Raising Magnolias

Because it's never too late for happily ever after…

Archive for the month “November, 2017”

The Most Wonderful Time? Really?

I love Christmas.

I love lights and decorations and red balls. I love fresh greenery and I love baby Jesus and grown-up Jesus and I love all things Christmas.

And I love singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

But no where in my home will you find those words because what I learned during my time in the fire—my time in the middle of the wilderness—is that this is not, in fact, always, for all people the most wonderful time.

Made all the worse by the idea that it should be wonderful.

The most wonderful.

But what if it’s not? And that’s OK.

What if empty chairs fill empty tables.

What if expectations of Santa’s sleigh bag don’t match expectations of this month’s paycheck.

What if it’s good and hard and festive and hard and merry and, yet.

Still hard.

What if it’s beautiful to celebrate the arrival of a Savior but that it’s not a wonderful time.

Here. Now.

For me, it is. Now. Today. But I can remember not so far off  and so I pass by these humans. Their eyes sparkly and sad and knowing and longing and I wonder for them—

Is this time wonderful?

Jesus is. But is this time?

Turn on the news.

I quit watching the news in the summer of 2008. Coulter had just been born.

Wait. That was 2005. Jingle Bells! I haven’t watched the news in over ten years.

I’m really OK with that. Coulter gets to watch CNN student news at school and is currently working on bettering his Donald Trump impersonation so we’re good.

What would happen if I did turn it on? Would our President be goading Russia (is that a word? ya know, like what Coulter does to Emma Claire to make her mad?) or tweeting about football players kneeling during the anthem.

I think the bigger issue is not that they stood or kneeled but that our President has time to tweet about it.

Football players. Hello, people. Not. The most wonderful time.

And for the record I stand. And I sing. Loudly. For all the world to hear.


What would happen? If I turned on the news? Would I hear that a journalist I began almost every morning with, for 10 plus years, had dropped his pants for a colleague.

Men. Here’s a word. Gross. Take for just a second that this is not assault (which it is), and just hear this word.

We are not visual. And you are gross.

And I haven’t eaten for a week at the thought of Charlie Rose exposing himself to women expecting to interview with a revered journalist.

Shame on them for expecting that he’d have his pants on.

Men. Gross.

Not a wonderful time.

And it’s not really Charlie. I’m not currently eating because the singlet I purchased to wear in our super-strong-awesome power-lifting competition came out of the box looking like a singlet for an 18-month old. It might fit Emma Claire.

Apparently it stretches.

Anyway. I don’t watch the news.

And for the record, I’m not really on Facebook anymore. 😉

So I’m decorating with the red balls and fresh greenery and I’m celebrating but something is missing. I wanted a print with a cute little saying. I went to 5 different stores looking. Searching. I even went to the uber-uber-uber Donald Trump lover’s cute little boutique and was willing to give them my money if they only had that missing piece.


I go to my friend and ask her to create what’s missing. “I want it to read, ‘A savior is born.'”

“Ok,” she responds. “Becky wants something that says, ‘A weary world rejoices.'” And I stop in my tracks.

Yes. That’s it.

Becky will not at all be surprised that I’ve copied her. I’m fancy-fancy like that.

For the Love.

A weary world rejoices. Fall on our knees.

In humility.

In grief.

In confession.

In awe and praise.

And know that this is precisely why He came.

So that a weary world might rejoice.

It may not be the most wonderful time of your year. You may not even like red balls or fresh greenery or the movie Elf.

Bless your heart.

But for you, Jesus came. For our weary souls. He came.

Rejoicing is different than being happy.

Rejoicing is soul. Rejoicing is spirit.

Rejoicing says, my heart is weary but I celebrate anyway.

Yes. That’s it. Weary, weary friends. Rejoice. A savior is coming.





Ann Voskamp says that “expectations kill relationships.”

The first time I read that I thought it was the stupidest thing ever.

Stupidest? Most stupid?

5 years later, not quite so stupid. I’ve seen the deaths.

I’ve felt them.

Just weeks ago, I saw a friend’s Facebook post that read, “unspoken expectations lead to resentment.”

Not so stupid after all.

I only mention it came from his Facebook feed, because unlike the rest of the world, apparently, I’m still “on Facebook”.

That’s my favorite thing these days. “Ya know, honestly, I’m just not on Facebook anymore.”

Honestly? Really? Then how did I know you’re dog’s been sick for the last two weeks and you have a new hamster named Rambo and that you had mac-n-cheese for dinner?

Evidently, not from Facebook.

I digress.

I see this. Unspoken expectations.

I have very high exceptions. For myself. For others.

For you.

But I’d like for you to figure them out on your own.

I don’t want to have to tell you.


Thank you very much.

Sometimes these expectations are reasonable. I expect that if you have a driver’s license you know how to count the number of stops at a 4-way. Imagine my disappointment over this.

I expect that if you vow to forsake all others, that you will—well, again—you can imagine.

I expect my children to be respectful and kind and keep their rooms clean.

Well, at least the respectful and kind part.

I expect my husband to do all the hard stuff that I don’t want to do.

That’s the Biblical approach. 😉

This morning I was supposed to take Emma Claire’s red sweater to her dad’s so that he could he could make sure it was clean and ready for their family Thanksgiving.

Surprisingly, as I never forget anything, I forgot. Emma Claire walked out of her dad’s house, (which, of course is also their house, but I can’t bring myself to say that so I simply refer to it as “Teakwood” and our home, is ya know, home-home. ) This is not entirely a bad thing. Teakwood sounds very stately, kind of like Southfork Ranch on Dallas.

So, really, it’s a compliment. And a slight insecurity on my part.


(In case you were unaware, that’s what the kids are saying now. Apparently the “er” of whatever proves too difficult.)


I forgot the sweater. Emma Claire turned to her dad with this look that said, “Yup. Just as we expected.”

She got into the car and said, “Dad wasn’t really surprised.”

Just trying to meet expectations.

I said to Emma Claire, “as it turns out, your mom also knows how to do laundry.”

Mike smiled.

“OK, Mike knows how to do laundry. What-evs Regardless, the red sweater will be ready.”

Because, again, with the hard stuff.

Laundry. Men. Galatians. Look it up.

Last December I promoted a “night owls”  class at our training studio.  Four nights a week for 4 weeks to help stay on track during the holidays. I never expected for it to last past December.

Primarily because I’m not a night owl.

Or an early bird. I’m like a mid-morning Peacock.

I rock the mid-morning.

But the night owls persisted and what I learned is that when you commit in December, when your new year’s resolution starts in December, you are ready.

Ready to show up and do hard things.

Actually that’s redundant.

Or maybe an oxymoron. I can’t remember. But showing up is the hard thing.

Several weeks ago, I went to see Jen Hatmaker speak and she told this beautiful story about sister Elephants.

When a female elephant is alone in the wild, she is either injured or giving birth. Her sister elephants surround her and kick up dirt and protect her. If giving birth, afterward, the sisters turn to the wild and they trumpet her news. In part out of protection.

In whole, to celebrate.

This group of women showing up and doing hard things led to other groups of women showing up and doing hard things and even more other groups of women showing up and doing hard things, and I imagine their influence ripples far past our small little tribe and tonight this strong group of night owls, will be celebrating.

I asked them each to bring an elephant gift.

Not a white-elephant.

An actual elephant.

Because over the past year I’ve watched them circle and kick up dirt. Circle around a teacher who was being bullied by a parent, circle around a friend whose husband looked for meaningful work, circle around  a worried mom, a proud mom, a desperate mom. I’ve watched them show up and lift heavy weights and leave behind even heavier. I’ve watched them kick up dirt in protection of their tribe.

And I watched them trumpet. A half-marathon, a performing daughter, a new p.r., a new job, successes at work, triumps at home.

A new book. A new author.

And this group trumpeted. Assured. Affirmed. Protected.

And tonight we celebrate with elephants.

And sangria.

I’ve competed with women my whole life. Piano contests, beauty pageants, you name it and it was a competition.

I expected that you were out to beat me and I expected myself to win.

Lisa Burke in high school. Stella was her name in college.

Seriously. I can’t remember the red sweater, but I remember those names.

Paula. Debby. Shantel.

Debby is my friend and my sister in Christ and we taught Kindermusik together. We were colleagues, but bless my heart y’all, for me, it was a competition to see who had the most families in each class. The saddest part? Pretty sure no-one else knew it was a game.

Knew it was a competition. Which, looking back makes it a whole lot easier for me to win.

What in the actual hale?

This past year, I’ve begun to understand that not everyone’s against us.

Against me.

Not everything is a competition.

Not everyone is a competitor.

I’m learning this and how late I am to the party.

To the table.

I’ve begun to understand that we don’t need to fight other women for a seat at the table.

We need to build a bigger table.

A round table. With no hard edges and no beginnings and no endings and a round table that we can keep adding leafs to and keep adding sisters to and when we’re hurt and vulnerable we can sit in the middle and when our sisters give birth to children and projects and dreams then we can turn around from our table and trumpet the news.

I think I’ll always struggle with holding people (myself and others!) to unrealistic expectations but I’m growing in grace and I’ll work, first, to at least speak out loud these expectations.

I think I’ll always struggle with a competitive spirit, but I’m growing in grace and I’ll work, first, to at least compete with you and not against you.

And finally, I think as a loner (big ol introvert that I am), I’ll always struggle to lean in and draw close to other women. To other people. To my sisters and my brothers.

I’ll always struggle with cancelled plans. As in, not cancelling them.

I’ve found my seat at the table. And it’s lovely and open and round and you are welcome.

This past year, I’ve become less of a competitor and more of a welcomer. The Lord has blessed me with a colorful tribe of elephants and I’ll be sharing my experiences of sisterhood and friendship in a new, monthly Devotion Book, called Elephant Sisters.

But I’m going to need your help. Will you come round my table and share your stories of friendship. Let’s write this one together. The only expectation will be laughter.

#elephantsisters #comingfallof2018night owls collage


Top 10 Lessons Learned.

I’m learning things. Good things. Hard things. Just all the thing-things. At least ten. Certainly more than ten and soon it will be 10X10 but for today. Just this.

The top 10 lessons learned since writing a book.

  1. Most folks are happy that you’ve written a book. But most is not all and not everyone is happy that you’ve written a book. It’s not that they’re unhappy, per se. It’s that they simply don’t care. This was surprising to me, thus a lesson learned. I thought everyone would think this was just the best thing since peanut butter and sliced bread. My dad thinks so, though, so that is enough.
  2. Writing a book feels a little like having a baby. Weird, I know. It starts with that feeling you had with your first pregnancy. A few weeks or maybe a few days it occurs to you, an educated women, that this baby inside of you is going to have to come out. And you panic a little, like it doesn’t seem physically or biologically possible. There’s just not



The night before Pearl launched, I had the same feeling. Panic. Like oops, here I am all fat and pregnant and I totally forgot that I was going to have to push this baby out.

I totally forgot that y’all were going to read my book.

So then you present your baby to the world and you wait. Will they love my baby? Do they think my baby’s cute? Or are they looking at my baby with that “bless her heart, maybe she’ll grow into that nose” kind of look.

My book. It’s my baby and I want you to love it.

3. My original goal was to write a book that someone other than my Mother would read and we’ve gotten there so everything else is gravy. However, I must’ve secretly thought a few other people would read it because I acknowledge them in my very super-fancy acknowledgement page. At first this page included about 4500 people starting with my first babysitter, Mrs. Bell. I finally landed on acknowledging those who had faithfully walked through the fire along side me. What I should’ve done was consider who might actually read said acknowledgements. Because I’m starting to think that a lot of them fall into category 1 and will never know that they played a starring role in my book.

4. I prefer writing to sales. I and I was going to say I prefer writing to sailing but see what happens with spell check? It implies that I know how to sail. I don’t. And I barely know how to sale.

5. My children are watching. OK, this is cheating a little bit. I already knew they were watching. But when Emma Claire told me that writing my book had inspired her to become a writer, and when Coulter said that he thought “Uhm, yeah right” when I told him I was going to write a book but then, ya know, I did and he seems slightly impressed by that, well then that was the reminder. Our children are watching and I’m going to keep showing. Growing. Teaching. Leading. All the good words. And do y’all know how hard it is to impress a 12 year-old?

6. People read their story in yours. This was my hope. My prayer. But y’all! When it happens it is the best. The best-ity-best best.

7. People respond (if they respond) in one of three ways. 1. Oh my gosh! This was so great. I read it in a night.” 2. Oh my gosh! I relate so much to your story. Here’s what I’m going through. Can we talk? And 3. Interesting. I really like how you colored in the lines. What a pretty shade of blue that it. What a rewarding experience this must have been. The #3 people are trying hard to be nice. I appreciate the effort so much, but it’s a little bit like the mom who’s trying to compliment a child’s artwork and she has no flippin clue what it is, so she just compliments the colors.

Nice job coloring inside the lines. Way to go.

8. People surprise you. Friends, colleagues, students, family, sorority sisters and even strangers known only through words  and social media have shared and cheered and trumpeted the news and they’ve bought books. Too many books. All because I asked.

9. Reach for the stars and land in the clouds, right? My first week goal was 500 books. We hit close to 400 and I’ll take the clouds. I love having crazy stupid goals because the view from the clouds is beautiful too. And because I’m such a sailer (see above) I know that now we adjust the sail and we find new ways to share my story which is His story.

10. Writing is easy. Publishing is scary. One-day is easy. Someday, too. But today? Scary. Nichole Nordeman tells this great story about a friend who’s mom had died. They had the hard task of cleaning out her house and he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. Totally overwhelmed, the man’s wife suggested that they just open the garage. Nothing else. Just open the garage. As Elisabeth Elliot says, do the next right thing. Open the garage. Now, a year later Nichole learned—after sharing this story all over the country on the Belong Tour—that the man’s mom wasn’t dead. She had just moved.

Seriously. Read that again. So funny. She wasn’t dead.

But the story is still so good. What are you waiting for? Open the garage. Take the next step. Do the next right thing. Writing is easy. Publishing is hard. Journaling is easy. Sharing is hard. Closing yourself away from community is Oh. So. Easy.

Moving toward others in the mess of life is hard. What’s your easy? What’s your hard?

I have opened my garage and bless my own dang heart, you’ve seen the mess. Maybe now’s the time to open yours.

11. Duh. Every top 10 needs a #11. My best lesson YET! A reader challenged me to think further, study further, dig further on a topic that I wrote about in “Pearl”. She handed me literature and then challenged me to do my own research. You know what’s amazing about people reading your book? When they challenge you to make your next one even better.

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