Category Archives: love & grace

I Love Who I Am When I’m With You



“There’s only one thing more precious than our time and that’s who we spend it on.” Leo Christopher

 In the past, I chose friends using the strangest set of guidelines:

  • I let the other person decide if we were going to be friends no matter the circumstances, even the woman who liked my husband more than she liked me, a friend who criticized my husband’s politics and my daughter’s parenting, and the couple who argued with each other and then blamed me.
  • I said “yes” to friendships when I knew better because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
  • I struck up friendships with people whom I felt uncomfortable around. It was my way of overcompensating for emotions I thought I shouldn’t feel toward them.

bald-eagle-1018717_960_720Stumbling onto the wisdom below helped enlighten every single relationship I had whether professional, family, or friend. I heard a fellow express it during his talk to a group of recovering alcoholics. My friend Betty passed along his tape to me. I fast-forwarded it a hundred times to the story he told about the father-daughter dance at his daughter’s wedding. Just like my daughter and her dad, they danced to “Wind Beneath My Wings.”


At the end of his message, he told his audience, “You are the wind beneath my wings. I love who I am when I’m with you.”

Every time I replayed that part, I cried. I wanted what he had, relationships in which I loved myself. I knew it’d mean setting boundaries, which I wasn’t good at. Twelve step programs called it “detachment with love.” I called it sanity because spending time with the wrong people drove me crazy.

I let go of two friendships that spanned more than two decades each. I detached from everyone I talked about at the beginning of this post. I stepped away from a few family members.

Letting go hurt, but holding on hurt more. The pain of not loving myself around family and friends kept healthy relationships at bay.


When a friend’s dad died in 2005, a group of us reunited who met in elementary school and stayed friends throughout college. We drifted apart because of grown-up responsibilities until we realized (at the funeral home) how much we loved who we were around each other. Out of our dozen friends, five or more of us have been getting together every month for 13 years. I love myself around them and around several other female friends who laugh, cry, and eat sugar together.

It’s transformative to find our people, to love them, and to love ourselves around them. Joel Osteen said, “Who you spend your time with will have a great impact on what kind of life you live. Spend time with the right people.”

Are you hanging out with people you love yourself around? I sure am when I’m with y’all, my readers.


In this together,


Loving People Through the Election (we can do it)



“We all have inside of us a Mother Teresa and a Hitler.” Unknown

Almost daily I wonder if our country, my family and friendships, and I are going to make it until Election Day. These final four weeks are bringing out the worst in a lot of us. It’s telling when I’m relieved to read about Hurricane Matthew instead of politics. Even though I unfollowed most of my big political posters (people who post on Facebook), my newsfeed is filling up again with politics as the election nears.


There are diehards who know they’re right, and those of us struggling not to be wrong when we don’t agree with them. And when I do hang out with friends who agree, I want to be respectful instead of rebellious towards those who don’t, but that’s not easy sometimes if they’re rebellious first. #WhileLovingthePeopleinIt

I typically stay far from political discussions even though I have near-to-my-heart opinions about politics, and that’s what I’ve figured out is the “problem.” Since working on my manuscript about getting in touch with my feelings, I no longer can stay solely in my head like I used to. However, sojourning to my heart is scary, especially now. It feels safer, in a sick sort of way, to practice judgment and anger rather than understanding and compassion.

It came to a head the other night when I unfriended a friend because I couldn’t stay away from her page, even though I never commented when I was there. I unfollowed her a while back, but I’d still check in every few days even though I promised myself I wouldn’t … just like she promised to stop posting about politics. It seemed she couldn’t help herself anymore than I could.

She and I only know each other through mutual friends, so this isn’t a lifelong and special bond I’m breaking. She never comments on my page either. We’re distant, so I wondered if my unfriending was even worth blogging about until it dawned on me the struggle isn’t about our relationship with each other. It’s about our relationship with ourselves.

This is about getting my own life while loving the people in it.

I visited her page hoping she’d stop posting about politics because she said she would, and I wanted her to. I wanted us both to stop letting ourselves down, and I wanted her to go first.

I wanted her to stop reacting to friends with arrogance and show some LOVE like her cover photo says. That way, I could show some love also.

I wanted to like her again like I did before this election season got ugly and she did too. She’s not my only friend who’s gone off the deep end about politics, but she’s the most verbal and vicious. That is, unless you come behind my closed doors. I’ve said some pretty ugly things about her to my husband.

He reminded me that she’s afraid just like I am. He also clarified that I’ll never understand how she’s handling her fear because it’s not how I handle mine. She is confrontational. I run. She knows she’s right. I doubt myself. She is unapologetic. I say “I’m sorry” before I figure out if I actually am.

Going to her page triggered all sorts of uncomfortable emotions and unpleasant thoughts. I’d read her comments and make up ones in my head to put her in her place. I wanted to straighten out her thinking with the same kind of sarcasm she was writing to others. I unfriended her the night I felt unambiguously (which means really, really, really) justified in meeting her unkind comments with some of my own. I didn’t write them, but I wanted to.


That’s when I thought, I am her.

I believe we all have some of her in us. And just like the quote at the beginning said about Mother Teresa and Hitler, we all have inside of us some Trump and some Hillary. I can hear it already, “There’s no way I’m like him/her.” Grumble, deny, grumble, grumble, deny. Yeah, we are. In fact, I’ve watched friends act just like the candidate they’re criticizing.

Unpleasant news, I know, because if we’re hating one of the candidates, we’re likely hating ourselves. We “sort of” know how much we’re alike whether we accept it or not … whether we accept our immorality, our crudeness, our dishonesty, our scorn, our bratty fits, and on and on. We say, “I would never … ,” but we do.

Author Carla Laureano posted similar ideas on Facebook. She said, “The reason why we are so horrified by the candidates and the way they’ve been running their campaigns is because they represent us perfectly as a nation, down to every last hidden sin and evil thought: greed, lust, hatred, fear, pride … There is no longer a veneer of civility behind which we as a country can hide and pretend any sort of respectability or character. In order to deserve better, we need to BE better.”

We’re all capable of mudslinging madness, and we’re also capable of Love that overcomes it. My unfriended friend’s page is a jumble of conflicting emotions that aren’t usually so visual, but it’s right there on her page and in writing, which is why she and her page are so bothersome. On there, the clash of love and hate is palpable and problematic and politically incorrect … and it’s you and me. It’s all of us.

It’s like the story I doubt is true since I can’t find a reputable source, but I appreciate it anyway. Mother Teresa was asked when she began her ministry and she answered, “On the day I discovered I had a Hitler inside me.” Fact or not, I’m buying it because it makes her human and relatable, and it makes me feel better that she’s flawed too.

I was still a little crazy about my friend’s page until I read what another friend suggested about our days leading up to the election. He said something like this, “Shut up and vote, and find something creative to do besides obsess about November 8th.”

Thanks, Jason. I think I’ll do just that. #GettingYourOwnLife


And to think, I almost canceled three days of art classes beginning next Thursday, and I suspect it was because I only have time to be crazy, not creative. Maybe that’s why last night I ran into a fellow painter. Seeing her reminded me to stay out of my head and lean heartward.

What about you? Obsess about politics or pursue a real passion during the next four weeks? Let’s encourage each other in ways that are creative, not crazy.

In This Together,

Thanks for the first three pix,

My Word for 2016 – Love


Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 3.13.37 PM

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” Lucille Ball

Every year since 2012, instead of resolutions I don’t keep, I’ve chosen a word for the year to help reach goals that I may or may not have written down. Sometimes what I want to accomplish is just a thought. I’ve found help making these wishes come true by focusing on my word for the year. Other times, what I wanted to accomplish was a longtime goal written years ago that finally came to pass because of practicing that year’s word.

My words so far have been:
2012   Incremental
2013   Ponder
2014   Content (meaning both satisfied and subject matter)
2015   Revise and Momentum (I chose two words, but it took all year to revise.)

A couple of years in a row, I said my word chose me. This year, my word was chosen for me. For fun, I clicked on What is your word for 2016?, not intending to stick with it.

I never would have chosen “Love.” After being assigned it like a school child, I reasoned with a friend why I needed to change my word, “It’s kind of generic. I mean, we all love. I was hoping for a word more meaningful to what’s going on in my life or a word more focused on my writing.”

I hoped for the same thing in 2013 when I ended up with “ponder.” I tried to come up with a more active word, but nothing stuck, so I ended up sitting around all year and thinking. As you probably already guessed, pondering is exactly how that year needed to spent.

Anyhow, I returned six times to the link, trying to come up with something more fitting than Love, all the while suspecting my word for 2016 had been decided. I’m not sure why I fight my words, but it’s gotten to be a New Year’s tradition.

My husband and I have already begun working towards making our home life emotionally safer, more accepting, and kinder. In other words, we want our home and our relationship to feel more loving. Of course, we love each other, but sometimes in the midst of past hurts and resentments, stress in our daily lives, and the fact that it’s easy to take out frustrations on each other, love isn’t as evident as we’d like it to be.

What is evident, though, is that I don’t love my own life. Most of my frustration comes from starting one of the 11 projects I convince myself has to be done before doing what I want to do and what I think God wants me to do, which is to write about relationships. It’s anything but love (even if it’s a project for someone else) when I put aside my passion and disregard God’s purpose for my life.

All the other relationships in my life, the ones beyond my marriage, would also benefit from me learning how to love while getting on with my own life. This has been a recurring predicament over the years, one that I’m finally making my blog’s focus – how to love and write about it.

The more I think about what a writer friend recently told me about focusing my blog on relationships, the more I recognize Love perfectly fits my life and my writing for 2016. She said, “I’ve noticed you get the most comments on your relationship posts. They are also the ones you write about most passionately.”

So, the fight is over. Love is my word for 2016. I’m looking forward to learning how to love the people around me while writing about us.

I’d like to hear from you about your Word for 2016 – what it is and how you chose it (or how it chose you). For more info on the concept and on choosing a word, check out

In Joy,

A Fairy Tale Can Take A Long Time (a blog post about 37 years of marriage) 

“A perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.” Unknown

“A perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.” Unknown

It’s a bit unromantic, I guess, to write about our messy marriage on the same day we eloped 37 years ago, but messy is the only story we’ve got.

We’ve been messy from the beginning. John and I married in Mr. Coyle’s living room the day after the justice of the peace buried his wife. That could have served as a forewarning, but we were in love and blind. We shared our condolences, then our vows. A neighbor came over to act as our witness. We consummated our marriage at Tremont Inn in Columbia, S.C. I like to think it’s one of God’s favors that the motel still stands. We rode through its parking lot several months ago and reminisced.

The day after our wedding, I returned to my parent’s home in Conway, S.C. to finish my next-to-the-last semester at what was then a campus of the University of South Carolina. No one found out we were married for six months.

What happened over the next 36 years belongs in a novel, but I prefer Facebook and fairy tales.

Weird, I know, but I’m grateful for the role social networking played in our marriage. Facebook’s the place where, in the middle of arguments, loneliness, and depression, I made up how I wanted our relationship to be. I think a lot of us do that. And who knows? Maybe it helped. In front of my online friends, I shared our best memories, showcased our best moments, and wrote about us like we were living happily ever after – not to be misleading, but because that’s what I wanted more than anything.

Even weirder (since John’s only been on Facebook maybe a dozen times to my two million), this morning he posted a sweet and much appreciated sentiment, which I’ve actually contemplated doing for him since I have his password. I’m thankful I waited on him.

Friends left the kindest notes to congratulate us and even said we set a good example of marriage for our son and daughter. I’m not so sure about that. I am sure, though, there’s little I’d change since recognizing the beauty in our battles. Oh, sure, I often say, “If I had known this, I would have done that.” And John says the same. But we didn’t know this and we couldn’t do that, not until we had some life-changing experiences under our belts. In our case, quick learners that we are, it’s taken 37 years.

But like I said, there’s not much I’d do differently. If we hadn’t entered into holy matrimony while fighting our personal battles, we never would have grown up like we have, we never would have wrestled so hard to get better like we have, and we never would have begged God like we have – begged him to take first place in our lives because our marriage came up short.

Our marriage’s battleground transformed into our personal sacred grounds even though we’re not quite sure when it happened.

This may not sound sentimental and affectionate and gratitudinous, but, let me tell you, I’m feeling all these things and more. This is our most significant year yet and our most special. We’re living our happily-ever-after because we’re asking for God’s help, we’re accepting our brokenness, and we’re healing in spite of our mistakes. Best of all, we’re doing it together. That’s new for us and it feels like a fairy tale.

We have words for weathering the storms for anyone who wants to read on, and especially for our kids if they ever tune into my blog:

  • Love each other. Obvious, right? That is, until you realize you don’t know what love is or you don’t like what the other person’s doing. My friend Betty shared the best definition (it’s one of acceptance) I’ve ever heard, “Love is the act of me letting you be who you are and you letting me be who I am.”
  • Forgive each other. This is easier said than done when you’re always right, but maybe you’re not always right.
  • Forgive God. It’s not his fault when we abuse and suffer consequences as the result of our free will. Okay, so maybe it’s partly his fault because he designed our world this way, but we choose.
  • Change what we can. Blame, bad habits, and distractions are easy, but they get us nowhere. Change is hard and it takes us wherever we want to go.
  • Stop staring at each other. Dr. Orlo Strunk, a marriage counselor who taught counseling classes at Webster University, said, “I wouldn’t have a job if everyone looked at their own part in a marriage, then did something about it.”
  • Look at each other right. When we do watch one another, make sure it’s with the admiration I saw in her father’s eyes and the love I saw in her soon-to-be husband’s eyes when our daughter walked down the aisle on her wedding day.PicMonkey Collage1
  • Pray together. I kind of cringe typing this one because it sounds preachy and self-righteous and cliché, but it’s anything but these things. We’re finally humble. We’ve been on our knees at bedtime for about a year now. Remember I said it’s been our best year so far – it’s a little bit because of our willingness to do what’s uncomfortable and a lot because of God’s grace.

To John ~ I couldn’t find the perfect gift for our day, so I wrote it. I’ll love you forever. A song for us, Broken Together by Casting Crowns.

Fix Your Face, part 2 (when you fall on your face)

“Even if you fall on your face, you're still moving forward.”  Victor Kiam

“Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.”
Victor Kiam

When the deal fell through, I fell also.

On my face.


Which is why in my last blog post I talked about the mom who told her young son, “Fix your face.” Her words reminded me that I couldn’t fix mine, and neither could anyone else except God, and, so far, he hasn’t.

It’s also why I wasn’t sure there would be a part two to “Fix Your Face” – I wasn’t sure I was willing to share the emotional pain of the fall.

When the accident happened, I was out to dinner the next evening in sunglasses and laughing with friends about tripping over the cement block in the coffee shop parking lot in Wilmington, N.C. I fell moments after finalizing details for a contract to franchise a dog magazine. Since the contract didn’t align with our talks, I was almost certain the deal was off. Even with evidence in writing, I didn’t love and respect myself enough to confront the discrepancies.

The fall represented that attitude – “not enough love and respect for myself.” So did the next year of my life that I spent hating the bump left in the fall’s aftermath. Knowing I struggled daily, my husband encouraged me to talk with a plastic surgeon about scraping my nose down to size.

“Not until I love myself the way I am, then I’ll consider it,” I said.

The bump wasn’t my nemesis; self-contempt was. I got up from the gravel knowing I needed a fix for how I let others treat me, as well as a fix for how I treated myself. In light of that reality, I began calling my nose the “love bump.”

The fall prompted changes that were, in hindsight, necessary to bolster enough love and respect like …  

  • Practicing gratitude (despite the bump on my nose) because my teeth were in my mouth instead of on the pavement.
  • Speaking up to people I didn’t like and people I did like and people. Any people.
  • Warming up to the idea that I was worth standing up one more time than I fell down.

The accident happened in 2007. Because of an invitation in 2013 from a friend (orchestrated by God, I’m sure), I had the opportunity to consult at no charge with a respected plastic surgeon. She said my nose was an easy fix. She also said there was a chance the bump would callous after surgery the same as it did after the fall, and it may possibly grow back and possibly grow bigger.

Our appointment ended, but not before I reflected on my commitment, “Not until I love myself the way I am, …” Instead of reconstructing my outsides, God had worked inside. I wish he had opted for both, but the inside job was most important, for sure.

When I left the surgeon’s office, I knew I was closer to being fixed than if I had signed up for surgery.

How often do we opt for a quick fix instead of lasting results? What’s manifesting outside of you that really needs fixing on the inside?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I am more and more receptive to God’s reconstruction, and, no, not of my nose.

Dying To Love

“Even though I’d give anything to have her back, I’d never go back to the person I was before I lost my daughter.”  Anonymous, Artwork by Cindy DeLuz

“Even though I’d give anything to have her back, I’d never go back to the person I was before I lost my daughter.” Anonymous (Artwork by Cindy DeLuz)

In the last month, my mom died.

A friend/former colleague died.

And, early yesterday morning, I received a phone call about a friend’s 31-year-old daughter who died.

Yesterday was the second Sunday morning my friend has been awakened around 4 a.m. with news of losing a child. Her son died in a car accident some years ago.

I don’t claim to know how she feels or what to say or how to help. However, after we talked, I understand more about the necessity of loss.

Without losing, I’m not sure we can grasp loving.

Death is the harsh half of bittersweet. It’s the yin of yin and yang. It’s the ultimate pain of our journey, but it’s also the ultimate wakeup call, even if, like my friend, it’s not the call we hoped for.

During our conversation last evening, the tone of my friend’s voice, as well as her words, expressed tenderness like I’ve never heard in a counseling session or sermon. Not that she won’t get angry and experience moments of questioning God, but she’s got hold of something that some of us never do. She said she was crazy and probably would be for a while.

All I could think was, “Crazy in love.”

And I can relate some. Since Mom’s and my friend’s deaths, I have more lovingly reflected and intensely missed them than in all the years they lived. Death, if we let it, brings to the forefront our own tenderness.

Whose death has left you at a loss so much so that it also changed you?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Often I have posted what a counselor said when she asked if I felt like I was dying, “You’re really being born.” I believe dealing with death is often a birth into deeper love.

Related post: Pain, the fabric softener of life

On the side: Click here for more artwork by Cindy DeLuz.

Preach ‘Em Into Hell, a sermon about love


“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Francis of Assisi

“Do you feel the Holy Spirit, right here, right now? Do you feel him?”

“I think so.”

“You think so? Either you do or you don’t.”

Sitting across from a family member in a fast food restaurant, I listened while he talked about my salvation. He questioned whether I was a Christian.

Instead of arguing or leaving, I ate my roast beef sandwich while he preached.

Each time our conversation comes to mind, so does one I had with Baptist minister and friend Bill Cusack about raising kids.

“You can love ‘em into heaven or preach ‘em into hell,” he said.

The lunch date with my family member resembled the latter. Turns out, though, it was an hour well spent. I figured out what not to do with our kids or anyone else.

Ever had one of those conversations, when you wish you were any place else, but you learn a whole lot from being right where you’re supposed to be?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Dear God, help me remember that even though preaching has its place, sermons don’t save people. Love does.


Faith, Hope and Love


“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

At our mountain house, we have three words (well, four if you count “and”) spray-painted on an old screen window. It hangs as decoration over our living room couch.

When we pull into the driveway at night, even before lights are turned on, the screen is the first thing I notice. The reflection from the streetlight keeps the message lit like a beacon.

Lots of times I wonder about each word, think about which I’d choose if I could only pick one.

Being a visual learner, the symbols are also especially meaningful.

Faith   +       [cross]

Hope  o–)    [anchor]

Love   ♥        [heart]

If you could only choose one, which is most important in your life?

Write wHere I’m supposed to be – I smiled big the first time it occurred to me the chapter and verse for faith, hope and love. It is our lucky number, 13:13. I don’t just play with words. I’m pretty crazy about numbers too.

The Crown of Unconditional Love, one young man’s example


“Love is, above all, the gift of oneself.” Jean Anouilh (Photo from iStock)

Sheldon was an unlikely Homecoming King, yet he was crowned during loud applause and a standing ovation that evening at the high school football game. 

Sheldon spent most of his academic day in a special education classroom. His disabilities kept him from participating in sports. Since he wasn’t in the mainstream of the student body, he was seldom a part of parties and goings on. Also, he was unable to drive so he wasn’t out and about like most teens.

Somehow, though, Sheldon’s bear hugs, the way he excitedly said your name, and his loud hellos worked magic on the students and faculty. So much so that when the evening came to announce the winner from the Homecoming Court, Sheldon jumped in circles and squealed when he won.

Recently, Sheldon posted a belated birthday wish on our son’s Facebook page, some 10 years after their graduation. I noticed he’s working as an associate at Goodwill Industries.

“How appropriate,” I thought. “Our son and his friends are lucky to have him in their lives.”

When reading his message, what struck me is how a decade ago I felt sorry for this young man. I remember being grateful to the students who went out of their way to be accepting, you know, doing him a favor – how they helped Sheldon, rallied around him, and even gave up a popularity contest to allow him to win king for a day.

If I had written this post back then, it would have been about the heart of those students.

Though I’m still impressed by their kindness, what I didn’t recognize was Sheldon was royalty long before that crownInstead of all we did for him, he did us the favor.

I’d love to hear your story if you have a Sheldon in your life.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Thanks, Sheldon. You set an example for what you do so well, love unconditionally.

Alex, Sheldon & Rusty @ Carolina Forest High
Thanks for sharing this photo, Lyndsey Shelley.


On the side: Sheldon passed away today, September 16, 2012. He posted a birthday wish to our daughter just 17 days ago. She said, “I’m sad, but I think he had a good time while he was here so that makes it a little easier.”

When our son called to tell me, he said, “I don’t think Sheldon ever had a bad day.” That’s probably not true, but what a legacy to leave … to brighten friends’ days so much that they think you never had a bad one.


Compassion (i.e. come to passion)


“Human it is to have compassion on the unhappy.”
Giovanni Boccaccio

Use your imagination a bit and compassion looks like “come to passion.”

It’s a good reminder since sometimes when I get too close to pain, I slip from compassion to control. The reason this happens? I’m terrified of pain.

I want to fix whatever is wrong, to stop others from hurting. My eagerness to make everything better leads to offering solutions, usually too many.

When hurting friends don’t take my advice, I get uncomfortable and back away.

It was never so obvious as when a friend’s son died several years ago. Slowly I drifted farther from our relationship. I had a lot going on myself, so I justified the distance. However, I was painfully aware I felt incapable of being around her pain.

I thought back, wondering where the discomfort originated. When my aunt’s mother died, I was four years old. I sat in the bed where she spent most of her days crying.

“I’ll never be happy again,” she said.

I told her she would, but she said no.

She looked so sad. I tried to brighten her gloomy mood by giving her attention, telling funny stories, and chattering. None were enough. I wanted to run away, but Mom said I had to stay. I was the only family member my aunt recognized, the result of being in shock, so it was my job to comfort her, but I failed.

Which brings to mind why relationships are so complicated. Their pain entangles with our pain. Their feelings jog our memories and give rise to our feelings. Reactions create chain reactions.

The best I can do sometimes is to let both of us feel whatever we’re feeling, sometimes at a distance.

To determine what we have to offer, we can check in with ourselves: Can I allow my friend to feel without trying to fix him/her? If not, what is the most loving way to respect each other’s feelings? If it’s space, what’s the most compassionate way to give it?

Write wHere I’m supposed to be – It’s okay to not show up for everyone. Sometimes we need our own compassion.