the world and in life. I choose not to focus on those things. It is too easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the storm. Instead, I focus on Jesus, then His light can shine through me. You have to be close to the light in order to reflect it.

Your eyes show a reflection of your soul. So, what are you looking at? What are you reflecting?

Where are your eyes?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My Life in Pictures

I don't exist in photographs. I have no pictures documenting any of my pregnancies. No wedding photos. Not a family photo in sight for years.

I had challenged myself earlier in the year to take more personal photos. And I have done that. The only problem with being the photographer is that you are never on the side of the camera with everyone else.

I'm trying to do better. I want my children to have those pictures to remember me after I'm gone. Pictures are the tangible evidence of our memories. They make our memories a little brighter, a bit sweeter.

So, I am arming the family with cameras. We are going to photograph it all. And I will exist in the photographs. No longer as an observer, but as a key player.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Step in Faith

If He must keep coming back for me - it takes longer for the blessings, longer for the favor, longer to see and revel in His Glory. And I will miss out on so much because I stopped moving forward, stopped taking those steps in faith. From a run, to a crawl, to immobility....and finally, sleep. Awaken!

I was shown an opportunity. Took a step out in faith.

Was it ridiculous? Yes. Seemingly.
Did it feel like a giant leap? Yes.
Did it seem foolish? Most certainly.

But......God uses the foolish and the ridiculous for His Glory. And on His scale, what felt like a giant leap to me, was a mere baby step to Him. Which shows me - how much farther I can go, how much more He has for me....if I will only follow Him...a step in faith at a time.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Time Flies

Wow. It has been a really long time since I've blogged. This summer has been busy for me. The kids are finally back in school, so now I can write again. In peace. And quiet.

I bought a beautiful binder about a month ago. My intention was to get organized with a Home Management System. This would save me enormous amounts of time. It sat on my desk, empty, for about two weeks. Almost completed, this is what the binder has done for me in terms of time management.

1. Spent three hours on Pinterest searching "home management binder" ideas.
2. Another two hours on Pinterest looking up Christmas decor ideas.
3. Since I was already on the computer, I checked facebook and emails for another hour.
4. An hour deciding on folders to put in my binder.
5. Forty-five minutes trying to get the printer to work.
6. Fifteen minutes on the phone with my husband complaining about the non-working printer.
7. Ten minutes berating myself once I discovered the printer was not hooked up to the computer.
8. One hour printing out the planner and special lists.
9. Twenty minutes staring at my paper, folder, binder mess covering the desk while my fingers massaged my temples.
10. Ten minutes mumbling about organization being overrated.
11. Almost ninety minutes trying to work with a difficult hole punch.
12. Thirty minutes actually putting the binder together.
13. Five minutes looking for a pen.
14. Fifteen minutes trying to find my glasses.
15. Ten days trying to decide what ranks important enough to be written in my beautiful planner. (I am not kidding. It's like the Seinfeld episode where Elaine determines who is sponge worthy)

One day I will get the hang of this.

Bri

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

If Only It Were That Easy...

A Life Like The Movies


I am a movie buff. There aren't many movies that I won't watch. I am always looking for a lesson to take away, a nugget of knowledge or wisdom to suck in. My husband always jokes about how I can turn any movie into a Bible lesson. This is 40 - challenge accepted. 

As I watched a movie recently, I was in awe of all that the lead couple accomplished before noon. I started taking notes, determined to become like this powerhouse of a couple. Giddy with anticipation, I made my list for the next day. The day was going to be great. Just like in the movies.

My day sucked. As I prepared for bed that night, I pondered my epic failure of an attempt to movie life. I discovered a few things that I believe contributed to the demise of my spectacular expectations.

1. It takes time to have great looking hair, first thing in the morning.
2. Movies don't account for bathroom breaks. I believe time should stop any time you are in the bathroom.
3. Bras
4. If you are going to attempt to do something that you saw in the movies, multiply the time by about 400.
5. It's basically a facebook slideshow.

The movies are a highlight movie reel. Sure, we see the mom in the shower (for all of 4 seconds), and then she's serving the kids breakfast while fully dressed (with bra), makeup and model ready hair. What we don't see is the 15 minutes of rushed shower time that needs to include shaving, conditioning, exfoliating, and scrubbing. We don't see the mirror inspection (is that a new mole?), the time spent on hair (it seriously takes an hour to dry mine) and makeup. Then there is deciding what to wear (will anyone see me today? and if yes, who?), and of course yelling at the kids to get their butts out of bed for the 15th time (unless of course it is summer, in which case you are tip toeing around your house trying not to wake them up). 

In the movies, even the frazzled mom looks great. In reality, my hair is in a ponytail, I think I showered yesterday, the kids can get their own breakfast (chocolate is healthy, right?), I will find my bra around noon, and I will make an appointment with the dermatologist to have that mole checked. 

Not all days are like this, but some are. Those are the days I pop in a movie and wish I could yell "cut" in my own life, skip the time consuming tasks and just watch my highlight reel. The highlights are what stay with us anyway. In my reel, my hair was glossy and bouncy (not pulled up in a clip, dry, and questionably clean), and my shirt didn't have a stain on it when my youngest daughter took her first step. Everything was perfect. 

The behind the scenes footage might make us cringe sometimes and the making of can be brutal, but I wouldn't miss the action for anything. That is what makes the final cut so amazing. Once you edit, you are left with the greatest show. Your life!

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Friday, July 25, 2014

Lessons From My Children

It probably isn't fair. Sometimes I think I learn much more from my children than what I actually teach them. They are constantly teaching me to be a better person, a better mother, a better Christian. Can I take credit for their brilliance? Probably not, but they sure do make me proud.

Hard Lessons

"You still act like you weigh 300 pounds."  This, from my son. At first I was confused, then I objected. His words sank in and I realized.....he was right. There were still things that I wasn't doing. Activities I wouldn't attempt. My thinking was still stuck at my former weight. I was still of the mindset that I couldn't do anything until I reached my weight goal. Only then could I start behaving the way I always wanted to. 

So we made a pact to engage in a fun physical activity every day. Yesterday was kayaking. It was something that I thought I was too big to do. It turns out I'm not. And my kids and husband and I all loved it. Kayaking is something we are going to be doing quite often. Today is boxing. I can't wait for that this afternoon. Also on the list is canoeing, hiking, running a 5k, karate, a trampoline, horseback riding.....

So now I play on the playground equipment with my youngest. I laughed when I went down the slide. My son helped me realize that I wasn't acting my weight. I was walking in a shadow of my former self.

Time Well Spent

Standing in line at the store, after hurrying through to get the items on my list so I could go on to the next errand, I heard a sound. I looked down to see my youngest daughter quietly crying. I immediately asked her what was wrong.
"You don't spend enough time with us."
In defense mode, I replied, "Yes, I do. I am with you all of the time."
"No," she sniffled, "You don't. You are always on your phone or the computer or taking pictures or in your room or reading."
My heart had been gutted. Blood pulsated through my head and I could barely breathe. Was she right?
And then I heard my son say to her, "My friends see their parents even less than we see ours. We're lucky."

Lucky? They didn't look lucky to me at that moment. And I certainly didn't feel lucky. My daughter was right. Boundary lines had blurred for me. I was taking business calls in the evening. I was being available at all times to all people....except the ones who so desperately need me the most. And I had convinced myself otherwise because I saw them all day long. Only....I wasn't really seeing them. 

Working from home is a difficult thing. I am here, but not really. I realized just how hard that is on my kids. And I realized just how much I am on my phone - calls, emails, texts, messages. Only half listening to what my kids were trying to tell me. 

It's a hard habit to break. I've been leaving the phone behind more. I am setting up clear work boundaries. Family time is family time only now. I am no longer easy to get a hold of. My focus is moving back to where it needs to be. With my family. And me time is now out of the house, away from the kids so that they aren't feeling ignored. We are slowly inching our way toward balance.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Asking the Right Questions

Where?

That's a great question, isn't it? Where am I going? Where have I been? Where are you? Where is this relationship headed? Where? Where? Where?

Always searching for that pivotal place that screams - "This is IT! I've arrived. I matter. I'm a success. I've achieved.......IT."

Where is..it? Do we even recognize it when we see it? Does it even exist? How do we know when we have reached that destination? The destination that we long for. The IT that validates us. The goal of pure perfection.

Is it really perfection we're after or is it merely the dream that we chase? And then, when the dream becomes stale, we stop chasing. We tell ourselves that weren't going anywhere with that dream. We justify our reason to not persevere. We find a new "it" to chase for awhile, until it too grows cold.

Where do you chase something you can't identify? And are you really chasing it or are you really following it's shadow? It's in the shadow that desire wanes.

We run after something without knowing why. Then, if we finally reach it, the victory is hollow. Regrets of why become our new anthem.

Why did I want this?
Why did I waste my time?

Maybe the real answer is to ask ourselves why before where. Maybe if we knew the why first, we could save ourselves some heartache. We could follow the right path to the right destination. We could realize that we already matter along the way. We could find our successes in every step forward. Walking in the light of "it" instead of the shadow, blinded by the chase.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Overwhelming Schedules and Panic Attacks

"Calm down."

Those two words came out of my husband's mouth a few days ago. He could see my panic rising. Not that it's easy to miss when it gets going. I looked up with a tear filled frenzied look in my eyes and responded, "We're trapped again."

I was writing our church volunteer schedules onto the calendar. Our calendar was looking so full now and suddenly I couldn't breathe. Flashes of another time and place bombarded me and I just wanted to run away.

Some people thrive on a completely filled schedule. They embrace having something to do every minute of every day. Kudos to those of you like that. I am not one of those people. I tried to be that once and it nearly destroyed my family and me.

Fear. I was letting it get to me. The only option with fear is to chase after it and face it head on. That is when I find I grow the most.

So, I calmed down, as my husband so lovingly suggested. I focused on the blocks that were not filled in with ink. My husband reminded me that it is not like before and that my little free spirit self was safe to fly when needed.

Deep breath in and deep breath out. Okay, I felt better. He was right (again, ugh!). My family is still able to come first. And I really love the areas I volunteer in. I walk in knowing that my identity in Christ is not found in my identity in the church. The pressure is off (unless I put it there). My focus is longer on how I am not....enough, but in Christ and who I am in Him.

Bri


Friday, June 27, 2014

Wonder Woman and My Superhero


My friends and family all know about my love of Wonder Woman. And I see the eye rolls from people when they see a grown woman wearing her Wonder Woman shirt, necklace, bracelet......out in public. I don't care - I love her and I let the whole world know it. What I don't typically talk about is why I love her so much.

Wonder Woman is a link to my dad. I don't have an abundance of joyous childhood memories, and even less with my dad. There is one, however, that has always stood out. One memory that has comforted me over the years. One moment that held me when my dad didn't anymore. One that continues to do so.

I am not even sure how old I was, but I believed I was Wonder Woman. I was bouncing across the sofa in my Wonder Woman underoos, deflecting bullets from the bad guy (played by my dad) off of my bracelets. Finally, I caught him with my lasso of truth.

              "Tell me a truth, daddy", in my most serious Wonder Woman tone.

              "I love you more than you'll ever know." Then he smiled that big smile of his and lifted me high so that I was soaring in my invisible jet. He made me feel invincible. He was my superhero and he loved me.


He left when I was five. And I saw him less than once a year. Every Christmas, I would jump when the phone rang....hoping and praying that he would remember to call that year. Sometimes he did and sometimes he didn't. I would make up excuses to call him, say that I needed something - just so he would pay attention to me. In junior high, I spent an entire chorus concert watching the door because he told me he might make it. He didn't. He never made it to my high school graduation. He met my husband for the first time after we had been married for 8 years because I hadn't seen him in ten.

Over the years, I would resolve to not care. Every once in awhile, something would arrive in the mail from him. Something Wonder Woman. And I would remember that moment, as a little girl, when I believed he loved me.

In July of 2010, I got a call that he was sick. So, I went to Florida to see him. He was his usual charming, funny self and refused to have any conversation that was heartfelt or serious. As I was preparing to leave, he gave me one of his famous hugs. He gave the best hugs. He would hold you really tight, and then just as he would start to let go, he would pull you back in tight again. The hug seemed to go on forever. And he said, "I love you more than you'll ever know". Those were the last words he ever spoke to me.

I was back down there when he died in April 2011. He was already dying and never woke up while I was there. I lay on the bed next to him, holding his hand, my head on his shoulder, telling him over and over again that I loved him through my tears. I left Florida as soon as he passed.

I didn't know if he really loved me. Because, actions speak louder than words, right? I mean, that is what we're taught. I started to believe that he didn't love me. I couldn't see it. He didn't do what dads are supposed to do. I was broken. Gone were my dreams of dad swooping in like the superhero I had, at one time, believed him to be. I would never hear his voice again. I would never have another one of his hugs that I so badly craved. There was no more hope to repair a relationship that had gone so far awry. It was over. And I was left gutted.

My husband did something amazing. He bought me a Wonder Woman necklace and a Wonder Woman shirt, just over a year ago. It was the most precious gift - a reminder of my greatest memory of my dad - and one that I had locked away after he died. And I finally saw it. The actions behind the words. He wasn't capable of being a "normal" dad and he wasn't perfect. But he sent me reminders through the years of that moment when I knew I had his love. It turns out I had it all along.

So, if you see me out in my Wonder Woman gear - it's probably because I was really missing my dad that day. My superhero, who loved me more than I ever knew.

Bri


Monday, June 23, 2014

When You Walk Your Destined Path

When walking in your purpose, outside criticisms die away. You are able to distinguish your good relationships from your toxic ones. You are able to see people with clarity - without judgment or prejudice. Why? Because you can see your purpose now. You are living it. When you are fixated on what is good and true.....all of the ugly of the world simply falls away.

Staying on your destined path of purpose is not always easy. The best things never are. There are always temptations along the way. When you are weary and want to slow down or when you are fulfilling your purpose to highest degree.... That is when distractions come your way.

I had a distraction recently. It was a distraction that I wrestled with, on and off, for a few days. It's never fun when you find out someone doesn't like you. Why doesn't she like me? What is wrong with me? Why am I defective? Why? Why? Why?  Oh, yeah, I went there.....thankfully, only briefly. Once upon a time, that would have sent me on a weekend binge of all chocolate within a 20 mile radius.

Now, because I am a woman of purpose, I can see more clearly now. I can ask the right questions. Am I surprised by this? No. Does her opinion really matter? No. Do I like me? Yes. Do I have people in my life who like me? Yes. Do their opinions matter? Yes. Do I know the reason why she doesn't like me? Yes, because I didn't fit into the mold of her ideal of what a Christian woman should be. Should I care then what she thinks? No. Do I want to fit into her mold? No. Then why do I care whether or not she likes me?

Now, it took me a couple of days to go through this internal conversation. I had a choice - to let the distraction become an obstacle on my path or to brush it aside. Was I hurt? Yes, and it's okay to be hurt by someone, but that hurt can affect my path, my walk, and my purpose one of two ways. I could acknowledge the hurt, forgive and move on - making me a stronger person.....or I could hold on to it and let it fester - allowing it to grow and distract until I found myself off of my path and floundering without direction.

So, I chose to acknowledge, forgive, and move on. Why? Because my purpose is more important than someone's opinion.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Search for Body Confidence

I experienced my very first water slide ride yesterday. Thirty-five years old and I had never been on a water slide before. Why? Because I have always hated my body. This has been an ongoing theme for me. And, it is something that I have always worked towards helping others overcome. So, why do I still struggle?

It's all me. It's pure self hatred on my part. It's me holding myself back. It's how I see myself.

A water slide may not seem like a big deal. What the water slide represents, however, is monumental. How many other experiences have I missed out on? How many more will I miss?

I have missed water slides, fun, time spent with my family, opportunities, freedom all because I see myself in a negative way. All because I never wanted to walk around (or be seen) in a bathing suit.

Yesterday, I got on a water slide. I wish I could say it was easy. I bought a new bathing suit that I felt adequately covered my thighs enough so I could walk around the water park with my kids.

There is a quote that I love, that challenges me....and I was reminded of it yesterday. "What is the life you really want, and the future God wants for you, is hiding right now in your biggest problem, your worst failure...your greatest fear?" (Mark Batterson)

I am diving in to my greatest fears, my insecurities, my failures and problems. I want to discover my future. I want to live my life....really experience life. So, I search for confidence....in my body and in my self. I have seen glimpses of it, and felt it. The struggle, it seems, is the hanging onto it. Keeping it close and before me at all times.

I need to remind myself of those times that I have had body confidence. Many months ago, I had nude photos of myself done. I loved them. I loved me. I loved my body. And then I forgot. I stopped loving me because I am not where I want to be. That perfect goal. I forgot to celebrate how far I have come already though. I stopped celebrating along the way. And I realized that I was paralyzed. And I was missing out. No more.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Switched at Birth?

Sometimes I wonder if my youngest child is really mine. She is the most organized human being I have ever met. I frustrate her to no end. I hear her sighs when she picks up my shoes off the floor, in whatever room I took them off, and puts them away....where they "belong". Her room is pristine and her closet........ Not only are her clothes organized by type, but they are also organized by color. Hangers? Also sorted by color.

There are no real worries that she might have been switched at birth, despite her organizational superpowers. The truth of the matter is, she is a more intense version of her father in that. I drive that man crazy too. He often says that I am a terrific wife but a terrible housewife. It's true. Maybe my pint sized Martha Stewart can teach me something. Maybe I will learn to put my shoes away....where they "belong". Sigh.

Monday, June 9, 2014

My Abortion Story

Frustration.

That is my initial feeling when I hear a discussion about abortion. Especially discussions among Christians. I feel desperate for them to understand. Desperate for them to feel compassion towards the women who have abortions. Desperate for them to love these women the way Jesus does. The way God does. Because these women are desperate to have that love...to see it in action....to feel it. How do I know? Because I am one of these women.

Sixteen years old. I was told that I was having an abortion. As we were pulling up to the clinic, my mom was having trouble turning in to the parking lot. There was a line of people along the sidewalk, holding signs and yelling things. I was scared and they seemed so angry. A man walked up to the car and wanted to give me a paper. I rolled down the window and took it. He told me to see what horrible thing I was about to do to a helpless child. He was so gruff and angry.

We pulled in to a parking space. I wouldn't get out. My mom was so angry. I didn't even look at the paper the man gave me. I already knew what I was doing and I didn't want to do it. I clutched the paper like a lifeline, hoping that maybe it would change my mom's mind. In the parking lot I sat. My stepfather showed up soon after trying to talk me into going in. The security guard even tried convincing me. I wouldn't budge. Finally, they had to leave. I exhaled at the reprieve.

It was a short reprieve. I was then subjected to a private talk with my mom and grandmother. This was my punishment for my sins. I had to commit murder. Too many people would be hurt by the ramifications of being pregnant at 16. My family would hate me. They wouldn't be able to look at me. It had to be covered up. I had to have an abortion.

Numb and resigned, I walked across a cold parking lot on December 9th, 1994. The shouts and curses coming from the sidewalk only added to my punishment.  As I walked in the building, the security guard said not to worry because the protesters would be long gone before I came out.

The counselor I saw inside also tried to relieve what she thought was my fear. She explained that the protesters didn't care about me at all, just their agenda. That was why they aren't outside when we come out. The counselor was right about the protesters. She was wrong about what I was feeling though. It wasn't fear, it was pure desolation. She only compounded my punishment by showing me how alone and unlovable I was in my sin.

I was awake for the abortion. It was part of my punishment. I felt every excruciating moment. I cried for my baby. I cried for me. My legs shook as a nurse helped me off of the table. There was blood everywhere. The nurse helped me dress. She took me to another room, sat me in a chair and gave me crackers and a soda.

When I left, the sidewalks were empty. The silence - more punishment. Where were the chanters from that morning who said that God forgives? They only meant that God would forgive me if I didn't kill my baby. And wouldn't they know best? They were Christians after all. Silence. There was no forgiveness for me.

I wanted to die. For weeks, I contemplated suicide. A few weeks later, on Christmas day, I left the house during the family festivities and walked to the nearby dam. I stood at the spillway and considered jumping over. Thankfully, I didn't go through with it.

I became a pro-choice advocate. It was a way to assuage my guilt. It made my pain and punishment easier to bear. And even though I was pro-choice, I was adamant that I would never have another abortion again.

And then I did.

January 20th, 2000. I am not going to go into the detailed circumstances of this pregnancy. I was in a bad situation and I also already had a little girl. And I felt as if I had no choice. This time as I was walking in, I tried to portray a hardness. I hated the protesters this time. I knew they wouldn't be there when I came out. I knew they didn't care about me. I wanted, I needed someone to care. And the workers in the clinic at least acted like they cared.

As I went through the process of checking in and the counseling and testing, fear set in for the first time. Fear of going through this alone again. Fear of what I was becoming. Fear of what would happen if I just ran out of there before I went through with the abortion. I looked at the other women in the waiting room. We would nod at each other. No one else could understand our pain or the weight of our punishment except each other. Yet, even together, we were still alone.

Once in the abortion room, I was being prepped by a very nice man who gave me hope when I didn't have any. I had paid the extra money to be put out during this abortion. I knew I would never make it through it awake like last time. This man, was putting my iv in. He stopped, patted my arm and said, "It will be alright, you are loved and you can be forgiven". Silent tears rolled down my cheeks and I prayed for the first time in years. I told God I didn't want to be alone and I couldn't get through this. And as I was going under, I felt a man wrap me in his arms and hold me. The entire time I was held by a man I couldn't see, but I knew it was Jesus. I had never felt so loved or comforted or forgiven.

I changed after that. I began searching to feel that again. My life before was no longer good enough. I had hope for the first time. Hope in being loved. Hope in being forgiven. And that hope began in an abortion clinic of all places and not from the people shouting on the sidewalk.

The women going to the abortion clinics know in their hearts what they are doing is murder. The law is written on our hearts. They may try to justify, excuse or even defend. It is their way of coping. These women need to know that God will still love them and that they can still be forgiven even if they go through with it. Of course, the ideal is to save the babies. We must remember, however, that God wants the women saved too. So, if you are going to stand out on the sidewalk of an abortion clinic, please, I implore you to be there when these women walk out of there. They need God's love, compassion and forgiveness more than ever then. And who better to show them that than the very hands and feet of Jesus.

This is why I now counsel women who have had abortions. Forgiveness, guilt, and grief over abortions are so hard to deal with. I know, I've been there.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Sneak Peek of the new book...

I do not have the release date yet for this book (partly due to not having finalized the title). And this book is part of a trilogy. I am really excited about what is coming up and I thought I would share an excerpt from the book. :)

                     

    "He sat on the park bench.  Waiting, just like yesterday.  He was a patient man.  And she was worth the wait.  Oh yes, she was definitely worth the wait.  She was an itch he couldn’t scratch yet.  It wasn’t time.  He reveled in the exquisite torture of looking and not touching.  Wanting to prolong his agony and yet end it quickly at the same time.  He loved her.  He was obsessed with the thought to possess her, to hold her until her very last breath.  She consumed his thoughts, his dreams,  his  fantasies.  She was his.  She just didn’t know it yet.

                At the sound of her shoes hitting the trail, he looked up.  There she was, running toward him.  It was just like in his dreams.  The rise and fall of her glorious breasts with every step.  Her  skin, glistening from her exertion. The need to touch her was overwhelming.  His own love.  His own sweet, sweet love.

                He smiled up at her as she ran past him.  She was so focused on her run, that she didn’t notice him again. He had to admire her focus.  Besides, she would notice him soon.  Very soon.  As she ran out of sight, he closed the book that he pretended to read and rose off the bench to go.  He walked away, whistling a happy little tune.  Jacqueline Elliott was about to meet her destiny."

Regret...

There have been many nights that I have been unable to go to sleep. I just lie awake and think about regrets. As if ticking each one off of an invisible list. Regrets over what I didn't get done that day. Regrets of memories not made and intentions not acted upon. Sometimes, I reflect on my day and think, 'That's it?'.

So many things get put off. My priorities list is a bit wonky and needs some work. For example, I was supposed to go have a stress echo done two weeks ago. Guess what I still have not called to schedule. It should probably be at the top of my list, but it's not.

Those nights when I lie awake with my regrets, I also cling to hope. Hope that I will have another day to try again, to make more memories, to accomplish what needs done, to live and to love. And that hope is what leads me to peaceful slumber.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Heartbreak...

I have been dealing with a profound heartbreak for a little over a month now. And because the gaping wound was so raw and fresh and aching, it had been difficult to want to write on the blog.

When a bond, that was forged through blood, childhood promises, heart, smiles and tears, laughter and pain, finally breaks.......it is a devastating loss felt deep in the soul. The effect is crippling. When that bond breaks, and you know with an excruciating finality that it can never be repaired......the sadness is overwhelming.

The bond that went beyond friendship. The bond that was hands clasped tightly together, vowing to always be together. The bond that was very much firmly in place in every part of your being. A true heart mate.

Gone. Ripped away. Shattered. Forever.

How do you come back from that kind of loss? How do you stop reaching for the phone, only to remember that you can't make that call anymore? How do you recover from that kind of death?

I wish I could say that it gets easier. I wish it would feel easier. It isn't just the fact that the relationship is gone. It is the agony of missing what that brought to my life - the joy, the laughter, the challenge, the love. It just stopped. A bond that I never expected to break and lose forever is gone. And it hurts. And, I imagine it will always hurt. The loss of it. Without even the tiniest thread with which to rebuild, a door closed, never to be opened again. And will never be the same. There will always be a scar within me from this. And now every good memory is intertwined with the pain of the loss. And, perhaps, that is the saddest part of all.

Bri


Artwork by Judith Redman

Friday, May 16, 2014

How Can I Pray for You Today?

"How can I pray for you today?"

If you follow me on facebook, you know that I post this question daily. It is something that I felt challenged to do after seeing someone else post it several times. I never imagined the impact it would have.

Every single day I receive prayer requests. Most of them come by way of private messages. There are things that people don't always want to share with the world. Struggles that they don't need everyone to know about. Yet, they need someone to pray for them, with them, to agree with them, to talk to them, to listen to them, to love them, and to be loved by.

That simple question turned out to be not so simple at all. That question has changed me.

Prayer Warrior.

I have met some incredible prayer warriors in my life. I have been in awe of those who could pray for others. It was one of my greatest weaknesses. It was an arena I never wanted to enter. Then, eight years ago, God thrust me into the praying arena in a very public way. And, oh, how I fought him on it.

I was in line at the Dollar store and I heard two women behind me talking. One woman was talking about the health/medical issues she was facing. And I knew God was telling me to pray for her. I was terrified. What on earth did he want me to pray? I wasn't good at that sort of thing. And in front of all these people? No way! I was going to look like a freak. How was looking like a freak going to be a good Christian witness to others? It wasn't! (I will come back to that nonsense later.) I hurried through the line and back out to the car where my family was waiting. And I sat there. Practically hyperventilating. I felt on fire. I was sick at my stomach. And I couldn't move. My husband asked me what was wrong. I told him as tears streamed down my cheeks. He let me talk it all out. We watched the woman walk out of the store. And behind her walked a woman that we knew to be a prayer warrior. Well, I thought, good. She is great at praying , she will do a much better job than I ever could. I waited. The woman I was supposed to pray for walked into a fabric store while God's prayer warrior walked in the other direction. In shock, I looked at my husband who said, "I guess God wants you to do it". (I would like to point out that said husband seemed to be smirking at the time which did not go over well with me at all!)

I decided to wait until she came out of the fabric store to pray with her quietly and not in the middle of a store full of people. After 45 minutes of waiting, I sort of realized that God was pushing me but the window of opportunity would be lost soon. I could feel the door closing. If I didn't walk into that store right now, I would miss it. Terrified, I went in to find this woman. All the while, I was imagining how crazy she was going to think I was. Finding her looking at quilting supplies, I quickly explained the situation and asked if I could pray for her. Turns out, she is a Christian. As I was praying for her, she was praying for me. We both cried and hugged. God was glorified. Whether I looked like a freak didn't matter and I didn't even care.

I wish I could say that was the only time God has had to push me to do that. There is nothing quite as strange as standing in the lingerie department of a store, praying with an 80 year old woman about a lump in her breast. Even at church, if I was asked to pray, I would freeze up. For years, I actually tried to justify not praying by saying that I believed a woman shouldn't lead prayer if there was a man present. I finally accepted it as my Christian duty to pray sometimes. And I just want to clear up any confusion - I am talking about praying publicly and with and for strangers or anyone not in my immediate circle. I could pray by myself all day long. I could pray quietly during service. I could pray over my family.

So you would think that asking how I can pray for people online wouldn't be a big deal, right? Well, you would be wrong! Even though, I have been praying for people for a few years, it was still difficult. And then I began posting this question daily on facebook. Now I am praying for people every day. It has been humbling and awesome. And it has increased and enriched my prayer life. So, just as I was getting comfortable with praying, I screwed up. Big time. Recently. As in, earlier this month.

Just so you can understand what a messed up person I am, let me paint you a little picture. I am on the prayer team at church. That means that I am up front at the end of service and I pray for and with people who come up needing/wanting prayer and/or seeking salvation. See the picture? Okay, here it comes. It was at an evening worship service we had. There was a couple I had never seen before sitting a few rows up from me. During worship, I knew I was supposed to go up and pray for the woman. I fought God on that for three songs. I had excuse after excuse. There weren't many people there so it would really be noticed and I would look like a freak. What if I scare her off? With the music playing, what if I can't hear her and I mess something up? Like if she asked me to pray for a renewal in her relationship with God and I start praying about her dog. I just kept putting it off. Then, I closed my eyes during the next song and when I opened them, the couple had left. I ran out to go after them. I could hear that door slamming shut. I searched outside, but they were already gone. The rest of that worship service I spent crying and begging God to forgive me and give me another chance.

That evening, at home, I talked to my husband about it. I asked why I couldn't be a prayer warrior. He looked at me funny and asked me why I thought I wasn't. Because it is a great weakness in me, I explained. And then he started talking about God using us in our weakness to be made strong and how what was once a weakness is now a strength. And then he got on me about my perfection issue.

Since I have been asking people how I can pray for them, my faith has grown. My weakness is becoming a strength. My prayers have grown. My compassion and love for others has grown. I have gained so much more than I have given in this. I am humbled. And like all warriors, I see my scars for what they are now, not as signs of defeat or weakness, but of reminders that I am still here to fight the battle, to continue to move toward victory, to carry on, and to learn from the mistakes that I made.

How can I pray for you today?

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Thursday, May 15, 2014

As the School Year Comes to a Close....

Only five days of school left for my youngest two children. I find I am busier than ever. Much busier than I was at the beginning of the school year. There are teacher gifts to acquire, papers and portfolios to read, a new schedule to dread...I mean, look forward to.

Summer clothes need to be dug out, only to find that they don't fit so a shopping trip is now in the works. Summer vacation plans need to be finalized. New menus and grocery lists need to be made. I need to find the summer boredom list to hang up on the fridge. And....I need to clean the house.

I really need to clean the house. We are in the process of re-modeling the house. Right now, we are in the kitchen. We have painted the walls, and we still need to finish the trim. Then, I get to go look at floor samples. I am quite excited about replacing the ugly 40 year old flooring we currently have.

Another reason I need to clean the house. My keys have been missing for over a month now. While I insist that it is clearly the work of mischievous little gnomes, my husband believes otherwise. I am a bit put out that he thinks I just misplaced them and haven't been able to find them and I tell him this most fervently. He, however, brings up my track record of losing my keys and glasses on a regular basis. In my defense about the glasses, I am nearsighted and therefore rarely need to wear my glasses when I am at home, so it is easy to forget where I last had them.

As busy as I am getting ready for summer break, I am looking forward to it. Spending time together as a family - is needed and wanted. We have puppies expected to enter our world in about a week or so. New places to visit. Old friends to connect with. New opportunities. My first book will be available (I am soooo excited about that). And road trips full of adventure......assuming I find my keys.

Enjoying my last few days of solitude before the summer adventures begin.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mother...

The first thing I think of when I see the word "Mother" is the Danzig song by the same name. I know what you're thinking, "Danzig?".  Teenage hormones, crush on the older high school guy who liked them.....I became a fan....until I moved on....... Don't judge me.

Bizarre right? Even though I would like to believe otherwise, it is probably bizarre. Just like the sound of my husband's "rooster" alarm in the morning immediately begins the Alice In Chains song of the same name, playing in my head. (Same hormones, different crush)

So what memories, songs, thoughts, meanings does the phrase, "Mother's Day", evoke within me?

A puzzle. A giant floor puzzle actually. I feel the eye rolls.

I have had a love/hate relationship with Mother's Day forever. I had my mom for the first few years of my life as a mom and then she left us. I had my grandmother but it was not the same. I loved my grandma (still do), but I could never quite move past the hurt of my mom leaving. I didn't have a mom. She was still alive, but she chose not to be my mom. And Mother's Day was a constant reminder of that fact.

I still struggled with the horrible Hallmark holiday even after having my own children. My husband's mother passed away several years before we married and he also hated the holiday (actually, he hated all holidays). He hated Mother's day because of the loving woman and relationship that he missed. I was so jealous of that. I had nothing to look back on and miss because I was missing what I never had.

Over the years, I have grown up. I began to find new ways of seeing things. I learned the art of perception and angles. Over time, I stood up and took a few steps back. That is when I saw the puzzle. And I realized I had been focusing on a missing piece instead of the beauty of the entire puzzle. There were so many other pieces that I took for granted. To mother means to raise up with care and affection. There are so many women who have done that for me. Even my mother in her own way. It may have been in pieces, but it was still a part of my puzzle.

My puzzle is far from complete. It gets added to daily. I am a mother after all. But, I can look back now with fondness at the first part of my puzzle. I can see the image clearly. And the missing piece? It no longer brings pain and anguish. Because the whole of it is a thing of beauty. Each "mother" in my life that left a mark and provided a piece to the puzzle. I am so thankful for them. The missing piece is not ugly to me now. It is part of what makes my puzzle, my life, my memories, my character, me....unique.

Happy Mother's Day!

Love and Blessings!
Bri




Tuesday, May 6, 2014

34 Tuesdays

I Needed to Clear My Head....and Heart....

I took a very necessary break from the blog. I took on too much again. I was dealing with pain and hurt - physically and emotionally. There has been a lot that I have been processing these last few weeks. It has been difficult. I have felt both crowded and alone. Loved and rejected. Wanted and discarded. Weak and strong. Useless and needed. All at the same time. 

I have worked really hard this year to open up and be vulnerable. To tear down walls and make myself available. Stupidly, I believed that was the hard part. Smooth sailing from there. How wrong I have discovered that to be. Opening up has been the easy part. Feeling has been the hard part for me.

I have been known as an ice queen (and rightly so). Closed off and unfeeling. That was me. I could cut someone out of my life without a second glance, without guilt, without remorse, without sorrow or sadness....without feeling...anything. I'm not saying I was a robot or anything. I did feel things. I just kept people at arm's length. I fought personal connections. I was too easily hurt that way.

Yet, this year, I forced my self to really step out. It has been huge for me. It may look like I am in a shell to many, but this is leaps and bounds from where I've been. 

And I have been reeling from the magnitude of feelings that I have had to endure ever since.

I cared about people before, but I never allowed people to care about me. I didn't believe anyone did. So, I didn't care if anyone did because I never let them in. 

One day, earlier this year, a single text sent my world spinning and left me on the floor, sobbing and hyperventilating. I had sent someone that I cared (and still do care) about a happy birthday text. I had been praying for her and shared that with her. She is one of the best people I have ever met. She sent me a reply that said she valued our friendship. I was floored! I didn't know we were friends. I have never really done "friends" that well. How and when did we become friends? Seriously?! I asked my husband. His response was along the lines of, "Of course you're friends. What is wrong with you?". 

She was my friend. She is my friend. We're not "hang out on Friday night" friends. We've never hit a movie or dinner together. But I would walk through fire for her. She is the first one I go to when I need someone to pray. She is eloquent and encouraging. She is loving and giving and so funny and incredibly brilliant. We aren't best friends. But I can't imagine who I would be without her. Who my children would be. Who my family would be. She has impacted my family that much. She has helped to build faith in my children. She has put the Word of God into them. She has taught my family lessons in giving, kindness, prayer, belief, and love. She inspires. 

And my friend is my reminder now that when I am open and get hurt and rejected and abandoned, that I can also be lifted up and loved and wanted. (I'm suddenly reminded of the opening to the Facts of Life theme song.) 

I want to share a story about my friend before I go. This past Saturday, my friend was sick. Really sick. And she was missing one of her really good college friend's wedding because she was sick. She had asked me to pray for her. She was obviously devastated that she was missing the wedding. So, I put on my wedding dress, the family got dressed up (husband and son both wore ties!), and we rehearsed a mock wedding to perform in my friend's front yard. On the way to her house, I stopped at a store to pick up a slice of wedding cake (what's a wedding without cake?) and a restaurant to pick up chicken noodle soup (she was sick, remember?). Now, you can imaging the attention I got walking through both places in a wedding dress! Several people asked me questions and I briefly told them what I was doing. Every single person had the same reaction. They said, "Wow! That must be some friend for you to do that".  And that basically sums it up. She is that kind of friend. She inspires that. She is that amazing. She is that valued. She is that special. And I can't thank God enough for putting her in my life.

Here is your challenge - Who would you walk through fire for? What crazy or special or inconvenient thing can you do for that person? Do it! No excuses!


Love and Blessings!
Bri

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

37 Wednesdays

Easter wore me out...

Who knew that my 7 day writing challenge was going to be so difficult? This is the first time I have been on my computer since the last time I blogged. So, here I am, beginning the challenge .... again.

I want nothing more than to be in bed right now. Yet, here I sit, in front of the computer - trying to multitask. While blogging, I also have one of my books open, working on some revisions, photoshop open for a composite art piece I am working on, creating a to do list for tomorrow, checking facebook, and thinking about all of the things that I still need to get done.

Sigh....

We are finally finishing up all of the Easter dinner leftovers. I have not turned on my stove since Sunday! Tomorrow I will cook again. (And my family stands up and cheers at hearing this). 

Easter was so much fun. We spent it at our home with family. All of the kids got kites and had a blast flying them. I got a little teary eyed - probably due to watching the movie, Saving Mr. Banks. Kites and pears have taken on a whole new meaning for me. I hope everyone had a fantastic Easter weekend.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Friday, April 18, 2014

37 Fridays

It's a Good Day...

Today is Good Friday! We have had such a busy week and an even bigger weekend ahead for my family. My hope is that everyone has a fantastic Easter weekend.

My husband and I spent two hours, last night, trying to agree on the candy to put in the plastic eggs for our Sunday family egg hunt. Two hours! I am beginning to think there might be something seriously wrong with us. Finally, I threw my hands up and let him win. We got home only to discover that some of the candy wouldn't fit in those shrinking eggs. Ha! Who's the winner in this really?

I am breaking out the camera for Easter this year! In the past, I have been so grateful for a day off from shooting that I stopped capturing family moments. So busy documenting for others that I forgot about documenting for me. So, this morning I began my Daily Life project. I will photograph my family every single day. I will have my camera readily available at all times. My kids are going to think that their mom has turned into some kind of paparazzi crazy woman. I'm okay with that.

I have learned the difference between being alive and living. And I have decided to choose living. And I am striving to be known more for what I stand for instead of what I stand against. I am choosing to love and forgive. I am realizing that sometimes, in order to move forward, I have to let go - and I am coming to terms with that revelation. I am learning to enjoy that moment, suspended for the briefest of breaths, that comes at the end of crying. After the last tear, the finality of the pain and the burgeoning birth of hope in all that is new and good. And I am drinking in love with everything I have so that I can pour it out on others.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Thursday, April 17, 2014

37 Thursdays

Cutting It Close...

I will be setting a new personal record tonight for shortest post.

Remember the people you love and why you love them.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

38 Wednesdays

Keep It Short and Sweet...

I am going to meet this 7 day writing challenge. Tonight is probably the shortest post I have ever done. Why? Because I just realize that my husband went to bed without me. And I want to talk to him before he falls asleep.

Tomorrow I am going on a prayer walk. I am circling some things in prayer. If you haven't read, The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson....I highly recommend that you do.

Now, I am off to bed with my husband.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

37 Tuesdays

Starting Over...

My attempt at the 7 day writing challenge was a total bust. I have been dealing with migraines and allergy junk and I just have not been able to sit at the computer. I am, however, feeling much better now. Time to begin the 7 day challenge ..... again. I will be victorious!

I have been feeling restless lately. It's as if I am at the starting line of a race and I am impatiently waiting for the "Go" so I can take off. Standing at the edge of a precipice, ready to make the leap and ride on the wind. Maybe I am feeling this way because it is spring and I am emerging from my winter weather cabin fever quarantine. 

"Not enough hours in the day" is a phrase that seems to be on repeat in my mind daily. Time management skills continue to elude me. I am determined to conquer my long time foe. 

I've been reminded of one of my favorite worship songs, "This is Life", by Laura Woodley Osman.
I am linking to a youtube video of the song here. The quality isn't great, but it is a beautiful song. I was singing it tonight and my daughter exclaimed, "I remember this song. You used to sing it all the time." I smiled and agreed. Then she asked, "Why did you stop?"  I gave her an answer about how I had just forgotten the song because I had learned others and time just passed. My little girl shook her head and said, "No mom. Why did you stop singing all the time, like you used to?"  I hadn't realized that I had stopped singing. When did there cease to constantly be a song on my heart? 

So, I am going to remember life. And I am going to keep a song on my heart. And I am going to sing.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Thursday, April 10, 2014

38 Thursdays

Just under the wire...

So close to midnight. I almost didn't make it. My husband and I spent the day painting and hanging border in the kitchen. I am so tired, but my mind is running at top speed, thinking of all the spring cleaning that I now want to do. 

I wish that I had something profound to share tonight. I don't though. Not that I usually do.

My prayer is that everyone has a peaceful night tonight. Whisper I love you's to your family as you go to bed. Smile over a memory that you made today. Remember that tomorrow is another day, full of hope, promise and possibilities.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

39 Wednesdays

Too much or too little....

I freeze up when I meet new people and they ask me about......well, me. I never really know how much they want to know. Do they want the full version that has lots of details (I write - so I'm full of little details) or the vague short version? I tend to go with the short version, which usually makes me look as interesting as watching paint dry. 

It's the same in casual social situations. I am not great at small talk. Give me a mission or task and put me in an arena with 10,000 people and I am cool as a cucumber. Put me in a small gathering to "hang out" or "fellowship" and I spend most of the time talking myself out of a panic attack.

Part of the problem? I have trouble with my hearing. I read lips....often. So, I am trying to hear, read lips, compute what is being said, read facial expressions, and come up with a response (hopefully witty), and something else to say. 

Another problem? I am a bit weird. Some people just don't "get" me. I can be hard to follow when I really get to talking. Also, my humor is a bit different. 

I never seem to be able to find that line of just enough. How much does someone really want to know about me? Do they really want the full answer to their question or are they just being polite?

This is something I really need to work on.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

38 Tuesdays

Nothing Groundbreaking....

This is day 2 of my 7 day writing challenge. I spent my day running errands, working on a storyline for a new book and hanging out with my husband.

Today was a day. A seemingly unexciting day. A day that can, at times, seem to drag on forever yet pass by quickly. At first glance, it is a day that won't go down in the memory books, highlighted by an extreme event. It's always good to give a second glance. To look deeper. To see. Really see. To mark. To highlight. To remember.

Today....I prayed for people.
Today....I learned something new about my children. I shared in their triumphs of the day.
Today....I learned of a death in a family that I care deeply about. Their sorrow is mine.
Today....I laughed with my sister.
Today....I shared companionship, banter, and love with my husband.
Today....I was reacquainted with an old friend.
Today....I was blessed.
Today....I was loved.
Today....I blessed.
Today....I loved.
Today....I lived.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Monday, April 7, 2014

Better Late than Never...

38 Mondays

Last Tuesday, my challenge was to blog for seven straight days.

Today is my first day back on the blog since then.

Last week, I was so sick that my entire focus was one of survival, not living.

So...today is day one of my seven day challenge. I am a different woman than I was a week ago. There were many lows last week. There was also fever. There were also some highs. More lows than highs, but that is how I got my breakthrough.

I was mean to my husband. Actually, mean is too nice of a word. I was vicious. I was hurting and I struck out at him. There I was, on this path of breakthrough and discovery, and I was fighting it....lashing out. So close to the answers to my questions and I was gripping to a life unlived like a rope of salvation. Afraid of the answers. More afraid of the answers than the questions had ever made me.

My husband loves me and I have never wavered in this truth. Ever. Until last week. And it wasn't so much that I doubted that he loved me as I was suddenly unsure of how much he could handle. Of what I was throwing at him. I had to come clean about things that I didn't even realize were destroying our marriage. Because I was only seeing how things were affecting me. 

Saturday night, while everyone else was sleeping, I sat in my bed and I cried. And I prayed. And I asked. And I got the answers. Because I was finally ready to get them. I had been asking God over and over what my purpose is. My real, God given purpose. What I was created for. This has been the essence of my blog, finding my purpose. And I have been discovering and growing and learning...and that is great and important. But there was always something just out of my line of vision. There was something missing and it was frustrating. The last couple of weeks have been a culmination of things that have been preparing my heart to receive. Only in my complete brokenness was I finally open to seeing and hearing my true, primary purpose.
It wasn't what I expected. It wasn't what I ever thought. And when I heard it, my initial response was, "Really?".  I'm called to the very thing that frightens me. What I am so terrible at. What I have avoided. And then I find out that it's my purpose.

I woke up Sunday, still reeling from the night before. Head to church, and the message is confirmation of everything God showed me on Saturday night. Every word drove my purpose deeper and deeper into my heart. 

Today is my first day of Being in My Purpose. It feels scary but more importantly, it feels right.

Love and Blessings!
Bri 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

39 Tuesdays

Time is Fleeting....

Only 39 Tuesdays left in 2014. It's time for an evaluation of my life, productivity, purpose, goals, love meter, and quality of time spent.

Where have I been? Where am I at? Where am I going?

Those three questions need to be asked constantly.

My son, youngest daughter, and I were baptized last night. By my husband. In a hot tub. To some, it might seem weird, but I assure you it is not. I have talked about my testimony before, so it is probably no surprise that I hadn't been baptized (besides when I was 11 and not saved - so it didn't count).

Today, I have been attacked by the newly baptized children with countless April Fool's Day jokes. Sadly, they get their sense of humor from their father. (jk honey! sort of :)

April allergies have begun and my husband is finding it impossible to find my puffy eyes and runny nose sexy.

It is also Spring Break for my children. After photo sessions today, I am off for the week and I am still planning our activities. (My organizational skills still need work)

My challenge is to blog every single day for the next 7 days. This is because I have found myself blogging less and less.

Challenge accepted!

Love and Blessings,
Bri

Thursday, March 27, 2014

40 Thursdays

do even the smallest things with great love...

My challenge today is to do everything with love. Actually, I need to BE love. I want to be love. Love needs to come out of everything that I do...am...am yet to be.

As usual, easier said than done.

I can be a bit snarky, a bit sarcastic. Those who know me are rolling their eyes right now and saying, "a bit? that's the understatement of the century".  I am the one on the phone with my sister during any red carpet event trashing the stars. Joan Rivers seems like Miss Manners next to me. Stinging zingers are my specialty.

I don't want to be that anymore. I want to be love. 

So, here I go. With Love. As Love. In Love.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Monday, March 24, 2014

40 Mondays

The Ugly Sister...

My sister, Crescent, began hitting me with pinterest quotes about beauty this morning because she didn't appreciate my candor.

I sent her a photo that I had snapped with my phone (a scary selfie) this morning. I was wanting to show her how fabulous my hair looked when I woke up this morning. And, since it was 5 am, obviously I was not wearing makeup. 

She told me to post it on facebook. I declined. She persisted. I explained that I couldn't possibly post it because I'm not pretty.

Hence the pinterest quotes about beauty she sent me.

The thing is....my beautiful sister doesn't understand what it is to be ugly. More precisely...to have an ugly face. I have one and she doesn't.

She didn't have to live in the shadow of her younger and beautiful sisters. (Not to mention the beautiful half-sisters I also have....I just couldn't catch a break). She wasn't known as the ugly one in the family. She didn't grow up hearing comments like, "It's a good thing she's smart because she's no beauty." She never had her dates tell her that it was her body that was attractive but her face was a turn off. She never had to try and be the smart one or the funny one to "be a part".... she could just be all of those things because she was already pretty.

But I did.

I learned to use my body to my advantage. And I did all I could to detract from my face.

I have written before about how I learned to love my body and that I see it as beautiful. And I do. I have even posed nude (photos for myself and my husband - I am a professional photographer). The common thread in those photos.....the reason I can see them...see me as beautiful - my face is not in them. 

Over the years, I have learned to use makeup, hold my head a certain way, control facial expressions....all to detract from the ugliness in my face. I avoid having my photo taken. I hate mirrors. 

My husband tells me I'm beautiful without makeup, but I don't believe him. And this morning, my sister tells me I'm beautiful without makeup. I don't believe her either. Is it because of all the times I have been told by so many others the opposite? Maybe. But I see it too. 

I've never been pretty. And I've been okay with that. Atleast that is what I tell myself. When I can avoid seeing my face, I can almost forget. When I look at myself though, I cringe instantly. 

I see the weird asysmmetry of my face. My uneven eyes, my strange chin, my ugly nose, the dark bags......
But, I also see all of the pain and rejection I've ever had right there. All of it. And it's ugly. It's a reminder that I avoid.

But since I am all about overcoming this year. I am accepting the challenge that my sister threw down. I am posting the photo of myself that I took this morning. Without makeup. In all my nakedness and vulnerability. In all of my ugliness.
I am not looking for exclamations and false statements telling me that I am beautiful. I understand that my face is not who I am. But it is a part of me. 
If I could ask anything, it would be to never tell anyone that they are ugly. Focus on their beauty and the whole sum of them. Because that one part that isn't good enough, is what taunts and torments forever. So, if the focus is never directed to that one part, they will never know it's there because their gaze will be on their beauty.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Friday, March 21, 2014

41 Fridays

The Tree of All Seasons is dead!

Earlier this year, I wrote about how inspired I was to keep the Christmas tree up. It was something my youngest daughter always wanted. So, we have kept it up. We made adorable Valentine decorations for it. After that, my family lost interest. It has since turned into a playground for my cats. Now limbs are broken, fake needles surround the tree on my carpet, and some of the lights aren't working now.

The tree is coming down. As I begin to dismantle, my cats gather 'round singing Madonna's, This Used to be My Playground. (Okay, not really, but how cool would that be if they did!) 

Have I failed in the challenge I set for myself at the beginning of 2014? Maybe. And yet, maybe not. The lesson was learned and I march forward. Maybe I've grown beyond the tree. Maybe.

Now, sit back and enjoy the video that I am now sharing with my cats. They are ready. They get it now. The song resonates with them.
Love and Blessings!
Bri

Spring Portraits


Spring is in the air. (Finally!) I am going to photograph Portraits March 29, 30, 31 and April 1. The Spring Portrait Package is $70 and includes the photo session, proofs and a Wall Portrait. (This would make a great Mother's Day gift!)
Call 937-336-1597 to book your Spring Portrait Session!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

42 Wednesdays

Blech....

That is how I feel. I have been so tired lately. Headaches, upset stomach....just all over feeling yucky. The only things I want to eat are watermelon and peanut butter. oooh...and a giant cheeseburger - after my nap.

I am trying to focus on a design project that has a fast approaching deadline. What am I doing instead? Blogging. Sometimes, I just need a break from photoshop and illustrator. 

And...it's raining outside. So, what I really want to do is curl up in a chair with a blanket, hot tea, and a good book.

Responsibility is knocking. It's giving me a headache. Instead of giving in to my wants and desires, I am going to pound out this project. Because it is the right thing to do. Because it is the grown up thing to do. And, I am a grown up. I can nap later. 

The challenge today is to carry on in that journey of adulthood and responsibility. And then eat some watermelon. Better yet, send me some.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

41 Tuesdays

Taking Parenting Back...

I am starting a revolution. Fighting back against homework....and the current education system. Who's with me?

My youngest two children (the oldest is an adult and out of school) currently attend public school. Overall, I like the school, the district, they are in. My issue is with the system. And not just the public school system. My oldest two have been subjected to public, private, Christian and home schooling. I was an art teacher at one of the schools. The system puts a limitation on us as parents. 

We send our children to school for six hours (not counting bus/travel time) to learn academics. I resent academics being sent home (homework) to take away from my parenting time (which is roughly 4-5 hours). I have other things to teach my children, thank you. 

My husband and I really looked at our priorities with our children. We were allowing school work to be more important than other areas. School work is important, but it should be done at school, during school hours. As adults, we strive to leave work at "work", during "work hours". Why aren't we doing the same for our children? 

This system has limited me as a parent. It has limited us all. Overburdened by homework, we realize that we've put the responsibility of our children's spiritual upbringing on the children's workers at church. Children get 30+ hours of academic instruction (feeding their minds) and roughly 2 hours of feeding their spirits per week. 

I am taking my parenting rights back. Parenting time is not school time. I am responsible for the all over emotional, physical, spiritual and mental well-being of my children. I set the priorities. I am pushing back.

I challenge you to look at where your time is spent parenting. How are your priorities rated. Are they where you want them to be in reality?

Love and Blessings!
Bri


Thursday, March 13, 2014

42 Thursdays

Light


"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine....."

Sometimes I get so focused on letting my light shine that I forget to recharge my battery. I spend too much time away from the source of my light. My light grows dim....

I find I'm not as bright as I once was. Running on low power, it becomes more difficult to shine. Facing burnout....if I could just rest....for just a moment....conserve my energy............

What I need to do is plug in to my power source. I need to be filled up in order to pour out. It's a mistake to wait until I am on empty. At the end of the day, I don't want to find that I am an empty vessel. A lamp without oil. A dry cistern. A flame without oxygen. If I am without life, I can't impart life to others. If I have no more hope, I have no hope to offer. If I am drained of compassion, I have none to give. If I have no power, I am useless - I am unable to fulfill my purpose. 

Women, it seems, give and give and give. We will pour ourselves out to the very last drop for others. That is so wrong. It is vitally important that we regularly recharge. When we shine brighter, we impact greater. We become better. We can pour out more. We can give our very best at all times. 

I challenge you to check your power levels. Are you shining bright and beautiful or are you flickering and gasping for strength to carry on just a little longer? Stop, take a breath and plug in to the power source. Recharge your battery. Fill up on your power. Then, get out there and shine brighter than ever before!

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Monday, March 10, 2014

42 Mondays

Dandelion Wishes....

I was MIA from the blog last week. I have been working really hard on two of my books. Revisions are being made and some tweaks here and there in order to move on to the next phase. Once I have the publishing date, I am going to post an excerpt from the first book here on the blog. 

Having my writing published really is a dream come true for me. Writing was all I ever wanted to do. Well, that and singing. I did sing for awhile though. Writing was something that I kept hidden to myself. My family knew I wrote. In college, I had a professor tell me that I had a special gift and I could change the world with my writing. That scared me. I ran from the pressure and I stopped writing for years.

My husband has always known that I was supposed to write and be published. He has encouraged me to write again for most of our marriage. I had shut that part of me off for so long that I didn't know if I could tap back into it again. There were all of these stories inside of me, but I didn't know if I could let them out.

Last year, I sat down and began writing again. There is some fear and anxiety at first. And then, it's almost an obsession. I am me, at my simplest and fullest, when I write. Everything around me just falls away.

Then it stopped. I hit a block. I hit it hard. That overwhelming pressure came back again. Suddenly, I found myself struggling to connect. I realized that during the process, I had changed my "why" for writing. It had become a job to me. My creativity was gone. What happened to my dream? Why had I forgotten it? How did I get it back?

One day, I looked over at my youngest daughter, Regan. She was singing her heart out and dancing around the room. Singing is her gift, her dream, her dandelion wish. I saw the joy on her face. And I remembered.....I remember blowing on the dandelion and sending my wish out into the world. I wanted to write my stories. I remembered my love for it. I remembered how alive and joyful I feel as the words pour out of me. 

So, I write. And the stories come alive. 

What is your dandelion wish? 

Love and Blessings!
Bri
 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Photography

Yes, I still do photography....


I officially closed my photography business at the end of last year. Yet, I still do photography. 

huh?

I was spending so much time running the business, day to day.....that I wasn't doing everything I needed to do. Being who I was supposed to be. Photography is a part of that though. 

"Do you still do photography at all?" is the question I get asked often. The answer is yes. Yes, I do. Not as often, but yes. I have received three wedding inquiries this week alone. I no longer take on all the inquiries. I meet, see if we are a good fit, if the shoot idea or wedding intrigues me and then I decide if I want to photograph it. I have always been an artistic photographer in style and now I can be the artist in truth. I am no longer taking on "jobs". I now choose to take on moments, emotions, memories - of my choosing. I am a better photographer now for it.


Bri

*If you are interested in commissioning me for a wedding or portrait contact me via email: info@brigardner.com

44 Saturdays

Sex...

I really did try to come up with a different topic. However, I strive to be true and honest in this blog. Share what is going on with me. Sex is just on the brain. It has been for a few days now. Or, to be perfectly honest, the lack of sex is on the brain. I am not getting enough.

It's not my husband's fault. I've been trying not to get cranky with him because he is avoiding me in the bedroom. Not completely avoiding me. We've just been having less sex than usual. I am about to get graphic here, so - to my friends and family - sorry, and you may want to stop reading now.

I love having sex with my husband. We have a pretty active sex life. And we are pretty open in discussing sex - especially with our children. We didn't want them to ever have a bad perception of sex. 

My husband prefers morning sex. I love late at night sex. So, we have always tried to compromise and have both. A great way to end the evening and a fantastic way to start the day. And with afternoon romps and middle of the night fun, we consistently have sex one to two times per day. 

We just went two days without sex. And yesterday evening, my husband hardly blinked at my play of seduction. I was annoyed. I know he's been tired and stressed out over some situations we are dealing with. And I try to keep that in mind. And I realize that I am being selfish by wanting so much sex. But I crave that intimacy with him. He is an amazing partner and when you share something so incredible with your spouse, sex is a wonderful expression of your connection to each other. 

It isn't the act of sex itself that I love, but the expression of our intimate connection. If I had it my way, we would never leave the bed. There is nothing quite like married sex. My husband and I had sex before we were married. (I may have just shocked some of you) That sex was nothing compared to the sex we had once we were married. It is deeper and more binding than anything I have ever experienced.

My husband and I like each other...a lot. We enjoy each other's bodies. We love that we belong to each other. Do I hate the dry spell we had this week? I think the answer to that is obvious (I have devoted an entire blog post to rant about it). That being said, we had fantastic sex this morning (dry spell over). Is this too much information to share? Maybe. This is what's going on with me though and I promised to share it all.

Have sex with your spouse today. That is my challenge to you. And remember why you are connecting and how special it is. It is a beautiful expression of your marriage covenant together.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

45 Wednesdays

Push Through...

I hate housework. I really hate housework. I am a terrible housewife. There are dishes sitting in my sink and on my counter right now, mocking me. I know that I need to wash them. Yet, all I can think about is throwing them all away and just buying new. I also feel that way about socks.

I love a clean home. Inviting and warm and sparkly. It's the point A to point B process that frustrates me. Truthfully, it is pure laziness. Deep down, I know that. So, tonight, I am going to push through and wash those dishes. 

My challenge to you is to wash your dishes (or scrub your toilet, whatever it is that needs done and you are putting off). I know, this is a really profound post today. Now, I am headed to the kitchen.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

44 Tuesdays

Standing on the edge.....

I am standing in my own way again. There are revisions that need to be finished before my first book is published. My super secret project is due on Friday. I was given another opportunity, yesterday, that involves the UK, a top publication and a dream of mine.

Yet, here I sit. Frozen. Keeping myself occupied with "busy" work with the promise that I will get to what I really need to do later. Why am I keeping my dreams out of reach? Why am I letting my fear run me? Why am I so afraid to see this finally come to pass? Why do I still believe that I don't deserve it? Why am I not loving myself enough to go for it? Why?

Do I really want this? Yes.

Then I need to do it. I need to put this first. I need to ask for help with other things so that I can focus on pursuing my dream. Because I can't do it all. My dream always goes on the back burner so that I can take care of my other responsibilities. It's time my dream came first. It's time I came first.

Pursue your dream. Ask for help. Stop putting yourself last.

Love and Blessings!
Bri

44 Mondays

Refresh...

Monday was all about reconnecting. Reconnecting with my body (in an intense Phase 2 of my bootcamp). Reconnecting with old friends. Reconnecting with areas of my faith that I've taken for granted. Reconnecting with my purpose.

It was a busy day. It was a day of reminders. A day of reflecting on memories and making new ones to cherish.

Love and Blessings!
Bri