Books and Bingo

GB

I hadn’t planned on quitting that day. When the company’s vice-president found out about my job searching, he immediately escorted me to the boss’s office.

“Tami has something to tell you.” Oh, I do, do I? I would’ve liked to deliver my 2-week notice on my timing, but sometimes God has different plans.

My boss squinted. He shifted and tilted back in his chair like my high school principal had before he suspended me.

“Well, do you have another job lined up?”

“Not exactly.”

“That’s not very smart. Why wouldn’t you want to stay here and earn the kind of money Cassie’s earning?”

“Because I’m not Cassie, and I’m not happy doing this.”

We stared at each other for a few seconds. A corner of his mouth rose as did my temperature.

“What do you want to do with your life? What are your dreams?” he said.

“I’m almost finished with my manuscript. I want to get it published. And I’m starting a non-profit to help other girls who are bullied.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew I had shared more than he deserved to know.

“What makes you think you’re gonna get published? How are you gonna start a non-profit? Where you gonna to get the money?”

All legitimate questions I had already answered for myself. I studied English and Journalism in college, so there was that. No guarantees but it was a start. I had a story and a purpose, and I was determined to find a way to use it for good. Growing up, I watched my dad work to help charities fundraise through bingo. My boss knew of my dad’s work because both businesses were in the same community. I didn’t feel like my strategies were my boss’s business, but I answered respectfully.

 “I’m applying for a bingo license, so I can raise money for programming.”

He scowled. Although he knew of the bingo company, he, like many people in our community, misunderstood how it helped schools purchase playground equipment, fire departments replace ambulances, soup kitchens feed homeless, and animal shelters spay and neuter.

“Bingo, huh? That’s not very Christian.”

I didn’t like his judgment, but I needed it. I stood over him and extended my hand. He hesitated. “Thanks for the opportunity. Now I can go do what’s important to me.”

I wrote (and am re-writing) a book that may never be picked up by a mainstream publisher. I’ve made peace with that. My charity was small and local. I raised a few thousand dollars through bingo to conduct programming that maybe, just maybe, saved one girl from wanting to go home after school to lay down and die. Books and bingo didn’t make sense to my boss, but I didn’t need him to understand. His judgment didn’t feel good, but it served as fuel to power my walk.

“Not everyone will understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.” 

Fuel

How to get a Bully to Apologize

For

A few years after college, one of the meanest girls from high school apologized to me. Throughout school, she said sorry because adults asked her. Maybe she regretted her mistakes, but her apologies never took effect because she continued her actions. It wasn’t until now her words carried weight because she appeared to recognize the difference between mistakes and choices.

What else motivated her? Distance, timing and her life experiences played a factor. I also believe I made it easier for her to say sorry. When I surrendered my desire for apologies to God, he gifted me peace. I no longer reacted to my bullies, and I became approachable.

Now, as she requested my attention, I simply looked her in the eye, listened, and received whatever she expressed. She was straightforward. She didn’t use words like “but” or “if.” She took complete ownership of her actions and complimented my efforts to help other girls. She allowed me to accept or reject her apology. I accepted and apologized to her for my reactions. It was one of the best things to come from my being bullied. It was proof my forgiveness was real, my bullies could change, and I could think differently of them.

How do you get a bully to apologize? It isn’t easy for people to say sorry. Do you make it harder? Would you want to apologize to you? Accept the possibility that you may never receive an apology. Relinquish control to God. He will clear space in your heart and mind to walk in peace. You never know, your growth might make way for your bully to apologize one day too.

Who You See in the Mirror

 

 

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This is the mirror in my fitness training studio. I use it to instruct and improve peoples’ form. Eighty percent of training clients are women so you can imagine how that usually goes. Rarely do they look in the mirror and willingly comply. Almost always they grumble, “I hate looking at myself in the mirror,” and “I hate this mirror.” Some even refuse to look. They would rather risk injury than face the truth, adjust, and perform the movement correctly.

It goes deeper than lunges. I get it. When I look in the mirror, I can criticize myself with the best of you. Recently, I assured two people, on separate occasions, that I look hideous in patterned leggings. “Oh, you could wear anything!” they said. Um no. If only they saw what I had in that dressing room mirror. Eek.

We are our own worst critics, and we all have our reasons. Often, those ideas stem from insecurity, comparison, or something someone said. Like when I posted a before-and-after photo that documented my body fat loss. A woman dissed me for not being secure enough to accept myself as I was in my before picture and for having man arms in my after picture. It ticked me off at the moment. Before and after, I felt secure enough to share my results in hopes of encouraging others, but she didn’t know that and presented no desire to understand. Now, when I look in the mirror, I occasionally have to swat down the thought of “man arms” and I remind myself that at 5’2″ 125 pounds, I’m a far cry from a man. I’m exactly who God made me.

Actually, I like to look at myself in the mirror most of the time. It has much less to do with appearance and more to do with allowing myself to see myself created in the image of God. Working out is spiritual. Often, I lift reps I didn’t think I was capable of lifting, I run extra laps when I’d rather stop, I feel lighter and stronger, and I know exactly why. My strength, power, energy and focus come from the Lord, not from my own effort. When I accomplish hard work, I look into the mirror, and I see His glory. I see His Spirit dwelling within me. It’s why I like my arms and I will shamelessly flex my biceps. Proverbs 31:17 says, “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.” I like my sweaty glow, my makeup-less, sometimes pale, pimply face because “those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (Psalm 34:5). I like who I see in the mirror because my reflection represents the Creator who molds me into my beautiful, confident, unique self.

We are all different, but we are all made in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:27). We should embrace that to the fullest. You can change who you see in the mirror when you start seeing God within you.

 

 

 

Transitions

 

 

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My husband and I spent the last three years passing by our community on our way to our business in the big city. In November, we relocated closer to home. Since then, we’ve been working on connecting and rebuilding. It’s both revitalizing and taxing—just the way I like it. To feel pressed and stretched alongside my husband assures me we’re living life abundantly and trusting God faithfully. We have a plan and know what we need to do to execute that plan. While it has momentarily taken my focus away from my writing, I stay sane remembering change is necessary for growth and for gaining flexibility to write more. The pressure and excitement that accompany this transition remind me of how far I’ve come since the days of school when during and after breaks, friendships would occasionally change and conflicts flared up. Back then that kind of stuff hit me hard. I’d never see it coming.

One of my most glaring transitional lessons occurred my sophomore year of college over Christmas break. One of my roommates called me and told me my suitemate, Katie, had failed out and moved out. I was shocked. I had no idea she was anywhere near failing out. She struggled in stats, but who didn’t? It was one of the hardest classes. Katie was one of my best friends. Why hadn’t she told me? Why didn’t she call me? She couldn’t leave now.

After Katie moved out, she wouldn’t return my calls, e-mails or messages. I was upset and hurt. I’m sure the whole thing was embarrassing for her, but why did our friendship have to go down the stinker too? Eventually, her mom and I connected. I told her I should’ve been more concerned. I should’ve taken better care of Katie. Before break, she had been dating six different guys. Sometimes she stayed out all night. We wouldn’t know her whereabouts, and none of us could reach her. I cared about her safety. I should’ve addressed my concern earlier. However, Katie wasn’t in a place to accept help. The only sense I would eventually make from her abrupt discontinuation of our friendship was that, on top of her embarrassment, she resented me for airing my concerns to her mother. I never heard from Katie again.

That transition was painful and confusing. It was the kind of lesson that prepared me to respond better to the challenges I may or may not see coming in business, relationships, and life. It helped me see that sometimes things change for no apparent reason, that we cannot control others’ actions, only our reactions. And sometimes things must change for apparent reasons and it’s our responsibility to make those changes. It is when we accept transitioning that we begin to gain a clearer understanding of where we’re meant to be and what we’re meant to do in this world.

This year, our business is taking off. We will meet new personalities and continue to help people in the ways God has called us. We cannot prepare for everything, but we’re as prepared as we can be. No matter what this new endeavor brings our way, with time, we will expand our perspective and write new stories that further connect our path of past transitions.

Friend Requests From Your High School Bullies

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I’m a detail-oriented, task-driven person. I must clear the red at the top of my Facebook profile. And I can’t only clear my notifications. I must take action quickly with anything that requests my attention because that’s how I roll with productivity. Except there are occasional times when I get tripped up by certain friend requests. I celebrate inside when I see a request from someone I like. Admittedly, I’m also a bit let down when it’s some guy from Indonesia with whom I have no mutual friends. And then there are the requests I dread but am equally intrigued by—those from my high school bullies or, really, from anyone whom I associate with that unpleasant experience.

Some of you know what I mean. The requests that make you scowl in confusion or just flat-out say, “Yeah right!” There are probably a few glaring memories that invoke your response—the hurtful nickname he gave you, the scene in the cafeteria, the rumor she spread. The kind of stuff that forever impacted you and makes you wonder what the heck does this person want?! It’s easy to let anger resurface. You might even take satisfaction in saying aloud, “DE-lete” as you impulsively execute the function. Then there are those of us who end up confirming these invitations because, deep down, we’re curious about what, if anything, is on the other side.

Perhaps this kind of thing comes as no shock to Millennials and younger. But I’m an early 80s baby—amongst the last wave of people who finished adolescence without social media—and I find myself in this weird space, not entirely relating to how any other generation rejects or embraces social media. I still prefer reach-out-and-touch-you  relationships, but they’re so difficult to come by nowadays. Everyone is too busy to do much more than “like” and scroll. So I’ve accepted it, but I still sometimes struggle to balance my old-school desire with the impersonality of cyber friends. I’ve definitely experienced the pros of social media, reconnecting with people whom I may never have known their whereabouts otherwise. It’s interesting to take a small glimpse at who people became, what their children look like, and to catch up with old friends. Still, I’m wary of allowing my social media to turn into a regular class reunion, considering the largest share of most peoples’ Facebook friends are high school classmates.¹

My first scratch-my-head moments came on MySpace. Why on earth were some of the girls who had been mean to me in high school wanting to reconnect? Then, I didn’t hesitate to find out by sending private messages. Then, I took the term “friend request” literally. I believed if a person wanted to be “friends,” I deserved to know why. I was willing to open myself back up because I was forgiving, but darn-straight, we were gonna talk about some stuff first. Eventually, I realized while that attitude was a step toward healing, it wasn’t forgiveness.

I took a different approach on Facebook and other subsequent platforms. By then, I no longer needed to interrogate connections when they resurfaced. Who was I to keep them locked into adolescence? But to this day, one request from an old schoolmate instantly sounds an alert in my head. I have to work hard to see them as more than kids up to old tricks, perhaps collecting new information only to criticize me like they used to. I breeze through their connections to make sure they are as safe as possible (whatever that means). Then wonder if they’ve only come back to snoop? (It seems like a logical explanation for those who I accept then turn around and delete me or delete and block me only a few days later). Do they have any idea how their simple friend request triggers skepticism and pain? Do they care? Do they even remember? Because I will never forget. Even if these people don’t remember the details as I do, I believe people know right from wrong. They remember the big picture of whether they were mean or nice. I know one woman who, forty years after high school, received an apology from a former mean girl. This mean girl couldn’t remember what she had done. She only remembered she was mean. She wasn’t the biggest bully, but she left a lasting impression. And now, she was brave enough to reach out and make another impression that better represented who she had become.

Those are the kind of requests with which I find myself most torn—the ones that come from people who weren’t necessarily my biggest bullies but who were teetering on the edge of my conflict. Like the former teammate who sat on a locker-room bench and did nothing more than stare as our teammates screamed at me. Hers was the first request I mulled over for more than a month. I wondered if she had forgotten what had happened. Was she still playing the popularity game? She already had a thousand friends on her list. Was I just another number? Or did she want to say something to me? Now, I sometimes see her images in my newsfeed. It doesn’t matter how many selfies she posts. I still only see that girl in the locker-room who said nothing, and I have to stretch to look beyond because I know she has to be so much more than that. I’m still not quite sure why she requested me, other than having tagged me in a few throwback photos and liking a few of my statues. I know why I accepted her, though.

People have told me how they would respond to these friend requests. “DENY!” they say. I understand. That was my initial reaction too—when I was fresh into adulthood and social media. Why would I re-expose myself to them? What are my boundaries? What happens when I accept one? Would there be others? Would there be repercussions? Every time I shared my thoughts with others, I only came up with fear-based solutions. While I appreciate those who want to safeguard my emotions, I am not created to live in fear. My downfall was in taking my issue to man before God. Now, I know if I want to make the best decision, I act solely upon the guidance of the Lord.

All of the times I’ve struggled with a friend request, He helps me see how I’m holding on to anger and resentment. The sooner I recognize and deal with this, the better. I devote thought and prayer to each request. God always takes the weight off my shoulders and shows me what to do. More often than not, I arrive at acceptance. Sometimes that means sharing my full profile with the person. Other times, God allows me to take baby steps by selecting the restrict option. Over the years, I’ve accepted friend requests that go nowhere. Some give my posts a few “likes.” Most say nothing. I’m guilty of occasionally thinking things like, “What’s in this for me?” “Is she ever gonna say anything?” “After all, she’s the one who requested me.” But when I recognize my selfish thinking and renew my mind in Christ, I remember it doesn’t matter if I ever receive answers. I’m confident in my faith and how the Holy Spirit guides me to live my life. Every bit of that seeps into how I operate on social media.

If my social media served as a billboard for my life, I know what I want it to promote. I want it to be an honest representation of who I am and how I live my life, albeit a snapshot. I want my message of healing and forgiveness to inspire others to heal and forgive. Perhaps, I use social media differently and more intentionally than most, but I use it for a purpose. If people would like to come alongside me on that journey, no matter how they choose to engage with me, chances are, they’re probably welcome to do so (the exception being anyone who would put my family or me in danger).

So why should you re-expose yourself to your bullies, betrayers, and bystanders? Maybe you should. Maybe you shouldn’t. The decision is yours. Your boundaries might be different from mine. Perhaps some of the same steps that help me will help you too.

Ask yourself why you’re on social media in the first place. What’s your purpose there? If your social media profile is a billboard promoting your life, what does it say about you? What do the pages and profiles you like and follow represent? Do they honor God?

When you receive a friend request from a bully or not-so-good connection, examine your heart. What do you feel inside? Do you present those emotions to God and listen for His direction? Or do you take matters into your hands and make decisions based on fickle feelings? Do you arrogantly think, “Fine, I’ll let you see how good my life turned out,” or “Okay, so-and-so, I forgive you, but…” What does “but” mean and what kind of residency is it taking up in your forgiveness? Does this sort of response truly have a place in your rationale? Or is it a defense mechanism, driven by fear? Does it represent the piece of you that still desires to be heard? If so, why is that important? Are your thoughts and actions in line with scripture?

Ask God if social media is the best way to re-engage with this person at this time. Listen for His response. Some meetings are better-left in-person. Some need a softer, more casual approach. Could social media be the way? Try putting yourself in the other person’s place. Is it possible asking you to be a “friend” again was difficult for them? Could they have feared your backlash and rejection but took the risk regardless? If the request is important enough to you, you’ll take the initiative to find out what it means. It’s also okay for you not to respond. You aren’t required to “like” any of their posts, wish them a happy birthday, follow them on your newsfeed, or even accept their request. You can still love a person from a distance.

We never know for what people are searching or what’s in their hearts. We cannot be certain what’s on the other side of a friend request until we engage it. Maybe it’s their best attempt at an apology. Maybe your simple act of acceptance is enough to free them from the regret of how they mistreated you. Maybe they remain on your friends list for years without ever exchanging a word with you. Maybe they never say, “sorry.” Maybe they never acknowledge your pain. Maybe they don’t remember what they did, at least not like you remember. I don’t know about you, but I’ve made peace with that.


  1. http://nymag.com/news/features/high-school-2013-1/

Chasing Rejection

uninvited

On my way home from a holiday cookout I helped host, my thoughts turn to rejection. I swear I’m passing more parties than usual. Home after home includes family and friends gathered around bonfires, pig roasts, and cornhole. The Amish (who, to my knowledge, don’t even observe our federal holiday) even had more company than I could round up. While I treasured time spent with the few who attended my party, overall turnout had been low. Fail (again). Nearly everyone had somewhere else to go and something else to do, which seemed to be the story of my life almost every time I extended an invitation.

For a few seconds, I tried to throw my resentment onto God. You just don’t want me to have friends, I thought for the bazillionth time. Then I tried to pass my rejection off onto the people at the parties. It’s because I don’t have kids. Kids motivate people to gather. They attract people to one another. And probably because I don’t drink beer. Half of those people probably don’t even like each other. They’re probably just bored in a small town.

Really Tami? said the Voice of reason.

Alright, then. No one ever shows because my only true friends have fur and whiskers.

You know that’s not it. 

Then I’m just off-putting. No one likes me enough to spend more than an hour with me. What is it?! I constantly rack my brain over it. If there’s something I can improve upon, I will. It’s probably my strength. People don’t like that. If only they would let me show them my vulnerability. Wait, I’ve shown my vulnerability. I reach out to a ton of people and express my heart.

No matter what I do, connection always seems just out of reach, and I end up perpetually hurt and rejected. Why did I always end up consumed by this thought, back in the same conversation in which I refused God’s help?

I know my worth is not determined by relationships or by throwing a well-attended party. My value is in the Lord. He loves me unconditionally. He will never fail me or abandon me (Hebrews 13:5). Only He can complete the pieces of me that the world leaves empty. I know these things. These truths seemed so near, but why had I ventured so far away from them by buying into the belief that I am destined for rejection? I knew good-and-well I was dipping my toe back into the same spiral, only hours after reading Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Uninvited. I learned so much from it, then–BAM–distraction through unrealistic comparisons about why people hadn’t attended my party but were going to everyone else’s parties.

That’s how the lie of rejection works in my life. It’s one of Satan’s tools to separate me from God’s truth. The lie seems small and harmless at first. I minimize it by telling myself, “I’m allowed to feel down. I have a reason.” It’s perfectly natural to feel this way, right? That’s what the world tells me. And if I believe it, I float off into a funk and neglect God’s Word, even when it’s smack dab in front of me. But I’m not meant to wallow in self-pity and victimization. Instead, I knew this was the exact opportunity I needed to demolish old thoughts and patterns.

“What we see will violate what we know unless what we know dictates what we see.”¹ 

Until last week, I prayed, “God, please lead me to the relationships in which you want me to engage. Show me the people I can help or bring to me those who need my help. Whether those people are complete strangers, people with whom I’m already associated, or even people from the past with whom you want me to reconnect.” Seemed like a fine little prayer on the surface. Sometimes I saw it answered, perhaps by a stranger who would become an acquaintance or when an old friend requested me on Facebook. But the answers were superficial and hardly satisfied my intimate desire to connect to others. So, earlier this week, as I sat down to edit my writing, the Holy Spirit enlightened me.

Ditch that prayer, I heard. Stop chasing your need for relationships. Be with me. I am enough.

I was stuck in my writing because my writing is my thinking. What holds our attention most is what we truly worship, and I was worshipping rejection. The realization was repulsive. At that moment, I rejected rejection. I surrendered my chase. I opened my depth, where resides my deepest need for belonging, and I felt God take my emptiness and fill it.

“Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

Immediately, I turned my thoughts to His love and let His truth prevail as the loudest voice over my hurt. One more small but powerful piece of the past relinquished to the Almighty. Rejection is no longer my idol nor my battle.

Have you allowed rejection to steal the best of who you are by reinforcing the worst of what has been said to you?² Are you chasing a love that only God can provide? Surrender to the Lord. Be with Him. He is enough.

 


  1. TerKeurst, Lysa. Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2016. p. 58.
  2. TerKeurst, Lysa. Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2016. p. 8.