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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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Today is the last day of our cruise so needless to say, I woke up at 8:45 AM with a vision of how the day was going to go and in my mind, it was going start with coffee and some breakfast.

My kids, not so much. All the lights may have been turned on and all the words may have been said and for a brief moment in time, visions collided and our togetherness became separateness in a very small cabin on the seventh deck. Sadly, division oozed from the four corners of the room of minutes.

Truth was, I was trying to do what I thought was best. I was up at what I thought was a very reasonable hour and to be honest, could no longer lay in bed in a dark cabin and pretend to be asleep for the sake of three other people. And as their Mother (and yes I began playing the Mother card) I didn’t WANT them to be asleep any longer either. I didn’t want them laying in their beds, thumbing through their phones.

As their Mother, I wanted them to squander their day as I had planned…which was having breakfast together and doing nothing but lay by the pool.

As their Mother…I had an expectation. I was the boss. I was steering the ship of the vacation that I had paid for.

As their Mother, I can be an asshole.

Long story short, I left the cabin agitated but told the kids that I wasn’t when I clearly was and marched off to have breakfast on my own. Looking back now, I needed that hour by myself. I needed to sit in silence and think things through and figure why I was getting all bent out of shape over such non-important things.

The answer of course, was easy to spot. My vision was all good and such and was perfectly perfect but it was MY vision for the day and mine alone. My kids on the other day, though birthed from my body, had their own that were separate that I forgot to consult. As their mother, I often get what I think is best entangled with what is right and what was right on this day, in that moment, was to allow them to have their own day just as I wanted to have mine. We are all so very different.

So I came back to the room and told them what I’d like to do today and let it at that. I listened and was open to suggestion but more so, had extended them each an invitation to do somethings together. The last thing I wanted was to be likened to a tyrant whom told them this was this and that was that when deep down, all I was really wanting was quality time with my children. You can’t really have that when you force a HAVE TO on the people you want to spend time with. Sometimes you just need to put it out there and hope their WANT TO (and not yours) brings them back into the center of life’s hub.

I think if you create room for people to step into that space on their own rather than bullying, guilting or coercing them into what you think is best or right, they will meet you in the middle and your relationship can remain intact and strengthened. And if they choose not to take that step, it’s not you. It is them.

Unless of course you’ve made it about you, just like I was trying to do this morning all about me.

When you take people’s freedom to choose away from them, even if you feel like you have earned the right to pull some special card at the table, you better be prepared to have more than just a choice or two taken away from the mix.

It might cost you the very relationship you say is most important to you.

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The Opportunity to be Inconvenienced

For quite some time, whale watching has been on my list of things that I’d like to do and this past week, I had the opportunity to cross it off the imaginary pad of “someday maybes” that fill my head. I got to see one Humpback whale along the coast of California and it was an amazing sight but as sights go, once and done was once enough.

When we boarded the boat, we immediately sat in the back on one of the bench seats because in theory, it would make the best seat for sight seeing. It didn’t. It did however make the best seat to get wet *as in soaking* We eventually found our way into the cabin and sat beside a young couple with a baby visiting the states for the first time from the UK. In my good opinion, babies are better to watch than searching the ocean for a blowhole so it didn’t take long till we were talking because their baby looked close to the same age as my grandson.

Thankfully, my oldest daughter is wiser than me and we made the trip to Target to purchase Dramamine prior to our adventure. However, the young couple from the UK did not and it wasn’t long before baby Leo was thrust into my arms for half the trip because his parents became increasingly seasick.

Long story short, I got to see a Humpback whale, tail flip and all so I got my monies worth but in the in-between times, I ended up watching someone else’s baby…a baby who was also increasingly seasick. I won’t gore you with details of the experience but use your imagination and we’ll be on the same page. The captain of the boat ended up offering me two free tickets for a future trip because he felt badly but the truth was, I was grateful I got to help. I can only imagine being so sick that you literally hand your three-month old baby over to the stranger beside you because you can’t take care of him yourself.

It broke my heart.

In the end, I declined the free tickets because I think we all have opportunities in this one, wild life to be a helper and on that day, in that boat, was mine. When the moment is before us to step in and hold space *or hold a baby* for someone else, it doesn’t always look pretty and it usually cost us something *like a clean jacket and pair of pants* It’s how it goes. It’s an exchange that should not have a price tag attached to it because extending your heart or your hand to another is the one of the greatest expressions of God’s love that we have to offer to one another.

If you have an opportunity today to be a helper, take it. Be inconvenienced in the best possible way. I can guarantee you, it is worth it.

It Is What It Is

You do a lot of praying. You cry and you lament and before you know it, one day turns into two and two in ten. You loose count of the week or the month or the year, but your heart reminds you of the loss and through it, the ache deepens. Your relationship hasn’t changed. Your health hasn’t. Your job is still the same. It is what it is.

Acceptance is a small quiet room. – Cheryl Strayed

One that is often padded.

Getting to the point of accepting what you wish or hoped would be different is a very hard and often lonely process. It’s a quiet resolve you make within yourself day after day to get up and show up. It doesn’t mean you’ve stopped praying or lamenting or crying, it just means you’ve begun living a new normal because the alternative is not an option. Acceptance is like having a wound hidden under the skin. You can’t see it and no one knows that it’s there and those that know, stop asking about it because they have their own wounds to attend to. It’s done its best to heal, but there’s a scar that’s naked to the eye so everything appears to be normal, but your not. When you are alone at night or the noise from the crowd dies down, your heart reminds you that you’re still longing for things to be different.

And with acceptance comes choices. You can choose do something or you can choose do nothing. Both have a cost. It is up to you and you alone to decide the course that you take with what you have so once more, you find yourself doing a lot of praying. You cry and you lament and one day turns into two and two into ten. No choice is easy and change doesn’t happen over night.

Changing the course of the stream, or dealing new cards, whatever metaphor you want to use, takes a lot of energy, a lot of wisdom and an immense amount of courage. There are times when it goes so wrong that you will barely be alive, and times when you realize that being barely alive, but getting up every day and trying to do what is best, is better than living a bloated half-life in a situation that is not.

When your situation won’t change, you must. It may not seem fair but life does not take sides nor does it try to even out the scales. You need to remind yourself and allow yourself to be reminded by others that you are a powerful person. You get to choose to rise up out of the ashes. You can sit and wallow or you can stand up and shake off the debris and take a step. Both are choices that you get to make.

Because in the end, it’s not so much that you are changed but revealed. Grief is a double edge sword. You mourn not only your outside loss but your inside heartbreak that needs contended with.

If there are any words of advice I could give you, it is this. Let it happen. Let YOU happen. You are worth the process. I wish I could that it is easy. I wish I could say that I am through to the other side and living my best and most happiest life, but I’m not. I’m in the thick of things like most and the pain is as real as it was on day one.

But I will not sit back down and wallow, neither should you. There is more of us to be revealed. We have an entire world watching, waiting for us to happen. There is more to us than this.

Own It

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

And tomorrow didn’t suit.

I have had happier moments. And apparently kinder ones.

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

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

Silence and *possible* stomping speaks rather loudly.

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

Grace indeed is a crooked road.

But is a doable one.

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

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

Boy were they ever.

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

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

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

It’s called vulnerability.

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

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

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

The Crooked Road

Be careful listening to anyone trying to “sell” you something that will “make” you something.

Happier.

Skinner.

More energized.

Whatever.

Doctors will prescribe pills. Friends will try to sell you their coffee or their wraps. Your pastor will point you to Jesus *and I’ll join Him to an extent*

But in the end…

It all comes down to YOU. Nothing is going to “fix” you or “make” you turn into the person you want to be except YOU.

Hard truth.

Pills can help *temporarily* but they are not a fix. Talking it through, looking at hard things, taking responsibility, establishing boundaries and extending continual forgiveness are pretty good helpers.

Coffee and wraps? Heck I don’t actually know anything about these things but I do know that eating real food, being consistent with exercising and getting good sleep are great helpers.

And Jesus? He is not your Genie and He does carry a magic wand. Rarely have I heard a prayer come to be that was not attached to someone’s intentional action post prayer; their willingness to be changed along with their fortitude and humility. He promises to walk with you but you’ve got to show up and do the work and the work is hard, especially when it comes to your heart. The good news is, the Spirit of Jesus is the most excellent Helper. He has my vote.

So if you are looking for a “fix”, you will most likely keep looking for a slew of them your whole life and may fall for whatever is out there that seems quick and easy. Take it from me, there is no quick and easy anything to change the “you” you want to be.

You can read all the self-help books you want but if you don’t consistently apply the authors principles to your life, all you’ve done is read a really good book that someone else wrote. Someone who actually took the crooked road to grace because change, especially lasting change, is hard and it’s ugly…

But it can be done.

Gather your troops and find your tribe.

Change rarely happens on your own.

Stay In Your Lane

A couple of months ago this commercial popped up on my television screen and I instantly fell in love.

Maybe I fell in love because I wanted to exude the attitude of the burly tattoo guy because I was tired of people pleasing. Maybe it was because I have tattoos and could empathize with the cautious and questioning young man in the seat getting one, is just “OK” was just that. Either way, these four little words have been in my head ever since and I’ve been trying to figure out what they mean because I know they are significant.

Sometimes what I think words are aren’t, especially when I try to manufacture their meaning. Especially when I give them a definition instead of allowing them to organically and naturally produce substance in my life.

I” was giving them definition.

I” was using them as a means to let myself off the hook from caring too much (so I wouldn’t get hurt) or from focusing on situations (and people) I could not control.

“Just stay in YOUR lane August. What they do is none of your business. What you do is none of theirs.”

Easy Peasy.

It sounded easy but every time I said those words inside my head and held on tight to that tattoo guy type-of-attitude, I found I was lonely and increasingly isolated from the rest of humanity thanks to the huge sound barriers I erected on my highway.

Perhaps the meaning I was giving my new mantra wasn’t the best. I turned words into worship, a religion of sorts like my forefathers before me and they carried strict  black and white standards to adhere to.

“Stay in YOUR lane” translated into “Mind your own *damn* business.”

And somewhere deep inside my heart, the meaning I was giving those four little words hurt my heart. What I needed was the Spirit of God to give them personal significance.

Because Jesus is simple and when He speaks, there really isn’t much to sort through because my heart agrees automatically by hearing the sound of His voice.

So one day, weeks after I left my figuring behind, Jesus interrupted my day while I was doing something incredibly random. He asked, “August, how’s your life going?”

I hesitated because quite honestly I was fixated somewhere else. Like on the dishes. My head was not on all things good or Holy and they certainly weren’t on talking with Jesus in the midst of cleaning out a sink full of dirty dishes that other people in my household could have helped with but didn’t. But that is how He works…

Jesus is *incredibly* random.

How’s my life going? Is this a trick question? My mind hurried to make sense.

Leaving no room for pause, He reworded the question, “August are you trying your best?”

I didn’t hesitate because I already knew the answer. “Yes. I believe I am trying my best.”

I wanted to follow that up with, “I could try harder and do better,” but that wasn’t necessary because I know enough to know He isn’t interested in my strides towards perfection. I knew trying my best was and always will be enough.

“So if YOU are trying your best, in the moment, in your lane, right where you are at…don’t you think that THEY are trying their best?”

“No. I don’t think they are trying their best. In fact, I don’t think they are trying at all.”

Because if they were actually trying, the results would look different.

It was an honest response because I no longer feel Jesus desires my pleasantries. My words and my heavy heart just hung in the air while I stood at the sink surrounded by a thick fog that had no where else to go but around me like some noose around my neck. Silence lodged itself in my throat and I swallowed hard.

The list where I kept track of others shortcomings lengthened and with my honesty, I made things personal. I swerved from my lane into theirs and sat in their seat.

I assumed I was God and made the assumption that I knew BETTER than Him.

I’ve realized over the last year that I have an *intense* need for control and the many ways in which I subtly disguised it revealed themselves. As much I’ve hated the path that I’ve been walking on, it’s brought me to the humbling realization that out of fear, my hands have often been on more steering wheels than what they should’ve been and because of my overactive imagination and assumption making, I’ve manufactured make-believe scenarios and brought them to life.

I think I have a propensity to do this because I’ve often felt backed into a corner, trying to make sense out of something senseless…trying to fix and ultimately, trying to save.

Though I would not necessarily classify myself as a micro-manager, I certainly haven’t been laissez fair when it comes to the affairs of others, especially with those closest to me. I’ve walked in expectation, held high standards with even the most realistic of ones and made assumptions that sadly painted other people poorly. Essentially, I’ve always given the actions or inactions of others meaning, I gave them definition, MINE. I presumed to know what they were thinking, how they were feeling and why they were doing *or not doing* what they were.

I tend to walk in the spirit of control when I ultimately feel that I don’t have any, don’t have a say, have little influence, and ultimately…don’t have the power to choose because I feel stuck between a rock and hard place.

Not true.

One of the best gifts we have been given is the power to choose because a choice is always present. Wether it be what we think about something or someone, how we respond to them…we have a say. Always.

My lane is my heart. It is a conduit, a freeway of sorts, where I process my thought life, how I’m feeling and the choices I make. I can’t possibly begin to manipulate or control someone else’s heart (even though I continuously try)…even when the choices they make steer their way haphazardly into my as if they were texting and driving.

I can only make choices on how my heart responds to their behaviorI can NOT presume to know their thoughts or how they feel. That is not my lane.

Truth is, I have my own thoughts and emotions and often times, even when I wrestle them to the ground, I don’t win. Like Paul said in the book of Romans, “For what I hate, I do.” Even on the days where I show up to the race and plant my feet squarely up against the starting line resolving to do my best…my best in someone else’s eyes might not be. Maybe they even say about me, “No. I don’t think they are trying their best. In fact, I don’t think they are trying at all.”

But they are not me. They have no idea what I’ve gone through or how I process life in my heart and head and in return, as empathetic as I can be, the same applies to me. I am not them.

Their heart is their own and they have their own lane of traffic to navigate.

So with that being said, I will keep my mantra and will stay in my own lane but it means a little bit nowadays. It is not all sharp and edgy nor does it cut people out from traveling along side me. I don’t want to be on the highway of life on my own because after a very long season of doing just that, I’m reminded I not only need others but want them. Because I have blind spots. I can’t possibly see every facade of my life on my own. Sometimes I am unaware how my words or my actions come across or make people feel and if I choose to keep unintentionally wounding people, I believe I’ll be accountable for my neglect. My relationship choices will either create a living Heaven or Hell here on Earth. Sadly I know where I am living from when I don’t believe the very best about others and presume to know what is going on inside of them.

Conversely, I don’t want to sit in someone else’s chair in some tattoo parlor just waiting to see what happens. Maybe OK is good for them but not OK with me. We are all going after different things. And there is nothing wrong with that.

We all need love, grace and understanding as we figure things out. Hopefully we are trying our best as we do so, but in the end, it is not up to others to make that determination.

The only lane we have to mind is our own.

“There’s great freedom in not compulsively interpreting other people, situations, and so on – not imposing all these judgements. ” Eckhart Tolle

 

Love Does

I woke up this morning replaying a hurt in my head like the old record player I saw the other day at the antique store. Around and around. Skip. Around and around. Skip.

I couldn’t stop it. I did the dishes and it was still playing softly in the background like a good tune, attempting to take me nostalgically back in time.

And it angered me. It made me sad. It made me think and feel a lot of things and part of me realizes that an essential part of healing means you give yourself permission to be in the moment, as you are, instead of bi-passing it or hurrying yourself along so you can be further down the path than where you are.

So I kept doing the dishes.

I’ve both bi-passed and hurried and have found it may temporarily seem better in the moment but more times than not, things have a way of resurfacing and claiming more territory in your house then before.

So dishes done, the music from the record player in my head is at a low hum. Around and around. Skip.

I can’t stop it so it suddenly dawns on me…”But God.”

I don’t know why He is often an afterthought but if I’m honest, He often is.

A verse pops into my head during one of the skips…

Love Does…

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. – 1 Corinthians 13:5

I’ve realized I’ve had a pretty skewed idea of what love is and absolutely what love does. If I am operating IN love, if I am LOVING, what does that look like?

WHO does it look like, because it often hurts more so than it heals…

And that is not Jesus. At least not the Jesus I know.

I’ve been reading Stephen and Alex Kendrick’s book, “The Love Dare” because. You may recognize it because of the movie that came out years ago with 80’s heart-throb Kirk Cameron, but the book spans further than just focusing on restoring a marriage. Its been walking me though what Love is and what Love isn’t. Better yet, WHO Love is and WHO Love isn’t. And I truly believe that WE; how we Love God, ourselves and one another is how the world around us encounters Jesus.

So of course I want to get my love in order because I just may be the ONLY Bible people read.

Right?

So the record player stops.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Around and around.

Skip.

Love keeps no records of wrongs.

Around and around.

Skip.

Love allows me to feel what I need to feel and then asks for my hand so I can transfer and exchange my pain for His grace.

Around and around.

Skip.

Love Does play another tune in the old record player inside your head. It is your choice, as it is mine, to allow Him to.

Forward to another tune.

The Cost of Vulnerability

I recently bought a book at an airport bookstore and read half of it on a plane from San Francisco to Detroit. It was about relationships as well as other fun, real-life topics and in the first chapter, the author used lobsters to set the stage for the his message.

It was a good point but I heard an entirely different message.

I’m sure what he wrote was great and good but what I got out of it was this: Female lobsters will shed their shell when it’s time to mate, exposing herself to not only other predators but jealous and often aggressive female competitors in the process.

Not very many of them make it home thanks to this vulnerable practice but this tid-but of knowledge showed me how important it is, when it comes to relationships, that we let down our guard and take off our hard exteriors that often keep us safe.

Because if we don’t, we can’t create new life. I mean, we can stay safe but that’s about it.

Right?

Yes I just went there.

So of course I read the naked lobster analogy and instantly applied it to my own life.

Because that’s what I do.

So life’s little lesson in the airplane gave me the balls to go home and practice vulnerability.

It didn’t really go the greatest.

What I learned from the rejection was that vulnerability can be humiliating. I felt naked and exposed, my guard was down and everything in me hurt.

I was indeed a female lobster laying her shell down and I got eaten by a predator.

But.

Because there is always a but…

But, I am glad I did it. I realize that vulnerability is not about getting an idealized outcome to take place. Vulnerability is about being your truest self, even if you feel all open and exposed and raw and of you have any open wound…good luck. IT WILL HURT.

However the pain reveals to you what you are willing to settle for and what you are willing to go after…

WHO YOU ARE.

So dearest friend, if you are looking for new life in a relationship, in YOU…shed your shell and get naked like a lobster.

Forward

It’s 1997 and two months before my wedding day. I’m riding a three-wheeler through the mountains with my finance and my two-year old daughter and it’s a beautiful day, sunny and bright, probably July or early August. I should have known what was to come based off of my experiences growing up riding bikes, but I’m young and overly confident, out to impress my future husband. I manage to convince myself I can manage quite well the first time behind a motorized wheel.

I was wrong.

I wreck, brake my left wrist and later find myself two weeks before my wedding, cutting the cast off at work because who wants to see a bride walk down the aisle wearing a cast?

My wrist heals nicely so taking the cast off two weeks early wasn’t really a big deal however, whenever I find myself years later teaching my kids how to do cart-wheel , I noticed the pain of the injury is still there.

Muscle memory is real, pain memory…more so.

I think a lot about that injury these days as I head into month six of healing a fractured humorous thanks to running an extremely exuberant dog through the snow. Healing isn’t going as fast as it did when I had a broken wrist in 1997 nor is it going as fast as when I broke my arm when the kids in the neighborhood decided to grab my legs and arms and swing me around the air when I was six.

But it IS healing.

I’ve been wanting to write my story for years but honestly haven’t had the guts to. Much of what I mostly likely will share has been kept locked tight in some attic chest that no one wanted me to dig through. Most of it is shameful and embarrassing and regret-filled but I’m discovering, I NEED to unpack and begin to sort to find the whole of me that’s been shut inside.

Healing happens when we take what’s been in the dark and bring it into the light and I for one, need the healing more than I need to care what anyone thinks. It’s my life and I’m tired of being ashamed or scared of it.

So here I sit and I promise to write to none other than to myself. There’s a little girl in me that needs to heal. A teenager that needs to heal. A young adult, a new mom, a friend, a fourth-year old wife in a marriage that is falling a part that has questions. A woman trying desperately to sort and make sense. A woman trying to find direction and peace.

A woman who most of all wants to make friends with her enemies.

I started this blog, and one previously like it, to write my thoughts because that is what’ve I’ve done since I was a child in the form of diaries and poems but I find myself skirting around me what I know deep down in me is to write, often touching the edges of my personal life here and there. I ultimately stay away from where I want and know I need to go because my story, like most, is interwoven around others’, and it’s complicated and all out of sorts.

I’ve been.

But that is just a lie I’ve believed, much like when I do those cart-wheels with my kids and the pain from that broken wrist from all those years ago resurfaces trying to tell me the injury is still there, that I am still broken.

I am not.

So it’s time for me to sit and scavenge through the boxes in the attic and bring to light what’s been hidden in the dark.

It’s time to find the whole of me.

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