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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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Tapped Out

Last weekend I came home from a two-week trip; one week to California to celebrate my daughter’s graduation and the other to South Carolina to visit my grandson and his parents (in that order). Since both my daughter and son are in the military, intentional time with them is not only necessary, it is precious. It was a fantastic two-weeks packed full of new adventures and good memories and I’m grateful I was able to set the time and money aside. If you ever want to know why I have a part-time job at a Beer Stube…this.

But here a week later, I find myself waking up already tired for the day. Already behind. Already done. I realize I’ve been going non-stop since I got home. Life is good, but a busy life can be a draining life and I am drained.

So yesterday I said no to something I really wanted to say yes to and reset my life. I went slow, took a nap, was intentional with my conversations, did the dishes and ended up in bed on time. It was a conflicting decision to make but one that needed made because when you are tapped out mentally and physically, chances are it’s because you haven’t been taking the best care of yourself.

And I haven’t.

In the last three weeks, I’ve traveled thousands of miles in theory and in reality. I sat on seven different airplanes and heard the same speech seven different times. When you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant instructs you to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others. Why is this an important rule for ensuring survival, you may ask? Because if you run out of oxygen, you can’t help anyone else with their oxygen mask.

Looking back now, I probably didn’t have my own oxygen mask on this past week, maybe the past three. The over-achiever in me has died a gruelingly painful death over last few years and I no longer have the desire to collect the accolades and trophies that I did in my 20’s and 30’s, but I do feel the pressure to pack my life full of activity and maximize my time by doing all I can and making the next 45 years better than the last. And the last couple weeks have been packed full and then some.

And I know I am not alone. Many of us have homes we rarely live in, tables we rarely eat at and dogs we rarely walk. We are busy for all sorts of different reasons both intentional and precious, but if we are not careful, we get distracted by our busyness while little foxes sneak in and steal our time and our energy, leaving us waging battles on foreign grounds.

If life in the slow lane appeals to you, as it does me, here are some things I’ve found helpful to escape the rat race and enjoy a simpler, healthier life (even in the midst of a very large and crazy one):

  • Choose 3 things to accomplish each day. I know, you could probably come up with a list of 100 things, but don’t. You don’t need to prove anything so keep this number manageable and small. Keeping the list this size will force you to decide what’s really important day to day. Trust me. When you finish the list, the rest of the day is yours to do whatever you want to, not have With this approach you’ll be completing 21 important tasks a week. Seriously, I feel like I am winning at life when I go low and slow. If you do your three things and still feel like you’re drowning or being hit by a train repeatedly, reevaluate your commitments.
  • Learn to say “no.” Stop taking on more responsibility. Again, you will not win a prize for being the most stressed-out overachiever in your circle of friends. Volunteering is a noble way to spend your time, but stretching yourself too thin can rob you of what and who you say is important to you.
  • Be unproductive.Even if you can only manage 20 minutes a day at first, do it. Don’t read anything to further your career or impress your friends. Do something useless like walking into the yard in your bare feet just to feel the earth between your toes. Pick the honeysuckles that grace the farmers field and then try to get the “honey” out of suckle. Sit on the floor with your dog and get all covered in their hair. Dig back into your memory bank, because most of this stuff are things you probably did as a kid when your gusto for living a simpler life was the real deal.
  • Only check your email twice a day. This includes twitter, Facebook, stocks, sports scores, blog stats – anything. Checking these sites can become an addictive habit which steals time you could spend doing stuff that actually brings you joy.
  • Embrace quality over quantity. Listen to your Knower. Know what you need in the season of life that you are in and then hone in on it. Become a Specialist in that particular area. Listen to those Podcasts, read those books, go to those places, with those You don’t have to do or know it all, but what you do and what you do know, show up and give it your best.
  • Find a hobby. This is YOUR oxygen mask. Most times, we are too busy doing for others that we forget to do for ourselves. If you’ve been fed the lie that taking time for yourself is selfish, let me be your truth teller. You are essential personnel. The end. Find an oxygen mask and then regularly use it.
  • Spend time with people you love. Have you ever stopped and thought about WHY you are doing what you are doing? WHY is your life going 100 MPH? WHY are you working all the time? WHY are you ragged and worn out? Is your answer bringing you closer to or further from your inner circle of people? Relationships form the backbone of life. Sharing who you are, your hopes and your fears with another human is the surest way to slow down and enjoy life. Without close contact with other people, we grow into cold, lonely doings instead of human beings. I don’t want that and neither do you. Make time single.day to spend with the people in your life that you love. Nothing else is worth doing.

The truth is, you can do all these things; you can say no all day long and be as unproductive as you want while your feet are buried in your backyard’s dirt but if you are not intentionally being present in the moment that you are in, slowing it down won’t matter. You need to figure out, why you’re tapped out because sometimes, a day at home won’t make things better. They won’t make YOU better.

Put yourself at the top of your to-do list every single day and the rest will fall into place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It Is What It Is

You do a lot of praying. You cry and you lament and before you know it, one day turns into two and two in ten. You loose count of the week or the month or the year, but your heart reminds you of the loss and through it, the ache deepens. Your relationship hasn’t changed. Your health hasn’t. Your job is still the same. It is what it is.

Acceptance is a small quiet room. – Cheryl Strayed

One that is often padded.

Getting to the point of accepting what you wish or hoped would be different is a very hard and often lonely process. It’s a quiet resolve you make within yourself day after day to get up and show up. It doesn’t mean you’ve stopped praying or lamenting or crying, it just means you’ve begun living a new normal because the alternative is not an option. Acceptance is like having a wound hidden under the skin. You can’t see it and no one knows that it’s there and those that know, stop asking about it because they have their own wounds to attend to. It’s done its best to heal, but there’s a scar that’s naked to the eye so everything appears to be normal, but your not. When you are alone at night or the noise from the crowd dies down, your heart reminds you that you’re still longing for things to be different.

And with acceptance comes choices. You can choose do something or you can choose do nothing. Both have a cost. It is up to you and you alone to decide the course that you take with what you have so once more, you find yourself doing a lot of praying. You cry and you lament and one day turns into two and two into ten. No choice is easy and change doesn’t happen over night.

Changing the course of the stream, or dealing new cards, whatever metaphor you want to use, takes a lot of energy, a lot of wisdom and an immense amount of courage. There are times when it goes so wrong that you will barely be alive, and times when you realize that being barely alive, but getting up every day and trying to do what is best, is better than living a bloated half-life in a situation that is not.

When your situation won’t change, you must. It may not seem fair but life does not take sides nor does it try to even out the scales. You need to remind yourself and allow yourself to be reminded by others that you are a powerful person. You get to choose to rise up out of the ashes. You can sit and wallow or you can stand up and shake off the debris and take a step. Both are choices that you get to make.

Because in the end, it’s not so much that you are changed but revealed. Grief is a double edge sword. You mourn not only your outside loss but your inside heartbreak that needs contended with.

If there are any words of advice I could give you, it is this. Let it happen. Let YOU happen. You are worth the process. I wish I could that it is easy. I wish I could say that I am through to the other side and living my best and most happiest life, but I’m not. I’m in the thick of things like most and the pain is as real as it was on day one.

But I will not sit back down and wallow, neither should you. There is more of us to be revealed. We have an entire world watching, waiting for us to happen. There is more to us than this.

Stay In Your Lane

A couple of months ago this commercial popped up on my television screen and I instantly fell in love.

Maybe I fell in love because I wanted to exude the attitude of the burly tattoo guy because I was tired of people pleasing. Maybe it was because I have tattoos and could empathize with the cautious and questioning young man in the seat getting one, is just “OK” was just that. Either way, these four little words have been in my head ever since and I’ve been trying to figure out what they mean because I know they are significant.

Sometimes what I think words are aren’t, especially when I try to manufacture their meaning. Especially when I give them a definition instead of allowing them to organically and naturally produce substance in my life.

I” was giving them definition.

I” was using them as a means to let myself off the hook from caring too much (so I wouldn’t get hurt) or from focusing on situations (and people) I could not control.

“Just stay in YOUR lane August. What they do is none of your business. What you do is none of theirs.”

Easy Peasy.

It sounded easy but every time I said those words inside my head and held on tight to that tattoo guy type-of-attitude, I found I was lonely and increasingly isolated from the rest of humanity thanks to the huge sound barriers I erected on my highway.

Perhaps the meaning I was giving my new mantra wasn’t the best. I turned words into worship, a religion of sorts like my forefathers before me and they carried strict  black and white standards to adhere to.

“Stay in YOUR lane” translated into “Mind your own *damn* business.”

And somewhere deep inside my heart, the meaning I was giving those four little words hurt my heart. What I needed was the Spirit of God to give them personal significance.

Because Jesus is simple and when He speaks, there really isn’t much to sort through because my heart agrees automatically by hearing the sound of His voice.

So one day, weeks after I left my figuring behind, Jesus interrupted my day while I was doing something incredibly random. He asked, “August, how’s your life going?”

I hesitated because quite honestly I was fixated somewhere else. Like on the dishes. My head was not on all things good or Holy and they certainly weren’t on talking with Jesus in the midst of cleaning out a sink full of dirty dishes that other people in my household could have helped with but didn’t. But that is how He works…

Jesus is *incredibly* random.

How’s my life going? Is this a trick question? My mind hurried to make sense.

Leaving no room for pause, He reworded the question, “August are you trying your best?”

I didn’t hesitate because I already knew the answer. “Yes. I believe I am trying my best.”

I wanted to follow that up with, “I could try harder and do better,” but that wasn’t necessary because I know enough to know He isn’t interested in my strides towards perfection. I knew trying my best was and always will be enough.

“So if YOU are trying your best, in the moment, in your lane, right where you are at…don’t you think that THEY are trying their best?”

“No. I don’t think they are trying their best. In fact, I don’t think they are trying at all.”

Because if they were actually trying, the results would look different.

It was an honest response because I no longer feel Jesus desires my pleasantries. My words and my heavy heart just hung in the air while I stood at the sink surrounded by a thick fog that had no where else to go but around me like some noose around my neck. Silence lodged itself in my throat and I swallowed hard.

The list where I kept track of others shortcomings lengthened and with my honesty, I made things personal. I swerved from my lane into theirs and sat in their seat.

I assumed I was God and made the assumption that I knew BETTER than Him.

I’ve realized over the last year that I have an *intense* need for control and the many ways in which I subtly disguised it revealed themselves. As much I’ve hated the path that I’ve been walking on, it’s brought me to the humbling realization that out of fear, my hands have often been on more steering wheels than what they should’ve been and because of my overactive imagination and assumption making, I’ve manufactured make-believe scenarios and brought them to life.

I think I have a propensity to do this because I’ve often felt backed into a corner, trying to make sense out of something senseless…trying to fix and ultimately, trying to save.

Though I would not necessarily classify myself as a micro-manager, I certainly haven’t been laissez fair when it comes to the affairs of others, especially with those closest to me. I’ve walked in expectation, held high standards with even the most realistic of ones and made assumptions that sadly painted other people poorly. Essentially, I’ve always given the actions or inactions of others meaning, I gave them definition, MINE. I presumed to know what they were thinking, how they were feeling and why they were doing *or not doing* what they were.

I tend to walk in the spirit of control when I ultimately feel that I don’t have any, don’t have a say, have little influence, and ultimately…don’t have the power to choose because I feel stuck between a rock and hard place.

Not true.

One of the best gifts we have been given is the power to choose because a choice is always present. Wether it be what we think about something or someone, how we respond to them…we have a say. Always.

My lane is my heart. It is a conduit, a freeway of sorts, where I process my thought life, how I’m feeling and the choices I make. I can’t possibly begin to manipulate or control someone else’s heart (even though I continuously try)…even when the choices they make steer their way haphazardly into my as if they were texting and driving.

I can only make choices on how my heart responds to their behaviorI can NOT presume to know their thoughts or how they feel. That is not my lane.

Truth is, I have my own thoughts and emotions and often times, even when I wrestle them to the ground, I don’t win. Like Paul said in the book of Romans, “For what I hate, I do.” Even on the days where I show up to the race and plant my feet squarely up against the starting line resolving to do my best…my best in someone else’s eyes might not be. Maybe they even say about me, “No. I don’t think they are trying their best. In fact, I don’t think they are trying at all.”

But they are not me. They have no idea what I’ve gone through or how I process life in my heart and head and in return, as empathetic as I can be, the same applies to me. I am not them.

Their heart is their own and they have their own lane of traffic to navigate.

So with that being said, I will keep my mantra and will stay in my own lane but it means a little bit nowadays. It is not all sharp and edgy nor does it cut people out from traveling along side me. I don’t want to be on the highway of life on my own because after a very long season of doing just that, I’m reminded I not only need others but want them. Because I have blind spots. I can’t possibly see every facade of my life on my own. Sometimes I am unaware how my words or my actions come across or make people feel and if I choose to keep unintentionally wounding people, I believe I’ll be accountable for my neglect. My relationship choices will either create a living Heaven or Hell here on Earth. Sadly I know where I am living from when I don’t believe the very best about others and presume to know what is going on inside of them.

Conversely, I don’t want to sit in someone else’s chair in some tattoo parlor just waiting to see what happens. Maybe OK is good for them but not OK with me. We are all going after different things. And there is nothing wrong with that.

We all need love, grace and understanding as we figure things out. Hopefully we are trying our best as we do so, but in the end, it is not up to others to make that determination.

The only lane we have to mind is our own.

“There’s great freedom in not compulsively interpreting other people, situations, and so on – not imposing all these judgements. ” Eckhart Tolle

 

What I Know About Rejection

Today is a “rubber meets the road” type-of-day. Love will get me through, this is what I’m told. Love is the sustainer of ALL things. Even crappy, senseless things.

One thing I’ve been learning about rejection is this:

1. It hurts and it never gets easier to cope.

2. Learning NOT to take things (especially rejection) personally is hard.

3. Not everything someone does or doesn’t do is about you. Most times, in fact, it is not.

So for today, I will suffer through my hurt with a smile on my face. I will shower, eat and enjoy the day as best I humanly can. I will try, also as best as I can, not to dwell. Not to reject back. My world is full of more than just one person.

I’ll choose to believe that it’s not about me. Rejection likes to finger point and say it is but Truth tells me that is not true.

I’m also learning…

4. That if someone else feels rejected, they pull away like I often do and I then come into agreement with them. It’s like I believe the lie and that perpetuates the welfare system and then behave accordingly. Reject the rejector makes sense, it’s a safe way to stay safe but ultimately I give away my power which pretty much just says I think the lie has more weight than the truth.

Then Truth Himself.

That’s bullshit of course and I know it.

So when rejection comes, as it is today, it’s pretty much because I have this “idea” in my head how things are to go and they aren’t, because I feel someone’s hesitancy when I want to feel anything other than…

Expectation surely can be the death of me.

But it won’t.

Sometimes God invites us into a storm so WE can calm it.

I can do this.

Learning to love beyond what I see in the natural is hard. Learning to love as Jesus loves me is harder because He makes it look so effortless and easy, even though I know there are days where our choices pain grief Him deeply. Those days, it must be very hard to love.

Hard but not impossible.

So what am I being redirected towards?

Something better indeed. That something is someone. I’m becoming deeply rooted in the Father’s love, rooted in love for others and for the first time in a long time, rooted in love for myself.

 

 

 

 

freedom

As many of you know, our oldest two children are serving our country’s military. Our oldest son is a United States Marine and our oldest daughter is a United States Navy Sailor. I have heard countless times many people thank them both for their service and as their mother, I have watched and listened to their response. “Thank you for your support.” That’s the response that has stuck in my brain.

“Thank you.”

They would never brag about their sincerity of gratitude for support but as their mother, I will.

“Thank you.”

It is hard not to think about them both and not think about the word “FREEDOM.” Maybe because I’ve heard it spoken so many times. Maybe it’s just a natural thought that comes instantaneously when one thanks another for their service and willingness to defend our freedoms.

Freedoms. What exactly are we free from?

Some of my favorite quotes about freedom are the following:

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” – Mahatma Gandi

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.” – Jim Morrison 

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” – Soren Kierkegaard

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Galatians 5:13-14

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.” – Abraham Lincoln

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

“Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.” – Judy Blume

“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.” – Sigmund Freud

“Walking in true freedom means that everyone around you feels just as free.” – Sherri Fleagle Browning

My friend Sherri wrote the last quote. She actually lived it before she penned the words but I found it the other day and to be honest, I’ve been praying about it. Seriously. If I am walking in TRUE FREEDOM, what in the hell does that look like?

*Am I giving myself the freedom to make mistakes and when I do, am I really hard on myself? Do I walk in shame and guilt. Do I do the same to others when they make mistakes? Do I shame or guilt them and hold them to an impossible standard of perfection they cannot meet?

*Do I give myself the freedom to be myself? Am I being WHO I was created to be? Do I even know who I am outside my roles, responsibilities, idiosyncrasies, insecurities and personalities? Do I see others, like REALLY see them and do I give them the freedom to be themselves?

I could go on with my incessant questioning. I wish would my brain would shut off and I could dwell on other things, simple things like buying milk and bread and if my shoes matched my outfit but I don’t. I think of inside things that constantly keep me working inside myself. Am I walking free?

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

Because how I walk affects other people. I wish it didn’t but it does. I recently became incredibly aware of how walking in rejection was affecting the relationships around me. I felt rejected so I projected back, “Fine. Then I will reject you.” 

I am forty-four years old and a grown ass woman still playing high school games.

So if I am seeping rejection, which is really just a form of modern-day slavery of the mind and heart, then those around me are most-likely feeling rejected or thinking that there is something wrong with them. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe most people are way more mature than I am but if my hunch about my fellow humans are correct, even Jesus-loving-knows-better-than-this humans, than I have heaped a generous load of coal on other people’s heads.

But burning is good, so I have been told.

Now, more than ever, more of us have the freedom to care, the freedom to connect, the freedom to choose, the freedom to initiate, the freedom to do what matters. If we choose.

The problem is freedom. Not that we don’t have enough freedom but that we can’t handle the freedom we have. Or more accurately, we believe we can’t handle it. Freedom brings the appearance of risk, freedom brings responsibility, freedom means we must make a choice. Freedom is our problem and freedom is our opportunity. I pray we use our freedom wisely, that we don’t manhandle it or use it for self-seeking reasons that harm or hinder others because truly my friend Sherri is more wise than most when she says, “Walking in true freedom means that everyone around you feels just as free.”

Yes. I want to walk free but I think I want to walk free so badly because I want others to do the same. It is not just for me. I think it is part of my identity. It’s the Jesus part of me. I know slavery’s yoke. I know rejection. I know abuse. I know depression and anxiety fueled by fear that won’t lose its grip but I also know truth, rest and peace. I know love, joy and mercy. I know what perspective can do, what grace can bring and what forgiveness offers.

If you knew the former first hand, you’d want to know the latter.

For everyone.

Non-Negotiable 

There have been times throughout my life where I’ve stood before a Giant shaking in my boots so afraid that I’ve turned and ran in the other direction and times where I have compromised my integrity, my beliefs and my heart because what was before me was so big. But mostly I’ve trembled beneath my own skin and morphed into who I thought the situation needed me to be or who I thought the Giant would accept. I’ve thought long and hard about who I could become that would cause the least amount of waves or which part of me would create the least amount of damage…

Because I have always associated myself with damage.

So over time, I’ve learned to play safe and be small. I know some would not think that because I can talk a good talk (because I long to walk a good walk) but deep inside, I’ve felt it even if I didn’t always show it and feeling it has been enough to keep me in the ring. In the fight.

It’s not necessary to go into the details of how I’ve gotten to where I’m at because back-stories often draw a crowd and a lot sympathy but they often create more of a mess than what they are worth so I’ll forgo the drama and just say I’ve come to the end of my rope.

It will suffice.

I found myself desperately begging the other day. It was a horribly hard and pathetic moment in my life but there I was, pleading. I was desperate. Looking back now, it really doesn’t matter what I was pleading for but the act itself brought me to my knees on my bathroom floor and after a long, hard cry I heard these words.

Stop compromising.”

If Jesus was ever to bring Truth to my heart, it was in that moment.

When I compromise my identity, I find myself much like a beggar along some street corner, pleading for something. Anything.

Love.

Acceptance.

Value.

And so the Father asked me as I sat paper-thin and crossed legged on the cold tile, “WHAT have you been compromising?” I know He knew but I know He needed me to think this through.

Everything was my reply.

“What are your non-negotiable’s?”

And three words came to mind. He then asked if I was willing to compromise myself to get them?

“Even if going after them gets hard and cost you everything, would you stand strong before your Giant or would you accept less than you know you worth?” 

Worth? Haven’t most of the church settings I’ve been in taught that I’m really nothing without Jesus and if that’s the case, shouldn’t I just be happy with what I get instead of trying to rock the boat? Because you know, everyone has their “thing” they waiver in so at some point, isn’t settling just something we do?

I knew my answer to His question. I know going forward what my non-negotiable’s are and that they are not self-seeking so I can be comfortable and content. If anything, I know that standing for them would fully embody and express the Father. I know the questions I was asked were from Him because I feel empowered to stay in the ring. I am free. Not free to be mean, as in “If I don’t get my way, too bad for you”, but free to be me. I know that’s WHO He wants us all to be, even if we create ripples or waves and even if it cost us more than the boat we stand in.

My identity is non-negotiable. It cannot be bartered and it’s not up for bid on an auctioneer’s block. My value is not determined by what someone is willing to pay….set by how far they are willing to reach into to me or if they do or do not change.

I have to keep reminding myself of these Truths because they are His.

Self-acceptance indeed is a small and quiet room. One that’s often padded at the end of long and lonely hall.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – Marianne Williamson

 

You Will Not Have My Hatred

I am not sure where I read about Antoine Leiris but his words “You will not have my hatred,” found a way into my heart and buried themselves deep.

“You will not have my hatred,” says Antoine Leiris in a FB post that addressed Islamic State terrorists behind the deadly strike in which 129 people were killed. On Friday November 13, 2015, Islamic State terrorists struck at multiple targets in Paris including the Bataclan theatre, the Stade de France football stadium and a pizzeria, gunning down people. Over 89 concert-goers were killed at the Bataclan theatre in the worst of the attacks. Mr Leiris’ wife was among them.

“Friday night you stole the life of an exceptional person, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you won’t have my hatred. I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know, you’re dead souls.

No I won’t make you this gift of hating you. You have it coming, but to respond to hatred with anger would be giving in to the same ignorance that made you what you are. You want me to be afraid, to look at my fellow citizens suspiciously, to sacrifice my freedom for security. You lose. The player still plays.

I saw her this morning. At last, after nights and days of waiting. She was as beautiful as when she left on Friday evening, as beautiful as when I fell head over heels in love with her more than 12 years ago. Of course I’m devastated with grief, I grant you this small victory, but it will be short-lived. I know she will be with us every day and that we will find each other in heaven with free souls which you will never have.

My son and I, we will be stronger than all the armies in the world. I cannot waste any more time on you as I must go back (to my son) who has woken from his sleep. He is 17 months old, he’ll eat his snack like any other day, then we will play like every other day and all his life this little boy will dare to be happy and free. Because No, you won’t have his hatred either.”

Let’s be honest, most of human kind will not experience an attack like this. You and I, in our regular lives will not find ourselves being the unlucky recipient of such terroristic acts against humanity. We most likely won’t find ourselves in theatre’s, football stadium’s or pizzerias. We most likely won’t find ourselves in high-rise buildings or airplanes. We may not even find ourselves in schools, churches or outdoor concert venues where mass shootings occur. Whatever our life, Whoever we are; White, Black, Christian, Muslim, Straight, Gay, Upper Class, Lower Class, Democrat or Republican…we may never be placed in a situation where we later write, “You will not have my hatred.”

Or will we?

Let’s take this down to our level, in fact, let me bring this down to mine.

I am a White, Middle-Class Soccer Mom.

I’m straight.

I’m a Christian.

I have no clue which political party I identify with.

I have a college degree. A full-time job. Married with kids.

I vacation every summer. Eat out when I want to. Attend Church when I can.

I have never been denied a job based off the fact that I am a White Female though I have been the recipient of the occasional cat call or random solicitation for “friendships” on FB from male strangers who think I am nothing but “pretty.”

I have never been laughed at our made fun of and have absolutely never been a target of  a hate crime based off the fact that I am any and all of the above.

I know no real persecution, except that which lies within me, and for the most part, have a cushy life.

And yet I sit at times and fester.

I give them my hatred.

Things have been stolen from me.

I have been suspicious and have sought refuge in feeling safe.

I have grieved.

I have done all these things and more and day after day, my hatred seethes and disguises itself…even from myself.

Because I know that hatred starts small. It starts with one moment and then builds to two and then five…five hundred small and inconspicuous moments where fear takes a hold and plants a root.

Hurt can become an offense.

Enough offenses and you give way for hatred, even towards ones self, to reign and rule.

Can we take gut-wrenching events, like the one that happened on November 13, 2015, and make something large-scale small?

Yes.

We have to.

I want to.

I cannot afford to allow my wounds to fester because loving large-scale means I need to love small-scale FIRST. With me. With you. If I miss it here, with the person staring back at me in the mirror or the one standing before me, I’ll miss it there.

And I simply do not want to miss a oppotunity to forgive, an opportunity to love where I know it can have the greatest impact.

You will not have my hatred.” 

These are the words of Antoine Leiris. They are mine.

Will they be yours?

 

 

as is

When I was in college, I fell in love with a leather backpack at a store downtown. It was everything that a leather backpack should be but it had this little defect; the one clasp wouldn’t quite close properly and the one strap was a few inches longer than the other. Minor defects, but still. It was marked, “AS IS” and when I approached the sales associate and asked her to lower the price of the bag, she politely said, “NO. The bag is as marked.”

And I really, REALLY loved that bag. So guess what, I bought it and to this day, I love it still. It is all tattered and worn and the one clasp still won’t close properly and the one strap is noticeably longer the the other, but I don’t care. I love it because it’s an old friend and has seen me on many a journey besides, it’s different and different to me is good.

My oldest son has a girlfriend and they have been dating for almost two years and we love her very much. When your kids grow up, you find yourself wondering about their future so you pay close attention to the people in the lives. Their relationship makes me think of my own with his father,  my husband, and how over the years I have tried to change him. I have tried to make him THIS when he was THAT and I realize I’ve done that on too many occasions to count. It’s a brutal realization but nonetheless, it has helped me learn how to pray for my son; that he would love his girlfriend, AS IS. 

I could have decided that day many, many years ago that that leather bag was not for me. I know it was just a bag, but it is probably one of the first times I remember consciously thinking to myself, “Is this something I want to sign up for?” AS IN, “Is this really worth the money?” because I was in college and was operating without a lot of cash. 

I wish I could adopt the intentionality of asking those questions on a regular basis but I’m getting there because it’s important to know what is and isn’t you. Not everything or everyone is for me and maybe if I’d take a moment to ask myself what and who IS, I’d be more willing to dig my heels in when the going gets tough, because the going always does. Maybe if I keep practicing embracing the “as is” in my life, I’d be more at peace and find joy outside of a fleeting feeling. Maybe I’d walk a little bit more free if I wasn’t so bogged down by regret or guilt because I said YES when I should have said NO.

Maybe. 

Because I want my YES to mean YES. 

Absolutely.

All in.

Without a doubt.

Till the end and then.

Friends, please make the time to intentionally ask yourself the hard questions like, “Is THIS something or someone I want to sign up for?” If you answer yes…enjoy the journey of learning how to hold them in your hands, open-hearted, not expecting or secretly hoping they would change, but loving them fully as is. If their clasp doesn’t close just right or their one strap is not the same length as the other…

If they never lose weight.

If they never get your jokes.

If they religiously leave their underwear laying on the floor in the bathroom after they shower and they often don’t make the bed and their cups pile up on the counter beside the sink.

Can you love them, all the way through?

Can I? 

We are free to be ourselves when we know we are unconditionally loved and accepted for WHO we are. When I think of what brings me the most joy in this life, it is that. Being me. 

And I am most myself when I love people right where they are at. 

“Accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” – Romans 15:7

 

 

what to let go of and what to hold onto

I, like many of you, are using the days after Thanksgiving to get ready for Christmas. I no longer go Black Friday shopping so I use that time to put my Fall decorations away and bring down my Christmas decorations from the attic.

And according to the amount of decorations that I have, I must really like Christmas.

Growing up, my mother decorated for each season, LIKE THE WHOLE HOUSE, and as her oldest daughter, I have obviously felt the need to continue her legacy. On Friday I brought my bins of snowmen and trees and wreaths all down from the attic and one by one, I got them out and some I just wasn’t so into, but I put them out anyway. Then I took them down. Then I took down some more. 

It’s possible to NOT FEEL a Christmas decoration.

The beginning of October I cleaned out our bedroom. I took everything out in preparation of painting. EVERYTHING as in ALL. I painted our walls, shampooed our carpets and cleaned our windows. Once our bedroom furniture was in, I was left with bins of STUFF and left with the decision of what to let go of and what to hold onto.

Some of these belongings just wouldn’t fit. The walls and the bedding were a different color, the dressers were not the same. Some of the stuff I had really never wanted but was gifted therefore displayed and most of the items were from like twenty years ago; old watches, my children’s first teeth, old notes, socks and belts…pants that would never again see the light of day. Over the years, I had gone through and cleaned out but there is nothing quite like taking it ALL out and then deciding what gets put back in…becuase it all doesn’t have to.

Taking those snowman down that I didn’t want really got me thinking about how important it is not to hold onto to things that don’t carry value or are no longer us. Maybe years ago, cute little ceramic decorations were me, maybe they brought me great joy or maybe they were just THERE and then somehow HERE in my home, but I am no longer at a place in life were I’m looking for fillers. I know what I want and am not going to settle for anything less than. I’m all about compromise but I’m no longer about settling. There’s a difference.

The entirety of my life I have kept things, even relationships with people, because I though I HAD to. I remember my mother gave me my deceased grandmothers ceramic white cat when she passed away because I apparently liked it when I was a child. I brought that thing home and could not, for the love, understand WHAT it is was doing in my house. For a few weeks it sat there all out of place and stared at me and I loathed it each day more and more till eventually I got the guts up to remove it all together. BUT IT’S YOUR GRANDMOTHERS….I could hear the voices in my head trying to make me feel bad. Not having it. All the sentiments in the world could not make me love that cat enough to keep it.

Friends, stuff is easy to get rid of. You just get your brutality on and decide what’s important and what’s not, you grab some bags and open up the back of your vehicle and TA-DAH. You drive that stuff far, far away. People on the other hand, not so easy. You cannot pick up your relatives or your friends and stuff them in grocery bags and throw them in the back of your Jeep …though it’s tempting at times. You cannot go by your feelings, absolutely not. Try your very best to keep yourself open to everyone you encounter and hold each of them in your hands, one-hearted. Some will stay with you over the course of time, some will ebb and flow in and out and there WILL be seasons when some just can’t stay. I’m learning to ask Holy Spirit, the voice inside of me that whispers to my heart, WHO is to be in my life in THIS season. SHOW ME. 

And He always does.

Somewhere along the way I have believed the lie that I have to. I have to keep everything…I have to do everything…I have to be for everyone. In reality, the only thing I have to is be true to myself and the only way I know what is true FOR ME, is to spend time with Jesus and continually ask Him…

What stay and what goes?

Who.

Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts. Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip. Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.” – Proverbs 4:23 The Message

 

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