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Life's Little Lessons

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." – Emile Zola

Forward

It’s 1997 and two months before my wedding day. I’m riding a three-wheeler through the mountains with my finance and my two-year old daughter and it’s a beautiful day, sunny and bright, probably July or early August. I should have known what was to come based off of my experiences growing up riding bikes, but I’m young and overly confident, out to impress my future husband. I manage to convince myself I can manage quite well the first time behind a motorized wheel.

I was wrong.

I wreck, brake my left wrist and later find myself two weeks before my wedding, cutting the cast off at work because who wants to see a bride walk down the aisle wearing a cast?

My wrist heals nicely so taking the cast off two weeks early wasn’t really a big deal however, whenever I find myself years later teaching my kids how to do cart-wheel , I noticed the pain of the injury is still there.

Muscle memory is real, pain memory…more so.

I think a lot about that injury these days as I head into month six of healing a fractured humorous thanks to running an extremely exuberant dog through the snow. Healing isn’t going as fast as it did when I had a broken wrist in 1997 nor is it going as fast as when I broke my arm when the kids in the neighborhood decided to grab my legs and arms and swing me around the air when I was six.

But it IS healing.

I’ve been wanting to write my story for years but honestly haven’t had the guts to. Much of what I mostly likely will share has been kept locked tight in some attic chest that no one wanted me to dig through. Most of it is shameful and embarrassing and regret-filled but I’m discovering, I NEED to unpack and begin to sort to find the whole of me that’s been shut inside.

Healing happens when we take what’s been in the dark and bring it into the light and I for one, need the healing more than I need to care what anyone thinks. It’s my life and I’m tired of being ashamed or scared of it.

So here I sit and I promise to write to none other than to myself. There’s a little girl in me that needs to heal. A teenager that needs to heal. A young adult, a new mom, a friend, a fourth-year old wife in a marriage that is falling a part that has questions. A woman trying desperately to sort and make sense. A woman trying to find direction and peace.

A woman who most of all wants to make friends with her enemies.

I started this blog, and one previously like it, to write my thoughts because that is what’ve I’ve done since I was a child in the form of diaries and poems but I find myself skirting around me what I know deep down in me is to write, often touching the edges of my personal life here and there. I ultimately stay away from where I want and know I need to go because my story, like most, is interwoven around others’, and it’s complicated and all out of sorts.

I’ve been.

But that is just a lie I’ve believed, much like when I do those cart-wheels with my kids and the pain from that broken wrist from all those years ago resurfaces trying to tell me the injury is still there, that I am still broken.

I am not.

So it’s time for me to sit and scavenge through the boxes in the attic and bring to light what’s been hidden in the dark.

It’s time to find the whole of me.

Trust

A couple of months ago, I pulled into my driveway and made a conscious decision to step out of the spin cycle. I call it the spin cycle because that’s exactly what it felt and probably looked like. Life was spinning largely out of control, but I quickly found out that was just an illusion.

I had a say.

Sometimes we do not have a say with what happens in our life. Life just has a way of throwing us a curve ball every now and then because for the most part we are riding the waves of each others choices. You do A and it impacts me in the form of B, not to mention how I respond in the form of C. And so on and so forth.

I do it back.

Vicious.

And that was where I was at, spinning around and around and around…

Mostly it was feelings. Lots of thoughts which turned into talk added up to be a whole bunch of continuous negatives…

Waves.

And they were drowning me.

So one afternoon I pulled into my driveway and I thought to myself, “I have a say and a part. I cannot feed this anymore.”

No more feelings or thoughts. I needed a break so I could breath and make sense out of life again.

And I did that just. I didn’t think about it and if I did, I certainly did not talk about it. I asked my friends not to ask about it. Some were understanding and some, not so much, and that was ok. I needed all the voices to settle IN and AROUND me so ultimately I could hear HIS voice.

Not everyone understands this concept.

To some of my friends I was either building walls or not open-hearted enough which was so far from the truth but again, their disapproval was just a distraction trying to keep me tethered to the bottom of the unpredictable sea.

Jesus shows me that is exactly what He does. He often removes Himself from the crowd and intentionally wanders to the wilderness (lonely places) to be with and hear from the Father. And if He does it, so can I.

And it worked. My emotions settled. My thoughts became clearer and less jumbled and I began to rest again. I gained weight and began sleeping through the night, both which were a concern.

But I had to carefully guard my heart. Certain topics or thoughts were off-limits when it came to my entertainment. My life got turned upside down back in December and for months, it was such a huge topic of conversation, for everyone. I needed a time out and I was the only one who could make that happen.

So friends, take it from me, some curve balls are a little rough and a little too unpredictable. I don’t know how anyone navigates the aftermath that they bring with calm and ease. Most flounder around a bit till they get their bearings again.

At least I did. I still am.

Every now and then, I feel myself slipping, spinning. I want to feed the frenzy. I want to dwell and get a good mad on which brings on all sorts of not great feelings and thoughts. I have to remember to guard, diligently guard, like VICIOUSLY guard, and place my focus on what my part is and what is good.

So I ask God daily to show me His perspective and He takes me far above the things in life that are spinning out of control. He takes me to my children. He takes me to my farmer’s field, to my writing, to my friends and to puppies.

And when I feel like life is too big and too weighty and continuously spinning, I envision myself in His hands, on the potter’s wheel.

He knows what He is doing with my life and when I am afraid, I trust Him.

life interrupted

Like most people, I have a job. In fact, I have several. One of my jobs, my biggest and fullest of them all allows me to work from my former den which is right down my living room steps and is now a working office with a fax machine to prove it.

And since honesty is always the best policy, I’ll go ahead and publicly state that working from home is not all it’s cracked up to be. I am beyond thankful that I can and I do not want to take it for granted but like all good things, working from home is like a double edge sword, especially when working with the public sector.

For example, I can work from home in my pajama’s.

Downside is people can walk right into my office when I don’t have a bra on.

Some lessons are learned the hard way. Yeah. Embarrassment. #sorrynotsorry

I have made breakfast for my kids all while answering the phone. I’ve done loads of laundry in between projects. I’ve been able to take each Seeing Eye Puppy I’ve raised with me to work which really affords me a lot of time with them which is needed and to their benefit.

I could go on and on with the list of the good that comes with the work-from-home package, but the downside is this: I cannot escape work.

Real-life problems I know, I sound like such a whiner. Bear with me, there is a life-lesson here.

The other night at 5:15 PM, I was making dinner for my family and the office bell rang. Surprise. As tempting as it was to let business be business, set hours and let them stand outside the door, I just couldn’t. The door is not the phone. I could not just let them stand long enough to go to voicemail so I welcomed my guest into the office.

They immediately commented on how good my dinner smelt.

Yes, dinner did smell good and I secretly hoped it was not burning or something else equally as tragic but twenty-minutes later, I had answered all their questions, got them what they needed and they were on their way.

August, breathe.

One thing that really bothers me is feeling like I am an inconvenience. I don’t like feeling like I am botheringsomeone, let alone NOTICEABLY bothering someone (because one is in my head and one is a realistic assumption based off of real-life interactions).

So yes, dinner. Ha, nah it’s not burning. I have time. Yes, it’s a new recipe I’m trying. What can I do to help?

Because if I don’t like feeling like a bother, I really don’t want to make someone else potentially feel that way. More importantly, I honestly believe deep down, despite how I sometimes feel, that people are utmost importance and should never be the second or third thought and should never vie for first place when dinner or projects or paper are running the race.

People come first.

So work and home aside, I shift my perspective. I am incredibly honored to have my home also be a conduit for so many people to flow in and out of, even if the lines are sometimes blurred that differentiate the two.

There is grace to shift gears when needed.

So friends, if you find your schedule being compromised and the culprit is your fellow mankind…step back, even if only with yourself, and breathe. Take a long, deep breath and remember WHO you are. Remember that looking your culprit in the eyes with compassion and grace is one of the most loving things you can do, especially when timing is tight.

People are not an inconvenience.

Love Is

Love can be tricky and isn’t always easy. Love everyone? Yeah, no thanks. Lots of times, I just don’t FEEL it. It is work, doesn’t come quick and is often incredibly complicated…entangled in knots vs. the nice, soft ball of good-feels I prefer.

And I can always tell when I struggling with it. I become short-tempered, quick with my words, easily offended and snarky.

Yes snarky.

Like today I got into a a childish game of “who could have the last word”…feeling undermined, I needed to have the last say to feel right.

Struggling indeed.

When I’m here, I often find myself trying to make my way back to myself, my nice self. My loving self.

To no avail, I always come up slightly short and my love tank is never quite full enough. It’s exhausting carrying bucket loads of water to the tank on your own so eventually I tire and decide to tap into whose tank I know is full and overflowing.

And I always end up here:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Because if love is not just some feeling or a good and noble deed, but rather the very person of Jesus, then Love is who I am to be.

I often forget that I don’t have to try to find my way BACK to myself, I’m where I want to be the moment I about-face and go in the opposite direction of being short-tempered, quick with my words, easily offended and snarky.

I am patient.

I am kind.

I am not envious, boastful, or proud.

I do not dishonor others.

I am not self-seeking, easily angered, and I keeps no record of wrongs.

I do not not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

I always protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere.

If I just rest here, in becoming these very words and willing them to life IN me…I find my way back to being loving when I find my way back to Jesus.

He is my compass and my light.

He IS Love.

Chasing Slow

The perfect ending to my day is a walk with the dog down a hidden path in a farmer’s field not far from my home. It is quiet and serene and leads to an open field by a brook and is as picturesque as they come and if you time it just right, you can watch the sun set behind the Allegheny Mountains.

The problem is, I don’t take that walk all that often and tonight when my feet hit the path, I wish they did.

The list of excuses is extensive; too busy, not enough time and sometimes simply lack of motivation but all in all, I find when I head towards that hidden path, something inside of me breathes easier and the space within me becomes wider which makes room for what and who is important.

And you want to know how I got to go on that walk tonight? I had to say no to something. Actually to someone. I was to have dinner with friends but the day didn’t shape up the way I had planned and consequently, my evening was freed.

But I hated to say no. I kept telling myself for hours I could make it work but honestly, in the long run, I couldn’t. Too full of a day isn’t always best and sometimes you have to be the one that makes the hard decisions for the greater good and tonight the greater good was my family.

I am finding in my fast paced world, I need a lot of slow. A lot. And the only way to slow things down to a pace that is not only manageable but enjoyable is to say no.

Friends that is hard. I hate to disappoint and let people down. I don’t like conveying, “This is not important to me. You’re not.” But people pleasing is often my demise. When you’ve battled fear of rejection most of your life, you long to be accepted and you  become a person who says “yes” like it’s an insurance policy with an affordable deductible. The payment is somewhat doable…at first. But the thing with saying yes all the time is that it has a snow ball effect…one yes turns into another and before you know it, you are giving your time and your energy to things and people you shouldn’t and you can become easily burned out.

Saying yes is like a drug, a way to stay busy and numb out and sometimes the only way to discover why you are on the hamster wheel is to detox your system and your schedule so you can understand why you have a need to be constantly on the go. What are you trying to avoid by remaining preoccupied? It’s a question I have been asking myself. For one, resting and chasing slow makes me feel unproductive and since much of our culture associates productivity next to godliness…I feel as if I “should” be involved in all things, showing up and presenting my smile and doing my part.

Truth is, the core of who I am craves slow and part of me wants to say that’s because I have secretly been an introvert made to think she was an extrovert but I don’t think that’s what it is. I think I began avoiding life and used people and staying busy much like a drug….so I wouldn’t be confronted with being alone with myself and my thoughts.

Now after going through one of the hardest seasons of my life plagued by depression and faced with the harsh reality that I literally am not responsible for anything or anyone but myself, I have been forced to hit the rest button and look at my life and what is my part all over again. Looking back, it’s been a good and needed process though the realities of it all have not seemed so beneficial at the time.

Chasing a slower pace of life has challenged me to look at my time and what I can realistically handle in any one given day. I always believed that I could handle a lot of pressure and stress because I was always forced to but then I looked long and hard at my coping mechanisms and realized that I wasn’t really handling the heaviness all that well. So I am learning to say “no, not now or I have to reschedule.” I am finding that the sky does not fall on my head and that ultimately, I’m the one who has to sleep with myself at night and the saying goes, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no body happy.”

It’s true.

“If Mama ain’t happy with being with herself, she ain’t happy with being with anybody else.”

Is truer yet.

Friends, please make time for the walk. Your body will thank you but your soul and your spirit will thank you even more.

When the Ground is Soft

I have a love hate affair with weeding. In fact, I love to hate weeding but alas, it is a necessary confliction.

So all week I have been hauling wheelbarrows of weeds to my burn pile. An hour here and an hour here and this morning after the morning rain, I ventured outside because I had the time. By the end of the hour, my back was sore and the mulch’s dark coloring bled through my gloves and stained my skin. It was time to have lunch and I was done. The rest can wait for another day.

One thing I noticed while my knees were in the dirt was how easy it was to pull the roots out. The ground was wet after a whole week of rain had softened it and the soft dirt made the weeds easy to pull out…and not just the appearance of but the actuality of.

There is a difference.

It made me think about my heart and how much easier it is to pull out the junk when my heart is soft and how hard and cumbersome it is when it’s not. Sometimes my heart gets so stubborn and clenches tight to the roots stem so even when I try to tidy up the appearance of things, all that really happens is I chop the top off while leaving a tightly clasped root lying low beneath the surface, stealthily growing.

And they always grow back and most times with vengeance.

My mind goes to Pharaoh and his hardened heart and his ultimate demise, swallowed whole by the sea. How many times has that been me? Too many to count. Refusing to listen, stubbornly holding tight to my perspective, refusing to let go of my people and my pride.

My mind scans around my home for weeds, weeds IN me. I don’t want the clutter that ultimately becomes a distraction, but all I keep seeing is uncovered roots. Jesus whispers, “You can keep looking for weeds but I want to show you the root” and I agree. I think there’s wisdom in that. Most of the weeds that sprawled across my mulch shared the same root. They were entangled.

So my mind scans my home for roots, roots in me, because I don’t want the clutter that ultimately becomes a distraction.

I know if I keep on working on having a softly guarded heart, an honest one, I’ll be able to pull out those weeds and their roots when spotted.

Rest

All my big work to-do’s are done and another crazy and hectic school year is coming to an end. One more Friday.

All school year I said I wanted to take one day and not work in between bus runs. No sitting in the office going through mounds of paperwork, no cleaning the house for the five hundredth time, no laundry, no book club reading, no running errands. To me that time looked like sitting on the couch catching up on Season 2 of Game of Thrones and this morning I did just that.

I physically rested both my body and my mind and my heart breathed a huge sigh of relief.

“Thanks.”

I understand now why God calls for a day of rest. It wasn’t just so we could show up to Church (because sometimes that feels just as much like work as work does). It was so we could reset ourselves to our very core, to Him. To ourselves. To one another.

I got two episodes in and understand now why my oldest daughter told me not to get attached to characters. I then leisurely made my way across town for a lunch date with a friend and was so excited for my time with her because I didn’t feel rushed to get to the next thing. Guess what she talked about?

Rest.

Now her rest may look different from my rest but the premise is till the same. She is hitting the reset button just the same as I am. We are all trying to figure out how to balance this thing called life. Juggling schedules and wearing numerous hats in a 24 hour time period leaves many of us exhausted, even if it’s jammed packed full of good things and people. I have discovered this year that I love being around people and most would classify me as an extrovert but the core of who I am is very introverted, requiring a lot of alone time and quiet. When I get up each day and jump into the next thing or don’t  establish healthy boundaries or don’t make time to give my head and heart a break, I stop breathing and find myself holding my breath hurrying from one thing to the next.

That is not living.

That is just getting shit done.

I am beyond saying that’s life and calling it a day.

The whole basis of rest goes back to this:

Guard your heart above ALL else for everything in life flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23)

This pretty much embodies listening to an Audience of One and an Audience of One alone. If you people please much, you will have a hard time guarding your time, your schedule, your boundaries, your everything. Seriously, if your gut says no…maybe it’s a no (and no one has ever died from saying no that I am aware of). Most importantly, a lot of things sound good, especially if you’ve got a lot of well-meaning people offering advice to you on what you should and shouldn’t do. I personally am finding, the smaller the circle of influence you allow into your life, the better. Fewer voices = less noise. Walk with people and have people walk with you whom you confide in and trust but keep that number small. I think you’ll find you are able to hear God’s voice more clearly when you do so because ultimately it is He that helps you guard your heart.

So long story short is this…make time to rest friends. One day a week pretty much needs to be allotted to nothingness which in the long run, adds up to a whole lot of happiness, wholeness and peace in your life. Give your day away to go, go, go and watch your frustration, anxiety and weariness grow.

Make the time for the people and the things you say are important to you…make time for YOU. If Game of Thrones is your way to chillax, then please. Permission granted. You won’t do anyone or anything good when you and burned out from top to bottom. I mean, you’ll look pretty and amazingly hot, but ouch.

Take it from me…rest is a healer and doing nothing is more than ok.

 

ownership

I saw him standing by the door, waiting, so I approached him a little slowly. Who is this strange man on my doorstep? “Can I help you sir?” He obliged with a smile and slowly shrugged his shoulders while standing in front of me. “I was delivering your parts today and I forgot one of them. It’s not the companies fault, it is mine. I completely forgot to put it in the van.”

He was a breath of fresh air on this chilly Spring day and I said, “It’s ok. It happens to all of us.”

Lest not we forget that it does.

But unfortunately, many of us do. Many of us forget or ignore all together we have a part.

The other week I had someone call our office and complain about one of our drivers’ not stopping to pick up their student. It just so happens that driver was ME, and guess what? I DID stop. ON TIME. But it supposedly wasn’t their fault their student missed the bus, it was easier to default to it being someone else wrong doing.

HAPPENS. ALL. THE. TIME. 

Got kids? Then you understand.

Friends, is this fair? Of course not but what in life is, right? I had a choice to make in it? I had to honestly look at my part…did I make that stop and was I on time? Yes. I’m really sorry that student missed the bus but I showed up and did my part. I’m sad to say, someone else didn’t but it happens right?

Yes. It happens to all of us.

But my delivery man today won my respect. He showed up and took one for the team and has my vote for office. He was humble, honest and is the type of person I instantly can put my trust into. Could he of blamed someone else for the missing part? Absolutely. Did he? Absolutely not.

Life Lesson of the Day: Be honest. Own your part. Eat crow if you have to. Come to the table as you are, apologize where you need to and don’t take ownership of something that is not yours to take on.

push

An early morning conversation with a friend led to talk of exercise and I realized how out of shape I truly am. Out of shape. Out of breath. Out of everything. I am exhausted. I’ve been on thyroid medicine since I was nine and the thought has been going through my head that maybe I should actually use the lab paperwork my doctor gave me months ago and get my TSH levels checked because I’m tired, have brain fog along with morning headaches but life has also not been the kindest lately so then there’s that.

For the last few weeks, I will myself every day to wake up. My alarm disturbingly goes off and I begrudgingly hit the snooze, something I have never done.

And I am learning never to say never.

So I get up and get dressed. Make-up, hair, the works.

I drive, I run here and there and have been keeping myself so busy, I haven’t even had time to relax…as in lounge in my ugly sweatpants and favorite sweatshirt which is something I am finding recharges me.

Because I push. I hate staying stuck, I loathe being tired and caught in the middle part of life. I love the start and the finish but the middle? Um, no thanks. Not when your life begins to replicate a favorite movie, Groundhog Day.

So I get up and pretty up and put a huge smile on and trudge along. I canceled some of my week which helps but when my alarm went off this morning, I just couldn’t. I even went to be at 8:30 PM and still, my body groaned.

Snooze.

An hour later, I get up and grabbed my ugly sweatpants and my favorite sweatshirt and headed out the door to drive. “I’ll shower when I get home.” And when I say shower, I mean I’ll put some cute outfit on and fix my hair and blah blah blah.

But as I drove, the exercise conversation was forefront on my mind. When will I begin again?

Push.

When will I clean out my old office?

Push.

 When will I snap out of this funk?

Push.

Push harder.

Truth is, I came home and worked in the office for an hour and then took a shower, because cleanliness is next to Godliness, and I put my ugly sweatpants and favorite sweatshirt BACK on. I walked out my front door with a wet head and a fresh face and took the puppy to the vet. Then I went to the grocery store because we are out of bread and butter. I came home and drove. Tonight I’ll take my daughter to soccer practice and then meet up with a friend at the movies.

And I will not push through.

I will be my fresh-faced self who is a little tired and maybe a little sad these days.

It just might be one of the most honest things I’ve ever done.

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