Spilling the Secret to Living Your Life Like a Boss

We are not sissies.

Or whiners.

We’re not quitters.

Or victims.

Here’s to doing the hard things in 2017.

I don’t really subscribe to the New Year’s resolution. In fact, I have vegetables in my refrigerator that will outlast most of the declarations of change blowing on the wind today.

But I am a sucker for a good starting point. The writer in me likes a rich, symbolic beginning: birthdays, anniversaries, the start of school or summer, the start of a new job…………and a new year.

So…..I’m wondering……can we make a collective commitment here for 2017? Something akin to a group resolution? Perhaps if we do it together, we might actually see it through to some sort of success. A support group for strong women who want to be stronger. If we could all persist in doing one thing that could make the most dramatic difference in our lives in the next twelve months, I think it would be this…

I will do the hard things.

This single determination will decide the impact of our 2017.

Hands down.

Without question.

So what is the landscape of “the hard things”? They’re the things that live on an incline. They’re hard to reach, and your inner naysayer will venomously suggest they require more than you have.

But you are stronger than you know. And you will only touch that by testing the bounds. By pushing you harder than you ever have.

It may look like getting healthy, losing weight, making better food choices, exercising self-discipline, running a 10K.

It may look like intentionally loving and serving a hard, distant spouse while allowing Jesus to fill your need to be loved and protected. It may look like choosing to forgive a cheating spouse for your own freedom and health. It may look like marriage counseling – with or without your spouse.

That’s the hard thing.

It may look like brave, honest, scary, big steps to beat an addiction. Maybe it’s checking yourself into rehab.

It may look like opening your mouth to someone you trust to say, “I’m drowning and I need help.” And then following through with difficult action steps.

It may be the heavy lifting of faith. Believing what we know when our feelings are screaming something different. Such unreliable wretches our feelings are.

If it feels like it may kill you, you’re probably on the right track.

It may be removing yourself from social media because the comparison and the falsehood devours your soul.

It may be doing the thing that terrifies you.

Maybe it’s a difficult confession. A secret that imprisons you with fear and lies. If I know anything, I know the haunt of the hidden. And the healing that is possible with its release.

It may be committing to get up and shower and dress every morning when the depression beckons you to stay in bed. To go outside and walk around the block for fresh air. To go to dinner with friends. When you feel like every step and every breath is a slogging through the mud of heaviness and hopelessness.

It may be making huge sacrifices to get out of debt.

It may be a dogged persistence to awaken at 5:30 to spend time with Jesus. And don’t dare tell me you can’t. We do what’s important to us. It will take a while to create that habit, so don’t cop out the first week with, “I just can’t.” Rubbish. You can do it, friend.

I will do the hard things.

And if we do great for ten days and suck on Day 11. Then we get our butts up on Day 12 and get back after it.

And if we suck for the whole month of April. Then we start again on May 1.

It’s really not how many days we win that will determine our success. It’s what we do the day after we fail that will. Failure is part of the process. Expect it. Use it. If we allow it to fuel our efforts, we will last for the long haul.

That’s the hard thing.

That’s how we change.

That’s how we LIVE.

We were made to do hard things, but we coddle our lazy, scared selves and call it self-preservation. We call it our right. We claim it as our luxury. Frightfully, we may even call it wisdom. When it’s deluded self-sabotage.

We were fashioned to do hard things.

We will dig deep, friends.

And there will be two vital principles we must espouse for success.

  1. I will not despise the day of small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10). This is the graveyard of dreams and goals. Look around; the headstones mark the heart’s desires of millions. In loud, showy, sparkly, sexy, BIG America, we have lost respect for the small, good thing. We think our “thing” is only valid if it impresses thousands, costs thousands, or helps thousands. Garbage. The new American Dream (big on fast, short on effort) is a societal construct not consistent with our inner fabric. Newly married couples should have houses furnished with hand-me-downs not debt. Folks trying to lose weight should celebrate two pounds a week. Folks following a dream have to wake up, believe, and work hard even when that twenty-four hours holds no signs of progress. We cannot languish in the days of small beginnings; we cannot underestimate the impact of simply sticking with a thing day after day.
  2. I will have a long-term goal with a short-term perspective. We must daily slay the temptation to feel overwhelmed. For instance, my body is vertically challenged and bent towards roundness. If I told myself, “You have to eat healthy and exercise for the rest of your life if you want to maintain a healthy weight,” I would want to quit before I started. That sounds daunting and terrible. But if I just have to do it today, that feels totally doable. I can exercise and eat healthy for one day. And then I wake up tomorrow and tell myself the same thing. Because a whole bunch of todays stapled together make a month. They make a new habit. They make a changed life.

Whatever your “thing” is for the next season of life, fight on, fierce one. I’m cheering you on all the way. I’m believing in you even when you’re not. I’ve got faith you can borrow. Because you were made for better things.

And we will not be selfish in the fight. We will not get up simply to make our lives more palatable. To be happier. To focus on me, me, me. We will use our strength to help and serve and love.

And, in the end, we will find ourselves happier, more whole, more fulfilled than we ever dreamed possible.

Here’s to doing the hard things in 2017.

For the Women with Walls Around Our Hearts. And for the Men Who Love Us.


There’s been an awfully lot of talk about a wall lately. And not the Pink Floyd variety. But there may be an unassailable wall much closer to home….regardless of where you live.

The one around a woman’s heart.


If there is one quality women value among each other, it’s strength. Women esteem strong women; they command our respect. There is an oft unspoken appreciation among our ilk for those who can master the juxtaposition of femininity and fortitude.

Unfortunately, we often mistake being well-fortified for being strong.

We take up brick masonry at an early age.

We are wall-builders.


This wall is our response to hurt. Father hurt, abuse, rejection, mother hurt, abandonment, loss, being devalued or objectified. Our little girl selves often lack the skills to respond to emotional trauma in a healthy way, so many of us withdraw behind a barricade camouflaged by a winning smile.

Over time our construction technologies become more sophisticated, catalyzed by more hurt until…

…there is no passage in or out.


I have been a woman living behind a wall of her own creation. I liked it there. It felt safe. Really, really safe. Until I realized I was trapped. And realized that “safe” is no way to live a life when it requires us to forfeit love and connection. Scary, scary love and connection.

So, fellas, where does that leave you and your barricaded beauty?

Well, I would send you to a military strategist who knows a little something about the destruction of walls and the capture of walled cities.

[Enter stage right, JOSHUA].

Joshua leads the Israelite army to defeat an impenetrable Jericho with the most unorthodox battle plan in the history of ever. But he is successful so we can probably learn a thing or two if we’re open to it.  I suggest reading the first six chapters of Joshua, which I’ve linked above, but I’ll give you a quick recap of what goes down:

  • Chapter 1: God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous four different times; He tells him to be careful to obey God’s Word, and He tells him to get ready to take the land God has already given him. God tells Joshua in advance that he’s going to win, but he has to go fight for the land and take possession of it.
  • Chapter 2: Joshua sends spies into Jericho to assess the vibe and gather intelligence.
  • Chapter 3: God tells His people to “consecrate” themselves because He’s about to do some crazy amazing stuff among them. Then He tells them to cross the Jordan River at flood stage. As soon as they step in, the water stands up in a heap for all the people to cross on dry land.
  • Chapter 4: While the crossing is happening, God tells them to do a curious thing. He has them remove stones from the middle of the riverbed and take them to the other side to build a monument. The monument is to remind them of that crazy amazing crossing God provided and is to be a tool for telling their children about God’s faithfulness.
  • Chapter 5: THEN. God has Joshua circumcise all the men. Fun times, man. And afterwards they celebrate the Passover.
  • Chapter 6: God downloads the battle plan to Joshua. They are to march around the city once each day for six days and then on the seventh they march seven times, give a long blast on the trumpets, yell, and the walls come tumbling down. They rush in, take the city, and God keeps His promise.

Following Joshua’s lead, this is where you come in…


Acknowledge that fighting for a woman’s heart is scary business.

God doesn’t keep reassuring Joshua in Chapter 1 to be encouraging; He does it, repeatedly, because Joshua is afraid. What if she rejects you? What if she thinks you’re dumb? What if she embarrasses you? Acknowledge that those concerns feel like real obstacles but don’t allow them to deter your efforts. What you stand to gain is far greater than what you may lose.

Preparation is as vital as execution. 

God tells Joshua to prepare to take the land He has given them. Dudes, this is a battle that will take time and thought and preparation. But, if the lady in question is your wife, there is no doubt her heart is a land the Lord has given you. But you may have to fight to take possession of it. Here are some ways you can prepare to win…

  1. Be a good listener. Be careful to obey God’s Word. The admonition God gives Joshua applies to you.
  2. Do your homework. Joshua sends the spies. You, too, need to assess the vibe and gather intelligence about your lady. Be smart.
  3. Believe. Allow God to grow your faith. The crossing of the Jordan is to remind Joshua and his men that God can do what He says He can do, but they have to exercise big faith – before the battle – to believe God will come through.
  4. Clean up. Consecrate yourself. God tells the army to cleanse themselves before Him, so He can work through them. “Consecrate” means to be set apart for a special task. Guys, the state of your own house is directly related to God’s willingness to work through you. To shoot straight, if you’re looking at porn or blatantly indulging other sin, you stand little to no chance of winning her heart. Even if she is totally unaware of your choices.
  5. Trim down. Aggressively cut away what He says to get rid of. The significance of circumcision was that God’s people would be set apart, different, than other unbelieving people. This “cutting away” symbolized the removal of what was unnecessary. Honestly ask yourself, “What is God saying I need to remove from my life?” It may be a friend, an attitude, a hobby that detracts from your family, an addiction, an ambition or work schedule that makes you absent.
  6. Celebrate good times; C’mon. Remember God’s provision and faithfulness along the way. This is the point of the stones from the Jordan’s riverbed and the celebration of Passover. Before we have to take a giant step of faith, our courage is bolstered by remembering all the ways God has provided and kept His promises in the past. Intentionally, remind yourself and commemorate God’s faithfulness to you personally as you diligently pursue the heart of your gal.


Follow the battle plan.

Do what He says. Because He will tell you how to crumble the wall. A walled city was extremely difficult to conquer; it usually took a long time. The attacker would often cut the supply of provisions to the city and wait to starve out the inhabitants. And this usually happened with great casualty to the outside force. That’s not how this went for Joshua. He conquered the city in record time with what, by all standards, was a foolish and silly plan. He will tell you how to dismantle the wall around your lady’s heart, but you have to be willing to follow the plan. Even if it seems foolish and silly and ill-advised.

And if all of this feels too daunting and heavy, according to John Eldridge, this is the kind of stuff you were made for. In his book, Wild at Heart, he asserts men are built with three desires; men want a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. He and his wife, Stasi, also attribute three innate desires to women; women want to be fought for, to share an adventure, and a beauty to unveil.


Culture likes to harp on the differences between men and women, baiting a continual gender battle. However, I am struck by the complementary nature of our desires; in this I see a divine design, an image of how we are meant to thrive in relationship with each other.

So, good fellow, you were made for this.


…and may the walls come tumbling down.

If you’d like to read more, you can check out a post about my time behind the wall, my thoughts on how a woman wants to be pursued, and the most popular post on our blog, Passive Men and Overbearing Women.

Dads, What We Hope You Teach Your Sons…

skating father son

“We did role plays in Health today, and they were hilarious, ” Carson shared at dinner.

“Aren’t you studying Sex Ed in Health?”



She nonchalantly recounted the content while my eyes bugged out of my very head. These conversational role plays that still freaked me out.

“Well, we may homeschool Sex Ed.”

“You can’t do that!”

“Of course I can.”

“Mom, I know you’re not a fan but think about Thomas, whose parents will never teach him anything about sex.”

“Well, I have a teaching degree; I’ll volunteer to teach it.”

“Yeah, and I have a lot of experience having sex, so I’ll volunteer too! ” Chris pipes in.

Both girls scream, throw their hands over their ears, and run from the table.


I am a girl out of season.

Chris is a girl daddy.

I mama women-children.

We know girls.

Dads, one day your sons may be part of our family. We think of you often and hope things are going swimmingly on your end.

We want you to know we are giving it our concerted effort to teach our girls compassion and adventure and purity and boldness. Courage and love, responsibility and grace.

We teach them about the College Football Playoff Selection Committee (highlighting Condoleezza Rice’s participation, of course) and watch as a family as the top teams are announced each week during the season. Our girls can drive a boat, mow the grass, protect the seasoning on a cast iron frying pan, and bake a chocolate chip cookie just shy of done.

We teach them about sex and finances and injustice and hard work. We encourage their voice and questions, and we don’t airbrush our marriage to make reality more palatable. They know we squeaked through our hardest season, that we went to counseling, that I took “stable pills” (an anti-depressant) for a while (and they were glad for it, mind you!).

Most of all we’re pretty crazy about a well-known carpenter, and we hope they notice him building a messy masterpiece of our lives. And they allow him to do the same in theirs.

We’re trying, man. We know she may sit at your table for Thanksgiving dinner, and – if so – we want her to be a permanent fixture there, to be a rich blessing to your family.

If we were allowed to whisper into your ear during this formative time, we’d champion these ideals…

dad and son

  • Talk real talk about hard stuff. About failure. Your failures. Your struggles. The pressures of being the provider. The weight of being the leader. The ubiquitous measuring-stick that always asks, “Do I have what it takes?” Talk to him about man things. And share how you navigate those difficulties. He needs you to be a guide in his life, not a superhero in his mind.
  • Overtly teach him that sex is for marriage and worth the wait. Not because it’s a conservative mainstay or because it’s the responsible thing to say. But because you believe it. This is no hollow assertion based on a fairytale ideal. My past sexual indiscretions have borne lasting consequences in my marriage – emotional, mental, relational. That’s just how the thing works. Casual sex is not a rite of passage; it’s an expensive withdrawal from the marriage bed, and when we accept (or worse, promote) the “Boys will be boys” platitude, we act as enemies of their future marriages. It’s not unmanly to wait; it’s the most noble gift a man can give his bride. We want that for our daughters.
  • Be a man who values women. All women. Without ever articulating one word, you will teach your son 1) what you love, 2) what you think about women, 3) what you feel about marriage. If I could beg one thing of all men, it would be for you to take up the fight against the sexual abuse and exploitation of women. However, for the purposes of this conversation, I would just ask that you live the belief that EVERY woman and EVERY girl is valuable and to be respected. Sometimes the danger here is that your words and choices don’t match. Words that take the high road are proven fraudulent by choices that exploit and denigrate. And – as a bonus – if you want to insist he open doors and pull out chairs and give up his seat to a woman on a crowded subway, I won’t be mad about it. I’ll worry about making him an activist later… 🙂
  • Make him a lifelong adventurer.  Do dangerous dude things that are exhilarating and challenging. We believe the desire to burn stuff and blow things up and climb stuff and shoot stuff is innate to man-ness. As much a cord of his makeup as the network of vessels that keep him alive. Responsibility can gradually tug on slack in that strand and over time completely unravel his sense of adventure. We don’t want that for him. Boredom in marriage is dangerous, so let’s instill in our people a wonder and a courage and an appreciation for adventuring together.
  • Demonstrate leadership as a posture not a position. A leader who believes his authority comes from his position as the leader is quite susceptible to tyranny. A leader who recognizes his position as an opportunity to serve and help and nurture and foster has influence over many glad followers.
  • Be certain he knows what you love most. This is the easiest of them all. Without a doubt he will know the answer. If a third party were to ask, “What does your dad love most?” he will have a response. We hope his reply is about that well-known carpenter who’s so important to us…


Thank you for doing the good work of dadding. What a weight to steward……parenting today affects marriages tomorrow! We feel ya, man. Rock the next decade of your father business, and we look forward to fighting over grandchildren and family holidays one day down the road.

Just kidding…

Or not so much.

[ Images: Filter CollectiveGil, and Steve Simmonds]

7 Ways to Effectively Pursue Your Valentine

will you be my valentine

This post was originally published for Valentine’s Day 2015. Enjoy!

I was struggling, pounding it out about a mile and a half in. Sweat stinging my eyes and concrete blocks for feet. My short snatches of breath weren’t cutting it, and then the worst of the worst happened on a difficult run…a slow song came up on the playlist.  NOOOOOOOO! I love me some “Free” by Zac Brown, but just NOOOOOOOOOO! I had been meaning to edit the playlist but only remembered that tidbit in this very situation. Where was my Jerry Reed with some “East Bound and Down”? Or Ed with “Sing”? Though I hate to expend any energy on music wrangling while running, this was an emergent circumstance. When I looked down to scroll through the playlist, I had received a text from my husband. And a big ‘ole ginormous smile broke out across my red splotchy face…he sent me flowers WHILE I was running. And, of course, I screenshot it because that was the coolest thing ever. And, of course, I went on to beast the rest of my run…maybe…

flower text

The past three years have been the most difficult of our sixteen year marriage; if you’re married long enough the hard years come. I know…I thought we were different too. But we aren’t. We spent most of last year in counseling, and you’ll never find greater advocates for marriage counseling than these two Cawthons right here. It may seem a little late in the game, but we learned how to love each other well. Primarily by loving Jesus more.

During this season, Chris and I have spent a lot of time studying how God loves, how he pursues, how he forgives, how he extends grace, and with his help we’re applying that to our relationship the best two jacked-up people know how to do. So, in the interest of saving you $100, some couch time, and a box of Kleenex, here’s what I’ve learned about how I (and I think it’s safe to generalize to most gals – single or married) want to be pursued.

A girl wants to be pursued…

1) With beauty. Think about how God dazzles by the ocean, with a sunset, in the mountains, through the warmth of sunshine. We are inherently wired to respond to beauty in a positive way, so intentionally add some beauty to the mix.

2) With purity. God never pursues our hearts because he wants anything from us. A woman has a sensitive radar for motives. If we ever feel “buttered up” as part of a goal – sex or any other ambition – your efforts are counterproductive. They make us feel cheap not cherished.

3) By a leader. God is the example of a strong, powerful, selfless “man” who leads with love. And, men, you need to know that a woman’s heart hungers to be led well. As John and Stasi Eldredge correctly assert in Captivating, even strong women don’t fear a man’s strength if she is confident he is a good man. According to little ole’ me, a man desiring to pursue as a leader must be pursuing Jesus at least as much or more than his lady is. I can get under that leadership all day long.

4) Personally. God doesn’t go after your heart in the same way he goes after mine. He knows me perfectly and he knows you perfectly, and he displays that by how he gets our attention. Driving the Jeep, with the top down and doors off, on a summer night, he woos me with a clear sky populated with stars aplenty and a big, bright moon. He may stir your affections for himself in a completely different way. Effective pursuit demonstrates how well you know your person, and we can just make peace with the fact…DETAILS MATTER.

5) Creatively. God employs an endless repertoire of creative pursuit.  He’s not the God of rut and routine, just look at the variety in everything he ever created. We can all feel challenged by his lead to love more creatively.

6) With security. Dudes, you can never overestimate the importance of emotional and physical safety to a woman. Throughout Scripture, God clearly identifies himself as our safe place. A woman looks for security in a relationship and assurance that she can let her guard down and not be intentionally hurt.

7) Extravagantly. God is clearly the master of grand gestures. So when I think of extravagant pursuit, I’m not at all talking about dollars. I’m talking about throwing the tried and trues out the window and going with a risky BIG idea. For instance, a picnic on the beach at sunset is extravagant to me…while costing less than dinner and a movie.

beach sunset

Ladies in the house, agree or disagree? And, fellas, what should we know about how to be “caught” and how to love our guys well? I can’t wait to hear your perspective! Don’t forget to enter the Tenacious Grace Valentine’s Day Giveaway; three (3) winners will be announced tomorrow!

[Images: Michael Nugent, Sam Petherbridge]

Do You & Your Valentine Still Have “It”?


We had it.

And then we didn’t.

And now we do.

Our memoir.

Or maybe our derelict haiku.

Today marks the twentieth year of our first date. I recall the duds for the occasion…don’t even worry about that black velvet collar on my washed denim vest. Stay focused, friend.

I, a first-year high school English teacher in Anderson, lived alone in an apartment complex for seniors. There was a premium on cheap and safe. To the tune of $375/month.

Pearl, one of my downstairs neighbors, lay in wait for stirrings. She’d station herself by the door and secure me in an endless web of chatter. She could masterfully string together seventy-five topics of conversation without permitting one exit opportunity. Flo, on the contrary, was not one for interaction but she loved the shows at a generous volume.

Now who’s distracted? Back to the date…

When he was just around the corner, Chris phoned to clarify directions. I readied for the imminent knock at the door.

An hour and a half later, he had yet to arrive.

Baffled when there was a rap, I answered with curiosity tinted by annoyance. Just after his call, he overlooked a stop sign, careening into a jalopy truck that disassembled upon impact, and totaled his own car. He ambled to my apartment once the fanfare was done.

The date still happened; it just included a stop at your local seedy tow shop.


A lot of life happens in twenty years. A hearty helping of belly laughter. A lot of adventure. A lot of sobbing. A lot of anger. A lot of change. Growth. Pain. Arguments. Triumphs. Blessings. Losses. Failures. Dreams. Travels.

That’s a lot of wear and tear on a duo.

Somewhere along the trip, life can get really serious and love can become a lot less fun. The whole lot of it can feel like a suffocating mass of obligation and duty. Like a wet blanket, the weight of responsibility can smother affection. Haven’t you ever noticed? Anything we feel we have to do, we no longer want to.

I hope that hasn’t been your experience, but it has been ours.

We achiever bees drove hard in our marriage to win, to climb, to have, to do and saddled ourselves with a current of competition and tension that decimated our relationship. We found ourselves relationally bankrupt and threadbare. We depleted “it.”

And, like many situations, a crisis demanded change – one way or the other. Sometimes you’ve got to take the cushions off the couch to find the missing socks and $6.43 in change, if you know what I mean.

We did.

And we found “it” again. Stella’s got her groove back, and we are grateful.

laughing couple

The Sure Sign You Still Have “It”

You could possibly find ninety-one different “sure signs” your relationship is healthy, but I have one as my yardstick. Having had it, lost it, and found it again, there is a common denominator that remains timeless, seasonless, ageless. And it’s laughter. Do you laugh together? Are you having fun together?

Fun is not optional.

Laughter is goofy and intimate and sexy all at once.

There is a life current to a relationship that’s either feeding power to the thing or not. It’s the whole light bulb/battery/circuit mechanism that most of us relied on our dude lab partners to wire correctly. When the circuit is complete, the bulb shines. To me, laughter is the light bulb illuminated. It’s the evidence that this thing is working like it should.

And we have to be watchful that duty doesn’t sit its overweight backside on our mirth and squash it to death. Embrace silly. Give way to an impromptu family dance party while preparing dinner. Do something together neither of you have ever done before. Go on a paintball date. Hang twinkly lights on your back porch. Cook dinner on the fire pit. Court the frivolous.

Life is serious and dark and hard and heavy enough on its own; rebel with a good pee-in-your-pants chortle every now and then. Do not go gentle into that good night…

No worries, the serious and dark and hard and heavy will still be there, but we have permission to stop waiting on it like a watched pot.

I hope you laugh. And keep laughing.


What If You’ve Lost “It”?

Now what? What do you do if, in the quiet place of your heart, you know “it” is gone? Let me tell you a story…

There was a popular and well-to-do young man, around thirty years-old, from a respected family. By all indications, the odds of life were in his favor and his future was quite promising. He was thick with friends and really wanted for little. Until he became sick. His condition continued to worsen quickly, and he succumbed to his illness, much to the horror and despair of all who knew him. The injustice of his untimely death wrought mourning throughout the whole community.

The End.

Roll credits.

Except not.

Four days later, having missed the funeral, a close friend arrived in town to be with the grieving family. He wept over the death of his friend.

And then He gave him back what he had lost.

His people called him Lazarus.

You don’t get more dead than four days dead. In the world’s eyes a situation doesn’t get more hopeless than death.

But Jesus.

He said, before He went to Bethany to Lazarus, “This sickness will not end in death.” But Lazarus did die. Death did happen.

It just didn’t end there.

He’s got an impressive track record for bringing dead things back to life. No other relationship expert can offer that.

So, as Valentine’s Day approaches – perhaps with a measure of dread and ambivalence – hear me say…

My marriage was dead.

But Jesus.

And it’s not too late. Your marriage may be four days dead.



“This sickness will not end in death.”

He can do it.

Later this week I’ll repost last year’s Valentine’s article – “7 Ways to Effectively Pursue Your Valentine,” and make sure you enter our Valentine’s Giveaway on the Tenacious Grace FB page. Happy Valentine’s Week, friends!

[Image: Jackie Nell, Daniel Condurachi, Seth Lemmons]