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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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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.

The Question We Don’t Ask

It’s one word seldom asked. It is a sentence all in itself but rarely spoken.

WHY?

Good question.

Why have we stopped asking the good and needed question?

Singular.

I think if you find yourself asking this one questions, you may not need to ask another.

Here’s why…

Opinions are much like assholes, everyone indeed has one. Now before you (the reader) potentially take offense to my language, ask yourself if that phrase is true. I bet all the money that I don’t have you say it is.

You may have thoughts on my language choice. You may even have thoughts all together on me if you are lucky enough to know me beyond anything I ever write or share publicly or personally with you. And it may sound like a great thing to sit me down and say, “Hey. This is what I think about what you are doing or how you are living or thi is how I think you are feeling.”

It’s not.

If you start there…before you start here with my heart…you will miss out and most likely, if I am not in the best of places…

Shut me down.

I know I am not the only one.

WHY? 

Because I have done this TO others. I have interjected my thoughts and opinions FIRST and the ramifications have been deadly.

And there is no influence when the doors are closed.

Here is what I am discovering from experience and much introspection:

When this happens, my heart often feels judged before I have even had a chance to share it WITH you. And I do not know about you, but if you want me to share my heart with you AFTER THE FACT…

Godspeed.

WHY am I sharing any of this?

Because it just may be one of the very most important things I have ever realized about hearts and communication, therefore relationship building.

Asking questions is a great conversation starter. It shows you are trying to understand and your digging shows me you are actually interested IN me instead of just giving your opinion or asserting your potential need to be right. It also may even help me dig myself. Maybe your question is one I have not even thought to ask. WHO KNEW!

I say this to you.

I say this to me.

WHY?

Because relationships are pretty damn important. So are our hearts. There is nothing an open heart cannot do. It can accomplish anything it sets its mind to. So rather than pelting each other with our opinions or worse, our assumptions and judgements, of one another, how about if we start with a question.

WHY?

If we say we care and if we mean well deep down in our hearts, it’s as good a place an any to begin.

And end.

Make Room 

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

“MORNINGS ARE FOR COFFEE AND CONTEMPLATION.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**Like**

“How are you?”

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

Not many enough.

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

And I realized I can do that.

Just. Like. That.

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

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

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

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

And since blaming does no good.

Here’s the door.

Be free.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neither do you.

the places I cannot afford to visit 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I really afford to visit these locations?

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

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

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

I absolutely believe He chooses the higher…

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

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

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

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

Choose to love…

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

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

 

The Gym, Some Paint and a Dog Named Roy.

Several months ago our family joined the local YMCA. An invitation came home from our daughters elementary school to participate in a free, two-week trial with the Y’s swim team. She loves to swim and like most children who are the last ones born and the youngest of FIVE, she has traipsed to enough of her siblings and cousins events without ever having found her own.

That white piece of paper was THE invitation for her to do just that.

Needless to say, she loves it and we felt it was a place for her to thrive in many different ways so we joined. THE GYM. Now I am not a gym person.I have not been in a gym since college when my friend Jen taught some aerobics class when aerobics was even a thing. Pavement is my workout vice, NOT the treadmill. Or the weight machine. Or some, stinky, sweaty rubber mat. B-U-T I have been sick and running outside has not been conducive to healing so the other night, I buckled down and went.

To the gym.

It feels like such a dirty word.

I put on workout clothes that I wouldn’t mind being seen in public in and we gathered around the table as I announced to my entire family, “I can’t believe I am going to THE GYM” because in my mind, this was an event like no other. They could less about my dramatazation but instead talked about how EVERYONE is headed to the gym right now. It’s the beginning of January and New Years resolutions are in full swing and the gym is one places to meet the best intended of all people on this planet and rightly so. They have hopes and dreams and goals and it made me think once more about what I START and what I FINSH.

I’ve started a lot of things over the years. Most of what I’ve started I would say I’ve finished but I do have things that i lost drive and excitement for and I wonder what ever in the world happened to them. Either I was emotionally charged when I embarked or unrealistic in my goals…perhaps both. Who knows and it doesn’t quite matter now but what DOES matter is I have goals in 2017. For the last two months, I have sat and prayed about WHY I want to start and HOW I’m going to finish.

Because finishing IS important. Why haven’t I in the past??

As I prayed, I realized my answer.

All things I’ve started, be it a new relationship or something that I do; a new hobby, new habit or new goal gets hard along the way. It gets complicated or inconvenient. It gets a lot of things and the picture I have in my head and the reality that I have in front of me end up being two totally different things at the end of the day. My enthusiasm to finish deflates and with it, my HOPE, which acts like a ballon. Hope can inflate or deflate not only my confidence but my will to start AND finish.  When I lose HOPE, I lose myself for HOPE is the back bone of everything IN me to ever DO.

HOPE tells me things are POSSIBLE and to KEEP TRYING. 

Brian Johnson said this once at it has stuck with me, “A person who has HOPE knows every decision they make will effect their future. But a person without hope only makes decisions for the moment, can’t see past the immediate, and most time those decisions made are bad and lack follow through.”

Yes, hard gets in the way. Hard comes and pops our ballon full of HOPE and we give up.

I have a hallway upstairs near our bedrooms lined with paint cans. I started painting some of our rooms well over a month ago and before that, well over a YEAR AGO but WHO is keeping track of all that? The holidays hit and kids were home and actually insisted on living in the very rooms I planned to paint and I lost by can-do. I can make a 1,001 excuses why my hallway is half Tan and half Goldenrod but at then end of the day, my motivation needs a good talking to. Like my friend with pug named Roy (and who names their dog Roy? That’s almost worse than naming your baby Burt). Roy likes to chew.

Underwear.

Bed Post.

Shoes.

ALL Shoes.

She WAS correcting him regularly when he was a puppy but after awhile, she gave up. It didn’t seem to be working because he was forever finding her underwear and her ruby red flats. So now, she buys underwear in bulk from Amazon and just hopes she has a fresh pair left come Monday morning.

Moral of the story? Before you start, know in that pretty little head of yours that it is going to get hard and inconvenient and you will lose that good feeling that makes you think you can do all things. Remind yourself ahead of time that you may not be able to do ALL things but you certainly CAN do hard things. So that pretty idealistic picture you have your head, shatter it by replacing it with the SAME imagery but crumble it up a bit. Stain the edges with coffee and then cry yourself some big, ole tears all drippy and wet and drop them on that idealistic picture you have in your head and heart. When you are all said and done, rip an edge or two for good measure and call it perfect and end the day.

Wa-La.

So before you start, know WHY you are starting. This will be the nutrition you need before your feet cross the line and you start the race and then ask yourself HOW you are going to finish. If you don’t ask yourself these two questions, then maybe just don’t offically start yet. Leg work is important. Training takes time so train well BEFORE you begin because once you begin…it all just begins to look DIFFERENT. Knowing your WHY and your HOW will help you dig your heels into THAT relationship or THAT job or your numerous parenting dilemmas, etc.

Most things have an end. It is a natural progression in this life but there is a difference between finishing because your work is completed and quitting because your work got hard and inconvenient.  YOU are a finisher. Remember that. You see things to completion just like I’ll someday soon finish painting my hallway and then move on to the next room. Just like my friend who has the Pug named Roy who  is trying once more to salvage her home, her shoes and her intimates by using Bitter Apple Spray to deter his chewing efforts…Bless.

Getting started is exciting. It is a high all its own but at the end of the day, at the end of this life, finishing is MOST important.

Finish well my friends.

Much Love,

August

P.S. A thought popped in my head about our table. You know, the one I envision us ALL sitting around. I have this idea so here it goes:

Imagine we are sitting around a large ROUND TABLE. You have your coffee and I have something stronger, just because. I say to you, because we are friends and I want to know you past what you had for dinner last night…”So what do YOU want to start in 2017? WHAT is on YOUR heart?”

What would your answer be?

So now this is where YOU are invited to share…and please don’t leave me hanging, having further rejection issues to contend with.

 

 

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