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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

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identity

Where the Mean Kids Are

It is amazing what your kids tell you when they have you to themselves. When they have you and your undivided attention and they know you are not distracted by your phone or some other conversation you are trying to keep up with and you allow the silence to settle, they open themselves up all wide and reveal to you their truths. “Mom, there were mean kids there.”

“Mean kids? What kind of mean kids?” As if there are different kinds.

“Some boys made fun of me tonight while we were playing dodge ball. They said I couldn’t hit them if they stood directly in front of me. They told me I suck.”

I pulled into our driveway real slow and he opened his door to get out and I was not too far behind.

“I’m sorry. There will always be mean kids. Don’t let them stop you from showing up.”

As a mom, as his, I want to protect him from this hurt. Especially from being hurt THERE. Our kids have not been a part of a youth group for several years. We’ve given them space, we have all needed it just a bit but it is time to regroup and build some connections and get involved. But where? All of our kids are different. Some don’t mind showing up in a group without really knowing anybody and others feel completely out of their element in doing so. My last two teens need a strong connection FIRST and THEN they step into something so last night, my son went to a new church and a new youth group with a friend he is very comfortable with. It was a HUGE step for him.

And now this. The mean kids.

I’ve been reading Brene’ Browns new book called “Braving the Wilderness.” I cannot recommend this book highly enough, it is timely and needed. Please, if you are looking for a good read that is mind and heart provking and empowering, put this book in your Amazon cart. You will have it Saturday and can read it this wekeend. It’s about belonging and fitting in…with ourselves. She says, “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who were are; it requires us to BE who we are.”

Everywhere and anywhere.

My son walked ahead of me as I spoke those words and had already walked into the house by the time I reached our side gate. As I walked through the front door, I heard him go up the steps to his room. He needed some time. Later he emerged and was hurriedly getting his homework out of his backpack and was heading to the table to do his work. I grabbed his arm. “Hey. I love you.”

“I love you too.” That was all he could muster and it was enough. I thought of the things I could say, all the truths I could speak but sometimes you just need to practice being present. Presence says a lot you know, just being WITH someone and letting them know you are there. That they are loved. That you are not going anywhere.

My son is going to have to learn, like me, like all and any of us how to stand in WHO we are. We have to learn that we won’t always fit in and we won’t always throw the ball hard and hit our target squarely. People won’t like how we look or what we have to say and sometimes, most times, people wear their insecurities discretely and they project their hurts aimlessly and without thought and their comments and actions have NOTHING TO DO WITH US. Mean kids are everywhere, even in Church. I’ve had a mean kid. I’ve been one. We ALL say and DO ridiculously stupid things. We drop our comments like bombs and walk away thinking that we did not leave destruction in our wake but we do.

Words and actions matter.

We have to learn that despite whatever is going on with others, INSIDE others, we have to keep showing up US. This is NON-NEGOTIABLE. We have to make this one of our golden rules, that we will not compromise ourselves for another human being. We will not.

I hope my son goes back. I hope he tries again. I hope he does not let two boys who are probably one of your kids, who could be one of mine, stop him from playing dodgeball and inserting himself in uncomfortable places, like a new youth group.

That’s my hope. But the decision is his. He will have to decide, just like me, just like all and any of us that he is worth being seen. He is worth being heard. He is worth being present.

You are free when you realize you belong no place – you belong everyplace – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.  – Maya Angelou

 

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love your enemy

It doesn’t happen all the time, but occasionally…I need to go back.

Back to my bedroom with the white furniture and the pepto pink bedding where, as a child, I spent a lot of time with my cocker spaniel named Sheba while my parents fought outside my door. Back to the house we built on Hamilton Drive as a representation of a fresh start where I spent a great deal of time by myself as my parents traveled to appointments with my sister during the months leading up to and then following her heart transplant. Back to the young woman in college on the track field who ran and ran to escape her problems and with it her life.

I have spent many hours going back to myself at different points in my life and I know that in going back, my meandering will not bring forth much productivity becuase things cannot be changed. So I sit and question…WHY this strong need to revisit? The only answer I can come up with is this:

I long to make friends WITH her.

I recently became aware how incredibly hard I am on myself and through it, realize further that SHE, myself from any day other than today, has been my enemy at times…the very person at fault and my greatest undoing. Her decisions have haunted me and she has sabotaged my efforts in moving forward with her incesant stepping and screw ups. Her mistakes, her choices and her shortcomings have flooded my thoughts and there are days, I can’t shake her.

Abraham Lincoln has said, “I destroy my enemy when I make him my friend” and  I realize that my opinion of myself, of HER, needs to change. It HAS to because I cannot afford to live double-minded…

I cannot love my neighbor if I do not first love myself.

So each time I sit with her in that bedroom when she felt at fault for the fighting or the abuse or alone in that house scared and confused or on that track worn and emptied…my heart wells and overflows with compassion towards her. I look into her eyes in hopes she SEES the compassion I have for her; the kindness and the mercy for IT. IS. HIS. I want her to see WHO He sees so she can make peace with herself again so she can embrace her original identity rather than continuously cycling through the insecurity she systematically drapes herself in.

So each time I go back and sift through my box of memories, I whisper: “You do not have to try so hard.”

Stop trying to fix. Stop trying to be good. Stop trying to be enough. Stop trying to be seen. Stop trying to be heard. Stop trying to numb the pain. Stop trying to make sense and understand…

For there is no way in this lifetime to possibly comprehend all the WHY’s tucked up inside.

So once more today, I make my enemy my friend…

And let myself off the hook.

“Love and value others the same way you love and value yourself.” Romans 13:9

the stage

It starts out rather innocently. Someone extends a compliment or they express, in some fashion, their approval. You soak up their words like a sponge and think that what you just did or said was good. You weren’t really trying to do or say good things, you were just going along in life being YOU, but your sponge is dry and a seed gets planted somewhere inside and before you know, that seed takes root. It finds an empty, dark place to root and begins to grow. And as it grows, it hears betweens it’s ears, “THAT. That was good. Do more good.”

Because good, of course…is good.

So you find yourself TRYING to do and say more good things. To BE good. You are intentional and forthright and put added time and thought into what the next good thing could be that has your name and face attached. And one day you wake up tired because the joy and excitement of living is gone because it has begun to feel like work and you realize along the way, you’ve become a performer on some stage selling cheap tickets for a midday matinee.

You find yourself, more times than not, rehearsing your lines in your head or out loud in the car while you drive and you perfect each and every detail. Comedy, thriller, tragedy…you’re the star of a one man show and no one’s to blame for the long hours and the late night rehearsing but y-o-u.

You diligent and faithful workhorse.

**work harder**  The bar has been set and now you must exceed it  **work harder**

Stage left…

You stand before your audience and you anticipate their cheer, but instead, they are drowned out by the loud and rather long clapping that sounds kind of sad from someone hidden in the dark depths of the shadows…

He stands and cheers, but not for anything that you have said or done…

He cheers for y-o-u. Your heart knows it’s Him the moment the bravado begins…

He adores you, just as you are. Trying. Striving. Longing…it doesn’t make much difference to Him what you are outwardly doing for He is spellbound, not by your wit or your humor, but by y-o-u. His greatest desire has always been and will always be for you to understand your why…

This revelation alone takes center stage and becomes your greatest act of worship.

Life is not a performance and you do not live on a stage. Step off.

Step on step off step on step off step on step off step off step off step on step off step off…

Do it as many times as you need to, do it one-thousand times…as long as you become increasingly aware WHY you take center stage instead of your worship.

For we become like the One we worship…

May the stage never become our platform.

The Offering

We had a stack of books underneath a fish tank in our home of children’s stories and one of my favorites was The Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s a book written by Hans Christian Andersen, about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they don’t see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent”. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

The emperor is naked. N-A-K-E-D. I think that is why it was one of my favorites, the very thought made me giggle as a child. Now as an adult, it sticks with me. If you want to talk vulnerability, parade around your town like the emperor.

Have you ever opened up to someone or a group of people and were totally vulnerable and honest? You dug deep and stripped back your mask and revealed the raw and real truth, you spoke it out loud and laid yourself bare.

Have you ever?

I have and in the midst, it feels freeing. There have been times I have never been more alive and awake as in ME, but most times afterwards I am plagued with a greasy and sticky film: the feeling of regret. “I should not have just shared THAT because THAT (whatever it is) reveals that I am indeed much like the emperor.

Unfit for my position.

Stupid.

Incompetent.

Because surely if I wasn’t these things, I would HAVE NEVER…”

I somehow become incredibly conscious of the crowd. I become acutely aware. I read their minds. I hear the conversations whisper behind my back. I watch their heart turn from me…

Or at least I think I can.

I take what was a beautiful invitation to go beyond the surface and turn it into a chaotic parade where I end up on the cross and my spectators are laughing and pointing at me, throwing stones.Yes, I play out the very worst case scenarios in my head. Scenarios that rarely ever take place in the natural realm, but scenarios nonetheless that I think will help me self protect which further convinces me, for a brief period of time, “NEVER DO THAT AGAIN.”

And each time I show up and I cover up, the heavy clothes bog me down. They are so combersome that they take away my breath. They are ill fitted, scratchy and burdensome to wear. They are not me at all and I know it. I am left contending for a girl I once knew, a girl who once walked naked and free, a girl who is often TOO AFRAID of the crowd to fully show up and extend her hand as an invitation that says, “Come.”

Here is what I am learning: Showing up fully YOU, just as you are, is a gift. It is a good and perfect gift you give yourself every day of this life. Actually it is a gift that Jesus Himself has given you because you are no longer a prisoner chained in a dark and damp cell awaiting release.

Other people’s opinions no longer have control over you.

Worry and anxiousness cannot keep its thumb on you.

Fear can no longer hold you back.

Do the next thing” as Elizabeth Elliott says. Keep moving forward.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. –Galatians 5:1

Do not be burdened by the yoke of what others think; it’s none of your business anyway. Don’t be bothered if they point and laugh when you are parading your nakedness. Chances are, they aren’t even thinking those things. Chances are, you being fully you will inspire them to do the same. Remember, His burden is light which means your clothes are lighter.

Do not wear heavy things.

Not only do we shortchange ourselves when we hold back from being our “original” selves, we shortchange the person standing in front of us who is hungry for a taste of authenticity. In a world plagued by fast and fake food laced with counterfeit substitutions…hearts are longing for a real taste.  They are longing for HONEST. They are longing for ORIGINAL. They know when they have been left standing empty-handed, holding a plate and on it, little substance and we become exhausted when we continually shift our content; maneuvering boxes around in ourselves hoping no one sees through the windows of our soul that we have stuff.

I realize as I write this that if I show up with you fully ME, just as I am; in my good day or in my bad, in my vulnerability with my need, in my happiness or in my tears and I extend to you my hand and say, “Come. I invite you here, into this place…” it is really just that. My offering to you. The sweet-smelling fragrance of my original identity. Yes, showing up honest and true keeps me free because I AM. It truly is an invitation to a relationship.

Get to know ME. Invite me get to know YOU.

I’ll continue to place myself in the offering plate because I believe so very much in the power of vulnerability and authenticity. I believe very much in the power of simple presence and I’ll just let it at that. Even though there are days I feel as if my offering cost me everything, I know that’s not true, it’s only a win.

A gain for both of us if we allow.

Much Love,

August

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