The Good Old Days

“We are facing dangers in America. Enemies are being made now that are dividing this country as it has never been divided in its history. We are facing the greatest dangers we have ever faced, and the religious liberals are riding in now on the crest of a wave of what seems to be popular.”*

Sounds familiar, right? It does to me. From blog posts to Facebook statues to sermons, I feel like I’m being bombarded with this idea that we are leaving “the good old days” and about to enter something far more sinister.

Kids used to pray in public schools! Traditional family values prevailed! Men were men and women were women! Children were respectful and everyone went to church and the world was as it should be!

But then it all changed, right? Somehow we Christians didn’t SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE loudly enough and America went off the rails and this new world, this liberal world has arrived.

A few years ago, my grandmother passionately announced that she wouldn’t want to bring a child into the world the way it was. That statement has stuck with me since then, this idea that our present reality could possibly be so degraded that my generation might as well give up, not bring children into this world, because there is no hope for their future.

But then I also remember her calling my mom shortly before I went to Prom with grave concerns about my attending the event with a boy with the last name of “Dominguez.”

And that’s how I know she was wrong.

That’s how I know anybody who looks back fondly at the “good old days” of the 50s or 60s or 70s or 80s or 90s, the ones who want to “make America great again!” are misguided. Because I grew up with eight grandparents, and I assure you, I heard every one of them say something jarringly racist at one point or another. Hateful, even.

Their attitudes were a byproduct of the world in which they grew up. The “good” version of the world. The “more Christian” version of the world.

That 1950s world where women made sixty-something cents on the dollar to men for the same year-round, full time work and likely never questioned sexual harassment as a workplace norm.

That 1960s and 1970s world where people of color were dragged to their deaths and churches were burned to the ground by the KKK. Where white kids beat the hell out of black kids as school desegregation was taking place.

That 1980s world where in Stockton, California a man walked into an elementary school and murdered or injured 37 children before taking his own life.

That 1990s world where female military cadets at my own alma mater were being beaten, raped, and brutally hazed because many men didn’t want them to be allowed in “their” organization.

These were not good old days. These were more days full of scary things.

This is and always has been a world full of scary things.

And I think we can make it better. I think in many ways we have made it better.

I can’t stop wondering: why are we romanticizing a time full of as much as or more hate, racism, sexism, and depravity as we have today? And are we going and do this whole thing again in another 50 years?

Someday when people look back at 2016, I’m worried they won’t remember that there were white Christians who were refusing to even consider that simply living a life with darker skin might be more scary, more dangerous than the white one we were living. That we would rather refuse to accept that black lives do matter for fear that we risk allowing anything or anyone to matter more than ourselves.

I am worried that they won’t remember that in 2016 we could tell our daughters that they could be anything they wanted when they grew up, unless what they wanted was to be the senior pastor of most any evangelical church.

I am worried that they won’t remember that in 2016 Christians chose to fight for our own perceived “safety” in public restrooms rather than remember that loving people is supposed to be fundamentally unsafe, we are called to give up our lives for Christ, yet can’t hypothetically pee in the stall next to someone who might have views vastly different than our own.

I’m worried they won’t remember that there wasn’t one woman in 2016 who wasn’t on high-alert walking down a dark alley at night because we were victims first, and we were told that it was probably our fault for being there in the first place.

I’m worried that they won’t remember that we claim to follow a Jesus who gave up His life for us, who loved the marginalized, who trained his apostles to allow themselves to be martyred for his cause, yet we can’t even consider giving up a chicken sandwich and an indignant Facebook status in solidarity with people we may not agree with, even though doing so would be an act of love that could show them who Jesus is.

I am worried that perhaps future generations will think of this time as “the good old days.” Days we should get back to. Days when we loved less and oppressed more but dammit, we got our way.

Or maybe, what I’m really worried about is that all of this will still be a reality, and they won’t need to look back at anything to be horrified; that we’ll decide to keep these “good old days” exactly the way they are.

*The opening quote is from a sermon by American broadcast evangelist Bob Jones Sr. on Easter Sunday, 1960. It was an anti-desegregation sermon.

“God never meant for America to be a melting pot or rub out the line between the nations… When someone goes overthrowing His established order and goes around preaching pious sermons…and talk about rubbing out the line between the races – I say it makes me sick.”

Little Sister in The Big Crapple

I’m 10,999 days old today.

I know this because it is the last day I get to be a younger sister.

He won’t be older than me tomorrow.

He won’t have done life first so I can watch how he does it before I have to.

And there is no way around it; that sucks.

I continue to have no interest in being an only child, and I also have no interest in being an oldest child. But somehow, I am going to be both now.

Turns out I don’t get a choice in the matter.

So I’m spending the weekend New York City, probably the place Shane hated most in the world (he maturely referred to it as “The Big Crapple.”) with my best friend. And we’re spending the long weekend eating a lot of brunch plus going to musicals plus day-drinking plus buying all the Mood fabric plus doing essentially every other stereotypically white-privileged-cliche-girl-in-NYC thing we can think of.

Because we are big fans of said garbage-city (and admittedly, as we discovered today, smells much more like garbage when it’s warm out, wow). And because I have to be the first one to turn 11,001 days old. And because I have to do life without an older brother in every sense of the word now.

I might as well start doing that with a mimosa in-hand.


Tomorrow is our eighth wedding anniversary.

When our anniversaries roll around, usually we’re out of gift ideas. Christmas just happened, then my birthday, and his is next, and so we Google the “traditional” anniversary gifts. And you know what we usually find out?

Traditional anniversary gifts suck.


Happy Saltaversary, honey.

(I read that list to Jack a while back and he said “Salt? Cheeto! I’m gonna get you French Fries!” Every girl’s dream.)

(We ended up buying patio furniture, high-fiving, and calling it good.)

I’m helping launch a site this week at work, which thusfar has been, shallwesay, a little intense, so there was little time for salt shopping anyway.

And here we are, eight years in. 13 years, really. A damn lifetime for, well, 13 year olds. And I’m trying to figure out what I’ve learned. How I’m wiser. What advice I would possibly have for the 22-year-old who is marrying that nice karate boy today.


And the truth is, the only thing in my head is, “it’s going to suck sometimes, and it’s going to be great sometimes.” It’s all I can assume about the rest of this life with or without him.

It’s going to suck sometimes, and it’s going to be great sometimes.

You won’t see each other a lot. You’ll get used to that. You’ll realize you got used to that. You’ll realize that’s not how it’s supposed to be. Getting back to not being used to that will take work.

It’s going to suck sometimes.

Your careers will be more fulfilling than you ever thought possible and you will cheer each other on in them, despite how very very different they are.

It’s going to be great sometimes.

You will stare out the window on a road trip because there’s just nothing more to say about that thing you can’t agree on. You consider the fact that there aren’t kids involved yet. Your brain decides how easy it would be to leave even though you know better, you always know better.

It’s going to suck sometimes.

He just won’t shut up even thought it’s 2am and you’re telling him you just want to go to sleep but he just wants to tell you one more thing one more thing one more thing! And you won’t be able to stop giggling which really won’t help convey just how very annoyed you are that he never ever shuts up.

It’s going to be great sometimes.

We have seen beauty. We have seen intense pain. We don’t pretend to know what we’re doing; we don’t. Our lives look different than we imagined. Worse than we imagined. Better than we imagined.

And the only thing I know about the next eight years is that it’s going to suck sometimes.

And it’s going to be great sometimes too.

Second Home


Five years today we have owned this school.

This school that is most-of-the-time our second home full of family and a-teeny-bit-of-time our prison full of responsibility and limitations.


Construction. I made a video for my buddy Sara at the time with a tour of all of it.

This school that we often spend hours in after church on Sundays, exhaustedly working when we would rather be laying on the couch watching football (okay, napping for me) after a long week of actual work days.

This school that we run up and down with our little dog in when nobody else is there, laughing until our stomachs hurt.

This school that we fight in when nobody else is there, stressing until our stomachs hurt.


This school where we’ve seen kids living with Autism or other challenges thriving and where we’ve seen people come together to help others in need more times than we can count.

This school that would completely destroy us if it fell apart because our names are on the lease for years regardless of whether we’re in business.

This school where leaders are created and everyone is unquestionably accepted for who they are, not just by our staff but by the other students and parents.

First MurphyATA website

Forgive me, Internet. It was 2011. I didn’t know any better.

He texted to remind me of this anniversary today, and he thanked me for my part in it. Because he’s kind and thoughtful and he recognizes that building a business together takes two buy-ins, regardless of whether it was that partner’s dream or idea.

Because quite frankly, this wasn’t my dream. It was his. It was his dream since he was 12 years old, and it was clearly not mine by the time I was 19.

Our first actual class as business owners was in a ballet studio while our permanent school was under construction

Our first actual class as business owners was in a ballet studio while our permanent school was under construction

We are both comfortable with that fact; I have my passions, he has his. But it would be easier if we were a couple who ran the school together.

It would be easier for him; he’d have a full-time partner who could truly rock at helping run his business.

It would be easier for me; I could have one full-time job instead of one full-time job and two part-time ones. We’d have more home-cooked meals and a less cluttered house. We might have kids of our own running around the school by now.

It would be easier.

But it wouldn’t make me happy or fulfilled. And he would never facilitate a situation where I wasn’t. I cannot adequately express how grateful I am that he has encouraged me to do what’s right for me instead of boxing me into what is right for him.


We are not a couple who runs the school together.

But we are a couple who runs the school together.

And today he thanked me for that, for the sacrifices I have made to make this dream come true for him. Because he is kind and thoughtful. But what he doesn’t think about when he says that is all the ways his dream has helped me chase mine too.

Being a small business owner has made me more empathetic to my clients. Being a small business owner has made me understand my bosses and co-workers more. Being a small business owner has allowed me to not worry quite so much about what my own salary is when things are going well at the school.


Being a small business owner has given me the opportunity to live with someone who is truly happy to do what he does, and to fall in love with the way he uses it to change peoples’ lives.

We are the small business. It is as much of our identity as our own last name. It is interwoven into every piece of our lives and our marriage and our conversations and our responsibilities and our passions.

Five years ago today, we created a new home together. For ourselves. For his students. For their parents and for the relatives and friends who watch them achieve their goals. For this man, who has poured himself into every piece of it.


Here’s to the next five.

February 1, 2016

No More Mister Nice Guy


My workplace has this incredible tradition of honoring people on their work anniversaries. They do it slightly differently for each person, but essentially an anniversary at my job means that they’re going to buy you a nice, really personal gift, and most likely everyone will all get together in the same room and say kind things about you.

When you’re planning someone else’s anniversary, often we will ask everyone the same personalized-to-the-anniversary-ee question. “What do you like best about working with Ryan?” “What makes you think Derek may not actually be human?” “How has Russel helped you this year?” “What has Shyam taught you?”

My one-year anniversary was in November, and everyone answered a question about the nicest thing I have ever done for them. It was thoroughly overwhelming to sit in a room and listen to some of the people I most respect in the world talk about things I had completely forgotten that I had done that had evidently meant a lot to them.

(Also they gave me a kickass bluetooth speaker that I take everywhere with me because the sound quality is pristine and also it makes me feel loved every time I use it.)

Niceness is nice, and I am grateful that my colleagues associate me with that trait.

But then, there’s the other side of niceness. The side where you can get walked over by someone who will take advantage of it. The side where people don’t take you as seriously as they could. The side where you’re only doing it because you feel like you have to, or should. The side where your friend will yell “WOMAN UP!” at you semi-jokingly when you’re being insecure about making a decision because EVERYBODY NEEDS TO BE OKAY WITH IT IS EVERYBODY OKAY ARE YOU SURE THOUGH BECAUSE IT’S REALLY OKAY IF YOU WANT TO DO SOMETHING ELSE.

A friend pointed out something I had done out of niceness the other day that discredited me some. That caused me a little more work than it should have. He recommended I stop being quite so nice. He told me it gets in my way. It led us to a discussion about niceness and the need for it (or lack of need for it) in the world.

And the thing is I agree with him. “Nice” is never a thing I am trying to be, because I have spent a lot of time thinking about the very big difference between “nice” and “kind.”

A nice person will do something for you because they’re supposed to.

A kind person will do something for you because they care about you.

(Fun Fact: I thought “Care” was my word last year. Nope. Apparently it was 2 years ago. That’s how much I needed that word. It lasted two whole years.)

I texted Alece a few weeks ago about how I couldn’t get my shit together to pick a word and could it just be “wine” this year? Because I know I can rock the word “WINE.”

(She said absolutely it could. One of the many reasons I love that girl.)

So maybe my word this year is “Kindness.” A reminder that I can be kind without always being nice. A reminder of the loving God I serve and also of the ass I want to kick at my job and my life.

The world needs kindness. People need kindness. I want and need to be kind to others to show them who my version of Jesus is. My Jesus who meets people where they are, who loves and serves who is in front of Him no matter what. And that same Jesus who flips tables over in the temple and rebukes Pharisees because He was not here just to be nice, yo.

I can be kind without being nice. I can be empathetic without being weak. I can love without being less.

Maybe this year, I will figure out exactly how to do that.

Wouldn’t that be nice?


Be yourself.

Unless who you are is awkward or insecure.

Then act confident. Fake it ’till you make it!

But, authentically. Nobody likes somebody who’s inauthentic.

Be sure to stand up for yourself when you’re getting walked all over. Just don’t be bitchy about it. Working with bitchy women is the worst, amirite?

Have morals, but don’t be religious. And if you are, please keep it to yourself. Love Jesus, but stay away from people who disagree with you about Him. Keep your judgements to yourself, but make sure you have plenty of opinions about other peoples’ lifestyles.

Eat crappy food with the dudes. It makes them think you’re cool. But, you know, keep it tight.

If you lose someone you love, grieve in your own way. As long as it isn’t doesn’t take too long, and as long as it looks exactly like the way everybody else grieves. Be sure to be just vulnerable and somber enough about the whole thing without seeming depressed all the time. And for the love of God, don’t make a joke about it that will make somebody uncomfortable.

Be kind always, but only if somebody deserves it.

Have children. Children are a blessing! But be sure to time that perfectly. It’s not like a baby will improve anything about your marriage. But really, have children soon regardless of that. You’re not getting any younger, you know?

Stay late at work and kick ass. But with a really healthy work-life balance. Boundaries are important. But also promotions. But also dinner on the table when your husband gets home.

And wear makeup. But not too much makeup. Make it look natural. You don’t want people to think you’re trying too hard.

Be yourself.

Just, not too much.

10-4, Good Buddy

We were on a mission. A secret mission.     

 My partner and I grabbed the ice bucket and flung open the hotel room door.

I dramatically looked left and right down the hall, and he followed. I put my finger to my lips. 

“Shhhhhhh!” I whispered. “We have to be sneaky and find the missing ice machine!”

I took big, cartoon-style tiptoe steps into the hall on bare feet and he did the same.

We peeked around corners and whispered excitedly to each other.

“Where is the ice for our bucket?” he whispered.

“I don’t know but we have to be verrrrry sneaky to find it!”

And he giggled. And we whispered some more. And giggled some more.
And we went floor to floor (sneakily, of course), looking for an ice machine that evidently only lived in the lobby (making me regret the decision to enter this mission barefoot when I had co-workers and clients staying in the same hotel, but hey, sometimes being on a mission means sacrifice). 

And as he tiptoed next to me and our full ice bucket, back to our headquarters (hotel room), he looked up at me and whispered “I love you so much, Aunt Mandy,” unprompted.

And that’s what I would call a successful mission. 


20150906-mandy-hornbuckle-tattoo-IMG_8646 I started designing my tattoo about a year and a half ago. I didn’t want to make this decision emotionally. Or in the middle of the darkest grief. I wanted to make sure I wanted it. I wanted to be rational. I wanted to be sure.

When I mentioned it once, a friend of a friend replied “A tattoo is just a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.”


And the thing is, with all due respect to her, because she had good intentions, she was dead wrong.

There is nothing temporary about this feeling. There is nothing temporary about being his sister. There is nothing temporary about his being my friend. There is nothing temporary about wanting to make him proud. There is nothing temporary about his being gone. There is nothing temporary about his being a part of me.


And I went into the tattoo place on Friday, nervous but sure. I went into the tattoo place holding her handwriting. His name. A perfect combination.

He would have hated it. I know he would have. He probably would have called me a dolt.

But as much as I always wanted him to think I was cool, it’s not for him. It’s not for anybody but me.


And for me, it’s perfect.

I don’t think it was worth it

I had a conversation tonight in which I was able to reflect on the past two years. The brother-with-cancer part. The loss part. The grief part. The horror part. But most of it was the part where God came through.

I have this story to tell now, a story where God came through despite the cancer and the loss and the grief and the horror. I wouldn’t have had this story otherwise. I wouldn’t have known this version of God otherwise. A version who inexplicably works all things together for good. All things. For good. Inexplicably.

I wouldn’t have gotten to know this version of my God if Shane had lived. I wouldn’t have had this story to tell if Shane had lived. And it’s an extraordinary story. An extraordinary God. I believe deeper now, am more sure now. Because Shane didn’t live.

But I don’t think it was worth it.

I’m seeing life turn out differently because he’s not here. I’m seeing good things happen despite Shane being gone. Every time I realize the good things that are falling into place are as a result of my brother’s death, I reasonably have mixed feelings.

I may or may not have made the career changes I made. I’m finding a deep fulfillment in this new job that I don’t think I could have ever found in the previous one. I’m being challenged and I’m growing and I’m learning and I feel alive.

But if it’s because Shane’s dead, it wasn’t worth it.

My sister-in-law wouldn’t have met Jeremiah, who makes her laugh and introduces her to new hobbies and loves my nephew fiercely and does all those things differently than Shane would have, but he’s the kind of person you feel thankful to know.

But I don’t think it was worth it.

I wouldn’t have thought to use my photography to serve others with cancer, and I wouldn’t have met some really wonderful people as a result.

But I don’t think it was worth it.

My mom wouldn’t be so diligent about taking her Betaseron shots, since she promised him right before he died that she wouldn’t miss any more. Maybe as a result, she’ll live many more years without her MS symptoms progressing. I’m really thankful that he had that stern talk with her right before he died.

But I don’t think it was worth it.

There are more, I’m sure. Stronger faith. Deeper relationships. Better perspective. But if I could change it all right now, I would choose Shane over any good God has done with these circumstances.

That’s the truth about God working all things together for good. I don’t think He expects us to think it’s worth it. I just think He works it together for good.

And that’s going to have to be good enough for now.

The F-word and church

It started as a practical offer.

One of the guys who usually helps pass the plate with Jack and two other guys at church wasn’t there on Sunday. There are four aisles. There need to be four people.

“I’ll do it,” I said casually, hoping I wouldn’t hear what I was about to from the men I was standing with, but knowing I probably would.

“Wait,” our friend said, “is that allowed?”

It’s a question I have been afraid to ask about a lot of things inside my church’s four walls. I grew up in traditional baptist churches, where men lead, men teach, men deacon, and men decide.

What am I allowed to do here?

I have been on a journey over the last few years, one that has lead me to really study the Bible and what it says about issues that bothered me. To challenge the ideas that I grew up with and always accepted as truth because I had been told how certain scripture should be interpreted.

I have been learning what it means to be an adult Christian. One who decides to love Jesus because of who He is and not because my parents told me we do.

It started when I didn’t marry Ben Sisney.

Ben was the best-friend-boy I grew up with that my parents imagined me marrying. At least, they imagined me marrying a Ben Sisney. Someone who had also spent his childhood running around in a baptist church like I did. As I became a teenager, that’s exactly what I imagined too. He would know the Bible backwards and forwards, would probably be able to quote scripture, and would be able to make intelligent, witty jokes that referenced obscure Bible stories at (alcohol-free) dinner parties.

Sorry, Mom and Dad. We'll never have Bible-verse memorizing babies together.

Sorry, Mom and Dad. We’ll never have Bible-memorizing babies together.

The problem is, I didn’t fall in love with a Ben Sisney. I am confident that I was never meant to.

Instead, I fell in love with a boy who grew up in a Catholic church instead of a Baptist one. He hadn’t memorized scripture and his knowledge of basic Bible stories was fuzzy. He couldn’t open his Bible to just the right verse because they just didn’t have to do that in his church. His upbringing was different but the result was the same: he loved the same God I love.

So who cares? Well, I did at first. I spent a while trying to reconcile the fact that the person I had pictured being THE SPIRITUAL LEADER OF MY HOUSEHOLD would have to catch up to me in the “look how fast I can look up a Bible verse” department. And OMG(osh, obviously) did that mean that he couldn’t be THE SPIRITUAL LEADER OF MY HOUSEHOLD after all?

Turns out, Jack has led in a way I could have never planned or expected. He has shown me that serving and loving our God means more than being able to pray pretty or quote the entire Romans Road sequence on cue. He has shown me what kindness and humility mean. He has supported me and pushed me in ways that have grown me. And he has challenged me to lead when it time for me to lead.

If that isn’t a spiritual head of a household, I don’t know what is.

I think if I had kept my caps-lock version of that principle in my head, if I had married a Ben Sisney, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be the person I am today. That husband might have allowed me to only follow instead of pushing me to become a leader in the right areas.*

*Dear THE Ben Sisney, I apologize for the bad rap you’re getting as my metaphorical good Christian husband. I’m confident that you’re a lovely, non-misogynistic husband to Marci.

And so, fast-forwarding through these years of becoming an adult Christian, of deciding what I would keep or reject from my accept-everything-I’m-told churchy upbringing, I have found myself in the often-confusing role of Christian feminist.

There are those reading this who will find that word dirty. I actually have a hard time stating this publicly because I am acutely aware of all the ways feminism gets misinterpreted. Also, I feel it’s more impactful to live out what you believe than to place a label on it.

I have had other Christians (men) warn me against making Christian feminists my role models, against accepting any of their ideas. I have had friends (and probably my mother) worry about my spiritual security when I mention that I’m not comfortable with ways certain scripture (especially scripture about women) has been interpreted. I have been surprised by blatant sexism in my career. I have noticed the disparity in women who lead vs. men who lead in this world.

I have been not allowed to do things in this life for the sole reason that I’m female. Things I would have been great at. And I can’t stop wondering whether my church will stop me from doing things for that reason too.

I have perpetually not fit into the typical church lady mold that seems to exist, even though some of my friends do fit into that mold and seem to be comfortable with it (and use that mold to be amazing servants of Christ).

I love the way Sarah Bessey puts it:

Women have more to offer the church than mad decorating skills or craft nights. I look around: I see women who can offer strategic leadership, wisdom, counsel, and teaching. Their whole lives are an offering, and sometimes, the best way to properly celebrate that offering is with a dozen cupcakes and a fashion show, and that’s okay, too.

Recently Jack and I have talked a lot about this. I can’t stop wondering if women aren’t leaders in our own church because it’s not allowed, or because we aren’t stepping up. Maybe the women are doing craft nights and teaching kids’ Sunday school and doing Bible studies about emotions because that’s what they want to do. But what if women are only doing craft nights and teaching kids’ Sunday school and doing Bible studies about emotions because we think we aren’t allowed to do anything else? If I’m being honest, that’s why I’m doing all of those things (except craft night because I can definitely rock a hot glue gun).

What if we are allowed to lead and just aren’t doing it?

I told him I feel like it’s important for me to be a part of changing that. To be that woman who volunteers for things that only men do when there’s a need for it. To see what they say when I do. And God bless him, he cheered me on.

(He always cheers me on.)

Honestly, I’m terrified about the follow-through here. What if I find out that this church I love, full of people I adore, this place where we finally feel at home, comes back and says I can’t, only because I’m a woman?

(This is how I know when God is telling me to do something, by the way. I never, ever want to do it.)

So I have been studying and praying about this for a while. I feel like this is both a “if anyone knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” thing and a “make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister” thing.

I don’t want to challenge the status quo for the sake of causing trouble, but I don’t want to not challenge the status quo because it’s scary.

So I offered to pass the plate at church. And yeah, it annoyed me that it was even a debate, that anybody even questioned it. It reminded me of how far I feel the church needs to go. Because to be quite frank, unless these men are passing the offering plate with a part that God gave only men, there is no reason I or any other women can’t stand in the aisle and wait for an offering plate to get to the end of a row.

It was time to step up. It was time to know the good I ought to do and do it.

And you know what? It was allowed after all.