The tale of the princess and her rocks


I had an amazing weekend at our women’s retreat. I had meaningful and rich moments with some treasured women in my life. The theme was about being “royal princesses of the King” which at first I thought was cheesy but actually, ended up getting a lot out of it.

Of course, I come home and am finding myself this morning stressed to the max about finances, things that need to get done and the demanding needs of my family. It seems getting away from it all only helps until you have to jump right back in to what you were getting away from. Then the personal battle of choosing to not deal with my stress and anxiety the “same old way” starts all over again.

One of the major highlights of the weekend was in a workshop I was honored to lead with the ladies. I was overwhelmed and blessed by how women put a voice of courage and hope to their own stories with only some river rocks and sharpies. Amazing things can happen when you allow yourself some quiet and creative time. We were given the task to take three rocks and draw pictures or words to symbolize who we have been, who we are today, and who we hope to be.

I pictured mine above showing that I have been someone who felt out of place and like she never really “fit” in anywhere….hiding behind a wall of laughter for safety. Being “the funny” girl had always saved me. Laughing at myself always spared me from being attacked but also kept me from having to face the truth about myself. The next rock shows me today, trying to get a good stance on my fallen walls and rubble. Exposed but REAL. Trying to stand on the truth no matter how scary or ugly. My final rock showing the hope of freedom. I want to be woman who is not bound by the chains that hold me back from being who I’m meant to be. The TRUE me. Not the me I manufacture to fit in.

The “rocks” that were shared amongst the women were REAL and raw and honest. Beautiful. Worthless rocks from my driveway were transformed into invaluable jewels of truth in the hands of royal princesses of the King of Kings.

My prayer is that we would all put them somewhere where we could see them daily as a reminder of where we’ve been and where we are going. Sometimes it’s hard to stay the course but staying where we’ve been is not an option.

“What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the REAL you?”
– Luke 9:25 (MSG


Gettin real

I stumbled upon a great read this morning from the blog of one of my new favorite writers, Rachel Held Evans. This article is brilliant because you could actually take each instance of the use of the word “alcohol” and replace it with “food” and it could have easily been an interview with me. I will be so bold to say that I think ALL human beings practice some form of numbing or coping, some of us just seem to take it to the extreme and end up dealing with addictions. Perhaps all of us could benefit from some form of the 12 steps, at least in theory. The formula could definitely be applied to churches. The steps deal HONESTLY with denial, confessions, forgiveness, reconciliations, righting of wrongs, helping others, moving forward. Who couldn’t use a dose of that?

One of the greatest things that I have discovered in my recovery group on Tuesday nights is simplistic and obvious. People just want to be heard. The “meetings” that we attend are rich because people can share and relate to each other. There is so much power in honesty. I have found that most of the ladies in my group are eager to offer their points of view, their pitfalls, and their triumphs. It’s actually a nice picture of what real community should look like within the faith community. True vulnerability without judgement. Real talk about real issues. If I’m being honest, it looks a lot like how I hope the world of women’s ministry might look like someday. I hate the way we gather as women within the church. It feels so cheesy sometimes. Forced. Put on. I don’t want to go on a women’s retreat to have some woman (shamefully plugging her books and websites) telling me I’m precious. Babies are precious. Baskets of puppies are precious. It’s condescending. I don’t want to hear about the spiritual gift of gardening. I don’t want to hear about The 5 steps to a hospitable dinner party. I want to get REAL. I want my faith to grow and my life be refreshed. I want to have honest and true friendships with the women in my life. That means we might get ugly and share ugly things because we hoard ugliness in our hearts instead of dealing with it, out of fear that someone won’t see us as “precious” and put together and conquering everything. I want the performances in church to end and for the REAL truths shared out of our hearts…in the open, gentle and loving light of God to set us free and change our lives.


Wow. Sorry for the passionate detour.

Please take a few minutes to check out this interview. It’s really good!

The sisterhood of the ever-changing status update

“We’re connected as women. It’s like a spiderweb. If one part of that web vibrates, if there’s trouble, we all know it. But most of the time we’re all too scared, or selfish, or insecure to help. But if we don’t help each other, who will?” – Sarah Addison Ellen from “The Peach Keeper”

Gosh dang it, I’m surrounded by incredible women!

That seems so hokey seeing it typed out like that but that was exactly the cry of my heart this morning when receiving an awesome text of support from a dear friend. Tons of sister love and messages flowing this morning. Emails and tagging me with encouraging articles showing how invested they are in me and my success. Lots of you checking in with me over the past couple of weeks and making time to talk with me and share this burden with me.

So often I complain about the woes of social media upon my generation of women. The pressure of “presenting” a sparkling veneer, worthy of being “pinned” and feeling like always coming up short. It can feel like a real epidemic sometimes! But AWESOME things are happening too!

Women sharing hilarious hiccups from their crazy days of work and mothering and wifedom. Or navigating through days filled with exams, finals, work schedules, school schedules, homework and bill paying all while having to answer awkward questions of when they plan on getting married and having babies?!?!
Literally doing it ALL…while causing us to chuckle with each other and not take it all so seriously. That is one thing I love about social media. It knits us together daily in a way we wouldn’t be otherwise.
Scrolling through my fb newsfeed and seeing beautiful things that are being created, accomplished by my friends. Women conquering the beasts and dragons in their lives. Encouraging each other moment by moment on the virtual “web”. Sharing talents and triumphs abundantly. Poetry and photography and art. Goal setting and goal reaching. Inspiring.
I’m humbled.

I am hungry each day to find an update from a sister friend of mine who gave birth recently to a beautiful baby boy who has to remain in the NICU for a while. Her strength and faith is contagious. I’m sure she doesn’t feel this way, but the strength she’s had for her baby and her other babies waiting at home is nothing short of amazing. She has had to be courageous and charge through her entire pregnancy and delivery and remains faithful now that he’s here and enduring surgeries. I am humbled by her unbroken spirit, even though I’m sure she has felt broken, she has been an example of trusting in God who holds us together.

I have a dear friend who had to move far away. I know that being so far from home has left her feeling lonely. Sometimes depressed and unmotivated. But I also see all the ways that she is thriving! The ways she is rising above and tackling her obstacles. I’m very proud of her to be so brave even though she feels lost. She is not alone. We all get to check in constantly thanks to the marvels of modern communication.

All of my sisters are an example of badassery. My baby sister is graduating from high school (4.0 student!) in a couple weeks and has her whole life ahead of her, unblemished and wild with possibilities. My other sisters both work full time while in college full time. One of them, living in a big ol’ ugly, urban city by herself! Where she chooses to ride her bike everywhere and act like a pioneer of the Wild West. Traveling, playing music, making friends, living well.
I’m so proud of them!

Friends that are pregnant, growing life. Friends that are preparing to send their babies out into the real world after preparing them for 18 or so years. Real women, raising children, planning events and parties and gatherings. Planting gardens. Keeping houses. Creating meals. Supporting many. Loving those whom at times are difficult to love. Sharing our hearts and struggles and pains. All of us dreaming of what the future will unfold.

I’m so proud to call all,of you my friends.
My sisters.
Now lets go run the world.

The good wife

“For your unfailing love is higher than the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.”
(Psalms 108:4 NLT)

At this time last year I was still committed to home daycare with no end in sight. I had a daily roster of 5 kids plus my own. My daily mantra was just get through till nap time. The constant day in and day out routine took a toll; on my house and my heart. When I felt weary I just kept telling myself to dig in deeper…die to my selfish desires and just power through. After all, I was being a good Christian wife! I was home, contributing to the finances in a way that would leave me still able to run my household smoothly and efficiently.
Except for it never really worked out that way. Most days I couldn’t even go upstairs at ALL until after the kids had all gone home. The laundry just NEVER seems done in my house, even now. Everything would just pile up. The cleaning that I scheduled myself to do on certain days ( that was beyond the daily dishes/upkeep I was doing constantly) more likely was saved for the weekends if at all. I would scour Pinterest on how to organize and manage my home. I ordered multiple e-books on the matter that glorified being the “keeper of the home” and usually the Proverbs 31 woman. I chatted with friends about how to budget, menu plan, organize, schedule, budget, menu plan, organize, schedule, budget, menu plan, organize…you get the picture. Always coming up short in the expectations I was setting for myself, always left feeling like I wanted more which always led to feeling so guilty. Didn’t I have it all?

Having become a Christian when I was 17 and not being raised in a Christian home, I had ( and STILL HAVE) a strong desire to create a kind of atmosphere in my home that is centered on faith and family. I want to get it right. Right? I have found that at retreats and women’s ministry events I feel out of place. Like an imposter. Even in the women’s section at Christian bookstores it seems specifically geared toward a certain kind of woman. The books are jacketed with covers of pastel colors and flowers. Paisley prints and pictures of warm steaming coffee mugs. So with a definite picture in my head of what a “right” Christian woman should be, I set out to train myself and make
myself fit the mold. Ultimately it led to why I even started this blog to begin with ( read my first post here: ).
Trying to be someone else led to depression. Self loathing and a downward spiral of continual failure.

There are lots of women who thrive in these ways and are blessed by that kind of stuff, but I am not the pastel, paisley mommy stitching to the tune of a hymn.
I am tattooed. I like listening to everything from hard core to rap. I say bad words sometimes. Most times. Sometimes I get mad. Blurred vision, italian rage, crazy mad!
And sad.
And selfish.
I have real life, ugly issues to deal with like lust, temptation, and gossip. Gluttony.
Slavery to my food addiction.
All unflattering to talk about openly…certainly not pretty and feminine. Certainly not gracing the covers of any books at the Christian bookstore.

Could it be that maybe God knows this and loves me anyway? That His love really is unfailing and stretches further and further beyond what I could ever imagine? That His faithfulness reaches past all my attempts and fitting a mold and sets me free to just be me. His creation? His daughter.

I’m set to go to a spring retreat this weekend with the ladies from my church. I’m hoping to have a great time and learn something new. I am going to have a good attitude and an open mind…but I’m not going to allow myself to fall into the trap of feeling “less than” because I don’t fit a mold.

I am so grateful that my life looks different now than it did a year ago. God has softened my heart on a lot of issues and is stretching me in many more ways than I could have guessed. For the first time in my grown up life I feel good about myself and confident in who God created me to be. Even with a messy house.

Mandi Holden

Believe. Begin. Persist

>>New adventure<<



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