Yes, I’m the Holly from Oklahoma.

Fourteen years ago as first time parents of a 3  month old baby, Joe and I  loaded up and headed to work at a church in a city that was 12 hours away from where both of us called home.

Zero. . .the number of people that we knew in this city.  All we knew was that it was a beautiful city with beautiful people that we felt God tell us to go serve.

We immediately realized we had a lot to learn about our new home, Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Lesson 1.  “It’s ‘Cape’ not ‘Cape Girardeau.’   If you use the full name of the city in conversation people immediately know you are not from Eastern Missouri.

Lesson 2. (which was almost a deal breaker that first month) Mexican food and Texas style BBQ were not considered local foods like they were in Texas or Southern Oklahoma.  There wasn’t a Mexican restaurant on every corner or a place to buy homemade tortillas.  Buying avocados would break the bank.

We found ourselves saying, “What is this cole slaw doing on my sandwich and where in the world is the beef?”

The fact that I made my own salsa and my husband could smoke a brisket made us somewhat of celebrities among our young adult friends we were making.  What they lacked in guacamole and beef, Southeastern Missouri made up for in hospitality and dinner rolls…if you could catch one.

Lesson 3.  Don’t go to South Cape alone.  Well, this is what we were told.  Those who know me know that was like a challenge to me.   I often found myself driving on the “edge” of South Cape desperately wanting to pull over and get to know the stories of the people that I saw on those streets.  I was an outsider to this part of the country, but it was evident to any passer-by that there was a great cultural and socioeconomic divide in the city that had become our new home.  My heart that has a bend towards justice, love and mercy ached with each drive across town.

From the people at gas stations who would have me repeat something I would say because of my Texas style accent, to the amazing doctors and hospital staff that helped us bring our daughter into the world, Cape had quickly found a place in the hearts of our family.

We only lived in Cape for two short years.  These were the years that I was learning to be a momma of two new babies.  Joe was in his first full-time staff position at a church. We purchased our first home.  It was during those two years that I was determined to finish my seminary degree before our second child came along.  At the time online courses were few and far between so this was no easy feat.

To say there was a little stress in our family and in our home during those days would be a laughable understatement.  However, there honestly was not a day that went by in those almost 800 days of calling Cape our home that there was not someone in our new church or community that made us feel that we were welcome and wanted as part of the community.

We left Cape with deep love for the city and friends that had become our home away from home.  However, we also carried with us words spoken to us and over us by a couple of people that made us wonder if those two years had been a waste.  Though 99% of the people we had gotten to know were nothing but supportive and encouraging to us, all it took was the 1% to leave wounds that took years and years to heal.

Was there really a place in “the church” for a man who is kind, gentle, and compassionate and actually feels called to help kids and families one on one instead of ministering to the masses?  And what about a woman like me who is gifted with leadership skills whose heart has reached out to the marginalized since she was a child and who has often and erroneously been labeled too “liberal”?

The next several years were spent healing the wounds and believing in the calling God had placed on our family.  God was precious to surround us with cheerleaders during the years following our years in Cape.  He placed us in a church that challenged us to dive deeper into the Word of God.  My sweet husband found his passion as he began working one on one with children and families, and I found mine teaching marginalized teenagers in summer school.

It is hard to believe it has been well over a decade since we left Cape.  Our home away from home friends have never stopped checking on us and believing in us.  Two of these friends came to see me in Tulsa  last year for a girls’ weekend.

The weekend was filled with everything we love that connected our hearts the first time we all met.  Great food.  Nonstop conversations filled with laughter and stories of our soon to be teenagers.

These are the friends that the conversation always turns to what some would label “social” issues.  From what types of homeless ministries are in Downtown Tulsa (and of course we went to serve at one that weekend) to my friend’s orphan care work in both Ethiopia and her own community to the other friend’s ministry she started to adults with special needs in the Cape area.

We made it back to our hotel from dinner one night, and I said to my friend, Becca.  “Hey come over here to my computer and read some of these emails from an organization called CarePortal that  we now have here in Tulsa.”

CarePortal is a one of kind network that links local churches to the state foster care system to meet the needs of children in the  state’s custody.

Then, I may have half jokingly said, “Cape needs this.  You should start it there.  I can give you the number of my friend Chris and he can connect you to Missouri people I’m sure.”

Honestly, I wasn’t really joking.  In my short two years of living in Cape, I had seen the immense socioeconomic and racial divide of the city.  We spent our days serving a church family on the side of the city that was far removed from “South Cape.”   I fell in love with the people in our church there.  People with beautiful hearts.  However, I always wanted to get to know someone from the other side of the city and I never did.

During our two years in Cape my days were filled with being a stay-at home momma of 2 babies under 2 and trying to nurture friendships in my church.  However, I have never forgotten the images of the homes and the people that I saw on those drives where I broke the rules and drove the streets of South Cape.

Today, I stood in a room with a judge, social workers, criminal justice workers, pastors and church members trying to hold back tears as I watched CarePortal launch for several counties surrounding the city I called home for two years.

Watching the state workers sit in disbelief that someone has come to help them do their job of taking care of the needs of the families they work with every day.

Listening to the heart of the judge who makes decisions about parental rights.

Hearing a social worker with tears streaming down her face read a need request of one of her families.

Praying over a judge in a courtroom where he makes decisions that impact a child and a family  forever.

Watching churches in the community step up to the plate and say, “We can help.”

Absorbing the fact that in one rural county we visited, there were 16 children this past week who were taken into state custody.

Seeing all the strings that God had been weaving together for years and years to bring us to this day.

I didn’t know that I had become somewhat of a celebrity in SE Missouri.  “Oh…you are the Holly from Oklahoma”

I heard this over and over that day. Social workers.  A Judge.  Pastors.

They all thanked me and I just shook my head and made sure they knew that my amazing friend Becca had been doing ALL the work for nine months to get CarePortal launched for them.

And all I did was go on a girls’ weekend with friends.

The more I thought about it, I decided it really was much more than a girls’ weekend that started all of this.  CarePortal launched in Southeast Missouri because over a period of years and years God was crossing the obedient steps of those following him into the unknown.

From state workers to stay-at-home moms, from judges to church staff, the people I met this weekend are really just regular people willing to wake up every day and put into action those things they deeply believe in their hearts…that every child and every parent deserves someone to come along side them and give them hope.

I told my girls’ weekend friends that I would go through all the dark days linked to our two years in Cape again to get to this past weekend.

If just one family is rehabilitated and reunited…

If just one foster family gets a need met that they are struggling to meet themselves….

If just one child finds his or her forever family….

Of if just one state worker feels supported by those who say they follow Christ…

Worth it.  It was all worth it.

I worshiped this morning with the church family that loved us during those difficult years.  As we sang together phrases like

“It is well with my soul”

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders” and

“I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed even when others say I’m not enough.”


We often don’t get to see our pain redeemed in this life.  I am forever grateful that I got to see a glimpse of just how God was guiding the steps of our family even when it felt like none of it made sense.

Yes.  I am the Holly from Oklahoma.  And I am the luckiest person in the world to get to live life with some of the world’s most amazing people who are doing extraordinary things.


This the courtroom where this judge makes decisions on behalf of the state.  To hear his heart ache for the families in his community was something I will never forget.


A group of church leaders and state workers praying and crying together over the children in the system in their rural communities.


The CarePortal lead for Southeast Missouri, Shelly, whose passion for people oozes out of her every word and action.


My girls’ weekend friends


If there is not a selfie it didn’t really happen


A local pastor praying over the roomful of church leaders and state employees as they link arms to meet needs of families in the system.


My amazing friend Andrea working with one of the members of her ministry to adults and teenagers with special needs.

To Ashlynn and Brooklynn: Lessons I learned in Middle School part 2

So, I’m continuing to write stories to share with my daughter and niece who are middle schoolers…I actually had never shared this story from my middle school years with anyone. Posting it here for all the “world” to see took me days to do. However, it truly is one of the defining stories of my life and taught me the power of forgiving others who hurt me and offering grace to myself when I mess up….so here it is. Big step for this introvert to share this one.


I would imagine that if you polled women and asked, “What years of your life would you never want to go back to and live again?”  a high percentage of them would answer, “Middle School.”  Many would have a story or two from their early teenage years that they would never want to relive.

I am no exception.

Middle school were the years in my life where I found myself realizing being a rule follower, that loved learning and who wanted to be nice to everyone was not as popular as it was in elementary school.   My introverted personality coupled with my high moral standards meant that I found myself excluded from conversations and party invitations.

I was a “normal,” middle school girl trying to figure out who I was and where I fit in in the world.

Up until middle school, I never remember a time where I got in trouble at school.  Being a rule follower who loved learning and had high personal standards for achievement, just the thought of getting in trouble kept me from doing anything that might warrant a correction from a teacher or principal.

However, there was one fateful day that this all changed.  A day that is forever etched in my memory.

There was a substitute teacher in one of my classes.  Because there wasn’t really an assignment to work on, we were told that we could talk quietly in class.  I don’t remember how it all started, but someone sitting near me came up with the idea that we should pull a prank on someone.

In my middle school mind, the prank seemed harmless.  Write a fake love note from an secret admirer to someone and slip it in their locker.

We all chimed in with things to write on the love note and decided on who would be fun to prank with the note.  I remember only agreeing to the person we would prank because she was popular and wouldn’t think we were making fun of her.  Other names mentioned, I knew were only being suggested so that they would be made fun of as they read the note and I would not agree to that.

I remember being uncomfortable with a few of the phrases that were written on the note, one being, “Sealed with a French kiss.”   In fact, I was quite naive in middle school and likely didn’t even know what a French kiss or other phrases in the note really meant.  However, I convinced myself that it seemed harmless and I shouldn’t worry.  In my mind the person would simply find the note, be in shock for a moment and then we would clue her in that it was just a joke.

I never imagined the extent of chaos a little note could cause in my young life.  I had no idea that it would teach me a lesson that I would never forget.

The prank did not go quite as I had imagined.  The note was opened and read during a passing period and the emotion of the one reading the note caused quite a stir as she read it out loud to a few friends in the hallway.  A teacher came to see what was going on and saw the note and snatched it.

My rule following heart sunk to my feet as I watched.  We were all told to go to class.  I remember thinking that surely it wasn’t that big a deal.  I mean I knew the extent of “bad behavior” of some of my classmates, and this seemed super mild in my mind.

I was wrong.

The teacher who confiscated the note took it to her next class period read the note aloud and told the class that if someone didn’t tell her who had written the note, that the class field trip would be cancelled.   Someone in that class knew who all had been in on helping with the prank and all the offenders were named in front of the entire class.

During the next passing period we were called to that teacher’s room and she talked to us about how disappointed she was in all of us.  She explained that it should not ever happen again and that we had almost cost the class field trip.  She told us that another teacher was going to read the note aloud to all her classes, and we would each be named as the authors and that teacher was going to give us a written assignment as a punishment.

I was so confused.  I struggled to understand how this “crime” had been so bad that an entire field trip was at stake.    We were not given an opportunity to explain our intentions of the prank or our involvement in it.  We were branded as a group of offenders and immediately paying the penalty of our crime.

I was totally embarrassed and wanted to run home and cry my eyes out as I thought about going to my next class and hearing the note read aloud to all my classmates and being identified as one of the authors.

Since running home was not an option, I made my way to my next class and sat in terror anticipating the teacher reading the note aloud.  Sure enough, in the last five minutes of class, she pulled the note out.  She explained that she needed to make an example out of the situation

With every word that was read, I sunk deep in my chair wanting to crawl under my desk.  The guilt and shame of what I had been a part of was already a heavy load and having my offense used as an example to an entire school was more than I could take.  Tears filled my eyes but I was able to disguise them so that no one would know how deeply I was hurting in that moment.

As the bell rang, the teacher called out the couple of names of people in that class who had been a part of writing the note and asked us to meet her at her desk to get the writing assignment that was our punishment.

I remember the moment of her calling my name like it was yesterday.  I can vividly recall seeing all the eyes in the class turning to me in disbelief and hearing their laughter.  I’m sure they were all in shock because I never got in trouble at school and now my first offense was being a made an example of for all the school to see.

As if that were not enough punishment, I still had to go to the class of the other teacher who had snatched the note in the hallway.  I was praying that the class would go by without any mention of my offense.  But sure enough, the teacher began the class by talking about what had happened and I still remember a phrase she said as she looked me straight in the eyes..

“When someone makes such a big mistake, it takes a long, long time to regain the respect you have for them.”

I walked out of the school building that day and never wanted to go back.  However, I was too scared to tell my mom and dad because these two teachers had made it seem like I had committed the unpardonable sin, and I feared further punishment at home.

So I tucked the guilt and shame of the event away in my heart as I walked home that day and quietly went to my room to write my apology letter to the teachers without ever telling my parents.  I prayed that my parents would never find out.

With a couple of months left in school, I couldn’t wait for school to be over so I didn’t have to face the embarrassment I felt walking those halls and sitting in those teacher’s classrooms feeling like I had committed the ultimate sin.  There was never another mention of the event, but the words spoken to me on that day replayed over and over in my mind and I struggled daily to forgive myself and put it all behind me.  I fought a mental battle trying to understand why those teachers had put my first mistake at school on display for all to see.

Summer finally came.  New school years came and went.

The pain of that moment in middle school faded, but over 25 years later the memory of the pain has remained vivid in my mind.

I didn’t know it at the time.  But that day in middle school, taught me one of my “rules to live by” for my life.

“Always offer forgiveness and grace to yourself and to others.”

For months following that day in middle school,  the memory of my mistake and the words of those teachers would replay in my head and I walked around in a cloud of shame and guilt.

However, as I continued to lean into Jesus and study the Bible, I realized that I did not have to live in shame.   I could release my sin at the foot of the cross and walk in freedom from my mistake.  I could offer this same grace to the teachers who had wounded me with their words and in turn I was being set free to live the life that God intended for me here on Earth.

Ashlynn and Brooklynn.  Learning to forgive and offer grace is one of life’s most difficult lessons to master. However, as with most things that we must learn to do in life, you practice offering forgiveness and grace daily in the “little things”.

  • when you forget your homework at home…forgive yourself
  • when someone bumps into you in line….forgive them
  • when you talk back disrespectfully to you mom or dad…forgive yourself
  • when someone makes a promise to you that they do not fully keep…forgive them

For sure there will be bigger offenses in life where it will be more difficult to offer forgiveness and grace.  However, it is by daily practicing in the little things that we strengthen our forgiveness and grace giving muscles and so when the big offenses come our way we are less likely to be drowned in the waters of unforgiveness or shame and guilt.

May you hide these words in your hearts as you walk the halls of your middle school this year.

Soak in these words when someone else sin impacts you.

Colossians 3:13 (NLT) Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

And when you find yourself shackled to shame and guilt because your own sin has impacted others, stand on this truth.

1 John 1:9(NLT) But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Leave that shame and guilt at the foot of the cross and walk in the forgiveness.

Some people may tell you to “forgive and forget.”  Those nights in middle school where I lay in my bed in tears trying to forget the hurt and guilt, I no doubt prayed for God to erase this event from my memory.  However, I had no idea that God was teaching me a lesson that I would carry with me for the rest of my life.

I had no idea that it became a defining moment in life to teach me how to forgive others, forgive myself, and how to look at sins through the lens of grace.

May the “not so good days” of your middle school years imprint lessons to live by on your heart that will help you walk in the love, grace, and freedom that is available in Christ.


In honor of the first days of school…my first day of 9th grade.  Obviously I learned another lesson in middle school…how to curl and rat baby fine straight hair into a hairstyle that defined a generation.


So thankful that God will teach you two lessons in middle school that you will pass along to her.



To Ashlynn and Brooklynn: Lessons I learned in middle school. Lesson #1

I was raised in a small southern Oklahoma town.  Because there weren’t really other things to do in town on a fall  Friday night, most of the community would gather at the high school football game to cheer on our Marietta Indians.  During my middle school years, our town had a great football team.  Even families who did not have children to watch at the game would load up in cars and travel to the away football games, packing out the visitor stands of other small southern Oklahoma towns.

One Friday night, our family loaded up to head to the football game about 25 minutes away to cheer on our Marietta Indians.   My parents had just begun allowing me to sit in the bleachers ‘alone’ with some of my friends from school.  I honestly don’t remember who I was sitting with or much about the football game that night.  However, the one thing I do remember is the conversation that took place as soon as our family loaded up in our car to head back home.

There was excitement from the thrill of victory because our Marietta Indians had been victorious over the Kingston Redskins, and I couldn’t wait to tell my family something I had heard while sitting in the stands with my friends.

As soon as we were all five in the car, the first words out of my mouth went something like this, “Do y’all  know what I heard?  _________________ (I don’t even remember the name of the person) is pregnant, and she is just 16.”

The mood in the car went from complete excitement to a bone chilling silence.

The next moment I remember as clearly as if it happened yesterday.  My dad very calmly but very sternly turned to face me in the car and said these words, “Holly Ann, those are malicious words.  You will not repeat that information again OR.  ELSE.  The Higle family does not participate in malicious gossip, and this conversation is over.”

I did not really need to know what “OR.  ELSE” meant, and I wasn’t really sure of the meaning of malicious.  However, knowing my Dad used my middle name and the fact that I had a healthy fear of him, I knew better than to say another word or ask questions.

I remember going home and looking up the word malicious in the dictionary.  The Webster’s dictionary described it something like this  the desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another.”

Honestly, I know that my young heart had no intention of causing pain or distress to anyone by sharing the information I had learned. However, this was my very first experience that I can remember dealing with the temptation of gossip.  I remember the feeling of excitement to share the information with someone who had not yet heard.  For some strange reason, girls of all ages find it thrilling to be “in the know” and even more thrilling to be “the first to know.”  This doesn’t change much when girls become women.

That was the first of many, many more times in my life when I somehow or another learned information about someone else and had to decide what to do with that information.

In those times of deciding about what to do when I find myself “in the know,” my mind races back to that Friday night from my middle school years when I first began to learn the freedom that comes from not being shackled to the desires of my flesh.

That Friday night, I learned that though my flesh wanted to follow the natural desire to share gossip about other people, true freedom comes when you understand that you don’t have to be shackled to those natural desires and the life consequences that they can bring.

In this case, giving into the desire of my flesh to gossip had the mild consequence of a verbal reprimand from my dad.  However, gossip can cost so much more.   The price of gossip is often your reputation as a trustworthy friend or an honorable leader.

Ashlynn and Brooklyn, as you walk the halls of your middle school this year, and you find yourself being lured into the temptation of gossip, remember the words of Proverbs 18:8

“Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart”

Instead of allowing your heart to be fed by gossip and falling into its trap, learn to crave the things of Philippians 4:8.

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Rules for life #1:  Learn to search for and focus on the good in other people and as you do this you will indeed uncover some of life’s greatest treasures.

When you follow this rule for life, you will find yourself surrounded by people who count you as a trusted friend, and you will have a heart free from the guilt and shame that comes when you speak words that hurt another person.

Friends and a heart free of guilt and shame are indeed two of life’s greatest treasures.


Peer pressure in middle school is fierce. Crimped hair. Acid washed jeans. Rugby shirt. All topped off with a scrunchie. Long live the 80s.


Ashlynn and Brooklynn cheering on the Marietta Indians in 2014 at my 20 year high school reunion.

To my two favorite middle school girls…

IMG_1219In my forty years of life, I have learned that some moments in life slip by and for some reason or another you do not even remember them as a part of your life story.   Good or bad.  Happy or sad.  Victory or defeat.  If not captured in writing or in picture, some life moments are not turned into lifelong memories.

However, there are moments in life that mark you as if they are etched in your brain with a Sharpie that never fades away.  Years later the recollection of these moments in life can cause you to return to the age of the memory as if they happened yesterday.

There are many Sharpied memories for me from my early teenage years.

Some of these memories are very random.

I vividly remember suntanning in the backyard with my older sister, Monta, scorching our skin that was lathered in baby oil and iodine.  When I close my eyes, I can still smell the oil, feel my skin scorching, and hear our jam box blasting our favorite 80s songs.

Tossing a watermelon in the living room with my big brother, Jeremy, is a moment I have never forgotten.   My memory of that moment is like a slow motion video in my mind.  A poorly thrown toss caused the watermelon to crash in an explosion of red mess to the carpeted floor.  I can still see the terror on our faces as we thought about what would happen when Mom walked in the door.

These vivid memories bring a smile to my face as I reflect over my young teenage years.

There are other moments from those years that became memories that helped to shape me into the person I am today.  The lessons I learned in those early teenage years have been like highway guardrails on my life that protected me and guided me on my journey as I navigated middle school and the rest of my teenage years.  These guardrails became a sort of “rules to live by” as I grew into a young woman trying to figure out just what life on earth is all about and what in world I was supposed to do with the life I had been given to live.

Over the past few days, I have been writing out a few stories from my middle school days to share with my two favorite middle school girls.  These stories are dedicated to my sweet niece who is turning 13 today and to my daughter who will walk the halls of middle school for the first time tomorrow when we go pick up her middle school schedule.

However, I decided to share the stories with these girls here on my blog so that I could also share them with friends and family.  Many people who read this blog knew middle school Holly and had a tremendous impact on my life during my teenage years.   I am who I am today because of the friends and family who encouraged me along my journey to keep my eyes of Jesus during those tough days of being a middle school girl.

These Sharpied memories I will share are ones that permanently marked my life with “rules to live by.”

Three decades ago when these events were happening, I didn’t know how significant the lessons I learned from them would be in my life.  Now I know that each of those moments were teaching me what became important “rules to live by.”   Rules that have helped me navigate life understanding that the moments of my life here on earth have eternal purpose for God’s kingdom.

The four stories I will share taught me these “Rules to live by” … 10399904_1192413851699_4966361_n

  1. Be quick to acknowledge the good you see in others, especially when others are pointing out the bad.
  2. Always offer forgiveness and grace to yourself and to others.
  3. Guard your heart. Don’t worry about gaining the attention of boys.
  4. Offer compassion before judging a person’s actions. Remember that it is likely they have a part of their life story you don’t know…and many times people act out of life’s heartaches and pains.


Ashlynn and Brooklynn, may God turn your life moments into Sharpied memories that will mark your life in such a way that your life in turn will mark others for good from the lessons you have learned on your life’s journey.  May you enjoy reading these stories over the coming days and always be quick to learn the lessons God wants to teach you through the moments of your life.



I’m thankful Baby B has two of the best role models.


You are a beautiful daughter of the King.  You are going to rock your teenage years!


What an honor for God me to help Him raise one of His beautiful daughters as my own.  Middle School here we come!

See you soon, Kevin. See you soon.

FullSizeRenderThe pastor of my church mentioned Sunday morning about the reality of “survivor’s guilt.”  He told us how he and his wife went through an unexpected emotion after their two year old drowned and was miraculously healed after they had been told there wasn’t hope.  After the overwhelming joy of seeing God breathe life back into their son,  the counter emotion of guilt came that left them asking themselves, “why my child and not theirs?”

This week my family has been on the other side of survivor’s guilt.  Yesterday we lost one of our finest.  After an eight year heroic battle,  millions (no exaggeration) of prayers being sent up by children of God impacted by my cousin Kevin’s life, after being classified as a “survivor” by kicking cancer in the tail more than once. . .the text your heart is never prepared for came, “Kevin is at peace.”

Kevin would have turned 57 this Saturday.  He leaves behind a beautiful wife, who is a cancer survivor herself, four children, three grandchildren, many others like me who had the honor of calling him family, and I would imagine 1000s of other students, players, friends and colleagues that call him Coach or Mr. Weaver from his decades of coaching and teaching.

Kevin was my oldest boy cousin.  He was 17 when I entered the family and for 40 years I have been his “baby cousin.”

My earliest memories of Kevin are sitting in his lap at our “Ma-Ma’s ” house as our family gathered together every holiday to pack out our grandmother’s tiny house in Caddo, Oklahoma.  I can still close my eyes and hear Kevin’s infectious laugh that would echo through Ma-Ma’s house. I was known as the baby cousin that would always tell him “put your shirt on” when he walked around Ma-Ma’s house strutting the handsome temple God had given his spirit to reside in here on earth.

I would say that similar to “survivor’s guilt,” there is an emotion I refer to as “family heritage guilt.”

I count it a privilege to have dear friends whose life stories are very different than mine.    Friends whose parents gave them up for adoption. Friends who experienced childhood physical and emotional abuse.  Friends whose childhoods are marked by unthinkable injustices.  Friends who grew up with a family shackled to sin or shackled to religion.  Friends who weren’t taught the freedom that comes from dying to self and living for Christ.

Often when I hear their childhood stories, I almost don’t want to share mine because I battle feelings of guilt.  “Why did I get to grow up sheltered in not just a immediate family but an extended family, that loved me no matter what, and a family filled with people living out the Gospel of Jesus’s love for the hurting world?”

I’ve watched my family fight life’s battles on their knees.  As the “baby cousin” I have learned through observation the power of  loving people by watching those who have gone before me in life.   Living out the Gospel by loving those the world shuns was normal to me because that’s what I saw happening all around me as a child.   Choosing to forgive those who hurt or disappointed me was just what I did, because it what I had watched my family do.

As with most kids who grow up a bit sheltered as I did, my college years were the time in my life where I grappled with choosing for myself to live out my faith in Jesus.

Faced with the reality of being diagnosed with a physical disability that changed my life’s plans, dealing with injuries that impacted my college basketball career, and having my world rocked by a broken marriage engagement, I remember spending my college holidays at Ma-Ma’s house trying to figure out if I really believed in the same good, loving God that I had watched all my family follow.

The crisis of belief was real one Thanksgiving during these years.  I found myself leading a bible study for my teammates and going through the motions of daily quiet times in the Bible, yet still in the recesses of my heart I wondered if all of this was indeed truth.

Since I was a college basketball player, I was only given about 48 hours to celebrate Thanksgiving with family.

I remember my precious Ma-Ma sitting with me at her huge kitchen table encouraging me with her words of faith.  She had just unexpectedly lost her eye after a minor eye surgery, yet still she was encouraging me to press on.

Amidst the noise of all the second generation of cousins running around that tiny house, I remember sitting with Kevin and his encouraging words to me despite the fact that he was going through an extremely difficult situation in his own life.

I was so touched that when I got back to the dorm the day after Thanksgiving I sent Kevin a card thanking him and encouraging him in his own trial.

A few weeks later, there was a letter in my college mailbox.


That letter was a life source to me on that day.  Kevin, who was a high school basketball coach at the time, took the time out of his crazy busy day as a teacher and coach to write a letter to encourage me in my struggle.

Last night, I dug through my college box and found that letter.  For the first time in almost two decades, I read through Kevin’s words to me.

I was immediately taken back to the moment I read his words for the first time.

Simple words on paper that truly memorialize the life and legacy of Kevin.  Two pages of hand written words concluded with this…

“But in the valleys, we grow even more if we stay in the Word and allow Christ to carry us.  I think 1996 may be a year I will want to forget, while at the same time a year I have learned more than any other.  I’ll see you at Christmas and will write again soon.  Love, Kevin”

And then my favorite line honestly…because if you know Kevin you know he tends to always leave everyone with a smile on their face.  (remember this is a 38 year old man writing this to his 20 year old girl cousin)

“P.S.  Sorry I don’t have any cute cards like you.”

I will never understand why God allowed me to be a part of a family that includes people like my cousin Kevin.  Where when faced with death and tears, we truly can celebrate a life well lived and rejoice in the hope of an eternity together.

Family heritage guilt can silence me at times.

However, if ever there is a time to shout about the impact of family on my life it is when faced with the reality of death.

I did not think there was a better way to memorialize my cousin Kevin than with words.  Sharing his words to me.  Words were a gift he used to impact the world around him for good.

May we all choose to learn from the life moments we wish we could forget and allow God’s Word to penetrate our hearts as Christ carries us through the valley of the shadow of death.

See you soon, Kevin.  See you soon.


And I also wish to pass along Kevin’s desire…for all who can to be a part of the registry at

It is because of stem cell donors, that Kevin’s family was granted more years on earth with him.  A few minutes of your time in signing up to be a donor, could mean granting more years on earth with a loved one for some family somewhere.  My family is forever grateful to the donor’s that granted this to our family.

For those interested in reading more about Kevin’s journey, you can find some of his writings here.


To the church that raised me on the last Sunday of me being your Preacher’s Kid–

I was only six when my parents moved to Marietta where my dad became the pastor of the First Baptist Church. I don’t really have any memories of anyplace else being my home.

One of my earliest childhood memories is pulling up to the church parsonage on Circle Drive and my parents telling us three kids that this was going to be our new home and that we could go in and run through the empty house.

I remember very clearly running through that house and thinking that it seemed like a mansion. I had no idea that that parsonage would be the place that I would call home for the next 15 years and that over the coming years the people who provided that home would become the church family that would raise me and shape me into the woman I am today.

My childhood church family taught me so many things.

The most important thing the church family of my childhood taught me was that the church is not a building.

Church was not a place that my daddy went to work every day. The church that raised me was not a location on Main Street. Church was not confined to a couple of hours on Sunday morning, a service for me to sleep through on Sunday night on my momma’s lap, or Wednesday night full of “fun and fellowship” with my teenage friends in a youth building.

I learned at a young age that the biblical definition of belonging to the church of Jesus Christ is something much more than being in a building three times a week.
The church family that raised me modeled for me that the church is a collection of people who put into action what Jesus taught us were the two greatest commandments of all:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart

And to love your neighbor as yourself.

At the age of 18, I spread my wings and moved off to a small private Christian college in a different state. For the first time, I was faced with the challenge of ‘finding a church home’ on my own. I had no idea that the church I had grown up in was a such a rare treasure until it was too far for me to drive to on a Sunday morning.

During those years I heard many stories from my college friends who like me were pastor’s kids from all over the world. Most of these new college friends had a very different childhood experience growing up in a church than I had known. While I grieved the absence of my church family from home, many of these new college friends were basking in the freedom of not being forced to go to a church building every time the doors were opened.

When I came home on holidays from college, even though I am not a hugger and cringe at being the center of attention, I looked forward to the hugs and smiles and “how’s college” that I would get bombarded with from my hometown church family.

I’ve lived in four different states since I left my hometown at age 18. I’ve lived two decades of life since my childhood years. My life has allowed me to be a part of several different churches in different places.

It is even more clear to me today than it was 22 years ago when I first left the church that raised me, that my childhood church family was a rare gift I had been given. I know that the lessons I learned not just by their words, but by watching them live life as Christ followers have shaped and molded me into the person I am today.

I could fill pages of memories I have of people in my church family who set an example for me as a child and taught me what it means to “be” the church by loving God and loving others.

Here are just of few of the ways my church family shaped me….

My strong desire to love on church staff families is because my church family loved on my family growing up. I regularly take meals, write notes, and give gift cards to church staff during busy seasons of church life because I watched my childhood church family do this for my family.

My childhood church family modeled for me that Christians can disagree lovingly and should be willing to sacrifice personal preferences in order to maintain peace. I honestly didn’t really understand the jokes about deacons and business meetings that I would hear once I was an adult. I had set through many church business meetings in my childhood and I had never heard grown adults cussing in church or throwing punches at each other. The deacons of my childhood were like father figures to me. These men were some of my daddy’s best of friends and advisors.

Now that I myself am becoming one of the older generations, I realize that the reason I think it is normal to sacrifice some of my own traditional preferences for the sake reaching the next generation with the Gospel is because this is what I saw my church family doing for me when I was a child. Long before there was ProPresenter and PowerPoint, my childhood church was cranking out the words to praise songs on the wall from a slide projector each Sunday morning.

My love for going to church camp with my kids and their friends is in part because it brings back a flood of memories of going to camp when I was a child. I now better understand the sacrifices all the adults who went with us made in order to create the weeks of fun I enjoyed as a child and teenager at camp.

I have been married for 17 years. During the first 3 years of my marriage, My husband Joe served on church staff at the church of my childhood. In my first years of learning to be a wife, I remember having days where I could not imagine how in the world people stay married for 10 years, much less 50. And then I would walk into the church building on Sunday morning and see some of the couples in my church family who had persevered in marriage when the days were tough and I would gain hope that maybe Joe and I could make it past year two.

The reason I am passionate about being a voice for the poor and vulnerable and find great fulfillment in my job as the Local Missions director at my current church is because some adults in my childhood church took time off of work to take a group of us teenagers to the inner city to work for a week and that week changed the trajectory of my life path.

I seriously could type out an endless blog post filled with examples like these of how I have been impacted by my childhood church family.

Throughout my adult life I have been asked the question,

“What do you think the secret sauce was in your parent’s parenting? How did they raise three kids in a preacher’s house who grew up to be adults who love and serve the Lord?”

I often snicker if the question comes from someone who does not know my parents. Though my mom and dad were and are incredible parents, they will admit that they made mistakes in their parenting us. Well at least mom will admit it. Of course, dad made many more mistakes than mom did, but those who know daddy know it’s just best if we all let him continue to think he is perfectly awesome at everything he does.

My answer to the question to what my parents did right in their parenting is this:

My parents loved us unconditionally, taught us to love God’s Word, created rules that served as boundaries for our protection, and offered us grace when we made mistakes.

But likely one of the most important things my parents did right was to surround us with a community of believers through our church family.  This church family would echo the things that my parents were teaching us about what it meant to be a Christ follower..The friends I developed within the body of believers in the church of my childhood have been my greatest support during the joys and sorrows of my life.

So dear church family of my childhood. . .

I am only who I am by the grace of God that allowed me to be raised by you.

I will always treasure the memories I have sitting in the pews of that sanctuary with you listening to my daddy preach. However, my greatest memories of you will always be who you were to me outside those walls.

You were the church loving God and loving people. And I am so indebted to you for the love you have given to me over the past 34 years.

I am more than thrilled about what the future holds for Marietta’s First Baptist Church. I truly believe that the best days are ahead. You have a cloud of witnesses surrounding you who have called this place their church home who are cheering you on!


To my daddy on his last week as a preacher man….

319760_3343107809844_1033195267_3200642_1534257494_nMonday night, I took a deep breath and pushed play on my iPhone. I knew the weight of what I was about to listen to on my phone.

A familiar voice came blasting through the Bluetooth speaker into the sound waves of my kitchen.

“Poppa. I hear Poppa.”

My two and half year old started shouting with excitement from her high chair. Just seconds before she had been throwing a little tantrum as she is not a fan of waiting on me to get her dinner cooked.

In an instant, the sight and sound of her Poppa preaching changed her entire outlook on waiting for the stir fry to finish cooking.

“Three Things Every Christian Can Know for Sure”

That was the title of the sermon I was listening to my daddy preach. His final sermon on a verse by verse study of the book of 1 John, and his final sermon as the pastor of Marietta’s First Baptist Church….the church he has pastored for 34 years of his 45 plus years of being a pastor.

I wish I knew the exact number of my Daddy’s sermons I have listened to over the years. If you count the number that I slept through as a child in my mom’s lap, I’m sure the number is well into the thousands.

I would be lying if I said that I loved sitting through every sermon I heard my daddy preach. But there was a monumental day in my young life when I went from being a “preacher’s kid” having to be at the church every Sunday morning, evening and Wednesday night to being a “child of the Father” who saw my desperate need to be under the teaching of truth.

My search for truth began during my middle school years, as I watched some of my friends start making choices that didn’t line up with what I was being taught about the Bible and Jesus.

I found myself at a sort of crisis of faith. . .going through the motions of my identity as the “good girl” and “preacher’s kid.”

I remember sitting in my room all alone some nights trying to decide for myself if the Bible and Jesus were a big hoax that had deceived my family.

At that point in my life, I really had not faced any true test of my faith. When I describe my childhood, I use words like ‘sheltered’ and ‘glossy’ and ‘fun filled’ and ‘stress-free.’

Why in the world would I want to stray from this life?

I remember the moment that my true crisis of faith began. It happened when I injured my knee my junior year playing basketball. I wrote about that dark time in my life here. Even those closest to me didn’t really know the extent of the crisis in my heart because I was good at going through the motions of being “the good Christian girl.” Coupled with the fact that I lean into my introversion when I am sad or depressed instead of reaching out for help…I sunk deeper into the loneliness of my crisis of faith.

But what I didn’t include in that entry was what happened the Sunday morning following the Friday night that I tore my knee up.

I had spent the better part of Saturday moping around and crying and not wanting to see anyone. I didn’t want to go to church on Sunday morning, because I really hate being the center of attention and …bless Joe’s heart…I come from a long line of women who are not huggers. I knew I would have to endure a lot of hugging when people saw me walk into church on crutches.

And to be honest, at age 17 I knew churchy jargon all too well. I knew I would be forced to say thank you to well intentioned people who would say to me,

“I’m so sorry. I’m praying for you”

“Remember, God works everything out for His good.”

And my least favorite church jargon

“God’s plans are not our plans.”

I’m a child of the 80s so to these things I would scream in my head to myself…
“Gag me with a spoon,” as I smiled and the words, “Thank you.” would be forced out of my mouth and I offer a side hug.

I honestly don’t remember if I made the decision to go to church that morning or if my parent’s even gave me a choice. What I do remember from that day is etched in my memory as a pivotal moment in my teenage years.

I walked on crutches down to sit with my leg propped up on the pew. I pulled my Bible out of my backpack and looked down at the sermon notes inside of the bulletin. And as if indeed all of heaven had orchestrated this moment just for me, I read my daddy’s sermon title.

“When Bad Things Happen to Good People” lessons from the life of Job.

I had heard the story of Job my entire life. I could detail his life to anyone who asked.

But it wasn’t until that moment. In that pew. Listening to my Daddy’s preach that sermon….. that I knew indeed there was a God. I knew for sure that when I had given my life to Jesus as a child that I hadn’t fallen for a hoax.

Like never before, that day I felt the arms of my Heavenly Father wrapped around me in that pew, as I listened to my earthly father preach.

I remember that I avoided eye contact with my daddy during that sermon. Those who know my daddy know he is an emotional man who I have seen cry many more times than I have ever seen my mom cry.

It wasn’t until the end when eye contact could not be avoided. It was as if my Heavenly Father told me to raise my teary eyes up and look at my daddy.

In that single moment, I felt loved as never before. With the arms of my Heavenly Father wrapped around my heart, and the teary eyes of my earthly Father looking straight at me as he closed out his sermon on Job with hope.

It was as if in that sanctuary filled with hundreds of people, that it was just the three of us. Me and my Fathers.

In that moment, as his eyes locked on mine, I think we both knew the significance of that sermon that day. A sermon that had been planned for months, perfectly timed by my Heavenly Father to be preached by my earthly father less than 48 hours after the most disappointing moment in my 17 years.

Now that I am a parent, I understand that moment so much more deeply. I know at some point my own children will know and experience extreme disappointment in life. As a parent I cannot shield them from the bad things that indeed do happen to good people in this world.

You see my daddy’s childhood was very different than mine. He knew his fair share of disappointment throughout his childhood. He never had a earthly father to guide him. He didn’t become a Christ follower until he was 19.

What I understand now as a parent myself is that in that moment of our eyes locking, my daddy knew his limits of being an earthly parent and that my real healing in my heart would have to come from my Heavenly Father. . .just as it did for him when he was a young adult being launched into the world.

I have asked my daddy a few times if he would let me write a biography of his life. He declines. He tells me that no one would want to read it.

I always shake my head in disagreement as he quickly changes the subject.  I’ve learned not to disagree out loud with my daddy….But in my head I scream at him, “Get real, daddy.  A boy who grew up in poverty, without a dad in a small town in Oklahoma, who failed senior English, who never finished seminary….yet has sold well over a million books that he has written about the Bible…people would read it… Believe me.   And boy would that make your momma in heaven proud!”

I have lived a couple decades of life since that moment in that orange pew in the church of my childhood. The years of my life since I was 17 have for sure been filled with many more disappointments. I’ve lived through my share of “bad things happening to good people.”

Last night as I listened to my daddy preach his last sermon from that pulpit, I was filled with all kinds of mixed emotions.

Just as the picture my mom texted me last week caused a thousand memories to flood my head, the sound of my daddy’s voice preaching fills my brain with mountains of childhood stories of being a preacher’s kid.

Someday, I dream of recording all of these on here for my kids to read.

But right now, I am in the throes of parenting a teenager and a preteen and a two year old and there isn’t a lot of “me” time to spend writing childhood memories. I know that in just a few short years, like my daddy did me, I will have to have them ready for a world where they will experience for themselves that bad things indeed do happen to good, good people. . .

So for now I will press on parenting daily putting into practice all these lessons and sermons I learned from my daddy, and maybe one day the stories swirling in my head will make into onto paper.

The past two days I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my dad’s life and his faithfulness to teach and model for his children to lean into God’s Word when life gets hard.

I am reminded of how daddy didn’t use his “growing up without a father” as an excuse.

I can’t help but think when my daddy puts his Bible up on the shelf Sunday and turns in the keys to the pastor’s study that he has used for 34 years, that heaven will be rejoicing and that God will be saying,

“This is my son in whom I am well pleased.”

And to a man who grew up without an earthly father to cheer him on…this is hope for all those who have to live this difficult world without the daily guidance of an earthly father to encourage and support them.

Well done Daddy. Well done. Now hop on that motorcycle and come see us next Sunday morning!  And if you don’t mind…I’ll strap a two year old to the back when you leave and you can return her when she gets over this tantrum stage.  Together you could do what you two do best…travel the world making people smile.


To my momma on her last week as a preacher’s wife

IMG_0567I’ve become a lazy writer. For the past six months, I have posted pictures to my IG feed and found myself using it as my journal. I started to post a picture today and when I realized how long my “journal” was…I figured it was time to revisit the blog for sharing this tidbit of my heart with you. (I’m not even sure who ‘you’ is…weirdness)

This is an emotional week for the Higle crew. Yesterday, my Dad preached his last sermon from the pulpit where he has preached for the past 34 years. My head is spinning with so many memories and stories that I want to record for my kids about my life as a preacher’s kid.

Someday those stories might make it onto here or into a book…I mean my parent’s own a publishing company…that shouldn’t be that hard right?

This morning as I was doing my Bible reading in 1 Peter, the stories flooding my head were about my mom. . .the life she has lived for the past 40 plus years as a preacher’s wife.

These stories started coming to the forefront of my mind this past week when my mom texted me a picture.

A single photograph can literally cause a thousand memories to come flooding into the brain. The picture was of my mom and some ladies from her church who took my mom to lunch to celebrate her. My mom has been their “pastor’s wife for 34 years.”

My momma and these women used to meet each week to do Bible study. No doubt these ladies prayed me through every up and down since I was 6.

Being a pastor’s wife can be a lonely job. The job requires you to keep people’s words and their stories as treasures…protecting their words as gold.

Pastors’ wives carry a load on their shoulders that many don’t understand. The ladies in that picture have helped my momma carry that load. Not as some do in the world. . .to know the “scoop” of what’s going on in people’s lives or behind the scene at church.

These ladies helped my momma carry the load of being a wife and mom to three headstrong kids and one uber headstrong husband.

As I read the third chapter of 1 Peter this morning, this photograph came to mind and the tears started streaming again.

This will be my momma’s last week to wear the hat of “Preacher’s wife”. . . A hat she has worn for over 40 years. Selfishly, I am more than excited for her to get to take a hat off so she can wear the hat of “Mum” (what we all call her) more.

As I read through these verses in 1 Peter 3 the morning, I went back to many discussions I have had over the past 20 years with people about the “role” of women…in marriage, in the church, in the working world…

I choose to stay out of these conversations these days. It’s such a heated topic. I never was much for debating.

I don’t jump into this boxing ring, not because I don’t think this is a discussion of value…but because I have found most who try to draw me into this “fight” are shocked by my response and they go onto the next person to join their army.

You see I was raised by a woman who lives every day of her life striving to adorn her heart with beauty…all while managing a successful publishing company, raising three kids, ministering to countless college students every Sunday, and wearing the hat of pastor’s wife.

Momma. In a world that pressures me to fight for position and title and a voice … Thank you for teaching me that the strongest and most powerful women adorn their hearts with beauty every day and thus … shatter the world’s definition of powerful and strong.

And if you think about it…isn’t that what Jesus asks of us? Isn’t that what He did for us?

I have no doubt that when my momma puts that “pastor’s wife” hat up on the shelf Sunday afternoon for the last time…that heaven will be applauding and shouting,

“Well done thy good and faithful servant.”

And all of us kids and grandkids will be fighting for who gets “Mum” at their house first the next Sunday.

For any of you who are wanting an idea of something you can do to let my mom know what she means to you (I’ve shared my mom with thousands over the years… no telling how many consider her their second momma and how many thousands of notes she has written to college students over the years), write her a card and mail it to her over the coming weeks. It’s going to be a hard transition, but your cards and stories you share with her will be a light on the emotional days for sure.


My mom there for support as I finished my master’s degree juggling two toddlers


Celebrating life while I can….a reflection of my fortieth birthday.

Overwhelmed. Speechless. Grateful.

These are just a few of the words that come to mind when I think of how I spent my fortieth birthday.

As I woke up to kisses from my kiddos. As I enjoyed brunch with my sweet husband. As I scrolled through comments on social media.   As a read texts from people I love. As I sat in a room that night laughing and reminiscing with dear friends and family. And as I sat in bed at the end of the day reading through letters and cards sent from friends and family that have been special to me in my 4 decades of life…

Overwhelmed. Speechless. Grateful. . .

There really are no words to describe the people that I have gotten to call friends and family during my 40 years of life.

When I turned 39, I made a mental bucket list of things I wanted to do before I left my thirties. There were places in my home state that I wanted to see that I had never gone to in all my years of being an “Okie.” There were friends from my past that I hadn’t seen in years that I starting making mental plans of traveling to go see. Friends that I never dreamed I would go an entire ten and surely not twenty years without hugging their necks. My dream bucket list included adventures to go see these special people from my past.

Well. Somehow 365 days passed by quicker than I thought. It is really true what they say…the days are long but the years are short.

I tend to have unrealistic expectations of myself. The bucket list was quite impossible for a mother of three who is a working momma.

I choose not to focus on the places and people who are still not marked off of my bucket list…I can still dream of those adventures, and I am determined that I won’t turn 50 before I mark all of those trips and hugs off that list.

For my “over the hill” birthday, my sweet husband reached out to a girlfriend of mine in town and asked her to help him pull off a scavenger hunt that would end in a girl’s night out. Together, along with the help of my sister and mom, I truly had a 40th birthday to remember.

My husband told me afterwards that he had told those helping him pull off a surprise girl’s night out for me “just something simple.”

Well, we all know the male interpretation of simple and the female definition of simple tend to be quite different.   And…well…if my big sis is involved in the planning, there is never anything simple….

It was not simple. But it was simply perfect.

A scavenger hunt to a couple of my favorite places in town to see faces of some of my sweet family waiting at each place to surprise me.

Cards and gifts to open in the car along the way that were sent by people from my childhood, college, and early adulthood who sent their birthday love.(goodness as I typed that last phrase reality set in that I likely am classified now as ‘midlife’…how is that possible)

So many words.  Sure to be water to my thirsty soul in moments when I begin to believe the lies of the enemy that often try to tell me that I am something other than what the Father above tells me that I am.

A scrapbook from one of my amazing cousins and my aunt. It was creatively documented the people for whom I was named and reminded me of the heritage of faith that I carry with me.

A flower of words that were one of my cousin’s memories of me.

A picture of me on my first birthday and the actual outfit that I wore in the picture.

Pictures drawn by my big kids who were waiting to surprise me at a local park we frequent.

And then what I thought was going to be a quiet, quaint ‘girl’s night out’ dinner with my friend who was my scavenger hunt chauffeur, my mom, and my sweet sisters who had driven up to surprise me…

…..turned into anything but simple, quiet and quaint.

I walked into a room filled with “my people.” Friends that have made Tulsa become “home” over the last 8 years.

On the table was my favorite pound cake made by my mom using my grandmother’s recipe.

Flowers arrangements in the middle of the table sent to me from childhood besties.

Letters and cards from friends of the present and past that hadn’t been able to come.

And purple shirts. Lots of them. I teared up when they told me my college basketball coach had sent them for my family. Sidenote…truth is…Purple was my favorite color in high school, and I thought going to a “purple” college was like a dream come true…until I realized as a collegiate athlete I would soon have a closet full of only purple attire…I seriously have not worn much purple in the past 18 years since graduation. Today as I type this I proudly wear a purple shirt not because of the color or because I am an alumni of the school….but because it symbolizes roommates and teammates who were more like sisters than friends.  The shirt reminds me of coaches and professors who saw me through being diagnosed with a disability that took away my ability to write with a pen and a broken engagement just weeks before the wedding….they were there for me encouraging me with words of wisdom when my parents were five hours away and couldn’t walk me through the daily tears and heartache during these times. For me my time at Ouachita Baptist University was not about the education or a sports team but everything about the amazing people that my life’s path crossed in those years.

Goodness. I have no idea why I have been given the life that I have been given. My family. My friends.

My cup overflows with love from family and friends.

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about my crazy, impossible 39th year bucket list. I’m still going to chip away at that list.

I decided that I wouldn’t give up on the list, but that there was something else that I wanted to do. Something that is more realistic for my life right now.

After reading all the things that people wrote to me for my 40th birthday, I realized handwritten cards and letters is something that has almost become a faded memory of my childhood years. I teared up thinking that my kids will grow up in a world where a handwritten card is seen as the unusual instead of the norm.

So my birthday wish this year is to spark a revolution.

A revolution to reclaim the lost art of taking 5 to 10 minutes out of my day to handwrite a note to someone.

In an age of social media and quick text messaging, our home and work mailboxes are way too empty of things that matter most. Birthday cards have been replaced with a Facebook comment.

Handwritten letters checking in with friends and family to tell them they have been on our heart and in our prayers have been replaced with the quick text message that often don’t include heartfelt words. These well thought out words have been replaced with fun little dancing bunny eared emojis and abbreivations like ‘lol’. . .which I still always wonder if the person means lots of laughs or lots of love when they type that.

Thank you notes are written in our heads but they never seem to make it on actual cards.

When I lost my ability to write with a writing utensil, my life was forced to change. I had been one who was known to sit down and write several letters a week to friends or family. When it became physically impossible to do this…at the age of 20 I pretty much stopped writing letters and cards. I ceased chronicling my life in handwritten journals.

When I lost the ability to write, I lost a piece of who I had been since I was a young girl whose childhood and teenage years are documented in my own handwriting through the letters I wrote each week to my best friend who moved away in 4th grade.

As I was thinking through committing to writing a letter or card each day this year…my 41st year of life…fear sunk in at first.

“But it’s painful to write.”

“The few sentences I will be able to write may not even be legible to those who I want to read them.”

“Is this another commitment of an overachiever who makes impossible to do lists for herself?”

I started writing this reflection of my birthday celebration the evening of my birthday as I sat in the bed of the hotel room where my mom and my sisters and me were ending the surprise girl’s night out celebration.

I got too tired to finish it up after all the festivities, so I put it aside to finish later. At that time I was not writing out my reflections of the day for anyone else to read. I simply wanted to record the feeling I was having in that moment.

That changed Monday morning. I had just finished up my early morning exercising and I got a call from my mom….early calls aren’t that unusual for us so I really didn’t really think twice when I said ‘Good Morning.’

But this wasn’t one of our usually early morning conversations.

She had called to tell me that my cousin’s husband had suddenly passed away over night.

I collapsed in my chair as I listened to my mom share with me the course of events that had happened in the night. A perfectly healthy 60 year old man being rushed to the hospital and then the unexpected news that no wife or child wants to hear about their husband and father. “He’s gone.”

You see. I had just spent my entire weekend celebrating life. Celebrating my own life and the lives of the people who have journeyed it with me.

One of those people who has been in my life since day one was this cousin. My sweet cousin Traci.

When I got off of the phone, I immediately went to find the card she had sent to be a part of the surprise scavenger hunt. I flipped through the amazing scrapbook she had spent hours creating. It was filled with pictures and words that documented the history of where I got my name…Holly Ann. It was truly one of the gifts that almost sent me into the ugly cry on my birthday scavenger hunt, so I had to put it away to read later when no one was around.

Surreal. Ending a weekend filled with the celebration of life, only to be confronted with the reality of death.

I had planned on finishing up my birthday reflection on the computer Monday morning after I exercised….instead I spent the time thinking about my precious cousin and her family.

As the day passed and I prayed for this sweet family, I knew what I had to do.

I had to follow through with my commitment to write a card every day this year. . .in honor of Traci. . . the cousin who was in high school by the time I came into the world, but always made me feel special by sending me cards and letters in the mail. I still remember the feeling I got as a child when I would find a letter in the mail from cousin Traci. Every card. Every gift I ever received from Traci was filled with such well thought out meaning.

I wasn’t going to tell anyone about my commitment. I really didn’t want “likes” or attention for my new challenge for myself. This commitment was about me.   It was about reclaiming territory of my life that the enemy had stolen from me 20 year ago when I lost the ability to write long handwritten letters and journal entries.

But as I thought through it, I thought….I need accountability.

And “what if there are people who want to join me in this commitment?”

What if instead of brightening the day of 365 people in this world…I had a couple of friends join me and this number turns into over a thousand.

What if together we spark a revolution of taking time each day to tell the people in our lives what they mean to us. . . to let them know that we prayed for them.

In my mind there are words in my heart that I need to write out to childhood friends, college professors, pastor’s wives from my past,

But then there is the coffee shop barista who treats me like family…even though we are quite opposites…she knows exactly what I want before I say it…even if I haven’t been in the store for a while…

And then there is this gal at the pizza shop we frequent. She knows me by name. When I walk in the door she sees me and goes to get my call in order and takes it to the register without me even saying a word. She takes the time to ask about my life and tell me “see you next week Holly.”

Those are the things that we love to watch in shows like Andy Griffith, and we assume are the things of days gone by…especially when you live in a city.  But do they have to be?

Then there are the custodian workers and lunch monitors at my kids schools…and those awesome people that clean the toilets at church….good grief if anyone deserves a thank you note it those people.

So, this is an invitation.

An invitation to hold me accountable. To text me and say “who did you write a note to today Holly?”

An invitation to join me in the commitment. Nothing would bless my heart more than to get pictures on my phone from cards that have been sent to people because you have read this post.

And hey…even if it only turns into one handwritten card or note a week…that’s 52 and still about 5 times as many as I wrote last year.

So here’s to walking each day of my 41st year of life remembering that tomorrow is not promised. Remembering how the impact of all the words written to me to celebrate my birthday made me feel like my life mattered.  And may I use my words to do the same for others.

Stop one of the scavenger hunt included my mom and sister in law. And this. My first birthday outfit. Along with letters and cards from people from my childhood and college years.

Stop one of the scavenger hunt included my mom and sister in law. And this. My first birthday outfit. Along with letters and cards from people from my childhood and college years.

The scrapbook made by my cousin is truly unbelievable.

The scrapbook made by my cousin Traci…seriously…it is truly unbelievable.

I'm named after my two Aunts. . what an honor to carry their names with me everywhere I go.

I’m named after my two Aunts. . what an honor to carry their names with me everywhere I go.

Stop two included these faces. Flowers and cards and pictures drawn. And a sleeping that's a birthday gift.

Stop two included these faces. Flowers and cards and pictures drawn. And a sleeping toddler…now that’s a birthday gift.

My big sister was waiting at the final stop...a room filled with people I love waiting to help me celebrate the life I have been given.

My big sister was waiting at the final stop…a room filled with people I love waiting to help me celebrate the life I have been given.

And purple shirts.

And purple shirts.

baby b purple shirt

My struggle to say “Thank you. Why yes, I am an awesome momma.”

Social media overwhelms me.

Maybe it is just because of the weird mix that is my personality…social introvert with the spiritual gift of evangelism who has a tendency to pursue justice at all costs but doesn’t want to hurt the feelings of even my worst enemies.

Goodness. I think they have mental health treatment programs for people with such mixed up psyches as mine. For those of you who have never been able to peg just what is so strange about me…now you know why you couldn’t quite figure me out.

So basically…with my personality social media means I feel overwhelmed that so many people want to be my friend and care about my life at the same time feeling the burden of each person’s eternal destiny.

Because of my personality my heart aches at the injustice I see happening in the lives of all of my ‘friends and followers’ and I want them to know I am by their side fighting for them.  While at the same time, I find myself being somewhat of a social media ‘stalker’. I don’t “like” or comment on things because I am so afraid that I will hurt someone’s feelings by “not liking and commenting” on things…

I almost feel like I should commit myself to a facility after typing all of that out, knowing it is all 100% true.

This week I posted some pictures from my kids first day of school on my InstaGram account. I send pictures from my IG account to my Facebook page because I have many friends and family that are “Facebookers” and I love occasionally hopping on Facebook to see pictures of their sweet families.

Anyone who has been a “Facebooker” knows that you can hop on your page with the good intentions of just browsing through it for a minute or two to catch up on the lives of the loved ones in your life…and two hours later you catch yourself reading an article posted by a friend of a friend of a friend that is about a study on the benefits of owning a cat…did I mention that I am allergic to cats and have a justified hate for them.

Then you look up and dinner is still not planned. The kids are still on the video game that you told them to get off of two hours earlier and your husband will be home in 10 minutes.

Because several years ago I found myself somewhat ‘addicted’ to Facebook, I developed a love/hate relationship with social media. I have inherited an addictive personality and so I can easily become obsessed with almost anything I enjoy.  Social media, exercise, and even my church work can easily turn into something that can control me.

I sat down this morning at my local coffee shop at 6 am on a Saturday morning (another unexplainable thing that makes me a weirdo) to feed my introvert soul. Because if you ever want to have a coffee shop to yourself…try going at 5:30 or 6 on a Saturday morning…Introverts out there…you will thank me….but I am not telling you where I go…that would ruin it for me.

I decided to hop onto Facebook on my laptop. Somewhere along the way I decided that having Facebook on my phone was like a recovering alcoholic carrying a bottle with them everywhere they go, so I deleted it from my phone a long time ago.

So, because I had time and access on my laptop I decided to ‘catch up’ on my Facebook world friends.

As I looked at the names of the couple of hundred people who had liked and commented on a picture I posted on IG and sent over to Facebook land…I found myself in a dilemma about how to respond honestly to people without sounding prideful.

Here’s what I posted…

walmart 1st day of school

First day of school at 5:30 am this is where I find myself. Rushed home last night from a meeting at church to tuck my “babies” in before their first day of school. One of these not so babies (who hasn’t believed in Santa, tooth fairy or other fun make-believe in years)…after a beautiful prayer and pep talk about being a friend to the friendless and a light for Jesus at school said, “you remember when we were little and the backpack fairy used to come on the first day of school and put a surprise in our backpacks…I wonder if she will come tonight. My response, “you are too big for all that!” I truly meant it until they were sound asleep and I started thinking about how time flies. So what were my last words to Joe as a lay my head on my pillow, I’ve got to make a Wal-Mart run in the morning before everyone wakes up because having preteens and a toddler in the same house is a constant reminder that all too soon they won’t ask for such things of their momma…looks like the BackPack fairy has come back to life and likely will be putting treats in suitcases someday when she sends them off to college….now to wipe the tears and go find some “silly childish surprise” for my big “babies” for some silly fairy to get all the credit.

And here is how people responded…

“You’re an awesome mom”

“You’re the best”

“You’re the coolest momma”

As I read through the 30 plus comments like that, I kept thinking…

If these people only knew…

If all the people who liked my pictures or commented on this picture knew the inner struggle I have had with my mothering abilities…

If these people knew how ‘unnatural’ mothering has been to me for most of my 13 years of being called a momma.

If these people knew how social media had added to those struggles.

I am working on writing all of that out in the raw…not sure I will be brave enough to share it to the “world” through social media … introvert struggles…

But I didn’t feel like I could type out a reply on social media without a deeper explanation because it has taken me years to accept compliments on my motherhood.

  • To believe that the good things that others said about me was actually true
  • To simply say “Thank you! Why yes I am an AWESOME and GREAT momma”

My motherhood is a living example of the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Indeed in my weakness, Christ has made me strong so that only He can get the glory.

Because of the power living inside of me through the Holy Spirit, I can now let these words roll off my tongue without battling back thoughts of guilt and shame accusing me of being a liar because I get motherhood wrong almost as much as I get it right.

So to all those who gave me compliments I can say and I now believe it…

“Thank you. You are right. I am a good momma. In fact, at times, I am an awesome momma.”

But, what I have come to know more and more as my kids have grown and have a voice of their own in our home…it really doesn’t matter too much to me what my social media friends think about my motherhood.  You guys only see the ‘dos’ of my motherhood.  The parties I throw or the costumes I make or the places I take my kids.

But there are only five opinions that are the true judges of my motherhood: three kiddos, one man here on earth, and one Heavenly father whose comments and “likes” matter the most to me.  The opinions of these five matter most to me because they are the ones who see the true “who I am” behind the “what I do.”

I could get an A+ in the “what I do” in motherhood but still fail in the “who I am” as I mother.

And praise Jesus…His grace defines who I am and the mercies of my Heavenly Father are new every morning.

If I kept a tally…I probably fail at being and doing each day almost as much as I get it right.

So this morning,  as I am getting ready to leave this coffee shop that has gotten way too crowded for my introvert enjoyment….I declare by the mercies of the Father and the grace of my sweet, sweet Jesus….

“Why yes indeed I am a great momma.”

Now…to go put this to the test in the presence of the 5 who get to be my judges.

First day of Kindergarten and 2nd grade

First day of Kindergarten and 2nd grade

1st day of 5th grade and 7th grade

1st day of 5th grade and 7th grade

1st day of school 2010...still trying to find myself in the web of motherhood

1st day of school 2010…still trying to find myself in the web of the “whats” and “whos” motherhood

1st day of school 2015 when I can confidently say

1st day of school 2015 when I can confidently say “I am a great momma”