The One After The Coffee Date.


“Little One? You weren’t abandoned in this place to be forgotten — you were placed in this place to be found.That place that may feel like abandonment —- is placement. And what may have feel like being thrown away — is about being placed because a way is coming always.” -Ann Voskamp

Two Saturdays ago, I’d just dyed my hair because it was something to do. I climbed into my car and drove down all the old roads, past a home we were under the impression would someday be ours. It was the only hope we had. I’d go into detail, but you’d think I’m insane. And so, I drove by that house…only to see a sign that said: Under contract. That’s it. All it took to propel me into a rage of depression and abandonment, cursing God because I knew how much it meant to my dad. “Why do you do this to him, God? What did he ever do but try to live in a world that doesn’t even want him? What did he ever do but try to have a friend? Pay his bills? Be loved? And you take it all away. Can’t even do one simple thing to make the last seasons of his life happy and fulfilling.” I was angry.

I did what I always do when I’m angry, sad, too much on my mind, etc: I took a drive. Something about winding roads lined with trees and rolling hills breathes life back into me. And so I loaded my cat, Schmidt, into my old ’99 and took off. I was just passing an old road where someone I used to have a crush on used to live and it only took 1/2 mile to hit me: I’m driving down a road alone–like, really alone–with bright, red lipstick and red hair and A CAT and…there’s not one thing about me that’s attractive. Too different, too quirky, too awkward, too unseen. Or at least that’s what the lies say, what the lies want me to believe about myself.

Too different, too quirky, too awkward, too unseen. Or at least that’s what the lies say, what the lies want me to believe about myself.

And in that moment, it occurred to me that if I were to ever see the boy who used to live at the end of the road…he’d look at me like I was the strangest person on the planet. And it seemed too much to bear, in that moment, because…7 years ago, he was supposed to see me. Someone was supposed to see me by now. All I’m ever seen as is odd or awkward or unusual or a pushover and sometimes, reader, it’s tough.

So I wrote about it. My last blog post was written out of bitterness, anger, confusion, and hurt and somehow, I’m not sorry. Because if that post resonates with at least one person, it’s worth the vulnerability. I posted it, however, not knowing how many people would reach out or message the post to a friend, asking them to pray for me. It wasn’t what I anticipated at all.

So, reader. Here’s where I’m at in 4 bullet points (for your convenience 😉

-God is still on the sidelines because I have realized that I truly don’t know how to let Him in.

-I still hear Him. And I know He wants me to let Him in. I know it. And I know I’m not forgotten, even if it still stings.

-I now recognize the importance of dealing with issues, rather than bottling them up. They will end up on the internet, if you’re anything like me. EMOTIVE ELLA.

-Free will is a thing. I am a human being. And I get to choose to walk in darkness or in light. I get to choose that. It’s a gift, but it’s sticky and messy and confusing. But still a gift. And salvation doesn’t look like God chasing me down and loudly proclaiming that I’m going the wrong way. Salvation is a quiet thing and for so long I’ve believed it needs to be loud and bold for it to be relevant.

Reader, there’s not always a 1-2 step process. Life doesn’t always reflect the cause-effect model and that’s okay. We’re all human and we all have things about our pasts that will always sting a little. But don’t stay in the hurt. Make room to let new things in. If it hurts, pay attention to it.  Tell someone, do something. Heck, post it on the internet.

But no matter what–no matter where you’re at, you’re never alone and this is never the end.

 

 

 

Coffee Date 2: The One With All The Bitter


I’m sorry to say it, but if we were on a coffee date today…I’d be pretty selfish. Either we’d both know that the coffee date existed because I needed you or I’d pretend I didn’t need you and be nonchalantly nodding along to every word you said. I’d be sipping a flat white with skim milk, new red hair and yes, that Hebrew word would be once again sharpied onto my left wrist.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you about the last few days. I’d tell you what happens when the leaves fall…how all the life that’s in me just disappears. And it leaves me not knowing how to get back up again–it leaves me…not knowing if I want to. I’d tell you how badly I wanted to stop the car the other day, sit by the road, and nurse my wounds. We’d talk about the family history and yes, seasonal depression goes back generations and yes, the aunt that had a chemical imbalance and yes, the environmental factors and yes, spring always comes and yes, life goes on and yes, so many things to be thankful for. But no, none of that really matters when the pain is so real.

If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you about the drive that brought about the depression this time. How that house was under contract and how I flew down a road, feeling so different, so unlovable, and so alone it made me want to stop everything and sit in the middle of a field for a very long time.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you how mad I am at God. How seriously angry I am. How could he leave me. How could he even let my family go through this. Wasn’t ’98 enough? And ’99 and 2000 and 2001 and 2002 and 2003 and 2004 and 2005 and 2006 AND EVERY DAMN YEAR SINCE. No friends for my Mom, no church family to give a damn, no friends for my dad, no solutions for anyone, no heat in the house one winter, no electricity for three weeks the next summer, no jobs, cars taken away, foreclosures and God only knows what else. And he leaves us community-less. Still on the outside after 20 damn years. And then all the pretty church boys fall for all the stereotypical church girls and no one asks the poor girls with the cursed family to dance. I’d break down in Starbucks, friend.

If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you that I’m putting my faith on hold for awhile. All the books, the Bible on spiritual warfare, the random church attendance, the random chats with God…I’m putting them away. Because it hurts too much right now. How do I place hope in a being that comes through for everyone but the girl who needs him the most? And how do I…pretend it’s okay when it’s everything but?

If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you that I’m fine, but I’m not. And all the vitamin D supplements in the world, all the rose-colored glasses can’t cover up how low I feel right now.

Starbucks Lovers: Coffee Date 1


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Hi all! Doing kind of a fun post tonight from the perspective of if we were on a coffee date. This idea has popped up into my newsfeed quite a few times, courtesy of the amazing erinsalmonwrites.com, but this time I couldn’t resist. ❤

If we were on a coffee date, I’d sit across from you in my latest favorite sweatpants and a Fear is a Liar t-shirt, this logo I wear as an attempt to thwart the darkness. I’d probably have a faded Hebrew word, sharpied onto my wrist, where I’ve written it and let it fade. I’d tell you how I’m trying it out, wondering if my wrist will ever be its home. I’d order a venti Flat White with skim milk and subtly explain the lifestyle change I made earlier this year. And as you spoke, I’d memorize every expression and note everything that makes you tick. Because I’m a writer and I notice those things. I’m a caretaker of details.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d pepper you with questions. About everything. I’d want to know where you’re from and if you miss it, if you like where you’re at now and if not, why? I’d ask you what you used to like to do, what you used to want to do. I’d ask if you had family, if you were close to them, if they made you feel loved and worthy. I’d want to ask you what that look on your face meant, what was happening in your world when I touched on that subject, but I’d probably stop mid-question and make some degrading comment about my awkwardness and let it go. But I’d encourage you, as much as possible, to open up all the old closets and all the painted-over windows and let you speak. Really, really speak.

If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk faith wounds and God. I’d talk about the legalistic church that grew me and the charismatic movement that’s helping me piece together why Christians can be so mean. I’d tell you more stories than what you wanted to know, but I’d want to hear what you experienced too. I’d tell you what God says to me and I’d ask you if you believe God still speaks. I’d tell you about my lost boy and what they did to him, how the faith wounds stretched open until they had all that was left of him.

If we were on a coffee date, yes. We’d talk about our villages. You say you’d ask about mine, but I’d ask about yours too. I’d tell you about our adventures and I’d tell you what I love about my people. And I’d tell you that I’ve always wanted to be wanted as much as I want everyone around me. I’d tell you that I don’t know how to make it happen and I’d try to squeeze out some guarantee that you’d stay. I’d tell you how badly I want a village and all the places I’ve tried to find it.

And if we were on a coffee date, that last one would segue to Tinder and Bumble and Whisper and all the other places I’ve tried to find my roots. I’d tell you about fear. How I want to branch out, but serial killers are real. I’d ask you your opinion about fearing strangers on the internet or inviting them in. We’d talk about boundaries and we’d talk about red flags. We’d talk transparency and we’d talk oversharing. We’d talk about that blurry, freaking line.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you about my kids. I’m not a mom or a teacher, but I am a manager and I care about these kids. I’d tell you how God showed me it’s not about the work, but about the people and that scares me. It scares me because I don’t know how to make everything okay and it kills me because I know some of them aren’t okay. But I feel responsible to make them feel okay. I’d tell you every time I say, “Hey, you doing okay today?” and they say, “Yeah, doing well!” I see something in their eyes and I just want to shake them and say, “I KNOW YOU’RE HURTING JUST TELL ME.”

I’d tell you that it’s hard because on the one hand, I have my job and I have to crack down in certain areas. But on the other hand…I just want to hold group therapy sessions in the back room and make them all cupcakes every single day. I want to just build their self-worth until nothing can vanquish it, but I’m not God. But I am a doer. And I’d tell you…nothing feels like enough.

Lost boy would come up again, at this point, and I’d tell you how I couldn’t save him. And so I want to save them instead. All of them. But I still can’t.

If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk work. I’d want to know why you’re doing the work you’re doing. I’d want to know if it fulfilled you. I’d want to know all the plans and all the details, the future, and the goals. In all reality, we’d probably agree that in ten years if nothing’s changed, screw it, let’s start up a tie-dye t-shirt business on the beach.

If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk winter. I’d tell you all about my battle plan for getting through winter depression-free. I’d tell you about my vitamin D, my essential oils, my mental playlist that I thumb through, and the long country drives I take. I’d tell you about spring and how it’s coming. Four months and we’re there.

If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk old ghosts in the closet. I’d want to know what you survived, how you wound up on shore after winters at sea. You’d probably ask me what the heck I mean and I’d explain  how it felt mentally after my storm–how it was like the sun shining for the first time in months. How it was like crashing onto shore after months battling the sea. I’d want to know if you had those moments–if you felt like that too.

And lastly…man. If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk about finding our own lives. I’d tell you how I’ve found the life I want and it’s so new, so free. And you’d tell me what you’re aiming for. I’d tell you that you’ll make it–you’ll really make it. And I’d tell you that you deserve good things–good homes, good villages, good coffee, and good sweatpants. I’d tell you how glad I am to have met you and I’d tell you to keep choosing light. Keep choosing the good and pure things, keep pressing into what you’re worth.

 

 

 

Dear America–Love, A Fast Food Worker


“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we alter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” -Abraham Lincoln

14720533_10211380730578855_170289470852994294_nWe’re driving the South Carolina back roads. He’s telling me all sorts of things and I’m listening, shuffling through Spotify, watching the blurring trees, feeling all kinds of alive.

“Yeah, your great-grandpa, Blev, used to tell me about living during the Depression,” he says, thoughtful.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. He says Grandma Polly used to bake pies and she’d always leave it on the window to cool with a butter knife near it, so if anyone was hungry they could just get a piece.”

“Really? And did they?”

“They did. But they’d only take one, see. That sort of thing wouldn’t happen today.”

“Ohhh, no.”

-DEEP SIGH.-

Keep that story in mind as we fast-forward.

It’s 2016 and I’m the great-granddaughter of a great man on a much different page in American history where everything is different. I’m working as a manager in a fast food restaurant and it’s a crazy night with a very popular coupon that is nowhere in our system. And I’m up to my eye balls, trying to help the team members calculate coupons and refusing to leave the fifteen-year-olds to fend for themselves. I’m helping one of the team members and watching out of the corner of my eye, uneasy, as another customer stands by, looking unhappy and tapping a foot. I look up, say, “I’m sorry for your wait. I’ll be with you in just a moment.”

She throws up a hand, tosses a look at her husband beside her. Finally we figure out the five coupons for the group in front of us and I slide into place behind the first cash register.

“Yes ma’am?” I ask, cautiously, “What can I get for you guys?”

A raised eye brow as she lists off what she wants, but one look and I know she’s still dissatisfied. I muddle through the order, ask questions, and hand them their cups, “We’ll get that right out to you guys. Hope ya’ll enjoy!”

They saunter off to a booth and I sit back, relieved that the tension is gone. Until five minutes later, it’s not. “Hey Mandie,” a team member approaches me, “We can’t find this order. . .and this couple says it isn’t theirs. . .” She looks helpless.

Great. I take the tray and look all over for the customer, asking the couple from a few moments before if they ordered two cheeseburger snack packs. “We didn’t order no cheeseburgers!” the woman snaps, throwing up a hand to her face and shaking her head violently when I say, “Okay, let me figure this out. . .I think they must have mixed up the numbers. I’m so sorry.”

It was back and forth with the kitchen when the woman approached the counter, irritation written all over her face. It wasn’t that I misunderstood her perspective–it was that she misunderstood mine. It was that she had no desire to understand mine. We finally came to the conclusion that the food on the tray was in fact theirs, but she demanded a remake, “That food has been all over!” And in the end, she got a remake in addition to free baskets in the future while I excused myself to the back because I needed a moment.

I sat in the office and let the tears stream down my face. Five minutes and I couldn’t find the will or the desire to face them. To face the dehumanization infringed upon me every time I slide my tie into place and adjust my hat simply because mistakes are made in my business. Because sometimes we get it wrong. Because sometimes people wait an extra few minutes on fries or a milkshake. I let it all pass and stood at the sink, gripping the edges. Honestly, I was angry, indignant, and overwhelmed all in one fell swoop. And it took me taking off my hat, staring at my reflection in that paper towel holder to remember I was human. I was very human. And I was still alive, still me.

And to be honest, since beginning as a manager in a restaurant I’ve discovered what I believe to be the true issue with the country I love so dearly. Because situations like the above occur all the time and no matter what you do, how hard you try, you can’t stop it from happening. So you learn to deal. The main issue with America isn’t Trump and it isn’t Hillary Clinton. It isn’t abortion or the wage-gap or climate change or the vast difference between Republicans and Democrats. No, work with the public in any capacity and see it for yourself: entitlement, narcissism, dissatisfaction, high standards with no leeway, blame-shifting, lack of empathy for fellow human beings, etc. All this out of the nation where pies were left in open windows. This is America crumbling before our eyes.

All this out of the nation where pies were left in open windows. This is America crumbling before our eyes. 

The fact of the matter is, most people aren’t happy. Blame commercialism, blame lack of community, blame corporate America, blame religion–I don’t care who you blame because all that really matters is that it’s happening. Most people aren’t building lives anymore. They’re just existing, placing happiness in the latest technologies, the highest-paying companies, the best-connected people in their circles, the materials accrued. And I think that’s why my generation walked away from traditional American values and from becoming family-oriented individuals–because we found the disingenuous writing scrawled all over the walls. Wake up, America.

But what’s appalling is that everyone seems to be either looking back or looking forward. Either the country’s too different from 1952 or the country hasn’t changed enough and they can’t wait for 2040 and whatever they think is waiting there. This attitude is a disservice to America. The past is behind us. The future is in front of us. But neither are much help in the here and now. We are the builders, the dreamers, the thinkers. It is up to us to not give into this new identity pressing in on every side. It is up to us to not lose hope or to believe our voices mean nothing. The way we take back our country depends on what we do with the power they say we do not have. We have it. And it scares them.

We are the builders, the dreamers, the thinkers. It is up to us to not give into this new identity pressing in on every side. It is up to us to not lose hope or to believe our voices mean nothing.

The answer to how will America end up? In my opinion, it’s quite simply lodged in a question. . .

How will we leave it?

How will we impact our families? Our friends? Our communities? For good or for bad? Will we continue the parade of negative comments, strung along article after article? Will we continue to take everything we have for granted? Will we continue the dehumanization of anyone who doesn’t fit this image that the media has built? Mainstream media, America, is only as powerful as we allow it to be. Quit reading what they say. Quit listening to what they’re saying. Unplug. the. computer. Find out on your own. Build on your own.

Trump will destroy America, they say. Clinton will destroy America, they say. No. They don’t have that kind of power. If we are destroyed, the blame will be on the shoulders of every American sitting back and losing hope, believing this lie that there is nothing to be done. I won’t be a part of it any longer. There is everything to be done. There is everything to hope for.

My ancestors are varied. They are of Swedish, English, Germanic, Irish, Welsh, and even Cherokee descent. I am standing on their shoulders, on what they built for their descendants. And I am imploring you not to walk away. I am imploring you to come back. I am imploring you to fight.

I don’t know what you will decide to do, America. But I will keep hoping no matter who wins in November. I will keep doing the best I can with the decisions laid out in front of me. And I will keep pressing into my faith, into my family, into my friends, and into my community. Because it starts with me and what I choose to build.

And it starts with you too, America.

 

Campfire Chat: Without Borders.


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“That’s what storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again.” -Saving Mr. Banks

Hey, hey, readers!

Today I wanted to kind of clear up a few misconceptions about personal blogging, particularly when it comes to my blog, and discuss the general trajectory of Not Your Average Coffee Bean. So grab a coffee and cop a squat, kids!

I’ve been pretty quiet on most levels of social media lately. And that’s fully my bad. I think sometimes when I know I have important work to do, I kind of shut down and do nothing. That’s a fight I’ve had so far and that will probably continue. But I know that I want to write–I know that’s what I’m here to do, so I’m trying to breathe VERY deeply and let my prayer be this…

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.”-Hillsong

I mean, snap. Without borders. Few people realize this about me, but I’m actually pretty insecure about my writing. There are just so many words I want to say and so many things I feel and I WANT PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND. To be there with me. And that’s where the deep, honest writing comes from: having this constant desire to be understood. Not necessarily seen, but understood. And oftentimes when I publish a blog post, I sit around tapping my fingers and checking Facebook every ten seconds.

DID THEY SEE IT.

DID I POST IT AT THE RIGHT TIME.

DO THEY LIKE ME.

DID I SAY IT RIGHT.

NO ONE LIKED IT. OH NO IT’S AWFUL.

But what if. . .I kept writing real, honest posts. . .but had peace in who I am and what I’m saying? What if I walked with Jesus as much as I talk about Him? Can you imagine what that would look like? Writing and living like that opens doors and effects change. Man. That’s the writer I want to be.

That’s what I’m working towards. But I don’t think many of you realize quite where I’m wanting to take this blog or why I’m even blogging in the first place. So here are three myths along with the perspective in regards to Not Your Average Coffee Bean and an action plan to keep you up to date! If you have any questions or advice, please comment or email me at manderssss22@gmail.com.

(Lord, help me to not suck at replying. Amen. Praise hands. All that.)

Myth #1: Reading personal blogs is kind of like reading someone’s diary. . .

Not Your Average Coffee Bean perspective: Oh honey. You couldn’t handle my diary. If I’m posting something on the internet, let alone SOCIAL media. . .read it. I want you to read it. I wrote it thinking of you or even just wanting you to understand something about me.

Myth #2: Sharing someone’s post is just so awkward. What if I’m crossing a line?

Not Your Average Coffee Bean perspective: THIS THOUGHT IS THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE. I want you to share, share, share. My goal is to be an author and this blog is one of the methods I’ve chosen to expand my audience so that when a book is born there will be people to read the book. (Other than my mother.) My personal belief is that my product is the writing I do and I’ll never get to where I want to go if I just sit in a basement like a creeper and write prose that no one ever reads. And to be honest, I need you. I can’t grow as a writer without you reading, providing feedback, and sharing.

Myth #3: No one wants to read posts that are stories. I can’t share that because no one else would be interested.

Not Your Average Coffee Bean perspective: Look. Storytelling is my profession. That’s what I’m here to do and it’s the only way I know how to say, “Everything is going to be okay.” And I’m here to tell you that. So if one of my posts reaches you, there’s a solid chance it will reach someone else on your newsfeed too. Don’t be afraid to post things that are on your heart because there’s always someone in the dark who needs to be shown little patches of light every now and then. Even if you don’t resonate with anything I say, I hope I at least encourage you to share your own story. Storytelling saves lives. Even the gospel, the greatest story told, is in storytelling format–it’s not salvation in three easy steps or a list of things to do. It’s there to say, “I love you. This is what I did for you. Come home. Drop everything and trust me.”

As for the future of this blog, I hope that Not Your Average Coffee Bean goes places. I hope it reaches people. I’ve begun the process of being an affiliate blogger, so you’ll be seeing new ads on my blog. But my goal is to keep everything on track with the voice I’ve already developed and keep my blog clutter-free. My second goal is to increase traffic by using social media to engage other bloggers and readers, which is a little daunting with all the info out there. But onward and upward!

. . .I recognize that I’m a dork. . .

And finally, my third goal is to get to the point where I’m posting three times a week. For now I’m lucky if I get one post in a week, but I’m in this writing thing for life and there are always, always things to improve.

Finally, what would you like to read about? Please comment below or send me an email. All suggestions are more than welcome!

As always, thank you for reading. ❤ ❤ ❤ <—I love you enough to do cheesy 2010-style virtual hearts.

-Mandie

 

F O U N D


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I found my voice in brambles and thorns,
It sat in deepest forest, buried low,
I heard it crying, though no one was around,
It sobbed and fought the silence,
But no one heard a sound,
I sat there and I listened,
Though not for me it cried,
Nor for the life I had,
The rain came soon and its cries grew,
They grew until it was silent-
Fear and pain the only melody it knew.
Suddenly I had no choice,
I rose.
And dug it out of the mud,
I turned it in my hand, saw how it fit,
How could something fit so well,
But hurt so bad?
I tucked it away and whispered,
If nothing else, I hear you,
If nothing else, I won’t leave,
If nothing else, we’re together,
If nothing else, you’re found.
And so, in brambled wood we sit,
Making nothing but our sound.
-Amanda Russell

A Love Letter: To You


11231690_10207369229573837_3377103084176616338_n-2wrote this post on a note for my Facebook page about six weeks ago and decided to post it on my blog as well. Wherever you are–whoever you are, this is for you. I met a new friend the other day who’d lost a loved one to suicide. And it rocked me to the point that I just felt compelled to write to you–to all of you and tell you how wonderful you are and how much we need you to stay. It’s made me want to run around and shout to whoever will listen, “You are so loved! Don’t you know who you are?”
But that would probably freak people out. So that’s why we have the Internet.
Whether or not you’ve been thinking about leaving, this is more about knowing who you are and how much you matter. I think that everyone struggles with self-image or self-doubt, but I really want this letter to be a beacon of light in the dark–in the midst of those lies that seem to build over who you really are. No matter how small or big the lies are right now, they’re still lies and everyone needs to know how much they matter. It’s when you know how much you matter that you can really touch the lives of others.
Drumroll, please. It’s time for a transitional paragraph:
I come home from a long shift and my mom is sitting up in her bed, watching Downton Abbey. I slip into fresh socks and she rubs my feet–because these babies take a beating, to be totally honest. While she’s helping a girl out, I’m staring at her robe, draped across that old chair and I’m wondering…what would I do if I came home and she wasn’t there? What would I do if there was no old robe draped across a musty chair? What would I do if I couldn’t hear her smiling and saying, “This show is just phenomenal!” I know so many people who’ve already experienced this loss, with the silence on repeat, screaming louder than any noise ever could.
But what gets me as I look at my mom is the fact that I know there are days when she doesn’t even know how important she is, looks in the mirror and sees someone who doesn’t matter.
And I got to thinking…how many people don’t know how much they matter? How many people step up to the mirror and only hear lies, only see everything they’re not, stacked up and staring them in the face. And then. . . I watch people. I see the teenager with sadness mirroring his smile, who always makes me laugh. I see the lonely man eating custard at a back table where no one can see him and my heart aches. I see the girl who walks into a room and lights up every corner of that room. I see the homeless man with years of stress and pain etched into his face. “Do they know?” I wonder, “Do any of them know how much they matter? Do they even know they’re a lead character in stories of their own? Do they know how much we’d love to read what’s written–how what’s written in their stories can impact thousands of other stories?”
We need them. We need you. We need your coat on a hanger. We need your shoes piled in a corner of your room. We need the jam recipes you’ve messed up and the way you make fudge too sweet. We need your freckled smiles, your wrinkled hands, your messy hair from sticking your head out the window. We need your grumpy mornings and your drunken nights. We need your messy things. We need all things you. Because empty closets and spider-webbed corners are useless when there isn’t someone to mess them up.
Nothing is wasted. Everything is relevant. God can and will mold everything you’ve got into His plan. So bring it–bring everything you’ve got.
Every time you enter a room, it matters. Every time you leave a room you leave a space no one else could ever, ever fill. No one can spill milk like you; no one can give impish smiles like you can; no one can love like you can; no one can listen to others like you can; no one can make the whole room laugh like you can; no one can press life into others like you can.
And it doesn’t matter if you leave small fingerprints on the window or if you rush through this life like a bull in a china shop–the finger print you leave on life is complete, is untouchable, is completely, uniquely you.
You matter if not for the beating of your heart, for the fact that you were crafted by a God who would not rest until you were here, until you had a chance. On this day. On this earth. In this moment. Sexual orientation, race, religion, height, weight, whoever you are, wherever you are or have been, whatever society or the church or haters tell you is lacking from you–you matter so much that this planet would not be what it is if you were not here.
I’ll even give you a verse to back it up:“All good gifts come from the Father of Lights.”
If good things come from the Father–which they do– and He creates life–which He does– and He created YOU–which He did–…then, that means you are a good thing simply because of who made you.You are not what the enemy says you are. Yes, you choose which side you’re on. But even what you choose does not detract from who you were meant to be, from the love God holds for you on the other side of doubt and fear, from how much you matter.
I hope you know how much you matter. I hope you wake up in the morning and choose to trust that there is purpose behind every heartbeat.

Fat Girl Diaries: NOT TODAY, SATAN.


I had toyed with the idea of getting weight loss help from a personal trainer for months. I’d watched online as old friends became fit through the process, but always thought it would be too weird to use the same person. It was a lonely Saturday when I finally decided to ask them anyway. I was sitting in a chair, getting a pedicure, and I had to look in the mirror. I had to face how big I’d become. . .and it didn’t feel good. I didn’t wait even thirty seconds before sending the once-dreaded message, “Hey–I’m looking for a personal trainer and I was wondering who you used and if you’d recommend him?”

Of course she did and by the following Monday I was in the middle of an uphill battle, mentally, emotionally, and physically. The first few days were new and fresh, but the end of the first ten days were hell. I wanted custard. I wanted cheese curds. I wanted Mexican food and coffee with cream AND sugar. I sat on my bed, watching Tasty videos and dreading the next meal. I watched my family eat pizza and let myself just inhale the delicious, delicious smell.

Yes, I’m a freakshow.

I dealt with the depression knocking on my door to tell me that this probably wouldn’t work or that I could quit…it would probably be better if I quit. But I didn’t. I hung in there. And you know what? It got better. I bought fresh cilantro and began a love story with black coffee like this world has never seen before. I got stronger. I got better. And I’ve lost 30 pounds.

I’m proud of that. (Even though I could still go for a glass of Moscato and dark chocolate from Trader Joe’s…and if I’m real, real honest with myself, I’ll probably be freezing a piece of birthday cake to eat in 8 months. Because…Publix cake. Turning 24 ain’t no joke, people.)

But that’s not where the story ends. Because every time you start to get up, someone will come your way to knock you right back down. And hmm…I wonder who could be behind that…hmm…

I’ve been on a mission since last year to go on a date. It’s silly and pointless, but I’ve always wanted to experience one solid date. Just because. So obviously, I went online…because I’m brilliant. Online, you know you’re going to get burned in some way or another. Someone will ghost you; someone won’t want what you want; someone might not respect the perimeters you’ve set around what you’re willing to talk about.

Tonight, I was in a conversation with someone who didn’t respect any of my perimeters. He asked me to come over to his house to meet his friends and I told him I was more of a coffeeshop sort of girl. He asked me if I was shy and I added awkward to the mix in an attempt to keep things light.

Here’s what I got in response:

Him: “As a globally respected photographer, you saying no to me embarrasses yourself. The next time I invite you somewhere, drop what you’re doing. Knowing me has its perks I promise. Enjoy your night.”

And he also sent a screenshot of his million dollar bank account. -eye roll-

My response: “Eh…not really looking for a codependent relationship. Kind of the independent, self-respecting type of girl and I don’t care who you are. So, good night and good luck.”

Him: “Haha okay. Says every obese girl ever. You’re not attractive enough to be picky sweetheart, it’s going to be a long time before you realize that.”

GLOBAL PHOTOGRAPHER SAY WHAT. Let me take out my earrings.

Me: “I’m everything I need to be. I know exactly who and what I am, sir. I’d rather be where I’m at than successful and proud…and it’s going to be a long time before you realize that.”

You have no idea how much I wish this was some weird analogy I made up.

I don’t know if this dude was who he said he was, but let’s just humor him, shall we? For all we know, it’s some 40 year old in his mother’s basement. (Dear Lord…let it be so. Amen.) Either way, he’s a troll who’s out to belittle others to make himself feel better. (BREAKING NEWS: It never works.) Either way, the words he hurled at me were meant to hurt. They were meant to break.

So. For anyone out there sitting on bathroom floors or binge-eating Ben and Jerry’s because someone out there is trying to make you feel inferior, here are a few things to keep in mind:

-You are not required to say, “Yes,” to anyone for any reason.

-You are not required to neglect your self-respect because of anything anyone says or does.

-You are not required to allow the words of anyone define who you are.

-You don’t need permission to love who you are, right where you are. You get to choose that.

-Don’t let anyone–ANYONE–tear down what you’re building, especially yourself. They aren’t in charge of how you view yourself.

He meant to tear me down tonight. But you know what? Tomorrow morning, I’m getting up and going to train. I’m going to push weights. I’m going to push myself because he doesn’t get the rights to my story. He doesn’t get a say in how I view myself.

What are you going to do? Get up, love. Get up for you. And scream out your window, “NOT TODAY, SATAN.” Freaking not today.

 

Post-Grad.


 

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“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single twenty something in possession of a degree must be in want of a job.”-Jane Austen

Okay. Jane Austen with minor tweaking by Mandie Russell. But if she were alive, I have every confidence that Jane Austen would be like, “I feel you, bro.” Because if she were alive she, too, would say things like twenty something and bro.

I digress.

314 days ago (Quick shout-out to Google for doing that math for me. You rock, guys.) I graduated with my BA degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. And also a minor in french, though the only thing that has come in handy with that minor is the ability to say, “Voulez-vous in limonade?” And the only reason that came in handy was because I worked at Chick-fil-A. Not that I used it while working in the kitchen. But it was a mental confidence booster as I bug-searched Romaine lettuce, knowing that I could offer lemonade to customers in a foreign language. Could the high schoolers do that? Pfft, doubtful.

That was all the comfort I had in my pastor pants and tiny-ponytailed world. The struggle.

These 314 days have flown by: I’ve gotten more sleep, stalked more people on Facebook, drank more coffee than in the previous 4 years combined, and worked on…growing out a pixie. I mean, please, take something off my full plate because I literally can’t even. I’ve had interviews and volunteered and walked away from some opportunities that weren’t for me. The past 10 months have really taught me a lot of life lessons, but that’s boring.

So here are 10 lessons/observations I’ve learned as a post-grad that should be passed on from generation to generation. Take notes, kids.

 

  1. You’re kind of like a little bug, wandering around trying to find some bigger bugs with more beneficial living and working conditions who also offer dental. But what really throws you are the even bigger bugs that are trying to squish your little buggy dreams and so you crawl back to your buggy wasteland and cry and search your buggy internet for more realistic buggy opportunities. (If that made any sense to you, we should be friends.)
  2. Just to clarify: if you say “Just out of college!” it’s like wearing a sign around your neck that says, “Fresh meat.”
  3. Also, companies don’t pay you $3,500 a month to be a content writer for their sites. Unless you’re Amy Poehler or Tina Fey, move along. I’m not even talking about having the mental capacity of Amy Poehler or Tina Fey–I’m talking you must be one or the other. And I’m guessing you’re not, so save yourself some time.
  4. Chick-fil-a pants don’t look good on any one. I’m talking Jennifer Aniston couldn’t make those things look good.
  5. If you interview with someone and they ask to keep your information just in case, go for it. But know that you will not be getting a call until the 1st of never. (Note: No, that’s not actually a thing.)
  6. Long drives and listening to the Beach Boys works every time.
  7. If traveling is involved and you’ve always wanted to go all over the country, you’ll probably take a job despite any red flags. And that’s okay because it teaches you to trust your instinct next time.
  8. Your cat will never talk back to you. Or make you feel better about life.
  9. A full carton of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream doesn’t look like that much, but it is. Oh, it is. And you will go into Pillsbury Doughboy mode, which is never a good place to be.
  10. On a serious note: you can and will get through the “post-grad” season. And you’ll come out knowing who you are, what you want, and how to treat people when you’re in a leadership position. It’s all good, you little professional you.

As you can see, I’m aging like a fine wine. Or at least Betty White.

#strugglebuslife

 

 

The Mandie Russell Guide To Singlehood


 

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“Mandie, why are you single? Like you’re so pretty and smart. And stuff.”

`I know. I know. This is obviously what you’re all thinking. I get asked this all the time.

Actually, I’ve never been asked this question in my life. But I definitely don’t know why. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that every white shirt I own has a chocolate and/or coffee stain on it or that I wear the same outfit at least three times in a week or that I think jokes like, “Are you a beaver? Cause dayummm,” are funny.

*cough* Anyway…

One of the things I’ve noticed in my online wanderings, if you will, is this weird extremism that surrounds singleness. Either a.) people take it too seriously or b.) people build it up to be this completely magical time of life where you do things like backpack through Europe, which really is magical if you have that kind of money as a twenty something, or c.) people make it into this social statement that you don’t need a man and  you’re too fabulous and blah, blah, blah. To be honest, it’s all annoying. And to be honest, most of us probably wouldn’t choose singleness over being with someone you care about…let’s be real.

That is why I have created a comprehensive list of all the reasons being single just isn’t that bad, but spoiler alert: it’s all based on reality. I promise. Because if we’re honest with ourselves, a solid 80% of being single looks a lot like that scene from Risky Business. Thank you, Tom Cruise.

1.To start things off, you really aren’t accountable to another human being. That can be a bad thing, but it’s also a good way to learn responsibility and see where you are as a human being. But if you’re spending over $100 dollars a month at Starbucks, maybe get a budgeting buddy. You can be budgies.

*Feel no obligation to laugh at that last one. I, for one, definitely didn’t spend the last 30 seconds laughing at my own joke. Ahem.

2. No one judges you for wearing a bandanna around the house like the Hulk Hogan impersonator  you certainly are not. Like at all. Okay, unless you blog about these things like an idiot.

3.  On Friday nights while most of the taken girls are dressing up and going out, you’re sitting on your couch in your underwear watching Fuller House. And Gilmore Girls. And Friends. And you’re not even sorry. (Not that I do that. Pfft.)

4.  You wanna join the Peace Corps? Do it. You wanna teach English in a foreign country? Do it, girrrrl. (Well, I mean…get that certification, girrrrl! You can’t just hop a plane.) You wanna walk the Pacific Crest Trail? Pack those bags! (Sidenote: Yes, this is on my bucket list. And yes, I need someone to go with me. I’m not Cheryl Strayed here and rattlesnakes are real.)

5.  Rock whatever look you want to. No shave November? Hah, that’s funny. Try no shave 2016. #overachievers

6.  I’m going to be real frank here: you don’t have to worry about his toe jam. And to all you ladies out there like, “Nahhh, that doesn’t happen!” I’ve seen your husbands and I already know it’s toe jam central.

7. You don’t have to worry that your SO is a Calvinist and that he’ll raise your children to believe that they have a 50/50 shot of getting into heaven. This is my fear.

8. You can take those pent-up feelings and give them out. Get a pet, volunteer, make something valuable. Like a bird feeder. Or a mug. For your mother.

9. You get to sit around with your sister and rate guys on tv guilt-free. Does it get much better than that? I think not.

10. If you want to stay under the delusion that love is a fairytale, you can do that too. Why the heck not? Stay innocent.

11. You don’t have to scour your social media to make sure there’s nothing embarrassing that doesn’t reflect who you are as a person currently. Unless you’re like me and all your statuses in 2008 revolved around fried chicken or something equally ridiculous, then by all means: delete those posts.

12. If you’re anything like me, the prospect of having to raise children is terrifying because I can’t even adult. I’m talking at a Sid-the-sloth-is-my-spirit-animal level. But none of that matters because you don’t have to worry about that and you have time to grow up a little more if you feel like you need to before all that happens.

13. You don’t have to worry about relatives treating you like an adult. Because they all pretty much figure you’re sitting in your underwear eating Oreos anyway or just trying to get the printer to work at your underpaid post-grad job.

14. No worrying about meeting his/her family. Put that social anxiety away and head to the beach for Christmas. It’s all good, bruh.

15. That concert you’ve been dying to go to landed on your six month anniversary? Won’t happen. Ever.

But I can’t promise it won’t happen with like meetings or your parents’ anniversary…you can’t win them all, kids.

16. As a single person, I guarantee your shower singing game will be on point. Can you master “When You Believe?” Maybe, maybe not. But it doesn’t matter because the only one hearing you belt it out is your shampoo bottle.

17. There is virtually no chance of having a surprise pregnancy. Unless you’ve got a 1980’s Three Men and a Baby situation going on and a baby lands on your doorstep. But hey, at least it’s not your baby!

18. Being single means you get to work on pretty awesome friendships with crazy, funny people. And it’s worth every minute of loneliness that being single will inevitably bring.

So. While singleness is about a lot of things, it’s mostly about forming great friendships and working on yourself before dragging some poor loser into your world. It’s great!