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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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Stay Present

I think it’s good to look forward to things, to have something on the horizon that is kind of out there but within our sight and reach. I think sometimes that’s why we plan vacations, not to necessarily escape our regular-every-day- lives but to fully live them.

Not only is it wise to do so, it is needed.

I realize now, all the big trips I’ve ever been on have been planned by someone otheer than myself. When I was in direct sales, I received the itinerary months prior to the departure date for the free trip I earned and just showed up wide-eyed and ready to adventure. As a family, we headed to Rehoboth Beach each summer with extended family, which was booked by my mother and basically was like winning the lottery because Grandma’s afford tired mothers the ability to sleep past the butt crack of dawn.

I truly have been a kept woman when it comes to vacation planning.

But as life does, life changed.

So a couple of weeks ago, after months of talking about it, I woke up and called my mother’s travel agent. “Hi Joyce. This is August. Cindy’s daughter. I want to book a cruise for myself and three kids. I want to go in July and I want to leave from Baltimore. What do you have?”

Within five-minutes I was booked and in July, the kids and I will make a five-night jaunt to Bermuda a reality. The experience of booking and subsequently paying (a sobering experience) has been incredibly empowering. I saw my horizon and I knew what I wanted and since I am not fond of details, I’m grateful that other people are and know how to get me where I want to go.

I feel like such an adult.

Besides learning how to be my age, I especially love to travel. I love to explore and make new discoveries. I enjoy meeting interesting people and having new experiences and through it, am able to see, hear and taste different cultures and ways of living. It broadens my horizon and my persepctive…which is an adult thing to do.

But every time I get away, no matter how far I go or how much fun I have, it’s always good to go Home.

I use the example of physically going to a destination as a metaphor of what many of us do in everyday life, but instead of traveling TO somewhere physically, we use our thought-life as the vehicle that whisks us away. We dream about that perfect destination and what life would be like if we could just get there…

We day-dream and jaunt in and out of our present day reality to places in our future. We do it with relationships, the jobs that we have, the houses we live in, the cars that we drive and the clothes that we wear. We attempt to escape our present day sufferings by longing to trade in our current life for another. We romanticize how if we could just inch towards…

Our life would be better. More complete. Somehow different. But often times, that little visit riddle’s us with anxiety, stress, worry and fear. “How in the hell am I going to get there?” That thought steals our current moment, propelling us to figure the future out. We get ahead of ourselves, trying to fix and manipulate situations that haven’t yet, or may ever happen.

We also have the propensity to travel backwards in time to our past, replaying certain experiences in our heads like we have front row seats to an old Shakespearean tragedy which never really gets us where we ultimately want to go. Often times, hanging out too long in those VIP seats makes us susceptible to bouts of depression, resentment, shame and emotions that are hurrid and spastic. We become unsteady and those thoughts and feelings fill us with dread. They make it difficult to roll out of bed, have an attitude of gratitude and take the necessary steps to live in the here and the now. It’s a vicious cycle of expectation, disappointment, reaction and guilt. Wounding and offense envelope us.

How can I speak of such things?

I’ve lived such things.

Our thought travel navigate our life choices. Our behavior is dictated by what we think on and where we dwell. If we want to keep rehashing our past, we will live there, most likely sounding like a broken and boring record to any unlucky soul within ear shot. Similarly, if we want to keep dreaming about all these great and wonderful things we will someday have or do, but never take steps in the here and the now…we diminsh our credibility as well as our voice.

Here’s a little life lesson I gleaned from 2018:

The counselor I’ve been seeing is just as important as the travel agent I booked my cruise through. Both are helping me go where I could not go on my own. Joyce is helping me get away with my kids so we can snorkel together, which is a dream of mine and my counselor is helping me to heal from the inside out by carefully looking at my life. She’s like my own personal organizing consultant Marie Condo who wrote the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” I sit with her for an hour every few weeks and pick something up in my hands (be it an old memory or a present day happening), and she helps me decide if there is purpose for it to remain in my current life. Does focusing on that memory help me move forward and upward or is it holding me back and stunting my growth? Does dwelling on that thought bring help or harm to myself and others in the here and now?

Those questions ultimately lead me to remember my purpose in the life.

It is not necessarily to DO things. I’ve chased after titles, accolades and attention. I have a shelf full of dusty trophies and article clippings but at the end of the day, they are just that, clutter. I have to continuously remind myself that I am not a human doing but a human being. Being is most important.

Being love.

Being kind.

Being forgiving.

Being brave.

Being all of this and more, but most importantly…

Being present.

I cannot be loving or kind to the person in front of me if I am stuck too far back in life or dreaming of a vacation that’s somewhere too far ahead. I cannot be forgiving . I cannot be brave. I cannot be myself if I am continuously chasing that “someday maybe” who is tethered to what she will do…I have to be present in this very moment and not get too far ahead of myself.

Likewise, regret serves little purpose. Yes it can be a great teacher if listened to in the moment but dwelling on the things I wish I could do over only brings angst and sorrow. Want a do over? I’ve got it. It’s called today. This very moment that I am in.

When I allow my mind to quiet itself, I imagine myself standing on the shore, a vast and beautiful ocean before me. The water is lapping at my feet, the foam tingling my toes, and then it’s gone and the weight of my body presses my being deeper into the sand. The water laps again. My toes tingle once more.

Through this image, I hear the Spirit of God whisper, “Let life come like waves to the shore.”

In and out. In and out.

YOU are the shore.”

I am Home with my feet buried deep in the sand that it is almost impossible to move. It dries quickly like cement and then fills in the gaps, again and again.

The water comes in and it goes back out. The moments come and they go, I don’t have to try to have another one because another one is already afforded to me. It is here. Standing before my eyes.

What’s most important in life is standing, with our feet buried deep, in the present moment. The mundane and regular where it appears that not much is happening or is all that exciting. It’s the laundry and the cooking, the endless routines and piles of work and conversations that never go quite like we planned. It’s the heartache and loss and learning continuously to let go and the joy of knowing what to keep. It’s letting our future rest unknown in the hands of a known God who continuously graces us with a revolving door of people whom we can somehow touch and opportunities to fulfill our purpose.

We miss them if we aren’t paying close enough attention. Our eyes glaze over the people and possibilities placed in our path if we are not careful.

The past and the future both teach us to love in the present. What other purpose would they have? They encourage us to look at life though a different lens, one clearer and not as smudged as our orginal experiences have taught us, to be kinder and somehow gentler than we ourselves have been handled. They teach us to look forward and upward, to have hope and to be full of anticipation and excitement for life. They encourage us to be courageous, even when we are unsure and scared so we can take steps toward something bigger and better than what we currently see…

The fullest life possible.

At the end of our days, if we loved well, we lived well.

Stay present.

 

 

 

 

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Extreme Home Makeover

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

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

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

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

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

Holy Spirit is good like that.

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

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

Forgiveness please.

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

Intentionality.

Lesson of the Day:

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

One thing at a time.

One day at a time.

Be kind to yourself. Yes.

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

“Ahem…August.”

My Fakest Life

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

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

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

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

I choose me.

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

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

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

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

And I found one.

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

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

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

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

My children deserve a better example.

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

I just can’t.

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

No thanks at all.

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.

 

 Upside Down

Rejection.

I think I’ve battled it since the womb and I’ve wondered if it’s the first thing people see when they looked at me. Has it been something I’ve hidden behind or has it been a shiny little pin I’ve worn on my lapel and I’ve used it as an excuse for the things I’ve done?

Probably both.

My parents dated in high school and my mother was a year older than my father which made him a Senior when she announced she was pregnant with me. He was honorable and gave her a little ring, which I store in a little wooden box in a chest in my room since their divorce, and I choose to believe they went in, full of hope, that a baby would save them.

But rejection was rooted deep in my family and everyone had their own baggage long before I was born. Unfortunately, as much as I love them both, their baggage became mine and sooner or later I had my own and before I knew it, everything was jumbled and it became very difficult to sort what was theirs, what was mine and what was ours.

I took it all.

Fast forward to my own marriage and here we are, all jumbled. Maybe we are normal. Maybe jumbling takes place in every marriage. Maybe every couple has their share of heart aches and breaks. Maybe it’s part of being human and being in human relationships. I am not really sure but one thing I am sure of is this:

I have continually allowed myself to feel rejected based off other people’s responses TO me. If it’s not what I had hoped for or what I had envisioned it would be…if their words did not match their actions and I found myself in the presence of a good talker rather than a good walker, I’d allow the perceived lack **of whatever** to pretty much obliterate my identity. I become worthless and not enough. Not valued. Not really liked or loved. I essentially allowed man to take the place of God and I’d worship the opinion and the approval of flesh and blood rather than The One who already says I am…

And I tell myself it’s easy. Too easy. “Anybody who has been through what I’ve been through within the span of my short life would be looking through the same clouded and muddled lens.” As soon as I have that thought, I realize I’m double-minded and rejection IS the shiny pin I wear on my lapel. I use it as an excuse. Rejection has been an old friend and as much as I loathe it, I don’t know how to live without it.

So over the last two weeks, I’ve been waking up each day choosing to intentionally posture myself to see how God sees.

How God sees me.

“Who am I?”

I need reminded because I’ve obviously forgotten.

I think of Jesus and I think of one of my favorite verses in scripture:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

This is WHO HE is. This is ME.

I read further and know I’ve been thinking like a child. I looked up the scripture “Do unto others and they do unto you,” and all I find is this: 

“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” Luke 6:31

Damn.

I think again of Jesus. My thoughts always go back to Him and I realize that deep within me, what I’m really longing for is to become Love. Not just a little bit here or there. Not just in pieces and parts or to have characteristics of but to BE…

So I give up my childish ways and I show up and it hurts. It hurts more than I thought it would.  It makes me feel naked and exposed. It feels all upside down. It sears my flesh and feels like salt on an open wound and it is not always reciprocated and as much as I want to adjust myself and alter WHO I AM based off of how someone responds to me, I do not. I choose to believe I’m worth someone’s time and attention because I know that I am and that knowing allows me to give freely without strings.

Until I stop reacting to my circumstances and start responding to the love of Jesus, my circumstances will not change.

And I know it.

Don’t stop showing up and being you based off of how people respond to you. How you love anything is how you love everything for love is a quality of relationship more than a statement about the worthiness or deservedness of the object loved. -Richard Rohr

How to Master the Art of Hospitaility

So you are having friends into your home? GREAT! I can help. My husband and I LOVE to entertain and have friends into our home, both old and new. Just last night we hosted a dinner with 8 other couples from our church so I literally JUST experienced what I am about to share.

  1. Go to Pinterest for ideas on THEMES. If you are going to entertain in your home then be prepared to ENTERTAIN your guest. Everyone wants an EXPERIENCE and coming to your home for dinner is NO different. Party favors are a must and though matchy match is kind of outdated, coordination is key. From the table decor to your plates, napkins and cups…remember presentation is EVERYTHING.
  2. Clean your house. It must be immaculate. If you have thicker carpet, you are in luck. Make sure that when you sweep, perfectly straight lines are clearly visible; NO feet marks please. This will make your guest feel incredibly honored as they walk into your home knowing that their feet are the first to grace your newly swept carpet. Also as you are sweeping, pull furniture out and sweep behind AND under. Why is this important? Remember how your mother used to tell you, “Make sure you put new underwear on in case you are in an accident?” The premise is the same. When your guest are welcomed into your home, you need to be prepared in the event they look under your couch in search of hidden fur balls.
  3. If you have children, you need to remove ALL traces of their existence. Remember that your guest are coming to your home to be entertained. You must minimize all obstacles that could jeopardize that mission from being accomplished. If hiding your children away in your downstairs den with a bag of Cheetos, some Benadryl with an incredibly engaging movie series is NOT an option, remember the 15th Century proverb that said, “Children should be seen but not heard.” It’s an oldie but a goodie and still rings true in this home as it should yours. If they are not quiet, remember that the Bible says “He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Proverbs 13:24. That’s scriptural.
  4. Fix a gourmet meal. The more money and time you spend preparing, the better. The main objective in mastering the art of hospitality is to WOW your guest. You want to be THE house that everyone gets invited to so go over the top and then go over the top some more. In this case, MORE is NEVER ENOUGH. Whatever expectation you THINK your guest have, you most likely are only luke-warm and probably not even close to what could totally ignite their taste buds on fire so go bigger so not to disappoint.
  5. Last but not least and this is THE most important so listen up and pay close attention. Whatever is happening in your home prior to guest arriving, like whatever is REALLY happening, you best HIDE it. Just had a fight with your husband? Wipe those tears off your face and go reapply your makeup. Put your game face on. Smile BIG and smile PRETTY. Your life IS perfect. You have perfectly unheard of children and a house that Martha Steward would be proud of. When asked how you are doing, the answer is ALWAYS, “I am great!” Everything is great. Your marriage. Your kids. Your job. You talk about the vacation you are planning and how many burpees you did the other day at the gym and what Gina down the street wore to the bus stop. People DO NOT want to know how you are really doing because they do not want you to ask them how THEY are doing. They want to know that you bought milk today and that you spent 28 hours preparing their meal so girdle up and talk the talk. Pleasantries are most important to leave your guest with lingering good feels hours after leaving your home.

Over the years these, these are some helpful tips we have found that keep friends and family returning to our home and if you believe any of that to be true then I have some books to lend you on how not to live life too seriously. Thing is, at some point in my life and to some degree, I HAVE tried these things as a recovering people pleaser.

*I HAVE tried to create an experience instead of BEING someone TO experience.

*I HAVE tried to present a house that was completely unrepresentative of our everyday life having everyday people living in it, not only exhausting myself but the relationships in my home  while doing so.

* I HAVE growled my kids for being themselves in their own home. I HAVE lectured about what to DO and NOT DO when guest arrive and have secretly looked at their presence as being inconvenient to my entertaining which broke their spirits and my heart in the process.

*I HAVE tried to impress with my culinary skills or overcompensate for my lack of them.

*I HAVE faked it in hopes to eventually make it. Yes, I have been GREAT!

At the end of the day, mastering the art of hospitality is more about YOU and YOUR GUEST, the people IN your home and AROUND your table then ANYTHING else. Your front door is being opened for a relationship so don’t just open the door to your home but open the door to your heart. It may sound fluffy but it’s true. If your guest show up to a fully present YOU, a YOU that is excited to sit with them, engaged in being present WITH them, it’s enough.

It’s more than.

Cheers to being hospitable!

Much Love,

August

 

ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION:

What stresses you about having people into your home and why?

Do you find it hard to sit down and engage in conversation that goes deeper than regular, everyday surface living?

When you are invited into someone’s home, what excites you about going?

 

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