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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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communicate

Own It

A couple of weeks ago, I showed up at the vet for an appointment with two dogs only to be told, “I’m sorry. Your appointment isn’t until tomorrow.” But it was on my calendar. I vividly remember booking the appointment the week before and going over the date. Could I be wrong? Perhaps. Do I think I was? I truly don’t.

And tomorrow didn’t suit.

I have had happier moments. And apparently kinder ones.

And this week, another vet appointment. I walked into the reception area and was greeted with a smile from the vet tech, the same vet tech whom said several weeks ago, “I’m sorry. Your appointment isn’t until tomorrow.”

As soon as I saw her, I remembered that I wasn’t quite the kindest as I walked out the door with two dogs wrapped around my feet who were most likely wondering why the heck they were walking in and then quickly walking back out.

Silence and *possible* stomping speaks rather loudly.

Truth was, I was mad. Was it because I cleared my morning and loaded two excitable dogs into my Jeep and drove across town which is never easy or convenient during a work day? Was it because I didn’t want to be wrong and admit I may have made a mistake with the date? Was I expecting whomever made my appointment to be held to a higher standard, one of perfection, than I myself would be willing to held to?

Grace indeed is a crooked road.

But is a doable one.

As soon as I sat down, I apologized. I told the vet tech I was sorry for not being the kindest the last time I was there and I left it at that and made no excuses.

She accepted my apology and told me that my silence *and my stomping* didn’t quite seem like me and maybe I was just having a bad day. Perhaps other things were going on.

Boy were they ever.

I wish I could say that I *never* behave badly and that I am the poster child for good behavior but I obviously have my moments and some of those moments are rather large. I take my frustration out on innocent people after I allow it to build its home in me deep and wide. Through a series of unfortunate events, I’m learning that it’s important to recognize the WHY and then make amends with the HOW.

It’s important when you realize that you’ve stepped outside yourself to allow your heart to be searched so you can figure out what is REALLY going on in it. I wish I could say that I could do the figuring out all on my own but I can’t. I get snippets here and snippets there but if I really want to be the person I say I want to be, to be the person that God says I already am, then I need His help. And He gives it.

And when He gives it, there is always a small charge, a price to pay on my end. Recognizing my error or places of potential growth usually cost me the things that I often try to hold dear and close like pride, the very presentation of myself. It’s humbling to make the journey to the offering slab and lay my heart in front of another person and ask for forgiveness and admit I made a mistake.

It’s called vulnerability.

You cannot change without searching your heart and taking responsibility for your behavior. You are kidding yourself if you think you can maneuver around this process and negate this step. And if you are in a relationship with another person who refuses to take ownership of their actions and would rather place blame then take ownership, you are in a relationship with a stubborn-hearted person and the same pattern will most likely cycle back around again and repeat themselves. It’s the very definition of insanity.

If your heart gets checked and you realize that you’ve stepped outside yourself an inch or two…own it. Say you are sorry. Be sincere. Don’t make excuses. And if your heart is rarely checked…you are the author and perfector of your own faith and I wish you well.

It is very hard to be in a relationship with someone who is never wrong.

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Line in the Sand

I’m all for the gray areas of life because I believe that they exist. I also like to color outside the lines. I’m all for accommodations, adjustments, alterations and such but I’m not for compromising my heart and settling for less than I know I deserve. Less than what I know that I can give.

And I have.

Over.

And over.

And over again.

Because, what if I don’t and someone gets pissed and then doesn’t want anything to do with me at all? The loss of their approval, even their disapproval of the me they thought they knew, the me I thought they wanted me to give…would be heart breaking.

These are real thoughts.

But guess what?

I want something to do with me.

I want something to do with me a whole bunch. I actually DO believe I am worthy of simple things like:

Faithfulness.

Having someone’s whole heart.

And the problem has been I haven’t seen myself accordingly. I’ve been misaligned, like looking at myself in a mirror that has been distorted and cracked. I’ve compromised but not in a way where I’ve sat down and negotiated my value. I just kind of took what I got.

Even if it was crap.

I asked for more. And I’ve been told I’m unreasonable.

Demanding.

Like communication and having the ability to work all the way through to the other side is some sort of abnormality reserved for super humans.

The further side was a luxury I could not afford.

And now here we are and I wonder how we got here, how I did. The writing on the wall is as clear as the line that I’m finally drawing and I know.

I will no longer negotiate my identity.

I will no longer settle for anything other than faithfulness. Wholehearted and true.

I won’t take the back seat in someone’s heart when I know I belong in the front row.

I. Just. Won’t.

 

 

Maybe

“Is there anything you want to talk about?” 

“No.”

And with that I go to bed.

OK.”

My daily communication attempts trying to delve past talk of kids and business fail. It is glaringly obvious, it is our only common ground. I long for deep and healing here in this place, this vast ocean that looks consuming and my continued asking feels like nagging and drudgery.

Maybe he is right. Maybe there is nothing more to talk about. Maybe this is as good as it gets. And with that, I walk up the stairs and step into the bath, delving below the surface of my life.

The water has become a drug to me. The heat is calming and soothing and numbs out my raw and achy parts.

I’m basing the whole of who I am and my happiness on this marriage. I forgave quickly. I thought I’d never mention our latest snag again. I immediately became a busy little bee who opened up her heart wide. I thought I’d work and he’d work and we would meet somewhere in the middle and this could potentially be THAT happy ending. The ending we all hope for and dream is possible and maybe for some it is, but it takes more than one to dream, maybe more than that to hope.

A mustard seed…and I had it.

But there needs to be communication and not just for a day. Not just for two. We need to cultivate intimacy and by default, I’ve been crowned conversation initiator and my initiator is tired and worn out.

I no longer volunteer as tribute.

My brain tells me all sorts of good and needed truths and I know I am full and overflowing with knowledge of WHO I am but my heart tells me another story. My heart tells me I don’t feel valued or loved, that I’m sitting around waiting for scraps and someone else’s left overs. My heart tells me if I was more important things would change and go another direction. My heart tells me a lot of things…

And if I stay here, stuck in a place that continually perpetuates these lies, that is exactly where I’ll stay.

An orphan.

Actions or lack thereof speak pretty loudly.

I’ve got to get myself healthy, for indeed I am sick. I hear the voice of my counselor in my head, “Your heart is broken. You need to heal,” and I know he is right. It is broken and I need to give it time and trying to help someone else mend who perhaps isn’t quite ready is not helping…me. I am pouring way more into this then he is and I’m beginning to feel the strain of my expenditures. I just don’t have it in me to ask one more time, “Is there anything you want to talk about?”

Because essentially my tired refusal comes from a deep and hidden heart cry, “Would someone please pour into me first. I am empty. I no longer want to fix.”

And under the covering of the hot water that fills the tub, it becomes obvious.

The last time I turned someone over to the Lord with such resolve, my oldest son was six years old and was about to be airlifted to Hershey Medical Center for a skid loader accident. I remember standing over him as he was screaming, a mother whose heart was torn between what she could and couldn’t do, realizing, “There is nothing here I can. My very best works won’t help. But Jesus, if you exist, if you are alive and real, I believe you can help. He is yours.”

So I say it again, just the same.

“He is yours.”

I refuse to settle for anything less than what I know is possible.

Make Room 

The perfect morning to me is a cup of coffee, the couch and a book and time void of hustle and rush. Slow. Slow makes it truly, truly perfect and as Chief Hopper says in the very first episode of Stranger Things

“MORNINGS ARE FOR COFFEE AND CONTEMPLATION.”

And this morning I found myself having it all. The coffee, the couch and book…with plenty of time to get lost in some thought or some conversation and they walk right past, stuck in their morning routine, just the same.

“Come sit with me for a bit,” I say and I make room on the couch. I want more than just the normal Sunday Morning. I want their presence.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about PEOPLE. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Isn’t that Christmas? I think of people in particular…their role in my life, my role in theirs and our influence on one another. I’ve been asking a lot of questions, gleaning a few answers and in between doing a lot of soul-searching.

There is more to life then living from here to there. There is a place in between.

In the past few days I’ve sat with people when it wasn’t convenient or easy and through it, I’ve realized once more how important it is to give each other our presence. We all want to be seen and heard and sometimes, most times, I liken all of humanity to the old stainless steel tea-pot that sits on my gas stove: We take time to warm up. We don’t want hurried along like we are an appointment on someone’s calendar or an errand they are running that can eventually be crossed off their list.

But sadly, most times, that is what we get.  Remnants of someone’s leftovers, their seconds, their hurry, their less than best.

Looking back now, I can see where that rush has caused more than a problem or two. Lack of presence places Constance where intact should be forged and before you know it, it’s easy to feel like distrusting strangers.

I think it’s the people in my every day crazy, when things aren’t calm and slow, that I’ve needed to pay closest attention to. The ones I’m most likely to whiz right by or take for granted have needed my solid and sturdy legs to remain strong yet bendy so I could ask simple and basic questions.

**Like**

“How are you?”

How many times do we dig our heels in and wade through the awkward silence for their answer? Their REAL answer.

Not many enough.

Conversely, last night as I was putting on my shoes, a random thought popped into my head. I thought of one person in particular, one I’ve been giving too much time and attention to though they havn’t been anywhere in my travels, no where in my circles but they indeed have been taking up space in the thoughts inside my head. As I laced up my last shoe, I didn’t think but more RESOLVED that they were a common denominator in too many of my here-and-now-life-problems. Too much of what I have rolling on the inside of me has their name attached and just like that… I made the decision to take them out of my equation.

And I realized I can do that.

Just. Like. That.

I’ve been giving them too much space through no fault of their own and in the big picture, it’s been frustrating. I’ve allowed their influence to tip some scale inside my life in a less than life-giving way and I refuse to carry them with me into the New Year.

I choose to no longer give them a seat on the couch that is housed in a room within my head. I stood tall after tying my shoes and within moments, showed them to the door. I don’t need to think about them or talk about them because to do so, places an unhealthy, unbalanced importance where it shouldn’t and afterwards, I’ve wondered WHY I’ve ever given away such a powerful choice.

And the sad but wonderful thing about this moment, in the midst of shoes and laces is this…

My resolve has nothing to do with an actual person as first assumed. Sure there’s a name but in the grand scheme of things, it could be a hundred names. They were merely just a representation of a festering wound and I think I needed someone, essentially anyone, to blame.

And since blaming does no good.

Here’s the door.

Be free.

What they represented to me has to go. I need to make room in my heart for vision and hope and joy and laughter and I don’t want to make time for the incessant chatter things past try to hold me to.

We need to free up space friends for real people. Not for the stupid things people do or our assumptions about them. Not for past hurts that keep replaying like a broken record. Not for our offenses or the sordid scenarios that we play and then rewind again and again in our head. Sometimes it IS as simple as refusing to give those thoughts an audience and if it means for a while that the name that’s attached goes unmentioned so you can quit your bad habit, then let it be so. Go cold turkey. Do whatever you can to think favorably again.

It’s not about cutting our losses. We need to look at the rooms within our homes and examine what is filling them. Sometimes it gets a little crowded with stuff and I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to have a full house, I’d rather have it packed with presence. People presence. Not poor thinking OF people presence because at the end of the day, negative attention is STILL attention and takes up space. An awful lot of it.

Friends I’m short on time and like you, I want to make my time count. I want my presence count. If I have any resolutions this year it is this:

want the person standing in front of me to walk away knowing they were heard and seen **THAT THEY WERE LOVED** and I want my thoughts to count.

I don’t have people to waste. I don’t have thoughts OF people to waste.

Neither do you.

the places I cannot afford to visit 

In my prior life, I was a sales representative  for a company that awarded its performance team with luxurious trips. I could sit here and name all the different countries I’ve traveled to and all the five-star resorts I’ve stayed at but I won’t. I will say this, they all have something in common:

On my own, they are not places I could afford to visit.

Fast forward to this life, not a lot has changed. I still travel but lately it’s been to military bases to see my kids and I rarely frequent airports and seldom hail cabs but one thing transfers from one life to the next and remains consistent and true: I still can’t afford to visit certain places.

Location is just about everything, ask any realtor. Location location location. Is it high traffic, high population…what is it’s draw that determines its value and worth? To each person, that answer may be different. What I am looking for may be different from what grabs your attention, that’s why it’s so important to ask yourself what’s important to you. If you don’t, you’ll end up somewhere that’s important to someone else and you’ll find yourself in a location that is miserable at best.

Ever been to the beach with someone who hates the sun and the sand? Miserable.

Our daughter called today from the Navy’s boot camp and it’s been over a month since I’ve seen her. As we all stood in the kitchen, gathered around my phone, I felt sadness taking up space within the room. I not only felt it within me, but I heard it in her voice. It’s Christmas. Her brother, who is a Marine, is Home for a short leave, and it’s her first Holiday Season away from us. The phone call was a happy one despite the underlying sadness but when the call was over, I turned to my husband and cried.

I felt sad for several hours afterwards and I realized my location wasn’t really the best. I was slipping, and my mood was beginning to match the weather…cold and dreary.

As a feeler, I often hole myself up in some shack, dodging bullets and trying to stay out of the enemy’s line of fire in the worst parts of town. I truly pick some of the worst locations to camp out in, within myself. These shacks have given me the illusion of safety even though the foundation was crumbly and I knew it. If safety’s my goal, I most certainly have found myself hiding out in some of the most unsafe locations.

My mind or my feelings left unchecked tend to wander and create scenarios that aren’t even accurate and I end up assuming the worst. I do not recommend this. AT ALL. It’s really not fair to you because it creates such heartache and agony and it most certainly is not fair to the other person. Want to talk judgement? Assume something, anything, about another and there you have it.

I’m recognizing the feeling I have are normal…it is more than ok to be sad. I AM allowed to miss my daughter. I AM allowed to be angry over situations. I AM allowed to not agree.

It’s when I choose to stay sad and angry. It’s when I choose to care more about being right than being in relationship that gets me into trouble.

Can I really afford to visit these locations?

No. The answer is vehemently no. I cannot afford to. Visiting leads to wanting to stay. There is comfort in old friends and sometimes, hanging around old friends leads to holding onto old habits…I have to choose the higher thought.

So yesterday, as much as I missed our daughter and as much as I FELT sad because she is not home, I chose to think of how proud I am of her. She recently passed all her physical fitness tests. She is strong in both mind and body. I focused on all the friends she’s making and how lucky they are becuase she is packed full of maturity and wisdom and loves havng new expereinces through people. I chose to think of any other thought except the sad ones and slowly but surely, my mood shifted.

I’ve been practicing this in every area of my life, not just with my children. I’ve been packing up my bags and (sometimes begrudgingly) putting my feet on another path even though my thoughts and feelings tell me it’s ok to stay in my shack because it’s justified. I recognize there are places within myself I want to go, but they are places…memories or thoughts, that elicit negative feelings and pretty much put me in a bad mood. I want to bring healing there. Why? Because I know Jesus does.

I absolutely believe He chooses the higher…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

I’ve often said that perspective is a superpower and it is. One of the greatest revelations of my life is: I can choose my thoughts and think things on purpose. What the hell? Did you know you are THAT powerful? In other words, I don’t have to just think about whatever falls into my mind. Just because I think it doesn’t mean it is true. This was a life-changing revelation for me because as Proverbs 23:7 says, As he [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he. SeriouslyWhere the mind goes, the man follows.

Friends, there ARE places you and I both cannot afford to visit. Quick jaunts here and there can be exciting and they can feel good and right but be careful about dwelling there too long, especially without proper perspective.

Merry Christmas! Choose to think the very best this Holiday Season of the people in your life. Choose to forgive and forget.

Choose to love…

You may not always want to but I think you’ll find if you don’t, you’ll find yourself in a place you ideally don’t want to be.

Set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things… (Colossians 3:2 AMP).

 

 Upside Down

Rejection.

I think I’ve battled it since the womb and I’ve wondered if it’s the first thing people see when they looked at me. Has it been something I’ve hidden behind or has it been a shiny little pin I’ve worn on my lapel and I’ve used it as an excuse for the things I’ve done?

Probably both.

My parents dated in high school and my mother was a year older than my father which made him a Senior when she announced she was pregnant with me. He was honorable and gave her a little ring, which I store in a little wooden box in a chest in my room since their divorce, and I choose to believe they went in, full of hope, that a baby would save them.

But rejection was rooted deep in my family and everyone had their own baggage long before I was born. Unfortunately, as much as I love them both, their baggage became mine and sooner or later I had my own and before I knew it, everything was jumbled and it became very difficult to sort what was theirs, what was mine and what was ours.

I took it all.

Fast forward to my own marriage and here we are, all jumbled. Maybe we are normal. Maybe jumbling takes place in every marriage. Maybe every couple has their share of heart aches and breaks. Maybe it’s part of being human and being in human relationships. I am not really sure but one thing I am sure of is this:

I have continually allowed myself to feel rejected based off other people’s responses TO me. If it’s not what I had hoped for or what I had envisioned it would be…if their words did not match their actions and I found myself in the presence of a good talker rather than a good walker, I’d allow the perceived lack **of whatever** to pretty much obliterate my identity. I become worthless and not enough. Not valued. Not really liked or loved. I essentially allowed man to take the place of God and I’d worship the opinion and the approval of flesh and blood rather than The One who already says I am…

And I tell myself it’s easy. Too easy. “Anybody who has been through what I’ve been through within the span of my short life would be looking through the same clouded and muddled lens.” As soon as I have that thought, I realize I’m double-minded and rejection IS the shiny pin I wear on my lapel. I use it as an excuse. Rejection has been an old friend and as much as I loathe it, I don’t know how to live without it.

So over the last two weeks, I’ve been waking up each day choosing to intentionally posture myself to see how God sees.

How God sees me.

“Who am I?”

I need reminded because I’ve obviously forgotten.

I think of Jesus and I think of one of my favorite verses in scripture:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

This is WHO HE is. This is ME.

I read further and know I’ve been thinking like a child. I looked up the scripture “Do unto others and they do unto you,” and all I find is this: 

“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” Luke 6:31

Damn.

I think again of Jesus. My thoughts always go back to Him and I realize that deep within me, what I’m really longing for is to become Love. Not just a little bit here or there. Not just in pieces and parts or to have characteristics of but to BE…

So I give up my childish ways and I show up and it hurts. It hurts more than I thought it would.  It makes me feel naked and exposed. It feels all upside down. It sears my flesh and feels like salt on an open wound and it is not always reciprocated and as much as I want to adjust myself and alter WHO I AM based off of how someone responds to me, I do not. I choose to believe I’m worth someone’s time and attention because I know that I am and that knowing allows me to give freely without strings.

Until I stop reacting to my circumstances and start responding to the love of Jesus, my circumstances will not change.

And I know it.

Don’t stop showing up and being you based off of how people respond to you. How you love anything is how you love everything for love is a quality of relationship more than a statement about the worthiness or deservedness of the object loved. -Richard Rohr

before you jump

I have a tendency to go it alone and by going it alone, I mean going it a-l-o-n-e as in, in silence. By myself. I can write about deep and personal all day long and give snippets of what is actually happening in my life that just may elude to the fact that I need some “withness” but rarely will say I say, “H-E-L-P.” I’ll just flounder for a while and eventually come up under the water having caught my breath, as I always and eventually do…and tarry on.

But today I was done tarrying alone. I got down and gritty with a few friends and didn’t think twice about what they may think of me and what I said. Because friends don’t really care what it is that you say, I mean…I really don’t think so. At least I don’t. I don’t think they absorb every word and think, “Ah, she’s in THAT place and I thought she was in t-h-a-t place. How sad.” I’m pretty sure from knowing mine that their heart breaks when mine does and they can read through the cursing, the emotions and the lies I’m believing and hear what I am really asking for…

WITHNESS. 

Because lies are awfully isolating.

Friends don’t have to fix anything in this place and I’m certainly not looking for magic words, sometimes, I’d rather not have any. When I get to the point where I say, “I am having an awfully bad, no good day,” I’m really saying, “I am going to jump off this ledge. I am drowning in this water. I feel all alone. Can you be with me?”

And as good friends go, they text or call or show up AT YOUR DOOR and you secretly wish they would go away because you have a good mad on and you want to stay that way, but you can’t…your friend is there, standing on your porch about to ring your door bell for the SECOND time and she knows you are home. There is no escape. She’s relentless and refuses to let you go it alone and you realize…

You are getting exactly what you asked for.

Support and love flood in various forms, all are tender and merciful. And though nothing seems fixed, everything seems doable. Because no matter how you DO IT, you know that you KNOW, you won’t be doing it alone.

So friends, if you are standing in the boat or on the ledge and you find yourself by yourself and are tempted to jump, I encourage you to ask someone into that space with you. Jumping itself is not bad, in fact, sometimes you just GOT TO take the leap, but invite someone to do it WITH you. The circumstance of life can be heavy and weighted and if you are not careful, they can bog you down into a deep abyss. But the funny thing with withness is it changes your perspective and fills you with hope. I think of Peter walking on the water towards Jesus, “Eyes on the prize and things will be fine.” Without focus, the storms are rather distracting.

Invite someone into your storm. Allow them to be Jesus in the flesh.

Stay focused. Stay steady. Stay WITH them.

 

The Things We Don’t Want to Hear

I got two texts and one phone call today and they all sort of sounded the same, starting with, “I really hate to tell you this…”

Our road has never been the kindest to the animals that attempt to cross it. We lost an indoor cat once to its traffic the day she escaped so when friends reached out today and said, “A cat has been hit in front of your house,” I swallowed hard.

Yes indeed, but luckily not one of ours.

And each friend all expressed the same, how GRUELING it was to reach out and share that it may have been OUR cat. I liken it to the sort of pit-in-your-stomach- feeling that sinks deep, like when you see a friends husband out with another woman at the pub…

Those conversations are never easy.

But as conversations go, hindsight is always 20/20.

“If only I had spoken up.”

So friends, this is short and sweet…SPEAK UP.

But before you do…

It’s not tattling if your our own heart is checked so do yourself and the person that you care about a favor before you speak…know YOUR motives. If it’s genuine and sincere and your heart is just filled and overflowing…maybe it’s time to make the call. Maybe it’s time to look them in the eyes and grab their hands…

And if your heart is not in the right place, if you sincerely do not care and are all caught up in catching someone doing something wrong or vindictively hurting another out of your own offenses and insecurities, or you cannot wait to share the news with your circle of friends…I do not care what you SEE or KNOW

keep.your.mouth.closed.

You have to open your heart to open your mouth.

People know the difference.

And we all need people in our life that will speak hard truth to us in love. Just make sure it’s love before you speak it.

 

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