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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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worth more than glue

When I was sixteen, my father beat with the shoes I took off my feet upon coming home from work after taking my boss’s mother to her house. She did not drive and I was later than normal, home later than expected, but I was honest with my accounts however my honesty did not help. I was still beaten for being late because I supposedly was lying about where I’d been.

I ran out the door that night in my barefoot, in the pouring down rain, desperate. I ran across town to my boyfriend’s house and his family welcomed me and my tears into their home. They called my parents and told them I would be at their house for the night and I knew it would be a very long night for it was the first time I ever told anyone that my father beat me.

The next morning I went home to silence and for weeks that silence continued. I had shared our families secret and heard the message loud and clear.

“You are to be like glue and keep our family together. You do not come undone and share our secrets.”

Fast forward years later and it’s weeks before my wedding day. Same thing: sudden rage and a beating. This time I am standing outside my parents farmhouse holding a laundry basket of clothes my mother had just folded for me, my two-year old daughter nearby.

I go home afterwards and cry for hours nursing a headache that won’t go away.

But I am glue. I keep our family together and I don’t give myself any consideration. My father walks me down the aisle despite my knowing deep within myself I don’t want him to but since appearances are everything, I take his left arm in mine and smile.

I’ve hated myself everyday since and it has nothing to do with abuse and everything to do with a little girl who gave up her voice at the expense of squeezing herself into a mold she was not made for.

Now, many years later, I find myself sitting nauseated in a lawyer’s office. I realize that despite whatever the outcome, being there was one of the bravest things I’ve ever done in my life. In my entire life.

I was standing up for me. AS me.

All my life I have found my worth and value in other people and in things, in doings and the like and when those things are good and pretty, when all is going well, I am enough.

And when things aren’t…well. You can imagine.

I have tethered myself to the whipping pole because it’s what I’ve deserved. Surely it must be what I’ve deserved becuase I’ve done wrong and I’ve done right and the results are forever the same: I am not valuable.

Because who beats their grown daughter in front of her own?

I’ve felt like a dog.

Oh to go back to that day and say, “Enough.”

But I can’t go back. All I can do is make peace with my enemy and forgive myself for doing the best that I can, even if the best that I can was not right for me.

“You are the glue that holds are family together.” My husband said these words to me a couple of months ago and I bore the weight. I felt the heaviness of “Suck it up and carry on.” I should want to be glue. Glue sounds capable and strong, almost noble. Like something I could robe myself in as a woman, especially as a mother. But I don’t want to be glue. I don’t want to keep on keeping on, my right arm interlocked in the cusp of everyone else’s for the sake of what?

For the sake of WHO? Jesus?

Is that what it means in real-time with my every-day-life to take up my cross and follow Him? Is that what “laying down my life for my friends” looks like?

Please someone tell me because all I know is that I have this voice inside of me telling me to listen. That it is o.k. to listen. To listen to what I’ve always known deep within myself but been too afraid to stand in.

Because it’s easier to tie myself back to the whipping pole than it is to stand firm in my own truths, which at the end of the day are rooted in His.

I am worth more than glue.

HE says so.

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My Fakest Life

“I feel like I’m living my fakest life.”

These are the words I spoke out loud seven days ago to my husband and now here today, I have a 1:00 PM appointment with a lawyer.

“It’s just an appointment,” I say but I know it is more than. It’s the start of me even though some would say it’s the end.

I say it’s the start. Some say the end. Who am I going to believe?

I choose me.

I’ve been a people pleaser all my life. All of it. Every single day I wake up and for the most part, I aim to please. My decisions are largely based off of what you would think and if you’ve given me your opinion, I most likely pay heed. Can I keep peace? Can I make you happy and maintain status quo and do all the needed and expected things?

Seriously, I can’t. Not one single day more.

Twenty-three years ago I found myself as a single mother with a wedding dress. I discovered I was pregnant in October, was to be married in June after I graduated from college but by Thanksgiving, my fiancé was gone and I was living in the spare bedroom of my parents farmhouse dejected and confused.

And without realizing it, my guild-ridden self began looking for a father for my daughter. A good man.

And I found one.

But here we are, almost twenty-one years later and are at an impasse. I can and will no longer beg or plead for communication and since it has been recommended that I do not publicly share these very private parts of my life that involve other people, I will speak for me, OF me.

Because NOT speaking about this very large part of my life is deafening, almost drowning and it does me no good to pretend this is not happening. I will not live a fake life.

I know WHO I am and one of my nonnegotiable’s is communication. I need it in order to work through anything and if I cannot talk about the things I need to work through, I don’t see movement and I am no longer willing to remain at cross roads wondering which way to go.

So despite not feeling great about it, I will take a step. I will continue to remain open but I am not willing to sacrifice my non-negotiable. I’ve secretly battled within myself for months and openly hoped things would change and go in another direction but they haven’t. I’ve battled if it’s wrong or if it’s right because as one who loves Jesus, taking these steps are incredibly complicated and conflicting. I have seen what NOT communicating has done over time and I refuse to repeat the negative and unhealthy patterns for the safe of maintaining a nice home and the semblance of a family.

My children deserve a better example.

I’d like to say I do but there’s a large part of me that says, “No. Lay your life down for your friends. Sacrifice” but friends, if you only knew where we’ve been and where we’ve dangerously been heading…

I just can’t.

So I won’t just write about the happy things. I won’t just share the good times. That has never been me and trying to people please in order to maintain status quo, even the incredibly watchful yet silent people in my life…no thanks.

No thanks at all.

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.

 

 

Her Heart Cry

A couple of weeks ago, I came into the office to find a frantic woman had left a message on our office machine. “Please call me back. I am so sorry. I want to come in and talk to you.”

About what? I had no idea.

So I called her back and left a message, disconcerted as I was, and three days a later a letter showed up in the mail.

“The other day I was traveling down Main Street and I past one your school buses when it had its red lights activated. A student was getting off and…”

She cried. About died. Went and saw her priest.

She went on and on in her three page letter about how sorry she was and how she will never do that again as she realizes now the damage she could have caused by not paying attention. She left me her name and her number and a copy of her DRIVERS LICENSE in case I felt the need to turn her in.

She would do it herself but she wanted to leave her fate in my hands.

I couldn’t even.

She is sixty-seven years old.

I’ve thought about that woman every day for sixteen days. At some point in my day, my mind runs to her and sits with her, for just a bit and I say,”

“You are forgiven,” because I hope she has left herself off the hook.

“Teach me your ways,” because her grieving heart is intoxicating and a commonplace abnormality. She had not just given me lip service. I FELT her sincerity and repentance.

And I bet all the school buses in the world, she will never run the red lights of another bus. She will be more aware and alert while she is driving because her actions told me she wasn’t just sorry.

Remorse is easy to muster in us all, especially if we are caught.

No driver turned her in that day. No State Police showed up at my door. No school called.

But she did.

If you take it upon yourself to grieve and mourn over your actions, good for you. I got your back and will cheer you on regardless of what it is that you did. Seriously, a heart that checks itself against itself is teachable and open to moving forward. It makes changes.

One that’s not, probably not. And those are the hearts you need to be watchful over…

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.

fester 

I can feel it flowing through my veins. Toxins are trying to poison my soul. There are things that have not been talked about recently and I take the lack of initiation on any part, other than mine, poorly. 

The long and the short is this: I want to stop reaching becuase I want to be reached INTO and my “ I wont if you wont” attitude is seemingly costing me a great deal. Anger is festering. Communication has been waining and open to interpretation, which becomes a free-for-all for assumptions, which I know better than to make. 

I appears we are not on the same page and that feeling adds extra weight to my gut. I don’t know how we’ll ever move forward because at the end of the day, weeks later, here we are. Same ole. Same ole. Time and space have crept in and the hot water has slowly turned to not so hot at all. Nothing has really changed. Nothing has really been talked about and as much as I sit, telling myself, “Just focus on yourself. YOU keep moving forward,” there is this undeniable reality that I’m not the only one here.

We both are. 

So I go back to “Who am I?” 

I AM a communicator.

“If that is WHO you are, march yourself downstairs and communicate.”

Sometimes I really loathe the voice of reason and wisdom within myself.

And I do. I bound down the steps and plop myself in my chair and as much as I don’t think it is my turn or duty (which often feels like an obligatory noose) to continue to reach forward, I do. I initiate. I communicate.

“I think we need to talk.”

And there is agreement from both sides in this statement.

Not much is solved but we both walk away and doors are left opened.

I have a picture in my head of taking the doors of my heart off its hinges. I see myself throwing them into the flames along with our very dead Christmas tree that lays on the ground outside our house…watching it disintegrate into nothingness.

I don’t think my heart was created to find refuge in doors.

 

 

 

“I Saw it Coming.”

 

I have this very creepy habit of possibly eavesdropping on other people’s conversations out in public. I call it active listening but I’ll use that term loosely since I’m not really a part OF the conversation. I can’t help it (says creepy people everywhere)… people intrigue me and I find myself sucked into their life into attempts to know them despite my best attempts not to.

 

 

The other day I was standing at the grocery store in a line that spanned the distance of forever and the couple behind me was talking about a friend of theirs who was just arrested for a DUI. They seemed to be genuinely concerned and I thought their sincerity was touching. However, one of them said something that absolutely caught my attention. They said,”

 

 

“I saw it coming.”

 

 

And the other person murmured in agreement. “I saw it too.”

 

 

I really didn’t want to listen anymore after that. I willed my ears to close as I stepped forward and proceeded to check out.

 

 

Those words really hurt my heart.

 

 

I wonder if people have seen it coming in me, in my life, and have turned and looked the other way. I wonder what people have become aware of and still…never reached out.

 

 

I wonder.

 

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the junk we have in our lives, at least I have been thinking of mine. And try as I might to find scripture condoning my need at times to point out other people’s trash, I just haven’t.

 

 

What I have found is this:

 

 

“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” John 16:7-8

 

I read this and think when Jesus Christ Himself says, “IT IS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE THAT I GO AWAY…” I better pay attention to WHY He says it is to my advantage.

 

 

And my WHY turns out to be a WHO. 

 

 

Holy Spirit.

 

 

I often forget I am not Holy Spirit. **NEWS FLASH** Jesus did not depart this world so I could make it my life mission convicting the world (aka my family and friends or my “friends” online) of the junk they may have in their heart. That is what He does, it is WHO He is.

 

 

And me? My part in all of this is to LOVE.

 

 

Plain and not so simple.

 

 

Yes, Jesus pretty much made that clear as crystal when He said,

 

 

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  John 13:34-35

 

I know love looks different for each and every one of us and sometimes, even “tough love” is still love when done with His leading and a open heart. I just know when I stood in that grocery store line the other day and heard the conversation from behind me; my heart broke into a hundred pieces for the gentleman with the DUI. The gentleman that obviously had his flag waving, “Hey. I’m heading down a dangerous path. I need some help; I’m just not quite sure how to reach out for it. Will someone see me? I know you see me. Will someone just love me enough to …”

 

 

Who knows? Maybe they did. Maybe someone had. Maybe this guy had tons of people cheering him on and trying to love him back to healthy and wholeness. In the end, just as it is not our job to convict people of their sin, it is also not our job to reach in and save them from the depths. We will exhaust ourselves from trying.

 

 

I’m a recovering fixaholic. I know how that all goes.

 

 

So friends, if you “see it coming” in someone’s life…please reach into them.

 

 

Not to convict them.

 

 

Not to fix them.

 

 

But to love them.

 

 

Not sure how? I have this friend and His name is Jesus…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Making Sense Out of Christmas 

I woke up early this morning and said good-bye to our son. His ninety-six hour leave would come to an end in a few hours and he has to report back for three days before he could venture home again. I hug him and his girlfriend tight and tell them to be safe and that I love them, all the things I’m growing accustomed to saying when we part ways and moments later I crawl back to bed. I don’t have any trouble falling asleep and I wonder if I had truly woken up because sleep comes quickly and the minutes spent saying good-bye now feels like a dream.

I wake up for real several hours later and take the dogs out. The thought of heading to the barn crosses my mind but the thought of hot coffee nags and wins. I resolve to feed my miniature pig Rosie the next time I’m out and walk through the front door. My brain scans the living room that houses an incredibly dead Christmas tree and I begin plotting out my day.

It’s time to make sense out of Christmas.

Needles lace the floor and I almost cannot see the carpet. I’m not really sure what happened because I never missed a beat and was faithful in watering but I apparently missed something somewhere because evidence points to the obvious. It is dead. The tree has got to go…today.

The dog quickly finds a candy cane and then shortly after, a forgotten toy, and I feel as if I never stopped raising toddlers and somewhere between the living room and the coffee pot, I remind myself to go slow and smile because smiling is important.

I get to work.

I start in the kitchen and eventually meander my way back to the living room; sorting, unpackaging…trying to find a place for everything that was recently brought into this home. “Christmas is more than this,” I remind myself. It is more than the gifting and the eating and the cleaning.

But today it feels just like that and I am done.

An hour later, my husband comes into the house and tells me he went out to feed the chickens and found Rosie. She had died sometime between when I fed her yesterday morning and today. At first I have no words. I really don’t even know what to say about a pig I wasn’t supposed to love.

But did.

I think of our barn and how it’s housed calves, chickens, 4-H pigs and now little Rosie. I think of the smell, the cobwebs, the mice and the dirt and I wonder if moving Rosie from our home to the barn a few years was a good move. Did we cut her life short in the transfer? My brain scrambles to make sense and it can’t. Was she old in miniature pigs years? Was I feeding her enough? She was social and here I stuck her in the barn, no longer having room for her in my house. I don’t have answers so I shake my head and resolve to let those thoughts go. It will do no good to sort that out because there is no sorting. My little pig is dead.

The most random of all pictures comes to my head; a feeding trough. It’s one of the dirtiest and foulest things in a barn if not kept clean and I instantly think of how Jesus was laid in one at His birth. I don’t know why I think of this at the same time I think of that little pig, laying cold on the barn floor but I do.

I think of the packages that fill my home and the needles from my dead tree that fill the floor and the list of all the things I want to get done and thoughts of my son still flutter through my head. I look around the kitchen at my husband and kids. They sit, both quiet and compassionate, waiting for me to respond terribly with tears, but I don’t. It would be awkward to cry over a little pig and I do awkward enough. 

This is what I tell myself.

I think in my trying to make sense out of Christmas, I was trying to package Christmas up so I could move forward and get back to life as normal. I wanted to move forward from the gifts. Move forward from the floor laced with needles. Move forward from the busy and the chaos and the goodbyes.

And here all along, Jesus was reaching into me from the barn, reminding me there is no normal to move on to. He was trying to show me what Christmas really is: Love comes in unexpected ways and in unexpected forms. Jesus, the baby in the manager who I now call my closest friend, reminds me to open my heart wide; unbiased and unrestricted. Hours later I give myself permission to cry, even if just for a little and I wonder if the Innkeeper had known who Jesus was if he would have given him more than just the barn, more than just a feeding trough, more than…

So I choose today to not put Christmas away. I choose to stay focused on my family as I walk around the clutter as needles cling to my feet. I choose to allow my heart to relentlessly love who and what it loves, to be surprised when the unexpected stranger knocks on its door and to embrace the unsuspecting.

One thing we should never have to do is apologize for our hearts.

 

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