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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

Church is for Hurting People

It was a sign I never saw but was the topic of conversation around a dinner table years ago. My friend drove by a local Church and saw the sign along the road and it read, “The Church is for Hurting People.” We wondered if they knew what they said.

Maybe they did. Maybe it was their invite to come. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

Either way you look at it, it is true.

The Church should be a haven, a safe place for hurting people, people down on their luck and exhausted from the rat-race of life however if you have ever been IN the Church, especially in leadership, you’d know, just like I came to find out, the Church hurts people as well.

OH. DOES. IT. 

So I left it. Partially.

I stopped showing up and withdrew my all-in heart and played it safe on the sidelines. Through it, I came to know Jesus more intimately, personally. I discovered “Church” was not just in a building but a group of sister-friends, within my family, on the lake, at home on a day where physical and mental rest was needed.

Church was IN me, whereever I went. Why would I ever need to subject myself to the drama that “Church” brought? Because to be honest, I fell short in Church. Someone was always following Jesus closer and running faster and speaking louder and more freely. Someone else was sitting in the front row instead of corralling in the back and they were NOT holding their heart back or walking in with the baggage I carried. After a while worship seemed to exist for the approval of man and it all seemed like a ridiculous parade of paupers pleading for the attention and approval of a few.

And I don’t do cliques and as a recovery people-pleaser, I felt like it was a weekly trap that made old wounds surface and sting.

The lake or the early Sunday morning run never made my heart ache the way that building did and Jesus spoke clearly and I grew.

Or did I?

Fast forward to Thursday night. Book club and nine of the best ladies I know are gathered around my table and a fellow leader speaks up and bares her heart raw. She is hurt. By Church.

And I think of the marquis sign outside of the Church I never saw.

“The Church is for Hurting People.”

Our book this month was “Braving the Wilderness” by Brene Brown. One of her quotes that stood out to me as my young friend talked was this:

“Courage is forged in pain, but not in all pain. Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate. Anger that is never transformed becomes resentment and bitterness.”

Often times when we are hurt or we interpret someone else’s actions or comments negatively, especially in regards to WHO WE ARE, we withdraw. “I don’t like how they make me feel. I don’t like how this place makes me feel,” is common, especially in the context of Church and instead of asking ourselves the hard questions, like “Am I being convicted?” or better yet, “What is going on inside of me?” we quickly label it as judgement and walk away.

Door Closed. Heart Closed.

My issue, NOT theirs.

If we do not ask ourselves these hard questions and give ourselves time and space to answer them HONESTLY, we are confined in our hurt which then turns into anger, bitterness and potential hatred.

BUT.

But if we are able to honestly answer and do not take things personally, we can turn our hurt into compassion and learn how to connect with an open heart to make our environment, our Church, better.

Because here is the thing, we need one another and if we want to talk Church, we ARE it.

You + Me = We

And if you don’t show up.

If I don’t.

Then WE all miss out.

Full circle: I got my grown-ass-self into the shower yesterday and went…TO THE BUILDING.

And I can still easily interpret with my cynical eye the show, the parade that is often tainted by my own insecurities, but I had to walk in intentionally posturing my heart to SEE, to HEAR. And I am so glad I did.

I desperately needed and have been longing for something specific. A word from God. I am finding myself at an intersection, a cross roads in life and I need clarity as a I sit in the ashes of my pain. So I sat and I listened and received not just a word but The Word Himself…THROUGH SEVERAL OTHER PEOPLE.

I would have missed out if I did not show up to that building some call Church.

Friends, I get it. I no longer want to be caught in the trappings of religion. I don’t want to show up just in order to say I love Jesus. He is not a pin or some badge that I wear nor is He something I cross off my list. I do not go because I SHOULD. Rituals such as regular attendance…no thanks. I whole heartedly believe there are seasons and sometimes in order to gain perspective, we need to step back in order to step up and see with clarity.

But I am finding those seasons are short. They are not your typical Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall.

WHY?

We NEED one another. We do. The lake can give me a place to breathe and appreciate the glory and splendor of God and I can soak in the sun with a smile and receive some IG worthy revelation that I could share with my picture-perfect cloud that I post but we are made to crave FLESH and BLOOD. 

Life’s Little Lesson is this:

Re-engage. Show up. Wherever you are at, WERE at, there are good people there. Good and needed people who you just don’t need but whom need what in on the inside of Y-O-U. 

Please, for the love. Church is a beautiful thing. It is a beautiful people.

Deep Waters

I love snow days. I love the quiet-calm that they bring. I love the reset and regrouping that takes place within me when I can’t leave my home but the last few snow days we’ve had have been a blur so today I made the decision that I was going to be intentional with enjoying it. To the fullest.

I made homemade chicken corn soup.

Baked chocolate chip cookies and consequently, ate most **read ALL** of them.

Built a snowman with my kids.

Made them breakfast, lunch AND dinner.

Loaded my dishwasher. Twice.

Taught my sons fiancé how to bake homemade bread.

And since I’m the only person on the planet that has not watched Game of Thrones, I decided to catch up on some episodes.

I did these things among many others…but one thing I found out about my television watching abilities (though they are few) is that my idea of watching TV means I have the show on while I DO other things.

While I cook.

While I bake.

While I read, write, work, clean.

And it hit me, “Is this really watching at all?”

Because as long as I get the GIST of the show, I can say I watched it.

And then it hit me further, and it wasn’t just me trying to be overly introspective…

“What else in life have I been comfortable with just getting the gist of?”

I’m afraid to answer.

Jesus?

My family and friends?

Me?

I obviously have some thinking to do but I also don’t want to OVER think it so I’ll just leave it at this…

BE PRESENT. 

Don’t just settle for scraping the surface or standing in shallow waters. Go for the deep waters and you can’t always get there my multi-tasking your life away. Sometimes, ALL TIMES, when people are involved, it is best to focus and go beyond the gist. To go to their deeper blue seas. People are not TV. They are real and present and desire to be seen, heard and long for connection. Let’s bring this to real life: Put the cell phone down. Make eye contact when being talked to. Stop loading the dishwasher when your daughter walks in the room yelling, “Hey Mom!!!!”

Life’s Little Lesson of the day…

When life throws you a snow day, not only on the FIRST but SECOND day of Spring, you reset and regroup within yourself, WITH YOURSELF and those you love.  

You swim out to deep blue waters. 

the invitation 

I sat down at the table a little nervous. I never really had a conversation with her past surface things and quick helios in passing and here I was, guaranteed a whole hour with my new friend.

And I just knew we would be friends.

She asked me how I was and I knew what the “right” answer should be. I’m “great” was on the verge of jumping off my tongue and out of my mouth but instead I said, “I’m ok. I know I should say I’m better and I am but…”

And my heart opened up from there and off we went.

At the end of our hour lunch, I felt like I had known her way longer than our sixty minute chat. I think that’s what being vulnerable does. Once you get past the point of feeling all naked and afraid, you reveal your raw and edgy heart and can actually begin relating to another human being that goes far beyond experiential.

Heart connections are real and they happen instantaneously. They don’t need worked for or kept up with. You just show up and fully engage the person before you, whatever…however.

Sometimes we go thorough life like we dodging bullets or gallopping through some obstacle course that we maneuver poorly. It’s during those times, and we all go through them, that it is somewhat comforting not being alone. Like fully. Wether they relate or not or been there done that…it is a breath of fresh air that sweeps through a white padded room to have a friend accompany you on your journey.

If you ever say yes to the coffee or the lunch, to the play date or the run, show up for more than what you are invited to. It’s more than a coffee or lunch date. It’s an opportunity to be your realest self. It’s an opportunity for you to make space for someone else to exhale and breathe in some fresh air their lungs desperately crave.

I learned a lot over a plate of food and I am so thankful I took a risk and showed up me. I didn’t show up messy or all broken nor did I show up all perfectly put together and slightly untouchable. I showed up right where I am and I am grateful that I did. I made a new friend and we moved beyond being mere acquaintances with a similar circle of friends.

Life’s Little Lesson: Show up. Be authentic, honest and real.

Do all the above afraid if need be.

when there’s not a happy ending

As a little girl growing up, I watched the same sappy shows as many did about young damsels in distress raised by a jealous and wicked step mothers and the handsome princes that rode in on white horse to save them. The damsels’ needed defended, the prince’s needed to save, they both wanted to be loved and in the end, heroism trumped turmoil and life was happy and good.

Swoon.

Fast forward, I have discovered that the shows I watched growing up, the very ones I fed my children when they were small, romanticized turmoil and perpetuated victimhood.

“If you are in trouble, someone will come save you.”

That is, in fact, bullshit.

Sometimes there are very real and very hard circumstances that happen in life without a magic potion to break the spell. Tall towers are real, poisonous apples the same and people a plenty who are hurt and who inevitably hurt you. And you can wait and you can wait for someone to come in on the scene relishing their sword to defeat your captor but that rarely if ever happens.

Not in real life.

As a little girl growing up, I was abused off and on all the way up into just weeks before my wedding day. I know, we all have our sad stories but it’s an area of my life I’ve secretly tucked away because it’s just shameful and sad but I’m realizing that secretly tucking has done me no favors. I don’t know if it’s done anyone any good but I can’t go back and change that now. What I can do is make my peace with my enemies and come to terms with the fact that these things happened and no one stopped them.

I did not stop them.

No one came to my rescue. No one came barreling through the doors wielding a sword.

There was only my silence. The same silence that gave me the illusion things had never happened. Silence that told my enemy they were free.

I’ve realized over the last few weeks that one of my deepest desires and needs is to be defended. To be stood up for. And hey, if you won’t well then I guess I’ll just have to do it for you.

And to be honest, I’ve been angry that I haven’t been. I’ve been angry at God…where were you? Why didn’t you stand up for me? You knew I would struggle with my value and my worth for a very large part of my life so where were you loving and just God?

Silence.

I want to be worth someone’s time. I want someone to fight for me. To say that I am worth it. I mean, doesn’t everyone want these things? To know they are important. That they are seen and heard, holding great value and worth?

One day last week driving I heard these words, “You are very important to me.”

It was Jesus. His whisper, undeniable.

And I think of my grandmother Helen’s words as I was a small child sitting in her kitchen, across from her at the table as she tried to “save me”…

“Jesus died for you August. If you were the only person here, He would have still come and  died. Just for you.”

I tucked that memory away of my grandmother. I tucked it far inside myself with all my shame and tears and anger. It’s funny when and how things, how people, resurface.

Life might not always have the happy ending we are hoping for. Things might not work out the way we hoped but I believe with all my heart there is a happy ending.

Thank you Jesus for mine.

 

 

just as you are 

She boarded the bus like she has the other 20 times I drove it; eyes down, frumpy clothes too big for her body and an awkwardness that made me want to look longer than normal. I was trying to figure out if she was indeed a girl but my gut told me she was and to leave the wondering alone. It didn’t matter. She was lonely and trying to hide under some ugly flannel shirt and most likely she was a girl who knew life’s bitter stings. I thought to myself as I pulled away from her house, “Dear bus full of kids, be kind.”

As she rang up my order, I called her by name. “Hey Fran. Do you know anything about these ear buds?” No. “Fran” didn’t know anything about the item I held in my hand but she quickly called someone and that someone called someone else. We laughed and she cracked a joke and I just about died and for a moment or two I forgot I was the customer in some store and she, the cashier. For a brief lapse in time, we were both just two people having a conversation and I thought if times were different, Fran and I could be friends.

He was probably one of the most flamboyantly gay sales representatives I’ve seen and my small, bearded clerk was trying to get me the right size shoe but since my feet are an abominably, he had not luck. “Do you think you could do a size 9?  I have several size 9’s.” No. Sadly I’d have to cut my feet off to make that work but thanks. Then he brings be another pair and then another of his selections and sooner or later he outfits my feet in an amazingly pair of black dress booties. I thanked him profusely like I just won an Academy Award and “Brad” gave me a hug, turned and disappeared. His touch lingered on my shoulders as did his cologne and I smiled. I did not hug him. He hugged me.

It’s the afternoon bus run and she boards to go home. I smile and say “Hello” and she cracks a thin line but it was still a forward moving gesture. I’m asked to play the radio, something their regular driver must not do, and decide to play the hand my mother does when she has my children. I give in and turn the music up loud. Obnoxiously so. The kids have fun and soon all of them are singing and being kids who are tired of a very long week. I up look in my mirror and catch her singing. She’s looks out the window and she cracks a wide smile.

One thing I’ve discovered along the way is that Jesus doesn’t want my belief. He wants my intentionality. My partnership. To BE his hands and feet. He wants me to show up in this life and live it. He doesn’t care that I feel broken in different parts or that I’m actively engaged in counseling like clock work everything two weeks. It doesn’t matter…any of these things. He wants me to practice what I preach.

That’s more important than my belief.

And for a small stint in time during my most recent life, that is just want I did. I believed with my head all while my heart disengaged. I stopped talking to my cashier. I stopped interacting with the flamboyantly gay sales clerk and I stopped seeing the kids that boarded the buses I sat on.

But through a series of unfortunate occurrences, I came to the end of myself and let go.

And the fall…well.It hurt. It hurts still, but.

I’m awake and I’m slowly coming back to life. I feel the raw ache inside my soul for more. To re-engage and love right where I am. He’s not waiting for me to have it all together, perfectly pieced. He says, “Come August. Follow me.” 

Just. As. You. Are.

Choices 

I think back, even back recently, to the times where I’ve stepped outside myself and walked in my emotions and said things and did things that quite frankly were all out of whack and sync with who I am, with even who God is. It felt right at the time, a zillion times justified and now only looking back, I wish Jesus would have just slapped me around a bit in love but nope. He just left me make my choices and reap my consequences.

Regret is a consequence.

Self-control is something I have wained in for almost ever. Not entirely true but as an highly emotional person, I often allow my emotions to lead and before I know it, my soul is running the show and my true self, you know, the real one, takes a back seat and rides it out…

Willingly.

You know that story in scripture about Pharaoh and God hardening Pharaohs heart? That one. It has always baffled me as to why God would do that. Why He would harden someone’s heart. So if He can harden it, He can also soften it too. Right?

Kind of.

He can. He has choices, just like me. But God, in His infinite love and wisdom, wants to empower us and gives the gift of free will. He allows us to choose.

Will YOU open your heart?

Because having an open heart is a choice just as much as having a closed heart is an option.

Walking in WHO I was created to be and allowing my spirit to lead me is just as much a choice as allowing my emotions to lead and saying crap I later regret.

Choices.

Now that’s love.

Love that says, “Choose me. Choose my heart. Choose to know what’s on it.”

And if we know what’s on God’s heart and we say, “Yeah that nice but another day. Right now I am justified and don’t care. It sounds right, feels good. Tomorrow I’ll try again, but for now…”

Ugh.

Sometimes the very best things you can do or say is this:

Nothing. 

Absolutely positively nothing.

For as long as you need to until you regain proper perspective, HIS. Until the emotions fade and the raging thoughts are lulled back to a sound, perhaps dead sleep.

Nothing. 

It is a choice.

A most powerful one.

Forgive and Forget 

If you are like me, you’ve done your fair share of screwing up. Live and learn, its’s life and I don’t say that flippantly. No excuses, real times, hard stuff and a point in life I’d rather not go back to or dwell on, but I’m forgiven and can walk with my head high. I know who I am and who I’m not from going through it.

 
BUT not everyone shares my excitement for do-overs. Not everyone is quite as enthusiastic about grace as I am. Especially if my choices hurt them.

 
A spirit of guilt and condemnation continually tries to tether us all to the whipping post centrally located in the middle of town. It tries to humiliate us by drawing a crowd…the larger the crowd, the louder the jeers.

 
I get it. And boy do I wish I didn’t.

 
Friends…it’s really nice when we can stand together arms interlocked but there comes a time when we need to stand alone on God’s promise that our sins are as far from the east as to the west. God forgives AND forgets. He chooses to. So even when those around us  hold a pretty detailed account of our wrongs, we can stand firm, knowing our knees won’t buckle underneath the pressure to prove ourselves worthy. Because we are.
It doesn’t necessarily matter what we’ve done. Those details can be like unnecessary chatter in conversations held behind closed doors or backs. What matters most is that we learn from what we’ve done and how those little life lessons impact our current day choices.

 

Here’s the thing…even when we act like an orphan that has no home or a prodigal afraid to come back to one, we are still loved. The Father does not HAVE to love us (You know how families can be…you can’t pick them). He loves because He chooses us. He chooses YOU. 

 
So don’t let yourself be tethered back to the whipping post.

 
Forgive and forget. 70 x 7. 

 
Including yourself. Most importantly yourself.

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.

Woman to Woman 

I sat across the table from her and she, no longer a little girl, is coming into her own. She’s someone’s daughter, though not mine, but I love her as she could be. She begins to cry as our hands find one another across the smooth wood and I whisper to my heart to settle.

She shared the same question that I’ve heard countless times before from many different woman, all different ages, sizes and backgrounds.

“How am I going to get through?”

Even as I ask my heart to settle, it’s the quiet question I’ve been asking myself.

“How?”

You just do.

I am a daughter, a sister, and mother of five, three of which are daughters. I am a friend, a leader and a mentor. It’s a question we all have in common. It’s a thread that binds us together as one. Not one of us is immune regardless of our age or stage in life.

“How am I going to get through?”

Dearest Daughters,

Hard times come. They do not stop though I wish you were immune. You will experience heartache and loss, trials and tribulations. You will be faced with your own brutal and beautiful shortcomings that somehow demand your love and your acceptance. You will be faced with the raw reality of your life, the cards you have been dealt, the choices that you and those around you make. You will be faced with both truth and lies and will have to decide which one you are going to give your power and belief to. You will come face to face with one decision after another…will your thoughts, your feelings and your circumstances define you? Will someone else be able to assign you value? Will they be able to determine your worth?

As much as I don’t want you walking where I have or experiencing the different trials and sufferings that I now are out there, I know you will not be immune to heartache and loss. Though our stories will overlap and they may mirror one another, you are your own person and I am incredibly thankful for it.

“How?”

A very wise man told me yesterday to stop fighting my heartache, and he is right. I’ve been battling not being where I am at and have been trying so hard to keep my heart free of holes. But it has been leaking and I have utilized all my corks trying to keep it all from seeping out and it is exhausting so dear daughter, mourn when you got to mourn, weep when you need to weep. Trust that the Father is with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. Allow Him to take your heart in his hands and perform the needed heart surgery on it to get you through to the further side.

“How am I going to get through?”

With Him.

I think of Hagar who suffered greatly at the jealous hands of Sarah, honest in her heartache. I think of David sitting in the fields, forgotten and alone, bearing his soul to the sheep. I think of how Jesus often went to lonely places to pray. Of how he was rejected in His hometown and how His identity was always in question. I think on these things and my heart unwillingly relates. I understand. But at the Last Supper, John, who often called himself “The disciple that Jesus loved” leaned into Jesus. That picture is in my head not because I have read some Bible story but because it is a posture I am familiar with.

Lean. Times when your heart breaks and you are filled with more questions than there are answers to, lean. When you feel lost and confused, lean. Lean deeply. Allow your pain to be as raw as your love and trust that He will perform the needed surgery on your heart. Dearest Daughters…He is how you fight your battles.

Lean.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

 

 

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