All The Ordinary Folks…

Tomorrow I go back to work. Maybe you do to…

I go back to work for another school year teaching precious kiddos. I will begin the time crunch juggle of being a full-time working mom with four kids who has an insane passion for writing and speaking about Jesus. And I will continue the dance of waking up early so I have time to write. And stealing minutes so I can plan for my weekly Facebook Live talks. And thinking and praying on topics when I have a second or two just so I can continue to do what my soul loves, and continue to teach and continue to raise four kids and try my damdest not to explode. And I know I am not alone.

In November, a friend asked me a question. And this question changed my life.

“At the end of it all, when you look back on your whole life, and you’re sitting at The Table in Heaven…Who would you be most proud if you pulled up a chair for them at The Table…Who do you want to make sure they are seated with you at The Table?”

And for me, the answer is…I want the gal who works at Wal Mart to know she has a seat at The Table. I want the bus driver for my special ed students to be sitting with me in Heaven too. I want the folks who are praying for their kids’ picture package not to bounce. I want the ordinary people who are staring at our crazy country and wondering where they fit. I want the folks who hope their gas lasts till payday. The people who know exactly how much their deductible is all the time. I want the everyday you and me who are thinking there are extraordinary people in the world, and they aren’t one of them…they are a nobody really…no one important…The ones who believe this lie and it colors their beautiful life.

The ones who don’t have a dime to donate, time to make a thing from Pinterest, or a breath before they finish drowning each day. Y’all. My people. The ones working their asses off to stay at home with their kiddos. The ones who wish more than anything they could afford IVF. The ones who find their days filled with prayers for everyone they love…and dental bills…and new school clothes…and groceries…and making all the money last the whole dang month…and savings is something so far from reality. This is who I want to see sitting right next to me in Heaven. Ordinary people. Dreaming of vacations someday.

And all the ordinary people…I want you to know I see you. I am you. I know what it is like to sell all your wedding china to buy school clothes for your kids. I have lost a home…mailed back the keys one October because we simply could not afford it anymore. I have prayed for hand me downs for my kids, and felt like the whole world might be right when a friend lost weight and gave me her clothes. I have walked through wondering if my marriage will make it…not for a day or a month…but for a couple of years when things were so dang hard. I have lost friends. I have had my feelings hurt in my 40’s. I have wished I was smarter, prettier, richer, funnier, skinnier, nicer, more helpful, a better cook, a better wife, a better mother, a better person and a way better Christ Follower. I have sat at my kitchen table and cried big old tears long after my family went to sleep because life ached in a way no one could understand. And I have held my husband’s hand in counseling and he has pushed me out the door to go to counseling and we have encouraged everyone we know to go to counseling…because the cost is worth it…and life is too short to let your past be your present prison.

If tonight this finds you and you are at the end of your rope, please know there is a world of folks who would tell you, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. And when we are living lives moving mountains with tablespoons, find your people…your person…dig in…hold on tight and know there are others who know life is hard and God is good. And know this space is for you.
My hope is I can find you sitting next to me someday. And I hope I get to tell you how much Jesus loves you. I hope I can make you laugh real hard on a shitty day. I hope I can share my stories of my ordinary life with you, and let you know, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

I would tell you God designed you with purpose…And He has a purpose for you on this planet…And believe it…believe He smiled the day you were born. You are doing amazing things. Even if no one knows.

So, let me encourage you, don’t give up. If you’re close to throwing in the towel, hold on just a little bit longer. If your dream seems dead, breathe some life back into it. If you are feeling helpless and afraid of what tomorrow has in store, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You are not forgotten. You are not meant to give up or give in or give way. Stand strong. Be bold and brave and fight the good fight for just a minute or ten more…I believe in you…I believe in all us ordinary folks busting our ass to see the extraordinary moments in the middle of our everyday ordinary lives.

Much, Much Love tonight to all my favorite ordinary people.

When Freedom Sucks

There is a girl in the Bible.

She is a slave.

She has a spirit that tells the future. And her masters make loads of money off her.

And she meets Paul and Silas (two men in the Bible who go around and preach about Jesus and Freedom in the New Testament), and they set her free. The spirit leaves her body, and she is free.

I’m stuck in this story. I keep thinking, her freedom…no matter how freeing…must have felt so weird and so wrong and so lonely…so unimportant, and unwanted and useless…so unloved. This freedom, handed out by God, must have felt like a punch in the gut. The moment of freedom, she was just a girl…just an ordinary slave girl. One moment she was a slave with a gift…the next, just an ordinary slave. I think about her all the time.

This is the story of a girl who has been set free. This is the story of an ordinary girl who misses the rules somedays. This is my story. Maybe it’s a little like your story too…Maybe not…
I was driving Jake to his job watching our neighbor’s chickens. Jake is my oldest. And we were in one of those rare moments where it is just the two of us. We were listening to Smashing Pumpkins, and Jake says, “Remember when you used to only listen to Christian music? You were so weird. You were trying to be perfect and have perfect kids. You were a basic Facebook Mom.”

I was a little caught off guard, but not really. I mean, I was an asshole for Jesus, y’all. Pushy with my kids and the way they looked at church…I’m talking huge arguments about collared shirts on a regular basis. No other music other than “Jesus Music” in my car. Everything I did had to point to Jesus too. I mean, we couldn’t just have any ordinary moments…everything could be turned to point to Him…And God forbid, Grace wear a bikini (I mean, she was only 4…or 5…or 6…But modesty starts early). And God forbid, my children not WANT to go to church. And God forbid even more my husband didn’t want to…And what if I wanted to just have some rest and relaxation with a side of laughter and Sir Mix A Lot circa 1992???? What if I wanted to do something just for fun or frivolous or just meet a stranger without telling them about Jesus. What if???? Y’all. This was not ok.

I told other folks, “Sometimes Jesus wants us to be exhausted.” And being exhausted for Jesus felt so good.

I lived my life in this crazy overdrive. I lived my life where every moment had to matter the most. I lived my life where I could not fail, and every hard moment and tough time needed a pretty Jesus package with scripture and a smile. And you don’t miss church ever. And you are only praying for things Jesus would think is good enough. And you are trying to tithe and lying if you can’t. And drinking at certain times and in certain places but only with certain people. And you are feeling guilty all the time because you let your kids watch PG-13 movies and you LOVE Sons of Anarchy and you are there on Sundays at 8am for worship, 9:30 for Sunday School and 11:00 to teach. And my family was drowning. But I was whisper screaming through my teeth to keep the fucking smile on your face or Jesus and all His people might find out about our bullshit.

And our bullshit???? Oh it was just my husband and my kids wanting to choke me out so they could maybe just get to the business of having fun and enjoying life and maybe actually liking Jesus. Or even being angry. Just angry for longer than a worship song. The Hooks House kinda sucked those days.

Life has passed and crashed and burned since those days. Maybe you have been there. Maybe you know what it’s like to suffer such enormous loss you just can’t do anything anymore…you just can’t…Maybe you lost a home, a baby, a marriage, a dream and it all came crashing down…And maybe someone loved you enough to force you into weekly counseling. Maybe. And slowly, with the help of an amazing counselor, your best friend, Jesus, and your “over it” husband…Maybe you just get free. You have nothing left to offer, so freedom is your reward.

Sometimes I miss all the rules. My family was in khakis and dresses and their butts were at church. I miss knowing what I had to do to be the best Christian wife and mother and servant to everyone everywhere. I miss being able to define my life by rules…it was harder…but sometimes, it was way easier too.

I knew what to lie about and what to hide. I knew how to live just enough on the edge to be “salty”. I knew how to get my children to say the things I needed them to say…so other people could hear them…and screw it all if they didn’t understand a bit. I knew how to be first. And yes, it makes other people last. And freedom, well, it doesn’t come with rules…it comes with real. And why is that so dang hard for me?

Shame loves a prison y’all. A big fake old prison. And freedom can’t live in prison. Even if the prison is real polite and real pretty y’all.

Freedom for me is a little church in South Austin. I like to call it “The Island of Misfit Toys”. Freedom is a broken little Bible Study in my home on Tuesday nights filled with wine and tears and laughter and cuss words and folks who are having the hard conversations with no answers. Freedom is my husband choosing to sleep in…and no one giving him shit…including me. Freedom is my kids listening to some really good music, and introducing me to some really good music, and knowing they aren’t perfect, and not asking them to fake it either.

Freedom is being ok with being ok. Freedom is knowing Jesus is madly in love with our ok selves too.

So, let me encourage you…no, let me make you a promise…You are free. You may not know it, but you already are. You are free and loved. You don’t have to work any longer to be the best or the first or the most. And if the rules were your ladder to success, well freedom may suck a bit…But freedom makes us all equal. None of us can work harder than anyone else to earn Jesus’ love. Because it’s free y’all. And He just hands this love out like He has plenty for everyone. Because He does y’all. And we all become equally loved and equally ordinary and equally precious in His sight. And all the sleepy spouses finally say, “Amen.”

Is There Still a Place for Me?

Is there still a place for me?

I’ve been asking this question for a while now. I was told I would never get published. I was told my political and social views would not allow me to “make it”. And the fact I drink and cuss…like other ordinary people. And I have been asking, “Is there still a place for me?”

With Jesus? Yes.

With His people? I’m not so sure.

I am on the outside. Maybe you have found yourself there too…

So, I am going to tell you a story because I am a story teller…Maybe it’s a little like your story…Maybe not…

This is the story of an ordinary gal who found Jesus and got lost a long the way.

This is the story of an ordinary gal who followed Jesus and somehow started following lots of other people too.

This is the story of Jesus in an ordinary gal’s life, and how He doesn’t give up…even when she’s an asshole.

I went to a big Baptist church with a conversion program…a “Pray the Gay Away” program. And folks applauded it a lot. A whole lot. I was one of them. And being gay was a sin. And being ok with people being gay was a sin. And there was lots of speaking truth in love…And loving the sinner, but hating the sin. And it sounded good. And holy. And horrible too. But only if you were gay…

And we prayed people straight. And praised them going to “therapy”. And cheered their heterosexual marriages. And held them accountable. And built relationships, and pointed them to Jesus and gender roles and “healing”…a really lonely healing with heartache…

And I just fell in line…There were tons of things out there in the sex crazed world making people gay and confused. And I got on board. And I am so ashamed to write this y’all. But I just got on board.

I prayed for young people to be straight…to stay straight…to become straight…to be healed…and I prayed for my kids to be straight…to stay straight…and took notes and listened to testimonials…Strong willed women make their kids gay. Children who don’t spend time with their same sex parent don’t have well defined gender roles…God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve…and everyone laughs and laughs and then prays and thanks Jesus they aren’t gay.

I was a closeted liberal. I was the gal in church who only voted Democrat and smiled and nodded when folks talked about Democrats being against family values. I believed in universal healthcare and smiled and nodded when folks talked about not shouldering the burdens of others. I was the gal who was pro-choice (that one may get me killed in my sleep), and smiled and nodded as people protested Planned Parenthood. I was the gal who thought women deserved equality, and smiled and nodded when folks talked about women staying out of the pulpit.

I knew about institutional racism. I knew poor folks and their lack of opportunities. I believed in the separation of church and state like nobody’s business…And this ordinary gal, before Jesus, did not give a shit if anyone was gay…But then there was Jesus and His people. And in my church they were super crazy about the gay thing…And rocking a boat or asking a question was hard. And smiling and nodding was way too easy.

God won’t leave us where He found us…It’s a church thing…We say it…And typically, we say it about things like being an alcoholic or being slutty or being whatever…But it is true ya know. It’s true about being an asshole too.

People were struggling. Really struggling. Struggling with drugs and alcohol and porn addiction and happiness and family and community and “same sex attraction” and “sexual brokenness” and catch phrases everywhere…And I knew them. And watched them try so hard. And I prayed for them and encouraged them…I was not gay. This didn’t affect me, right? But man, I watched it affect the living daylights out of some wonderful people. And I smiled and nodded.

My principal was gay. Where I taught high school, my principal was gay. And she was the godliest woman I had ever met. She loved kids so big…like Jesus. She loved the staff. She talked about Jesus all the time. She loved her wife and her daughter. She was a mentor to me. She didn’t know it at the time. But she made me think a lot…About how she was gay and looked way more like a Christ Follower and lived way more like a Christ Follower than me. And she was gay. And God was good. And He did not leave me where He found me.

We were driving in her car. We were talking about a student. He was a good kid. Honors. In choir. Top of his class. People adored him. He had a scholarship to a great college. And he was homeless. Living with friends. Doing what he could his senior year. Tough love. It was what Jesus ordered. His parents cut him off…kicked him out. He was gay. And my heart was pounding out of my chest as I heard the story of this boy…this really great kid…going to college alone…And I could barely ask what church had told his parents to kick out their gay son. And it was mine y’all. It was mine.

So, this is my story. A little piece of it. Jesus woke me up in a car ride conversation with a woman I admired and the story of a boy I still have never met. This is where I say I am not just affirming, but I’m an ally. This is where I say Jesus would never ever ever love you less or differently if you’re gay. He created you. You are perfect in His sight. You are loved. And there is no changing you. And I am so sorry if anyone has told you any different. And I’m sorry if I did. You did not deserve any of this bullshit.

I am a million miles away from where Jesus found me…Come join me…and we can be ordinary people who love Jesus together. Come and know you were created by God Almighty and He smiled the day you were born. Come and know there is room for you, and there is no shame or condemnation. Y’all…come to the outside. No more smiling and nodding.

We are salt and light. Jesus said so. He said it to a bunch of ordinary people on a mountainside. He said it a long long time ago. But it’s still true today. And The Body of Christ is missing out on a lot of salt and light…a lot of flavor filled, shiny people who add so much to what Jesus is up to these days…And me personally, I cannot wait to see the doors blown wide open.

Until then, I will be having a margarita outside…I like to call it the “Patio Party”… Some of the best Jesus Freaks I know hang there. And everyone is welcome…I promise…And Jesus promises too.


They Never Give Up

“What Do You Know About Being a Hooks?” “We Never Give Up.” “That’s Right.” My kids have watched me fail. They have watched me not get chosen, and not get picked. My kids have watched me dream big, and work hard, and not one thing turn out, or work out, or have a big huge […]

When Life is Good…

I’m Crying Again. My Kids Are Used to It. This time it’s a Kings of Leon song.  I don’t even really know why.  I’m driving Jake to his Full Orchestra concert (he plays percussion), and it feels big. And good.  And I’m proud of him.  And I’m proud he picked Kings of Leon and wants […]