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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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jesus

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.

Trust

A couple of months ago, I pulled into my driveway and made a conscious decision to step out of the spin cycle. I call it the spin cycle because that’s exactly what it felt and probably looked like. Life was spinning largely out of control, but I quickly found out that was just an illusion.

I had a say.

Sometimes we do not have a say with what happens in our life. Life just has a way of throwing us a curve ball every now and then because for the most part we are riding the waves of each others choices. You do A and it impacts me in the form of B, not to mention how I respond in the form of C. And so on and so forth.

I do it back.

Vicious.

And that was where I was at, spinning around and around and around…

Mostly it was feelings. Lots of thoughts which turned into talk added up to be a whole bunch of continuous negatives…

Waves.

And they were drowning me.

So one afternoon I pulled into my driveway and I thought to myself, “I have a say and a part. I cannot feed this anymore.”

No more feelings or thoughts. I needed a break so I could breath and make sense out of life again.

And I did that just. I didn’t think about it and if I did, I certainly did not talk about it. I asked my friends not to ask about it. Some were understanding and some, not so much, and that was ok. I needed all the voices to settle IN and AROUND me so ultimately I could hear HIS voice.

Not everyone understands this concept.

To some of my friends I was either building walls or not open-hearted enough which was so far from the truth but again, their disapproval was just a distraction trying to keep me tethered to the bottom of the unpredictable sea.

Jesus shows me that is exactly what He does. He often removes Himself from the crowd and intentionally wanders to the wilderness (lonely places) to be with and hear from the Father. And if He does it, so can I.

And it worked. My emotions settled. My thoughts became clearer and less jumbled and I began to rest again. I gained weight and began sleeping through the night, both which were a concern.

But I had to carefully guard my heart. Certain topics or thoughts were off-limits when it came to my entertainment. My life got turned upside down back in December and for months, it was such a huge topic of conversation, for everyone. I needed a time out and I was the only one who could make that happen.

So friends, take it from me, some curve balls are a little rough and a little too unpredictable. I don’t know how anyone navigates the aftermath that they bring with calm and ease. Most flounder around a bit till they get their bearings again.

At least I did. I still am.

Every now and then, I feel myself slipping, spinning. I want to feed the frenzy. I want to dwell and get a good mad on which brings on all sorts of not great feelings and thoughts. I have to remember to guard, diligently guard, like VICIOUSLY guard, and place my focus on what my part is and what is good.

So I ask God daily to show me His perspective and He takes me far above the things in life that are spinning out of control. He takes me to my children. He takes me to my farmer’s field, to my writing, to my friends and to puppies.

And when I feel like life is too big and too weighty and continuously spinning, I envision myself in His hands, on the potter’s wheel.

He knows what He is doing with my life and when I am afraid, I trust Him.

Love Is

Love can be tricky and isn’t always easy. Love everyone? Yeah, no thanks. Lots of times, I just don’t FEEL it. It is work, doesn’t come quick and is often incredibly complicated…entangled in knots vs. the nice, soft ball of good-feels I prefer.

And I can always tell when I struggling with it. I become short-tempered, quick with my words, easily offended and snarky.

Yes snarky.

Like today I got into a a childish game of “who could have the last word”…feeling undermined, I needed to have the last say to feel right.

Struggling indeed.

When I’m here, I often find myself trying to make my way back to myself, my nice self. My loving self.

To no avail, I always come up slightly short and my love tank is never quite full enough. It’s exhausting carrying bucket loads of water to the tank on your own so eventually I tire and decide to tap into whose tank I know is full and overflowing.

And I always end up here:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Because if love is not just some feeling or a good and noble deed, but rather the very person of Jesus, then Love is who I am to be.

I often forget that I don’t have to try to find my way BACK to myself, I’m where I want to be the moment I about-face and go in the opposite direction of being short-tempered, quick with my words, easily offended and snarky.

I am patient.

I am kind.

I am not envious, boastful, or proud.

I do not dishonor others.

I am not self-seeking, easily angered, and I keeps no record of wrongs.

I do not not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

I always protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere.

If I just rest here, in becoming these very words and willing them to life IN me…I find my way back to being loving when I find my way back to Jesus.

He is my compass and my light.

He IS Love.

When the Ground is Soft

I have a love hate affair with weeding. In fact, I love to hate weeding but alas, it is a necessary confliction.

So all week I have been hauling wheelbarrows of weeds to my burn pile. An hour here and an hour here and this morning after the morning rain, I ventured outside because I had the time. By the end of the hour, my back was sore and the mulch’s dark coloring bled through my gloves and stained my skin. It was time to have lunch and I was done. The rest can wait for another day.

One thing I noticed while my knees were in the dirt was how easy it was to pull the roots out. The ground was wet after a whole week of rain had softened it and the soft dirt made the weeds easy to pull out…and not just the appearance of but the actuality of.

There is a difference.

It made me think about my heart and how much easier it is to pull out the junk when my heart is soft and how hard and cumbersome it is when it’s not. Sometimes my heart gets so stubborn and clenches tight to the roots stem so even when I try to tidy up the appearance of things, all that really happens is I chop the top off while leaving a tightly clasped root lying low beneath the surface, stealthily growing.

And they always grow back and most times with vengeance.

My mind goes to Pharaoh and his hardened heart and his ultimate demise, swallowed whole by the sea. How many times has that been me? Too many to count. Refusing to listen, stubbornly holding tight to my perspective, refusing to let go of my people and my pride.

My mind scans around my home for weeds, weeds IN me. I don’t want the clutter that ultimately becomes a distraction, but all I keep seeing is uncovered roots. Jesus whispers, “You can keep looking for weeds but I want to show you the root” and I agree. I think there’s wisdom in that. Most of the weeds that sprawled across my mulch shared the same root. They were entangled.

So my mind scans my home for roots, roots in me, because I don’t want the clutter that ultimately becomes a distraction.

I know if I keep on working on having a softly guarded heart, an honest one, I’ll be able to pull out those weeds and their roots when spotted.

In the thick of things 

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

The verdict is still out. 

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

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

I can’t. 

*Freedom*

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

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

Right. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll do more than. 

worth more than glue

When I was sixteen, my father beat with the shoes I took off my feet upon coming home from work after taking my boss’s mother to her house. She did not drive and I was later than normal, home later than expected, but I was honest with my accounts however my honesty did not help. I was still beaten for being late because I supposedly was lying about where I’d been.

I ran out the door that night in my barefoot, in the pouring down rain, desperate. I ran across town to my boyfriend’s house and his family welcomed me and my tears into their home. They called my parents and told them I would be at their house for the night and I knew it would be a very long night for it was the first time I ever told anyone that my father beat me.

The next morning I went home to silence and for weeks that silence continued. I had shared our families secret and heard the message loud and clear.

“You are to be like glue and keep our family together. You do not come undone and share our secrets.”

Fast forward years later and it’s weeks before my wedding day. Same thing: sudden rage and a beating. This time I am standing outside my parents farmhouse holding a laundry basket of clothes my mother had just folded for me, my two-year old daughter nearby.

I go home afterwards and cry for hours nursing a headache that won’t go away.

But I am glue. I keep our family together and I don’t give myself any consideration. My father walks me down the aisle despite my knowing deep within myself I don’t want him to but since appearances are everything, I take his left arm in mine and smile.

I’ve hated myself everyday since and it has nothing to do with abuse and everything to do with a little girl who gave up her voice at the expense of squeezing herself into a mold she was not made for.

Now, many years later, I find myself sitting nauseated in a lawyer’s office. I realize that despite whatever the outcome, being there was one of the bravest things I’ve ever done in my life. In my entire life.

I was standing up for me. AS me.

All my life I have found my worth and value in other people and in things, in doings and the like and when those things are good and pretty, when all is going well, I am enough.

And when things aren’t…well. You can imagine.

I have tethered myself to the whipping pole because it’s what I’ve deserved. Surely it must be what I’ve deserved becuase I’ve done wrong and I’ve done right and the results are forever the same: I am not valuable.

Because who beats their grown daughter in front of her own?

I’ve felt like a dog.

Oh to go back to that day and say, “Enough.”

But I can’t go back. All I can do is make peace with my enemy and forgive myself for doing the best that I can, even if the best that I can was not right for me.

“You are the glue that holds are family together.” My husband said these words to me a couple of months ago and I bore the weight. I felt the heaviness of “Suck it up and carry on.” I should want to be glue. Glue sounds capable and strong, almost noble. Like something I could robe myself in as a woman, especially as a mother. But I don’t want to be glue. I don’t want to keep on keeping on, my right arm interlocked in the cusp of everyone else’s for the sake of what?

For the sake of WHO? Jesus?

Is that what it means in real-time with my every-day-life to take up my cross and follow Him? Is that what “laying down my life for my friends” looks like?

Please someone tell me because all I know is that I have this voice inside of me telling me to listen. That it is o.k. to listen. To listen to what I’ve always known deep within myself but been too afraid to stand in.

Because it’s easier to tie myself back to the whipping pole than it is to stand firm in my own truths, which at the end of the day are rooted in His.

I am worth more than glue.

HE says so.

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

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

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

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

But the great and wonderful thing about Easter is this…

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

Easter is for people everywhere, yes.

But today Easter was especially for me.

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

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

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

Mounds of love.

This is what Easter is all about, right?

The Places We Won’t Go

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

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

I will never forget turning my head away.

Ever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too many to count.

So I think:

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

How low would I be willing to stoop before them?

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

How low do I go?

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

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

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

There’s not.

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