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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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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.

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Non-Negotiable 

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

Because I have always associated myself with damage.

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

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

It will suffice.

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

Stop compromising.”

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

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

Love.

Acceptance.

Value.

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

Everything was my reply.

“What are your non-negotiable’s?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

 

Bruised not Broken

When I was little, every time I turned around, I had a broken arm. Bike accidents were my nemesis and to this day, my left elbow still sports two titanium pins that serve as a powerful reminder to wear shoes when pedaling a bike. I also broke my wrist once riding a three-wheeler just weeks before my wedding but for the most part, I’ve been injury free. But two and half weeks ago it snowed (it will be fun they said) and I took the dogs out in our yard for a run. Little did I know one of their leashes would wrap itself around my boot and I would be suddenly pulled to the ground.

That hurt.

And long story short, I left it go even though I could not lift my right arm above my head.

It’s bruised, not broken. It will heal.

Yes and No.

Several days later I ended going to Urgent Care just minutes before they closed at the promoting of some friends who saw my yellow and black bruising. X-Rays confirmed no injury so the doctor sent me home and told me to move it as much as I could so it wouldn’t become stiff. And then the next day, Radiology called.

“We are sorry. The X-Ray was misread. You have a fractured Humerus.”

So two orthopedic appointments later, my bruising is an ugly shade of gray and I can lift my right arm now slightly above my head with pain. I have more motion but everything hurts. In fact, I have a constant throb that sometimes Tylenol doesn’t take away. My doctor assures me from my X-Ray that this is normal and that my fracture is healing but it will just take time and I need to go a bit more easy. I’ve been told no more heavy lifting, no more trying to reach my arm above my head and no more extending my arm out like I would to open the door of a bus.

I am not in a sling or a cast so if you were to look at me, you would never know what was beneath my sweater. You would never see the ugly shade of gray beneath the skin on my right arm. I look normal. Things look good on the outside and so I want the inside to match and they don’t. This injury’s come at a time in my life when I want things fixed. I want life fixed. I want my ducks lined up neat, in a row and they are somewhat scattered.

Not everything in life is a life lesson but most things are. Right now I need a hands on lesson in the external to help me better understand the internal, or better yet, I need the natural to help me better understand the spiritual. Either or.

Both.

My doctor wants me to keep moving my shoulder because moving it will ultimately help heal it. BUT I am only to move it as my pain tolerance allows so in other words, I’m to push it but not too far. Then when I push too far I am to rest and then push far again.

External injuries, much like internal ones, take time to heal. Hurts to your heart are finicky. You cannot place your heart in a sling or a cast, it doesn’t work that way and most of us, not all of us, are walking around with a wound that no one knows about. Much like the bruising beneath my sweater, you can hide your pain beneath a smile or behind a happy post and no one will know differently.

No one really.

But He knows. He always knows and He is always one I can turn to when I need to rest because the pushing has hurt just a little too much.

Friends, if you are hurting…it is legit. Pain and injury are real. Pretending that they are not by wearing your game face so you can soldier on will ultimately do you know good. You just go underground. Your scabby hearts get all crusty and eventually gets all tough but not in the strong and healthy way so give yourself time to heal. Be honest with your bruise but don’t mistake your honesty for truth.

Just because you feel broken doesn’t mean that you ARE broken.

Living above your circumstances is hard. Your present situation, though very real and up in your face, can make you think and feel a lot of things. If you are not careful, if you are not diligent, what you see and hear will lie to you and entice you to believe a different reality than what you are to be living from. It will tell you you are more than just bruised, it will tell you you are broken! It will make you believe a different truth than His and any other belief system outside of Jesus will take work to maintain and we are called to rest.

IN HIM. 

You may have a very real and very present circumstance before you and as tempting as it is to believe the lie that is loud and forefront, don’t. Practice believing the very opposite, even if it sounds impossible. Even if it look improbable, believe. Have hope. Intentionally move in the opposite spirit.

Regardless of whether your circumstance changes, YOU will.

And if you change, the reality around you will be forced to contend WITH you.

I believe in the finished work of the cross, even if I don’t always walk from it. I believe I am whole, even if there are seasons, much like this one, where I feel like I’m in pieces and parts. I know this “injury” is affording me the opportunity to look a little closer, take it a little slower, be a little gentler. It tells me that this pain is real but it won’t last forever. With time and Truth, I will heal and heal properly, wholly…all the way through.

Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day.

Psalm 25:5

So I’m taking my real-life circumstances, my up-in-my-face realities, and smothering them with Jesus, my Healer. I need Him more than ever to remind me WHO I am. I need Truth to speak to every broken place, every place that is real and alive with pain. I need to believe in another reality than the one I am living in…

Most of us, not all of us, need to.

It is time to separate our circumstances from our identity. Our identity is to reign and rule over our circumstances. Not the other way around.
 

 

 

Shattered

“Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall. 

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the King’s horses and all the King’s men,

Couldn’t put Humpty together again”

This childhood nursery rhyme is in my head this morning as I drive. I rounded the bend in the road and crossed over the railroad tracks and it played through my mind again.

“Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

Shattered to pieces, poor Humpty. And where was the King? If all the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t, could the King have put him back together again?

Will my King put me back together again?

I think the better question is, “Will I allow Him?”

I cannot play the victim here. I can no longer afford to allow other people’s actions or lack of dictate WHO I am. And I have allowed it. It’s a choice I’ve made, over and over and over again. It’s an old habit, an old neighbor, if you will, and the property lines are no longer clear and weeds have encroached me.

I am not broken.

And though I feel that I am, because I am most definitely bruised, I will not lay on the floor in a thousand little pieces waiting for someone to come rescue me. Waiting for someone to notice that I have fallen and fallen hard.

I will.

HE will.

HE does.

I show up to my doctor’s appointment and I am brutally honest. I am honest with my feelings. I am honest with my thoughts. I am even honest with the not good ones. There is no covering up today, I am direct.

“Help me. I need just a little. Just a little to get me through.”

I sound beggy. I sound pleady. Like a child, I out stretch my hand, “Please.”

Please. Because I am looking for a fix.

My feelings are running the show and I need to make sense of them, I need order, I need peace.

I want to escape. I want to run. I want to numb out. I no longer want to feel.

So we talk some more, she hugs me at the end after taking way more time with me than she should and hands me a script. I walk to the check-out desk with hope in my hands that maybe a little pill will help me to not feel all over the place so I can think clearer, be better.

Because I have indeed fallen all apart.

And I have hope to fall back together again.

Hope that reaching out to the doctor is a step forward.

 

 

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.

“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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