Tag Archives: soul

Real Religion

July 9, 2017

 Photo credit: Ismael Burciaga

It wasn’t until the fourth or fifth day of feeling deathly ill that I decided to pray. Deathly ill is a bit exaggerated, but I was sick for over a week with strep throat. “They” say it hits adults harder than children, and I believe that now. Alone in my apartment trying not to get anyone infected, I prayed. And I prayed hard.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember the last time that I had prayed.

But I do remember the first time. I was an innocent eight year old girl, holding the Sunday School teacher’s hand as I “asked Jesus into my heart” – what the Baptists call being saved. Prayer became second nature to me and so did doing right.

Church and singing became my life. Every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night the doors opened, I was there along with my two sisters and faithful mother. Alone in my bedroom with my initialed Bible, I often prayed for my father who didn’t attend with us.

Over the short twenty-seven years of my life, my faith has evolved. It (faith) has always been a part of my life, not just a small part but a large part. Growing up in a Southern Baptist church, the issue of right and wrong was pounded heavily in my head. In high school, I attended a charismatic church and always was the lead star on the praise team. We were preached to about sin until our faces turned blue and slathered with oil at the altar when in time of prayer. They viewed prayer as powerful and life changing and so did I.

As a college student, I discovered a new found freedom, questioned my faith and rarely attended church. Along the way, God always pulled me into his arms whether through a friend or song heard on the radio. Often prayers were spoken in times of stress and guilt.

My eclectic background had me confused. My faith in God became more about appearance and doing right. How to overcome temptation and live in a real world was not something I had been equipped to do. But I knew the right words to say, the perfect flowery words to pray.

As the years have passed on, I have faced reality in more ways than one- through the loss of close loved ones, loss of jobs and the end of a marriage- my heart has been bumped, pushed, torn and broken and sometimes all at the same time.

Living for the Lord stopped being about what others expected of me. It stopped being about doing what others thought was right and stopped being about praying what the preacher taught me to pray.

Many times it feels like there is a label on my forehead that reads “failure.” I’m not the perfect example of Christian that I once claimed and others thought of me. I’ve made mistakes, big mistakes and often appeared as just another face in the crowd.

I’ve learned to pray differently — from a heart that knows I’m nothing without him. I’ve learned to pray without fancy words. I’m appreciative that I have a mother that made sure I was in church and a grandmother that prayed for me daily and often recited Psalm 23 as she drove me to daycare. I’m appreciative that I experienced eclectic styles of worship. But I have found what works for me.

I’m reminded of the song that I once sang as a child, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.” My faith is simple and so is my prayer life. I know who He is based on my own experiences. From that I pray. It may not be a pretty prayer- just me, raw and transparent.

Brittany Windle

Photography credit: Ismael Burciaga

Lessons from Hiding Your Crazy

April 4, 2017

We’ve all been there. Crazy. Insane. Mental. Someone has hurt us and we want revenge. We want them to feel the pain, the heartache, the distress they caused us. But what happens if we act on our natural human response to get even? What comes of it? What benefits do we truly gain? Maybe an eye for an eye isn’t the solution. Maybe living out a Lifetime movie isn’t the answer. As Miranda Lambert’s song “Mama’s Broken Heart” says, “hide your crazy and start acting like a lady.”

Society is full of bad advice- really bad advice. As someone who has lived through utter destruction because of others’ actions, I can testify that taking the high road isn’t easy but so worth it. Being the bigger person can truly help heal and teach us things we never knew about ourselves; it can help save us from further damage.

1. You keep your integrity. When we stoop to the level of the one who betrayed us, we can often hurt ourselves. We can lose the respect of others, cause people to question our morals and dignity. When you choose to keep your mouth shut and your actions calm, you win. You don’t give that person the satisfaction of getting the best of you. You can keep your reputation; you can hold fast onto your personal integrity.

2.You gain peace. Anxiety can often ensue when we seek out to destroy others. Being wrapped up in anger and uncontrolled emotions, you will find that it can and will consume you. When you choose to let it go (forgive), there’s a peace that takes its place. Peace allows us to keep our sanity, our normalcy and our health.

3. You earn respect. People watch your actions whether you know it or not. People will watch how you handle things especially adversity. When I chose to take the high road, many people confronted me and told me how much respect they had for me because I was doing something most people wouldn’t or couldn’t. This made me feel good. It helped me rise above and motivated me to continuing to do the right thing. Respect is everything and by choosing to handle a disastrous situation with dignity, people will see it. People will be inspired.

4. You grow. I’ve never been more proud of myself-I learned that I had self-discipline like I never thought I had. I grew as a person learning to control my actions, learning the journey of forgiveness, and learning that I was a strong woman who deserved more. I was able to mentor others and through giving advice that counters society’s, I was able to help other women make better decisions-not for the person who hurt them, but for themselves.

5. You become worthy of grace. We all make mistakes. Heck, we may have hurt others and caused pain and when we came to the point where we needed mercy and grace, did we receive it as we had hoped for? Have you ever needed forgiveness so desperately in order to heal and move forward? Who are we to deny the same? When we extend forgiveness, we can then be worthy of receiving forgiveness for our transgressions. When we selflessly show grace, we then become worthy of being given grace. You reap what you sow.

Maybe if more people chose to not act on all thoughts, practice self-control and forgive, the world would be a more peaceful place. Maybe instead of seeking revenge and destruction, we seek to love beyond what is deserved. We choose to better ourselves and positively influence others. So, the next time your blood pressure is rising and your inner psycho starts acting a fool, stop, breathe and chill.

Act like a lady. Keep it together. Remember what your momma told ya. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all. And we all know momma knows best. Sweetheart, just hide your crazy.

Xoxo,

Brynlea Taylor

Brynlea lives in Texas and is a southern Bama girl at heart. At 32, she has had the opportunity to be blessed with two callings in her life transitioning from 8 years of teaching middle school and high school to a life in fashion and retail management. Brynlea believes that style is truly forever and can only be successful when personalized and true to who a woman is (or who she wants to be for
the day).  Class and modesty go a long way. Valuing family, faith, friends, fitness (and football), Brynlea sets out to sprinkle exclamations marks everywhere she goes!

Instagram: @stylishly_strong

Follow Your Voice of Wisdom

August 27, 2016

Alex Forrest

Little did I know I was living below “Alex Forest” from the infamous Fatal Attraction movie when I moved into my quaint, vintage apartment.

She, like most mean girls, appears first as the sweetest, kindest person who ever graced the planet. And she did so gracefully walk. She had perfect posture and seemed to always know proper etiquette, especially in conversation. Even when she held her cigarette it was like watching an old Hollywood starlet. Something about her was intriguing, a bit mysterious and often left me feeling uneasy. There was some sort of wall or façade I could not clearly decipher. All I knew was to keep her on my good side. I had a sneaking suspicion that if I ever crossed the line, there would be no return.

I rarely meet people like this, but when I do, I am reminded of that gnawing feeling of discomfort. She was intentionally intimidating. I’m even bold enough to say that she was a bully. She made me want to shrink and cower down. A little voice inside me told me to steer clear, but I often felt sorry for her, especially when I’d get a knock on my door. Standing there with a glass filled to the brim with white wine, she had tears in her eyes.

As a child and teen, I always listened to that little voice. You know the still, small voice that would tell you not to go out with that guy? Or that feeling that you’d get when you knew something didn’t seem right? That voice is what many call their conscience or their wisdom speaking.

Somewhere along the line, I stopped listening to that small voice of wisdom. It has become quieter every time I have allowed someone to cross a boundary or line with me.

I haven’t taken a personality test recently, but I think it’s safe to say that I am Type B. I am very laid back, and on top of this, I am the middle child of two sisters. We, middle children, tend to be peace makers. Over the years, I have struggled with saying “no” to invitations or obligations. I want others to be happy, and it’s difficult for me if I know they will be disappointed by my decline.

If you’re a people pleaser like myself then you can relate. Because of this desire to please others, I have allowed people to take advantage of me. I have often sacrificed my own well being for the sake of avoiding confrontation. Around an intimidating person, my voice has often been soft, almost non-existent. Out of fear of retaliation, I won’t speak up.

Some call me sweet and innocent. I still get the occasional description as being naive. And those with ill intentions will truly prey on this. As a result, a person like myself will get used. Dare I say the term abused? Cruel people exist and even the smartest of us can fall into a trap of deception.

I started meeting with a counselor recently for self growth and because I have been faced with a difficult decision. He said the most simple yet beautiful advice: Follow the voice of your own wisdom. He reminded me that when you get that weird gut feeling or when you feel uncomfortable by someone’s actions toward you that it is your wisdom speaking.

I still have that little voice, but unfortunately, by not following it, I have said no to myself. Saying yes to others has caused me to say no to my well being at times. I have put my emotional, mental, and sometimes physical health at risk.

“Boundaries are not for others but for yourself,” my counselor stated. “You set the boundaries. If they cross them, you walk away.” I have often thought I didn’t have that right. However, now that my mindset has been made whole, I am and will set boundaries. My well being is more important than simply making others happy.

For the whole story of my bully neighbor, read here. I was right about that feeling. I’ll listen to it better next time.

Article by Brittany Windle

Follow her on Twitter.

5 Musts for the Busy Woman

March 23, 2016

2b Photography

Recently, I had a change of jobs. Although I would consider this move to be an advancement from where I was before, I caught myself homesick and stressed. A new job means a new schedule, new people and new responsibilities.

To make it through the transition and twelve hour days, I began to find something to look forward to every day. Thankfully, the time change peeked around the corner and has allowed for the sun to still be beautiful and bright when I exit the building on those long days. The first day the sun was still out at 6:30 p.m., I hurried into the house, changed into workout clothes, and bolted out the door for a long run. Looking forward to something as simple as the sunshine allowed me to look for the silver lining in each day.

I’m kinda known for relishing in a cup of hot tea, preferably “Sleepy Time” tea at night, taking long baths, and cuddling up in a cozy robe. (No, I am not in my 60′s.) If you didn’t consider me to be an old soul before, I’m sure my new philosophy on life solidifies it now.

But if you catch yourself running only on fumes and know that your busy schedule may not be slowing down, consider these five musts for keeping your sanity and lowering your stress:

1. Find something to look forward to every day, even if it’s just as simple as sitting on your porch or going for a walk in the afternoon.

2. Discover the things that bring you joy and fulfillment, and do them! Implement these small joys into your daily life. Exercise is essential for me. Even if I were to never burn a calorie or lose an inch, I would still workout. Exercise relieves stress and releases endorphins. (Endorphins reduce your perception of pain and produce a positive feeling! Thanks, WebMD.) Other things on the list may include going to the farmers’ market on Saturday’s or thrift shopping. Your list may look differently, but whatever it is, make time for those things that create moments of relaxation and happiness.

2b photography

3. Surround yourself with inspiring friends. My closest girl friends validate my feelings but are also honest with grace when needed. Their conversations are therapeutic, comical and often times enlightening. And hey, “a good friend is cheaper than therapy,” they say. Negativity breeds negativity, which can add to an already stressful life.

4. Take time to be with your family, and call your grandmother back.  My family centers me. They shower unconditional love and provide irreplaceable support. During my job change, my grandmother called several times and left voicemails. When I returned the call, all she wanted to say was “I love you.”

5. Put it in your schedule to rest. Rest is just as important as anything you do. If you are spent, then you are good for no one. A rested mind, body, and soul make for a better friend, mother, sister and coworker. Say “no” to things that you know will be draining, and make time to sit down and put your feet up daily.

What can you look forward to every day?

Article by Brittany Windle

Photo Credit: 2b Photography  Model: Becca Bell, one of my inspiring friends

Q & A with Aubrey Sampson

October 28, 2015

overcomerToo many women have allowed shame to condemn and confine them for far too long. If you’re ready to break free, regardless of the shame experience that is holding you back, Aubrey Sampson–a pastor’s wife and an advocate for at risk women—invites you, like her, to be an overcomer. Sampson courageously shares her own history with shame, ranging from sexual assault to everyday imperfections and laughable mistakes. But it doesn’t end there.

Sampson identifies seven major lies of shame, such as, “I cannot experience freedom from shame,” “My past is unsalvageable,” and “Shame is experienced only in traumatic situations.”

Written with a strong biblical theology and a humorous authenticity, Overcomer equips readers with the spiritual understanding to overcome shame.

Through her personal experiences and true-life stories shared by women of all ages, Sampson deals directly with the shame that comes from the humbling moments in life, as well as from the tragic—sexual abuse, eating disorders, addiction, abandonment, and more. Then she empowers women to transform their life’s story into ministry, creating ripple effects of hope and healing that can change the world.

Written for any woman whose self-worth has been stolen, Overcomer gives you the courage to kick down the walls of shame and embrace freedom and a future in Christ.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aubrey Sampson is passionate about empowering women of all ages to experience freedom from shame. An author, speaker, church planter, and member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Aubrey lives and ministers in the Chicagoland area with her husband, Kevin and three young sons.

Connect with Aubrey at www.aubreysampson.com and @aubsamp.

Q and A with the Author

 1. What is shame?

Shame encompasses such a wide range of emotions it can be difficult to define. Perhaps the simplest way to understand it is to think back on a moment when you experienced it. You may have felt embarrassment, discomfort, or self-consciousness (I was a middle schooler with pink and purple braces and bangs up to the clouds, so yeah, I know self-consciousness!). Shame can also express itself in much weightier emotions, such as when we feel humiliated, inadequate, injured, or abused. Another difficulty with shame is that so many of us live under the weight of it without realizing it because we’ve been conditioned by culture and life experience to accept that feeling as normal. Shame is simply always there; it’s that familiar yet profound feeling that we don’t measure up.

Add to all of that, the pressure in our Christian culture to operate above reproach all the time, we can feel ashamed when we make even the tiniest of mistakes. We may even believe that if we aren’t shaming ourselves, we’re in danger of becoming prideful. So we beat ourselves up as the “better,” more Christlike option. It’s a vicious cycle. At its core, an identity of shame is the belief that, in whole or in part, I am not enough.

Throughout Overcomer, I share my own history of “not-enoughness,” along with stories from others who’ve overcome shame in their lives— ranging from situations of abuse to struggles with body image and eating, to everyday laughable imperfections.

The ultimate message of Overcomer is this: in spite of the overwhelming nature of shame, there is good news. The promise of Scripture is that when we look to Jesus, our shame is transformed into sparkling, beaming joy (Psalm 34:5). There may be moments in life when we feel condemned, but when our identity is centered in Christ, we can discard the dark covering of shame and rise in radiance.

2. In your new book, Overcomer, you share the seven lies shame tells women. Can you go into one of those for us?

While shame tells us many lies, ranging from My past is unsalvageable to I’ll never be free from shame, I believe one of its most insidious lies is that because of shame in our pasts, we are unfit to be used by God in powerful ways. Regardless of the form your shame might take, sooner or later it will try to make you feel disqualified so that you question your ability to be a good anything—leader, employee, friend, date, spouse, parent, even child of God. But the truth for us today is the same truth that empowered Paul in 2 Corinthians. The grace of God is sufficient, not in spite of our weaknesses, brokenness, and shame but smack-dab in the middle of them. That’s where the power is, according to Paul: “[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ … That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses. … For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9–10).

In other words, if we believe we’re insufficient  (and even if in some circumstances we are), it doesn’t even matter, because Jesus is more than sufficient and he qualifies us—for grace, for mercy, and for meaningful service in the kingdom of God.

3. The title of your book is, Overcomer, what does that word mean to you? What will your readers take away from it?

 About a year ago, a friend heard the book title and asked, “Who’s the overcomer? You? The reader?”  Her question struck me as funny at the time, because I initially thought, “Well, of course it’s the reader! Who else would it be?”

But then I realized something that changed the roadmap of the book. The only reason we can overcome our shame is because we have an Overcomer in Christ. He endured the ultimate shame so that we no longer have to. That’s what I want readers to leave with – the truth that even if they still battle shame at times (and we all do), they have, in Jesus, a Savior and a Shame Remover—a Sovereign Ruler who compels our shame to bow down before his authority. In other words, even if your past is dark, even if you’ve spent your entire life feeling like a replica of yourself, even if you think you don’t measure up, even if you’ve been hiding in shame for years, you can overcome shame because your Overcomer already has.

4. The phrase from your book, “shame flourishes in silence” is really powerful. Can you explain how this happens and what we can do to stop it?

The root of the word shame is actually derived from the phrase, “to cover.” Just as Adam and Eve were so ashamed of their sin they covered themselves with fig leaves, over and over again we instinctually follow their lead. Anytime we feel ashamed, on any level, the last thing we want to do is broadcast those feelings to the world around us. Shame loves to isolate and isolation loves to keep us from experiencing the benefits of community.

Far too often we believe the shame-lie that our imperfections equal our inadequacy, and that exposing our flaws will reveal spiritual immaturity or lack of faith. So we suffer silently, saying nothing about our inner pain. In the meantime, our shame roots grow deeper.

There is greater freedom and deeper joy to be had when we are willing to break the silence of shame and reveal our authentically-flawed selves to each other. It’s ironic, actually. As we disclose our weaknesses to others, that act actually strengthens us and our communities to continue overcoming shame. Acts of vulnerability produce contagious courage.

At the end of the day, vulnerability doesn’t have to be overly complicated, excessively dramatic, or heavily programmed. In fact, the most powerful moments I’ve experienced in community are the organic ones; when one person talks about a struggle and another says, “Oh, I struggle with that too, but I never came to you because I assumed you had it all together.”

Overcomer equips readers with the courage necessary to begin coming out of the darkness, kicking down the walls of shame, and embracing freedom and future in Christ.

Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding your Soul, www.aubreysampson.com

Is available for on AmazonBarnes and NobleChristian Books, and wherever books are sold.

© (Sections taken from Overcomer by Aubrey Sampson. Copyright © 2015. Used by permission of Zondervan.www.zondervan.com. All rights reserved.)

 

Mary Stackhouse of Laylon

February 4, 2015

 

Mary Stackhouse

Mary sat down in front of me at Starbucks for Sunday afternoon coffee. I asked her to meet with me after being introduced by a mutual friend. I’ll admit that I had been following her fashion blog long before we met in person. I warned her that I would be in workout clothes, seeing it was my day to relax and gather my thoughts for the week.

She came in casual attire as well- jeans, tennis shoes and a plaid scarf (I was dying to know where she bought it). Somehow, though, she looked more pulled together than most do in a cocktail dress.

I was struck by her grace and poise. It’s the kind that can’t be taught even by the best of etiquette coaches. She’s the type many envy for her exterior beauty and impeccable style. Yet,  it’s her authenticity and no-apology-attitude that I was impressed with the most. The juxtaposition of the two is quite breathtaking.

Many may know her as a fashion blogger behind Laylon. This new year, she gave her site a fresh look and purpose, with a focus more on lifestyle content. Don’t worry. She’s still sharing her fashion finds and outfit inspirations.

I was eager to introduce you to Mary, and in what better setting than her home? I’m glad she obliged.

Mary Stackhouse BnW (34 of 50)-2

What are your favorite places in Birmingham for a night out? What’s an
ideal Saturday look like to you?

For a night out, I love going to dinner with friends. Pretty simple, but I can have a good time doing just about anything with great company. I like Chez Fon Fon, Dram, Five, El Barrio, and Slice. I love trying new places! An ideal Saturday would involve a coffee date with a friend earlier in the day, a good workout in the afternoon, and a fun dinner that night.

What is your day job? How do you balance your lifestyle blog and work?

I’m an account executive for Martin Advertising, where I’m responsible for managing the Allstate and Scholarship for Kids accounts. I find balance by waking up every morning and setting aside an hour to spend in prayer and devotion. Ever since I started doing this, I’ve had so much clarity, and I’ve found that I can accomplish more in less time. It also helps guard me against becoming a slave to work and ambition, which is no life at all.

Mary Stackhouse

What quality is most beautiful in a woman? How do you define beauty
for yourself?

I think dignity is the most beautiful quality in a woman. A woman with dignity is strong because she has self-control. She isn’t ruled by her emotions. Instead, she is solid in her convictions. She is marked with self-respect, and thus, others respect her. It’s an honorable, worthy quality that people are drawn to. It makes me sad when women don’t respect themselves. It’s important to take a look at where in life you are seeking your worth. My strength and confidence comes from Christ, and from that, I believe dignity and strength will naturally follow.

I also think a woman is beautiful when she can build up other women. Gossip tears people down, and it stems from insecurity. Having an uplifting spirit is an amazing quality! You can be such a blessing to others. Several months ago, I was touched by a girlfriend who shared a success about me on her Facebook page. We were new in our friendship, so I was still getting to know her, but I loved that she could celebrate in my achievement… and publicly for that matter! I immediately knew she had confidence in herself. A confident woman is free to build others up because she isn’t hindered by insecurity.

Mary Stackhouse BnW (44 of 50) (1)

Mary Stackhouse BnW (32 of 50)

With the pressures of the media bombarding women to look a certain way, how do you keep a healthy balance?

Healthy balance is very important. I think it’s a good idea to limit your intake of the messages the media and pop culture bombard us with. I don’t watch TV for this reason. So much of it is trash. I don’t want that in my head. I’m not saying there aren’t good shows and movies out there, but it’s good to be conscious so that you don’t base your reality on what you’re taking in.

What is your advice for young professionals in the dating world?

If you don’t like being alone, learn to like it. Don’t date until you reach that place. I’ve made the decision not to date this year. I want to see how God will use my singleness as a positive thing for His kingdom work on earth. I’m excited about it! Some people look at me like I’m nuts when I tell them I’m not dating this year, but is it really that hard to follow through with? I don’t think so. I practiced abstinence before I got married. I’m divorced now, and I still practice it and will continue to unless I get married again. It’s not that hard. You don’t have to do what you think everyone else is doing. Who cares what other people think! Love yourself, look to the Lord for strength, and be strong in your convictions. When you are a strong person, you will stand out, and people will be attracted to that. Trust me on that one!

Mary Stackhouse

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What’s in your purse? 

My purse is a bottomless pit! I’m amazed by what I pull out of it sometimes. Going through it now, here is what I’ve found: two pairs of sunglasses, my makeup bag, random jewelry, three cell phones, a lock, business card holder, mail, nail polish, and a duck call!

What are your favorite, can’t-live-without beauty products?

Oscar Blandi Dry Shampoo! The dry powder formula. I usually buy it in bulk. Keeps hair fresh and adds volume in between washes. White teeth are a priority, so I use Crest Advanced Whitening Toothpaste and Whitening Rinse multiple times a day. Can’t live without the mouthwash! As for makeup, Kismet Cosmetics lipstick and nail polish every day. Long lasting, and I love the shades. I was blogging about it so much that the creator of Kismet asked me to be the Birmingham sales rep, so now I sell it!

Photography: Birmingham based photographer Devanshu Kaushik

Article by Brittany Windle

Follow Britt on Twitter.

Favorite Four to Follow

January 4, 2015

A picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s why we love Instagram. These fantastic four inspire us with their beautiful images from fashion and interior design to powerful and moving messages.

Mary Stackhouse: Laylon Beauty

Based in Birmingham, AL, Mary’s take on fashion in a Southern city is definitely forward thinking. Not only does she have exquisite taste, but she’s also beautiful. What’s not to love?

Mary Stackhouse

Mary Stackhouse

Bethany Joy Lenz

You may remember her as Haley James Scott on the beloved the television show One Tree Hill. We are inspired by her passion for women’s rights, and we fancy her vintage finds as well.

Bethany Joy Lenz

Bethany Joy Lenz

Taylor Sterling: The Glitter Guide

We’ve always been a fan of Taylor. As she embarks on a new journey of motherhood, she makes it looks effortless. Her lifestyle website also features impeccable interior design and every day inspirations.

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Alexis Jones: I Am That Girl

Alexis Jones is an author, activitist and founder of I AM THAT Girl. I AM THAT GIRL is helping girls to transform self-doubt in to self-love by providing a safe space to be lifted up and have honest conversations about things that matter. Of course, we love what Alexis stands for, and we love following her daily postings!

Alexis Jones

Alexis Jones

Broken Not Destroyed: Leaving

December 9, 2014

Chelsie1

Tough Man was of masculine stature. I would need more than two hands to count the number of times he was stopped and asked for his autograph. By “his” I mean that of Vin Diesel. Same bald head, same features, same full lips, and yes, Tough Man was stacked. The two looked very much alike. His nickname by many was “The Hulk.”

Yes, “The Hulk” arranged his view, with puffed veins and clinched jaw, and we locked eyes. I froze in the doorway just staring in trembling fear of his unknown move. He cleared his throat with a dry cough, sniffed, puffed his lips out as if kissing the air, and refocused on Pre Game stats. All the normal signs and evidence letting me know I was in for days of ignorance therapy. I was in the clear. I closed the door behind me, and before I could even make it to the stairs, I was bid farewell by the locking of the double deadbolt.

Looking back now, the evidence to the truth of Tough Man’s final words to me, were apparent all along. It would just take me awhile, and unfortunately, a lot more pain before I built enough courage to truly leave.

I tossed the luxury weekender in the backseat of my 2000 VW Passat, and I drove, and I drove, and I drove. Noon turned to two, two turned to four, and four turned to six. Six hours and an empty gas tank later, I pulled into the 7Eleven not five minutes from the house. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be gone this many hours, but this was the first time I left without being told to get the hell out. He hadn’t called, he hadn’t checked in, and I knew it probably wouldn’t be good to go home. The unknown consequences scared me more. I had to make a decision, and checking into a motel wasn’t an option. Those were the days shortly after my first year of grad school. Tough Man was inspired by my drive to advance my education, and decided to do the same. Money was tighter than tight, and I was already going to hear about the unnecessary gas expense. I had isolated myself from most of my friendships to keep the abuse hidden, so there wasn’t exactly a laundry list of people to call. I wasn’t really prepared to sleep in my car that night, as I normally would. My favorite spot, the place I felt the most safe and hidden, was discovered by Grapevine Police Department the last time I was kicked out. The officer was kind, but firm, and promised me a ticket the next time I was found at 3:00AM in a secure zone.

Daylight was fading fast, I had a PA (Public Appearance) the next day from one of the top makeup brands. Driving four hours to my parents wasn’t really an option, and I wasn’t even close to ready to share with them, or anyone, of the fear, pain, and shame found in what had become my routine lifestyle. I needed a shower, a real one. The kind of shower where I get to use a fluffy, home washed, Downey smelling towel, and take as long as I need. Not the type of shower where I paid by the quarter hour, locker room style. I had become pretty close to Jennie and Randy that had a crappy little stop off HWY 10. I had discovered them two years earlier, when I was welcomed home one night after work to my belongings in the front yard of the apartment. To this day, I still don’t know what I did. Anyhow, whatever I did, awarded me four days of motel Passat, bathroom not included. By day two of long work days, I needed a shower. I felt prompted in my spirit to take a different drive to my “safe place.” That’s where I saw the sign for “hot showers and daily stay rates.” I pulled into the parking lot, and mustered up every ounce of dignity I had to walk through the office door and ask the mousey brown-haired woman about purchasing a shower. My eyes were full of tears, and my lip was quivering, not out of fear, but out of total embarrassment. I was humiliated.

My professional makeup, elegant side sweep, and tailored business suit created mystery to my question, but my red face, glassy eyes, and quivering lip caused the middle-aged woman to refrain from questioning. I had a $5 bill, and asked if that would work? The rates were for rooms including a hot shower, so I needed a bit more. With excitement she explained they took debit/credit cards.

A little side note to those unfamiliar with abuse. purchases are one of the easiest ways to track a location, so the last thing I wanted to do was give Tough Man a traceable transaction to my whereabouts. I looked her dead in the face, and I lied, explaining the $5 cash was all I had. To this day I appreciate her reading between the lines. She looked at me with compassion and a smile, knowing there was more to the story. She walked around the counter, and handed me a key to room 113. She handed me a travel size of Perell shampoo and a bar of Irish Spring. She said her name was Jennie, and that her and her son, Randy ran the place. My imagination never allowed me to sleep a night on one of their beds. I did, however, appreciate the numerous showers and cheap toiletries, gifted at no charge. There was never a time, I didn’t, randomly and inconveniently, walk through their door with glassy eyes, and quivering lip, to a warm smile and humble acts of service. They didn’t know why I randomly appeared in a tailored business suit, and the need for a shower away from home, nor did they ever ask. All they knew was that something wasn’t alright, and they wanted to be a part of creating a little stability for the mystery girl. The new routine for the unpredictable had become their shower for hygiene, and the Passat for sleep. My location wasn’t traceable, and the PD hadn’t discovered me in a secure zone.

The gas pump jolted, signaling the tank was full. I hung up the pump, pulled the Passat out of the way, and for the first time all day, broke into hysterical tears in the 7 Eleven parking lot on Glade and 121. I had escaped into mental numbness, and in giving the day’s earlier events an ounce of thought, brought forth full emotion to feeling less loved than a stray dog. Tomorrow’s event couldn’t handle such feelings. I needed to be on and confident, with freshly-applied, trend-setting makeup, and a pocket full of feel-good tricks. As reliable as the back seat leathers were, they were no match for the rest I needed for an “A-game ready” arrival. It was now 6:11PM and the sun was quickly fading. Evening was turning into night and I was running out of options.

I wrestled between calling Tough Man, and playing off the events, by asking if he wanted his favorite dipped cone. In the moment it seemed easier to suck it up, find a way back in, so that I could take my best shot at gaining my beauty sleep. The fact that I had walked out without being kicked out kept running through my mind. Was He going to be more mad? Was he going to rage when I got home? Would I be hurt or bruised in a way that would keep me from being able to show up to the most important work event of the year? Tough Man never beat me as many experience. One push, grip, or hit from “The Hulk” was effective enough. I never had bruises in noticeable places. On one occasion a “simple punch” to my side enabled me from the ability to squat to pee for a week. The unknown of how he would respond to my leaving was my biggest fear, yet I desperately needed to rest up for the day of beauty exhortation.

I pulled out my Blackberry, stared at the number, and hit call…

To be continued…

I’m Chelsie Birks and this is My Glossy Life.

Broken Not Destroyed: Exposed

November 10, 2014

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Pastor Robert’s message was really powerful that particular Sunday. He had been teaching on a series about The End: What comes next? Tough Man had made his prejudgements about Gateway Church long before this message, so I was already walking on egg shells in asking him to come with. You see we had already joined and left two churches in almost three years of marriage. We stayed until people started suspecting problems, and Tough Man found every reason not to return. The fact his mother was with us that morning, gave some bit of comfort, as she was never going to deny her youngest, but she was, thankfully, very protective and fond of me. She had heard much over the years, and helped pack my car many a nights that Tough Man made it clear to get the _____ out before he got home. His mood was seldom predictable, and as unhealthy as it was, I appreciated, more times than not, his mother being just across the parking lot. I often referred to her as Mams, and she was the one person that had seen the signs of what Christian girls don’t speak of. Honestly and tragically, she had become my best friend.

On the drive home, I was sandwiched between Tough Man and Mams in his black Dodge pickup truck. The stride in his step to the truck, locked jaw, and single hand grip on the steering wheel was full evidence he was heated. Mams and I knew that anything could set him off so we opted to remain awkwardly silent until the ticking in the air conditioner came. It wasn’t the type of tick that anyone would notice, but it was one I had become obsessively aware of, as it was the sound that would send Tough Man over the edge into a raging war. In an effort to drown out the tick, I resorted to the message from Pastor Robert. As much as I hate to admit this, I knew that Tough Man was already angered by Pastor Robert and his “mega church productions.” I knew that mentioning the service would take his anger off of those “responsible” for “allowing” the noise to continue and place it on someone that couldn’t presently be effected by his escalating rage. I knew wrong. As I mentioned previously, the mood was completely unpredictable. Just as I shared the confirmation the message brought to my salvation, my sunnies were knocked to the floorboard, and blood rushed to the surface of my left check to meet the heat of a fresh slap telling me, “Shut the ____ up!” Mams gasped in shock and began pleading for him to stop. He felt encouraged and affirmed in his adrenaline rush and began driving as if he were under the influence of a spirited bottle and tonic. He had lost complete control to the anger rush and nearly flipped the Dodge on the over pass bridge of 121 and Bedford Road. Tough Man pulled into the covered parking spot that belonged to our 800 sq. ft. apartment, shut the door calmly, and walked up the stairs as if nothing had happened. Mams stood there with me as gigantic tears burned my cheeks; my lips quivered; my body trembled; and I sobbed silently. I was embarrassed, ashamed, humiliated, and terrified all at the same time. I had learned to mask the physical abuse well, thanks to the training I gained from previous years of interview pageant prep and successful work as a makeup artist, whose job was to make others look and feel amazing. I understood “game on!”

What I had failed to prepare for was the abusers need to increase the adrenaline rush which often comes from “new” levels of abuse. He had done what I hadn’t prepared for- actually physically harmed me in front of another person, least of which I would ever have assumed to be his mother. I always felt like Tough Man was way too prideful to ever hit me in public, so I was ill prepared on how I would respond.

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Mams stood there with tears in her own eyes, having no idea whether to stay or go. The ever lingering question posed to keep Tough Man contained so to speak. Regardless if the abused want to admit it or not, we fall prisoner to the daily cycle of whatever, whenever, why ever, and however. Anything not to be the target of harmful hands and hurtful words. I encouraged Mams to head on home. I had Tough Man and his cycles calculated near flawlessly. I assured her the fit of rage was over, and now for the enduring of hateful words or days of silence. I would know once I saw the way he was positioned on the couch, and if the TV was on or not. Although the less accepted by society, I would have rather taken another hit, than the acceptable form of emotional, metal, and silent abuse that often comes with being the Christian girl that deeply desires to refrain from carrying one more mark of failure or un acceptance. I hugged Mams, and we parted ways in tears. I walked up the stairs, striving with everything in me to contain myself, because we already established what unwanted noises produce. I walked in to Sunday pre game and Tough Man comfortably couched on the middle cushion of the sofa, nursing a Dr. Pepper. I was about to get it, and it was going to be long and painful. I was in for an unknown number of days, maybe weeks, of silence. The type of silence that never acknowledges your existence. The type of silence that refuses to see you or hear you. The type of silence lonelier than any place of alone. It was routine for me to respond in one of two ways depending on my ability to endure Tough Man’s conditional therapy. I would walk to the bedroom and sob myself to sleep on the bed, or I would very casually and calmly grab the keys, and say I’m going for a drive. Neither one ever broke the silent therapy. It was simply my way of giving him the whatever, however space to let the punishment therapy for whatever I did, run its course.

Still in a state of shock, I think, I walked straight to the closet, packed my leather, electric turquoise weekender, gifted to me by Trish McEvoy, and prepared to do my own attempt at the unthinkable. I set the bag out of view as I opened the door wide enough to leave for my “drive.” I was awkward, and the bag was obvious. He arranged his view, with puffed veins and clinched jaw, and we locked eyes.

To Be Continued…

I’m Chelsie Birks and this is My Glossy Life.

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We will be sharing with you Chelsie’s courageous story in several parts. Thank you, Cheslie for allowing us to help share your story.

Have You Been Catfished?

October 24, 2014

online-dating-e1405898035178-600x300With new dating apps like Tinder, it is becoming more and more common to meet first online. Whenever I have had conversations about online dating with my guy friends, they confess of a having a fear of being “catfished.”

According to the ever-so reliable source, Urban Dictionary, it states, “A Catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.”

Now, I’m not about to go into detail of how I’ve gotten “catfished.” No offense, but who spends months or years speaking to someone they’ve never seen or at least have sure proof this person exist? And God forbid, plan a life with a stranger. It’s beyond me!

I have a hard enough time getting to know a real guy who is sitting right in front of me, much less some weirdo in another state or better yet, a con-artist in an internet cafe in Africa.

But I’ll be honest. I think I’ve been catfished (just not via Facebook or some other site). I’m pretty sure I’ve been the victim of others creating a false identity. Thank God, I’ve never found out some man I was dating was married with five children.

I often find it extremely difficult to meet men and women alike who are transparent, honest people. Those who know me know that I am very honest and upfront. This is a blessing and a curse. I often ask people sincere questions. Sometimes I get an answer but often times, the answers are vague and elusive like a child inquiring why Zebras have stripes.

False identities can be created in many different ways. I’ve dated guys who claim to be religious because they know my spirituality means a great deal to me. I’ve met people who hide bad habits like smoking or drinking, to later find out it was an issue. I’ve also met others who claim to have the same values as I do in order to get a so called “good girl.” Thankfully, I’m pretty intuitive. But only because I’ve been fooled before.

When it comes to cultivating relationships, honesty is the only way success can be achieved. Sometimes honesty hurts. Sometimes it means an end to a relationship. Sometimes it means taking a risk, and it scaring you senseless.

Thankfully, I still have time and am not remotely worried about meeting my match. I know it will happen. But as I continue with the exhausting dating process, I find myself weary with facades, lack of transparency and the ability in others to be honest.

I see it all the time, especially with men who will not be honest with their feelings or intentions. If you’re a guy reading this, I’m sure you have experienced this with women.

I was thinking today, “Why is it that often times when I ask a straight forward question, I cannot get a straightforward response?” It dawned on me.

If a person cannot be honest with me, then he probably is not being honest with himself.

I wonder how many catfish are swimming around?

Article by Brittany Windle

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