in homage and honor.

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“Tomorrow found in today; what’s ahead discovered in days behind.”

This has become somewhat of an echoing mantra and anchoring core value in my life.  Often what we need for today and beyond lies in the path behind us.  A risk that taught us to trust more.  A failure that taught us bravery.  A mistake that taught us humility.  A hurt that taught us to bleed.  A loneliness that taught us to find.  A darkness that taught us courage.  A victory that taught us to win.

Whatever those steps pressed into the ground of yesterday hold, above all, they hold life and answers and path.

The writing of my book gave perfect opportunity to look back, gaze upon the burning heap of dreams behind ...look ...want ...hurt ...break, and mostly ...find.  Recounting pieces of my past floating, stretching further apart on life pulling like the tide and swelling waves, has, in a way, been the greatest happening.  Many days I felt like a scavenger walking through barren lands once rich and fertile, now hollow and uninhabited.  And then, I would stumble upon deep wells of remembrance whispering words I couldn’t understand but laced with promise and passage finding penetrating way into the chambers of my heart.

Losing my wife, a woman whom I loved indescribably, did nothing less than change me completely.

Life turned unexpectedly and unforgivably.  I stopped lost in tracks.  The steps behind me began to guide me with each faith-filled, God following, narrowly trusting, grace infusing step into the unknown.

Future bowing to past in homage and honor.  My eyes learned new, the value of unknown and how to choose.

Here’s an excerpt central to my story from a chapter currently entitled, “Surely Goodness and Mercy.”:

I saw a man alone, subdued by pain, frightened by the fear of all that may be some day, and I quietly asked to never be that man.  I can't.  I won't.  The man fumbling through fading memories like a thief holding a leaking bag, the man stumbling drunk on why things settled they way they did, talking to himself, mumbling angrily and hurt.  That will not be me.

My daughters will not know him.  They might see me wince and wrestle to the ground... But they will never know a hollowed heart comfortable only in shadows.  I may not have much greater to give them than that but it will be an echo that resounds like bells of freedom in their warm little hearts.  Always.  I pray.

I will not allow myself to be the man hollowed by pain, afraid of shadows and those things which lie in waiting. Life may indeed only seem to take from us, days, memories, happiness, but courage is mine to give. And the source, it is immeasurably and unfathomably deep. It is unending. Through darkened spots and failing strength, the reason for courage remains.

For months following her death, I only prayed for God to piece back together the life I was forced from.  So little did I know and perceive the beauty of his bridge building redemptive ability lies within the thinnest, most inescapable steps when I am invited to only follow and not need bearing or direction or understanding.

Each day, a decision. Choose wisely.  Trust ridiculously.  Step faithfully.

... A day forsaken is a day forgotten. So many want only to escape.

beyond every flaw or imperfection.

:: by Meshali Mitchell

“I was 13 when I first took note of my body and began to compare it to other girls.  In the middle school locker room, the other cheerleaders and I stood in front of the mirrors and began to take note of how we all differed from each other.  Standing there in my uniform, I realized my body was different from the other girls.  All of ours were.  They all differed from each other.  Megan made the statement, 'I just want to be skinny and beautiful like the girls on TV.'  My mind began to wander.  So, what was considered beautiful?  What was the gauge of beauty?  What did boys like?  These were the questions that ran through my mind.”

'BEAUTY' …what is it anyway?  In today’s culture, we see it everywhere.  It’s hard to get away from the question.  Image.  Beauty ...what does that really mean?  Who is the judge of it?  Where does my worth really come from?  Supermodels and photoshopped movie stars are at the forefront of our daily view.  At the grocery store standing in line, on billboards as we drive, on commercials when we sit to watch TV, we are bombarded with it.  Fifteen years later, after standing in front of that locker room mirror, as a 28 year old woman, I’m right there with you.  Trust me, I have been confronted with it, too.

Here are a few steps I take in my own life to help keep perspective on what “beauty” is:

1. Guard your thoughts :: Proverbs 4:23 Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that's where life starts.

It’s so easy to get caught up in appearance.  So many become consumed with it.  Don’t let the enemy sit on the throne of your life in this area.  Do not bow your knee to what he and this culture says about you.   A powerful tool Satan uses is to attack our self image through our thoughts shaped and influenced by culture.  I’ve realized throughout my life that in every area our culture seems to naturally push the agenda of negative thoughts on us.  If the enemy can target our minds and win, the trap is set and the pulling grasp gets hold of what he needs to shape and diminish.  He is powerless until we give him room to rule in certain areas.  We CHOOSE who we give the right to rule in our minds.  I encourage you today - think on good things.  Here are few verses to dwell on when you battle these thoughts::

:: Romans 12:2 Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

:: Philippians 4:8  Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious-the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

:: 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 The world is unprincipled. It's dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn't fight fair. But we don't live or fight our battles that way-never have and never will.  The tools of our trade aren't for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture.  We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.  Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

2. Surround yourself with encouraging, life-giving friends :: Proverbs 12:26 One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

The last thing I want to do when I feel down is surround myself with people that always seem to drain the life out of me.  I encourage you to give place to Godly, life giving friends.  Let these few choice people speak thoughts of Hope and God’s amazing purpose into you!  Allow their love and encouragement to give you support and RIGHT THINKING for your life.  Godly people sharpen each other.  Others have a warped view of self image and their ideas could affect you in a negative way.  Godly friends have made the difference in my life!!

3. Work out!  Strive to live healthy and keep a good balance :: 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

We all probably need a little work in this area.  Along with healthy thought patterns, build healthy habits of working out and eating right.  This is a good, solid habit for healthy living and will help keep us in shape.  Strive to honor your Creator with how you treat your body.

4. GOD SEES YOU AS HIS ::: Beautiful Daughter.

Realize that as God’s people, we live in an upside down kingdom.  Beauty is so much deeper than the skin.  God constantly longs to tell a beautiful story by rewriting some of the things you’ve been through.  He takes the wrong things we’ve been through and makes them right and beautiful.  Our flaws can actually benefit us in God’s kingdom.  When we allow the Lord to re-write our story, He takes the imperfections, the broken things, and makes a masterpiece.  This is the REAL BEAUTY :: the irreplaceable that makes you one of a kind :: we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  The beauty is that God has placed His fingerprint on each of our lives.  There is no greater story than that, no greater or truer beauty.  He loves us and has made us daughters in His Kingdom.

Let's do our best to live basing our view of ourselves solely and completely on what God says about us.  The whole and precise view that He loves us right where we are at and sees beyond every flaw or imperfection.  There is no pressure to 'PERFORM' in His Kingdom.  He is our greatest fan.  Let’s live like it.

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Based in Dallas, Meshali is unapologetically "southern" in her personality and style.  Her work has been described as timeless and sophisticated.  Mostly, her art has a southern charm and honest reflection.  Passionate about capturing the expression of the moment, Meshali approaches her craft with artistry, creativity, vision and professionalism.

Meshali is also passionate about life.  The roles she plays as a Christ-follower, daughter, sister and friend all contribute to her craft.  She is an avid reader, prolific blogger and her own worst critic.  Fortunately all of these come together to create a personal story unique to the photographs she captures.

website //  ::  twitter // @meshali



things she wants to say.

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It's in the remembering that we live braver, hungrier and more convinced of hope and grace and beauty swallowing.

I have noticed small bright pink post it notes lying around in the same spot.  At first glance, I paid little attention, but a stack began forming messy demanding better attention.  For days I moved right passed the tiny little heap until my walking by caused a couple pieces to stir and drift off the counter top onto the wooden floor.  I have a tendency to sort of stack papers.  It’s my way of cleaning the kitchen or anything actually.  My process is quite simplistic.  Dispose of as much as possible as often as possible.  I tolerate clutter in a compartmentalizing sort of way.  Or maybe it’s procrastination.  The latter is honest response.  Compartmentalizing simply sounds more together, in control and sophisticated.  As a telling side note, procrastination is mode of operation for me.  It is a chronic characteristic I am working out of my life.  There simply is not enough room in the life of a single parent for much procrastination.  Bright pink landing on wooden floor.  The contrast unmistakeable in both size and color.  Leaning over to reach the few fallen, I could see that each brightly colored little piece of paper held scribbled words, messages deep and searching.

A daughter wandering through day, lost in thought and dream of a life different, the undisturbed continuing of the life she knew.  Sometimes dishonest with her smile bright and affectionate, hiding when she hurts or needs or wants but thankfully, bleeding out words that grab to find home in her heart wishing to grow only darker and deep.

“I wish I could tell her all the things I’m doing.” “She’d smile real big and be hugely proud of you, sweetie.”

Still reforming and in the piecing back together in beautiful miracle the life so disturbed by one quick blow, we wade through the unknown and questions lingering.  The trust that weans in days lasting too long makes us stronger together.

One easy to recognize evidence of her heart once devastated now growing stronger in the day to day is her courageous heart.  She’s braver in the bleeding, risking for reward and foregoing shadows.  On the basketball court for the first time, lined wood giving direction to game and position, the sound of soles shuffling, a ball bouncing, hands raised, the game still so foreign to her, I saw her heart laid bare.  She positioned herself vulnerable in front of yelling parents and strange onlookers for shared experience and enjoyment of game and friends.  In the confusion of plays and rules and game, she jumped right in determined to know and participate.  For her, it’s discovery, of who she is undeniably and deeply wound within the DNA.  It is also an aim at who she wants to be and is traveling toward.  All in the game, in the experience, she’s finding and becoming.  My heart soars quietly sitting in the stands each time.  Camera clicking.  Recording her evolution.

One day Elizabeth Marie will look long behind her and gaze upon a field of flowers in the wake of her pursuit.  In ways out of my reach, she is cutting a path for us all, not around, but straight through heart and mire and questions with unfitting answers.  Their hearts remain resilient even in the distance and miles away from that life.  Just last night, we talked about her notes and basketball.  She smiled honestly in the sadness revisited.  But together we left it again coming and going as visitors both stronger.

“Nothing will ever replace her.  The thought of losing mommy will always cause sadness, but both the memories and the life we live will always be brighter.  Promise.”

saving a little girl.

[gallery link="file" columns="5"] We are a family of four.  One dad, me.  Three daughters, them.  Four of us together learning life again.  The beauty peeking in every one of their eyeful glances and playful smiles strengthens me and opens my eyes to see.  They are leaning on a man to show them how to be women.  It is more appropriate than I ever imagined.  In many treacherous ways, it is harder to become a woman than it is to be a man.

A study found that on average, women have 13 negative body thoughts per day and that 97 percent of women in the study admitted to having at least one “I hate my body” moment daily. 80% of women who answered a People magazine survey responded that images of women on television and in the movies make them feel insecure. In one study, three out of four women stated that they were overweight although only one out of four actually were. Some of the pictures of the models in magazines do not really exist. The pictures are computer modified compilations of different body parts. One half of 4th grade girls are on a diet. 95% of individuals who diet as opposed to those who follow a healthy food plan will gain their lost weight back in one to five years. 81% of ten year old girls are afraid of being fat. A study found that adolescent girls were more fearful of gaining weight, than getting cancer, nuclear war or losing their parents. When preschoolers were offered dolls identical in every respect except weight, they preferred the thin doll nine out of ten times.

There it is.  That thing robbing happiness and fullness with ease and with little fight.  Everyone just gives in and maybe enables thieving hands to pull long and reshape lasting what little girls see with innocent, bruised eyes.  The sun only shines on thin.  Smiles made to effortlessly open the heart and bear the soul to broad possibility wear loosely intent on bowing always to generated images of people that never existed.  It is oppressive, servitude hanging the price of freedom in happiness on a sliding scale forever sloped unreachable.  It is tainting the divine.  Every eye, ear and nose, a content stroke of the creator’s hand.  Beauty skin deep, surface holding, mutes love true and absolute, actual gorgeousness of individual.  Shapes and sizes, height and weight, blemish, curves and lines, all beholding and unveiling beauty in individuality.  No two alike.  Neither should they ever be.  Every one holding beauty deep and divine.

The disease feeding on socially acceptable, preying on innocent while little hearts still warm in the nest.  Wings forming strong maimed as they stretch to embrace life before flight.  Cut all the same length.  The world is flat again.

As a single father of three little girls quickly approaching double-digit age, this breaks my heart and overwhelms and intimidates me.  Tears welled up as images of my little girls innocent and free moved through my thoughts.  I can only run in panicked circles warding off these thieves.  But that will buy little time.  The windows will break, glass will shatter and they will come in uninvited and despised.  They are coming.  I am waiting.  Images manufactured precisely.  Idols all empty little hearts aspire to please.  Models that don’t exist.  Women that don’t fit.  Empty little hearts always wanting to be filled hungry just to be held as they are, where they are, how they are.

My little women, do they feel the weight?  More frightening even, do they identify the wrong as right?  Are their little knees still scuffed with dirt and sweat fading too fast giving way to a thieving normalcy, a must achievable mold they must fit into?

Someone needs to yell something different, look into their eyes beholding and everyday grab that disease thieving by the throat, crush it underfoot and open the door to beauty actual.  Let the lies swarm and pick and invade.  I am the destroyer of deceitful beauty, treading heavy footed on every lie making room for itself in their filling little hearts.

Reading through this information my heart caught flame with fear and resolve.  Acceptable images of how women are said to be but were never intended to be or should be influencing all watching, capturing the attention of those needing to be caught.  It is not right.

How do you undo an empire but by one brick at a time?

I have three.  They will be loosed with the continual help of the one divine.