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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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journey

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.

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.

life interrupted

Like most people, I have a job. In fact, I have several. One of my jobs, my biggest and fullest of them all allows me to work from my former den which is right down my living room steps and is now a working office with a fax machine to prove it.

And since honesty is always the best policy, I’ll go ahead and publicly state that working from home is not all it’s cracked up to be. I am beyond thankful that I can and I do not want to take it for granted but like all good things, working from home is like a double edge sword, especially when working with the public sector.

For example, I can work from home in my pajama’s.

Downside is people can walk right into my office when I don’t have a bra on.

Some lessons are learned the hard way. Yeah. Embarrassment. #sorrynotsorry

I have made breakfast for my kids all while answering the phone. I’ve done loads of laundry in between projects. I’ve been able to take each Seeing Eye Puppy I’ve raised with me to work which really affords me a lot of time with them which is needed and to their benefit.

I could go on and on with the list of the good that comes with the work-from-home package, but the downside is this: I cannot escape work.

Real-life problems I know, I sound like such a whiner. Bear with me, there is a life-lesson here.

The other night at 5:15 PM, I was making dinner for my family and the office bell rang. Surprise. As tempting as it was to let business be business, set hours and let them stand outside the door, I just couldn’t. The door is not the phone. I could not just let them stand long enough to go to voicemail so I welcomed my guest into the office.

They immediately commented on how good my dinner smelt.

Yes, dinner did smell good and I secretly hoped it was not burning or something else equally as tragic but twenty-minutes later, I had answered all their questions, got them what they needed and they were on their way.

August, breathe.

One thing that really bothers me is feeling like I am an inconvenience. I don’t like feeling like I am botheringsomeone, let alone NOTICEABLY bothering someone (because one is in my head and one is a realistic assumption based off of real-life interactions).

So yes, dinner. Ha, nah it’s not burning. I have time. Yes, it’s a new recipe I’m trying. What can I do to help?

Because if I don’t like feeling like a bother, I really don’t want to make someone else potentially feel that way. More importantly, I honestly believe deep down, despite how I sometimes feel, that people are utmost importance and should never be the second or third thought and should never vie for first place when dinner or projects or paper are running the race.

People come first.

So work and home aside, I shift my perspective. I am incredibly honored to have my home also be a conduit for so many people to flow in and out of, even if the lines are sometimes blurred that differentiate the two.

There is grace to shift gears when needed.

So friends, if you find your schedule being compromised and the culprit is your fellow mankind…step back, even if only with yourself, and breathe. Take a long, deep breath and remember WHO you are. Remember that looking your culprit in the eyes with compassion and grace is one of the most loving things you can do, especially when timing is tight.

People are not an inconvenience.

Chasing Slow

The perfect ending to my day is a walk with the dog down a hidden path in a farmer’s field not far from my home. It is quiet and serene and leads to an open field by a brook and is as picturesque as they come and if you time it just right, you can watch the sun set behind the Allegheny Mountains.

The problem is, I don’t take that walk all that often and tonight when my feet hit the path, I wish they did.

The list of excuses is extensive; too busy, not enough time and sometimes simply lack of motivation but all in all, I find when I head towards that hidden path, something inside of me breathes easier and the space within me becomes wider which makes room for what and who is important.

And you want to know how I got to go on that walk tonight? I had to say no to something. Actually to someone. I was to have dinner with friends but the day didn’t shape up the way I had planned and consequently, my evening was freed.

But I hated to say no. I kept telling myself for hours I could make it work but honestly, in the long run, I couldn’t. Too full of a day isn’t always best and sometimes you have to be the one that makes the hard decisions for the greater good and tonight the greater good was my family.

I am finding in my fast paced world, I need a lot of slow. A lot. And the only way to slow things down to a pace that is not only manageable but enjoyable is to say no.

Friends that is hard. I hate to disappoint and let people down. I don’t like conveying, “This is not important to me. You’re not.” But people pleasing is often my demise. When you’ve battled fear of rejection most of your life, you long to be accepted and you  become a person who says “yes” like it’s an insurance policy with an affordable deductible. The payment is somewhat doable…at first. But the thing with saying yes all the time is that it has a snow ball effect…one yes turns into another and before you know it, you are giving your time and your energy to things and people you shouldn’t and you can become easily burned out.

Saying yes is like a drug, a way to stay busy and numb out and sometimes the only way to discover why you are on the hamster wheel is to detox your system and your schedule so you can understand why you have a need to be constantly on the go. What are you trying to avoid by remaining preoccupied? It’s a question I have been asking myself. For one, resting and chasing slow makes me feel unproductive and since much of our culture associates productivity next to godliness…I feel as if I “should” be involved in all things, showing up and presenting my smile and doing my part.

Truth is, the core of who I am craves slow and part of me wants to say that’s because I have secretly been an introvert made to think she was an extrovert but I don’t think that’s what it is. I think I began avoiding life and used people and staying busy much like a drug….so I wouldn’t be confronted with being alone with myself and my thoughts.

Now after going through one of the hardest seasons of my life plagued by depression and faced with the harsh reality that I literally am not responsible for anything or anyone but myself, I have been forced to hit the rest button and look at my life and what is my part all over again. Looking back, it’s been a good and needed process though the realities of it all have not seemed so beneficial at the time.

Chasing a slower pace of life has challenged me to look at my time and what I can realistically handle in any one given day. I always believed that I could handle a lot of pressure and stress because I was always forced to but then I looked long and hard at my coping mechanisms and realized that I wasn’t really handling the heaviness all that well. So I am learning to say “no, not now or I have to reschedule.” I am finding that the sky does not fall on my head and that ultimately, I’m the one who has to sleep with myself at night and the saying goes, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no body happy.”

It’s true.

“If Mama ain’t happy with being with herself, she ain’t happy with being with anybody else.”

Is truer yet.

Friends, please make time for the walk. Your body will thank you but your soul and your spirit will thank you even more.

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. 

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.”

Deep Waters

I love snow days. I love the quiet-calm that they bring. I love the reset and regrouping that takes place within me when I can’t leave my home but the last few snow days we’ve had have been a blur so today I made the decision that I was going to be intentional with enjoying it. To the fullest.

I made homemade chicken corn soup.

Baked chocolate chip cookies and consequently, ate most **read ALL** of them.

Built a snowman with my kids.

Made them breakfast, lunch AND dinner.

Loaded my dishwasher. Twice.

Taught my sons fiancé how to bake homemade bread.

And since I’m the only person on the planet that has not watched Game of Thrones, I decided to catch up on some episodes.

I did these things among many others…but one thing I found out about my television watching abilities (though they are few) is that my idea of watching TV means I have the show on while I DO other things.

While I cook.

While I bake.

While I read, write, work, clean.

And it hit me, “Is this really watching at all?”

Because as long as I get the GIST of the show, I can say I watched it.

And then it hit me further, and it wasn’t just me trying to be overly introspective…

“What else in life have I been comfortable with just getting the gist of?”

I’m afraid to answer.

Jesus?

My family and friends?

Me?

I obviously have some thinking to do but I also don’t want to OVER think it so I’ll just leave it at this…

BE PRESENT. 

Don’t just settle for scraping the surface or standing in shallow waters. Go for the deep waters and you can’t always get there my multi-tasking your life away. Sometimes, ALL TIMES, when people are involved, it is best to focus and go beyond the gist. To go to their deeper blue seas. People are not TV. They are real and present and desire to be seen, heard and long for connection. Let’s bring this to real life: Put the cell phone down. Make eye contact when being talked to. Stop loading the dishwasher when your daughter walks in the room yelling, “Hey Mom!!!!”

Life’s Little Lesson of the day…

When life throws you a snow day, not only on the FIRST but SECOND day of Spring, you reset and regroup within yourself, WITH YOURSELF and those you love.  

You swim out to deep blue waters. 

just as you are 

She boarded the bus like she has the other 20 times I drove it; eyes down, frumpy clothes too big for her body and an awkwardness that made me want to look longer than normal. I was trying to figure out if she was indeed a girl but my gut told me she was and to leave the wondering alone. It didn’t matter. She was lonely and trying to hide under some ugly flannel shirt and most likely she was a girl who knew life’s bitter stings. I thought to myself as I pulled away from her house, “Dear bus full of kids, be kind.”

As she rang up my order, I called her by name. “Hey Fran. Do you know anything about these ear buds?” No. “Fran” didn’t know anything about the item I held in my hand but she quickly called someone and that someone called someone else. We laughed and she cracked a joke and I just about died and for a moment or two I forgot I was the customer in some store and she, the cashier. For a brief lapse in time, we were both just two people having a conversation and I thought if times were different, Fran and I could be friends.

He was probably one of the most flamboyantly gay sales representatives I’ve seen and my small, bearded clerk was trying to get me the right size shoe but since my feet are an abominably, he had not luck. “Do you think you could do a size 9?  I have several size 9’s.” No. Sadly I’d have to cut my feet off to make that work but thanks. Then he brings be another pair and then another of his selections and sooner or later he outfits my feet in an amazingly pair of black dress booties. I thanked him profusely like I just won an Academy Award and “Brad” gave me a hug, turned and disappeared. His touch lingered on my shoulders as did his cologne and I smiled. I did not hug him. He hugged me.

It’s the afternoon bus run and she boards to go home. I smile and say “Hello” and she cracks a thin line but it was still a forward moving gesture. I’m asked to play the radio, something their regular driver must not do, and decide to play the hand my mother does when she has my children. I give in and turn the music up loud. Obnoxiously so. The kids have fun and soon all of them are singing and being kids who are tired of a very long week. I up look in my mirror and catch her singing. She’s looks out the window and she cracks a wide smile.

One thing I’ve discovered along the way is that Jesus doesn’t want my belief. He wants my intentionality. My partnership. To BE his hands and feet. He wants me to show up in this life and live it. He doesn’t care that I feel broken in different parts or that I’m actively engaged in counseling like clock work everything two weeks. It doesn’t matter…any of these things. He wants me to practice what I preach.

That’s more important than my belief.

And for a small stint in time during my most recent life, that is just want I did. I believed with my head all while my heart disengaged. I stopped talking to my cashier. I stopped interacting with the flamboyantly gay sales clerk and I stopped seeing the kids that boarded the buses I sat on.

But through a series of unfortunate occurrences, I came to the end of myself and let go.

And the fall…well.It hurt. It hurts still, but.

I’m awake and I’m slowly coming back to life. I feel the raw ache inside my soul for more. To re-engage and love right where I am. He’s not waiting for me to have it all together, perfectly pieced. He says, “Come August. Follow me.” 

Just. As. You. Are.

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