As 2015 ended tonight, I sat on the couch and just soaked in gratitude cuddled in my husband’s arms with the baby sleeping in her room. There was so much to be thankful for as we reminisced the previous 12 months. I made a bullet list in my journal as we reflected all the blessings that seemed to just fall into our lap unexpectedly. We were sitting in the home we unexpectedly owned, surrounded byWalking to an Unknown Destination a beautiful remodel we had no idea was going to happen, with my dream dog (a labradoodle) at our feet that had just been given to us. It felt surreal.

The funny thing about almost everything we were thankful for, was that hardly any of it did we see coming. We started out the year attached to several goals. Some of them were achieved, but most of them are rolling over to 2016 still incomplete. That’s okay though. God doesn’t know time. We invented it. He just knows the laundry list of things we dream about wanting what day and what our heart desires, then goes to work to create it for us.

We couldn’t help but laugh when we looked at which dreams had come into fruition this year, most of them unexpected, and all of them in ways we could have NEVER planned for or anticipated. Stuff you can’t even make up in a novel because truth is better than fiction. This life truly is an amazing adventure, and I am going to continue soaking in gratitude for being on the roller coaster.

As we forecast into 2016, as I said, there are so many of our goals still left incomplete. Some of them are big, some of them are small, but all of them are important to us for one reason or another. When I reflect on what held me back from accomplishing the goals, it is the result of self-limiting beliefs and habits. As if 2015 didn’t have enough to be thankful for, that lesson alone would have made this year worth living over and over again. I am now totally and completely aware that the ONLY obstacle standing in my way of getting what I want out of life is me. More specifically, my comfort zone.

I am now fully well aware that to get what I want, I need to get uncomfortable. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well, for 29 years I have continued to carry the same habits. Some of them served me, but many have not. In order to create massive change in my results, I have to create massive change in my actions. I’m a little bit nervous. I’m a little bit scared. But I’ve done things that are harder. Here is the list of the habits that have to change. There are THOUSANDS of people who have created these norms for themselves, but for me, they seem like mountains (that I’m ready to climb):


  • Waking up at least an hour before my family to start my day right
  • 6 workouts a week (for me, I want that to be 4 Crossfit, 1 yoga and 1 stroller strides)
  • Planning and preparing for the next day before I go to bed
  • Planning my calendar in proactive mode, not reactive mode
  • Picking up after myself
  • Completing everything I start, not stopping at “good enough”
  • Breaking my sugar addiction
  • Expressing more gratitude to the people I appreciate
  • Rebirthing my 365 photoblog


Everything on this list I have done at some point. But I have never put it together all at once, and I have never done it consistently. I am confident that these new habits, coupled with the things that I am already doing right in my life, will take me to amazing places in my life I have yet to go. The future is exciting. I cannot WAIT to see where it goes!

What were you most thankful for in 2015? What habits do you believe may be holding you back from accomplishing your dreams? Do you have the ability to change them?


No More Tomorrows

As we were getting ready for bed tonight I confessed to my husband something that’s been really troubling me the last few days. There are less than 12 weeks left in 2015 and a lot of my plans are not looking hopeful that they will be finished.

You see, the last couples years I have started off January with a dream board for the year. I made my first dream board in 2011 and it was more of a “bucket list” philosophy. Lately, I’ve been breaking that down at the start of each year to decipher which bite-sized pieces I see fitting into a 12-month period and setting out to conquer those with tenacious focus.

However, I sit here not feeling so tenacious. There are a handful of things on my 2015 dream board list that are about to get rolled over AGAIN. This would mean three years in a row that I set out to accomplish what was already supposed to be finished. And unless something changes, the track I’m on isn’t looking too hot.

So, I am going to get vulnerable with you guys and post where I am at with a few of these goals and what I can still do about it with 11 weeks to go. I’ve always been a deadline driven person, so let’s do this. I can cram 12 months of work into just under 12 weeks. It would be par for the course for me. If I don’t finish them, I will feel a hell of a lot better on January 1 than if I accept them as incomplete with nearly a quarter of the year left!!!

You may be wondering what unfinished business I have floating out there. Not gonna lie….it feels a little vulnerable putting out to the world my desires and knowing that I risk allowing people to see me fail. But that story doesn’t serve me. So I will change it. I am sharing my desires so that others may walk alongside me and share the journey. I know where I am going. I know what I want. I know I will get there. I just may not always be right about how long things take.

“Do not put off for tomorrow what can be done today.” – Ben Franklin

I’m out of tomorrow’s. If the things I want to see happen in my life are going to happen, then I have to be diligent about creating them NOW. Here are some of the items at risk of rolling over:

  • Blog
    • I’ve been wanting to start a blog for YEARS!!! You can see here that I dabbled in it a few years ago and then in 2012 I decided I definitely was going to do it and take it serious. So what did I do? Did I start blogging more? Nope. That seems that the obvious solution. Instead, I read some AMAZING books about how to have THE BEST BLOGS EVER and they got me SO EXCITED! I had all the information to do it right and I was going to have a kick ass blog! So I thought about it A LOT. You have no idea how much I thought about it and talked to friends about it. Then in 2013 I got up the courage to buy the perfect template. It has all the bells and whistles. Dropped $200 on this perfect template. But guess what? Nothing has come of it. I don’t even understand how to use it. And I have to plug in so many things I don’t have yet. I mean, can I really start a blog without a new head shot, and a free giveaway to offer views so they be enticed to subscribe and an e-book to buy while they’re on my site? I have spent YEARS in thought of what all these pretty things will look like. But I have not blogged. So each year I keep planning that THIS WILL BE THE YEAR!!!!! I will FINALLY put all those pieces together and launch my pretty blog. Well, dammit. It’s too much work. And I’m just not there yet. And years of awesome posts that I would have LOVED to have recorded about this serious kick-ass journey I’ve been on have vanished into thin air. Even if no one else ever reads them, I want to blog about my journey so I can reflect on my path. So here you are. Rather than thinking about it, tonight before bed I opened the laptop and poured out my thoughts. (P.S. I know everything wrong about this post. Definitely exceeding the ideal 500-700 word count. Awful formatting. Total lack of pretty pictures and I’m a photographer. Haha! But that’s okay. I did it. I’m not ready for followers yet. I’m doing this for ME.
  • Turn our house into a home
    • We moved into this house when Eleanora was 2 weeks old. First time parents. Self-employed work-from-home business owners. And I was on bed rest from the delivery. I also waited until after delivering a child to decide I wanted to learn how be domestic. Needless to say, decorating was at the bottom of my priority list. I spent 2014 in pretty much survival mindset. I was doing whatever I could to keep my head above water and was filled with immense gratitude that we had a roof above our heads. So, for 2015 I wanted to take these empty white walls and unfinished bedrooms and make it a place that felt like it belonged to us. That it was ours. I have DOZENS of picture frames stacked on the floor, behind couches, in closets, waiting for pictures to be printed and waiting to be hung on the walls. In January one of my greatest desires was that by the end of the year, there would be family pictures hanging on my walls. But alas, there are none. In fact, I stumbled on some killer deals and bought MORE frames. So the stack only grew. Definitely don’t feel like I have scored a 0 on this one considering in July we actually purchased this house so it is truly ours. And my husband has ripped all the cabinet doors off and sanded them in anticipation of the coming kitchen remodel. And he painted our bedroom and finished the living room. But it’s been all  him. He has taken care of the projects that were important to him. The ones that were important to me are still left hanging—-or rather not.
  • Earn my white Mercedes
    • In 2013 I started my Arbonne business with the goal of promoting to Regional Vice President in 6 months. The average is 1-3 years but I am amazing and I can do it faster than everyone else. I mean, I was in gifted classes in school. And had a GPA of 6.2 on a 4.0 scale when I graduated high school. And I was in the Honors College at USF and graduated Magna Cum Laude. If I am anything at all, I am ABOVE AVERAGE, right? Hahahaha! Oh my gosh! If this business has taught me anything, it’s taught me that I have A LOT of growing up to do. I love this company and I love my business. And I am GOING to promote to Regional Vice President so they pay for my car, a white Mercedes. Considering I drive around with my almost two year old daughter in a beat up 2-door Honda Civic, just having 4 doors is going to be AMAZING! But here were go again, I truly believed, with every fiber in my being that it wasn’t even possible for me to finish 2015 without my car. I did District Manager in 2013, Area Manager in 2014, so time for the next step. However, here I am, in the middle of October, with numbers so ridiculously far from my goal that no one would be looking at me based on what they see on paper and say “Oh yeah…..THAT GIRL is headed straight for the top!” HAHAHA! No way. But….if you had been watching me this year, behind the scenes, what isn’t measurable, you may have a different story. You see, I have been kicking ass at a different goal which was to read 20 personal development books this year and I’m well over half way. Until diving into these books and learning so much about highly successful people, I honestly didn’t know what I didn’t know. I have carried so many bad habits, limiting beliefs, lack of discipline and other things around with me for so long they were my normal. And I’ve been changing my normal. My numbers may not look like steady growth but both my husband and I know how much I have been pouring into making myself a better leader (which begins with leading yourself) and it’s a LOT of growth. So now that I’ve almost mastered leading myself, I am more prepared than ever to lead others. My husband said to me tonight, as I spoke to him without even being able to look him in the eye due to my self-inflicted shame, “You’re time is coming. And soon. If you had promoted a year ago you may have had the title, but your leadership skills would have still needed so much improvement. Look how much better you are now at this, this and this. It’s like that quote about luck. You’re ready to get lucky.” And the quote he’s referring to is “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
  • Get In Shape
    • Yep. Like many others, there is a picture on my dream board of a woman rockin’ an awesome bikini bod. Can I wear a bikini? HELL NO! hahaha. These flabby thighs and tummy would attract a totally different type of attention than I would prefer. LOL! I know exactly what it takes to get what I want, I just haven’t done it. Confession…despite how clean I eat, I LOVE carb loading around 10pm. Every night. Mmmmmm…..yeah. A whole container of hummus with whatever I feel like dipping in there….including my finger. Several rice cakes with almond butter. Double MmmmMMMmmm if it’s Justin’s with maple syrup. Some GMO-free blue corn chips with salsa. THE BEST! However, despite that these aren’t actually loaded with nutrition, tacking on 1000 calories before bed does not lead to a hot bod. I’m up about 15lbs over last year. And that’s the only thing I changed. I reintroduced my late night snack. Tonight rather than dropping my late night snack cold turkey I just changed rules. I can only have raw veggies after dinner. So I sat in front of the TV with a stalk of broccoli in my hand. To my credit though, I have started Crossfit a couple times a week and at least have used my Y membership enough to justify keeping it. Not enough for results with either, but improvement over last year.

There you go. That was it. These are the topics of my present self-loathing.

But they end here. I opened up this blog after years of silence to just get this out of my head and out into the universe, where it belongs.

So, I’ve got 11 weeks. I can do this! Here’s my challenge to myself for each goal. Between now and December 31 I am committing to:

-Blogging every time something is weighing on me

-Printing pictures for all of the frames and telling Brandon where I want them hung

-Helping three brand new consultant promote to District Manager.

-Following the Arbonne 30-days to Healthy Living Guide for the next 11 weeks straight and hitting Crossfit and/or the Y 4 days a week.

I got this. I am capable of leading myself. I have everything it takes to create what I want out of this life.

Today I had a conversation with a stark naked stranger.

I was leaving for a luncheon just after 11:00 this morning. I walked down the stairs of our condo complex and just as I turned the corner I immediately made eye contact with a stark naked man in the parking lot. He was a skinny white kid probably in his mid-twenties. About five feet behind him was laying a pile of clothes.

I stopped dead in my tracks, as I was caught extremely off guard. This was our conversation:



“Why are you naked?”

“Because God told me to.”

“Ummmm….yeah….why are you naked!”

“I just told you. God told me to.”

I paused for a second wondering if this person was possibly a new neighbor.

“Do you live here?”


“Okay, can you please put your clothes back on?”


“Thanks. Okay. Well, you have a good rest of your day!”

He walked over to his pile of clothes and put his boxers and jeans on. Then he stood there in a total gaze. Just stood there like a statue.

I climbed in my car and picked up the phone to call Brandon who was inside our condo. “Babe! Go look out the window. There’s a guy in his jeans who was just naked!”

“Well, he’s naked again.”

“What! I just drove around the corner. He had to immediately have taken his clothes off again as soon as I drove away.”

I told Brandon about our conversation and then he said, “Well, I’m going to hang up with you and call the police now.”

The crazy part is I completely held my composure together and felt totally relaxed while having a conversation with a naked stranger. But as soon as I closed the door in my vehicle my legs were uncontrollably shaking and it was difficult to change gears because I could hardly control my legs.

I called my BFF Meryl who has a work-from-home job in Denver and I figured would answer the phone. I told her the whole story and we laughed very hard together. Then, she had me rolling laughing in tears to the point that my abs started to hurt when she pointed out a few things that never crossed my mind.

She said, “today I am going to go buy a keychain of pepper spray and mail it to you.” As she pointed out that for my own safety, it probably wasn’t in my best interest to have a conversation with the naked man. Especially considering all I had to do was turn around and in 20 seconds could have gotten my husband to come downstairs for my own protection, but instead I acted like this was no big deal.

Then she said, on top of that, I was much too nice. She said, “once again Sophia, you surprise with how much grace you choose to carry yourself with.” Why on earth were you so friendly with him? You told him to have a nice day? I would have said “what the *** are you doing? Go put your ***ing clothes back on or I will call the police.”

And then, most hilarious of all, she pointed out my constant obsession with the question “why?.” She said I always ask why. I have to try to know and understand everything. She reminded me of battles at on my wedding day with my mom when I insisted she explain to me why she was making certain decisions. And other times that I really go too far asking people about things. I informed her that in the 4th grade I was definitely known as the annoying kid in class who asks way too many questions. And she said “Now Sophia, you have given me the absolute best story to reiterate my point that you are too curious for your own good. When you stumble upon a strange naked man the only thing you can think to say is to ask him is WHY?”

Hahahaha. It’s one of those life situations you just can’t plan or prepare for. Instead, you just laugh and are surprised at how you actually handle yourself with it happens to you.

[Just for you other curious folks out there. Brandon called the police who came pretty quickly. Three of them actually. The guy ran away when he saw them, leaving behind his pile of clothes and his vehicle. The police detained him and then drove back around with him in the back seat of the car to retrieve his clothes and vehicle. Clearly he was on some sort of drugs. If not drugs, then some mental switch flipped in his brain.]


[Preface: This post will make much more sense if you read THIS post first that I wrote a couple days ago]

Lexia replied to the post I had made in reply to her expression of frustrations with certain habits in Christianity. Then, she decided in order to fully explain where she was coming from, she needed to share a back story of her past. Once again, because it is a private blog she’s posting on and I don’t have permission to link you straight there, I am going to copy paste her story here because I would love to also open up my heart and share a confession story I too have been sitting on for years:

Lexia’s post:

i was 12 years old and sitting in my home economics class in the small town we had recently moved to a year before.  i was sitting at a table, the long square rectangle table, facing the door, with my best friends, Kelly, Rebecca, Kayla, Jesse, and Ashley.  I think we were sewing pillows, although i cant quite remember now.

I’m not sure how it started.  i dont know if i mentioned something about my brothers, if the topic of Christianity was brought up, or going to church, or what.  but i do remember the moment my skin became flushed, i became hot, my heart started pounding and my legs started to shake.  i do remember Rebecca standing up from her chair and telling me that i was going to go to hell.  i do remember looking at the rest of the class and seeing that they were sitting in their chairs quietly watching this happen.  i remember my home economics teacher sitting in her chair intently watching without interfering as the most pivotal point of my life was occurring.

she just watched it happen.  never.said.a.word.

Rebecca and kayla said that because my brothers choose to be gay, they are going to burn in hell.  i simply stated that of course they didnt CHOOSE to be gay, they just are.  have always been.  i didnt know any different… and was actually confused why anyone would say they had CHOSEN to be the way they are.
Ashley and kelly chimed in, saying that it was because my mom was a terrible mother, her parenting skills lacking for not taking us to church, to exposing us to the word of god.  and for that, we’d all burn in hell.

They stood up, they started yelling at me…. i shook in my chair.  they said they wouldnt associate with the devil, and evil like me.  they said that they were on God’s side, and that they would no longer be friends with me because i didnt go to church.

they told me that i would be an alcoholic and pregnant by the time i was 15.
Jesse finally said something, told them they were being ridiculous, how could they do this to me?

she was the only.person. who said anything in my defense.

i left the room, i was shaking so hard i couldnt drink from the water fountain.  i was sick… i left school and walked up to the dance studio where my mom was.

i was 12, i had no reference points. i asked her why my brothers were going to hell if they were gay? what in the world? i was so confused!  everyone said they CHOSE to be gay?  my world was literally flipped over, i had no idea how christianity viewed homosexuals.  in my house we were immediately taught acceptance and that everyone is different and that my brothers attraction to men was no different than my attraction to men.  people are attracted to different types of people.  thats it, no big deal, no discussion, no confusion…. it was just as simple as you liking the color red and me the color blue.  so to be thrown in this pit of fire all the sudden, by my best friends in one of the most impressionable years of my life, absolutely ROCKED.MY.WORLD.    to hear someone say that my mother was a horrible parent, the mother that i absolutely adored and loved…. it shook me to the core.

this was the first time i had experienced what Christianity had to offer.  on occassion, i had been to church with one of my friends, and the entire time i had felt scared and totally out of the loop.  they were chanting these things of words i didnt know, talking in weird sentences using phrases and words that were unfamiliar, and there was all this business about kneeling and then sitting, and then standing, and then going up for communion…. which i did…. because i only knew to follow whatever they were doing. i felt on edge and alert the whole time, and felt so excluded because it seemed everyone knew what to do except me.

so, my two experiences with christianity up until that point had been…..  terrifying.  soul shaking, mind altering, gut sinking.

After the episode in home economics, i became a different person.  i no longer had any friends (although Jesse was still nice to me, but from a distance), and my locker was broken into and stuff thrown about the hall.  Kelly started a rumor that i fingered myself (i didnt know what masturbation even was at that point), and when i walked into the gym during a basketball game she got the entire bleachers – at least half the student body- to wave their fingers at me, and yelled out “HEY FINGERS! YOU CAN GO SIT OVER THERE!”  humiliation was her weapon, and she absolutely used it to perfection.

we had to move.  we left the state, and i never looked back.

i know i’m supposed to forgive and forget, and i understand why kayla and rebecca said the things they did.  they were using the teachings of their church to try and better themselves, mistakenly putting someone else down in the process.  they must have just gotten done with the chapter on homosexuals when they turned it on me.

but i have never been able to get over my anxiety around churches or christianity.  it is something i will likely never be able to be comfortable around, or in.  my defenses go up, and the 12 year old me wants to run in the other direction, away from the ‘mean girls’.  Logically, i KNOW that churches arent like that (at least most) and the people aren’t like that (at least most)  but i can not help how i feel.  it is what it is.  i literally feel more comfortable in a muslim moque or a jewish synagogue than in a christian church.  When i’m in a church, i feel like someone is going to quickly figure me out, be able to ‘see’ that i am not a christian, and see that i dont belong. they’re going to see that i have homosexuals in my family, and that my kids dont know who Jesus is.  i’m going to answer a question incorrectly, someone will point and shout “TRAITOR!”  and i will have to run for my life.

panic panic panic.  that is how i feel.

a friend of mine posted the article i wrote below, about Should Christian Women Wear Bikinis, on her blog to further the discussion. many people posted lots of amazing and well put comments, but one really got to me.  i’m going to share it anonymously:

I do believe as Christians we live to a standard set apart from what the general population (those who have not chosen, or choose not to call on Jesus as Lord). If there is no difference, we aren’t following God’s command to be set apart. We DO speak differently, act differently, dress differently, think differently, because CHRIST is our standard and not the world.

Oh my. maybe she didnt think i would read it. or maybe she didnt think there was anything wrong with how she said that.  i’m going to seriously ruffle some feathers here… ready? i’m going to just change the word “christians” to “white” and “the general population” to black, to utilize my same color analogy that i did in my previous article.  see if it reads slightly more different to you now:

I do believe as Whites we live to a standard set apart from what the Blacks (those who have not chosen, or choose not to call on Jesus as Lord). If there is no difference we aren’t following God’s command to be set apart. We DO speak differently, act differently, dress differently, think differently, because CHRIST is our standard and not the world.

do you catch my drift?  does it read………. slightly more…. segregated now? slightly more …. elitist?

If she means she speaks differently because she uses phrases from the bible in her daily speech then YES, she is different from me.  if she means she thinks differently than me because she is thinking about God and Jesus during the day, then yes, she is different from me.

but ACT differently?!  in what way?  please, go into further explanation.  I follow ‘christian’ morals, just like christians do.  i teach my children to follow them too.  we hold kindness and compassion above all else.

And DRESS DIFFERENTLY?!  is there a Christian clothing store i am not aware of?  am i shopping at the Agnostic clothing store without realizing it?  From what i know, non-believers and believers alike shop at Target….


phew. there i said it.  i do… because i LIKE being modest. not because Jesus tells me to, but because, ITS COMFORTABLE.  because i am a mother.  because i already have a husband and dont need to be parading around in front of other guys in a bikini.  because i’m a mom, and i dress appropriately for a woman of my age.  but if i feel like wearing a bikini, i damn well do it because i want to.

So please… do not evangelize while at the same time use terminology and phrases that exclude more than they include.  that is all that i ask.

we are all the same, we are all…. “God’s children”

Sophia’s Reply:

Lexia, can I just repeat once again how much I absolutely love you. I like to live my life like an open book and really don’t have any secrets hidden away. The one story that’s been a secret for a long time I’m about to share with you.

Thank you so much for opening up your heart and your past in sharing that. I happened to be at Esther’s house when you posted it and we read it together. We were both choked up and honestly speechless (and considering the fact that you know how big of chatterboxes Esther and I are, that’s saying a lot). My heart breaks for your 12 year old self when I read this. I want so badly to give her a hug and tell her it’s all going to be okay.

I wish I could say this never happens and is a fluke of an incident regarding Christianity, but I know it’s not. You’re not the first person to tell me they won’t have anything to do with evangelical Christians because they were once told they were going to burn in hell as a child. Rather than elaborate on how I disagree with this, I will provide you this link to a post I wrote in April that explains very well my thoughts on this type of behavior and theology.

I agree with you that we can’t help the way we feel. It’s out of our control. I was recently filling up my gas tank and somehow got a whiff of something that sent my mind to the streets of New York and for several seconds my brain relived dozens of small memories walking the sidewalks of the busy streets with cars racing by. Of course New York smells like gasoline, and I cannot control my brain to disassociate these thoughts. So for you to say that walking into a church (which considering you’re a wedding photographer, happens on a fairly regular basis) or meeting someone who says they’re a Christian makes you relive those emotions in your past, is completely understandable.

You said yourself you know you need to forgive them, and that is the point I wanted to touch on. As mentioned before, it’s so important to separate God/Jesus from people/religion. SUCH, SUCH, SUCH different things. They are the product of religion, and unfortunately the adults in their life didn’t educate them enough on loving others. They were trying to manipulate them into “good behavior” by scaring them with the consequences of “bad behavior.” But I would imagine that somewhere out there, the adult version of Kelly is sick to her stomach with regret knowing how wrong what she did was.

I know it’s not on as grand of a scale as what you experienced but I spent FIVE years reliving an emotion of guilt and regret EVERY SINGLE DAY until I confessed what I had done to a friend and she helped walk me through the emotions I was feeling and helped me to forgive myself. In the “Christian language” you will hear people say that we are not to judge “the world” for their actions and behaviors because they don’t know any better because they’re not Christians and God will be their judge. But Christian-to-Christian we are supposed to hold each other accountable and point out to our fellow-Christian when they are doing something wrong. (Please don’t misunderstand me, I do believe that if we are a loving friend and we care about them and see them walking down a dangerous path or making a mistake it is our responsibility to talk to them about it, but there are good and bad ways to approach these situations)

Another rule in the Christian religion is that Christians are not to date non-Christians. There is a verse about being “unequally yolked” that you will hear them talk about to explain why they teach this. In high school I held very steadfast to this rule and would not even allow myself to have a crush on a guy who wasn’t a Christian, which made my options very, very limited. There was one “Christian” guy at my school that everyone knew Sophia had a crush on for four years. But what’s really bad is that I really only had a crush on him freshman and some of sophomore year. Then because he didn’t go to the same kind of church I did and wasn’t being taught these crazy restrictions I was, he started to change. The next three years weren’t really a crush. They were an infatuation Sophia had with trying to make this “Christian” person realize the error of his ways and become more “Christian” like me so his life could be straight. (Side note: he was a super nice, great guy who was a completely normal teenager and had a good, solid head on his shoulders and really didn’t need changing)

My obsession with trying to fix him peeked towards the end of senior year when he was in a relationship with a girl who wasn’t Christian and I just saw sin all over this situation. By this time I actually had my eyes on a guy in my youth group and wasn’t even trying to date this guy because he wasn’t Christian enough for me anymore. But wanting him to realize the error of his ways, I created an anonymous email address and sent him an email telling him all the things I wanted to say about how sinful his relationship was. AHHHH!!! I get so mad at myself every single time I think about this! His reply was directed right at me because obviously he knew there was no one else in the world who would do this and he made it very clear that I was not welcome in his life anymore, there was no friendship to speak of, and he had no intentions of every acknowledging my presence in a room again because after years of him tolerating this attitude of mine I had gone way too far. I deserved every word in the email. I cried for hours that night. I knew what I had done was so wrong that I wouldn’t even tell anyone what happened. I was so embarrassed.

To be honest, I don’t even remember what happened in the months to follow, it’s all so cloudy. I remember writing a long apologetic email, but I don’t even remember if he read or replied to it. I remember a month or so after that writing up an apology letter again and printing it out and handing it to him one of the last couple days of high school. I don’t remember a word of what was in either one. Then I remember that when I went up to visit friends at his university he came and hung out with us, which means I guess we became friends again? And then I remember that I invited him to my wedding and he came.

But can I confess something else? On my wedding video there is footage of us dancing together and I remember that very clearly. I remember that I was still so uncomfortable with how much I hated myself and the four years of things I said and did that I dreaded dancing with him. I remember it lasted about 30 seconds and then I saw a friend’s 6 year old little boy and used him as my scapegoat to get out of this awkward moment for me. Then, even though we remained Facebook friends, we haven’t seen each other in person in over five years and until last month because of a random Facebook thread, had not even had a conversation. I intentionally ran away–no idea whether he did or not.

As I matured and realized how small of a box my brain lived in, how big and beautiful the world was, and how amazing all people of all walks of life were, I hated so much about who I once was. I was a Bible-thumping teenager. My friends from high school tell me that yes I was the “Christian-girl” in high school but I was very nice and overall pretty well liked and needed to stop worrying about what I said or did. I guess the reason it’s so much worse in my mind is that they don’t know what went through my brain at all times. They don’t know that on the first day of freshman year I wore a Christian t-shirt about Jesus being a lifeguard here to rescue us from hell and that I took my first step off the bus seeing the school as my mission field and that I was going to “save” everyone. And that for four years I saw the world as “them” and “us.” Christians who “got it” and everyone else who was sinful and needed to be taught the right way of living.

Please understand that my brain doesn’t operate this way anymore. Years ago I started praying that God would help me to see all people the way he sees them, and I still pray this very regularly. I see only beauty in every person I meet. I truly believe everyone is good because we were all created in the image of God, but in this world of good vs evil we are all constantly battling internally. Some good people make really, really bad decisions that hurt lots of people because somehow in their mind they convinced themselves they were doing the right thing. In the story I shared with you, I honestly believed I was doing the right thing, even though it may be the most judgmental decision I have ever made.

I shared this story with you for two reasons. One, you opened up a painful part of your past. I have held this story inside for a very,very long time so felt inspired to also open up a painful part of my past. And two, even though what they did was on such a grander scale, and much more public, the mentality behind it wasn’t that much different. “I know the right way of living and you don’t.” I thought maybe if I opened up and gave you a glimpse into what was possibly going through their mind, it may help you in the process of forgiving them. And something tells me that the adult versions of these girls probably feel the same guilt I did. I wish I was exaggerating when I tell you that I thought about that incident every. single. day. for five years. But I’m not.  That means I felt the emotion of remorse at least 1,825 times. It was a weight on my shoulders every day until I finally opened up and told the story to someone who knew us both and she walked me through my emotions. Just letting it out of the closet (even though I cried the entire time I was telling the story) brought so much healing. You have obviously moved on, but maybe they haven’t. So we should pray for them that they will see how painful their actions were and find a way to forgive themselves knowing that you moved on and turned out pretty damn awesome.

There is only one step left, and probably the hardest. You need to come to a place where you are genuinely thankful for that experience. As hard as it was to live through, it made you who you are. No matter how painful our pasts are, they develop our character. And much more growth comes from the hard times than the good. I believe you will have fully arrived when you can look at that memory and feel gratitude that it happened to you, you overcame it, and it taught you something. Even though it created fear in your life, I bet it taught you to never treat others like that. I bet it taught you the harm in being close-minded. I have no idea what you learned from it, but it certainly impacted your character.

Lexia, you very well may be the only person to read this 3,809 word post, but that’s okay. I wrote it only to share my experience with you like you did with me, and to get something off my chest that sat there way too long. A year ago I was able to finally move on. I pray that you too will figure out how to fully heal from the experience and be able to move on so it is no longer a weight you are carrying on your shoulders.

Love you girlie. And totally loving this conversation we’re having.

Today sent my brain on a lovely journey through the past and present of my spiritual life. An absolutely beautiful, lovely friend of mine posted authentically her impression of Christianity and the offensive aura Christians create for themselves. I tried to reply to her post and blogger said it was too many characters, so I decided to post it here since my reply was pretty much a blog post in and of itself anyway.

In reading my reply, I think it’s important to read what she wrote. She posted her thoughts on her personal blog that I don’t believe she shares publicly, so I didn’t feel comfortable posting a link to her blogpost. Therefore, this is going to be super long blog post because I’m going to put both her words here and my reply. I think it’s a beautiful discussion and has been such an integral part of my journey, that I thought I would share it on my blog:

Lexia’s post:

Should Christian Women Wear Bikinis.  

That’s the question thats going around apparently in the Christian world right now.  I watched the video, not because i care the least about whether christian women should or shouldnt wear bikinis it was because the title was SO.INCREDIBLY.IRITATING. it made steam come out of my ears.  i’m serious…. my windows are fogged up now.

why would this title bother me so much?  it is just the irony of it on so many levels, and i’m going to tell you about them now, because i just dont think i can keep this inside me any longer. i know that i will probably receive quite a bit of backlash on the subject, and i need you to know that i do not mean this to be offensive, but merely to awaken different perspectives, ones you may not have known were injurious.

and you have been injuring.  you’ve been injuring me, and many others like me, for a very.very.very.long.time.

Should Christian Women Wear Bikinis.  if you are a Christian, you will likely not find anything odd, strange, or hurtful in this question.  but, if you are not a Christian….  it absolutely excludes you.  why not instead: “Should Women Wear Bikinis” ?   the speaker begins by reading a scientific documentation about what happens to the male brain when shown pictures of men and women modestly dressed, and then dressed in bikinis.  It makes no mention of Christianity or for that matter any religion at all. So why the ‘Christian’ in the title?  I understand that it was meant to reach a Christian audience, that it was targeting a specific culture of people, and that it was read at a Christian event.  but isn’t that all the more reason then to not have to say the word “Christian” and exclude the rest of us?  You see, the title “Should Christian Women Wear Bikinis” insinuates that Christian women are more modest, more pure, and should not wear something that would attract the sexual attention of men.  but, the rest of you…. well… you can go on wearing bikinis because we know that you dont have “christian’ morals, that you love to attract that kind of sexual attention.  If the title would have just been “should women wear bikinis” it would have not been so offensive or exclusive.  and that really is the question at stake there…. isnt it?  Right?  just regular women… they dont HAVE to be christian, do they?

When people specify ‘christian’ in front of things, like the phrases: “Christian morals” and “christian women” it is meant to exclude.  this is not always a bad thing, and sometimes a very necessary specification.  for example, in the sentence: “christian teachings are different than islamic teachings”  and “Christian Churches are sometimes large and so are NY skyscrapers”  but they can also exclude in a very hurtful way as well “Christian women are good” –  it can insinuate that other women, are not.
This is not always the case…. i mean you can truly mean to just say that all christian women are good and not insinuate anything else, but imagine this scenario.   you are a red flower, amongst a sea of blue flowers.  someone comes in and says “blue flowers smell wonderful”.  you are the only red flower.   how does that make you feel?

yep.  thats what i thought.  if only they would have said “most blue flowers smell wonderful” or  even better “flowers smell wonderful”

Its so odd, because non-christians with no specific affiliation to any other organized religion are constantly being evangelized.  Christians preaching acceptance…  yet they are still using phrases that exclude.  “come join our church… it is so much better here.”  how are we not to feel like Christians are ‘holier than thou’?    i understand it is not meant to be hurtful,  they are so happy and they want me to be happy to by sharing what they have with me. i get that.  but it’s so annoying.

I am in a unique situation because many people view me as Christian.  i look like them, i raise my children with good morals, we sing wholesome songs, we watch wholesome TV, i dont swear (at least… very rarely), dont get drunk, am faithful to my husband, and kind to others.  people mistake me for Christian because i am not Jewish, nor Muslim, or any other religion, so the default is of course, Christian.  People ask me what church i belong to and i say that i dont belong to a church.  I say that i’ve looked into other religions but i have never made a connection with anything.  and the response i get (with a 90% accuracy rating) is:

“well… but you’re Christian…. right?  I mean, you believe in God…. right?”
like other religions dont believe in God.  and also that i would automatically still be Christian, even though i’m not specifically lutheran, or catholic, or protestant.
and if i were to say that i’m “agnostic”  (someone who has no specific faith) i am fair game for being evangelized.  OH! that poor lost soul!  we must SAVE HER!  i will pray for your soul…

I’ve had conversations with my cousin, Laura, who is a devout Christian.  she is one of the few Christians i can actually talk to about my ‘faith’ or lack thereof.  maybe its because i know she cant really cast me off… i am her cousin and we’re connected by blood. i mean, when i’m having a hard day or something and she says ‘i’m praying for you’ i know it’s not like she’s praying for my soul to be brought to God and repented for my sins of non-faith.  it’s her way of saying “hey, i’m thinking about you”  when i have a friend who is having a rough time i tell them i’m sending “love, hugs, and good energy”  which is pretty much exactly the same thing.

but when someone prays for my soul or wants to ‘save’ me…. OH.MY.GOD it makes me want to go into fits of satanic rage.  i have fantasies about pretending to be afflicted by the devil and spin my head 360 degrees and then vomit green goo all over their faces.  i fantasize being the young girl in The Excorcist and seeing their faces as i talk in a satanic voice.   i mean… there is nothing that irritates me more.

not chewing with your mouth open, not dry sand in between my toes, nothing.

Lastly….  you want to know what my opinion is on if women should wear bikinis or not?  I think it starts with teaching our young boys not to view women as tools or objects regardless of what they are wearing.  why are we avoiding the root of the cause and subjecting our girls and women to rules and regulations about their body and attire that dont have anything at all to do with their own SELF image, but the way others (men) see them?  Start at the root, then work up from there.  It starts with our boys, NOT our girls.

And, this is the comment I wanted to leave:

Hey Lexia,

I had a few thoughts after reading this that I wanted to share. Sorry if they come off discombobulated, I’m just writing them as they come to mind:

1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I know it’s out of frustration, but I really, really, really wish everyone lived so openly. I actually found it quite refreshing to read because it’s so authentic

2. Because I love honestly, I would appreciate it times a million if you shared with me personally anytime I pushed one of those sensitivity buttons. Ya know, a simple, “Sophia, I know you had the best of intentions when you said ____ but it offended me because ___” As hard as we try, none of us can see ourselves from the outside. Honest perspective about myself that I can’t see would be priceless.

3. The reason I said what I did in (2) is because I know I’m a work in progress. With the absolute best of intentions and with nothing but love for me, my parents brought me up in a traditional church setting. The discussion of “what should Christians do” and “what should Christians not do” was pumped into my brain by my youth pastors and I don’t think my parents realized it. My mom was furious when my little sister came home from Sunday school with worksheets on how to pray and one showed a little girl with her hands together and her eyes closed and next to it she had her eyes open and they had to draw a red circle with a slash through that one. She was so upset that people would teach her child that there is a procedure to praying as if God wasn’t listening if your eyes were open. Spending ages 10-18 in this environment influenced me during a very moldable time in my life. I developed a mentality that these teachings were equivalent with right vs wrong. I can look back at high school and think of times I said and did things with the best of intentions trying to help people do the “right” thing but I was so damaging and so hurtful with the results. It makes me sick to my stomach. I’ve had to forgive the 17 year old version of myself time and time again, and it was a hard process that took years. In my adulthoodhood I was able to walk out of the bubble I grew up in and experience the entire world as it truly was. I remember the epiphany when my brain finally broke open and I realized there is no “us” and “them.” I was 21. It’s horrible that it’s how my brain once behaved, and for so long. I’ve spent the last 4 years retraining my thought patterns, changing my vocabulary and seeing the world through a completely different lens. I have a mentor who is very spiritual but of no religious affiliation. He’s attended unitarian gatherings more than any other sect of religion. But he has been so helpful in helping to open my mind to the true intentions and teaching of Jesus. He will actually stop me in my tracks and say “why did you say that like that” or “why are you placing that assumption on them.” Therefore, going back to (2), I know I’m a work-in-progress in fully understanding what it means to love all people unconditionally and find my own set of moral beliefs to hold myself accountable to.

4) After I realized the ridiculous bubble that Christianity created for itself, I went through a phase of hatred. Now all of a sudden my new ideas and realizations were better than theirs. I had a hard heart towards traditional Christianity. That’s when my mentor pointed out to me that I actually had not truly changed if I felt that way. I was still seeing “us” and “them” I had just found a new happy place with the “them”s. I was actually no different. I was now placing my “holier than thou” mentality on the “holier than thous.” Haha. Such a mess! lol. I have arrived at a new found happy place where I can respect every person for where they are at in life’s journey. As you said, there are no us and thems. No “Christian women” and “non-Christian women.” haha! What a crazy world we live in that it demands labels. I now just see everyone as people. And some people’s journey is leading them through that stage. I feel empathetic for those people in their chairs of the video you posted. And empathetic for the man with the mic. Their intentions are so good, but they are still missing the big picture. Turn your frustration into “love, hugs and good energy” sending their way because they probably need it more than you do.

You are such an incredible woman, a positive influence on many and inspiration to us all. Don’t stop being exactly who you are. Your life’s journey is already awesome and it’s only going to get better from here. I feel so blessed that our journeys crossed paths and you’re now a part of my life. Thank you for being you.

Before I even realized Rob Bell was releasing another book, I saw my Facebook Newsfeed start filling up with anti-Rob Bell sentiments. Heretic. False Teacher. The comments were not nice. He has drastically influenced me spiritually so I was hesitant to jump on any band wagons. I watched the interviews and read a few, as well as several blog posts from “Christian” leaders. It was obvious that a lot of very religious people hated his book, but I wasn’t going to support it or criticize until I read it, so I immediately went to Amazon.com and had it shipped.

Over the last couple weeks I’ve heard that Christian bookstores have pulled all Rob Bell material calling him a heretic. A Methodist pastor in North Carolina was fired for posting on his Facebook that he supported the book. Wuh Wuh What?!?

If you’re reading this blog, but you aren’t familiar with the Rob Bell controversy, here’s the quick summary. He’s an influential pastor, speaker, author, and teacher whose books and DVDs have sold millions and millions of copies. Small groups have been using his Nooma series for teaching for years now. And then he came out with this book called Love Wins: A book about Heaven, Hell and the fate of every person who ever lived. What’s all the fuss about? Among other ideas he talks about in the book, the controversy is mainly over his Biblical interpretation that there is no Hell as it has been taught in the churches for the last couple hundred years.

So, what did I think of it? I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Probably my favorite Rob Bell book so far. This post is meant to explain why.

Reason Number 1: Above all else, it creates wonderful dialogue that the church needs to be having. It’s not okay to go your whole life believing what you’re told by others without asking yourself “Why do I believe what I believe?” Rob Bell introduces another perspective and in my opinion gives ample explanation as to where he derived these Biblical interpretations. Rather than condemn it, we should talk about it. I firmly believe in always being open-minded to new ideas.

Reason Number 2: What I have always, for years now, loved most about Rob Bell’s teaching is that he always goes back to the original texts. I don’t speak or read Hebrew, Aramaic or any other language for that matter. He has studied these words and the culture of the time. He always teaches what the original words meant, both literally and in the contexts of the cultural period in which they were written. As much as I love the teachings in the Bible, I understand that they are the result of translation and no matter how you slice and dice it, it’s not the same, especially two thousand years later. Jesus didn’t speak English and he certainly wasn’t American so it’s vitally important to understand what the writers of the original texts meant when they wrote those words. I’ve been fascinated by Rob’s previous teachings and they have seriously helped me understand even more about the God that I serve. So now, he does the same thing but about Hell. He talks about it in regards to what the words meant that were being used and in their cultural contexts. Why would I appreciate it any less this time around? NOT TO MENTION….there is no literal translation for the word hell? I’m not here to explain anything, read the book if you want to know what he said about it.

Reason Number 3: Rob Bell never de-emphasizes the power or love of God, nor the importance and significance of Jesus walking this earth and his death/resurrection. What he does is offer a different interpretation of hell. Ummm….I’m sorry but you can’t show me anywhere in the Bible that someone is condemned for what they believe will happen in the afterlife? In fact, no one has experienced it and come back! Why all this fuss when I don’t feel God cares what we think is going to happen in the afterlife? In fact, the Word repeatedly tells us that no one knows, can know nor is capable of understanding. Jesus said the greatest commandments were: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Rob never takes away from that.

What Rob does do in this book is put the emphasis on the here and now. Bringing Heaven to earth by loving with the unconditional love of Jesus. People do create their own hells. I have a wonderful friend whose son committed suicide a year and a half ago. He brought hell into the lives of the people he loved and they’ve had to experience it, the same with my friend’s father who took his own life. We see it all around us in this world. The world as it is now needs rescuing.

Rob did not introduce to me anything at all that I haven’t already believed for years. I’ve had many conversations with amazing people about these ideas, long before I knew Rob was planning on writing a book about it.

People are saying that if you say there is no hell then you are completely debunking your faith because then what did Jesus die for if not to rescue souls from eternal condemnation?

Sorry guys, but the more and more I grow in my faith, the more I read the teachings of Jesus and the more the Holy Spirit moves in my life, I see an amazing, loving God and it doesn’t add up. Since I began my journey of faith 13 years ago, I’ve never believed that of the 6 billion people on the planet, an unconditionally, loving God would send 4 billion of them to burn in a fire pit for eternity. I just continued to fall in love with the teachings of Jesus, share it with others, and believe that we serve a just God and the afterlife wasn’t for me to understand.

“So then Sophia, if you say you don’t believe God is going to send billions of people to rot in hell, what the point of Christianity? Why even share the Gospel? Isn’t that the point? That Jesus rescues you from hell?”

I do believe that in the spiritual realm there is a place that is absent of God. I believe that all that is good and all that is beautiful is of God. I believe in the spiritual battle of good vs evil and that evil must come from somewhere. Therefore, if a spiritual place exists that is absent of God, it would be absent of all that is beautiful and all that is good. I believe our souls go to an afterlife. I don’t believe that I, nor anyone living on earth, have the afterlife figured out and it’s not our place to decide who we think is going to experience what kind of afterlife.

Everything Jesus taught was always about the here and now. Loving others. Dieing to yourself. Giving abundantly. He talked about the riches in Heaven, but what he came to do was try and show us the amazing Love of God and how to live that in our own lives. People need rescuing. People are living without hope and need to know someone cares about them. If I really believed what I was taught by people growing up in church then this would be the message: Say this prayer to get your fire insurance so you don’t go to hell. Don’t be influenced by “the world” because it’s evil and bad. Everything is only going to get worse so we’re just waiting it out until we die so we can go to Heaven.

Well, I might as well, just pray those ABC’s and then go lock myself in a closet. It would be safer there.

The world is beautiful. I see beauty in every person that I meet. And because of the love of Jesus I have a message of hope to bring to the world. It’s not about rules. It’s not about a system. It’s not about a single prayer. Modern day Christianity is no different than the pharisees of Jesus’ day, so caught up in their rules they’re missing the bigger message. What does this mean for the great commission? Go tell the world of Jesus? It’s no less significant. People were attracted to Jesus and the early church because of the way they loved other people, accepted everyone no matter their baggage, brought hope into their lives, and sacrificed themselves. We have to show people that there is a better way of living than living for themselves. All around us people are dying inside living in their own hells.

Rob Bell’s book doesn’t say this, but my opinion is that the Hell preached about is a result of the First Great Awakening in the 1700’s. Christians discovered that through fear if you preached about hell it would make people attracted to Jesus. They had to be rescued. Choose Jesus or rot in hell. But Jesus never preached out of fear. People followed him and he attracted the multitudes because he healed people. He loved the unlovable. His final words were about forgiveness. I don’t think he wants us trying to scare people into being Christians.

I don’t have it down pat. I’m not the best “Christian” in the world, and I’m far from living like Jesus did. But I regularly pray for Him to show me how love everyone unconditionally and walk the path he destined for my life. If anything, Rob Bell’s book inspired me even more to realize the weight of the here and now and how to bring God’s love to earth.

As I said, I believe this book opens the door for great dialogue, and I believe everyone should always remain open-minded to new ideas. Therefore, I believe it’s important to share with you a blog written by someone who read the book and strongly disagreed with it. Here is an opposing view point. Here is an interview with Rob about the book. He actually starts talking around the 13:00 minute mark.

***I finished writing this post and was proof reading it when my cell phone rang. I got a phone call from a dear friend of mine who has lived in a hell of a marriage for almost five years. Bawling in tears she called me because today she left him and is sitting by herself in a hotel right now. We prayed. And I’ll continue praying for her. She’s walking in a hell right now that only Jesus can pull her out of.

[Edit: Adding the below a day after posting]

So, couple more links have come my way. Some comments have been posted on my wall and I wanted to share these additional links:

1. Rob Bell comes clean about what he actually believes. (a minute long)

2. Someone other than Rob Bell giving similar interpretations on hell, also with lots of scripture and history. Link here.

Million Miles

This is a book I read over the Christmas break that I highly recommend to everyone in my life. Meet Don Miller, the author.

(Not to mention, I paid full price in the book store for the hardcopy and you can now get it paperback here.)

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/20593341″>What story are you telling?</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/rhetorikcreative”>Rhetorik Creative</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

(I did share this because by posting this to my blog I become eligible for a free copy of the paperback. However, I did it with no hesitation because I’ve continuously been lending this book out to people in my life. I’d love a spare copy to circulate or give away, so I have no shame in promoting his book 😉 )