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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

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

 

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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?

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