The One After The Coffee Date.


“Little One? You weren’t abandoned in this place to be forgotten — you were placed in this place to be found.That place that may feel like abandonment —- is placement. And what may have feel like being thrown away — is about being placed because a way is coming always.” -Ann Voskamp

Two Saturdays ago, I’d just dyed my hair because it was something to do. I climbed into my car and drove down all the old roads, past a home we were under the impression would someday be ours. It was the only hope we had. I’d go into detail, but you’d think I’m insane. And so, I drove by that house…only to see a sign that said: Under contract. That’s it. All it took to propel me into a rage of depression and abandonment, cursing God because I knew how much it meant to my dad. “Why do you do this to him, God? What did he ever do but try to live in a world that doesn’t even want him? What did he ever do but try to have a friend? Pay his bills? Be loved? And you take it all away. Can’t even do one simple thing to make the last seasons of his life happy and fulfilling.” I was angry.

I did what I always do when I’m angry, sad, too much on my mind, etc: I took a drive. Something about winding roads lined with trees and rolling hills breathes life back into me. And so I loaded my cat, Schmidt, into my old ’99 and took off. I was just passing an old road where someone I used to have a crush on used to live and it only took 1/2 mile to hit me: I’m driving down a road alone–like, really alone–with bright, red lipstick and red hair and A CAT and…there’s not one thing about me that’s attractive. Too different, too quirky, too awkward, too unseen. Or at least that’s what the lies say, what the lies want me to believe about myself.

Too different, too quirky, too awkward, too unseen. Or at least that’s what the lies say, what the lies want me to believe about myself.

And in that moment, it occurred to me that if I were to ever see the boy who used to live at the end of the road…he’d look at me like I was the strangest person on the planet. And it seemed too much to bear, in that moment, because…7 years ago, he was supposed to see me. Someone was supposed to see me by now. All I’m ever seen as is odd or awkward or unusual or a pushover and sometimes, reader, it’s tough.

So I wrote about it. My last blog post was written out of bitterness, anger, confusion, and hurt and somehow, I’m not sorry. Because if that post resonates with at least one person, it’s worth the vulnerability. I posted it, however, not knowing how many people would reach out or message the post to a friend, asking them to pray for me. It wasn’t what I anticipated at all.

So, reader. Here’s where I’m at in 4 bullet points (for your convenience 😉

-God is still on the sidelines because I have realized that I truly don’t know how to let Him in.

-I still hear Him. And I know He wants me to let Him in. I know it. And I know I’m not forgotten, even if it still stings.

-I now recognize the importance of dealing with issues, rather than bottling them up. They will end up on the internet, if you’re anything like me. EMOTIVE ELLA.

-Free will is a thing. I am a human being. And I get to choose to walk in darkness or in light. I get to choose that. It’s a gift, but it’s sticky and messy and confusing. But still a gift. And salvation doesn’t look like God chasing me down and loudly proclaiming that I’m going the wrong way. Salvation is a quiet thing and for so long I’ve believed it needs to be loud and bold for it to be relevant.

Reader, there’s not always a 1-2 step process. Life doesn’t always reflect the cause-effect model and that’s okay. We’re all human and we all have things about our pasts that will always sting a little. But don’t stay in the hurt. Make room to let new things in. If it hurts, pay attention to it.  Tell someone, do something. Heck, post it on the internet.

But no matter what–no matter where you’re at, you’re never alone and this is never the end.

 

 

 

Coffee Date 2: The One With All The Bitter


I’m sorry to say it, but if we were on a coffee date today…I’d be pretty selfish. Either we’d both know that the coffee date existed because I needed you or I’d pretend I didn’t need you and be nonchalantly nodding along to every word you said. I’d be sipping a flat white with skim milk, new red hair and yes, that Hebrew word would be once again sharpied onto my left wrist.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you about the last few days. I’d tell you what happens when the leaves fall…how all the life that’s in me just disappears. And it leaves me not knowing how to get back up again–it leaves me…not knowing if I want to. I’d tell you how badly I wanted to stop the car the other day, sit by the road, and nurse my wounds. We’d talk about the family history and yes, seasonal depression goes back generations and yes, the aunt that had a chemical imbalance and yes, the environmental factors and yes, spring always comes and yes, life goes on and yes, so many things to be thankful for. But no, none of that really matters when the pain is so real.

If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you about the drive that brought about the depression this time. How that house was under contract and how I flew down a road, feeling so different, so unlovable, and so alone it made me want to stop everything and sit in the middle of a field for a very long time.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you how mad I am at God. How seriously angry I am. How could he leave me. How could he even let my family go through this. Wasn’t ’98 enough? And ’99 and 2000 and 2001 and 2002 and 2003 and 2004 and 2005 and 2006 AND EVERY DAMN YEAR SINCE. No friends for my Mom, no church family to give a damn, no friends for my dad, no solutions for anyone, no heat in the house one winter, no electricity for three weeks the next summer, no jobs, cars taken away, foreclosures and God only knows what else. And he leaves us community-less. Still on the outside after 20 damn years. And then all the pretty church boys fall for all the stereotypical church girls and no one asks the poor girls with the cursed family to dance. I’d break down in Starbucks, friend.

If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you that I’m putting my faith on hold for awhile. All the books, the Bible on spiritual warfare, the random church attendance, the random chats with God…I’m putting them away. Because it hurts too much right now. How do I place hope in a being that comes through for everyone but the girl who needs him the most? And how do I…pretend it’s okay when it’s everything but?

If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you that I’m fine, but I’m not. And all the vitamin D supplements in the world, all the rose-colored glasses can’t cover up how low I feel right now.

Starbucks Lovers: Coffee Date 1


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Hi all! Doing kind of a fun post tonight from the perspective of if we were on a coffee date. This idea has popped up into my newsfeed quite a few times, courtesy of the amazing erinsalmonwrites.com, but this time I couldn’t resist. ❤

If we were on a coffee date, I’d sit across from you in my latest favorite sweatpants and a Fear is a Liar t-shirt, this logo I wear as an attempt to thwart the darkness. I’d probably have a faded Hebrew word, sharpied onto my wrist, where I’ve written it and let it fade. I’d tell you how I’m trying it out, wondering if my wrist will ever be its home. I’d order a venti Flat White with skim milk and subtly explain the lifestyle change I made earlier this year. And as you spoke, I’d memorize every expression and note everything that makes you tick. Because I’m a writer and I notice those things. I’m a caretaker of details.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d pepper you with questions. About everything. I’d want to know where you’re from and if you miss it, if you like where you’re at now and if not, why? I’d ask you what you used to like to do, what you used to want to do. I’d ask if you had family, if you were close to them, if they made you feel loved and worthy. I’d want to ask you what that look on your face meant, what was happening in your world when I touched on that subject, but I’d probably stop mid-question and make some degrading comment about my awkwardness and let it go. But I’d encourage you, as much as possible, to open up all the old closets and all the painted-over windows and let you speak. Really, really speak.

If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk faith wounds and God. I’d talk about the legalistic church that grew me and the charismatic movement that’s helping me piece together why Christians can be so mean. I’d tell you more stories than what you wanted to know, but I’d want to hear what you experienced too. I’d tell you what God says to me and I’d ask you if you believe God still speaks. I’d tell you about my lost boy and what they did to him, how the faith wounds stretched open until they had all that was left of him.

If we were on a coffee date, yes. We’d talk about our villages. You say you’d ask about mine, but I’d ask about yours too. I’d tell you about our adventures and I’d tell you what I love about my people. And I’d tell you that I’ve always wanted to be wanted as much as I want everyone around me. I’d tell you that I don’t know how to make it happen and I’d try to squeeze out some guarantee that you’d stay. I’d tell you how badly I want a village and all the places I’ve tried to find it.

And if we were on a coffee date, that last one would segue to Tinder and Bumble and Whisper and all the other places I’ve tried to find my roots. I’d tell you about fear. How I want to branch out, but serial killers are real. I’d ask you your opinion about fearing strangers on the internet or inviting them in. We’d talk about boundaries and we’d talk about red flags. We’d talk transparency and we’d talk oversharing. We’d talk about that blurry, freaking line.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you about my kids. I’m not a mom or a teacher, but I am a manager and I care about these kids. I’d tell you how God showed me it’s not about the work, but about the people and that scares me. It scares me because I don’t know how to make everything okay and it kills me because I know some of them aren’t okay. But I feel responsible to make them feel okay. I’d tell you every time I say, “Hey, you doing okay today?” and they say, “Yeah, doing well!” I see something in their eyes and I just want to shake them and say, “I KNOW YOU’RE HURTING JUST TELL ME.”

I’d tell you that it’s hard because on the one hand, I have my job and I have to crack down in certain areas. But on the other hand…I just want to hold group therapy sessions in the back room and make them all cupcakes every single day. I want to just build their self-worth until nothing can vanquish it, but I’m not God. But I am a doer. And I’d tell you…nothing feels like enough.

Lost boy would come up again, at this point, and I’d tell you how I couldn’t save him. And so I want to save them instead. All of them. But I still can’t.

If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk work. I’d want to know why you’re doing the work you’re doing. I’d want to know if it fulfilled you. I’d want to know all the plans and all the details, the future, and the goals. In all reality, we’d probably agree that in ten years if nothing’s changed, screw it, let’s start up a tie-dye t-shirt business on the beach.

If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk winter. I’d tell you all about my battle plan for getting through winter depression-free. I’d tell you about my vitamin D, my essential oils, my mental playlist that I thumb through, and the long country drives I take. I’d tell you about spring and how it’s coming. Four months and we’re there.

If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk old ghosts in the closet. I’d want to know what you survived, how you wound up on shore after winters at sea. You’d probably ask me what the heck I mean and I’d explain  how it felt mentally after my storm–how it was like the sun shining for the first time in months. How it was like crashing onto shore after months battling the sea. I’d want to know if you had those moments–if you felt like that too.

And lastly…man. If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk about finding our own lives. I’d tell you how I’ve found the life I want and it’s so new, so free. And you’d tell me what you’re aiming for. I’d tell you that you’ll make it–you’ll really make it. And I’d tell you that you deserve good things–good homes, good villages, good coffee, and good sweatpants. I’d tell you how glad I am to have met you and I’d tell you to keep choosing light. Keep choosing the good and pure things, keep pressing into what you’re worth.

 

 

 

Dear America–Love, A Fast Food Worker


“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we alter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” -Abraham Lincoln

14720533_10211380730578855_170289470852994294_nWe’re driving the South Carolina back roads. He’s telling me all sorts of things and I’m listening, shuffling through Spotify, watching the blurring trees, feeling all kinds of alive.

“Yeah, your great-grandpa, Blev, used to tell me about living during the Depression,” he says, thoughtful.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. He says Grandma Polly used to bake pies and she’d always leave it on the window to cool with a butter knife near it, so if anyone was hungry they could just get a piece.”

“Really? And did they?”

“They did. But they’d only take one, see. That sort of thing wouldn’t happen today.”

“Ohhh, no.”

-DEEP SIGH.-

Keep that story in mind as we fast-forward.

It’s 2016 and I’m the great-granddaughter of a great man on a much different page in American history where everything is different. I’m working as a manager in a fast food restaurant and it’s a crazy night with a very popular coupon that is nowhere in our system. And I’m up to my eye balls, trying to help the team members calculate coupons and refusing to leave the fifteen-year-olds to fend for themselves. I’m helping one of the team members and watching out of the corner of my eye, uneasy, as another customer stands by, looking unhappy and tapping a foot. I look up, say, “I’m sorry for your wait. I’ll be with you in just a moment.”

She throws up a hand, tosses a look at her husband beside her. Finally we figure out the five coupons for the group in front of us and I slide into place behind the first cash register.

“Yes ma’am?” I ask, cautiously, “What can I get for you guys?”

A raised eye brow as she lists off what she wants, but one look and I know she’s still dissatisfied. I muddle through the order, ask questions, and hand them their cups, “We’ll get that right out to you guys. Hope ya’ll enjoy!”

They saunter off to a booth and I sit back, relieved that the tension is gone. Until five minutes later, it’s not. “Hey Mandie,” a team member approaches me, “We can’t find this order. . .and this couple says it isn’t theirs. . .” She looks helpless.

Great. I take the tray and look all over for the customer, asking the couple from a few moments before if they ordered two cheeseburger snack packs. “We didn’t order no cheeseburgers!” the woman snaps, throwing up a hand to her face and shaking her head violently when I say, “Okay, let me figure this out. . .I think they must have mixed up the numbers. I’m so sorry.”

It was back and forth with the kitchen when the woman approached the counter, irritation written all over her face. It wasn’t that I misunderstood her perspective–it was that she misunderstood mine. It was that she had no desire to understand mine. We finally came to the conclusion that the food on the tray was in fact theirs, but she demanded a remake, “That food has been all over!” And in the end, she got a remake in addition to free baskets in the future while I excused myself to the back because I needed a moment.

I sat in the office and let the tears stream down my face. Five minutes and I couldn’t find the will or the desire to face them. To face the dehumanization infringed upon me every time I slide my tie into place and adjust my hat simply because mistakes are made in my business. Because sometimes we get it wrong. Because sometimes people wait an extra few minutes on fries or a milkshake. I let it all pass and stood at the sink, gripping the edges. Honestly, I was angry, indignant, and overwhelmed all in one fell swoop. And it took me taking off my hat, staring at my reflection in that paper towel holder to remember I was human. I was very human. And I was still alive, still me.

And to be honest, since beginning as a manager in a restaurant I’ve discovered what I believe to be the true issue with the country I love so dearly. Because situations like the above occur all the time and no matter what you do, how hard you try, you can’t stop it from happening. So you learn to deal. The main issue with America isn’t Trump and it isn’t Hillary Clinton. It isn’t abortion or the wage-gap or climate change or the vast difference between Republicans and Democrats. No, work with the public in any capacity and see it for yourself: entitlement, narcissism, dissatisfaction, high standards with no leeway, blame-shifting, lack of empathy for fellow human beings, etc. All this out of the nation where pies were left in open windows. This is America crumbling before our eyes.

All this out of the nation where pies were left in open windows. This is America crumbling before our eyes. 

The fact of the matter is, most people aren’t happy. Blame commercialism, blame lack of community, blame corporate America, blame religion–I don’t care who you blame because all that really matters is that it’s happening. Most people aren’t building lives anymore. They’re just existing, placing happiness in the latest technologies, the highest-paying companies, the best-connected people in their circles, the materials accrued. And I think that’s why my generation walked away from traditional American values and from becoming family-oriented individuals–because we found the disingenuous writing scrawled all over the walls. Wake up, America.

But what’s appalling is that everyone seems to be either looking back or looking forward. Either the country’s too different from 1952 or the country hasn’t changed enough and they can’t wait for 2040 and whatever they think is waiting there. This attitude is a disservice to America. The past is behind us. The future is in front of us. But neither are much help in the here and now. We are the builders, the dreamers, the thinkers. It is up to us to not give into this new identity pressing in on every side. It is up to us to not lose hope or to believe our voices mean nothing. The way we take back our country depends on what we do with the power they say we do not have. We have it. And it scares them.

We are the builders, the dreamers, the thinkers. It is up to us to not give into this new identity pressing in on every side. It is up to us to not lose hope or to believe our voices mean nothing.

The answer to how will America end up? In my opinion, it’s quite simply lodged in a question. . .

How will we leave it?

How will we impact our families? Our friends? Our communities? For good or for bad? Will we continue the parade of negative comments, strung along article after article? Will we continue to take everything we have for granted? Will we continue the dehumanization of anyone who doesn’t fit this image that the media has built? Mainstream media, America, is only as powerful as we allow it to be. Quit reading what they say. Quit listening to what they’re saying. Unplug. the. computer. Find out on your own. Build on your own.

Trump will destroy America, they say. Clinton will destroy America, they say. No. They don’t have that kind of power. If we are destroyed, the blame will be on the shoulders of every American sitting back and losing hope, believing this lie that there is nothing to be done. I won’t be a part of it any longer. There is everything to be done. There is everything to hope for.

My ancestors are varied. They are of Swedish, English, Germanic, Irish, Welsh, and even Cherokee descent. I am standing on their shoulders, on what they built for their descendants. And I am imploring you not to walk away. I am imploring you to come back. I am imploring you to fight.

I don’t know what you will decide to do, America. But I will keep hoping no matter who wins in November. I will keep doing the best I can with the decisions laid out in front of me. And I will keep pressing into my faith, into my family, into my friends, and into my community. Because it starts with me and what I choose to build.

And it starts with you too, America.

 

Campfire Chat: Without Borders.


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“That’s what storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again.” -Saving Mr. Banks

Hey, hey, readers!

Today I wanted to kind of clear up a few misconceptions about personal blogging, particularly when it comes to my blog, and discuss the general trajectory of Not Your Average Coffee Bean. So grab a coffee and cop a squat, kids!

I’ve been pretty quiet on most levels of social media lately. And that’s fully my bad. I think sometimes when I know I have important work to do, I kind of shut down and do nothing. That’s a fight I’ve had so far and that will probably continue. But I know that I want to write–I know that’s what I’m here to do, so I’m trying to breathe VERY deeply and let my prayer be this…

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.”-Hillsong

I mean, snap. Without borders. Few people realize this about me, but I’m actually pretty insecure about my writing. There are just so many words I want to say and so many things I feel and I WANT PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND. To be there with me. And that’s where the deep, honest writing comes from: having this constant desire to be understood. Not necessarily seen, but understood. And oftentimes when I publish a blog post, I sit around tapping my fingers and checking Facebook every ten seconds.

DID THEY SEE IT.

DID I POST IT AT THE RIGHT TIME.

DO THEY LIKE ME.

DID I SAY IT RIGHT.

NO ONE LIKED IT. OH NO IT’S AWFUL.

But what if. . .I kept writing real, honest posts. . .but had peace in who I am and what I’m saying? What if I walked with Jesus as much as I talk about Him? Can you imagine what that would look like? Writing and living like that opens doors and effects change. Man. That’s the writer I want to be.

That’s what I’m working towards. But I don’t think many of you realize quite where I’m wanting to take this blog or why I’m even blogging in the first place. So here are three myths along with the perspective in regards to Not Your Average Coffee Bean and an action plan to keep you up to date! If you have any questions or advice, please comment or email me at manderssss22@gmail.com.

(Lord, help me to not suck at replying. Amen. Praise hands. All that.)

Myth #1: Reading personal blogs is kind of like reading someone’s diary. . .

Not Your Average Coffee Bean perspective: Oh honey. You couldn’t handle my diary. If I’m posting something on the internet, let alone SOCIAL media. . .read it. I want you to read it. I wrote it thinking of you or even just wanting you to understand something about me.

Myth #2: Sharing someone’s post is just so awkward. What if I’m crossing a line?

Not Your Average Coffee Bean perspective: THIS THOUGHT IS THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE. I want you to share, share, share. My goal is to be an author and this blog is one of the methods I’ve chosen to expand my audience so that when a book is born there will be people to read the book. (Other than my mother.) My personal belief is that my product is the writing I do and I’ll never get to where I want to go if I just sit in a basement like a creeper and write prose that no one ever reads. And to be honest, I need you. I can’t grow as a writer without you reading, providing feedback, and sharing.

Myth #3: No one wants to read posts that are stories. I can’t share that because no one else would be interested.

Not Your Average Coffee Bean perspective: Look. Storytelling is my profession. That’s what I’m here to do and it’s the only way I know how to say, “Everything is going to be okay.” And I’m here to tell you that. So if one of my posts reaches you, there’s a solid chance it will reach someone else on your newsfeed too. Don’t be afraid to post things that are on your heart because there’s always someone in the dark who needs to be shown little patches of light every now and then. Even if you don’t resonate with anything I say, I hope I at least encourage you to share your own story. Storytelling saves lives. Even the gospel, the greatest story told, is in storytelling format–it’s not salvation in three easy steps or a list of things to do. It’s there to say, “I love you. This is what I did for you. Come home. Drop everything and trust me.”

As for the future of this blog, I hope that Not Your Average Coffee Bean goes places. I hope it reaches people. I’ve begun the process of being an affiliate blogger, so you’ll be seeing new ads on my blog. But my goal is to keep everything on track with the voice I’ve already developed and keep my blog clutter-free. My second goal is to increase traffic by using social media to engage other bloggers and readers, which is a little daunting with all the info out there. But onward and upward!

. . .I recognize that I’m a dork. . .

And finally, my third goal is to get to the point where I’m posting three times a week. For now I’m lucky if I get one post in a week, but I’m in this writing thing for life and there are always, always things to improve.

Finally, what would you like to read about? Please comment below or send me an email. All suggestions are more than welcome!

As always, thank you for reading. ❤ ❤ ❤ <—I love you enough to do cheesy 2010-style virtual hearts.

-Mandie

 

F O U N D


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I found my voice in brambles and thorns,
It sat in deepest forest, buried low,
I heard it crying, though no one was around,
It sobbed and fought the silence,
But no one heard a sound,
I sat there and I listened,
Though not for me it cried,
Nor for the life I had,
The rain came soon and its cries grew,
They grew until it was silent-
Fear and pain the only melody it knew.
Suddenly I had no choice,
I rose.
And dug it out of the mud,
I turned it in my hand, saw how it fit,
How could something fit so well,
But hurt so bad?
I tucked it away and whispered,
If nothing else, I hear you,
If nothing else, I won’t leave,
If nothing else, we’re together,
If nothing else, you’re found.
And so, in brambled wood we sit,
Making nothing but our sound.
-Amanda Russell

A Love Letter: To You


11231690_10207369229573837_3377103084176616338_n-2wrote this post on a note for my Facebook page about six weeks ago and decided to post it on my blog as well. Wherever you are–whoever you are, this is for you. I met a new friend the other day who’d lost a loved one to suicide. And it rocked me to the point that I just felt compelled to write to you–to all of you and tell you how wonderful you are and how much we need you to stay. It’s made me want to run around and shout to whoever will listen, “You are so loved! Don’t you know who you are?”
But that would probably freak people out. So that’s why we have the Internet.
Whether or not you’ve been thinking about leaving, this is more about knowing who you are and how much you matter. I think that everyone struggles with self-image or self-doubt, but I really want this letter to be a beacon of light in the dark–in the midst of those lies that seem to build over who you really are. No matter how small or big the lies are right now, they’re still lies and everyone needs to know how much they matter. It’s when you know how much you matter that you can really touch the lives of others.
Drumroll, please. It’s time for a transitional paragraph:
I come home from a long shift and my mom is sitting up in her bed, watching Downton Abbey. I slip into fresh socks and she rubs my feet–because these babies take a beating, to be totally honest. While she’s helping a girl out, I’m staring at her robe, draped across that old chair and I’m wondering…what would I do if I came home and she wasn’t there? What would I do if there was no old robe draped across a musty chair? What would I do if I couldn’t hear her smiling and saying, “This show is just phenomenal!” I know so many people who’ve already experienced this loss, with the silence on repeat, screaming louder than any noise ever could.
But what gets me as I look at my mom is the fact that I know there are days when she doesn’t even know how important she is, looks in the mirror and sees someone who doesn’t matter.
And I got to thinking…how many people don’t know how much they matter? How many people step up to the mirror and only hear lies, only see everything they’re not, stacked up and staring them in the face. And then. . . I watch people. I see the teenager with sadness mirroring his smile, who always makes me laugh. I see the lonely man eating custard at a back table where no one can see him and my heart aches. I see the girl who walks into a room and lights up every corner of that room. I see the homeless man with years of stress and pain etched into his face. “Do they know?” I wonder, “Do any of them know how much they matter? Do they even know they’re a lead character in stories of their own? Do they know how much we’d love to read what’s written–how what’s written in their stories can impact thousands of other stories?”
We need them. We need you. We need your coat on a hanger. We need your shoes piled in a corner of your room. We need the jam recipes you’ve messed up and the way you make fudge too sweet. We need your freckled smiles, your wrinkled hands, your messy hair from sticking your head out the window. We need your grumpy mornings and your drunken nights. We need your messy things. We need all things you. Because empty closets and spider-webbed corners are useless when there isn’t someone to mess them up.
Nothing is wasted. Everything is relevant. God can and will mold everything you’ve got into His plan. So bring it–bring everything you’ve got.
Every time you enter a room, it matters. Every time you leave a room you leave a space no one else could ever, ever fill. No one can spill milk like you; no one can give impish smiles like you can; no one can love like you can; no one can listen to others like you can; no one can make the whole room laugh like you can; no one can press life into others like you can.
And it doesn’t matter if you leave small fingerprints on the window or if you rush through this life like a bull in a china shop–the finger print you leave on life is complete, is untouchable, is completely, uniquely you.
You matter if not for the beating of your heart, for the fact that you were crafted by a God who would not rest until you were here, until you had a chance. On this day. On this earth. In this moment. Sexual orientation, race, religion, height, weight, whoever you are, wherever you are or have been, whatever society or the church or haters tell you is lacking from you–you matter so much that this planet would not be what it is if you were not here.
I’ll even give you a verse to back it up:“All good gifts come from the Father of Lights.”
If good things come from the Father–which they do– and He creates life–which He does– and He created YOU–which He did–…then, that means you are a good thing simply because of who made you.You are not what the enemy says you are. Yes, you choose which side you’re on. But even what you choose does not detract from who you were meant to be, from the love God holds for you on the other side of doubt and fear, from how much you matter.
I hope you know how much you matter. I hope you wake up in the morning and choose to trust that there is purpose behind every heartbeat.

Fat Girl Diaries: NOT TODAY, SATAN.


I had toyed with the idea of getting weight loss help from a personal trainer for months. I’d watched online as old friends became fit through the process, but always thought it would be too weird to use the same person. It was a lonely Saturday when I finally decided to ask them anyway. I was sitting in a chair, getting a pedicure, and I had to look in the mirror. I had to face how big I’d become. . .and it didn’t feel good. I didn’t wait even thirty seconds before sending the once-dreaded message, “Hey–I’m looking for a personal trainer and I was wondering who you used and if you’d recommend him?”

Of course she did and by the following Monday I was in the middle of an uphill battle, mentally, emotionally, and physically. The first few days were new and fresh, but the end of the first ten days were hell. I wanted custard. I wanted cheese curds. I wanted Mexican food and coffee with cream AND sugar. I sat on my bed, watching Tasty videos and dreading the next meal. I watched my family eat pizza and let myself just inhale the delicious, delicious smell.

Yes, I’m a freakshow.

I dealt with the depression knocking on my door to tell me that this probably wouldn’t work or that I could quit…it would probably be better if I quit. But I didn’t. I hung in there. And you know what? It got better. I bought fresh cilantro and began a love story with black coffee like this world has never seen before. I got stronger. I got better. And I’ve lost 30 pounds.

I’m proud of that. (Even though I could still go for a glass of Moscato and dark chocolate from Trader Joe’s…and if I’m real, real honest with myself, I’ll probably be freezing a piece of birthday cake to eat in 8 months. Because…Publix cake. Turning 24 ain’t no joke, people.)

But that’s not where the story ends. Because every time you start to get up, someone will come your way to knock you right back down. And hmm…I wonder who could be behind that…hmm…

I’ve been on a mission since last year to go on a date. It’s silly and pointless, but I’ve always wanted to experience one solid date. Just because. So obviously, I went online…because I’m brilliant. Online, you know you’re going to get burned in some way or another. Someone will ghost you; someone won’t want what you want; someone might not respect the perimeters you’ve set around what you’re willing to talk about.

Tonight, I was in a conversation with someone who didn’t respect any of my perimeters. He asked me to come over to his house to meet his friends and I told him I was more of a coffeeshop sort of girl. He asked me if I was shy and I added awkward to the mix in an attempt to keep things light.

Here’s what I got in response:

Him: “As a globally respected photographer, you saying no to me embarrasses yourself. The next time I invite you somewhere, drop what you’re doing. Knowing me has its perks I promise. Enjoy your night.”

And he also sent a screenshot of his million dollar bank account. -eye roll-

My response: “Eh…not really looking for a codependent relationship. Kind of the independent, self-respecting type of girl and I don’t care who you are. So, good night and good luck.”

Him: “Haha okay. Says every obese girl ever. You’re not attractive enough to be picky sweetheart, it’s going to be a long time before you realize that.”

GLOBAL PHOTOGRAPHER SAY WHAT. Let me take out my earrings.

Me: “I’m everything I need to be. I know exactly who and what I am, sir. I’d rather be where I’m at than successful and proud…and it’s going to be a long time before you realize that.”

You have no idea how much I wish this was some weird analogy I made up.

I don’t know if this dude was who he said he was, but let’s just humor him, shall we? For all we know, it’s some 40 year old in his mother’s basement. (Dear Lord…let it be so. Amen.) Either way, he’s a troll who’s out to belittle others to make himself feel better. (BREAKING NEWS: It never works.) Either way, the words he hurled at me were meant to hurt. They were meant to break.

So. For anyone out there sitting on bathroom floors or binge-eating Ben and Jerry’s because someone out there is trying to make you feel inferior, here are a few things to keep in mind:

-You are not required to say, “Yes,” to anyone for any reason.

-You are not required to neglect your self-respect because of anything anyone says or does.

-You are not required to allow the words of anyone define who you are.

-You don’t need permission to love who you are, right where you are. You get to choose that.

-Don’t let anyone–ANYONE–tear down what you’re building, especially yourself. They aren’t in charge of how you view yourself.

He meant to tear me down tonight. But you know what? Tomorrow morning, I’m getting up and going to train. I’m going to push weights. I’m going to push myself because he doesn’t get the rights to my story. He doesn’t get a say in how I view myself.

What are you going to do? Get up, love. Get up for you. And scream out your window, “NOT TODAY, SATAN.” Freaking not today.

 

Becoming Russell: Snow Globe


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“How many more will wander past to find me here among the ashes,
Will You hold me? Will You stay?
So I can raise this broken praise to You, oh.”-Broken Praise, Todd Smith

We live a snow globe life, frozen in place with no way out. People come and look on, but really can’t do anything. Dead isn’t the right word, but neither is alive. It just feels like everything’s frozen in place, in this middle place–struggling usually, rich never, okay sometimes. It’s roller-coaster effect: one week you’re eating Moe’s and the next week you can’t afford toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, and your car’s being taken away.

But why eat Moe’s when your car is being taken away? Well, to be frank…the damn thing is going to be taken whether we like it or not so why not go eat nachos covered with queso?  You know…$20 at Moe’s is much easier to come up with than $250 for a car payment.

I digress.

This is our story and this is how we’ve felt, year after year. If something is going well, don’t expect it to last. Because it never does. The minute we finally have arrived in a place where we could start to tackle the load of debt we owed, someone would get fired or something would break.

You learn not to talk about it because you don’t want pity, you don’t want someone to give you money because then you’ll feel awful, and you don’t want someone feeding you answers because every pat answer has been explored. You clean up, show up, and shut up.

And I think I’m tired of it. Our story needs to come from us for a change, not anyone else. It’s no one else’s business, but after years of our name being drug through the mud I just want you to know…it’s not what you think.

Some have suggested that we’re cursed. Most that my dad did something to deserve this, that he’s lazy. But here’s the thing…my dad has had 55+ jobs in his life. And I sit here, looking over the extensive resume of a man who’s worked since 11 years old and…I don’t see a lazy man. I just don’t see it. Because I don’t think you can reasonably argue that anyone who’s had over 50 jobs is lazy unless you have a personal, strong dislike of that individual.

However… the older I get, the more I see God in the hard times. Beyond all the hurtful rumors, beyond all the hurtful struggles. I am always more than willing to express how bad it could feel to grow up in poverty–how much it could hurt. How much it could tear you down. But now I choose to see it as a strength. I like to think poverty was God’s way of bringing us to Himself. I see Him whispering, “Ah, not you, love. You won’t be like the others. I’m making something really beautiful.”

Different. But beautiful.

It was January of 1999 when we moved into a missionary’s home while he and his wife were abroad. My mom tried explaining to the man that we weren’t stable enough, but he assured her that it would be fine and that he wouldn’t charge us for 3 months until we got our feet on the ground. So we bit.

My dad quit selling for the cemetery in late 1998 and transitioned to a position as a parts man for a cabinetry shop. But for a family of 5, $1,200/month isn’t enough and my mom was struggling with anxiety over how the bills would get paid. A friend of my dad’s told him about a job selling cars where he would make $500/week for the first 8 weeks and then the company would transition him into full commission, which meant if he could sell 2 cars a week he could make $750-1,500/week.

And one thing you should know? My dad is a good salesman. He knows how to talk to people and he’s very down-to-earth. In his mind, this opportunity was the best bet at having a good life.

So…

New job: check.

Place to stay: check.

Things were looking up, but then the snow globe was drop-kicked.

Six weeks into his new job, my dad was laid-off along with all the other new people because of a change within the company. And then my parents were late to pay April’s rent and were about to approach the missionary to tell him we couldn’t afford to stay there any longer. But he beat us to it and gave us a week to get out.

So we did. With that, another puzzle piece shifted into place: we were re-acquainted with the people whose church we would attend for 13 years. The pastor of that church knew our grandparents and allowed us to live in their camper. Mom and the three of us only stayed for 2 weeks, but my dad stayed there for the majority of that summer while working Home Depot and saving up. As for the rest of us, Mom placed a call and it was off to Michigan to stay with her dad for 2 months.

My grandfather lived in this small town in this large, Victorian-style blue house. He was this fascinatingly reserved person and it seemed that everything about him was gray, from his hair to his beard to his cat. I stayed in his spare bedroom while my brother and sister slept in the same bed as my mom.

That town, in my view, was magic. It was the sort of place where Fourth of July parades were held and a gas station also posed as an ice cream shop and the library was a block away. That summer was like something out of Huckleberry Finn in its ordinary beauty. We walked to the library often and after bath time, Mom read books to us. That was the summer I learned to ride a bike; that was the summer Anthony turned 5 and Dad sent him a Mickey Mouse watch; that was the summer we got a kitten and named her Snowflake; that was the summer I learned how to stand on my hands underwater. And to this day, there is a mirage of children’s paintings on an alleyed-brick wall that we made messy contributions to.

The only problem with that summer? I still missed my dad. #daddysgirl

By August we were back in South Carolina and everything was flipped upside-down. We were in a new church with new people. Anthony was in kindergarten and I was in 1st grade, so we attended the school attached to the family-operated church. Dad was still at Home Depot and worked a second job where he sold trailer parts. Then in late-August or the beginning of September, my dad was offered a job with a local heavy equipment organization. So he quit selling trailer parts and held onto his job at Home Depot.

Roughly ninety days later, my dad’s newest boss found out he was working two jobs and made my dad choose. He chose the more-steady income.

But a week later, that same boss who made him quit his other job fired him.

Mhm. The life we lead, people. The. Life. We. Lead.

By that point, 1999 was coming to an end and well…

Mama went back to work.

 

 

Liebster Award Nomination, Baby!


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Well, hi there. I have been nominated for the Liebster award by http://www.mommajeans.com. Go check out her blog! She’s doing pretty awesome things over on her blog!

To qualify for the award, each blogger has to do the following:

  1. Thank the blog that nominated you on a post in your blog.
    2.Answer the questions asked by the blog that nominated you.
    3.Nominate 5-11 other new bloggers.
    4.Create 11 new questions for the nominees to answer.
    5. Notify all nominees via social media.

Here are the questions mamajeans had for those she nominated:

1. What is your favorite food?

Oh my gosh. I’m such a foodie. But I have to say tacos. Like Taco Bell tacos, man. They taste like heaven, but will definitely cause heart failure.

…and I might have a small problem with ice cream. Minute, really.

2. What is your style? Do you get all dolled up, or are you sweatpants and a tank top type girl?

I really love dressing quirky, but nice. But I don’t worry about comfy because I’m the type of girl who lounged in church clothes as a kid. I’M TALKING PANTY HOSE. I have a thing for wordy t-shirts and I have an on-going love affair with jeans. And also…Sperry’s are my jam.

3. If you were independently wealthy, what would you do with your time?

Okay, I’ve had this planned out for awhile. Ahem. From January to the end of February, I would own a home in Hawaii and stay there to work on writing while I wait out the winter. (I seriously hate cold weather and winter is depressing. I can’t.) But then from March to mid-September, I would own a little place in the South Carolina countryside where I would still write, but also develop the land and donate the fruits and vegetables to local families who can’t afford to eat healthy. Then I would take a two-week break to celebrate my birthday with my family–or ditch my family to take a cruise. I can’t decide. AND THEN, I would own a townhouse in Greenville, SC where I would write, enjoy fall, and spend the holidays with my family.

And honestly, I would probably donate a lot of money to people who needed it.

BUT IF ANY PUBLISHING COMPANY REFUSED TO PUBLISH ME, I’D JUST BUY THE COMPANY.

I know. I’m an odd bird.

4. Worst habit?

Procrastinating. And eating too many tacos.

5. What is your best quality in your opinion?

I like that I’m really understanding of people.

6. What is your favorite game?

I have this game I play with myself where I see how irritating I can be to my little sister and then I die laughing. It’s funny because all I have to do is give her a hug or walk around with no pants on. She loves me.

7. Do you have kids? If so how many? If not, do you have any fur babies?

No kids, but I have a dog and a cat. (But if it were up to me, I’d have 5 dogs. Straight up.)

8. Who is your celebrity crush?

Theo James from Divergent. HAVE YOU SEEN HIM?!

9. Why did you want to blog? Are you wanting to reach a certain audience?

I’ve been blogging since I was 15, off and on, and I think it started out as a way to talk about my life and ramble on. But now, I really want it to be a way I reach out to audiences who are still in the shadows and feel like no one gets them. I guess I want to be a shout in the darkness.

10. How do you cope with negativity?

Oh my gosh. It depends on who it’s from. If it’s from one of my family members and I know it’s completely unfair, I speak my mind. But if it’s from a friend, I tend to take it all into myself and not deal with it until it’s all bubbling up inside. And then I eat my feelings. GREAT LIFE CHOICES.

11. If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?

I would go to Ireland, I’m thinking. It just seems like a magical place. But I would find a way to stop off at the Denver airport first so I could see if anything weird happens. Yes. I’m that person.

And now for the nominees:

I loved the variety of blogs that came my way–each of them offer so much talent, information, and personality. Congrats to all!

  1. http://www.dirtyfloorshappykids.com (She talks such real talk,but she does it with a great sense of humor! I love it!)
  2. http://floraful.blogspot.com (Hannah writes about everything from makeup to fashion with such ease and a fun sense of humor that you’d be crazy not to follow her! Keep doing you, girl!)
  3. http://kristawatterworth.com/designpalmbeach/ (If you want to learn how to give a room some pizzazz, this is the blog for you, my friend. They definitely know how to make a room bright and clean! …which is the opposite of mine for sure!)
  4. http://7summitsproject.com (Wow–that’s all I can say. Not only is this blog in support of a great goal, the blog posts are well-written and thought-provoking. Best of luck in all your goals!)
  5. http://www.careerchickturnedmom.com (This blog follows the life of a pharmacist and mother of two. This blog has a little bit of it all, discussing health, how to deal with others who are going through health problems, celebrity news, and more. I love how honest she is in her writing!)
  6. http://www.justabxmom.com (This blog follows the life of a mom who talks about a lot of good resources for children’s entertainment by showing you what they read in their house. It’s bound to make you smile!)
  7. https://tofilleunique.wordpress.com (This blogger has a pretty unique perspective on life and tells it all with an easy, reflective style. She talks music and art, writes poetry, and has a pretty legit bucket list!)
  8. https://livingwellerwithoutthewhine.wordpress.com (Finally! Someone just talking about everyday life. From growing up to music and much more, this blogger talks about it all with a sense of humor and a down-to-earth style.)
  9. http://www.seostyle.in (If you want to know more about SEO and need a resource, this is for you! Lots of good information on this blog.)
  10. http://www.refurbish360blog.com (If you love DIY and learning how to refurbish your home in a relatable, fun way then this is the blog for you. Check it out!)
  11. http://www.ourthriftylife.com (This is the blog of two newlyweds making their way through married life, tackling each thing (like dinners and taxes!) with humor, wit, and style. You rock!)

Questions for the nominees:

  1. If you were on a deserted island and could only eat one food indefinitely, BUT you could have as much as you wanted of it…what would it be?
  2. If you had to choose either no cell phone or no social media for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
  3. If you could rid the world of one thing, what would it be?
  4. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  5. What is your main goal for your blog?
  6. Are you fluent in any languages?
  7. What is the thing you’ve accomplished that you’re most proud of?
  8. Okay, you’re in a burning building and you can only bring one thing out with you. What would it be?
  9. If you could have a conversation with anyone in the world, who would it be?
  10. What is your favorite book and/or author?
  11. And lastly…since you’re on Not Your Average Coffee Bean–ahem–Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts? This is the definitive question.

Thank you all for participating in Weirdest Questions Ever–I’ll be here all week!

Not Your Average Coffee Bean out, y’all.