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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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family

life interrupted

Like most people, I have a job. In fact, I have several. One of my jobs, my biggest and fullest of them all allows me to work from my former den which is right down my living room steps and is now a working office with a fax machine to prove it.

And since honesty is always the best policy, I’ll go ahead and publicly state that working from home is not all it’s cracked up to be. I am beyond thankful that I can and I do not want to take it for granted but like all good things, working from home is like a double edge sword, especially when working with the public sector.

For example, I can work from home in my pajama’s.

Downside is people can walk right into my office when I don’t have a bra on.

Some lessons are learned the hard way. Yeah. Embarrassment. #sorrynotsorry

I have made breakfast for my kids all while answering the phone. I’ve done loads of laundry in between projects. I’ve been able to take each Seeing Eye Puppy I’ve raised with me to work which really affords me a lot of time with them which is needed and to their benefit.

I could go on and on with the list of the good that comes with the work-from-home package, but the downside is this: I cannot escape work.

Real-life problems I know, I sound like such a whiner. Bear with me, there is a life-lesson here.

The other night at 5:15 PM, I was making dinner for my family and the office bell rang. Surprise. As tempting as it was to let business be business, set hours and let them stand outside the door, I just couldn’t. The door is not the phone. I could not just let them stand long enough to go to voicemail so I welcomed my guest into the office.

They immediately commented on how good my dinner smelt.

Yes, dinner did smell good and I secretly hoped it was not burning or something else equally as tragic but twenty-minutes later, I had answered all their questions, got them what they needed and they were on their way.

August, breathe.

One thing that really bothers me is feeling like I am an inconvenience. I don’t like feeling like I am botheringsomeone, let alone NOTICEABLY bothering someone (because one is in my head and one is a realistic assumption based off of real-life interactions).

So yes, dinner. Ha, nah it’s not burning. I have time. Yes, it’s a new recipe I’m trying. What can I do to help?

Because if I don’t like feeling like a bother, I really don’t want to make someone else potentially feel that way. More importantly, I honestly believe deep down, despite how I sometimes feel, that people are utmost importance and should never be the second or third thought and should never vie for first place when dinner or projects or paper are running the race.

People come first.

So work and home aside, I shift my perspective. I am incredibly honored to have my home also be a conduit for so many people to flow in and out of, even if the lines are sometimes blurred that differentiate the two.

There is grace to shift gears when needed.

So friends, if you find your schedule being compromised and the culprit is your fellow mankind…step back, even if only with yourself, and breathe. Take a long, deep breath and remember WHO you are. Remember that looking your culprit in the eyes with compassion and grace is one of the most loving things you can do, especially when timing is tight.

People are not an inconvenience.

In the thick of things 

I met a friend for coffee today and I realize now, only afterwards, that I sounded like a complete train wreck. Not just a wreck but a TRAIN wreck, that’s the severity of my current situation. I’ve unraveled in perhaps all the wrong and maybe right ways…I just can’t tell yet. 

The verdict is still out. 

What is love anyway? I’m feeling kind of lost. I’m questioning just about everything. Blah blah blah blah blah.”

I interjected other people’s problems because they affect me and felt justified. Yes, I am living IN my circumstances becuase they are big. Someday I will learn that if I cannot properly manage me and my life, why do I think I can manage someone else’s? 

I can’t. 

*Freedom*

We talked about drama (hers) and went I came home, soaked in the bath and realize how I feed mine. 

Drama like debt continues to grow if you perpetuate it. If you want to pay down debt, you could go out and make more money, but mostly that doesn’t work. Not spending moment does. So if I apply this principle to drama, I will reduce the amount of drama in my life if I stop entertainining it. Right? 

Right. 

So I didn’t answer some texts today. Drama. 

I didn’t online shop to pass time. Drama. 

I apologized when I interjected my opinion and I knew I shouldn’t. Drama. 

I mostly likely will cut somethings out of my calendar this week becuase I’m tired and worn and desperately craving the comforts of home and my ugly sweatpants. I’ll find solice in the bath with all its bubbles and I’ll pretend I’m in a small dingy with Jesus. I’ll allow Him, in whatever amount of time is needed, to reset my preset. 

Please, for the love, tell me it’s not wrong to feel all shaken and not stirred, all dry and slightly withery. Tell me it’s ok to feel lost. Tell me it’s ok do all the right things and still have things not work out favorably. 

Becuase if you tell me there’s a formula, and I’ve screwed it all up, I scream. 

I’ll do more than. 

Extreme Home Makeover

I’ll start this off by saying that I hate that show. Secretly.

Because of jealousy, I hate it. It’s not fair that someone gets their entire home overhauled but whatever man. I’m sure they are worthy and such. I’ve watched it and cried along with the rest of the audience so I’m clearly and visibly moved and happy for them but…

I’ve often tried the Extreme Home Makeover theory to my home…meaning ME, and it only causes more debris and issues than worth it.

Seriously, I’m incounseling…Thankfully I have good people who aren’t over-zealous over-achievers.

Overhauls are good and needed but I’ve discovered, you have to be strategic and slow. Which means, one room, one box, one item held in your hands and heart at a time. And in my good opinion, when you take your time and go slow, the cleaning last and the room and the home stays more “tidy” if you are led.

Holy Spirit is good like that.

Real-life example: Currently I have been challenged to look at my response rate when it comes to my device because clearly it sucks. I don’t return calls or texts in a very timely manner **Real almost NEVER** and I know this is an are in my life that I’d like to clean up (for those of you who text or call me, you are clearly NOT surprised this is an issue in fact, some of you have loved me enough to POINT THIS OUT).

Seriously, WHY cannot I not do this? My lack of response is actually quite rude if I am to be honest.

Forgiveness please.

So for the last few days, I have been intentionally sitting and answering texts as they come in. Grueling. Some of my responses only say, “Thank you. I love you. I loathe you.” Whatever. The point is, I’m looking at it closely and trying to place myself in others shoes and am putting forth effort. YEAH ME. 

Intentionality.

Lesson of the Day:

Overhauls aren’t all they are cracked up to me so go slow and be selective. 

One thing at a time.

One day at a time.

Be kind to yourself. Yes.

But also be kind to others. If someone texts you, give them the common courtesy, text back.

“Ahem…August.”

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.

when Easter isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

It’s Easter and it was an off day from the start. The dog ran away (again) and everything on the inside of me was done with his antics and officially didn’t care if he ever returned home. I was not in the mood. We fought briefly over going to Church and when I was there, I had a hard time being as awe-struck as those around me and found myself loathing the hype of the Holiday that exalts Jesus one day and not the next. I forgot to fill and hide the baskets till my youngest asked where they were and sadly no one (myself included) was all that excited about taking a family picture so I took pictures of the puppy instead.

Middle places are hard. Foreign lands are rough. If you haven’t been where you are now at, you can feel like a fish out of water. I secretly wished all day that Jesus would come along my shore in His boat and scoop me up in His net before I exhausted every last breath I had left inside of me because breathing has been laborious.

I went about my day being a lesser version of the self I know I can be. This put together Mom who has all her baskets lined up in a row. This in-step-with-Jesus-praise-be-to-God woman. Today I wasn’t, the reality is I haven’t been and I don’t know how to get back to her. I can’t seem to find her lately and I swear if someone tries to tell me how I might not only cry but scream and pelt eggs filled with candy at them from the egg hunt I just didn’t have the energy for.

But the great and wonderful thing about Easter is this…

Jesus says I don’t have to try to get back to her.

Easter is for people everywhere, yes.

But today Easter was especially for me.

If I have ever experienced first hand the finished work of the cross, it was today. In what feels like BLAH. In what feels like muddling through mire and muck. In what is tasteless and listless…

When I don’t feel like it, He literally expands Himself into my gaps. When I question or just stop questioning all together, He IS regardless and doesn’t just negate where I’m at or tries to drag me out of my slump I’d call an awfully large pit, He sits in it with me.

So when significant Holidays aren’t all that and then some, there’s things called grace, mercy, forgiveness and love.

Mounds of love.

This is what Easter is all about, right?

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.

The Places We Won’t Go

I past him on the street but before I did so, I smelled him.

I smelled urine and the staunch aroma of ammonia made me turn my head away.

I will never forget turning my head away.

Ever.

I walked up the street a block, maybe two, and I turned around. Conviction consuming my heart. I faced my friends who were simply excited to be in the city for the first time  and told them I had to go back. I had to stand in front of this man I turned my face from and extend my hand and offer to buy him food. So I did. I went back and breathed in deep. I smiled and asked his name and David and I walked to McDonald’s.

Today, years later from my encounter with David, I hear the story in Luke. I’ve read it a hundreds times, but today my heart heard something in the story I haven’t heard before. It reminded me of my encounter of David and his urine soaked jeans. It reminded me of the smell that lingered in him and then consequently, on me. It reminded me how I turned my head away. It reminded me of a lot.

Luke 7:36-39 says, “Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”

The women who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears and her hair wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She wasn’t afraid to smell. If you know anything about the days when Jesus walked the earth, feet were one of the dirtiest parts of a person. Cleaning someone’s feet was reserved for servants or slaves. They were not reserved for women who used their tears and their hair. A woman. An adulterous, sinful women.  It was a huge social faux pas that packed a mighty spiritual punch and spoke loud and clear of the Gospel we today call Jesus.

I think of her on the floor face to face with the ripe stench of Jesus’ feet and I think of the Pharisee nearby and how his blood must have boiled at the sight of who had just entered his home unwelcome and invaded his and his guest of honor’s space. She’s on her knees in tears going close and he’s putting distance between all three of them, outraged and questioning Jesus’s identity, “If this man were a prophet…”

Oh dear Pharisee…He is more than. Sounds an awful lot like the devil in the wilderness, “If you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 4:6).  Jesus must have heard, “If you are…” more times than Scriptures record and I reminded that our God-given identity is ALWAYS in question.

But SHE knew who He was. Her heart knew. She already had a mighty encounter with the living, breathing God and she would have gone lower if the dirt floor would have allowed. Her posture spoke volumes and she didn’t have to say a single word. Gratitude overflowed from her.

How many times have I felt the need to give lots of words trying to convince myself and others of MY posture?

Too many to count.

So I think:

How far into someone’s dirty stinky mess would I be willing to go?

How low would I be willing to stoop before them?

Saying things is one thing. Saying I would be the woman at Jesus feet sounds beautiful and faith-filled but doing it is another thing all together. Jesus comes to me all the time disguised as the beggar on the street, the friend with the marriage falling a part, my own family member who desperately needs my time and my attention.

How low do I go?

Truth is, sometimes I don’t. There ARE places IN people I will not venture to. It’s too hard and rough and I get too tired of the drama so I walk a block or two and don’t turn back because my judgement and fear are a thick wall that help me keep my distance.

Friends, I want to turn back. It is in my heart to do so. I want to tell the company I keep, “I got to go” as I turnaround. I want to extend my hand but sometimes my own arrogant  pride and blatant stubbornness keep me planted firmly on my own path especially with those closest to me. Especially those who don’t smell of urine. Especially those who look and sound just.like.me.

If there is place in your life you won’t go and there is a person attached to your reasoning, please consider reaching out. Maybe there is good and needed excuse there is space but most times, more than not…

There’s not.

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.

The Blind Spot 

I woke up this morning and I could not stop thinking about it.

“I bet that is one of the contributors. That can’t be helping. It is only hurting.”

By the time I rolled out of bed and meandered to the coffee pot, I already knew what I was going to say. I was going to come to the table, out of concern, and state the obvious.

Yes.

“THIS…is clearly not helping.”

Essentially…

“What you are doing is WRONG.”

Y-O-U.

The other day I was reading in Matthew and was really needing something. I was desperate. Ever have one of those moments? You need Truth ASAP. You need Hope. You ultimately need Jesus.

That was me.

“Please show me what I need to hear. How to live. What I need to change IN me?”

I have a lot of needs.

Well my eyes went to Matthew 7.

Do Not Judge. 

Gulp.

7:1-5 “Refuse to be a critic full of bias toward others, and judgement will not be passed onto to you. For you will be judged by the same standard that you’ve used to judge others. The measurement you use on them will be used on you. Why would you focus on the flaw in someone else’s life and yet fail to notice the glaring flaws of your own? How could you say to your friend, ‘Let me show you where you’re wrong,’ when you’re guilty of even more? You are being hypocritical and a hypocrite! First acknowledge your own ‘blind spots’ and deal with them, and then you’ll be capable of dealing with the ‘blind spot’ of your friend.”

Verse 5 is bold because my Bible it is now highlighted.

First” literally means, “BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE” and “Acknowledge” means that you accept or admit the existence or truth of and from experience I can tell you, you won’t address what you cannot see or what you do not know exists. If your heart is not convicted to repent, that what you are doing is not the best or is hurting rather than helping, you most likely won’t take the steps to CHANGE.

Repentance means you acknowledge your own stuff, your sin, and you change your mind and go in another direction. You begin to make changes in the way you think. Your mind is pretty powerful and on your own, you can redirect your thoughts but your heart is another story. Repentance means you open your heart to being searched by Jesus and overtime and as each searching takes place, a conversation happens. I believe with your can-do and your time spent with Jesus honestly accessing your own heart and answering the hard questions, like “What is going on inside of me?” you transform.

You leave your old wineskin behind and take on new. (Mark 2:22).

Do you know the process of creating a new wineskin? I did us all the favor and looked it up. It’s quite the process.

The hide is cut from a dead animal, most likely a goat.

Then it’s dried, tanned and eventually cut into the right pattern and sealed.

It’s then stitched by hand and tacked.

It’s turned inside out.

It is heated to high temperatures.

And then sealed. Again.

Dealing with our stuff is much like this. A process. A gruesome and bloody process and lately most days, I personally feel much like a goat hide.

Cut off, left to dry…left to die.

It is how it feels.

But I have to choose to believe, regardless of how it feels, that this process will be worth it. That I am a beautiful new wineskin in the making.

Because I am realizing that my old skin cannot hold new wine.

And I want new wine.

So where does this fit in with Do Not Judge?

“…and deal with them THEN you’ll be capable of dealing with the ‘blind spot’ of your friend.”

A season of life, such as this, requires a great deal of patience, understanding, grace and love.

It requires one to go easy, be kindgentle and compassionate towards themselves.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Perhaps only after we have walked through the process of dealing with our own sin will we know how to deal with others in the same way. Perhaps only then will we realize it’s not as easy as sitting across from the table, coffee in hand, saying “What you are doing is wrong.”

Until I can deal with me, I don’t think I am capable of dealing with you.

And it’s not a mater of want to. Believe me I want to. I often feel under obligation…

I just don’t think I quite know HOW to…

At least not in a way that’s Jesus.

And if it’s not Jesus…

Well.

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