a present-over-perfect practice

words and reflections from 12.31.16:

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It’s a quiet New Year’s Eve in our home. We are tired from long travels back from SC, and the inevitable letdown that comes post-Christmas. In the quiet of reflection tonight, I am choosing to believe that as 2016 closes and 2017 dawns, God will be faithful, kind, and loving, even to me – who can be ungrateful, unkind, ungenerous, way too stubborn for my own good, and fearful. I’ve chased a lot of perfection and dreams in 2016, and from the outside looking in (or what you’d see and what I posted on social media), it looked pretty good. But part of what I’ve missed in that pursuit is real connection with friends and family. So for 2017 … I’m praying for God’s grace to show up through less trying-to-act-perfect and more real-life-community. Through less idealizing and more getting into the nitty-gritty work of forgiveness, love, kindness, courage, and faith. Amen?

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Davis Design Furniture

I grew up with two younger brothers, and I certainly bossed them around in typical older sister fashion when we were younger – until they grew up to be taller than me. As adults, I not only look up to them physically, but I also respect them for the men they’ve become. Jonathan is a physician serving the under-served in a Christian free medical clinic in Georgia. He and his beautiful wife, Nicole, are parents to three kids and foster-parents as well. Bryan is an entrepreneur and business/marketing guru who works in the Research and Development wing of their city’s health system. He and his beautiful wife, Megan, are parents of two boys and live on a gorgeous property in rural SC. He also has incredible talent as a furniture designer and is the purveyor of the recently launched Davis Design Furniture.

Without further adieu,  I’ll let Bryan introduce himself and his furniture company to you.

Designer. Creator. Builder.

Ever since I was a kid I have visualized, designed and built. By the time I was in middle school, I built my first piece of furniture – I was hooked, and learned I had a passion for it (which thankfully tends to lend itself towards improvement). I’ve come a long way since then, and my passion for design and building continues to grow and mature.

Good. Better. Best.

My philosophy? Build more than simply furniture, create a story people can fall in love with. Craft as though it’s for my own family and build to share for generations to come. Every piece of Davis Design Furniture represents hours of designing, planning and crafting.with hand-picked top-shelf materials to produce unique, one-of-a-kind pieces you’ll want to talk about.

Megan. Issac. Asher.

I’m blessed to have an amazing wife and two studly little boys  to live life with on our property in Moonville, South Carolina.

Because a picture is worth 1000 words, I’ll end this post with a few pictures of the furniture that he’s built. And I’ll ask you to check out his website for more inspiration!

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a beautiful side-table from Davis Design

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a gorgeous farmhouse table from  Davis Design

 

 

An honest prayer for Thanksgiving

As we move into the season in which we seek to pause and give thanks, to celebrate God’s provision with a bountiful feast, I want to offer a meditation and a prayer. {While I also seek to acknowledge how this season can become an occasion for #thanks-shaming. I.e. Why don’t I feel more grateful for all that I’ve been given? I wish I was as grateful as ___ seems to be, etc. If this feeling of thanks-shaming resonates with you, read more in my series about shame here.}

May I lift my gaze to what is good in my life, for even the darkest of nights can be illuminated by a tiny pinprick of light, like a star bursting through the black canvas of of a night sky.

May I have eyes to see the beauty around me, hidden though it may be.

May I use Thanksgiving as a time of focused practice in noticing what I’ve been given.

And in giving thanks, may I see those with whom I am asked to share my abundance. May I see the poor, the marginalized, the orphaned, the widowed, and the ones at my own table who are lonely and carrying sorrows in isolation. May I be generous and open-handed with all I’ve been given, as God has so generously been towards me. 

stories of shame, part 6: entering a new group

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{Part 6 of a 10-part series entitled, “stories of shame.” Read the rest here.}

It had all the markings of a social-shame triggering situation:

  • New group of people
  • Desire to belong to new group of people
  • Representing not only me but my daughters (and their future social standing, added my inner critic)
  • Feelings of insecurity and self-doubt – do I have what it takes? I’m sure everyone else there is more qualified than I am. 

What, you might ask, was the event in question?

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Parents’ orientation at our daughters’ new school.

All of you veteran parents might be laughing a bit at this point. But just remember with me for a moment those feelings and doubts that you held before your child entered a new school. And kindergarten, at that. It’s their official beginning of all that school will be for them – the good, the sweet, and the bad and the ugly too. As I paused outside of the school building last night, I felt myself holding my breath and mentally replaying some of my memories of kindergarten. My beloved teacher, Mrs. Casey, is a highlight. My friend, Jenny, who I wanted to sit next to before I understood the “assigned seating” thing meant the teacher decided where you  sat. The girl with the same name as me (I kid you not – the only other “Heather Davis” I’ve ever known was in my same kindergarten class!). Learning to read with easy-reading books like “See Jane Run.” Meeting friends who to this day are in my life – Shelby and Kathryn – and being bridesmaids in their weddings and vice versa. It’s momentous.

For someone who loves social settings and fears them, too, you may understand why I was feeling a bit nervous last night before we walked into this auditorium. It wasn’t only my own social shame that was triggered, but the reality of my daughters’ shame-and-school narratives beginning in a new way, too, that made anxieties and insecurities rise to the surface.

Until I paused for a brief moment of prayer, admitting my anxiety to God (and then also out loud to my husband). The still, small voice of the Spirit answered back with the word, “authenticity.” I began thinking about my goal of the evening. Social shame told me my best bet was to be impressive all evening, from what I wore to how I spoke and interacted with other parents and the new school. Perhaps because I’ve been steeped in this truth I’m teaching others – that freedom from shame comes from encountering Jesus and acting according to a new narrative – I stepped out of this “must impress” mantra. I asked myself the question, “What if I was authentic tonight? What could it look like to be real instead of impressive?” The focus shifted from “impress” to “be real.” And being authentic reminded me that it’s likely that many other parents felt the same way I did – so how could I show up in a way that made space for them to feel insecure, too?

Instead of pasting on the got-it-all-together mask, I asked questions that showed I certainly didn’t have all the answers and felt a bit nervous about this whole kindergarten thing. We met other parents and were open about feeling a bit overwhelmed – as well as being authentic about who we are, what we do.

For its part, the school did a fabulous job reassuring all of us nervous parents through the headmaster’s words of warm welcome – saying that relationship is primary and acknowledging our collective nervousness. The kindergarten teachers resonated his welcome and answered all of our newbie questions, and we met new friends along the way who seem great, too.

Maybe best of all, social shame was dealt a major blow as I lived according to who I am, not who shame tells me to be, and as I focused on being authentic instead of being impressive. 

When Shame Haunts You

Below is the beginning of an article featured at The Gospel Coalition blog. TGC helped to launch my writing into a larger audience by facilitating my introduction to Crossway, publisher of Unashamed.  Below is the first part of  When Shame Haunts You

There was a time when shame didn’t exist. Man and woman walked freely with God and one another—perfectly vulnerable and without shame (Gen. 2:25). But then sin entered the paradisiacal landscape. And with sin came the immediate hiding of shame.

The man and woman tried to cover themselves from each other, and they hid from God when he came looking for them. As he exposed the sin, they blamed one another, then the serpent. Eden shattered, and they were expelled from paradise. But not without one seemingly small act of grace—God covered them with adequate clothing (Gen. 3:21). This act pictures the future, greater covering of shame humanity would need—clothing in robes of righteousness instead of the garments of sin that cloak us with shame.

Unclean Made Clean 

Throughout the history of a redeemed and rebellious people, we see shame alongside sin and guilt. Guilt was atoned for through regular sacrifices, pointing to the Lamb of God who would be the ultimate and final sacrificial offering for a sinful people. Shame often shows up in the realm of the “unclean,” a category in Levitical law that went beyond the uncleanness brought by sin. For example, a person with various types of skin disease could be deemed unclean by a priest (Lev. 13:1–59). There were shameful consequences for being pronounced unclean: “He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. . . . He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp” (Lev. 13:46). What a picture of what those of us who dwell in shame feel—an aloneness and an exclusion from “the camp,” whether that camp be defined as our family, community, neighborhood, school, or church. Shame pronounces us “unclean,” and we’re separated and excluded. …

To read the rest of the article, visit TGC.org

Five Minute Friday: hidden

It’s been a good albeit long week of summer. We watched a summer movie ($1 at Regal), shopped for school shoes (already!), I had an interview on the Debbie Chavez show, we played at the pool a lot and did a lot of indoor activities trying to stay cool during a sweltering week. Today I take a break and return to the blog, joining in Five Minute Friday.

Five Minute Friday is my favorite of writing link-ups hosted by Kate Motaung. Her description draws me back every week, and the community of FMF keeps me writing – “This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write.”

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Hidden holds intrigue and promise, like a buried treasure waiting to be found. It’s a new life blooming within a mother’s womb. A long cherished love that awaits the right time to be expressed.

Hidden is also shame-tinged. It’s where I store my latest failure – bolted, safe, secure, for no one to see. If you’ve been abused, you know the burden of a hidden secret.

Hidden is good or bad, depending on what it is we are hiding and why. If it’s the latter – the long-buried secret – it needs the light for healing and freedom. Those sorts of burdens aren’t meant to stay hidden and borne alone. Speak about it with someone safe. Feel the burden begin to lighten.

If it’s the first – the type of hidden that’s like a treasure waiting to be found – I can think of no better analogy for what the Bible calls us children of God: “hidden with Christ in God.” We are God’s treasured ones, kept close and precious. Our glory is waiting to be revealed. 

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Five Minute “Friday”: help

I love this weekly writing exercise/community, and I return after a few months’ absence. Because it’s always there waiting. And it’s *only* five minutes.

Five Minute Friday is my favorite of writing link-ups hosted by Kate Motaung. Her description draws me back every week, and the community of FMF keeps me writing – “This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write.”

helpIt’s a word that can save a life. But I find it almost impossible to utter. It feels so, well, helpless. Who needs help in my self-sufficient world? I’m doing just fine, thank you.

Except when I’m not. Like tonight when one of my 5-year-olds defied me in front of her grandparents, and I messed it up. I was angry and frustrated and overwhelmed and out of my league. I was also ashamed for my daughter’s behavior in front of her grandparents and my response in front of them, too. Why couldn’t I just have said, “help, please”?

It’s a lie that as a parent I can do it all and be it all for my kids. But it’s a lie we all deceive ourselves into living by more often than not.

I wonder if this false stigma with the word “help” is what contributed to the tragic death in our church community of a mother and daughter two years ago today. Afterwards, we all expressed the sentiment – “If only she’d asked for help …” We all wished we could have jumped in. But how many of us would have been willing to ask for that help if we had been in her shoes? On my hardest, darkest day of parenting, it took all I had in me to finally, finally text my trusted friend and neighbor with the simplest of requests – “Will you help? I need a hug and I can’t deal with bedtime tonight.” She was over within minutes, and I felt simultaneously grateful and humbled. 

It’s the hardest, best thing in the world to ask for help. Because we know there’s One eager to help us when we ask. And He’s sent people into our lives who are as eager to assist us as we are to give them a hand when needed.

So do you need to ask for help? Don’t delay. Help is on its way.

***

If you find yourself to be entertaining thoughts or ideas of suicide in particular do not hesitate to ask for help. If you’re not sure where to turn, contact the crisis text line by texting “GO” to 741741 or call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. 

 

 

 

 

scattered chaos – or a story?

A half dozen (or more) children’s books are scattered in piles of two or three around the perimeter of our living room. The one most recently read lays atop our ottoman beside a discarded ballet slipper. Its pink partner sits in front of my husband’s recliner. A pink polka-dotted blanket is on top of the rug, and a paper airline peeks out from underneath the couch. Blue sparkly Cinderella shoes and fuzzy pink slippers grace another corner, and the pink bin of Legos sits opposite. A plastic green cup with a straw sits proudly beside the remote controls. Cushions are all in tact at the end of this day – and that says something.

In my more frustrated moments, I’d say this is scattered chaos. I look around and feel annoyed that I didn’t ask my daughters to pick things up before they went to bed. I’m annoyed with myself for not picking up more before grabbing my laptop to write a long overdue blog post. But then I try to remember how this mess tells a story of a full day well enjoyed by two five-year-old girls. The books are from reading time at the end of the day, me in one chair with one twin and my husband in another chair with her sister. Before this there were dance parties (hence the ballet slippers and Cinderella shoes) and a yoga session (note the blanket on the floor as makeshift mat). One twin adores her slippers and hates cold feet, so she wore them downstairs until the day’s play began. Another girl was thirsty before bedtime and so she brought in her ice water with a straw while being read stories.

In ten years, the mess will look very different.

In twenty years, we’ll miss the days that left behind such a scattered chaos.

I wish – I pray – that I would have the long view as I parent during what feels like a long summer in the midst of a long season of gloriously imaginative play and charming smiles punctuated by sibling conflict and mommy frustration.

My word of 2016 has been “rooted.” I haven’t written about it here before because, well, the book has taken a lot of air time. But it’s because of the book’s publication that I chose this word as a focus and prayer for this year. It can be too easy to get lost “in the clouds” of a book release, becoming a published author, engaging in speaking events I’d only dreamed of before – and forgetting my roots. The lovely, hard, sanctifying thing about motherhood and marriage is that my family roots me and grounds me in reality. There is laundry, and the dishes pile up when neglected, and meals need to be cooked and planned, and these ones I love are always present. Loving me and counting on me for their rootedness.

This task feels too immense. And it is until I remember where I am rooted. Deep in the eternal love of God, secured for me by Jesus Christ, spoken into my heart and soul by the Spirit. To be rooted in him, all I need to do is rest and abide and remember. Reading the Bible and praying and worshiping in our local church community help immensely. roots

The truth is that as I look around my living room this evening, the scattered chaos and the story it tells reminds me where I am rooted. Physically and emotionally – here with my family at a house in Virginia amidst a neighborhood and community of friends. Spiritually – I am rooted in a story that often looks to human eyes like the scattered chaos of this room. But it is telling a bigger story of redemption and hope and joy as the life of God is known through my work and play and parenting and marriage and friendship.

 

Book launch day & a sneak preview

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Y’all – it’s here. Today is the day that my first book officially launches into the world! I hope you’ll order a copy or two. Even more, I hope that you’ll discuss this with your community, whether that’s a best friend or a small group or your spouse or a roommate. Why? I want this book to be part of a movement in our communities towards gospel-fueled authenticity and away from the shadows of shame that keep us enchained. I want freedom. Healing. Transformation. Joy.

And so I’m giving you a sneak preview to you who are my faithful blog-followers – a section from the introduction and the conclusion. These best capture my heart for Unashamed and my prayer for its readers.

“I have always been terrified of public speaking. I can trace it back to eighth-grade graduation, when I froze on stage in front of my classmates and an audience of hundreds. Standing in front of the mic unable to utter a word, the expectant and anxious waiting, and an uncomfortable and heavy silence — these are what I fear anytime I am about to take the podium. The fear of being publicly embarrassed, of my weakness being unmasked in front of an audience who sees each excruciating moment, is one manifestation of shame in my life. At its core, shame is fear of weakness, failure, or unworthiness being unveiled for all to see, or fear that at least one other person will notice that which we want to hide. Shame is like a chameleon, easily blending into the surrounding environment so that it can’t be directly seen.

Shame commonly masquerades as embarrassment, or the nagging sense of ‘not quite good enough.’ It shows up when you attempt a new venture, or when you’re unsure of your place in a group. Unchecked, it can become an impenetrable barrier between you and others. It is not a topic of conversation at a party, although it is an unwelcome guest in every gathering. You may not know if you suffer under shame, because too often it’s been categorized as guilt (which is its close cousin). It is not the exclusive domain of victims of abuse, yet shame is found in every story of suffering at the hands of another. Shame can linger when you have sinned against another in ways that feel unforgiveable. Shame is complicated.”

From the conclusion:

“We know that there will be no more mourning or tears or death in the life to come. We look back to Eden to see that there was no shame before sin. Unashamed. It’s where we began, and it’s our destiny as the redeemed ones in Christ. The Christian’s ultimate hope for shame is that we will be clothed in the honor of Jesus Christ when we stand before God in all his glory. Shame will be eradicated forever. No more hiding. No more past to haunt us — either that of our own sin or that of sin done against us. Shame will be thrown to the depths of hell where it belongs with the great Accuser of our souls. It will be like emerging from a grim black-and-white film to a vivid and bright happy ending – an ending without end, that stretches into forever.

“This book is a fruit of my own journey away from shame into the freedom of being clothed in Christ’s beauty. I am a people-pleaser by nature and practice, and writing publicly terrifies me because of the fear of criticism and judgment. I want my words to be beautiful and perfect. And yet — like every other part of my life — they won’t be and they cannot be. It is in offering my imperfect thoughts that I am practicing my freedom. It is in offering some of my failures and imperfect portions of my story that I hope to encourage you to do the same. Above all else, it is my unshakeable hope in the power of Jesus Christ to heal shame at its source that emboldens me to risk. For if you begin to taste the freedom of the unashamed in even one relationship, it becomes a seed that can transform your community. We need more neighborhoods, churches, homes, and workplaces where we live unashamed and give others space to live unashamed as well. Let’s be part of the movement away from shame into freedom, honor, and glory.”

Join me? You can order Unashamed here. Or look for it in your local bookstore. I’d love to hear from you once you read it. Thanks for celebrating with me today!

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