Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Mystery of Contentment

Contentment has always been somewhat of a mystery to me. Since I was in high school, all I wanted was to be happy. For years that meant living for the next thing. The next boyfriend. The next dance. The next academic achievement. The next holiday. The next concert. Eventually those things weren’t enough. I needed the next stage of life – college, a good job, marriage, health, kids, a house, financial stability, etc. The list goes on and on. Because nothing ever manages to fulfill the way you think it will.

I’ve rarely met a situation that didn’t leave me disappointed. Every event I’ve looked forward to had an ounce of hollowness to it. A feeling of is that all?

It’s strange that it took losing almost everything I ever wanted to find contentment. I lost my marriage. Something I put my identity into, my heart and my soul were invested into loving that man. I nearly lost myself in the process of loving and losing him. For a while I thought I might lose being a stay at home mom, and even though I’m privileged to work from home, my life is still a far cry from my days as a carefree homemaker. I lost my house, my neighborhood, and my standard of living. I lost my ministry and my ability to be a hostess, no longer able to create safe places in my home for others. I lost my mind for a while. Grief really does drive you mad. And yet in those days and months that I found myself losing everything, I was content.

It’s easy to cling to Jesus as your one and only when he is the only thing that isn’t failing you.

But life has a way of righting itself after a disaster. I have a new home, a new way of life and pattern of living. I’ve grown accustomed to being alone in the evenings and to parenting on my own. I’ve fallen in love again and am starting a new life with a godly man who makes me incredibly happy. I have a modest income and God has provided beyond my imagination in my times of need. I’ve found strength and grown in who I am. I have deeper friendships than I ever imagined. In short, I’m happy.

And yet I find that old familiar companion slowly creeping back into the corners of my life. Discontentment. I know that “blah” feeling well. That feeling of, what’s next?

Turns out, it’s harder to cling to Jesus when life is pretty great.

But it’s so incredibly necessary. Putting my hope for happiness in my future marriage will doom it to failure. It will place an incredible burden on my fiancée to be my everything. Relying on finding fulfillment in my career will only leave me feeling empty and cause me to strive ever more for the next achievement. Resting in creating a comfortable home with happy children will cause me to resent every aspect of my day that conflicts with those ideals.

Clearly this world is not my home and it will never be able to give me meaning and purpose the way I want it to. It cannot. Only Jesus. Ever and only Jesus.

I learned how to immerse myself in Jesus when my life was hard, so how do I enjoy Jesus when my life is good? How do I enjoy the good gifts of the Creator without expecting them to actually make me happy? How do I get off the endless cycle of looking to the next big thing? I honestly don’t know. But I have an inkling it has a lot to do with gratitude. Because the heart of discontentment is saying, “this isn’t enough, I want more.” That sounds a lot like ingratitude to me.

When I work five jobs to make ends meet for my children and decide to splurge on a gift for them, it hurts my heart immensely when they ask for more. Don’t they know? Can’t they see how much I’m sacrificing for them and how hard I’ve worked for this one little thing? More than just lacking thankfulness, it makes me feel like they don’t understand my love. Could it be the same with Jesus? When we focus on the gift and all the ways it seems to be lacking, does it say something about how we view God? Instead of focusing on the gift and trying to muster up a list of “ten things I like about this thing”, what if I spent my time reflecting on how this gift is a symbol of God’s love for me?

Every gift from God says something about my relationship with him. The gift of suffering shows his desire to be close to me, to help me rely on him only and worship no other gods before him. The gift of children shows his desire to teach me about the way he loves his children. The gift of hunger or lack shows me how he provides eternally satisfying water and food. The gift of marriage shows me a picture of how Christ loves the church. Each gift says something about Jesus.

There are so many names for God in the Old Testament, each with a slight nuance: God of peace, God who provides, God who heals, etc. Instead of getting stuck in a cycle of “never enough”, what if each gift pointed me back to the God who is always enough? Always loving, always teaching, always patient, always kind. May my lack of fulfillment in the things of this world constantly move me towards the one person who always satisfies.

Every moment of discontentment is an opportunity for praise. Every time a gift doesn’t satisfy or circumstances don’t bring complete and utter joy, it’s a chance to worship. I’m thankful for the unsettled feeling that accompanies my happiest moments because they offer me Jesus. Ever and only Jesus.

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Storms

::PREFACE:: I’ve wanted to post this but was concerned it’d be misunderstood. I’m not currently in a dark or even painful place with everything that has happened, but I felt like this post was important to give voice to what I endured and what so many others feel. One of the worst parts about going through something catastrophic is the feeling that other people don’t really understand you anymore. Hopefully, this will give words to those in crisis and help others understand what their loved ones are enduring.   

I can’t believe I survived this.

Like a victim of a natural disaster, I felt the storm coming. It turned dark; the wind battered the landscape around me. I could feel it swelling and growing. Then it was too late to evacuate or make storm preparations, it descended upon me.

There’s a reason they name storms after people.

I survived a Hurricane.

Storms often hit in two parts, with an illusion of calm in between. The eye of my storm lasted five years. But the storm was not over, it was merely gathering strength and preparing to thrust its force over my life.

Victims of natural disasters, of truly horrific ones, they’ve seen things that cannot be unseen. They’ve seen completely innocuous objects turned into weapons of mass destruction. They’ve seen every semblance of normal twisted and disfigured. They know blood, bruises, and brokenness.

Some things can never be fully restored.

Once you’ve known loss, you cannot go back. Picket fences will no longer mean prosperity, you will only see a thousand ways it could impale you. Windows will no longer provide security, you will only see the malicious shards that shredded your old life. Storms reveal that you had built your life upon an illusion of safety. An illusion that can never be regained.

The world no longer seems safe after a natural disaster. It’s unsettling for the bystanders, but it’s catastrophic to those who have endured it.

I cannot believe that I endured it.

If you’ve never known the freight train wail of a tornado or the gale force winds that bring impossible swells, then you don’t know that fear. That fear that this thing will actually kill you. The emotions that accompanied my Hurricane were no less deadly. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. All that existed was fear and pain. You don’t have time to revel in disbelief, the storm is upon you and you have to survive.

And I did.

So why does this survival make me feel weak? Because it doesn’t feel like it’s over. There will always be more storms. Even a gentle breeze can put me into panic mode. Weather is unpredictable and I don’t think I have the strength to survive another storm.

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Not Frightened by Fear

I had the privilege of sharing a bit of my story this morning at Women’s Bible Study. It’s a bit different format since I was speaking, not blogging, but here’s what I spoke on:

I wanted to share a testimony of how 1 Peter 3:5-6 really encouraged me during the months leading up to my divorce. I really like how the ESV translates this passage: “For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”

Submission is never an easy thing but it’s particularly challenging when married to an unbeliever or a husband making ungodly choices. No one knew that better than Sarah. If you’ve never read the story in Genesis 12, let me summarize it. Abraham was traveling in the foreign land of Egypt. His wife Sarah was very beautiful and he was scared that the Pharoah would want to take Sarah for himself, and would kill him to do so. He didn’t trust that God would protect him, so he made the foolish decision to lie about who Sarah was. He told the Pharoah that she was his sister, so Pharaoh let him live and took Sarah to be his wife. Was her situation frightening? Absolutely. And yet this passage says she “didn’t fear what was frightening.” She trusted that God would be her Ever-Faithful and Perfect Husband. She trusted in God rather than Abraham — and God protected her.

Over a year ago my husband began to walk away from the Lord. As you can imagine it was a terrifying time. My decade old marriage began to crumble without having our faith in common. I’d look at my 3 small kids and feel paralyzed with fear. Many of you ladies walked through that season with me and know how hopeless I was at times. How could I follow a husband who wasn’t following God? How could I trust him to lead our family? And what if he decided to leave me?

I read through this passage during that time. I was reminded that I was supposed to follow Sarah’s example and not “fear what is frightening.” Regardless of how terrifying my circumstances became, I knew that Jesus would be my husband and that He would ultimately protect my family. My prayers shifted from “Lord, please change my husband” to “Lord, help me trust in you no matter what.” I decided to obey God and to trust Him, even when my husband was making bad choices. I continued to submit myself to his leadership and pray that God would protect me and my children.

And God answered my prayers with hope. He gave me a confident and sure hope that I had a future and that I could trust His plan. Even when my circumstances got worse and my husband decided to leave, I experienced a confidence in who Jesus is and that allowed me not to live in fear. He has been my Faithful and Perfect Husband, never leaving my side. I can look back and see how He was with me every step of the way and has never left me on my own.

We’ve all heard the phrase “everything happens for a reason.” It can be used in insensitive ways to justify terrible things that happen. But from God’s perspective, it really is true. Nothing happens without His care and involvement. That includes choices that the people in our lives make. He has promised to watch over us and be with us, even as people we trust fail us. We can be free to trust in Him and not be shaken by the insecurity of our circumstances. That’s how we can follow Sarah’s example and not “fear what is frightening.” Because we know who ultimately plans our days and He is GOOD.

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Reputation

I haven’t given much thought to reputation since my high school years. Of course, during early adolescence it was everything. I took great pride in being known as a good girl. I liked that people looked to me for advice. That they knew I was the one to ask for a Bible verse or prayer on hard days. I didn’t want to be popular, those girls were trouble. But I did want to be liked and to have a place– and in its own weird way being a good girl gave me that identity.

I transferred my identity to marriage and motherhood over the years. Having a reputation as a natural mama, a homemaker, an ally on all things faith/sexuality, a safe place, a great cook, a loving wife –this has all been core to who I am. Some of those identities were scarier than others. Some invited criticism from strangers and it was scary to know that my reputation was at stake. To know that people I had never met had the power to interpret things I’d written or said (or even just the existence of my marriage) and had things to say about me was terrifying.

But all of that still felt purposeful. If I was being maligned, it felt to me that it was for the cause of Christ. That I was being slandered because I was saying things about God and faith that needed to be said, but some people just didn’t want to hear. That I was helping push the Church in ways that it needed to pushed. And that I was doing it alongside my teammate, my leader, and my best friend. At least we were in the mess together and anyone who really knew us believed in what we had to say.

Then my most recent identity came to include the title of divorcee. Now just walking into Home Depot with my three kids invites comments from complete strangers. A thousand assumptions are made about me every day and there is very little I can do about. Nor does it feel very purposeful. It often feels like it invalidates my ability to minister or serve more than it enables me. Being a single mom comes with all kinds of looks and completely uninvited comments. I remember as I walked through the last months of my marriage, feeling it’s inevitable demise, that I often found myself praying: “God — your glory is at stake here! What happens to me says something about you!”

It was during that time that I found myself drawn to a particular phrase in Scripture. One that I came across again and again, “Those who trust in him will never be put to shame.” I struggled with this phrase immensely. I mean, we all know believers who are falsely maligned or who have lost their reputation through no fault of their own. So what is this promise? It doesn’t mean we won’t experience the shame of having a bad reputation, so what does it mean?

This past week I’ve been studying 1 Peter in my Women’s Bible study. 1 Peter 2:6 landed in my lap and reminded me of all those churning thoughts from a year ago: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” My dear friend Nikki shared some facts about cornerstones in our study on Tuesday. How they set the tone and structure for the rest of the building. A good solid cornerstone creates straight and strong walls that will create a safe and reliable building. The walls won’t crumble and they won’t be “put to shame.” 

This idea of the cornerstone being responsible for our lack of shame was an a-ha moment for me. It’s so easy to think that our reputation matters because of what it says about us to others. But what I believe God is promising us is that the building he’s creating (us!) will never crumble or fall. That when people look at us they will see Christ, the chosen and precious cornerstone bearing all our pain and weight and creating a gorgeous and strong building. It’s not about people thinking the world of me, it’s that they will see me and see Jesus. And you know what? Seeing Jesus causes a lot of people to stumble and reject truth (1 Pet. 2:7-8). So their response to us might look like being put to shame in the world’s eyes.

And yet, the promises of 1 Pet. 2:9-10 wrap us in Jesus’ comforting arms. If we are rejected and our reputation is damaged in the world’s eyes, we are still God’s holy and chosen people. Though we have no home and people on this earth revile us, we are God’s special possession. Once not a people, now the people of God. Now that’s a reputation and an identity I can rely on. Never failing, never vacillating, not dependent on what’s in vogue at any given moment: forever chosen and adored by God. Hallelujah.

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Of Crooked Smiles and Happiness

I was born with a very smushed face. Part cross bite, part “wombs are tight places”,  I carried a crooked smile all the way into adolescence. Orthodontia helped a great deal; so did perfecting the ideal smile. I remember after I got my braces off, I’d flash a smile at myself every time I walked by a mirror. It was very Dorian Grey and vain, but I learned quickly how to look perfect. I was always told that I had a great smile and knew how to light up a room. I would sometimes model for my photographer friends and that perfect smile would always be on display.

I’ve struggled with happiness most my life. I was a depressed and angsty teenager and carried a lot of that discontentment into marriage and early adulthood. I eventually learned how to fight for joy, but in the later years of our marriage also lived in quite a bit of pain. All the while the perfect family pictures and model-like portraits were displayed for all the world to see. I’ve often been told that we were the most photogenic family. It was so hard for people to believe the pain we were in when we all looked so darn perfect.

A funny thing has happened in this year of endings followed by new beginnings. My crooked smile has returned. I first noticed it in the Fall. Since then it keeps cropping up in selfies and pictures where I least expect it. It is not planned or posed — and it certainly is not perfect. And yet, the way my right lower lips droops to one side is evidence of a happiness I haven’t known in decades.

 Movie day with my sister with a full droopy-lip smile on display!

My life isn’t perfect, but of course, it never was. Now the imperfection in my photos merely reflects that perfectly imperfect life I’m living. There is still residual hurt which I’m sure will take years to heal, but predominantly God has replaced my Eeyore attitude and replaced it with something more resembling Tigger. I have even found that my personality on Myers-Brigg changed. Going through a catastrophic life event has shaken me to my core. But more than that, it revealed to me that a lot of my exterior was not meant for me. It was a facade that I had created to look perfect, but it was not fundamentally “me”.

So now I’m finding out who “me” is. It seems so cliche and very chick-flicky, but divorce has stripped me of everything I thought I was and shown me a stronger, happier, and (hopefully) kinder version of myself. A self that has a crooked and undeniably happy smile and a more robust laugh; a self that isn’t ashamed of crying easily and being hopelessly sentimental; a self that desperately loves Jesus and tries to love others well; and a self that has learned how to stand on her own while trusting God on her knees. 

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Love Letters

There are few things I like more than receiving hand-written letters. And love letters? Oh, those have had my heart since I received my first one at 14. I’ll never forget the way I felt as my tall, dark, and handsome crush slipped a note to me in my Biology class. Reading those words that he adored me. That I was beautiful. That he couldn’t wait to spend time with me again. I was smitten. Not much has changed in the last 18 years. I’m still a sucker for romance. Of course that’s a little more complicated when you find yourself divorced on Valentine’s Day.

In God’s providence, I became a Christian on February 13th. Not long after that first love, and subsequent heartbreak, I committed my life to Christ at my church’s winter camp. I always try to take time and reflect on that life-changing decision when the anniversary approaches. And this year I’ve found myself particularly thankful for the timing of this reminder of God’s intervention in my life.

For the past month I’ve been trying to plunge myself into the depths of Jesus’ love for me. It’s made me realize how much of the Bible is just one gorgeous love letter from the Creator of the Universe to me. I read a devotional lately that summed up His love in this way: “God in giving Christ to die for us, declared that our salvation was more dear to him than the life of his only Son.” I know that God loves his Son, an extension of Himself, perfectly and completely. And yet he sacrificed that life so he could be with me. John 3:16 — God loved Monica in this way, by giving the life of his only Son. That’s just staggering.

Last Valentine’s Day I was barely existing and was in immense pain. I spent most of it bawling with my sister and losing all hope that my marriage would ever thrive again. It was during that time that a phrase kept coming to the forefront of my Bible reading. Unfailing Love. Then I started hearing it in sermons. Unfailing Love. Finding it in song lyrics. Unfailing Love. Coming across it in books and devotionals that I was reading. Unfailing Love. Again and again the phrase “God’s unfailing love” washed over me. It came into my hurting world– the one in which the one love that was supposed to last failed. But not God’s love. His is unfailing.

This Valentine’s Day feels different. I have amazing friends who’ve checked in with me and made sure I was going to be okay. There is even a spark of a new love that brings a lot of hope and excitement. There are my kids who get so excited to give me their heart-shaped Valentines. But more than that? More than any human love? There is Jesus’ love. Just as unfailing today as it was in my pain. Just as faithful as it was 18 years ago on the day he saved me. Ever and only Jesus, writing me love letters and making me whole.

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A Few of My Favorite Things

Y’all. Things have been pretty darn serious on this here old blog. I love writing and processing my pain, and this has been such a safe and wonderful place to do that. But there is so much to be grateful for. So many things to rejoice over. And so many little blessing on any given day. Thus, I’m going to spend today rejoicing and celebrating some of my favorite things that are bringing joy to my heart these days.

:: Two Door Cinema Club :: I just discovered this band and it’s on stun most days when I’m at home. It’s perfect when I’m cleaning, editing, or having a dance party with my little ones. Sun is my favorite at the moment. That bass line though!

:: Blessings for the Morning :: My mom gave this to me (I think!) last summer and it’s sat on my shelf beneath a pile of books on grief and divorce. A week or so ago I cracked it open and I have a hard time putting it down. It’s not Scripture, but it is heavily based on the promises of Scripture. And it just helps focus my day on Jesus’ immense love for me and reminds me that my day is organized by his command.

:: Asian Cashew Chopped Salad :: Yes. This salad. It is from Costco and it is so perfect. Add a little grilled chicken and it fills me up for a healthy and easy lunch. Bonus? My kids beg me to have some, so they are getting a handful of veggies in too!

:: Karate :: Well, this one isn’t for me, but it’s still on my favorite list. My boys started karate this past month and it has been uh-mazing! They are learning all about discipline, focus, and respect. Plus I turn in an at-home-behavior report card to the sensei each week. It’s been a really helpful to have some back-up in the parenting department!

:: Energy Chews :: I mean, you all know that I love all the Shaklee products. Seriously, there’s only one that I’m not completely obsessed with and I’ve tried a ton of them. But these chews, holy smokes! They are a game changer. I don’t always get the best sleep and I’ve been trying to workout three days a week. Adding this to my pre-workout routine has made a REALLY significant difference. Plus it makes mama less cranky and just a happier person to be around. Win!

:: Canon Eos Elan II :: I’ve been kicking it old school and busted out my film camera from highschool. It was extremely high-tech at the time, top of the line. I’ve been keeping it in my car and stashing it in my purse, looking for the perfect opportunities. I love film shooting. It forces you to think through your shots instead of just snapping a picture of literally everything in your life.

:: Lularoe leggings :: I realize I’m pretty much every single lady my age on this one, but seriously, I CANNOT GET ENOUGH. I live in them all day and they make me so happy. They are cute. They are soft. They are comfortable. They are flattering. All the smiley faces for Lularoe!

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A Psalm

I don’t often write poetry, at least not since my high school days when I fancied myself something of a poet laureate. But a friend of mine recently encouraged me to write a psalm. I always do my homework assignments, so I couldn’t exactly say no. Bear with my attempt.

The center of his will, the apple of his eye
That is where my Lord has placed me
No circumstance can thwart his perfect plan
No consequence betray his unfailing love

The mighty winds may crash and howl
They are no match for the sound of His Name
The waves may loom and threaten nigh
They can only desist at his command

Each thorn has been placed with perfect care
To permit the blossom to flourish
Each pain and trial designed for me
For my good and for your glory

My soul has longed for lesser things
For ease, for comfort, for plenty
Yet you satisfy with your very presence
With joy, with grace, with freedom

I thank you, Lord, for the works you’ve done
How you’ve toiled over me with patience
I thank you, Jesus, for what you’ve overcome
For the endurance that you’ve promised

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Security

One of the oddest aspects of extreme grief is the loss of all security in your circumstances — and yet the nearly tangible reality of the security one has in Christ’s love. As much as the pain was excruciating, I sometimes look back on the confidence and security I had during my worst months with longing. Having lost everything that once brought you joy, you find real, true joy in Christ alone. I remember one day in April as I barely could take the next step for the day, a dear friend told me, “You are more beautiful right now than anyone I’ve ever known. When I see you I only see Jesus.”

And yet slowly as life begins repairing itself and old wounds begin to heal, my fickle heart quickly begins to search for security and hope in my surroundings. I stop looking to Jesus in that same raw and utterly dependent way. I get out of the habit of prayer as a constant dialogue and His Word as my only lifeline to sanity.  And as I begin to look to other things I find that they are unable to satisfy or give me the assurance that I’ll never be hurt again, I find myself spiraling again into discontentment, disappointment, and fear.

Oh my fickle heart, why do you settle for drinking water from mud puddles when the source of all Living Water is available?

I want a person to make me feel desired. I want a person to assure me that I’ll never be left again. I want a person to make me feel secure, safe, and that every promise they make will be kept to the fullest. I want a person to make me feel beautiful, valuable, and desired. And you know what? One already has. Completely, perfectly, and utterly.

As I found myself fearing future rejection, my mom reminded me of that all important truth. “Jesus is as obsessed with you as you want a man to be.” I nodded my head through tears and thought, “I know.” But, soul? You are so forgetful. You do know, but you need to be reminded. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Last spring I sang that song every night to my daughter, usually through tears, hit with the weight of Jesus immense love for me. And yet the phrase barely makes a dent on my heart these days.

So I pray for myself Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians. “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

This is where my security lies. In the incredible and unfathomable love of Jesus. People will fail. My own desires with deceive me. Circumstances will change and are unstable. But Jesus. He is for me and he is constant. My hope is in him.

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From Pain to Passion

I sometimes look back at the last year and wonder how I survived it. The emotional pain was so acute at points that it physically hurt to exist. Jesus held me. My friends walked beside me. I managed to find beauty and joy in little things around me. Somehow I made it off of death row, past the execution, and towards a new life. 

But starting over is not for the weak. Not only had my entire life been annihilated without my consent in one quick blow, I realized I’d lost a lot of myself in bits and pieces for years and years. I barely recognized the person in the mirror– and I certainly had no idea how she’d pick herself up and create a viable life for her kids. 

It might sound extreme to say that Shaklee saved my life, but in many ways it did. I had used the products for nearly seven years. I’d referred a handful of people to my friend Harper during that time. I’d even thought about starting a business about four years ago, but thought: “I could never do that. I’m not a sales person.” But nevertheless I believed in the products, trusted the company, and saw my friend’s businesses thriving. Somewhere in my post-marriage lostness I managed to muster up the courage to ask Harper, “Do you think I’d be any good at this?” Little did I know she’d been trying to figure out how to tell me she absolutely did and thought it would be a huge help to my growing financial needs. 


So I started. It was the first decision I’d made by myself in a decade. I didn’t ask anyone (other than the Lord) and decided to go all in. Within a week I felt different. I felt brave. I felt purpose. I felt worthwhile. Things I hadn’t felt in a very long time. I looked at myself and found a piece of a girl I used to know. Someone who wasn’t afraid to do hard things, someone who was smart and ambitious and had something to offer. 

In two months I reached my first big goal. It was a lot of work but I did it. And with each fear I overcame and each person I connected with I felt more and more like I’d found my passion. Like I’d found myself. Buried under years of self-doubt, hurt, and a mountain of lies I found me. Jesus is absolutely the core of my being and author of all meaning. And yet he absolutely uses events and people (and even businesses) to grow us into who we were meant to be. And in that way, Shaklee saved my life. 

I still struggle with self-doubt (a lot, if I’m honest) but I also see proof everyday that I can do this. It’s a scary, beautiful, and radical thing to find your passion. For me it’s helping others feel better and coming alongside them to start their own businesses. Shaklee allows me to do that and empowers me every step of the way. And in turn, I’m discovering who I am and becoming who I want to be. 

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